Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Six Months Later

Today is the first day of spring, thanks to Google's doodle for alerting me to that this morning.  Today has been bright and sunny and beautifully springlike, but that isn't the only thing that has made today special for me.  Six months ago I stepped on a plane with two suitcases to start my life over here.  It seems like so much and nothing has happened in that time, I spent a very long time waiting to get my forms sorted from the UK so I could get my Health Insurance, my Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung and most importantly start my Integration course with the VHS.

The first few months and Christmas were very exciting but with the new year my high started to come down and I really struggled with my motivation.  I entered "that" phase that as far as I can tell all ex-pats do from time to time.  Temperatures of down to -18°c didn't really help things as going outside wasn't really something I wanted to do. I was left feeling isolated and alone at home during the day, surrounded by language that I frustratingly couldn't understand.

I knew things would get better, and they have. I started my Deutschkurs in February and on Friday I will have finished the first module.  I have made friends and even had a very pleasant lunch and shopping trip with a girl from Azerbaizjan who speaks no English.  Last weekend we took a trip over the boarder to Strasbourg where I took lots of photos and realised that the 8 years I spent learning French at school has been overwritten German words.  The Sun has been shining, the days are getting longer and the birds are singing everyday. I always knew that moving here would be hard at times but I absolutely made the right choice by coming here.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Distance is Just a Number

A couple of weeks ago I was standing in my kitchen sweetening some quark for my breakfast and I was reminded of something that happened back home.  My Mum had been told by a friend that adding an Options Hot  Chocolate powder to quark made a tasty low-syn dessert for Slimming World followers, so one day when I was invited for lunch she made it for me as a surprise. Now this was a wonderful gesture, and quark is not as easy to come by in England as it is in Germany so it required forethought, effort and planning, but it was unfortunately not delicious and at the time I was resentful of being on a diet.  It was, I am ashamed to admit, received without the gratitude it deserved and that made me very sad.

As with most people, I suppose, over our life time there are many gestures made by our parents that we are not  properly grateful for, or, equally as bad, we take for granted. So as I stood there adding berries and rolled oats, I was also stirring up a feeling that I had to remedy all those years of unintentional selfish encounters and tell her how much I appreciated everything she's done. After all this is the woman who when I was in the midst of my depression came and made sure I was looking after myself.  She cleaned up after me when things got so bad that I couldn't muster up the will to move from my tiny sofa.  She drove round one Christmas Day and delivered me a plated up Christmas dinner and a pot of gravy even though she had 14 house guests back home to run around after.

Don't get me wrong, I am far from the selfish brat that the above might paint me out to be, but even if I am properly grateful 99% of the time I couldn't help but dwell on those 1% of times I wasn't.  I had an urgent need to know that my Mum wouldn't go another minute without knowing that she knew I never meant to act that way.

A phone call would probably just have alarmed her, so I decided to send her some flowers and with the magic of InterFlora there was a knock at her door less than 3 hours later. At the same time the flowers arrived her phone rang, and she assumed it was me calling but it wasn't. In fact it was a friend baring bad news that another friend had been killed in a road accident the day before.  This friend was an amazing lady, it is not by chance that more than 500 people turned up for her funeral. Her eldest son is the same age as me and we were at first school together. I have many, many happy childhood memories of being in their home.

He no longer has the chance to tell his mother that he appreciates her, loves her and doesn't mean to take her for granted. I am glad that I took the time to do it, and that in a time of sadness I could comfort my Mum from hundreds of miles away.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Feeling More at Home

Over the past couple of weeks the new Study has been decorated and finally moved into.  I must say that I can take little credit as the hard work has been done mostly by Uwe, I just picked the colour, help lift things that were too heavy and kept him well fed.  So rather than sitting at the kitchen table as I have done for the past few weeks I am coming to you from an actual proper (even uncluttered) desk!

We had a short discussion about the colour of the walls, in which I managed to sway Uwe away from white to a lovely minty green colour called wellness.  During the course of these discussions I said I wanted to make the place more homely, which caused a small confusion when Uwe checked the definition with an American source which apparently means "plain or unattractive in appearance" which is of course the quite opposite to what it means in British English "simple but cosy and comfortable".

Yesterday we visited Kulinart in Stuttgart with one of Uwe's colleagues and his wife. It is an exhibition of gourmet food and living, which is not great for someone with their weekly weigh in on a Monday. I had originally thought that it was an exhibition of art made from food when I agreed to go. That said I would certainly recommend it and did enjoy it, just in moderation!

I did take my camera but didn't take any pictures apart from one when we arrived in the car park, as the lamp shades amused me:

Bringing the indoors out

Even with all the gorgeous food on display I did manage to restrain myself from eating everything and even managed to decline the most delicious smelling Crème Brûlée.  Instead like a true Engländerin I came away with a new teapot and some tea from the lovely people at The English Tearoom, I was complimented on my lovely English manners which is going to make my Mum so, sooo proud when I tell her this!

Although it looks pink it is actually red

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bad Weather in Bad Wimpfen

I had decided on this week to be the the week when I head out for the first time by myself on a train. I had no idea where I wanted to go but thought that the cheap Länder-Ticket was my best option at 21 Euros for as many trains I need to take within Baden Württenberg between 9am and 3am, if there are more than one of you going it is even better value as you can get a ticket for up to 5 people for just 29 Euros. C N Heidelberg from Heidelbergerin suggested Bad Wimpfen and the name amused me so much that I just had to visit.

I got up at 6am, to catch a lift in to Stuttgart with Uwe and he dropped me at the station so that I had no excuse but to go through with the trip, even though I'd had a niggling sore throat since the night before.  I knew if I put it off then it was likely to be weeks before I built myself up to doing it again.

