No matter what happens…


“No matter what happens, travel gives you a story to tell.” (Jewish Proverb) And going from the US Midwest to Germany’s heartland is no different. Can you imagine the poor girl, who thought I ran off with her suitcase at O’Hare International? And bear with me, can you imagine her inner state of affairs, once she checked my bag hopelessly overweight with books and Luther materials and found out, that it was not hers? Now she did not only have to try and get this situation zipped up again, which was tough enough, but she had to go through all the fear all over again because in the meantime, all dangerous nutters out there could have descended on her bag and made off with it whilst she was off on the wrong track and all caught up unzipping and zipping my baggage. Poor girl! Life can be so cruel.

After all, I did not land up between those giant ladies from down south as I had fearfullz fantasized previously. The real neighbours turned out to be rather cheery specimens from St.Louis and Tucson. The first was visiting her brother, who was stationed as a fighter pilot in Kaiserslautern or Ramstein (She was not quite sure!), but he was to be transferred to the S.Pacific soon, for all she knew. So, she was making the best of the situation and catching up with him, planning to take a whirlwind tour of what our forebears considered their homeland for centuries in the old dazs. She was all exited about this tour de force. It was her first trip abroad. So she watched movies all night and kept herself fueled with energy dispensed by ever helpful crew.

Every time, I opened my eyes a bit there was this screen glittering away with this or that story. She didn’t pull down the blinds either. Perhaps she wanted to catch the first glimps of European sun light. So the early rays soon gave that glimmering screen serious competition. It really was just past midnight Central American Time, but we were just so quick at rushing towards the rising sun out East. That would teach me not to forget my old balaclava, never mind the earplugs.

We were seated amongst this huge school class, which was going to do Germany in the next 5 weeks. They were as fit as my neighbor on the right. Trying to go full blast from the word go and not wind down until they were back home or in the classroom. Now was the time to go wild. So they kept howling like a bunch of jungle apes impressive in decibel output. I couldn’t catch a work, it was more like shrieking Piha birds or Hadeda Ibis back home. The meaning remained a mystery, but the volume beat out loud and clear. Ideal conditions for an old traveler to yearn for the quiet of home or at least some hidden hermitage. I watched “Darkest hour” instead, but Churchill’s mumblings were drowned too often in the cacophony. I’ll really have to do that film again.

On the left was a missionary on her way to Kenya. She had visited her parents in Tucson and was now back to join her husband working for some American Health Organization struggling with the HIV/Aids pandemic in Central Africa. She had travelled much further already than I had – Ft.Wayne is  only ½ hour away from O’Hare – and she had another 8 hours to go from Frankfurt to Nairobi still. And that was without the travel time by car or donkey cart or on foot. They say, missionaries do that for days, even weeks – never tiring, just on the move on a higher mission from God. So, what was I complaining about? She had slept like a Zulu. All wrapped up in her blankets from head to toe. They say, the Zulus do that even as the prop up their beds on bricks, so that the feared tokoloshe doesn’t get to them. I’m sure, flying at 10km in the sky, we were pretty much out of reach for these devilish creatures. Still, I probably should have followed suit and covered my head with that blanket like a turban too. Then I wouldn’t have noticed that screen nor the rising sun nor those screetching kids.

We from the older generation both enjoyed the piping hot Pasta, which really was the best I’ve had on any airplane so far. Perhaps it helped, that I had that Chilly con carne some hours ago. She had some red wine, the other preferred white. I stuck with bock beer. The choice was Heineken or Shiner Bock. I choose the later, because I knew the former. This new one wasn’t bad. Nothing fancy. Glad for that. Thanks to Churchill’s motivational speeches and this beer started in 1973 (i.e. before I got confirmed!), I slept ok. See, that’s normally the case – thank God – and I only used the flashing screen and the rising sun as story fillers. You never know, when starting the story, whether you’ll end up with enough to go the whole session.  The flashing light really wasn’t an issue at all, neither were those teenagers. I was just happy, that I wouldn’t do the 5 weeks with them. 9 hours on the plane was enough. The young teachers accompanying them were obviously better suited for this job. They were in the row in front of us and watched one Pixar movie after the other. Obviously the next generation – cartoons, virtual reality, plastic and tattoos, piercings and stylish hair glues. I still regret, that I didn’t ask the taxi driver to the John Wayne airport, what his tattoos were all about. I had inwardly debated the right to privacy, but there was an obvious desire to communicate the screaming images from his side. Conflicting situation. No questions asked, no answers given. So, I missed that chance and just have simple speculation from my side.

