So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria, God and life, teaching and gardening plus the occasional cow


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The Asylum Seeker

On our way to church on Easter Sunday, we passed what looked like one of our local Asylum seekers walking in the direction of Ramingstein from Tamsweg. We thought he looked a bit odd with his hood pulled over his head, most of them use the bike path in the valley. Maybe he was on his way to see his friends and he was new here. But walking along that road is dangerous. Later that day we saw him again when we were doing Meals on Wheels, still on the main road and well past Ramingstein.

Dave what do we do? We both felt there was something wrong and we felt driven to do something. So when we had finished we drove in the same direction. If he was visiting someone we wouldn’t find him. But we saw him in the distance. We overtook him and turned around and stopped. He looked like he was ín his twenties I guess and dark skinned, his lips were dry and cracked. I asked internationally OK? He nodded. I asked where are you going in both languages. Slovenia. I couldn’t believe it. I signed food, and drink pointing at my mouth and said money.

Another car stopped and asked if all was ok, we explained and to the nearby farmer who drove all of fifty yards to ask!

Dave brought my bag over and gave him one of the boiled, coloured Easter eggs in my bag.  I couldn’t feel the others. So I then gave him some money. He tapped his heart as I have seen these guys do, I didn’t have anything to give him to drink. He went on.

I spent the afternoon beating myself up for not giving him more money and eggs. Should we have taken him to the railway station at Unzmarkt? Or to a restaurant? Or called a friend further down the road? Or maybe he was fleeing a crime?

I don’t like the Asylum seekers, these young men who leave their families to face the war, they’re migrants. So why did her stir Dave and I so much? Where is he now?

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Some comments please – what would you do?

Am I on the right way and I’m being so attacked because of it and should be rejoicing, or have I just really, really screwed up? Maybe there isn’t even enough evidence to convict me as a Christian!

Edith and I rowed after the last session with the Asylum seekers.  It was hot, they weren’t really interested as they had a Play bus coming, and we had a toddler which shouldn’t have allowed to come.  I also made the mistake of presuming that one of the horses was familiar with the horse ball we were using but he was scared.  When it was kicked, the horse jumped and nearly knocked the kid over. I then had to think on my feet for new games. Edith was out of the arena and no help when we should be together as a team.  Maybe I’m too used to working on my own and my own resources.  We were also being watched by some teacher doing an MA on integration.  So Edith tore me off a strip in front of him twice and I of course responded.  Why she couldn’t wait until after the session and do this in private, we looked like a couple of stupid women not professionals?  It was because she didn’t understand the games and I hadn’t explained.  We did go on after, and she came out with accusations of us needing to assess each session –completely forgetting we have done so each time and it was because of her appointments this time we couldn’t.  She admitted has no idea of working with kids, or the games, and when I suggested she needs to read her EAGALA  manual, she said she didn’t like taking people’s ideas – I gave up.  I tried so hard not to obsess about the whole thing, everything having been said and maybe I shouldn’t have had some beer with Paggy and Dave but I was hurting and lashed out at Dave in my pain.

After a day of calming down and praying, I was due an Erna day.  I was so calm about the whole thing and prayed I would be ok and not take offence etc, and I failed.  It began after breakfast when I said maybe we could do the Rittersaal if the rooms weren’t ready, she turned and looked at me as if I’d crawled our from under a stone and muttered about seeing rooms first.  My heart sank, I was in for another bad day. So I decided to separate myself from them and do the loos and turning the quilts so I didn’t have to be in the same room but working along side. Maybe this was a wrong decision as far as the other two were concerned I’d disappeared. I started sweeping one corridor which was dirty and got shouted at to leave it and go and take the rubbish away.  I was so annoyed, I’m afraid I uttered annoyance as I walked away and she kept on talking.  She may have been telling me they were having a break, I couldn’t understand, so I couldn’t find them where expected and it happened again later, no one said what we were doing, I was abandoned.  Things got late, there was an awful lot to do. And I could see we would finish late.  Now this was the one day I could not do that. I had a changeover to do at the holiday flat and didn’t know when they would arrive although they had been told 6.  I had prayed, used tongues and went around saying to myself I can take being ignored, but the whole day was getting to me.  So it happened, Erna asked to borrow Michaela’s phone to ring home and I had to say, I can’t stay.  So I got shouted at, YOU MUST, and I repeated I couldn’t.  She then said then I had to see Helmuth and other things which I couldn’t understand so I stormed out.  It was such a relief just to shout back in English at the top of my voice ‘Ahh SHUT UP’.  I went straight to Helmuth and said I just couldn’t stay and I’d been shouted at and ignored all day and had found my colleagues rude.  I said I would stay till 3, then I would be gone.  He of course did the tear welling up thing but was ok, so I went and cleaned bogs.  Michaela joined me and gave me all this rubbish about being left alone to finish stuff etc, etc, and I was so far gone I just said I couldn’t care less, I had covered for her when he was ill and had done areas on my own myself. I had told her that morning I had the flat to do, but of course it hadn’t registered. I left, the guests turned up two hours early, there wasn’t enough bed linen and so on.  I felt later I should offer an Olive branch and texted Michaela saying I’d come the next day and help, the reply to which was it was all done, why did I need to help?

