Monday, 30 September 2013

The weekend of...

Wow, so our LAST weekend living here has ended.

The weekend began with Malcolm ending his 4 months of German lessons... a sad farewell to the friends he's made there, but excitement for the near future too. Despite feeling like we should celebrate, we came home and vegged... it was a tiring week!

Saturday afternoon we went to church - it was moved to Saturday because IBCC uses the building of another church and they were having an all day event on Sunday, so we had our time/day moved. It was a baptismal service, which was great, hearing the testimonies of those getting baptised. Again, though, it was sad saying goodbye to the friends we've made there. It was an especially sad goodbye to Ruth, and it was a rather dramatic goodbye on the platform.

Sunday, we cleaned. A lot. Vinegar was our go-to and just about everything got scrubbed with it, and then we tip-toed around trying not to mess up what we'd cleaned. It was exhausting. Anyway, after taking glass jars to the recycling bin (I wish I'd counted how many of the jars were Nutella...), we walked off to the wildpark, but it was chilly and we had a skype-appointment with Malcolm's parents so we didn't stay too long :)

So, that was our weekend... I wish I could say it was full of fun and excitement. But, the last 4 months here have been, and what better way to see that than by checking back on our Cologne Bucket List?

1. Splits. Both side and centre.
Okay, the last few days have NOT been good for stretching, but my splits have actually stayed stable if not improved in the last 4 months.

2. Go to at least 3 museums.
Yes. We made it to 5!
The dance museum, the Romanische-Germanische museum, the Stadt Museum, the Chocolate museum AND the Geschichte museum (counting it even though it's in Bonn!)

3. Ascend the Cathedral Tower
YES!

4. Rhein River cruise.
We changed our minds on this because of the price, and did the cable car instead, which was loads of fun!

5. Improve German and French
Malcolm's German has improved immensely, and so has mine, I think. Also, my conversational French came along pretty well, chatting with Ruth, Claudine and a few others definitely helped!

6. Apply for jobs in Marburg.
Done. Though no luck just yet. I'll intensify the search when I get there!

7. Pic nic in the Rhein park.
We succeeded! TWICE!

8. Make conversation with a random stranger on public transport.
Done. Malcolm chatted to a little old lady, and I once made conversation with a man from Nigeria, I think.

9. Plan a cool surprise for Malcolm.
this one I did little by little - notes in his bag or with his lunch, a surprise visit at the CDC, cooking his favourite meal, or buying him something special.

10. Send lots of postcards.
Success! We definitely sent a lot - as much as our postal-budget allowed ;)

11. Try new flavours of icecream.
Done. Most surely. We tried not to have the same flavour twice, and managed to sample icecream such as chocolate, 'waldmeister', rasberry, strawberry, apricot, cherry, nougat, caramel, coffee... It really broadened my horizons and showed me that there are flavours just as cool as chocolate!

So... all in all we accomplished everything on my list! We also got to cycle through forests, discover ikea, figure out public transport, find a great church, to name just a little of it. Plus, we saw how incredibly God provides for us and loves us.
When we first found out that Malcolm needed to come here for a 4 month language course, I burst into tears because I didn't know what would happen to me, where I'd be in all this. One day, when I was feeling particularly miserable about it, Malcolm said something like "just cheer up, will you? At worst, you're having a 4 month holiday in Cologne."
Oh how right he was! Everything has worked out perfectly, and of course Malcolm didn't leave me behind in SA, and this extended honeymoon has been amazing.

Now, on to Marburg to see what's waiting for us there! 

I don't know when we'll have internet access again, but I have read all comments, but I just can't comment back or anything on my phone, sorry!

I look forward to catching up as soon as we can! 



Friday, 27 September 2013

Week recap: our last week in Cologne

This week has really been a bitter-sweet one, I think more for Malcolm than for me because he has a lot more ending and has more goodbyes to say. But, it's been a busy one for both of us! 

Monday was a happy day though, celebrating our 6th mensiversary! :D
Malcolm very carefully carved into the paint on the lock, and after all his effort I really didn't want to just lock it on and leave it, but that is sort of the point, right?
love lock bridge koln cologne
So we went off to the bridge, chose a spot we could remember, and locked it onto the fencing.

love lock bridge koln cologne

love lock bridge koln cologne
 Then, we each dropped our key into the Rhein, so that the lock can 'never ever be opened and we'll remain together forwever'. I'm a little cynical.
love lock bridge koln cologne

We feel that now our marriage is definitely legit, seeing as the Germans are said to be so practical, surely they'll accept these photos as proof that we're married even though we don't have our full marriage certificate yet? I mean, surely metal evidence is more lasting than paper?

