TIME FLIES WHEN YOU………

…..Are you constructively and productively make use of your time. And yes, when you are having fun.

I am astonished about how today officially marks my first month in Berlin. It was only six weeks ago or so when I was told my departure is on the 14th of September. I had one week to set my things into order. You know, the packing and all. Before I knew it, my luggage was full and I was ready to leave home. It all happen so fast. Next think I knew, I was boarding for my first time flight to Berlin, inter-connecting flights at Zurich, Switzerland to my destination.

After some 13 hours or so, here I was…in Berlin meeting up with my host mother Julia who had been patiently waiting for approximately 20 minutes. What a good kicked started welcome and unpacking.

I have done so much for one month and I think included in this, is my many attempts to speak German. I have took in so much from everyone regarding the language. I have also seen much than I expected for one moth. A bit of moving around, trying new food, meeting new people, getting a hang of my new voluntary work and of course settling in.

Have I thought? I feel content. In my second week I felt like I had lived here before and like I knew my host family. It never so completely new. I am so free. I am home.

Given than its the end of my first month, I can say, I have settled. And here are typical things that are a proof of this:

  1. I rode the bike back home from work alone on my first day. I had only been shown by my host sisters my way there. Its relatively 20 minutes. I did it and I had no internet to navigate my way or even had a functional number to make calls. I probably took my own way back home somehow but I found it. This was epic.
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    Second Left: My bike is a new member in the Schad household

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    My friend helping me get from A to B, rain or not. 
  2. By end of my first week, I already had memorised and understood one prayer in German.
  3. I went to a store after about 2 days during my break to by a lip cream. Looking up things on my own and attempting to ask in stores can be a bit not easy and also funny but this is a good language practice.
  4. Like everyone else, rain does not stop one from using the bike. To be part of the community. I have also used the bike every single day to and back from work regardless. The more stronger I have felt.
  5. Travelling some 46 minutes by bus and then S-Bahn to central Berlin to meet a friend. It sounds complicated at some point but I have found this extremely easy. Thanks to my host mother who literally can explain to simplicity.
  6. Watching movies in German was always something I tried in South Africa but, I really did not enjoy it. This time my family invited me to join them watch a movie with their family friends. I mean…cinema right at home. The big screen, the sound, lights out and snacks. Without anticipation, I enjoyed this movie. I actually understood it more than I thought I would. Thanks too to my host father for giving my a brief heads up on its story line. I am sire the excitement also came about because there were scenes in South Africa, particularly in Cape Town. It was epic! It was comedy after all.
  7. It sounds like everything is nearly perfect and lit. But no, I nearly bumped into an old lady one morning on the bike to work. I was riding fast and trying so hard to be on time. She appeared from no where. I was wondering how possible this month could be so perfect without a mistake. Well, I did really did not bump her, I nearly did. I said I am sorry and found my focus again.

What a month! Bliss…lit and epic.

What is your view? Do you think I have settled in already?

 

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TRY TOUCHING THE CLOUDS, ITS POSSIBLE: THE BROCKEN

Wandrers Nachtlied

Über allen Gipfeln

Ist Ruh,

In allen Wipfeln

Spürest du

Kaum einen Hauch;

Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.

Warte nur, balde

Ruhest du auch

-Johann Wolfgang Goethe

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Mountains. Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.

On Saturday morning, the 1st of October, we set ourselves for a long weekend excursion. This was my second weekend, with which the first I was having a Hamburg extravaganza. My host family took me along to a trip they were to meet four of their family friends. To put well in picture: a stop in forests, a 2 nights, 3 days stay in a forest/mountain hostel, with lots of food, wearing warm, eating together and endless chats.

I have learnt so much in that space, given that I now enjoy listening to how German speaking people. To some extent, I am picking up a lot of vocabulary and  a real sense of how sentences are constructed. I have found this really incredible.

