LETS FLIP A PAGE AND TALK REALITIES OF LIVING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY

Travel is a privilege. And, most likely a dream to majority of people in the world. We create bucket lists, wishing we could be at a certain place at a certain time. It all fun once you are into it. Travel is indeed fun. But, how often do writers express realities and challenges they may be facing in foreign countries? Not many. With this entry, I intend switching to an open discussion about realities you might face if you intend staying for a long-term in a foreign country.

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I find it distinctive to talk about short and long term stays in foreign countries. When travelling some where for a short period of time you are insusceptible (unaffected by) the routines, ways-of-doing, and the lifestyles at large, of your new surroundings unlike one would if they intended being in a new community for a long term. By long term I mean at least staying away from home 6 months and or more. So basically when you aim staying for a long term, you turn to be driven and sharpened by the intense need to be a part of the culture, language and everything linked to the people which is directly embedded in their society. Meaning, when you stay in a foreign country for a long term, there is often the need to absorbed into the culture and language to understand how everything functions.

Although the process of learning another culture and a new language is often fulfilling, there are factors that either affect your motivation and interest to learn. There are challenges that can change your pace or even perceive everything in the process. These factors are often not considered by those you have found common ground. But generally, there are things that you may find challenging other than being a short-term tourist who often does not concern themselves with setting up utilities  at a place they are staying.

In my view I think challenges one would often face include the following:

  • Language barriers

Foremost, I think it is important to learn basics of a language of a country you intend staying in for a long term. I learned German for two years while I was pursuing my first two degrees with the University of South Africa and University of Johannesburg. Although I had limited time due to my devotions therefore. I particularly learned a lot of vocabulary to help me through basic things like introduction myself, talking about food, house hold things, asking questions, for example, about where the toilet is and so forth. It has been practical to helping me hear the language far better. Although the process of speaking the language can also be another thing. Speaking and trying to learn the vocabulary and grammar can both be acquired differently. The two can actually be learned either simultaneously or either one can be a weakness while the other is a strength. These develop differently depending on people ,countries and the languages. Personally so to say, I found myself to be a good learner through out my life but I have been challenged to learning the German language. The challenge is healthy and I know at times there turns to be excitement with what I can already say and understand so far.

I also think besides the language barrier, there is more than language itself that can hinder one from learning and developing at a good pace. For instance, I think I am improving daily but often think my developing can often be affected by pressure I get from people to speak. I am of the view that, because I myself speak four other South African languages fluently plus English, one can learn a new language by just listening. The practicality can be fully be supported by people´s receptions. I mean, how they make you feel when attempting to speak (positive or negative) and they generally view you as an individual. Another practical example is I find easy to speak broken German with the kids because their receptions is one that is less judgemental and sympathetic. In fact, laugh it off and tell you how to say something correctly.

The need to speak then becomes practical to help you absorb the sentence construction and grammar and not to forget it. But pressure let alone, can shutter you knowledge of what you already know. For example, I can read and write so much German and often join words I know to make sense of what a person is saying but I often cant respond promptly because the spotlight is on me. This can be emotional and mentally tiring.

And, the more intolerant native speakers of a particular language are, not trying their best to step into your shoes, to sympathetic like children would be and also not trying to apply practical things to help you in the process, language can certainly put you on a damper (obstacles) on your day-to-day interactions.

Nonetheless, a solution is finding fun in a new language. For example, I think the German language is not only challenging to learn but it has power in it and when I speak using the power that the words carry, internalising what I say, its fun. Going out with people who are also learning or often want to learn another language from you like English is a good idea. Because not only are you all learning but are imparting knowledge to no other.

  • Loneliness 

This obviously depends on whether you are extroverted or introverted. Thanks to internet for the ability of staying in touch with family and friends back home. Although I would not advice resorting to internet as a good thing, it can also help one communicate with new friends for meet ups or catching up for coffee. The problem of loneliness is that it can either separate you from the real world, constantly influencing you to being a virtual being and not connecting with others in your presence.

