Thursday, April 23, 2009


O land alive with miracles!
O clad in streams
Lift your blue trees into the early sun!


Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depths of man's nature, as if one's whole being had to attune itself to the cosmos and praise God for the new day, praise Him in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be.

I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen, in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me. Whether or not they praised Him then, for themselves, they must praise Him now in me. When the sun rises each one of us is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.

-Thomas Merton

I'm not sure how your Easter was, but I found myself resonating a lot with this passage during my Easter time. I feel as though the church calendar came from Europe for a reason -- our weather has corresponded perfectly to the movement from Lent to Easter: from rainy, gray, and cold to bright, sunny, and warm. Tulips and daffodils are popping up everywhere, lilacs are beginning to bloom and smell, trees are exploding with green and life and Esslingen is alive with activity. Fountains are running again in the parks and squares, outdoor cafes are full and kids are playing in the park. Life proclaims resurrection; trees shout God's glory, and I get to watch.

On Tuesday, I leave with a group of students from EJE for Taize, France. I am VERY excited about this trip. I've been wanting to head to this ecumenical community since I first heard about it, and it will be the first time I have seen France on this trip to Europe. Woo hoo! In May, my schedule really heats up, and from the last weekend in May to the first weekend in July, I will be gone every weekend on some sort of retreat or another, so NOW is probably a good time for me to fill you in on what I've been up to in the last little while...

I'll try weekends, first.

  • The following slideshow shows pictures from the 21st of March. Etienne had received a ski package as a gift from friends for his birthday in February, and we went skiing for the entire day in Austria! The weather was absolutley perfect -- not a cloud in the sky the whole day, so warm, but fresh powder all the same. The scenery was amazing. I kept thinking, "it's like I'm in the Sound of I'm in the Alps, or something.." and then I realized, I WAS!!

As far as the skiing goes...this was two days after Natasha Richardson had her big ski accident, so you can imagine how I was feeling about skiing...Despite my mom's upbringing on the Colorado slopes and Jesse's taking to skiing, the last time I was skiing, I was about 15 years old, it was a Youth Group retreat in Michigan, and I was proud for making it down the blue circle hills.

Skiing in Austria leads one to wonder: Why do people ski? WHO thought it was a good idea to stand on the top of a mountain, smooth down the snow to make it slippery, and then put two sticks on your feet that you have hardly any control over, and go? This is completely illogical to me. Let me just say that the ground and I, well, we got pretty well acquainted.

Etienne was an extraordinarily patient teacher, though, and despite my many (many, many) falls, I did have a good time, and I'd like to ski again...some day.

I also got the chance to meet Etienne's host familiy, the Webers. They're awesome people -- the whole family used to live in Thailand, where they were missionaries! Lydia, Etch's host mom, bakes her own bread, and taught me the word for cake pan : Backform

The next weekend, I noticed THIS in Esslingen:

NO ONE IS SAFE! Not even quaint European towns! If Starbucks made it to Mackinac Island, I guess it can make it anywhere. I wonder what a Skinny Orange Mocha Frappacino tastes like in Germany? I wonder if in Germany, it's called a Skinnyorangemochafrappacino?

  • The same weekend, Etienne came to Esslingen to visit. On Friday night, CVJM has a sort of coffee shop/bar where they sell drinks and snacks, play music, and people just hang out. Etienne and I met a crazy CVJM volunteer named Hans-Martin there who told us we could go hiking in "Neuffen". We trusted him, and set out Saturday morning.
The day was rainy, but we hiked anyway, up a BIIIIIG hill (quasi mountain) to an old castle on the top that was first fortified in 1100. That's right, nearly a thousand years ago. Since it was rainy in the morning, there was almost no one on the trails, but by the time we got to the top, the clouds broke and we had an amazing view of the surrounding Scwabische Alb (the name for the quasi-mountains around Schwabia), and the little houses down in the valley. Definitely worth the hike!

Oh, AND I'd like to announce that I, Amanda Munroe, drove back FROM Neuffen TO Esslingen, IN a car WITH a stickshift ON the German Autobahn. Watch out Germany, Amanda is behind the wheel!

    • The weekend before Easter was crazy for me, because somehow Etienne's parents AND my dad managed to come to Germany in the SAME weekend. My weekend went something like this:

    Friday: work, work, work. Lunch time (pack, don't eat), work work work, run to train station, take train to Augsburg, EAT GALLETTES AND CREPES with the Dubois and the Webers. (Brought especially from France, of course -- dream come true!

    Saturday: Early awake, drove south through Bavaria, where Etienne and his parents, (Pierre and Rachel), and I visited Schloss Neuschwanstein, the castle that inspiried Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty's castle. Surprisingly, it's no medival feat. The castle was actually built by King Ludwig II, a slightly mentally deranged king who threw himself into debt building fanciful castles, fell in love, got engaged, and then broke up with his cousin, was good friends with the famous composer Richard Wagner, and died young. The castle was dedicated to Wagner and depicts a lot of his works. It was built after the American civil war. I couldn't believe that.

    Etch's host family told us where to go for the best view (behind the castle, on a bridge above a waterfall), which was REALLY cool! We finished the day by visiting the quaint town of Fussen (last German town before the border with Austria) and having a very French pic-nic beside a church in a valley, complete with Rachel's home-made dessert. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

    The DuBois family highly enjoyed seeing the remains of a little snow in Bavaria, which they are not used to in Bretagne. They kept remarking, "wow! Look at that snow! Did you see that Amanda?" I'm thinking to myself... Did you just ask me if I saw that mound of dirty, melted snow 6 inches tall? Folks, I come from Michigan. You want to see snow, come visit me in January. I'll give you snow. What I really said was, "Oui! Cool, n'est-ce pas?"

    After the pique-nique (French pronounciation makes it sound gastronomically more interesting) we RACED back to Augsburg so I could catch my train, made it with three minutes to spare, and I ended the day at Dieter's dinner table, sharing a meal with the Bullard-Werner family, my dad, and Kenn Knipp.

    The next day, Palm Sunday, we visited Essligen on foot and the awesome university town of Tubingen, about an hour away, where we were invited to the most phenomenal performance of the Bach's Matthaeus Passion in the Tubingen Stiftkirche, by Tubingen's outstanding Bach Choir, and featuring none other than our friend Helmut!! As Helmut observed at the end of the evening, there's nothing quite like hearing the gospel this way. It was a moving experience for everyone involved, I think.

    Check out this slideshow for photos of Neuschwanstein, Tubingen, and our friends the Knapp family as well.

    There are also a few pics of the Easter retreat with CVJM, where I spent Easter weekend. My boss Valerian and I were in charge of the the middle-school-aged kids for the entire weekend. We built a life-sized paper-mache grave for the 7 stages of the Cross on Saturday and enjoyed being outside. On Friday afternoon, I taught the kids the American game Red Rover, and before long, we had a group of people watching us. Apparently people in Germany don't know the game Red Rover. I had people asking me about it all weekend! (I also had a MAJOR knee bruise the whole weekend because of it).

    The Easter retreat was fantastic, because I really got to know a lot of people in the CVJM community better, and learn an insider's perspective about how they work, so to speak. The weather was impeccably good, and besides working intensely on my German, I also learned how to spin plates and a new trick called a Slack Line, so important I might just devote a whole new post to it.

    That's all for now. Enjoy these new pictures!


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