TBS -> MUC -> JFK

Posted on July 1, 2011 by

1


Well, I made it to New York.

One of the things that has happened to me over the last ten months is that I’ve started to show signs of being an international traveler. I have money in four currencies, appliances with different plugs and voltages, cell phones for different countries and transmission frequencies, and an increasingly large inventory of common phrases in foreign languages.

I really like Munich. I grew up in a German neighborhood, and my grandmother was German, and so hearing and seeing German isn’t all that unusual for me. I barely have to think about it to say “danke schoen” – I have relatives who habitually say “danke schoen” rather than “thank you” anyway – and when I hear German my mind sometimes plays tricks on me, and I think that I can understand it even when I can’t. I guess it’s partially that it’s so similar to English in many ways, and partially that I grew up around it, and partially that I actually can understand some of it.

So something about being there, hearing German, and eating German food feels very homey for me. It’s nice. Not to mention that Munich airport is an amazing work of modern design – it’s comfortable, easy to navigate, efficient, and full of great stuff. It has free wifi. It has ice for your drinks.

Tbilisi International Airport is tiny. There’s not much to do, it’s not particularly comfortable, and it is busiest at odd hours. Although I see the airport as the gateway to Georgia, and it was my first impression of the country, at this point it’s really nothing more than a relatively inconvenient hub on my itinerary.

JFK, in New York, is very New York. It’s fast-paced, full of all kinds of different people, and just a tiny bit dirtier and grittier than you’d think an airport should be. The most notable thing for me this time around was that nearly everyone was speaking English. After ten months abroad, it’s actually odd for me to hear so much English, and to realize that the people around me can actually understand what I say.

On the other hand, I can curse freely in Georgian here in New York without having to worry about offending anyone. I resisted picking up Georgian swear words, but last month they finally started to sink in. In Georgia I tend to curse in Spanish or Italian if I want to express frustration without getting caught – most New Yorkers know at least a few Spanish and/or Italian swear words.

One final observation about world travel: I’ve discovered that, although you can get almost anything in New York, Tbilisi actually has things easily available that are not easy to come by in New York. Things like khatchapuri and Nabeghlavi. Things like, perhaps, Azeri tea (which is just unbelievably delicious). So from now on, no matter where I am, I’ll always miss something. If I’m in Tbilisi I’ll miss New York pizza, burgers, steaks, and other foods. If I’m in New York I’ll miss ghomi and minerali. That’s a little bit weird to think about – the idea that what I crave is now split between two places, thousands of miles away – and I guess that the more places I go, the worse it will get. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, because before I knew what I was missing, I craved the idea of travel itself.

I guess I could sum it up like this: Munich reminds me of my ancestors, New York reminds me of my life so far, and Tbilisi reminds me of what my future could be. So it was an interesting trip.

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