I walked to her cloister, asked the secretary if she was in, and knocked on her door. There was nothing to fear, it seemed. She greeted me with a smile, and handed me some papers containing the information of my first feature coverage- the International Summer School on Indigenous Culture and Knowledges at the University of Constance. Being a short-notice assignment to be done over the weekend, she asked me to think about it and come back to her office if I am interested. I didn’t have to come back to her office- I said yes right away. How could I say no to my first feature assignment, in Constance, on its lake I cruised with my classmates during our class excursion last month. It would be nothing less than a holiday.
And so I spent the rest of the morning booking my train tickets and hotel room and borrowing an audio recorder. The next day, I took the train from Bonn main train station, changed trains in Karlsruhe, and arrived at the southern tip of Germany after a total of six hours.
I used my first hour searching for my hotel which turned out to be on the other side of town. I mean ‘other side’ as I delineate the town with the Rhine River. This part of the Rhine opens to the Lake Constance. I combined my being temporarily lost with some sight-seeing. In any direction I look, from the small streets in the city center to the paintings on the walls outside the old buildings, the town’s charm doesn’t seem to run out. Tourists packed the old part of the town, enjoying the sunny Saturday of the early autumn. When I reached the ‘other side’ of town, I met a helpful couple who escorted me almost all the way to my hotel.
After a little rest, I hopped on a bus going to the city center to look for the restaurant where I was set to meet Prof. Knellwolf-King, the organizer of the summer school, and of course, the participants. I had no clue how or where to find the Restaurant Pan. I only knew it is in the city center. The odds of me speaking fluent German would have been more probable than finding the place. I got off a station that looked busy, and where a handful of passengers also alighted the bus. If I were to get lost, it might as well be in a beautiful plaza.
The place was bustling with people, though the cafes were half-empty. I went with the flow of people, and after a few turns, I saw a familiar sign: Pan. It can’t be the restaurant I was looking for. Pan must be a local term for the word ‘restaurant.’ It must be one of the many Pans around. I walked inside and looked at a long table already set yet no one was seated. A tell-tale sign of a reservation and a big gathering. I asked an elderly waiter, a Meditteranean probably in his late 50’s, if there was a reservation under the name of the organizer. He said yes, but the dinner won’t start until the next hour and a half. I thanked him with a look of disbelief.
I went out and headed to the port just a few hundred meters out in the main street. The sun was still out, yet the days have begun to shorten with the onset of autumn. The weather was already cold at six in the evening. I approached a man with who I assume is his wife to take a souvenir photo of me. I talked to them in German, and he signaled to another person. I switched to English. After he took my photo, I asked him where he is from. France, he said. Embarassed from my presumptions, I thanked him- in French- and walked away.
I went back, re-retraced my way, and made several rounds in the Marktstätte. I barely remembered the concierge of my hotel gave me a tourist pamphlet containing a map of the city center. I was lost but didn’t really mind. As soon as I found Restaurant Pan again, I simply clung on to the corner shops that were already closed for the day nearby. A little before seven-thirty, a small group paraded to the restaurant. It was the summer school class. It was time to work.