Hitting our stride

Nov. 24

It was hard to wipe the smile off our partner Greg’s face today. At the end of our conversation class, he commented how the Friedenshaus is starting to resemble the community program that he knew from the Montreal Mennonite Church back in Canada. Different people would drop by each week, looking for community and language lessons. In Greg’s opinion, Friedenshaus is meeting a similar need here.

We have had a small core of “Stammgäste” (regulars, mostly Syrian) who come to every session we offer. In addition, we have had new people drop by every day, coming from places like Albania and Eritrea. Since we are three people, we have been able to divide our groups to help meet specific language needs and skill levels. Last week, we had our first community volunteer join us. A friend of Jennifer and Greg’s had been meeting with Marla to help her learn German. She was curious to see what we were doing and had so much fun last week that she returned again. Wonderful!

One of our regulars is a 62 year old man from Syria we’ll call Ahmed. We first met at a Asyl Cafe back in September. We had difficulty communicating since he spoke no English and only a few words of German. Greg was able to speak  Arabic and invite him to our classes. You can imagine starting to learn a new language in your sixties is not the easiest task. He struggled to even wrap his tongue around some of the basic letters and sounds. But he continued to come.

After a while, he was able to start a morning course and could only come in the afternoons. But he came. And he has been our biggest supporter, inviting new people at different Cafes to come and visit us. We believe Ahmed has not only found some language help, but also a sense of community – a place to belong. We have breaks during the sessions where you can see Ahmed’s real character emerge, telling lively stories and engaging with the other Arab speakers.

Months later, he now is able to use his limited vocabulary to join in on class activities and participate as he can. When topics get too difficult, he is quiet, but still tries to understand and follow along. Even after a long morning of instruction, he rushes home for a quick lunch and back to join us again. Thank you Ahmed!

German word of the week: “Gummibärchen (gummy bears)”. While playing a game reviewing some food vocabulary, the players were confused by this word. Once I explained the “Bär” part, it was easy to explain what it was. But they still hadn’t seen them or eaten them. After talking about this, it was explained to me that the gelatine used for this classic German treat comes from pigs. Therefore, not available in Muslim countries or communities. However, I have since read that Haribo also produces a Helal version of gummy bears. So, I’ll have to see if I can find some and bring them to our next class.


Also, we had some fun today talking about the word “durchfallen” (to fail, as in to fail a grade or a test). We discussed the words combined to form this (durch – through, fallen – to fall). I couldn’t help but note how apt the noun “Durchfall” is. This is the German word for diarrhea – literally to fall through. For those who have experienced this, quite a clear description 🙂

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