When I was in high school studying German, my teacher told us about JFK’s famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech, pointing out that, in German, we don’t say, “I am a Berliner” or “an American” or “a Pennsylvanian,” but simply, “I am Berliner,” or “I am Pennsylvanian.” Adding an article before Berliner kind of made it sound like he said, “I am a type of gooey jelly donut famous to this region.”
But I digress. Whatever the literal translation, his meaning was clear. And today, I feel exactly the same way.
Yesterday was one of those days that made me wonder why I like traveling. After typing out the following in paragraph form, I realized a bulleted list might be easier to digest:
- It began with a 4-hour* (left side of the) road trip from Moray to Glasgow that included an interminable stop at the Blair Athol** post office to mail back some of my luggage.
- Then, I nearly left my things in my rental car before catching my ride to the airport.
- I thought I’d be late, but it turned out not to matter because the Ryanair check-in line was not moving anyway.
- I had whisky in my luggage, so I had to check it, which meant going through three different lines and paying more for a checked bag fee than I paid for the whisky itself.
- Once I was finally through security, I lost my boarding pass***.
- Then when I boarded the airplane, I sat in the wrong row, because apparently I can’t read numbers.
- Finally, upon landing in Berlin, the line I was going to take from the airport to my friends’ neighborhood was closed and I needed to reroute.
But the magical moment happened there in the station when I saw the S-Bahn Closed sign. I understood it. I checked out the map and figured out a different way in. I bought my ticket at the machine and eavesdropped on innocuous conversations on the train and, incredibly, in all of this, finally felt home.
A foreign nation in a foreign language in a major world city is more familiar to this erstwhile country girl than farmland in a nation of English-speakers.
I am home. I am a Berliner.
(Of course, visiting old friends here helps a lot, too. 🙂 )
* I was late leaving my guesthouse and didn’t have time for breakfast, so the lady in the kitchen gave me a bacon roll for the road. Lovely!
** Two years ago, I biked to Blair Athol with my BFF, and it was absolutely surreal being there again, by myself, in a car. In fact, the buildings in my banner photo of the hehlan’ coo are actually Blair Athol.
*** When I went to the security help desk, the man said he hadn’t found my boarding pass, and just as I was asking whether I could get a new one at the gate, his coworker arrived holding it in his hand. Bless them!
**** (Bonus footnote!) As we took off in Glasgow, the overhead bin across the aisle from me came open. The man next to me started laughing, which got me laughing, which was exactly the thing I needed at that moment. Thank you, Ryanair overhead bin, for not being latched properly yesterday.