Margin of error? What margin or error? – Berlin, Germany

The title description would actually be even more fitting if I was describing Frankurt, western city of Deutschland, but by our standard (our = rest of the world, maybe excluding Japan), it makes little difference. I wasn’t in Frankfurt long enough to pinpoint the personality of the west, but being in JPK of Berlin and speaking to several Germans of both sides, I could summarize it all right.


Being in Germany feels like discovering my roots. I felt like I was in a place that must had had a strong influence in my life, because the environment was filled with the scents that I could identify with my character, attitude, and emotions. Last time I had this feeling was my first trip back to Kaohsiung after being away in North America for nearly 4 years. I called that summer “in search of my root.” However, this time being, was my first trip ever, in Deutschland.


I am trying to think of a scenario where something like this could occur. Then a name come to mind: Janet. The Janet of Fun Taiwan, Travel Channel. Then another, Eric Chang of NCKU (Recognized!). They are ABTs, so their parents must have influenced them in the way they think and live. So even if they might look like the stereotype NABA, somethings must be living inside that separate them from the others, NABA or not. So in their first trip ever to Taiwan, or wherever their parents are from, that out of nowhere familiarity must have arise; maybe not immediately, but it should sometimes.


My German root must have originated from those German encounters, regardless it was a pit-stop or everlasting friendship. Max is from west Germany, and Christof is from Frankurt. They were the ones that showed me that precise and focus attitude. Carina is from Hamburg, she showed me how to live life to the fullest.


Heiko was the first German I met in this trip, the Berliner who gave the the whole picture of the west and the east, the north and the south. Most importantly, he’s the one who told me where that “zero or whole hearted effort” originated from, and how the war had affected the nation. It really reminded me of how Japan lost its “Son of God” belief after the WWII. The post-war effect also carried its residues until now, in the Turks, according to Christian, Deutsch of the west. He said that because German governments are desperately trying to shake of the Nazi image that they couldn’t and wouldn’t require foreign immigrants to learn their language and culture (pretty much refuse to reinforce, or dictate). Unfortunately there are substantial amount of Turks who opt not to adopt, and of course that caused a lot of issues/confrontations for the residents. This part reminded me of those “New Immigrants” of Taiwan who still refuse to claim the identity of Taiwan. It’s both unfortunate and interesting to see how nations of completely different culture and background are suffering similar post-war syndromes.


Despite our heavy schedule (we trained from 900 to 1800 or later), I was having a blast. It was absolutely gratifying to see our year-long problem solved within hours. I truly enjoyed the whole-hearted and then shut-it-off style of life. In the evening we walked around Berlin, dined in anyone of the Turk dinner (doner!) because it’s the cheapest thing around, and just relaxed. Very fortunately the second day we were there it was the Berlin Light Festival; we spent 6 hours strolling around downtown to witness the modern (BD, Sony Center) and the history (Checkpoint Charlie, the museum, the pieces of the wall). Most importantly, just the daily walk from our hotel to the train station, and from the station to JPK was a pleasure. Those were the time I truly learned about a place, in the aspect of a resident instead of a tourist.


On the end of our last day in JPK, I took off early to visit Professor Herrman in Molecular Genetics, Max Planck’s Institute of Berlin. It was very frightening in the beginning because when I first listened to Tanja on the phone with him, I thought she was leaving a message on an answering machine. According to Tanja, she said Prof Herrman was either very tired, or plain cold, which is a very typical personality of the local elder Germans. I didn’t want to visit someone who wasn’t welcoming me at that time; I hesitated. But Tanja said, if he said ok, then it’s ok, just go. I told myself, this is Germany, people don’t pretend, if he said I could, then I should pull myself together and go. It turned out to be one of those conversations that influenced me for life.


Prof Herrman is a stern and precise man; the type that reminded me of Dr. GJ Wang. He said every word that was needed to be said; not a single word more or less. I cannot be certain but I would put my money on it that he would make a stereotype old German professor. Every sentence was constructed for its purpose. The first point he got across to me was, “what is it that you want from me.” Sounded more like a defender than a host, but I expected it. I went on to explain my purpose of the visit, to ask for his comments on our discovery of substratum affecting EMT and integrin the mechanosensor. It was phenomenon to discuss with someone who had little bias from our perspective yet with profound understanding of the concept. I’ve always enjoyed looking at things from different perspectives. With him, it was like looking at EMT from a completely opposite direction, yet the view was so clear that I could almost see through the median and visualize the background of my original idea. During the conversation I was able to discuss and argue back and forth with him. It was very gratifying because I felt all those hardwork in the past a year plus were paying off. This capability was something I wasn’t expecting but would fully  love to have. In the end he summarized his big picture so clearly and distinctively, that put me in a position where, in my mind, I told myself “this is what I want to become.”


As I was leaving the campus, my heart was thrilled. Not only because the view was as pleasing as it could be, with the maple trees forming the roof of the alley, but also because I’ve completed something that I haven’t thought of doing if it wasn’t for Britton Chance, and I’ve gained so much more than I had expected. Most of all, I felt recognized, by myself. If you can’t be satisfied by self-recognition, then nothing will do that for you.


To wrap it up, last time I was with the Germans extensively, it changed my whole perspective of life. This time around? it reminded me of what lives in me. Much longed.

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