Boxes and suitcases everywhere. This is my current reality. Those boxes we’re not shipping to Canada are full of stuff for charity. It’s a minefield.
The clutter makes me anxious. It’s a combination of excitement and being totally overwhelmed, so every now and then I find myself disengaging to regain some semblance of focus. I do this sometimes. Browse the internet, read a book (and I’m beta reading a FANTASTIC ONE at the moment), or do a watercolour. Or, in today’s reality, write a blog post.
I’m so sorry I missed Friday’s post! It slipped away from me without my notice. We had my brother and sister in law over for the weekend, a last visit before the big move, and spending time with them got priority over being in front of the computer.
This was also probably the last weekend of fun and relaxation we’ll have for a while. From here on out, it’s going to be paperwork, packing tape and suitcases.
We’ve had precious few sunshine days this past season, so whenever we had even half a chance of catching a ray or two, we were outside. Feeling bolstered by the cloudless day, we hiked to Duisburg Zoo.
We’ve been at the zoo twice before and this is my second blog about it (hence the 2.0). I just couldn’t resist sharing the experience again. There’s even a video this time! As far as zoos go, Duisburg is really worth the trip. We had a blast there, despite the crowds.
Fair warning – this is a long post.
After Friday’s big news, we’ve had a lot of good wishes, emails and questions. I thought I’d address some of those today.
Most people were surprised that we’re so unhappy in Germany, especially considering how happy all of our photo diary posts look. I talked about this briefly on Friday, but one of the main things I’ve learned while living abroad is that you can’t judge people’s lives on an hour Skype session every now and then, or on the photos or blog entries they post online.
Would you believe we’d been living in Germany for almost two years before we went for a stroll in Duisburg (our neighbouring town)? I couldn’t either.
Duisburg is a quiet city with an abundance of fountains in the city centre. Colourful and weird, these fountains create a strange contrast to the ancient buildings in the area. Of course there are some modern buildings too, but the city centre hosts many older structures.
As a teenager, I dreamed of moving to Hollywood. At first, I wanted to act. Who doesn’t? But then, one fateful day, I saw the work of my first idol, Steven Spielberg. More than anything, I wanted to follow in his footsteps and make films. I wrote many brilliant screenplays (they were Oscar winners one and all 😛 ) and the lands over the ocean beckoned.
Little did I know back then that I would end up immigrating, but to a totally different part of the world. Germany. And today is the two-year anniversary of that move.
Well, I’m sure some of the other runners still had their fun, but by the time we reached Düsseldorf, it was coming down in buckets. So much so that my water resistant jacket (and shirt underneath) were drenched and we had to stop to buy something dry and warm to wear.
Jan and Mario would have done one of the weekly parkruns in the city, but both decided they’d give it a skip in the heavy rain. We might give it a try again in a week or two, so you could still see running photos. 🙂
As we had nothing better to do, we went exploring. Indoors.
Life is full of little firsts. A while ago, one of these came up for Kayla, when we took her bowling for the first time.
Jan and I used to love bowling back in SA, but haven’t played in about 5 years. Thinking about it now, that puts the last time we played at before my pregnancy. Sad, but true. Anyway, we thought we’d turn a gloomy, rainy Saturday into one of those ‘remember the time when’ memories and headed out to the Rhein-Ruhr Zentrum to bowl.
Another weekend, another fair.
Let me tell you something about this one, though – it was huge. Everything is bigger and better in Düsseldorf, right? I almost felt bad for the Saarner Kirmes we’d visited the weekend before.
On a cloudy Sunday, we headed to the city to see the fair. Loud music, delicious food scents, bright colours and the screams of thrill-seekers – this is what the fair was all about.
One sunny Sunday, we went to Düsseldorf on a macaron-finding quest. It was France festival, after all, so it would be a likely place to find French sweets, right?
Hundreds of stalls were set up along the River Rhein, with long tables across a narrow walkway, filled with wine and cheese connoisseurs. The brunt of the stalls sold cheese and wine from France, but some also offered crepes, olives and a variety of bread. I counted two pastry stalls, and only one of these sold macarons. Honestly, the ugliest, most unappetising macarons I’ve ever seen.
