Transition Time

Transition Time

From Freiburg to Wiedenest to Pakistan.

Its high time for another post! Yes, I made the slackline challenge (hurray, more in detail to follow) and no, I’m not in Pakistan yet – but I have left my home of seven years and moved away from Freiburg. Its been a pretty busy few weeks. Transition time. Packing time. Goodbyes. Painting my room. Presenting the work I will be doing in Pakistan. Getting rid of stuff. A lot of stuff. Writing Emails. Making phone calls. Trying to study in the midst of it all…a bit too much going on, really, but also an exciting time of change and transition. Just a few too many goodbyes. I tend not to think much about the implications of leaving until after the fact – makes things easier while there is still work to be done. But the last week in Freiburg I found myself saying goodbye to friends at my University, colleagues from work, neighbours, flatmates, girls from youth group, friends from church, random places that I knew I wouldn’t visit again…and caught myself feeling slightly sentimental. Seven years. I had never lived that long in one place. Ok, I left Freiburg a few times before as well and moved house like five times…but still. Its a long time all the same.

Somehow I both love and hate goodbyes. I love the excitement, the change, the anticipation of the new that is to come…and I hate having to organise a move, figuring out the logistics, and actually saying goodbye. Let’s make it short. Bye. See ya sometime. God bless.
I guess its just one of those things that doesn’t really get easier either. You’d think after moving so many times it wouldn’t matter anymore…but somehow it does.

And yet, its still not a final goodbye. I’ll be back for my Spanish exam in two weeks and Lord willing back to visit sometime next year. But I must confess I actually started writing a goodbye song…trying to put my thoughts into words. Maybe I’ll manage to finish it before I fly and can share it with you 🙂 For now – I am in the midst of preparations for moving to and working in Pakistan, continue to study and will hopefully manage to keep writing too.

Transition Time.

I started writing this post about two months ago and MUCH has happened since. Publishing it got buried under other tasks – like that exam I mentioned, preparation time in Wiedenest, packing and moving to Pakistan!

Transition time.

That place between the pages of two chapters.
That no man’s land.
That moving truck between a home and some place new.
Those strange in-between days that don’t quite belong to any season.

Closing the chapter “Student Life”, whatever that means.
A chapter of learning, discovering, trying things out, meeting people, getting to know yourself a bit better, perhaps, and figuring out life, setting goals, being idealistic and hoping to somehow change the world for the better. No routine or strict schedule – though I suppose that depends on what it is you are studying. Not accountable to anyone and free to learn or not as you please. Flexible. Able to travel at a moment’s notice. Student discounts wherever you go…its been real. Time to be a responsible adult now.

Closing the chapter “Freiburg”.
Pretty little city. Warmest region of Germany. Wine-growing area. Black Forest (Must say I did enjoy being a tour guide there…) Flammkuchen. Tannenzäpfle (though I must confess I never much liked the taste). Schwarzwälder Schinken. Bicycles. Dreisam. Bächle. Friends. Home. Place so full of original and alternative style I always felt one could do any strange thing and never receive an awkward glance. I could go to class barefoot, no one would mind.

Closing the chapter “Germany”.
After 9 years, my passport country has found a place in my heart. (I’m probably far more German than I even realise. Not too punctual though, I’m afraid.) Efficient. Organised. Productive. 😉 Autobahn without speed limits…and people (mostly) adhering to traffic rules. Old castles, old churches. Half-timbered houses. Nice cars. Free education. Chocolate. Hefeweizen. Sauerkraut. Semmelknödel. Rotkohl. Rinderroladen. Spätzle 🙂 Beautiful landscapes to explore by bike, beautiful lakes and refreshing rivers to jump into, beautiful rocks to climb. People with a variety of different lovely German dialects…Alemannen, Schwaben, Sachsen 🙂 and I especially remember the cities where I preached or shared the gospel with some friends. Freiburg. Munich. Erding. Ulm. Nürnberg. Siegen. Berlin. Spending some hours on the street, talking with random strangers about life, faith, hope. Its the 500th anniversary of the reformation this coming year – I wonder how many Germans know the good news of Jesus and are aware of God’s amazing love?

