I thought I was watching a murder mystery. I’ve never been very good at piecing them together in English – of course I have crazy theories that usually rely on witness protection plots; so, in German, there’s no chance. I’m just trying to keep with who said what, and how these people the detectives keep talking to are related over the murder.

I didn’t quite know what the crime was, who the suspects and the victims were supposed to be; I did know, however, that a mother was having a birthday and that the female detective wanted the bartender to give her male counterpart some poison after a verbal barney that I didn’t comprehend. Then there was gold being auctioned off from a big, once illustrious, house (which I think housed a dysfunctional family; most big houses do) – was it because they ran out of money? or they saw the “we buy gold” ads on the sides of the trams here in Freiburg? I don’t quite know.

I suppose I didn’t really know what was going on because I didn’t start at the beginning.

But, at the end of the programme it turned out that there wasn’t a murder in the first place. I did think along the lines of, “What the?” My next question was, “So, what was the crime?” Dunno about that either. Tax evasion? child pornography? petty theft? drug dealing? I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Was there even a crime? or was it just a set up?”



They just don’t understand morning tea, do they? – But even at breakfast: the butter is too hard; you have to leave it out for three hours before you can spread it on anything – The bread seems to be purchased stale – But you’re at school before you have time for this butter melting business – The people are familiar at the same time has being totally foreign – Funny, that – And then the lessons! – Yes, the lessons! – Eurythmy is a load of nonsense, don’t you think? – Probably invented by someone on drugs – The other stupid thing is books without indents for paragraphs; slabs of text – They ask “How much clock is it?” when they want to know the time – At a restaurant they ask for the “calculation” when they want the bill – For a school in a country where winter is a dominant sort of a thing, why aren’t there good places to accommodate coats in the classrooms? – The weather means you don’t know what to wear at the moment; should you take the coat or the jacket? You need coat in the morning, jacket during the day and then coat again later on.

(Inspired partly by The Interrogative Mode: A Novel? by Padgett Powell, which I read half of in a book shop one day. Although, it, unlike the above “slab of text”, entailed just questions for a lot
of pages.)



What were you thinking, Jasper? But more importantly, how did you do it? How did you give the teacher the impression that you speak “good German” and understand a damn lot more? You thought that, by the simple face of circumstance, was impossible, didn’t you? It wasn’t a smart thing to do, was it?

Now, because of this error (which was not a conscious action), I’m expected to give a little speech to the class about a topic related to biology – in German, to people who speak German, not Australians who are pretending to be “learning”* it while doodling with fluoro highlighters on the back covers of exercise books. These are people who won’t clap politely at the end because it sounded alright to them; these are people who will be clapping politely at the end to create enough noise to mask their giggling: Now that was funny!

Anyway, you have to do what you have to. Maybe I could work in a Freud quote in the original German to sound intelligent despite not being able to conjugate a verb accurately very often. We’ll see, we’ll see. Or I could just try and be intentionally funny, but this is Germany remember, so that’s a risk. Worth taking? Not sure yet.


* “Learning” may also refer to the act of cruising through school with unremarkable foreign language grades that don’t require too much effort, an extensive vocabulary or the ability to conjugate a verb.


  1. I think I'd call it 'character building' ....

  2. Just leave the butter out all the time, if you're like me then there's no chance of it going off before you've eaten it all. Eurythmy raises its ugly head again... perhaps you should do the biology talk in Eurythmy gestures, it might be easier.