If you’ve grown up in a middle-class family in India in the 80s-90s, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to my story: you had an uncle or dad’s friend or friend’s dad who occasionally traveled to places on work.
And by places, I don’t really mean the popular big or small cities within the country. Mostly it had to be the US of A or the United Kingdom. Or maybe another popular country you could easily spot on your geography map in school.
You were fascinated by their travel, by words like ‘flights’, ‘time zones’, ‘currency’, ‘jet lag’ and so on! ‘Jet lag’ was my most favorite I must admit.
No specific reason, but it sounded so exotic to me! And so, places closer to India didn’t really make the cut.
Cut to the new millennium, and college days took me a few steps closer, albeit virtually, to getting a peek into a foreign culture. I find it all destined, and some may even prefer to call it a matter of chance that I took up a language in college.
Thanks to my newfound love, I decided to explore it further and enrolled myself in a few other classes and courses. And I could only see the passion grow.
After about 2-3 years of dedicatedly pursuing the language at various institutes, I got my first break! My first ever chance to travel… abroad!
Who would imagine a 20-year-old, still in college, getting selected along with some others to visit a foreign country, far, far away? And the duration was no less, it was an entire month!
I was formally assigned a partner with whom I was to exchange letters in order to get acquainted with her and her family. Their customs, their rituals, their habits, and so much more!
I was so excited and began preparing myself for my first ever visit to any foreign country in the May of 2003.
To this day, I distinctly remember the flight, especially my introduction to the oh-so-tasty orange juice!
I landed in Germany, reached my friend’s (let’s call her Kay) place, and the first thing that was offered to me was again the same orange juice.
I gradually got hooked on to it, to the bitter-sweet taste. This was certainly not something I had ever tasted back home and the taste stayed with me forever.
My biological clock was slightly disturbed but I happily ignored it, for excitement took over. Days were long and the sun didn’t set until after 9 pm. It was indeed a strange feeling and I tucked into bed in anticipation of the next day.
I got up the next morning at Kay’s place and was delighted to see the breakfast table laid with an assortment of bread, a range of fruit juices, and a platter of cold cuts.
But being a preferential vegetarian back then, I decided to completely ignore them – okay, don’t hate me for that! The days were spent well, walking around and getting acquainted with the charming town of Kaarst, meeting new people, studying new cultures, tasting and relishing new foods, and learning new ways.
I was still getting used to my new abode, a new routine, and of course, a new time zone! I was like a sponge, trying to absorb as many new things as I saw and heard.
I got up on my third morning at Kay’s place and yet again, the breakfast table had the same items laid: the same assortment of bread, the range of fruit juices, and the platter of cold cuts.
I learned my bread that day – what they called Baguette, Ciabatta, Toastbrot (a regular looking loaf of bread) and something that captured my heart forever – Croissants! I found myself falling in love all over again…