Journal Entry #4 — Lesson Learned

Today’s trip to Kehl, Germany actually started last night with a tweet: “Never thought I’d casually say things like, “Going over to Germany…see you this afternoon…” Thanks @CentreC.” That tweet was a) an acknowledgment of the opportunity that Centre College has given me, and b) an appreciation for the Schengen Agreement which, among other things, eliminated border patrol within the European Union, allowing the free movement of people. Furthermore, my actual purpose for traveling to Kehl was to prepare to further exercise the rights given by the Schengan Agreement.Kehl Germany
While participating in the Centre-in-Strasbourg program, most students spend their weekends traveling to other European cities. This is made easy through Europe’s intricate railway system. For most trains, it’s beneficial to reserve a seat before other buyers take all of the seats. To reserve a ticket, one can go to the Strasbourg railway “boutique” or visit the larger DB Bahn Bus and Train station in Kehl, Germany. While the Strasbourg boutique is convenient (a two-minute walk from the classroom), securing reservations in Kehl is less-expensive and hassle-free.
Kehl is an easy 20-minute trip from Strasbourg via tram and bus. The highlight of the journey is riding by bus over the Rhine River, by way of the Pont de l’Europe bridge, a piece of land shared by the two cities.
A group of friends and I decided to journey to Prague, Nice, Salzburg, and Interlaken over the next few weeks. We wanted to secure seats on trains to each of those places. I volunteered to go to Kehl to make reservations for the group for three reasons. First, I didn’t have class today until 1:30 p.m. The Kehl Station opened at 8 a.m., and I was more than happy to make the journey. Second, I find comfort in taking charge and knowing exactly what’s going on — my mind is at ease if I’m allowed to be in control of a situation. Third, going to Kehl is fun. I’m used to navigating public transportation thanks to my formative years spent dealing with the Memphis public transportation system MATA. Thus, traveling through Alsace by bus and tram made me feel at home.
signs in FranceThe journey to Kehl was a simple one. I awoke at 7:30 a.m., got dressed, put my headphones on, and asked Siri to play Ben Sollee’s latest offering “Half-Made Man.” I caught Tram D from Place Broglie to Aristide Briand, where it seemed necessary that, while I waited to board Bus 21 towards Kehl Banhoff, I inhale second-hand smoke from a middle-aged German man wearing a purple windbreaker, sporting Adidas, and carrying an Aldi grocery bag.
Upon arrival at the train station, I sauntered to the ticketing office where I was met by a friendly German who I hoped spoke English and would be able to secure the reservations that I needed. “Euh…Good morning! Do you speak English?” I asked. It seemed that the gentleman used two seconds before speaking to toy with me — he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he paused and shot me a quizzical look before responding, “Well, yes. I can.”
It turned out that this practical joker was a friendly fellow who was very good at his job. He was able to reserve group seats at reasonable prices for each of our future trips.
Relieved and a tad proud of myself for achieving the task, I collected the printed seat reservations and began walking to the exit. Before I reached the door, I figured that I should put the reservations somewhere safe instead of carrying them in my hand. This meant that I had to stop, open my backpack, find my binder, and place the reservations inside. This only took about 30 seconds to do. But in that short time, Bus 21 departed toward Strasbourg, leaving me behind.
Rhine RiverI wasn’t thinking clearly. Instead of remaining calm, I panicked.
If I’d been thinking clearly, I wouldn’t have sprinted in the direction of the moving bus. If I would’ve remained calm, I wouldn’t have banged on the fiberglass door of the moving bus to demand that the driver let me on. Had I been calm, I wouldn’t have gotten angry with him.
But yet again, I panicked and sprinted in hopes of beating the bus to its next stop. I ran across the bridge, past bikers and skaters, intent on getting on the bus — THAT bus — right then. When I saw that the bus had been slowed down by traffic lights and other vehicles, I knew that I’d be able to beat the driver to his next stop.
Then, panting and sweating on the far side of a German bridge, I asked myself, “Do you even know where the next bus stop is?” I gave myself an honest answer — “I have no clue.”
Less than 30 seconds after this internal gut-check, Bus 21 whizzed by my head with the driver chuckling as he passed me. There I was: a bus-less, angry, and sweaty young man that was one mile from the Bus Station and, quite possibly, further from the next roadside bus stop.
At that point, my cognitive processes reasserted their dominance. I began thinking clearly. I was sweaty, angry, cold, and bus-less, but I was calm. I resolved to walk back to the Kehl Bus Station. This would be best.
This walk was a peaceful one. I acknowledged my wrongdoing. I understood that I shouldn’t have run after the bus. Bus 21 is frequent and reliable and I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere as my class was not until the afternoon. I certainly shouldn’t have gotten angry; the bus driver was simply following procedure. As I walked, another Bus 21 passed by. I took this as a sort of mythological sign. If there was a lesson to learn in this ordeal, I had learned it.
by CJ Donald ’14, currently participating in the Centre-in-France study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in France.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): The view from Philosopher’s Way in Heidelberg, my new German friend, signs that convinced me to turn back, and a view of the Rhine River from the Pont de l’Europe bridge.

By |2013-03-14T10:34:01+00:00March 14th, 2013|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - France|