Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Batman got me singin'

Does that sound like a lot?

It doesn't sound like that much to me... But, that's how long we've called Cologne home, and that's how much longer we get to call it home for.


So I was having a seize the day moment (despite the fact that actually what I need to seize is the ironing board and some groceries...) so I searched on you tube for the song "seize the day"... I don't know which version I was looking for, but I didn't find it, maybe because SO many things on Youtube aren't accessible here! Why, Youtube? Why?!?

My frown was turned upside down though, when I came across this version... please go watch it? 

A young Christian Bale dancing and singing? Made my day!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Safer than Care-bears in Care-a-lot.

Remember how I mentioned before the whole anxiety girl thing. Yeah. The force is still strong with this one. Did I just make a star-wars reference...?!

We found out yesterday that we have our accommodation in Marburg booked! 
We have a two-room apartment reserved for us when we get there in October. Looking at photos, it looks like we’ll have a balcony, which I would love! Also, the views look as though they could be lovely, always a bonus. This apartment is a HUGE answer to prayer: we applied to the housing-people a few months ago already and we thought we’d only find out in September, but we found out yesterday that we've got it! We’re just waiting to find out some more information, like the number and floor etc.
It’s so cool (understatement) to see how God’s working and how he’s looked after us, we've been really aware of it this year as we've been very consciously relying on Him.
He’s provided us with so so so much and I know that we can continue to trust Him.

But, as usual, my super-power of anxiety kicked in a few minutes after finding all this out. 
There are a few things that concern me about where we’re going, and just the change that it will be for us. 
I shared my anxiety with Malcolm, and he knew just what to say to me (I speak star-wars every now and then so I guess he's also picked up some girly-ballet-teacher-language?). You know what he said?
“Even if we lived in a fluffy marshmallow house with Care-bears surrounding us as neighbours, we still would not be as safe as if we lived in the middle of Afghanistan, if that were God’s plan for us”. 
anxiety trust God Cologne Marburg safety Koln Richtsberg
He’s right, God’s will is the safest place to be... and now I remember why we chose “The Prayer” as our first dance song at our wedding.
When the song says "Give us faith so we'll be safe", I never thought of it as burglar guards and no crime and a beautiful view of perfection, or a sign saying "Welcome to Care-a-lot". We ask for faith so we won't stop trusting God, and in so doing stray from His plan for us, because the safest place we can be is exactly where He wants us, faithful to Him and doing His work.

So I'm probably over-reacting, and I'm pretty sure that Marburg is not going to be like a war-zone. I'm excited to see what we discover there, how we grow, who we become, what lessons we learn.
But if you'd like to pray for us, there are 3 things I'm praying for: 
1. A church that honours Jesus and presents the gospel truthfully 
2. Friends! 
3. Peace of mind 

Anything you need prayer for?

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Weekend of... animals!

Yet another weekend come and gone, and nearly the end of the Month! 

We managed to cross off another item from our Koln-Bucket-List... the Zoo! 
After putting this down on our calendar at the beginning of the month and me singing "we're going to the zoo" every time it came up, Malcolm and I finally went on Saturday. We got there as it opened so that we could spend as much time as we wanted (aka. getting our money's worth). 
cologne aquarium entrance

We walked around and managed to see many animals but not any of the maps, despite my repeated complaining that they didn't have any maps anywhere and that I hope we got to see everything! Eventually, on our way towards the exit, we came across a map where we realised we'd missed all the great apes. So we studied the map to figure out how we should go back while seeing animals we hadn't yet and then how to continue to make sure we see everything on our way out... And then it started to thunder and rain bucketed down. We took refuge under a tree/bush for a while, but when it started coming through the leaves we thought we should just enjoy the rain and carry on. 

Just around the corner was a building though, so we went in there and waited for the rain to stop, which it did after only about ten minutes. Then the sun came out and the only evidence that it had rained was my wet hair and the humidity. 

We found our way back to the great apes and discovered a whole bunch of maps along the way that we for some reason or another hadn't seen before, and got to see some of the animals again as we passed by! 

Instead of uploading hundreds of poor-quality photos of every animal and bird we saw, I thought I'd limit it to our "award winning" animals :) 

Malcolm's favourite: The snow leopard/ Gorillas 
Erica's favorite: The otter (it reminded me so much of my dog in SA, Ruby, I swear she has some otter in her! And yes, she's still mine!) 
The weirdest: The Anteater. Come on, have you ever seen one of these?! Strangest proportions... Picasso's inspiration for sure!
The funniest: the bird that had a thing for Malcolm's socks - it kept poking its beak down his socks and inspecting his shoes. Let's put it down to his animal magnetism? 
The Laziest: The badgers. Their pose is self-explanatory. 
The most entertaining: The hippos. We got there at feeding time, so we got to watch them munch apples and press against the glass. They're amazing, and despite seeing them in the wild, I never realised how big they are! 
Most huggable: The grizzly bear. I know it's probably not a great idea to hug these, but I can see how these bears inspired the cuddly toys! 
Most exotic: The tigers. I made this category up just so I can say we saw tigers. 
Most original: The Okapi. Never seen one before, and they're so interesting! 
Least original: The impala. We came all the way here to see impala?! Also, ducks. There were ducks accompanying just about every animal, and outside the zoo they're in just about every lake. 
Least interesting: The turtle doves. Really? 

cologne koln zoo animals best must see
 It does make me sad to see the animals trapped in their enclosures and not with the huge herds they should be with, especially when I've seen them in the wild and this just doesn't compare. But then at least these are safe (like their white rhino), and I think that going to see them certainly increases my appreciation for them, and it made me a lot more aware of how our actions impact the animals' natural environments.
It's also really great for kids; there are interactive learning activities all over, and an amazing playground! Of course, we don't have kids, but that doesn't mean we couldn't act like them ;)

koln cologne zoo playground things to do kids
* meeting the frog
* the kids playground, wagons in the foreground are rented to pull little kids with tired legs along!
* hanging out with the elephants
* Malcolm testing his strength in pushing "blood" to the giraffe's brain. It's hard! But he did really well :D 

We also went to the aquarium part... where we saw lots of river-fish and all sorts of creepy, underwater creatures.

