I've been really bad about learning German. As in I haven't tried at all.
I asked Charlie questions when I was here before but not very useful things. I'd see a word I thought was funny, "What does frühstuck mean?" and he'd say, "Breakfast," and then I'd forget.
In preparation for this trip, I stopped short of a dictionary and bought a phrase book. I imagined myself putting in hours of studies before my arrival but ignored the situation so severely that when Joanna asked me how to say thank you in German on our way to the airport, I had to say I didn't know.
Which is PATHETIC. Joanna pointed that out in case I didn't realize. A few minutes later, I remembered and practically screamed, "DANKE!!" Everyone knows how to say thank you in German.
I know how to order a coffee with milk, please. I just don't know give thanks for it. Rude!
At the airport, I faced the fact that after deplaning, I needed to get my neighborhood, go to the restaurant next to the apartment I'm renting, tell them who I am and pick up an envelope with the key since my roommate would be out tango dancing.
I have a great desire not to be the ugly American tourist which usually manifests in my speaking to people so softly that they have to lean in and ask me to repeat myself. I also don't want to rely on expecting others to speak English. I'd read in my guidebook that English is widely known in former West Berlin but less so in former East Berlin and my hood is East so, really, what was I waiting for?
I got out the phrasebook and started writing things down.
On the plane I read that Berliners are known for being curt and unfriendly which actually made me feel BETTER. I'm used to traveling in Latin America where perfect strangers call you their love and their life and offer you Godly blessings over minor exchanges and if you don't reciprocate, you're kind of a jer.
"I might fit in here," I thought, "Being blank might not work against me."
I made a piece a paper on which I'd written my address and the following words for myself:
1. Good Evening - Guten Abend
2. My name is - Ich Heise
3. Envelope - Briefumschlag
4. Sorry - Entschuldigung
The one I was really focusing on, however, was the last - SORRY - figuring I might need to say that a few times. While practicing, I noticed that my brain is so trained to associate foreign language with Spanish that it's hard to even call Germany Deutschland, I keep saying Alemania. This is not helpful.
After messing with the ticket machines at the airport and buying tickets for the airport express train and the S-Bahn, I realized that the trains weren't running. My first clue should have been that I was the only one on the track and there were no trains in sight but sometimes I'm slow like that. I'm pretty sure someone tried to tell me that in German and I smiled at them like an idiot and continued waiting for my imaginary train.
I don't know how long I stood on that platform but it was getting late. I wasn't trying to figure out the bus at this point so paid a taxi to bring me to the restaurant where I was to pick up my key. It was closed. My UK cell was out of money so I put a new SIM card in and tried to call Simone who I'm renting the room from. The phone wouldn't work. Dang it! I put my bags in the shadows so as to attract less robbers and sat on the stoop to think. I guess I'll have to walk to a payphone.
Then I had a brilliant thought. I'LL RING THE DOORBELL.
Honestly, how have I made it through the world this long in one piece?
Simone answered. She hadn't gone out dancing after all.