The best way to deal with this problem is developing a link of people and developing conversational skills. For example, I have a link of journalists from different parts of Germany whom I can meet depending on which part I am visiting. These are people I can also ask for advises if necessary and ask them to teach me other things in the language. The process of learning is not limited to specific people like at work or home. A network of people can be a group of people who allow you to be just you and to learn whatever way possible.

  • Culture shock 

What is import to note is that you are unlikely to able to change social established customs, no matter how you might have great intentions. Depending on the country or even place, you might find out that people do not greet each other so much. Sometimes even when you have said ´hi´ to them. Or even do not bother to say ´thank you´. Sometimes it might feel like you need to pay a price to acting differently from everyone.

Doing a lot of research before staying in a country can be worth it but much of it can make sense in context. Learning in context more is better because you can observe and understand things from a particular point of view. For example, how do people wear, how do people tip at restaurants, how people treat issues like littering, how people behave on a diner table, etc.

In conclusion, I think what is important is to keep focus on your path despite all challenges. It is through these challenges that you can comprehend people of a specific community and the world at large.

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.

VOICES: PUTTING VOLUNTEERS ON THE MAP

Yet other perspectives. We are all about a good cause. How many of us have actually devoted ourselves or rather our time to leaving our homes just to serve and not be served, to give a helping hand with whatever necessary and often to do so in spaces that are not even part your career or even your career? Well, I have and I am proud to have went out in my comfort zone, so to say to a volunteer for a year. Alongside, is colleagues who are also on the same cause in different parts of Germany from Colombia, Ecuador, India, Peru, Nicaragua and South Africa. We spend 5 days at Karlsruhe, Germany at a political seminar particularly made for volunteers. Within the safe created space, I got chances to have great chats. Included, I conducted vox pops to get the standpoints about volunteering in Germany thus far.

“So war es mit Reise: eine Stadt gibt dir Geschenke, eine andere raubt dich. Man gibt dir die Zuneigung des Herzens, die andere zerstört deine Seele. Städte und Länder sind so lebendig, wie Gefühl, so unbeständig und unsicher wie die Menschen. Ihre Grade der Liebe und der Hingabe sind so unterschiedlich wie bei jeder menschlichen Beziehung. So wie einer gut ist, ist ein anderer schlecht.”– Roman Payne

“This was how it was with travel: one city gives you gifts, another robs you. One gives you the heart’s affections, the other destroys your soul. Cities and countries are as alive, as feeling, as fickle and uncertain as people. Their degrees of love and devotion are as varying as with any human relation. Just as one is good, another is bad.”― Roman Payne

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Alejandro Giraldo (22) 

Country: Cali, Colombia 

Volunteering at Waldolfpädagogik Havelhöhe e.V in Berlin 

1 English: Why did you choose to volunteer service in Germany?German: Warum hast du dich fafür entschieden, einen Freiwilligendient in Deutschland? Spanish: ¿Por qué decidió ser voluntario en Alemania?  

I am volunteering in Germany because I believe that visiting other countries is good for us. I can be independent and develop new perspectives about the world, to know new people,  to learn new languages, and that is a good for our souls.

2 How do you like Germany? Wie gefält die DE? Te gusta aqui?  

What I like about Germany is that there is so much comfort from work. There are also many people from other countries. So we can learn other cultures.  Also, I think Germany is a country in relatively  good social order. Compared to my home country,  I like it here.

3 Was sind deine Zukunfspläne und welche Erfahungen möthtest du nach hause mitnehmen? Cuáles son sus planes para el futuro y lo que la experiencia que quieren llevar a casa? What are your future plans and what do you hope to gain from this experience?

For my future plans, I would like to go to university to study Biology. I believe to be here [Germany] I will make new experiences which I can then take back in my country and will be able to a lot, as this opportunity will afford me other opportunities.

4 What do you think is the best thing about Germany?  Was ist deiner Meinung nach das Beste an Deutchlsnd? Que te parce que es lo mer jor en Alemania? 