From there we went to the Seilbahn (cable car) which goes over the Rhein. We've been meaning to do this ever since we changed our bucket list 'Rhein cruise' to 'seilbahn' and we finally got the chance. I hadn't though how scary it would be, but the website says it's the 'safest way to cross the Rhein' so I figured that despite the fact that we were in a box hanging from a cable, we'd be okay ;)

cable car cologne koln

The view was amazing, despite the grey weather!
When we landed in the Rhein park, we walked around a little before finding a spot to have a picnic lunch. Inspired by a lunch we had on honeymoon, we had ciabatta bread with various cheeses, and it was delicious.


Unfortunately, Malcolm needed to go to class after that, but it was a fun morning celebrating!

Tuesday, we went to Lifegroup, and although we'll see most people again at church this weekend, it was sad attending for the last time. Hopefully we'll visit and they'll remember us ;) :)

Wednesday Malcolm got his certificate from the language course - he's just before level B1 because they are one week short of completing it. But come on, that's impressive!!!

After class, we went to the Adtstadt in search of a souvenir of Cologne, which we didn't ed up buying. But we did find really interesting things at the bookstore, which was fun.


Then we had our last icecream - and my day was made when my icecream cone broke as she took it, so I got a double cone AND an extra scoop.

Thursday afternoon after the CDC had a farewell ceremony. I went a little early to meet Malcolm and because it was in the foyer, I attended some of it and heard some speeches. Outside, there was a movie being made, and a whole lot of people dressed as police walking around, which was interesting to see!

We then went to Margaret to say goodbye. It was so nice sitting outside on her veranda having coffee and cake, and enjoying sunshine which made an appearance now and again. As we were leaving, her husband came home and it was great to finally meet him! He's just as friendly and warm as her, and the invitation to visit for the Koln Christmas market was reiterated :) It was so sad to say goodbye until then, though!

After leaving her, we went to the station and had curry-wurst for supper, finally! It was a huge portion and although the curry isn't strong at all, the acidity of the tomato sauce got a bit overwhelming. But it was tasty anyway :)

From there, we went to another DAAD/CDC student's place for a party to which all the students from Africa had been invited. It was strange, being considered as an 'African' because in South Africa we've hardly been considered as 'African' but often as foreigners. It was fun, making friends and connections, and speaking to students from all over the continent. I was especially interested by what a Kenyan had to say about the situation there, because so often big news overwhelms reality.

On the way home, I finally let my rebellious streak take over and we went onto the traffic circle - there's a path over it, but no zebra crossing to get across the road, so one has to j-walk! ;)

That brings us to today, Friday. Malcolm's final day at the CDC as a language student. He has learnt so much and I am beyond proud of him - his diligence and perseverance with this crazy language has been inspiring, and his quest for excellence is something that I admire. We're so grateful for the opportunity he's had to focus on learning the language for 4 months; it would have been so difficult for him to pick up while he was busy with his PhD. Plus, the Carl Duisberg Centre is one of the best places to learn, and it was a privilage for Malcolm to go there.
cologne CDC students language German
L: Malcolm and Henok.
Middle top: the class, the photo taken during the summer.
Middle bottom: Some of the students would go for a walk every tea-time; this photo was taken on a day when more than usual went.
R top: the girls
R bottom: the guys
It's kind of surreal that these 4 months of his lessons are over now, and now he needs to use German in real life, but he's well equipped and I'm sure he'll continue to learn!
Malcolm on his way this morning... (and yes, the circus is in town!) 
So... that was our last full week in Cologne! This weekend will be spent packing and cleaning and hopefully seeing a few things a last time before we leave on Tuesday. I look forward to writing about it all on Monday, which will also be my 99th post! Woohoo!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tastes like home

Remember how I mentioned that food is one of the things that make me feel home-sick? 

