„I don’t think much of bringing dogs from other countries here to us. We have enough animal suffering of our own here. That should be dealt with. Of course, I feel sorry for the foreign dogs too, but bringing animals from abroad here, I don’t think anything of it.“ This sentence fell exactly two weeks ago. On a Saturday the 7.12. on the birthday celebration of our brother-in-law Tim in a cozy Franconian restaurant. He was celebrating his 60th birthday with his close family and friends. The sentence was said by Gerd, the head of a family of friends from Magdeburg. It went in the conversation, in which this sentence fell, about our dogs. We had seen Gerd and his wife for the first and up to now last time on Katrin’s and Tim’s wedding eight years ago. We therefore knew that they had dogs themselves and so the topic simply lent itself as small talk. We had remembered Tim and his wife from our last encounter as very humanly open. Now, after all these years, they seemed to have gotten into a more negative overall view of the world. Some things were not going so well for them the last few years professionally and health-wise. I am surprised by Gerd’s interjection, but remain vague. I am not really a friend of opinions anymore and the many being right and having views and so on. I do not want to discuss the issue and agree with Gerd that it is a position that you hear more often and that others in turn would have a different view on it. Everyone from its point of view evenly. – In the evening in the camper I think again about Gerd’s unexpected words and only then the penny drops: It is simply the old fear of the stranger that could take something away from you. The bourgeoisie in one’s own group. It is simple xenophobia transferred to – dogs! I can’t quite grasp it and ask myself in a brief flash of thought whether Gerd, in the right company, would also set fire to our house shouting „Foreigners out!“. No, he wouldn’t. Now that’s an exaggeration.
„I know the argument. Thirty years ago, many people said the same thing: ‚We have enough problems of our own. Why should we also have to deal with these foreign people from the East? We don‘t even know them, and we don’t have anything to give away. We have enough suffering of our own to alleviate. Of course they need help now, but not from us. – It’s good that nobody listened to them back then, isn’t it? Just imagine, Gerd, that it would have been the other way around. „That’s what I spontaneously think of that evening as a response to Gerd’s views. I find it a mischievous pity that this comparison only occurs to me now and imagine that I would have given it to Gerd, the Magdeburger, in the pub as an answer. ‚Nonsense,‘ I immediately think. Nonsense. Who would have benefited from it? But it would certainly have worked…
Now exactly 14 days have passed since that evening and I am sitting in a hotel room in the middle of France thinking again about that situation. Why am I sitting here? Why am I thinking about that situation? We were with Katrin and Tim for another week. Then I left with the camper with the destination Portugal. Alone. On this trip I am really alone abroad for the first time. I do not drive to make vacation. I drive because it corresponds to the inner plan. The „I“ does not necessarily have to like that. That’s how it is with providence and inner plans. My outer plan had been to cross France in one fell swoop in two days. France is not the goal. I can leave it on the left. And besides: I don’t really want to go abroad anyway. I don’t want to get into these problematic situations when the customs are different and I don’t know the language. In addition, the French are known not to speak English, but only French. I speak no French and only English. Very bad conditions. Quickly through! Once twice anonymous refuel. That was it. Orewoar, France! ‚ – On the second day, in the middle of France, the fan belt on my camper breaks. – – – – – I have to make a few dashes to let the situation itself once again melt on the tongue. – – In the middle of France. Alone. – – – And a few more dashes. – – – That was four days ago. For four days I have been in the middle of France. And need to talk. With the tow truck driver. With the towing company. With the garage. With the hotel. And no one, really no one speaks more than three words of English or dares to speak more and refuses to. But that’s still three words more than I could speak French four days ago. With telephone help from my brother-in-law, who has lived in the south of France for a long time, the automobile club and the tow truck driver, who is a linguistic genius and, in addition to four other languages, also speaks perfect German, although he has never been to Germany (my real salvation!), I somehow got through it all and somehow managed.
