Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Reverence for Life

Not long after I moved to Germany during a visit in Wisconsin I was introduced to Dr. Hans-Udo Jüttner, who has since become a friend. He was on the brink of a project for which he needed some assistance, namely transcribing the nearly 400-page hand-written Tagebuch (diary) he wrote in 1962-1963 while working with Dr. Albert Schweitzer in his hospital in Lambarene, Gabon, Africa. He'd written this Tagebuch mainly in German, with occasional English and some French, French being the official language of the province. Gabon was occupied by France in 1885, became a French territory in 1910, and gained its independence in 1960, just two years before Udo arrived there.

Udo needed his Tagebuch in electronic form because he wanted to see about getting parts of it published. 

Through my years of teaching in Wisconsin I had come across many unique styles of handwriting, which I sometimes had to decipher in order to grade homework and tests. I expected the English and German would be no problem, but I do not know a word of French! Udo gave me a copy of the first pages of his Tagebuch, and on the way home in the airplane, I had a look. 

What an honor and a privilege to be trusted with this man's personal diary of a time and place I knew very little about. It did not take me long to decide I would like very much to be part of this project. 

I'd heard of Dr. Schweitzer of course, but I did not know much about him. During the next several months while I transcribed the Tagebuch, I also ordered and read some biographies about Dr. Schweitzer and explored the hospital's website. Schweitzer certainly led a fascinating life but was also a controversial figure in some respects, which didn't surprise me by this time.

Statue of Dr. Albert Schweitzer
in Gunsbach, France

I finished my part of the project in March of 2014, and I was giddy with excitement to hear from Udo in mid-July 2021 that his book has recently been published! After picking it up at our local bookshop, I opened and started reading it while walking back to my car, not being able to wait until I got home. It is available directly from the German publisher, at this point only in German. 

Udo's Tagebuch is a personal look behind the scenes of the work done in Schweitzer's hospital in Lambarene, not only the medical work of the hospital and the leprosy village, but especially the Alltag (everyday life) in a jungle setting. There was, among the responsibilities, the manual work of building and improving the structures, managing the various animals living in the complex, treating the patients and providing for them and their families' food. He also tells of the constant stream of visitors from all over the world arriving daily in the hospital, alone or in large groups - reporters, globetrotters, Nobel Prize winners, tourists, and famous as well as lesser-known donors and admirers. They were all welcome to share the daily meals with Schweitzer and his staff on the banks of the Ogowe river in Lambarene.

The medical care patients received was provided free-of-charge, but those and their family members who were able were required to help out with various tasks and chores around the complex. Udo was at times in charge of working with and managing these groups of workers.

Udo also includes a letter he wrote to his former teacher at the Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium in Marl-Hüls, in which he describes life in general at the hospital and the organization and schedule of work days. This wasn't in the original diary I transcribed, and I poured over this like every other part that was new to me: the forward, the final thoughts, the notes, the photos and captions.

What makes a Tagebuch most enjoyable are the personal observations and thoughts of the writer. Udo shares his joys and satisfaction of projects well done, frustrations, questions, hopes, and feelings about Dr. Schweitzer, who was a role model, mentor and guide for Udo, though not infallible. He also explains how he came to spend those 16 months in Lambarene and how reading Schweitzer's biography when he was a teenager inspired him to pursue a medical career.

Udo has long been an active hobby-photographer, and the photos in the book were taken by or of him. Dr. Schweitzer did not like to pose for photos, so those of him tend to be candid shots, which I find wonderfully authentic. It was especially nice for me to see photographs of my friend back when he was the age my son is now!

Udo und ich in Esslingen

I feel truly fortunate to have been introduced to Udo and invited to participate in this transcription project! He did need to edit and cut parts because the original would have been too long for most readers (the final version is 172 pages), and I think I'm glad I wasn't involved in that part because I would have had a hard time cutting anything! 

One example of this involves birthdays. Dr. Schweitzer made the birthdays of his co-workers special by celebrating them at the evening meal with a speech, songs, gifts, togetherness and Gemütlichkeit. While transcribing, each time I came to the point where Udo said it was someone's birthday, I found myself thinking, "Oh good! What is he going to say this time?!" But these birthday celebrations weren't important for the purpose of Udo's book, and therefore it's understandable that he and his editor decided to cut most of them. The reader still gets a taste of how birthdays were celebrated in Lambarene when Udo briefly describes his own birthday on...well, read the Tagebuch and find out for yourself! 😊

I was truly sorry when I came to the end of his Tagebuch and wished there were a sequel. There is, of course, just not in published diary form. After his 16 months in Lambarene, Udo returned to Germany but then spent five years at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. for his medical training in radiology, met his dear wife Joan, and after a brief return to Germany decided to pursue his medical career in the U.S. His extensive travel adventures include climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for his 60th birthday, trekking to the Mt. Everest base camp when he turned 70, and returning to Nepal for his 80th birthday to the Rukmani Secondary School he helped found and continues to support in a remote Himalayan village. My dad (74 at the time) joined him on this trip, which also included a trek in the Himalayas in the direction of Gokyo-Ri.

Udo and Dad (Nepal, 2016)

I think when most of us come into the autumn years of our life, we want to look back to a life well lived. It's not the hours spent at work that come back to us for reflection, but the adventures we pursued, the people we encountered who made a lasting impression on us, the lives we hope we impacted, and the good we did. Albert Schweitzer's lifelong philosophy was "Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben" (reverence for life), and to me that encourages us to live our best life and do what we can to make this a better world despite our imperfections. I hope Udo knows the depth of the impression he has made on me, how much I have learned from him and from reading about his adventures and his time in Lambarene, and that I am glad to call him my friend.

