The trip to Germany

Lilly Mieki

We left South Africa on the 06th of September at 16h30 for Germany. The nice thing that made me excited, was that we did not have a direct flight. We flew via Zurich in Switzerland, then on to Hanover in Germany. So now I can tell my friends that I have been to Germany and Switzerland (even if it was for 2 hours only).

When we arrived at the airport in Hanover, we were met by Michelle, Serkan and Malte who came to pick us up. They showed us around (driving on the right hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the left!). It left me a bit confused for a while, since we drive on the left side of the road in South Africa. We then drove to Braunschweig where we spent 3 days. One thing that amazed me was the speed at which people drive on the Autobahnen (freeways). Apparently there is no maximum speed limit on the Autobahnen. We were travelling at 200km/h (pretty cool!!). When we arrived in Braunschweig, we went to the IG Metall offices where we met Nadine and Holger. Holger is the youth leader for IG Metall there. He officially welcomed us and gave us a presentation about IG Metal to inform us what it is all about. They took us out for a braai (Grillfest) at Bürgerpark where we met other guys from the IGM-Jugend (youth) and after that they took us to our hotels. The following day we went to the VW plant where they gave us a presentation of the education system here in Germany. At grade 4 a child chooses the carrier path he/she wants to follow, then at grade 9 you can get into an Apprentice Program (you go to school 2 days a week, then the rest of the week you work as an apprentice in a company ).. I was so stunned to see all the young people working, doing the kind of jobs our fathers are doing in South Africa. What also surprised me was that the majority of them drives his/her own car and the fact that the unemployment rate in Germany is approximately +/- 8%. I was very impressed by that!! In the afternoon we went canoeing then and later in the evening they took us bowling. I have never bowled before (only watched it on television).. It was my first time and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think when I go back home I will take it up as a hobby. On the third day, which was our last day in Braunschweig, we went to a nearby town where we went to a museum. We were informed about the German political history and told us how the country was divided into two (the East and West Germany ). We drove to the former border that separated the then East Germany from the Western side. At around lunch time, Nadine and Serkan drove us to Eisenach.

It was a long drive because we had a lot of traffic on the freeway, but eventually got there. We drove to IGM-Eisenach where we found Nico and his girlfriend, Isabella, waiting for us. They we so friendly to us. Nico hosted us in the house where he lives with his parents. His girlfriend was also visiting for the week-end. On that first evening we went to a castle on top of a hill where Martin Luther lived and translated the bible from Latin to Deutsch. Then we went for dinner in an Italian restaurant where Mark (IGM- Eisenach youth leader )joined us. We still chatted a little bit and then went to sleep afterwards. The following day we went to the mountain where we went skiing down the hill and we had lots of fun. The next day we took a tour into the city and met with a lady at the city’s information centre. She took us on a tour around town and told us about the history of the town and its buildings. Afterwards we had a braai (Grillfest) at the IGM office with other IGM youth members. The next day we drove to the Buchenwald concentration camp where we learned about the German version of “Apartheid” and how the prisoners were treated and killed. What amazed me was that there are people who believe that the Buchenwald experience never happened and that the people who told the story fabricated it!! Those people, I believe, are highly likely to repeat the past. After that whole tour I kept asking every German guy how they felt about that whole experience because to me it was mind blowing. It was very similar to the former white South African government’s “Apartheid” policies. That made me come to the decision of visiting Robben Island in Cape Town when I go back to South Africa. After that it was lunch time and we went to a restaurant to have some lunch and then say our good-byes. This was the most painful moment I have experienced in this trip because in Braunschweig we met people, bonded with them, and then had to leave for Eisenach. Then in Eisenach did the same and then had to leave for Wurzburg. I was so sad and just could not bear it. I cried!

In Amberg we met Sabrina (IGM-Amberg youth leader) and went to a pub where we met other IGM youth members. We had some supper and went to overnight in a hotel. The following day we visited the IGM office. We were showed around, introduced to the staff members and later had a press conference. This one was huge because it was not only the press but also the local television station. After that we then went shopping. Bianca and Sabrina gave each one of us 50 Euros, which was very cool of them. We could buy small gifts for our families in South Africa. Later that day we visited the TV station where we even watched the live TV news and our inset was broadcasted while we were watching. That was my first time in a TV station, let alone seeing myself on TV. Then the next day we left for Schliersee. We arrived there and the weather was very cold. Actually, it was raining. We did not do much, we used our time there to relax because we were so drained out from all the activities we had from previous days. Therefore, we slept most of the time. The next morning we left for Dingelfingen

Having said all that , I must truly say I enjoyed my visit in Germany. In every place or city we went to, people welcomed us with open arms. We were made to feel welcomed and at home. We were never treated like strangers, but treated like important people. When I called home I told my family that here everyone were treating us like a king and a queen. At this time we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the IG-Metall in the whole of Germany for inviting us and making it possible for us to come. You have made a huge difference in our lives. This was our first time outside of our country and maybe if you had not given us this opportunity, we would probably never have been able to come here in our lives. Your hospitality has taught us a lot and we would love to extend what we have learnt from your culture to others at home in South Africa. May God richly bless you, multiply you all and give you more power to touch even more lives. May GOD supply all your needs to fulfil the vision HE has given you. Also, thank you very much for every present we received.. Thank-you!!

And, to Xolelanani Youth Project in South Africa, thank you for choosing us to represent the centre in Germany. We were among many but you chose us. Thank you for the trust you showed in us. The exposure you gave us “upgraded” our thinking and has challenged our current personal ambitions, goals and visions to strive for even better. After this experience we can never be the same again. We can only grow better and make a positive contribution to our country, community and society.