Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Barmherzige Schwestern

"Wer sich auf die Abläufe im klösterlichen Leben einlässt, der spürt auch: Es geht nicht darum, ständig etwas tun oder leisten zu müssen. Es genügt, einfach hier zu sein. Die 'Barmherzigkeit', die die Heitersheimer Schwestern in ihren Ordensnamen tragen, liegt nicht allein in ihrem karitativen Tun, sondern auch – und heute vielleicht mehr denn je – in ihrer Präsenz, im stillen und diskreten Wachhalten der Ahnung von einem anderen Leben", schreibt Joachim Frank in seinem Vorwort.

 Betrachte ich die untenstehende Aufnahme, so kann ich die Gemeinsamkeit spüren, deren wir ach so individuell-konditionierten Glücksucher so dringend bedürfen.
"Der Künstlerin Kathrin Haller ist es in vielen Besuchen gelungen, intime Gespräche mit den Schwestern zu führen", lese ich im Klappentext. Nun ja, Frau Haller hat nichts anderes getan als den 25 Nonnen des Ordens der "Barmherzigen Schwestern", die sich um Bedürftige sorgen, Findelkinder aufnehmen sowie Gefangene und psychisch Kranke betreuen, die folgenden elf Fragen zu stellen: Wie kam es zu der Entscheidung, ins Kloster zu gehen? Welche Arbeit haben Sie gemacht und wo war das? Was haben Sie in Ihrer Freizeit gemacht? Was ist gut daran, in einem Orden zu leben? Fühlen Sie sich manchmal einsam? Was waren glückliche Momente in Ihrem Leben? Gab es auch Momente, in denen Sie mit Gott gehadert haben? Wenn Sie zurückschauen, wie würden Sie Ihr Leben beschreiben? Wenn Sie noch einmal von vorne anfangen könnten, was würden Sie anders machen? Viele Menschen finden keinen Sinn in ihrem Leben. Was ist wichtig für ein erfülltes leben? Was ist das Wichtigste im Leben?
Mich haben diese vorformulierten Fragen an Fragebogen-Fragen erinnert. Und an die Erkenntnis von Janet Malcolm, die sie in "The Journalist and the Murderer" aufgeschrieben hat: Ein Kollege von ihr und sie selber hatten die Aufgabe, anlässlich eines Mordprozesses einen Mann zu befragen. Der Kollege tat dies mittels vorformulierter Fragen, sie selber machte sich über den Hintergrund des Mannes kundig und wollte sich auf ihr Einfühlungsvermögen verlassen. Die Antworten waren in beiden Fällen genau dieselben. Janet Malcolm erklärte es sich so: Wenn einer reden will, so wird er reden, völlig unabhängig davon, wer wie die Fragen stellt.

Das gilt auch für vorliegende Buch. Einige der Antworten geraten ausführlich, andere recht kurz. Besonders gut gefallen hat mir, was Schwester Brigitta, Jahrgang 1941, auf die Frage: Wenn Sie noch einmal von vorne anfangen könnte, was würden Sie anders machen? geantwortet hat: "Nochmals von vorne anfangen gibt es nicht! Der Ruf Gottes gilt für mich gestern und heute und diesem folge ich." Es gibt noch viele andere Antworten in diesem schön gemachten Werk, die ich anregend finde und die die Lektüre lohnen. Vor allem aber vermittelt mir dieses Buch den Eindruck, dass diese Nonnen einverstanden sind mit ihrem Leben und ihrem Schicksal. Mehr kann man so recht eigentlich gar nicht wollen.

Ganz wunderbar gelungen sind auch die Aufnahmen von Andree Kaiser, der die Nonnen und ihren Alltag "fotografisch in Szene setzte".

Barmherzige Schwestern
25 Nonnen erzählen von Liebe, Leid und Leben
Ankerherz Verlag
Hollenstedt 2011

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Glimpses of Bolivia

My Avianca flight from Bogota was approaching La Paz airport at around 2.30 in the morning, the sea of lights below was fabulous, I felt enchanted. The taxi ride down to the city, from 4'200 to 3'300 meters, at high speed through empty streets, was another highlight.

