Flying out of Tegel this week, I had a chance to do some thinking. And not just because I got stuck in the dreaded middle seat between two immovable sleepers. The first term has just ended at the American Academy, and I’ve headed home to D.C. And while I’m absolutely overjoyed to be at home with my wife again, I felt something I wasn’t expecting, something, well—ok, I’ll just spill it:
Germany, I think I’m falling for you.
Sure, there were many things I liked about you when we first met. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you how great your musical culture is, or for that matter your penchant for baked goods and amusing verbal puns. I’ve grown accustomed to all your little quirks and blemishes too: how the sun sets before 4:00 p.m. in the winter, or how your strange delight in bureaucracy borders on an obsession. Sorry to mention that, but what did you think I was going say? That I think the way you chew gum while you talk is just so cute? Please. Germany, I’ve known you for several months now and we can afford to shed that air of polite cordiality.
On the other hand, we both know this can’t last. I’ve got a life back here in the states; hell, we both know that. We’ve got plenty of time together yet, but on June 3rd I’ll head back to the states for good. So for the time being I’d appreciate you closing the bathroom door.
The truth is our relationship has never been specifically about any aspect of your rich and varied culture, although I’ve enjoyed that, too. I know this might sound silly or even sentimental, but something about my time with you has helped me see America more clearly, and helped me begin to see myself and my native tongue with renewed curiosity. Just imagine the sound and cadence of American English itself: loose, essentially casual, even sloppy at times. But from this bumbling freedom great diversity also arises.
In 2009, I’ll return for another chance to peer into the cultural looking-glass. It’s a funny word, reflection. For me, what I thought was a window has ended up becoming a mirror.