Now that we’ve turned twenty, I and my Brussels friends have been scattered to the four corners of the world, so a trip back to Western European civilisation had a special appeal to me. I took an assignment covering the Frankfurt Buchmesse, the world’s largest book fair. Frankfurt, where people wear shoes and scoff at astrology, was once again becoming the epicentre of the international cultural scene in October. It was truly nice.
Even after a year of prize winning professors at UCLA, it wasn’t every day that I got the chance to attend an event with the likes of Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, the Guest of Honor at this year’s Frankfurter Buchmesse, Margaret Atwood, recently announced Booker Prize winner 2019, and renowned award-winning authors Maja Lunde, Elif Shafak, Colson Whitehead and Ken Follett.
Amidst the enormity, I most enjoyed talking to one of the Norway writers who was concentrating on things really small. Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, a Norweigian scientist and the author of Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects (Simon and Schuster), described our dependence on insects along with fascinating facts about seemingly normal creatures like the house fly. Did you know it has tongues underneath its feet?
“When they walk on your food,” she said, “that’s because they want to taste, ‘Maybe this is something nice for me to eat’.”
The fair was really nice, albeit very professional. With publishers promoting particular ways of thinking, some for the greater good, many just for profit via books on an incredible variety of subjects inviting my mind to wander, it didn’t take long to realize I was in a two-birds-one-stone situation, since one of my best friends from the European School was studying nearby in Leipzig.
The more I thought about Ben and my childhood growing up in Brussels, the more I longed for the old days at the European School with its diverse and very open-minded culture, due to all the different languages and ways of thinking from original sources (kids!) from different countries. In my Brussels days, my friends were from Germany, France, England, Greece…mostly ‘mixed’ like me. We shared our common ground because we were all different, but living in the same place. Ben is half German and half Nicaraguan, from Brussels, like me.
I decided to sacrifice a few hours of sleep to go see Ben for a night in Leipzig. The train took about three hours. I watched the green countryside, garden houses and occasional industrial buildings go by as I read my books. My mind kept wandering to what a long time it had been since I’d seen Ben–almost four years–and then he was there in front of me! We were really happy to see each other. Ben hadn’t changed much; he’s still a student. I told him about the power of the self and what I believe to be true inside, not according to the book or just what’s outside in current society, or only possible scientifically according to certified organizations. We stayed up all night, then slept for two hours before I had to catch the train. On the way back, I told myself, it’s OK if we don’t see each other every day, but whenever I get the chance to see him in these types of situations, I will.