One of the last spectacles any passenger should want to see before boarding their flight is an officer walking by them with a giant rifle, on top of hearing the announcement that all incoming and outgoing flights from their layover destination have been postponed due to a severe storm. I also unsurprisingly observed a couple furiously (yet silently) hate each other as they sat across the table from me. Apparently, the husband pulled out a chair for his wife, takes a seat two chairs down from said seat, and then berates her for sitting down in the chair right next to him. He actually had a very intense staring contest with her, only she was sitting in silence staring ahead while he coldly glared at her for at least 7 minutes (or until I left the table). I honestly wasn’t too bothered by this besides feeling some sadness for the wife whom probably had been abused by the flaming husband.
On a relatively more positive note, my disinterest in the still predominantly patriarchal sanction of marriage had been reaffirmed. However, I do still find great fulfillment in teaching, mentoring, and sharing resources with students. Then again, I do apprehensively shudder whenever I imagine ever having to raise a narcissist child.
It felt surreal to leave the U.S. for the first time in my life, yet after all, what is a national border other than merely a social construct? (perhaps, with the exception of island nations)
The first flight to Iceland connected to secondary flights into Europe and ironically, I was seated next to an Asian dad and daughter. They held hands during the flight takeoff and while they slept leaning on one another, and the father constantly replied to his daughter in an endearing, friendly, and nonjudgmental tone as far as I noticed. I have never had a close relationship (or perhaps any more than a few recounts of positive memories) with my own father, but noticing their loving and silly friendship was healing in a way to experience as a bystander (technically, “bysitter” since we were on a plane). Cue those 5 people this past month whom reckoned to me that, “everything happens for a reason.”
After receiving my first passport stamp at border control, I grinned ear to ear as my curiosity piqued while seeing so many signs that I did not understand, recognizing Euros for the first time in person, and hearing the overwhelmingly indistinct chatter of languages that I could not immediately interpret. There was also a pretty intriguing facial recognition procedure for existing EU passport holders at border control. EU passport holders would step into a booth where a photo of themselves showed up on a screen and they would have to match their face to that photo through the camera in the booth. This reminded me of the Hunger Games movie just a bit.
My eyes watered as I walked down the aisle.
Of the plane.
After roughly 12 hours in travel, I was in Germany!
I felt like a young child receiving candy when the bank ATM dispensed colorful euro bills to me.
Next to the ATM was a food stand and I decided to stock up on food for the rest of the day. A veggie sandwich costed 5€, so I reckoned it was a reasonable price but I was just hungry as well. My first difficulty in interaction as a foreigner was at this food stand when I tried asking for change in coins even though I later realized that I would have received change in coins anyways.
I called for a cab because my Airbnb host had class soon and I did not want to make them wait. My cab driver spoke very limited English, but I still respected that his capacity of English was much more than how much German I knew (which was nothing at all, aside from knowing that under directly translates to under in German). He swerved through traffic and almost drove onto the sidewalk at one point, and I kept hearing him mutter a word repeatedly under his breath throughout the duration of the drive.
“Shizer, what does that mean?” I asked.
He looked over and made a high pitched gasp with wide eyes.
“What does it mean in English?” I clarified.
“Shizer means shit! Shizer means shit!” he laughed.
He also encouraged me to keep trying to pronounce “Technische Universität Berlin” until it could be recognizable at minimum to another German, and also reminded me that dollars were not synonymous to euros. I also learned that apartment meant apartment in German.
When the drive concluded, I asked the cab driver what a good amount to tip him would be. (in hindsight, a very counter-intuitive question)
“I don’t know,” he replied, while holding his wallet open. I gave him 2 euros.
My host welcomed me into my Airbnb and I learned that Food Technology requires a sophisticated physics skillset, not just mainly chemistry. After I unpacked into my room, I showered, practiced self care, and watched the German sunset from my window while admiring a green roof over a gas station. I tried my best to be present with where I was, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the calm wind. The warm pink and soft orange accents of the sunset progressively bloomed to full vibrancy and eventually disappeared into the dim, bleak sky around 21:00.
I placed an old photo of my mother and I at the corner of my desk to serve as a constant reminder of how and why I am able to have an education and be able to study abroad this summer. And most of all, for resiliency.