I was in Sweden when I heard about Nelson Mandela’s death.
I felt disconnected. All around me there were images of him on TV and on front covers of papers and magazines, but I couldn’t understand what was being said or written. My friends and family were going to his house in Houghton and attending the Soccer City service.
A few days later I went to a small town in North East Germany.
I spent some time on YouTube watching Obama, Tutu and of course the now infamous memorial signer. My brother in law sent me a video clip of women singing late at night outside Madiba’s house.
To clear my head from a week of writing I wondered through the freezing streets of Schoppingen hoping for the fog to clear. I hadn’t seen sun in days. I had visited all the touristy spots, bought all the exotic wine and pastries I could bear (which is a lot). I spotted a refrigerated truck selling fish in the town square.
The much dreaded ‘conversation’ started. The Germans don’t speak English. Fifty percent of them are rude on top of it. Luckily the fishmonger fell in the other 50%. Although we could not speak, the pointing and holding up of 5Euros was met with a smile. This is the broken conversation that followed.
If you cannot speak English in this town, you must be an art fart from the foundation. “Yes.”
Then some complicated German followed. I shook my head and lifted both shoulders. I had no clue.
The monger focused, took a deep breath and then slowly asked, “Where are you from?”