Saturday, August 16, 2008

Part Three B

At first I had only wanted to go over for one week to attend Le Mans, but Hans was adamant about including me at the season opener in Assen and Le Mans as the races fell on consecutive weekends. With this, the plan became a simple task of flying to Europe and working as a volunteer mechanic for a motorcycle road racing team at both the Assen 500K and the Le Mans 24 Hour races. Having destroyed and repaired a few myself, I have a fair amount of experience working on race bikes and figured I could be of some use to a team.

“Gregk, this is Hans”, I could barely understand him through his accent, “you have your tickets?”
“Yeah Hans, everything is set. I’ll be landing in Brussels at 2 o’clock.”
“Goodt, I will see you at the airport. Do not worry. If I can’t make it to Brussels I send someone from the team who can speak some English. We will take care of you when you get here. You have nothing to worry.”
“Ok Hans, I’ll see you next week.”

Following that phone call I felt both more secure and less unsure of what I was doing at the same time. I was already aware that of the eighteen friends and family members comprising Primo Racing, only a handful actually spoke or understood English. A little Internet research indicated that Belgians spoke French, German or both. Unfortunately, the French phrase book I had picked up was not sinking in at all, and I had decided to concentrate on remembering all the German I had supposedly learned in high school and college. I spent a few days going over it, feeling more confident and reminding myself that I would remember even more once I was immersed in the culture. I don’t remember which website I gleaned this tidbit of information from, but as it turns out neither language was going to be very helpful.

"You see, Belgium is roughly the size of your New Jersey. But here we have two separate languages,” Joris spoke great English and his command of the country’s culture was invigorating, “in the south they speak French, and in the north we have Flemish. Neither really likes the other and so we have many troubles in the government."

He said it so simply I let slip a little laugh. This convenient conversation was, of course, taking part some two weeks into my vacation and I had only two days left in the beautiful countryside with my hosts. Prior to this, I had spent most of my time with the team communicating with hand gestures, broken English and lots of noises. While most of the team had learned English by watching movies and listening to music, they did not use it until my arrival and conversations generally took place in Flemish until it was necessary for me to know what was going on. I didn’t mind though, it only added to the fun.

"Many Belgians speak Flemish, and Flemish doesn’t have anything in common with any other language besides Flemish."

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