In early March, I headed to the Fes airport filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation: dear readers, this would be the first time I visited my mom’s family, based in eastern Germany, since my somewhat tense exchange semesters there five years ago.
As my carbonated feelings coagulated with the cheese sandwich I bought at the airport’s café, I wondered what they’d say. Guilt trips due to my lack of communication skills? Probably. Negative comments on changes in appearance? Most definitely. Grandpa’s refusal to keep his dentures in at the dinner table? Yes, please.
In the terminal, I tried to predict any taboo topics that might come up in discussion as sweater-vested teenagers read books and a large Salafi man’s baby girl tried repeatedly to pull his light brown beard. Nervously, I popped Cola-flavored Mentos into my sugar-coated mouth, trying to distract myself with thoughts of pizza, cinnamon rolls and other real foods.
Entering the RyanAir plane (cheap tickets to Europe? Thanks, RyanAir!), I was engulfed in the sort of happy atmosphere I’ve never felt during a grueling flight. People chattered excitedly, the scent of various foods brought on the plane (no smuggling, either – Fes doesn’t even make you empty your water bottles) filled the air and the girls in front of me began speaking German. That’s when I realized that I was, finally, going home.
(Note: Have you ever seen so many advertisements, or such confusing flight safety info?)
In the spirit of my country people, who travel to get away from each other, the girls’ High German inflections soon forced ear buds into my ears. Such is life as a bitter bratwurst.
Francesco the pilot soon promised to take care of us, and off we flew.
Two hours on the bus from Frankfurt’s Hahn Airport. Five hours at the city’s cold midnight train station, where I seek refuge from the cold in bathrooms and on benches, with people who sleep or complain drunkenly that they’ve missed yet another train. At 9 a.m., five more hours traveling away from the drunks and to Leipzig, where a small group of people loudly works through multiple containers of chocolate and Jägermeister. In small villages dominated by old churches, people walk their dogs on frost-covered grass.
As the small group seemingly conjures cappuccinos and beer out of thin air and a coffee seller offers them “beer to wash down their beer,” I arrive at the train station and buy two of my favorite baked goods: a Berliner stuffed with plum sauce and a whole wheat bun.
And that’s when I see them.
Next time: The first night home, and how many of my fears came true.