Saturday, February 16, 2013

Abschließende Abgänge

Note: Although this post was written a year and a half after my return to the United States from Italy and Germany, it was done so from detailed notes I kept in a small pocket journal those last few days. So, at long last, I give you the conclusion to L'Avventura I always meant to write:

I’m back on the other side.

My last day at the Goethe Institut (and in Germany) began with one last class. That period was low on grammar instruction and high on emotion, as many of the students were going to be leaving right after. Instead, we drank coffee together and attempted some salsa dancing. I also said a surprisingly emotional goodbye to Iyad, the Syrian painter to whom I had started to get close in my final weeks at the Institut.

Then came the last-minute packing, the final look around my spare tower bedroom, and a cab ride to the train station with all of my bags.

The cab ride was in sharp contrast to the one to the Goethe Institut my first day in Göttingen. That day, I had been barely able to muster up enough German to direct the driver to my destination and sat—shell-shocked and silent—in the back seat, watching the unfamiliar scenery drift past. This time, I sat up in the front and carried on an easy conversation (auf Deutsch) with the driver the whole way to the station.

Once there, I boarded the train to Frankfurt and said my final Tschüss! to Göttingen.

My trip to Frankfurt was uneventful, and once I arrived I made my way to my hostel, a mere 30-seconds walk from the station. The hostel was incredibly nice, and my room came with enormous pillows and friendly Canadian roommates. After dropping off my bags, I wandered down Kaiserstraße, where I ate my first solitary restaurant meal. I was enjoying traveling alone for a bit, and was glad that I had chosen to leave Göttingen a little early so I could spend some time in Frankfurt and Bologna before flying back to my family and friends in the United States.

However, I was also beginning to be very sad about imminently losing my ability to constantly speak foreign languages in situ. I heard a lot of English in Frankfurt, and I knew that there would only be more where I was going.

The next morning I met up with Bryce and Joanna, two fellow Wash U students from the Goethe Institut who also happened to be in Frankfurt, and we took a short walk around the city before their travels took them away again. I spent a few hours after they left sitting in the window of the main room in the hostel, feeling melancholy. Eventually Joel, another Wash U student from the Goethe Institut, arrived, and we headed out together for another walk around the city.

This time, we ran into a surprise (to us, at least) pride parade! Although nowhere near as epic as the Berlin pride parade, it was still fabulous and we were still showered with stickers and free condoms. After the parade passed, our wanderings took us through a gummi bear store (yes, you read that correctly) and down to the river. Am Main, we settled into a little waterside bar and enjoyed some Apfelwein (a Frankfurt specialty—literally “apple wine,” it’s what we would call hard cider).

The day was grey and drizzly (which seemed somehow fitting for our final day in Germany), so after our glasses of Apfelwein were finished we headed back to the hostel for a nap and a free pasta dinner. After we ate, we stuck around the hostel bar and enjoyed beer and conversation with the two Canadians—Liz and Alexi—who were just starting on their tour of Germany.

The next morning I spent at the hostel again, worn out by the thought of further tourism. The highlight was breakfast, when I met and spoke with yet another group of traveling Italians. Then came my final German falafel, followed by a long bus ride to the Hahn airport.

Back in Bologna, I dropped all my bags at the airport hotel and took the bus into town to meet up with Dan Schiffrin, one of the Brown students from my program who had stayed in Bologna through the summer. We spent some time in his apartment drinking wine and chatting with his roommate before going out to eat my last meal in Italy and drink my last bottiglia di Sangiovese from Emilia-Romagna (it’s not exported to the United States).

After yet another very final goodbye, I went back to the hotel and settled in to sleep before my very early flight the next morning.

Fortunately the flight back was without incident. In fact, we arrived at Logan significantly early. So early that my family had not yet arrived from Maine to pick me up. Without an American phone or any way to reach them, I sat on my bag in the middle of the airport floor and cried.

L’Avventura was over.