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English Teacher John Show 62 – Transcript

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Elmar is back, and he’s in the studio talking to us about modes of travel.

It’s trains, planes, buses and boats, and more in today’s show.

Enjoy and learn!

===== TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 62 =====

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I was on a flight recently and the flight attendant asked me, “Would you like dinner?”
“What are my choices?” I asked.
“Yes or No,” she barked back.

Hey, we’re talking about modes of transport and travel. It’s planes, trains, buses and boats, and Elmar’s going to tell us all about it today. Please keep your seat belts fastened; there’s going to be some turbulence today on English Teacher John Show number 62.

[intro music]


John Koons: We’ve got a special guest with us today. Back from the great northern lands is Elmar who has been with us before. Welcome to the show.

Elmar: Hello.

John: How’s everything? As I was saying, before we went on air there, your hair has grown a little bit. Have you been to the barber since I last saw you?

Elmar: I have been. It was actually even longer.

John: You’ve got a little bit of that wild look to you which, I think, is pretty good.

Elmar: More and more, I’m looking like a student again.

John: That’s right. You’re sinking deeper into academia.

Elmar: Yes.

John: You’re looking like that.

Elmar: Yes. Probably, you just forget about your appearance when you’re so much thinking of things and have nothing to do with the outer world.

John: Well, I think we’ve got an interesting topic today. Actually, Elmar and I, we both had some nice vacations recently. My wife and I were in Peru, which is one of the reasons that I have been off the air for a little while, and we’ll get into that a little bit more but, mostly, we’re going to talk about travel, getting places, and methods of how we like different methods of transportation.

So first, a couple of months ago, where did you go, Elmar?

Elmar: Well first, I went to Austria, and since my family is spread all over Austria, I had to travel around within the country. At the end of my stay in Europe, I went to Poland once again. I’ve been to Poland before, and this time, just for a four-day visit to Poland to attend a wedding of a friend of mine.

John: You got married. No, a friend of yours.

Elmar: A friend of mine.

John: How is a Polish wedding? How does it differ from an Austrian wedding?

Elmar: Well, first of all, it wasn’t exactly just a Polish wedding because the bride was from Colombia and the groom from Poland. Well, the basic ceremony and everything was Polish. OK. It took place in Poland, so it was Polish, and the party was in a medieval castle, so the environment was quite European, I would say.

John: Wow.

Elmar: The guests were from all over the world.

John: The bride was from Colombia, so were there a lot of Polish and Spanish and other European languages being spoken?

Elmar: Yes, there was. Well, the friends of the couple, people from all over the world, so it was a complete mix of languages. Mainly spoken Polish and Spanish, both of which languages I’m not able to speak. Well, Poland is a country where a lot of people speak German too.

John: Is there more German or English spoken in Poland, do you think?

Elmar: Well, the general feeling was —

John: I know we have listeners in Poland so you better get it right.

Elmar: I think, in general, English as a lingua franca has overtaken German as one of the top main spoken foreign languages in Poland.

John: What a shame.

Elmar: What a shame. I do not know.

John: So tell me about your journey. Where are you now living before you went on this trip?

Elmar: I’m living in Sapporo. So first of all —

John: Sapporo, Japan.

Elmar: Sapporo, Japan, and to get off Japan, you need either a boat or a ship.

John: Or a plane.

Elmar: Sorry. A boat, a ship or a plane, of course.

John: Or your own wings.

Elmar: I know. If you got one —

John: Between Hokkaido in Japan where Sapporo is and getting back to Europe, you’re pretty much forced to take an airplane.

Elmar: Yes, OK.

John: Tell me about your flight. Tell me about what you like about it and what you don’t like about it.

Elmar: First of all, traveling by plane is not my favorite way of traveling at all.

John: Why not?

