Over the summer, my friend will be guest blogging several times a week to share her adventures in Europe. Enjoy!
Where it all Begins
Hi. My name is Cynthia Chang, recently graduated from National Taiwan University with a B.A. in English Literature. I have enjoyed my studies and loved every minute of my college life, but not knowing what to do next and feeling disconcerting for all the uncertainties ahead, I decided to visit my sister who has been studying in Germany for 6 years and stay with her for the summer.
I have never been to Europe. The longest flight I had to endure was two summers ago when I visited Joan and her family in Maryland. But don’t get me wrong. I enjoy flying. Maybe too much actually. I find airplane food not only tolerable but quite satisfying. I enjoy experiencing turbulence because it reminds me of riding a roller coaster. Yet this time, I literally flew for 24 hours. It was exhausting. My journey started on a typical Thursday afternoon with a flight (Boeing 737-800) operated by China Airlines to Manila. While waiting for my connecting flight in Manila, I used my laptop to watch Before Sunrise since many of my friends recommended it and I am also taking the chance to visit a friend in Vienna at the end of July, so I figured it was the best way to kill time. The movie captured the essence of many conversations I’ve had with friends and family. I really enjoyed it, especially the telephone scene in the restaurant. It was so honest. And I feel that honest moments are so rare now. In movies and in real life. Especially when it comes to relationships.
Next I hopped on a plane operated by Etihad Airways. I have been looking forward to this flight for a while because I have always fancied to fly with a Middle-Eastern airline for their service quality, diverse cabin crew, and a brush of exotic sensation. The in-flight experience with Etihad was great. The food was nice and the entertainment system had a variety of latest movies and TV series. (The only thing to complain about was the headphones. They hurt my ears.) I watched The Place Beyond the Pines and an episode of Switched at Birth with Carlsberg beer and white wine (Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, I’m kind of an alcoholic according to Taiwanese standards). Then I realized I have officially joined AA—Airborne Alcoholism!
The storyline of TPBP is simple yet intriguing. It is the kind of movie whose poignancy resulted from its sophisticated portrait of the subtlety of human emotions, and the kind that makes you think. The style bears striking resemblance to Blue Valentine so for me it is easy to see that the two movies come from the same director. And of course Ryan Gosling. Once again he blew me away with his way of showing suppressed emotions. There was a church scene that stunned me greatly. Such a polished actor. Lately I’ve had a lot of Ryan Gosling. I watched Crazy, Stupid, Love a few nights before and I loved it. The whole movie was so cute. It is the kind of romance comedies I have always enjoyed watching. The stories are intricately connected and incredibly funny. Highly recommended!
I didn’t get much sleep out of the 9-hour flight because I couldn’t stand aisle seats. I have always found aisle seats discomforting. Window seats are where my heart (and body) belongs. An aisle seat doesn’t have the space-out luxury of a window seat. It is always too… distracting. By the time the plane landed in Abu Dhabi I was wiped out. The Abu Dhabi International Airport is a beautiful work of architecture, but unfortunately the pictures I took couldn’t capture its beauty because it was midnight (and 4 a.m. in Taiwan). The waiting area of each boarding gate is a flat yet dome-like structure, and each structure has big and fan-like windows. A very Islamic-styled design.
I had prepared US dollars and Euros for my trip, and because I bought a bottled water in Manila and a Caesar salad in Abu Dhabi, up to this moment I was carrying five kinds of currency: Taiwanese Dollar, US Dollar, Euro, Philippine Peso, and United Arab Emirates Dirham. I felt like a millionaire! I was delighted to have access to Wi-Fi so I checked my email. By this time I have been flying for 16 hours and have to wait for 2 more to get on the plane to Berlin. Imagine quite a scare I suffered when I received an email from the department telling me that a student from my Freshmen English class (in which I served as TA) was asking for me about his final grades. And another email from the student himself. My poor nerves were whining from anxiety and fatigue. Fortunately everything was settled. Finally a bus took the passengers to the plane operated by Air Berlin, and I was on my way toward my final destination. You can see the pictures I took while climbing the boarding stairs.
I soon fell asleep and into oblivion, not feeling the plane taking off at all. I pretty much slept through the flight, only remembering that the pancakes were tasty with cinnamon applesauce. Finally, I reached Berlin Tegel Airport and passed through the customs with surprising ease. My sister had warned me about being interrogated by customs officers so I printed a full travel plan with plane schedules and the address laid out. Yet the officer only asked me the purpose of my trip and how long I will be staying. Upon hearing me saying “two months”, he repeated “two months” in exclamation and put a stamp on my passport. That was it. My sister said Tegel is known for their “loose” customs. I retrieved my luggage and finally reunited with my sis. Phew! What a journey!
Photo credit: Cynthia Chang