Now I’m Really Starting to Feel Like an Underachiever

Here are a couple of very interesting people that I’ve met in German class this month:

Maria, Joachin and Me

Maria, Joachim and Me

Maria is an incredibly nice 23-year old from Russia. She worked in the travel industry the last few years and speaks Croatian, English, Russian, German and I think also Serbian. Her language skills are excellent (O.K, so I can only judge German and English, but I’m pretty sure that holds for the rest.) Interestingly she has more of a British accent than Russian when she speaks English. She is here for 3 months visiting her Austrian boyfriend, who lives about an hour outside of Innsbruck near a snowboarding mecca called Ischgl. Unfortunately, her snowboarding adventures were cut short by a bad fall that broke her arm in three places. (It is accidents like these that make my skin crawl when I think of Annie up on those mountains.) She has to go back to Russian next month to renew her visa (I’m so lucky none of that is required for Canadians) but would like to come back to go to school in Innsbruck next year. I’m really enjoying getting to know her, so hope that happens.

The first week of the new class we were talking about our work and dreams. When it was Joachim’s turn, he declared that he hoped to be the President of The Democratic Republic of the Congo. OK then. Joachim was a political prisoner for a year and had to flee the Congo, leaving his wife and seven children in a neighbouring country. He also speaks several languages, and is hoping the next elections (I think in 2010) changes the political climate so that he can return home.

Since I know exactly nothing about this country (including that there are 2 countries with The Congo in the name), I read a bit about it on wikipedia. Apparently is was the center of what many describe as the “African World War” in 1998, which I had never heard of, and continues to be one of the worst places in the world for military violence towards civilians (rape, murders, torture, etc.) Joachim tells me that one of the main exported resources is uranium, of course a central ingredient in nuclear weapons. Not sure that is the best place to start, but I’m sure he has plans.

After this experience in Europe, I have to say one of my wishes for Annie is that she doesn’t grow up as ignorant about this planet as I did (and still am for that matter). I’m not sure what happened there, as I know we studied world history and geography in my expensive high-school. I just didn’t seem to take any interest in it. Probably I couldn’t discern the relevance it had to me. Hopefully Annie will feel more of a connection to the world around her and learn about this increasingly interdependent world.

I think I’ve said it here before, but even though this last year has not been all fun and games, one of the best parts has been meeting incredibly diverse and interesting people who I would never had come across in my prescribed life back in Canada. If nothing else, it sure makes me appreciate how incredibly lucky I was to grow up in one of the safest and most beautiful countries in the world.

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