I didn't do quite as much in my last few days in Berlin as I would have liked. I spent a good amount of time just sorting and packing my things up; meeting Jessica, the Swiss girl who moved into my room after I left (she moved in a few days early but slept on the couch until I left); and saying goodbye, at least through email and phone calls if not in person, to the people and places in Berlin I grew to love.
I deregistered from the city, which took much longer than my original registration took. I went to a different office than I did when I registered, and ended up waiting 2 full hours before I could get in to get my paper stamped and signed, a 2-minute procedure!
My last night in Berlin, I chose to go back to Alexanderplatz with my friend Rui, where they had yet another small festival, a common occurrence. Although the two shows going on were not impressive, and most of the stands were closed for the night, all I really wanted was to be back outside in the Berlin air, standing under the Fernsehturm, and enjoy the peaceful hustle and bustle of the city.
Finally, August 11, the morning I had dreaded, arrived. I woke up early and met the cab driver, who took me to the airport. There was a surprising amount of traffic, thanks to the construction that is still happening in the city. Then, when I went to check in my luggage, there were issues with how much I was expected to pay for my second and third bags. I had a layover in London and a layover in New York before I finally arrived in San Francisco. My first two flights were so turbulent that I couldn't sleep, meaning I effectively stayed up for 24 hours before finally being able to fall asleep between New York and California. I am often in a good mood and don't let small inconveniences bother me, but once I become sleep deprived, I become most irritable. Both my flight from Berlin and from London left on time, but my flight from New York was delayed two and a half hours. As much as I didn't want to leave Berlin, once I was on my way, there was nothing I wanted more than to arrive in California and see my family again. My plane finally arrived at SFO at about 1 in the morning on Friday, August 12th.
My time back with my family was actually a lot different than I expected. I actually expected them to treat me similarly to before I left, when I was still, in many ways, a child. Being abroad made me a lot more independent and made me grow up in such a short amount of time. I had taken on a lot of personal responsibility by truly being on my own and not having anybody there to hold my hand through the process. Having experienced this, I knew coming back that I had truly become an adult, but I was worried my parents hadn't realized that because they hadn't been there to experience it with me. To their credit, they did treat me as such, and for that I thank them.
Jet-lag wasn't as big a problem for me as I expected it to be, both when I arrived in Berlin last year and when I arrived back in California. When I arrived in Berlin, I was running on adrenaline and was able to go to bed at a fairly normal time for Berlin, and wake up at a similarly normal time. When I arrived in California, I was dog-tired. I hadn't slept much or well the night before, I had been up for 24 hours before finally taking nap on the plane, and I didn't go to bed before 3 am in California. I wasn't on California time yet, but I was no longer on European time either. I was on "I need to sleep as long as possible" time. By Saturday morning, though, I was back to waking up at the normal time, even if my dad didn't think so. (Hey, 10 am is early for college students!)
I hung out with a few friends still in and around my hometown, went back to church, started singing again, and working around the house. Unlike several friends who have studied abroad, my parents didn't really give me much of a break to recover from my travels, nor did I really expect them. One of the first things I did after I got back was install new hardwood floors in the family room- and that's my family's definition of relaxation! I found it pretty simple to get back in the groove of being at home, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Yet, not a day has gone by where I haven't thought of Berlin or Germany. Of course, there are all the people who ask me about stories or questions about my time abroad, which I have had various levels of success in answering. Even when I am alone and have a quiet moment to myself, my thoughts drift back to the people I met, the places I've seen, the challenges I've had, and the opportunities I consider myself lucky to have had.
I have now moved back to Davis, and classes start again in a week. I have a feeling that, if I do experience any kind of reverse culture shock, this is where it's going to happen. Until then, I'm going to take one day at a time, as I learned how to do. This past year has been, without question, the best and most rewarding time of my life so far, but there is no reason to live in the past. I know where I've been, I know where I am, and I can use that knowledge to help shape the future.
Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin und Deutschland. Ich hab euch Lieb.
Ich hoffe, dass auch ihr unsere Zeit hier nie vergesst.
...Das war vielleicht die beste Zeit,
die Zeit meines Lebens,
doch jetzt ist es für mich so weit.
Wir hatten eine gute Zeit."
"One day I will come back, if the good Lord lets me.
I hope that you also never forget our time here.
...That was probably the best time,
the time of my life,
but now it is over for me.
We had a good time."