Malcolm wasn't as into my gold-fish or piranha impressions.
There was also an insect and reptile section. Malcolm went ahead and looked at the tarantulas and creepy bugs, while I sat and watched the cutter ants at work. Sore feet, incredibly humid and somehow it's generally hotter inside buildings here than it is out in the sun.  
But, all in all, a beautiful day full of fun and lots to see! (And ice-cream) It's so cool to be reminded just how great God is, to marvel at the creatures he made, the way they are perfectly designed to survive. And so many kinds! The Bible is a book of vast understatements when it says "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array" (Gen 2:1)... vast array?! Even after seeing just a sample at the zoo, I'd call that a very understated statement! Amazed.

Have a great week!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Week recap: Getting some culture

So this week we finally got some culture and went to our first museum. While google-searching something else I discovered that there's a Tanzmuseum and Dance Archives, after some more link-clicking I found out that Mondays are free entry to the museum, so off we went! 

Basically the museum combined my love of dance and of media and film. It was mostly photos of various dancers... But it gave me a chance to reflect on how far dance, ballet in particular, has come in the last 100 years. 
marie taglioni tanz museum koln cologne

There were also films playing throughout the gallery. From the dying swan to le cake-walk infernal by Melies... that man was genius. Watch the movie Hugo to learn more about him! I LOVE watching the first films ever made, and seeing how they gradually progressed - it must have been such an exciting time! 

Tanzmuseum Koln dying swan cakewalk infernal

The gallery led into a room with light and shadow and dancing cut-outs. I'm not sure what these are, but basically there were different dancing images cut out from paper, revolving quickly around a lightbulb, with a mirror reflecting it onto the wall... they weren't zeotropes, thaumatropes, phenakistascopes, praxinoscopes, and it wasn't theatre optique. So I duno. Ideas?

pictures projector film

In the last room, there were tv's set up showing various dance-related clips... surprising to see the the Petshop Boys, but interesting to see a dance from  Rött vin i gröna glas - a dance where it looks like two people floating through the air while dancing. I wish I could find it online! 

tanzmuseum koln cologne petshop boys

It was really interesting, but there's not very much so I'm quite glad we went in on a day with free entrance! 

Wednesday we headed out to do some shoe-shopping... Malcolm has nearly worn through his so he needed new ones. There're usually pretty expensive but we found some on sale (pretty easy with the sales still going strong!), which were then further reduced so we essentially paid half the price! Hoorah! I also got a dress, but that whole experience is for another day. 
What I found really surprising was the amount of Dirndl kleide and Lederhosen for sale in normal shops... I mean, we don't really think that Germans wander around like this ....
traditional german dress streets
do they??? 
And when I'm in Mr Price or Edgars in SA, I cannot ever find a Beshu for Malcolm or find a traditional Afrikaans ox-wagon-era dress, can I? I think not! 
So at first I thought it was super-weird to find such a vast assortment of traditional clothing in ordinary shops (Lederhoser-looking-swimming-trunks???)... but actually I think it's great :) 
I even tried on a dress (SO beautifully made) and I'm now completely obsessed... I want one! I might settle on a beautifully embroidered blazer-type jacket, or a shirt. But c'mon... when in Germany! 
traditional German clothes ordinary shops

So with our dose of culture the rest of our week was pretty average... I waved goodbye to Malcolm every morning, he learnt a LOT, we had McFlurries (did all our German-culture points just become void...?), I spent an insane a fair amount of time on Skype with Ani (Count down to her wedding!!!!), and basically, we got on with life :) 
housewife goodbye icecream mcdonalds mcflurries

We have an exciting weekend planned, or at least for tomorrow, so I look forward to Monday's update!! :D 

Have a safe and fun weekend, everybody! 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

German sausage jokes are the Wurst

Malcolm loves that joke. Figured I might as well use it here :)

I decided to spend this lovely Thursday blog post finishing off my German speciality theme - Tuesday the language, Wednesday the gadgets and today? The food! Oh yes! 

Some of my fondest memories of Germany when I visited in summer ’98 are (surprisingly?) characterised by food. An uncle dropping a potato into his wine glass. The smell of the bakeries. Eating watermelons at the pool in Vienna. Discovering the taste of cherries. Barbecuing ribs. Kinder joy chocolates.

Also characterised by train-rides and heat-waves. 
Now, I experience all these again, but with a more... adult perspective. That is, I’m paying, and I’m trying to figure it out myself. 

Yes, Germany has sausages. I am yet to figure out all the different kinds, and quite honestly with an understanding of what “leber” and “blut” mean, I don’t always get excited when I hear them combined with “wurst”. So far we've only had bratwurst, and even that you get different kinds. I’m still keen to try the “currywurst” and figure out the wursts for each region. I’m not sure an Escourt Vienna will ever live up.

I’ve lamented the presence of bakeries before. A lot of them aren't too badly priced... a chocolate croissant for 90c or so, which makes following my nose through their doors all too easy. They have the most delicious pastries and chocolatey, nutty, sugary, syrupy treats. Let’s just call this a love-hate relationship and move on.
AKA pretzels. Please, don’t be fooled by the mini-pretzel snack things in a packet. If that’s what you imagine the fuss here is about, you've been deceived. They’re also not just pizza dough in a plait. I've always loved real bretzeln. We had them at our wedding, though not in the traditional shape, and I think they were amazing... I would have eaten more and packed some in my handbag... If I weren’t wearing a white dress and being photographed. And if I had a handbag. Here, they remind me of home, and the bretzeln that mum would make. Plus, 1euro for 3 at the bakery on the way to the CDC is pretty good going.

Ritter Sport 100g slabs on special for 55cents? Yes please! The exchange rate when we changed was R12.50 to the euro... so R6.90ish is pretty good going! (though the ordinary price is 89c) What’s the price of an 80g Cadbury slab in SA...? I discovered yesterday that the look one gets from the till-guy when buying only chocolate, and a fair quantity of it, is one of confused amusement. I realise last time I bought anything from there was 3 slabs of milka chocolate on special.  Next time I’ll have to ask Malcolm to go.

