Sunday, April 21, 2013

Good Friday

This year on Good Friday, with everyone off from school and work and Oma in town, we drove to Oberammergau, a short distance from us here in Bavaria. Funnily enough, this is the first place we all recognized here in Germany. On one of our first weekends last year, we drove to the Alps and passed the sign for Oberammergau, home of the Passion Play. We all perked up. We knew about this! Back in Hong Kong, Father Will from St. Stephen’s attended the 2010 Passion Play and told us all about it. Suddenly, the world seemed a little bit smaller and maybe even more manageable.
Well, a year later, we stopped in that little town. It is not just off the road as it first appeared. We had to drive off and the circle back through the mountains to get there. Oberammergau’s fame is based on its Passion Play performance, held in the village every ten years. Back during the Thirty Year War, the village was also struck by the bubonic plague. The first deaths occurred in October 1632 and continued through July 1633. After over eighty people died in this tiny village, the council of elders made a promise to God to perform the Passion Play about Christ’s final days regularly if their village would be spared. No more plague deaths occurred in Oberammergau and the play has gone on ever since, though modified from an annual performance to one every ten years.
The play is put on with a cast made up entirely from the village. All sorts of rules exist about who can perform, how long they must have lived there. Our kids all took heart when they learned that all children in the village can perform, even if they were not born there. The chance to be on stage remains open for them, if not for their parents! The production is huge with over 1,000 actors on stage at one point. The play lasts for seven hours and is performed from May through October.
Over a half million visitors come to watch, making the play the mainstay of the economy. The play was first performed in a small parish church and then performed in the graveyard for plague victims. With its increasing popularity, a large stage was constructed and regularly retrofitted. It now can seat over 5,000 visitors in the audience. We walked through the village museum and through the play venue. One of the signs told about how the audience was made of visitors from far flung places. The sign said that even Hong Kong dollars were found in the collection plates after the show. Adam looked at me, smiling, sure that Father Will’s donation and been counted and mentioned in the permanent signage. I started to laugh but stopped. He was probably right. The world is pretty small indeed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Middle School Sports

While we have long been used to traveling to swim meets, our school here in Munich has taken it to a whole new level. The kids, starting in middle school, travel with their sports teams to far flung events throughout Europe. Our school is in a league with other international schools and thus travels for dual meets as well as league championships. While we knew this was coming, we were basically in denial until Tori made the tennis team and got on a bus to Zurich….without us!
While it is a great experience for the kids, it is nerve wrecking one for the parents (or at least the parents of sixth graders). Our daughter doesn’t have a phone and is not in the habit of checking any electronic device (including a watch!) or even checking in with us!  Once the kids get to where they are going, they stay with families on the other end. We don’t the phone numbers but our students billet out in groups of two, so they have a friend (and usually a friend with a phone). All in all, it has been a lot of fun. The kids make conversation with a new family, try new food and hopefully make their beds. They figure out (before their parents) who is in the European Union and who is not. Yes, we sent Tori to Zurich with only Euros not Swiss Francs!
Just when we got used to the idea of Tori going to a foreign country on a bus, she went to a swim meet in Athens. On a plane! (Full disclosure: I panicked on that one and went to Athens too, along with her godmother where we watched Tori swim and have a good time and not need us at all).
The last swim meet of the season was in Zurich and over a school break. Tori went on the bus with the team and the rest of us followed by car. There we stayed with old friends, generally marveling at how similar their life in a Swiss village and our life in a German village is. We went to the swim meet the next day, watching Tori turn in some personal best times and win a few ribbons. What was so amazing to me was the continuity. I spoke with Americans who grew up swimming. A Chinese family from Beijing who swam with a team I knew. A coach from Vienna and I talked after he recognized a swim t-shirt Tori was wearing from a Hong Kong meet. We realized we had talked before in Hong Kong. He and I compared notes on swimming in Europe. Yes, it is much less intense, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. And funnily, the same people seek it out and find it and show up at 7 am for warm ups.
And this just in; Tori is going to Vienna this weekend with the middle school softball team!