Friday, January 29, 2010

Kleinenhain: January 14th-16th

14 January 2010

I wake up and meet with Angelika at which time she shows me the process of the morning routine. We feed her chickens, head over to the sheep barn to give the sheep new hay and water and then it’s time for a breakfast of fresh rolls baked by Axel and more of those delicious jams. I begin the first bit of my incessant German quizzing and vow to bring a notebook next time to write everything down.

The sheep and their barn! My favorite is the white one to the right, but there'll be more of her later.

Chickens in their coop!

The typical breakfast spread, mmmm. Jams, chutneys, bread and apple juice all made from their own produce!


After breakfast I get a tour of the premises: the vegetable garden, the guest house, the bake house, the greenhouse, where all the wood is stored, where the compost heap is, etc. My flat was lit by a wood-burning stove and unfortunately I let it go out over night, so we had the task of collected more firewood and starting it up again. The rest of the day was spent making a path for the wheelbarrows in the snow, bringing seasoned firewood from the storage area near the pasture to the house area and separating it by size, feeding the animals and giving the sheep logs with bark for them to chew off until their hearts are content, warm lunch with lots of vegetables, buckwheat and seeds, tea, discussion and some German. I’m slowly getting the hang of things and trying to suss out the routine, but this is definitely not such a bad life.

15 January 2010

I wake up in the morning, beginning to feel the routine. Put more wood into the burner that heats my flat, feed the chickens and give them water, change the sheeps’ water bucket and give them hay. Eat a breakfast of fresh bread and delicious homemade jams and chutneys, quiz Angelika and Axel on German words. I have about 4 pages of words and phrases in my notebook and I’ve spoken my first several sentences! I’ll be fluent in no time, you watch.

Angelika and Axel, the typical scenario at the table during my German quizzing, though this time Axel is showing Angelika how he can wiggle his ears.

Today was only a bit different in that Angelika and I got in the car to run some errands in Bremervörde, a cute small downtown area near their village, Kleinenhain. We went to the post office and got bird food at a store downtown. The bird food is to keep the birds around so they eat the pests in the garden. They also have their own bees to pollinate everything. Organic methods in action! In any case, after that we drove to the supermarket (Rewe) to recycle some bottles and buy ingredients to make hummus, get cat food and soymilk. When we got back, lunch was served. A delicious pumpkin soup cooked by Axel and a Swedish dessert called Rotegrütze made from frozen berries from their summer’s garden and soy custard. I ate so much I thought I might explore, but we were off to feed the animals and bring in several wheelbarrow loads of firewood to the house, so I got to work it off a bit. My guns are going to be freakin’ awesome by summer; I can already feel my muscles making a comeback. Angelika went to a meeting 30 minutes away after that, so Axel and I finished tea and had dinner and talked about bananas, my Economic Botany class and the differences between West and East Germany before and after the war.

16 January 2010

It was Saturday today, but the routine was basically the same, except there was some pretty cold wind so we didn’t spend as much time outside. At breakfast, Angelika and Axel told me about a neighborhood exchange group a friend of theirs belongs to where people designate points to any good or service they have—from a physiotherapy session to a loaf of bread—instead of using money. It reminded me of the first Hampshire class I took my sophomore year, Colloquium on Sustainability, where we modeled the same thing in class, exchanging fake haircuts and bike tune-ups on ripped up pieces of paper to help us understand different meanings of currency. The idea always stuck with me and I’d love to be part of something like that wherever I end up.

We cooked a big feast for lunch consisting of celeriac, beets, carrots, potatoes and pumpkins from their root cellar bathed in vegetable broth and spices, cooked for an hour then topped with feta cheese (or tofu in my case) and pumpkin seeds. Lunch is the main hot meal here. We have breakfast around 9:00, lunch around 1 or 2, tea consisting of tea and some bread or cookies and then dinner at about 7:30 pm, which is usually bread or rolls, jams and cheese for them. Very different than the big meal at night like we do in America, but I like it because I never go to bed with a really full stomach and need most of my energy for the main part of the day anyway.

Most of the afternoon and night Axel worked on 12 loaves of a rye-sourdough bread. They have a huge industrial mixer that I envy. Tomorrow morning we get fresh sourdough bread. At dinner, Angelika told me an epic story about the survival of one of their sheep who had a rough start to life and another story about a sheep whom Axel built little leg splints for so he could heal and walk normally. Just imagine a little lamb with leg splints! Adorable. The first sheep I mentioned is the friendliest and always walks over to me to get pet while the others are running away like the herd animals they are.

Lunch, before roasting. We did a lot of chopping, but it was worth it!

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect here, what with no internet really and a decent amount of down time. For one, I am so much happier doing this kind of thing than I was teaching English. While I was raised from a young age to succeed at academics, I’m starting to realize I don’t really have the heart or motivation to follow an academic path. I just thought that was all there was until about a year ago, what with the honors classes and the suburbs and the Smith education and all. I like learning and talking about different theories and whatnot, but when it comes down to it I don’t want some big career, or to Save The World. I mean, I want the world to change, of course, and I want things to improve and to help that happen, but the whole top down approach doesn’t work for me.

I want to start with myself. I don’t want to preach, I want to live. I want to get to know people and individuals, not regions and groups and categories. It feels terribly selfish and almost blasphemous saying this, but I really don’t have the patience or motivation to solve everyone elses’ problems or tackle some noble, selfless cause like every other goddamn person at Smith College. I want change I can see and shape with my own hands, I don’t have it in me to do the whole government, history, bureaucracy thing and I’m not very good at being pretentious. Sorry alma mater.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think you're alone on that last count, even if it's just you and me. One of the truly satisfying things about my AmeriCorps service is getting to watch my students grow and share ideas and fumble their way through social situations. I like getting to know them, and there is definitely a little thrill of power every once in awhile when I realize the (admittedly brief) impact I'm making on their lives. I'm seriously considering teacher licensure and special ed certifications because of this year.