It’s the first morning of being back in Germany this Christmas break. I’m walking through a small town I’m not overly familiar with, trying to find a Café. Since it’s pretty cold outside, I’m wearing a face mask I brought from Japan. Even though I’m aware that it looks weird to people here, I prefer the stares to having a cold-induced asthma attack. (Wearing a mask keeps the cold air from my airways. Pretty useful.)
As I’m turning a corner, I’m walking past a school that just finished for the day. Several teenagers are standing outside, waiting for buses and parents to pick them up. I walk past two boys, about 14 years old. Just as I’m a few steps past them, one of them yells: “Hey, you! Why do you have that thing over your mouth?! HEY, I’M TALKING TO YOU!!“ I take a deep breath and keep walking. The next thing the boy, half my age, says to his friend, blows my mind. With plenty of disgust in his voice he says: “I bet it’s one of those….foreigners.“
I feel a strong urge to turn around, walk up to him and smack his face. Instead, I keep walking, trying to process what just happened.
Eventually, I find a Café. Before I go in, I take the mask off. I get a coffee, sit down and open the local newspaper. These key words in the headlines of the first couple of pages jump out at me: National security, ISIS, Syria, tracing suspects.
Jesus Christ. What has happened to my home country while I was away?
This is not the country I grew up in. This has turned into a country of crazy people doing crazy shit at any given time, at any given place. It has turned into a country where people get irritated and hostile because of a stupid face mask, and because they are so scared of everything that is different, since everything different could potentially be threatening.
I’m sad for my country. I don’t think this is going to get any better. I have a feeling that from this point on, it’s only going to get worse.
An elderly couple walks out of the Café, and as they pass my table, they kindly wish me a Merry Christmas. I went from villain to accepted member of the society, just by removing a face mask I wear for medical purposes.
I feel very, very confused, sad, and out of place. I have no idea what team I’m playing for anymore. Am I German? Or am I the foreigner now, in my own country?
I really don’t know.