It eludes me why anyone had thought it a good idea to build a city so high up but being here feels special and strange and good.

The altitude you can definitely feel, even moving up the stairs rather quickly will exhaust you.
El Altiplano @ Hans Durrer

My friend Marcel, a La Paz resident from Solothurn, showed me around the city centre. Mostly ugly architecture; a square surrounded by impressive looking buildings and full of pigeons where people sit on benches and eat ice cream; quite some women wearing traditional clothes (I occasionally wondered whether I was in a documentary on Arte).

One hardly sees people not wearing something on their heads. I'm particularly fascinated by the bombin that to me looks like a reversed cup of tea on a saucer. Although I had seen photographs of women wearing it, it had never ocurred to me that they could be for real ...

The vibes in La Paz are similar to the ones one encounters in Switzerland, or in China: not exactly joyful, that is. Yet, also like in Switzerland, the people are usually friendly when talked to.
Lago Titicaca @ Marcel von Arx

We travelled to Sajama, home to the highest peak (6'542 meters) in the country. I abandoned the climb after about an hour for I felt increasingly dizzy and did not see the attraction of feeling even more dizzy, Marcel and his two kids continued their climb for their objective was to touch snow.
Back at the Tomarapi Ecolodge, a local told me that pumas were roaming the area and occasionally attacked the llamas but only in the dark. I hoped that he was right.

Our drive to Cochabamba that, at 2'548 meters, enjoys a pleasantly warm climate, felt exceptional, not just for the scenery which is spectacular but also because riding at such high an altitude often filled me with the sensation of sitting on a cloud. Except when we drove through towns with names like Ayo Ayo and Sica Sica or looked at two or three-story buildings in the middle of nowhere, I felt like being somewhere in China …
El Alto @ Hans Durrer

It is of course imperative for modern man to be inquisitive in regards to the whereabouts of the products one is about to consume. Asking a restaurant owner in Puerto Carabuco whether the chicken on the menu happened to be a "pollo local" was however likely overdoing things a little ...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

In Cartagena de Indias & Barranquilla

I hardly knew a thing about Colombia when I arrived in Cartagena de Indias on 24 December 2013 - and that was a blessing for it meant that I did not have a lot of expectations that I wished to be met. The staff at my hotel in the city centre were friendly, the view from my room on the 10th floor pleasing, the breakfast buffet rich and tasty - and that is about all that I need when being new in town. The only drawback was incredibly loud music at three o'clock in the morning that culminated in one song played endlessly. I could have strangled the guy (who could of course also have been a girl) until I realised that I kinda liked the song ...
In Barranquilla @ Hans Durrer

Discovering a country implies discovering flavours. I seem to fall for ice cream and soft drink flavours. In Colombia it is Arequipe, an ice cream that tastes like caramel (in Peru I fell for an ice cream called Lucuma) and the soft drink Gaseosa Colombiana (in Peru it was Inka Cola, it tastes similarly). It took me quite some time to realise that I'm actually familiar with Arequipe ... from Argentina where it is called 'dulce de leche', from Chile where it is known as "manjar", and also from Brasil ("doce de leite").

At the beach in Puerto Colombia: I'm standing at a certain distance from the umbrellas, listening to music from my iPad. Three young couples pass by and look at me inquisitively. I see one boy saying something to me, I take my earphones off: Usted esta perdido? Not at all, I say. He tells me that it is dangerous here, especially standing apart from the umbrellas with an iPad and a small rucksack. Up to then I had felt rather safe, but the young people were insistent: Did I see that guy over there? I hadn't. He was not to be trusted, they said. I should move to the umbrellas, that would clearly be safer. They do not leave my side until I reach the umbrellas.
In Cartagena @ Hans Durrer

On the drive back from the beach, my taxi driver all of a sudden slows down: an iguana is very slowly crossing the street. A few days ago, he had observed a cat attacking a bird. It was terrible, he said, I mean, the bird hadn't done anything to deserve that. Not exactly what you would expect from a seasoned 70-year old taxi driver from Barranquilla, I strongly sympathised with him.

