Sunday, June 25, 2017

first day in Germany: alternate realities

It is 6:53 pm, the evening of our first day in Germany, and I'm still awake. We'll see if I can make it to my goal time of 9. I'm pretty confident I can.

Y'all. I am not just here for two months to help my parents move, but for a whole year with the Fulbright (more on that in posts to follow). I am so glad to be back - it's good for my third-culture-kid soul. The only thing missing is Charlie. It's been a happy day, and as we went through it I realized that there are very marked differences between one's first day in Germany on vacation and one's first day in Germany during a military move. Both can be very good days, but I was chuckling to myself as I came up with the list of comparisons.

Any time you go to Germany: you start getting excited the moment you hear German spoken in the airport in the States, and then cannot stop grinning when you actually get to the German airport. (Fun story from today: at passport control my passable accent as I said "Guten Morgen" and the fact that I was born in Wiesbaden led the guard to ask me - in German - if I had a German passport also. No...but I wouldn't complain if I did.)

The first day on vacation: you have The Sound of Music soundtrack stuck in your head all day because that's what you watched on the plane.

The first day of a move: you have "How Far I'll Go" stuck in your head all day because you finally watched Moana on the airplane and all the tck (third culture kid) vibes are resonating strongly (island home/ocean -> American home/Germany).

The first day on vacation: you don't have a rental car, so you take the train from the airport to the city center and then buy a transit pass that you figure out how to use as you go.

The first day of a move: you can't pick your car up until tomorrow, so someone from post comes and picks you up, throws all 8 pieces of luggage for you and your parents in the government minivan, and drives you to military lodging.

The first day on vacation: you have to stay awake all day, so you spend hours wandering around the beautiful old city center, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the architecture and cobblestones and atmosphere of the place.

{Munich 2015}
The first day of a move: you wave at the stunning German countryside as you whiz past on the autobahn - you won't see it again for the rest of the day since you have no way to get off post once you're dropped off. You still have to stay awake all day, so you spend the hours wandering over post, feeling totally at home among the old military housing (if you've seen one post, you've seen them all) and exploring the PX/BX (Post/Base Exchange - aka a shopping mall). You leave with polish pottery and an inexpensive cell phone.

The first day on vacation: you purchase food from the local grocery store, marveling at how inexpensive Camembert cheese and good bread is.

The first day of a move: you know that you don't actually have to do a big grocery shop since you'll get the car tomorrow, so you run into the Commissary to purchase the bare necessities. Dad goes for milk (for coffee) and bubbly water; Mom goes for yogurt, ramen, and chocolate; and you go for tea (black for the morning and peppermint for evenings) and apples.

The first day on vacation: you spend the evening hanging out in the lobby of the youth hostel with your traveling companions, figuring out wifi to contact family members and chatting with the hostel staff.

The first day of a move: you spend the evening in military lodging, either putting up with cramped army guesthouses (the last time we moved), or marveling over how spacious and pristine air force lodging is (this move). It's no secret that the air force is cushy, and while you take pride in your tough army status, it sure is nice to enjoy that pampered air force life to ease the transition. While your parents lay out a plan of attack for the dizzying logistical challenges of in processing, picking up the car, and finding a home preferably within 5 days (wishful thinking much?), you revel in your lack of responsibility and write blog posts.

Any first day in Germany: you spend the day in a confusing haze of euphoria, loopiness from jet lag, and increasing difficulty staying alert and cogent. You instantly recognize the distinctive song of the Amsel (the European blackbird), which you haven't heard in years and yet would know anywhere because it is a sound of your childhood. You enjoy the feel of the air and the way the windows open and the sound of the language and all the memories of little things from years ago that you thought you'd forgotten. You keep your eyelids propped up as long as you possibly can and then sleep like a log all night because you refused yourself the tempting instant gratification of a nap earlier.

{Munich 2015}

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