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Because the past week has been a whirlwind of adjusting to Freiburg, classes, and paperwork, I haven’t had much time to update you on my more recent adventures.

Life at the Holladays is always served with a measure of the unexpected.  From their house decor to their visitors, I was never quite sure what the day might hold.  One morning, the Holladays were having a small chat with some of their residents over tea, but the event turned out to be fancier than they had expected.  With an hour before the guests’ arrival, I helped Mary Beth set the table.  I enjoyed the spur of the moment hospitality session; hospitality is an art of its own, and a particularly fun practice.  Here’s what we came up with:

Only missing the guests

Jenna had promised to give me a tour of Basel this same day, so around one I left to meet up with her.  As an up-and-coming director, she has made a short film and will be submitting it to a film festival soon.  She needed to pick up her finished project, which was being compressed by a group called Greater European Mission, or GEM.  While we were there, we found out that the man who was processing her file was out to lunch, but one of the other men, Jim, was there.  We started up a conversation with him, and he discussed his current film projects, as well as ones still in the planning process.  This conversation culminated in him inviting Jenna to join the team as a screenwriter.  She was hesitant, but it was nonetheless fascinating to see how artists build connections to help further their talents and publicity.

Since this trip made us miss the 1:20 bus, we decided to head back to her home, grab a bite to eat, and return to GEM to see if her film was done.  When we tried the second time, we had to wait for a meeting to get out before she could retrieve the film.  Once again, we missed the 2:20 bus.

To make up for it, we visited the local Eiscafe Cortina, an ice cream parlor.  Jenna bought a coffee, but I went for an epic-looking mint chocolate sundae.

Mint Chocolate Sundae in the Eiscafe Cortina

Plan C was to take the 3:20 bus, but since it had gotten so late, and the bus would take an hour, Jenna called her father to ask him if he could just drive us down instead.  We were already planning on meeting him while he was there.  He kindly said yes, and drove up from Basel to get us.

Finally on our way (after missing three buses), we drove south to Switzerland.  Along the side of the road, I noticed small walls of tarp were set up.  Jenna and her father explained that they were to prevent endangered frogs during their annual migration from crossing the road and getting hit by cars.  Workers would come by later to gather the frogs along the tarp and carry them across the road.  I guess Germans don’t play Frogger!

When we arrived in Basel, we ate at a new soup shop in town that had a delicious Iranian barley soup.  Jenna ordered a tall glass of blue soda, which added to her conviction that Basel is a “sci-fi city”.  For further evidence, she pointed to the incredibly thin trams.  “It’s like Blade Runner,” she said.

The longer you know Jenna, the more you notice she naturally thinks in terms of movies.

Jenna’s father, Mr. James, decided to take us to the House of Prayer, which he attends for conferences and training.  On our way there, we weaved through old neighborhoods and quiet courtyards.  We paused at an intersection.  Mr. James pointed at a row of houses and told us about a prostitution ring famous for its location in this quiet neighborhood.  Some of the women are there for work, but some are trafficked.  My heart felt a little heavier that this otherwise generic neighborhood held so many desperate stories.

And just a few blocks down, we arrived at the House of Prayer.  We quietly observed the worship service in the chapel, where people step outside of their busy day to honor God.  Worshippers, in their need for God, seemed so transparent as they prayed in their pews or sang with the music.  No one was self-conscious or self-absorbed.

I was moved by the honesty with which they worshipped.

Jenna’s father gave us employee-only access to the basement, which was built as a fallout shelter in the 1960’s.  How cool is that?

Fallout shelters are common in Switzerland, making the Swiss the only people group eligible to survive a zombie apocalypse.

We walked into the shopping district, which was filled with fancy clothing boutiques and inviting eateries.  In front of these expensive stores, street musicians played for money.  I half-wondered if the stores were paying these musicians to serenade passers-by, because their music was absolutely incredible.  As soon as the cellist was out of earshot, a small troupe complete with brass and accordion filled in to take its place.   I felt like I was walking to my own movie soundtrack.  Everything was almost unreal, because it did resemble a stereotypical “Abroad in Europe” movie.

All of the architecture dates from the late 13th century or younger, because a giant earthquake decimated Basel in the early 14th century.

I caught myself strutting a little, so elevated that I instinctively winked at an indignant pug on the sidewalk.  Thank goodness I know how to laugh at myself.