Random Observation/Comment #163: Unpacking my bags in this new place was exciting, yet a little depressing. Every pair of jeans I folded left me with a smile because I knew that they were crusted with great memories, and I knew they would be there when I make new ones in this unfamiliar country. The t-shirts and short pants I hung up reminded me that this journey will last for six months from the winter snow through the summer sunshine. The shoes that climbed Fuji-san stood there in their natural pose singing, “I can show you the world, shining shimmering splendid.” The socks in the drawer whispered, “Slip into me and keep me dry.” This is when I realized I was losing my grasp on reality. I noticed how the fully unpacked closet looked a little empty – I think this was the depressing part.
The university I’m attending at Hamburg has a wonderful “buddy” program where responsible students in your field take the important ambassador role by helping you with the language and take care of the laundry-list of errands required to settle into this new environment. Enrico and Ilona picked me up from the airport and spent the following few days answering my endless barrage of questions and passing dry uneventful days along my side. They have never stopped being a useful resource and good friends, and for this, I owe them a great deal of thanks. It is definitely a relief knowing that my colleagues and new friends are willing to accept my quirky personality and American ways. Thankfully, their English is amazing or else there might have been a Japan-Airport-incident relapse (those conversations were more like a continuous game of charades).
After unpacking my bags and meeting new roommates (in my living quarters for the next 5 months), I took some time to absorb the indescribable feeling of adrenaline. I lay on my bed while staring at the ceiling and just wriggled with excitement. Endless plans raced through my mind and my world became a beautiful performance of fireworks. I wanted to find a metaphorical bottle to keep some of these overwhelming emotions for another time, but the only thing I had in arms reach was some pen and paper. I scribbled in a pseudo-random-fashion, yet the lines looked so happy. I think I should submit it to modern art. However, when I flipped the sheet over, my emotions changed a little bit. I drew another set of lines and scratches that resemble the word, “DAMN.” Unfortunately, I scribbled on a very important piece of paper.
I tend to fall into a series of odd behaviors when I arrive in a new, temporary home. Compared to the week before in London, it’s noticeably less exciting. In the back of my mind, I don’t feel rushed to do anything, so I allow myself a lot of time to do nothing. Of course it’s not “doing nothing,” but it definitely is doing something that doesn’t require me to be 6 time zones away in a foreign country. Sometimes I lose the initiative to seize the day when I know tomorrow will be another one surrounded by the same things. It wasn’t until my 4th year living in Manhattan that I realized that the freedom would soon be gone. There are many terrible tourist-mentalities involving cheesy photographs and frivolous spending, but the one I missed while in my bubble was the tourist curiosity. When I know I’ll only have four days to spend in a new country, I am filled with a new purpose. Although the task “have fun” is not explicitly written, I feel the need to explore and take advantage of every moment.
The next days were focused on completing the visa, banking, cell phone, insurance, and other details before leaving to Switzerland. Since I had four days here before a week in Switzerland and then the beginning of the research, I experienced the most of Hamburg during two days. I took random walks and saw the main port area in a quick walking tour (al Enrico y Ilona). The port view during sunset was, to put it simply, a soothing sight. It was during this time where Enrico, Ilona, and I “chatted” the most, so I told and heard plenty of interesting stories. Their welcome has started a very good reputation for the German people as a whole.
Since I am staying near Berliner Tor, I followed a nice day trip walking: north towards Alster Lake, circling across the bridge towards the town hall area, walk around the town hall, and walk all the way back to Berliner Tor. I wasn’t especially impressed with this walk (probably because London spoiled me), but the weather smiled upon me. The walk was a little windy, but the sun brightened my day. I had real German wurst for the first time from a corner shop called MoGrill – believe me when I say that it puts any barbeque to shame. How do they make the skin so crunchy, yet after the initial crispy bite, each additional chew is an explosion of juices and actual meat textures. Needless to say, the minimal oil usage and maximum flavor of fresh meat was delicious. It beats the pig knuckles and leftovers in whatever we call a New York hotdog.
Another must-taste around the Hauptbahnhof station area is the Gelato Ice Cream in the Europe Passage. It’s 1 EUR for one scoop and 2 EUR for 2 scoops of any of their 32 different flavors. It was difficult to narrow down my choices to a scoop of Cookies and a scoop of Cream, but I knew this would be on my Frequently Visited List. Even in the cold weather, everyone was eating ice cream and holding tightly to their scarf.
Unfortunately, these short few days of seeing Hamburg would be the most in-depth days since I’ve been here (I am writing this 3 weeks behind). In this temporary visit, I saw the port city area and followed a full walking-day. Despite the frequent good weather during the weeks with my research project, I was still very reluctant to leave my obligations and enjoy the new city. The days of perfect walking weather just withered away with all chances of exploration. These were probably some of the most depressing moments in front of my computer. The warmth of the sun and clear skies seen through those tall office windows made me yearn for freedom. The funny thing is that cloudy skies and rainy weather has the same effect. I switch from wanting to be as free as the clear skies to feeling depressed from the dark clouds. I think this was most likely my procrastination speaking for all normal bodily functions
~See Lemons Taste Test Hamburg