Sept. 10th: My German is Rusty

I’m traveling east to Singapore, via Frankfurt, so I am surrounded by Germans, both coming and going. I used to speak the language very well, but I’m rusty from lack of use.

No matter. People are basically friendly, so I plunged right in. If you stick your neck out and just start stumbling along, it’s amazing what comes back. An expression rolls out of nowhere, and you stop and think, “How did I remember that???”

The only problem being that if you start with too deft a comment, people just start firing back at you in mile-a-minute Deutschesprache, and you have to put up your hands and say “Bitte, langsamer” (roughly meaning, “I’m not as smart as you think”).

I grabbed a copy of the newspaper Stern on the plane and fared much better taking my time with written words. Here’s what I learned:

1) There is a crisis in hospitals in Germany, due to overstressed residents and many hospital-acquired infections (“500,000 in a year”). One resident told the reporter that she only gets to spend about 90 seconds seeing each patient. A woman with terminal cancer had to wait days to speak to a psychologist. (I don’t know the “slant” of this particular paper, but it may be that the truth is not so different from problems endemic to US hospitals.)

2) Obamanews is big everywhere – so are American nut-jobs, unfortunately (I call it the “CNN Effect”).

3) Some sort of pharmaceutical deal is in the works, but I’m not sure what the “black-yellow” coalition is.

4) Germans are up in arms about the economy (who isn’t) and their latest protests feel that social services are being cut in favor of less important priorities. (Also not just a German problem.)

On the plus side, I had smoked salmon and a lovely lemon chicken dish over Ukraine (hopefully not “Chicken Kiev” with Chernobyl nearby…  ;).

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