Thursday, 26 June 2014

Nothing.

That's my answer to the question, "if your house were on fire, what would you save?" Okay, maybe not nothing... I did make sure Malcolm wasn't still asleep and I did also somehow automatically grab my phone.

We've learned some important lessons this week. If you follow me on instagram, you'd have seen our building in smoke, us camped out in the stadium waiting for information, and our rescued pot plant.


We woke up on Tuesday morning to engines and shouting outside. I peeked through the blinds to see flashing lights. I thought somebody in our building was injured, and we went outside to see. I quickly noticed it was fire engines outside and Malcolm asked if he should bring important papers.

LESSON #1: Listen to Malcolm when he has good ideas like grabbing important papers. 

I shrugged it off and said it doesn't look serious, everything was calm. We jumped over our fence and walked into the playground. There was smoke coming from the top of the building, and I could hear crackling under the grate outside our veranda which I thought might be debris from above. The firemen asked some people higher up if there was smoke in their apartment, and they replied no. I briefly went into ours again to check if there was smoke and noticed the fire alarm in the lounge ringing... I went out again and joined Malcolm, still not sure what was going on.

Suddenly a gust of smoke blew up from in front of our veranda. Thick, grey, choking smoke. The firemen got the couple and their baby who live above us down with a ladder and the situation suddenly got more urgent. People started shouting down from their balconies and things went by in a blur. The fire was directly under our flat and the smoke was rising through the stairwells and filling the building from the inside, while the smoke from outside filled the air on the balconies. We were directed to the parking lot, and were relieved to see friends exiting the building- having run down five stories through smoke unable to see anything since electricity was out and the smoke was so thick. Other friends were still stuck on their balcony and we prayed together for them and the rest of the building.

LESSON #2: Nothing brings people together quite like hanging out in the parking lot in PJs in the cold feeling afraid. 



The situation would constantly fluctuate and the smoke would get really bad, then die down. Families trapped on their balconies on our side of the building were slowly being reached. Cellphones were ringing with people trying to find out if friends were okay. We were lead to the street to sign a register and then board buses waiting for us. I was sort of relieved to not only be warm in the bus, but also not being able to see the smoke billowing out in front of the garden bench Malcolm assembled so lovingly for us, and the plants we cared for and that brought us so much joy.

That said, there were still people trapped in the building and we could hear the firemen breaking windows to try let the smoke gathering in the top of the building out. The bus eventually took us to the stadium where we sat on mats, kept warm with foil blankets, and waited for news.



We read the news reports online on our phones and tried to figure out what the situation was. We got in touch with friends who headed down to come and fetch us. News arrived that we wouldn't be able to return that day, and that we should find alternate accommodation.

Our friends took us and some others in our building back to their apartment. We got decked out in their clothes (finally out of PJs!) and were given breakfast.

LESSON #3: Donate clothes to the Red Cross; people evacuated at night in their pajamas are happy to get a change of clothes or a pair of shoes or socks. 

Eventually, after going to have a look at the building, finally evacuated, we got information to go back to the stadium.

Also, this side of the building is now where all the action is, but the smoke was on the other side...
it's always been dirty like this... it's not fire damage! 

We went there but found out that we didn't actually need to be there since we had been provided with accommodation by friends. We got some water and chocolate from the Red Cross, and then headed back to Richtsberg.



After a call to the info-line, we found out that we could return to the building to fetch important things from our flat. Such a relief! We gathered there and since we live on the ground floor, we were the first to be escorted in. The two policemen with us were so kind and helped us so much, pointing out anything they thought we might want and might overlook; money, jewelry, electronics. Fortunately there was only smoke and no damage to any possessions. We had 10 minutes and threw the essentials into a suitcase and Ikea bag.



LESSON #4: Wash your dishes at night. You never know when police will be in your flat shining a torch on your dirty dishes. 

That night, after buying some groceries, we went to the house we're staying in with 3 other couples that we're friends with. We're so fortunate to have a house with everything we need provided for us for at least the next week and a half until we hear more news about where to go.



LESSON #5: Peoples' hearts can stretch unimaginably. 

Yesterday we went back to the apartment to fetch anything we need for the next few days while we wait to hear when and if we'll be allowed back to live. 20 minutes that we had to pack our clothes and anything else we wanted. It was strange, packing our clothes into a suitcase in such a surreal situation.
We also needed to empty the fridge out... while some could take their things, everything in our fridge was hot... butter melted and the milk carton swollen... I started piling it all into the bag. Throwing away the dinners I'd planned to cook us. The cake we had left over and were saving for dessert.

