“Vo automat?”

Matthias taught me this “most important phrase to know in German” while I was on the first train from Berlin to Strasbourg. He lives in Mannheim, so I’m looking forward to catching up with him again later this summer. I felt fortunate to meet someone who knew English, as my conversation with the wanting-to-be-chatty cab driver who took me from the airport to the train station gave me a good indication of potential trouble. He told me about a marathon being run in the city, indicating we’d have to take an experimental route. “ How long have you been driving a cab,” I asked, “8 million people,” he answered. 🙂

I slept a lot on the plane and the train. Actually deep, unconscious sleep but perhaps not very restful as I couldn’t seem to get enough. I did pull an allnighter before leaving, but had anticipated that and felt basically prepared to finish packing and cleaning. I only had one moment of truly serious stress upon departure from the States, when I couldn’t locate any information about my flight. Sarbjeet and Koushik were no doubt mildly amused by my frantic email search through the laptop in the open trunk of the car after we’d already started on the way to JFK.
On the flight, I met Shirley and Eddie from Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire. They were sweet and kind, looking at my pictures of Hannah and showing a lot of interest in my trip. I felt blessed with a bit of nurturing from an unexpected source. The whole trip was like that, really. During each leg I met someone entertaining or interesting with whom to share a human moment. The most surreal encounter was with Chit, a student at the university in Strasbourg who I met on the second train. The train was packed, and several of us were stuck in the smoky, squeaky crease between cars. It was about a 2 hour ride, and the first hour or so everyone endured patiently. It emptied out at one stop and only about a half dozen of us were left. We spread out a bit and Chit and I conversed. He shared with me some ambition to work on teleportation technology and wouldn’t you know the train hit some nasty curve and I went flying! This was the second “teleportation moment” I’ve experienced. One instant I was standing, talking; the next grasping for the air, the next slamming into the floor. No temporal continuity! These were three distinct, separate, disjointed moments that occurred in sequence with blatant gaps in-between. I accused Chit of practicing on me. 🙂 I realize I did have one similar experience years ago when I was a cable jock (installing cable tv). I hit a power line with my drill in a soffit (where it wasn’t supposed to be): one moment I was on my ladder drilling, the next I was on the ground about 12-15 feet away. I wasn’t hurt that time either. Lucky! The moment of flailing this time was quite extraordinary &emdash; I thought, this is what Harry Potter feels when he travels by fluepowder, or what Meg, Calvin, and ——–experience when they travel by tesseract.
My arrival in Europe basically occurred without a hitch, despite my (unfortunately – sigh – typically American) lack of knowledge of the local languages. There could have been some stress at the hostel in Strasbourg, where they didn’t have a record of my reservation. GULP! But they managed a way to put me up for the first two nights (a different room each night but I was not complaining!) and at a different place for the second two nights. Nikki’s advice really paid off &emdash; she said make the attempt, say whatever little bit you can, and they’ll appreciate it. I’m so glad she taught me, “Parlevous Ingles?” before I left! I learned bon jour, bon sous, merci, and perdon. Five whole expressions. 🙂
[Written up from notes on 14 May 2005 and backdated.]

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