I managed my first week of class! Manu managed her second! Things are going well around here, and I am more like a regular walrus than an asthmatic one when biking to school these days. It was in such generally good spirits we agreed to go to dinner with our two new German friends on Friday. They are doing a sort of exchange thing (except no-one went to Germany…) and live very close to the university, so they’ve explored the area a bit more than we have and had found a pasta place. We walked over, locked our bikes up, and headed inside.
The food was excellent, but the music was loud so for the next round we decided to head elsewhere rather than continue shouting to each other. We happened into another place with a slightly older crowd and slightly quieter music, songs alternating between 80’s rock and the Beatles. It never ceases to amaze me how far-reaching Beatles fandom is—in Mongolia I found a restaurant called “Let it Be” entirely dedicated to them and people all over mention listening to them when they learned English. I suppose I need the Spanish equivalent. (One good thing I’ve found is Calvin & Hobbes in Spanish though) After a bit we wandered on again, this time encountering some other students.
It was an interesting group: there were three German kids, who speak very good English since they have to learn it in school and are currently grasping at varying levels of Spanish; two Brazilians who could speak Spanish; Manu, who obviously knows English and Spanish, as well as a fair amount of French and a small sprinkling of German; some Colombian kids who knew minimal English; and me, who is fairly capable of conversing in English, and on good days in Japanese. This would make for an interesting venn-diagram.
Little side conversations in various languages would spring up, half the group might laugh at a Spanish joke while the other half would get whatever not-understood word translated—and then laugh, most things got communicated eventually. Foreign tounge-twisters were shared, making the incomprehensible even more so, but humorously. My trouble is that while I can understand a considerable amount of Spanish, I can rarely adequately respond and end up feeling like a frustrated mute. Like one of the Colombian girls said, I just have to have patience and practice, but so much language can be simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting so I was glad when we decided to call it a night.
Walking back to our original location we encountered a man walking two bikes—OUR bikes! He readily handed them over but I awaited the translated explanation somewhat dumbfounded—he clearly hadn’t been trying to run off with them, and they had had a serious cable lock* on them. The police shortly drove by an dished out what looked like a mild scolding, to us. What was going on?
Apparently the police had “waited two hours” for someone to claim the bikes, then decided to cut the lock and take them so they wouldn’t get stolen. Steal our bikes so they wouldn’t get stolen? What did the other guy have to do with it? Two hours? We had maybe been gone that long at most. We suspect they had been planning to go off and sell them, but nothing is very certain besides that this was very, very, sketchy. And the cops have the gall to put cameras on the traffic lights?
Well it was definitely time to go home, but one of the girls didn’t think we should be biking so late. Since our route to and from the university is on main roads and we bike in the traffic we weren’t too concerned, but we figured we’d tested our luck enough for one day so we agreed to split a taxi (and I had broken my pedal on the way over anyway). The familiar and inappropriate strains of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” on the radio was a strange closing to a somewhat strange night, but it made the world feel a little smaller as I reflected on the evening’s lessons:
Language is a funny business, and don’t leave your bikes out of sight at night, the cops might take them.
*Of course U-locks are the safest, but since often we are locking up not to bike racks but posts and things they wouldn’t always work. I have been locking up with just a chain, so Manu will now be following suit since nice locks are expensive.