I know I haven’t written a thing for almost three years, but you know, life in a big city is just too busy! Actually, I didn’t write anything because life in China had just become the norm and things didn’t seem so interesting and surprising enough to write about!
Anyway, I’ve left China for Germany, a place I never thought I’d end up. In January of this year, the month where the pollution meter was off the charts in dear old Beijing, I decided it was time to go after my second bout of pneumonia. I didn’t want to go back to North America, but I wanted to be back in the western world, so I started looking into going back to school for a Master’s degree in Europe. After finding a few schools, I sent a letter to an old boss of mine whom I worked for in Beijing, but whose company had moved to Germany, requesting a letter of recommendation. I got an answer back saying ‘If you want to leave China, why not come work for us in Germany!’ So since then I’ve been getting stuff together, wrapping up my life in China and now here I am in Zwickau, Sachsen, Germany!
I spent two weeks in Berlin before coming to my new town of Zwickau, and I won’t write about that because, well, it’s Berlin!
Here is a bit I wrote on my first night in Zwickau:
I just arrived in Zwickau and I need to write some stuff down so I don’t forget. Also because I’m super nervous and apprehensive about my first day of work which is tomorrow, and a memory dump is always a good calmer-downer!
Anyway, I got on the train to Dresden at about 2:46, after a confusing ‘where do I go, which car am I supposed to be in, blah blah’ and the conductor on the platform said gruffly, ‘No reservation, no seat!” and so I figured he meant what that would mean in China: ‘You didn’t buy a seat ticket, so you are going to stand the whole way.’ I hauled my massive bags barely successfully onto the train just before the door closed, and old ladies were jostling here and there, preparing to get on or off, but I couldn’t move my bags because there were old ladies on every side. They started sputtering in German at me and so I started crying (why I always burst into tears in these situations, I have no idea…), and so through my blubbering, I moved my bags one way and then the other, meanwhile trying to figure out if it was ok to take an unoccupied seat.
Finally, when all the old ladies had scattered, I put my bags in a pile and walked down the aisle to look in each compartment for an empty seat. The first compartment had one empty seat, but there was a family of five who all looked up at once, with big menacing eyes, so I skipped them. In the second compartment there was an enormous old Czech man and a tiny old lady. I pointed at the seat and I said ‘Ich will….Ich will…’ and the old Czech man laughed and ran through Czech, German and Polish until he finally asked, ‘Do you speak English?’ I sighed a massive sigh of relief and said, ‘Yes, yes I do! Can I sit here? Is it free?’ and that’s when the tiny old lady piped up and started pointing to a plastic board next to the compartment that had four slips of paper citing where each passenger will get off. Two of the six slots were empty and she pointed and said something that must have meant, ‘The seat numbers with empty slots are free.’ I got my bags and stuffed them wherever they would fit, bought a sandwich* and a coffee and settled in for the ride.
And thus I learned to ride German trains.
*This sandwich, by the way, was the tastiest prepackaged sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It was brown bread with arugula, Camembert and hard-boiled egg. Quite gourmet for my dulled American taste buds.
I’ll skip the next bit of transferring trains because by that point I was a pro and there is nothing interesting to talk about.
When I finally arrived at Zwickau’s Hauptbahnhof (main station, but there is only one here anyway), I hopped out of the train and lugged my bags out of the station. Right away two nice ladies asked me if I needed some help with my bags, but by then I had gotten a good system down to carry them all myself, so I declined. By the way, I had so much luggage because I’m moving my life from one country to another and thought it would be a good idea to carry things with me rather than send the bulk by ship.
I located the exit to the station, walked outside and threw my stuff down to wait to get picked up. For those back home in CT, it looked sort of like the Ocean State Job Lot parking lot on a rainy Monday afternoon. It was totally deserted, except for two guys hanging near a trash bin drinking beers and staring angrily at the lone bird hopping on the grey, cracked pavement. I looked around and suddenly thought to myself ‘Oh no, what’ve I gotten myself into…’
Just then the guy from the company burst out of the doors and said, ‘Aimee? Are you Aimee? Let me go get my car!’ So we packed my bags in and drove over to the hotel. I almost felt like I was cruising around Killingly or Putnam, except the buildings look totally different and instead of streets there are Strasse. He dropped me off at the hotel and told the boss that German won’t work with me (it ended up he just spoke to me in German at a higher volume…but I understood a little after all!), and then left, saying he’d pick me up at 8 in the morning for work.
After that I went to my room, then decided I should take a walk before it got dark, but it started raining so I went into the gaudy brass and pink restaurant at the hotel and ordered some Schnitzel, devoured it, and returned to my room to feel nervous about the coming first day of work…