One year ago today I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, putting a pause on the vivid mental images of my plane hurtling toward the ground which appeared every time I closed my eyes. I threw on clothes, hopped into a hired sedan and sped into the bowels of Sacramento. While I got ready to appear on Good Morning America via satellite, intoxicated coeds were still trucking home from the Limelight.
If I thought the experience of surviving Southwest 812 and subsequently being interviewed by MSNBC, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, NPR, and other local news outlets (to name a few) was surreal, it was (almost) nothing compared to being flown to Germany to reenact my fateful April Fool’s Day Flight.
Yes, I said flown to Germany. For 48 hours to be precise.
At first, I thought the email was a hoax. A film company wants to bring me to Germany to talk about the experience of Southwest Flight 812? Seems suspicious. So I ignored the email. And then a few days later, my cell rang. The lady with lyrically accented English was asking me to come to Germany. For real.
“I would love to come, but I’m too busy,” I told her. I’m dissertating after all.
“Yes, if you sent a film crew here, I’d be happy to do the interview,” I said.
“I just don’t have time to fly to Germany,” I lamented.
But she kept after me. It was less expensive to fly me abroad than bring their whole crew to the states. After some coaxing from Mr. T, I considered it. I renewed my passport* with expedited service. I started practicing my “Dankes” and “Bittes.” I agreed to fly to Germany some time in the next month (provided it didn’t mess up my school schedule). And then I didn’t hear anything about it again.
Fastforward to a couple weeks ago. On Monday morning I opened an email asking if I could fly to Germany on Wednesday. Wednesday. Two days notice.
Inner monologue: NOOOOOOOO. Not a chance. Too fast. Too many papers to write. Too busy. Can’t just go to Germany. NoooooOOOoooo.
Then T listed all the reasons I could go. It was my Spring Break. I wouldn’t miss any classes. The company would compensate me a bit for my time. I’d have hours and hours to write my papers on the plane. Who would pass up a free trip to Germany?
But T missed the part where I felt TERRIFIED. I like to plan, savor the details of a trip, prepare and at least organize my snacks, you know. I’m not particularly impulsive. I’m not the type of person who just flies to Germany on two days notice.
Well, apparently I am.
I flew approximately 30 hours to and from Germany, and due to scheduling constraints, was only able to be in the country for 48 hours. Although it was hectic, tiring, and disconcerting in parts, I enjoyed myself and do not regret the choice.
Here are a few things I learned, in photo captions:
|Wiesbaden, Germany, the town where my mother was born.|
|Due to the military presence, there are approximately 10,000 Americans in Wiesbaden.|
|Pretty cool view from my hotel room.|
|Sleek and modern hotel accommodations.|
|We enjoyed coffee at this castle on the Rhine. I admit that made for a nice status update.|
|I did say that I wouldn’t leave until I saw a castle. Thankfully, we got that out of the way almost as soon as I arrived.|
|While enjoying coffee at the castle, I first noticed how petite the beverages are in Germany. I don’t expect that many Venti Frapps are sold in these parts.|
|I felt really guilty for not speaking a lick of German. In my imagination, my first trip to Europe would involve learning a language or at least having some basic phrases down. Luckily, almost everyone I encountered spoke English fluently.|
|BMWs and Mercedes are common place in Germany as evidenced by this BMW taxi!|
|At the very least, learn how to say “please” (bitte = bit-uh), thank you (danke = dank-uh), and you’re welcome (bitte).|
|Try new things! I asked to try traditional/popular German dishes.|
|Speyer boasts one of the craziest/coolest air museums I’ve seen. Airplanes with slides, people! T thinks this is a Fokker-70.|
|Airplanes from many different countries including this Sukhoi SU-22.|
|Airplanes on sticks.|
|I don’t think the film crew knew that they’d taken an aviation geek to her happy place.|
|A MiG-23 Flogger.|
|The purpose of our trip to Speyer was not for me to take pictures, but to visit this 747 where we would reenact the events of Southwest Flight 812. I did wonder at this point what the heck I’d gotten myself into.|
|The 747-200 featured this slide so visitors wouldn’t have to climb back down the nearly 400 steps. Sadly yours truly was dressed up for filming and did not go down the chute.|
|The 200 foot elevation (or so) offered a nice view of the neighboring town.|
|A Canadair CL-215, also known as the airplane featured in last season’s Ice Pilots! T and I wonder if Turkey sold the plane to Speyer after it made a belly landing.|
|We had a few “extras” (aka film crew members) to fill in the seats behind me. The camera man kept tight shots around me so it would appear that the plane was full.|
|The seats are normally closed off to visitors and even more so during our shooting. I had to laugh at the students there on fieldtrips who thought we were “somebodies” and took pictures of us.|
|One of the most surreal parts of the reenactment was seeing it on the monitor. The cameraman shook the camera as he filmed and although it didn’t feel scary to me, it looked how I remember it feeling that day. Bizarre!|
|After filming for several hours, I poked around the museum.|
|747 on stilts!|
|A large organ.|
|I wandered the museum for 15 minutes while the crew packed up. Although most signage around town, including a lot of food stuffs and menus, was in German and English, I couldn’t read the museum signs.|
|I wish I knew how this contraption worked!|
|German fast food menu.|
|A typical fast food meal–Currywurst (sausage in a BBQ-esque sauce with curry powder) and pommes. Mayo is a typical dip for fries.|
|They forced me to eat a chocolate dipped cone. Forced me.|
|Russian Space Shuttle Buran.|
|After filming, we drove to the Frankfurt Airport for an interview.|
|I had this guy in my face all day.|
|This is the largest McDonalds in Europe apparently. They laughed at me for taking pictures until I told them it was the largest McDonalds I’d ever laid my eyes on. Truth be told, it made me quite sad.|
|It was super cool to see this non-digital board flutter and flip times like you see in the movies. Or used to, anyway.|
|German interpretation of the club sandwich with thick slices of chicken, fried egg and bacon on sticks. After 14 hours of filming, I relaxed while watching Star Wars in German. “Luke, I am your vater.” (Not quite.)|
|Saying “choos” to Wiesbaden.|
|Of course, I had to take fieldnotes during my trip. German security was not significantly different from the TSA although the employees did not appear to be “agents” with blue uniforms and badges. More on being shamed for my liquids and gels later|
All in all it was a marvelously strange adventure. I learned that spur-of-the-moment can be fun, that I can travel by my lonesome and be okay, that having no cell phone is freeing, that being without currency sucks, and that the next time someone wants to fly me abroad to do work, they can upgrade me to business class. 30 hours flying in the last row by the bathroom is NO GOOD!
Questions/Comments? Email bluestmuse(at)gmail(dot)com or comment below.
* Ladies: If you get married and change your name, you have up to one year to change your passport for free. After a year, you have to pay a renewal fee, even if it is not expired! Not that I’m bitter about it in any way. Ahem.