Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tourist detraction

Its my last day in Rome, I still have no apostrophes and I could stay here for another five months and still feel like Id only scratched the surface.

Yesterday we went back to the Vatican, because Mum wanted to find the grave of a Czech writer who my uncle loves who died in Rome (I think my family has a grave fetish). We arrived and there was an enormous crowd gathered in St Peters square, as well as huge TV screens and lots of security. And... il Papa! Apparently the pope does a mass every week on Wednesday and we just happened to catch it. I can thus safely report that the Pope is doing well, and looks smashing in red. I was not, however, moved to convert, and no angels appeared to me in the sky, which was kind of disappointing. Ill never get to be a saint.

We then got roped into an English-speaking tour of the Vatican museums, including the Sistine Chapel, given by a very clever English guy (who it later turned out Mum was checking out...!) who was a bit of an art expert. There were also some really nice Australian boys, three brothers, who were on the tour, giving me renewed hope that I like Australians who travel...

The tour was great, if a bit long, and when we finally got to the Sistine Chapel we all knew what to look for and to admire. But if every square inch of the building was was covered in paint, every square inch of the floor was covered with tourists. It reinforced my feeling that international tourism has a dreadful effect on what it seeks to share, and support. It changes spaces so dramatically they are almost unrecognisable- there was nothing holy about the chapel to me. It was simply an art gallery filled with crowds. Although the artwork was incredible, I think I would feel more connection with it looking at a good reproduction in the peace of a library.

In fact so irreligous was I feeling that I couldnt help but notice what the guide has jokingly referred to earlier was very true- the picutre of original sin north of centre of the ceiling looks like Eve has just given Adam a blow job. Which, if nothing else, reinforces my feeling that Michelangelo very much had his own agenda. I think I like him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Movie Blues

In what is becoming a Boxing Day tradition today Mum and I saw a blockbuster, although with a Christian message which is kind of appropriate. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, pure propaganda, wonderful film. The only problem is that now Im out in the real world again its all so bloody real and not fantastical and simple.

Christmas in Rome turns out to be less materialistic, more religious and not quite as much as a dampner on trading as Id expected. But even so, there are still beggars everywhere there are tourists, some are children, and many sitting outside churches in the hope that the Christmas cheer will spread. The worst are those who lie on the street, heads down and hands out, literally prostating themselves. And of course the children. Its dreadful, especially without the sense that things are getting any better in the world.

I think Ive got post-Narnia blues.

Actually we had quite a nice day yesterday, we stumbled on a lovely old restaurant that was open for lunch, and then in the evening there was a big public gathering right near the hotel for the lighting of the Chanukiah, an eight stick candelabra, for Channukah, which coincidentally fell on Christmas Day. It was quite amazing. I got talking to some Americans from New York, to avoid a creepy Orthodox guy who was circling me, stopping right in front of me and then staring at me for a full ten seconds before continuing to circle. Freak.

But my favorite moment was when Mum went to shake the hand of the Rabbi, who of course couldnt touch a woman, being Orthodox. Go Mum.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Bella Roma

Back in the big city my brain is on the verge of imploding. I hadnt quite realised how long it had been since I was in a city larger than a couple of million, and now Mum and I are wandering around like two stoners, pulling out the map on every corner and almost getting killed every time we try to cross the road.

The taxi trip from the train station was a pretty good indicator of what I am beignning to call the Rome Factor in my head, the driver kept speeding up across really small distances, beeping at everything in his way and narrowly missing hitting a pedestrian/vespa-rider/truck at every intersection, all the while turning around and telling us enthusiastically that he couldnt speak English. At one point we drove past an accident which he referred to as "una incidente". My first view of Rome was therefore through almost closed eyes and with my stomach on the floor.

