Yolandie Horak

Hi, I'm Yolandie! I write, I dabble and I look after a toddler and a grown man. Life is good!

Tips to Help You Adapt After Immigration – Part Two

Yesterday, we chatted about things you could do to make the immigration process easier before you actually get on the plane. Today, we’re going to chat about things you can do to adapt more seamlessly once you get there. This is obviously going to be different for every person, but these are the things that worked for us, or things I now wish we had done.

If you’re planning to move to another country, you’re pretty stressed and anxious especially in the weeks before you leave. Personally, this was amplified by the fact that my husband had to leave before my kid and I could, so that made me freak out more than a little. I had a horrible flight experience, which gave me super saiyan mode anxiety on its own. You kind of expect to have just as much stress in the first few days after you arrive, right?

For me, this wasn’t the case. Upon arriving, I felt amazing (when the airsickness let up and I’d eaten/slept). For the first few weeks, everything was rosy. The weather was fabulous, sightseeing was great and it all felt like an amazing vacation in a new country. Along with that, domestic life just went on. Okay, so it felt like the kind of holiday where you hubs still works and you still have to cook and clean. Haha. But I mean, we were just soaking up new experiences and relaxing as much as we could after the drama and tons of things that needed to be done before we left.

Then reality sunk in. We had left everything we’d ever known. This is how we survived and are still surviving.

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Tips to Help You Adapt After Immigration – Part One

Can you fathom this: Jan’s officially been in Germany for 6 months, and Kayla and I will have made the 6-month mark on the 25th of Feb. Mind. Blown. I bet I’ll say this with every milestone, but I can’t comprehend that it’s been ONLY six months. It feels like we’ve been here forever.

Obviously, the people in South Africa (and some who read the blog) want to know how we found this first chunk of time. How did we survive? Do we have tips? Would we do anything differently? So, after thinking about it for a bit, I came up with some things that made our life easier and some things that could have.

I also bet that this post contains some helpful tips for tourists, so, if you’re planning a vacay in some other country, there may be something in here for you. Because I have so much to say on the subject, I’m splitting the post into two parts. Today we’ll talk about what to consider before you leave and next time will focus on what to do once you get there.

Let’s get started.

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Go Fish

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Continuing on the other day’s shape-thing‘s wave, my mom made a second cool gift for Kayla. This one is a fishing dam with glittery fish and fishing poles.

And it’s just as easy to make and effective at occupying little hands as the shape-a-ma-jig.

What makes this one great is that Kayla can fish on her own or one of her parents can join her. She loves fishing with Mom or Dad and then mimics what we do. If we catch a green or purple fish, she’ll aim for one of the same colour. The concentration on her face is priceless too.

Once again this is a great teacher of colour and awesome for fine motor skills. It also installs concepts about magnetism and movement, because Kayla realises now that when she moves the fishing pole too much (AKA wildly), she can’t catch fish. She knows she has to move it slowly. Slow is a big thing for a two-year-old. 😛

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Fun Shapes for Kids

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When my folks came to visit, my mom brought some cool hand-made gifts for Kayla. I mentioned in a post that I would share more about these gifts with you, so I’m doing that now.

As a mom of a two-year-old who still has her own things to do and ambitions in life, I’m always looking for educational and effective ways to keep my kid busy so I can see to other things. The house doesn’t clean itself, after all. Note to self, I really need to invest in a Roomba.

Anyway. My mother had this genius idea to make Kayla a shape chart? A shape puzzle? It’s a shape-a-ma-jig. She probably found it on Pinterest, knowing my mom, but I’m giving her full credit for this awesome invention. And the best part is you can make it too. You’re welcome. 😛

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First Snow

Coming from Johannesburg, I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t seen real snow before in my life. Sure, there were two occasions, but I’ve never seen enough of it to cover the ground. This is why moving to Europe had me hopeful for some snow this winter.

Of course, it doesn’t really snow in our part of Germany. According to all of the people we know who have lived here all of their lives, it only snows here once every three or four years, and then never for more than three days at a time. This year, the forecasts for snow were few and far between, and the locals never believed it would really snow.