I managed to order myself a Brezel and a Chai Tea Latte for breakfast, my English vowels breaking through the English words on the menu.  The Latte was served with a straw and although I had learnt early on in life that hot things should not be drunk through a straw unless you don't want to taste anything for a few days, the addition of the straw in the first place was temptation enough to try again, although only a mini sip which confirmed that it needed to be removed.

I had expected the station to be much busier than it was but then again it is a terminal station that people commute to rather than from on a daily basis. The platforms are open so that loved ones can see you off on a long journey from the platform edge, which now is something to be seen in period dramas back home, unmanned ticket barriers blocking our way.

At 9:15am I was on the train and on my way.  The ticket lady came around and stamped my ticket and then handed me a pen for me to write my name on it, obviously at first I wrote my name in the wrong place and only now on uploading the picture have I noticed that I should have written in block capitals... oh well silly Ausländerin!

Yes, if you can read it that is my actual last name... sounds even funnier with a Frau in front of it!
The scene that welcomed me to Bad Wimpfen was slightly drizzly and very foggy, but it wasn't going to stop me from exploring this beautiful place.

It's not as if I am unused to this kind of weather being English so I just got my camera out wandered around and snapped things as I looked out for an Apotheke to buy something for my sore throat.  I just spotted an Apotheke at the same time I spotted what I thought looked like a familiar face, Rene from Ich liess mein Herz in Deutschland, but I thought that it must be someone that looked like her as at the time I had no idea she actually lives there, so there is a small possibility my facial recognition skills are not completely kaput. Also I wasn't really a fan of approaching a stranger and freaking them out, or passing on a cold to her and her baby.

Here are some of the pictures I took, sorry for the quality but it was foggy and I was poorly.

There seemed to be a fountain around every corner, the sound of which may or may not make you want to pee.

So this is how foggy it really was, can you see the tower above the building in the background?

How about now? Just a little bit peeking out from the fog...

Even standing right under it you can't really see the top because of the fog!!

Some pretty doors around town and a really cute signpost.  There were some lovely shops selling beautiful knick-knacks that I could have spent a lot of time and money in.  I tried to take some pics of the window displays but failed.

Although my encounter with this beautiful, friendly kitty warmed my heart, my slight sore throat had turned into a fully blown cold and I couldn't stay as long as I had planned so I headed back to the one platformed station and headed home to bed and Lemsips, which is where I am heading again right now.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

1000 Step Challenge

So yesterday in the midst of my pity party I asked for someone to set me a Challenge to get me out of the house and @linderooni answered my plea:

"@ExpatAnna Ack! Let's try again. My challenge (I'll do it): Walk 1000 steps outside of your door, any way you choose. Report what you see :)"

You can check out Linda's walk on her blog dummy text with some very attractive photo's that she doesn't seem to want to take enough credit for :)

I took a slight detour via a post box because I noticed a DVD that needed to be returned to LoveFilm, so I could have got a little farther but I ended up at a little park area, the beginning of which I can see from the windows at the back of the flat. I shall apologise for my pictures now because I just have a teeny point an snap pocket camera, but it's pink if that makes a difference!! =D

As you can see the leaves on the trees have turned in to some beautiful colours, some of my favourites so I had to take a closer look and some more photos.

And on the way home I spotted some berries in pretty colours too and could't resist taking some extra snaps.

Tomorrow I have something special planned which I hope i can pull off, if I do then you guys will be the first to know. In the meantime, more challenges are very welcome :)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ah Homesickness, I've been expecting you...

Well it had to arrive at some time, I think it started about a week ago, it wasn't really one thing that set it off although I am pretty sure that the fact that (TMI warning) my period started 2 days after arriving in Germany and due to a hormone imbalance I suffer from, it is still here almost 7 weeks later and not nice to deal with (TMI over) so I would be prone to teary out bursts at the best of times.

This weekend I think it was even more so because I was missing my favourite Autumn celebration, Guy Fawkes Night.  Nothing like eating sausages and hot soup outside while bundled up like a mummy in the warmest clothing you can find. Everyone huddled around the bonfire, signing your name with sparklers and watching fireworks, not just your own but the whole neighbourhoods. Milton Keynes holds a massive fireworks display every year in the centre of town at Campbell Park, when I was little it was always accompanied by classical music, with the bangs of the drums in sync with the bangs of the big rockets.  Thanks to youtube I have found this years display, the music isn't quite classical although Mad World is close, Take That however isn't.

The other thing is that I am bored almost all the time, and yet I have no energy to actually be bothered to do anything. Some days I find myself absent-mindedly checking my inbox 10 times in a row without visiting any other pages in between. It is different to when I was in the depths of depression, back then I'd just sleep most of the time and not bother to get out of my dressing gown for weeks.  I am pleased to report that I am at least getting up, getting dressed and showering. I am finding it hard to get out the front door by myself, but I am certainly going to try this week.

I think I need a craft project to keep me busy, I am trying to complete NaNoWriMo at the moment but it is really hard to write when in this mood but I am soldiering on.

If anyone feels like setting me a mini out the front door challenge then please do :)

Friday, 28 October 2011

Randecker Maar

I have been meaning to write a post about our walk around the Randecker Maar a few weeks ago.  It was the first of the cold days after the unseasonal heatwave, but still sunny which made it perfect for a walk.

The Randeker Maar is a nature reserve situated on the top of an old crater lake, formed by volcanic activity about 17 million years ago.

View of the Randecker Maar from the road below
There are two circular walking paths around the top, which start and finish next to a Restaurant with a handy Biergarten attached.  I would say more but I think the pictures speak for themselves, a great place for an afternoon of walking.