#63 growing up in East Germany

A and I were at the Athens Airport, having lunch at a cafeteria while waiting patiently for our plane to Heraklion. Seated beside us was a pair of middle aged women and they started talking to us. One of the women was a singer in a group and the group actually travelled to different parts of the world to perform in gigs. Her music style is Bulgarian as her parents are from Bulgaria. She was born in Berlin and she just completed her university studies when the wall went down. When we asked her how it was like to grow up in East Germany, this was what she said.

“It’s hard to say. I believe it’s a personal experience. When I think of East Germany, I don’t think of the spies. I think of my childhood, my teenage years and my first love. I attach emotions to the memories and it’s just a part of my life and my story. I will also say it’s good to have experienced socialism. It was not a perfect model but it was an experiment. In a way, it’s good because human relationships are not so much about the money.”

Her last point made me think about my experience in Greece. I wanted to buy some food for 3.50 euros in Thessaloniki. In my wallet, I had 3.40 euros worth of coins and a 50 euro note. The guy at the snack stall said, “3.40 euros will do.” This is not exactly an example of socialism but it makes me imagine how life could be if monetary transactions are not at the heart of everything. In Singapore, you can’t buy things even if you are just one cent short. Every cent matters. But what she said about the first part is true as well. Even though Singapore has many idiosyncrasies and flaws, I grew up there and I have so many fond memories of the place. It’s impossible to detach myself from the experience and be a mere commentator of the small island-state.

What I like most about travelling is that it broadens my perspectives and I am most afraid of going home with more photos, kilos and memories but without much learning and growing as a person.


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