Until one fateful morning.

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Current Chaos – The Editing Game

So, it’s finally happened. I got the notes back from my editor a while ago and since then, only writing has been on my mind.

Let me first fill you in. I went through a bit of a bad patch last year with an editor. Not because of bad critique, but because of the complete lack of critique (there were only a handful of corrections throughout the entire novel). I don’t want to make a bad situation worse by muddying someone’s name. But I will say that when you pay someone for a service and they don’t provide that service at all, anyone would be angry.

Taking the step to hire an editor is a big one. Anyone in a creative field – or any field where your work will be dissected and scrutinized – will know how difficult it is to trust someone with your creative baby. Editors are there to tell you where you screwed up, whether it concerns grammar to characters acting crazy. It’s their flipping job to pull your work apart and tell you where you can improve it. THAT is what you pay them for.

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Random Vacation Photos

This post is to show you all of the vacation photos that didn’t make it into other blog posts. Because if you know my family at all, you’ll know that very little is ever done without cellphones or cameras in the air, clicking away. Pictures or it didn’t happen, right?

So here are some of the ones that you haven’t seen already. Enjoy.

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New Year in Germany

img_7533We used to live in a country where fireworks are illegal. So imagine our surprise when we first saw different kinds of fireworks for sale in basically any shop you can imagine in Germany. Here, it’s a massive tradition to shoot fireworks on New Year’s eve (more than anywhere else I’ve ever heard of). The people believe that they’re shooting all the bad stuff from the last year away, so they can start the New Year on a clean slate. This means that millions of Euro’s are shot into the air, in one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I’ve seen in my life.

Being as crazy about animals as I am, it did freak me out more than a little that they were firing so many crackers and fireworks, while so many people have pets here. I bet they pay just as much in animal sedatives as they spend on the actual fireworks.

Before Kayla went to bed, we took her outside and lit some sparklers for her. She slept through the firework display by some miracle. I still have no idea how.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Schloss Burg

20151230_100958Everybody who knows me is aware of my absolute fascination and obsession with castles. There is something mystical and magical about castles and the age they were constructed in.  I often find myself at the base of one of these structures and I wonder how it’s even possible that they exist. How did those people with their ancient technology manage to build these massive, MASSIVE buildings and have them survive the passing of time.

Schloss (German word for castle) Burg was the first castle I’ve seen in its particular style. Unfortunately, the larger part of the castle was destroyed in a siege and was left to decay for a long time after that. It was restored in the 1920’s and is now a museum and tourist attraction. More on the history of it here.

We chose one of the coldest days of the vacation to visit this incredible place, but though our fingers were freezing, we had a blast. Painted ceilings, suits of armour, potsherds and ancient weapons fill the interior spaces. And once we were done exploring, we had a lovely waffle at the Wafflehouse.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Amsterdam

20151229_104417While my folks were here, we spent a day in Amsterdam. The last time I was there, the place absolutely stole my heart. I mean, it’s not only beautiful, but the people were incredibly warm towards us and understood when we spoke Afrikaans. I loved the sights there.

This time was no different. I still love the vibe in Amsterdam, the amazing beauty of the place and the friendly people. What got me down was the sheer amount of people. 😛 With the holidays around the corner at that stage, Amsterdam was packed to overflowing. In fact, I remarked on more than one occasion that the entire population of Amsterdam (almost 800 000 people) were in the city plain at the exact same moment. It felt that way for sure.

The other difference between my first and second visits to Amsterdam was the weather. The last time we were there it was all sunshine and warmth. This time it was pretty much freezing. Did that take away from the experience? No.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Aachen

Aachen is a beautiful town in Germany on the border with Belgium. It’s one of those typical European places, with the most beautiful building style and cobbled streets. The Aachener Dom is a picturesque cathedral, though not nearly as magnificent as the Cologne Cathedral. It’s still pretty though. It was being renovated on our visit, so we hope to go back one day when the renovations are complete.

