Progress Report: 29 Things To Do Before I’m 30

Life, Music

There’s just over a week to go until my 30th. Where does the time go?! Seriously, I swear the Earth has decided to spin faster since I decided to do this. Anyway, I guess I’m about to hit the final straight of the challenge and well, it probably could be going better to be honest. But there are at least a few that can be updated/ticked off. Here we go!

1. Get that tattoo! (Or, considering timings and waiting lists, I think ‘book that tattoo appointment’ also counts in this case.) 
Ok, still trying to find a tattooist for this one. Any tips/recommendations are welcome.

2. See your favourite actor in one of the major plays of the season in London. (Ok that one’s cheating a bit but some of these should be easy, right? 😉 )
Less than eight days to go to this. I’m having to actively not think about it to avoid getting too excited 😉

3. On a night out, if you spot a hot guy boldly buy him a drink. (Because 30 is the age of fearless.)
Working on that night out thing….

4. Help the homeless
I can check this one off my list, although to be honest it’ll be something I try to keep doing. On this occasion I bought some breakfast for a lady who at least appeared to be homeless and asked me to buy her something to eat while I was picking up a breakfast snack for myself from the local bakery. We communicated in this weird broken German and I bought her something hot for breakfast. 

5. Prepare your lunch at home for a full week (because we all know how delicious the food at work is)
If taking leftover pizza to work counts, we can take the total number of successful packed lunch days up to 3!

6. Write that first chapter you’ve been thinking about. It doesn’t necessarily need to make a full book but just start with it..
Yep… still got to put fingers to keyboard!

7. Apply for a job that sounds like a real challenge
I’ve updated my portfolio, now to find somewhere to apply to.

8. Make out friends with a Bavarian. (’cause some of these should be easy. *giggles and runs*)
Er, yeah… slow progress on this one.

9. Adopt a kitty.
I’ve befriended a random colleague’s dog at the office, does that count?

10. Write a fan letter to One Direction.
Since they announced their planned hiatus, this is absolutely perfect. Copy of the letter coming soon.

11. Fund something ridiculous but cool on Kickstarter.
Not found the ridiculous Kickstarter project of my dreams yet…

12. Find a “Victorian Female Hobby” ™ and reclaim it. Cross stitching feminist slogans is a good start!
I’d forgotten about this one to be honest… *wanders off to Google*

13. Get drunk without getting a hangover. Believe me, it’s going to be the last time.
Yeah… I don’t really do the getting drunk or the having hangovers. I like to be in control too much

14. Sleep underneath the stars.
Technically I danced underneath the stars until sunrise and then slept out in the open in my sleeping bag between roughly 5.30am and 10am. So I think that counts…? 

15. Write a poem. When you’re over 30 and grown up, maybe people think you’re strange if you still write poems.
Ah yes… where did I leave my inner poet?

16. Kiss a stranger without any foreplay.
Uh huh.

17. Stagediving. Go for it.
I missed an opportunity to do this at MS Dockville last weekend sadly…. not sure if the opportunity will present itself again before the big 3-0.

18. Get up early and watch a sunrise somewhere beautiful
Or alternatively don’t go to bed right? I saw the sunrise at MS Dockville from the stroll back from the festival/showers after dancing all night.

19. Go to the top of a mountain and sit there contemplating the world.
Not done this one yet either…

And here’s two more I decided to add:

django_django20. Go to a music festival
So technically this was already planned before I started my list, but I went to MS Dockville in Hamburg last weekend. It was amazing. Great bands, great company and lots of dancing until sunrise.

21. Watch a meteor shower
The Perseid happened a few days after I started this challenge and as I’d never watched a meteor shower before I thought I should jump at the chance to watch it. OK, so I wasn’t organised enough to get out of the city but I saw a few meteors dashing across the sky from my 3rd floor balcony.