The icecream flavours are ridiculous and wonderful. We also had a McD’s Mcflurry here... pretty good, and definitely good value, but I prefer the wafer cone with ein kugel eis. Especially the fruity flavours.

Eating out.
On that note, I find fast food and eating out in general here really expensive. In two months we’ve only eaten in a restaurant once, and only been to a fast-food place for that Mcflurry. If I remember correctly, a McFlurry is 2euros69... R34?!? Although, we tend to go by the multiply by 10 rule which we generally use because 
(1) it’s easier multiplication and 
(2) it matches SA’s prices better, so things seem normally priced and it’s easier to compare prices to each other here – need to remember that a 1euro difference is a R10 difference! Even by this, eating out is expensive. 

Can anybody tell me if Bicarbonate soda exists in Germany?! Where?! I’ve been baking cookies with baking powder and they’re just not the same.... 

So, tomorrow I'll be recapping our week... hint, we visited our first museum and I have a new obsession. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The best thing since sliced bread

Germany... the land of discovery and scientific advancement.
The country where Alzheimer's Disease and Morphine were first discovered.
Where the planets Neptune and Uranus were identified.
Where dinosaurs such as Plateosurus and Teratosaurus were classified.
Where the theory of relativity finds its origin.
Where the processes of Miosis and Mitosis were recognised.
Where the humble Petri dish originates from.
Where the idea of continental drift was conceptualised.
Where the Diesel engine, airbag and jerry can were invented.
Where the first printing press made text accessible.
Where they discovered a whole lot of other stuff I don't have a clue about in the realms of physics, chemistry, geology, medicine, maths, weapons, and electronics.
The birthplace of glue sticks, adhesive strips, hole-punches, coffee filters, harmonicas, accordions, Christmas trees, advent calendars, and The Settlers of Catan.
The homeland of von Humboldt, Einstein, Hertz, and Liebniz.
Thanks, Wikipedia.

Seriously, I'm impressed!

So then, it's not surprising when I arrive here and discover inventions that have not only filled me with a certain amount of terror and awe, but have also amused and entertained me.

I present to you my 3 Favorite gadgety-things that make life better/easier/more fun. 

1. Tilt-and-Turn-Windows. 
I actually don't know if this is the official name for these, but they are terrifying and wonderful windows. The hinges change according to the position of the handle : if it's down then it's locked; if it's horizontal then it hinges on the vertical hinges and swings open as usual (Top picture); if it's up then it tilts and hinges on the bottom hinges (Bottom picture).
They swing open inwards; allowing for easy cleaning and, if wide open, a huge obstacle that one can walk into.
The tilted position allows a cool breeze in and provides a rush of adrenaline and terror when it feels like it's going to fall inwards and shatter and break ones skull.
They close tightly, keeping the weather outside where it belongs.

2. Electric shutters 
We didn't know we had these for the first night here, and if we weren't so exhausted from travelling I doubt we would have slept at all with the summer-sunshine streaming through at 11pm.
Fortunately, we were introduced to these!
Metal shutters that, at the flick of a switch, roll down over the window. They first have little holes in them allowing privacy and a small amount of light, and then one can continue to close them until they're tightly shut (like the bottom half of the top picture). No need for eye-masks or burglar guards. Although I do kind of feel like I'm in a garage, or a shop in the main street of PMB. But at least it's dark and I can sleep.

3. Bread-cutting machines 
This might come as a surprise, as it did to me, but there are alternatives to our bread cutting machines in SA! You know how they tend to squash bread quite a lot and leave fresh bread mangled? Never mind the safety aspect as the blades are uncovered and able to cut kiddies who want to pinch that piece of fresh crust that has fallen away from its loaf?
Well, let me introduce you to the highlight of my grocery shopping - the moment when I get to use THIS mean-machine.

You place the bread and then close the glass shield over, which can't be opened while in operation. Then you choose the thickness of the slices. Thereafter, the guillotine gets into action and slices the bread with a super sharp blade. The glass unlocks and one can get the bread out, place it on the shelf and slip the bag over it. Yes, I video'd it, there were people waiting behind me... I don't think they share my fascination and awe.

And THAT my friends, is how amazing German innovation continues to amaze. Thank you, Germany!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Life right now, as only German can express it

German is known as being a difficult language.
Sure, some words sounds Afrikaans, but their grammar is incomparable and though when it's written it may look familiar, when it's spoken it gets jumbled. Excuse the quick grammar 101, but perhaps the three most common gripes about German are
1. The genders of nouns - masculine, feminine and neuter. For example, a young girl is neuter, a highway is feminine and a shoe is masculine. Each gender has its article and each article changes according to the role of the noun in the sentence, resulting in the use of the dative, genitive, accusative and nominative.
2. Verbs are often split in half - Mark Twain laments this and gives the following example he translates into English: "The trunks now ready, he DE- after kissing his mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom his adored Gretchen, who, dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample folds of her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale from the terror and excitement of the past evening, but longing to lay her poor aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly than life itself, PARTED.
3. The excessively long nouns - Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (the law about labeling beef correctly) and Geschwindigkeitsbeschrankungen (a speed limit) being two good examples.

Please excuse spelling mistakes - I'm not using a Rechtschreibungsüberprüfungsprogramm (spellcheck).

*Grammar lesson over* 

However, despite these long nouns, some of them are so precise and express so concisely what we need so many words for in English. And some of these wonderful words describe perfectly what life is for me right now. 

