FAST DREI MONATE (ALMOST 3 MONTHS)

Two months and 12 days. I already feel like my year here is soon to end but I in fact have approximately 9 almost 10 months of sticking around. But, even so, the end this term, when it comes to an end…I suspect to have had the best of years in my life, thought changing, trying new things, exploring and getting to know myself myself and of course, speaking the German language more fluently.

The past few weeks after my one week autumn holiday in Aachen and Köln where both great and a bit long sometimes, particularly at my workplace. But, initially, every minute spent there has been nothing but fantastic and worth it. While I am also attempting to speak German, breaking this language but still understood by its native speakers and kids. I am learning so much.

One of my greatest moments here in the days I have spent so far is realising that I am starting to have an ear for the German language. I am finally comprehending it. This hearing ability is helping me pick up how people speak, how they construct sentences and use the grammar, which I think is the most challenging thing about the German language. I am not using the word “difficult” because, although it may be, it is not impossible to learn and adapt to it. At the pace I am on, I think I am doing just fine. Although, a sense of impatience is getting to me because all I want to do is to speak good German and unrealistically now. I am so longing to know how to speak this language very well immediately because some how, somewhat, there is so much beauty in having the ability to engage through it. I trust I am well on my way.

So much I have learnt and picked up through listening has been from from the kids, colleagues and the family I live with. I find the children far sympathetic. And of course, teachers with patience and often a simplified speech and frank ways to tell you when you are wrong and to correct you. It has never felt any less than a safe space to make mistakes.

It is endless. I am amazed about how my German has improved. Conversations with children turn to be endless, we talk about animals, about food, about making noise, going to the toilet, using the bus, mothers, fathers, playing and all that is in between. And of course coming back to where I live, the conversations continue but more often on other interesting things like music, what we are eating later, how each others days were. To a larger some of our conversations have been far important. Including things like getting me a German sim card, travelling alone, shopping, and all the necessary things to get me going to be familiar with my surroundings.

I found pleasure in learning. But, I think one can only embrace this if and only if the space of learning is initiated with no pressure. I am finding my feet. I hope that I absorb much very quickly.

My second highlight in the past months is how my birthday was spent. It is so much linked to the culture of how birthdays are celebrated and the language as songs were sang in German and not in English. It was great. My birthday was on the 3rd of November and this day kicked started earlier as I usually join my host family on breakfast.

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The breakfast was a little difficult, with a home baked chocolate cake, baked by my host mother and, some cherry cup cakes baked by her also lovely sister which I later took to the kindergarten  to share with my colleagues and kids. There were also about 7 or 8 presents. I really appreciated the moment. Maybe this celebration was meant to teach me to start celebrating my life far more than I never found it relevant to do. It felt like my life was important. Which I never saw in this way. My family in South Africa has always and I mean for every birthday bought cakes and would sing very early in the morning. This to me was all I needed. Some hugs and blessings. Fortunately, they still sang for me early in the morning via a Skype call. Later in the morning, I had celebration at work with kids and colleagues. There also, I got some gifts. The parents of children with which I am part of their group called the Rosengruppe, literally meaning the group of flowers also surprised me with gifts. Although I do not celebrate my birthdays, I have learnt to embrace every moment given to be on earth. After all, we live once.

With that said, I have been effortlessly doing my best to enjoy myself through engaging and trying to internalise the German language. This past weekend, I attended two markets.The first one was a joined initiative of Waldofpädagogik Havelhöhe, which incorporates a kindergarten, school (both primary and secondary levels). This is were I volunteer. The was a market called Licht Markt (Light market) and was brought together by the kindergarten and the school as a way to fund-raise. I enjoyed being a part of it and more importantly seeing parents, educators and learners coming together with different ideas of selling things in order to make a direct contributions to the institution. This market sold a lot of things such as food, clothes for children, decoration for Christmas, toys and a bit of self made things, creating more entertainment. I got a chance to participate in some of the activities and to also had a shift to sell at the kindergarten´s stall/booth where I was working with my colleagues.

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On the following day, Sunday the 20th of November, we went to another market in Messa, Berlin. There was stalls of different products sold from different countries. Africa, as a continent was there and, South Africa was among the African countries.