Udo in Nepal (2016)

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Falconry Update, July 2021

Since it has been a while, I thought I would post an update of how things in our falconry world are progressing.

We have a new falconer-mentor, who has a lovely Harris Hawk named Hekate. The two of them have been teaching me some of the basics, and while I have a long way to go before I'd feel comfortable with my own hawk, I have been learning a lot! I'm grateful to my first Lehrprinz (with the Habicht/Goshawk), but I don't think that was going well for any of us. I did learn without a doubt that a Habicht is not the right bird for us, at least not yet. The Habicht tends to be a nervous bird, and adding to that my own nervousness...not the right combination. That was important to learn as well.

Before I met my mentor and Hekate, I was not entirely sure what direction I wanted to pursue with falconry. Going for hawk walks, as we've done during falconry afternoons in Scotland and here in Germany and with Ronja the Sakerfalke, definitely. Daily training, surely. Hunting with the bird, maybe but I wasn't sure. Since learning more about the Krähenjagd (crow hunting) I can say that I'm eager to head in that direction and continue working with my mentor and Hekate.

Hekate is in the Mauser (molting) right now, which generally lasts from March into August. This is "down time" for her and her training exercises are limited to very short flights on a Lockschnur (creance) and some exercises in her Voliere. Her Falknerin spends time with her every day and weighs her most days, and she's a very personable bird. M and I have been partial to Harris Hawks ever since meeting Albus in Scotland. They are sociable birds who actually like to spend time with their falconer, unlike the Habicht, who'd rather be left the hell alone.

She has her moods, for sure. Like the day I brought our beautiful new wooden Sprenkel (perch) for her to sit on so I could take a photo and send it to the Drechsler who made it for us for his website. That little experiment started with her giving it the side eye and ended with her hanging upside down from her falconer's glove, clearly saying, "Just kill me now. I'm not sitting on that thing!"

Here's the Sprenkel without Hekate,
but with a bottle of wine with a falcon label.

I've also seen her have a bath on a hot day, which looked like the slow-motion birdie version of twerking. Not very elegant, but entirely adorable.

Just like Ronja enjoys her "Baum-to-go" walks, Hekate enjoyed a windy day out for a "hawk walk." Since M and I were both there that day, we got some photos.

Her look is clearly saying, "Lift me higher, Woman!"

"That's more like it!!"

Recently  my mentor took me out in her car to demonstrate the kind of driving we do for hunting crows. Holy cats! This will take some practice! Crow hunting is done here from a car. The bird sits on the passenger's glove and everyone keeps a look-out for crows standing in fields not far from the road. At just the right moment, the passenger lowers the window and "throws" the hawk out, and the hawk picks out and attacks a crow. Immediately after the hawk is out, the driver slams on the brakes* and pulls off the road, the passenger jumps out and runs to the hawk to help finish off the crow if necessary or bag it if the hawk has already taken care of it. The hawk returns to the glove, they both return to the car, and it's off again to the next opportunity.

*She has already made sure there's no vehicle behind her and no oncoming truck!

You can't do this on foot because the crows will be long gone before you can get the hawk close enough to be successful. They're smart, too, and learn which cars the falconer and hawk travel in, so it does no good to hunt the same area again too soon. Crows can cause a lot of damage to farmers' crops, so farmers are generally pleased to have an active falconer nearby.

Hekate's favorite nibbly is mice. Even when she's not entirely in the mood to come down from her perch, land on the glove and be weighed, she can generally be tempted do so for a warm and squishy (deceased) mouse. Nomnom.

M and I also visited Ronja and her Mensch together not long ago and had a really nice day! He was able to see why I was really leaning toward wanting a Sakerfalke after spending a few hours with Ronja. We look forward to seeing them again.

In the mean time I/we continue to work with Hekate and my mentor each week, and we are trying to get the building of the Voliere settled. We need to apply for a Baugenehmigung (building permit), which requires filling out a bunch of documents and providing a drawing of all four sides of the Voliere. That's proving to be an intimidating expense and an enormous pain in the ass. 

I am looking forward to crow season and every step of learning leading up to the first time I assist Hekate! In a future post I'll provide some information about Harris Hawks, why we've decided that's the bird for us, and why we want a Terzel (male). I will also be able to provide more information about the Krähenjagd after I've been out a few times.

Until then...

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Email subscriptions

Greetings to my readers!

I've been remiss in notifying you that Feedburner (the program that has handled email subscriptions to my blog) will no longer function within Blogger. I have switched to in order to keep offering email subscriptions.

This means that yet again, if you want to keep receiving my blog posts by email, you will need to click on "Get new posts by email" and enter your email address. On a PC that is in the upper right of the screen. I don't know where to find it on a tablet or smartphone, but perhaps someone who does can add that to the comments section of this post.

Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland

I'm including a favorite photo for your efforts. Enjoy! 

And although my blogging has slowed down signifcantly, I plan to post a falconry update soon.

Until then, stay healthy! (Well, stay healthy after that also!)

~ Ami

Monday, May 24, 2021

das grüne Abitur

And now for something a little bit different... I've decided to write this blog post (about what I think one should know before starting a German hunting course) auf Deutsch because it isn't very relevant to English speakers not living in Germany and/or not interested in taking a hunting course here. I'm hoping it can be helpful for Germans starting the journey I started 3 years ago!

