Monday, September 29, 2008

back to basel

Tomorrow I will be going on the road with a group effort blog this next week. I am going to Barcelona and then Madrid to participate in one of the Upstream Collective's Jet Set tours that we do with people from the states who are interested in coming to Europe to connect in ministry. Take some time to check our JET SET starting Thursday, October 2.

I mentioned last week that I try to have some things in mind as I go out into the city.
One of those items would be to actually talk to people. I am relatively out going but I am not one of these people that can talk to a brick wall. I usually need a reason to talk.

I think breaking the ice in conversations can be a daunting task for some of us. When you put on top of that the inability to excel in that language or even say much beyond "Guten Tag" then you can really find yourself having a hard time connecting. I try to remember my ipoc thing that I have in my head. I pray, I observe and I connect but following a formula does not ensure success.

I have made a couple of observations this time around. I have thought of these before but this time i actually made a note of it. You may find the same thing. If so I would be interested in hearing your take on this or your story.

I take the train into the city. In theory it is an easy thing to do. I go the station, buy a ticket and get on the train. It is step two here in Germany that for some reason causes me problems. Each time I have gone downtown since starting this plunge to the city I have had a problem with simply buying a ticket. If it were a person that I had to speak to then I could make it happen. I could point and grunt and try to pronounce the words enough to get the ticket. But Germany is automated in many ways and you have to actually be able to buy your ticket at a ticket kiosk which is a machine. Again, simple in theory but you need for the machine to actually work. From my experience there is usually only one of the machines that work at any given station. There is one machine on each side of the tracks. I have so far chosen the wrong machine three times.

However, I have had the opportunity to have three conversations each time from some fellow strugglers who also have had problems getting a ticket from the machine. Each time the frustration of not being able to get a ticket when you want it led to a conversation with some one. As I thought about that I wonder if it has anything to do with common experience. If a group of people who do not know each other a thrown together say in an elevator then it is quite normal for no conversations to take place except if the elevator became stuck. Then conversations would take place due to this common crisis. There has to be a sociological term for this. I found this crisis point quite helpful in trying to get a ticket at the railstation.

On this morning there was a young lady who was travelling to the city as well. I could not get a ticket from the right side of the track so I did the proper thing of walking around to the cross walk and walking across the tracks to the other side and was able to purchase my ticket. This young woman who was on the other side of the tracks still trying to convince the machine to work saw that I had a ticket in hand so she decided she did not have time to walk to the crossing so she just jumped down and walked across the tracks. (The picture I am painting is not that unsafe, we are in a small town at this point I was just trying to be culturally approriate). She comes over to my side of the trackes and tries to by a ticket. She is able to buy her ticket. I walk around to the crosswalk and come back to the platform. She of course beats me there because she simply walks across the tracks. I see some sign that vaguely resembles "high voltage" and felt walking was a better option.

After we both had our tickets in hand we decided we would try to talk. We were bonded by this experience. We started in German and she knew that was not going to get her far. I reluctantly tried spanish but she could not understand me completely. She was Romanian. So we settled on English. She begins to tell me all about her German classes, getting a visa here to live, always having problems on this train, etc.... I was thinking of letting her know it would actually be better to use the cross walk but I decided against it. We talked for a while before the train arrived at the station and thus parted ways.

The very next time I went to the same station and tried to buy a ticket. This time I was in a hurry trying to catch the train. I went up to the kiosk and tried to buy my ticket. It was not working or I was not reading German correctly and then I was bailed out by a business man who lives in that area but commutes to Basel each morning. He told me that I need correct change which I did not have and which he had. I think I paid a little more for my ticket that morning. He was a shrewd businessman. Once we got on the train we were able to ride in together. He had an appointment. I did not get a phone number or business card but we had a good conversation and he gave me some cultural pointers like always carry change to buy your ticket. smile

My point in these stories is that often a crisis (in these cases extremely minor) can often generate a great opportunity for a conversation. You never know how the Lord can orchestrate such conversations. I am learning more and more to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as God gives me situations to deal with.

1 comment:

Brittany said...

I really like this post. It's a great reminder not to stress when faced with challenges because those very challenges could be God's way to create opportunities for something significant. I'll be the first to admit that I hate looking like a fool. But I'll also admit God often has used those times to cause a stranger to have pity on me, which led to a conversation that wouldn't have taken place otherwise.