It wasn’t only Louise’s’ first trip out of the Country but also for the three people traveling with her. And Louise was the only one who could speak German. They arrived in Berlin and had to ride a bus to the hotel. Louise didn’t know then that they were next to the T.V. Tower. A pretty cool place that she later visited with her German husband and 3 children.
The four travelers managed to find the right bus and lug their big American suitcases into the bus before it took off. Then it was hold on for dear life. There were not enough seats for everyone and Louise saw people holding on to the railing so that is what she did, the extra bags in between her legs, trying not to fall on the other passengers who seemed not to be having any trouble staying balanced. They must not all be first time tourist.
At the second stop the bus driver starts yelling. Louise thinks ‘’oh my gosh, this is like in those Nazi videos’’. Concentration camp. Cliché she knows. She had just seen too many of them. And to be very honest, fear is the real reason she wanted to learn German. Life can be silly sometimes.
Louise’s father thinks she moved to Europe because of a book she read in the ninth Grade. He couldn’t be more wrong. She hadn’t even thought of that book until he brought it up. But that is beside the point. Louise can give that book credit for her love of reading. She hated reading and didn’t understand it until she was forced by school to read and analyzed this true love story the summer before the ninth grade. After that it was read, read, read. Louise reads quickly in German and English, these days.
So the bus driver is yelling and Sally is looking at Louise for help. This is the first time Louise realized that her German knowledge might not be as good as she thought it was. She was trying to understand and didn’t want to miss the stop for the hotel. If that happened, she would be stuck in a bus that would bring her to who knows where. The driver gets louder and more frustrated. He gets up and stomps to the back of the bus, stopping directly in front of Sally. He’s pointing at her hand that is wrapped around one of the bars in front of the doors. Then he waves his arms back and forth. Sally scrabbled her brain to understand this man, so she can help her mother, but it just doesn’t click until the driver has returned to his seat at the front of the bus, looking disappointed.
Luckily Sally, Louise’s mother, was smart enough not to try and argue with the man. After he left she looked at her daughter confused and shifted her standing position, moving her hand down just a bit on the bar. Then Louise knew what had happened. Her mother had been holding on to the exit button the entire time. The bus driver had been trying to tell her that when she holds the button that he has to stop and open the doors.
Even after living in Germany for almost ten years, Louise has never had anyone yell at her like that bus driver on her first day in Germany. And she has come to understand the train and bus system. The bus driver only stops at the bus stop if there are people waiting at the stop who stand up as the bus approaches or if someone inside the bus presses one of the stop buttons, which are not always labeled. It is just a square red button located at different positions around the vehicle.
They finally arrived at their destination. Louise shared a room with her cousin. The two tried to figure out what the deal was with the beds were. They had no sheets. They were too tired to try and figure it out. They laid down and went to sleep, waking up at 4:30 in the morning. How could that be? Stacey thought the clock must be wrong and went down to the lobby, only one person behind the bar and no one else in sight. It was quiet and dark outside. The two girls sat down for a few minutes thinking that something must be wrong but it wasn’t. They soon spotted a clock that read 4:42 and went back upstairs laughing at themselves.
The whole reason they were in Germany was to meet Lina’s family who lived in Southern Germany. The plan was to take a train to Frankfort in a few days and drive a rental car from there. But before they left for the 4 hour train ride Sally thought it would be a good idea to relax a bit by getting a full body massage. She paid for Louise’s and told her to have fun. Louise went into this little room painted red and orange. Playing in the corner from a CD player came calming music with a Caribbean touch. A man came in and told her to get undressed and lay down on the table. There was a tiny hand cloth on the table. Louise assumed it was meant to cover her bum. It didn’t do its job very well.
He barely turned around as she undressed. She figured he must be immune to the sight of a young girl’s body. She lay down on her stomach. She didn’t have to say she was ready. He knew and came. Louise was nervous, but also a bit excited to be lying naked on a table, alone in a room with a man. He was professional and could lose his job if he wasn’t, so Louise didn’t worry about him touching her inappropriately. He began asking her questions as his hands covered her back. It felt so good, Louise never wanted it to stop. It was hard to communicate when being rubbed into submission, he really was a professional.
He didn’t leave one spot uncovered. Louise wondered why he even gave her the little towel because it came off as he began to massage her behind. She wanted to laugh out loud. She couldn’t believe her mother would send her to this kind of message at the age if eighteen. She didn’t know what was happing to her. But it felt good.
As he began stroking Louise’s legs, she began to feel shameful. Maybe because she wanted him to do more. She felt him working his way up, up, up, pushing her inner thighs outward, allowing her legs to open a little more each time. They had stopped talking. Louise’s heart was beating faster. She wondered if this was a sin. His fingers were gliding so close to her inner warmth that she was sure his fingers would get wet. Could he see into the deep sea of her passion, her desire? She yearned to feel him inside her. To be released. To have his fingers slip in for a moment of pleasure.
