The thing with Condor Airlines (international, not domestic) is that they ask you money for headphones, have an amazing movie collection of exactly two (a horrible chick flick and an animation movie) unless you pay, and don't even let you choose between chicken or pasta if you are at the rear end of the plane (they just run out of chicken). With the bad food, cheap plastic that would have broken while slicing chicken anyway, and the terribly cramped leg space, I am glad that they don't ask money for using the bathrooms. With 11 hours to kill on my flight from Germany to the USA, I decide to watch the movies with English subtitles and no audio anyway, only to realize that while all that Cameron Diaz and two other women did was wear skimpy clothes and plot to avenge the man who was sleeping with all three of them (such intellectually stimulating stuff!), they played the captions from a WWII movie the entire time. Diaz wades into the ocean in a bikini and someone talks about bombing Berlin and moving in to Poland.
Having said that, there were no major mishaps and I did reach Seattle fine. G was at the airport with the kids. The 3-year old kicked me in excitement, got confused between our names, and called me her name. We struggled to load the two huge bags risking herniated uteri, G rightly asking me if there are bodies hiding in those bags. "No, just kilos of German chocolates to last me the year," I replied. The only reason I got away not paying extra for heavily overweight bags is because I made a sad face and told the kind lady at the airport that I am leaving Germany for good. My German bank (can't say enough good things about them, sarcastically though) decided to give me back my entire savings of two years in 50 euro bills. I am serious. Risking thieves (remember Greece from not too long ago?), random bag checks, or emergency plane evacuations, I had to get very creative about transporting thousands of euro in cash.
Seattle is a brief pit stop before I head to my final destination. I have been missing Germany more than I thought. It feels strange that no one is speaking German anymore, people are not stinking of cigarettes, and restaurants are serving water even without asking. Even more surprisingly, I see Indians walking on the streets for a change. In a funny way, I do feel like an alien (in the USA, they call people like me alien), only from another planet. I got to eat comfort food like idli and biryani at G’s place after months. I am getting a little bit of cold feet right now with this new chapter starting for real this week and have been jet-lagged and up since 2 am every day. I am not sleeping well. Often, I start planning what all I need to pack when I go back from Seattle to Germany. Only that I don’t have to go back to Germany anymore. My brain refuses to acknowledge that I am back in the USA for good. For two years, I shuttled between Seattle and Germany, praying that I make it back, bringing German chocolates and taking back my favorite stuff from Seattle (for example, seaweed from Costco). It does not feel any different this time. Of course I am not schizophrenic and do not live in an alternate reality. So it is easy for me to realize this and quickly switch back to reality. Within a few hours of arriving, I have a cell phone and I am using a credit card and microwave. For two years, I used none of these (I used the credit card only to purchase international flight tickets, daily purchases in Germany happened using cash). It feels like someone has pressed the reset button in my life from 2014 (when I left the USA exactly this month). In a heartfelt conversation with a close friend, I told her although I did everything in my capacity to move back to the USA with a job, I am just not able to calm down or feel like I have really moved back. She told me that I am suffering the sure shot signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The funny thing is, I will have to take a driving test again, both writing and practical. It feels like being in college and having to study for fifth grade. It’s not good enough that I drove extensively for many years before I left the US. It’s amazing how many hoops I have to jump just to settle in before starting the most challenging job of my life. Right now, my brain feels like it has been centrifuged and pulverized. I feel exhaustion way more than excitement. I am mostly navigating in auto-pilot mode, reminding myself to take deep breaths again and again. PTSD, it definitely is.