24 September 2012

A+ for everyone

I don't know what it is about the world today, but everyone is just being excellent in lots of little ways.

I took the bus from our station to where I needed to be for my first lesson as an English instructor in Germany, and the excellence started right there. First, I saw this great sign (above), which I may have passed before, but probably not more than once or twice, since I've never taken the bus from our village. We're much better connected by train. Anyway, I made a mental note to take a picture of the sign when I got back.

The point is, my destination being pretty much the only place we're connected to by bus, I took it this morning. The driver seemed generally upbeat and truly proved it before we set off: after everyone had boarded, he first got up to wave to us and bid us all a good morning before sitting down again to drive. When we got to the main road he made some funny noises and then did a U-turn. He wasn't up for what he considered to be a "Stau"—traffic congestion or a traffic jam. I realised this because after his manoeuvre he flagged down another bus driver coming from the opposite direction to inform him of the trouble ahead. "Turkish-Turkish-Turkish-Stau-Turkish-Turkish." We cut through our village to get to the main route we needed to take, and made our first stop. I have to admit that the ride many had taken from the station to this IBM-stop seemed rather silly just then. All that drama for what could have been a 1 km walk? Anyway, once we reached the small village neighbouring our destination, we were in a real jam. The driver even got up to get his snack and paper from another seat in the bus—"What a Stau! Might as well read the paper!" The situation being what it was he made a proposition some minutes later: those who wanted to get out and walk were welcome to do so, he'd pick them up again if they got to the train station stop at the same time and wanted to continue on. Movement being as slow as it was, we didn't see the two people who took the walking option on the bus again.

When I got back, I remembered to take my picture. Then that bus driver, waiting around until his next departure, insisted on taking a picture of me with the sign—"Isn't that so much nicer!" We got to talking, since I suppose one has to assume "You're not from here, are you?" if you see me taking weird pictures. He's also Turkish, but has lived in Germany for forty years. Despite having completed his schooling here, he still struggles with the German language. "How do you find writing in German? My boss sends me an SMS, right. So I have to reply in German. But I can't even write an SMS without making some silly, small error. One word or two words? Or sometimes I get one letter wrong. It's hard!" He thinks it's nice that Germany is generally a safe country where a woman—or a man for that matter—can be on the street at night without too much worry. He does however worry about the far-right, particularly about the damage they could do to the country's image. If people develop a negative image of Germany they might be like, "I want to buy this handbag—oh no wait, I don't—it was made in Germany".

And that was just the bus drivers! The ladies who showed up for what will be a very small group of English learners (even when all are present) were also just the best. I was wise enough this time around not to ask odd questions like "How old are you?" My Japanese adult students had schooled me when I did that four years ago—"As old as your mother" or "Older than your mother" were the two answers that everyone in the group used. I wish they could join us. I can just imagine the animated discussions on gardening and grandchildren.

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