Note: This is part 3 in my trip report of my weekend trip to Berlin to take part in an Esperanto course hosted by Judith Meyer and Chuck Smith. If you have not read the previous parts yet, I suggest you go back to part 1 here: Trip report: Joining the Esperanto-Club and buying cafés
The previous part ended with me learning a valuable lesson in language learning, and specifically in Esperanto. It was the first day of the course and I was excited to go and meet up with other new learners, but also excited about exploring the city of Berlin as I had only been here once before, and that was during the polyglot gathering, where I did not have time for sightseeing.
As we came down to the U-Bahnstation we met up with some new faces and the Esperanto banter was going strong as we set off for the Esperanto House of Berlin, the headquarters for Esperanto activities in Germany.
When we arrived the last members of our group showed up, at varying times, and we had a nice time with getting to know each other as well as getting some theory and practice in. The theory aspect was the accusative, which is the only case in Esperanto that changes the spelling of words, and is something people usually struggle with.
The practical part consisted of playing bingo, with the board being statements like “likes to run” or “Goes skiing in winter” and the objective was to ask one question at a time to the other people and thus getting to know them and practice Esperanto. It was a fun exercise and it broke the ice for a lot of the shy people, like myself, to just go and talk to strangers.
Walking walking walking
After we left the Esperanto House to go for our lunch destination, we came through a large market and broke up into smaller groups. I went with Carol and Jeff and we persisted in sticking to Esperanto, in spite of having no less than 4 common languages before it. It made me super excited to see how hard the others tried to just SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK and it motivated me to try and do the same.
The rest of the day, and the entire course actually, consisted of tons of walking, but that is actually a really good thing because people were using the time to speak a ton of Esperanto to each other. We saw the city and experienced some interesting dining places including Sri Lankan, Vietnamese and Ethiopian
I'm not usually too exotic in my dining choices so for me it was very exciting to try out these different cultural places. I thought the Sri Lankan and Vietnamese were both very good, but the Ethiopian was not really to my taste. For one I'm not a fan of eating with my hands and secondly I didn't think the food was that tasty. It was basically grab a piece of slightly sour, cold bread and wrap it around some vegetables and meat sauce.
On the plus side it was very affordable. In the Ethiopian restaurant I also had a bit of a moment in my Esperanto studies. An elderly Portuguese couple was also in the course and I came to sit next to them in the restaurant. They didn't speak much English or German at all, so to communicate them I had to use Esperanto – and I did!
But that wasn't the craziest part, that I was having conversations after spending less than a month learning the language, it was when the waiter came in and tried to get their orders. She quickly realized their level of English and German and look to me; Do you speak English or German? And suddenly I was interpreting FROM ESPERANTO into English…how crazy is that?
The last day of the course
The final day of the course was also great. I had built up more courage and was now speaking more and better. Apart from us walking and sailing around the city to see the sights there was one other moment that stood out to me.
We went to a park and Chuck taught us the correlatives, which was HUGE for me, because my Memrise course did not even mention them (some 500 words in) so we learned how to use hand gestures to better remember which is which. I later realised that these words are glue words in the sentences and by not learning them early I was seriously impeding my ability to speak.
We bid farewell to course participants all throughout the day, as their transport options left at different times. When everyone had left, we went back to the apartment and relaxed. Walking for so long really takes a toll on my legs.
However, there was no rest for the wicked as Chuck had planned a surprise for us. A tiny Japanese restaurant that only served 1 thing and didn't sell any drinks – you had to bring those yourself!
At the corner shop, getting drinks my fatigue, at this point, really shows. As I'm staring into the shop through two glass windows I can't understand how to enter the shop, or I can't see it. Turns out one of the windows, was in fact a completely open door.
We have a good laugh about it, but deep within I realize just how stressing it is for the body to sleep in a foreign sofa/bed and exercise so much for pretty much 4 days straight.
In the future I think I will consider staying in a room somewhere, either hotel or hostel. I'm grateful for being allowed to sleep on the sofa (even a sleeping sofa) and minimising travel costs is definitely something I enjoy, but maybe, just maybe, there are times when that extra comfort or relaxation is worth paying for to increase one's quality of life. Maybe I'm just getting old, who knows.
The weirdest vegetarian meal of my life
As we finally come to the Japanese place all the lights are out and the tables are stacked on top of each other. I'm like, oh no. We didn't travel for 30 minutes for this, after two really exhausting days, both mentally and physically.
A guy, who looks Japanese, comes out and asks us what's up. Chuck then tells him we have a reservation, to which the guy responds; we're sold out. What? A restaurant that is sold out? After we just stand there, looking disappointed and resigned he takes pity on us and offers to make us a rice ball, which I can only interpret as a ball of rice with something in or on it. Just for the road he says.
As we come in and clear some space for ourselves we start playing some Esperanto games, which is actually quite funny. A considerably longer-than-a-rice-ball time passes and since I was in the presence of 3 vegetarians, the chef decided we should all be vegetarians.
Turns out it was probably meats he was sold out of. Because we were all given a full “box” worth of different vegetarian foods. Honestly it was the best vegetarian food I have ever tried, but then again I'm not vegetarian, so I'm not a fair judge on this one.
As we leave the Restaurant we have already decided to get a taxi, and I'm shocked to find out how cheap taxis are in Berlin, on my final night!!
We get some pizza, play some Mario Kart 8 and the Esperanto weekend is officially over. The next day was a slow day with travelling and when I finally arrived home in my own room at 10PM at night, I did not last long before collapsing on the bed with a big grin on my face. I had joined the Esperanto Club.
I want to specifically thank Chuck Smith and Judith Meyer for hosting not only the course, but also for hosting me during my extended weekend stay in Berlin. I also wanted to thank the other participants for being patient with my low level of Esperanto and for being so friendly and nice.
Thank you for reading to the end of part 3 of my trip-report. In the near future I will write an update to this trip report just what I mean about the Esperanto Club and the opportunities that present themselves in there. For now, Ĝis revido!
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.