I've been pretty much glued to the TV the past couple days. It's nice to watch some "good news" and get away from the Weltschmerz (world-hurt) for a bit. Yes, you guessed it. I'm addicted to the coverage of the Royal Baby. The little Prince. They're hoping to raise him like a normal child, but I'm wondering if it's possible for a royal these days not to be a little bit of a Sitzpinkler (a man who sits and urinates), Handschuhschneeballwerfer (one who keeps his hand-shoes (gloves) on while throwing snowballs), Schattenparker (one who will always park in the shade)
I was entranced by the royal wedding and now by the new heir, but all this mushy-baby-stuff leaves me with a bit of Torschlusspanik (door closing panic). I know, I know, I'm only 23 - but turning 24 soon - and sometimes it feels like 'Real-Life' will only begin after Malcolm finishes his doctorate, when, if all goes well, will be when I'm 27. It just seems like a long time, you know? Sometimes I need to remind myself that this is life, and a pretty darn exciting one at that. This Wanderjahr (a year of wandering, though it can be longer) is such a blessing and we're growing so much, individually, as a couple, and especially with God as our Provider and Sustainer. 

But, if I'm honest, Heimweh (home-hurt, home-sickness) crops up quite often and yesterday especially. I just felt like I was really far from my Heimat (a really deep sense of ones home and place of belonging) and people I really love. I spent a significant time indulging in Herbeiwünchen (wishing somebody/something were close). I would do anything to have a Kaffeeklatch (gossip over coffee) with friends who know me - it's a weird feeling, being in a strange city and not recognising people; every now and then I see a Doppelgänger (somebody who closely resembles another) of a friend and want to run over and say Hi. I considered searching for some Waldeisamkeit (the peace found in a forest), but that was too much Schlepp (to drag something - effort) so I rather accumulated some Kummerspeck (the weight one gains from eating sorrow-bacon) eating ice-cream and watching funny Youtube videos (somehow I landed on cheerleading fails, which resulted in immense Schadenfreude (the happiness one gets at the expense of another))

Anyway, it's a new day, I'll hopefully find a Glückspilz (lucky mushroom). And if not, then words like Nacktschneke (naked snail = slug) and Klobrile (toilet glasses = toilet seat) will certainly put a smile on my face. As will a letter in the mail or an email in my inbox. Just sayin'.

*Pity-Party over*

Need some useful German? Okay... 

Have a wonderful day, try use a random German word in a conversation (How about Haarsmuck (hair accessories) or Drakenfutter (dragon-food: something one buys to appease an annoyed wife)?) and brighten somebody's day :) 
Sending lots of love... 

Monday, 22 July 2013

The weekend of... Sunshine and Water

You know that song from that old advert on TV that goes "Sunlight, sunlight and water, sunlight and water, it's all that you need"? (I can't find a trace of this advert online, Youtube has failed me.) That sort of sums up our weekend. But only sort of :)

Friday was "date afternoon" and I met Malcolm at the CDC after he was finished class. It was sweltering (Sun + Water = Humidity) and there is a serious lack of air conditioning in this country. After stopping by a bakery for lunch, we hit the streets to wander our way to the lake park. 

Cologne flower market donuts ferrari architecture

Pic 1: I love the atmosphere on the commercial streets here, especially on Fridays and weekends... brass bands, bag pipers, marimba players, guitarists, accordions... there's music wherever you go. 
Pic 2: We finally gave in and bought a doughnut to see what they're like. "Really good" is my answer! Soft and fresh, dusted with sugar, not too sweet, and with a jammy centre. 
Pic 3: We came across a market in a church square, selling fresh produce and flowers. LOTS and LOTS of beautiful, fresh flowers. It was so colourful and there were so many different kinds. 
Pic 4: We got to the old city wall (there are bits of it remaining in parts of the city), where there was a fleamarket going on. Plenty of antiques, clothes, paintings and a variety of pretty-prices. 
Pic 5: We continued to walk down the road, and loved the architecture. So many buildings are ornate and finished beautifully. I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of looking at the pretty buildings, and they were a nice distraction from the sun beating down. 
Pic 6: We passed a car dealership... ferarri's in the window... 

We got to the Lake Park in Universitat Strasse and enjoyed some time wandering around the park, watching the ducks moon us, speculating if we'll ever get used to the amount of bikini-clad girls lying around in the parks, admiring the sun reflecting off the water and sharing an apple-pocket (with my pic-nic-essential pocket knife, just like mum! The knife courtesy of the Meyers!). 
Koln Cologne lake University park suntanning ducks picnic

When we got home, I had planned a special date-night for Malcolm. I found Pinterest quite useless here; it has some very amusing yet ridiculous ideas, or they sound boring and everyday, or they are too pricey. I decided to appeal to Malcolm's analytical mind and his interest in wine-tasting (just because it sounds fancy). Then I thought about our immense enjoyment of jelly beans. And so, our jelly-bean-tasting-evening was conceptualised. 

jelly bean tasting original date

Needed: (1) Jelly beans in various flavours. (2) score cards, I included space for the bean's taste and accuracy in flavour. (3) a glass of milk, for palette-cleaning between samples. (4) the beans laid out on numbered cards. 
I bought these beans from a place where I could choose from dozens of flavours and select the ones I wanted. 

score cards jelly beans

It was loads of fun, and we enjoyed some interesting flavours. Overall, cherry and green apple were our favourites, as well as toasted marshmallow. 

After some mundane cleaning and shopping, we spent the day at home because it was so hot and we were tired of walking from Friday. Malcolm was really excited because Candice and Jayd bought him some lots of games that he can play online. He'd been playing Lord of the Rings online for free, a nice distraction from a day of German, but it got quite boring without the add-ons that one needs to pay for. So it really was a blessing of them to buy these games for him! He spent the afternoon downloading one, but by the evening we were ready to get out of the house. So we cycled to the forest and took a picnic supper which we enjoyed with our feet in the stream that runs through the area.
dinner stream koln cologne dunnwald wildpark
Really trying to make the most of the long summer days before winter is upon us! 

I love that church is only at 2pm because it gives us plenty of sleep and we usually have brunch. (I'm trying to limit Nutella to Sundays and Mondays only, after I realised how much we've been through already - I will not divulge the exact amount, it's embarrassing.) 
Ruth came with us to church which was nice, talking about Tolerance. I love this topic so much! 
We considered going to the Rhein afterwards, but we hadn't brought enough water or sunscreen, and from the looks of things from the bridge, the shady spots along the shores were quite crowded already. So, again, we spent the afternoon at home.

clear skies robots computer games online icecream
Blue skies, computer games and ice-cream before bed. 

