Many things have happened to me whilst in Germany.
1. I lost my wallet on Day 1 of my first year there. When it was discovered three weeks later, I hugged the elderly professor who headed my department so fiercely that my strapless bra snapped and dropped to my feet. How do you say "awkward" auf Deutsch?
2. I once got quite lost in a pleasant suburb--and by quite lost I mean for three or four hours lost-- because I kept following "Einwegstrasse," which I couldn't find on a map, in the hopes that it would lead to a main drag. Einwegstrasse means "one-way street." Did not know that. The bus driver in front of whose accordion vehicle I leapt, wild eyed and sweaty, clutching a now sour quart of milk, and gasping "Universitat, Universitat" probably still wakes up shaking.
3. I lived in Germany for two years, more than a decade apart. Both times, a Bush was the American president and there was a war in Iraq. Berlin has called to plead that I never return.
4. i marched in the rain for something that I didn't really understand, but which involved a number of my professor friends, beneath a banner made from a blue flannel flowery bedsheet onto which something in red had been written--again, no idea. This was the single most politically activist thing I had done in my life up until then.
5. I went to Rostock. One ought not to do that. Despite this:
6. I was refused dinner rolls in my village bakery until I could pronounce the word properly. Some mornings, it took upward of 5 minutes while a line formed behind me.
7. I practiced the phrase "Would you please repair my spectacles?" for 45 minutes--then, upon entering the optometrist's, promptly burst into wordless tears, produced my broken glasses like a burnt offering, and was given chocolate and a pat on the head. I was 40 years old.
8. A woman I befriended at the bus stop came for dinner, drank too much, played with the sharp knives and told me how much she loved my husband. I think. She might have been complementing me on my egg salad. It's hard to explain to someone why you are breaking off a friendship if it could have been either of those two things.
I could also compile a list of what you should do whilst in Germany, of course--and number one on that list is this:
Those people know how to deal with pregnant ladies, even freaked out first-timers who are old enough to be grandmothers. Within ten minutes of discovering beyond doubt that I was with child, I had a preggo passport (a very handy little book that recorded all my tests, results, and ultrasound pictures--of which there were many), a prescription for sexy black thigh-high pregnancy hose, a prescription for vitamins, a prescription for soothing herbal creams and lotions, a three-page list of what to eat and what not to eat, strict instructions about napping *every* afternoon, and very sensible advice on coffee and alcohol: "no more than 3 cups of coffee and 2 glasses of wine or beer a day."
Whenever I think about my pregnancy, I think about being wrapped up securely by German socialized medicine, cosseted and mollified, looked after with firm kindness, encouraged to eat perhaps a little more bread and cheese as I should really put on a little more weight. The nurses gave me a gift certificate to a local toy store when I saw them for the last time before heading home to Canada.
Some Americans I know of dream about Canadian healthcare. I dream of German healthcare. I wonder whose healthcare the Germans dream of.