It was June 3rd 1991, and I had graduated from high school exactly three days before. I sat with suit cases assembled at a gate in the Phoenix airport, surrounded by family, my friends, and my German teacher. A group of students from my school were headed off to Germany for a month to be exchange students in Berlin. It was going to be my first big adventure as a newly minted “adult”.
Fifteen hours and a very uncomfortable plane ride later, we landed in Munich. After we had toured Bavaria and Austria for a week, we boarded the equivalent of a Greyhound bus, and were Berlin bound. As we drove northward out of Bavaria into Thuringia, the roads became bumpier and less maintained; a sign of communist neglect. We passed fields of bright yellow flowers and forests of thick green trees. What a contrast to the monolithic apartment blocks and dismal architecture of East Germany. As we approached Berlin, evidence of East Germany’s desire to keep people from fleeing to the west became very evident. Abandoned, yet intimidating, grey gates and check points were our gateway into Berlin. Shortly we would meet our host families and begin our stay in the Spandau Quarter of the city, and would attend Hans-Carossa Oberschule. Continue reading