Editor's Query: Tell us about a time you learned you weren't as smart as you'd thought

Sunday, January 30, 2011; W09

Although our children were only 2 and 6 years old when we moved to Belgium, we were determined to travel as much as possible over those next three years. Euro Disney was the first stop, as we had dangled that carrot to entice the kids overseas. Getting around Paris was a piece of gateau. I had studied French.

Then we took on Rome, muddling through using the language of food. Our son learned to eat pasta using a fork and spoon at the hands of a waiter who pretended to be appalled at our child's lack of twirling skills. On the street, wide-eyed older women ran up to our children exclaiming "bellissimo!" as they stroked their white-blond hair. We understood.

Our ski trip to Austria proved more challenging. My husband took the wheel while I navigated, notwithstanding years of me criticizing his driving and years of him criticizing my navigational skills.

Shortly after passing over the Belgian border into Germany, we saw signs for a town I couldn't locate on the map. As we passed sign after sign announcing this town, my husband became more and more irritated: "It must be a huge city! Look at how many exits there are for it. How can you not find it on the map?"

Just as he was about to grab the map, I grabbed the German-English dictionary. The town wasn't a town at all. Our elusive city, "Ausfahrt," was the German word for "exit."

Desiree Magney, Chevy Chase

New query

Tell us about a time when you were able to "pay it forward."

If you have a 100 percent true story taken from your own experience concerning the above query, send it to queries@washpost.com or The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or fewer.

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