Elmar: Well, one of the key points is, first of all, you don’t feel the travel. You get inside the system. You get into an airport, which represents some kind of system. You have no free choice about anything. You have to do as you’re told. Everything follows a procedure. Everything follows a certain way you have no influence on, and then the second thing, once you enter the airport, you are completely cut off the real world. You’re inside the system, then you go on the plane and then you fly on the plane, and after a certain amount of time, you reappear on a different place.

John: Almost like a hyperspace.

Elmar: It is, yes. What do you call this method of traveling they use so much in Star Trek?

John: What was that thing called?

Elmar: Beaming.

John: Beam me up, Scotty. What with the transporter or something? I forgot what they called it. You step into this thing called the airport, and you step out from another place they call an airport, and you’re in a completely different part of the world.

Elmar: Of course, plus those airports usually —

John: I think you need a window seat. If you sit in a window seat on the plane, you can look down and see that you’re moving over the earth, and you can see the mountains and the sea and everything else beneath you. You’re one of those guys that keep the shade down. Is that what it is?

Elmar: One of the guys who keeps fast asleep during the —

John: Are you a sleeper, a reader? What do you like to do while you’re flying?

Elmar: Well, reading and sleeping. Reading almost always makes me tired, so reading, sleeping then waking up again, reading again, falling asleep, and so on and so forth. In regard to looking out of the window, don’t all the places look the same when you look out of the window of your plane? It’s usually —

John: From 35,000 feet. Well, yes. You’re mostly looking at clouds, anyway, and all they look the same. Sometimes, you get some interesting features. Sometimes, you get the deserts or you get flying over mountainous areas, the sea. Sometimes, leaving Japan, flying to the States, you fly close up over the Arctic area really, Alaska, and you can see a lot of white down below. It’s probably icy areas.

Elmar: Yes, but my question is, “Is this real?” Does it feel real when you look down? Do you have an idea what it must be like standing on the surface you’re watching, you see?

John: Yes, you’re right. You are in a suspended weird state separate from reality. But I like to watch movies, I have to say. The last couple of times on a plane, I was so happy to find three or four or five, maybe even, of the newer movies, and I caught up on all the new movies that are not out yet in Japan or at least not out on DVD. So I like catching up on movies. I’m a little bit of a movie watcher.

Elmar: That’s an interesting new feature if you have to spend $12 or $10 on a plane on those new planes where they’re really concerned to keep you busy with entertainment and stuff. What I prefer is the music program. You really have the opportunity to listen to a whole opera, for example. In our daily lives, we —

John: That’s when I start sleeping, when the opera program goes on.

Elmar: I told you about sleeping.

John: Yes, I’m a little less cultured than Elmar.

Elmar: I’m just saying.

John: He’s Austrian. He’s supposed to listen to operas. Not me, I’m American. I’m watching Hollywood movies. You’re listening to more cultural things and watching more cultural things.

Elmar: Wait another 500 years and there will be no difference made for people. It’s all classics.

John: Yes, right. Well, let’s see. Tell me about airplane food.

Elmar: I love airplane food. I love it. It gives you a certain structure on your flight. You’re probably one of those guys who get their food first.

John: I just wanted to say that. I’m a vegetarian. I’m not a vegan. I eat cheese and milk and dairy products. Elmar, you, and all our listeners here, I’ll tell you guys a little secret. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, order a vegetarian meal. What happens is all the veggie meals come out first, so you always eat first. My wife has caught onto this, so we always order two vegetarian meals.

Tomoko is almost vegetarian, but she eats a little bit of fish here and there, but we order vegetarian meals, and we’re very happy to get our meals first. When everyone else is getting really hungry, we’re finished. We’re watching the next movie.

Elmar: Do you know what the effect is of flying? People have to do what they’re told and they’re getting back into this baby-like status.

John: Yes.

Elmar: So one person gets food and five or six persons around, “Why is he getting food? I’m hungry too.” Just before the revolt starts, everybody else gets his food. There’s a tension. There’s always a tension when the children and the vegetarians get their food, and the rest is already so…

John: The vegetarians in with the children. Have you ever seen people get unruly or really rowdy or just real bad behavior on a plane?

