Friday, May 28, 2010
Traveling as a UM Oversees (or how language acquisition and cultural immersion manifests as Independent Study)
The lone egret we watched in the marshes below the highway had disappeared as the Bart train rushed past the extremely thin birding habitat. I was on my way back from the International Airport Terminal, having entrusted my nine year old into the arms of a winged metal bird with enough power to fly her over the pond to the other side, where roots, culture, and thought originated, and where she will have a chance to fully blossom into her next milestone self. The country is a mystical land, full of poesy and poetry, full of endless thought and innovation--the origin of DNA dating back to the Neanderthaler took place a bike ride away from my parents' balcony, where my cradle had captured every ray of sunlight.
I peer into the bright, forget-me-not blue sky, to follow the plane. Did she actually go? I was with her at the counter, where she received her UM “Unattendant Minor”, a red and white pouch on a string around her neck, and while she was greeted by the pilot and co-pilot. The crew was checking in. Soon a flight attendant with a bright smile looked at her, teeth gleaming white, and asked: "Would you like a strict or a not strict flight attendant?” Astonished, my daughter asked “Are there really “strict” flight attendants?” We all laughed, took photos, and finally came to the passport zone; the zone of no return. Here my little girl vanished between the hassle and buzzle of conveyer belts filled with grey plastic tubs to carry jewelry, belts, coins and other small belongings through large x-ray machines. Jackets and boots were flying to the rhythm of magic wands. She passed spread-eagled men trying to find the unfindable. I stood alone. At the bottom of my feet, a colorful array of all kinds of relinquished bottles and their liquids. I waved frantically, glimpsing at her pink-magenta colors and a small white hand....waving. Occasionally a girl’s voice elevated to a perfect pitch:” Ich liebe Dich, Mama”!
Finally I strolled back past the bookshops, passed the newspapers full of the Gulf Coast’s oil spill headlines. Next to the rising and falling financial markets and into the “Reflection Room”, a quiet zone for all religions or none, where the mosaic at the entrance’s floor showed the “True North”. Inside it was quiet except the imagined call of a distant muezzin, calling for evening prayer.
I sat down next to two carpets facing East. Two grown men went up and down whispering exotic versus while I quietly cried into my German soul on American soil.