An Eternity to Learn German

22 Nov

The cool nearly winter air is slowly finding its way into Vienna.  It’s funny, last week it was warmer in Vienna than it was in New Orleans, my former home and current location of my Austrian hostess.  The word here is that the fall in Vienna has been much warmer than typical, and that is just fine with me.

The past few cooler weeks have brought a settling in of sorts to current life and rhythms in Vienna.  With “mom,” my Austrian hostess, still on her New Orleans adventure, most weeks for me have included a fairly regular syncopation of German class, studying, meal preparation and child care.  My young German-speaking friend and I continue to find our way with one another. Often there is a comfortable silence, or singing or playing.  I do my best to use my limited German knowledge to communicate the simplest of ideas.  My young Austrian friend (she is 6), the daughter of a linguist, is a discerning audience. I have to try my very best when pronouncing words or else meet with her disapproval.  I did have a recent success with her.  I read her a children’s book….in German.  It turns out it is possible to read fairly well in German without understanding what you are saying. I went along and read the words and she chuckled and laughed along the way.  Her dad asked if I did a good job reading and she nodded an enthusiastic yes… so while my German is slow in coming, apparently I have gained something.

I am feeling easier with my German class although my hesitation to try speaking and using German remains.  Last week I tried a few words with some new Austrian friends.  Apparently, instead of not I said naked… ah, and so it goes…  I am mostly enjoying my regular German class with my bundle of classmates sharing the journey through its thick woods. Our class is taught all in German and at times I can keep up and understand what she is saying.  At other times I am lost and have this glazed look upon my face.  I sit wondering if she will call on me next, and when she does I feel like a deer caught in the headlights.

I am often surprised at little things I discover in the German language…  the many rules that make no sense and our teacher just laughs and sighs encouraging us to just memorize it… and reinforcing that yes, German is an interesting language…  I often think of Mark Twain’s famous quotes about German including, “I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”

We were practicing numbers in class the other day.  At first as they were written I thought they were presented as a puzzle or a trick… but in fact they are actually written that way… in one long stream of words.  For example, 6744 is written as sechstausendsiebenhundertvierundvierzig.  Got it?…

As I continue to find my way in Vienna, I am glad to have connected with the local chapter of SGI (Soka Gakkai International), an international Buddhist organization.  It brings some ease to my life here to have local friends to connect with.  I still enjoy the beauty of the city, but somehow it is even better as the backdrop for participating in ordinary life and events. The Vienna SGI chapter is quite relaxed and they make it simple and fun even though I don’t speak German.  Most members I have met so far speak some English and they are at ease and helpful at translating for me.

I appreciated when attending my first meeting, at the end of the meeting a long-time member from Japan read something in Japanese.  As she read the quote, another member translated that into German.  And then another member translated it from German into English.  All with ease and grace.

I had a birthday this week.  A new age has slipped into my life.  In many ways as the years continue to add-on…. it gets easier and easier.  I feel less burdened with a new age than I did when say I was in my 30s.  It feels like the previous year was spent laying a stronger foundation, and so this year has new strength to stand on.

For my birthday I celebrated by taking a little break in the afternoon to get a massage.  In the evening my host was kind enough to take me out for a birthday dinner.  He said that he was used to having a date on that evening as his wife has the same birthday as me.  Before departing for dinner she and I had a quick birthday Skype from New Orleans. That night she celebrated in New Orleans and her husband, daughter and I celebrated with dinner at a local Vienna eatery, Restaurant Witwe Bolte.  A quiet little nook down a narrow road not far from their house, it was a great birthday meal.

And now the weekend continues.  Enjoying some of the comforts of home.  Preparing to spend Sunday at a workshop with the Art of Living in Vienna.  Good night for now from my Vienna home.

Photo enjoying the beauty of ordinary life in Vienna.