Friday, November 18, 2016

The Hostel Rosetta

For the last two days, I have been staying in a hostel in Dresden called Mondelplast. I am in a big 10 person dorm room, but there has been just one other person here, a German fellow who spoke no English. I tried all of the smatterings of other languages I know to connect, but he didn't speak any of them and I don't speak German so we were lost in a babel abyss. But we communicated very basically over gestures and cups of peppermint tea amid broken sentences and half-formed questions.

This morning, I woke up at 5:15am. I have not slept well since Trump's victory, and today was no different. I wake up before dawn, wrestling with existential questions of fight or flight as I toss and turn in my bed.

His alarm went off and he began to get up in the darkness for his day of work. I tried to explain that he could turn on the light on his side of the room since I was already awake, but that ended with the whole room illuminated.

I got up as he made his way to the kitchen to make his breakfast. He offered me kaffie, which is a universal thing. We tried to talk, but it failed as usual. He asked if I was from England, and when I replied America, he simply said: Trump. I put my head in my hands and took his knife and mimicked plunging it into my heart.

And then, I had an idea. I ran into my room and grabbed my ipad and set up the translation app on the mini-computer. Suddenly our Rosetta Stone was found. As it became apparent that our language barrier had just fallen by the wayside, we hugged and smiled as we could suddenly communicate.

Googletranslate explained to me that Rene was a special excavator, working here in Dresden on a drilling project. He was only 1 of 100 of these special excavators throughout all of Europe. We chatted for a bit before he had to head to work. Our conversation was not especially deep or profound, but it was meaningful and poignant.  It reminded me of a semi-similar experience in Ghent, some years prior.

I bade him auf wiedersehen and he wished me well on my journey as he set off in the dawn; we both left with big, untranslatable smiles.

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