Transition Time.
The room a mess. Boxes everywhere. Piles of clothes and random things to give away or throw in the trash. Doctor’s appointments, last minute check-up at the dentist. Vaccinations.
For a few weeks, I have no home.
Living out of a suitcase. Instability. Strange combination of excitement and exhaustion.
Apprehension and longing. Happiness and a sense of sadness.
What day is it again?

At the airport in Leipzig.
Suitcases all checked in.
Final goodbyes said. Hugs.
Waving one last time as I move through the passport control.
Take off the shoes. And belt. No belt? Forgot it. Don’t ask me how.
Laptop and liquids separate, please.
Sitting in the waiting area – time to board the flight.
Writing messages to family and friends until a stewardess bids all passengers to switch off their electronic devices.

Layover in Istanbul.
Standing at a counter waiting.
“So where’s home for you?” The man in front of me asks, a kind smile in his eyes.
“Everywhere and no-where,” I reply.

I like layovers.
I like long journeys.
They allow you to take time for that in-between phase.
They help you take a moment to reflect and look back on that last chapter, remember what was wonderful and let go of what wasn’t.
They give you a moment to hold your breath as you think in anticipation of what is to come, as you wonder about the new chapter ahead – wonder what is in store and whether it’ll be all you expect or quite different.
They give you a moment to rest, to be in no-man’s land and just sleep.
There is time still. The flight isn’t leaving for another few hours. Just stop for a bit.
Regain your strength. People used to go by boat, they had a long time for transition then.
Everything moves faster nowdays.

Transition time.
That time and place between the pages of two chapters.
That no man’s land.
That moving truck between a home and some place new.
Those strange in-between days that don’t quite belong to any season.

Transition time.
It ends soon.

I began my studies in Freiburg in October 2009.
Last Thursday, I went out for a special buffet breakfast at the fancy Serena hotel with my parents and little brother in Islamabad, Pakistan, celebrating the success of my final exam in Spanish on November 18th 2016, marking the end of my studies. (Time for a little victory dance, it is finished! :D)

Now, I am starting a new chapter:
Chapter “teaching” and “Pakistan” and “let’s-pretend-to-be-grown-up”, or something like that.
I have already arrived.
I have a new phone number, some new clothes and will soon have a new apartment: a new place to call home.
Excitement outweighs doubt or apprehension:
This is going to be a good chapter, I can tell!

Advertisements

Discovering: my first 3-day bike tour OR: What’s next? 

So I know I promised some more pictures and details of the Black Forest and hikes…things have been a bit crazy lately and I didn’t really get around to it. After my Black Forest camping trip and super important final exam I had some time with friends and family and actually even spent a day at the North Sea 🙂 and then had to do a lot of work for Uni, organizing some stuff and actually preparing for what comes next. I’ve talked about finals and how I’m in my finishing sprint for exam but never really mentioned what I’m going to do when those exams are done. Two years ago I shared my post “A choice you make“, saying how in the end, no matter how many things you’re interested in or passionate about or how many options might even make sense – you can’t do everything and have to be brave and choose something while saying no to something else. Finishing Uni the logical step would have been for me to do 1,5 years teacher training at a school in Germany – working and preparing lessons and already with a salary but under supervision and with some additional classes and testing. Another option would have been to take a bit of a break – since the last two years of studies were rather intense – to just keep working as a freelancer and take time to rebalance and invest in church and evangelism and student ministry. But there was this dream I had as a teenager and it never went away – I always dreamed of going back to Pakistan one day, as an adult, not just for a visit – but to stay, for a minimum of two years and give something back to the country and the school that meant so much to me growing up. Of course my childhood wasn’t perfect – there were things that were hard and I might even wish different – but I think that would have been just as true if I had grown up anywhere else. So at some point as a teenager I prayed about this and told God that I didn’t really know where I would live and work and build a family long term, but that maybe two or three years in Pakistan could be a stop along the way? That was about ten years ago. Now, as my studies are ending and I’m ready for the next step, I’m preparing to go to Pakistan for 2,5 years. I’m excited and happy to be going back after nine years and hope and pray that God will bless the road ahead and give me strength and wisdom for my new role and responsibilities in this post-student-life chapter.
So that’s also why things are a bit crazy – in the mist of my exam preparation for my Spanish finals I’m also preparing to move to Pakistan, praying for my Visa and thinking about how I’m going to say goodbye to Freiburg and Germany – a place I really grew to love and appreciate, despite myself! And a place where I was blessed to meet so many amazing people that became friends and classmates and colleagues and neighbours – and family. But that’s not really the topic of this post, because it’s still too early to say goodbye! I still have a couple months and have my own little bucket list of things to do before goodbye really does come. What’s on that list? Well, I won’t share everything…but here’s one for starters: I really wanted to go on a bike tour! Why? Because I love riding my bike and that’s one thing I won’t be able to do in Pakistan – and I must confess I’ve never really been on a bike trip longer than one day…somehow always found the task of organizing that too daunting…
But that’s what I’m doing right now. I talked with my brother about the idea and he had been thinking about doing a tour in Switzerland, in the end we decided on a 3-day tour along the Danube from Freiburg to Ulm via Donaueschingen and Sigmaringen. I’m super excited and happy to be on the road, getting plenty of beautiful landscapes, fresh air and exercise and just hope my bike holds out for the whole trip 🙂