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I felt the need to support South African although I supported another country buying bracelets. I ended up in interesting conversations with the ladies I met from South Africa. It was a breather to even speak iSizulu there, back to back accommodating each other speaking Sesotho too. I had to grace the moment.

Not only have I being engaging in these ways, going out in this cold autumn, I have also sort to have really warm indoor moments with my host family, be in comfortable clothes, taking some naps and doing some studying relating to my other interest, journalism.

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A SOUTH AFRICAN VOICE: MY DONALD TRUMP-THOUGHTS

Inspired by aunt, Seri Wa ga Duiker, whom I thank for her support and believing in my work.

What comes to mind when I think of Mr President-elect of the United States? 

My first departure is that anything is possible. And, I  mean literally anything is possible on earth. Such as moving from knowing nothing about politics but business and still be president, slamming and belittling women using sexist phrases, and all sorts of threat provoking utterances.

I have found US election results telling. I hope to write this not from a anti-American stance or rather “not so much an American fan anyway” but from a more light headed perspective.

What a turning point in global history. What a telling contradiction to majority of Americans who at first aired their views poking Trump as villain and smearing him with tags, only to elect him as next president.

Nonetheless, there are three points I would like to build from the main point I made that anything is possible.

1. It is possible to be a business mogul, not knowing much about politics and still be president!

I suspect and probably would get this correct, Trump is a business brain who has cut through Washington’s House with no public office experience whatsoever. I personally think I am not comfortable with wealthy individuals using this to they advantage to be in power or even to get to any social level if they want to. It sounds clearly to me that money can buy anything perhaps also intangible things. It then becomes clear that if you are less of Trump´s financial level, you have work had to make impossible things to happy. Simply because you are stratified in the system.

Although Trump is totally a newcomer, I suppose also in the political arena, his experience as a business mogul, however, comes with some transferable skills. For instance, executive and global leadership are interlinked and so there are some important lessons to be learned from business. He could still make use of these skills but I hope so, with the courage to listen to others. In this space, I am happy that he Trump will be surrounded by advisers to are experienced in their jobs.

My fear is people in power given their financial influence, which in a long run can favour the rich and sideline the poor. Or, to favour him and jeopardise the real purpose of a democracy. Democracy, simply defined as a “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”. Also equally important in its goals is the protection of the human rights of all citizens and a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

2. It is possible to be so called “evil” then all holy and still be president!

Because the president is elected by its citizens in its state or rather country. I find it terribly confused a majority of US citizens stand for. Is it hate speech, mocking and diminishing women and racial and threatening utterances? It is all confusing and may to a large extend sending a skewed view to the world.

How easy I have found it in this world to be the bad guy, then the good guy. I suspect the honey moon stage is going to come to pass and maybe, the worst kind of leadership will start. I am not sure if someone showed this kind of personality wont reveal it again.

3 It is also possible to be a Trump-kind-of guy, being on a pathway of compromising a democracy and still be president!

With a president, it is just possible to compromise democracy and my first say it all. Actually, democracy has been seen as difficult after these election. Because democracy is the people themselves.

Maybe, I need not say much about Trump but to start question American about this decision they made through casting their votes. What a choice…that has proven anything to be possible under the sun.

OUR RE-UNION 

I dedicate this post to Paul Veigl, Kimon Schmidt and Kamogelo Masoko who have always been my friends despite distance and time.  

Although this piece serves as a late post, I am still keen to pen it. It is effortless. And I suspect, this too is worth writing. I have found some kind of new perspective about live and knowing people and being a part of their lives, vice versa.

I would like to think that life is about been given chances and to amount the same to others. Not any given point in our lives did we know we will see each other again. Beyond imaginations, we only hoped but this past weekend it came to pass.

I have been given a chance to see my friends but at first were my German teachers back in South Africa. These are Kimon from Münich and Paul from Düsseldorf. Back in 2014, they were volunteers in a Non-Governmental Organisation called Kliptown Youth Program, popular known as KYP. This is a primary and secondary school education orientated organisation, or rather with a holistic approached structured organisation to support young people living in Kliptown. Included in it is cooking meals, offers computer classes, does sports and other additional activities. I met Kimon and Paul there who had dedicated themselves to spending a year on an exchange voluntary service, assisting in whatever possible ways. I suppose this kind of program is also known as a north-south exchange program.

