Sunday, January 31, 2010
Biting Your Tongue Hurts
I met an extremely opinionated older German man named Fred on a sleeper train from Sapa to Hanoi late last night. Upon entering our sleeper cabin, Fred and I exchanged quick glances and a friendly smile as I placed my luggage on the bottom bunk. After preparing my bed, I turned towards my new cabin mate and Fred immediately asked me, "Vere are you from?", to which I swiftly replied, "the United States", while simultaneously taking a seat. "Ohhhh..." he replied, "Vere in the United States?" I proudly stated, "San Antonio, Texas." Fred then looked me directly in the eye and said quite emphatically that he did not like Texas. I immediately thought, "I really don't give a crap, Fred", but fortunately my response remained silently in my mind. Instead, I asked him "Why?" To which, he bluntly responded that George Bush was from Texas. He then proceeded to explain all of his problems with Americans and the United States.
I immediately considered giving this man, who was forty years my elder, a quick history lesson on Germany and their role in the first half of the 20th century, but I wisely decided that arguing would ultimately be counter-productive. So Fred blabbered on, and I answered his seemingly endless questions about the economy, politics, foreign policy, and social awareness of the US, until I finally suggested that we all get some rest (it was a "sleeper" train). I assured Fred that I had no direct control over Washington or Wall Street, and we promptly retired to bed.
Our conversation reminded me of the important lesson that a person's character should never be judged by association, especially when those associations come from baseless assumptions and ridiculous stereotypes. That being said, I think it is safe to assume that all men from Munich, Germany are over the age of 60 and staunchly hate the United States. I will let you know for sure once I have had a chance to visit the area in a few months.
In addition to the hour of crucial sleep that Mariana and I lost, I also found out that the Kuhl's are most likely from some area in Northern Germany...thanks, Fred.