Today was a light start of just 30km from Titisee to Brigachtal – I took a slight detour but that brought me to some really pretty villages and woods so it was totally worth it. Tomorrow should be about 90km til Sigmaringen and there’s some really amazing cliffs and rocks along that stretch of the Danube so looking forward to a beautiful day 🙂 and on Monday we’ll have about 110km from Sigmaringen to Ulm. Will let you know how it works out, but I’m confident that it will be a nice little adventure 🙂


  

Discovering: High Class Camping in the Black Forest

IMG_3864
Camp site in St.Peter

A week ago I experienced another first: I booked a camp site for the first time in my life! It really was quite a mile stone, considering that I had been wanting to go camping forever and finally managed to plan it all. Two friends and I had been talking about meeting up during the summer and I simply suggested: let’s go camping. Let’s go to the Alps, let’s go somewhere in Germany – let’s just get a van and some camping gear and head off into the wild. That was the idea. And to my surprise and delight – the proposal was accepted!

A few obstacles did arise, as was to be expected. We had no van. Some of us had to get holiday off work at short notice. One of us had invited a guy friend along so we had to find a second guy to balance the guy-gal ratio. One of us had to study for her final exams and was a little bit stressed…but hey, obstacles and problems exist so that we can find clever and creative solutions for them! And so we did 😀

As I wasn’t able to get off work and was also the individual presenting her exam…we decided to choose a location that would make this possible: the Black Forest. Since I work as a tourist guide for the Black Forest and happen to live there, I took it upon myself to do some exploring and felt responsible for finding a suitable location in this beautiful forest for our adventure. In recent years I had only ever gone camping without a tent – just found a nice spot to put my sleeping bag and enjoyed sleeping under the stars (see previous post). It is harder with a bigger group and a tent – I would still have loved for us to give it a go…but it is sort of illegal in Germany…in the sense that you could get fined if someone took offence and had the authority to fine you…and you do need to know where to go. So I asked around for camp site suggestions, went on some hikes, visited a couple of villages all in pursuit of the perfect spot!

IMG_4120
one of the spots I found – an old sawmill. I’m sure it would make a great shelter…

To my dismay I realised that camping on an official camp site is not as “wild and adventurous” as I had hoped. There are luxurious washrooms (not that I’m against cleanliness…but you know) There is a fireplace to have a BBQ. There is a playground and often a village with bakery and bus connections or train. There are neighbours with lawnmowers. And the price is a bit higher than what I would have expected…my first reaction was – dude, I just want to pitch my tent on this piece of grass…how much is that gonna cost? In the end I spontaneously chose a camp site I hadn’t even seen. Why? Because my friends were gonna arrive the next day and August is high season – everything is overbooked. I chose the campsite in Kirchzarten – because it is quite close to Freiburg and would make going to work and attending my exam a lot easier. And it included a free ticket for the whole Black Forest (KONUS Karte) and free entry to the swimming pool. I know, that doesn’t exactly sound like wild camping – more like high class camping…but hey, you have to alter expectations according to the situation, right?