Ten Days On: 29 Things To Do Before I’m 30

Life

Wow, so it’s just over a week since I had this crazy idea to try and find 29 things I could cram into the final month of my 20s. And what a busy week it’s been! Unfortunately not on completing challenges, but with deadlines for my day job (I really need to work on my work-life balance). Anyway I thought it was about time I should create some kind of “progress report”, not least because I wasn’t actually sure how long my list was after some of you so kindly contributed ideas.

First up are three suggestions from the wonderful filleboheme

1. Get that tattoo! (Or, considering timings and waiting lists, I think ‘book that tattoo appointment’ also counts in this case.) 
STATUS: IN PROGRESS
This is definitely something I am going to try my hardest to do. I haven’t booked an appointment yet, but I have finally started to try and find a tattooist that will do the sort of thing I’m looking for.

2. See your favourite actor in one of the major plays of the season in London. (Ok that one’s cheating a bit but some of these should be easy, right? 😉 )
STATUS: COUNTDOWN TO THIS IMMINENT EVENT HAS COMMENCED 😉

3. On a night out, if you spot a hot guy boldly buy him a drink. (Because 30 is the age of fearless.)
STATUS: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
All I need to do is find time to go on a night out and then find a hot guy… Easy peasy….!

The next few suggestions came from The guy from the other floor at work

4. Help the homeless
STATUS: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
I’m interpreting this as doing something to help someone homeless – eg buying them a coffee, getting them something to eat, giving them an umbrella when it’s raining.

5. Prepare your lunch at home for a full weekHomemade lunch (because we all know how delicious the food at work is)
STATUS: IN PROGRESS.
I realised a full week, as in going from a Monday to a Friday, was going to be quite a challenge as I’m taking a few days off here and there in the next few weeks, leaving me with only one full week. So I changed this challenge to preparing my lunch at home for at least five separate working days between now and turning 30. And I actually managed to take food to work twice last week. I took a photo of one of the meals to prove it! Now, does taking in leftover pizza from the weekend count as “preparing your lunch at home”?

6. Write that first chapter you’ve been thinking about. It doesn’t necessarily need to make a full book but just start with it..
STATUS: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
A couple of other people suggested this to me when I mentioned my post idea. Plus, I had actually thought about some sort of challenge like this so it should definitely be on the list! I haven’t done anything about it yet though…

7. Apply for a job that sounds like a real challenge
STATUS: WELL WHY NOT?

Then came suggestions from Feylamia

8. Make out with a Bavarian. (’cause some of these should be easy. *giggles and runs*)
STATUS: UHMMMMMMM
This one made me laugh out loud when I read it 😀 If you know me, you’ll know that this is quite opposite to my personal principles and I’m not going to actively go out of my way to seek this one out and do it. However, making friends with a random Bavarian could be an interesting challenge. Especially if I try and only use German to do it…!

9. Adopt a kitty.
STATUS: IF ONLY I COULD
I really love the sound of this one, however I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed pets in my apartment so I think I am going to have to find a cat I can be a surrogate owner/auntie to. (And my friend’s cat just had six adorable kittens so I guess I can be an auntie to them?) Or alternatively I’ll befriend any lonely lost cats I stumble across in Frankfurt.

10. Write a fan letter to One Direction.
STATUS: HAHAHAHAHA
I’m still laughing about this one but think it is a fabulous idea. I should write it as a really serious fan letter, right? Guess I better learn more names that Harry and Zayn too…!

11. Fund something ridiculous but cool on Kickstarter.
STATUS: MUST REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT THE LATEST COOL KICKSTARTERS
This is a brilliant idea! I am really up for doing this, even if it’s only giving 10€ to some ridiculous hipster project.

12. Find a “Victorian Female Hobby” ™ and reclaim it. Cross stitching feminist slogans is a good start!
STATUS: INTERESTING
I am going to have to Google this and see what there is!

