A couple of days ago, Olaf told me he had to go to a “reunion of his old classmates” (basically a high school reunion, they were all together in school from the age of 13 to 18), and asked me if I would be interested in going. I said sure, as it seemed like it could be a strange, fun event — especially if I could show up as his flamboyant gay partner dressed in something tasteful like chaps and a neck scarf. But alas, Olaf had already been out of the closet at that time, so my enthusiasm for giving a shock to his old classmates completely deflated and I wore jeans and a sweater. I really should have thought the whole thing through before going, though, as when we got there it was a little awkward to make all his friends speak English. Despite what you may have heard, it does not come all that naturally to most Germans, despite their English being far superior to almost any American’s German skills. Not wanting to get in the way of their reminiscing, I stayed a bit off to the side and checked email for a bit at first, then was lucky enough to hang out with the other odd man out in attendance, a guy named Fred who was the partner of one of the other gays in the village, and who (like me) knew no one there. The reunion was held in a pub in a mini mall in kind of suburb of Hamburg, not far from where they all grew up and attended school. Through my conversations with Fred and the surroundings, I learned quite a few interesting things:
1. The pub we were in was called Humboldt, after one Alexander von Humbolt (and/or his brother Wilhelm, it wasn’t clear). He is apparently quite famous here, although I had never heard of him. His work apparently laid the foundation for the field of biogeography (something I had also never heard of specifically, so there you are). To be fair, most people in attendance couldn’t exactly explain what he was known for off the top of their head. Fred thought he had invented the compass or something (although that I knew had in fact been invented by the Chinese.)
2. Octoberfest is more celebrated in the south (and was already over), but for some reason this pub was decorated to celebrate it, and we had Octoberfest beer and food (Brätwurst and Sauerkraut)
3. After using my translator app a few times and discussing various things with Fred (whose English was quite good), we realized that the Germans have no word for wander. We were attempting to translate the word for hiking, which in German is Wandern, obviously from the same root as our word for wander. But when I explained to Fred that it was different from hiking in that there was particularly no destination implied with the word wander, he explained to me that the Germans had no single word for this. They would have to say something like “to walk or hike with no destination”, which I found hilarious. Of course Germans assume there is a point or destination to everything. Why would you just “wander” with no idea where you were going? I also realized that the word quite neatly describes much of my life outlook. I love not knowing where I am going exactly, that is where I discover the most amazing things.