I left for Paris, France on Memorial Day weekend of 1987. Most of the American students planned to leave after one semester, and they were shocked that I wanted to stay. I was too early for globalization. A street in Paris was still called “Rue de Léningrad” and would not change its name to “Rue de St. Pétersbourg” until a few years later.
Since I had to hide my “evil agenda” from my compatriots, my closest companions were Ivana from what was then known as Yugoslavia and Irena from the still-unified Czechoslovakia. They, of course, had radically different reasons for wanting to stay in Paris, but at least they did not raise their eyebrows at my pronouncement that I felt homeless.
One night in the late fall of 1989, I was walking home, alone as usual, in the dark from one of my evening classes or recitals. When I arrived at the Maison Heinrich Heine, where I was staying to become better acquainted with the German students, I noticed that a party was going on.
‘Haven’t you heard? The Berlin Wall fell!” shouted one of my hallmates.
I nodded apologetically, not because I could not understand Claudia’s German, but because I had been so lost in my own existential angst that I never even bothered to turn on the radio. There was no Internet in those days, and there were no 24-hour news channels, either.
Imagine a twentysomething student plagued by nightmares about a “border patrol”-like entity who would discover she was an impostor and send her home. At the police station every year, when it came time to renew my papers, the civil servants took one look at my little blue passport and could not help laughing.
As a fortysomething former expatriate, I still have a fair amount of explaining to do, but the sense of alienation has been replaced by questions from teens and young adults eager to travel the world.
“Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com”