Now on to suggestions from Sebastian

13. Get drunk without getting a hangover. Believe me, it’s going to be the last time.
STATUS: I’VE BEEN DREADING THE DAY A SINGLE GLASS OF WINE GIVES ME A HANGOVER
But actually, probably because I don’t tend to get drunk (I haven’t for years), I also tend to avoid horrible hangovers after drinking. Go me!

14. Sleep underneath the stars.
STATUS: HECK YES!
Does the fact I’m going to a music festival in the next few days and will be sleeping in a tent count?

15. Write a poem. When you’re over 30 and grown up, maybe people think you’re strange if you still write poems.
STATUS: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
Best get some pen to paper or fingers to keyboard or something and start writing!

16. Kiss a stranger without any foreplay.
STATUS: SEE BAVARIAN CHALLENGE ABOVE
But you know, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to kiss a stranger on the cheek by surprise! 😉

17. Stagediving. Go for it.
STATUS: WHY NOT?
I mean, it could be amusing right? Like I said earlier, off to a music festival soon so I’ll give it a try (and try not to get kicked out of the festival at the same time!)

And finally I received these two suggestions on Twitter from @yedennek

18. Get up early and watch a sunrise somewhere beautiful
STATUS: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
Although I haven’t yet figured out where that somewhere beautiful should be…

19. Go to the top of a mountain and sit there contemplating the world.
STATUS: DOES A VERY BIG HILL COUNT?
If so, then I will be attempting to find time to go for a walk in the Frankfurt Taunus…

So that all makes a list of 19 things so far. I guess I better get thinking on another 10 or so, seeing as I know I won’t tick off a couple of the ones listed here. And I’m still open to suggestions from you, dear reader/cajoled friend, so feel free to leave them in a comment below!

Until next time…

29 Things To Do Before I’m 30

Life

They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well, I must have had a hilarious decade because today marks the beginning of the final month of my twenties. It seems highly improbable that ten years ago I was about to embark on my second year of university and enter a new decade. But apparently ten years have passed. (Really?!) And in one short month I will hit the big 3-0.

I started thinking, as one does when a landmark birthday like this looms, ‘what things should I have done’ before 30 comes knocking at my door and the chance to appear on a “30 under 30” list vanishes completely. A quick Google throws up numerous blogs, magazine pieces and God knows what else of THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU’RE 30. Most of them aimed at people with a few more years to go, rather than those of us with mere weeks. And quite a few of them require a heck of a lot more money than I ever had at my disposal during any of my 20s.

So I decided I would compile my own list: 29 Things To Do Before You’re 30 and challenge myself to tick them off within the month. If anything, I thought, it might give me the push I’ve needed to write more on my own blog. I dutifully started with number 1… and that’s where I hit upon my first challenge. Can I actually THINK of 29 things to do? In my excitement of having something fun to blog about, I discovered I didn’t really know where to start with Challenge Number 1.

So, dear reader/friend I have coerced into commenting, this is where you come in. Put forward your suggestions for things I should do before I’m 30 and let’s see what happens.

OK? GO!

The Trials of an Expat Voter #GE2015

Britain, Culture, emigration, general election, Life, politics, voting

In a few short hours, millions of people in the United Kingdom will be taking to the polls to (hopefully) decide who will be in charge of their country for the next five years. Except for perhaps some of the most astute political analysts, no one really knows what to expect tomorrow. Will Cameron be out? Will Clegg collapse? Will Ed form a coalition with Russell Brand?

But while various pundits will be focussed on voter turnouts and the overall result, thousands of eligible voters won’t be putting that all important X where it matters at all. Not because they don’t want to. Not because they forgot to turn up.  And not even because they’re disenfranchised, don’t care and think their voice won’t count.

No, on May 7th potentially thousands will be left without the chance or choice to make their voice heard simply because they’re expats. Citizens of the United Kingdom, with UK passports, but not currently residing in the UK. And it’s that which will cost them their democratic voice come polling day. But not for the reasons you might think.

