See, and I don’t even know if the grammar was right there. “I don’t speak fluent Dutch or German” and I am really wishing I did! I figured I could just sort of wing it and pick it up along the way, but it is harder than I had thought.
In St. Anton, for some inexplicable reason, almost everyone spoke English as well as German. Well, partially explicable: I guess lots of British skiers go there. It made for awkward starts to conversations- I’d start with a little bit of the only German I knew (“Woher kommen Sie?") and then most English speakers would switch to English, realizing that I am a gringo, and most only-German speakers (all three of them) would rattle off a lot of German things, to which I would mostly smile and say “Ja.” I hope they were being polite. (“I am from Germany. Is it okay if I push you off the chairlift?")
The net result is that I ended up speaking a lot of English with other English speakers. Still an interesting group: it included a lot of Germans, some Danes, a couple Israelis, Austrians, and a Texan. But I did manage to have a few meaningful conversations in German. Here are some of my St. Anton 2007 greatest hits:
Me: Ein currywurst, bitte. (“A currywurst, please”)
Josef, the snack stand (Imbissstube) owner gets me a currywurst as I look in my wallet and realize that I have only a EU$50 bill.
Me: Kann ich mit funfzig Euro zahlen? (“Can I pay with a $50?")
Josef: Ehhh… ok.
Me: Guten morgen!
The lady who made breakfast at the place I stayed, whose name I never actually found out: Guten morgen!
Me: Bin ich der erst? (“Am I the first?")
Her: Ja! Aber, man muss erst sein! (“Yes! But someone must be first!")
Me: Ja, das ist treu. (“Yes, that is honest.” In retrospect, I think “richtig” is the word that actually means “true.")
I think she also threw in something like “Haben sie gut geschlaft?” to which I correctly responded “ja” and I think I also asked “Wo kann man die Skibus finden?” (Where can one find the ski bus?) I was feeling really pumped that day.
Me: Ich muss nach Maastricht, die Niederlande, gehen.
Train station guy: (a whole lot of German, and then he hands me two routes, pointing to one and saying “das ist der billiger” (“this is the cheaper one”))
Me: Das ist billiger? Ok.
Him: (A whole lot of German. Probably “Yes, and there is a very scenic view of the Rhine, but it will be crowded, complete with screaming babies, and it takes you so close to Maastricht but yet so very far. Also there is no water unless you pay a lot.” All of which was true!)
So it’s been a rocky road so far. In the Netherlands, everyone speaks English, but of course they speak Dutch first, so you don’t understand a bunch of Dutch people talking. All the signs are in Dutch, too. That makes it partially fascinating (like grocery shopping is cool, and it seems very cheap too, but of course it’s in Euros) but partially alienating. I wish I had gone to somewhere that I knew the language. That’s not true; if I wanted to do that I could go to South or Central America, Spain, or England, which would all be cool, but not yet I don’t think. Rather, I wish I learned a language that is spoken in west-central Europe (like German) and gone to study there. I mean, that’s not true either; right now I’m entirely enamored with the Dutch. I’ll try to take a language course while I’m here, so hopefully by the time I leave, I’ll be able to blend in a little bit.
Well, hey. Tonight or tomorrow I’ll be in Paris, so I’ll be a complete foreigner, and quite the tourist, and the French people, who are not nearly so friendly as the Dutch, will actively sneer at me. That’s life!
Hot tip: If you have time alone in Paris, go to Chez Berthillon on Ile Saint-Louis (it’s the smaller island right in the middle of Paris–very easy to pick out on a map). It’s literally the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life, and a lot of people think it’s the best in Europe. Also, it’s not usually swarming with tourists. DO IT.
I’m glad the study abroad-ing is going well–over here, you’ve missed “Trauma Center,” the game for the Wii where you do surgery/operations (which is what I spend most of my time doing at your apartment). I’ve also repeatedly shouted “YOU’RE NOT DAN” to the new roommate.
I’m so excited for you! YAY!!!
OS is hard! Assignment 0 was ridiculous!
Here’s what fun I’ve been up to:
Pics of hip hop dancing
We had a Pulse meeting today and we talked about how we’re gonna have half as many articles now that you’re gone. We miss you!
Lucy and Wes send their love! (They’re in my room right now)
Have a good time!
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