Meeting a Guide: Friederike Pfeiffer-de Bruin

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Meeting my Guide

The context in which Rike and I met is one of the most important aspects of our friendship. I spent my entire first day in Germany traveling, and only thanks to Rike did I actually make it to my appropriate destination without needing to sleep on a train or waste extra time and money. After blindly running around for forty minutes or so, asking multiple people several times where to go, and running between platforms, I finally found my train.

The only problem was that it was headed to Hamburg. I didn’t want to go to Hamburg. I wanted to go to Leer (Ostfriesland). I board this train to Hamburg and walk almost all the way through the train before coming to a few spots that look nice. There are two next to each other, and looks like a good place to set up shop. About two minutes after sitting down and still not entirely being relaxed, a woman approaches me with two children and says something to the effect, “I think you have my seat” in German. Not speaking much German, it takes me a minute to figure out what is wrong through broken conversation and bits of German and English being thrown around. To avoid further disturbance, I decide to take a non-reserved seat across the aisle.

A few minutes pass and I am still very confused and concerned that I am on the wrong train, so I decide to ask the woman whose seat I accidentally took where we are going and if I am on the right train. After a minute of looking at my ticket and the schedule, she confirms that I am on the correct train, but that I will need to transfer at Hannover. The same transfer as her! Naturally conversation continues after this and she introduces herself. Rike.

One thing that was immediately apparent while talking to Rike is that she is an incredibly passionate and caring woman. She has a desire and conviction in how and why she cares for others. Most astounding to me in this moment (partially from sleep-deprivation) was her willingness not only to share her stories and experiences, but offering to share them freely. Even as a professional Story Hunter, it can be hard to get people to open up their hearts and lives to a stranger. So this was truly a blessing, and it was so incredibly perfect that it made me smile. It was amazing to me that the first person that I had a chance to really talk to is inconvenienced by me, but then acts as a guide for my journey in both my Story Hunting ventures as well as my travels. We spent the following six hours or so speaking about our lives and experiences; the people we had met, places we had seen and lived, and I must say that Rike’s story was captivating. 

While most of our development as friends happened on the train, it was at her wonderful sister’s house (in Oldenburg) that we were able to hold our interview several days later. I was stunned to hear of Rike’s time living in a Belgium monastery for two years, moving to Holland for six, all the while studying and taking positions such as: working for an undertaker, doing graphic design, becoming a Doula, a sculptor, providing end-of-life-care, and many more we didn’t have a chance to talk about. 

As she spoke, there were a series of events that shone as a major influence of her care for people; significant experiences that had shaped the rest of her life into one giant arch. This story had become a guiding force for her, pushing her to become the guide that people needed in life, in death, as well as the moments in between. These events were things that molded her into the passionate and lively woman that has helped countless people feel valued as they go on from this life, come into it, and in my case, helping a lost American become a friend while taking an ordinary train ride across Germany. 

In the video interview below, Rike explains how these events came to pass and the significance of those stories: how they have made her into who she is today. 

Rike's Story

Thank You

I want to thank you once more for your friendship and friendliness Friederike. I am truly blessed by your generosity and by the way you helped me on the train and while I was in Oldenburg. My favorite moment was finishing the video, and the realization that you had of how important it is that people tell their stories. You looked at me and said, “I understand. As I tell my story, I am excited to share it with other people, but also hear their stories. We will connect as people as you and I have.” That was so inspiring and you have done too much for me to put into words. So this is for you, that you and your story may help change the world. Even if it is only changed one person at a time. Danke.