But no, what was she thinking? This was not the way she was raised. She was brought up to guard her body and mind. She must just enjoy this moment for what it is and not fantasize about being impure. She wondered if he had massaged her mother in the same manner or if he was giving her a ‘’special’’ treatment. She wondered, if Sally knew what was going on, if she would be upset. Louise decided not to discuss it with her mother. She hadn’t been molested and there was no reason for this man to get in trouble. Louise decided to keep her mouth shut.
When Sally later asked how the massage went, Louise answered ‘’intense!’’
‘’I know wasn’t it fabulous?’’ was her reply.
Louise assumed that must be the way all messages are.
After spending a few days in Berlin, seeing a few sights and accidently ordering a pig’s head for dinner, it was off to Frankfort. Louise, Sally, Papi and Stacey took the ICE, the fastest train in Germany. They found four seats facing each other with a table in the middle. Perfect. Midway though the trip other passengers arrive saying that they were in their seats. Sally, being as she is, was determined to prove them wrong. It was a mess, but in the end the four had to move and Sally was not happy about it. They managed to find another area with tables and sat there. They ended up having to move seats three times that trip. Louise’s mother was so mad. Louise could see steam coming from her ears. It turned out they were supposed to have reserved seats, but in order to get them, they should have gone to the Deutsche Bahn service center to find out in which seats they belonged.
They knew better the second time around. Upon returning to Berlin they did things the right way and never had to give up their seats.
Once in Frankfort they needed to find their hotel. Papi rented a car and asked it how far away the hotel is. The man behind the counter said it was a five minute drive. So they all hoped it the car, hungry, tired and ready to get their bags unpacked. This five minute car ride took 4 hours. It was way past dark before they arrived. Papi kept driving in circles and Sally kept saying, ‘’this map is wrong or the street signs are wrong. Every street sign says Einbahnstrasse. That can’t be right.’’
At this point Louise realized what was happening. Her mother was only looking at the green signs like the green street signs in the USA. She had learned in German class that the signs were yellow and much bigger or blue and sometimes hard to find. She was able to convinced her mother to trade places with her and let her hold the map. She still managed to have them cross the same bridge about 6 times before getting it right. And one time as they were about to cross the bridge yet again, Louise told her step-dad to take a left turn and not cross the bridge. She wanted him to stop shortly after so that she could relocate their position on the map in relation to were this hotel should be. But she never got a chance to tell him to pull over because a cop got to it first. He came to the driver’s side where sat. The policeman said something. Papi replied with a simple, ‘’Uh, no German’’ and the policeman replied with ‘’Uh, no English’’.
Louise mustered up her courage and said in the best German she could that they were lost, trying to find a hotel and have been driving around for hours. The man laughed at her and said it was just around the corner. Then he tried to explain why he pulled them over. It took a long time before Louise understood him. But she got finally got it; the arrows on the street are not suggestions they are laws. If there is no arrow pointing left, then you are not allowed to turn left. If the arrow points straight, you must go straight. And there had been a straight arrow on the road. No left turns allowed directly in front of the bridge.
Louise apologized and promised that it would not happen again, if he could please forgive them. He did. Then he said to put away the map, it is too confusing. He described in a few words how to get to the hotel. And sure enough, they found it in a matter of minutes. You can’t imagine how happy they were to get out of the car. Especially Sally, who gets car sick in the back seat and who is six feet tall. Not to mention that the luggage didn’t fit into the trunk so the back seat was stuffed with two adults and 2 large bags. Sally hadn’t even able to buckle her seat belt, saying it didn’t matter. She was packed in so tight that even in a wreck she would stay put.
Louise spent a long time that night studying the map for on the very next day they were to drive more than an hour long to meet Lina’s family at their home. The next day came and despite the apprehension of all about driving, Louise and Papi managed to get to the house with time to spare. What a relief.
They were welcomed with hugs and smiles and a table set for lunch. Lina, her brother and his girlfriend, her parents and grandparents, Louise, Sally, Papi and Stacey all sat around the table eating a wonderfully fattening German meal with *knodel and brown gravy, and asparagus wrapped in bacon with a white sauce. It was delicious.
That day went by in a blaze. Lina’s father took Louisa and her family to many sites and explained them all. Louise couldn’t remember everything that was said or seen that day. Well, there was one thing she remembered… The toilets that she couldn’t figure out how to flush and the light switch that she couldn’t seem to find.
The two families ate dinner upon returning to Lina’s home that evening. The table was set with a wide variety of breads, cheeses, meats and other things to spread. Sally was fascinated with the food. She went on and on about wonderful it all was. Papi was surprised to find that his favorite spread was meat. He had never spread meat onto bread in his entire life. Louise and Stacey weren’t sure what to think about this dinner. It was different from anything they had ever seen or tasted, but it was good. Sally made such a fuss over the food that Lina’s family told them to take it home and enjoy, which they did. They tried to take it across the border into the United States, but it was confiscated at baggage claim. So Louise and her family made it home safely without the cheese and meat spread.
*Potatoe bread ball
© Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany 2013, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.