 

Computer Says No

The UK Government barraged me with endless targeted Facebook ads during the months of March and April 2015 with the cheery promise that it takes less than 5 minutes to register to vote. It actually took me almost SIX MONTHS of correspondence, phone calls and three separate attempts to register online before my name was successfully added to the electoral register. The cause of this problem? Apparently “I don’t know where I was last registered to vote” was not a valid option on the online registration, especially when trying to procure a postal vote as an expat.

The simple truth was, due to having been a student for a rather large chunk of the last decade and having moved house every 9 months or so during that time, I couldn’t actually remember where I had last been listed on the electoral register. Add the fact that my parents, who kindly provide me with a fixed UK address and a bed to stay in when I pop back, moved house last year and subsequently moved constituency. Together, these problems somewhat hindered my application. Eventually, with mere weeks until the last possible chance to register, my only option was a sudden “return” to the UK from being abroad before promptly “leaving” once again and applying for a postal vote registered to the address my parents now call home.

But I wasn’t alone in my struggle. British expats experience an array of challenges to be able to claim what is legally still their right up to 15 years of living outside of the UK. Some simply can’t register because they were never registered when they lived in the UK. Now I understand that if a person in their 40s suddenly decides that, despite never voting when living in the UK, they now want to do so, it could create a bit of an ethical dilemma. But what about the young 19 year old who wants to exercise his right to vote but whose family left the UK when he was 15 and thus he had not been on the electoral register before he left? Is he simply not allowed to vote? The chances are he can’t vote in the country he lives in either and so we create another disenfranchised youth who now may never vote.

Oh Where Is My Ballot Paper? 

If you think that once registered all your problems as an expat attempting to vote in a General Election at home are over, think again. Once you’ve jumped the registration hurdle, you fall straight into the mercy of the postal service.

In the last seven days my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with posts from British friends and acquaintances who, for various reasons, find themselves currently living outside of UK shores. Being, mostly, young, active, politically aware types, they were actually organised. They’ve registered their desire to vote and secured their postal vote application. It’s at this point they hit a problem. A problem I call “Oh Where Is My Ballot Paper?”.

Due to the rule of not sending out postal ballots until 20 days before the Election and the fact that they have to be returned by 10pm on polling day, friends in various locations around the globe didn’t receive their postal ballots until the chance to post it back to the UK in time had long since passed. Several friends in the States reportedly didn’t receive their ballots until the possibility of returning it in time was long gone. But it’s not limited to those facing a long haul flight to return home. Another acquaintance, this time in the Czech Republic, is still to receive her postal ballot. In fact, her outburst on social media to this affect a few short days ago bought forward several others, also living in Europe, also without their ballots.

Surely, when we’re considering something as important as the voting right of citizens, creating such a tight turnaround is placing rather too much faith in the world’s postal services? I mean I have friends who still haven’t received Christmas gifts I posted months ago.* And don’t even get me started on the wondering whether my postal vote will actually arrive back in the UK in time.

*that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Polling Day

So now, as Polling Day dawns, anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about British Politics right now, knows that 2015 is going to be close.

But one thing’s for sure, thousands of expats will anxiously watch the results, frustrated, angry or just despondent that, despite their best efforts, this time their voice won’t be heard. And the money the UK Government/electoral office spent on targeted Facebook ads to encourage British Expats to register was, it would seem, a little bit redundant.

 

Nobody wants to see your sex trophy before breakfast (Reposted)

Friends, Life, Relationships, Sex

A couple of months ago, in between late nights at the office and learning German, I wrote a guest piece for my friend and fabulous author (yes, I’m biased), Erin Lawless. It’s about parents who post every nanosecond of their newborn’s life on social media. It was/is, perhaps, a little controversial, but I quite enjoyed it all the same and so I’m posting it here as well.

I hope you enjoy it!

You can view the original post here: No one wants to see your sex trophy before breakfast or read it below.