Elmar: No, I can’t remember people getting really angry, but there is a sort of tension. Yes, several times, I’ve had some neighbors on the next seat, people on the next seat, making remarks or something like that to me.

John: I’ve been on a couple of flights where people were drinking and starting to get pretty tough, a bit risqué with the flight attendants, and somewhere getting a little too cozy and their language was flowing a bit and somewhere getting a little aggressive, but I haven’t seen anything too bad.

How about other forms of transportation?

Here in Matsumoto, I ride the bus a fair amount. I always like that. Now, that I’m an avid MP3 player listener, I’m always listening to something. Trains as well, I like it all, I have to say. I like flying. It’s a lot of reading and movies and things for me as well as the excitement of going somewhere. Trains and buses, which I ride a fair amount, I’m pretty happy in all those places. I do not know why.

Lots of people, my students and people I talk to, “It’s a three- or four-hour bus ride,” and I’m thinking, “That’s great. You just sit.” I think it’s my lazy demeanor. You can’t do anything. You can’t get up and do your work. You can’t get up and do anything. You have to just sit there, and what can you do? You can eat, sleep, read, basically. It’s all coming back to that same theme of laziness, maybe, on my part.

Elmar: That’s a very good point. Well, there’s once again this problem with the entertainment program in planes. You don’t have that usually in trains, except if you ride the very fancy ones, and in buses. In planes, you are once again in this horrible situation to make decisions. Make decisions of your spare time activities.

Traveling is having a lot of spare time. Well, there is probably a certain amount of responsibility to yourself necessary to keep yourself busy with no means of entertainment, for example, in the train. I like the train even more than the plane, although I don’t have any kind of distractions because I stick to the one book I have with me or maybe two. Or I’m alone with me and my thoughts. It’s one of those moments where I really have time to think, and that’s probably one of the advantages about trains and buses, for example.

John: Because you don’t have the movie option.

Elmar: Yes.

John: Nobody’s really usually serving you food or there’s not a meal time to look forward to, not really.

Elmar: Exactly. Usually, there’s just nothing. This summer, I traveled to Poland. The trip to Poland was by train, and one of the curious details, which isn’t that curious at all, but I’d like to mention it, is that the traveling time from Vienna to Gdansk, which is in the north of Poland, was almost exactly the same as from Japan to Europe.

John: Just a different method of transportation.

Elmar: Yes. I took a nice train so I could sleep quite well in those trains. Yes, it must mean I like this kind of rhythmic movement of the train.

John: There’s kind of a soothing — the train especially; the plane, no. The bus, there’s a little bit of the vibration and moving on the road and things, but the train is, of course, in the track and more steady, and there’s a little bit of a train motion that it’s pretty soothing. I think it’s soothing.

Elmar: I think so too. Yes. Once again, this baby status.

John: That’s what it keeps coming back to. Maybe I need to be back in the incubator. That’s what I like, going back where everything is taken cared of. The temperature is always the same in the train, bus and plane.

Elmar: Yes. Not in the Polish trains, but most of the trains. Yes.

John: So when you leave Austria, Vienna, for Poland, so you’re getting on an Austrian train.

Elmar: Yes.

John: You’re changing at the border.

Elmar: I think it was already a Polish train.

John: Really?

Elmar: It’s a Polish train. Yes, the train is run by the Polish train companies. It’s half-half. As far as I remember, half of the compartments were from Austrian trains, and half for Polish or something like that. I was in the Polish section. I remember.

John: Yes, I like what you said. Getting back to your point about thinking, besides active entertainment, watching a movie and reading a book, I find it is good thinking time. Sometimes, after reading lots of pages and watching a couple of movies, it is nice to sit back, and you’re bound to your seat, and it’s also sitting back and thinking. I do good thinking on public transportation, and airplanes, which I guess is also a form of public transportation.

Elmar: You’re getting some input. You look out of your window and you see landscapes moving by and people, but it’s nothing that really captures probably your —

John: On the plane, you don’t see too many people out the window.