Aachen is famous for the printen biscuits. It’s a type of soft Lebkuchen (gingerbread), sweetened with honey or syrup and often covered in chocolate or marzipan. Some varieties are decorated with various fruits and nuts. This stuff? Amazing. Like seriously, amazing. I’m not a gingerbread fan overall, except where my mother in law’s gingerbread cookies are concerned, and then I only want them on a good day. But the printen biscuits are seriously yummy. We got ours from the prettiest bakery you’ll every lay your eyes on, the Nobis Bakery near the cathedral.

To round off our visit in Aachen, we made a stop at the Lindt factory.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Cologne Cathedral

Am I addicted to great architecture and lead-glass installations? Why, yes, I sure am.

That statement means cathedral and church-hopping is on my A-list of things to do and sights to see. The Cologne Cathedral (Or Kölner Dom, as the Germans call it) is AH-MAZE-ING. It is, without any trace of a doubt, the biggest structure I have seen in my life.

The Gothic style has always been one of my favourites. The detail, arches, gargoyles and just everything about it screams to me, and I feel a deep affinity with it. The Kölner Dom does not disappoint. The structure took over 600 years to build (with a time of rest included in that period) and was only complete for a short time before the Second World War, which saw it heavily damaged by bombings. The tall peaks of the cathedral were easy targets in the war, so it was often attacked. This tragedy means that a lot of the structure as it now stands is the work of modern repair, clearly distinguishing the original stones from the new ones.

Having said that, the building is still absolutely majestic and unbelievable. The sheer mass of it is mind-blowing and has already inspired magical stories in the back of my mind. I would recommend it to any lover of architecture and anyone else who wants to be awed. It’s absolutely worth the trip.

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My Weekend in Pictures – Fun with my Folks

The title should probably have read ‘all the same places’, because that’s where we went. But we wanted to show my parents the places we like to go, so that means Christmas markets. We had some delicious gluhwein and gluhbeer, some traditional food and sausages, and just enjoyed the sights. The only difference is the vast amount of people that showed up since we saw the same sights with Willem. If you thought it was busy then, you were wrong. It’s like an anthill now.

My mom brought Kayla a variety of home made gifts (great fun for the kiddies!!) and Kayla adores it. Her favourite is a felt fishing pond and fish. I’ll do a post on this specifically if you want it, but it’s so simple to make and it keeps her busy for long stretches of time. Thanks Mom!

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Dortmund Christmas Market

Yeah, I know. ‘Yesterday‘ ended up being a week. Humblest apologies. Our pictures with Willem from the Christmas market at Dortmund will feature today.

Can I just say that I love Christmas markets? One thing we’ve noticed fairly quickly here is that Christmas celebrations in South Africa pail in comparison to those in Germany. Goodness, the people here go all out. I love the lights, the vibe, the gluhwein and the general feeling in the streets. Not even the rain can bring the people down from their reindeer-driven Christmas sleds. It’s awesome! We’re taking my folks to see it for sure.

The Christmas tree in the market is made up of 1700 individual fir trees and is 45m high. It has about 48000 lights!

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Geronimo

I’ve been in a weird place for too long now.

I used to adore blogging, but in the last year, I’ve struggled to keep it up. I don’t know what to write about a lot of the time, and the other times I don’t have the drive to sit down and write something here. To be fair, it’s been a weird year for me. 😛 But I realise I need to get my head in the game again.

My interest in makeup has been more personal over the last while, so I haven’t been sure exactly what to blog about when it comes to that topic. Besides, you can only write about the same old trends (*insert no-makeup-makeup or red lips here*) and ways to apply a smoky eye so many times. I did it for three years (or however long it was), every day. You run out of ideas. Haha. Besides, I think there are some amazing blogs to follow about beauty trends for the ‘die hards’ out there; ones that are quite frankly better than mine ever was.

I got some bad feedback last year sometime and I’ve been kind of afraid to blog about things other than my personal life or makeup since. It’s been holding me back and I know I need to build a bridge and get over that one. I’ve always had hoards more interests than just beauty stuff and I love sharing things I enjoy with other people. I still just want to write.

Maybe a change is in order?