Mum told me she made bagels the other day, and I immediately wanted to be lying on the floor with her in the bright red kitchen like we did at Christmas. Thing is, I don't think I've ever even had a bagel, but the fact that mum made them linked them to home. So, I've been googling bagel recipes and think it may be the perfect way to use up excess flour. 
But while that is on the horizon, I thought I'd share today two things that I have baked A LOT that kind of sort of remind me of home. 

1. Biscotti 
I am a huge fan of rusks, and mum was hardly ever surprised when I visited and the rusks would disappear faster than usual. Ouma Rusks are the 'quintessential South African Rusk' and they are pretty great. I miss them. However, Cape Cookies has almond and honey rusks, and chocolate and cherry rusks, so I might even miss them more.
Ouma rusks

Here, there's nothing on the shelves that is comparable to rusks, which has lead me to discover this biscotti recipe from a recipe book sent to me by my lovely in-laws for my birthday. I'm not sure what the great-biscotti-laws are, and I may be 'ruining' them, but ignorance is bliss, thanks!
I love these biscotti things, and although I haven't tried making them chocolate and cherry, I have made them almond and honey which was delicious. But mostly I make them look healthy by adding raisins ;)


These don't usually last too long, but definitely make me feel at home.

2. Milk tart 
I don't even know how many times I've made milktart in the last 4 months. The funny thing is that in South Africa I probably only made milktart once? And I can't remember mum making it either, actually. Malcolm isn't complaining though, seeing as this is one of his favourites and I think it reminds him of tea-time at his grandparents house. His gran would often have made milktart despite our insistence that she needn't. I never left their home hungry! But, when trying to be proudly South African, this has become my go-to, though sometimes I add rooibos tea for an extra SA-kick ;)
Anyway, today I think I've probably made the best milktart yet, thanks to my discovery of pudding with 'sahne gesmack' which makes it less custardy and more milky. I'll be sad to say goodbye to it tomorrow as Malcolm takes it to the CDC for their farewell party! (that's why it's in a cake tin, makes it easier to carry on public transport...)


I defintitely feel like a patriotic wife when I make either of these things! 
There are also Christmas cookies on the shelves now, and although I'll probably be tired of them by Christmas, I'm so excited because they remind me of the parcels we used to receive from relatives over here when I was small. And they're delicious. 
As you can see, we're pretty well covered for comfort food, and we're finding ourselves missing the aisles of Pic n' Pay a little less these day. 
But not home-cooking, that I still miss. 

This also explains my weight that has been fluctuating within 5kgs. Hardly surprising, seeing as I used to dance just about every day and there's been a huge change in our lives and little routine at all. And I comfort-eat for sure. (and actually I don't mind so much, seeing as I'm not prancing around in a leotard for the first time in a while, it's quite liberating having this period where I'm NOT scrutinising myself. But I can't wait to dance again!!! EEEEKKK!!!)  
But, hoping that once we're in Marburg things will settle down. 

Have I made you hungry? What's the kind of food that makes you miss home, or that makes you feel patriotic? 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Gratitude

Last night was our last time at Bible study, and although we'll see most of the group at church this weekend, it was sad to go. David made his famous pudding (calories-don't-count-on-tuesdays) - layers of biscuits, condensed milk, cream, custard and chocolate. Ladies, this man is single. (David, do you read this?) 

Anyway, they asked if there was anything they could pray about for us as we leave. Well, yes. There's a lot. We're praying especially that everything fits in the car. Storing ones' treasures in heaven is good advice, people.

But, we're pretty anxiety-free actually (you heard me, mum!). Looking back, by seeing how faithful God has been, it's easier to trust Him now. But that's only because HE never fails, not because we don't. So today I'm grateful not only for the "small things" like

- coffee mugs.
- being able to watch the sunrise at 7:30am.
- cuddly jerseys that Malcolm wears.
- clean clothes drying.

but also for bigger things like

- a family that prayed for us at the airport and stood strong and excited for our adventure, while allowing some tears to let us know we'll be missed.
- a husband that would do anything for my good. He once said when I was complaining about exercise, that he would gladly exercise and pass on the benefits to me if he could. If that's not love, what is? ;)
- family and friends that stay in touch despite the distance.
- an amazing host-family here that's given us so much space, but has always only been a door-knock away.
- our home here and the luxury we've lived in.
- our holiday we've had. Malcolm's course hasn't been too intense for him not to enjoy his time here, and having the time to enjoy the city together has been so precious.
- the friends we've made and the church we've grown in.
- the freedom I've had not to work these last few months. There are so many reasons why I didn't get a job all this time, and I do intend to put my education to use again soon, but it's been a time of reflecting and introspection and dreaming, and I'm sure about what my passion is.
- Malcolm's understanding of the above-situation.
- God's provision - especially considering that we're living off Malcolm's "pocket money".
- the kindness of so many people.