The robots in the top middle photo is the first photo of Malcolm and Jayd together in a long time. 

And that is our weekend of sunlight and water summed up, I realise I took way too many photos. 

I hope everybody has a great week ahead... Sending lots and lots of hugs in the direction of my High-school community, praying that God's strength with keep you together and strong. Mr Simpson will most certainly be missed. He used to pull my arm-hair when I rolled my jersey sleeves up, he was one of the few teachers to make me sign for talking in class, he warned us that we were going to get fat when we left school, he called my class the "moegoe" class... but he inspired in me such a love of Biology and gained my respect with his subject knowledge, passion and his sense of humour and fun. Truly one of my most memorable and favorite teachers. 

Feeling very inspired to live life this week... 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Weekly recap: how I survived

(notice the "blog hop" box on the right? Loving it! Getting a whole lot of new bloggers to leave their details on ONE page makes hopping around reading their blogs so much easier and lots of fun! If you're reading this from the Hop, Welcome!!!)

It's hard to have an exciting week when sick...

Malcolm whispered sweet nothings to me all of Sunday and Monday (his throat hurt when he spoke and he was all croaky). On Monday I got a message from Ruth asking how I could send my husband out when he can barely speak *shame*, although it was his choice. He chose again to go on Tuesday, but came home early because he wasn't doing too well. After lots of rest on Tuesday, he was feeling a lot better on Wednesday and by Thursday he's managed to pass it on to me. Isn't cohabitation wonderful? :)

On Tuesday and Wednesday I decided to try find the wonderful second hand shops I've heard so much about, anticipating snapping up all sorts of good deals. I found some online and wrote down their streets, but after much searching, I only found one. I walked in and saw it was all Chanel and Prada and Jimmy Choo, touched nothing while the lady eye-balled me closely, and walked right out again. Instead, I wandered the streets and discovered some really cool home-decor type shops, which made an otherwise disappointing mission enjoyable. Never-mind the fact that I only had 40c in my wallet, which, shall we say, helped alleviate the temptation of buying lots of pretty, beautiful, shiny, would-look-really-good-in-our-home, unneccessary things.

Other than that, I've enjoyed writing this week's posts and sharing our views on Germany. I'm sure it'll be amusing to look back on our list in 3 years time! I also had fun learning how to make the little box on the right with the links to connect on twitter (even though I hardly tweet, I just stalk and read news... lame.), bloglovin', and Google+. I followed a tutorial on code it pretty which I found really great, and Marie is super-fast at responding to questions and helping me out when I get stuck. 5 stars to her blog! I'll definitely be trying out some of her other tutorials. I've also really enjoyed reading a few other blogs, which help me deal with homesickness (which I try not to dwell on) and that encourage me that things will be okay! Two posts in particular are 
 - Finding Home, written by Amanda from the blog Living in Another Language, published on Found Love, Now What? 
- That time I thought I wouldn't survive a Huge Move, by Casey on The Aslan's Auspicious Albany Adventure.
It's blogs like these that often keep me company during the day, and are really encouraging. I also really appreciate the facebook comments on my posts, it's so nice to hear from you back in SA and feel connected. I especially loved this video, which my cousin Carola, who is a living-in-Germany-and-having-adventures-pro, referred me to in an attempt to explain the infamous German toilet.
While on youtube, I also love re-watching our wedding-photo video made by Cara-Lee Gevers, and listening to the lyrics of the song she chose. Thanks, Cara :)

Of course, Malcolm also made my week enjoyable. You know it's true love when, on a really hot day, he cycles off to buy me my favorite cookies. And he gave me a pedicure because my feet were looking shocking. (tip to girls looking to leave the country with 35kgs of luggage and no space to bring anything to look after their feet: a leather-man type thing with a fish scaler on it works wonders to exfoliate. Yes, my husband is a Springbok Scout. You're welcome.)

service with a smile, that's my man! (and that's our laundry as a backdrop!) 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead - Mum and Daddy, enjoy your weekend away! I'm really looking forward to date-afternoon with Malcolm today, and then we'll see what we get up to this weekend, I'll be blogging about it on Monday!
Stay safe and sending lots of love,

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Part 3: the Good, the Bad, and the... I don't get it.

('cuz he totally reads my blog. better believe it.) 

So, part three of our impressions of Germany. I've described the good and the bad, but there are also some things that we can't figure out. This post would be a whole lot longer if I'd written it in the first two weeks here, but we've figured out a lot. But still, after years of growing up with certain things as the norm, we find a few things strange here. 

1. The paprika obsession
There are other flavours out there, but it's mostly paprika. You've heard me lament this before. After a Google search, I've realised that many foreigners here find this odd. 

2. Fruity nationalities
Do people really care if their apples come from Australia and their tomatoes from Spain? I've never really considered it important to know, but I guess here it is. Most fruit and veggies have their country of origin proudly printed.

3. Bedding
Please, on my behalf, enjoy your double-duvets. It's the norm here for two single beds to be pushed together, and for there to be two single duvets. Fortunately, I've noticed that one can get double beds easily enough (ours is a double bed frame, with two single mattresses), but double duvets? I hunted and I cannot find a double duvet/comforter or a double duvet cover. Go figure. 

4. The "Crime Machine" 
I was researching library membership here, and while doing so I came across this "Krimiautomat". It's essentially a vending machine for borrowing crime novels, located in one of the stations.
German library crime machine

5. Traffic-light-obedience
So this is probably a good thing, but it's really uncommon for people to jay-walk (have you seen eShowe on the Saturday after pay-day?). If that little man isn't green, you're not going anywhere. Malcolm has noticed that if one gets to a light and traffic is clear and there's nobody else waiting, then sometimes people will cross on red. But if there's already somebody else waiting there, you join the group and wait. It doesn't matter if you see your tram pulling in, filling up, and pulling off. You wait. 