I find Germany financially stable. While people here have different financial abilities, there is not so much poverty and depending on backgrounds some people receive state-related support.

 5 What do you think is not the best best thing about Germany? Was gefällt dir nicht an Deutschland? Qu crees que no es lo mejor en Alemania? 

I sometimes find people here rude. But, not all that I think this is not good. This is not a big problem because not everybody is rude or unfriendly.

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Belkin Soza (28)

Country: Esteli, Nicaragua

Volunteering at Volunteering at Welthaus office in Bielefeld,

1  I was interested to volunteering in Germany to be familiar with Germany and make new experiences in social projects. I find it interesting to work the organisations in Germany, including environmental project.

2 I like here in Germany. The organisational systems in the city, for example. Transport and recycling.

3 My future plans are shared with my experience other people or organisation.

4 Germany supports environmental projects and is a environmental friendly country. Good activities are initiated relating to the environment and that is the best thing I like about this country. It seems to be having a good economy system.

5 The least of the best things about Germany is that there turns to be unfriendly people. Many people live alone. I find this complicated because people then become depressed.

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Bongani Justice Makhubela (27)

Country: Mpumalanga, South Africa

 Volunteering at Welthaus office in Bielefeld 

1 I decided to volunteer in Germany for intercultural exchange, learning a new a language and contributing to international development through the organisation I am volunteering in.
2 So far, everything it is not easy to adapt to a completely new environment so quickly and especially in Germany. In regards to the weather (winter is too cold )but its manageable.  Lets not forget the language. Its not easy to learn but when each and everyday passes it gets better.

3 My future plans are to go back and empower South Africans through the skills and knowledge that I am acquiring here in Germany.

4 The best thing about Germany is the culture, the transport system, educational systems, food and drinks 😉

5 The least best thing about Germany is that most people are not friendly. I also find Germany expensive.

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Debbie Dayana Méndez Vivar (25)

Country: Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Volunteering at a Waldorf kindergarten in Altrip/Mannheim

1 I am volunteering in Germany because I had the opportunity and I took it.  I hope to learn Germany and to know a new culture. I want to be more independent too.

2 Yes, I like Germany. Germany has many beautiful places that you can visit. I always wanted to know the winter and the autumn because I love the cold.

3 After my year of volunteering I would like to study a Master in Finances and to look for a good job.

4 I think that the best thing about Germany is the security. You can walk in the streets peacefully. I love that.

5 I can’t say at the moment if there is something I find the least best. But, the most difficult was in the beginning. The people here are very serious and in Latin America the people are very happy. But that is normal because it is a new culture and all is good.

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Gabriela Sanabria Rodriguez (18) 

Country: Cali, Colombia

Volunteering at CVJM Feriendorf in Herbstein

1 choose to volunteer in Germany because this is a way that open doors for your life. I chose this opportunity because I can gain new experiences with people, find myself, be more independent and improve my German and English.

2 I like Germany so much. Yes sure I miss my country, my family and the food haha [laughing]. But the system here is incredible, trains, supermarkets, the security and the landscapes.

3 My future plans after my volunteer year here are to study and work. I don’t know yet what will I aim studying but with this experience I wanna find this out. I want to travel and know many countries and meet new people so that I can help my family and inspire my brothers that everyone can make their dreams come true.

4 The best thing about Germany is of course the its order. I love this because everything has a place and you can find what you are looking for.

5 I come from another country totally different from Germany. People here are nice and kind but close when you want to know about them. So far, there isn’t a thing I find the worst in Germany but is difficult for me now. But, I am adapting pretty well.

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Dragana Šavrljuga (19)

Country: Derventa Bosnien and Herzegowina

Volunteering at Pax Christi and in Vinzenz-Heim, a facility for people with disabilities in Aachen

1 For several years I have been volunteering in a home for children and young people with disabilities. There I met German volunteers of Pax Christi. I also learned from them about the possibility of making a volunteer service in Germany. To do this was my dream for years. I am always glad when I can help someone.

