As the plane neared Detroit city limits, I looked at rows of broken down homes. The young girl behind me screamed, “Oh no! Not here! Tell me we’re not landing here.” Although laughing in my head, a tear streamed from my face. Once the plane landed, I said, “This is it. Fifteen months of living in Europe is officially over.”
It’s hard to explain as those who’ve never lived abroad consider you as a snob. But I know deep down my soul yearns freedom – to be free from constraints, bullshit policies and convention. While living in Hannover I was free. I was able to pursue my creative pursuits and live life the way it should be.
Reality struck on the runway, the fairytale life is over. Driving to Cleveland from Detroit, my eyes were too sore for the local sites. Why are houses so big? Why are cars so big? Why the hell is Cabella’s slapped in the middle of nowhere alongside the freeway? The lack of zoning in America drove my mind crazy as natural spaces were ruined with Adult Mart and empty strip malls.
But, to best describe my emotions I felt a blanket of sadness. No more stylish cafes, just corporate Starbucks and Panera. No more handmade brotchen sandwiches, just the “eat fresh” signs of Subway. Oh, how can this be?
The thing about Germany, although its reflected in some of the wages, The Deutschland is highly affordable. Human rightful things such as food, housing and services are affordable. My eyes bled tears the first step into the grocery stores in America. Sure, European grocery sizes are smaller, but its better that way because you eat the entire can or jar without something massive sitting in the fridge. Boxes of strawberries were five-dollars, red peppers are $2.50 and bars of healthier chocolate ranged from three to six dollars a piece.
It maddened my mind because I used to buy three peppers for one dollar, a cucumber for 55 cents and an avocado for 99 cents. I thought, “This is a crime. Produce should never be this expensive.”
I noticed these outrageous food prices more in Seattle. Thanks to inflation, everything went up and now eating out for two costs about thirty dollars with tax and tip. At least in Europe tax was built into the price and tipping is near obsolete. Everything is much more expensive. But that brought upon my old stress-induced patterns – of struggle.
Everything is a struggle for the average-waged American. And eating healthy isn’t a trend, it’s a birthright. I forgot how flushed with cash people are in Seattle, marking this as financial epicenter on the west coast. It made Munich and Hamburg look cheap. Women flaunted around town dressed to the nines in Gucci and Prada. My mind went crazy as I analyzed every price tag and read every food label.
Why the fuck is there so much shit in our food? My palate drastically changed in Europe for the cleaner, and my stomach ached for days. I ate a Mongolian place where I built my bowl with veggies, tofu, rice and teriyaki sauce. I woke up at 4AM with severe stomach pains because of the sodium. Not only did my mind experience reverse culture shock, but so did my gut.
I had this same experience coming home from India where my body could not handle bread or other American substances. I wanted to guzzle a gallon of water after every meal and I needed to eat something sweet to knock out the salty flavor in my mouth.
It seemed strange walking around a city that I once loved. I felt like a foreigner and an outcast. Where are the old buildings? Where is the Rathaus? I kept trying to search for things similar to Hannover.
Everything felt foreign – even the English language. I enjoyed the moments of tuning out German being disconnected from the shit of the world. I could not help but “tune in” to people’s conversations here. I forgot how much we worry about food, health and celebrity gossip. I swam at a YMCA in Cleveland and the people talked about their diabetes and how they need to give up cream in their coffee.
It perplexed me as if you were to ask a German to skip drinking lattes and cappuccinos I think they’d die of a heart attack. Eating is just eating and enjoyable. Eating fruits and vegetables isn’t “hard” it’s a part of life in Europe. In general, no one freaks out about an afternoon coffee and cake.
I felt really sad to be back in Seattle, but I think that adjustment is changing. My chronic pain is coming back, which ensures that everything is due to stress and running up and down these hills.
I sat a café to work and watched people come in and out. They reminded me at how creative this city is and can be. What is produced here is unique, and I am learning to slowly fall back in love here. I can’t deny these parts of me that make me feel more at home in places like Australia and Europe. I just “get it” there sometimes more than I do here, and I dislike that part of myself, but I must admit Americans – especially Ohioans – are damn nice people. Customer service is a hell of a lot better here and I know things will take their place.
But I looked at my pictures of Lubeck, Germany and tears streamed down my face. There is something that ignited my soul in Germany. I can't touch it or explain it, I could only feel it. Maybe there's something interesting about living in a building that was built in 1400's?
Until next time, I can only stare at the Puget Sound from my window, and although its not Old Town, it’s the place where I need to be right now in this very moment in life.