Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stranded in the USA

During college, I studied German and spent a year studying in Vienna, Austria.  After graduation, I tried to keep up my German, but gradually I let it go.  Every once in a while, I'd take a German community education class as a refresher, and that's where I heard of a German conversation group that met in a Barnes & Noble cafe not far from my neighborhood.  I began attending the group.  I met new friends, and my spoken German improved, followed by my written German.  That was seven years ago.  I continue to attend the weekly meetings.

German Conversation Group in Cafe

At the last meeting, a young woman attended.  She was a native speaker, from Frankfurt, Germany, and had flown to Minnesota to meet up with an American friend.  The plan then was to travel around the USA with the American friend who had claimed to own several houses, one in Colorado, and so she would not have to book hotel for the duration of the trip.  Two weeks ago when she landed at the Twin Cities airport, she expected to see him waiting for her.  He never showed up.

I was shocked and appalled.  The depth of my disgust for the American man cannot be adequately described in words.  At the same time, I was amazed at how this young German woman, I'll call her Lena, had pulled herself up, and was in the process of salvaging her 3-month trip to see America.  She knew no one in the Twin Cities, so she stayed a couple of nights in cheap motels near the airport while she assessed her finances and what would be possible.  She learned that booking a return flight to Germany was prohibitively expensive.  She decided to use the return flight she already had in early June.  She began exploring the metro, and in the process, met a couple who rented out rooms in their house.  It was perfect for her -- cheap, safe, and clean, and in a good suburban location close to public transportation.

Lena found our conversation group on the internet.  She wanted to hear her native tongue and speak it.  Understandable.  Her English is also perfectly fine.  The meeting I met her was her second.  She'd been here for two weeks, and she was full of questions.  What was interesting to see here?  What was interesting to do that didn't cost much?  We filled her in about the GAI in St. Paul -- more German speakers -- and places to see for little money or free.  She shared her plans so far: her parents in Germany are helping her book travel around the US.  Her first stop will be Las Vegas.  From there she wants to explore the Southwest and asked us for ideas.  She's interested in seeing nature and wildlife, like in state or national parks, more than big cities.  We all told her that northern California was special -- San Francisco, Muir Woods, Yosemite, Sacramento -- and further north to the Pacific Northwest.  She would see cities, mountains, beautiful parks, and diverse wildlife.  After her exploration of the West, she'll return here for her flight back to Germany.

As for the American man, we asked about him, too.  Lena had met him in Germany.  After his return home, they corresponded by e-mail.  Now she believes he must be married, and that's the reason he didn't show up at the airport.  What kind of a man plans a 3-month vacation with someone from another country, promises a place to stay and transportation once she's here, and then doesn't show up when she arrives?  A cruel jerk, I think.  Lena had decided to make the best of a bad situation, and had moved on and left him far behind.  But I'm still appalled.  I want his name.  I want to track him down and confront him about his cruelty.  He thinks he's safe from taking responsibility, getting away with this.  Then I thought of another reason he may not have shown up at the airport: he'd lied to her about his circumstances -- not that he's married, but that he doesn't have the wealth implied from owning several houses in different cities, of not working, of being able to pay their way for 3 months on the road.  He's still a cruel jerk.

This trip started with a betrayal of trust for Lena.  By her gumption and positive attitude, I suspect that she'll end up having a better experience of America than she would have had with the cruel jerk.  She's already seen a side of Americans she wouldn't see -- our desire to help someone in trouble, to understand other cultures, our sympathy, our friendliness, our generosity.  I hope that she continues to meet interesting and helpful Americans on her travels, that she sees everything that she wants to see, and that this vacation turns into the best one she's ever had.  I know my German conversation group will welcome her back in June, and we'll want to hear all about it....


Daughter Number Three said...

Sounds like a good inspiration for a story.

My niece had a somewhat similar though possibly worse experience. In college she met a guy via an online dating service who went to a college five states away. His parents were wealthy and he flew up to see her several times, she went to see him (he paid), etc. I met him once -- all real.

After he graduated, they decided to move to Chicago to together where she would pursue her career plans and he would go to law school. She knew his mother was against this and was threatening to not pay for his rent or tuition, but he told her it was all a go.

She got an apartment, paid the deposit (or my sister did, I imagine) and had moved her stuff out there. The time came for him to arrive just before the school year started and he said he was on his way. Didn't show up. She called, and he said he'd been delayed. Didn't show up.

She called again and he said he wasn't coming to Chicago at all and had in fact enrolled in law school in another city near his parents.

Leaving her with an apartment she couldn't afford, let alone a temporarily broken heart.

She is clearly better off without him and things have worked out well for her since. But you can only shake your head at people who behave like this.

Gina said...

Oh, geez, Pat, that's awful. I don't understand how people can behave like this. It doesn't seem to be limited to men, either. From my years of watching "The People's Court" and other court tv shows, I've seen many show here in court, suing for rent and any other expenses they incurred that they would not have if the other person hadn't either signed the contract or promised to share expenses.

Is it conflict avoidance? Lack of responsibility? It really disgusts me, whatever it is.....