Germany seemed determined to make sure I didn't have a phone. When I tried to get my broken phone fixed, the "Nummer 1" phone repair shop apparently had a screen for every type of phone on earth except for mine. I couldn't get a plan for another phone because I didn't have a German Bank account, I couldn't get a German bank account because I didn't have an official address yet, and so on and so forth.
At first, this infuriated me, but I started to embrace it. I got my information from a handful of English-language newspapers and by talking to people. You know, like, actually interacting - what a thought!
But there was something I had to learn about communicating with people when you are a foreigner. See, every time I asked somebody if he or she spoke English, the response was always a very reluctant, "A little bit." Or else they would just shake their heads, say "Nein" and walk away. The truth is, many Germans speak English quite well, but they just didn't like me that much.
It was because I didn't have any sense of conversational give and take. You can't just ask somebody to speak English with you if you haven't even tried to communicate with them. So for the last week I've been practicing German every day. I'm still pretty darn awful at it, but it's helping me out big time.
Now, when I need help getting someplace, or buying a train ticket or getting a cab, I can start a small friendly conversation. I say " Helo. Guten Abend . Ich heiße Russell, und ich bin aus New York. Wie heißen Sie?" It sounds awful, but they think it's just swell that I'm trying. After the introduction when I ask, "sprechen Sie Englisch?" they are quite pleased to accommodate me.
This worked out wonderfully this week. I used my computer to find a store called ISOMedia. I had to write down the directions and print out maps, like it was the 1990s. I successfully traveled on the S1 train to Stadtmitte, but I couldn't find Theodor-Heuss-Straße 26.