2 I like Germany very much. When I arrived in Aachen, everything was so familiar to me, even though I had never been here before. I’m always joking about the fact that I’ve lived in Aachen before – but in my previous life. I like Aachen and the people here, and I am very glad that I am here.

3 This year will bring a lot for me. I will not only learn a new language, discover a new culture and a country, get to know new people, make friends and a work experience but this year will be enrich in life experience, which I will never forget.

4 In the future, I would like to work in a facility of people with disabilities. Because I really like that.

5 I like everything here. I’ve never experienced anything bad.

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Jean Olives Age (21)

Country: Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Volunteering at a Waldorf School in Dresden

 1 At first, I choose to volunteer in Germany because I was motivated to learn a new language and to have a new way of thinking. I would like to have a good time. Being a risk taker could be a good way of doing it.

2 One of a kind thing about Germany is the social structure and organising. I find the transport system amazing. I know it is not the best.

3 My future plans including going to the university and at the same time I want to be a business man in the technology sector. I hope to have a good time. I know a lot about it.

4 I am really interested in the beautiful landscape in Germany, the diversity of cultures and dialects in every region. These are the best things about Germany.

5 Sometimes I really got confused how German people handle the relationships in general. I have been in Germany for three (3) now. I always say to myself “I need more time”.

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Jean Paul Zuluaga Campo (19)

Country: Cali, Colombia

Volunteering at Waldorfschule Everswinkel in Münster

1 I choose to volunteer in Germany simply because I wanted to learn a new language and a new culture.

2 Yes I like it here. I do because I find many interesting things that help me to grow up as a person.

3 After a voluntary year in Germany I hope to gain independence and maturity. I am interested to study here.

4 The best think I find about Germany is the punctuality and order.

5 So far, I think that Germany has nothing bad.

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Maria Fernanda Bolaños (19)

Country: Cali, Colombia

Volunteering at a Waldorf School in Mannheim

– I decided to volunteer in Germany because I presented myself to the opportunity and it seemed like a good opportunity to open my mind and to enter into to studying a new language, to know and to learn a little of another culture.

-I like the order. Here you can [go out or explore] without fear of things being stolen or something really happening. I love the order of this country.

-My future plans include studying. I would like to study Chemistry. Out my my experience here, I hope learn and if possible, to implement interesting things that I have seen here and also to possibly study here.

-The best thing I find in German is order.

-I still do not feel covered to say the worst. I’m still in a stage of recognition.

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Mansi Sheth (26)

Country: India

Volunteers at Deutsch-Indische Zusammenarbeit e.V. in Frankfurt am Main

1 When I heard about abroad, I worked as a translator. I wanted to take a break and try something different. I thought a six-month voluntary service would be a good opportunity.

2 I love the country, the people, the life … everything! The people are so helpful and there is so much to see in Germany!

3 To be honest, I am not 100% sure what I plan to do after volunteering but I would like to work in a multicultural environment. In Frankfurt I always have something to do with people at work, and I like that.

4 What I find the best about Germany is the people, the attitude and mindset, the awareness of many different questions and the possibilities in this country.

5 The least best thing in Germany is the food. For me, the food is a bit mild! But German bread is absolutely delicious!

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Nidhi (27)

Country: India

 Deutsch-Indische Zusammenarbeit e.V. Frankfurt am Main

– I am here through an organisation called DIZ (Deutsche Indien Zusammen Arbeite) which works under the Weltwärts Programme. DIZ has many partner Organisation in India and my church is one of its partners. So, basically there is exchange of volunteers from India to Germany and vice versa. I am here as South North volunteer. I have been to DIZ partner workshop once in India so I there I met its employees or managers. Few moths back I came to know that there is a vacant for 1 South-North volunteer and DIZ’s boss mailed me asking if i would like to volunteer or not. I was not sure at that moment but later I thought okay I should take this experience.

