Sunday, August 20, 2006

Part Two: Training Daze

So it’s 8AM in Elspeet and even though we ate twice on the plane, I’m starving. Luckily the first place we all head is to breakfast. Determined to make new friends I decided to sit at a mostly empty table and see who joins me. Breakfast starts after a brief speech about how great it is we all made it this far without losing anyone or any luggage, which is pretty significant considering the amount of people and luggage involved. I wolfed down breakfast pretty fast considering I’m a notoriously slow eater. Then came a horrible surprise, in the form of an after breakfast speech. It came from Johannes, a jolly man with one of the most amazing beards I have seen in person (and most people agree he is a striking resemblance to Menno Simons). He said “For the next two hours you may go to your rooms and do what you wish, sleep, etc. but after that there will be no sleeping until bed time.” Me and my roommate, John E. (from before) decided to stay up the entire day, which, at the time, didn’t seem like too bad an idea. The entire day was marked with the haze of sleep deprivation. The most memorable moment was when all the trainees were sitting in the hall outside their respective rooms, enjoying what was probably the oddest conversation ever, though I don’t really recall what we talked about. I do remember at one point we tried to figure out how the fire hose in the hall worked, and if it would cause an alarm to go off if we used it. We needed the fire hose to help wake up Gary, who is in Altes Lager with me now, who was laying face down on the floor and mumbling about wanting to sleep. After dinner that night I realized that every time I ate, I would get a stomach ache for a few hours, and then get really hungry again. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sick, so I just chalked it up to something to do with time zones or eating schedules (it was). We got a few brief and simple German lessons, and one most humbling scavenger hunt. We were given a list of German words and asked to find them, apparently my group was the only group under the impression that we weren’t to use a German dictionary (My group was: Me, Matthias, Gary and Rachel, who wasn’t allowed to help because she was in the program last year and knows German). A brief scan of the list told us that between the 3.5 of us, we only really knew about 4 of the 12 words. We made some wild guesses and were wrong on most of the others, but we figured, hey, maybe no one else really knew what they were doing. Of course if I could go back and do it now, I would conquer, but, as it was, my group was the only one to not find all 12 items; though we did prove the most entertaining group. A little later we broke in to groups again, and it was Me, Matthias and Gary again. We had to make a skit to explain German culture rules on recycling, which are quite complicated, and served to scare me away from throwing anything away until just a few days ago. In our skit I played the clever and debonair hero: Recycle Man, and explained to an otherwise ignorant Matthias (playing Ignorant Citizen No. 1) the merits of the Pfund, with a little help from Gary who played the Pfund Machine. The Pfand is a system where you pay about 25 cents extra for bottles and get it back for bringing the bottles to be recycled/reused. It proved quite entertaining. At dinner that night it was announced there would be a talent show, for which I volunteered, along with Rachel, to be the Emcee. Based on some part of the conversation on the first day, we had already decided that I should do a little “preaching” in a style inspired by southern churches and a little inspiration from a Evangelistic church I visited in Louisville. We took a good while planning it, and on the night of the talent show I was considerably nervous, but once I broke into my stride, most people found it quite funny, or at least the ones I heard laughing did. From then on I had earned the nickname “Reverend.” Sadly the next morning we left our temporary home in The Netherlands, which was quite nice and relaxing, and boarded a bus to Germany (well us Germany folks anyhow). We all got a few more hours to hang out at the train station before the train got there, then we threw our bags on and found seats. Me and Gary got off at the second stop and said our goodbyes. Then we lugged our heavy luggage around the train station in order to find the proper train. Once aboard it was around a 6 hour ride to Berlin. The conversation was lacking for a good portion of it. I always find it harder to say something when I have to. But after a couple hours Gary and I got into a good conversation, which lasted a good while until a German poked his head into the car and said something in German. “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” I managed to ask. He repeated in English his question of rather there were free seats in our cabin. I said yes, and he and two friends joined us, making our cabin hot and crowded. They then proceeded to have a conversation in German that lasted all the way until Berlin. Gary and I were uncomfortable and for some reason, a bit afraid to say anything, not even in a whisper. The Berlin train station is huge, and, in case you ever go there, I’ll give you a tip; the bathrooms cost 80 cents to use. Yea, I found that out the hard way. Luckily a friend of Gary’s happened to be in Berlin and at the Train station, and she guided us through the station to the train we had to catch. The train was to Jüterbog, a city 45 minutes south of Berlin. We got on the train with our heavy bags and began the trip to our final home: Altes Lager, Germany


At 9:59 PM GMT+2, Blogger Maria said...

isn't Rachel fun?

At 11:58 AM GMT+2, Anonymous rachel said...

aww... thanks maria! come visit us!!

did you meet hannah? she rocks, eh! i'll miss her.

i remember the odd feeling of speaking english when everone around you was speaking german. but you get over it... and either speak german too, or speak english anyway. speaking english on public transportation can be rather fun, cause people around you often understand some english, so they listen in, and it's fun to have rediculous conversation and watch them try to pretend like they're not listening. try it sometime. it's good for a few laughs.


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