Elmar: You see people around you.

John: You see people around you.

Elmar: You see the behavior of people around you usually not watching too much — I do not know. In a train, people change, getting off the train and getting on the train, so probably, you have a little more to look at after a certain amount of time. But, in general, you have a little bit of input but not much, nothing that keeps your attention for a very long time. It keeps you thinking, which means your thoughts probably travel in different directions.

John: Yes, I think that’s true. Are you a social person? Are you one that strikes up a conversation with your neighbor on the plane, bus or train?

Elmar: I’m not usually. No, I’m not. Three days ago, I was traveling from Tokyo to Nagano via Shinkansen.

John: The bullet train.

Elmar: The bullet train, the very fast one. An old lady sat next to me. I seemed to be very bad so she couldn’t see the seat numbers and stuff, so I started to help her read the numbers, and I took the opportunity to practice my Japanese and started a conversation with her. Normally, I don’t do that, but she was just a very friendly woman, and I thought that’s a good opportunity to start a conversation.

John: And practice your Japanese.

Elmar: Practice your Japanese. On rare occasions, it happens.

John: I guess, now, I often travel with my wife, so we’re occupied. We talk to each other and we have little snacks together and we read, so I don’t find myself really striking up conversations like I used to. I remember I used to travel a little bit with my work on planes, mostly in the States, and I remember talking with a lot of people next door, the people sitting next to me, and getting in some really good conversations years ago. I didn’t ride buses or trains much in the States. Especially on airplanes, I always met people.

Tomoko and I, we travel at least once a year by plane, and many times by train and bus, and I’m more into just keeping to myself and reading, listening to my MP3 player or doing something or talking with Tomoko.

I’m not as social as I was, let’s say, in my 20s or even in my early 30s. I’ve changed a fair amount on that.

Elmar: Really? You think you changed with age?

John: I do not know. The desire to strike up conversations is not there. In Japan, it’s not so normal. It’s not really common to strike up conversations with strangers, but even when I am in western countries, I am in the States sometimes, and I am around western people and I’m not just in Japanese situations with Japanese people, and I still find myself not really being as sociable as I used to be.

Elmar: It rarely happens anyway and somebody’s talking to me or starts. It happens sometimes, yes, but it’s not the usual habit of people traveling together in a mass transportation, traveling device like a plane, I hardly see any people talking to each other, for example. It’s always very quiet. I think it has to do with the same movement of people in the same movement, and usually, the chairs, all people look in the same direction sitting. So it’s not a sociable position anyway.

John: Yes.

Elmar: It’s probably easier if you arrive somewhere. It’s easier to start a conversation with people who live at the place you’re visiting, for example.

John: Yes.

Elmar: It’s easier to do that because there is this difference from the start and if you have a common language to start with or something. They are two people with very different situations. In traveling, during the journey, there’s not much to talk about. You’re sitting in a train, “You too are sitting in a train. Very interesting.”

John: Come on.

Elmar: Where do you go?

John: What’s a good conversation starter for someone sitting next to you on the bus, train or plane? “So where are you headed?”

Elmar: Where are you headed? Yes.

John: For the plane, you’re all headed in the same place, right?

Elmar: What kind of book are you reading? That’s the best one because people who read a book usually don’t want to be disturbed, but the question, “What kind of book are you reading?”

John: Are you watching that movie too?

Well, as a young backpacker when I was traveling around a lot with a backpack in that very young carefree travel mode, especially close to landing, it would be like, and you could see who are the other backpackers were by the length of the hair or the clothes, just the carefree attitude. It’s like, “So where are you going to stay? You got a place to stay here?” There’s a little bit of talk about, “Have you been here before” flying into Sydney or some other place. “You’ve been here before. Do you know where you’re going?” “No, how about you? What’s the cheapest way to get into town from the airport?” It’s having those kinds of traveler questions.