 

“Would you all please stop! I don’t care anymore.”
I recently muttered these exact words at my phone one morning while absent-mindedly scrolling through Instagram instead of getting up.
You see, it appears that whenever I open Instagram, check Facebook, pull up Twitter or even get round to pinning something on my (admittedly neglected) Pinterest, there’s inevitably a baby picture staring back at me. If it’s not a baby picture it’s a “Week 34!” or a “This one doesn’t want to come out” pregnancy shot.
Alright, I get it. You’re pregnant / newly with-child / hanging out with your adorable newborn. And that’s cute. Once or twice. But there’s a limit to how many “Look at my amazing partner/husband/wife/baby and our cute new family” I can take (especially before breakfast).
Here’s one where it’s hiding from the ultrasound. #growingahuman
Isn’t he/she/it so cute?! #adorbs #lookslikedaddy
4am feed time. #tired #butshescute #mumlife
ENOUGH. I do not want to see swollen ankles or large bellies. I am bored of babies in onesies sprawled across a bed. And I’ve seen enough ultrasounds to be able to tell you that, it’s ok, you’re not going to have an alien.
But before you write me off as a callous, cold-hearted, childless bitch; hear me out.
I’m in my late 20s. I actively use social media. I have a wealth of friends and family with newborn kids (and judging by the number of pregnancy announcement Instagrams; it’s about to boom). My friends are having babies and that IS exciting. Some of my closest friends, ones I’ve known for over a decade, are making little copies of themselves. We’ve navigated first dates, first kisses, break ups, fan girl obsessions, proposals and weddings together. It’s only natural our lives have reached the point where we’re now being responsible for another life; be it human or cat.
And yes, announcing on social media is a quick and fast way to communicate the news of “Hey guys, we made an us!” (Alternatively: “We’ve been having lots of sex!!”) to as many people as possible with as little effort as possible. It’s especially useful when the people you want to inform are scattered around the globe. But – and here’s where I get up on my soapbox – I do not need you to document EVERY SECOND of your pregnancy. Believe it or not, once you’ve seen one pregnant woman, you’ve pretty much seen them all. They don’t vary wildly in form. It may surprise you, but I don’t particularly want to see your enlarged stomach. I don’t need to watch a time lapse of your body swelling up. And I really don’t want to see a labour shot(!).
It doesn’t end there either. Once baby has screamed their way into the world, my social media feed is plagued with shots, taken from multiple angles, in an array of microfashion, and filtered with Valencia. I don’t know how to tell you this but, I’m not especially bothered about seeing the 157th picture of your baby trying to smile (/fart).
I don’t want to banish infants from Instagram or free Facebook of baby farting faces (they can actually be quite hilarious). My simple plea is just that there’s a few less babies staring back at me when I log in. Your child is adorable but I don’t need to witness its every nanosecond. Just a small update now and then is fine. Especially if it’s funny – like they try to say “banana” and it comes out as a swear word, or you just happened to film them doing the most fantastic accidental forward roll into the cat while they tried to stand. I welcome those posts with open arms. (Mostly because they will keep me entertained during long and tedious days at work.) But please, stop clogging my newsfeed with your sex trophy.
If you really must broadcast every tiny development of your newborn (perhaps you have family/friends abroad who want to keep up with progress), consider creating a private Instagram account you share only with those who you know want to see every detail of your baby’s life or creating a Facebook list that you share only baby updates with. Spare the rest of us (ok, only the lonely, single, bitter ones of us) from having to trawl through numerous “Just too cute” and endless “Look at this beautiful bundle” moments. After all, I don’t fill your newsfeed with sunsets, cocktails, cats and epic holiday photos do I? Oh… Right.

Proceed with Caution: Your Facebook Newsfeed indicates you are entering "Real Adulthood".

Friends, Life, Relationships

I have somewhat been neglecting my own blog of late. It is time to jump back in and put fingers to keyboard once again!