LESSON#6: Life is short; eat the cake. 

At some point it just became too much and I called to Malcolm to help me - it was so gross and hot and disappointing and confusing, that while I burst into tears he took over and sent me to go pack the throw/blanket we brought from SA from our first home together.

LESSON#7: I cry at the strangest things. 

LESSON#8: Malcolm knows me better than I thought. 

Feeling better somehow, choosing a pot plant to take with us, we lifted our bikes out into the playground, locked up our flat, and left with our suitcase, still with the sticker I wrote 21kgs on from when we came from SA.



Since then, we're getting back to normal... university and work go on. I went back to our flat today to take the rubbish bin out since we forgot it yesterday. And got some more plants from our balcony and took them for safe keeping.



People have been really sympathetic and lovely and I'm so amazed at how our God has provided for us. We are lacking absolutely nothing. When I think logically, we have everything we need and have no fear of being homeless. But in my heart, I long for home. I realise how drastically my heart has shifted, longing for our little home in Richtsberg.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Meine Lieblingsblogs

Is it Liebster Award time again? YES!

It seems that in the circles of blogging, they get circulated in seasons and one suddenly sees them and then they vanish again. Elusive. Like mongeese. 

Well, one just popped up! The last time I answered was back here, if you want to read it. Today, though, I not only get to answer some really interesting questions, but I get to introduce you to Nadia.

While I could tell you about the time in High School that I narrated a South African version of Cinderella and she starred as the Sangoma, I'll rather direct you to her blog over at Hazel Tales. She is currently in Busan, Korea, where she teaches English and shares her adventures. I'm particularly impressed with her learning Korean

Anyway, like the great Journ-graduate that she is, she posed some pretty cool questions. 

1. Why did you decide to use blogging as a way of capturing your adventures? Why not Facebook, Twitter etc?
I decided a few weeks before leaving SA that I would start a blog when we left. The fact that I regret not starting it a few months before, is evidence that it serves two purposes: to keep friends and family informed of where we are and what we're doing, and to record adventures for our own memory. 
Twitter and Facebook are both inadequate for this... a brief status or a photo doesn't capture everything I want it to, and I dislike how things get lost between junk there. With a blog, I am able to record things in as much depth as I want to, and everything stays fairly organised and logical.

b)   What was the scariest thing about leaving your country? 
Being truly independent for the first time with very little information. We'd just about figured out how to be adults in SA when we left. Coming here, we had little idea about everyday things such as how much things cost, how systems work etc. (which I'm STILL figuring out.) But more so, I found it scary that we were leaving for a minimum of 3 years, whether we liked where we were or not. 

c)    I am a student leaving University. Tell me why I should travel?
I don't think you should or shouldn't... but there are some advantages. Mainly, I found that traveling has given me
A) Perspective 
eg. South Africa is NOT the only place with potholes. Offices in SA are NOT the only inefficient ones. Buses in Germany are ALSO hot and uncomfortable and crowded. Basically, the grass is not always greener and our security doesn't come from our geography or government. 
B) Compassion. 
eg. My German isn't perfect, and I have a lot more compassion for people learning in languages that aren't their own. I also see having English as first language as a privilege and realise how I've taken it for granted. Not because it's superior, but because it's useful. 

d)   Describe a food (make my mouth water!) you have had on your travels that made your eyes water from happiness (or possibly too much spice!)?
Traveling in Germany, too much spice has not been a problem. Also, with most dishes involving bacon, cheese, onion and potato, or combinations of the above, overwhelming is not an adjective that springs to mind either. However, dessert here is great. A gazillion flavours of icecream (hey, vanilla and chocolate aren't the only flavours?!?), decadent cake with cream and fruit, fresh cherries... 


e)   Describe the moment when you knew you had made the right choice to travel?
We don't really travel that much, but living in a country not our own and visiting different cities counts, right? I think I knew coming to Germany was the right decision when I bit into the first chocolate croissant on our first breakfast with Petra. Coming to Marburg, I knew it was the right decision when people tell us that they'd been praying and then we came. I can see how God has opened doors and guides us, and slowly His plan unfolds and we see what our part is. 