But, one initial reason I got to know them was that they also offered German courses in the organisation. And then, and like before I came to Germany, I was a tutor at KYP: This place was also a place I can extend my hand to doing something in my broader community of Soweto (South Western Townships). I landed myself to a English reading project where I taught children from Grade 1 to 4 how to read, given the gap of the inability to read between this classes. This was my very best project in the space of doing humanitarian work. I will be forever grateful for the platform and of course the people who made it possible.

On that note, Kamogelo who literally introduced me to KYP after two years and six months that I worked for the department of Education also helping learners with school related things like home works, etc. Kamo is my friend and my brother with which our relationship has grown and has supricingly shown similar interests. For example we studied together at the university both studying our Bachelor degrees in Communication Science and also love volunteering in good initiatives like child related NGOs. I am pleased to have known him, to be encouraged and learn so much from him.

We have done much together. Kamo and I joined the German course with a burning desire to know an international language as media students. So, we did. He was given the opportunity to come to Germany last year and his term ends next week Tuesday the 15th of November. We have done our best to keep up our friendship dispite time and space via Skype and Facebook. And this is a take for me, to also know about  Germany from his view and how his year was.

Without expectations but anticipations, we hope to meet after over a year of not seeing each other here in Germany as I had already been given the opportunity to serve as a federal volunteer although in Berlin. He spent his year in Köln. We both devoted our time to learning the German language in a mist of so much we had still. The first year of learning came with great changes and consistent commitment.

Was it worth it?

I find it so because we have meet again. First in my home country, South Africa then home in Kimon and Paul´s home country. And of course were Kamogelo has earned himself a international work experience and a global perspectives.

Our reunion was planned shortly after some few days I landed here. I planned my autumn one week holidays to travel from Berlin to Aachen where I could meet Paul and spend three days with him. Its a beginning of a new semester and an academic year in Germany and perhaps this time sounds ideal to meet up before work piles up. Student live is great though. In three days starting off from Saturday evening to Wednesday morning this is how my days looks:

Travelling with public transport back and forth, any given time of the day…and, I literally mean it. Finding such transport convenience at odd times of the morning like 02:00 and 03:00 a.m is lit!

Then after a few days I visited Kamo in Köln. I found this interesting, looking forward to endless chats and doing a lot of working and being on the train like we used to in South Africa. A bit of craziness and fun.

Although my week was planned in this kind of fashion, the four of us set two days to spend together. Particularly the late Friday I had there. The plan was to have great chats, to have some drinks, to go around the city and to have fun.

Did we?

It was totally incredible seeing these guys. I am humble and I hope they had fun too.

This is a day I would not trade for anything. Every minute of laughter and everything we did in between was lit. A warm thank you.

 

5 DAYS-4 NIGHTS, KÖLN IST DER HAMMER

Almost 14 months, a friend and also a brother to me left Johannesburg, South Africa to volunteer in Köln, Germany. We have kept our communication and support from a South-North distance and verse versa. It has been an amazing journey and I find myself in Berlin on a similar journey and interest. We have had to meet again after a year. It came to pass, and well, well, well, what an incredible time of craziness. I really missed him. With this post, I take pride in our friendship and wish him the very best on his return back home.

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I am yet again experiencing the fall in 2016. Twice in one year. It is autumn and with this kind of weather be sure to pack hoodies, pair of socks, and a warm parka with you wherever you go. Perhaps here, be prepared for wet days also.

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Regardless of the weather you still can get to your destination right? The joy of travelling in Germany can be astonishing, given convenient transportation. Hoop into a train, and try getting lost just to find your way.

 

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Initially, this is the purpose I went to Köln, to meet my brother Kamogelo and friend Amimi. An amazing chill after their final semester exams. The guys enjoying drinking Kölsh. This is Köln´ beer.

