I was looking through some things today when I came across my passport wallet. I hadn’t touched it since shortly after I returned to Texas from Germany after spring break.
The minute I opened it, all of my memories of the trip came rushing back.
I traveled with a group of 15 Amarillo College students and faculty members (six of them fellow media students and a media adviser) as part of the inaugural Global Competency class. We spent 10 days traveling across south Germany, and Prague in the Czech Republic.
The trip was a bunch of firsts for me. The first time I left North America; the first time I flew internationally; the first time I paid to use a toilet.
It was one of the best experiences of my life. Before the trip, they gave us a travel journal that had the following quote on the front:
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
You know how you hear a quote and it’s just that? A group of words that people try to attach meaning to?
Once you’ve taken a trip that changes your life, the quote above becomes so much more than that. This was the trip that did that for me.
When I opened my wallet today and pulled out all of the mementos waiting inside, I remembered little things about every single one. Once I started remembering, it was a flood of images, smiles and laughs.
I love coins from around the world. Before this trip, I had a collection, mostly from my time as a cashier. But these are special. I received these coins in change each time I had to figure out the conversion rates and which coin or bill to use, and each time I had to employ what little German and Czech I had learned.
There was no middle man. These came directly from the source, to me, as I floundered my way through another culture and they will forever live in their own special coin purse.
Speaking of the coin purse – that’s not what it always was. It first held my Kafka pocket watch, a watch I bought at Prague Castle after (or maybe before) visiting a torture museum with Vanessa. She, Perla, Raylyn and I each bought a watch (the guy gave us a deal) and we spent the rest of the trip obnoxiously pulling them out and asking people to ask us the time.
Perla and I wore them for weeks after – I only stopped when it started smelling like pennies. But every time I looked at it, it reminded me of Europe – mostly because it still runs on that time.
Memory cards (Impression cards?)
After I put the watch away, I had to look elsewhere to remind myself of the little things from our trip. What looks like a random note card was so much more than that. Required by Judy Carter, our fearless leader and Honors Program coordinator, these cards were to serve as journal snippets. They weren’t just a rundown of the day – we were supposed to tell about something each day that made an impression on us.
Most nights, I was too exhausted to write and would leave it for the next morning, using the breakfast hour to furiously scribble while eating meals that were larger than I’ve ever had that early in the day. It was a pain (the writing, not the meals). But when Judy handed me my cards at the end of the semester and I began reading them, I cried. Like a baby.
I cried because I remembered things like the boat ride in Prague with the sailor who yelled at another student because she slammed the windows and then she tried to sarcastically joke with him about being crazy and there was a moment of long, awkward, unbroken eye contact between them and he ordered her to not touch anything else on the boat AT ALL and we were terrified to do anything else that may have gotten us thrown in the Charles River.
That was when we realized that sarcasm is not popular in all parts of the world. When I say I cried, it was because I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe when I remembered it.
And finally, looking over all my stubs and receipts and mementos, I came to the plane tickets flying from Berlin to Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Dallas. Of all the ways to end the trip, it had to be the experience at Frankfurt.
We arrived at at Frankfurt with about half an hour to make it to our connection. We knew we had to hurry, but we didn’t expect a woman to suddenly appear, ask if we were flying to Dallas and then demand half of us follow her to another area. We’ve all seen movies like Taken and Brokedown Palace. You NEVER leave your luggage unattended and you NEVER blindly follow and trust a stranger in an airport.
But she was so sure, she knew so much about our flight and we were running out of time. Plus, she was wearing a name tag.
So we followed her and let ourselves be separated. After a couple of students were stripped to their tank tops and manhandled, and I was pulled into a tiny room and had my cameras swabbed for explosive residue (things that hadn’t happened at any other airport), we were reunited at the gate, answered a never-ending list of inquiries about our travels and finally allowed to board.
We never did find out who the woman was. Maybe she’ll be there again this spring break, this time when we leave Italy.