"What's happening to your Portuguese?!?" she said, ...and it wasn't a mere enquiry. In fact, it was the opposite of a compliment.
When I still lived in Spain, Teresa, my Portuguese teacher and friend, and I used to see each other every week. Since my move back to Germany nine months ago, we've been catching up on the phone once or twice a month. And, of late, she was clearly less than impressed with the deterioration of my fluency.
Something had to be done. I'd put in too much effort (and money!) to let it all go to waste. I love, love, love Portuguese! Plus, I wanted to maintain my friendship with Teresa without having to switch to Spanish or English when it came to expressing more complex issues.
So, I posted a message in a facebook group called "Portugueses em Munique," offering German and/or English in exchange for Portuguese. I made it clear that I was looking for someone who lived close to me, either in my town or an adjacent one.
I had quite a few responses, mostly from people who actually lived in Munich, which to be honest, is a bit far to meet up for a coffee on a regular basis. I just don't have the time for a 4-hour round trip twice a week. I very nearly agreed to get together with one woman who lived in an inconvenient-to-get-to part of Munich...until she revealed that she had a 12-month-old baby. No way(!) am I schlepping all the way out there and back to listen to a bawling baby and endure monologus interruptus about the trials and tribulations of motherhood in a foreign country. Meh...!
I also had a response from a guy who lived very close by, but who then turned out to be a young teenager. Sorry, sweetie, I was actually looking for people with friend potential... although I could probably have done with someone who could drill me on smartphone shortcuts.
And then there was Ana. Who - I could hardly believe my luck! - lived just around the corner from me! Actually, Ana had been the first one to respond, but we didn't pick up the conversation until the next day.
We met in a restaurant down the street a couple of days later, and we clicked right away. Ana told me that she worked as a secretary at a local engineering firm that was owned by a Portuguese company. She had only been in Germany for a couple of months and wasn't fluent in German yet. Although she had studied German at university a decade ago, she hadn't really been using the language and had forgotten most of it.
For just over a month now, we've been meeting up about twice a week, exploring the nearby towns and villages and indulging in far too much ice cream. We are both delighted to finally have made a local friend.
And I am also delighted to report that my last conversation with Teresa was something resembling A PROPER CONVERSATION :)