35 years is he now living in Barranquilla, says the elderly man. Does he know Bogota?, I ask. Yes, he had been working there for several years. And what would he consider the major difference between the two cities? He smiles, the people in Bogota are completely different: no dialogan con cualquiera persona …

I'm usually having my morning coffee at the hotel pool. Always at the same time an old man on a bicycle shows up, greets me with a loud "Good Morning", has a seat in the outdoor coffee shop and starts his breakfast. One day I ask him whether he speaks English. No, he says. Does he work here? Yes, he is the jefe de personal. Was I happy with his staff? Yes, I say. He looks at the woman who is preparing my coffee and remarks: She is a very serious person. The one who makes her smile would definitely be eligible for an award. He smiles: ella es más seria que Beethoven.
In Barranquilla @ Hans Durrer

At Cartagena airport: The young woman at the check-in says that I will get a refund for I had paid some Colombian tax when I bought my ticket. I wasn't really sure what this was all about but happily headed for the customs office where I was however informed that this was a misunderstanding. Later on, when already sitting in the departure lounge, the young woman from the check-in came to see me (I had changed my flight to Bogota and she needed to verify my ticket). I told her about the customs office and she said, well, you shouldn't have gone to the customs office but to the Avianca office. She told me to follow her back to the check-in area, led me to the Avianca counter and patiently waited until I got the money I was entitled to. What a service!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

In Panama

The taxi driver from the airport to town says that I'm looking like a Panameño. A few days later, a black guy shouts at me: Hey Gringo. Needless to say, the perception of the two doesn't exactly match my own and I'm glad I possess such a firm Swiss identity that I feel only slightly disturbed by the rather strange perception of these two men ...
.Panama-City @ Hans Durrer

On my first day in Panama City, I do quite some of the things I almost never do at home. I take taxis, go to shopping centers, and eat at McDonalds …

Breakfast starts at 7, I'm told by the receptionist of my hotel. When I arrive at 8, the restaurant is full. It takes 45 minutes until I'm finally served. The next day I'm already there at 10 past 7, the restaurant is almost empty and I feel confident that I will be served shortly. However,  my confidence is severely shattered when, a few minutes later, I learn that breakfast cannot be served because the kitchen personnel hasn't arrived yet. I do not feel tempted to ask when they might show up. 45 minutes later, I'm told that I can now place my order for the kitchen personnel has finally arrived. From then on it only takes another 30 minutes before the scrambled eggs sit in front of me ...

I want to buy a ticket to David, a 7 to 8 hour bus ride, for the next day but that isn't possible, you have to buy the ticket on the very same day. Politics, says the taxi driver. In what way? I ask. People here can't think in advance, they always complained that they were not informed and that the bus had already left. I don't have a clue what he is talking about but fact is I can't buy the ticket in advance

On the way back to the hotel, I spot a row of taxis in front of an apartment block. A lot of taxi drivers live here, explains my taxista. Do you have to be a taxi driver in order to live here? I inquire. No, no, I'm told, they simply like it here.
Panama-City @ Hans Durrer

Taxi drivers know everything, don't they? I'm teasing mine who clearly feels pleased and, in order to prove it, starts elaborating at length on the origins of his surname ... a few minutes into his speech I have forgotten how he is called ...

The young woman on the bus to David says that she is visiting her mom who happens to Iive near Santiago. Looks like a jungle to me, I comment on the forest where she is about to get off. I'm like Tarzan, she smiles. Probably more like Jane, I think to myself.

In a restaurant in Santiago: Eso es piña, explains the waiter while focussing on the water melon on the breakfast buffet. I look and wonder but say nothing. He repeats what he has just said, his eyes on the water melon. I still do not say anything. Now he says, eso es sandia. I fill my plate and ask: no hay piña? He doesn't answer, goes to the kitchen and, five minutes later, puts a plate of pineapple in front of me.