Really, really, honestly, truly: I am learning things in Germany. I am experiencing important things, I am working hard. As proof of all that I offer: Nothing. No pictures of current events, no regular blog updates the way I had wanted (although I am hoping both of those things will quickly get better). On top of all the things that I wanted to do with this blog that I am already NOT doing, now that school has started I want to begin offering some special interesting things for Andover Newton, my seminary back home. But it’s all just a lot on my plate right now. Turns out that, while I totally believe that the blog is a healthy, helpful thing for me to do–sticking to a regular structure through which I can process my time here, allowing me to get the most out of the experience–it is a little bit like a drowning victim attempting to write about the experience while the water washes over him. That is an extreme image–and I actually don’t consider myself “drowning” nor “a victim”–but you get the point. And it makes me appreciate how difficult it is to have regular ways of reflecting in daily life. In other words: It makes me appreciate where most people of faith (read: people who do not go to seminary and get paid to be “theologians in residence”) are coming from. In the day to day business of surviving and thriving–something I had somehow always sidestepped in America–it is incredibly difficult to also step back and reflect. And that, in itself, is probably a really great thing for me to learn.
Well, while I try to find the time, I wanted to share 2 things about my immediate experience here.
1) The Schedule: Monday and Tuesday I spend the first 4 hours of my day in my Deutsch Class, where me and 19 other young people from all over the world attempt to learn the language as fast as humanly possible. Wednesdays we have off, but then Thursday and Friday we go for 5-point-something hours (8:15a.m.-1:30p.m.), which means I spend roughly 16 hours a week just trying to learn the language. Then I have my classes at the KiHo (Kirchliche Hochshule a.k.a. the place where I live and learn in Germany): Tuesdays 4-7 is a class on Francis of Assisi and Christianity in the Middle Ages. Wednesday mornings (yeah, that’s right, my day off) is a lecture on Feminist Theology and its view of War Crimes Commissions in South Africa and Latin America. Then Thursdays is a lecture on the Islamic Faith and an hour long Tutorium (exactly what it sounds like) right afterwards. (Side note: I love that I can just throw up links to these things from Wikipedia so that you can learn what I learn…it totally reaffirms my faith in the purpose and meaning of seeking higher education in the Internet Age. Heavy sigh.) And then there’s reading for all that too, and since I am a moron who did not learn the language before getting here, I read everything three times: once in German, then once while I type everything into Google Translater, and then a third time when I read the terrible translations that Google gives me and I try to make sure that I’m not missing important information (Which, I inevitably am. Particularly funny: an article about “Repentance,” which is “Busse” in German, was smartly translated by Google Translator as being about “Buses” or “Busse.” Brilliant.)
Also, I belong to a Cooking Group (whom you will meet later) that gathers for lunch everyday, and I make lunch on Mondays. And last night I joined the choir. You know, for something to do. The weekends will eventually (actually, as of THIS weekend) be spent traveling, but mostly they have consisted of helping Inka renovate her apartment in Hamm. So…that’s the schedule; excluding all the reading and homework that I have to do and just time in general that I spend walking around going, “I think I’m lost!” It’s no excuse for not finding time to do the blog, to do the work of reflection and process and spiritual practice…but, it kind of is, right?
So, I really want to share this experience with others as much as possible and push myself to make connections and make the most of the experience…and the blog is my best bet at doing that, I think, and I am getting back into that habit slowly but surely. And there are lots of really cool things that I’m excited about putting up: Interviews and conversations I’ve had with friends both back home and in Germany, comparing and contrasting traditions and holidays between the two countries, the way Germans treat their Grocers compared to Americans (Spoiler Alert: They do much better here), and some legitimate–though possibly poorly thought out–theological discourse.
In the meantime, here’s something kind of fun that I have found time to do:
2) (Remember, I said there were two things?) I have always been interested in stories, especially Folk Tales, so one of my not-so-secret projects while in Germany was going to be reading the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales in German AND going to The Black Forrest which, to my understanding, was the forest that the Grimm Bros. had in mind as the setting for most of their stories (which are officially called “Children and Household Tales”). So I haven’t made it to the Schwarzwald quite yet, but I did just read my first Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale entirely in German WHILE understanding it. I share with you now, a summary:
There’s a Mama Goat, as you’d expect, and she has seven Kids. One day she wants to go on a walk through the forest, and she tells her Kids to keep an eye out for The Wolf and not open the door for anyone until she returns. (By the way: The goats live in a house with a door and furniture…as you’d expect.) Sure enough, The Wolf comes by and tries to get in the house, but the kids aren’t falling for it, they say, “Our Mother doesn’t have black hair, you are The Wolf!” Well, of course that doesn’t stop him; and through a series of cunning disguises, The Wolf is able to convince them that he is Mama Goat, and they let him in. Now, I’m blowing through this because…well, I’m not going to just type up the whole story word for word…BUT, it must be said that what ensues when The Wolf gets in the door was genuinely scary and creepy. I can’t be sure why. I don’t know if it’s the translating, or if the writing is just THAT good, or the fact that I was in the bathroom while I read it, but whatever the case….it’s scary. All the Kids hide, and all of them are found and EATEN! All except one. The Wolf is tired from all the delicious murdering so he goes under a tree and sleeps. Mama Goat comes home and her one little child tells her what happened. And in a move that convinces me that, should there ever be an animated movie made out of this story, Alfre Woodard would have the part of Mama Goat locked up; she grabs Schere (scissors), Nadel (needle), and Zwirn (thread…or, possibly…yarn?) and she and her remaining kid go to track down the Wolf. They find him under the tree, she rips open his belly, and removes all six of her devoured kids, who are–thankfully–just fine.
Presumably icky…but just fine. Then they put rocks in The Wolf’s belly (he sleeps through all of this, by the way) and later the weight of the rocks kill him. I think he drowns, but I don’t remember. Und als die sieben Geisslein das sahen, da kamen sei herbei gelaufen, riefen laut “der Wolf ist tot! der Wolf it tot!” und tanzten mit ihrer Mutter vor Freude um den Brunnen herum.