{moszoomimglink:Gisela und Marco, nettes Bild} It all began in 1992. I was finishing up my Master's Thesis in Physics at the University of Aachen, and got a phone call from Southern Germany. My two aunts had decided they wanted to visit their friend Doris and needed a ... well ... guide and translator and caretaker and entertainer.

Since I was too busy to visit them during the year, they would use my services only for one week, and stay themselves for two. All expenses paid, though, and the trip would start in the middle of the dreadful German winter, lifting me away from snow and cold and dreary skies and catapult me into what I hoped would be a tropical paradise.

As it turned out, I started already feeling burnt out by Germany. I never quite felt I belonged there, with my dark skin and black hair. Store detectives would hunt me through the aisles of department stores, home owners would mysteriously refuse to rent out their rooms to me when they heard my name, and jobs would be mysteriously handed out to other, more German fellas.

{moszoomimglink:The Hohenzollern Bridge} It was in good spirit that we left on one particularly dreadful January morning. The 22nd to be precise. We took the bullet train in Stuttgart, heading for the airport in Frankfurt. A twenty minute delay on the train got my anxious aunts all upset -- but there was really nothing to worry about, since everything was planned with plenty time to relax.

I was musing at the on-train schedule that had the train leave the station five minutes after dropping us off when we arrived. The central station in Frankfurt can be elegant at times, but that morning it was dark, cavernous, and cool. Sludge and sleet were heaped on the terminals, making our progress toward the underground train slow and panicky.

Right then, I saw a man packing his suitcases (five in number) onto the train we had just left. He just had grabbed the last one when the five minutes must have been up, for just in time for him to throw the suitcase onto the first step, the doors rushed closed and the train left. German efficiency, I would guess.

At the airport, we proceed to the United counter, where my aunts pushed straight ahead, while I was waiting behind them. Once in a while I would overhear bits of conversation, the pretty young and pretty clerk explaining in detail what was going to happen.

My turn! I step forward, and the very same lady that had so fluently conversed in German with my aunts, automatically starts addressing me in a foreign language. I was so baffled that I just handed over passport and ticket -- but then realized she had just talked to me in English.

At first, I thought it rude. Then I realized she had probably thought I was American. And then and there I decided that if people felt that I was a natural American, that I then would likely want to live in America! Just try it out, maybe, one day. Who knows if you'll like it, with all the awful things people tell you.