It was already 6:00 a.m. yet it seemed like it was still dawn when I left my dormitory to catch my train at 6:23 a.m. to Frankfurt central station. I had to drag not only my luggage, but also myself. I realized I’ve never woken up before the sun came out since I landed here in Germany ten months ago.
I milled around our meeting point just outside the train station, feeling around and peering at the corner of my eye for participants of the “Go4BioDiv International Youth Summit 2008,” or at least for people who look like one. The Latino-looking guy who I thought was one of us turned out to be a by-stander waiting for someone else. It was the German participants’ meeting point, anyway, and soon I was surrounded by German ladies with their heavy backpacks and luggage. I couldn’t help. I mean, I was technically a German participant, and I had to be in the rendezvous.
The bus that took us to the Bavarian Forest arrived late (yes, it happens in Germany). After loading our luggage to the compartment, we climbed up the bus and finally met my co-participants in the Youth Summit. My initial contact with them was through emails where I only saw their addresses and our online profile. Finally I met them in the flesh. As I made my way to the aisle looking for a seat, ni hao?, como estas?, and the international hello were exchanged, while African beats were playing on the music video in the background. We made one more stop in Frankfurt airport to pick up some other participants. The 80-seater bus seemed almost full. Varied faces and paces, and different languages and accents filled the bus. It must have been how people felt like during the tragedy in the tower of Babel. I thought it would no longer be a novelty to meet and be with an international group as I am studying with one now. Somehow, it did. After I fastened my seatbelt and felt snugly comfortable on my seat, I braced myself for the seven-hour trip to the Wilderness Camp in Falkenstein.
As our bus stopped for breaks, we started loosening our inhibitions. We did the rounds of introductions during these short pauses on terra firma. Some arrived the day before while some just got out straight from their long-haul flights from the other side of the world. I was suprised to learn that another was just a ‘neighbor’ who worked in an office about three blocks away from where I live.
The Da Vinci Code I bought from a flea market kept me preoccupied for most of the time, occasionally slipping in and out of dream land. Our bus breezed through landscapes that shifted from flatlands to hillscapes where the greenery blended and transformed into fields covered with yellow flowerbeds. In hindsight, I realized I almost covered the southern part of Germany from Freiburg to the Bavarian Forest that day. Our bus driver changed the music to Volksmusik typical from the region as the bus zigzagged through the road. The houses became few and far between. From the way the houses bulged and their roofs peaked, it seemed Bavaria (Bayern in German) was another country altogether. Our bus finally stopped in the middle of a small town, which became our home for the next ten days.
(to be continued…)