Lost in translation – Not

We had lots of craziness involved with construction for the last two weeks as new floors and molding went into the whole house.  The tired  (pink) carpet with no pad beneath it, the bold (pink) entry tile and shrunken (pink) linoleum were unceremoniously ripped out in clouds of dust and debris to make way for the new laminate floors we chose to replace them.  The three guys that were doing the work had limited English and my multi-lingual skills were too rusty to allow coherent non-English sentences.  But this reminded me of our visit to Eichbaum in Mannheim, Germany when we shared a table with a long time resident of Mannheim that hadn’t spoken English in the many years since his wife passed away.

The Mannheim Water Tower
The Mannheim Water Tower on a gloomy November day; it finally stopped raining enough to stop and take a picture.

We were a few days shy of leaving Germany and in need of dinner after a cold, rainy November day touring Heidelberg Castle.  Eichbaum came up as a restaurant so we made our way there around 5 PM.  There were basic pub foods to choose from which made the decision fairly quick.  The flight of beers on tap made their way to us promptly, but the food took some time to emerge despite it being a slow night.  So, when our new friend asked to sit by us while he drank his beer we didn’t mind.  Our server gave him a glare when he sat down; we might have taken that as a sign, but no.  We managed to eat between questions due to the time it took to comprehend what he was asking.  When he whistled for another beer the server berated him for his rudeness; in his defense, his glass was empty for quite a while and she didn’t come by to check.  She glared at the back of his head another time or two.  It was clear that he loved the time he spent in America many years ago as much as he loved his deceased wife and was super lonely.  His little apartment a few blocks away meant he was a regular customer from way back when.  Like an old uncle that doesn’t know when to leave, the server chided him and tolerated him.  We had a good time chatting while we ate and drank, we certainly won’t forget him as that evening was a lot longer than we anticipated.

The beers were good, but not exciting; no need to translate taste thank heavens.  As one of the oldest breweries in the Baden-Wurttemberg region we were impressed with the huge, modern facility we arrived at.  Now knowing how large they are and how far they distribute, makes sense.  Apparently it was a popular college student haunt when the University of Maryland University College (1995-2005 in Mannheim) had a campus there.

The experience was humbling, we didn’t speak German well enough to communicate with this man, but we could understand his German enough to answer in English which was apparently ok.  The vast majority of Germans speak impeccable English; we should be better prepared to participate in the world we travel in.  Of course, back at home, we were poorly equipped to converse with non- to minimal-English speaking people.  They did great work and we are so happy to be moved back into our home.

Have a safe Memorial Day, keep those that defend us (past and present) and all that they give up for us in mind this weekend.  For my family, friends and for those that I don’t know personally that still are and have served, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


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