We have managed to walk through- I hesitate to use the word see as I dont think my conscious mind really absorbed much of it- the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Victor Emmanual Monument, as well as Capitol Hill and the Main Synagogue. Its incredible how this city is built, everything on top of each other. Living here you would get such an overpowering sense of your own insignificance, I dont think my ego could deal with it at all.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Im looking forward to what the city will be like on this most holy of Christian holidays. And what Mum and I will do.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mama mia

Florence turns out to be almost cooler than Milan, which I didnt think was possible. It may have something to do with this hotel and the many TV channels, but mainly its just because everyone is so nice. I went for a walk today through the city centre and was constantly impressed with how safe I felt, given that I cant speak the language and, lets face it, dont really know where I am in any real sense.

I checked out the Duomo which is very different to the one in Milan, while that one looks like a wedding cake, all white and delicate and wheeling spires into the sky, this one looks like a big pink and green ice cream cake. In thier own way they are both kind of revoltingly compelling, but I think the one in Milan has to win because it defies the laws of probablity in that it is so bloody big but still manages to look quite etheral.

Walking around today was kind of like being in my own film. I saw dozens of Japanese tour groups, which never fail to entertain me, a very tasteful wedding photo session (which is not what the many weddings Ive seen in Norton St had prepared me for), numerous police with their handbags, a small pony and a golf tournament. They had set up a position on the bridge to hit from and then little island of greens along the river itself. There were even men in kayaks whose exact role I wasnt sure of, perhaps their job was to collect the balls which fell into the water.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

In the lap of luxury

Well we made it to Florence with only a few bad moods on my part and about eight desserts on Mums. We are staying in the most gorgeous hotel I will ever stay in, in a converted medieval monastry in the centre of Florence. Earlier today as we lay zonked out on our beds from the train trip there was a blast of drums and I rushed to the window and threw open the shutters (it has shutters)and lo and behold, there was a medieval march passing by. From our window we could see the flags with their different coloured crests as they were thrown into the air with perfect symmetry. Welcome to Florence.

Everyone here is so friendly it is almost scary- we just went to a restaurant and everyone was totally okay with our lack of Italian. I am only now beginning to realise how uptight Germans must seem to the rest of Europe- here I can only say hello and can I have the bill and people are always laughing and smiling at me. In Germany I could discuss politics and people still seemed to hate me on first sight.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Shame Howard Shame

We have been reading about the race riots (so called by the overseas press) in Sydney and I am utterly horrified. This is the result of the kind of politics this government has been propogating for the last eight years and I just hope that this spurs some long overdue popular debate about this issue.

I just feel so angry that this has happened, it seems so bloody ignorant and unneccesary.

But where is the bull?

Oh good Lord Im in Italy, on a keyboard with no apostrophes. Im in Milan with Mum and its amazing. Were staying in a quite posh hotel in a very glamourous part of town, filled with little boutiques and bread shops selling pizza by the slice and lots and lots of pannetone. Every second woman seems to be wearing an enormous fur coat made from at least five poor dead animals, and even the traffic cops are fitted out with a smartly cut blue uniform, gold buttons and white belt, as well as a lovely white leather handbag to match.

The fashion here is just unbelievable, within about five minutes I felt like a big frumpy frump, in my jeans and jacket, and immediately started wearing the high waisted belt on my jacket that I felt too much like a wanker in in Kiel. Here, the wankier the better. Broaches, long flowing coats, hats, leather gloves, long boots, coats on dogs and sparkling handbags are just the beginning. On our second day here I saw a woman wearing a long white coat, white calf-length boots, a white scarf and carrying not one but two handbags, one sparkly, the other leather. She probably has a matching vespa at home.

Today we went to an art Gallery in the Brera Palace and were utterly overwhelmed with hundreds of gorgeous paintings of madonna and child in bright colours as if they were painted yesterday. I couldnt help thinking about how bizarre it is that this country which is so utterly patriarchal has this young mother as its most revered image. If an alien landed they would think Catholicism was a cult of femininity and fertility.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I am a biscuit

Oh god I honestly think I have a biscuit addiction. What is wrong with this country? How can they bake biscuits day and night and still be so goddamn normal and not be running around half-crazed with sugar like me? I hate them all.

