Today is a PJ & blanket day on my latitude, as October shows its more familiar face – rain & gale filling a titanium sky. I shan’t complain, as Hairst (that wonderful Shetlan word for autumn, and more accurately the “time for harvest”) has been exceptionally dry, with a sky that would make a jeweller proud!
Time to rewind life’s clock and look again at September.
September, a strange month in many respects – the “go-betweener” – Equinox, halfway though light & darkness… A time when I wish to clone myself to be in different places at once, including Hanse House in King’s Lynn to help launch a book of poetry & art for the Transformations’ Project…
Yet this September was different, for I spent it in between Lerwick & Lübeck.
Dates are fascinating.
1814, Norway begins to taste democracy… Sir Walter Scott lands in Lerwick at Robert Stevenson’s (RLS’s grandfather) invitation.
1914, Western & Central European nations slide into total war, entailing the peoples from their respective empires, and which they believe will finish at Christmas, fleur au canon… An old order crumbled into the vacuum victors wrote as History.
On a more personal level,
1984, second (and last) participation to a school exchange with Herborn, Hessen, Germany. Fantastic experience as a pupil to learn & understand about culture from the “other side of the Rhine” and first-hand experience (eye witness) to the impact of land occupation when traveling to “die Grenze”, the frontier – no man’s land area created by the bi-polar world since 1949. A world, Europe, country divided by a “Cold War”, itself a by-product of WWII. The sight of barb wire, watch towers & tanks, respectively Soviet & US, with guards armed to the teeth remains forever tattooed in my memory.
2014 – Germany reunified (since Oct 1990) in a more homogeneous and harmonised Europe (although a world which still bears the scars of the Cold War in some respects…) and a formidable opportunity to help empower 22 young Shetlanders to experience a slice of life with their respective German partners in Schleswig-Holstein, in & around Reinfeld, thanks to a well established German Exchange, the brainchild of my Anderson High School colleague Peter Haviland. This time, I would go as staff, together with my other accompanying colleague, Stephen Arnold.
And what a fabulous opportunity it has been to empower our pupils, equipping them with a very valuable life experience, developing life skills, enabling them to taste continental life in a thriving culture – making them aware of cultural as well as linguistic differences, and, maybe inspiring them in a way in developing language skills at some point in their life… I still remember some of our young participants expressing frustration when communicating, and realising how unfair it felt “not to speak as good German as their German counterparts could speak English”… Serious awareness. Come think of it, and not (too) too long ago, when Shetland was part of a Hanseatic world, with Lübeck as its capital, Shetland fishermen had found a linguistic compromise to understand and be understood by the German fish merchants with whom they were trading; and develop it later on with the Dutch merchants… Shetland’s own dialect borrowed many words from the old Frisian tongue – not only Norse words from the Viking world.
Our pupils were formidable ambassadors for our school, community and ultimately, Scotland. The guests of Reinfeld’s school, KGS, or die Immanuel Kant Gemeinschaftschule, for their 10th Anniversary, our young Shetlanders put to the stage their own spirit & dancing skills, which, in turn, encouraged German participation and applause from the Reinfeld community.
Watching them dance, smile, explore, discover new things, new places, and listening to them sharing their reactions to daily challenges, their emotions throughout their respective voyage of discovery has contributed to a fantastic human adventure.
Schleswig-Holstein was, like Berlin itself, uncharted territory to me. Returning to a (re-) unified Germany with a unified capital proved to be a wonderful slice of life. So great to bathe into such culture and language – to “switch” again into the Germanic way of life, weaving new bonds with colleagues from Reinfeld and reinforcing existing professional bonds with my Shetland ones. Affectionately, I called us Les Trois Mousquetaires, after Alexandre Dumas, very aptly so.
We – pupils & staff – returned home with a collection of stories & fabulous memories to treasure.
Proud of our young generation 🙂
Here, selected images as illustration.
Poetics came through words too.
Brücke, Glocken und
da brig, da bell an
Die Glocke – bell
die Amsel – blackbird
Peerie Fat Man
(an icon fae old Ost Berlin)
du, peerie fat
Check Point Charlie,
Karl Marx Allee,
bear & eagle as your guardian –
I noticed you in
red & green,
short-legged with a
on either side,
© Nat Hall 2014
To my German Exchange AHS S4 Pupils
in between light & Baltic Sea,
and acorns ripe in
you dare and dance,
clouds & gravity,
against bark of
will keep you high;
high as a kite amid branches,
velocity veils frantic
spread across in
your stomach, as you glide from
helm to oak tree.
you look a spider in
Sur le filin, l’épeire diadème.
For Kelvin A., S4 AHS Pupil in Reinfeld, KGS’s 10th
Star Dancer –
sleek on his feet,
meticulous on every step,
even the wind embraced his whirls, as he showed
Boston Two Steps.
He made us
© Nat Hall 2014
All words, images and verse © Nat Hall 2014
And, oh, to avoid any confusion, “Peerie Fat Man” is that little red/green man from the German traffic lights, as photographed below 🙂