BARSTOW Barstow residents who walk into a local restaurant on the first Thursday of the month might find themselves in the midst of a dozen women sitting around a table chatting cheerfully in German.

The informal group of German women living in and around Barstow most of whom came to town with active-duty or retired military husbands began meeting about a year ago, said Birgit Webster, one of the founders. They get together once a month to spend a couple of hours chatting in their native language over dinner.

The group started small after Webster and her longtime friend, Gerlinde Bockoras, decided to put a notice in the paper asking fellow German speakers to meet up. Only two people showed up for the first meeting, but more trickled steadily in. Now the group has about 12 regular members, Webster said.

Walteraud Lugo said she was nervous about coming after having a bad experience with a highly unpleasant fellow German, but after the first meeting, her fears subsided.

"I came, and they really took me in like I knew them all my life," she said.

Some of the women have been in Barstow 20 or 30 years. Some are now American citizens while others have held onto their German nationality. Although arriving in the small desert town was a shock at first, Sieglinde Storath said she soon came to like Barstow.
Stephanie Eklund said, "It's been a slow love growing for the desert."

Still, there are some very specific things the women miss about their native county. Lugo listed bread, cakes and cold cuts as the three items of American fare that frequently disappoint. Several of the other women agreed that the bread sold in America does not hold up to the heartier German loaves.

"My dad came to the U.S. and said, 'Where's the real bread?'" Webster said.

The women stay in touch with friends and family in Germany and some have husbands who have picked the language up or children who grew up speaking it. Still, some said that before they joined the group, they were hard-pressed to find fellow German-speakers in Barstow.

"It was wonderful music to my ears," said Stephanie Eklund of the first time she walked into the group a month ago.

Webster said she suspects that there is a sizeable population of German expatriates in Barstow, but the group is still trying to flush them out.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or asewell@desertdispatch.com

German speakers group
A group of German women living in and around Barstow meet the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at different local establishments. Call Birgit Webster at 760-447-6115 for more information.