Du hast dich gerade entschieden, das „grüne Abitur“ zu machen. Super! Das wirst du nicht bereuen. Egal, was du danach machst, wirst du viel Neues gelernt haben. Wenn du aber so bist, wie ich damals war, dann weißt du nicht genau, was auf dich zukommt. Ich habe mich mit einem Familienfreund mit vielen Jahren Jagderfahrungen getroffen und eine Schule gefunden, eine Schnupperstunde gemacht, und den Schulleiter einige Fragen gestellt, bevor es losging. Ich dachte, ich war bereit. Das war ich nicht.

Ich gebe zu, meine Muttersprache ist Englisch, statt Deutsch. Und ich hatte früher überhaupt nichts mit der Jagd zu tun – weder in den USA noch in Deutschland. Ich war wirklich ein Nullanfänger. Warum wollte ich den Jagdkurs machen und meinen Jagdschein erwerben? Weil das ein Schritt zu meinem Ziel war – Falknerin zu werden.

Öfters während des Jagdkurses habe ich gedacht, „Wenn ich das nur gewusst hätte…!“ Und deswegen schreibe ich diesen Blogeintrag.

Was man wissen soll, bevor man zur Jagdschule geht:

  1. Lern und lies so viel wie möglich bevor dein Kurs anfängt – in Büchern, Lernmaterial von der Schule, Jagdzeitschriften... Mach eine Liste von Fragen, die du während des Kurses stellen kannst. Alle Jagdschulen sagen, man braucht keine Vorkenntnisse, um den Kurs zu machen und die Prüfung zu bestehen. Wenn du aber wirklich  ohne Vorkenntnisse reingehst, musst du sehr viel sehr schnell lernen. (Klar, für mich war das schwieriger wegen der Sprache.)

  2. Bring elektronischen Gehörschutz für den Schießstand! Eine Schießbrille brauchst du auch für Flintenschießen. Eine Schießweste ist empfehlenswert.

    Gehörschutz: Rechts (elektronisch)!!
    Gelpad gegen Rückstoß (sehe unten)

  3. Wenn du vorher nie geschossen hast, wird der Rückstoß wahrscheinlich wehtun. Erwarte auch Prellungen. Privatunterricht mit Büchse und Flinte wäre eine gute Idee, damit du wenigstens weißt, wie man in Anschlag geht, zielt und schießt. Kontaktiere den Jägerverein in deiner Nähe.

  4. Schau dir auch Youtube Lernfilme an. Es gibt viele richtig gute Videos!

  5. Du wirst am Ende jedes Kurstags fix und fertig sein (sehe #9). Das sind lange und anstrengende Tage und viele Informationen werden in deinen Kopf reingestopft. Du musst während der Prüfung vieles davon wieder abrufen. Komm zum Kurs gut ausgeruht.

  6. Wenn (z.B. beim Aufbrechen) der Lehrer um einen Freiwilliger bittet, zögere nicht! Du kriegst unwahrscheinlich eine zweite Chance, und dann gehst du zur Prüfung, ohne einmal geübt zu haben. Learning-by-doing ist am besten.

  7. Bleib mit deinen Fragen im Kurs beim Thema! Deine Geschichten kannst du in den Pausen erzählen. Es gibt nicht genug Zeit im Kurs, um über Themen zu diskutieren, die vielleicht jagdlich relevant und interessant aber nicht prüfungsrelevant sind. Stell keine Fragen, die nur spezifisch dich betreffen. Nimm Rücksicht auf deine Klassenkameraden und stell auch keine Fragen, deren Antworten mit Google zu finden sind (Beispiel: „Was kostet Wildbret heutzutage?“)

  8. Nutze jede Gelegenheit, die die Schule anbietet: Ein paar Stunden abends auf einem Hochsitz, um Wild zu beobachten, auf Treibjagd (als Treiber) zu gehen, am Jagdhundetag teilzunehmen, jede Möglichkeit zum Üben für Waffenhandhabung…

    Kennst du diese zwei Jagdhunderassen?
    Sie sind nicht gleich.

  9. Jeden Tag geht der Kurs normalerweise von 8:00 bis 18:00 oder 20:00. Das ist immer noch nicht genug Zeit um alles zu behandeln. In unserem 3-wöchigen Kurs gab es auch keine Zeit um einen Reviergang zu machen, oder Fallen zu lernen und eine Falle einmal zu spannen. In der Prüfung wird es aber erwartet, dass die Jagdscheinanwärter das schon gesehen und geübt haben. Aber, ich muss sagen, wir haben sehr oft das Aufbrechen von Reh und Schwein gesehen (einmal durften 3 von uns mitmachen). Das war – besonders in Baden-Württemberg – sehr hilfreich für die Prüfung!

  10. Wenn die Schule vor der Prüfung eine Intensivwiederholung anbietet, mach mit!!! Nur in dieser Woche konnten wir einen Reviergang machen und Fallen spannen, und wir haben so viel wie möglich wiederholt, Präparate nochmal angeschaut, usw.

  11. Was du für den Kurs bezahlst ist nur ein Teil von den gesamten Kosten. Mein Kurs hat ca. €1800 + Prüfungsbebühr gekostet, aber dazu kamen:
    • Munition und Schießstandgebühr
    • Heintges Lernbücher und anderes Lernmaterial
    • Heintges Online-Learning-System (empfehlenswert!)
    • Zusätzliche freiwillige Schulungen (z.B. Trichinenprobe entnehmen)
    • Gehörschutz, Schießbrille, Schießweste, Gummi Recoil Pad
    • Unterkunft, Essen, Benzin

    Ms Kurs in Saarland hat ca. €2600 gekostet, inkl. Lernmittel, Munition, und Schießstandgebühr.
Heintges Online-Learning-System

Bevor mein Jagdkurs angefangen hat, habe ich den Schulleiter gefragt, was ich mitbringen sollte – außer Stift und Papier. Seine Antwort lautete: „auch reviertaugliche Kleidung mitbringen für die Aktionen draußen.“ Ich habe nicht gewusst, dass Gehörschutz auf Schießständen Pflicht sind und hatte keine. Man kann von der Schule Gehörschutz ausleihen, aber es gibt nicht genug für alle und sie sind wahrscheinlich nicht elektronisch.