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Amazing Fun in Oberhausen

Continuing from yesterday, I’m going to share more pics with you from my brother in law’s visit.

On Sunday we went to CentrO’s Christmas Market and on Monday we visited an amazing indoor kid’s playground in Oberhausen. Kayla had a blast, but I have to admit that we ‘adults’ had just as much fun. I know a few people who would love it there too (AKA Franco and Lorenzo). We’ll definitely be going back there when my folks arrive.

We had some yummy treats at the Christmas Market and I bought my first gifts for my loved ones back in SA. Here are some shots of that.

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Playground Fun and Christmas Markets

Hiya folks!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a visit from my brother in law. It’s been amazing to catch up and explore Germany together, with the added bonus that Jan’s taken a few days off to spend with us. We’ve done all kinds of awesome things, and before we head out again for the day, I want to share some of the things we got up to over the weekend.

Today’s post will share photos from Friday and Saturday. We spent some time in a playground on Friday and went to Essen’s Christmas market on Saturday. Limbecker Platz has the coolest Christmas décor, with a massive Christmas ball made up of balls hanging from the ceiling. I also had my first gingerbread latte from Starbucks on Saturday. Can you say ah-may-zing!?

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Three Months – The German Chronicles

It’s probably about time I give you an update on how things have been here in Germany. It’s been almost three months now (we’ll reach the official 3 mark month on the 25th of November) and a lot has happened in that time.

First of all, we’re going to stay in the furnished short-term rental for a while longer. I’ve mentioned that finding a permanent place has been a struggle and this is still the case. But at this point in time, I don’t mind. We’ve settled in here and we like it. The neighbours are amazing people, we’re close to shops and the train station, and there are some pretty great parks in the area too. With the idea that we’re staying here, the knot in my stomach has loosened. It’s less stressful when you’re not constantly worrying about where you’re going to move to next.

Overall, we’re adapting.

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TGC – Why we Decided to Immigrate

This wasn’t some overnight, half-baked scheme. Oh no. Years went into this endeavour of ours. Years.

You see, my brother in law left South Africa in the year Jan and I got married (2008). He quit his job and set out to London a month later, just following his gut. I’ve always admired him for just doing it and not looking back. It isn’t an easy thing, just packing up and leaving, but he did it and made it work.

About a year after we got married, Jan and I decided that we wanted to go too. There are various reasons for this decision now, but at the time, it was a general kind of thing. There was some political turbulence around that time and it scared us. (Africa is always in a state of political turbulence, no matter which side of the Equator you look, known fact. :P) Make no mistake, we love South Africa. We grew up there, we speak two of the 11 languages, we knew how things worked. The people are our people. The food and traditions are our food and traditions. This was our entire circle of reference.

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What’s Different? (TGC)

The question I get asked most at the moment is “How different is living in Germany from living in South Africa?”

The answer is, it’s different. But seeing as so many people don’t like the vagueness of that statement, I thought I’d quickly highlight the basics. Or at least the things that stand out to me.

1.) The Obvious Things.

This includes the language (see #2), the weather, the building style, culture. The weather, for example, is like a toddler here, fluctuating between an array of possible moods (if I can call weather moody). It can be sunny one moment and rain the next, just before the wind rolls in and blows away all of the clouds in minutes. In half an hour, it might rain again.

Un. Pre. Dict. Able.

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My First Week in Germany! (TGC)

Wow. Here we are, aren’t we? Last week this time, I was getting ready to get on a plane. I was a bundle of nerves mixed with insane excitement. Since then, a lot of people have asked how we are and if we’re adapting.

The answer is good and yes. But I’ll get there.

The flight was interesting. First of all, Kayla apparently likes flying about as much as I do. This means not a bit. It also means she was crying and moaning basically constantly, didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and was soaked with sweat for the entire flight. Also, a lot of things went wrong.

For example, I had to handle Kayla and two hand luggage bags, as well as Barney (where could any parent of a toddler possibly dare to go without a Barney toy?) on my own at all of the airports where we landed. Both of us were airsick, so I skipped breakfast. Not a smart move, as I’d later discover. At Frankfurt airport, I had to be patted down at passport control, because Kayla refused to let go of me for an instant to be scanned. This meant stripping down and having my shoes and things scanned too. It also made me late for my flight.