In the post about those things I love about Germany, I mentioned random fairs popping up at every opportunity. This weekend, we found one of those. 🙂
The Saarner Kirmes set up in our hometown of Mülheim an der Ruhr, on the bank of the River Ruhr (Saarn is a suburb of Mülheim). We wouldn’t even have known of the fair’s existence, had we not went out to lunch. I was in the mood for currywurst, but we couldn’t find a nice place to have that. So, we went in the direction of the river.
By chance, Kayla spotted activity on the far bank. I say chance, but I really mean her fun-radar. That thing is accurate within half a centimetre. 🙂
We’ve been playing house in Germany for almost two years, but friends and loved ones still ask how living here differs from living in South Africa. The first ‘differences’ post was uploaded within the first two months since we moved to Germany, then I told you about some of the strange differences, like the German toilet, and the recent what I love post rounded off the selection of posts on the topic.
Or so I thought.
Have you noticed that people tend to share their bad experiences online, especially in groups on social media? Well, this topic led to the post you’re about to read. A friend of mine read some really negative stuff about immigration on Facebook and I told her not to believe everything she read online. People love to rant on Facebook, after all.
I realised that I’ve been doing the same, even on my blog. I’ve shared the differences between South Africa and Germany, the oddities we’ve encountered here, and even some of the bad experiences we’ve had, but I’ve never talked about what I love.
So, here we are.
Towards the end of April, we visited Grugapark one day. We found ourselves suddenly alone after our fabulous vacation, and needed some TLC. Hence, the visit to the park. We’ve been to Gruga a few times before, but we’d never seen it covered in tulips. Being nature-folk, you can imagine how much we enjoyed this trip!
This is the end. We had a blast, saw amazing things and bonded with our tribe. We miss them terribly. The house is still quiet. Going through all of these photos somehow amplifies that.
But, before I get too soppy, let’s get on with the post.
While I shared all the main events with you, I have hundreds of photos taken on the in-between days. You know, those ones that didn’t involve buying tickets to enter tourist hot-spots. That’s what I’m sharing today.
We love these two cities so much, we’ve visited both before. This was our second time in Maastricht, Netherlands, and also our second visit to Aachen, which is a small German border-town. I can highly recommend both.
This was a lazy Sunday trip and would also be the last warm, sunny day we had while the Groenewalds were here.
There’s a feeling that fills your chest when you round that corner, or take that step out of the train station in Cologne. The first and most undeniable structure in the heart of the city is the Cologne Cathedral – majestic, impossible and awe-inspiring. It claims your every thought and emotion with its sheer size, then slams its hooks into your heart with its gothic spires, stained-glass windows and grotesque gargoyles. You’ll always kind of shiver when you recall this place, never fully capable of wording what it is you felt in the cathedral’s shadow. And an enormous shadow it is.
Well, I’m back.
This vacation was one for the record books. Having friends over was seriously special, and more so because we experienced so many new things together. It was an honour to have them fly half-way around the globe to visit us. All the warm and fuzzies were felt. Having said that, I’ll try to keep the emotions contained while I write this. You know me, a big old softie. 😛 I cry at McDonald’s commercials.
Last year this time, we had maybe an afternoon of sunshine every two weeks. The drizzle was constant, predictable like the beat of my heart. Depressing too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of rain. I come from a place where the thunderstorms are legendary, with rushes of rain like waterfalls and crashing thunder like battles in the sky. Hard rain – I love that. This misty, more-like-wet-wind-than-actual-rain? Hate it.
Still, it left its mark. Last year this time, everything was green. Some trees had already started to blossom and the air smelled sweet and earthy. Spring showers (showers, ha) transformed our surroundings to something magical – something Johannesburgers aren’t used too. I mean, Jozi is awesome, but doesn’t have the same amount of trees and forested areas as we do here in Germany.
With the weather in Germany finally turning, we’ve been seeing some sun. Though, that thought barely crossed my mind when the rain arrived. As I type this, it’s dristing outside. No, that’s not a word. It’s a weather phenomenon that is neither drizzle nor mist, and is so definitive of Europe that you probably have the exact image of this drist in your mind right now. I HATE IT. But OK.