Meine Antwort auf diese Frage wäre das gewesen (meine Jagdschule war nicht vor Ort und ich übernachtete in einer Pension):
  • Elektronischer Gehörschutz (keine Ohrstöpsel und kein passiver Gehörschutz!)
  • Schießweste und Schießbrille, Baseballkappe
  • Traubenzucker (hilft mit der Konzentration beim Schießen)
  • Reviertaugliche Kleidung (inkl. Wanderstiefel und Gummistiefel)
  • Wasser, Kaffee-to-go und Snacks für jeden Tag, besonders für den ersten Tag, bis du weißt, was es in der Schule gibt (Meine Schule hatte Kaffee, Getränke und manchmal Brezeln, in Ms Schule war die Kaffeemaschine kaputt, sie hatten keine Getränke, und es gab nichts in der Nähe.)

Der Jagdschein gilt in allen Bundesländern, aber jedes Bundesland macht es anders. Meine Prüfung (Baden-Württemberg) hat in der Wildkammer angefangen, wo ich ein Reh teilweise aufbrechen musste. M hat während seines Kurses (Saarland) kein Tier von innen gesehen. Wir hatten beide gute Lehrer, aber bei mir haben sie uns vorwiegend die Bücher vorgelesen. Alles sonst, was sie uns erzählt und gezeigt haben war super!

Ohne Zweifel bin ich froh, dass ich das grüne Abitur gemacht habe! Du brauchst keine Angst zu haben es auch zu machen - auch wenn du keine Vorkenntnisse hast - aber wenn du eine Ahnung hast, was dich erwartet, hast du einen Vorteil.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hawk or Buzzard?

This is as much a language post as a bit about certain birds of prey. And as language goes, part of it concerns “two countries separated by a common language.”

In the Facebook group “Scotland from the Roadside” members frequently post photos of birds of prey – Kestrels (Turmfalken), sparrowhawks (Sperber), golden eagles and white-tailed eagles (Steinadler und Seeadler), red kites (Rotmilane) and common buzzards (Mäusebussarde). Inevitably when a Scot posts a photo of a buzzard, the discussion begins.

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Credit: Andrew Fuller

Scot: Buzzard on a post/in flight/sat in a tree.

Amer: That’s not a buzzard, it’s a hawk.

Scot: It’s a common buzzard.

Amer: I know what a buzzard looks like, and that beautiful bird is not a buzzard.

Scot: No really, it’s a buzzard. Buteo buteo.

Amer: Huh?

Harris hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Germans also call this a Wüstenbussard ("dessert buzzard")

In one discussion I’ll never forget, the American insisted he had spent his whole life around birds of prey, and the buzzard in the photo was definitely a hawk. In the end he looked it up and realized the truth of what I’m about to tell you, and ended with, “I surrender. Would you like my sword, Sir?”

That is the best capitulation I have ever read. Chapeau, my fellow American!

So who’s right??

It could be argued that they both are, but not equally so. The common buzzard is indeed a buzzard. Why do Americans get confused by this every time? Because Americans call vultures “buzzards.” For clarity, we need to look at the classifications of the birds in Latin.

This not a buzzard, it's a vulture.
Photo credit: M
Buteo = buzzard

Parabuteo = sort of a buzzard

Accipiter = hawk

Cathartes = vulture

Common buzzard = Buteo buteo = Mäusebussard (not native in the Americas)

Harris hawk = Parabuteo Unicinctus = Wüstenbussard (native only in the Americas, popular in European falconry)

Red-tailed hawk = Buteo jamaicensis = Rotschwanzbussard (most common "hawk" in the Americas)

Cooper’s hawk = Accipiter cooperil = Rundschwanzsperber ("round-tailed sparrowhawk")

"Turkey buzzard" = Cathartes aura = Truthahngeier


But don’t get distracted by the English names or the American common usage. We Americans call vultures buzzards, though they are not. Try it – google “turkey buzzard,” the one most Americans have heard of. Wikipedia will correct you and take you to the “turkey vulture” page. They are not buzzards, they are vultures.

Hawks and buzzards (in the European understanding) are both members of the Accipitridae family of raptors, which in German is "Habichtartige" (hawk-like). The genus is where they split into buzzards (Buteo) and hawks (Accipiter). The vultures native to the Americas - New World vultures, such as the turkey vulture - already split from other raptors at the classification level of order. They are raptors, but they are not buzzards, regardless of what they are commonly called.

(Kingdom - Phylum - Class - Order - Family - Genus - Species)

Frankly, the buteo buteo are beautiful birds regardless of what people call them. But since this comes up nearly every time an American hears or sees a European call this bird a "buzzard," I thought I'd throw some light onto this confusion.

