Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wir schaffen was!

Judging from a few other blog posts I've read lately, we bloggers who started out a few years ago focusing on the interesting differences between life in Germany and life in the homeland are running out of material. What was at first surprising, shocking, perplexing, frustrating or downright maddening is now just normal. Take this post from nearly four years ago. There's nothing listed there that is even noteworthy to me today.

My musings these days are turning darker, I suppose.

One pointed difference on a significant topic is immigrants and borders. On September 4, 2015 Angela Merkel welcomed the throng of refugees stuck at the Hauptbahnhof in Budapest who were seeking asylum in Europe. She basically tossed the immigration rule book out the window and made a decision in favor of humanity. The road from there has not been easy for her, her government, or for the refugees who have come to Europe, including many of my former students who have become my friends.

Just days ago the president of my homeland had asylum-seekers at the US-Mexican border tear-gassed.

I understand there are no easy answers, but frankly, I prefer the humanitarian approach.

Merkel uttered her now-famous words "Wir schaffen das!" ("We can handle this!"). Where there's a will, there's a way. Thinking positively. How very un-German.

In Nagold this week there is an exhibit of posters sponsored by the Diakonieverband Nördlicher Schwarzwald entitled "Wir schaffen was" ("We are accomplishing something"), a play on Frau Merkel's words. The posters highlight refugees in the area who have made something of themselves, have learned German and found jobs and friends. A student and friend of mine, who was in the main station of Budapest on that September night in 2015, is featured on one of the posters. I am very proud of him!

Fotos: Fotografie © Birgit Betzelt
  used with permission

For a number of reasons, including selfish ones since I have made quite a few friends due to her action, I am glad for Frau Merkel's compassionate approach.


While I'm taking what might be my last shot at comparing life in the USA vs. in Germany, I thought I'd share some numbers I came across just today.

Population 2018355,724,39082,353,315
Refugees & Asylum seekers 201684,989280,000
Refugees & Asylum seekers 201729,022186,000
Refugees & Asylum seekers cap45,000not applicable

In terms of land area, Germany (357,386 km2) could fit into the USA (9,834,000 km2) 27.5 times. For an enormous country that was once seen as a land of immigrants ("Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..."), the number of refugees and asylum seekers it is willing to accept today is pathetic and embarrassing.

Set aside the argument about illegal vs. legal immigration: How many human beings fleeing war, poverty, inhumane conditions, corruption, and persecution is the United States government willing to allow into this "great" country? 45,000. Since 1980 the limit has been established by the president each year, and #45 chose this historic low for 2018. For a country so rich and prosperous, is that not a bit sad and selfish?

"Charity begins at home. We should focus on our own." There are poor, hungry, and homeless people living in Germany as well, and still Germany accepts multiple times more refugees and asylum seekers than the US each year.

Be honest. The reason is likely more along the lines of "Who cares about them? They look different, they don't talk English so good [sic], and they have strange customs. What if they take the jobs none of us want? What if they move into our neighborhood?! What if they commit crimes? What if they breed? Then there will be more of them, and...OMG...those children will be US citizens!"

America, I'm not impressed.

But tomorrow evening I will feel more positive. I am going with Mohammad to the opening of the exhibit "Wir schaffen was" where we will listen to a few speeches, meet the photographer and the person in charge of the project, and see the rest of the posters that have been displayed around Nagold. The exhibit will then go on tour, beginning in Stuttgart.

For more information, see this article (in German only).

From the opening on Thursday evening:

Mohammad's friend Kais also
participated in this project

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A New Adventure: Der Jagdschein

I am on the brink of starting a new and daunting project, and I’m going to good-naturedly “blame” Tanja Brandt, Ingo, Poldi and Rüdi for this.

About a year ago I came across Tanja’s first book about Ingo and Poldi, and since then I have read everything that comes out about them – and the rest of Tanja’s troop of dogs, owls, and Greifvögel (birds of prey). Since then she has published four books and produced postcards, calendars, and bookmarks, and in her online shop one can also order shirts and knickers, bags and sofa pillows, cups and posters. I also just found a link to several videos about animal photography featuring Tanja, Ingo and Gandalf – just in time for Christmas, as M sits here next to me filling out an order form…

Poldi on the cover of a photography magazine

But what is my daunting project? I am going for my hunting license. Wait…Whaaaat? How are these two related?

