Friday, February 28, 2020


Three and a half years ago I started teaching German as a foreign language to a class of refugees who were taking a preparatory class to the go into nursing training.

The class was a lively bunch of people from seven or eight different countries and that was when my involvement with refugees changed completely. Before that, I had concentrated on helping people fight their way through German bureaucracy, go to the doctor, write letters, find a lawyer etc. With the class I started fighting for the attendees' right to o work. Because a third of the class - the (West-)Africans came from countries that are considered 'safe' and not worthy of political asylum, and therefore they would not be given a permission to work, which they needed to go into actual nursing training afterwards. Despite the fact that they were willing to go into an area of work where personnel is desperately needed (and German authorities are running special expensive recruiting programs to import nursing personnel from foreign countries) the Bavarian government insisted that they had entered the country illegally, that giving them a permission to work would constitute a 'pull factor' for people in their country, and that had to be prevented! They were scheduled to leave the country or be deported. However, no identity papers, no deportation possible. I quickly developed a sound knowledge of the legal situation concerning asylum, work permits and intricacies of German politics regarding migration.
We fought hard, but by the end of the year we had to admit defeat with respect to the 8 Senegalese class members: the ministry was adamant, they were not allowed to work. (Only one person who knew a politician who knew the minister was allowed to start the course for Carer almost right away, just a few weeks late.)
Two had left Germany, one started a school for which he didn't need a permit work, hoping that something would work out (he got married to a German woman just after he finished and has been working for a while now). Two went to language classes to improve their German further, one of them has recently started the nursing training because regulations have changed even for Senegalese with respect to work permits for nursing. And one 'stayed' with me - we have become friends, and because I had already helped him with a lawyer and a court case regarding his legal status in Germany it just turned out that I was trying to help him further. He didn't really want to do nursing, being an electrician by training at home. An attempt to get a work permit for becoming a sanitary an air conditioning engineer was unsuccessful right after the year in class. When I started my own training he started engineering school, for which he didn't need a permit. Nevertheless, we applied again. We sent several letters to Senegal to obtain some kind of documents, he phoned, he went to the embassy... no reply from the German authority despite all his attempts. In January, 18 months after the application for his permit, and knowing that again some rules were being changed, I sent a letter threatening to take them to court for inaction - he was summoned to appear on Thursday, and we were both scared. But the almost unimaginable happened - he was granted the permit to stay for the duration of the school course. With a work permit for two years afterwards, and then he will have been in the country for long enough that he will have reached the time when the sheer length of presence in the country will have gained him the right to stay.

He does have to continue his attempts to obtain a passport. With this status he will not be deported upon presenting it, however, which had been the threat all these years. 
We were both completely surprised yesterday and I was as if under shock for the rest of the day. Have to get used to the new situation first. But it is beginning to sink in. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Waiting and spinning...

As I am waiting for the replacement laptop to be finally prepared to be used I have only limited access to a computer. Which is not terribly hard, but an experience. It shows you how much we
depend on these items these days... And although I can do a number of things on the phone, I had taken some decisions as to what kind of things I don't want to do on the phone. For example, I don't do banking on the phone, I don't want to do blogger on it, and so I am still somewhat limited in terms of possible activities. The experience of having lost data with the stolen computer has also made me slightly more nervous about losing the phone. Perhaps I should consider doing something about online/cloud whatever in order to avoid a similar experience, only even more heartbreaking....
Anyway, I had a lovely weekend attending a workshop "Spinning Silk in all varieties".
We looked out of a roundabout glass window onto Lake Chiemsee, seeing the mountains and the lake and the boat coming and going...

 And we tried out all kinds of silk variations.

with yak

Sari silk plied onto itself

the sari silk goodies

And although my initial incentive to sign myself up for the workshop had been more to get to practice spinning techniques (figuring I would be able to get practical input from the teacher even if I were not too interested in silk as material for spinning) that soon changed. I absolutely fell in love with silk fibre for spinning. Upon my return home I  went through thread and stash boxes and rediscovered goodies from long ago which I had never really considered for spinning. There is fun and adventure ahead of me!

I have already announced that I do want a carding machine for my birthday, even though that is still a couple of months away.

But I am also stitching my piece for the South Africa Alliance, or whatever we are going to call ourselves. I have treated myself to a cone stand for the Bernina and lo and behold all thread tension issues I was having when using the large cones have disappeared. Why didn't I do so earlier?

I have survived another week of nursing school. This time around it was more the other students whom I found very taxing rather than the teachers, but there are only two more weeks left in this stretch. I practice yoga style breathing when things get too hard to bear and look forward to stitching a bit in the evenings...

Sunday, February 9, 2020

My quilt is up

As I am still getting over the loss of my laptop computer and slowly reaching a solution things are happening. For example, my quilt has been put up.

