Langenhain: Still Learning to Say “Auf Wiedersehen”

Freundliche Welt,

No one said it was easy, tossing my bag of bones around the world. But I had no clue that the secret mode of transportation on this small globe was the Emotional Rollercoaster! Wow this is a sticky situation, my friends: two weeks per destination is such a wonderful/troubling amount of time. It seems the instant I grow accustomed to the area, truly fall in love with the city and find my way into the Baha’i community, it is time to go.
My last days in Frankfurt were distinctly special. Last thursday, I was invited to the 55th Anniversary of the Haus der Andacht’s Inauguration (1964). This was a splendid gathering of Baha’is and friends of the faith from the Hofheim area at the temple grounds. There was a grill for endless bratwurst, plenty of apfelschorle (non-alcoholic obvi), and even a beautiful “55”-shaped birthday cake.


Happy 55th, Haus der Andacht


Let them eat cake!

The seventy attendees ate and chatted, while a family was over in the grass played a few songs on guitar, all as the sun gently fell over the wheat field. It was so magical. We all then proceeded into the Haus der Andacht, where devotions were recited or intoned.


Setting sun in the field across form the temple

The night ended by moving back out to the lawn for a “storytelling” of the temple’s history, the significance of its architecture. Just like all other Houses of Worship, the Haus der Andacht in Langenhain has nine doors to symbolize the unity of all peoples and welcoming of all religions. It was so beautiful to watch the temple community reflect on their roots and take in this moment that they had been building towards for the past half century.


Storytelling on the temple grounds

Friday, I took the fastest train of my life to Darmstadt, which is a university town about 35 kilometers south of Frankfurt. That weekend, Heinerfest had taken over the town and the streets were flooded with food stands, carnival rides, stuffed animals, and neon colors. Everyone was so joyous, flicking a few euros to lose another round of ring tossing.


Heinerfest in Darmstadt

I only took it in with the eyes, and my friend quickly whisked me away to another treasure of Darmstadt: the Woog (pronounced like “vogue” in a dark, German accent). This is a small, fenced-in pond, perfect for a swim on another record-breaking day of global warming (39°C=103°F=toast w/o butter). With the student discount, the entrance was basically free. There was a dazzling slide, a raft to swim to, and some fun, well-manicured walkways surrounding the pond. I sat, eating almonds, trying to figure out how I would leave this place.


Vogue in the Woog

Saturday, I stopped by the Haus der Andacht again and spent some time in the library. I found a few books on the Institution of Houses of Worship and Baha’i Arts in the formation of a global community (The Fashioner), both of which I think will be very helpful in my research–I’ll keep you updated on my findings. I mosied up the short incline to the House of Worship, where I spent some time reading, reflecting and singing “Allah’u’Abha,” which seems to be one of the songs most all Baha’is know around the world. The temple’s acoustic is very unique. Something about the dome shape and the 540 window pannels does wonders for the vertical reverberation, so both in sound and physical sensation my voice felt multitudinous, as if some higher being was singing with me. It’s truly a special corner of the world.

IMG-5726.TRIM

As I walked out of my sacred session in the Haus der Andacht, I ran into the temple’s gardener, Manfred. Over the past two weeks, he has been a contact for me, as he is part of the various choirs that sing in the Haus der Andacht. As a side note, I am also quite drawn to his life and his committed time to creating beauty on the temple grounds. The image of the garden is very attached to Baha’i teachings. Baha’u’llah emphasized the importance of agriculture and often compared humanity to a garden, full of peacefully coexisting shapes, colors, sizes, smells, etc. but all receiving the same sun and the same rain. Manfred pointed me to an L-shaped patch in the middle of the lawn, naming all the different flower kinds.


“Ye are… the flowers of one garden.” – Baha’u’llah

He then, with the greatest excited, asked if I would do him a favor. Of course, I said… Anything for Manfred. He brought me toward the Haus der Andacht, through the bee-buzzing bushes, and down into the gardener’s cellar. “Take these,” he handed me four bags full of sweet-smelling seeds, “I was hoping to send these to the Ugandan gardener, but maybe it will be easier since your going directly there. I had to consider for a moment if i could legally transport seeds internationally, but regardless of law I could not turn down this opportunity. Can you imagine? Me, a floral missionary of the world, spreading flowers into new gardens. I was so inspired. So I took the pouches and said goodbye to the dear gardener.


Until next time, Manfred!

And now I am off. What an experience? To pour so much of myself into creating familiarity over the past two weeks, walking kilometers on end to meet more people and absorb more music, all just to be left, the process about to begin again in Uganda. My German diction has proven to be quite mediocre, so I will spare the Frankfurters from my attempt at “Auf Wiedersehen.” I suppose “ciao” will do for now.

Chris