(Oct 1st, 2004)
Autumn is, actually, a season of memories.
This September, when I was on my way to the school dormitory, from the opposite direction of the road came a familiar figure, a girl. As she came by, our eyes met for a while, hers in great surprise. But she strolled on, without saying any word.
I have to say hereby, that the girl I met that day will be the main character in my story. I’d better call her Sissi, her German name. As her figure faded into the moving crowd, I was deeply sunk in the memories, thinking about that unforgettable experience two years ago, which was caused by one of my poems written in German.
It was also autumn, in the year 2002, when the 19th XFLS Sports Meeting was held in the Sports Centre. I didn’t take part in the sports. So I was supposed to write articles for the Meeting.
I thought hard, trying to squeeze some words out, but it made no sense to me. Half the morning passed, and I began to get worried, that I hadn’t written anything. At the very moment, a strange idea suddenly came into my mind. Having only a few months’ German study and only a few vocabularies, I wanted to write a poem in German! And so I did, making up a sixteen-lined poem, which was in fact written in blank verse, not with rhyming form. Now it will be ridiculous to me, yet at that time it was a poem. After all, that was my first time to write a poem in German words. I tried something new, something, I bet, that never happened in the history of the Meeting.
Without further consideration, I handed the poem in, thinking about what would happen next. ‘It may be skipped,’ I told myself. ‘And certainly no one can read it out.’ However, it was far worse than what I had imagined. One of the announcers called me in the loudspeakers to go to the announcer’s! I went downstairs, though I had no idea what was happening.
At the announcer’s, a boy who seemed older than me fumbled in a pile of paper and handed my script to me. ‘Please read it on the microphone. You’d better prepare it,’ said the boy. I was really shocked by what he had said, hesitating, but made up my mind at last. That meant I had to read that poem all by myself on the microphone.
And, completely not myself, I held the poem in my left hand and prepared automatically like a machine. While I was practising the trill of an ‘r’, Sissi strolled towards me. At that time I didn’t know her name, though. I was embarrassed, because she listened intently beside me. And then she spoke, ‘Are you learning German? So pleased to meet someone who has the same interest with me.’ This time I began to look at her carefully, who was wearing a pair of round glasses, face good-looking. ‘Are you a teacher?’ I asked, slightly nervous, afraid that she would ask me a lot of questions. ‘No, not at all,’ she answered with a smile, ‘I’m in Senior 1. Please read your poem aloud, don’t be shy.’ I told her that I couldn’t do it well and wanted to give it up. Yet she insisted, till I yielded myself to her. At once she ran to the microphone and spoke, with her tender voice and extremely beauteous pronunciation, introducing me to the spectators. Then, grasping the microphone tightly with a trembling left hand and the poem in the other, I began reading the poem, in German speech full of guttural.
I felt as though I’d been dreaming, mind blank, until there was deafening applause. I took a breath of relief. It might be the first time that the German voice had ever hung over the Centre. Sissi now reached out her right hand, and I put my awkward one in it. Almost immediately a strange feeling filled up my heart, her skin smooth as white marble stone, but warm. She congratulated me affectionately, and in my mind she seemed like a mild sister.
Our conversation began just after that handshake. And she told me her name, Sissi, which was from the film Princess Sissi. She’d just had a few weeks’ German lessons, but she was deeply in love with this language. I started to notice every word she spoke, finding out that we had a lot in common; the love for one language, and even our intonation and pronunciation were alike.
We talked about everything. First our families, our homelands, our likes and dislikes. Then I found out that she knew me well. She could tell what was in my mind. ‘You’re a bit shy,’ she told me, that was really a surprise to me! After that, the sister-like girl in front of my eye asked me to teach her about the pronunciations of German words, because she was an ‘Anfänger’ who didn’t know the whole pronouncing rule of German. So I taught her the skill of pronouncing ‘r’ and gave her some examples. We were like two close friends discussing some academic problems. But not only that, we also talked about the differences and similarities between German and English, and which words we might mix them up. She was the wisest girl in language learning I’d ever seen, who found a lot of questions to ask, though she was just a beginner.
When I shared my script with her, she asked me why I chose the verb ‘suchen’ (means ‘to look for’) instead of the verb ‘finden’. I really didn’t know how to answer; it was difficult for me to tell the two verbs’ difference. Perhaps seeing the embarrassment in my face, she smiled, saying, ‘Maybe it’s just my fault, because it’s similar to the English “find”!’(Yet she was right, ‘finden’ was OK, according to what I discovered afterwards.)
To my surprise, Sissi kept her German learning as a secret, which she hadn’t told anyone before and asked me to promise not to let it slip. And I promised. Then our conversation came to an end. ‘Auf Wiedersehen!’ she said goodbye to me. ‘Wiedersehen,’ I sent back. Then I returned to my class, as if nothing had happened, but couldn’t help looking at that elegant figure afar.
I didn’t talk to my friends about it, because it was a secret hidden deeply in my heart. Even I met Sissi, I didn’t greet her, who was often surrounded by her friends (I am a secret-keeper, remember that). Everything happened that autumn day was a secret, Sissi, our handshake, our conversation and our parting.
That was an important experience in my life, from which I got a lot. For the first time I wrote a poem in German, for the first time I shook hands with a girl, and for the first time I talked about my second foreign language with a friend who also loved this language. It propels me, in my course of German study, and will certainly propel me in the future. When my beard or moustache goes pure white, recalling that interesting and unforgettable experience, I will definitely sigh with mixed feelings, for my childhood memories.