Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 9, 1989

In 1986 I left the U.S. for the first time - I was just 17 and looking back, I have no idea how my parents let me leave the country at such a young age. Alone! I was an exchange student in Germany, thanks to a generous scholarship from the U.S. and German governments. Shortly after my arrival in Germany my host family took me to the border between East and West Germany.

At the border, my host father Willi handed me a pair of binoculars and I looked into one of the guard towers on the East German side.

I was shocked to see that an East German border guard was looking right back at me through his own binoculars.

Here's a picture of the border. The sign in the front says, "Stop, this is the border."

Isn't that funny? The dividing line between East and West Germany wasn't a wall, it was more of a quaint picket fence. At least here in Schleswig-Holstein. There probably was a wall at other stretches of the border.

Fate and luck came together and brought me back to Germany again in 1989. I was living in a dorm in Hamburg and I remember when one of my floormates, Olaf, came into the kitchen and said, "The border is open! People are coming from East Germany to the West!"

Disbelief - that's the only way to describe that moment and the days that followed it. The Wall was such a fixture, something we believed would always be there. And now it was down. Incredible.

I went to the border and picked up one of my most prized possessions. My own little piece of history.

I brought back two pieces of the Wall. My kids have already told me they want them when I die. Which is so sweet that of all the jewelry and stock and property that I own, the thing they want the most is a piece of the Wall.

It's not so sweet that they're already planning ahead for my untimely death.

But that's another post.

I wish you all peace and the freedom.


Sin-Yaw Wang said...

My younger kid was born the next day when all newspapers headlined the news. I kept the first page of San Jose Mercury for her.

Unknown said...

I thought of you the other day when they were celebrating 30 years of the wall's demise. I remembered you talking about it (could it really have been 30 years ago?) and how it felt to be there at that time. All the recaps I heard that day, just made me think of you all day. I love you Melanie.

Melanie Gao said...

No Jane that couldn't have been 30 years ago. Impossible. :)

Sin-Yaw how amazing, and happy, that your daughter has grown up in a world without the Berlin Wall.