IMG_4445
Camp site in Kirchzarten

 

In the end, it was a really good choice! We soon fell in love with our new home 😀 I realised that camping on a camp site simply cannot be compared with camping in the wild – it belongs to a category of its own and has to be appreciated as such. You cannot go to a campsite and expect quiet and solitude and only the sounds of the wind and birds in the trees – its more like a little village with lots of neighbours and charming village life. Most other holiday campers had come with their caravan or camper plus giant house-like tents, had lots of cooking equipment, fridges, gas stoves and plenty of comfortable lawn chairs. Kids were running around with fancy scooters, playing games or being entertained by the daily kids program, which really was lots of fun to watch. Some campers even had a TV and were following the Olympics and watching movies. We had decided against the extra fee for electricity and tried to keep it as simple as possible – but didn’t mind enjoying the pool next door 🙂

There are some beautiful walks around Kirchzarten, but we ended up going a bit further and doing a tour near Titisee, visiting the Schluchsee and hiking up the Schauinsland (1284m). Will post some more pictures and holiday hike suggestions soon 🙂

And in case you were wondering, my exam went well – maybe not in spite of but because of the fun, laughter, hikes, swimming, good food and company that were all part of the special camping experience and managed to distract me and make me feel relaxed instead of nervous 😀 would do it again any day.

Happy late new year

I know its already the end of January, but this being my first post in 2016 I will start with wishing YOU and me and everyone, a happy late new year.

Foto 1

My last post was in October 2015, so here are five amazing/fun/random things that happened since then:

1) I was successful in my English exam 😀 it was a lot of work but I also enjoyed it, had some good topics and great professors. Thankful that it went well and glad to close a chapter.

2) I flew to Pakistan in December and spent time with my family over the Christmas break, which was really great.

3) I caught up on some film culture classics…finally watched Star Wars. Yes, I know, shocking I had lived almost 27 years without seeing them. But that has been remedied 🙂 Was great fun going to the cinema for the new one too 🙂

4) I got stuck in Istanbul for two days on my return flight…there were delays and cancellations due to the snow. I was cool though – my sis and I were put up in a 5 star hotel, I built my first snow man this winter (see picture) and we got to see a little bit of Istanbul 🙂 might share more about that another time…

5) This one is a bit of both past and future, a “has happened” and “will happen” – it looks like my time living in the countryside is coming to an end…I am seriously considering moving into a student residency. Its not official yet though, I have applied, but not yet been accepted. Will hopefully find out soon!

And what’s coming up this year of 2016?
GRADUATION!
yes, that is the plan. After what feels like forever I intend to finish University this year 😀
This will be after successfully passing my remaining final exams for biology (in the spring) and Spanish (in the fall).
So probably looking at November, then you can feel free to congratulate me and look forward to some change in this presently rather studious sort of nomad’s life 🙂

 

It’s just another tour

In just a few weeks*, another final exam awaits me. It’s my final exam for English literature and and linguistics. Now these are both fields I find absolutely fascinating, which is why I chose to study English in the first place, but I am not so fond of final exams, especially not oral exams.

So the other day, when the feelings were once again all jumbled and nerves causing trouble and stomach queasy, I realized something. First of all, I don’t want to be afraid of something I actually find fascinating. That’s not only inconvenient but incredibly silly, really. I know it is possible to be afraid of so many things as human beings, even things we generally think of as positive – like diving into a swimming pool, performing a piece of music or embarking on a serious relationship. Fears of getting hurt, fear of failure or embarrassment, fear of intimacy or losing your freedom are in competition with the desire to do something which is in itself good and likely to bring you enjoyment. The same is the case when you look at studying and exams. In the end, an oral exam is just a conversation on an academic level, where you talk about a topic you prepared beforehand, present your knowledge and discuss relevant issues. It can be enjoyable because this is something you are interested in and the exam offers both an opportunity to talk with someone who is an interested expert in the same field and it pushes you to work with your favourite subjects in a more intense and focused way. You learn through the experience.