[I promise I haven’t been slacking! A little while ago I wrote a guest post for Erin Lawless, (if you’re into books, writing or historical figures take a read of Erin’s blog) and I’ve been writing online content for other organisations. While it’s (usually) fun, it does slightly zap the desire to come home and write in my own blog after a long day. And moving on…]

Is it me or is EVERYONE getting married/having babies/moving in with their long-term partners?! Over the last five years or so it seems that all my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with is engagement/wedding announcements, hospital scans – and later photos – of babies and cliche photos of friends sat on the floor with takeaway and wine surrounded by boxes celebrating their successful first step on to the elusive property ladder. (I thought there was a recession?)

By comparison, my own appearances in friends newsfeeds consist mostly (I assume) of pictures I’ve liked (often content I was responsible for creating at work so it doesn’t really count), videos, dreams and wishes for job contracts and holidays and the odd tale about life in a foreign country building a church. Plus the most appalling photos that I’ve had the misfortune to be tagged in. While my friends lives seem to be progressing quite nicely and as expected for a *deepbreath* still-clinging-on-to-mid-twentysomething, my life seems not so far removed (and simultaneously worlds apart) from the life I lived as a 22-year-old student in England. My life is hurtling towards 30 with complete disregard of the fact I’m missing vital components of being a REAL PROPER ADULT (which, I assume is what I become in a couple of years time when I hit the big three-oh).

What’s bought this on? Mostly the fact that one of my oldest, bestest friends has just announced, via Facebook, the impending arrival of pitter patter feet later this year and the (unrelated) fact that I am going to be an aunty in a matter of weeks.

I know every generation goes through that moment of sudden realisation that, contrary to their belief, they are not so much “getting” as are “actually” old. I’d like to throw it out there that coming of age is not turning 18 or 21. Coming of age is really when you realise you and your friends have responsibilities that, until recently, were the domain of “proper adults”, an area that was once only occupied by your parents.

However, this moment of revelation is happening somewhat differently for my generation than it did for the generation before us. My generation, which seems to be somewhere inbetween Generation Y and the Millennial Generation, are playing out their life events through social media in a big way (and the Millennial Generation are doing this on an even larger scale). Facebook has a lot to answer to for making me feel older than my 27 years.

There’s the obligatory “OMG!! WE’RE ENGAGED!!!! OMG!!” status updates (ok yes, when they’re from people that I didn’t even know were dating someone perhaps that is a sign I need to cull my Facebook of people I clearly never speak to) which make me question whether I should be looking for the love of my life rather than bumbling along merrily. The engagement announcement is often swiftly followed by the endless wedding planning updates (to a wedding I’m probably not invited to because actually we haven’t spoken to each other since that night in the Union bar where we met and discovered a mutual love of, heck I don’t even remember now).

Then I have friends who are parents. They update, tweet and blog about everyday life with their kids. It’s kinda cute and I guess it’s the modern day equivalent to the Baby Books our parents kept (well actually, mine didn’t keep a book for any of us). But honestly, it’s been about 5 years since my newsfeed started to get clogged with baby tales and frankly I’m a little bored of them all now. (No offence, I’ve just seen enough baby photos this year to last me into 2015.)

But here’s the thing – what if I wasn’t on Facebook/Twitter etc, would I even know half of these people are engaged/married/pregnant/living with children? Would I even care? Surely the ones that mattered I’d be in regular contact with and would know at least the expected trajectory of their lives. And I would hope that if I was in England and was really as close as I think I am to some of the friends I’ve stayed in contact with, I’d get a text or a call or even a letter/email informing me of the news before the whole world is told on Facebook. (NB to friends reading this, 1. if you have ever informed everyone of your big announcement via social media this isn’t actually a stab at you, I promise and 2. please don’t judge me if I do a similar thing at some point. I know social media is an easy way to contact a lot of people in one go and disseminate your news while trying to avoid the awkwardness created by people who think they are the last to be told these things.)