Travelling on with the train through early summer on a bright Friday in Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony and finally Saxony-Anhalt was relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable. Especially as I had my seat booked well in advance and didn’t have any real issues like that young girl from Eritrea, who had just gotten on the wrong train in Frankfurt and was on her way to Fulda instead of Würzburg. That wasn’t the worst of her troubles. She had actually left her 2 children – a son and a daughter – behind on the station platform as she got her suitcases stowed. Can you imagine? Even the stoic ticket collector went so far declaring: “We’ve got a crisis!” That daughter of hers was but 7 months old. Imagine the little brother at Frankfurt Main without his mother and burdened with a helpless sister not even able to walk or talk. It would just be a few hours and they’d probably both be crying at the top of their voices in some Eritrean dialect. Their mother was but a girl, lost in a strange land on the way to some distant friends of the husband, somewhere in Bavaria, whilst she was on her way in another direction and without a clue, how to get back on track. However, her only worry was, whether the conductor would be angry with her for not having a valid ticket. Oh my, oh my. The irony of it all. No wonder the Leftist and Green Party tried to decriminalize the ticket business to a minor offense last week. Still, they didn’t get through with it in parlament. Imagine all those free rides across Europe by train. I wonder, if I also wouldn’t have gone for the free option.

The Eritrean mother was not a member of Mekane Yesous as I had hoped. Rather, she was a Muslima and one of three wives. Obviously her husband was not as advanced as our previous president, who is now all out to marry his 7th wife. Zumzum is well over 70. One wife per decade and still going strong. His latest capture is scarcely 24. I don’t get it. Can’t she do better than that? She doesn’t look at a loss. She’s a pretty lass. Her eyes don’t seem dull either. I wonder, what makes her do this. Is it love? Is it a business deal? What’s it about? She’s going to be one of a crowd not so special in any sort of way. She’s not even going to get the pension of the other president’s many accomplices in crime and bedded life. Even his inheritance is limited split up 7 ways and that not counting 25 kids – nearly half legitimate. And will he have to pay for those 283 cases of fraudulent crime, he’s accused of? But Zumzum is no Muslim like this Eritrean. His polygamy is part of his   “traditional African chief” and specifically Zulu strongman thing. Like Putin putting on that Tsar’s gown and trying to hide under that ancient glory. However, I’m reminded of Mark Sanders, who made it very clear in his excellent book “Learning Zulu”, that Zuma’s way was not traditional Zulu, but a very corrupted version of that fine tradition from my home- and fatherland. Ever since his forebears colluded with the British taking even old tribal lands from the Zulu for his betrayal, he has been on deceitful and crooked paths. Hey, South Africa is supposed to be far away and so is Swaziland. And still, the first Advert I saw in Leipzig on the bulletin board in the station was of the King Mswati’s idea of renaming his kingdom to eSwatini. As if they didn’t have enough troubles than name changes, but that is another topic. Well, the little Muslima from Eritrea eventually got off in Fulda and hopefully found her way back to her children. Hopefully these would not be too traumatized by this experience, which sounds very much like from the great wars back then and not from current Germany.

A Saxon couple sitting opposite me was very comfortable in their delightful dialect. I couldn’t help myself, but got caught up chatting with them. Anything to hear their beautiful melodious mouthing of words and ideas. Luther must have talked something like that back then. At least somewhat similar and probably just as witty and humerous too. I would have listened to him for hours on end, no question. Well, these two were on their way home after a 6 week tour to India. They were so impressed, that it was much cleaner than 10 years ago and things did look up and more organized now than then. At least from their perspective. They didn’t even burn widows alive anymore. At least not legally and only sometimes. Now that was positive developement if ever there was one. Especially from the widows viewpoint, I dare say. Still, there was still ways to go before things would be nearly as good as back home in Risa.  Tea was ok. Coffee was bad. Hotels had air conditioners and reasonable facilities. Still, they were happy to be back in good old Saxony. It was just too hot down in the subcontinent. And those many people on the trains, in the streets, literally everywhere. For me, just another opportunity to draw attention to Vishal Mangalwadi: “The Book that made your world”. And that’s where our discussion ended. Not that they were turned off by this reference. No, it was less prosaic than that. They had failed to reserve their seats. Now the ticket owners of those seats had arrived and were claiming them as their rightful theirs. So the Indian story was cut short. It remains incomplete, imperfect and far from a truthful reflection of that far off place. Just a brief impression shared by foreign tourists with own biases and prejudices. If they would have only stayed on in India for another lifetime or more (you know it takes reincarnation and quite a number of lifetimes to reach enlightenment – if ever!). Still, they might have eventually seen it differently, perhaps even the light or at least perceived things more compassionately and finally even reached nirvana. Who knows? To complete the act follow up with little shakes of head, this way and that, crooning softly, smiling, click clack and move on. I’m not at all convinced and remain highly skeptical. Mangalwadi has a point after all and more. Read him for yourself and see.

