Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Christmas Philosophy, courtesy of the Muppets

The world has got a smile today
The world has got a glow
There's no such thing as strangers when
A stranger says hello

It's the season when the saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive

Yes, faith is in our hearts today
We're shining like the sun

It's true
Wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the sprit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas

Yes and every night will end, and every day will start
With a greatful prayer and a thankful heart

With an open smile and with open doors
I will bid you welcome, what is mine is yours
Stop and look around you, the glory that you see
Is born again each day, don't let it slip away
How precious life can be

With a thankful heart that is wide awake
I do make this promise, every breath I take
Will be used now to sing your praise
And to beg you to share my days
With a loving guarantee that even if we part
I will hold you close in a thankful heart

Let us always love each other
Lead us to the light
Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night
Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please
Bless us one and all

We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask you bless us all

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A how-to guide for a (slightly illegal) Danish adventure

1) Make it clear that you are dressed for warmth, not style.  Suggested attire includes snow boots, rubber ducky mittens, and a goofy hat.

2) Board the Schleswig-Holstein Express to Flensburg, Germany's northernmost city.

3) Enjoy the scenery.

4) Be resourceful/unethical by grabbing a massive wad of toilet paper from the train bathroom, in light of having forgotten to bring tissues.

5) Arrive in Flensburg and pay homage to mysterious giant head.

6) Fluster some Danes by posing a question in German.

7) Be overly excited about the cuteness of the city.

8) Pay obligatory visit to really old German church.

9) Confirm that the church is, in fact, really old.

10) Ponder the story behind this:

11) Wish you could live in a magenta house.

12) Take a bus but get off too early and, as a result, take a very long and cold, but very beautiful, walk.

13) Sneak up on a bird to take its picture.

14) Discover the foot-bridge to Denmark!

15) Celebrate your first ever visit to Scandanavia.

16) Worry that a border guard is in the little house, waiting to apprehend you.

17) Spend 5 minutes searching for a stick.

18) Spend 5 minutes using said stick to scrape the ice and snow off of this sign, as proof of where you are.

19) Stand in awe.

20) Lose feeling in your hands by taking too many pictures of icy water.

21) Decide that you are Scandinavian at heart.

22) Have entirely too much fun jumping on the ice.

24) Return to the bridge and wonder what country you're in.

25) Ponder the nationality of these birds.

26) Sigh with relief that you made it back into Germany without being discovered.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Kendra's Christmas List

1) A decision from the Rechtsamt

2) Warm hands and feet

3) Some Doritos and a root beer

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

That's the thing about activism.

It isn't a members-only club. We don't get to choose who is, and who isn't, an activist.

The ability to stand up, to do the right thing - to be active - is in every human being.

Almost everyone does it at some point in their lives.  They get angry, stand up, and say no. I won't move to the back of the bus.

Or yes. I will stand with you today. In silence. Asking for peace.

- Jane Barry and Jelena Dordevic

The most important meal of the day

Sunday morning, as I went to take out some money for offering, I realized that my wallet wasn't in my bag.  I found this disconcerting, since I didn't remember taking it out of my bag the night before, but I wasn't too worried, assuming it was buried somewhere in the mess that is my room.  Based on this assumption and because I had no occasion to buy anything, I didn't think of the wallet's absence for the rest of the day.

Upon waking up Monday morning, I conducted a search of my room, which grew increasingly frantic - my wallet was nowhere to be found.

After an accumulation of unfortunate events and an ongoing bad mood, this was the last thing I needed.  I found myself  alternating between the Nancy Kerrigan "Why me?!" mode and kicking myself for being careless enough to lose a significant (by my standards) amount of money, my driver's license, and bank cards.

By the time I reached work this morning, I had accepted the loss and was somewhat calmed by knowing I had taken care of everything I needed to regarding the contents of the wallet.

With this state of mind, I grabbed my box of Müsli for some breakfast when, lo and behold, there was my wallet!  My precious, heartily-missed wallet - getting all warm and cozy in my box of granola.

I can only assume that when I dropped my wallet into my backpack on Saturday evening, it fell right into the box that was also traveling through Hamburg with me.

Had I taken the time to eat breakfast on Sunday or Monday morning, I could have saved myself a vast amount of mental turmoil and the underserved sympathy from well-wishers.

And what do we learn from this, boys and girls? 
Never, ever, skip breakfast.

