I was born in the eighties in the Netherlands, but Tegel International Airport, Berlin, gives me a sense of what the seventies may have been like. Ashtrays in the terminal bathrooms, nasty chairs and that lovely array of brown, orange and beige. There are two people to every seat in Terminal D – a converted parking garage – and a lost house sparrow makes its home where people linger, but no one lives.
A bus awaited disembarking passengers and I was overwhelmed by a memory of San Jose airport, Costa Rica, which is just as ancient and decrepit.
Once boasting the longest runway in Europe, Tegel doesn’t have much left of its original grandeur.
Someone explained to me that a new airport has long been finished, but some brilliant German engineer had accidentally forgotten to put a proper fire exhaust system in place. Oh, and the wiring needs to be redone.
So much for German efficiency.
There wasn’t much time to explore much, but what I saw of Berlin was about as contrastive from my expectations as possible. Though the Maritim hotel and venue ran like a Swiss watch, the minute you step outside, the city feels gray and disorganized. Given it’s been bombed practically to the ground, still the rebuilt areas look rather deprived of proper financing. Or maybe they’d just run out of decent architects.
This was my first time to LocWorld, representing MultiLingual Computing, Inc., and my colleagues had been humble about the conference’s caliber. I soon discovered myself to be part of a small team who see each other three times a year in Asia, Europe and North America. I felt welcomed and soon began feeling rather proud, sporting the ‘STAFF’ tag as if it were a gold medal.
I worked hard when important things needed to be done, but had time to get to know the people behind this triannual event and to network with some of the most significant people of the language industry. My colleague, Kendra, properly introduced me to Renato Beninatto and John Terninko, two men whom I’d heard much about. The first time I saw Renato was on the back cover of our magazine!
Suddenly I felt very busy and important.
I was able to catch up on my decent Dutch, shaky Spanish and found that my German had become positively flimsy. I even acquired some Ukrainian! God knows what they had me say… As a long-term traveler it was refreshingly familiar to be amongst such an international crowd again.
Multilinguists alike, we switched from English to Dutch and German.
Back in Sandpoint – a sleepy town in North Idaho – my friends ask “How was Berlin?” and must be expecting a simple answer like “Great. Ate lots of bratwurst. Good beer.”
Instead they find themselves caught facing an hour-long rant on LocWorld until I notice their stunned expression morph into a more annoyed look and ending in considerate impatience.
I’m exhilarated, what can I say?