In Germany in order to become a Falkner, one must first earn a hunting license. I don’t want to shoot a gun – like, ever – and I don’t want to hunt. But I want to work with owls and birds of prey, and M wants to photograph them. Maybe one day we’ll even see about getting a Harris hawk or a Steinkauz.

Harris Hawk
But that’s a long way away, since I first need to tackle this:

The class I need to take consists of a minimum of 130 hours of instruction - theoretical and practical. In Wisconsin the optional (for someone born before Jan. 1, 1973) hunter education class is  approximately 10 hours.

I made contact with a Jägerschule near Stuttgart, and they have space in a 3-week Blockkurs in April. I have since re-thought that plan and will probably register at the Landesjagdschule instead. Their course is stretched out more during the summer months, giving me time for self-studying in between weeks of class. I bought a study book for the Jägerprüfung a while ago already, but now I’m digging in in earnest. I started the other day with chapter one, which is all about Jagdrecht (hunting rights & laws). Yikes. I abandoned that chapter and skipped to something I can better handle for now – dogs. 

As an example of how I need to prepare for the test, I need to be able to recognize and know the attributes of at least 34 breeds of hunting dogs. In German. Fortunately for me, identifying dog breeds has been a fun pastime of mine since I was young, and therefore I knew more than half of them already. I need to know how the dogs hunt (a pointer hunts differently than a hound or a terrier) and what they are expected to do before and after the hunter shoots. Illnesses, general dog care, training methods & tools, breeding… All this despite the fact that M and I will never have a dog, but it’s part of what a hunter in Germany needs to know. If I understand correctly, for most types of hunting in Germany, the hunter is required to have a “brauchbarer Hund” (suitable and well-trained dog) with him or her.

I recently found and printed off the 117 questions from the pool of questions* on the test for Baden-Württemberg about dogs. M bought a laminator two weeks ago for a different purpose, but now I also have 34 laminated flashcards of the dog breeds to aid my studying (some shown in above photo). I can confidently identify all but 5 of them, and probably I’ll have those identified by the time I publish this post.

*There are 1250 questions in the pool for the entire test, covering five different subjects. The whole "dogs" topic is one section of one of the five subjects.

The thing that makes this project more challenging for me as an expat is that I am not only learning the Jägersprache (hunter’s language, which all potential hunters need to learn), but there are also a lot of regular German words I need to look up along the way. That gets frustrating, especially when a word is not unfamiliar to me – I should know this word, but I don’t.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a Jägersprache in the US. These are words that are not even familiar to Germans unless they hunt, and they usually don’t appear in a regular dictionary: Brackieren, buschieren, spurlaut, Waidlaut, bogenrein, schnallen, schliefen… And since these words are special to the Jägersprache, there is often no fitting English translation available, or none at all. Sometimes I come across a word that is used in regular German, but it means something else or something more specific in the Jägersprache. An example is "stöbern". In regular German that means "to rummage," but in Jägersprache it is a certain type of hunting that a certain type of hunting dog does.

At any rate, this will be quite an adventure and a challenge, and I'm both freaked out by the sheer amount of stuff I have to learn and eager to learn it.

I spent four hours recently with the former Landesjägermeister of Baden-Württemberg and his wife, who are family friends. Landesjägermeister is another word that doesn't translate into English because, at least in the US, there is no such person. He was the master hunter of the state for many years. In other words, concerning all things hunting, the buck stopped with him. He helped me come to some decisions about how I can tackle this project, and his wife served Hirschgulasch for lunch (the Hirsch shot by him, of course!). I am incredibly grateful for their help and advice.

This is my end goal:

...perhaps minus the cool medieval leather dresses. But I want to work with Eulen und Greifvögeln and get involved with a Falknerei. I want to learn more about these majestic birds and also how to help sick or injured wild ones - who are often victims of automobiles or wind turbines - and rehabilitate them.

Tomorrow we're heading to Burg Hornberg for the Flugvorführung of a new (for us) Falkner! I need to keep my eye on the end ball, so that I hopefully do not lose my nerve or my resolve along the way.

Wish me luck. In Jägersprache, that's...