Saturday graced us with some relatively good weather – cloudy, but wind-still. Kayla’s been nagging to go to one of the local animal parks again, so we figured Saturday was perfect for that. I’ve blogged about Kaiserpark before, but this remains one of our favourite places to hang around in nature. If you ever find yourself in Oberhausen with kids, I totally recommend this outing. Entry is free, and you can either bring or purchase carrots to feed to some of the farm animals. There’s a nice restaurant and a small outdoor café too, and some beautiful park-scapes.
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m the obsessive type. Whenever I do something, I hurl myself at it until it’s done and I’m exhausted. Then I go into a weird, anti-climactic ‘what the hell now?’ state. That’s what I’m combatting now.
So, since finishing the latest revision of The Physician’s Apprentice, I’ve been focussed on spending time with my family. Because of that, I’ve missed a few days of fanart February, but I’ll make that up with a few quick sketches. Point is, it hasn’t been as rushed for a week or so and I’m actually coping with the quiet.
Our weather has been turning too – this is awesome. One week we were still freezing, and the next was just cool. We actually had some SUNSHINE too. Then, on Thursday, the chill returned. It snowed through Friday night and left us with a frosty surprise Saturday morning. Snowball fights ensued.
Last week, I bombarded you with images of snow. This week, it’s ice. You see a theme here? This winter has been more than a smidge colder than last, but the weather brings many new experiences for those of us originally from warmer parts.
We live close to the River Ruhr, but we also have other water in our area – fountains galore. Having said that, all of these fountains are usually turned off to dry when the daylight savings kick in and the cold starts. This means we’ve never seen water freeze over in the winter. Until this weekend, that is.
Yes, this is a German Chronicles post on a Friday. My week has been kind of topsy-turvy.
For the first time in a long time, I have a FAQ that I want to answer. Why isn’t Kayla in a preschool/nursery school/kindergarten?
The short answer is because Germany. I’m guessing that’s not what you want, though.
I mentioned on Wednesday that our journey to Munich began on a rainy Sunday morning. We’ve never been to any other German state, so this was a big trip for us, especially considering how much we wanted to see Bavaria.
We’ve been told on many occasions, by both Germans and non-Germans, how incredibly different Bavaria is from the rest of Germany – so much so that they speak a completely different dialect of German there and have their own customs and laws. Maybe it’s because we convinced ourselves it would almost be like another country, but we didn’t find it so unfamiliar.
So, the time of year is officially here, as I mentioned the other day. Today I want to talk about the markets in depth, and maybe give some advice to first-time market-goers, because this stuff can be a little overwhelming.
The markets are a pretty amazing part of the German Christmas experience, even if you don’t like Christmas. Or the cold. Or crowds, for that matter.
Hi there, folks. Good to have you back here!
After dashing off to write on Friday, a severe case of writer’s block made my life miserable. I pretty much wrote a few words, deleted them, wrote a few more and deleted them too.
Jan saved the day on Saturday, by arranging a Dad and Kayla trip. While the two of them had a ton of fun at the River Ruhr and Ruhr park, I smashed out over 5000 words. (Sit down, sanctimommies, this was the first time in 3 months that I didn’t spend the entire day with my daughter.)
As a reward for my uber-productivity, we headed to Düsseldorf with some friends on Sunday.
Yes, folks, it’s officially that time of year. Oktoberfest is in full swing and ends on Sunday.
Now, I’m not a beer drinker, but I would love to go over to Bavaria and experience this festival at least once. Until then, I’ll write about it.
Going on with the theme from last week’s post, here are some weird and wonderful facts about Oktoberfest.
So, Oberhausen has a schloss (this word can be used to describe anything from a castle to a manor house – in this case, it’s a manor house) and a park, but we’ve been putting off going there. First of all, the schloss is not that impressive (in our opinions) and we had no idea that Kaiser Park existed, because it doesn’t have a website. Secondly, when we have so many cool places to visit in and around Germany, why would we go to the local spots?
Yeah. We were idiots.
Kaiser Park is amazing and Schloss Oberhausen is quaint. Yes, that’s the word I’m going with. The locals call it the schweinchen schloss – schweinchen being ‘piglet’ – because the schloss is pink. Oink. OK, fine, ‘whimsical’ may have been the better word choice.
