Tomorrow I fire up the second phase of my time machine project. Tomorrow I’m attending my first class at the Goethe Institut. I signed up for an eleven-week course in intermediate German after completing the Einstufungstest. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years as I slowly stood by and allowed my language skills atrophy with lack of use. This January marks the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of my year abroad in Germany. Personally, socially, academically — that year was one of the most enriching times in my life I have ever experienced. And now looking back on it I feel that I have squandered some of what I worked so hard to develop while there. I’m setting out to recapture it before it is gone entirely.

So with that mindset firmly fixed in place I stepped into the offices of the school — just a few blocks from where I live — and turned in the written portion of my exam. I underwent the subsequent oral examination. The speaking component was much less formal, much more conversational than the written. Despite that informality I felt self-conscious, almost embarrassed for myself. I knew that I knew how to do this, and yet I didn’t. I floundered. I stammered. I reached for words that at one time I knew were ready at hand only to have them slip traitorously from my grasp.

I’ll get them back.

They might have escaped me this once, but I will get them back. I’m determined. I’m excited. Walking home from the institute down Randolph and Wabash I felt a version of the same rush I remember when walking across the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin to get back to the small apartment I shared with my fellow students from Geneva. I’ve taken to thinking this is a sign that my time machine is working.

When I got home I collected my trusty Duden, and my Langenscheidts Kurzgrammatik. The next day I headed over to Beck’s Book Store to pick up my textbooks for the course. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve done anything like this.

Tomorrow: jetzt geht’s los!

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