Even after all this while, two things always stand out when I land in Germany, or my part of Germany at least. One, how fast and efficient the immigration (or everything for that matter) is, and two, how White this part of Germany is. It was past 7:30 am, and still dark by the time I landed. The airport is so familiar that it has slowly started to feel like home now. It took me a while to get there though. The immigration took a little less than three minutes, and this I know because I timed it. Sometimes, the immigration line for foreigners like me is much shorter than that for the citizens. Last month this time, I was navigating a 45-minute long and grueling immigration at the Liberty International Airport, checking forms, showing documents, and answering dozens of questions. It's amazing the amount of security checks that happen while going from Germany to the US, and the total lack of it while coming back. I love Germany that way. Not one form filled. Not one question asked.
Everything from there was just the way it always is- timely, efficient, and hassle-free. The luggage arrived on time. The bus left on time. No bad surprises. The good surprise was, our bus driver actually spoke English for a change, and was very happy talking to me in English. When he looked at my luggage tag and said, "Welcome to Germany. Your first time?", I actually replied, "No, I live here." If language and the lack of social company was not so much of a barrier, I could actually see myself living here long-term. Germany grows on you that way.
I saw some authentic signs of winter during the 1.5 hour long bus ride next. What I experienced in Seattle this time was balmy weather. As our bus sped through the autobahn, it started to snow. Flurries that turned into thicker flurries floating towards me, caught in the beam of bright lights from the bus. Miles of countryside covered in white, like a pretty coconut cake, with picketed fences and horse barns decorated on the cake. I even saw a dozen handsome horses and a few deer run in the snow. The homes look different, and more European, for lack of a better word (not only prettier, smaller, and non-cookie-cutter, but something more). I saw no sun though. Everything looked grey. The bus ride was followed by a shorter cab ride where I spoke exactly half a dozen words in German- Good morning. My address. Right. Left. Thank you. Eight. Good bye. And I was home. Flying halfway across the world, from one home to another, after a car ride, two flights, a bus ride, and a cab ride. G had painstakingly packed me a lot of homemade food that will last me for many days. She kept making excuses about cooking for the upcoming Hindu festivities, which is only partially true. And of all the things that I could buy from Seattle, I got very excited during a certain Costco visit, and while lecturing G about going minimalist and consuming less, ended up buying 16 packets of weed. Seaweed actually. The green stuff that covers the rice on your sushi.
There was a time when I would return from a trip Monday morning and show up directly at work. Not anymore. I am glad I came home Saturday morning, which gives me two whole days to recover. I soon fell into an 8-hour long, deep, dreamless, comatose kind of sleep, only to wake up in the evening and wonder where the kids are and why is it so silent. For a change, I did not wake up to the sound of something breaking, or someone shouting- "Drink your milk! Get ready soon!" Jet lag will afflict me tonight. And tomorrow night. For company, I will have the comfort of home cooked food (one of the many things she made me is Cholay, because she wrongly heard me talking about Sholay and thought that I'm craving Cholay). In fact, I even sneaked in a goat from Seattle, in the form of some goat biryani.