By now each time I see on the Scotland group that a Scot has posted a photo of a beautiful common buzzard, I mention it to M, who, like Douglas Adams’ pot of petunias, says, “Oh no, not again.” 😊

Some of the other birds mentioned above:

Kestrel (falco tinnunculusTurmfalke)

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus; Sperber) in our neighbor's tree

White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla; Seeadler), Isle of Mull

Red kite (Milvus milvus; Rotmilan)

Back to the wildlife photography I've seen in the Scotland Facebook group, do check out Andrew Fuller's portfolio of photos from the Outer Hebrides and elsewhere! Truly breathtaking.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Knock Knock

There was an informative article in this month’s state hunting magazine about how to handle a visit from the Waffenbehörde (weapon authorities). I’m blogging about this to show how differently gun ownership is handled in Germany. What’s it like in Wisconsin? There is no national gun registry and there are no laws about how to store guns as far as I know, so what I’m going to explain here will sound utterly foreign to American gun owners from the very first word.

The German gun law (
Waffengesetz, or WaffG) allows certified officials to show up unannounced at your door – if you own guns – and check that you are complying with the law and properly storing them. There is a national gun registry in Germany, so authorities know where the legally owned guns are or should be.

At the same time, this is Germany, and spontaneity is not really a thing here. It's unlikely anyone from the Waffenbehörde would waste their time going from gun-owner-door to gun-owner-door on the off chance the gun owners are home. Of course, a spontaneous check is more to the purpose. If we're ever subject to one of these, I'll update this post.

Despite my title for this blog post, the article emphasized that the officials who come for this purpose have zero sense of humor. While Americans think Germans lack that anyway, this is really not a time for any attempt at being funny or getting them to smile.

Parts of this law changed after one school shooting in Winnenden in 2009. One.

What if the gun owner is not home?

If the gun owner is unavailable, the appointment must be rescheduled. The spouse or children of the gun owner are not permitted to even know the combination to the safe or the location of the key, so if they allow the authorities access to the guns, the gun owner has already gone against regulations and could risk the confiscation of his gun license, hunting license and guns. This, for instance, is one change in the law since the school shooting, in which the shooter knew how to get to his father’s legally-owned guns.

Rescheduling the appointment will not damage the gun owner’s *Trustworthiness* (one of the requirements for gun ownership), but repeatedly doing so could.

Identity of controllers

Just as with any visit to your home of a uniformed person requesting entrance, the gun owner should first check the I.D. of the controllers. If there’s any doubt after checking their badges or I.D. cards, the gun owner should call the Waffenbehörde (weapons agency) before letting them in.

Satisfied that the controllers are who they say they are, the gun owner should show them to the gun safe by the most direct path possible. They have no business in any other room or location in the house and are not allowed to search any other place or objects other than the gun safe.

Checks are not allowed to be made on Sundays or holidays, or between the hours of 22:00 and 6:00.


What will the authorities check?

  1. the security grade of the gun safe
  2.  that all guns registered in the owner’s WBK (gun license) and the ammo are stored according to regulations
  3. that all guns are unloaded

It is legal in Germany for a hunter to borrow a gun from another hunter for up to a month without paperwork such as an Überlassungsvereinbarung. However, at the check if there is a gun in the safe that is not on the owner’s WBK and there is no paperwork, this will lead to questions and hassle. 

Proper storage of guns and ammunition

Depending on the type and number of guns and ammunition, these must be stored in a locked gun safe or case (the locked case is only for Luftgewehre or air guns). The gun safe, if purchased after July 6, 2017, must be a minimum of security grade 0. The guns must be completely unloaded, as in no ammo in the chamber or the magazine. 

The boxes of ammo may be stored in the safe with the guns as long as the safe is security grade 0 or 1.



Not only can the Waffenbehörde show up at your door unannounced to check that you are properly storing your guns, but they can also charge you for the experience. The federal law states that the fee has to be reasonable in regard to the tasks performed, but it does not state what the fee should be – that is determined by the county. In our county the charge is €50 + €5 per gun, with a maximum of €75.

And now for a little Aprilscherz fun, the article below appeared in the current April 1st edition of Wild und Hund. In an attempt to reformulate “Waidmannsheil” to be more inclusive to hunters of all genders, the Gender Commissioner of the federal government has released a statement that the traditional hunter's greeting and congratulatory salute should be “Waidmenschheil!” from now on.

I totally fell for it, but M thinks it's an April Fool's prank. I guess we'll see two things in the next issue:
  1. whether it was indeed a prank, and
  2. how many people's heads exploded when they read this.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Corona Conundrums in Germany


Foto von Moose Photos von Pexels

Let me begin by saying, for the record, I love living in Germany. Many expats (and locals!) complain about the bureaucracy and the frequently crappy customer service. I have had very few problems with those. We also don't have a problem with the Corona rules We follow them like the good little kittens who found their mittens.

But this weekend was for the shitter.

Here's the short version of what we went through this weekend, an entire year into this pandemic, mind you:

We had planned a private thing on the weekend which involved leaving town, so…

  1. We went to the local Corona-Test-Center on Friday for Schnelltests (results in 15 minutes)
  2. I tested negative, M tested positive.
    Medical helper told M not to panic because it could be a false positive, but to quarantine and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
  3. M found a doctor to do the official PCR test immediately.
    Labs don't test on weekends, we'll have to wait until at least Tuesday for the results. M's probe hung out in the doc's refrigerator over the weekend.
    M did a home test (same as the Schnelltest, just at home): Negative.
  4. We slept in separate rooms and self-isolated over the weekend and into Monday.
  5. Saturday & Sunday, M did a home test each day: Negative.
  6. On Monday the Gesundheitsamt (health department) called M and informed him he is officially in quarantine until 29 March. M told him it was only a Schnelltest and not the official PCR test results. Gesundheitsamt Guy didn't know that. He also didn't care.
    I searched the internet to find out if I am in quarantine also according to rules in Freudenstadt. Looks like yes. Gesundheitsamt guy could have told M that, just sayin'.
    M did another home test. I'm starting to think he enjoys the brain tickle: Negative.
  7. On Tuesday morning, after another negative home test, the friendly doctor called with the good news that M's PCR test results are negative!
    She faxed (yes, faxed) the official certificate to the Gesundheitsamt, I drove to her office to get the form, and M emailed it to the Gesundheitsamt.
  8. After lunch M called Gesundheitsamt guy to ask if he can be officially released from quarantine. He was told no, once the quarantine has been activated, it cannot be abgebrochen (stopped).
  9. My head exploded.
    I spat through clenched theeth, "I'm calling your mother!!" (I unload pretty much everything onto that poor woman.)
  10. Thirty minutes later someone else from the Gesundheitsamt called (without knowing M had already spoken to someone there) and told him his quarantine has been officially lifted/cancelled because of his negative PCR test result.
So after dutifully getting a Schnelltest so we could enjoy our weekend guilt-free knowing we’d both be Corona-free,* we had to cancel our plans and sit around in separate rooms waiting  four days wondering what the hell. The test itself, once the lab received M’s probe, took a good deal less than 24 hours. But because this is Germany and test labs are closed on the weekend even during a global pandemic the government cannot figure out how to get control of, we’ve been shitting ourselves for 4 lengthy days.

*We knew this because he has even fewer contacts than I do, and my only contacts are people I pass at the store while wearing a mask (required Germany-wide). If either of us, but especially HE picked up Covid-19 or any of its variants, we're all screwed.

Here's the thing. If he and I struggled this much trying to find out A) what we both needed to do each step of the way and B) getting reliable information, what about the elderly who only have a Smartphone because their granddaughter set it up for them (but can't visit at the moment because vaccines are coming at us in Germany like a sloth swimming through molasses) and don't really know how to navigate the internet? What about expats and immigrants who have greater challenges with German than I do? What about people who are alone and have no one to help them (or bitch to)?

We are one year in, and this should have been streamlined long ago. Those who test positive even with just a Schnelltest should be given a one-page clear explanation using short sentences telling them step-by-step what exactly they need to do from that moment until either they receive a negative test result or their quarantine ends. It would be great if that sheet were available in more than one language.

I don't pretend to have the answers to everything, but Jesus Murphy! 

If you found your way here because you've tested positive and have made it beyond the "What the F*ckkk?!?!" phase, I found this PDF from the Robert Koch Institut today, after I'd calmed down and didn't need it anymore. It is at least a place to start.

And if you found your way here because you are one of the powers-that-be, I volunteer to write that one-page document instructing people what to do after they've tested positive with a Schnelltest. Just send me an email. Sorry, I don't have a fax machine.

For those who haven't yet needed one of those brain-tickle tests and wonder what it's like (that was me until Friday), it's not so bad. M describes as "picking your nose. ALL the way."

Bleibt gesund!! // Stay healthy!!

Sunday, March 7, 2021


Here in Germany we are still on lockdown for the most part. Salons and a few stores have been allowed to open, but restaurants and cafés are still closed except for take out. I imagine everyone is getting eager to dine out again, and I know the chefs and restaurant owners are hoping for permission to finally open for outside and inside dining. In the mean time all we can do is cook for ourselves and order take-out when we want something special - and to support local businesses!

Earlier this week M sent me the Sonntags-Menü for today from our favorite local restaurant, and I think I had jotted down my order within three minutes. I also knew immediately what M would order without even asking him: Meat, not chicken and salad, not soup. When I called to place our order, the Chefkoch, Martin Straub, told me the Rebowls had arrived, and I enthusiastically said we're in! I had read an article in the local paper that several establishments in the area were going to start with this system, so I knew they were coming. 

The short version is that a restaurant, Imbiss, etc. signs up for the program and pays a monthly fee as well as a deposit on the number of bowls they want for serving their take-out meals. They are made of good-quality plastic with tight-fitting lids, are microwaveable and dishwasher-safe. Customers who prefer this container over one-use plastic and styrofoam agree to pay a €5 Pfand (deposit) on each bowl, take their order home, and wash the bowl and lid. The next time they place an order they bring the clean bowls back, swap them for the new bowls in which their order is packaged, and off they go again.

This is our double-order since we both had the same main course.
We re-plated it on our own plates for dinner.

But what if you are not a regular customer and are only ordering from that restaurant this one time? You can swap the bowls for orders placed at any establishment that  is in this system. When we are finally able to travel within Germany again, we'll check out what places in the area we plan to stay are in Rebowls - and take the bowls with us!

When the customers think they don't need the bowl(s) any more, they can return them and get the deposit back. They are out nothing and have reduced the amount of waste connected with take-out! Every little bit helps.

The Rebowls can't be kept warm in the oven while you enjoy your starter, but neither could the throw-away styrofoam containers. You can always plate it and then put it in the warm oven.

Our local butcher is also in on the program for their lunches-to-go, several places in Tübingen, one restaurant each in Herrenberg and Böblingen, and of course several places in big cities like Stuttgart. We hope to see the program expand! Check the Rebowls website to see if there's a participating restaurant near you.

So far there are no establishments in Esslingen participating, but we received a postcard advertising the program to send to someone, and I just might do that!

So, then. What did we order and enjoy today? Because that's what you really came here to see, isn't it?

