Horst Weber hunkered down at his desk in the classroom absorbed in an English textbook. He was still coming to terms with the transfer his family had made to take charge of a software development corporation in Silicon Valley. His father Gerhard was a sought-after expert in the field with years of top-level executive experience in Europe, but it had been too tempting to refuse the remuneration and perks of this new start-up. Gerhard had leaped from one company to another gaining experience and technical know how along the way until he’d reached a highly marketable status in his career choice. He was a fixit man who’d build and then move on to the next challenge.
Horst’s mother Helga was highly marketable in her own right with high academic qualifications in the pharmaceutical industry. When Gerhard’s acceptance of a transfer to America rippled through the higher echelons of worldwide industry focus was placed on his family connections and Helga found offers flowing for her services in the pharmaceutical world. Both Horst and Helga were married to their respective industries and despite their full-on programs had a happy marriage experience together, each supporting and facilitating the other’s career choices. So, they were both seen together in conferences spanning an assortment of disciplines in administration showing a broad understanding of corporate issues and politics.
But in the process their children had grown up with a less than satisfying family experience. For that reason, Horst’s elder brother Moritz and sister Klara had chosen to remain in Germany where they were already finalizing their academic studies and choosing a career. They used the family properties in Bavaria as their base of operations supported by servants who maintained the properties at their parent’s expense. The extended family had always been wealthy and had survived the financial challenges following WWII. They lacked nothing now.
Horst had been excited at the prospect of experiencing another country and honing his English skills in the process. He was a committed student with the same driving force as his parents and a desire to excel in whatever choice of a career he’d eventually make. Because he faulted his parent’s career choices for the lack of family-time he and his siblings had experienced he’d mentally crossed out electronics and pharmaceuticals as a career choice. There was time to make that decision and meantime, he immersed himself in English and Business courses. That would be useful in any career choice he’d eventually make.
Horst had been so absorbed in his textbook he hadn’t noticed the teacher addressing him from the front. It was quite normal for this teacher to ask students questions in class by name and he was at first confronted by that method but soon realized it was the teacher’s way of ensuring each student was recognized and given an opportunity to participate in discussions. Another reason was he was not yet accustomed to the American accent and pronunciation of his name, so it was often just background noise to him. He felt a wadded-up paper strike his cheek and looked around in surprise. It was the girl across the row from him and he stared at her in irritation. She was pointing at him and then to the front of the class. He turned to see Ms Geldard smiling at what had happened and his reaction. She repeated her question.
“Horst you seem to have lost yourself in the textbook. I was asking what your impression was of Julius Caesar’s cry Et tu Brute and how it might relate to experiences people could have relating to each other in our modern society today. Have things changed in interpersonal relationships from the time this brilliant story was written? We will discuss your response as a class.”
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was the topic of today’s lecture and they’d been asked to review the book this past week.
Horst thought for a moment and then replied. “History repeats itself from my reading of history and literature. Friends we have today become our enemies tomorrow and vice versa. We are often surprised and disappointed when betrayed by those we trust.”
The teacher nodded in approval and there was lively discussion to follow only to be interrupted by the bell to signify the last class of the morning was complete. Horst had enjoyed the interchange with students in his class and grabbed his bag to head for the cafeteria where he’d pick and choose food items he was beginning to get used to. He missed the delectable dishes of Europe but was getting used to what was available here after several months orienting. He filled his plates and headed for an empty table.
He always looked for a place of solitude where he could revive by himself after dealing with unfamiliar accents in morning classes. While there were many different accents in English in this nation citizens were used to that and had no trouble switching their brain between the accents of the north, the south, Mid-west, and West. But this was still confusing to Horst. A few times students had attempted to join him out of curiosity but in the early stages where he was struggling with accents misinterpreted and feeling foolish his reticence to share in conversation was considered as a snub. In fact, Horst had appreciated their attempts and wished he knew how to fit in. Now that he was a little more proficient in understanding these many accented uses of English, he was hoping the time would come when he’d be able to fit in and show his natural outgoing nature.
He was lost in thought when a figure appeared and sat opposite him. It was the girl who’d thrown the wadded-up paper at him. Horst looked up in surprise. The girl smiled and spoke.
“I came to say sorry for throwing that paper at you, but the kids were beginning to laugh, and I didn’t want you to be embarrassed. Ms Geldard had asked you a question and they were all waiting for you to answer her. I hope you’re not angry with me.”
Horst smiled. “I wondered at first why you did that until you pointed up front and then I felt really embarrassed. It was kind of you to do that.”
The girl looked relieved. “I know what its like to go to a new school and leave all your friends behind just because your parents have a new job. Is it OK for me to call you Horst?”
Horst nodded. “I’d never have thought you had to deal with something like that. You always seem to get along with all the others in class.”
The girl laughed but it was not a happy laugh. “Believe me I had to work overtime to be accepted by these kids, but I was determined to do that. So, I understand why you appear to be aloof to protect yourself because I know you’re not. Incidentally, my name is Klara Bayer and I hope we can be friends too.”
Horst dropped his fork in surprise. “My elder sister is called Klara and your surname indicates you’re from Bavaria. Our family is from Bavaria too. How can that be? You sound like an American and the teacher calls you Claire.”
Klara laughed. “Yes, people seem to understand Claire better than Klara. My family are from British Columbia Canada originally, but we do have German ancestry. There have been German migrations to Canada from about the seventeen-hundreds and we carry our ancestry proudly, but we are American citizens now. My parents moved here in the early makings of Silicone Valley as our family has been in the electrical engineering business from Canada days. I’ve moved schools a couple of times and it has its challenges.”
Horst was excited. “Klara I’d love to be friends with you. Maybe you could help me find places that sell genuine German food products, the food is OK here but there are some things I really miss.”
Now it was Klara who was excited. “I know all those places and my mom is an all-rounder cook who makes different kind of foods I like but I love it when she makes German foods her grandmother taught her in Canada. Did you know there are villages on the west coast that are a sample of Germany? If you’re interested, you could come to my place sometime when she’s cooking a German meal.”
Horst was almost salivating as he thought of the foods cooked by servants on their Bavarian properties. “Klara I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do. You see my father and mother are so absorbed in their work we have limited time together and eat mostly American food produced by the cook Mom employs. On weekends Mom makes occasional German meals and that’s something Dad and I really look forward to.”
Klara eyed him thoughtfully. He had the rugged German features she admired greatly and piercing blue eyes and blond hair. Perhaps there was a spark to be developed there but friendship first.
“What are you doing after school?”
“I usually go home and workout on my treadmill and exercise equipment, do homework for school and watch a German program on Netflix then climb into bed early so I can be up early to go jogging before getting ready for school.”
“Do you want to interrupt that program today and come see where I live?”
Horst smiled broadly. “That would be wonderful Klara.”
Both deposited their trays and headed into the corridors to find their classes for the afternoon looking forward to meeting after school to seal their pledge of a beginning friendship. Each understood the need of a friend from their experiences in crossing cultures.
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