Repost, sans pictures, of the post from my old blog which is no longer online, so I can point people to it. Yes, this is seven years ago, but I might go again, to Berlin this time. Expanded with the salient parts of the non-KDE-related post (also sans pictures) so I can find it.
Kirchentag – KDE edition
So that was the Ökumenischer Kirchentag in München. Lots of good conversations, some very good; one friendly argument (I can actually argue in German, only I can’t come up with the words quickly enough when it gets heated. I was the Asker of Stupid Questions in that argument, very useful); several chances to help. We handed out CDs to interested people, wrote “www.bibletime.info” on slips of paper and programme books for anyone who saw it running on the demo laptop or on mine and wanted to use it themselves, talked to the Messe neighbours (among others, LUKi, the Linux users’ group for church workers, and took turns getting excellent free coffee from the next hall. And on the Saturday night we went into town and sat down in a random bar that looked all right (Tresznjewski, Theresienstrasse) and it was not only all right, but the beer was awesome (Ayinger Jahreszeitenbier, for the record). They also did awesome fruit drinks.
 As in “you say there are several reasons to prefer Microsoft; what reasons exactly?”
After a day or so I couldn’t only really speak German instead of getting by with stock phrases and an ear for pronunciation, but I could also explain what KDE and FSFE were doing at a churches’ fair. The freedom to share, the moral obligation to give of what you have, the spirit of diversity and openness: all of this fit neatly into the overall pattern. Usually we didn’t even have to talk about the free-as-in-beer aspect to make it clear to people what we were doing and what they could gain from it. It’s not that e-as-KDE are involved with religion as such; it’s that whenever there’s a chance to talk about freedom and sharing and participation, there’s a place for us. I think it’s a good thing that people saw us, that we exist in that world as well.
What more shall I say? I appear to have both l33t badge-making skillz and l33t stand-building skillz. My feet hurt. My head rings with German (at one point I didn’t notice any more whether I was speaking German or English; even spoke Dutch once by mistake, I think, “other other language”). I’m tired and satisfied. All in all I think it’s been a success. It was a good thing that I’m a middle-aged woman, because that attracted people who might otherwise have gone “Eek! Software!” and thought it was only something for young male programmers. Also, we happened to have exactly the right posters, “Different people. Different ideas. Same vision.” and “People Oriented Programming”. “World domination one step at a time” wouldn’t have gone over well in that context.
What we had: people who got along well with each other. Enough people! FSFE had effectively only one and a half (though we could and did fill in for them when necessary); we had four so any one of us who wanted a break, or to attend an event, could take a few minutes or an hour or half a day off. Fewer might have been too taxing, more would probably have been too crowded unless we’d made a firm schedule first. Also, great bread. The hotel breakfast was 20 euros and we balked at that, so the first day we waited until we were at the Messe to eat (not a success, though the Brezn were nice) and the second and third days we got yummy sandwiches at a nearby bakery and ate at the bus stop. The Kirchentag and the city public-transport network had thoughtfully given everybody a transport pass: not a luxury, but a necessity.
What we need: a more complete list of stuff to take along. As it was we lacked a CD-labelling marker (but the supermarket had some), CD sleeves and combination pliers– which last is entirely my fault: I searched in the tool chest at home and couldn’t find them and said “well, never mind”. I ended up borrowing a pair from the Kirchentag helpers. Perhaps posters in $LANGUAGE_OF_VENUE because we can’t assume that non-geeks understand English. Some handout-type stuff: “what is free software” and “what is KDE” flyers. (Which I sort of promised to write, because I know how to write for non-techies.)
If another opportunity like this comes up, I’m in again. Frederik says I’m the right person to organise that, but I’ll need a lot of help– I’ll give a shout. Thomas Jensch (of FSFE) suggested, and I agree wholeheartedly, that it might be a good idea to join forces with LuKI and the BibleTime people so we can have a larger booth and a strong joint free-software presence. As I said, the most important thing is that we’re seen.
Last, but not least: many thanks to Claudia for organising accommodation. Even with a convenient bus that went straight to the Messe.
Kirchentag – random bits and pieces
I like German trains, especially when bargain-price first class is cheaper than regular-price second class (they were out of bargain-price second class, conceivably because everybody wanted to go to München at the same time that I did). And I had a power socket, though I didn’t find it until the man opposite me plugged his laptop into his own power socket. On the other hand, the ICE goes so fast that my ears clog up as if on a plane. Also, the landscape of the south of Germany would have been much prettier if I’d actually been able to see it instead of going through tunnels and deep cuts all the time. On the third hand, a Schaffner who speaks unaccented Dutch and German but has a horrid German accent in his English, so horrid that I wouldn’t have been able to understand him if I hadn’t heard what he was saying in two other languages first, is intriguing. Oh, and yellow rapeseed is yellow.