– Germany being a developed country is great in terms of its technological advancement, modes of communications, living standards, education etc. But, I think people here lack that social environment and warmth that I feel in my country. It is so cold and calm  in Germany! People seems to be more formal. I don’t want to be judgemental though. They are doing so much at a time. Aren’t they tired!!… Breath people breath!!!… But I have been fortunate enough to meet really really nice people here.

– I don’t know yet what I want to do after this volunteer service. Actually I am in dilemma of whether I should continue with my studies or look for jobs. Or I’ll come back for higher studies here. Perhaps, I’ll soon figure out. I think this volunteer service has provided me with good opportunities to work in a developed country and I mostly now know how the social and economic system works here and also the work culture. When I compare these to my country I feel like there is so much that we need to do and I hope I could bring a little change at places with the experiences I’ll go back with. Personally too, I have become more self dependent & productive when I think how I used to be earlier. But, its not that everything is good here and I often feel that my country is more socialised and we are happy with few things we have. Nevertheless, I’ll take with me the good things.

– I like how everything is so organised systematic here. People abide by the rules and regulations. They know the value of time. Its clean here and mostly people are conscious of proper waste disposal. Its more safer here than it is if I were to loom around in my country. And what I like most is that there is no hierarchy practised. Usually this is so prevalent in my country. Lastly, here they have numerous mode of transport and are in time.

– I hate Germany’s weather! Its so cold, dark and dull. Some of the food I cannot eat. Sometimes I think German people lack taste buds because some of their food is so bland and tasteless. People here should also learn how to be more social and joyful.

William Vásques (33) *

Country: Esteli, Nicaragua

Volunteering at Käse Hof Landolfshausen, in Göttingen 

  • I am volunteering in Germany because through this program of volunteers I can make great contributions to the development of our cultures. It is also an excellent exchange to learn and share knowledge and experiences at work and in daily activities.
  • For me I find it important to make a connection with a new culture and the organic farming. I think after volunteering here I could work in farm related jobs and then start a project or work on other projects.
  • I like the German culture and the people. I like the education for children and teenagers they have good chances.
  • The best thing about Germany for me is the tranquillity and security that it has always.
  • *William argued that he does not have a response regarding what he thinks is least best thing about Germany*.

The last words are from me. One again…

I go by the name of Lebogang Mokoena (25)

Country: Johannesburg, South Africa

Volunteering at Waldolfpädagogik Havelhöhe e.V in Berlin 

  • For the last four year of pursuing my Bachelor and Honour degrees at both University of South Africa and University of Johannesburg studying Communication Science and journalism, I felt the need to volunteer and make contributions to the community I come from in Soweto. I have therefore worked with children at a primary school called Sefika Primary school and also worked for Kliptown Youth Programme (KYP). This became a space to initiate how I can assist and also met young German volunteers and found an interest to volunteer overseas. I found an interested following wanting to learn German, to have a pause after a devotions to study for my degrees, to the need to explore and simply to gain a global perspective.
  • I like Germany mainly because its a new experience, a different feel, and I am learning a lot. So far, so good.
  • Given that I am had already started pursuing my Masters in Journalism, I would like to complete after this year. I am an aspiring investigative journalist and I would like to work as one. Its not easy to find jobs in investigative journalism particularly if you still do not have a lot of experience but I trust that I can work towards. I am also exploring jobs in media related activism work.
  • I find transport here convenient. Other things I find also best is the German bread, less crime, the support of the state to help people who are less affording and the sharing of wealth to help others.
  • The least of the best things is its inconsistent weather. I also find it relatively expensive compared to South Africa.

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Notes:

These interviews where conducted electronically through English, Spanish and German for purposes of clarity. For purposes of this blog, all these interviews where translated and edited.

Special thanks and Photo credit goes to: Gabriela Sanabria Rodriguez; using an iPhone 6 (vox-pops images only)

* Interviewee requested that his photo not be revealed.

 

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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my-birthday

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.

 

 

 

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?