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A great stop at the Kölner Dom is a fantastic idea. Perhaps firstly if fit enough to walk some 533 stairs up the top of it and if you want a feel of being in historical or ancient architecture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reunion: Perhaps not a bad idea to meet old friends here too. Paul, Kimon, Kamogelo and I (From back left) meet after a relationship we built working for an non-governmental organisation called Kliptown Youth Program (KYP)

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Once reached the top of Kölner Dom, a nice view from inside of its sharp pointing roof brings in a special high view.
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Beautiful city view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back on low surface to wake on the bridge captured up high above: Hohenzollernbrücke, where love exist through hanging a locker to a beloved someone.

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After long walks, a stop for a Döner is priceless. A Döner is a type of Turkish kebab, made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie found in most parts of Germany. Filling and delicious.

 

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This is a great city to meet people. Often with friendly and funny characters.

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It is also great to meet up with friends who know much a place, showing around and inviting you for a traditional waffle with hot cherries. Simply simple, yet classy.

 

 

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The Kölner Dom is not the only highest point. There are several other sports to smell the fresh air from above. Also, at inexpensive prices or maybe a student discount.

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For chocolate lovers, stop at Lindt´s chocolate museum. See how they manufacture it, its history and learn some facts about the chocolate producing industry. And, get to taste some ´right on the spot made chocolate´

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dip a Lindt chocolate in coffee. The museum also has a restaurant to restore your energy should you have had a city rally.

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The night is young: City lights are on. Funfair, the noise, colours, and young people.

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Lets call it a night after having some bitter lime or lemon.

 

 

 

 

THINGS YOU SHOULD SEE IN AACHEN: MY TOP THREE

Aachen, also known as Spa of Kings, is a city in far middle east of Germany next to boarders of Belgium and Netherlands. Full of student energy. Perhaps, a great city to visit if you miss being on campus or a youth driven atmosphere.  Given the presence of Aachen University, at least 50 percent of people residing there are young and go to the university, while the other half accommodates other people outside this category.

Besides this, I am so trilled how Aachen has an amazing chieftaincy embedded history. This history about it leaves it’s visitors spell bound.

My impression of this city is that should one visit Aachen, these are a must do:

1 Three-Country Point 

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I suspect Aachen feels more or less like a three country boarder place than just typically a city as known. It feels like a city in three countries given its connection and link to Belgium and Netherlands. The Three Country Boarder, know as Drieländerpunkt (in German) is one of the worlds popular triple points. The Three-Country Point is located is located on Vaalserberg (“Mount Vaals”). Vaals is a city on southeastern part of the Netherlands and only 5 km (3.1 mi) west of the city centre of Aachen. There is convenient buses to this location but I think one of the interesting parts of this journey is when you walk through borders on foot. The position where these two countries are separated is interesting to see. Walking for a couple of minutes to the highest point of Vaalserberg can enable you to visit each of these countries from there. There is a tower offering a grand panorama of the surrounding landscape there. You can go to the roof of this tower, which is 300 higher, and have a great view of all these three country at a same time. In addition, there is a symbolic circle where three flags of these countries hanged and people do photography with them. That is a unique experience to be in three different countries and a specific point of time.

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2 Aachen Cathedral

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Talk about a sacred destination. And, this cathedral is an example of one of the most famous occidental architecture. Well according to Aachen´s tourism offices, this cathedral is “It is the coronation church of more than 30 German kings, burial site of Charlemagne, major pilgrimage church and cathedral church of the Aachen diocese since 1930”. And that, when the Emperor Charlemagne built his representative “Pfalz”, the Palace, before 800, he started to make his dream of Aachen as a “new Rome” come true.

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You need not be religious, this site is worth seeing.

Of course there is more than just these two favourite two things I saw in Aachen. The list is endless. For suggestions, I think seeing the The Elisa Fountain would be great. It was a mecca for the royalty of Europe keen to take the cure. Trying a bit of cultural food in Aachen is also ideal. I tried some Aachen Printen, which I bought home too to my host family. This is a kind of hard, spicy biscuit, made in a mould and bearing an imprint of a person or scene. Delicious! They bake it with a delicious mix of cinnamon, aniseed, clove, cardamom, coriander, allspice and ginger (the proportions are secret). Although, I am no fan of cinnamon, I think this is a great flavour combination.

Ending this on a good note, I think I would like to term Aachen as not just a city but a city in three, literally cutting across three countries: Germany, Belgium and Netherlands.