Wednesday, April 9, 2008

5 December: IWC Brunch & My Last Jazz Class

I had missed the IWC’s annual international holiday brunch last December, when I had to go home to Michigan to close up our house, so I was really looking forward to attending this year’s event. Originally I was planning to make my grandmother’s fresh apple cake, but I ran out of time and ended up bringing leftover chocolate chip cookies instead. I didn’t have to worry: this was an opportunity for the culinary expertise of the IWC membership to really shine, and we had the most incredible spread of international delights laid out in our usual meeting place at Café Merlin in Stuttgart-West.

Anne M. was greeting guests when I arrived. She took one look at me and said, “Oh, I may have thrown out your nametag already.” Leave it to sometimes-caustic Anne to make me feel like I had already been erased from the register! Inside, Anne W. and the other members of the IWC committee were still busy setting up the tables and passing out pieces of postcards depicting Stuttgart monuments; each guest was supposed to find the matching half of their postcard from those scattered amongst the tables to determine where they should sit. I found my place at a table of four, along with Carmel and Anne M., but my partner’s seat was vacant. Meanwhile more and more women were arriving, and I kept busy rounding up the participants from Beth’s party so they could sign her memory book before she arrived. I kept looking back at my table, but no one had claimed the seat across from me. Finally Beth came strolling in – just after I had stashed her book out of sight – and was given one of the last remaining postcards. Was it mere coincidence or odd fate that her card matched the one on the table across from me? We giggled about it like schoolgirls.

The IWC committee had put together a quiz about important women in history and we all spent a few minutes filling these out in our teams of four. Beth and Carmel did an astonishing job of coming up with answers to the questions, which included such items as, “How many women have been awarded the Nobel Prize?” Our table ended up with the most correct answers, for which accomplishment we were awarded the price of going through the buffet line first. (Good thing, too – you don’t want to keep a couple of pregnant women away from their food.) The feast was simply splendid – pastas and dips, salads and skewers, cookies and cakes of every imaginable variety, representing cuisines from around the globe. We ate and ate, and ate some more. Anne gave a short speech, raffle prizes were drawn, and donations were made to our charity, a women’s shelter in Stuttgart.

Beth had to rush off to a doctor’s appointment afterwards, but I didn’t want to leave. Finally, as the crowd was thinning out, I said my goodbyes to those members that I wasn’t likely to see again and then returned to the sign-in table, where I solemnly removed my IWC nametag for the last time. Anne M. told me to keep it.

This evening I attended my final jazz class. (I figured it would be pretty tough to get all the way out to Feuerbach next week with only one car between me and John, and we would have plenty of other things on our plate to worry about.) It was the Wednesday class, which was my least favorite of the two, but I had a good time and even mastered most of the combination. Marilena gave me a big hug at the end and wished me well. I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful experience this has been and how happy I am that I worked up the nerve to take dance classes here. I only wish I had done it sooner. I have vowed to keep some element of dance in my life from now on.

On my way out, I stopped at the front desk to let them know that I was moving back to the U.S. and needed to cancel the automatic monthly withdrawal from my bank account. I ended up talking to the same bleached-blonde girl that I had spoken to on the first day that I walked through the doors of the New York City Dance School. I thought I explained my situation to her well enough, but she rattled off some long explanation about going to city hall and getting an official letter. Most of it was lost on me, so I sheepishly asked her to explain it again in English. She said that I had to get a letter from my city hall stating that I was leaving the country in order for them to cancel the bank order. She acted like I should know all about such a letter. I was dumbfounded, but figured that I could talk to the relocation people at Daimler and they would surely know what to do. (Apparently this is standard procedure when cancelling this type of membership in Germany. I honestly wonder what one does if one is simply unhappy with the service? What if I just wanted to stop taking classes, or switch to another school? Obviously the idiosyncracies of the German bureaucracy are still mostly a mystery to me. I can only be thankful that I have had the luxury of shouldering the relocation people at Daimler with most of the burdensome dirty work!)

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