Elmar: About an interesting project. A friend of mine, he’s an artist, and he had an interesting project recently going on an artistic project. I can’t remember the title right now, but I could probably give you later the title of his project. You can read the documentation on the internet.

The basic idea was people from all over Europe travel to Romania, and they’re not allowed to take any other method of traveling than hitchhiking. They hitchhiked to a certain village, a certain city in Romania, and when they all arrive there, they’re going to exchange their experience made and put into an artistic context.

John: So this was a loosely organized thing where people from different parts of Europe would independently hitchhike to Romania, and then, they have a meeting place.

Elmar: Yes.

John: To talk about their experience getting there.

Elmar: Yes.

John: I like that.

Elmar: Yes, it’s an interesting thought and interesting idea, and of course, all of those people were artists being equipped with video cameras and photo cameras.

John: So they documented it. They documented their journey.

Elmar: They documented the people who were taking them with them because hitchhiking always means you have to. It’s not like buying a train ticket where you have an idea what’s going to happen and where you have your seat. Hitchhiking is a different method of traveling.

John: One of my favorites.

Elmar: Yes?

John: Yes, we talked about the plane. We’re not going to talk about going in cars, but today, we’ve talked about planes, buses, trains, but I’ve done a little bit of hitchhiking. I think some of my better experiences were through lots of places in Alaska, through Europe, through New Zealand. I haven’t done much lately. In Japan, actually, a couple of times, but not a lot. I loved it, especially where I do a lot of it – Alaska, New Zealand and Europe.

You just never know whether you’re going to get a ride in the next five minutes or the next five hours. I met some great people along the way. You just never know what’s coming, and it’s a good lesson to learn not to have a schedule or not to have an exact plan.

Elmar: My idea of hitchhiking always was — I didn’t do hitchhiking very often. Very rare moments, actually.

John: Which I think they called autostop.

Elmar: Autostop, yes.

John: Autostop in Germany, right?

Elmar: Yes, autostop.

John: In Austria as well.

Elmar: Yes. It doesn’t reflect the idea at all.

John: Yes, I never understood that.

Elmar: Jumping on the street like stretching out your arm.

John: Yes.

Elmar: Stop.

John: Yes.

Elmar: Yes, but what I wanted to say was people who take you with them in their car are probably in the mood of taking somebody with them, which means they’re probably searching for somebody to talk to or, in general, people who feel like not going alone or taking somebody with them and not afraid of strangers.

Did you have any experience with people who stopped for you and didn’t talk to you for the next two and a half hours or something in the car?

John: Yes, because I did a fair amount. I remember, in Germany, on the entrance ramp to the autobahn, and getting picked up a well-dressed guy in a really nice – I think it was – BMW with a full GPS system, and this was a lot of years ago. That was the first time I had seen a GPS system in a car. Driving close to 200 k, just really flying, had very little interest in talking to me, asked me where I was going and plugged it into his computer, and the announcement came out [German] and pulled off to the ramp on the right and dropped me off and I said my [German].

Mostly, it’s not like that, but this well-dressed executive stopped, picked me up, gave me one of the fastest rides of my life, maybe the fastest I ever traveled in a car, but that’s not typical. Usually, it’s people who are a little bit risk takers, who are young or maybe a little more open-minded. Of course, there’s a risk with hitchhiking. There’s a risk on both sides, the hitchhiker and the driver, the people that picked you up. Yes, certainly, generally, people wanted to talk.

I had really good experiences meeting all kinds of people; people who stopped by their favorite restaurant or the friend’s house and just bring you along.

Yes, it’s nice not to be in a hurry because you really can’t be when you’re hitching. That’s for sure.

It’s so common. When you were back in Austria, did you see any hitchhikers?

Elmar: Not that many. I never stopped for a hitchhiker actually.

John: I have picked up a few.

Elmar: It has to do with the spots where they’re usually waiting. You’re going past 100, you don’t want to jump on the brake and cause an accident just to stop for a guy.

John: I learned that one of the biggest, most important things of hitchhiking is where to stand.

Elmar: Yes.

