Our year is over and we’re heading home now. It was quite the time, a time of fun, a time of challenge, a time of change. The past week has been full of preparation to leave: last meals with friends, packing, one more stop by the cafe, packing, organizing travel plans, packing, you get the picutre. Now I’m en route and this one is going to be a doozey; can’t wait to get home.
My journey started long ago when I tried to purchase my flight ticket. Naturally wanting to join Mandi on her flight, I was surprised to find that I could only do so for about $2,500. In fact, I tried and tried but couldn’t find any good tickets home. It turns out that you should never buy a one-way ticket because they are most often more expensive than round-trip tickets, even for the same flight. After about a month of watching prices and searching, a decent flight opened up in my price range and I jumped at the opportunity.
Henceforth, Mandi and I said “goodbye” to each other this morning as she heads for Frankfurt to catch her flight and I to Berlin for mine. She at least gets to fly straight to Indianapolis, but I will be landing in Chicago, taking the Blue Line to Union Station, then catching the MegaBus to Indianpolis, all the while carrying a fifty pound suitcase, a twenty-two pound backpack, and my laptop bag – hoping dearly that the airline accepts all of my bags without telling me I have too much.
The past week has been hot ☀️. It’s too bad that it was so miserable outside because I would have liked to have spent more time just roaming around the city. Despite the heat, we held a going-away dinner two nights ago and had lots of friends join us. We enjoyed the facsimile of American food at the Roadhouse and tolerated the German service.
At one point during the dinner the server spilled a whole tray of alcohol over my back and pants. He quickly picked up the glasses and scurried off to the kitchen. A bit surprised by the minty-fresh feeling and Listerene-like chill where I was sitting, I decided to cut the night short and go home to change. Mandi’s hair stylist (who was joining our dinner) started throwing a fit with the manager and demanding that I get something for free – a free drink at a minimum. I had already asked for my check but gave in and ordered a Fanta on the house. When I finally got to the register and was paying my bill, the manager came and started drilling the server,
“You can’t just walk away if you do something like that. You have to at least say, ‘sorry” or something. Offer a drink. And find me immediately!”
With all the shuffle and my soggy pants, I could hardly help but chuckle. The server didn’t say a word to me when he dumped all that alcohol and expressed no regret. Ironically, there was a side conversation earlier in the eventing about “German service.” The customer is always right is so far out of reach here; it would be a great step forward if we ever got beyond, the customer is there to make your job miserable. It’s like there’s a rule that you have to either do something to the customer, neglect the customer, or sneer at the customer in order to make a fair transaction.
The next day (yesterday) we took off to rest and relax. Our close friends Marco and Imke invited us to go out to a lake with them and we accepted since we were mostly packed. Storms routed us away from the lake and to a swim park in Celle. There we enjoyed the waterslides and some good sun, picnicing on a grassy hill outside. It was the best way to spend the last day.
Now it’s back to the US we come and I can’t wait until I’m done with this part of the trip. I’m deeply saddened about leaving Germany (and Europe) and it’s hard to express fully how so or why, but in short I love the lifestyle over here and I’m nervous about how things will be in Tucson with traffic and cars and fast-paced American life. There are a few distinct things I’ll miss:
- Taking a 40€ flight for an hour and a half and jumping into a completely different culture and historical tradition.
- Airport security that doesn’t strip away your dignity.
- European cafés (my workplace), especially those in Berlin (Sankt Oberholz and westberlin)
- Being able to walk everywhere and having a clean, safe, and interesting city center.
- The Euro (it’s colorful, the bills have different sizes, and the coins are useful)
- Being offset in time from a large contingent of my coworkers, which gives me several hours each day of distraction-free focus time.
However, there are some things I can’t hardly wait for:
- American urban Internet access – high speeds, low latency, and wide availability
- American friendliness and customer service (see above)
- Having a good command of language again. Regardless of my German skill, English is my mother tongue and things are easier and more comfortable with it.
- Ice water on a hot day
- Free bathrooms, free WiFi, free condiments, free water
- Having a more permanent home that we can keep clean and not have the flatmate mess up.
It’s hard to predict how much adventuring will occur in the next year, but I think I’ll be more stationary for a while. There is nothing but the unknown before us as we move out west and Mandi starts her PhD program. Thanks for following our journey so far, we will try and keep you posted.