Friday, December 02, 2005

and then I got nude

Oi vai. The last two days have been cursed- did I do something bad in another life? FIrst the shit hit the fan at work and I was left in tears at the supermarket. Then I went to tkd to punch out the angst and wandered into the wrong change room afterwards. Being naked in the shower when your tkd instructor comes in is not an experience I want to repeat- thank god he was not naked also or I might have just never been able to go back.

On the plus side I am going to meet Mum tomorrow and spend a weekend in lovely, big, not-Kiel Hamburg and today I saw the sun for the first time since the weekend. Also I only have one week of work to go and then Italy. Hurrah!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Baking frenzy

If I never see another biscuit it will be far too soon- this country has gone biscuit (kekse) crazy and it's not even bloody December yet. My flatmate spent the whole week preparing for this weekend's bakeathon, she's making fourteen different sorts of biscuits, for everyone she knows I think, and the whole house smelt like butter and sugar all weekend. Then I was invited to a coffee and cookie afternoon which was lovely but oh so full of biscuits and this all comes on top of a week of stealing biscuits from work. I honestly don't want to eat another biscuit for at least a week. Even the thought is making me feel a bit queasy.

The weekend was the first advent, which is apparently the first of four sundays before christmas and so everyone lights a big candle, one of four in a wreath. Honestly, the fuss they make about Christmas here is amazing given that the rest of the time they claim to be so Protestant and non-ceremonial up here in the north. Although I have to admit the tradition of putting shots of Amaretto in mulled wine is something I have become extremely enthusiastic about in a very short space of time. Actually Amaretto in anything hot is good, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, milk. Or just Amaretto hot with cream.

Right now it's snowing properly for the first time (last time it was more snow rain) and I am extremely glad that my midday clas had finished and I am inside with the heating on. The view of the skeletal trees and rows of European houses covered in snow from my window is gorgeous- from here. All this cold weather is extremely romantic as long as you don't happen to be in it, and then you remember the christmas story about the little match girl who froze to death.

Last night I went to see the new HP movie and liked it alot, although of course I have my criticism. But I liked how much they stuck to the book, and I have grown to love th dynamic between the three of them, even if Daniel Radcliffe is a little wooden. It was great to be swept up in that world again, it made me want to read all the books again. I finally joined the library the other day and got out some great kids' books and some learning Italian books to see if I remember anything from my half a year of night classes. So far all I've learnt is that if you are in a public shower with someone your own age you can address them with the informal 'tu'. So that's helpful.

Friday, November 25, 2005


It’s snowing! The whole of Kiel looks like one big Christmas card, the streets are filled with lights and little stalls selling Christmas kitsch and mulled wine and the trees and rooftops are covered in white. If it weren’t so cold it would be perfect, but at least the cold makes the Glühwein taste that much more delicious. I am thrilled that I don’t have to take part in the Christmas madness and am escaping with Mum to warmer climes, but it is lovely to be here living the European Christmas. I have begun to eat at least six bisciuts a day, in the correct German tradition.

Yesterday was actually Thanksgiving and tonight Anne is having a dinner at her house. My first ever Thanksgiving! I haven’t really managed to work out what it means or if there is anything else involved than eating a huge Turkey but we will see.

This week I got told off for: riding on the wrong side of the road (all the Germans do it too I might add), riding in a pedestrian zone (ditto),and not reporting to reception at the bank where I teach every bloody week. I think that’s an all-time low.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Protesting the German way

This weekend I was lucky enough to fullfill two things on my wishlist: see the sun on Sunday and go to a protest in Germany. I was even up before midday on Saturday too, so I have had my weekly dose of vitamin D and don't feel utterly depressed at the prospect of a week of work (well, four days really but who's counting). Even though it was freezing cold the sky was blue and the landscape in rural Schleswig-Holstein is so pretty that it almost seemed sensible to be outside.