6. This particular cigarette-vending-machine
I understand the reason behind vending machines that sell cigarettes. But I don't understand why this one is where it is. It's about 20metres and across a road from a bus-stop, on a grassy pavement outside somebody's house. All by itself.
It's really close to where we live, and in all the times I've passed it, I've never seen anybody use it.
Germany smoking

7. German engineering: toilets
We all know how brilliant German-engineering is, right? 
So they developed these toilets with a rather disconcerting "shelf". While our apartment has a "normal" loo, I came across one of these on our first day here and wasn't really sure about it, but after some internet-research, I have discovered it's so that you can take Dr Oz's advice and, well, inspect your digestive health. 
german engineering brilliance weird
However, while the brilliant engineers who designed this do a wonderful job at helping users monitor their health, they usually bury the rest of the toilet (the part that fills up with water and all that plumbing stuff that I know nothing about) in the wall. I have no idea what happens if you need to fix anything, but that makes sense, hide that disgusting plumbing away, but put a ledge there so that you can see... other things. 
Yeah, perfect sense. 

8. TV
I cannot understand how they choose what to show on TV here, but it's generally a documentary about a farm of some mundane nature, or a really badly acted "reality show" that attempts to give legal advice for if you find out that you're pregnant with your boyfriend's child and he's not interested and then you find out it's not his child but in fact he has a twin brother and it's his baby and neither brother wants the baby. Ya, I watched that one. 
And seriously, I won't complain about the length of ad-breaks on SABC again. 

9. Milk products
I really love milk and yogurt and ice-cream and many things dairy, but I've been avoiding the dairy-section of supermarkets because I cannot figure out what everything is. There is SO much variety and and so many flavours. I found this really helpful diagram here.
german dairy products explanation
Once I've studied it and feel brave enough, I look forward and going forth to buy something other than 1.5% milk. Or I'll just go in there and grab something off a shelf, bring it home and test it. That could be a small-scale adventure ;)

So, there you have it; a small insight into our impression of Germany and the way things work here. I was given the advice to "savour and note all the differences and cultural quirks and experiences before they become commonplace" (thanks, Frances!), and making this list was just one way to do that :) 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Part 2: the Good, the Bad, and the... I don't get it.

Yesterday I described to you some of what we love about Germany, the good side. Today, I'm going to share what we've not enjoyed about it. Again, these are just our opinions, but I think it's important to realise that the grass isn't always greener and that every country has it's different sides. So, here goes! 

1. Public transport
Yes, I mentioned this yesterday too. You see, we've already developed a love-hate relationship with the transport here. So why do we not like it? 
Firstly, bus drivers are grumpy. I can understand why, but still. Also, I miss the ability to store stuff in my car, here I have to schlep it with me. Okay, more seriously, it's pretty expensive. We have month-ticket and together they cost a considerable amount more than our petrol was in SA. Then there's also the way one needs to work around it; there's no just hopping into a car and going where and when you want, it's all according to the schedule. The stops between trains or buses can be frustrating too - one doesn't want it too short a gap that one misses the next connection, but a longer wait feels like such a waste of time. Poor Malcolm feels this the most - to be at the CDC in time, he leaves 55 minutes before he needs to be there, and we live only 10.5km away. 

Germany public transport
this is Malcolm's tired-of-waiting and somebody-send-me-an-E-reader Face. We both have it perfected. 

2. Pigeons
I'm not really sure what is so terrible about pigeons here, but judging by the spikes on just about every horizontal surface in the Messe-Deutz and Hbf, we're guessing they're diabolical. Seriously, the lengths they go to to prevent pigeons landing anywhere makes me wonder. 

3. Graffiti
Graffiti is ubiquitous here. Some of it is really impressive, brightens the grey concrete up, and is, in a sense, pretty. (I doubt that's the adjective they want it described by. How about it's geil? Or super geil? Or Hammer?)
But there's also a lot of pointless scrawls all over the place. We were surprised that the cathedral isn't graffiti'd. Oh wait, it is. 

Graffiti Dom Germany Turm

4. Kids' haircuts 
Okay, so this is totally subjective, and a clear comparison to SA. You know how in SA we have uniforms, and I'm sure the guys remember hair-inspections and the annoying rules about hair-touching ears and collars? Well, I think it's for the best. I know that this is just personal taste, but rat-tails and mullets are still BIG here. And it gets tricky to tell if kids are boys or girls. Call me a conformist, but I'm just used to boys this age with hair cuts and uniforms. ;)
german kids boys
german kids boys hairstyle

5. Smoking
While on the topic of looking after kids' health and not scarring them with bad haircuts, and while still comparing to SA, smoking here is really unregulated. Sure, some might consider SA laws about smoking a bit ridiculous and there is quite a stigma about smoking in schools, but I'm still getting used to the fact that people can smoke really freely here. Which means standing in clouds of smoke while waiting at stations, while walking along streets, and outside just about every doorway. I'm surprised at how many people smoke with kids beside them, and how many young kids smoke. 
Graffiti Germany Dom Turm Koln
one of the few no-smoking signs I've seen. And, it's graffiti'd.

6. Drinking
Again, a comparison to SA. Public drinking isn't allowed in SA and if somebodies drinking from a brown bag in a park, one tends to give them some space. So we're still getting used to people sitting in parks, walking the streets, and getting onto trains with a beer in hand. It does seem to be less of a drink-to-get-drunk culture, which I appreciate, and it's not such a big issue here (I guess it also helps that fewer people are driving). But it does concern me when a 16 year old was arrested for assault and found to have a blood alcohol level of 1.72 percent. 

7. Sunday shopping
We'd been warned about this before coming, and Ellen and Wolfgang were really organised and gave us a list of shops in the areas and their opening hours. But we're still getting used to shops being geschlossen on Sundays. Realising on Saturday night that actually some staples are needed for Sunday and Monday, is not fun. Neither are the queues on Saturday nights.

I sound grouchy, don't I? I promise I'm not! Just wanting to show that Germany does have it's share of irritations and issues - and these are just from observation, google German issues and you're sure to find a more serious, comprehensive list. 

