How to make new friends…
... and good ones too if you’re lucky.
It was one of those days where I had to bring time and patience for things to get sorted out. I had to go to the local post office because I hadn’t received my new bankcard yet. At that time my bank was affiliated with the German post. It was one of those busy days and people were queuing up waiting for it to be their turn. I think I must have been waiting ten minutes maybe and I was listening in to some of the conversations. I’m bad, I sometimes do that. But hey, they are standing right behind or in front of me so what can I do, right? I then heard some Spanish people a bit further behind me and turned around to check them out. Often it’s people from Latin America that I hear but this mother with her two sons clearly were from Spain. Their Castilian Spanish gave them away. I just smiled to myself and waited my turn at the counter.
I was being called forward and I explained to the nice post office worker what my problem was. I thought it was an easy fix but it turned out they, the bank people, had the wrong address which is why I never received my new card. It took a while to set things straight and I was waiting patiently for the guy to do his job.
In the meantime it was the Spanish family’s turn at the other counter two desks over. I watched them and saw the eldest son who was probably 13 or so struggling to explain in broken German what they wanted. The postal employee who served them didn’t understand what they wanted and the family didn’t understand him either. Time for the Spanish teacher – I mean myself - to step in.
I swooshed over and asked them, in Spanish of course, if they needed any help. The change of the woman’s facial expression said it all. Her face lit up and a big smile appeared. “Si, por favor.” Yes, please. So she explained to me what she wanted and I told the post office guy. It turned out to be rather complicated because she had to fill out a form to get her money order done. Since my guy was still busy dealing with my card enquiry I helped the Spanish lady fill out the form. Let me tell you, when it comes to bureaucracy even I have my limits with our language. So we filled out the form and went back to the employee and guess what, we had made mistakes. We sorted it all out but only with the help of a quite moody and annoying employee. It was apparent he didn’t like dealing with foreigners who were not able to speak German or even a bit of English. I mean I get it, it’s difficult, but his attitude was shameful and disrespectful. Apparently he was a bit notorious for that which I only learned later.
By the time they had got what they needed, I had sorted out my problem too and we left the post office together. She was so thankful for my help and I told her if she ever needed help with German bureaucracy again to just call me so I could help her. We exchanged phone numbers and parted ways the Spanish way meaning giving kisses on each cheek.
True enough, about a week later or so I received a call from her. I had forgotten her name and my phone simply showed ‘Spanish woman’. She needed to go to the local job center and asked if I could accompany her since her son didn’t speak German well enough to understand and explain exactly what each party needed. We met in the afternoon and I was able to work things out with the job center too. We talked a lot, of course, and later sat down to have a coffee. She asked me how she could repay me and I asked her if she knew how to make a true tortilla, a Spanish potato omelet. This question was almost an insult to her and she laughed. I was invited to come over the other day to share a family dinner with them where I would get my reward.
That dinner was the first of many I have had since with the family. We became good friends. I’m very happy to say that we profit a lot from each other. My Spanish has improved immensely due to our friendship and my taste buds enjoy out meetings too. I have been invited to celebrations with the local Spanish-speaking community, we have been to other celebrations together and we are planning to go the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, together.
Isn’t it wonderful what can develop out of a simple gesture of help?