f)     Solo travel or group travel? Why?
The only memorable places I've traveled to alone are Bloemfontein and Joburg. Joburg hardly counts because it was only the ride there that I was alone for. Bloemfontein, I realised I should not travel alone when instead of walking to campus, I was determinedly headed along the road heading out of town, until a sweet old lady asked me if I'm lost and gave me a ride. 
That's my only experience with solo travel, so I guess I vote group travel. I love having others to help make decisions and keep me out of danger. Also, I love having somebody to talk to about what I'm seeing, or somebody to reminisce with about it later without being the girl who is always saying things like "these macarons just don't measure up to those that I had in Paris, you know." Somehow the replacement of "I" with "we" just makes things less snobby. 

g)    How have you dealt with challenging cultural differences?
Repeat after me: Different does not equal wrong. If I have a problem with something from another culture, it's not usually the culture's problem, but a problem I have. If I get irritated that Germans, generally, don't end visits with long, lingering goodbyes, I should maybe inspect my own motives for wanting a a long, lingering goodbye before trying to change their ways. Speck vs. Plank. 

And with that, I am done. 

The rules for Liebsters are pretty blurred these days. 11 questions, 11 facts, fewer questions, no facts, tag 11 people, 7 people... does it matter? I think not. 

So, instead, I encourage you to go on over and visit some of my Lieblings-South-African-blogs :) 
(Because we're all feeling left out since SA isn't in the world cup... am I right?)
City Girl Searching (in South Korea)
Lanlettie (in the USA)
Text Sketches (she's been quiet lately, but writes beautifully)
A Home Away from Home (From the USA, in SA)
Bits of Sunshine (for deliciousness)
Hannah (A brand new blog coming soon! Her old blog, Pink Chucks is also great.)

And now I have the dilemma that they're all different genres and that makes questions hard. Rats.
Just go check them out, ok?

Friday, 13 June 2014

Berlin {Part 2}

Sunday, after going to church, we headed out to the Carnival Parade. So. Many. People. (and a disproportionate amount of clothes, I might add.)

It was really incredible to see the diversity of Berlin, and Germany in general, on display with so many different cultures and nations represented.

the following photos are not always grouped according to country etc. 



Sadly, South Africa was not represented in the parade... or we missed it. Fortunately, we did spot our flag's colours and we went over to see if the bearer was indeed from South Africa. Thumbs up indicate yes. (And I need to practice a thumb up in the mirror so that it doesn't look so weird...)


Meeting Patrick from Cape Town was pretty good luck, and it was nice to hear another accent like ours... although we all know that CT/JHB and DBN accents are different, and that there are waaaaay too many accents in SA to have a typical SA accent.

That evening after the parade we hung out at home base playing insanely fast games of a card game I've forgotten the name of. Eventually we packed up a picnic and went to the canal to have supper and then a walk around.
 



Another late night, another fairly early morning, and we were back at the station to head home-wards.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Berlin {part 1}

We did it! We made it to Berlin! We sort of wondered if we'd ever get there, since it's easy to dream of cities in other countries and never make it to closer places. Bearing in mind that using regional trains "closer" means eight hours.

On Friday, after our first bus was very delayed and we missed the connecting bus, we had a very brisk walk to the train station where we bought a ticket and ran to the platform, having a couple minutes to catch our breaths and high five one another, before we hopped on our first train. (If you read that sentence in one breath you'll have an idea about how we felt.)

Finding a spot for 6 of us to sit together was a challenge and we were dispersed for the first train, but from Kassel to Berlin we managed to sit together for the most part.



Arriving in Berlin at 10pm, we walked through the Karneval der Kulture to get to a friend's family's house, conveniently located in the city centre, and then navigated the u-bahn and s-bahn to get to her sister's apartment where we had her flat-mate's room to use. And thus began our first ever couple-sleep-over!



The next morning, we set out to see some of Berlin.













After having icecream and a doner, then hanging out playing games at our home-base, we headed back out to see the East Side Gallery and then go to the Karneval. 



From there we headed back into the centre of the city for Karnaval. We squeezed through the packed crowds looking at all the stands from various countries, before finding a spot squished in on the grass. 


Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll have photos up from the Carnaval Parade!

Monday, 2 June 2014

May

May has absolutely flown by, and with it, many little things that just never had a post of their own. 

Like...

Long afternoons turning into evening, hanging out on our veranda...



Surprise birthday celebrations for a dear friend...


Afternoons spent waiting in beautiful, sunny parks...


Our flowers beginning to bloom...


Our four-year-dating anniversary celebration, a walk to buy icecream and then stopping to watch the sun go down...



Sweet gifts to welcome me to the Office...



Making new friends...


Celebrating a year in Germany by cooking South African food and sharing an evening with friends...


Let's see what June brings!