Even though the semester just started, I’m already looking at plane tickets to go to Beijing this summer or to visit Germany again. Don’t get me wrong – my semester has been going pretty well so far, and I like (almost) all of my classes. My favorite classes this semester are Immunology and German. My German teacher is an amiable British bloke whose jokes in German seem way funnier than in English, just because I can actually understand them, and so I laugh more heartily as a reward to myself and as a sign that I actually got the joke. Today in class he played a song by the famous actress Marlene Dietrich, who, along with many other artists, lived outside Germany during the Third Reich in voluntary exile in defiance and insistence that there was another Germany that existed during that time. She always had a love for the Germany of her youth, and eventually was buried in Berlin after living in Paris for most of her life.
In her deep, velvety voice, Dietrich sings metaphorically about a suitcase that she still has in Berlin (link to song here). Even though she enjoys life in Paris, Rome, and Vienna, she still has a suitcase full of the blissful times of the past waiting for her in Berlin. The song expresses a perfect nostalgia that does not necessarily neglect the happiness of the present, yet dreamily yearns to return to the past. The song was absolutely mesmerizing, and a wave of nostalgia with a tinge of sadness hit me. The first wave was for Beijing, my second home, and then the second wave was for Stuttgart, which also occupies a special place in my heart after studying abroad there last summer. I began to think about my transitory dreams to travel back and pick up the suitcases that I’ve left around the world. Some people can’t understand why I have to retrieve them, especially if I’m enjoying my life here in the USA. But Marlene understands my nostalgia, or, rather, I can understand hers. Once you’ve traveled or lived abroad, you know the places where you’ve left suitcases, and the places that will always beckon you. The more I travel, the more I leave my “luggage” around the world. Who knows which suitcase I’ll find, re-open and add more memories to this year.