My relationship with the United States of America has been quite ambiguous. On the one hand, there are people who feel that I am Anti-American for speaking out against violations of international law and constant meddling in affairs of other countries. On the other hand, those who know me very well, remember that child who as a kid was happy to receive a blanket displaying the American flag, who grew up with American pop culture more than most other Germans already do, who as a child spend day in and day out with his American neighbours, and who would eventually go on to study American Studies.
I still remember when I was a kid, growing up in Germany, surrounded by American pop culture. I always had this dream to one day go and visit New York. When I was 14 years old, a class clown in school, it was almost sure that I would not pass the classes. Nobody believed in it, neither the teachers, nor the classmates, and I also did not believe it. Only a few weeks were left. Then I received a phone call from my father, who was out of town for business, and he gave me an opportunity: "If you somehow pass the 8th grade, I will book you a ticket to New York and you can stay at your uncles place".
Suddenly I was learning every day. And there was only one chance for me to make it. To get a 1 in English (equivalent to "A") and to at least get a 4- in French (Weaker D) French was my weakness, because I missed classes most of the time and I did not get along with the teacher. And even though I was among the best in English, I again missed classes a lot and did not know what to do. We got the tests back, I received a 1 in English and a 4- in French, closest call. This was the moment where for the first time I felt like if you really work hard on something, you can achieve your goals.
A month later I visited New York City for the first time ever, seeing the statue of Liberty, the famous skyline, and the World Trade Center, which at that point of time was the highest structure in the world.
The thought bubble bursts as I reach the same place where I stood on top of the world ten years ago. Construction workers have started to build what is planned to become the new World Trade Center One building. Already upon my arrival I of course noticed the huge gap in the skyline of the Big Apple.
Like a typical tourist I was walking around in the Central Park, spent some time at the Rockefeller Center, and even if the World Trade Center is no more, I thought maybe I could go on Top of the Rock. But the staff members, who seem to be very fair to tourists, let me know that you can barely see anything because of the many clouds. As I walk the streets of Manhattan, I look at the many eyecatching buildings. One building in particular cauht my attention, a building that was very tall but notably narrow. On top of the building it says "TRUMP". I have heard that name before. As I enter the building I see all the luxury. Seems to be a big deal, I begin to think
Times Square, which was my favorite place to hang out as a kid. On my way back I meet Fahim from Bangladesh. The underground system of New York is big, but not too complicated, except for one thing. New York has two lines with the same name, which head to different directions. I took the wrong one. A Greek woman apparently noticed that I was a little bit confused. She was very helpful, driving me back to Astoria, where I visited another bar.
And here I stand again, ten years later, in the final phase of my studies, first destination out of 10 countries on 4 continents.
But things have dramatically changed here. I look at the spot, where I once took an elevator taking me to the highest place on earth, and now all I see in front of me is a construction site. The World Trade Center is gone, and now they seek to rebuild it to World Trade Center one. Memories came back. And as I was standing and watching the construction workers doing their job, looking at this emptiness that is sought to be filled, I already knew that there will be another time, when I will be back here again. In 2000 I was on top of the World Trade Center, in 2010 in front of Ground Zero, and in 2020, I decided in that moment, this will be the year when I return to New york to stand on the World Trade Center one.
I went to the next bar and ordered a drink, saw a girl sitting alone there. I had a feeling that here in NY people are easily approachable to hang out with, and I was right, as Megan agreed on hanging out and having a few beers, talking about all kinds of things, and of course the 9/11 and the dealings with people. Later the two locals would take me to other bars and we would hang out so I learned something I was not able to learn 10 years ago: The bar culture in NYC. On the way back I accidentally take the wrong metro, because there are two lines going in the same direction with the same name. I figure that out only on the way, where a Greek-American girl and I got into a conversation. She decided to drive me home from her stop, and I was just amazed at how much so many locals here in NY care about other people. Times Square, which was my favorite place to hang out as a kid. On my way back I meet Fahim from Bangladesh. The underground system of New York is big, but not too complicated, except for one thing. New York has two lines with the same name, which head to different directions. I took the wrong one. A Greek woman apparently noticed that I was a little bit confused. She was very helpful, driving me back to Astoria, where I visited another bar.