In Leipzig I had to leave the speed train (ICE), which was moving on to Dresden and board the S-Bahn to Wittenberg. That’s where I saw that Swaziland news. I was too late to snap it. I was glad to get to the next train in the subterranean basement in good time. Eventually I sat in a compartment for bicycles and other copious luggage. Clinging to my bags and grateful that I got a seat to myself, I watched others comfortably tie their cycles to the railings available and relax in the German summer. As soon as the train got moving, we saw the brilliant sunlight again. It was Friday afternoon and people were looking forward to the weekend. I saw a number of young mothers pushing prams, nursing babies, working through homework with little kids. Playing something like cards in preparation for school. Learning to count, to read, to combine things logically, to thinnk straight. It was a happy sight and it was good to see the joyful care provided. One little daughter was wearing a crown of flowers to match her brilliant white dress. Quite the princess. Her brother was content in the pram. Drinking from his bottle.  Their tatooed mother was obviously caring well for both. She was not loosing sight of the children, never mind leaving them alone in the woods, the train station or some other hidious place. Good for her, good for them. For there are just too many dangers out there.  I actually saw an extremely ugly couple on that train. Not old – 35 or so. Rotten teeth. Only stumps left. Perhaps they weren’t to be called teeth, but tusks. Skew and awkward in the mouth, brown and I’m sure with a distinct odour too. Not healthy. Not inviting. Both looked like some old wizardry couple, despite their fairly young age . They were not to be likened to some romanticized version from Kathy Rawlings, but rather akin to those German originals depicted by Brothers Grimm. Quite frightful to look at. Something like the “Hough” I knew to fear as a child in Enhlanhleni. That old depraved hunchback sneaking along those lonely tracks crossing barren bushland, shouting her fearsome “Hough” in some demented, forlorn, stubborn and yet strangely threatening way. She had her face painted blood red with floor polish and her hair was on fire too. Rather like some ghoulish tokolosche. Well, these Germans in the train didn’t shout or act too strangely even though they kept to themselves and just peered over to my side now and again furtively. But they did look hideous. They had been out shopping. Bought some harless garden lamps amongst other things popping out of their filled bags. Smiling sheepishly, they were obviously looking forward to the summer celebrations outside somewhere, perhaps in their very own garden patch with the obligatory “Pfefferkuchenhäuschen” and the attached furnace notorious from the days of “Hänsel & Gretel”. I’m just grateful, that they didn’t get to hear about those 2 little Eritreans lost at the Frankfurt station. Can you imagine, how my story would have ended then? But who knows, what was in the bottom of their plump bags even as they jostled around with their colorful lamps and things, preparing for some morbid party under the moon somewhere along the dark Elbe river. Meantime in Wittenberg the moon is rising. Tourists enjoy fireworks. Unaware of those lurking dangers beyond. The clock strikes another passing hour. It gets darker still.

High time to revive the office of the watchman going through town and keeping an benevolent eye on things. He, the one, who alerts us of the passing hours and the coming daylight too. Singing the old tunes and ways as the “Wiener Sängerknaben” impress on us so impressively and faithfully even though they here sing but a few of the views handed down traditionally:

  1. Hört, Ihr Herrn, und laßt euch sagen unsere Glock´ hat neun geschlagen! Waret das Feuer und das Licht Daß dem Haus kein Leid geschicht ! Menschen wachen kann nichts nützen Gott muß wachen, Gott muß schützen Herr, durch deine Güt´ und Macht schenk uns eine gute Nacht!
  2. Hört, ihr Herrn, und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat zehn geschlagen.
    Zehn Gebote setzt Gott ein;
    daß wir gehorsam sein!
  3. Menschenwachen kann nichts nützen;
    Gott muß wachen, Gott muß schützen.
    Herr, durch deine Güt und Macht
    gib uns eine gute Nacht!
  4. Hört, ihr Herrn, und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat elf geschlagen!
    Elf der Jünger bleiben treu,
    einer trieb Verräterei.
  5. Hört, ihr Herrn, und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat zwölf geschlagen!
    Zwölf, das ist das Ziel der Zeit.
    Mensch, bedenk die Ewigkeit!
  6. Hört, ihr Herrn und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat eins geschlagen!
    Ist nur ein Gott in der Welt,
    ihm sei alles anheimgestellt.
  7. Hört, ihr Herrn und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat zwei geschlagen!
    Zwei Weg hat der Mensch vor sich.
    Herr, den rechten lehre mich!
  8. Hört, ihr Herrn und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat drei geschlagen!
    Drei ist eins, was göttlich heißt:
    Vater, Sohn und Heiliger Geist.
  9. Hört, ihr Herrn und laßt euch sagen:
    unsre Glock hat vier geschlagen!
    Vierfach ist das Ackerfeld.
    Mensch, wie ist dein Herz bestellt?
  10. Alle Sternlein müssen schwinden,
    und der Tag wird sich einfinden.
    Danket Gott, der uns die Nacht
    hat so väterlich bewacht!


About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
This entry was posted in Gedankensplitter, Inside Germany, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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