Since coming back to Germany, life has decided to pick up the pace a bit. No time to process, no time to document…only time to move! Such is spring time in Germany. Things move pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look at it every once in awhile…well, you know how it goes. So, very quickly, my last four weeks (roughly):
The following pictures and captions were uncooperative with my lack of technological skills and, therefore, may appear to have been thrown together haphazardly, indifferent to how it may look. If you get dizzy, you should skim or walk away from your computer. Apologies. Sinerely, Management.
Week 1: Back to Germany, Spring, BBQ
Inka picked me up from the airport. And she bought me coffee! And she didn’t care that I was jetlagged (even though I don’t believe in jetlag) and falling asleep and talking gibberish. Talk about Best Ever!
When I left Germany in March it was way cold and dark and horrible. But spring came to Germany while I was away!After spending a month in Arizona…it was seriously like Dorothy stepping out of her house into Oz. The world went into hyper techni-color overload. It’s awesome.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but now in the spring, it’s especially interesting to look at. This is a hole in the earth in out in the field where we walk Pedro. There are many such holes of various sizes, and they were all created by American bombs during WWII. This is no more than 100 yards away from Inka’s house. Her mom said that children used to go swimming in them.
Week 2: Easter!
There’s this amazing thing that happens here, and I don’t have any idea why. When the tide goes out every day, it goes WAY out. So for huge chunks of the day, you can walk on the ocean floor that is usually under water. It’s called the Watt and it goes on for miles. I’m going to write more about it sometime because it was really cool and unnerving. You aren’t in the ocean…but you’re not on the beach. And people just wander in and out of your field of vision…like some kind of wasteland. It was fantastic.
Germany is a very religious country. But they are not what us Protestant-inspired American folks think of when we think “religious.” For instance, Easter is huge in Germany, and EVERYONE celebrates. But, it is not the solemn Black Friday through Saturday kind of celebration….it’s an ACTUAL celebration. Observe below:
These signs were everywhere throughout Duhnen. Apparently the biggest thing that was happening on Easter was Party Bomb hosted by Fatman Scoop. OK, admittedly, this is among the more “secular” Easter celebrations. Everyone gets an Easter break, so this is really more for the Spring Break-type crowd. The religious folks are much more reserved on Easter…
Supposedly, this tradition stems from an ancient pagan ritual of scaring away the evil, cold winter specters and welcoming in the new, warm sprites of spring by starting a giant bonfire in the heart of town. Later, the Christians co-opted the Easter Fire as a ritual to symbolize Christ’s death. They would actually burn their Christmas trees in the fire, and then use the ashes for Ash Wednesday. Cool, huh? Over time, it drifted back to a celebration that happens the night before Easter. Creating light in the night. Life overcoming death.
We treated Monika and Eugen to dinner at the Easter Fire as thanks for an awesome weekend. They paid for everything all weekend long…but I bought them two bratwurst. So..ya know…it was almost even.
The Next Morning: Easter! We must have gotten all our American Easter traditions from Germany because, as opposed to Easter, the celebration was remarkably similar. Apparently in France, they don’t have an Easter Bunny, they have an Easter Rooster. I asked if this is where the Easter Egg tradition comes from…if we all stole it from France? Monika laughed at me and said, “Roosters don’t lay eggs.”
They even made us do an Easter Egg hunt! It was awesome.
Later we went to church, which was cute because it was way too many beach tourists crammed into a tiny parish in the middle of a beach-town strip. I didn’t get any pictures of that, but it was cute…and a little warm. Easter in Germany: Success!
Week 3: Leipzig!
The point of the weekend was two fold:
#1) To see these two, Anke and Manu, some of our best friends in Germany. We studied at the seminary together last semester, but now they’ve moved on to Leipzig. In Germany, it is the custom (apparently) to change universities several times throughout your education. They invited us out to see their new city, and we saw…
…we saw the Auerbachs Keller, which is a bar that is primarily famous because it is the setting for a scene in Goethe’s famous play “Faust!” Inside there are awesome statues of Mephisto coming to make a deal for Faust’s soul. I’m reading it right now in German. This was an exciting site for a theater nerd such as myself. We did not stop to have a drink. Because we also saw….
…these people. Not sure what they’re up to. I’m just assuming that’s a typical Saturday for them.
Anyway, the big #2 reason why we went to Leipzig to hang out with Anke and Manu on this particular weekend…
Germany has this tradition on the first of May: Everyone goes for a walk with a special drink–which is called Mai, just like the month of May in German (Mai)–and you just walk around and drink. It is the equivalent of Labor Day, meant to honor the common, hard-working people of the country. So, actually walking and drinking is NOT all that happens. There were several demonstrations around the country that day, working people everywhere demanding better wages and better benefits to better support their families. If I had known that bit at the time, maybe I would have tried to go find one to check it out. But…as you can see, it was a very sunny, warm, beautifully fun day anyway.
Week 4: Baptism in Offenburg!
The next weekend…another big trip…this time, six-eight hours (depending on who’s counting) with Inka’s father and his family to the SOUTH of Germany, a small town outside Offenburg, in the heart of the fabled Black Forest(!), for the baptism of Inka’s newborn baby cousin.
