“I remember the candies that seemed to be falling from the sky. It was the end of the war, but I was only 7 years old and so happy!” said the German old lady and smiled at me gently. I was in the waiting room of an emergency hospital, in the west part of Berlin,  63 years after the war ended and most importantly in the middle of the coldest November I had ever experienced.
            I had arrived in Berlin totally unprepared for the tough winter, the very different social habits, and the long rides with the metro that never seemed to be ending. It was my first staying abroad and even going to the supermarket and having to read the name of the vegetables in German was highly confusing. That’s why when I got those terrible back pains, I tried to postpone as much as possible the confrontation with the German medical system; until the pain got so bad that I had to go to the emergency.            
            I explained very shortly to a woman dressed in white, who may have been a doctor or just a nurse, I don’t know for sure, what my symptoms were and she told me I simply had to wait for my turn in a waiting room and that’s what I obediently did. There were about five persons in that room, all very quiet. I remembered my experience in the Romanian hospitals where everybody is talking to each other, while waiting for her/his turn. Well…Germans are a bit different. I already knew from my two month experience there that they can be friendly people, but they will never make the first step. So I was just adapting to these new social habits, that is, I was not saying a words and not looking at the others, when I heard this lady asking me, “Where are you from?”
            She had one of the gentlest physical appearances I had ever seen. A white hair reaching her shoulders, a yellow wool sweater and an unusually shy smile, that kind of smile we usually associate with intimidated children or teenagers.  I told her about my back pains, about me living in a student dormitory in the beautiful Dahlem Dorf neighbourhood and so on. She must have been 70 years old but she was totally lacking the tiredness we expect to see in old people. She was curious open and so alive.
            I asked her about her war time experience. She grew up in the West side of Berlin, close to Potsdam.  She told me how soon after the war ended the kids were playing the whole day outside their homes, hunting the things the Americans were dropping from their helicopters, chocolates and candies.. How shortly afterwards Potsdam was included in the Soviet Part while she and her family remained in the West Part of the city and how she couldn’t really understand why they couldn’t do any trips to Potsdam which was so close and where she heard there was a beautiful Royal Palace. I asked her if she had any kids herself and she answered a bit embarrassed and a bit sad that she had been alone all her life.
            That woman approaching me in that terrible cold November, in my almost drama-like feeling of not belonging there and telling me about her short experience as a child in an yet undivided Berlin and then her long experience as an adult in the West part of the divided Berlin, was magical and warm and shook me from my stereotypes about people and interaction.