And when I watch the footage of the Westgate Mall situation, the bomb at the church in Pakistan and the Earthquake that has followed. And with the murders and wars and all that going on, how thankful I am to be where I am.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

One Day in Cologne

We're leaving here in exactly a week, and after 4 months of calling it home, it's a bitter-sweet parting. Although we haven't covered most of the map, and haven't been to many pubs... we've come to know a few places and have our favourites. So, for today's Travel Tuesday (thanks Bonnie and Belinda!), I'm going to go through what I'd do if I were here for a day :) 

As an early riser, I'd try get here at about 9am - the streets will still be quiet, depending on the day, and I'd have a whole day to explore. 

9am: arrive at the Hauptbahnhof. Wander through the station, being tempted by bakeries and all sorts of delicious shops. There's a chocolate confisserie to avoid, as well as Goldbaren sweets! But, there's time later!

9:20: walk out the station and see the Cathedral looming. Snap some photos and head up the stairs past the punks and young lovers. Stand at the door and look up, feel overwhelmed. Go into the cathedral and walk around. Notice the beautiful stained glass windows and the one done by Gerhard Richter - it's an abstract design, basically just little squares and the cause of much controversy. Although he is one of the most expensive artists, he waived the fee - but the construction still cost 37 000 euros. Depending on the day, you might get to hear the bells ring - the bell of St Peter is the biggest free swinging bell in the world! 

9:50: go out the doors and to the left, take the stairs down and prepare to go up the tower. The entrance is 3euros each, and the view and sweat is worth it. The 509 stairs are narrow and spiral, so you may get dizzy, but there are door ways where one can stand to the side and catch ones breath. And there's plenty of graffiti to entertain. 

10:05: arrive at the top. (I have no idea how long it took us to get up there...) Enjoy the panoramic view of the city! 


10:45: get back down and stagger wobble walk to a nearby bakery to get something delicious (nougat and almond bretzeln are worth it!) and take a seat at the fountain. Feel free to put your feet in the water, it's not prohibited :D Relax and enjoy the sun, if there is some. 


11:20 walk past the Roman Germanisch museum and peek through the windows at the ancient artifacts. Amazing history in there! Head down the stairs and walk on some 'authentic Roman cobblestones'.
Wander along and enjoy the walk down the Rhein. Walk towards the Fish Wives fountain and the colourful houses, and up through the allys to the Aldstadt. 
Walk past the little restaurants and brauhauses, see the Tower of the town hall, across the square, to Heumarkt Ubahn. Take the Ubahn to Rudolphplatz. 

12:30: Arrive at Rudolphplatz and see the Hahnentor - a part of the old Roman wall that used to surround the city. There might also be a fleamarket here, depending on the day. 

12:45: Find a restaurant here to eat lunch. A restaurant is easy to find and I haven't been to enough to have favourites. 

14:00: Pay the waiter and head back to the Ubahn. Take the tram to Zoo/Flora. Go to the Botanical garden at the zoo, it's free entrance and looks pretty - we didn't get a chance to go there! 

14:45: Go across the road to the Seilbahn. 4euros50 gets you a one-way ride. Take the cable car over the Rhein and enjoy the view. Try not to freak out. (Yes, we did this yesterday, I'll tell you more on Friday!)

15:00: arrive in the Rhein Park. Enjoy the green grass and flowers for a while, then head towards the Rhein. Walk along the river past the Tanzbrunnen. Keep a lookout for a little cart that sells pretty good icecream for a reasonable price. 

16:00: Find the stairs up onto the Deutz Bridge. By walking up this side, there are fewer love locks, but by the first train-traffic-lights keep a lookout for our love lock. <3 (Yes, we finally did it yesterday too!)

16:30: take the stairs down on the other side, and walk back towards the Cathedral. Get a Bretzel from a bakery in the train station, then take a seat outside the cathedral on the steps. Watch people meeting friends, taking photos in front of the Cathedral, and offer to take some peoples' photos for them. 