Kaiser Park has a free petting farm (we’ve been finding these all over), beautiful river views and hiking trails, and a nice kiosk next to the schloss. There’s also a restaurant and beer garden, if that would tickle your fancy. We’ll go visit the schloss art gallery sometime.
We had a lot of fun here, but nobody loves seeing and feeding the animals as much as Kayla. And then riding in a fire truck trumps all.
It’s difficult to believe, while it feels much longer at the same time. We’ve finally passed the year mark.
I’ve been turning this post around in my head for weeks now, but I still don’t really know what to say. I’m late in posting as it is. 🙂 Tomorrow we’re already at a year and two weeks.
This immigration-thing has been a strange and wonderful journey.
Year one was the perfect example of a proverbial emotional roller coaster. And the truth of it is, the ride isn’t over yet. I think the emotional part is something that will differ from person to person, because it’s certainly hit me a lot harder than the hubs. People deal in different ways.
Most of the advice we got from other immigrants was that the first *insert time here* is the most difficult. Many of them used the year mark as that point of reference. I’ve learned that this is another thing that will differ according to personal perspective.
This second instalment of castle hopping reached over two countries. So exciting. 🙂 You can see day one here, if you haven’t yet.
Maastricht in the Netherlands was our first destination. This is a pretty amazing place, with cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings. You must be getting tired of the words ‘cobbled streets’ and ‘old buildings’. I’m sorry, but I absolutely live for the architecture (specifically Baroque and Gothic, but all of antique Europe makes me hyperventilate). And then, castles and or churches / cathedrals. But you already know that and I’m getting ahead of myself again.
This is what happens when I tell Jan he never smiles for selfies:
Friends – castles. Over the weekend, we saw three of them. OK, fine, we saw one castle and two palaces, but you get the general idea. We also visited some monuments, a small fort with an actual moat and drove between two countries. It was amazing.
Here’s how it went down.
These photos are actually from my Mother’s Day weekend. It’s late, I know, but I was writing a novel! Yes, the keyword in that sentence is ‘was’. More on that soon. 😀
With the amazing spring weather, we’ve been sightseeing a lot lately. There are some pretty awesome sights to see right in our back yard, a fact we didn’t know until recently. You can’t blame us for sticking to indoor activities in our first European winter!
But anyway, sightseeing is how we came across Schloss Broich. It’s like 4 km from our apartment and is adjacent to one of the most beautiful garden parks we’ve been to so far.
Inside the Schloss itself is a mini museum with some treasures from the area in olden days. In fact, as far as we understand, they’re still excavating antiquities on the site, while restoring the tower.
You know how I feel about castles by now, otherwise you must be new here. Welcome! As always when faced with a castle, I was pretty giddy with excitement. Add to it the fact that there’s a museum inside, FREE OF CHARGE, with chainmail and all the old weaponry you can think of, and all my weaknesses were exploited. 🙂
On Ascension Day, we hopped a train to Werden. This picturesque place is a suburb of Essen and is seriously gorgeous. The buildings are still in the old style and there’s almost a fantasy-type vibe to the old taverns turned cafés. Walking through those cobblestone ways certainly piqued my creative flow.
Then, there’s the parks and greenery. I could tell you how brilliantly green the grass is, or how amazing the trees look. I could tell you how warm the sun was and how tranquil the flow of the river made me feel. But then, I’ve recently been instructed to ‘show, don’t tell’, and you know what they say about pictures and words. 🙂 So, have a look!
This weekend was a sunny one. After the rainiest two months of my life, we’ve been extra thankful for every ray of sunlight coming our way. Hopefully, that statement didn’t jinx it…
Anyway, all of the sunshine means a lot of outdoors activities, even if it’s still chilly out. This weekend, we went walking a lot and we went to Carnival.
Now Carnival, or ‘Karneval’, is usually around Rosenmontag in February. Of course, I mentioned the rain in the first paragraph, and that meant that the main event for Karneval had to be postponed. Sunday was the big day for the carnival to take place, and we headed to Düsseldorf with some friends to see it unfold.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We 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.
Everybody 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!?
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was the post I typed for you yesterday :… Read More »Update Version 2.0 (The German Chronicles)
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.
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.”
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.
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.