Principle Characters: Franzi8:08 AM
They say if you give a mouse a cookie, he'll probably ask you for a glass of milk to go with it. In the same order, one might say, if you take a German for a walk, you'd better bring your hiking boots!
One fine day in September, my fellow interns came prancing up to me in the manner of two small boys wanting to show Mom a shiny new toy and proudly announced that they had found Germans! Two German girls and one Spanish, to be exact. They ecstatically bounded about, while avidly describing their new found discovery. Naturally I took this all in good stride, smiling and laughing at their frolics. The next day, I was dragged over to meet the new neighbors.
"Franzi!!!! Mein fraulein, look out of your window!!!" Alan screamed, as I hid behind a nearby hedge in awkwardness. Out popped three little heads; one dark, one fair and one red. I was soon to associate these three as Franzi (the blond), Eva ( the redhead), and Celia (the dark haired Spanish girl). Before long, we were all great friends and the three YMCA workers often made their way over to the Embassy for a cup of coffee and some good craik.
Franzi and I especially hit it off and soon we made plans to go for a walk. Now, before I met Franzi, I had a good many ideas about the German persona. Namely, that they are hard workers, who like everything just so, have an obsession with nature and all things outdoorsy, and can often be found eating schnitzel, while wearing leiderhosen. But when I was becoming friends with Franzi, I thought I would throw away all of these preconceived notions and was completely ready to be proved wrong at every point.
The day came for our long awaited walk in the Lagan Meadows; a toe path near the Lagan river (aka a footpath for you Americans). :) When she picked me up, I put on some cute little boots and my 50 pound purse. (If you know me, you know that I cannot abide carrying a purse without at least three books in it, a large Bible, a ginormous hair brush, the likes of which would make Rapunzel green with envy and a fair sized collection of makeup).
I assumed we would walk for half an hour and then go sit and chat in a nearby coffee shop. Boy, was I proved wrong! Four hours later, I emerged back into civilization covered completely in mud and manure, ( there is a large collection of cows that live on the meadows), with bits of bushes and weeds and leaves poking out of my hair. I was completely drenched from a rain storm and had an attitude reminiscent of an old woman's pet poodle, growling and snarling at all who dared to come near, and cursing the German stamina.
Franzi, on the other hand, was chatting happily; her lovely, blond hair still in perfect order; her walking shoes all but dried off and clean; completely energized over the "short stroll". Half way home as a large hill towered above me, I gave up all pretenses of being outdoorsy and began to call on the gods to strike me dead or cut off my legs and leave me to drown in rainy misery.
The walk was worth it, however, because in that short time I learned more about this German than I ever would have in a lifetime of sitting in coffee shops, (natural habitat and all). Franzi is a 24 year old student in the middle of getting her degree as a teacher. She is a fairly recent Christian who loves the Lord with such wholehearted innocence and sincerity that she makes everyone around her long for the same closeness. And so it has become our routine whenever either of us wants to escape the city or just needs to talk or vent about something at work, that we will show up at our neighbor's front door and make our way down to the Lagan meadows for a nice. short stroll and some chat. We have managed a compromise, however, although we still walk until I nearly faint or die: Franzi will always drag my corpse to the nearest Starbucks as a reward afterwards. I have never made it past the need for the gold star on the fridge stage.
Some of my German preconceptions were not too far off and, indeed, one of these days, I have been promised the sight of those long awaited leiderhosen and, perhaps, even some to try on myself! Don't worry, photographic evidence will be forthcoming.