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“Hello?  Hey…um, I think I’m in the wrong place.  I’m at S—-strasse but there’s a school at this address, not a house….oh, Sindelfingen?  No, the GPS couldn’t find Sindelfingen so I put Stuttgart in…no, I didn’t realize I could search by postal code…oh…kay….okay!  Got it!  I wonder why that didn’t turn up before?”

Don’t tell anyone, but it didn’t turn up before because earlier in the day I accidentally tried to find Singelfinden, not Sindelfingen.  Singelfinden must make more sense to my English-speaking mind than the actual correct town name.  Oh dear.

Thus began my weekend with an old dear friend, Sonja, her husband Dirk, and their children.  They don’t live in Sindelfingen; Petra and Daniel, and their family, do.  Sonja et al. were visiting Petra et al., and I was graciously invited to join the party, which I did.  I finally arrived midday on Saturday after getting lost on the Autobahn once, a rather traumatic stop for gas, and said detour through Stuttgart.

First, let me quickly tell you about the gas stop.  I parked at the pump and looked for a credit machine….hm, nope.  Went inside and stood in line for a bit, tried to give money to the cashier which confused him greatly.  I kept saying “Nummer zwei!” and he kept trying to charge me for #5’s pump, because…well, here in Europe you pump first, and then pay.  #5 had already pumped, #2 hadn’t so of course he didn’t know why I was throwing money at him.  I finally figured it out and went out to pump.  Only I couldn’t figure out how to open the gas tank.  Two cars idled behind me.  I got in my car and looked frantically for the button to open it.  Nope.  Opened the glove compartment and looked in the manual.  Written in German, of course.  Then the guy in the car behind me walked up and started telling me in German to move it, Lady.  “Ich bin Amerikanisch, and…”  I chirped, with tears in my eyes.  “Well okay, but can you move please,” he replied.  “…and I don’t know how to open my gas tank, and…” my voice cracked.  Ah…his demeanor immediately changed and he got me through the whole process, showing me where to notice that the car will not accept basic-grade gas but must have mid-grade.  Oy.  Good to know.  The dude even moved his car to the next lane and pumped my gas for me and, as we passed each other in line to pay (after pumping) he said, “Good-bye.  Have a good journey.”  “Viel dank!” I grinned, so relieved I could have puked.

Anyway…back to the weekend.  Petra & Daniel’s house is absolutely stunning – the kind of immaculate modern design that I drool over every time I thumb through an issue of Dwell magazine or get a flyer in the mail for one of the many lofts that have recently sprung up in Sacramento.  I absolutely love the clean lines, smart efficiency and visual ease of these kinds of places, and I’ll say (maybe again) that the Europeans understand use of space in a way that very few Americans do.  I totally lust after it.  Wait, did I just say that out loud?  I digress…

Between the two families there are five children, and all of us had a funny sort of silent staring contest all weekend.  Their English is probably much better than my German, but none of them was willing to try it out on me, and I was equally intimidated about trying my German out on them.  Still, the interactions we did have were fun and I enjoyed watching the five of them play together.  Sonja’s middle child came up to me a few times during the weekend, put his hand on my shoulder quite earnestly, and said, “Ciao.”  Very cute.

Although I was quite a fish-out-of-water due to the language barrier, everyone was very kind to translate for me from time to time as they talked amongst themselves, and to even have whole conversations in English.  Now that I’m here and struggling to use what German I do have, I so appreciate the courage in doing this!  Sonja and Petra also taught me some German last night and this morning, and Petra commented that my pronunciation was quite good…none of these American Rrrrrrr’s.  I am quite competently gutteral.

The drive home was long but much less traumatic, and I had a lovely weekend all things considered.  Next weekend will be spent closer to home, and then in two weeks Sonni flies down to Munich and we will paint the town red, I’m sure!

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