So here I am at the Frankfurt airport, waiting for my flight to Rome. I am back in Europe after at least three years.
The reception, I have to say, was not exactly warm. After 7 hours of a quiet flight but not having slept at all, I present my Brazilian passport to the young German woman with a Polizei uniform in the box behind the glass.
“Is Brazil part of the European union?”, she asks me.
I look at her a bit confused, wondering if it was a trick question or a joke. Oh yes, that good old German sense of humor. But she’s not laughing. She points to the European Union symbol at the top of the window, indicating that that entrance is only for holders of European passports. I apologize and try to move to some other more adequate and humble entrance for us ignorant third-worlders, but she does not return my passport. Her eyes look at me piercingly. She asks me where I am going, why and for how long. She requests travel insurance, invitation letter and a lot of printed documents that I don’t have with me. I try to explain that I am going to Rome, or rather to a small city near Rome, for an arts residency, to stay for a month writing and making a short documentary film. (Actually, my plans are a bit sketchy, and I am not really sure what I will be doing yet. But they invited me, and so I am going.)
“What are you going to do there?”, she asks again.
I try to explain again that I am going to be mostly writing and filming.
She asks again: “I don’t understand. What are you going to do there?”
“Write”, I say, to simplify.
She still does not understand. The concept seems completely alien to her.
She seems even more puzzled than before. Finally she blurts out:
“I don’t understand. You can ride a motorcycle, or a horse, what are you going to ride?”
“No, not ride. Write. Schreiben”, I explain, pretending to hold a pen and moving my hand in circles.
Then, just in case, I take out and show her my Canadian residency card, so that maybe she can see that I am not a complete nobody. Maybe that does the trick, because she lets me pass, but not without a stern warning to avoid future mistakes: “Next time, print all your documents. When I go to Canada, or to Brazil, I bring all the documents with me.” I don’t think she ever went to Brazil. I don’t think she would survive for long there.
Germans are fascinating people. So efficient, so orderly. The Lufthansa flight was one of the best I ever took, very fast, departure and arrival exactly on time, and not one minute of turbulence. Still, I’m kinda glad they lost the War. I mean, seriously, had they won it they would have become really impossible.