KARLSHAGEN, USEDOM: A STORY IN PICTURES

Life is better at the beach, they said. I second and can resonate with this. Some 3 days visiting Karlshagen, Usedom for great access to the Ostsee through just a walk from the hotel was freshing.

Some rain, salt water, shells, and the sand, all I needed after o overdue period of being sick with an unknown allergy. I suppose going to Ostsee, was, like my girlfriend says, a purificaion process. Rather, a process of healing like it was it was done years as a place for people not feeling well would visit for regaining health.

One the perks was visiting one of my fourth European country, Poland, included among:
Belgium
Netherlands and
Germany

I did this on a raining Saturday travelling from Karlshagen to Świnoujście, [Swinemünde in German] taking a walk and chatting coffee with my girlfriend. Both a city and a seeport located on the north-west of Poland, seemingly wrapped in what is categorised to be what is to be the “norm”. More like Ostsee, a version of a layed back place but uncertain to visit if you a person of colour. Tourist attracting but still boxed into what seems to be a not mullticultural or racial, for a black person getting attention for just being black.

Otherwise, an location refreshing and a great escape from the city.  Life is better at the beach indeed.

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Frohe Weihnachten: Beyond my expectations

It is not always ideal to think Christmas is better spent white. Like depicted on the television with snow all over, puffed jackets playing on snow while awaiting a good meal and all the perks that come with this day. Its is often ideal to spend the day with family, be it rainy or sunny. It is perhaps also ideal to spend Christmas with people you are getting familiarised to and all that is linked to them, like culture and language. This too is a great test, with which you can withhold or not. I have underwent it and have withstood the test.

It is literally three months and 10 days. 100 days to be precise.

Initially, I have been contemplating about how spending Christmas and the coming new year without my family for the first time might be like. Without any hassles, my intuition told me that it is going to be fun, given my independence.

I was wrapped and had been looking forward to spending Christmas in southwest, Stuttgart for some 4 days or so. But, will be back in Berlin to end what was an eye opening, fantastic, full of blessings year for me.

My year 2016 would have not being possible without God whom I thank daily. The year started with a big punch after making decisions to pursue my Masters in Journalism which initially got me into doing some editorial work for the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Circle, a formation together with a news online platform The Journalist in University of Free-State (UFS). This was my highlight of how much I love my career and a revelation of how much I can do so much journalism work without being paid. It had been earning bylines and producing good journalism my priority. I found this space testing. But, I have learned so much in a short period of time. It all paid off at the end, helping me build relationships within the Department of Journalism, Film and Television (JFT) at the University of Johannesburg and of course The Journalist´s newsroom at large.

Along side this, I devoted myself to learning more about civil organisations and activism. I then joined and become a part of Right2Know Campaign from late 2015. What a wonderful space to be and to engage. I have relatively focused on humanitarian work in all my interests, working with NGO´s such as Kliptown Youth Programme (KYP). I feel accomplished!

It seems to have been a productive year after all. Plus, landing myself in Germany to continue on humanitarian work, volunteering at Waldorfpädagogik Havelhöhe e.V has been a cherry put on top. This is were my German language skills are sharpened and improving too. This is were I am also gaining global understand of the world.

Nonetheless, I am not limited to this place I call my external community. With this I mean, where I am known and it feels like home. Like my host family, which I has sort to understand me over the time I have known them, how beautiful has it been for me to know them.

Although I find myself not so expressive but I am conscious of this friendly space I find myself into. This Christmas has been the least expected. I am not one to have a lot of expectations anyway.

And, these are the fantastic gifts I got for Christmas:

A pair of Dr.Martens boots

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I am of the assumption that the people I live with pretty much understand me thus far. I suspect their kindness is a gesture of making me feel home all the time and I have nothing more but appreciation. My intended Dr.Martens collection starts now. This is one of the best gifts I have ever got in my life.

My H&M hoddy and body cosmetics 

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This is courtesy of a nine year old I will call A*, whom together with her mother, a sister of my host mother bought me. They too seem to be paying attention to what I might like for instance they spotted that I like wearing black. They then got me a black hoddy. The sister of my host mother got me body cosmetics. I guess I am sorted for the next coming months on these.

Chocolate for the sweet toothed 

It is a season of good food and candy. Within my presents, I also got plenty of chocolate to get me going. Lindt chocolates, home made chocolates, you name it.

Winter stuff

As some of you may know, it is winter in Germany. Often rainy at times and sometimes dry. I have been blessed once again with a pair of gloves and knitted socks to keep me warm. Not once have I got a pair of gloves. Last month during my birthday I got a very nice pair which I accidentally lost one somewhere at Karlsruhe. My heart still bleeds when I think of this glove. My conclusion yesterday after getting a new pair as one of my gifts, I suggested it would be great if my host mother plug them together on my winter jacket like it is done in kindergartens.  This is of course for security purposes.

Some cultural German utensil: 

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I have since ever been fascinated by the German culture of using these looking like chopping boards. In German it is called a “Brett”. It is used when eating bread. Not only have I been fascinated. I have dived into the culture and find these very practical to use. As a gift, its a cherry on top.

