Tuesday, July 11, 2006
It's been a month since I arrived in Strasbourg, even though originally the trip was supposed to be just "two or three days". Well, the few clothes I packed have been worn again and again and are probably worn out already. Then again, when you travel you realise there's really only so much you need in life, and the rest are just wants.
The journey home was surprisingly smooth, unlike the 13 hours it took me to get to Strasbourg when I went. Even transfering at Brussels I didn't encounter any of those delays or craziness running between platforms that seemed to change every minute that Belgiums and their great art of organisation are infamous for.
Armed with a sandwich, two croissants, a bottle of jus de pomme, I boarded the train. The friend was even there to see me off, since he was travelling at around the same time, only in a different train and direction. That's the way it is with journeys: you meet people on the way, travel a bit together and enjoy each others company, but the time comes where you go separate ways, unsure when or whether you'd meet again. But those few, short moments together remain with you, stored in the lugguage you take with you as you go further in life.
Watching the beautiful scenery flash by I felt sleep overcome me a number of times, to be interrupted by the occasional stops and ticket controls. It's been a long trip, and it felt good to sit, relax and not have to worry about being awakened by the cry of the baby... or that of my mother friend.
For the first time in years I saw customs officers search the train at the border between France and Belgium. Though they left me alone, and even smiled at me, this other passenger was not so lucky. He was, or at least looked,'Arab', and they woke him up, and even conducted a body search. I wonder if a 'random security search' in this day and age has become synomonous with "search-anyone-with-a-beard-and-anyone-who-looked-like-a-potential-Arab-aka-terrorist".
The train was surprisingly empty. Which made it really ridiculous when this old couple were thrown off the train at Luxembourg because their bicycles were 'in the way'. I think they were Dutch, and the old lady started to beg and sounded like she was about to cry when the conductor insisted that they remove their bikes. Rules are rules...but really how could you do that to old people who spent like ten minutes getting the bike and lugguage on board the train, only to have it thrown out again?
As the train sped into the Netherlands, I felt this strange feeling that I was 'home'. The feeling began as a cheery condcutor announced that we had crossed into the country...in no less than 4 languages (three of which I understood). That's a welcome change from being in a country where most people don't (or don't want to) speak anything other than French. There was this provinsial friendliness in his voice, together with this warmth that was welcoming. And I looked outside the window, at the flat fields, the polders, the sleepy cows, the yellow number plates...yes, this was undoubteldy home. And it's been a while since I felt that feeling.
The moment I opened my front door, I heard Kitty's bell rinkle...and like each time I stepped throught the door in the past, she popped her head over the stairwell, and took a long look at me. Another warm welcome party.
I went upstairs, and went into the living room. As usuall, the place was...filthy and dark. Curtains drawn in broad daylight, papers and things cluttered all over the seats, and the stench of cigarrettes in the air.
Yes, this is undoubtedly home.