The protest was against the train carrying nuclear waste which is produced by Germany's many nuclear power plants and sent to France to be processed. It is then shipped back to Germany and buried in an abandoned salt mine near a small town near Luneburg, which is about an hour from Hamburg. It's supposed to be a temporary solution but they've been doing it for about twelve years and every year people protest against it and often try to block the train. Last year a French protestor died because he was chained to the tracks and the train couldn't stop in time. Horrible.

The train itself isn't there yet- it's due Monday night- but these was a big protest match scheduled for Saturday so we hopped in the car with Anne's friend Lars and drove down there. As we got closer we passed about fifty police vans and I started to get a bit nervous. Then twenty more. then twenty more. Apparently there were ten thousand police stationed on or near the railway line, which is this innocuous looking rural railway next to medieval farm houses and green field full of frost-coated, lettuce-like stuff. When we finally walked past the track there were all of these special forces standing on it just looking at us- it was like looking over the trenches at the enemy. Hundreds of men and women in black or green riot gear, with trunchens sticking out of their vests and huge bulges where their guns were, helmuts hanging from their wrists and big green shin-guards onm their legs, standing on a railway line in the middle of green fields with the sun going down behind them and the air all frosty and shimmering in the dusk. Utterly bizarre.

The people at the demo were a great mix of young punk, alternative types and families who live in the area, heaps of kids and older people. I even saw a guy who was proudly wearing his lederhosen, who must have been from Baveria. There were probably about four thousand people there, in this tiny town with one main street. It was amazing.

The other amazing thing was that after it was all over we walked past a free soup stand provided by the Red Cross, which apparently is connected to an organisation called the People's Kitchen. Why don't they give out free food as our rallies? There was, of course, also bread and cheese and in true hippie protestor fashion a vegan cheese substitute made from chickpeas.

If anyone is interested there is more info at:

After the protest we went to a party in Lübeck which I discovered to my horror is much prettier than Kiel because nothing was destroyed in the war. A couple of Anne's friends were Djing at a Leaving Las Vegas party at a punk venue which turned out to be a lot of fun. You could even "get married" at a chapel and for four Euro you got a ring, a contract and a polaroid of you and your beloved wearing a veil and a tie. Anne got married to a friend of hers and I couldn't convince her and Matt to marry me as one person. I can't imagine why.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy as Sven

This week has been rather nice, if exhausting, and I am feeling rather happy with my lovely students and regularish income. I am working a gruelling four day week and it is always a lovely feeling when it's over and I have three days of weekend ahead of me. Then after two days I get bored with knowing very few people and I look forward to work again- perfect.

I've had a lot of good feedback lately from the students which is just lovely- mostly just in the form of doing the homework I set or letting me know when they won't be in class. It really is so great teaching adults who are engaged and interested in what they are learning- even if the chances of them getting it are so much lower.

I finally gave in and bought a pair of warmer pants today as I just couldn't handle the icy winter wind whistling through my extremely thin rayon trousers as I pedal my way around Kiel. I really wanted to buy a couple of lovely shirts that were also on sale but I somehow found the strength to just say no. I just kept telling myself that I was not here to shop, a blatant lie but somehow it worked. Maybe also becuase I don't feel entirely confident that I will continue to be earning money.

It's really started to get dark now, it's getting dark at about four thirty which is just so depressing. The only advantage is that the night is longer which is kind of cosy.... but not really. Apparently the shortest day of the year is December the 21st and from then on it will get lighter.

I can't wait to go to Italy with Mum, but it occurred to me that I know next to nothing about the place, apart from the names of many brands of pasta which also happen to be cities.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Getting wiggy at Halloween

These are the pictures from the Halloween party at our house- my wigs were very popular as you can see. I was supposed to kind of be Cindy Lauper which everyone kindly didn't question too closely, and Matt is a football fan. My favorite wig didn't belong to me however- the platinum blonde bob cut. I am seriously thinking of cutting my hair like this.

