Sunday, March 3, 2013

Breakfast of champions

One of my colleagues is traveling to South Carolina for two weeks during our spring break as part of a teacher exchange/learning program. She's very excited and had a little brunch on Saturday with a number of other teachers to celebrate her imminent departure. We feasted on sandwiches, quiche, Tex-Mex salad, chili, muffins, and apple pie for six hours before taking our leave.

Let me tell you, living in Germany has been great for my listening skills. Ask anyone who knows me - I have opinions on a great number of topics and like nothing better than to bounce ideas back and forth with a couple friends. "Bounce ideas" can easily become "hold forth without interruption" because while I'm as awkward as a dancing elephant with strangers, I get very chatty with friends. And my friends, bless them, are a patient, adult lot of people who politely listen even when they likely have ideas to discuss as well. As I've gotten older and (hopefully) more mature, I've tried to work on the skill of listening. As it turns out, trying to follow a conversation in German is great practice, because all my concentration is taken up in attempting to understand what's being said. Usually I can't mind-translate and then speak fast enough to add much to the conversation, though I can sometimes ask a question. I hope this habit continues when I'm back in the States

Several other teachers had generously offered me a ride to and from the brunch, sparing me a complicated series of bus changes. We met at school and left from there, and I presumed we would return and I could take the train back home.


In a further gesture of goodwill, these colleagues offered to drive me home, since they were planning to be in the general area anyways. Things got complicated when we realized that, by virtue of never driving in Germany, I have no idea how to get anywhere by car. I can tell you the buses and trains to take, and even recite their timetables, but work to home without public transportation is totally beyond me.

I do, however, know how to get from the center of my city to my apartment. Good. Thanks to highway signs we made it to the city center and went to turn left, when I remembered that the bridge over the river to my neighborhood is under construction and out of order. The bus has been taking an alternate route for the past week, but I could not find that route myself if my life depended on it.

Long story short, three adult teachers and their American assistant drove all through the city and eventually called someone who was sitting in front of a computer to get us across the river. Once there I could direct us, but all told it had been at least an extra twenty minutes of confusing alternate routes to get me home. My colleagues, kind people that they are, insisted they were having a fantastic time being completely lost and laughed regularly at our many aborted attempts to find the right way. And then they refused any money for gas.

tl;dr - take public transportation. Or get a map. Plus, be sure to have very understanding colleagues.

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