Riding a train in Germany is as impressive as ever. Almost
silently, the train passes through the lands. The board restaurant
gives you real coffee mugs and nobody worries you steal them.
There is a man moving a cart through the wagons, offering food
and drinks. He has the prices of his wares printed on the back
of his T-shirt. This very moment, another salesman came by, offering
ice cream. Is this the promised land?
Germans still smoke a lot. If you've lived in the U.S. for
too long, you start to hate it. Once my aunt asked me: But can't
you savor the aromatic smell of a cigarette? I had to decline.
It is not that I don't like to smell an occasional cigarette---some
do caress my senses. But most don't, they plain offend my sphere
of privacy, in this most des-odorized society of ours.
Lately, returning to Germany has become an exercise in cultural
awareness. My senses are heightened, and my mood swings between
elation and frustration. Germans are beautiful! Germans are ugly.
Germans are funny, Germans are boring. And I am one of them, yet
I am different. How am I different? I don't know.
A well-dressed woman enters my cabin. She says Guten Tag. I
hardly look up, continue to direct my raging thoughts into my
editing program. German people can be so friendly. If you don't
have to endure day-to-day economic hardships, that is. If you
don't have to fight for your place among the living every single
minute. Finally I answer Guten Tag.
A few minutes ago I finished reading the final issue of El
Andar, a magazine for up-and-coming Latinos in the U.S. that Angela
had given to me. It is full of stories about Hispanic minorities
in the U.S. and majorities some place else. It talks about suppressed
natives in Mexico, about the new governor of Puerto Rico, and
it has poetry that I enjoy but feel I cannot properly appreciate.
And now the magazine is defunct.
I sense that my new fellow traveler is animated, apparently
curious. She must be about my age. Should I start a conversation
and interrupt my flow of thoughts? It would be a pity to stop
now. But she has a nice face and such a nice smile. Oh, what the
Dirk Riehle, April 2002.