If my writing reads like a child’s doodle, it’s because I feel like a kid again. I’m learning Deutsch, a language I couldn’t say a word in at the beginning of this year. Not even five months ago. I’m doing the a,b,c’s and 1,2,3’s. The do re mi’s and A for Apfel and B for Bett’s. I’m singing nursery rhymes and reading beginner books with large letters and words spread out on a page like precious stones.
My teacher – Ms. Anja – is patient. She comes to class with learning props. She’ll carry dice and threads, papers with practice words and exercises. She’ll say, “Sehr gut,” when you answer a question correctly. Sometimes she’ll say, “Das ist richtig.” When you’re stuck with feet in drying mud and boots caked in the ground with no idea how to answer a question, she’ll hold your hand and guide you to a place that’ll help you see what the answer should be. She gives Hausaufgaben (homework) at the end of every class. She’ll go through the homework at the beginning of each class, the way we did it when I was in Primary One.
She gave us a writing exercise last Friday. I wrote five sentences. One was, “Ich komme aus Uganda.” I didn’t give myself a pat on the back for that because that’s not mind blowing stuff. It’s not the most awe-inspiring statement anyone has ever written. It isn’t a quotable quote. But for a beginner like me, I should be glad that I’m picking up the language. Ms. Anja marked my work in red ink and on my paper, wrote, “Sehr gut!” I smiled. It reminded me of the days I was in primary school when I longed to get nice remarks in my books from the teachers.
I’m an infant learning to crawl, dragging myself on the floor to a table that I can hold myself on. I want to be able to stand, to support myself on the wall and on furniture and to take those little steps of progress in speaking, listening, reading and writing Deutsch. I want to walk. To do that, I’ve got to be patient. I’ve got to practice.
But what am I usually up to when I’m not being a baby in German class?
I busk under the sun as I watch people walking their dogs. Or I look at babies throwing a tantrum, crying and refusing to listen to their mothers.
I saw a girl at Münster Platz. She was stamping her feet and wailing as though she’d been fed on lizards. She sat on the ground and cried. Her mother – polite woman she was – asked her to stop the tears. Girl refused. She raised her voice which caught the attention of onlookers like me. Her mother begged her to keep quiet. She whispered something to her. Crying girl didn’t stop. A florist gave her a rose. She rejected it. Her mother couldn’t do a thing.
I thought to myself, “If this was in Uganda, that mum would’ve lifted the baby with one hand and using the other, hit the buttocks of the girl.” She’d say, What kind of nonsense is this? Pa (that’s the sound of a slap on the kid’s butt). Keep quiet. Pa. Why are you crying? Pa. If you (pa) don’t stop (pa) crying (pa) I’ll (pa) beat (pa) you (pa). The never helps. The child will keeps crying. But our mother here at Münster Platz looked on and knelt down to meet this little girl at her level. I don’t know how that ended because I left before crying girl shut up.
There are also dogs at every turn. Dogs in restaurants, squares and parks. On walkways and balconies. Cute and fluffy dogs and dogs that are an eye sore.
There has only been one dog that won me over. It was on a leash jumping on the sidewalk with its owner – an elderly woman living on the seventh floor of her life – strolling behind it. Its fur curled into a lovely decoration, like an outstanding design on a cake. It’s face like the sunset and its body like the horizon of mountains in Western Uganda. Breathtaking! Fluffy dog exuded immeasurable positive energy that everyone who saw it lit up into a glow. That’s probably how the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit look like. Brilliant. That dog was stunning.
It’s the kind of dog that can heal someone from depression and loneliness. In the cold, it’ll bring warmth. That dog – oh I wish I got its name – warmed my heart. I’ll stick with calling it Fluffy dog. It gave me a cheer. It made me want to own a dog. It erased the memory of a dog that bullied me.
It was an ugly pygmy bulldog dog. It stared at me as though I’d stolen its bone. Its face looked as though it had just come out of hell; popping eyes, a protruding nose worse than Pinocchio’s, damping site-like mouth, and a body like puke. I got a headache looking at it. I was this close to throwing up. That dog’s legs were like maggots with spikes. It looked so bad even a dog enthusiast would call it ugly.
It had the audacity to stare at me, threatening to bite my calf. Ugly dog! Did it think I wanted its food? Msscheeww even.
Dogs in this place live some kind of a luxurious life. They have balanced meals and snacks. Their diet is checked. They aren’t fed on left-over food. These dogs have a special place in the hearts of their owners, including that ugly one that teased me. I wish I had hot pepper from Weste Africa. I’d put some in its food. I’d be silly. I’d ask it, “Ugly dog, would you like to eat?”
It’d wag its tail and salivate in anticipation. I’d put the hottest chillie ever in its food, with no water in sight and I’d feed it. I’d climb a tree and watch Ugly Dog suffer the consequences of its threat to me. But Ugly Dog will not care for the hotness of the pepper. It has been fed on spiced food all its life it lost its sense of taste. I’d look at it and be disappointed and I’d say, “Damn it, the dog won.”
I’d climb down the tree and pretend like I did nothing. Some of these dogs have insurance cover. Some insurance firm is ripping big from providing health insurance services to dogs (and cats). That was new to me. The dogs, including Ugly Dog, sleep on couches and in comfy kennels, dreaming dreams of making it in dog-life. Their owners ride with them in carriers connected to their bikes. They are happy dogs.