Here I am in Hamburg, Germany as a result of move no. 23. At least, I think it’s move no. 23. I tried making a list of all of my moves. It took an hour and two glasses of wine to scribble it all down, and I’m not even sure it’s complete. I think I’m missing a couple of moves in England. Whether it’s 22 or 23 or 24, it’s a lot of moves for someone in their 30s.
Why Hamburg, you ask? Good question. When someone is on move no. 23, you might assume that the answer to such a question isn’t a short one. In this case, you would be absolutely right. I promise to answer that question in my next blog post – I don’t want to make my very first post too long and complicated. I’m trying to hook you in here! Let’s start small:
I found a temporary place to work. When I say work, I mean redo my business website…for the fifth time. (The reasons for this will become clear in time if you stay with me, dear reader.) My temporary office is the Zentralbibliothek (Central Library). I can be found most days on the top floor sitting at a long table that allows about 20 people table space, a spot to plug in their device, and their own little desk lamp. Add in the view of Hamburg out the window, and it’s not too shabby at all. It feels solitary but cosy. Basically, it’s conducive to work with few distractions. In fact, distractions are not allowed as I learned early on. Last week while I was working away, I noticed my mobile phone ringing. I had set it to silent as I could tell just by looking at the students’ heads buried deep in their textbooks with expressions of consternation on their faces that this was a silent, serious place to work. I picked up my silently ringing phone and whispered in my quietist whisper, “I’m in the library…hang on…I have to move.” As I silently packed up my laptop and papers, the young woman next to me rolled her eyes and looked at me in such a way that I was certain she was going to use an idea from her chemistry textbook to bring an end to my vocal chords. She whispered something to me that I didn’t get for two reasons. 1) Her whispering skills were incredible. She wasn’t new to working in the Zentralbibliothek, and only a bat could have made out what she was whispering. 2) My German skills are far from strong. So, I grabbed my things and crept to the stairwell. I like my vocal chords.
When I arrived at the Zentralbibliothek the next day, I made sure to look for a spot next to someone who wasn’t a studying student. I found one free chair next to an elderly man reading a magazine. Perfect! In my best whisper and best German, I asked if the seat was free. He replied that he thought the person who had been sitting there had gone to the loo and might come back, but that I should take the spot as there wasn’t anywhere else to sit. So I sat. A few hours later, the elderly man left, but before he made his departure, he gave me his last two chocolates explaining that I looked like I needed them. I had been fighting with website issues for the last couple of hours, so he was probably right. What a sweet man. Walking home later that day, I popped one of the chocolates in my mouth. Polish chocolate has a taste and this was Polish chocolate. Yum. As I chewed, something started clicking in my brain…Polish chocolate…Polish….hmm…..my German is awful, so why did I understand everything that man said to me…click! I realised that he had been speaking to me in Polish (which I understand as I lived there for years), and I hadn’t even noticed. Had I been too focussed on work? Or on avoiding the chemistry student? Maybe. However, this is just the kind of thing that can happen when you’ve lived in different languages and nowhere is home…