After all, it was not so much of an expected Christmas. I got a lot of gifts, with which I have limited on this list. I enjoyed my Christmas and think experiencing it first hand in country side Stuttgart was an awesome experience.

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.

 

 

 

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?

 

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.

WELCOME SEMINAR: HAMBURG, GERMANY 

Every excursion is an opportunity to feed the eyes, to get the brain jogging, then running and to keep awake- Lebogang Mokoena

It was barely so much hours that I was here to be known to my new family. I had to travel to the North West region of Germany called Hamburg for a welcome seminar. 

Although I only had one day since my arrival at the Schad household, I was keen packing for 3 days, going some 4 hours by bus to another place I did not know, seeing new things and meeting new people.  

But, was it worth it? In not much that I can express my joy, it was. 

And some of the most interesting things I did or encountered include: 

1. Travelling with a Spanish native who understands and speaks a little bit of English and German. 

His name is Alejandro. He is my colleague and new friend. He is from Colombia and is also pursuing an exchange program. One perplexing thing is that we really do not speak the same language and neither understand each other so well, but at least and maybe to some exten a few things. This for me at the same time is amazing. It made me understand that communication can be negotiated if communicators involved get to some kind of agreement. 

So how do we communicate?  We either try speaking in our basic German skills. When traveling to Hamburg we basically used our hands to illustrate and more interesting,  we drew . Some of our conversations are in drawings and this became a really health joke to some of our new friends at the seminar. I am happy that we cracked this joke and, I am happy to have met Alejandro. Dispite our differences, we have found a common ground. And that is drawing. 

2. Meeting new people

I meet more than 30 amazing young people at the seminar. I am happy to have been in endless conversations about South Africa, learning the German language, and spending the year here. Sharing our stories was great. 

3. City Rally

As part of the seminar we were given an activity to explore Hamburg in groups of 5’s through a city rally. Something like the Amazing race in the United States or elsewhere. We have a starting point, regulations, tasks to complete like taking pictures of certain specific things, finding out who the name of secretary’s name in Hamburg’s biggest hotel is, buying an egg, going to a bar and taking a picture there, creating videos and audios of specific content, etcetera. Once done the first group to arrive at the starting point is the winner. Unfortunately my group did not win but I loved every minute of it especially going up and down using the bus and train with a group card. I really enjoyed moving around and checking out all sorts of things.  

3. The convenience of public transport 

So on Saturday our exchange program organisation, World Horizon initiated that we go out at 20:45 for drinks. We travelled with an underground train (U-Bahn as commonly known here) which to my surprise was full at that time. People were travelling as though its broad dY light. The night was young, I just silently thought to myself. Coming back again at about 2 a.m. the train was still full of people. I know I barely back at home probably trying to cover some academic or newsroom deadlines but this was eye opening.  I really found it convenient for people to be travelling at that time of the day without hassles of how how they are going to get home.  This is really super cool. 


The night is really young here. Nights here are babies.  So young. 

For my first excursion here, I must say, my eyes are feed. But, this is only the beginning of it all. 

 

MY FEET ARE IN BERLIN, GERMANY

A global perspective. I am privileged to tell my story and to be afforded the ink to pen my journey in Potsdam/ Berlin,  Germany. 

You are probably wondering why am I here. After close to two years of having an interest in learning the German language and back to back pursuing what I have termed humanitarian work, particularly working with primary school children at various non-govermental organisations, I found myself motivated to spend a year overseas to expand this interest I have. In a general way, to serve others, and to some extent, to also bring in some positive impact. 

Through an exchange social service I am given the opportunity to do so. 

The year hopefully will come with the perks of learning the Germany culture and many other things. 

All these are many more other things I aim and intend show casing on this blog and I hope you find much interest in reading my posts. 

Recapping on my arrival, my first day is still well tattooed in my head with a very clean air weather, a super warm welcome, great food and more big smiles. 

I am writing this post literally after 10 thinking that I will wake up from this beautiful dream. I just realised, it is o dream, my feet are in Berlin. 

And this is my first impressions about getting here: 

1. Meeting my host family: Julia, Friedamann and their two amazing , funny and free spirited daughters, Sarah (14) and Hannah (12). They have made feel like I am home and indeed it is home. Their kindness and loving care has put a smile on my face ever since I got here, endless laughter and getting to know one another.  

2.Food: delicious bread- I am yet to eat different types of food here, which I have started exploring but I must say, the bread is on point and maybe every day can be bread day. 

3. Attending a welcome seminar at Hamburg.  This was a fantastic eye opening 3 days immediately when I got here. I met a lof people, city exploring and going out was lit. It was worth it. I will be sharing on this shortly. 🙂 

4. Going to my workplace – it often a bit nerve racking to go to your workplace during first days but I have been so curious about getting myself started and going so quick.  I was introduced to my workplace by my host mother who is a manager there the very same day I got here. It was great to meet the children and new colleagues.  

My first day was really lit. I enjoyed it. I not in a dream. This is really happening. I am on a path to having my slice of a global perspective.