John: Before someone lets you out and you know you have to take another ride, it’s very important where they let you out, and you really have to plan that because you get stuck on one of these very high — you can’t hitchhike on the autobahn, right? You have to make sure you’re near an on-ramp and some of these things. If you’re in a more normal road, maybe, that’s busy, you got to hitchhike just before a little pullout or in the pullout to make sure people have an easy place. You don’t want to be an obstruction. You don’t want to be causing any danger.

I remember another great experience. I was in New Zealand hitchhiking on the North Island, and I was with a British guy, I think. We got picked up by this Maori guy, one of these native New Zealanders, and he was a bit imposing looking. He didn’t look like the friendliest guy. My travel partner was looking at me. I had a little more experience hitchhiking than he did. He was clearly a bit worried. This person who picked us up, he wasn’t being friendly. I do not know. He just had a look about him that worried us. He ended being a wonderful guy.

While we were still worried, he invited us to come to his house for the evening. So you can imagine that was a tough decision because we were already a little nervous, and then this guy who doesn’t seem very friendly is inviting us over to his place. I do not know. I guess I was just accepting, and I was rated to deal with a little bit of risk, and I generally have faith in people that people are good. It turned out great.

This guy had a wonderful house out in the country, and he and his wife cooked a great dinner for us. I remember they brought their speakers outside. We had this great classical music like a little mini concert going on while we’re eating, and he showed us around his farm. It was kind of a farm. He had sheep and other things. We had dinner and we slept there, and the next morning, he took us off early to the road to the place where we were going and said goodbyes, and we said our thank you. It just turned out to be a really great hitchhiking experience.

Elmar: What was it that made him seem not so friendly? His appearance or —

John: When you first meet people, you make judgments. Yes, appearance and not seeming so friendly.

Elmar: But he wasn’t tattooed or something in the face.

John: Well, no. No, he wasn’t. Some people you meet, and within a minute or two whether they’re smiling or just their way, you feel immediately at ease, comfortable. This person, he wasn’t one of those guys. Now, this has gone on 15 years ago. His name was John, I think, the same as me. It’s just something about him wasn’t so friendly, and we were a little bit cautious, but we ended up indeed taking a little risk, and we had a great experience. Near Whangarei, which is North Island, up somewhere towards the Bay of Islands from Auckland. That’s where it all happened.

Elmar: Yes, I was there. I remember I’ve been to the place.

John: Yes, really a great place. All right. Well, Elmar, we made it through planes, trains, buses and hitchhiking.

Elmar: It was a lot of movement today.

John: I’m a bit tired after all that travel. Well, you’re heading back to Hokkaido tomorrow.

Elmar: I will, yes.

John: Do you have classes tomorrow?

Elmar: No, not tomorrow.

John: Not tomorrow. I’ve got a couple. I’ve got about four tomorrow, so I think we’re going to wrap it up. Once again, thank you very much for joining us.

Elmar: Thank you very much for a nice talk.

John: I hope you come and — is it OK to invite you on the show again to talk about something else?

Elmar: [Japanese]

John: OK. Arigato gozaimasu. Thanks a lot.

Elmar: Thank you very much.



Well, that’s about it for show number 62. I hoped your enjoyed our talk with Elmar. You can find our blog, all of our video and audio podcasts, some transcripts, other language help and more, at our always-a-work-in-progress website english teacher john -dot- com.

Our spam-filled email address — we have gotten a lot of spam in this email account. Give it a try; it is the best way to contact us. Our email address is podcast -at- english teacher john -dot- com. Also, you can leave us a voicemail message on skype, at s k y p e ID englishteacherjohn.

Thanks to our music man and all around interesting guy Martin Chenhall. You can check him out on his myspace page at myspace -dot- com, and do a search for martin chenhall (m-a-r-t-i-n-space-c-h-e-n-h-a-l-l). Thanks Martin.

Thanks to all of you for listening to the English Teacher John Show. My name is John Koons. Have a great week!

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