Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now...

I was on the edge of my seat, transfixed. A few around me were actually dozing off, others were discreetly playing words games with each other on pads of paper. But I couldn't get enough. This was my first symphony, and I was in awe. The percussion and horn section and woodwinds; they wove together to create something that was more than the sum of their parts. The music rose and swelled through the expansive balconies and reverberated off the soaring ceilings of the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. As it ended, I and my fellow Europe Semester students gathered our things and made for the exits. I was still in a state of music elation, and not wholely aware of my surroundings. I wanted to let the memory of the music soak in just a bit more, so I didn't find a friend right away to talk to and walk out with, and just kinda wandered out of the hall.

Everyone in our group was scattered in the crowd but generally all heading out toward the nighttime streets of Berlin to make our way back to the hotel. I saw a few Westmonters just a few feet away, made a mental note to join up with them, after I shuffled my way through all the other symphony attendees to grab a pamphlet from right by the exit door. Then I turned, and the familiar faces were gone. I hustled forward, scanning for familiar silhouettes, somewhat used to doing such things after over two months of traveling with the same people. Still, no one. I hadn't been the last one to leave my seat, and I knew I'd been taking my time but I was sure that there had to still be others from the group coming down the stairs or just walking away from the Hall. The music was forgotten, I dashed around, not really believing that not a single other student wasn't still within eyesight of me. It was like a movie, where everything and everyone familiar suddenly vanishes.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat down on the steps outside the almost vacant Philharmonic, sweating and trying to focus on figuring out exactly what direction the subway was.
On just our second night in this foreign city, I had not yet grasped my bearings or quite figured out the transportation system. I knew we had traveled through the subway and walked several blocks to get from our hotel to the symphony, but we (well, at least me) often just followed the professors and not necessarily making note of the direction and street names. Plus, everything was in German.

I wasn't completely frantic. I wasn't hopeless. But I felt alone, I felt some regret, I felt bummed that I wouldn't get the fellowship of the journey home, to speak with people in the same language as we talked about the day's events. I had no map or subway schedule, telling me which way to go or when. I had only myself.

I slowly stood up, and as I did, the situation became clearer. I was not lost. I knew my location- I was in front of the Philharmonic, and I knew our hotel name. I knew who I was and what I was capable of- I was 21 years old and had traveled through many foreign countries, and being a smart and independent person, had found my way out of difficult situations before. And I was definitely not alone. God was with me there in Germany just as he was in Montecito. I also had a roommate who would realize within a couple hours that I was not at the hotel.

The exact details of how I found my way are unclear, as it was almost four and a half years ago now. It was not terribly dramatic; I set off in the direction I thought we'd come from, found an entrance to the subway, took a couple wrong turns, asked some English speakers for assistance, had to wait for a train to come as I had just missed the previous one... I ended up walking more than we did to get there, since I didn't know the name of our stop. I know I was nervous, but I remember feeling exhilarated to be seeing the bright lights and streets of Berlin with an observant and quiet eye. I felt a sense of adventure at being self-reliant and at the fact that I was taking an unexpected path. I had prayed and felt confident that I would get to my destination eventually. And I also stepped outside the moment to remember how great life was; that I was with dozens of lovely friends traveling through Europe and that we had many places yet to see. I had figured out how, though I was traveling unexpectedly solo and without directions, to enjoy the journey and stay positive and remember God and myself. The music I had heard earlier that night came back to me; I could hear it play over in my head, and I was smiling when I finally stepped into the lobby of our hotel.

I'm smiling now remembering this story, and grateful that I am still confident that the journey will be a great one, and although sometimes it will be difficult or confusing, I am not alone. I know I will get to wherever I'm going a wiser and happier and more complete person that I was before.


Lesley Miller said...

What a beautiful story Corinne! I remember this night although not as vividly as you. Don't you wish we could go back and do parts of that trip again? Sometimes I wish we could escape back to that same exact group of people, knowing what we know now, and relive, relearn and fall in love again with Europe.

p.s. I admit I was one doodling/playing games during the symphony.

christen said...

that was a beautiful story. wonderful metaphor and great writing. i was there. i've had that alone feeling in foreign countries before and your description took me right back. i always cry when i get lost! i can't wait to be lost in new york in a few weeks and think of this story!!

Megan Stichter said...

looks like you've started your travel memoirs. where to next?