Last week I hoped to share mannequin nipples with you. (They’re definitely a ‘thing’ over here, and I don’t recall seeing them in the States at all? Not that I look that mannequin chests all that closely? Or, perhaps I do?) I was motivated to check out grocery stores because I’ve seen some odd products and pairings here and there (think bananas and men’s shoes on the same shelf. I’ve seen that one.)
If I can figure out how to be more discreet about taking pictures of people, I’d like to show you head-to-toe matching couples, or the old women trend of pink hair, or the enigma of levitating street artists.
But, thanks to stomach flu, we didn’t do much spazieren (aka ‘walking,’ an important German pastime.) until Friday. By then I was eager to get out and capture our little suburb in all its quirky glory.
(I do love me some quirky.)
Things seemed to be off to a decent enough start when we strolled down a street we’ve not been down before, and saw this fence:
I’ll go ahead and state the obvious–those are colored pencils. It was worth posting a picture because, I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I’ve seen that particular medium used in fence building.
Even more impressive, and it’s hard to see from here, but up close they do appear to be legit colored pencils.
We continued on, and my camera was ready. But, for some reason–probably because I’d set out purposely to go in for the visual kill–our little suburb got its act together. I couldn’t find one bit of quirk on that particular walk.
Instead, this sticker caught my attention.
That sticker felt ironic to me, somehow–such a simple medium to reference events that are literally changing the face, infrastructure, and future of Germany. It was like the plug on a very full bath. Pull it off and the significant weight of water and its assorted bubbles and grease would drain out behind it.
All it took was that sticker to know that this weekly feature isn’t necessarily going to be about only the quirky things in Germany.
There’s a lot going in this adoptive country of mine at the moment. It would be unfair to only present Deutschland’s nippled mannequins (fun as they are) or Sparkasse squirrels that look like they’ve experienced the aftermath of swimming in a wading pool overtaken by a pack of hair dryers on high heat. (You’d have to read last week’s post to get the squirrel reference.)
Anyway, as you might know, a few refugees have come to Germany over the past year. Just a trickle. Something to the tune of nearly a million, with 476,000 applications for asylum in 2015. Germany has become the ‘promised land’ for refugees.
According to an article I read in Time, 4.2 million Syrians have fled since 2011. Of those, the U.S. took in 2, 290 (or 0.0005%) and it’s no secret that letting additional refugees in hasn’t exactly been a popular idea with Americans. I’m genuinely not trying to criticize that, but just pointing out the difference between my home and adopted countries on this issue.
I wonder when this sticker was put out there. Was it towards the beginning, when Willkommenskultur (or Germany’s “Welcome Culture”) ran deepest? When large groups of people met incoming refugees at the Munich train station and handed out chocolate or stuffed animals to children badly suffering from PTSD?
Was it Merkel who inspired the sticker? The leader who wanted Germany to be known for its humanitarian agenda, just this once? Who was determined to be Hitler’s foil? To embrace a not-so-Aryan population with faces from Kosovo, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa, to name a few?
Or was the sticker put up after the horrific sex attacks in Cologne over New Years? Is it an attempt to say that the actions of one group are not the crimes of all?
Maybe it’s in reaction to the recent rise in violent crimes (arson, mainly) directed at places refugees are staying? To show that fear does not have a place at this particular suburban home?
Perhaps it’s meant as a welcome committee in sticky miniature for the influx of migrants in our Heidelberg suburb?
It’s obvious that the ‘face’ of this city has changed. There are a lot more Middle Eastern and North African people, here. Todd and I have been referring to downtown as ‘Little Baghdad.’ The military base where my husband and I used to teach before it was shut down is now housing thousands of refugees–not much less than the number that was on debate in terms of whether or not they should be allowed into the U.S.A.
It’s sad how little I know about the daily life of those tucked away on the old base. And, it’s just down the road. Occasionally our Stars and Stripes newspaper publishes pictures of the people there, milling around what used to be the military dentist office or the Village Pavillion where all-you-can-eat pancake Sundays and prom were held. Other than that, it’s like they’re as distant as the countries they risked everything to leave. I assume they are doing a lot of waiting. But, waiting for what? What’s next for them?
It’s quite a situation. My feelings about it are, like most everyone else’s I’m sure, complicated.
Without a doubt I’m proud to live in the country that has most extended itself to these people. I also think that last word–people–is something that gets overlooked in the discussion. My impression is that they’re continuously referred to as ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’ and viewed as a collective, problematic whole.
But, let’s be clear–they’re people.
I think we hear the word ‘refugee’ and go to this default image of someone with a dirty face, wearing rags and holding out their hands, begging for freebies. I can see why that’s unattractive. Unwanted. But most of these people had lives. Careers. Homes. Neighbors. Bubble jackets. (I’ve seen a few wearing them in newspaper pictures.)
These people look like the Muslim woman I shared a laugh with at the playground, this morning, because Laken made a beeline for her purse. (What are bee lines, by the way? Why do we say that?) Regardless, she crawled fast. She was just about tripping over herself trying to get to the zipper and main pockets before I could catch her. The lady smiled at me and said ‘we’ve got to watch out for that one!’ in German.
Or, they look like the man who ran out to help me last week when a semi truck crashed into our parked van. I was so discombobulated (love that word) that he wrote down the phone number of the police for me because I couldn’t keep it straight in my head. And, he stood by to give his eyewitness account when they finally arrived. We now say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ if we see each other out.
My life is filled with first world problems. The other day I couldn’t get The Bachelor to load on iTunes. I lost one of our house keys. Our toilet has this weird habit of flushing down everything but one white flag of toilet paper.
That being said–I simply can’t imagine living in fear of Scud missile attacks, or watching my village be burned down.
If there was any question of Laken possibly being struck by a missile and killed, you can bet I’d want to ante up and get the flock out of dodge! But, what if we couldn’t? What if no one would help us and insisted we stay put?
That’s what I keep thinking about.
Are there problems? Sure.
Was Merkel too much of an idealist? Should we blame her vacation in Sued Tirol? Is the German ‘Willkommenskultur’ going to deteriorate with help from right-wing fear instigators?
We’ll find out.
According to an article I read in the New York Times, Germany “continues to struggle with the challenges of transforming itself into a republic of shared ideals rather than shared blood.”
It will surely be interesting to see what the future holds, and what type of impact that thumbs up to refugees has on German society.