These pictures were taken a week or so ago when the weather was still lovely- this is a beach in Kiel and I was hanging out with my Coloradoians Anne and Matt. This weekend the three of us went to Hamburg for a night to stay with some really lovely friends of Anne's and it was fabulous. Lots of Simpsons, hanging out and eating pastries.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Like dude, totally dude

I have discovered two terrible things in the last week. One is that I am allegedly getting an American accent, for which I blame my colleagues who say they can't understand me. The other is that Schleswig-Holstein has the least public holidays in Germany.

Again I ask: why am I here.

Last week was Halloween and I went to two Halloween parties, one at Matt's and one at my house which was much more fun because these were less cool and scary Germans and more daggy young students, and also we dressed up. I bought an excellent Brunhilda wig for myself and Matt had a punk mullet- it was like, totally awesome. Manuela went as the lady of the lake and Art went as King Arthur complete with a Monty Python coconut. Hilarious.

I love riding my bike here- I think I have mentioned this already. But it still gives me a thrill when I wobble my way around a corner and three cars wait patiently for me before they turn- I think German car drivers have just had it drummed into them that they must give way to bikeriders. There's even bike lanes on most roads, down towards the uni there's only one lane for cars and one for bikes and I have never seen a car in the bike lane. Amazing.

Another amazing German fact is that you have to pay to give back late videos and DVDS. I only found this out when I was returning some DVDs for my boss and I was running really late. I was halfway out the shop before the guy said excuse me, these are late. I looked at him like he was mad and said, I'm sorry I don't care they're not mine. Then it was his turn to look at me like I was crazy and he said, yes but you can't give them back. By this time I was utterly impatient and just snapped, was? Turns out I had to either pay the two Euros fifty or take them away again. I was so annoyed I just flung the money at him and left- my first real experience of being ruder than a German shopkeeper.

If they introduced a system like that in Australia there would be no videos in the shop. I mean what exactly is the incentive to give them back at all? Probably you have to sign your first born over to join a video shop here or something, but really, it's ridiculous. The concept of everybody playing by the rules has been so internalised here.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tears and tantrums

The last fortnight has been so bloody stressful that I am relieved it is over. Two people have left the school- one voluntarily and one fired- and the pulse rates have been high all week. Ghastly. Thankfully a few air-clearing conversations have taken place and I hope to god it is all over and things will return to normal, or at least pretend to be normal.

Whatever that is.

The good thing to come out of it all for me is that is made me realise how much I was enjoying it here and how I don't want to leave just yet. I like staying out till six in the morning and sleeping all day on the weekends. I love riding my bike everywhere. And I especially love people telling me my German is really good.

I started working at the submarine factory last week and it's really fun, once I get over the fact that I am now teaching bankers and military suplliers and have totally sold-out. Oh well. Someone suggested to me that I simply teach them wrong.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A world of pictures

Check out the fab Oktoberfest piccies- the fab foursome are me, Manuela, Art and Art's mate John. Mat and Art are showing off the lovely must-have Oktoberfest rainwear. Also featuring random italians.

Monday, October 17, 2005

War graves

Today it is freezing and I decided to visit the war cemetary in Kiel. I stumbled across a Commonwealth Graves section, wide rows of white headstones interspersed with roses and overshaowed by a large white cross. There were lots of New Zealanders buried there and even a few Australians. It's just so odd that they are buried here, in the land they were fighting against. One of the gravestones said, we miss you Daddy from Mummy and Jennifer, and it just struck me how sad it all was, all that death. They were all so young, my age or younger, and they never got the chance to grow old.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Chick flicks

Last night Manuela made some very delicious Borek and we had two of my American collegues to dinner (Trent actually lives with us). Somehow the topic got onto chick flicks and how they weren't worth watching. From somewhere deep within me my latent teenage feminist self rose from the ashes- excuse me? what did you just say? Needless to say they were a little frightened. I haven't felt the need to rant about sexist behaviour for years, I felt all young and outraged again.