German tastes nice, somewhat like lemon, if it’s going really well like lemon meringue: pleasantly tart and ever so slightly sweet.
After starting out sounding fluent but disjointed because I have stock phrases and bits of idiom and fairly good pronunciation, on the second day I found that I could actually speak German. It was still hard to do any explanations then (that came on the Saturday), but for conversation it was completely adequate. So much so that I could join the discussion at the “internet and fundamentalism” workshop and be agreed with (well, also disagreed with; but it’s very heartening to hear someone say “sie hat Recht”). And I still think the man I was disagreeing with didn’t answer me: being wrong, as such, isn’t a sufficient (or even a necessary) condition for being a fundamentalist, no?
Someone on the train back –the last person besides me with a Kirchentag scarf, who got off the train in Osnabrück– thought I was going on to England on the boat, apparently because she took my accent for English. Afterthought: perhaps I had an English accent, because we’d been speaking a mixture of German and English among ourselves. I think the KDE Germans do that even when I’m not there, because they were doing it at one time when I came back with coffee.
Vespers with Artoklasia with twenty thousand people is a bit overwhelming. And bracing. Fortunately I was only responsible for ten (not counting myself): a youth pastor and his flock of students. I don’t know whether it would have been better still if it had been ten people who didn’t know each other, because we didn’t really talk, they were sort of continuing their ongoing normal conversation except when they wanted me to tell them about Orthodoxy (they were Evangelisch) or about the Netherlands (they were from the north-east of Germany).
I talked to two Greeks at the pan-Orthodox booth to inquire about services and got a leaflet listing Matins and Liturgy on Sunday at 8:30. When I said I’d come, one of them told me there was also the big closing service. The other said, “but she wants to go to the Orthodox church! She’s Orthodox after all!” Then, when I did go to the Salvatorkirche, it turned out that I was so tired, and the church was so packed and so completely ethnically Greek though the priest has a German-sounding name (Peter Klitsch), that I couldn’t take it and left after the Great Entrance and walked to the U-bahn station crying. I did give two euros to the beggar at the door, with his little dog, and got his blessing.
The man on the train who, as soon as he heard where I was going, asked me what I thought of the scandals in the Catholic Church. I wish people wouldn’t have that knee-jerk reaction to the word “church”: that some people in some churches have done bad things doesn’t mean that every church, or the Church as a universal thing, is rotten to the core, only that a church contains people and in any group of people there are likely to be some bad ones. In one word, gah. I think I fielded that one well enough.
The woman who looked exactly like someone I thought and hoped never to see again, but as she said “Grüss Gott” when she came in I suppose she was from southern Germany, not South-Holland.
The man from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church booth who embraced me when he heard I was there for KDE because he found Linux a blessing. Also, the man from the information stand who gave me a plastic sleeve for my ticket because I was wearing a KDE T-shirt.
The woman who wanted KDE because Palapeli meant that her husband would never have to complain about jigsaw puzzles on the dining table again.
The Greek girl aged about eight, on the S-bahn with her little sister and their father or grandfather (he was exactly the age where it’s hard to tell), who said on leaving “Dhen thèlo” — what it was that she didn’t want I couldn’t understand.
The woman at the Wittelsbacher Platz when we were bringing back our boxes who asked “Does anyone still have an oil dish?” I sold mine to her, which I’d only bought because it was the only thing left over and it was pretty. She went on to buy three more oil dishes from other people.
The Iranian student I talked to for a quarter of an hour in the Christian-Islam dialogue booth on the corner. He wanted to know whether the Orthodox church had celibacy, too. I said “No– er, well, yes” and went on to explain that married men can be ordained, but ordained men can’t marry. It made sense to him; much more sense than enforced celibacy like the Catholics.
The small woman in a powered wheelchair at the clearing-up phase who carried heavy stuff in her lap, zip! zip! at breakneck speed. When I called to her “I’d like to borrow that!” she zipped an extra circle around me.
The sign on a wooden play-house –a house in an elaborate wooden play-town– that I saw from the bus: it said “WARNUNG! SCHILD” (“Warning! Sign”). I wish I’d got off and taken a picture of it.
The lift sign at the hotel with the arrow pointing up when the button was lit that said down. This was, of course, because I was calling the lift up in order to go down in it, but it was confusing all the same.