Around the Area

Monday is a day off, and after school was finished the girls and I took the local train to the end of the line in Münstertal a small village in a southern valley of the Black Forest. We ate lunch there in the park whilst watching a couple of Mallards defend their small pond and tiny nesting box from other ducks looking for a place to call home.

I had the feeling that when we got off the train and everyone ran over to a bus and we were left all alone at the small train station that if this was a Western a tumble weed should have blown past.  Despite the loneliness of the village it still offered some quant surprises.  A small playground with a stream nearby and the sound of cowbells from the animals grazing on the hillsides.

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A One Horse Town

Needless to say, we didn’t stay too much longer in town, but decided to skip over to the next town of Staufen where we could me Anke after her work in the kindergarten had finished.  Even on the short ride back towards Bad Krozingen we were asked to see our tickets and the girls got to see what happens when you board the train without paying your fare. Don’t worry, it wasn’t us, as we had paid, but a young woman had to hand over a 60 Euro fine.

In Staufen, it is a small town which is famous for a number of things, but most recently for the large cracks on some of the buildings in and around the town hall.  Several years ago there was the idea to use Geo-Thermal heating in the Town Hall, but when the water was forced into the ground, the chalk expanded and created localized earthquakes which did a lot of damage to many of the historic buildings.  It is still a problem for the town council and citizens, but it has created a fascination with others.  One of the girls noticed that even a small motorcycle which was parked along side the town hall had a bad crack running down the outer plastic surrounding the engine; it fit perfectly with its surroundings.

In the midst of a wine growing region, Staufen offers magnificent views from the ruins that are situated on top of a small hill.  Family owned vineyards with ecological and organic practices in agriculture being highlighted in informative signs that led us to the top of the hill.  Unfortunately the brisk wind was pushing the clouds in quickly (as soon it would snow later that evening), however, the view was great and we all had a chance to explore the old castle ruins.

Burn Baby, Burn

A lot has been going on this week and it is difficult to pick out one thing to write about, and not be an absolutely boring with the details. 

This has been the first week for Anke being at work in a Roman Catholic Kindergarten in Weingarten; a predominately immigrant area in Freiburg.  The children have had some friends over for a sleepover, and other friends from school have stopped by for an afternoon.  I have been enjoying the opportunities to get to know people in the parish on a more personal basis as I visit them in their homes, or places of work. 

Now it seems that my train rides into the city are filled with familiar faces of those who are regular commuters, and those who are from the church.  It feels like home.  On one occasion while seated with a neighbour on the train and speaking English to each other a young man seated nearby seemed to be listening to our conversation.  After a while the fellow asked us where we were from and if he could speak English with us.  As it turned out he was from Gambia and was surprised to hear from me that I knew where it was in Africa.  I had to explain that I have lots of friends from different African nations and presented him with my business card hoping to make it clear that I am a minister in the Anglican Church of Freiburg.  What happened next was interesting, as the young man’s reaction felt a bit hostile.  As he got angry I understood that he was a Muslim and that he was not interested at all in my Christian religion.  We spent the train ride talking about family, differences in culture and things we miss from our home countries.  As we departed the train together, the young student told me that he would be happy to give my card to friends who are Christian and are searching for a church in the area.  Now, the student and I see each other on a regular basis as we commute into the city and we greet each other as friends. 

Just a few stops away from the main train station in Freiburg there are areas which recall in name only the ancient history of the place like Hexental, or Witch Valley.  In the past there were witch hunts and burnings because of the religious ideas, the xenophobia, and many other reasons.  Glad to say that we are not doing the same in today in Germany. 

Most of my Friday was spent with a couple of familiar faces from the church as we participated in what I would call a fire safety course, but the German sounds more sophisticated as a, Teilnahmebestätigung Brandschutz. 

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Wolfgang igniting the fire victim for our fire blanket exercise.

Being held in one of the University lecture rooms with 15 other people that ranged from students to professors we were taught, both the theory, and the practical aspects of fire safety.  The reason for my venture into this area is that the parish is planning their yearly weekend away at a French retreat centre and the French laws require someone in the group to have such a fire safety qualification.  The class was taught in English by a parishioner, Wolfgang, (who is also a professor and volunteer fireman). 

Several things really impressed me about the day, of which I will mention a few here.  One was the level of commitment of the faculty to their personal role of safety to the building and those who work and study in the building.  Another aspect which I enjoyed was the way in which we all were able to learn the material through lecture, short practices, written exam, and practical application.  One part of the process that I learned more about over lunch with Wolfgang and one of the post-doctoral students, Xi, was that the volunteer fire department made sure to include some Arabic speaking Syrian born members to the class as part of a system of training those who are in refugee encampments.  Great effort was made to translate the German to English, and hence the English to Arabic so that the classes can be of practical use to those Arabic speakers in the refugee housing in the local areas. 

There is a particular welcome and pride in Germany that I see every once in a while which gives me great hope for the people and the nation.  That there are people who want to immigrate to Germany, live, work and have families in Germany is taken very seriously by natural Germans.  Even the small acts of including people, like me and people from other countries, into the care and concern of others through First-Aid and Fire Safety are steps along the way to a more generous society. 

Not February 3rd is it?

I am happy that for the majority of worship services the words and songs are projected on the wall.  Perhaps it is not ideal, and perhaps it brings my poor spelling to the forefront, but on Holy Day’s such as Ash Wednesday it is a relief to know that by Sunday I will be using the ‘beamer’.
The 3rd of February is the anniversary of the death of Johannes Gutenberg, who is best known for the printing press in Europe, and even though it is no longer the 3rd his memory and works I recall todGutenbergay as I unjam a photocopier.  Making leaflets for the Ash Wednesday service later today is the beginning of my Lenten trails.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not such a big deal to unblock a jammed photocopier – definitely a first world problem.  What it does remind me of, is sitting in a beloved former parish where I printed the service each Sunday and the fun times I had with the photocopier in the office. (At least I can say this now with years separating what was then frustration).

I was convinced that on High Holy days the photocopier was an angry atheist who would spit out crumpled sheets of paper.  I remember one Christmas when I had to pre-warm the paper before I put it into the machine.  Why?! you ask, well it was because the office was so cold and the machine would get warmed up that once a cold sheet of paper made it through the copier it would crumple, or ‘sweat’ with condensation thereby smudging the print.  If I expected a service of 75 people, I would have to aim for making 100 copies as I knew that 25 of them would end up completely illegible.  It was like being haunted by Gutenberg through modern technology.

What was, at times frustrating, and now laughable, was that my proudly prepared service outlines would then be folded and stacked at the back of the church ready for those who would be sides people.  I imagined crisp leaflets being handed to new comers to our Christmas, or Easter services.  On occasion this dream really would become a dream, as I would arrive at the parish church early on the Sunday only to discover that some well meaning person had tidied up and tossed all my leaflets into the recycling, and that being a holiday (holy day) the recycling schedule was changed so that the bin was already emptied.

So now, when I have a sheet, or two that is sacrificed to the photocopier it is not as big an event as what might have been in the past, but I sure do like having everything on ‘the beamer’.

A boy and his bike

With the generous help of Stephan (who lives in the apartment a couple floors below) and his tool kit, I was able to put my bicycle back together again after unpacking it from our small overseas shipment.  It feels fantastic to ride through the village and to see the change in scenery that a bicycle affords.

I am already calculating how far it will be to ride to Freiburg and what sort of route I would like to take.  Lucia and I have been out for a road test together to which we made a casual trip over to the next village in only a few short minutes.  More to explore for sure!