Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On Hospitality

Rothenberg, Germany, 2009
 Through a series of far-flung connections, we have hosted, for the past two nights, three young men from Germany. All three are engineering students at the university in Dresden and are visiting Canada for three weeks. 

While conversing with Martin, Marcus and Toni, I thought about how quickly time passes and how momentous events shape lives for years afterwards. Each young man is from a small village in the former GDR or East Germany. They were born shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communist Russia, and the reunification of Germany. They have heard their parents tell stories of life in the GDR.

Toni's parents own a butcher shop. It's been in the family for 100 years. Toni is studying electrical engineering. He told me, "I want to try something different. I can always go back to the shop, but I want to try." Because of the events of 1989 - 1990, he has an opportunity that would have previously been denied to him. He and his friends can travel freely.

The young men asked us for suggestions on what to see here on Vancouver Island. Recorded history is young although the First Nations people have been here a long time. Our son-in-law was with us for dinner and gave our visitors a lot of good ideas. We suggested East Sooke Park, our favourite place to hike. 

One of their first questions to us: "Why do Canadians like fluffy bread?" They were quite horrified at the kind of bread available in the supermarket. This morning for breakfast, they devoured an entire loaf of homemade whole wheat bread. "It's not German," they said, "but it's pretty good." 

After coming home last night they shared that they had purchased Twinkies at a Seven-Eleven and thought them absolutely horrible. I've never eaten a Twinkie but just looking at them and reading the list of ingredients is enough.

They wanted to swim in the Pacific Ocean. We warned them that it would be cold. They couldn't believe how cold it really was. One said his skin burned for hours afterwards. They also wish to swim in a glacier-fed river in the Rockies. They are in for another shock. 

Polite and well-mannered, curious about Canadian life, they spoke English well, but when it was just the three of them, they spoke German. Hearing their softly spoken give and take, I was taken far back in memory to visits with my great grandparents who never learned English. The cadence of the German tongue is one that many do not consider beautiful, yet my memories of it are filled with love that transcended words I could not understand.

Hospitality: The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. 

I'm glad we said yes to these German visitors.


  1. It seems that when we entertain (or practice hospitality) with friends or strangers, the blessing is always ours. Abudantly!

  2. That's funny about the "fluffy bread".

  3. Sounds so interesting... Fluffy bread...I'm in agreement. Twinkies, though? Until they changed the formula, I loved those things. Perhaps they need to read what happened to Judy's young men who swam in glacier water. ☺

  4. Possibly entertaining angels! How wonderful for you all.

  5. I bet they are happy you said yes too! I'm sure you were a wonderful hostess and it was a great experience for all of you. This sounds really neat.

  6. Like the first commenter said...we are so often blessed in showing hospitality to others!

  7. What a lovely post, I so enjoyed reading about your visitors and their observations of life in Canada.

  8. So interesting discovering the likes and dislikes of people from other countries.
    I've read about Twinkies but dont know what they are, maybe a cake?

  9. Oh, how refreshing to have such interesting guests.
    I enjoy the sound of German. I took one year in college, but have never used it and therefor retained very little. ("Haben sie noch eine deutsche zeitung?") 23 years ago, I married a man from the midwest whose ancestry is predominantly German, but he is 3rd or 4th generation, so very little of his "German-ness" remains. But I will say that I can relate to Garrison Keillor's Tales from Lake Wobegon.
    The best German I have heard is when Professor Baer (sp?) lapses into German in the movie versions of Little Women. He is speaking of love.

  10. Your hospitality is something these three young men will remember all their lives. I remember my first trip to Europe so well and the last two nights are the ones I remember best. A friend suggested we call with his mom and dad and even though we checked into a room in Rotterdam, after taking us out for dinner, they insisted that we check out the next morning and stay with them. Those next couple of days were filled with meaningful experiences. Later they came to Canada and visited us.

  11. The joys of hospitality. Very much a two way thing and I can see that you loved having these German boys and I am sure they loved being with you. We are about to have guests this weekend. A retired member of Parliament charity walking from York Minster to Canterbury Cathedral and my blogging friends from Baton Rouge again the following week.


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