Moving from New Zealand to Britain, when I was 26,was at least moving to a country where the same language was spoken and many of the same traditions and broad cultural behaviours were observed. It was a little deceptive, as I discovered, because I expected it to be roughly the same country, half a world apart. It wasn’t. In some ways, it took me longer to adjust to the cultural differences because they were subtle, and I wasn’t looking for them. Had I moved to India, for example, I would have expected absolutely everything to be utterly different, and prepared accordingly. But England and Wales, where I lived the longest, were different from each other as well as from the country I had come from at the bottom of the world, in spite of the many superficial similarities. Continue reading
With everything that is going on in the world right now, like many others I’ve been finding it hard not to feel overwhelmed. I’ve found myself trying to distance myself from the news, unfollow Facebook posts that lead me into demoralising discussions with people who hold the polar opposite viewpoint to mine, or tempt me to read conversations by strangers across the world who are closed to everything and everyone who does not see the world in exactly the same way that they do. Then I start to feel bad about my non-engagement. I mean, how is anything to change in the world if we don’t engage with unpleasant, disturbing and disagreeable people and situations? How would women have ever gained the vote? Or Europe been saved from Hitler in World War II? Or precious drinking water protected from the Dakota Access Pipeline due to the actions of the Standing Rock Sioux?
It’s been a while since I blogged. This is because I had decided in mid 2016 that I wouldn’t blog anymore. The decision was prompted by the amount of time and energy that went into blogging, squeezed between craft-creating and a full-time job, leaving me without time OR energy to create a single new thing.
In addition, we moved countries.
The most life-affirming part of it for me, is that I no longer have a job. I am lucky enough that for now P supports us both and I am free to write, to create, to make music and to learn German, the language of my host country. (And today, to shovel snow.)
This may not be a long-term thing, so I intend to make the most of it.
For the last five months, we have been settling in to our house in a quiet residential area in Bavaria, south Germany. We finally have a garden! Right now the garden is hidden under half a foot of snow. Not enough snow to sneeze at, by all accounts, but enough to resemble a fairytale from the Brothers Grimm (I figured this is an appropriate simile given that we are not so far from the Black Forest, now). Certainly not enough snow to ski, which is fine by me.
I attended intensive German classes which consisted of 4 hours every day plus homework. Doesn’t sound like much, but my brain begs to differ. After two months of this I had had enough, and was able to have short, broken conversations with German locals consisting of where I’m from, where I live, where they live, what I want (e.g. the right train), the weather, how long I’ve been learning German, and what I think of Germany…and the price of weisswurst. So now I’m attending twice-weekly classes of 3 hours each, which I hope to sustain over the long haul, as long as I have sufficient savings.
Guests arrived in quick succession for the month of December, the month of Christmas markets. I think I must have visited around 25 markets in total, some several times over, and no, I didn’t get tired of them. In fact I’m considering putting pins in a large map detailing where the best markets are for which products, who had the best gluhwein, the worst flammbrot, and so on. This should help next Christmas. I really don’t want to waste time on stalls selling sub-standard gluhwein, do I? One day I was in a market with Australian guests and we were stopped by a young German journalist and her cameraman for an interview about the Berlin tragedy which had happened the evening before. It explained why our markets were deserted that day. (It was also a particularly freezing day in which the three year old Australian child with us nearly got hypothermia.) She wanted to know what we now thought about shopping in Christmas markets and whether this would affect our choices. We said, if we allow mad people to determine how we will live our lives, then they have won. Plus in Australia you take your chances everywhere with the wildlife. But on the other hand, we understood the general reticence, and our hearts were breaking for those poor souls in Berlin.
New Year’s Day was glorious with a hoar frost that lasted 48 hours. We went for a walk in the Bavarian forest and marvelled. Yesterday P and I walked to our local park and watched families sledding and skiing. Seeing children of all ages out there with their parents in the parks and forests and rivers is so refreshing. They don’t look like they’d rather be playing computer games at home or skyping friends. It feels a bit like stepping backwards fifty years, in the best possible way.
I have no idea how many of you I have lost or how many I had in the first place. But hopefully you will join me again in my wonderings and wanderings.
My latest blog is once again about curiosity. I have just finished reading Curious, by Ian Leslie, and there was so much food for thought there that I had to share it with everyone. Some of my longheld convictions were even changed by reading this book, which is something that doesn’t often happen these days…
So Leslie begins by discussing education, and I suspected I knew where he was heading with this. Turns out I didn’t. Continue reading