Second, I realised that the exam is almost like a show or a performance, only that it includes dialogue. It is really rather similar to what I do every day when I do my tours as a tourist guide, which has been my awesome part-time job for the past five months – I present knowledge in a compact way, almost like telling a story. I take my tourists on a journey with various landmarks and combine information concerning history and geography with stories about people, customs and culture. What if I thought of my exam as a tour? A tour of the English language and a tour of English literature? We will embark upon a half-hour journey for each subject – so much shorter than my normal tours! – and I will be prepared to act as guide with a certain route prepared, but also ever ready to make a detour when requested or answer specific questions at one of our stops. I like that. Sadly, the tour will be too short to talk about all the wonderful things there are to discover and discuss! But that’s ok. All good things come to an end – including studies and exams and guided tours.

Ok, so I decided not to be afraid. Easier said than done. But in a way, it is almost like a decision. A decision not to allow that fear to keep me from continuing my preparation. A decision not to just sit on the couch and stare at the wall, but to get up and be productive. And a decision to trust that once again, I can rely on God to give me peace when I feel turmoil. So I got up, put on my headphones – with For Today’s song “Fearless” playing at full volume, and went back to work.

*less than a week now actually

Remember this moment

Exam time. Note to self:
ok. now if truly the worst happens and you don’t know what to write – find yourself staring at a blank page – then remember this moment of absolute clarity:

This moment, where you know you are loved.
This moment, where you know you are infinitely precious.
This moment, where you know the world will keep on turning
The sun will keep on shining
The rain will keep on falling
The birds will keep on chirping
and you will keep on breathing, and living and laughing
and dancing
no matter what happens.

This moment, where you are aware of God’s embrace
this moment, where you feel his strong hands hold you close
and keep you safe
this moment, where everything else around you seems to fade
in comparison to his awesome, powerful and beautiful presence and grace
this moment, where you know nothing else really matters
because life is real and beautiful and true
no matter how you do
there’s always a second chance
there’s always a new day
so remember this moment where you are sure beyond a doubt
that everything is gonna be ok.

Remember this moment.
Remember the joy.
Remember the good things.
And you’re fears will go away.

On studying

ok, so the last thing I should probably be doing right now
is writing my blog.
Its right in that category of non-essentials, along with writing that book I always wanted to write.
or reorganising all of my books, you know the ones on the shelf that are so…jumbled up.
Or reading a classic I missed in high school.

I suppose its not as bad as going on social media sites though.
Cooking elaborate meals that take hours to prepare…
Or randomly deciding to travel the world.
Meeting lots of new people and starting a long distance relationship  – with someone that doesn’t speak my language…meaning I have to take language lessons too…
That would be really silly.

I suppose the usual things are:
Tea break. Lunch break. Break to wash the dishes.
Gotta do the laundry.
Gotta…make a phone call. Write a really important E-mail.
It’s urgent, for real.
Should vacuum. And take out the trash.
Ok, feeling a bit tired, just gonna take a quick break. Do nothing.
Maybe I should go for a run?

And then there is the sudden fascination with any occupation that does not require studying.
I could just…do gardening. As a part-time job.
Or how about…you know…working as a waitress or babysitting or something like that…

Why am I doing this again?

And then…then I remember why I’m at Uni.
I remember…that I actually like studying.
More accurately, I like learning. I like the aspect of discovery.
Its kind of like…scuba diving. You go deeper and further and come across all these amazing and wonderful things you never knew existed…its like a whole new world.
Or at least –  a different perspective.
You meet a school of fish…and find beautiful shells still inhabited…and an octopus…
There’s something wonderful about it, something adventurous.

So the only problem is – the exam.
And that’s only one day. A few hours.
Just tell them what you know.
What you’ve discovered.
It’s like – they’re asking about your time under the sea.
Name five of the fish that you saw.
Shouldn’t be too bad.
And whether I remember five names or not – the fear of not remembering should not keep me from going diving.
That would be a shame, to miss out on such a beautiful experience.

The beauty of discovery.
The beauty of learning.
The beauty of thought and knowledge.
The beauty of studying.