Laughing Through Europe – May, 2010
1 AUSTRIA, PART ONE:
This writing begins on a train from Salzburg to Graz (Austria), weaving gently through glacier-capped mountains, steep-walls to either side; lush grassy meadows speckled with patches of yellow and white flowers (must be the notorious “Edelweiss” among them). The Eurail Pass requires that (at my age) I travel “First Class.” Nicest perk: electricity in every compartment! Downside: very few travel companions (most folks think: “Why bother paying extra for First Class when the second class compartments are nearly as lovely?”).
It’s hard to believe today is only my third day. When the plane landed (Thursday May 6 in Zurich, Switzerland) I jumped onto the next train for Basel (an hour’s train ride to the west). Promptly on arrival at the train station, my host Girish and I walk 4 blocks to the venue for the evening’s program to which he is committed. (Hey! What’s with this weather: cold, and threatening rain? It was warm and dry in California the day I left, and I am hardly prepared for much more than the lightest of rainshowers. Uh oh… ). We walk purposefully from the train station to the meeting room which will host the first assembly of “Multilingual Toastmasters Club of Basel,” of which Girish is the founding president. A most pleasant surprise: there is a Steinway grand piano in the center of the room, which I have the pleasure of caressing for five or ten minutes, playing works of Chopin and Joplin for the most part. But I must cease as the Toastmaster gang arrives. We number nine hardy souls – at Girish’s request I give an 8-minute impromptu talk on the topic of “Gibberish” – and this is presented IN gibberish! Two of the other speakers give their speeches in German (which is 90% gibberish to me). Then I give another talk- ten minutes - on Laughter Yoga - this time in English. Whew! I encourage Girish to plan, on my next visit, that I might give a concert in this room – the same room where his Laughter Club will meet the next evening.
Girish’s ladyfriend Ute meets us and we have a late dinner (great cook this Ute!) as I admire Girish’s tremendous collection of videos – probably 400 or so. He says his favorite Sunday pastime is to have a nice dinner and project a classic film on the wall above the dining table. It was fun to see famous American films with their titles (and accompanying boxes) translated into German - or sometimes French, or even Italian. The US film named “Cape Fear” (Robert Mitchum terrorizes Gregory Peck) had a German title, something about “Nerfs” – the word clearly doesn’t refer to the furry-headed toy-critters!
Friday, May 7: Up at 6am (no time to worry about Jet Lag) to catch the train to Salzburg (Austria) where new friend (and Laughter Yoga Leader) Margit greets me at the under-reconstruction train station (what a mess!). Her husband Wolfgang (what an honor to meet someone with such a name – on purpose!) drives us to their charming home. I am led to a warm, cozy attic room all for myself! There’s an Electric Piano in the living room – how odd that they would obtain one just for my visit.(?) A late lunch includes numerous laughter-club stories and the revelation that the Electric Piano IS the very instrument on which I will give a concert that evening. Their previous assumption that the Restaurant had its own piano (based on photos taken at a musical performance given there in the past) had proven incorrect, so my concert will be on this electro-thing. Too bad we couldn’t bring over the Steinway from Basel! As Wolfgang and Margit leave the house to deliver the keyboard to the restaurant, I grab a 30-minute nap, their slender cat Lucy grateful accepting some comprehensive scratching and rubbing from her humble houseguest, “Das Amerikan Lach-Yoga Master-Teacher.”
The Laughter Club at 6:30pm is high-spirited and lively, with about 30 attendees. Most of the club regulars from Salzburg are here, as well as four or five newbies. Three Laughter Leaders from a suburban town, “Braunau” arrive a bit late; they came just to see “the American” at work. One of the “Leaders from Braunau” is a bright-eyed woman (with nearly-purple hair) named Gabi; she will be attending Kataria’s Teacher Training in Interlaken in a few days.