I love how every time I plan to go to Europe, something happens. Shoe bombs? Why, yes, I’ll take off my shoes at security, circa 2004. Subway bombings? I’ll be riding them within the month, as I did in 2005. Of course I’ll stow all my liquids in a cute little baggie in 2006. And I am not on a no-fly list, here is all of my information Mr. Airline – in 2009.
And now this. All the civil unrest in the Muslim world and where am I heading? Germany. They overtook the German Embassy in Sudan, which is a far cry from Berlin proper, but I must say I am slightly alarmed at everything that is going on. I’ve been reading the Berliner Zeitung (Berlin Newspaper) and so far, all’s quiet on the western front (please ignore the WWI pun). I went to CNN today to see there are riots now in Australia. Good grief.
I must say, though, despite the chaotic world we live in, I have never had any sort of problem overseas <insert knocking on wood here>. I remember seeing a solider with a large machine gun on a street in London’s east end while I was there in 2004 – that was a sight to behold! And even then, in “downtown London” there was a huge protest against America; they claimed absurd things like President Bush was killing babies and protested our paradoxical oil interests. Some of it was true, some of it wasn’t. I ignored all of it by walking on the opposite side of the street.
It’s often been said to me while traveling in the post-9/11 world to downplay the fact I’m an American. “Say you’re from Canada,” various advisors said. Like most in America, people assume one person or group speaks for the entire population. “Oh, you’re from America so you think you’re better than everyone else. You hate Muslims. Your country has no business being in Afghanistan, you just want everyone to be like you.” It’s much like how the south is characterized by a bunch of uneducated rednecks. And there are some out there, believe me, but the vast majority of people here are not only educated to some degree, but also incredibly kind. This time, however, I find myself trying to figure out ways to not only distance myself from my American citizenship, but also my religion. I’m not wearing the cross I usually wear when traveling, nor am I bringing a Bible or my journal (too much to pack, really). The small purse I’m bringing says “Wrightsville Beach, NC” on it and now I’m going to try to find one that doesn’t have writing on it. I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I am not from there. Or than I’m a “practicing” Christian.
The one thing I have going for me is my face. A friend of mine who immigrated here from Southeast Asia once commented that I don’t look American. My features are very chiseled, my eyes are deep set, and I have a straight brow and a large nose: I look very German (thank you Great-Grandma Magdalena and Great-Great-Grandma Julia). My husband, took after his mom’s side which is all Polish (mixed with Scot-Irish), so he looks European. And I can speak a little German, not very well, but I could get us around. I hope. “I’m going to blow my cover the moment I open my mouth, ” says The General, who’s very American accent is a mix of northeastern slang and southern drawl. “I’m just not going to say anything and let you do all the talking.” The General is very worried he won’t be able to read a menu or find things in a store because of the language barrier. This coming from the guy who navigated Stockholm like it was his hometown.
There’s a lot of anxiety on this trip. I keep pulling The General out of his comfort zone – and mine as well. The Islamic world is on fire and I hope we don’t get caught in the cross-hairs of unfriendly retribution because of what my passport says. I’ve never been to Berlin before. We’re going to a country that speaks the language of our ancestors, but my only training is from a high school German class 15 years ago, Jersey Shore, learning modules on Rosetta Stone, and random German TV shows. Needless to say, I sent an itinerary to our friends and family in the unlikely event the fit hits the shan.
Nonetheless, I plan to fall more deeply in love with Ireland and embrace Germany like it is an old friend. I love adventure and this trip is surely going to bring it.