A new life – first news from behind the walls


(Deutscher Text folgt weiter unten)

Working in the garden, I had a chance encounter with a school group. I helped to collect waste on the steep slope between the friary and the old city walls of Rapperswil. People who spend time on the other side of the wall to relax (and sometimes to sing beautifully and to play the guitar) dispose some stuff carelessly. We also cut shrubs and bushes to limit the extent of the wilderness in the small space between the monastery and the city.

I just wanted to drag an armful of branches and shrubs through the gate of the monastery when I first met the group of students. Continue reading “A new life – first news from behind the walls”

Random Act of Kindness #9

Suechätzi öppis?

This was the simple question posed by a young woman that touched me so much after walking all day – all week. I was about to continue my walk in the diminishing daylight towards my chosen destination. I stood on a busy square in front of a lamppost with a collection of directional trail markers, some for hiking trails, some for bicycle trails. As I was contemplating the most appropriate route from Brunnen to Schwyz, considering that I no longer desired to take the scenic one, but rather the most efficient way, a stranger approached me and asked a simple question:

Suechätzi öppis?

“Are you looking for something?” in the local dialect. Of course, I was looking for something. My entire journey is part of ‘looking for something’; but at the moment, I was discerning a very simple question. So, I put that question out to the stranger in front of me. And I accepted her answer without questioning because I knew that this random act of kindness was not random at all, it was a form of guidance that was presented to me. Needless to say that I got to the hostel without delay. Wegweiser

Suechätzi öppis?

Das war die simple Frage die eine junge Frau mir stellte und die mich im Moment, nach einem anstrengenden Wandertag so sehr berührte. Ich wollte meine Wanderung in der einbrechenden Dunkelheit Richtung des gewählten Zielortes fortsetzen.Ich stand auf einem verkehrsreichen Platz vor einer Strassenlampe an der verschiedenste Wegweiser für Wander- und Fahrradwege angebracht waren. Ich war mir am Überlegen auf welchem Weg ich wohl am besten von Brunnen nach Schwyz gelangen würde. Ich suchte ja nicht mehr die Route mit den Sehenswürdigkeiten, ich wollte einfach auf schnellstem Weg zum Ziel. So kam es dass eine Fremde mich unverhofft ansprach mit der einfachen Frage:

Suechätzi öppis?

“Suchen Sie etwas?”, im einheimischen Dialekt. Natürlich bin ich auf der Suche. Bei meiner ganzen Reise geht es ja darum, dass ich etwas suche. Doch in jenem Moment wollte ich ja nur eine unkomplizierte Frage entscheiden. Also, stellte ich die Frage an die mir völlig Unbekannte die vor mir stand. Und ich akzeptierte ihre Antwort ohne zu hinterfragen weil ich wusste dass diese zufällige Güte überhaupt nicht zufällig war: Es war eine Form von Vorsehung oder Führung die mir zukam. Natürlich muss ich gar nicht erst erwähnen, dass ich danach die Herberge ohne Verzögerung aufgefunden habe.

Random Act of Kindness #8

Random Act of Kindness #7

Random Act of Kindness #6

Random Act of Kindness #5

Random Act of Kindness #4

Random Act of Kindness #3

Random Act of Kindness #2

Random Act of Kindness #1

Random Act of Kindness #8

Eine Bergallee aus Lärchen auf der Krete des Sonnenbergs - The crest trail on the Sonnenberg near Lucerne, lined by majestic larch (tamarack) trees.
Eine Bergallee aus Lärchen auf der Krete des Sonnenbergs – The crest trail on the Sonnenberg near Lucerne, lined by majestic larch (tamarack) trees.

Thanks to all the dog owners of the communities along the hiking trail: It is your daily dedication to your dogs and to your outdoor pursuits that have helped tremendously in maintaining the various sections of the pilgrim’s trail. Without your help, I would have been a much bigger effort for me to break trail through the snow along the Little Emme River and over the Sonnenberg.

Besten Dank an alle Hundebesitzer in den Gemeinden entlang der Fernwanderroute: Es ist eure tägliche Hingabe für eure Vierbeiner und eure Begeisterung für Naturerlebnisse die stark mitgeholfen haben die unterschiedlichen Abschnitte des Pilgerweges zu unterhalten. Ohne eure Hilfe wäre es für mich viel anstrengender gewesen den Weg entlang des Emmenuferweges oder über den Sonnenberg zu pfaden.

En route – Transatlantische Überfahrt

Google Map mit dem ungefähren Kurs den wir auf der MV Rickmers Shanghai zurückgelegt haben. – The approximate route of the MV Rickmers Shanghai January 2013 transatlantic crossing.

Transatlantic Journey on MV Rickmers Shanghai – Google Maps

Hier ist eine Kopie meines Reisetagebuchs von der Überfahrt (in Englisch). I have attached a copy of my ship diary.

Ship Diary:

January 13, 2013

Late this afternoon, I called the agent for the shipping company to confirm the departure time for the vessel. He said he was very glad that I called: The ship is expected to leave very early in the morning. Originally, departure time was estimated to be between noon and 6 o’clock. He kindly asked me to make my way to the marine terminal and check-in tonight.