So much eye opening things. I am happy to say, in South Africa I do not really have a life. By this, I mean that I have put my devotions on other things such as my first two degrees, journalism and getting my work out there, humanitarian work and activism. These are my interests and my life has evolved around them that going our looked impossible. I found these devotions my kind of fun. Although I still went out and did other things, I have found my chosen focuses really worth the time. But, perhaps with this kind of routines, one can miss out on a few other things. And, end up having so many I have never done this before lists. This is never a problem because there is every time for every purpose. I am happy to have been here in the time and the right place.

We were at a place called Harz National Park. The intention there was to go to the Brocken, which we did on Sunday. Broken, according to Wikipedia,  the Brocken is also referred to as the Blocksberg. This is the highest peak of the Harz mountain range and also the highest peak of Northern Germany; it is located near Schierke in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt between the rivers Wesser and Elbe. Although its elevation of 1,141 metres (3,743 ft) is below dimensions, its microclimate resembles that of mountains of about 2,000 m (6,600 ft). The peak above the tree line tends to have a snow cover from September to May, and mists and fogs shroud it up to 300 days of the year. The mean annual temperature is only 2.9 degrees Celsius. It is the easternmost mountain in northern Germany; travelling east in a straight line, the next prominent elevation would be in the Ural Mountains in Russia.

It is a lit place.

MY HIGHLIGHTS ABOUT THE BROCKEN:

  1. Lessons from my host father

Before we wont on this excursion, Friedemann schooled me about Harz, especially its mountain peak. He winded back history, telling me that the mountain we are going to is where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe climbed when he was in his early 20´s, visiting again at the age of 81. Herr Goethe was a German writer and statesman, and penned work including epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. He penned a poem above titled Wandrers Nachtlied and also chanted it up on the same mountain. This time, Friedemann was the one chanting this very poem. I found the whole set up worth it.

This was a clear picture painted moment.

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2. The nature

There is nothing incredibly refreshing as the smell of the forest and seeing trees reacting to the changing weather, walking up and down all dressed up because its very cold up the mountain. This might be the case but a good long walk heats the body back to its normal state.

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3. Meeting new people and getting to know my host family

On this note, I really want to put a focus on my host family……..

I grew up in a family which literally accommodated different people. My grandmother for a long time was a foster parent, taking care of children from different circumstances. I know how it feels to be taken good care off and what it takes to make such efforts. Although I am not one of those kids and have never underwent any similar pathways, one similar thing I share with all those amazing kids is that I am welcome in a family I do not know nor related to. But the feeling is mutual. I feel like I have always known them. They have sought to make me part of the family and I embrace these new beginnings. I will be forever  be grateful.

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Special waves all the way from Harz from my host parents during our pause after some 2 hours or so of walking from top of Brocken back to Schierke Station were we took a steam train going up the mountain peak.

 I now know how it feels to be hosted, to be new in town, and exposed to some new things but most importantly, to be a part of another family. My life will never ever be the same.

LETS TALK FOOD: WHAT TO TRY AND WHAT NOT TO

In the days that I have been here, I have been asked the ‘How does the food taste in Germany?’question more than about my well being. Well, this serves as really not a problem for me. But a question of interest.

An academic doctor friend of mine during a breakfast chat cracked a joke before I left South Africa for Germany saying I probably need to leave town with some food enhancing concoctions. Alleging that German food is tasteless. Well, I would not crack the same joke. Or even, expand on it.

My experience here thus far with food has really been much of my choice, therefore, playing safe. If you know what I mean. But, at the same time, I have also tried much to much for 22 days that I have been here. My thought is, I have had the worst food nightmare and the greatest days with food.

For me, a good typical day is a potato or vegetable day- trying all sorts of veggies out there. Often with different colours I have not seen before. Like purple carrots, purple tomatoes, some awkwardly shaped kohlrabi and so much delicious dark bread. A typical bad day meal may have included trying something meaty but ewyyy sorry, it has pork. But this is the least.

