The first day back in Portland, I'm almost late for class.
I'm on the eastbound MAX refreshing Google Maps every other minute. The bus schedule says 1:40.
The MAX arrives on time; I rush to the bus station 300 feet away. The bus is supposed to be there in two minutes, but as my 2pm class approaches, I see no sign of the bus.
I'm getting worried. On Google maps, “delayed 2 mins” “delayed 4 mins” “delayed 8 mins”—the number keeps going up. I finally get on the bus at 1:53, and when I rush into to Citizen, class is just getting started.
I have a lot to say about the Portland public transportation system. The same thing happens again over the next couple of days—either late or early, the bus almost never arrives on time.
A couple days later, when I am on my way home, the bus takes a long stop next to Citizen. The ramp comes down, and two people sitting across from me move from their seats. Our driver steps down, lifts the handicapped seats, and helps a woman in a wheelchair move into the bus. The whole process takes about 4 minutes. That’s why buses are never on time—because people's needs must be taken care of.
My best friend from high school who studied in France told me that while he was there, he always complained how French people have a habit of procrastination and inefficiency. Yet before he had to leave, he thought back and suddenly realized France might have been one of the countries that respond best to its citizens’ needs.
I started to appreciate Portland a little bit more.
On the 4th of July I don't go out to one of the big parties nor to see the fireworks—I go to Madi’s host home, where they are having a low-key potluck BBQ in their backyard.
It's a beautiful backyard, with the fragrance of lavender, shade from tall trees, and wind chimes tinkling overhead. Madi tells me her host, Birgit, is a photographer from Germany. She’s a tall woman, both arms tattooed, and I noticed a newly tattooed German verse on her right arm.
“Were you there when the Berlin Wall came down?” I ask her.
“Oh, I was doing it!” she says with pride. “I just flew back to Germany, dropped my bags at my parents house and I was like, ‘Bye! Off to Berlin!’”
Fireworks start to boom throughout the neighborhood. I imagine Birgit's figure within the monochromic footage I've seen on TV—I have a hard time registering that a real person, having gone through a major moment in world history, is sitting right in front of me. She witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, but she is also one of us, lives in Portland, and likes biking and art. She is one of the many interesting people Portland has brought to me so far.