German Granny

I’ve often heard people telling great stories about all the people they randomly meet while travelling and the conversations they have that are so significant.

I always think, yeah right, like that actually happens to anyone.

Yesterday while I was sitting at a bus stop in the middle of a housing estate in not-the-prettiest German city, on the way back from the Act Positive Conference, a little old lady (84 – she told me!) walked over and sat down next to me and started talking.

“Guten Morgan”. Always a good start. I can reply very easily!

Then, she started commenting on the weather.

This is not particularly important to the story but I just wanted to point out that it’s NOT JUST THE ENGLISH who open conversations with remarks about “how unusually mild it is for this time of year”.

Then she quickly picked up that German was not my first language (I wonder why) and proceeded to ask me German 101 questions – where I am from, where I was staying… easing me into German conversation nicely.

Then came the difficult question.

Why are you here?

To be fair, it was a good question. There was no obvious reason why this British twenty-something from Brussels should be sitting in this bus shelter in a definitely-not-tourity part of a huge industrial German city on a Sunday afternoon.

Still, Frau Heath and Frau Bexon, the German teachers whose lessons I loved primarily for the huge quantities of cake we consumed, had not prepared me to be able to say “I work for a network of NGOs operating in international relief and development and four of those NGOs are running a development education program funded by the EU to educate and motivate young people to act on the issue of HIV&AIDS, and have organised a youth conference here this weekend.”

I mean really.

I somehow muddled through with some very un-PC references to the “Dritte Welt” and a lot of wild hand movements (which I’m not sure helped).

She went on to tell me her views on the economy and charity. Very interesting!

Soon after we were joined at the bus stop by about six of the said youth, in freshly printed campaign t-shirts, temporary campaign tattoos all over their arms (and some faces – their poor parents) and a contagious level of energy and enthusiasm.

As the bus arrived and we got up to get on the little old lady passes me, as covertly as a practised drug dealer, €5 and a plastic bag with chocolate-covered marzipan. Her contribution to our campaign.

To say I was speechless was an undertstatement. It was such a sweet and heartfelt gesture. I thanked her profusely and borded the bus.

The marzipan was really good.

The €5 will go towards the work of the many wonderful people dedicated to lifting the suffering caused by this terrible disease.