There but for the Grace of God Go I

I have arrived in Gütersloh, Germany but not without the help of many. I frequently remind myself “There but for the grace of God go I”. I have not been averse to go up to people and ask if they speak English. Fortunately, 99% have said yes and been happy to help me.  

Travel Pains

Veerhoffhaus, built in 1649 –

My traveling was horrendous. I had to go through five airports (2 in Ecuador and 1 each in Bogota, Paris, and Hannover (Germany) on four planes for two days, with 19 hours of layoTravel Painvers. Seven and eight-hour layovers are really boring. If one could travel from major hub to major hub, it probably would be much better.  

My second airport did not seem to know how to book me all the way to Germany. They flagged me for some reason, and twice I had to explain why I was traveling, how long I was staying, and show that I had an onward flight. I don’t know why they were so skeptical about me. I managed to overcome the challenges without telling them what I would be doing. Some countries consider my venture to be employment and they would require a work visa.  

The People I Met

I’m still living out of a backpack along with a computer bag. The only good part of flying is I have no luggage to check. In the end, I found train travel to be superior to air travel. But it was meeting very nice people along the way who saved each day.  

Old Church Square –

I had an interesing conversation with a young woman from Cuenca (where I lived) who was a native of New Zealand but a world traveler.Then I met a man from Toronto of Sri Lanken ancestry. He liked guessing games and guessed me to be 57 years old!! I guessed him to be 45, but he told me he was 27 (oops). I have trouble guessing ages.

A Cancelled Train

The third day, I went to get my train and found that it had been cancelled for that day only. One other person had arrived to get the train, so I asked him if he could help me, as I needed to get to a second train station. He turned out to work in the travel industry and knew all the ropes. He invited me to join him in a taxi ride to the second station.  

He helped me buy a ticket in a kiosk and got me to the train I needed (he then went off to get his train). Once on the train, I saw it pass through some towns and I got concerned that I was on an express train which wouldn’t stop in Gütersloh. A couple of young guys assured me that the train would stop where I needed to get off.  

Martin Luther Church, Gütersloh

“There but for the grace of God go I” sure proved to turn this trip from what might have been a real nightmare into a success. Thank God for good people.  

Fact: Gütersloh has approximately 10,000 Arameans, the largest number of Arameans of any other towns in Germany
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Starting a New Career?

It seems like I’m always starting a new career. How many have there been: organist-choirmaster, perpetual student, book dealer, medical data manager, author, writer, blogger. What now?  

Daniel Frese –

If you’re reading this on the day I upload it, I may already be starting a new career. At the moment, I am either high in the air or killing time in an airport somewhere. My attempt at starting a new career has the potential of being fulltime. We shall see.  

House Sitting

What is this possible new career? House sitting. This is best defined as taking care of an owner’s home while the owner is away. The primary reason to arrange for a house sitter is to provide some safety for the home. Often this includes caring for a pet or pets. Other responsibilities may include watering plants, gardening or lawn work, bringing in the mail, making sure everything is functioning properly, and preserving the home as it was when the owner left.  

Advertising is the most common way to find a house sitter or housesitting opportunity. There are numerous websites that exist to bring house sitters and homeowners together, usually for a fee. Social media sites are another way to offer or look for these situations. Word of mouth is probably the best source for taking advantage of these situations.  

Free Rent

Housesitting arrangements generally are rent free. A sitter provides a service in exchange for free housing. Some sitters charge for their services, however. Any arrangement can happen when it is mutually agreed upon by two people.  

Why does someone choose to be a house sitter? Often to garner free rent. Other reasons may be to experience new locales, cultures, get acquainted with a possible new home location, bide time while a new home is being built or remodeled. The reasons are numerous and particular to the individual.  

So, what am I up to? I’m still interested in traveling and not interested in settling down. I have the travel bug I warned about at the start of this blog almost two years ago. I have been doing slow travel since then, defined as longer stays in a community. I shall likely continue doing that, but I am also going to be adding some shorter travel experiences. Which brings us to today.  

Gütersloh –

I am leaving Ecuador and flying to Germany. There I will be house sitting for three months while a couple will be doing their own traveling. I am heading for Gütersloh in Northwest Germany. This is a town of about 100,000 population. One of the attractions I want to learn more about is Bertelsmann, the world’s largest media company headquartered there. I will write more about them as I learn more. I will also be writing about Gütersloh and the area.  

Flying High

If you’ve ever crossed the pond, you know it is a bit arduous. It will take me two days and five airports: two in Ecuador, one in Colombia, one in France (Paris) and finally in Hannover, Germany at midnight on the second day. I will lose six hours. On the third day, I will take two trains to get to my final destination. I will then remain there for three months before heading to England and some more house sits.  

I hope you’ll join me on these adventures.  

Fact: Your tastebuds are reduced by around 30% during flights
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A note to my Panamá friends: I tried to schedule a continuing flight (taking a break before traveling on) through Panamá City so that I could come out to Boquete, but I could not find one. I also needed to take advantage of the half-price ticket Ecuador offers to we old timers. I still could become a Panamá resident one day. Hang in there with me.

The Grand Tour

While living in Portland, Maine, I took vacation time to visit Europe. I flew Icelandic Airlines, which was the popular cheap way to get to Europe in those days. The plane stopped in Reykjavík, naturally, so I had to deplane and walk to the terminal in order say I had visited Iceland! I landed in Luxembourg and began a circle trip, returning and flying back as I had come.

With a Eurail pass, my first stop was Bonn, Germany, when I had the use of a friend of a friend’s apartment for three days. I had never studied German, but I took to it easily and found my way around. Bonn struck me as a boring city, though it had some great buildings from the days when it was the capital of West Germany. A saving grace was the Beethoven museum and concert hall. I took a day to go up to Cologne to visit the cathedral.

My next stop was Amsterdam, though it was only a pass-through to Haarlem, the real reason for this tour. I had secured a place in the Haarlem International Organ Course, a big deal among organists. I studied organ works of Bach and Céasar Franck on the organ at the Bavokerk, the “cathedral” of Haarlem. This magnificent organ, the only remaining instrument of the builder, had been played by Mozart. It was a thrill to sit where Mozart had sat and to play the same instrument he had played. I then returned to Amsterdam for a few days to walk the canals, visit the Anne Frank house, and spend time in the Vincent Van Gogh Museum.

It was time to get back on the train and head to Brussels. Unfortunately, I arrived on a weekend when nothing was open, and no people were to be seen. Another boring city, but with beautiful architecture. I followed this with three days in Paris. I got by with my limited French but found people to be of no help. Pure joy for me was feeding my love for French impressionist art. I spent most of my time in the Louvre and l’Orangerie in the Tuileries gardens. I also attended Mass at the Basilica of St. Clotilde, Franck’s church.

It was now time to head home. I took the train back to Luxembourg, but I made a big mistake. When the crowd of passengers got up to go to the dining car, I decided I would wait for the second seating. Well, there was no second seating. I was absolutely starved by the time I reached Luxembourg City. To make matters worse, my plane was delayed, and I lost my connection in New York. To top this, I was very sick (food poisoning?), had to sleep on the airport floor for a night, and finally got a plane home the next day.

Still, it was a grand tour.

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