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The dream. Getting that sweet acceptance to the ONLY sports university in Europe.

I tried to capture and preserve in my mind (read my camera) every pore on the face of my loved ones. I celebrated by eating a year’s share of oily, yummy, spicey food (the names of which it is too painful for me to pen here) and downing thums up and old monk at every given opportunity. I shopped and I packed. Ok my mom packed, but I helped! And most of all, I waited. For my visa to arrive.

Leaving is overwhelming. But this post isn’t about stating the obvious. What surprised me in fact, was that I felt strangely numb. Except the flood of tears once I checked in, I didn’t quite know what I felt or have the words to express it. And it’s taken me some time to find them.

I landed at Frankfurt, and I was cheerfully greeted by an empty hall and even emptier conveyer belt. I did however manage after an hour or so to locate a help desk, and thereafter my luggage – which they had helpfully transported to the train station and equally helpfully neglected to inform me about. I did have 4 hours to kill before my connecting train to Cologne, so this chase helped cut it down to 3. Standing in the cold at the station with 2 huge suitcases and 2 smaller bags, I decided to find out exactly where my train and coach would arrive and then go back to the warmth of the free wifi at the airport. Acutely aware that there were no ‘kulis’ to ask for reliable info I tried other avenues but to no avail. So I hung around for the earlier train to the same destination, with the intention of observing and learning. When it did arrive, lo and behold! The ‘TC’ jumped out right in front of me. How great was this? He was very, very Deutsch and being absolutely shocked that I planned to wait 3 hours for the next train, threw one suitcase off the trolley and into the train before I comprehended what was happening. I scrambled to follow it, along with the other bags, all the while him yelling at me to leave behind the trolley (and my 2 euros deposit with it) because I, (the late, confused Indian girl) was holding up the train. I stood all the way to Cologne, 2 euros in a hand and holding listlessly my useless First Class ticket in the other. Its only 3 weeks later that I begin to comprehend the extent of his dismay at my prolonged, planned wait for the next train. The Germans all have the Deutschbahn app on their phone and use it to plan and optimise their journeys so they don’t have to wait an extra 3- 5 minutes for the next tram/underground.

Travelling alone with a lot of luggage means you get a lot of stares and not enough help. After running up and down the escalator at the station (there was no elevator or trolleys), I had collected all my things at one corner and was at my destination 3 hours ahead of time. I decided to call my adopted sister P who was supposed to pick me up, to let her know the good news!  I asked a girl roughly my age if I could make a call. “No.” Just like that. No sorry, no reasons/excuses. I think it was my first culture shock. I can’t imagine an Indian doing that under any circumstance, especially not mine. She sat down next to me and even said goodbye when she left. I however kept sitting for 3 hours until I was picked up at the original time by P, I couldn’t bring myself to ask someone else.

As I deal with an overload of chores - personal (cook, dishes, DISHES and DISHES) and assigned ones (cleaning the common kitchen and the room loo), it strikes me how much everyone around seems to get done in a day. Quite inspired to get over some inherent laziness – its on the top of my to-do-later list.

Sometimes I think my accent and I are ‘exotic’ to many around. That, or they just like to stare uncomprehendingly at me for kicks. I was asked very gingerly whether I drink or eat meat. And equally boisterously about holy cows, arranged marriages, saris and whether I was a princess back home. Sigh, if only. A friend asked me why I put on a serious face whenever I speak German. Well, when in Rome…

It’s only after 3 weeks, and many “firsts” that I have started to find my feet and words.

The cozy dorm room, complete with a welcome sign. The overwhelmed awe with which I took in the University entrance. The deja-vu on entering the ‘Mensa’ i.e. the cafeteria since I had seen the pictures on the website so many times. The shared laughter, tears and cooking adventure with my roommate. My tip-toed walk through the stuffed shelves of the library. The breathtaking run to the forest and lake nearby. Picking up with P right where we left off. A terrible statistics lecture left me reeling from shock but made me feel right at home. A great one on Olympic history had me craving for more. The unexpected momentary pang of fear before entering a 50m pool after 10 years. The 180 degree spin after, on seeing open showers in the change room. The realisation that Europeans cant begin to imagine (yet) how vastly differently sports is viewed in our societies. Perpetual confusion at the grocery store, culminating in mini disasters like eating half- baked (I mean it really had only been baked half way) bread, and setting off the fire alarm. The pride with which I proclaim that I study 'an der SpoHo'.

All of it that makes the journey worthwhile.


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