It just amazes me that so-called grown men can still obsess about gender to the point where they are forbidden to watch a film because it will challenge their sexuality. The topic of toilet seat raising was also mentioned, at which point you might as well bring out Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus and hold a reading.

Besides which, Thelma and Louise is a fucking great film.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Oh Angie

Good god, Germany is going to have a female East German christian democrat chancellor who no-one wants. This is apparently what democracy looks like- a country torn apart by two seperate ideologies. This seems to be a trend- is there a democracy in the world where the ruling party is actually wanted by the majority of voters?

Apart from Australia that is. Oh god.

Today I am sick with a mild cold that won't go away, but apart from that I'm feeling very well. The autumn here is unexpectedly beautiful- the trees are shades of orange and red and the streets are beginning to be covered with leaves. It's not too cold and the sun is shining and it's all a little like a page out of a travel catalogue. On the weekend I bought some gorgeous roses and they're sitting on my windowsill with a back drop of read and green leaves.

The other day I found out that the American for cracking onto someone is quite similar to the German. In Amiland (German for America- not entirely without negative connotations) they say to mack on someone. In Germany it's jemandem anmachen. Sometimes I feel like I am adrift between two completely exotic and bizarre cultures- and then I imagine what it would be like being somewhere outside the Judeo-christian Western world and realise I'm actually still quite within my comfort zone.

Last night I saw a movie about a forty year old virgin- it was very funny and also kind of sad.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Es war total krank

Where the hell do I begin? The last four days have been like some sort of arty road trip movie that begun with my birthday and will end with a very badly taught class this afternoon, but with no resolution of anything. In the middle some things happened, it rained constantly and I had (am still having) a crisis about my national identity.

My birthday was actually quite lovely- I got three packages and a big present of choccis from my lovely housemates to open and spent most of the day on the phone to home. Then I had an evening class, who are really lovely and it went really well, and I even got a bunch of freshly picked sunflowers from a student. I got home to an even bigger, more bizarre bunch of flowers from work which are still sitting rather incongrously inn a bucket n my floor, since we don't have a vase big enough for them. I have never received a bunch of flowers with scaffolding before- and berries to boot. Crazy.

Then I went out with a few people to drinks and we smoked a hookah with apple tabacco. But we couldn't have too late a night because the next day was the fun fun fun ten hour drive to Munich in the rental BMW with its own navagational system. I was terrified of driving but cooly suggested it as if all I had even wanted was to drive at 170 kms an hour the wrong way down a highway for two hours. I won't say I was the world's best driver, but I did it and I now feel much better about driving at high speeds- it seeems so normal here that going slower would almost be more dangerous.

Finally we got there and went straight to the ground which were kind of like the Easter Show but with huge beer tents instead of produce. We waited in line for two hours and then gave up becuase the tent was full and sat in the beer garden getting hit on by Italians with bleached goatees (I say we, it was mostly Manuela who has the kind of flirting ability that could inspire wars) and drank enormous glasses of beer which only cost about forteen Australian dollars each. Oh and we ate giant pretzels.

The best bit of the whole weekend for me was then going on the flying chairs, my favorite ride in the whole world, and spinning around high above the showground, watching the upturned faces and the flashing lights, all a little drunk of course, and just tasting the merriment in the air.

The camping however, was not so fabulous and this is where my crisis came into play- the camping ground was full of Australians , drunk, young, loud, obnoxious and also drunk, mostly from London I gathered and although at first I was thrilled to hear the accent and chat with people I very quickly began to cringe and start to speak German. It was awful. I mean, it's one thing to bag out on Australia when you live there, when you are surrounded by clever, amazing people, but to be in Munich and to realise that when I tell people here where I'm from, this is what they see, was hideous. And by the end of the weekend I had decided that there wasn't an uglier accent in the world, and that the way we speak was in itself so childish and simple: show us your tits love, what a wanker, as funny as fuck.