Now, at this point, both Kay and I were exhausted. Neither of us had slept on the flight and I was still nauseous. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Jan had taken a train to meet us at Frankfurt and fly the last part with us to Dusseldorf. I clung to this, knowing everything would be OK once we were together again. I promised Kayla over and over again that she’d see her daddy there.

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The German Chronicles – an Update

I’ve been without a computer for a while now and I’ve barely switched on my laptop. It’s been so hectic here that I’ve only visited social media sites maybe three times in the last week and a half. I would say I’m sorry, but I haven’t had time to be sorry since we moved into my in-law’s place on the 2nd.

I wanted to update you on the German-move, which is why I’m popping in today.

Last night, my husband got on a plane without me and Kayla. While his visa is obviously ready and currently in use, mine and Kay’s isn’t. We have no indication of how long it will be, because the allotted time-span they initially gave us has now been lengthened greatly.

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The German Chronicles – What’s it Like?

People want to know how I feel and what I think at the moment. As in “Is it difficult to pack up and leave?” or “What’s going through your mind?” or “Aren’t you sentimental about the stuff you’re leaving behind?” One I get a lot is “I’m too attached to my family to leave them behind.”

Ouch.

Because what you’re basically saying is that I’m not attached to the people we’re leaving in South Africa. You’re wrong.

But let’s start at the beginning. My mind is an explosion at the moment. It’s a stormy and weird place, with things moving around like a whirlpool. On the whole (AKA non-moving, normal Yolandie), I’m borderline mad. Add the stress, the goodbyes, packing up what we own and still having to be a mom to an almost-two-year-old, plus day-to-day life, and it gets… well… chaotic. I feel like a lunatic at the moment.

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The German Chronicles : Our Experience with the German Embassy

If you didn’t pick up on it in the title, I’m going to call the posts relating to our move to Germany ‘The German Chronicles’. Hope you like it. 🙂

Obviously, one of the first things you do when you go to a new country is to get a visa. Or not, depending on what country you’re coming from. In South Africa specifically, the visa thing is required. It’s also one of the most difficult countries to get a visa. Believe me.

We were forewarned that the German Embassy is very effective, but very strict. “If you have only one page missing, they turn you away,” we were told. Before this, we had been to the English and French Embassies, so we had a little something to compare it to.

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Confessions of a Writing Addict

I’m obsessive. Very, very obsessive. It’s just the way I’m wired. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll probably recall other instances where I’ve admitted to this flaw in my personality. Maybe it isn’t always a flaw, but still.

Just the other day, I told you that my new novel is done. I wrote the whole thing in seven weeks, and that includes a complete revamp of the plotline and a mini write-over when I’d gotten to chapter 17 (which is just short of halfway through). Even if you add the actual planning stage of the novel, it puts me at just over three months. Sure, the idea for the novel came to me even while I was writing The Queen’s Fury, but I only started my research and plotline drafting in February.

You would think that the sight of a keyboard would send shivers of repulsion down my spine at the moment, wouldn’t you? I mean, honestly.

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This Mothering Thing

I often wonder when the exact point is when a person becomes a mother. And I don’t mean the ‘having the kid’ part. I mean the internal shift to ‘mothering’. Is there a moment when you suddenly just know instinctively what to do? Do you have to learn how to mother? It’s probably different for everyone, so I can’t claim to know the answer.

What I do know is that I was that woman who never handled babies before they were at least three months old. I never changed another kid’s diaper (and I still haven’t) and I gladly gave them back to their mommies when the tears started coming (and I still do).

And then I had my own kid. I was terrified before she was born, because I had so little experience with babies. What if I couldn’t dress her, because she’d be so little? What if that I sucked at changing diapers or couldn’t bathe her? What if she cried and I couldn’t soothe her? What if I couldn’t feed her? What if she woke up in the middle of the night and I didn’t? What if, what if, what if?!?!

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