Sprechen Sie Englisch??

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I know what fear looks like.
And I know how to drag it out of every German in East Berlin.

Sprechen Sie Englisch??

On our second day in town, my pal Ron and I walked down Karl Marx Allee, right down the boulevard of Soviet Power, towards Alexanderplatz. We scouted around this famous boulevard, checking out the glamorous new shops and galleries that have moved into this otherwise very austere neighborhood since the fall of the wall. We found a little antique store that had a shoebox collection of old black and white photos from the early years, before the war, and some even during. I was ecstatic. I needed the whole box. For what, I had no idea. But it was just so ridiculously delicious I needed it.

Sprechen Sie Englisch??

And there it was. Eyes wide pools of fear, a grimace, a grunt, a slight look of contempt, a wave of the hands for no, the mutual acknowledgment between us that gestures and sounds are going to have to do. A shrug for us both. My worst fear. His worst fear. But we’re in this together. I want the photos. He wants my Euros. We soldier on…

How much for this whole box? I make the gestures with my hands for bills between fingers and I lift the box. He digs through. Grabs a piece of paper, and writes down 80 euros. Oh. That’s about $130 US dollars. Nope. I shake my head. He pulls a few out and somehow I understand that a few of the items in the box are very valuable. Very historic. Very expensive. Ok. I’ll come back. I’ll come back? Ron, help. Return? Ah! Zur√ºkkehren! Yes! I mean, Ja. I mean, we’ll be back. Oh boy. Nobody speaks English. Myth. Busted.

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