I'll never snub you again, my dear friend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Between principle and pragmatism

I'm lucky enough to live close to a huge park with several kilometers of paths that are great for running and walking.
Something I find unusual is that part of the park runs right along a prison/detention center. There's a nice little brick wall along the edge of the park, and right behind that is a threatening, giant concrete wall complete with barbed wire and watch towers. 

It's a strange, though not unusual, occurrence, as I go down the path, to pass by people standing in the park who are engaged in shouted conversations with their incarcerated friends and family members, who are yelling back out of their cell windows.
What makes it all rather eerie to me is this:

This sign tells how, during the NS reign, the prison was used as an execution site for members of the Resistance - roughly 500 people were imprisoned here before then being beheaded.

I do realize that it would not really be practical for the German government to avoid using any building that had once been utilized by the NS regime, but the fact that there are prisoners (including those in pre-deportation detention) being held at a site where such crimes were committed by the state just doesn't seem quite right to me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This thing called simple living

In the latest edition of my residence permit saga, the lady responsible for my case voiced her doubt that I can live off of my monthly 'salary' from pbi and pointed out that I receive less than Hartz-IV recipients.

The fact that I receive less money than those on the German welfare system is something I'd never much considered before.  Earlier this year, during Lent, members of a few church congregations decided to restrict themselves to living only off the amount that Hartz-IV recipients receive.  I read an article from one participant, and she wrote how, after a couple weeks, she was out of money.

I've never thought that living at this income level was that hard.  But I guess it all depends on your perspective and what you are used to.  I went from college (where I had multiple jobs but where the income went to tuition) to a volunteer year to several months of unemployment to more volunteer service, and, besides, thriftiness (or stinginess) is part of my nature.  The article author wrote that what broke her budget were her social activities - going out for drinks and the like.  In my time here, my circle of friends has mostly consisted of interns: college students or recent graduates who spend 4 months working here without receiving any payment; it's a lot easier to avoid spending money if your friends don't have any either.

But, upon further consideration, living at this financial level is hard.  Or, at least, it very well could be.

I rely on my bike to get around.  But if someone is elderly or for any number of health reasons is not able to ride through the city (which is increasingly plausible as temperatures fall further below freezing and the ice and snow accumulate), they are left with the cost of public transportation.  After paying rent, a monthly pass would wipe out more than a quarter of my income.

I have a washing machine to use free of charge, but others face the costs of regular visits to the laundromat.  Whereas I sub-let and don't have to worry about such things, others may see their entire monthly income swallowed up by a broken refrigerator.  And the list continues.

Just as in the US, welfare recipients here are also stigmatized and discriminated against.  If everyone in the city would undergo a stint of 'living simply,' they would discover that it's really not that simple.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So shines a good deed in a weary world

Yesterday I visited a different church and so found myself talking to some new people during the coffee hour.

I was chatting with a woman from Singapore who now lives in Hamburg with her German husband. Upon hearing that I didn't yet know what I would be doing for Christmas, she gave me her cell phone number, just in case I wanted some company for the holidays.

I had only met her five minutes before.

I don't think she had any idea how much her small gesture meant to me.

Friday, December 3, 2010


'Clubbin' leggings that double as long-johns.  Having enough money that I can splurge on a bus ticket instead of battling through the snow with my bike.  Having a flexible enough job that it doesn't matter when my bus comes 20 minutes late.  Brötchen for breakfast.  Escaping from my desk to chop vegetables.  The delivery man who hauled 10 pizzas up 4 flights of stairs.  The distinctly American feel of stuffing my face with far too much pizza.  Dancing my way back from the post office with some help from Train and Tracey Chapman.  The pleasant surprise of a concert in the middle of the subway station.  Friendly strangers willing to offer me directions.  Free gospel concert.  Singing 'Go Tell It on a Mountain' with a church full of Germans.  The mix of gospel and Christmas music.  The people and work of Brot & Rosen.  Hearing the cheers and chants from the soccer stadium as I walk home.  Having a warm apartment to come home to.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her. Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were very present to the moment. That is why they could hear the angel. They were alert, attentive to the voice that spoke to them and said, "Don't be afraid. Something is happening to you. Pay attention."

- Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I got some salmon from Seattle last September...

Today I headed to the post office to pick up a package.  As I stood in line, all of a sudden "The Wells Fargo Wagon" song started running through my head, as I hoped that the package was 'somethin' special just for me.'

The combination of the cold and the brewery fumes is obviously doing funny things to my brain.