Initially, I found out that I would not get a workshop appointment for another two weeks. Here and also at Mercedes and elsewhere. Only in fourteen days. With a repair that would take less than half an hour. The ADAC would have brought the car back to Germany free of charge and I could have gone home first class. Very well. Thy will be done. Then I found out that it was not due to the unwillingness of the repair shops, but to the fact that spare parts are not so easy to get here. Unlike in Germany, it takes many days in France to get a spare part. The parts simply would not have arrived before Christmas. Knowing this, my brother-in-law then got them in Germany and had them express shipped to France because, ‚If the parts are there by Monday morning, we’ll still do it!“ the workshop told me. Today is Saturday, the workshop is closed and this morning I waited outside the workshop for the delivery, talking tooth and nail to convince the express courier to hand me the parcel as the parts inside would have been ordered for my car. „Pake in front of me. Workshop I ask package. Me car repair in workshop. Part are. Da. Da. SMS at DHL with me. Name. Here.“ Something like that. A foreigner. And it worked. In Germany, I probably would have run into a wall. Oh yes. The day before I wanted to get money at the ATM. It was the first time and I was not sure if my bank card would be accepted at all. „Sometimes yes, sometimes no“ was the word from various sources. Fine, fine. Then it best nice and fast and anonymous at the machine in a small bank try. Quickly in and quickly out again. And – – – promptly my card was confiscated and with ‚anonymous times even‘ was then nothing more. I hadn’t done anything yet except insert the card. The machine beeped a low alarm signal and printed out a small receipt for the swiping of my card without asking me. There was something very unexpected and surreal about this process. As if the machine had spontaneously and unasked decided to make a little exchange. My beautiful card for a piece of paper from its thermal printer. Now I had to approach the counter with my little receipt in hand. „Bonjour.“ There was no problem with that. The lady retrieved my card from the back of the machine and we tried again together. It worked this time! „Merci!“ said I. Merci. My word. She laughed and said to a friendly smiling waiting lady probably something like, she didn’t do anything. I didn’t have to thank her. But I had only this word. Again everything with hands and feet. But what I want to get at: I wanted to avoid exactly that when I started my journey with my external plan. I didn’t want to stand there like the foreigner „Karta…on…uhh…at…automate, yes? Yes? Thank you. Thank you! Nix verstan, nix verstan bin.“ and be at the uncertain mercy of these strangers. But now I stood exactly the same way in the garage, at the express courier, in the bank, in the hotel. And: ALL were friendly to me. Some reservedly friendly, where I think they were just uncomfortable that we couldn’t communicate, but others even warmly friendly. The German-speaking driver, a small young man of Algerian origin, sometimes a clown and a fool – as the really inwardly knowing people sometimes are – always asked me „Have you got food? Do you want something to eat? I’ll bring you something. Call me. I live only ten kilometers away. Do you want to stay with us? We have lots of rooms. No problem. It’s natural!“ I always smiled and thankfully declined. I had the hotel and a car full of food. Even the courier driver, also a young Arab: His „Aurevoir!“ was so cordial, as if he was saying goodbye to a friend. He should have delivered on Friday. Then he could have delivered the package to the French in the workshop and I would have had nothing to do with it. But no: Because of bad weather he came on Saturday, when the workshop was closed. So I had again an unwanted appearance and had to receive the package, waiting in front of the workshop, myself.
Now I’m sitting here in the hotel and already speak a few chunks – crumbs – of French. The only problem is that I don’t understand the answers.
Now I sit here in the hotel and contemplate these days. These days that I may spend in the heart of France. On which I make experiences, as I had not guessed and – above all – not planned. I am happy. Very happy that divine guidance has brought me here. A bit expensive all together, but it has been so important that I have been thrown into this cold water. So important! I am happy that I have been able to meet all these reserved friendly and brotherly warm people. That I was able to experience all the other customs that are so different from our German and so beautifully accustomed. I am so happy that my fear plan, the turbo-transit through France, did not work out. We don’t have to be afraid of the foreign. Not on principle. I’m supposed to lose my last fear on this trip. Now I’m sitting here, three days before Christmas, alone in the middle of a foreign country and yet I’m not alone – and I have to think of Gerd’s sentence. Gerd and his wife are alone. Despite their family, which holds together very strongly. The pain of seeming to be separated is always what creates the fear.