Thursday, March 29, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

There are certain questions that people have asked me over the course of my life. I thought that I would share some of them.

Back in my pre-Germany life I was an American Sign Language interpreter. I mainly worked in a community college and a lot of students, mainly the Hearing ones, asked me questions about my job. I think that the most common question that I got was,
"You work with the Deaf. Can you read Braille?" The short answer is no. I did work with some deaf-blind students who could read Braille. One deaf-blind woman that I worked with was a real speed demon with her portable Braille writer. But I worked with the Deaf and not the blind. Even if I did work with blind people, being able to read Braille wouldn't be required. People would often ask me if I could hear or read lips. Yes, I can hear. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to interpret what an instructor was saying. No, I can't read lips unless it's something very obvious.
Another common statement that people would make was,
"That's so nice of you to volunteer to help this person." I did do some unpaid interpreting when I was doing my practicum. But after I finished my training program, I was paid for my services. Even after almost 20 years away from interpreting, I miss it. It was a challenging job where every day was different. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, Sign Language interpreting didn't like me. I ended up developing painful tendinitis in my wrist and elbow.

I get a lot of interesting questions as a runner. One of my favorites, when I tell someone about a race is,
"Did you run the whole way?" The answer is yes, especially if the race is a shorter one. In longer races (half-marathons and marathons) I will walk through the water points.  Another good question is,
"How do you know you're going the right way?" Since I'm a middle-of-the-pack runner, I follow the people in front of me and hope they're all going the right way. In over 20 years of racing  that strategy has worked well because I made it to the finish line in all of my races. New runners often ask me,
"Are you on a special diet?" and "Do you carbo load before races?" The answer to both of those questions is no. I eat a healthy diet with some treats. The night before a race I eat something familiar to avoid digestive problems. Sometimes my race eve meal happens to be pasta. I do, however, believe that ice cream should be its own food group. I often tell people half in jest that the real reason I run is so I can eat ice cream.
After a race some people will ask, "Did you win?" There were a couple of small on-base races where I won the women's division. But I normally don't win anything in most races except for an occasionial age group award or a prize in a post-race drawing. To me winning is crossing the finish line after giving my best possible effort.
When I first came to Germany, I lost count of the number of times people told me that I shouldn't be running because it's bad for women. But I also got a lot of questions from new runners about training, my mileage, shoes, and strategies for running various distances.

The most frequent question that I get at work is,
"Is the water here safe to drink?" The people who ask that question tend to come from places where most sane people would be scared to drink the tap water. But the water here is very good and safe to drink. I tell the students that I work with that I drink the tap water all the time and that my greenish glow and mutant eye in the middle of my forehead have nothing to do with the water. Seriously, I neither have a third eye nor glow in the dark.
"How do I wash my clothing?" is another frequently asked question, usually by men. Many married men from some countries have never done laundry. Their mothers did it for them until they got married, when their wives took over that chore. Because I'm a woman, I must be an automatic laundry expert.
I think the favorite question that I have been asked was,
"Can we get more hookers in the showers?" Yes, the school I work for supplies everything for its students, including ladies of the evening. That may sound utopian for the men, but the student who asked me that really wanted more hooks for hanging his clothing and towels while he was taking a shower. I didn't have the heart to tell the student the meaning of the word "hooker" since he seemed self-conscious about his English skills.
My very favorite question is one that I was never asked. One of my co-workers used to work for the on-base hotel that caters to the armed forces and government civilians. She worked in the reservations department and got all sorts of questions. People would often ask her,
"Where is the best place to see the kangaroos?" Kangaroos? In Garmisch? What have I been missing all these years? A lot of people evidently confuse Austria with Australia, despite the fact that they are in very different parts of the world. At least they know that Garmisch is near the Austrian border. Australia is the land of kangaroos, the Great Barrier Reef, aborigines, and Crocodile Dundee. Austria is known for Mozart, Viennese palaces, beautiful Alpine scenery, The Sound of Music, lots of ski resorts, and even more great ski racers. I would venture to guess that the best place to see kangaroos in Austria is the Vienna Zoo.

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