A Thousand (and More) Miles Away

I am sitting on the carpeted floor with my sole piece of luggage open before me in a room I cannot call mine. It was given to me upon my arrival, and it has provided so much more than a shelter I can at least call familiar. It is the place where I can be alone (as if 6,418 miles isn’t enough a span between the country I’m in and the country I love), the place where I am more or less who I am, and the place where I can dream of home.

Yet, this is the room that can never belong to me. You see, the view I’m used to seeing is of two kinds: one, a sea of green leaves from the tree in the garden shooting up to greet me– as I see the streets lined with the rush of cars and the protection of barbed wire; and two, the buildings soaring to the heavens and the flash of city lights. When I look at the window outside, I see bikes, the Theaterkasse, and a swarm of strangers walking past.

‘Who are you?’ is a question I have to ask each day as I walk by people with blonde hair saying “Danke,” “Bitte,” or “Tschüss!” ‘Who are you?’ is a question I hate to ask everyday, and sometimes I wish I’d wake up and see my parents getting ready for the daily grind, my sister rushing into the bathroom. Instead I wake up periodically to go to the bathroom — and finally to get out of bed, eat my oatmeal, and dash for the Carl-Schürz Haus for work. Instead of finding solace in the language I have learned to love, I am swallowed in a whole new other understanding where kids struggle to learn English and instead find comfort in their own gritty native tongue.

I remember the first night I arrived, physically and emotionally tired from the sleepless transit and the endless amount of tears I shed (some I secretly let loose in the confines of the airplane bathroom). I called my dad up and I cried, wanting to come home and at the same time realizing immediately that it was something shameful for me to do for the two people who were kind enough to welcome me into the place they called their own. I could hear him break down too, but he tried harder to put up a brave front knowing that coming home would thrust me into the shadows of my namesake and was, in the long run, not good for building up who I will become for the world to see. After all, I always believed that the human being is a spectacle among many things, and I knew I needed to be on my own to realize the talents I could bring to fruition.

As I wept and wept, I knew that I was heartbroken for the right reason. The pain of separation is always the worst, because you have to forcefully pull yourself away from the comfort of something you’ve held dear all your life, but it gives you the right reasons to yearn to be whole with it again. I no longer weep for the boy who broke my heart because he may have been a part of the reason why I needed to leave, but I know he’s not the reason why I want to come home.

Despite the hardships of not holding my family at arm’s length, I know I’m no longer confused and broken as I was months ago. I know I’m okay because I’m missing the people who are still relevant in my life, the people who have chosen to stay instead of go, and the reasons why I yearn for the 90th day.

(And so far, it’s been a great stay. I’m learning to love myself more. It’s so refreshing to be able to connect with other people in the world, and as I walk the path to Eschholzpark with the kids I’m teaching, I know that I’m slowly forgiving the one person who has beaten me down and has become impatient with the flaws I have built up in time: me.)

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