This is a little bit like history repeating itself. Continue reading “En route – Transatlantische Überfahrt”

Daily Random Act of Kindness #7

Yesterday, I had the good luck of making another journey, within the city of Philadelphia. Through a friend of a friend, I received an invitation for dinner with strangers. But there was nothing strange about meeting the people I have never met before.

Mt Airy Station, Pennsylvania (photo credit: Smallbones/Wikipedia Commons)
Mt Airy Station, Pennsylvania (photo credit: Smallbones/Wikipedia Commons)

Except that I took a bus to get to the railway station, which is not so strange, but the bus followed the trolley lines. And except that the railway station was full of books, and the railway was long ago replaced by a suburban trolley. Had I spent browsing through the 50,000 books at the railway station, I could have found one that would explain the transportation history of Philadelphia and how the traffic patterns have changed over time.

After all, I was close to where the former summer White House was. Before the capitol was built in Washington, the government governed from Philadelphia, but when it was too hot and the mosquitos were too fierce, the government went up the hill to Germantown to conduct its business. And not far from the centre of power, a few German immigrants and Quakers were so upset about witnessing the everyday business of slavery, that they wrote a letter of protest to the government.

I consider myself blessed for the friendship and hospitality I received. It also gave me opportunity to experience some places of United States history along the way. And if you ever desire a used book on history or any other subject, feel free to check out the online section of the bookstore at the railway station.

Daily Random Act of Kindness #5

Viva el Caribe!

I purchased oil and vinegar in one of the supermarket-like grocery stores in Kensington that clearly markets to the Caribbean immigrant community. I was standing out like a streetlight, not only by appearance, but also by language.

It was a busy store, or maybe just a busy time of the day. Couples and multi-generational teams were filling up grocery carts with exotic fruit and vegetables, with dry goods, cans, and fresh meat.

When I got to the lines at the check-out, the other customers took pity on me: They asked me first, and then they insisted, that I go right to the front of the line with my two small items for purchase.

I had all the time in the world to wait my turn like everybody else since I was simply out exploring the neighbourhood; but it was of little avail to explain that to the crowd that was discussing the case in multiple languages and came to the consensus that I should go first.

I expressed my gratitude for the gesture. It made me feel special, it made me feel welcome, and it gave me a sense of genuine community spirit.

Viva el Caribe!

Sharing the Root - Painting by Tenyoh (photo credit: Yoko Sugawara)
Sharing the Root – Painting by Tenyoh (photo credit: Yoko Sugawara)

To learn more about Tenyoh’s art work, please visit: Empathetic Reflections of Human Nature through the Eyes of a Nurse

Daily Random Act of Kindness #4

It is the custom of the Simple Way community to start the day with a common prayer at eight. After arriving in Philadelphia very tired, I realized that I am travelling very lightly (on purpose) and thus have neither a watch nor an alarm clock with me. How am I going to meet the community on time with my internal clock influenced by time zone changes and the tiredness from traveling on a train overnight?

I eventually figured out the technical part. I can use my Swiss cell phone as a timekeeper and alarm clock. But what I experienced was so much nicer: Fifteen minutes before the set time, a sparrow landed on the air conditioning unit that is installed in the window right next to my bed. The little bird started to happily chirp away for a few minutes. This unspectacular bird song was waking me up gently.

What a contrast to the repeat sirens from emergency vehicles, mixed in with the low rumble of the elevated subway system, and the cacophony of neighbourhood sounds and voices that is an almost constant companion in the background.

I am grateful for the little bird. It came back again this morning, right on time, to remind me of the beginning of another beautiful day in an unfamiliar city. Let the prayers begin.

To learn more about Tenyoh’s art work, please visit:Empathetic Reflections of Human Nature through the Eyes of a Nurse

Daily Random Act of Kindness #3

The Kensington neighbourhood might be one of the rougher places in Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love.

There must be a way...
There must be a way…

Allegheny Station of the subway system is not particularly accessible. The trains are running elevated at the level of the third and fourth story of the adjacent houses. The station exit is not fitted with an elevator – just long concrete stairs down to street level, moist and slippery from the melting snow mixed with the grime of an administrative district with low-priority for proper maintenance. Continue reading “Daily Random Act of Kindness #3”

Daily Random Act of Kindness #2

On a fully booked train, the fight for the best seats was on. Amtrak took no chances and its personnel herded customers like cattle to their wagons. No opportunity for independent responsible judgment.

with Amtrak on its way...
with Amtrak on its way…

Single file – no skipping – twenty at a time. Follow orders. Continue reading “Daily Random Act of Kindness #2”

Daily Random Act of Kindness #1

Among all the waiting people in the lounge of the Naperville railway station, there was a curious pairing of people interacting across those ancient looking benches: Two brown skinned girls with black hair of early school age, and a white, grey-haired lady. The lady was sitting properly, her carry-on luggage neatly in front of her, reading from one of these privileged electronic gadgets. Leaning over her shoulders from the other side of the wooden bench, the two girls with a pinkish-enclosed phone gadget.

Naperville Station - on my way to the other side
Naperville Station – on my way to the other side

“Do you remember those numbers?” – Continue reading “Daily Random Act of Kindness #1”