I think it is safe to say that every person has strengths and weaknesses. More recently, I have concluded that my weakest traits happen to be the exact set of traits that one needs to pack a suitcase. I am daunted by the intense organisation, the need to plan basic necessities months in advance. A part of me believes that I need to hold onto my notes, papers, and essays as evidence of my new knowledge, and a defense against forgetting it. Another part laughs at the foolishness of using a mountain of material evidence to demonstrate something purely immaterial, and being buried in the process. These two sides met in epic struggle as I sought to condense all of my possessions into a suitcase and two boxes. But I managed to do it and was ready to go to sleep, to get up early the next morning and take off for Germany. In this moment of relief and triumph, I lost my wallet.
I have since learned that the wallet fell out of my pocket and navigated its way under the car seat during a last minute excursion. Unfortunately, I did not discover this for a couple of days. As it was, I went into serious panic mode around midnight, my sleep deprived mind struggling to grasp the fact that I suddenly had no credit or debit cards, and no drivers license as a second form of ID. My desperate search, which became increasingly irrational and hopeless as the night wore on, was fruitless. I gave up around 2:00AM, two hours before my departure for New York City. At this point I was borderlining on meltdown, I had no money for the bus or the shuttle, and was wondering whether I had stumbled into a reality show where they hide people’s most important possessions hours before they travel overseas. My panic was brought under control, not by a laughing celebrity pointing out a hidden camera, but by my girlfriend, who reassured me that the German Authorities would let me in without a license. Then she gave me enough cash to solve my immediate problems and sent me on way. I dragged my suitcase along the icy streets of College Town and boarded the Greyhound Bus.
From this point on my plans were realised with text book perfection. Going through every security point was as fast and easy as taking off (and then putting immediately back on) a pair of shoes. The Lufthansa flight attendants had no trouble understanding my requests for Orangensaft, and my excitement was truly irrational when the safety video, with its clearly spoken German and computer animated graphics, explained the evacuation plan. After six hours on a bus, seven in the air, and five time zone changes, I finally arrived in Berlin. As I wandered around the Capital for those first few hours, going into stores and having or just witnessing short German conversations, my mood could not have been better. At 5:00PM I collapsed on my youth hostel cot and slept through the night.
The next day was “jetzt geht’s los!” I was ripped out of the lazy lull of a tourist and thrown into high paced learning, aimed at preparing me for a semester at the Freie Universität Berlin.