However, I am feeling now a little like a child who has had too much red cordial so perhaps the feeling will dissipate. I don't want to be embarrassed about being from Australia.

On Sunday I walked around a bit and looked at Munich, and because the weather was so bad I went to see the new Bill Murray film called Broken Flowers. Very appropriately, it was about a crisis of identity. Very thoughtful and beautiful but also very slow.

I've also been reading Dead Europe which is resonating with how I'm feeling so much it's scary. Just now I read:

-You've got a child's hand, Isaac. Even the most hardened Aussie has these hands. You know that's what they call Australians here? Children.

And I wonder if it's just a New World thing, as Matthew said today. What is it about us that makes us so childlike compared to here?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One day to go

Yesterday I got told off by a very grumpy old guy for parking my bike for ten minutes in front of the building. Allegedly he couldn't reach the bell- which he had just pressed. I sweetly told him I didn't understand any German until he shuttup, but he tried for quite a long time to convey his wrath by shaking his fingers in the direction of the bell and snarling at me. Uptight? Not at all. It was extremely satisfying to stare at him bemusedly until he fucked off.

What a mad place this is- I'm really starting to like it. Spent the weekend in Hamburg catching up with family and eating a lot of cheese. My current cheese habit is now about three times a day, but it can get up to five if I'm really not feeling up to making any hard decisions about how to get a veggie friendly meal out of a German supermarket. I am also supporting a rather enormous bread habit- about five slices/rolls a day seems to be the average. It's not that there isn't other stuff to eat, it's just that it seems so normal to eat almost nothing but bread and cheese, and drink beer.

I was at the bank the other day waiting for my students to turn up and checking out the art on the walls. There was this series of coloured drawing about the building of the north harbour and one sentence was something like "and then all the town came to watch the new harbour being built, with bread and cheese and beer, and made a picnic".

Finally got to speak to Benjamin the other day which was lovely- he is going to Azerbaijan to teach English there which is utterly insane. On our trip to Hamburg Matt and I, who are still in mourning for Benjamin because he's not coming back, were sharing a ticket with two people, a guy and a girl. The girl turned out to be from Benjamin's home town and the guy was from Azerbaijan. Unbelievable. It's like his ghost is following us around.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I have four lovely packages to open- can't wait.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Butterflies in the Bundestag

Well it's been a wacky weekend here in Gerryland- the election is over and yet they have no idea who the government is. Both main parties are claiming victory becuase the other has no clear majority, and in fact the real winners are the Left party and the FDP, a kind of liberal democrat party I think, becuase they both stole vites for the main parties and increased their majorities enormously.

Yesterday I went to check out the voting booths, hoping for some action and excitiment or at least a bit of civilised shoving but all I got was... nothing.

Turns out there's an unwritten (or possibly written, actually it's extremely likely being as this is the buerocratic capital of the world) rule that the parties stop campaigning the day before.

I asked my students why they didn't campaign until the very last minute and they stared at me blankly until one of them said, they do: the last minute is the day before. Now I understand why the concept of Last Minute Holidays (that's what they call them here) has really taken off. They have discovered a whole new time zone that previously didn't exist in the German psyche.

I also visited the butterfly exhibition on Sunday, which was wonderful. One of the glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens was filled with all different kinds of butterflies, some even from Oz I think. The biggest one was about the size of two fists and had brown eyes on its wings. I got a lump in my throat when I suddenly came across a bottlebrush with five orange butterflies perched on one bloom- it was beautiful.