While social media has been great for me to keep in touch with good friends (especially since I upped and left my home country), it has also kept me in the lives of those with whom I am not so close. And I think it is this that has given increased emphasis on what my life at 27 (almost 28) years of age should look like and how it should measure up. I should, according to the people Facebook shares in my newsfeed, actually be in a career by now, earning a packet, paying off my student loan, married or with a long term partner or at least dating someone, thinking about children, travelling the world etc.

Theses are all things, if I go by social media updates, that, as a person in my mid-to-late-20s, I should be doing. Only for some time, about the only one of those I was actually doing was experiencing foreign climes. Now I can probably just about tick off ‘in a career’. The rest, not really happening.

But while my newsfeed is regularly full of this wedding or that baby or this family yes, that is the fuel for this rant, it is also filled with other news from other friends who are still single, still unbabied or still trying to figure out what they want to do with life. So actually I’m not alone and, no, not EVERYONE is doing responsible grown up things yet, even if they probably should be.

The question is, 20 years from now when my friends’ children are growing up, getting married and having babies of their own, will their parents – my friends – be instagramming Jessica as she walks down the aisle, tagging their children’s friends in a million photographs or tweeting about the absolutely brilliant Father of the Bride speech they just gave? Is it just that we are a generation obsessed with documenting everything online?

A German New Year

Frankfurt, Life

With the first day of 2013 in its final hour (at least it is if you live on CET) it seems like the perfect time to share my experiences of my very first German New Year.

After gathering at a flat in Frankfurt for drinks and nibbles, myself and four friends chose to brave the city centre and head out to the River Main. An uncharacteristically warm (by December standards anyway) winter’s night we took the short bus ride into the centre to see what it is that the Germans do to welcome the new year.

 

Fireworks on the riverside. Frankfurt am Main.

There are few words to describe the atmosphere we experienced as made our tentative way along the riverside. It was one of merriment, awe and high jinx as you might expect on December 31st. It was also one of adrenaline, bangs, whooshes and slight fear.

Apparently, a German New Year’s Eve involves explosions and alcohol. Lots of them.

You see, the German law on fireworks and their use in public appear to be somewhat different to that of the UK. While London Borough Council will have, no doubt, meticulously spent months planning the capital’s traditional Thames firework display, in Frankfurt firework displays are left to the general public to co-ordinate.

If you turn up to the banks of the River Main at around 11pm on New Year’s Eve, or Silvester as the Germans call it, you will be greeted by many a reveler, armed with copious amounts of alcohol and a good handful or five of fireworks.

Midnight celebrations.

As we were cheerily dispatched by the bus driver nowhere near a bus stop, we stepped into the throng. Right next to a taxi parked up at the edge of a cordon, blasting out dance tunes. We walked further down the water’s edge and it was at this point we discovered why people had warned us against venturing to the Main on Silvester.

At every step we found ourselves dodging people, discarded bottles and, slightly more worryingly, fireworks.

And this is the thing about New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt. There are fireworks everywhere. And the majority of them are in the hands of the inebriated. British heath and safety execs would be having a field day (and the Fire Service would be horrified!) as multiple fireworks are set off far too close to gathered crowds.

This all results in a strange mix up of excitement, celebration and fear as fireworks go off all around you. As you stand there (seeking protection from the nearest tree – because if you’re near a tree, you’re safer right?) you find yourself trying to figure out where to look – not just because of the spectacular display of fireworks going off at random all over the place, but also because one of those fireworks could be heading straight for you.

All in all though, it was a great night, unlike any other I’ve ever experienced either in the UK or Germany. And while I’ll steer clear of bringing my own fireworks next year (just too much room for error and injury) I still think I’ll venture to the Main to see in 2014. Happy New Year!

Life in Germany: Not all plain sailing

Culture, Frankfurt, Hope City Church, Life

Since my last post some unexpected things have happened.