So I don’t know what my reception will be.  I go back to work tomorrow, I’ve written my notice.  Will I give it in?  I feel disloyal leaving midseason but they are already advertising for more kitchen staff. Do I stay and hack it?  See what happens on the next Erna day on Friday?  What do I do?  I haven’t slept properly for days, it goes around and around in my head. Do I send Michaela a text asking if I can still have a lift or just say I’m coming in my car?  I have prayed and the answer is I have to follow the peace that God will give me – but so far I cant find it.


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EAGALA at last- yaaaaaaaaaay!

Our partners, Avarkur and Lucca the Icelandics

Last week Edith and I  finally began our work  under the Tu Was project.  After so many set backs, delays and  frustrations, we collected our first little group of four from the Asylum Seekers’ Hostel in our cars. We can get their bus fares paid, but we have to take the money to the Hostel, collect the used tickets and then take them to the Caritas office and get a refund – completely impractical, so for the first few times we’re collecting them and maybe it will sort itself out.

We began with some grooming, just so they could have their first contact in an unthreatening situation.  One girl (the 15-year-old translator) was dabbing delicately at the horse, scared of the dirt and  hurting it.  Two other kids cleaned just the tummy, keeping away from the head, but they all quickly relaxed and got into it.  Unlike most situations, we know nothing about these people except they have been through some sort of trauma to be there. We cannot talk to some of them as their German is limited and we rely on one of the group translating.  They are mostly children and mothers with a few teenagers, I would be a bit worried with younger men, but I don’t think they would come. Asylum seekers have such a negative press these days, but I hope I’m seeing them just as people to help, faith and culture are irrelevant.

 All became accustomed to the horses, so we lead them over to the school, freed the horses and asked them to collect a horse and bring it to us.  We did make the mistake of giving them the headcollars, we should have let them choose how to do it – well it was our first official session too!

The small girl got quite upset as the horse repeatedly walked away from her, then when she came over to us, he followed her.  I asked her what had happened, and after trying so hard not to prompt her in my bad German, she realised she had achieved her goal, having brought us a horse and was thrilled.  The boy was more concerned with working out how the halter fitted, but eventually to his joy made it.  Grandma helped our translator and after doing  the task herself.  She was  talking to the horse and I saw her smile and surreptitiously give the horse a kiss on the nose!  She was adamant she has never worked much with animals, but I would say her body language belies this – but maybe it was only donkeys!   The translator also achieved with some help from Grandma, and was so pleased she wanted to do everything including  riding back to the Hostel! 

We did a leading exercise with cones, but our younger horse read too accurately the boy’s body language and ran away as he was asking her to trot, so we had a break.  After that we did Life’s little obstacle, where one horse quite happily walked over the pole while they were trying to get the other over and they missed it.  They couldn’t keep quiet, but achieved it easily.  We then took the horses away as they were both becoming a bit uptight, it was their first full session too!   The group was so excited, it was so much fun, the only negative aspect was the formerly full of confidence girl  lost it around the horses.   They all signed up for next time, lets hope they will come. Coming with nothing, we’re also having to find some of them  shoes and jeans, to protect them a bit.  We will also never know if they’ll be suddenly moved on, and so have to treat each session as an entirety.

Under their situation in the Hostel and language difficulties, several of those who said they’d come to the first session didn’t, Doctors appointments, something to do, or maybe just fear held them back.  Hopefully the experiences of our first group would encourage the others.  I would so like to find out their stories but as yet feel unable to ask.  Next time, we’ll repeat the haltering with any new guys, then try to get them to find a metaphor the in obstacle for their lives, or we’ll suggest one and try to go a little deeper.


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Meeting the Asylum seekers

Equine assisted therapy - from our training

Edith and I have been to meet the local asylum seekers who are in a hostel in a local village.  I had expected that we were meeting another boss lady who would again say there is no cash. However it turns out that she was the Landlady of the Guesthouse they all live in and she literally said here they are and left us.  She did say about how they get one meal a day supplied and only 40 euros a month to buy stuff like bogrolls.

So we met a mixed group that completely adhered to the stereotype I had imagined. Various headscarved, silent muslims hiding shyly in the background, and a more vocal swarthy skinned group (oops the PC lot will get me!).  There were a couple of men and women and kids. Nevertheless, they were articulate in German – possibly better tha me.  They were looking at the piccies and understanding, one bloke who I’ll call  Sid was telling us about his horses at home.  Sidess, but not his wife, was also articulate and bright with a dead cute daughter.Then they all took off, a trolley was wheeled in with their allocated lunch, and the majority disappeared.  However our key group returned apologetically after all the food was gone, no doubt hoarded in their rooms, and were dead keen just to come and see the horses, maybe groom a bit and see what they could do – kids included. So we need to arrange to get them to the stables next week – there may be a charity taxi we can use, and see how it goes.  I doubt whether any of them have boots.  Of course, no ones paying for this, so Edith and I will be off the Caritas again as the girl we saw last week hasn’t communicated with anyone.  More showing the now familiar Powerpoint. 

As I said to Edith, we’ll have to watch Sid as he will dominate the group, over the quieter spoken man, and likewise Siddess.  But we’ll see. I came away just feeling I wanted to get to know them and give them a break from the Hostel. What were they in their previous lives?  What has happened to them?  Are they fakes?  Maybe we’ll find out as the horses work their power on them.

Update; since this we’ve been unable to move forward as we can’t get any transport organised, even after we offered to do one of the journeys.