When I participated in the art symposium as a textile artist two years ago in July I signed a contract that made it mandatory that I release the finished quilt to the city. It took me a bit longer to finish than merely the smposium, but it was only a couple of months after conclusion of the symosium that I handed it over. Then the issue was where would it be put up – and how will it be presented and protected – and this had to be included in the next year’s financial budget – and now it is up. I was ill on the day it was hung and have only had a chance to pass by the building, so the photo is everything but satisfying as such. And my current computer solution does not permit me any kind of photo editing, so here it is as my phone would take it, in the entrance hall of the building for the music schoon and community college.

#UDHR (text messages 18)

A tag with title, name of maker and explanation is supposed to be added soon, and then I assume there will be something like an official date with a photographer to put a picture into the paper or the city mail or something. But it is always amazing how quickly some news travel, because I patient in hospital asked me the other day, not more than one or two days after the quilt was hung (and still without the tag!) whether I was the one who had made that piece and why was I working in the hospital... Art doesn’t pay well enough I said.

But even at the hospital there are possibilities of finding something interesting. A new building is going up right next door to enlarge the hopital and two days ago this wonderful series of patterns could be seen on the construction site. The moments to catch a bit of art during working hours are few, but they do happen.

Today my son is jubilant as we are waiting for a storm that is coming in and school has been called off for tomorrow already. Nothing to be expected from looking at the sky this afternoon when it felt like the beginning of spring (there had been a determined little bird at 5.30 this morning singing for me when I went to work, under an almost full moon). This storm has been announced for a few days and apparently it is already pretty active further north but it felt very calm and spring like this afternoon, so I went for a walk to enjoy the sunshine while it lasted. 

the willows are budding while we are waiting for the storm

So my boy can stay home tomorrow while I will have to go to work early again. He is telling stories about how he slept through the aftermaths of a hurricane in a bathtub on the Outer Banks when he was 5 and that he probably won’t wake up from this storm either although he has absolutely no memories about that, is talking only from hearsay.We’ve closed the shutters and I am trying to remember where I put my bicycle helmet. Perhaps it might be a smart thing to wear it tomorrow when walking to work.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Taxing week(s) and lovely teaching weekend...

Since early January I have been doing duty on a surgical ward. Which I like regarding the medical aspects. But the team of nurses has, to say it mildly, a very complex group dynamics and I am finding it extremely taxing to figure out their ways, their modes of interaction, and some of the regulars' personalities. It has been a taxing time, and especially the past week was difficult.
For example, ,one habit that never was directly communicated was the fact that the turnover between shifts on this particular ward starts earlier than regular shift hours which we were given at school - and arriving just on time was rewarded with a rather blunt and unfriendly comment about 'being late'. And many other things. Each individual one of them being small, but in the sum total very difficult to deal with. A number of people seem to be ok and I have the impression that I can deal with them. I think I have even gained one person's respect simply by telling her that I am not afraid of her, she seems to pride herself on being harsh and difficult to deal with for the nursing students. But two people are simply ill-mannered and my current position as a nursing student (i.e. 'subordinate' to them) makes it impossible to tell them to shut up their fould mouths and start behaving, which I would like to do and certainly would if I were facing them on the same professional level. Rather tricky! I have two more weeks on that ward before going back to school.

The habit of starting turn-over ahead of time so far usually lead to the situation that I had been getting out pretty punctually on time, sometimes even ahead of time. On Friday, I was hoping that would be true as well because I really needed to get going as I was headed for teaching a class on the weekend. As it happens, when you want that, something comes along to prevent it. An emergency happened on the ward just before turn-over, including a rather life-threatening situation, everybody's nerves were blank, one of the two ill-behaved brats I have mentioned came for the late shift, a few harsh words from her... I got out late and still had to pick up two people to take with me before we really could get going... but luckily we did get to the teaching place on time, at least traffic was not as chaotic as it could have been on a Friday afternoon. (I learned from this that I will be more careful, should I have a teaching opportunity to make sure that there is no early shift on that day I have to leave, certainly a way to reduce stress. Some things are learned the hard way.)

The workshop at my favorite teaching place, Petersberg Catholic Community College, where I have been going to teach for 14 years now, was nice and relaxing and a good way to end that week. The women who come to this workshop are a pretty regular group by now, with minor changes, and the teaching for me is more like a bit of mentoring. I am there to help them when problems arise or when they have questions, but it is not a 'work-teach'-situation for me. I get to do some stitching myself because most of them are so self-contained that once they have been set on their way they will work independently for a while before they will need me in any way.
So I got to play with the new set of templates I ordered from Denyse Schmidt and do a bit more fabric and scrap fondling besides teaching about curves, free-hand cutting and how to sew a curved seam.

But the most fun part about it all was that Lisa, a now 17-year-old girl, who has been coming to this workshop with her mother for six years now, and who is an avid maker of little bags and pouches and purses has infected almost everybody in the room and started a kind of side-programme teaching how to sew little bags.

She is growing up, and she is doing a good job in becoming a teacher for textiles and creative things. It will be interesting to see where she goes after she finishes school next year.