It was clear when the wall-o-warmth hit me in the jetway, and again by the friendly faces of disdain in the terminal, that I had returned to America, and to the desert, after a short 13.75 hours in the air, not counting a glorious layover in the Newark airport. My ink-stained fingers could not deny it: the chapter of 2 months in Germany had ended.
My final days in Germany were no less hectic than the rest of the visit. The major difference being my newly rediscovered wife accompanied me on my clumsy explorations of a not-so-foreign foreign land. With a stop in the grocery store, and the post office, a quick walk to Deutsche Welle to return my Praktikumsausweiss (Intern ID…and my name wasn’t even in the system: I didn’t exist), and a frantic jog to the light rail stop to make it to the train station on time, the journey to America was afoot.
After a glorious 6 hours to Berlin playing Scrabble on my laptop, my wife and I traversed Berlin’s subway system to make it to our “airport hotel.” Note: not all airport hotels need be near the airport, or near painless transportation to the airport–now we know. After a light dinner, and a needed sleep, my wife and I made it to the airport and through security with little trouble. Security wanted to examine my radio equipment a little closer, but they were professional and seemed nice enough.
On the plane we were greeted frequently by beverages and meal service–that’s what you get for a more expensive flight with Continental Airlines, I suppose. They, too, had a entertainment system in the seat-backs with movies, music and TV. But it also had a networked game system, allowing you to play poker, battleship, or a number of other multiplayer games with other passengers. There was also a casino game which gave a player $200 play money to start. I ended the flight with $275,000…if only it were real.
With a 3 hour layover in Newark I was introduced to boy-who-doesn’t-appreciate-women.
“Hey mom, I want mayonnaise on this,” or my favorite:
“Hey I’m watching the bags,” as he runs away from the bags…presumably to get mayonnaise–we can only hope.
People ask if it’s hard to readjust after two months abroad. In some ways it is: the little German I know is now less useful, and I have to be careful not to use it without context. It’s weird not using trains and public transport, even walking everywhere. And it’s weird answering the question “is it hard to readjust after two months abroad.”
I like shopping in bulk, and having a car in which I can drive from the city. I like paying in dollars, and having weekend minutes for free on my cell.
It’s a little hard to realize many things haven’t changed. Dr. Phil is just where I left him, and the drivers here still have a deathwish. It’s not that I think the world revolves around me, and thus it must change if I do. But 2 months is a long while, and a lot can happen within it….and it’s almost disappointing when despite that potential, nothing happens…no change occurs.
I had many hours on many trains, thinking about the many people I’ve spoken to, and the many stories I’ve told. If we use a path analogy I’m just returning from a detour through a mountain passage, finally reconnecting with the lower road. This fellowship was about facilitating journalism. There’s nothing in the handbook about the possibility of a new age of self-discovery.
But with a loaded dossier of stories, a loaded heart of anecdotes, and a loaded mind of further possibilities on which to pine, I’d like to think my fellowship was a success. I know it was.