17:00: Get a Currywurst from the station and find the platform. Munch the currywurst as the train arrives. Hop on and wave goodbye. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

The weekend of... first and last times

The German elections have been and gone, and despite CNN's reports showing all those party-ing people, we were pretty oblivious to that side and just saw it on TV. Dunnwald was Quiiiiiieeeet. 

Anyway, our weekend started on Friday with an adventure. And weight lifting. Yep, Ikea. While I was concerned about not buying too much stuff that it'll fit in the car, it didn't occur to me that we'd also have to keep it limited because we'd have to carry it. But, we got plates and pots and cooking utensils and cutlery and.... coffee mugs


We got some hotdogs and coffee, and bottomless coke to regain our strength and prepare ourselves to schlepp it all home. It was a schlepp, but we made it with nothing broken! 
It was all worth it when we finally got to use our coffee mugs for the first time. Everything else is still sealed, but we couldn't resist having our hot chocolate in a mug. (I don't think I've drunk out of a coffee mug in nearly 4 months, and tea cups lose their charm when filled with cocoa, right?)


It was glorious. 

Saturday morning we headed out to take on coat-shopping. There was a 3-in-1 jacket I'd seen that was on sale and there were only a few left, so we hurried there for Malcolm to try them on. It was a hit, and will definitely be warm enough. The salesman was a little more complimentary towards Malcolm than I was comfortable with, but he also said the way I spoke German was "süß"... so he was okay, and was very helpful. Result: Malcolm has a jacket. 
We then headed just to look at some coats on sale at another shop. I really didn't love any of them, until Malcolm showed me a green/brown wool coat with a hood and comfy pockets. I tried it on and it fit well so that I could wear another jersey or two underneath, Malcolm said the colour made my hair look golden and eyes look pretty (this man knows me too well...), my hopes for water-proof flew out the window, and I loved it. We walked around the shop for ages weighing it up, until we decided that I should get it - happy Erica! 

So, each of us with our coats, we headed home. At Neumarkt the square was covered in little pandas, so we stopped for a bit. SO. CUTE. 

Despite my excitement, it also made me so sad to hear that there are less than 1600 of these sweeties left in the wild!? I think they had 1600 of these panda-figures in the square, and it really didn't look like much at all :( 

That evening after supper, the sun suddenly came out, and we decided to go for a ride - we haven't been in a long while and don't know if or when we'll get another chance. So out we went. It was so strange riding through there - and my heart was heavy that we're leaving. I remembered how excited I was when we first discovered it. How it filled up during the summer holidays and became really busy. And now, it was so deserted. The few runners that came past were dressed in their warm-running-clothes. We had to be careful because of the muddy patches. The leaves had changed. It just really felt so quiet, and it sunk in that our time here is over. 



I guess I spoke to soon when I said that the forest feels familiar. Just after we took these photos, we took the path we haven't before, and ended up completely lost. We were so disorientated, and although it's easy enough to find a bigger path, we didn't know which direction to head along. Eventually we came out (yep, we'd gone all the way through the forest) and arrived at some swimming pool centre which had a map outside. We figured out which direction to go and headed in that general direction, but really unsure. The sun set and the forest was dark, and we couldn't get our bike-lights to work, so we stayed on the paths next to the main road. Eventually, we found ourselves on a familiar road and made it home where we realised we'd cycled about 8km. 


The sky was pretty, and we were SO relieved to get home. 

Sunday we spent organising clothes and packing a bit, and then we went to church. It was our last Sunday there because this week the church is meeting somewhere else on Saturday, which will be fun! 

Now, Malcolm has started his LAST week at the CDC, and we're preparing for a busy week - though this morning we took some time to celebrate 6 months married! Hoorah! 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Week recap: organising

It's Friday? Again? While I'm sure many of you are breathing a sigh of relief, I'm dumbfounded. After today, Malcolm has just 5 more days of German lessons, and we have 11 more sleeps in this home. 
I'm pretty sure we just arrived? 
But, with the seasons changing and it getting cold, it does feel like it's the right time to move - our summer here is definitely over and the season is changing. Malcolm says I sound like the storyteller in Chocolat 
"But still the clever north wind was not satisfied. It spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought..."