So tomorrow I'm excited to share with you some of the things I just don't get about this place... it varies from bedding to milk. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Part 1: the Good, the Bad, and the... I don't get it.

When getting ready to come over here to Germany, Malcolm and I tried really hard not to imagine what it would be like. We'd listen to stories and google search things now and then, but in general we avoided it because we didn't want to get unrealistic ideas that would leave us disappointed when we got here. We've been here now for a month and a half, and we don't regret our lack of research, because it's been fun discovering for ourselves the good and the bad, though there are some things that we still just don't understand.

So, today I'll be taking you through some things that we've loved about being here! (please remember, that all of this is just our opinion!) 

1. Public transport
Countless people told us how great the public transport is here and how much we'll love it. And it's true! 
It really is great not needing to worry about putting in petrol or that rattling sound from the engine. Plus, now that we're getting the hang of it, it's not so confusing anymore and we can get around quite easily. It's nice being able to relax while in transit (as opposed to focusing on the road) and the traffic is certainly less with so many people on trams, buses and trains!
germany public transport

2. Being a pedestrian
It's so strange how pedestrians are seen here. We usually need to cross two zebra crossings at the traffic circle and we're always surprised at how cars will screech to a halt to let us cross. 

3. Window boxes
It's amazed me that the streets often really do look like the pictures if you google "Germany streets". Most people live in apartments and don't have gardens, but instead they have beautiful window boxes and decorated windows. 
flowers germany apartments

4. Generosity
We've mentioned this one before, how people leave things out to be taken by whoever needs. What sometimes surprises me more though, is how people stop and look at the things, and then don't take it. I think often, when we see something being given away, or even just on sale, we tend to want to just grab it because we can. It also kinda surprises me how there'll be a washing machine on the side of the road with a note saying "take me"... in South Africa no such note would be necessary ;)

5. The crime rate
I don't know what it is, but it is lower than SA for sure. It is strange walking through the forest or being out late at night with hardly any concerns. It's a relief when I forget to lock my bike and when I come out it's still there. It's nice not seeing high walls and having a view from our window that's not obscured by burglar guards. The dogs here are kept to be loved, not to protect their owners. 
(Although, bear in mind, people are people and so crime does happen here, particularly in certain areas.)

6. Long summer days
Having lived in KZN all my life and only experiencing Cape-Town long days a couple times, these long days have been great. It's fun being able to go out after supper, especially because the weather is often better after 7pm! 
(you don't need to warn me about the short winter days, I've heard about them too!)
long summer days adventure active

7. The price of filter coffee
I do miss instant coffee, being able to make a cup really quickly. But, filter coffee works out to be cheaper here?! So, it's filter coffee every morning, and tea for the rest of the day :)

8. Castles 
There are castles on just about every hill. 'Nuf said. 

9. Biannual sales 
Clothes here is, in our opinion, really expensive. BUT the sales are great. No, not 10% off, how about 70% off rather? 
(the only down-side is that we're prioritising seeing stuff in the city over buying stuff... a little part of my girly side is sad.) 

10. Solar power
We were really surprised when we arrived to see how many houses have solar-panels on their roofs. Our water is solar-heated, which we didn't know for quite some time, but it's warm enough and problem free! 

11. Bakeries
In our little area of Dunnwald there are FOUR bakeries, all with the most delicious looking and smelling things. The bakeries in grocery shops are also great and things are Fresh!
It's also good that the bakeries on the streets aren't that cheap (the ones in the grocery shops are a bit better), which stops me from running there every morning.
Germany bread street

There's more we could say, but that's what we could think of as our favorites, and I look forward to being able to add to this list over the next few years! (and I'm sure it'll be amusing to look back on this one!) 

Tomorrow I'll be sharing with you what we found to be the bad (cue dramatic music) in this very quaint country... 

Monday, 15 July 2013

The weekend of wandering, will-power, and well-flipped crepes.

What a weekend! Some of you might have seen my facebook status kind of summing it up, kind of keeping you hanging... "happy memories of this weekend! tested our will-power, experienced what overcrowded transport is like, walked the streets of cologne at 2am, and had a super-quiet Sunday marked with reasonable culinary success and a taste of alphabet soup." 

Well, here you go! (a rather long post, I suggest coffee in hand!)

Friday: (remember, I said Friday counts as weekend!) 

Malcolm came home from the CDC and we were super-excited that he has finished A1, and this next week he moves onto A2. If you want to know what that means, you can click here to get a PDF that explains what one can do at each level. Just by the way, what he's done in 6 weeks is what I covered in French in a semester (4 months). Jealous! 
Seeing as he had no homework, we baked cookies and sat on the kitchen floor watching them rise. When we realised that that would not entertain us all evening, we decided to head out and see the sites in our Dunnwald book. We ticked off some of the places already, so we chose a few more to find. 

germany to-do dunnwald wald forest baum-pfad haan haus
1. Malcolm and I chilling on the kitchen floor, deciding where to go. 
2&3. In the Arboratum, a whole bunch of different fir trees sectioned off. No dogs, bicycles or football allowed - typical! 
4. We went to where the old Walkmuhle was, it's no longer there, but there is an old closed down restaurant or beergarden by the same name. 
5-8. We walked down the Baum-Pfad... a little trail with various trees that Malcolm knew a surprisingly large amount about. He could tell me something interesting about nearly every one. (pic6 is him showing me the tree that helped the English take on the French... yeah, that's general knowledge.) 
We also went to the old Haan House (the oldest in the area, from the 1300s I think), but couldn't get a good picture. 

Happy Birthday, Granny!

