December 07, 2004

More Questions and Answers

Another American ex-pat, Anna, asked the following questions:

1. What was the oddest thing you saw upon moving back to the States?
Hm, that's hard to say. There were a lot of things that I saw with new eyes after returning from Germany--things I had never noticed or took for granted before that seemed strange to me upon my return. I have the say the #1 thing would be the sheer amount of choices at the grocery store. In Germany grocery stores are tiny and you get 2, maybe 3 brands or choices for a given item. Flash forward to the US where you have an entire aisle dedicated to cereal--seems odd after time away.

2. What was the thing you had to get used to the most while living in Germany?
Walking around in a fog on incomprehension. I never thought of myself as an eavesdropper before, but it was so weird in Germany hearing people have conversations around me and understanding only like 1 in every 5 words, if that. The signs I could pretty much make out--shopping wasn't too hard, public transportation fairly straightforward, it was the people talking that I really had to get used to. Especially people asking me for directions, which happened all the time. But I did get used to it, and when I returned it was a real shock to realize I could actually listen in on people's conversations and understand every word of what they were saying.

3. Your greatest/most memorable adventure?
I spent the summer of 1996 in England studying Thomas Hardy. One of my best friends, Sherri, spent it in Germany working at a Girl Scout camp there. Through a complex system of postcards and relayed phone messages, we managed to meet up in Paris. A friend of mine from my study program, Steve, joined us as well. One day we set out to go to Disneyland Paris ('cause I'm weird like that) thinking that we would get a room there, play at the park, spend the night, whatever. Sherri had to get on a train back to Germany that night, and contrary to what I thought, Disneyland Paris is not actually IN Paris, but a train ride outside. Upon our arrival at Disneyland, it turned out that there were no rooms in the inn, anywhere. So we spent several hours calling hostels around Paris until we found one that had room for us. By that time our day was pretty much gone, so we went to the entrance of Disneyland, then went to a Disney restaurant outside of the park. Yes, we went all the way there and never actually made it inside.

It got worse. We all rode the train back to Paris where Sherri took off. Steve and I were left trying to get to this hostel which again was not actually IN Paris but in some suburb. It was super late and we caught the last train of the night. Lucky us! We rode the train a while, and then looked out the window to see our stop go whizzing by. Little did we know, the train didn't stop in that particular suburb, and it was of course the last train of the night. We got off at the next stop and pondered what to do. The train station was outside so we couldn't sleep there waiting for the next train in the morning. We decided to walk into the town to find some place to sleep.

Well of course nothing was open at all and we wandered for a while until we found a Chinese restaurant that was open. Oh, did I mention that neither one of us spoke French? So we asked the restaurant people in English if there was a hostel or hotel nearby, and they produced a girl who not only spoke perfect English, but spoke in a California accent. She directed us to a motel that she knew of down a ways a little.

We found the motel, but unlike America, in France there's no such thing as the night-worker. It was locked tight, and we were screwed. It was at least midnight at this time, and we were totally exhausted. So we collapsed in the doorway of the motel like homeless people figuring we'd just sleep outside. Then along comes a guy, a young businessman in a car. We asked him if he could let us into the building so we could sleep in the hallway, but instead he offered to drive us to the hostel we had reservations at. It was a complete miracle. The guy was so nice and totally went out of his way to drive us over to the next town (about 10 miles) and get us settled into our hostel. We collapsed into bed for about 5 hours before running to meet the first train in the morning.

The whole adventure taught me many things--the first of which is that I now never go anywhere without knowing ahead of time where I'm going to sleep for the night. I also learned that despite what people say about the French, they really are very nice, generous people who really helped us out when we needed it. It was a great adventure but not something I'd want to repeat!

Posted by Shelby at December 7, 2004 04:07 PM

you didn't mention how you managed to walk out of Disneyland Paris' wetsern bar with an "extra" beer mug... or the fun we had trying to shove Steve through the Louvre more quickly with the hope of seeing something we hadn't already seen before...or our trip to Versailles...or the berets and baguettes...or the ferris left out all the FUN parts!

Posted by: Sherri at December 8, 2004 05:39 PM

Thanks for the wonderful answers! I'm posting my questions now - came by to copy & paste and saw the answers already. :)

Your adventure sounds like something I would do. :) It's things like that that make travelling fun. Especially if you keep a positive attitude about it. If you ask me, I'll tell you about the time I got lost in Queens, NYC. Me & my friend kept a positive attitude, but my ex-boyfriend got all up tight. Lol.

Posted by: Anna at December 9, 2004 02:32 AM

Hey - not just Queens NYC- it was Jamacia, Queens NYC not a very good neighborhood to get lost in at night :)

But we had a blast despite of it all

Posted by: Janine at December 9, 2004 09:00 PM

Yes we did! :) I'll post the full story on my website tomorrow.

Posted by: Anna at December 10, 2004 02:39 PM
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