So anyway, it was a quiet week - I've packed a few things into a box, and I've made lists of just about everything. I have a schedule for packing and cleaning so hopefully we won't have too much in the last couple days. And, of course, our meal-planning helps because we should finish everything in the fridge and cupboards before we go. Really trying to keep our stuff to a minimum in the hopes that it'll fit in the car ;) I'm also still waiting to hear about jobs, and looking for more to apply to, while also researching some ballet schools there. The thought of dancing again makes me so happy - and terrified.

As a break from his usual German lessons, Malcolm's class went out and about yesterday. 
They started by looking at one of the oldest Romanesque Churches in Cologne. The Church, St. Gereons's Basilica, is one I've walked past many times and not gone into - and I had no idea how old it is! The first record of it is in the year 612, though it was further constructed and finished in 1227. 

Close by, there is the Roman Tower, which is the only tower of the wall from 50AD to still be intact. Isn't it amazingly intricate? 
From there they went to the Stadtmuseum, where we've been before. And then to the 4711 museum - the original address where the original Eau de Cologne number 4711 was made. 
They ended their day at a pub, where Malcolm discovered that pub-snacks here are nothing like they are in SA. 

So, I wish you all a wonderful weekend, fill it with excitement and adventure - find it! 
This morning I'll be heading to some shops I've been meaning to check out, and then this afternoon we'll be going on another Ikea-adventure to get the last of the necessities and then the rest we'll get in Marburg. Yes, I see Ikea as an adventure. Life is what you make of it, right? 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

It's a sign.

No really, I'm talking about signs. Okay and some graffiti.

One of the interesting things about moving over here has been trying to understand signs and adverts. Quite often the humour is just lost on us... or we find humour in what others may not. Or we're shocked. Or we're just surprised to see cigarettes advertised. There are also some really confusing signs, which is why I Googled German road signs before I took on the mean streets of Dunnwald on my bike. So today I thought I'd share with you some of the signs that have caught our attention.

I wish I could have clearer photos, but most are taken from a tram or train window or in a rush... 


The above advert is at the bus-stop, saying "nur ein und aussteigen" - so only getting in and out of cars that stop there - no lingering goodbyes that take the spot of the bus.


This one is from the zoo, and does make sense in context... walking into a bird enclosure with a bird that had a thing for Malcolm's socks makes me understand why loose toys might be in danger. But isn't it creepy?


It's election time in Germany! I was oblivious that this man is in the running; I thought this was an advert for the German Dr Phil. Only when Malcolm pointed out that there are elections going on did I realise that the people I was seeing on these posters weren't estate-agents and talk show hosts. Somehow the style of election posters are so different to what I'm used to that these just don't look like election posters to me?


The slogan for this water called "vio" is "immer frisch in kopf" - always fresh in the head? I think they mean clear thinking. This one just left me confused though - the bunny, the slogan... until I googled and discovered it's water.


This one surprised us big time... I guess swearing in another language doesn't count as swearing here? This is apparently a relatively normal way to refer to an influx of negative comments on social media sites or blogs.


This one is on a tree in the forest here - basically, childrens' #2s are okay to be left under trees, but the paper must please be thrown away.


So this is some kind of bear, I assume? It just surprised us because it's such a... sunny and happy and sort of flower-power looking advert. We're used to beer being advertised in a more masculine way, really appealing to men... I can't imagine this advert working in SA? Here're examples of SA beer adverts I found online in a quick search. (also, I never realised, to access some of these websites one needs to enter ones birthday because no under 18s are allowed... not fool-proof, but an attempt!)

Here's another beer advert here - Kolsch is beer from Koln, so this sort of appeals to those who are proudly from here. But the logo for Sion Kolsch is the cathedral? The cathedral is used as an emblem for the city and marketers here really don't think much further than the iconic towers of the Dom. But on beer?   

And, lastly, some interesting graffiti... 

 
This isn't too clear, but there are people charging at the a city with a giant banana, while some have bows and arrows, and the guy on the right is painting.

I find it really interesting seeing these small differences that pop up now and again, even those that I find strange. I mean, I'm sure many people find South African adverts strange every now and again? But, Nandos always makes my favourites. I mean, if they get banned, they must be good, right?
- last dictator standing 
- Diversity 
- Tough Times
oh, and this Chicken Licken Advert. What is it about chicken places?