On Saturday I went to an arts and craft market where one of my students was volunteering. I was expecting bits of macaroni stuck on cardboard so was really thrilled when I walked into this beautiful light-filled hall filled with tasteful wood, metal and textile products. My favorite was a gorgeous toy of the Very Hungry Caterpillar made of green wool, with different shades all through it. But at sixteen euros it was a bit pricey. All the goods are made by disabled young people so I felt not at all guilty about doing some other shopping however. It was really cool to be in the sun, at a market full of kids and adults, just hanging out.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Went on a breakfast date this morning- was extremly odd. Turns out flirting in German is nearly impossible, especially when you are not really wanting to send out signals but don't quite know how to be nice but not too nice... Oh god I am so sick of inter-cultural communication, be it with Amis or Gerrys or what. Bring on the Aussies...

Spoke to Mum this morning- hi Mum!- God she is great. I was talking about how impressed I was that in my class the night before, all the Germans were agreed that you couldn't completely cut off someone's welfare benefits even if they refused to go to work or training courses, while in Oz that's just what we do. Mum:

Well you know darling they don't want to let people starve becuase during the war they really did starve while in Australia, well you could just go shoot a rabbit or something.


I'm going shopping. Fuck it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mobile madness

Today I slept until almost midday- a sign of my growing exhaustion with Germany or possibly just the fact that I got up to teach a class at quarter to eight and then had a forty five minute seesion at five o'clock- with nothing in between. Ah the joys of freelancing.
I went to Kiel Uni TKD last night and somehow ended up in the wrong room, with a whole lot of people in white TKD uniforms and a Korean black belt. Huh? It turns out there are two groups at the Uni, modern and traditional. I think I'm in modern, which seems to mean less attention to form and more hideous fitness work which I know is very good for me but is extremely disheartening because I have none (fitness). Last night we had to do this thing where we twisted around from our bellies to our back while not touching the floor with our legs. I was universally unsuccessful and mostly just groaned alot while dragging my legs along the revolting, smelly gym carpet floor. It was great!
My colleague Matthew is going to Amsterdam for the weekend and I am so jealous- but I have no money to pay the rent so I can't really justify it. It would be lovely though, strolling through the cobbled streets stoned and eating pastries...

I finally found out why no-one could text me- apparently because my mobile number is so ridiculously long some connections can't carry it- they have a maximum of forteen numbers. Soooo if you want to text me you have to just dial +49 and then drop off the first zero from my mobile number. Apparently to dial a plus on Nokia you press * twice.

Did I mention it is my birthday in two weeks?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Living in ignorance

This morning I had a group from The Bank- our most important clients- and we talked about the Australian economy. Who would have thought that I would be talking about a topic like this, which previously would have sent me to sleep in five seconds, with a bunch of German business people? They even sent me away with a bunch of questions about where we get our oil, how we generate electriciy and where the majority of our sheep farms are (!).

So, if anyone knows the answers to these questions could you email me... I have no idea.

I have discovered I am even more ignorant about the world than I possibly could have thought, yesterday I made the American husband of my colleague laugh in delight becuase I asked if New York was a state. Apparently it is. I really need to learn more geography.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Welcome to Kiel

This is now my third month in Germany and to date the longest I have ever been from home- I thought it was about time I set up a proper blog. Also, I have been universally unsuccessful at getting any of the digital images my flatmate thoughtfully provided me with to attatch to an email, so posting them seems the only way.

I am currently on the lovely Manuela's laptop- she is the aformentioned flatmate who is currently going at in on the stepping machine to the tune of the Beastie Boys Sabotage. An excellently bizarre combination and quite a good introduction to the weirdness of my small life in Kiel.

The photos above are of this lovely town and a cocktail party for the girl whose fantastic room I am staying in for three months. She is the tall blonde in the piccie with the two guys. They are my American colleagues Trent and Art, and just two of the team, all of whom are from the US except for the boss who is British. I am learning to say beer with an r in it so they can understand me- although I have already been drunkenly assured that "Nooooo yur accent is rally cuwt!" Tops.