Harald

by Jonah

12-11-94

Whew.

Am I ever glad this week is over. Something due in every subject but one, two finals, and one test (which I found out about as I walked into class) added up to late nights, little rest, a lot of stress, little free time, and a heap of hard work. But you know what it’s like. Right now I’m just happy (very happy) that it’s all over with. I have one final every day next week except Tuesday and two on Friday. Nothing to worry about. I’ll take a test over a paper any day. Although papers generally are more interesting. Hmm… I’ll have to think about that. Think. That’s something I haven’t had time to do recently. I’ve been on the go since Thanksgiving break. Let’s see if I can rehash some of the events that have been so effectively consuming my time the last two weeks.

Last week was filled with Boar’s Head Festival rehearsals and performances. Along with being Stage Manager of the Second Shepherd’s Play, I was also a page, which meant that I had to wear tights and a rather short (to my liking) tunic. My duties included organizing the set change before the play. During one of the dress rehearsals, I was reaching up to pull some curtains down when a voice behind me called my name urgently.

“Joanna,” a girl was trying to get my attention, “you might not want to reach your arms over you head. Your shirt goes up.”

As I climbed off the stage another girl got my attention more discreetly. “We could see your butt.”

As pages, another fellow and I were to bring the yule log to the fire place, the boar’s head to the table, and the figgy pudding to the stage during the appropriate songs sung by the choir. The pudding was the best because we got to douse a pile of sugar cubes with lemon extract (80% alcohol) and toss in a lit match before parading around the room with it.

I could have used last weekend to catch up on schoolwork except that I spent all my time talking to a visitor from Germany staying with us. Harald is currently in Houston at the University of Texas (I think. It’s the one with the bell tower that the guy climbed up and started shooting at people from the top several years ago. I have a friend who often remarks that he thinks he’ll start doing the same thing at the University of Mobile till I point out that we don’t have a bell tower. “But you could always climb up on top of the fountain,” I say.) Dad met Harald in Sioux City, South Dakota at Mount Rushmore three years ago and invited this friendly German to visit us someday. He finally took us up on the offer on his second trip to the U.S.

He was quite entertaining. He showed a stack of about a hundred pictures of his trip across this country, staying with different people. They were of mainly simple things like mailboxes, something they don’t really have in his country. His commentary on the photos was the best part. One picture was of a sign obviously outside a health food store reading,

FAT FREE SUGAR FREE ICE CREAM.

“In my country that is all ice cream is,” he said, “fat and sugar. Why would you want to eat this? Here everything is low fat, but in Germany no one says their food is fat free. If someone wants to loose weight than he will eat less.”

He also told us about a convenience store sign he had seen on his way to our house. “It said Kountry K
orner spelled with K’s instead of C’s. In my country we are learn when we are 5 or 6 how to spell correctly. If someone had put up a sign like that where I live, people would think that he wasn’t educated. Look at that, they’d say, He doesn’t know how to spell!”

Harald also had a picture of a sign on the door of a store that said, “Help Wanted. Friendly, Happy People.”
And then under that, “We’re glad you’re here!”

“You would never see anything like this where I live,” said Harald. “How can you tell is someone is going to be happy all the time? Everyone is sad sometimes. And look at this,” he added pointing to the bottom part. “The only reason people say they’re glad you’re here is because they want your money.”

Talking to Harald was very interesting. His English is good, but I still had to make sure I used simple words or be ready to define things when he asked me to explain. He is a thinker. He talked about some of the cultural differences between our two countries.

“Your movies make the U.S. seem more liberal than it actually is. People aren’t as open about sex here than they are in Germany. But your movies are very violent; I have to cover my eyes. People get shot and die. Movies in my country are more about love and sex. Nice things. We don’t have as big a problem of violence as you do here.

He was very satisfied with his country’s health care system. “One day I chipped my tooth, so I just went to a nearby dentist I had never been to before, but I just told them my name, and they got all my information on computer, and fifteen minutes later I was in the dentist’s chair.”

Harald went to church with us that Sunday. “I’ve been to church more in the last few months since I’ve been in the U.S. than I did in the last 15 years in Germany!” And, of course, he took pictures of it. Afterward, we had a family over who’s mother was out of town. The father, one of my professors at the University of Mobile, and Harald and I spent four hours talking around the dining room table after lunch. Harald said that Americans seem to have a hard time having long conversations.

“Short attention spans,” I told him, and then I had to explain what that meant.

We got our Christmas tree today. It’s a live Lealand cypress like all the other ones we’ve had since we moved here. We’ll find a place to plant it outside after Christmas.

Mom and Stephanie just left to go buy a horse. We have one, Shelly, a probably 15 hand Arabian mare. This new horse looks a lot like Shelly except taller and thinner. Her name is Katie, and she’s a thoroughbred, about 16 hands, and really sweet, and though energetic, she’s well trained. Stephanie and I hope to go on a trail ride this afternoon.

So that’s about it here. I’m glad I finally got a chance to write a decent letter.

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