She is your typical German girl- blonde hair (natural no less), blue eyes, fair skin, fairly tall, speaks very good english, but with a lilty german accent. She is here for the second time, having spent several months here last year in the orthopedics department, and is back for another few weeks before going home to Germany to basically start her residency.
She is my age, so she actually started off in nursing school, but when she finished she realized she needed to go back and "do the doctor thing", much like myself. During her nursing education, she had a little old car which barely got her to and from school. This worked out to her advantage one day when she broke down on the side of the road, and a handsome young man helped her by towing her with a rope, all the way to a mechanic! They got married about 7 years later!
That is a fun story and all, but its the little things you learn about someone that really bring home the differences. Last weekend, all the Americans went home, but I stayed on for another month, so I spent most of my time with Daniela and Anarosa (said VERY german like AAnAAHouussen) apparently I am a great language mimick- I kept repeating their german words with little idea of what I was saying- all to much laughing- but what was really funny was that I had begun speaking MY English with a German accent, so they understood me better. Nicollette pointed out how strangly I was speaking when the Americans finally arrived! I also use an Indian accent when speaking to Indians in english- it just helps bridge the gap! Although I usually end up sounding an awful lot like Yoda (he is after all, my screen idol)
Enough of languages- so both Daniela and Anarosa grew up in Germany- East Germany to be exact. So as we layed out by the pool all sunday afternoon, there was much excitement about this watermelon they had bought off the street. They asked the pool restaurant to put it in their fridge to cool it off, so we could eat it later. I was thinking to myself, "gosh, these girls are getting REALLY excited about a piece of fruit". Then, as we finally decided it had been cooling long enough- we dug in, and as all watermelon does, it brought stories of Vodka soaking, summer camp (where they oiled up watermelons and through them in the pool- making us campers dive in and try to grab them out for cabin glory- looking back I realize it was just for the shear entertainment of the counselors and staff), and remembering what a BIG deal it was to get a watermelon, once a year, if that. WAIT, WHAT??? Oh yes, "we would get a watermelon once a year, not every year even, but we would get sooo excited". again, EAST Germany
I had a friend at school in Madrid, Elka, who grew up in East Germany, and I always remember her saying that Bananas were a big deal!! She had never had one until the wall fell, and then people were just throwing over bananas!! Watermelon was not on my list- considering that I met Elka in '99, and at the time she was probably already 27-28, thus around 18 when the wall fell- it was a subject that still came to mind when you met someone from Germany- East or West, then, what changed for you??
Here I am, almost 10 years later, being dumbstruck by that fact that two german girls are crazy excited over a watermelon- having almost totally pushed from my mind that fact that I grew up cheering for Olympic teams from US(if we got to go)/England/France/West Germany against the evil Communists of Russia/East Germany/Poland. Today I meet germans and my first thought is- " oh, I wonder what they will think of my last name?"
So, the watermelon led to some questions- what changed most after the wall fell? Well, they did not live in Berlin, so their cities didnt change quite as fast, but they both agreed being able to travel was the biggest change. That and watermelons, bananas, and all the other "everyday" things that were not produced in Germany or Russia, and hence, not availabe at all. Both of these girls went to university and medcial school in the "old" west- would they have been "allowed" to become doctors in the "old" east? I don't know. Daniela is 30- so she was @12 when the wall fell, therefore, she speaks Russian, as it was the only language offered at school. Anarosa is 26, so by the time she remebers school, they were learning English and French instead.