Five things I suggest you try when you are in Germany are: 

  1. Obviously the bread

Big up to Germany for its creation of some 300 or so types of bread, from the Vollkornbrot, the Roggenbrot and the legendary Pumpernickel, to mention just a few. These come in different sizes and prices. Included in these are a variation of what we call rolls or buns in South Africa, here termed as Brotchen.

brot-22. Kräuter-Tomate Streich

This a must try. This is a tomato made bread spread. Looks like fish paste but definitely not it and does not smell like it. Simply because it is not fish. It is tomato. The kids love it. I recently started liking it.

streich

3. Schinkeknacker 

This is more like dried meat. It looks like sausages. Oh well, they are sausages but dried. More like biltong. Biltong in this case is far harder. Schinkeknacker is not so hard but really delicious. Just watch out if they do not contain pork contents, if you are allergic to it. I am allergic to pork and often they are pork flavoured. Anyway, it seems to me that Germany is not only a bread country but also a place where people like pork meat.

schinkeknacker

4. Marmalade

If you have a sweet tooth and prefer sweet bread spreads, try Marmalade. It generally refers to a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar. It can be produced from lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, sweet oranges, and other citrus fruits, or any combination of them. It looks like jam as we know it. I at least call it jam but it has pieces of fruit in it and is sweeter than regular jam.

marmalade

 

5. Kräuter Salz 

This is not food but thank God kräuter Salz, literally flavoured salt with herbs can help give tasteless food  or rather unusual food some taste. If you find yourself in such a predicament, ask for kräuter salz.

krauter-salz

Things I suggest you try, but were my day-mare 

Knäckebrot

This is worth a asking to Swedish people, who invented this and what the hell is this? Jokingly, of course. Knäckebrot in German, Crispbread in English is a flat and dry type bread containing mostly rye flour. They are light and keep fresh for a very long time. They are also a staple food. However, in recent years there has been renewed interest in crispbread in the Nordic countries. This is a no no for me. But do not get this wrong, cripbread is available in South Africa. I avoided it there and, I am more certain that I wont eat it here.

k-brot

Grünkohl

This is one of many German traditional meals. I tried it at Harz in a company of wonderful German gentlemen and women who were aiming to teach me other things about their home country and their culture. I really appreciate it. Unfortunately Grünkohl, known as kale or leaf cabbage is a darker and thicker type of cabbage. It is also stronger in taste. It was great trying a little bit of it, but thanks but no thanks. A good note is, this is healthy.

g-kohl

THE FUN IN WEIRD

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On the 29th of September, which then was to be my second week of work, we celebrated “Michaeli Tag”. We did so with the children, as I am placed at a kid orientated voluntary working space. The day was aimed at giving the children a real feel of concepts about this day and why the day ought to be celebrated.

I have found it weird at first. Reason being, that the story behind this day is oddly long but its shortened version is that people (more or less often youth people) on this day fight the evil in the world by eating a dragon baked bread and red grape juice as a symbol of its blood. This evil is said to have been brought by God to the earth. This was actually one of His seven angels. So, this evil invaded the earth therefore, people have to fight it out of the world again, given the need of peace and all good sorts of things.

Preparing for this day and celebrating Michaeli Tag

My colleagues baked the dragon bread with the learners and the process was fun. Wheat was collected, then crashed to take out its seeds. Afterwards these seeds were then put in a wooden grinder in an attempt to produce flour. Which yes, the kids did themselves with a few instructions to get them going. Finally, we got a little flour, allowing us to bake some bread. And most importantly, I am pleased that the children understand the hard work that comes with baking bread and the need to work hard to be able to put some food on the table for all to eat.

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A cart was filled with all the goodies we were going to need for this festivity. This included blankets for sitting down, red juice and water, fruits, bread boards, cutlery and many other things.

The dragon was cut and brutally slaughtered. The blood was drunk. And oh…this was just all a play. We pretended that our dragon bread was a real one and that the red grape juice was its blood. Although this sounds weird, it was also fun.In der Tat Der Drache Brot war köstlich (In fact, the dragon bread and blood was delicious).

Setting such an imagination and teaching children to make a distinction between good and bad, to work on doing good and to also consciously and internally fight the evil in each of them was incredible. Evil in this case does not mean that human beings are evil but means that the world was inherited evil, therefore, one has to search in themselves other than in other people.

Its not a finger pointing exercise but a self introspection kind of approach. This is done by going out on a picnic, but several ways can be initiated.

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