Sweet Home greets a dozen German visitors at barbecue

The Mid-Valley area, including Sweet Home, hosted a dozen German visitors from Braunschweig and Peine.

On July 29, Sweet Home and Juan and Donna Ulep hosted the group at a rained-out barbecue. As a result of the rain, the event moved to the Brownsville Rec Hall, where Sweet Home “Burgermeister” (Mayor) Craig Fentiman welcomed the visitors.

The travelers were in the area from July 24 to July 31 after spending a week in Missoula, Mont., through the international Friendship Force.

“It’s an exchange club,” local President Don Rea of Albany said. “We live in each other’s homes. We share each other’s lives. It’s very casual hosting and exchanging our lives. Also, we like to show them around the area.”

The visitors were taken to the coast, different cities, Silver Creek Falls and concerts in the park.

Through the program, persons make “some new friends,” creating “a new feeling about how small the world is, a feeling that they are more like us than we think,” Rea said. “They love their families and their country. They care about peace in the world. That’s the point of this organization, the idea that if we had friends around the world, we could have peace around the world.”

Around the world, Friendship Force has 200 clubs. The visitors from Germany are members of a club there. The organization is now beginning to open doors into China and, locally, is hosting two Russian teachers. A new program, under the direction of Jim Tolbert, sends Americans to teach English in Russia.

Heinz Fasterling of Braunschweig led the German contingent. His hometown, near Hannover, has about 240,000 residents while Peine has about 50,000 residents.

“Our stay here was very good,” Fasterling said. “It was very organized. We’ve seen much of the country and how they live. I think many of us made many friends. We have made a one-day trip to the Pacific Ocean and have seen the towns, like Newport.”

They also visited Sisters, Detroit, volcanic areas and Cellilo Falls.

“The Americans we met were very friendly, helpful and supported us very much,” Fasterling said. They showed the visitors what they thought would be of interest.

The goals of the visit are, first, to make friends and bring worldwide understanding and then to learn more about other cultures.

“Here you see the culture in the homes,” Fasterling said. They see how Americans live and how they think, bringing understanding.

“I think the American people, when I look at the traffic, are more polite than German drivers,” Fasterling said. “They live more — they have more free thinking.”

Americans tend to be more independent and individualistic while Germans are more traditional, he explained.

This was Fasterling’s sixth visit to the United States.

“It always is great fun for us to have contacts and new views with the people we stay with here,” Fasterling said.

“Fifty years ago, something like this wouldn’t have happened,” Burgermeister Fentiman said. He called it a joyous occasion and applauded the Friendship Force’s efforts. He also said he looked forward to visiting Germany.

Gloria Olson was in charge of organizing the events.

“This is my life,” Olson said. “If we can’t be reaching out and making connections, we haven’t learned. We make a difference internationally.”

Persons interested in more information about the Friendship Force may contact Don or Betty Rea at (541) 928-2648.