Karottencremesuppe mit Frühlingskräuterpesto & Kracherle

Knusprig gebackene Fleischtäschle
auf buntem Gemüsesalat mit Paprika-Avocado-Creme

Schwäbisches Frühlingstöpfle

Bayrisch Creme & Schokoladenmousse
Himbeertraum & Obstsalat

We definitely look forward to restaurants being able to open for their sakes, and we will enjoy dining in again and enjoying a glass of wine in the nice atmosphere (Straub's Krone is within walking distance), but the Krone team has kept us well-fed during this pandemic and ordering take-out from them to eat at home has been the next best thing to dining out. We are very happy they're participating in the Rebowls program and happily support it!

Guten Appetit!!

P.S. I do not make any profit from my blog when I write about or recommend a place or a product. My descriptions and reviews are honest and my own.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Falknertag 2021

Back to falconry!

Back in November when M was looking for tips on making our own Geschüh (jesses) for our future birds, he came across and showed me this blog post. He knew I'd love it. I read a few more posts and then went back to the Ronja's first post and started reading from the beginning. It's a delightful blog, written with heart and humor and focusing on falconry from the point-of-view of the falcon. And she's begun translating it into English!

Later that evening I decided I had to write to Ronja's Mensch (human), and I discovered that she is in Baden-Württemberg, not more than an hour's drive from us. She responded and we have continued our corresondence ever since. Skipping ahead to yesterday, I met Ronja and her Mensch personally and spent more than 5 hours with them. What a day, and what a beautiful Sakerfalke Ronja is!

We first went up to a field behind their house for some Federspiel-Training. For this Ronja's Mensch secures a GPS sender to her Geschüh and activates the app on her Smartphone that shows exactly where Ronja is in case she buggers off during the training. Beizvögel might do this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because they can. When the Falkner sends them off to train or hunt there is nothing forcing the bird to return, and many a Falkner has stood for hours beneath the tree in which his bird is perched trying to entice her to come down while the bird thumbs her beak at him and preens. Without a sender attached to the bird the Falkner might never find her again.

Then Ronja's Mensch ties a piece of meat onto the Federspiel (lure that looks like a bird), which is attached to the end of a telescoping fishing pole. While she is securing the delicacy Ronja has her Haube (hood) on so she doesn't get overly excited. When she's ready, she removes Ronja's Haube and lets her fly off. Ronja knows her work (and knows where the meat is), gets some momentum going, then swoops, dives, turns, and whooshes past her Mensch, who is swinging the Federspiel and pulling it away from Ronja as she shoots past at 127 km/h (79mph). Her Mensch knows her well, and she can see when it's time to stop pulling the Federspiel away at the last moment so Ronja can catch it.

My photo is not tack sharp, but it gives you an idea
what Federspiel-Training looks like. 

After Ronja had her reward we went for a walk among the fields to an alpaca farm about 2 km away. During that walk Ronja sat cooperatively on my Falknerhandschuh (glove). Her Mensch calls this "Baum-to-go" (Baum = tree). Ronja's favorite pastime is "Rumgucken," which means sitting somewhere and looking around. Flying is hard work, so if a silly human is willing to offer her glove as a perch while wandering about, well that's perfectly fine with Ronja. 

Look, Ma! I'm a Baum-to-go!

It's funny to see the looks on people's faces as they walk by and see the falcon on my glove. It's just not something one sees every day! Sometimes they stop and ask questions, sometimes they take a guess at what kind of bird Ronja is (we heard Bussard, Weihe, and Milan), and others just nod and keep walking. It was a beautiful sunny day with a light wind.

We sat on a bench chatting about falconry for a bit while Ronja perched on the back of the bench and did her Rumgucken. At one point she made it clear that she was ready for some noms and pecked at her Tupperware® bowl until her Mensch opened it and offered her the rest of the Taube (pigeon). 

On the way back the wind was still up and Ronja treated me to her Titanic impression. You know the scene at the front of the ship with Jack and Rose? She didn't want to fly off on her own; she had a good steady grip on my glove. But she likes to "lüft" her feathers in the sun and wind. Come on, admit it, you've wanted to do this on a beautiful day, too.

"Jack!! I'm flying!!"

I told Ronja and her Mensch I could do this for hours and hours. It was a really enjoyable day and I appreciate the time Ronja and her Mensch spent with me!

Oh dear...I just found out on a falconry marketplace that the Falkner and breeder Ronja came from has one of her sisters from a later brood for sale. This is me right now...

I didn't see that, I didn't see that, I didn't...

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Changing Language, Part 2

Language changes. This is nothing new. If you doubt me, have a go at reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English from the late 14th Century. Even texts written in the early years of European colonization of the Americas pose a challenge for native speakers of American English.

One change that is going on in German focuses on being inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s not as simple as it once was (and my students would argue that it is not and never was simple), with two biological genders, the linguistic neutral, and the corresponding pronouns (he/er, she/sie, it/es). Until recently a person had only two options in German: “I am a male pilot” or “I am a female pilot,” because there was no gender-neutral word for “pilot.” That leaves out the people who do not identify as male or female. This change is less problematic in English, where most of our labels for people have no gender: cousin, pilot, swimmer, teacher, and so on. In German, however, those labels all have two forms, depending on whether the person is male or female: die Cousine/der Cousin, die Pilotin/der Pilot, die Schwimmerin/ der Schwimmer, die Lehrerin/der Lehrer. Female titles typically end with the suffix -in, and the suffix -er usually indicates a male.

