Episode 1: Ronja and the Time Difference

Ronja’s Learning Adventures tell the story of a little girl who is fed up with school. At one point she runs away from home and joins her father who lives on a sailboat. While sailing the world with him she will now experience all that she only read in text books before. With the time she understands that going to school is not so senseless after all.

Her adventures are based on real events but have some fictional content, too.

Ronja’s Learning Adventures – Episode 1

My name is Ronja. I am nine years old and I live in Halle. Halle is a city in Eastern Germany. My mom is a doctor. My dad is – I don’t know. He lives on a sailboat and is far far away. I think he is somewhere in the jungle at the moment. His life is exciting. He is traveling and he always sees something new. My life is boring. I live in the same place and I need to go to the same school every day with the same stupid teachers. I do the same boring things with the same friends every day.

It is not that I do not like my life. It is just boring. Nothing exciting ever happens.

The most exciting that happened last week was when my tarantula Tarik molted. I first thought he was dead when I saw his body that didn‘t move anymore. But then I realized it was just his old skin and Tarik himself was happily hunting crickets in his terrarium. Sometimes I dream I could just leave my skin here but in reality do whatever I want.

Now I am sitting here in my class and need to write a geography test. It is about the jungle. Which animals do live in the jungle? What kind of weather is there in the jungle? Name three jungle countries! And so on…

My name is Ronja. My life is boring.

I know our teacher told us last week. And we read about it in our geography books. But I don’t remember. I secretly played with my mobile phone instead. It was just so boring. I would never have the chance to go there anyway. So what would I ever need this for?? In school we only learn things that we will never use. We never learn anything interesting. Never anything exciting.

But now I am sitting here, chewing on my pen. And I don’t know if it is the lion or the jaguar that lives in the jungle. Is the jungle in Africa or in America? I don‘t know. How warm is it there? How often does it rain? Then the bell rings, time is up. I quickly scribble a few answers, but I don‘t have a good feeling about it.

On the way home from school I video-call my dad on WhatsApp. It has become a habit and I like it. I like to talk to him. When he picks up the phone he is still in bed. I also want to sleep that long. But he says it is much earlier where he is. He is somewhere in South America. They have a different time there. Something about the sun arriving there later. I don‘t quite understand. I need to ask him, he knows everything.

I see him yawning. Then I ask him: „Hey daddy, how come you can still be in bed while I am already coming home from school?“

He says: „Do you still have our old globe? Just call me back when you get home. By that time I will have had a coffee and I will explain it to you. But make sure you have that globe.“

I remember that globe. It is a model world and it has a lamp inside where you can light it up. It looks nice but I never understood what it is good for. When I get home I search for the globe. It stands on the top of a shelf all covered with dust. I build a tower by putting a chair on the kitchen table. Then I carefully climb on the table and then on the chair. Quite a view from up here, scary though. I better get down quickly. I blow off the dust and start coughing and sneezing. Not a good idea. So I get a rug from the kitchen and wipe it off. Now I can see the continents and the countries and the oceans. It is pretty interesting. I wonder why I have never looked at it before. It is beautiful, too. Then I call my dad again.

This is my dad. He lives on a sailboat and travels the world.

Now he is dressed and sits on his table in the main cabin of his boat Seefalke in front of the world map that shows his route. He has a cup of coffee and already looks much more awake. He smiles at me and says: „So well, it is 08:30 here now. What time is it in Germany?“

I look at my watch „It is 13:30 here now.“

„Ok, well. You know that the Earth is rotating around the sun. If we complete one circle that is one year. But the Earth is also spinning around itself. One complete rotation is one day. From our perspective it looks, though, as if the sun is rotating around us. Now go and get a flashlight. This will be our sun.“

„Ok, I have a flashlight now.“

„Good. Switch it on and point it towards Germany. When it is directly over Germany this is when it is 12:00 there. As you can see, when you do this, America is dark. This means it is still night there. Now turn the globe counterclockwise. This means you turn it from left to right. Now your flashlight will move to Western Europe, the Atlantic Ocean and then America. The Earth is spinning very fast but still it takes five hours for the sun to make it from Europe to South America. This is why for me it is five hours earlier than for you. After 24 hours the sun will be back in Germany and a new day begins.“

„Ah, I see. Does this mean in America it is earlier than in Europe and in Asia it is later?“

The globe is really interesting.

„Yes, exactly. Because the sun moves from East to West it first is over Asia, then it will be over Europe and later it will be over America. So for America you have to deduct hours and for Asia you have to add hours. You see, learning plus and minus comes handy sometimes.  This is also why the sun always rises in the East and it sets in the West.“

Hey, this was easy. Then I tell him about the test and that I didn’t know anything about the jungle. And that I don’t understand what I need this for.

He says: ”Ronja, forget about the boring books!! Why don’t you come here and see for yourself. Don’t you have fall holidays soon?”

“Papa, yes, we have fall holidays in a week but do you really mean it?”

“We need to ask mama first but hey, why not?”

“And where exactly are you?”

“I am in Suriname. In South America. My boat is anchored in a river in the middle of the jungle. The water is black and in the night I hear howling monkeys. They sound like Godzilla. Also there are eagles here. Huge eagles. Their claws are twice the size of my hands.“

Suriname… I have never heard of a country called Suriname. And there was nothing about black water, howling monkeys and huge eagles in my school books, I am sure. Probably one of the jokes my dad uses to make. But I want to visit him. I miss him and his jokes.

When mom comes home in the evening I tell her that I want to visit dad in the jungle. She is not very happy about this idea.

„How will you get there, Ronja? From here this is a very long flight. I don‘t want to let you go alone. And I need to work.“

„Daddy says that I can fly alone and there is a stewardess taking care of me. He says there is a direct flight from Amsterdam. And he talked to grandma. She would bring me there. Please!“

„Ronja, it is very very hot there and there are wild animals and there is Malaria. Malaria is a very bad disease. I am worried.“

„Mama, please! Daddy is there, too. And he is not afraid!“

„Yes, this is what I am worried about most. Let me talk to him.“

The next day I hear mom and dad talking on the phone in the other room. Before they stopped talking I receive a text message from dad:

„Flight is booked. See you next week in Suriname.“