Being in Europe makes me feel like the US uses a completely inferior measurement system. Ever since I got on the plane things have been in kilometers and meters. My carry-on was “under eight kilograms,” however much that is. I asked one information desk lady where to exchange my currency and the directions she gave me included “fifteen meters.” I confess I’m bad enough at judging things like “fifty feet” or “twenty yards” or “ten pounds” but when you completely switch the measurement system out on me I’m just totally lost.
Something tells me that this is America’s fault. We’re on a totally wacky system of inches and feet and miles where everything converts arbitrarily but the metric system is so elegant. Centimeters, meters, kilometers, everything is just a multiple of ten. Too bad I just can’t get it.
Another thing which makes me feel like Europe is out to get me is the way that time is notated on the 24-hour scale, or military time as we Americans like to call it. Now before you think I’m totally dumb, I do know how it works and in fact I use 24-hour time on Facebook so I’m at least somewhat familiar with it.
The thing is, though, I don’t think in terms of twenty-four hours. I can figure out that “18:48” is “6:48 PM” just fine but when everyone’s throwing around numbers bigger than twelve and instantly knowing what part of the day that is, it just confuses me. “7:30 PM” to me means the sun is going down, or that people are eating dinner around that time. “19:30” means nothing to me.
It also, in my mind, raises the possibility that I’ll somehow miscalculate the time and get things totally messed up. It’s like the European system is just lying in wait for me, just counting down the differently-notated hours until I’m bound to mess up and show up to something at completely the wrong time.
I was going to blog before I left the States, WHOOPS! Anyway I had some downtime with my computer at the Munich airport, and now that I have an internet connection at my host family’s house in Salzburg I’ll start dumping my offline blog vomit here.
I’m sitting in the Munich airport as I write this. I don’t actually have internet access (you have to pay per hour of wifi) so I’m writing in Microsoft Word with the intention of putting this on my blog later.
The reason why I’m sitting in the Munich airport is because for some reason I have to wait three hours for my van to Salzburg, where I will be studying and staying with my host family. When I booked the van through email this week, I was told that the driver would be waiting at the airport for me; when I actually got to the transfer service counter, I was told that I’d have to wait three hours. I attempted to get to the bottom of it all but the representative of the specific service I was using couldn’t understand English and another rep for another service had to translate for him. It was a messy situation.
So yes, being in a country where you don’t know the language is certainly an experience, and I’m not even out of the airport. I’ve passed the time by reading my student handbook, journaling, napping, and changing the time zone on my iPod Touch repeatedly. Yes, I forgot to bring a book. (It’s a moment of forgetfulness I’m kicking myself for; what I would give to have my copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn right now.) As of now I have more than an hour to go before the alleged magic time in which I will be graced with transport to my host family.
8:03 PM edit: A man from the Salzburg transport service just came and took my luggage; in broken English he told me that we’d leave at 9:00. I really hope that this works out and that I don’t end up in some horrible situation where my luggage ends up somewhere else.
I’d like to note that so far I’ve found myself having to be That American who doesn’t know the language and copes by just speaking in English to anyone with a nametag or behind a counter. It’s a poor situation to be in, but hopefully the German course I’m taking at the college will teach me enough to at least let me show that I’m trying.