It´s the first of January 2004, the beginning of a new year and for me the beginning of a new life as well. I´m moving to Germany to live there with my husband Shehab, who is doing post-graduate studies at the University in Cologne. So here we are at 9a.m. in the morning after having spent the last hours between airports and in the airplane. We are standing in the cold in front of our new home freezing and waiting for the woman (Irene) who is supposed to give us the keys to the apartment we rented through the internet without even seeing it.
It´s sooo cold (later we learn that this was the coldest day of the year) and no single soul is in the streets. Which is logical of course: Today is a holiday and everyone is probably still sleeping after having partied into the New Year. I look at all the bags beside me – one did not arrive, the one with the blankets in it, of course! The airline said they will send us the bag when/if it shows up. I feel like crying, my toes have turned to ice cubes and we don’t know what to do. Where is that woman?!? We try to call her but no one answers the phone. I try not to show my anger; Shehab looks cold and depressed enough. So we just keep on standing there surrounded by our bags and wait…and wait… I just keep thinking: Great, what a bad start this is. Maybe this is an omen. Everyone back home envies us for going to live in Germany, but right now I would have done anything to just go back home where it´s warm and familiar.
Finally, Irene arrives and gives us the keys. The apartment is in the second floor and the staircase is so narrow we have problems getting all our luggage up there. And then I get the first glimpse of our new home – now I’m really upset. It’s far from clean, and must have been inhabited by a somewhat eccentric musician. The walls are covered with music posters and the ceilings are all covered with hundreds of stars which light in the dark (even the bathroom!!!). It’s as cold as outside and Irene turns on the central heating for us. After she leaves I just take out some bed sheets which fortunately were in the bag with me and put them on the bed. Then I burst into tears. I’m hungry, thirsty and cold. Shehab tries to raise the heater but apparently he just switches it off by mistake as the room doesn’t get any warmer. He goes down to find us something to eat but of course the supermarkets are also closed. Then he finds a small kiosk where he buys orange juice and some biscuits. Without eating, he just falls to sleep but although I’m dead tired, I find no sleep. My teeth are chattering with cold although I still wear all my clothes and even the jacket.