Dear Diary (“D”),
you tend to become my Aladdin’s magic lamb and decorate my memories into a pond of enduring and indelible memories. However, this time, you are representing my other academic friends. And few of those whose touches and characters cannot be written because it’s beyond description. Such friends are: Okolo, Powell, Rama, Kashif, Megan, Kamila, Bishnu, Anup, Aretha, Attila, Katherine, Olga, Pratiksha, Eyram, Precious, Zeyad, Hannah, Sea Jin, Ellin, Liv, Ahmed, Enayat, Linjun, Jayati and above all our three inspiring angels Nina, Julia and John!!!
Dear D, you are always with me and now let me bestow your colorless pages with fruitful colors reminiscence. It all started with an afternoon email from Ms. Julia and Ms. Nina stating that I am amongst 25 awardees and there were 602 applicants. Wow, that was the day when I freely sang and danced in my living room in front of my parents. Only after a breath I told them that I am going to Germany. Preparations started with preparing posters and some paper works. Meanwhile, we were informed not to share this information on social media. I do not know about others, but I never did.
Weeks past and it was the time to fly. British Airways, with vegetarian Hindu meal booked. Ghosh!!! I missed few points to reaching the Silver category on my Qantas frequent flyer.
After 33 hours of flight via Singapore and London we finally arrived at Stuttgart Airport. It was Saturday, the 14th October, and the evening was invincible and overwhelming, yet tiring. The following day started with a photo session and that’s where we started our dazzling journey. In a gracious and condescending manner, Mr. Okolo vouchsafed our journey with the two German gestures: “wunderbar” and “Danke”. After the sightseeing in Stuttgart we left for Karlsruhe. From Singen to Munich and then to our three-day trip on our own for our individual appointments. These three days were every essential because the experts we met could become our supervisors for our 2018 Research Stay. Finally we all reached Berlin. A city, which does not let our eyes blink for a moment. On Friday, the 27th October 2017 we were officially awarded as Green Talents winners.
At the beginning of the Science Forum we had to twist our tongue left, right and center to get the correct pronunciation of names of the German cities and places. Days past with beautiful voyage, peregrinate and excursions. Germany, rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and man-made artifacts are country’s new tourism slogan. It is sincerely incredible. I’ve seen it in travel magazine ads and on TV for the past couple of years. It wasn’t until I visited that I truly got it. We could boast that we had our own couch and a driver. We sang and recited poetries. We forgot that we are from different countries. We became one. We had the same one language; we spoke only through sustainable means. Even our jokes were sustainable.
Because Germany and its cities, villages and people seem incredible when we talk about potential sustainable development the contrasts are truly hard to believe.
The smells – One moment you are breathing the overwhelming fragrance of the forest and mountains; the next you are inhaling the scent of the man-made flowering trees overhead and disciplined. Dear D, I am laughing out loudly because yes - at a few times - smell of beer also.
The colours – You walk along a street; clouded Mercedes and Volkswagen and BMW vehicles. Expensive, posh and colourful buildings, shops, gardens, boutiques etc.
The sounds – Compared to Indian and China or other south Asian cities, there is constant silence with very little noise: horns honking, chanting from the chapels or churches, bells ringing, birds singing, planes landing. Even in a city blessed with architectures.
The tastes – Restaurants, beer bars or pubs are found after every building. Serving from spicy, sweet, tangy, bitter, refreshing – sometimes all in one meal and sometimes difficult to find one at all.
The construction – It’s everywhere: new modern buildings, roads torn up, a new metro system going in. But the construction techniques are not ancient, mostly done my ultra-modern machines and techniques.
The Science Forum was bestowed and showered with knowledge from different disciplines. It was about dancing in the pool of knowledge and singing with natural and man-made beauty in Germany. Well, Dear D, with such sensational nostalgic two weeks in Germany from Stuttgart to Berlin via other prosperous cities, I’m still processing the experience which is freshly engulfed in my senses. There are so many posts I want to write about our time there, but describing this amazing country and experience in words seems an impossible task. However, my dear friend “D”, my diary is always there to awaken those beautiful monumental moments. Even after decades if someone tries to flips the pages of my diary then essences and fragrances of our experiences will blossom fresh and cosmic.
Dear D, I give you a huge hug. Cheers!!!
By Dr Ravindra Rattan
Social Environmental Scientist (Fiji/Australia)