Hope you have a great day, wherever you are!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Expat Q&A. And an expat Q for YOU.

I find it weird to think of ourselves as an expats... I didn’t even know the word until I entered blog-world, and when I did hear it I thought of fancy-pants-business people. But, the definition on Wikipedia says an expatriate “is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing.
However, because Malcolm is here on a study-visa and is therefore “studying abroad” and I am here on a German passport and am therefore kind of in my own country, though I’ve never lived here before, I have never considered us expats.
BUT... I've come to realise that it’s a group of people I strongly identify with and I'm slowly beginning to see us as part of the definition. Which brings me to today.
My first Expat Q&A, hosted by Belinda and Bailie. Once a month, they pose questions to expats in blogland, and everybody gets to share their experiences. And sharing is caring. Right? 

So, here goes! The first question is: 
How do you fit in to your new culture without losing some of your identity?

So this is a funny one to me because culture is so blurred. While we were both brought up in South Africa, I challenge anybody to define South African culture. Malcolm was brought up with many “Rhodesia-isms” as his parents are from there, and I was brought up with many bits of German culture because of my mum being German. 
So while I grew up with German lullaby's and bedtime prayers, German rhymes and nicknames, German family phone-calls, German food and Christmas cookies, Christmas celebrations on Christmas eve, and German (or even some schwaebisch) phrases worked into my vocab, I also grew up laughing at Madam and Eve, enjoying koeksusters, lighting braai fires, having a sunny Christmas outside, and going to school in a uniform, learning bits of zulu in the playground.
exhibit A: making Christmas cookies and lebkuchen houses, and making a potjie on the fire. 
exhibit B: Christmas eve 2012
Sooo... while there are some things that seem different over here – like avoiding eye-contact and smiling at strangers – I’ve found that my identity is already kind of mixed, though I hardly realised it before I came here!

What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?
Homesickness can hit me anytime. Although it seems like we’re constantly on a great adventure and are always busy with something exciting, there are plenty of times that I’m alone and just missing South Africa. Besides the somewhat normal trigger of birthdays and weddings, I’d say two of my biggest triggers are food and frustration.
1.      Food. Mum makes amazing pizza. And her baking is incredible. And our families braai often, or go to our favourite restaurants fairly frequently. And I still get SA restaurant adverts showing up on Facebook. And, while I’ve lived away from my parents for 5.5 years in SA and wasn’t constantly eating mum’s food, I knew that home was close enough to get to. Somehow, hearing what’s for lunch in the Bentley-house makes me realise how far we are – there is no way I can be at the dinner table. Some things can be posted over to us and can temporarily provide comfort, but other things can’t. Food reminds me of that. 
2.      Frustration. Trying to read post. Navigating the dairy-aisle. Trying to understand cooking instructions. Figuring out washing powder variations. Attempting to understand how and why something is done the way it is. When in South Africa I would hardly need to think about something, there are things here that I just don’t understand and make me wish I was back in a place where I feel like a functioning adult. 
      Right now, I really want to go home to a winter temp of 10-27degrees, where I knew how to dress myself. Trying to figure out winter clothing here is stressing me out. Between the price of clothes (20euros for cheap jeans?!?) and the lack of experience, we are having a hard time trying to find warm winter jackets. 
a normal winter's day in Durban Botanical Gardens.

      Malcolm has jackets but none are waterproof or wind proof or have a hood. I have a raincoat, which does the job but doesn’t look nice (schonheid musst leiden, apparently), and a coat that isn’t really waterproof or windproof or terribly warm but looks nicer than the rest. 

Our warmest jackets. The blue one is my raincoat - it's functional. But can't it be pretty? 
      So basically, we each need one jacket/coat that can conquer all. 

Which is where I’m pleading for help from all you northern-hemisphere-people who know how to dress yourselves. Petra has already given us some advice, but I'd like lots of opinions before we spend 200euros on jackets. What is really important in a winter coat/jacket, bearing in mind that we walk or take public transport? I believe rain and windproof is important. But is weatherproof enough or must it have loads of bulky filling? Surely if the wind and wet is kept out we'll be warm and we can wear jerseys underneath? 
SO.... Release your inner-fashionista and help us out? Please?