Arrival: The Adventure Begins

“…I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

“I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them…” –


August 5th?

On the flight to Frankfurt now, several hours in perhaps- I can’t keep track on the time. While we’ve flown I’ve watched several movies, as some international flight planes have touchscreens with movies and games embedded into the backs of the headrests. When I went to Japan they had a few language learning games that were useful, but this plane has no such thing.

My seat is a little behind the wing. The view out the window is beautiful in the full moonlight; a picture of blues and blacks reflecting the light of the moon in the water, and the twinkling of lights on the shore. I’m glad I took my watercolors and paints with me last minuet- hopefully I’ll be able to capture scenes like this in my sketchbook. I find myself wondering about the lights in the distance- Where are they from? Whom do they belong to? I do not have the answers, but I certainly hope to know more by the time I return. I suspect being in Germany will be like it was in Japan- having the surreal feeling of being on a different place on a map, and not quite believing your luck. Best try to rest now, but will write later.


Now it’s evening back home, and the moon has shifted slightly into my view. It’s a beautiful sight: We’re above an ocean of cloud. It rolls like the sea and the moon illuminates the crests of the waves. The star Sirius, my old friend, is also out tonight. And between Serius and Serius’ partner I saw a shooting star, and wished for the trip to go well. How wonderful it would be to see the sun rise over this ocean, set aglow with colors…

August 6- Early Morning

The sun is beginning to make the sky lighter, although no colors have taken stage across the white sea. It is a queer feeling indeed, to know oneself over islands and places one has heard of all ones’ life- to know your ancestors lived there and perhaps relatives still do (although you may not know them), and to know as well, that it is a place with stories both good and bad- and that perhaps- perhaps! You may be able to see them. The tops of the clouds have just presently turned from white to pink to white again. The plane is waking up. All is silent except for the roaring of the engines.

August 7- In a tiny German village nestled amongst small mountains- 6:33 am- Day 2

This is our second day here- we were so tired we didn’t write last night about yesterday’s adventure, and truly an adventure it was. The church bells have just rung, so I’ll write now. After a little excitement trying to find Vatti’s cart, we made it through customs, collected our luggage, declared that we had no illegal items, then met our relatives at the exit. The only things of note in the airport were two police-men with sub-machineguns strapped to their chests (let’s not make them upset, shall we?!), two prayer rooms (one for Muslims, one for Jews), and a yoga room. I thought the extra consideration for them was nice. We left the airport with our relatives who embraced us with open arms. From the first moment we were all old friends, even though I couldn’t remember them from the last time we visited, because I was too young.

I have never seen such a beautiful country before. Everything is so green. The houses are beautiful, and the land is beautiful, and the people are beautiful. On our car ride over, Maria told us how Gisela is doing. Gisela is Maria’s mother, and a good friend of my Oma. They hit it off right from their first meeting, and became pen pals for years. I used to write some of the letters to Gisela for Oma, because my German was better than her Swiss, and our German relatives think their English is too bad (It’s actually quite good!). My Oma passed away last summer, so there have been fewer letters between our relatives and us since then- but we remain close despite the static. Anyway, recently Gisela had another stroke, and is now in a hospital. This is not the first stroke she has had recently, but this one only happened last month. She can’t speak much, but they say she continually asks, “When are the Americans coming?”, because she doesn’t want to miss our visit. She is able to walk though, and remember things a little. No one knows when or if she’ll be able to come home again. She knows that we will arrive soon, but she doesn’t know the day- so we are going to surprise her at the hospital this afternoon.

Yesterday we arrived at Bärbel and Deter’s house, and Deter gave me a tour. He helped make most of the house himself, and the care he’s put into it really shows. The entry way has a spiral staircase with marble inlaid into the steps. There’s a large garden in the back and a shed for bicycles and firewood. They have a lot of firewood since it gets very cold- the attic is full of wood, some from two years ago. After the tour we sat out on the balcony for several hours and caught up. Eighteen years between visits makes for a lot of conversation! They even remembered my birthday, and Julia made a rum cake. She’s and excellent cook, and everyone liked all of her desserts. In particular, there was a yellow crumble cake I was very fond of. They also gave me a few gifts: a tiny divider for school, vegetarian gummy sweets (Haven’t been able to have them in years because back home they all have gelatin), and scarfs (Julia’s also very fashionable! She picked them out). We all had a wonderful time, and could all understand each other despite the language barrier. When we were especially successful at communicating something complicated, one of them (Usually Bärbel) would enthusiastically say, “We can do it!”, because Obama used to say it and they liked his policies.

The rest of the day was fairly peaceful, and concluded for me with a walking tour of the town (Mum and Vatti were too jet-lagged to stay awake). They showed me their church, which is over three hundred years old, and the accompanying graveyard. The graves are all very beautiful because flowers are planted right over them, and there’s a fountain with watering cans to water them with. People care about the graves because every ten years the graveyard sends a letter requesting renewal of the grave plot via a sum of money. If no one cares enough to pay, your headstone’s removed. The graves for cremated people are smaller but also have flowers. In German those graves are called “Ungrab”, or “Un-grave”. Deter showed me the grave of a young woman who accidentally hit a tree with her car and died the day after she graduated high school. She was sober, and was going to pick up something for her mother from the school. Deter said many people- especially children- cried at her grave.

The church has the same baptismal font that was used to baptize Oma’s father three generations ago, which is cool. Oma’s father was also friends with the bishop who used to work at this church. He ended up becoming a missionary and working in Northern Korea before it split. A few weeks ago, I actually saw a letter he had sent to Oma’s family telling them about the extreme poverty in that area. He said sometimes he stayed awake at night worrying because he didn’t know where he was going to get the money to take care of these impoverished people, and he didn’t want to turn anyone away. He asked them for money, but I don’t know if anyone responded. This bishop was eventually martyred because the North Korean government was cracking down on religious institutions. We ended up meeting this bishop’s niece when we were walking in town a few days later.

I also saw Gisela’s barn, which is now only housing bunnies, since she can’t take care of many animals anymore. My cousin Lea, who’s ten, has a grey bunny name Hermena who has a dark band around her neck. Another one of the bunnies was blind.

After the walk we had dinner, and we gave gifts to everyone. Shabie then gave me another tour of the town in his convertible (Which didn’t take that long at all), and we all turned in for the night. And that was the beginning of our adventure.