The place was charming. The town itself was everything you would want a tiny town in the Black Forest to be. The hotel we stayed at was also the town Tavern…it seriously looked like something out of a movie, where our rooms were right above the bar. Inka’s father (pictured here, with his partner, and Inka) was very generous and his family is completely warm and hilarious.
Lots of fun German traditions with this trip. Including the father of the newborn, Inka’s uncle, giving a big speech introducing everyone at the baptism to everyone else, spelling out exactly how everyone there was connected. Fun fact: I was not the only American there. The Scherhans clan is my kind of people, they get excited about good conversation, warm hugs, and good drinks.
Sunday morning before we left, I got to participate in a German tradition that I have seen and heard about since arriving, but never have been a part of myself. The traditional “Sonntagsspaziergang,” or Sunday Walk. Everyone just goes for a walk on Sunday. The Scherhans had breakfast together and then just started walking. I followed them. We went through fields and over a creek (I’m not making this up), through a cemetery and someone’s back yard (seriously, not making this up) all while dressed in Sunday best and pushing a baby stroller. It was awesome. South Germany knows how to party.
Meanwhile…I swear I’m in school
During the week, I’m back on the hill in Wuppertal. We just wrapped up the second full week of school. I’m taking a class on Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Christianity in the “New Time” (which means from the Reformation until the Enlightenment…roughly), and an Eschatology class called “Die Christliche Hoffnung,” the Christian Hope. Good stuff. Way interesting (especially the history classes…history is nowhere near as boring when you can visit and touch the places from 600 years ago that they talk about in class), and my German lessons are paying off big time as I can now understand about 75% of what’s happening in class…which is about 500% more than last semester.
Quick Sidebar: German Shopping Malls
I was able to avoid shopping malls quite a lot in my first semester, but for some reason I have wound up there frequently in the last few weeks. Here’s the thing: German malls are not necessarily different than American ones..but they are way better. I give you, here to the left, Exhibit A: Anke hanging out in a department store…drinking champagne. They just had champagne for sale by the escalator. So we stopped and had a drink. If American malls went this way…I might develop a different attitude towards consumerism. Well..probably not, but it’s a nice treat if you have to be stuck there anyway.
Exhibit B: When we went to the baby baptism, we almost breached protocol by not bringing a present. Apparently this is just “not done.” So we went to the mall and we bought a present. Inka wanted to have it gift wrapped, but with the baptism only a few hours away and us stuck in a hotel, how will we possibly get that done?! Well….
In Germany, you just purchase your item, then go past the toys and over by the elevator (or maybe some other place depending on what mall you’re in) and you just wrap the present yourself. Free of charge. Very pretty paper and ribbon available. Again…if malls in America made it just THAT much easier…people would be getting more presents from me, that’s all I’m saying.
FINALLY, This weekend and we’re all caught up:
TONIGHT: We took Eugen out to play some pool to celebrate his birthday. We were supposed to go to a concert, but it got cancelled. So we played some pool. It was Eugen and Monika against Inka and myself
It was brutal.
Eugen and Monika took us down in good order, but I’m pretty sure the reason for it–other than my terrible billiard skills–is that somehow, when Germany started learning the game of pool, they did away with almost every rule I’ve ever heard of among my hard core pool friends. If you scratch the ball during the break or when shooting for the 8 ball, doesn’t matter, Game On. But then…they added a rule. Whichever pocket you sink your last ball in, then that is the pocket where you have to sink the 8 as well. I am not a stickler for rules, so I always say house rules, or majority rule…either way, I don’t care. But this rule is frustrating. And it results in games that last way longer than a typical game would. That’s actually the only reason I think of as to why you would play this way. To add some time to the clock. It’s certainly not in order to make the game more accessible…or to keep your blood pressure down.
We had to take a break from the game, however briefly, to engage in yet ANOTHER German past time–nay, European past time–The Euro-Vision Song Contest. I’m not going to get into this…it’s an annual competition among many European countries, to see who can provide the greatest song for everyone’s amusement. We paused to respectfully watch the German competitor, Lena (last year’s winner!). Everyone in the bowling alley just stopped what they were doing to watch. It was fun. I could go on about it–because I think it’s cool that this is an annual tradition, and I would like to know more about it–but it’s 1:00 in the morning and we’re home now and Germany didn’t win. So…we’re done with that.
And THAT, my friends (and what dear friends you are if you are, for any reason, still reading this) is how you spend a month in Germany…if you are extremely blessed with love and family and opportunities as I am. Speaking of which, the lovely Jamie and Oscar are coming for a visit this week, and I’m completely thrilled to be playing host for a week and get to share in all this awesomeness with them. For those of you who have not photo-documented the last month of your lives, I am absolutely positive that you are just as blessed, just as immersed in awesome experiences, centuries long tradition and pop-culture events. If nothing else, we should all pause every once in awhile to really appreciate these things. This is life. It’s one still-frame at a time…and it doesn’t stop ticking by. One final illustration: This was Monika and Eugen’s Garden when I first got back: And here’s what it looks like now, just a few short weeks later:
Life bursts on the scene, and in Germany, in the spring, it flourishes in a way that is so vivid and vibrant, it shakes your senses…reality is heightened…things are deeper and wider. It’s a bit more than I can take. And the nights get shorter and my smile grows wider. I am blessed. My heart bursts with thanks, I pray blessings are flowing your way just as freely as they are mine. I’m going to force myself to sleep now so I don’t have to miss what tomorrow brings.