So here I am – making my new home on the other side of the world! By the way, back in Germany on the beach we would say to children who where digging a deep hole "are you trying to dig right through to Australia?"
Well, jokes apart, we are 10.500 miles away and everything is so strange. I thought I could speak English, but nobody understands me and vice versa. My mind is reeling with all the new information I have to digest. Whatever I see, I haven't seen before. No, wait, the other day I recognised a woman on the bus who had counselled me the day before at Centrelink. It gave me a pleasurable feeling to bump into someone I had met before. I had started to belong!
And I had already one friend in Sydney from a previous visit, who had settled here from Germany over 40 years ago. She was my lifeline in many ways. And she introduced me to some of her German friends, all of them now Australians.
In this case it was a couple with Hamburg connections, my own home town. They had lived in Sydney for 45 years and originally they came from South Germany. But the man had lived in Hamburg in his younger years.
”Hamburg! Really,” I said, “and where exactly?"
He mentioned an area in the city centre, and I in turn told him in which suburb I had been living. Oh, he knew that too, in fact he had gone to school there! Imagine that!
Yes, of course, he knew my old school! This was getting better all the time. I asked where exactly he had lived, as I knew the area well. It was a street not just on my doorstep.
But my best girlfriend of my teenage years had lived there. And what do you know – he had lived in that same street! What was her name? Maybe he had known the family. By now I was so into Australian words like Woolloomooloo and Waratah and Kurrawong, I had to dig into my mind a bit to remember. Finally – "Truckenmuller" I said. "But I am a Truckenmuller" was the answer. "Juergen
My mind did a somersault, and I saw myself, 14 or 15 years old, ringing the doorbell at Inge’s house and her big brother opening the door to let me in but not really noticing me. Already a young man, he looked like French actor Jean-Claude Brially with his dark hair, Caesar style – very cool in those days – and his Roman nose. I was struck! From then on my unannounced visits to Inge’s house increased in number. But nothing came of it. He lived in another, grown-up world, not Inge’s and mine.
And now, look at all of us, well past our prime. Apart from the sharp nose, there was nothing to remind me of that young man I had a crush on so many years ago. He was grey now and not as tall as I seemed to remember but I kept all this to myself.
At the time I had not been able to stop smiling about the strange quirks of fate that brought about this involuntary rendezvous, 50 years too late and halfway around the world. I am still smiling.