Firstly I found myself jobless after nearly three weeks in the foreign country I have chosen to call home for the next year or so. Secondly, I was also potentially homeless.
What happened? I hear five concerned voices ask as they read. I could, at this juncture, go into some epic tale telling the woes of a English aupair, who struggled with a family who knew not her mother tongue. That however, would be a fabrication of fiction. The truth is, as is often the case, a little duller than that.
As previously mentioned, the little girl I had been charged to care for over the next three months did not know any English and I, for my part, had extremely patchy German with comparatively less knowledge about Deutsch than Eurozone politicians have on how to solve the international debt crisis. However, despite the challenges, I was confident that, given time, the child and I would eventually form a bond that bridged our language barrier and actually end up conversing in a glorious mix of German and English. I might not have been being terribly realistic I know, but I was willing to give it a shot.
This was not to be. Three weeks into aupairing, just as I managed to win over the girl and place the first foundations of our wonderful bridge, the mother tells me she fears the challenge of language between her daughter and I is too big to overcome. Another childcare solution would be found and I was free to look for another job and she would be willing to give references.
With that one sentence not only was the job that bought me to Germany gone, so too was the home I had planned to live in until my flat became available.
Most other people would, I suppose, accept defeat, move back home and try again later. I, however, am not most people. Instead I’ve chosen to believe that somewhere out there (are you paying attention Germany?) my perfect job awaits. And the housing thing? Well it just so happens that wonderful friends of mine from the UK who have also moved to Germany have a spare room. Sorted.
No one ever said living your dream was easy.
Germany, bring it on.

Hello Germany, I’m here!

Culture, emigration, Frankfurt, Hope City Church, Life

I made it. I actually made it.

Four (quite long) days ago I stepped off a plane and made my way to the Arrivals lounge of Frankfurt International Airport. There I was greeted by three Germans, ready to welcome me into their family for the next three months.

I type this in my new home in the middle of the German countryside watching Fireman Sam, or rather Feuerwehrmann Sam. It’s not quite how I remember it growing up as a child in England. Sam et al appear to have turned into Pontypandy’s super rescue A team; not only putting out fires and saving kittens from rooftops but becoming Pontypandy’s coastguard too.

I should probably point out that I’m watching Feuerwehrmann Sam on my own. Anna, the five-year old girl I’m here to look after for the next three months, is at Kindergarten. The TV is on to try and ease the eerie lack of noise in my new home (and also to help with my learning the German language.)

Everyone warns you moving country is a big deal, but no one quite prepares you for the change!

And it has definitely been a change. Taking everything I want for my life in Germany, and using only a plane to take it, somewhat limits what can be packed. Despite moving house over 12 times in the last eight years, I’ve often failed to clear out unwanted items; habit, time and personal nature resulted in me chucking most of what I own into the back of a car and hoping for the best.

This time, packing a Ford Feista to its gills was not an option. This time, I had just one large suitcase, one small suitcase and a handbag (thank God for BA’s generous hand luggage allowance!). This time, my whole life had to fit into 46kg give or take a few hundred grams.

I’m a natural hoarder (a gene I’ve inherited from my father who would keep anything ‘just in case’), so ruthlessly going through my clothes created THREE bags of items I no longer wore, and several pairs of shoes that had seen significantly better days. Not to mention the collection of general things I no longer used, picture frames, cables, jewellery, little gifts from people I’d never opened, unburned candles, endless toiletries I didn’t need. However even after getting rid of several bags worth of items it took me days to make everything I wanted/needed to fit in my suitcase. (And we’ll just not talk about the small collection of items I’ve wistfully left in England with the plea to anyone coming out to visit to bring an item or two with them…)

Now the drama of the cases is over and done with – well until the next move – the next challenge is settling into German life, learning the German language and not forgetting to drive on the right (so far I’ve not actually got behind the wheel of a car though so that’s not such a problem).

I do, however, really miss breakfast cereal.