Sharon meets the Schornsteinfegermeister…

my good friend passes her B1’s,
and women across the globe take to the streets

I started my morning at 8:20 – an unusually early hour for the Americanfrau. I woke to the sound of the door “Klinger” and was greeted by the local “Schornsteinfegermeister” – a chimney sweep. A German woman dressed in a completely black uniform adorned with gold buttons. She wore the accruements of her trade hooked to her gold buckled matching belt and carried a large spindle-shaped brush. Her hands and manicured nails were blacken as well as her nose. Now this isn’t exactly the career path I would have followed, but in her own right she had a certain strength about her that I found admirable and most welcoming due to the fact we were now burning wood 24/7.

As a “Hausfrau” and former career woman who has worked and travelled throughout the world, you tend to meet a lot of different types of people and cultivate many friendships along the way. You also tend to pick up political opinions, form ideologies and bust a few stereotypes.

One unexpected place of this cultural conclave, besides my recent front door encounter, is in my VHS Volkshochschule – Deutsches Integrationskurse. In English; a community college where the German language is taught to immigrants. Currently thats me, our friends from the boat, and the significant others of many German counterparts.
In order to receive a permanent Visa every immigrant by law must complete 600 hours of an “Integration” course. As well as learning the language, the course focuses on how to live and work in Deutschland.

It also includes the”Deutsche Regierung” or Germany’s governmental structure and a short course in manners – like you must eat with both hands above the table and the importance of using a Taschentücher to wipe your Nase. Our helpful teachers also answer many hotly debated questions, as for instance “why can’t a man have 3 wives”, or “why can’t I pray on my rug during classtime”?
The 600 hours can be completed in 3 intense classes A1, A2 and B1. You can continue B2, C1 etc. but thats on your own and the government doesn’t pay for it. This week though, I am proud to announce my good friend has completed and passed her B1 Prüfung,
not an easy task. Glückwünsche!

In my daily classes, I have met people from all over the world; Syria, Bosnia, Croatia, Turkey, Russia, Gambia, Sri Lanka (where our cinnamon comes from), Italy, Thailand, Cuba, India and even Korea. And during the class breaks and freetime, like hens in a chicken coup – we women love to get together and talk, talk, talk.
Our discussions range from what countries we came from, our religious traditions, to the food we eat. We exchange hard feelings about being immigrants. We talk about our married lives, our rights and restrictions. Tough questions are asked, as how could you leave your family and everything you own to come to Germany – alone. Did you have an arranged marriage or a career? What does your hair look like under your Hijab and why can’t you go to the Disco? Do you always have to be chaperoned by a man? How do you feel about your children growing up between two cultures – two countries? Will you return or stay forever?

Yet within these why, why, whys, I have come to realise as an American women I am one of the freest women on the planet. I can marry whom I choose, start a business or own a home. I have many educational opportunities. I can support myself through a high paying profession and I am granted equal rights and equal pay. I don’t have to cover my body or risk being shunned by society. When I walk down the street a man will make way for me, open a door or defend my honour if called for.
I can legally burn my bra and my flag at the same time.
Privileges that my Volkshochschule classmates have never known.


Which brings me to the latest protest of more than 2.6 million women on the steps of the Whitehouse and across the globe. After viewing the political outcry against the newly elected Donald Trump, I was impressed at the political strength and the unyielding message that is being sent to Washington. I am also saddened at the thought that we sometimes have no idea how fortunate we really are; to be able to freely protest, express our opinions and demand results. When I recall the stories of my Indian friend Kala or look into the eyes of Maison from Syria or light heartily chat with masseuse friend Samara from Thailand, I know what women’s rights have meant to them.

Yet, in the world they say everything happens for a reason.
As Trumps off-colored, sexist remarks and racial comments deemed millions in protest, as his political stance made media headlines, that were tweeted, texted and posted to Facebook, as the outcry of women in pink hats were being nationally and internationally televised across the planet, I am sure of one thing –
that my wide eyed Volkshochshule sisters were watching.

Tschüss, the American Frau

Description: 2017.01.21 Women’s March Washington, DC USA 00095 Women’s March on Washington
Author: Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA,
Source:2017.01.21 Women’s March Washington, DC USA 00095

Description: 2017.01.22 Chimney Sweep in Germany
Author: Sharon Ritter
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