On Coming Home
Back when we were in Vienna, Dr. Baldwin told us all that we would be changed in some way from this trip, and that there'd be no coming back. At the time, we figured he was getting at something musical, since we were playing in some pretty amazing venues. But, now that we've been back for roughly 3 days (and are slowly getting over jet-lag), I think I can safely say that the changes are more profound, yet more subtle than we had anticipated.
First off, there's the small things. Like how you reach into your pocket to grab some cash, and your fingers rub up against softer-feeling green paper rather than the multi-colored crisp ones in Europe. Or, like the realization that you no longer live in a hotel and in fact have to clean up after yourself. Or, there's even the groans of realizing that your favorite pastry store isn't in Decorah, and that you can't necessarily walk down the street a ways to find one. Something I didn't think would be an issue is the lingering traces of German. I never did become fluent (like there was a chance in the first place), but there have been times that I've responded to someone holding the door open for me with a 'danke' rather than a 'thank you.' I guess it's not a complete failure, though given that I had also just come from Chinese class...well, you could say that I'm a little linguistically confused over here.
But, then there are the bigger things. Like how we've gone from being the big deal foreigners to the average Joe's heading to class. In some ways, it's like we're right back to square one, but this time, we have all these memories and experiences that we didn't have before. For instance, even though Decorah is considerably smaller than Vienna, we still have the 'what adventure can I have today?' attitude. There's still enough go in us to want to see/experience something new every day, even if it's not an opera. Granted, the period of trying to regain the physical energy after our best friend jet-lag takes a while, especially when you have to quickly transition into school-mode, but I think this attitude will go on for a while. Long enough to make a difference and to assure us that we are far from square one.
I know that if I was back at square one, I'd still be that kid tottering in place, wondering what to do next. Having to make split decisions over in a place where one minute can determine your place in the opera-house has made me a little more sure-footed. If there's something I'm dying to try, I now feel like there's nothing really standing in my way, except my own feet. I've been seeing it around the orchestra, too. People seem more quick to just grab a group of people and go somewhere, rather than wait and say 'well, I'll do it some other time.' And the bonds we've made during the month didn't suddenly disappear once the plane hit the Canadian border. What we've done in Vienna is not isolated to Vienna by any means.
It's like when you're climbing a mountain. Of course, reaching the peak is a big part of what you're doing, and once you reach it, you can see everything and how it fits together. But, you eventually have to come down, and the truly important part of your trip is being able to take what you've seen at the peak and translate it to the base. It's not that the base is any worse than the peak, only that things perhaps make a little less sense than they did before, and what you're trying to regain is a distant memory that can't be expressed by simply pointing to the mountain and saying 'I went there.'
I think I understand now why so many Vienna alums can only describe Vienna with maybe a few memories and the word itself. It's not necessarily about the word or what you did or saw. It's about who you became and how you'll be able to keep it going once you get back. In other words, it all comes down to that single word--Vienna. One month, an entire lifetime of experiences.