The day started with us doing mega-grocery shopping for the next two weeks, in the hopes of saving money by doing it at once. We'll see if it works. 
Then, at about one o'clock, we set off the the Rhein. We got a little lost but eventually found where we wanted to be... a nice little spot on the wall just next to Deutz brucke, with a view of the Cathedral. We got there at 2 o'clock, and sat there for the next 10 hours. Yep, 10 HOURS we sat on the wall. That's longer than our flight from SA to Dubai, though at least we had more leg room, but no cushions. 
While sitting there, we had a fair amount of time to take photos of ourselves. (ya, we took nothing to do. Not smart. Only food which we rationed carefully, scout style.)

rhein sunset waiting love

The picture of our feet shows them dangling off the wall, then a steep paved slope with bushes growing, then the rocks on the edge of the Rhein. We had to be really careful not to drop anything!! The photo second from the top is me with the candyfloss we bought - I've waited patiently since Cars in the Park in PMB to buy some. 
We also had a beautiful sunset to watch, though it only started at about 9:30. I know, we should have taken sunscreen. Fortunately I only got mildly pink, and Malcolm just looks more exotic. It was cool though, watching the hot-air balloon, the blimps, helicopters, cargo ships, ferries and speed boats. For ten hours. 

Rhein sunset Koln lichter

So, you may be wondering WHY we sat there for ten hours. Ok, I'll explain. It was the night of Kolner Lichter, the biggest firework display set to music in the world, and one of the biggest fireworks displays in Europe. We'd heard that it's best to get there early, and somebody told us they had a "really good spot" last year where they were tall enough to see over a wall, and they could see past a tree if they tilted their heads a certain way. We thought this did not sound like such a great spot, and decided that if we're going to go early to get a spot like that, we might as well go super-early and get a really good spot. Which we did! Our spot was as perfect as it could be without paying a cent! Hooray!

The time did drag, but we had some entertainment...
koln lichter bachelorette rhein energie candy shop germany
Top left: Rhein energy had guys like this with water tanks on their backs and little cups to go around and keep people hydrated. Yes, I felt like a creepy tourist taking this photo. 
Middle left: A sweet shop! The only time I left the wall was to go buy candyfloss there... they also had heart-shaped cookies on ribbon and lots of other tempting treats - I felt like Gretel. 
Bottom left: A poor bride-to-be had to walk around selling things, flanked by her bridesmaids. There were about 5 bride-to-be's having their bachelorette party there, all equally embarrassingly-dressed. It did look like they made good money though! 
Middle bottom: We were right opposite the puppets that were used later in the fireworks display, they walked around during the day interacting with people, it was pretty good! 
Bottom right: teenagers started sliding down the bank below us to sit on the rocks (there were so many people that finding a good spot was tricky by 6pm!). I have no idea how they all managed to scramble back up again in the dark later. 
Main picture: The crowd by about 8pm (the show only started at about 11pm). Both banks of the Rhein were packed, and newspapers just give the number of people as "hundreds of thousands". 

Eventually, the fireworks began...
fireworks rhein Germany
Top left: waiting for darkness...
Top middle, top right, middle right: The ferries had all cleared away, and then when really epic Gregorian chant music started, a boat with fireworks came from up-stream, followed by numerous ferries with partying people on them. It was so spectacular watching them all lit up and sailing by. Along the banks of the river they had distributed sparklers that you could see twinkling all over, a great source of amusement for the kids next to me, and a great source of anxiety to me because my hair was pretty close (middle right). 
The fireworks continued and the ferries returned to to the Deutz bridge (which is the bridge on our left), and then there was a long pause while another boat got into position for the REAL fireworks to begin. 
They were beautifully choreographed to various kinds of music. I read in the news that about 20 000 fireworks were set off, over 4 tons of explosives that is! We were really happy that the smoke was being blown away from us! They were absolutely beautiful, and BIG! Really, I just ooh'd and aah'd and kissed Malcolm (I'm still holding a grudge that our first kiss was not at the Royal show during a fireworks display, I mean, come on.), despite the crowd that was behind us. Our patience had paid off and it was really special that we could see so clearly and with nothing obscuring our view at all. 

Here's a video I took of the opening... You can also access the full show here

It was totally worth the wait, and the whole thing finished at midnight. The next obstacle was getting home: remember I said hundreds of thousands of people? 
After walking in a tight crowd (me close behind Malcolm so that his backpack couldn't be pick-pocketed - there were a few pick-pocket incidents in the stations, as well as somebody getting pushed onto the tracks - he's ok though), we eventually got through to the Ubahn. The main station had been closed due to overcrowding and people were being let in gradually, so I'm glad we weren't going by train! We got to the platform and saw that the next tram in our direction was only in half an hour, and many others would be there by then. Cue Malcolm's Superman moment
He suggested we walk to the station before the one we were at so that we could get on before the crowds. So we walked really quickly for a km or so, and arrived on the platform 2 minutes before line 4 arrived. It was practically empty and we got a seat quite easily. When it pulled in to the station we'd been at previously, I was SO thankful for Malcolm's suggestion... the platform was packed and everybody looked desperate that the tram should stop with the door in front of them so that they'd be able to squeeze in before others. The driver had to announce that people needed to clear away from the doors so they could close and we could move. At every station after that there were people wanting to get on that just couldn't fit in! 
At about 1:45 we arrived at our stop and walked home from there. Even in Dunnwald it was it was still quite busy and people were still out, getting back. 


As you can imagine, we woke up pretty late. Malcolm woke up with a billy-goat-gruff voice and a cough. It had started Saturday afternoon but we thought nothing of it. With my wikipedia-medicine-degree, I diagnosed Malcolm with laryngitis and made him tea with honey. He said his last words, and stopped talking for the day. It was a very quiet Sunday, but at least his phone was once again a communication device (yep, we still don't have simcards. lazy.) and he typed messages to me all day.
In the spirit of Bastille Day, the French's day of independence, I made crepes with nutella and hazelnuts... and they worked!!! :D I could even flip them in the pan! You can tell how shocked and surprised I am in these pictures! (rememeber my last attempt?)
nutella breakfast flip pancakes

Because of Malcolm's sore throat, I thought it would be a good day to try the alphabet soup I bought... it was lots of fun playing with our dinner! 

All in all, spectacular weekend. Now, a new week and a new level for Malcolm to tackle. (starting A2 with only whispering, but he knows how to whisper that his throat hurts when he speaks and that he can only whisper.) 
Hope everybody has a great monday and a wonderful week ahead! I'm looking forward to sharing our list of "the good, the bad, and the "I don't get it" tomorrow til Thursday :D