In English we’ve handled changes like this, though on a smaller scale. Instead of “waitress” we should say “server.” Instead of “stewardess” we should say “flight attendant.” “Parent” and “spouse” have long been used instead of “mother or father” and “husband or wife.” This type of change is not difficult for native speakers, or at least it shouldn’t be.

In German nowadays there are several options to officially address people and be inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community as well as cisgender men and women, none of which are perfect. There’s the Genderstern (Lehrer*innen), the Gendergap (Lehrer_innen), the Binnen-I (LehrerInnen), the Genderdoppelpunkt (Lehrer:innen) and other options fully explored in this pamphlet, which also explains the pros and cons of each approach.

Another method is to find gender-neutral words or phrases for labels and occupations. Instead of using “Studenten” for college students, people have started to use “Studierende,” which translates to “studiers” or “people who are studying.” A teacher, instead of “Lehrer” can be called a “Lehrperson” or “Lehrkraft.” The plural form is “Lehrende.” I received an invitation to an online course the other day from Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, and the target group is “Lehrende and Kursleitende” (persons who teach and leaders of courses).

Some of these newish terms are no problem for language learners. “Lehrperson” is perhaps a bit cumbersome, but combining “lehr[en]” (to teach) with “Person” is no big deal. Both “Lehrperson” and “Lehrkraft” are feminine based on the final part of the compound word, so neither is really gender-neutral. The word “Person” certainly is, but since German requires an article for every noun which then does clearly indicate a gender, I don’t necessarily understand what is gained.

In case I need to say this again, the concept of inclusion and not linguistically ostracizing a group of people is good! I am looking at this from the point-of-view of my students, who are already struggling to learn German. I do my best to make the language as painless as possible for them. 

One of the issues in teaching occupations and titles that adhere to the more inclusive language (faire Sprache) is the sequence in which German learners learn the language, following the books used in the A1 – B1 course. Traditionally, in order for a student to be able to answer the question “What is your job?” with “I am a pilot,” the student must learn:

  • Verb conjugation of "to be"  (Ich bin)   [level A1.1, chapter 1]
  • The occupation title (Pilot)   [level A1.2, chapter 9]

By chapter 9, which is approximately 105 hours or 5 weeks into the Integrationskurse taught here in Germany, the student can easily say, “Ich bin Pilot” (I am [a] pilot.) Since these are adults, they usually already know their occupation title by the time class starts, so most can already say this in week one.


In this Genderwörterbuch (gender dictionary) the title “flugzeugführende Belegschaft“ is suggested for “Pilot,” which translates to “airplane-guiding personnel.” In order to understand and produce this job title, the student would have to nearly finish the 600-hour course. Why?

  1. Starting at level A1 students learn about  compound nouns and work on developing their vocabulary. Flugzeug is an A1 word, führen is expected in level B1. I don't know which level Belegschaft is, but I don't recall ever coming across it until today and I've been learning German since 1983.

  2. Adjective endings, the bane of existence for most learners of German because these involve gender and case, are taught in level A2.2, in chapters 9, 10, and 12.

  3. In order to construct "führende," the student needs to learn about participles [verb+d+adjective ending], which are taught in B1.2, chapter 38 (if the chapters for the 6 books of the entire course were numbered 1-42),


This same problem applies to the gender-neutral term for a person who is learning German: Deutschlernende. Deutsch and lernen are both A1-level words. But to understand the ending (-de), which looks much simpler than it is, the student needs to understand participles and adjective endings (levels A2.2 and B1.2). Well, for heaven’s sake just teach them in the first weeks to add -de to infinitive verbs to create titles! Ok, so "kochen" means "to cook," therefore "Kochende" would be cooks or chefs, right? But "kochend/e" is already a word, which means "boiling." And what is a notice to all “Fahrende? One uses “fahren” (to drive) for driving a car, train, bus, etc. but also when one travels with a car, bus, train, etc. So is a "Fahrende" the driver of the bus or a passenger? Who needs to pay attention to that notice?  My point here is that if you think the issue is easy to solve, I promise you it is not.

Each of the options suggested by faire Sprache creates a difficulty for a group of people. Most companies seem to be using the Genderstern (Lehrer*innen) because the Stern includes all gender identities. But it’s problematic for visually impaired people, because the electronic devices that read texts aloud tend to ignore the symbol and the person hears simply “Lehrerinnen” or “female teachers,” which is not inclusive. For people (at least for native speakers) who are blind, the better option is using gender-neutral terms such as “Lehrende” (people who teach). But then non-native speakers may be at a disadvantage because of the complicated phrasing (flugzeugführende Belegschaft). In the 56-page pamphlet I referenced above, non-native speakers were only mentioned once as an aside – so they were mostly ignored as a group who will struggle with this issue.

German companies and publications are faced today with deciding how to handle this change. Ignore it? Adopt one of the more-inclusive methods of gendering? Mix them up and use several different ones? In one journal for Deutschlernende I subscribe to, I noticed they use the gender-neutral term in the plural when there is a fitting one (Lernende), and where there isn't they go new-traditional (Bewerberinnen und Bewerber = female and male applicants). They also used the old traditional, which is the plural form that looks the same as the male form (Arbeitgeber = employers) - all three forms within the same article. 

The German language is in the process of a Sprachwandel – a language change. It’s not an abrupt change, like the Great Spelling Reform of 1996, when teachers had to stop teaching daß in favor of dass, words with three identical consonants in a row became a reality (Schifffahrt) and whether words were written as two or one became more standardized (formerly radfahren/Auto fahren are now both Rad fahren/Auto fahren). 

It will be interesting to see how we are speaking 20 years from now. 

Changing Language, Part 1