This evening I did something I haven’t done nearly enough in my life.
I consciously stopped, and just took it all in.
I was at the Christmas market on Marienplatz in the centre of Munich, a glass of warm red Gluehwein in my hand, washing powder & rice cakes in the bag between my feet and snow gently falling on us all.
I stood there taking in the beautiful white lights on the huge Christmas tree in front of the grand old buildings.
I watched people peruse the stalls of decorations and trinkets on offer.
I watched the tourists loving it, and yes, I watched the gorgeous Munich men go about their evening.
I watched friends shaking hands, chatting and sipping warm wine.
And for a moment the world was perfect and all was good. I actually felt myself falling in love with Munich, despite the counter-arguments already announcing their existence.
For me, personally, I only start to enjoy the Christmas spirit when all my gifts are bought (check!) and I can stop stressing about getting everything done. This year I am going to miss out on my other 2 Christmas traditions – Carols in Kirstenbosch, and our charity lunch in the old age home. But hey – I’ve got snow, and darkness at 16h30!
It’s been a tough couple of days for me – not something I like to admit, because I do pride myself on trying to be positive. But reality sometimes bites hard.
Sure – a lot has been happening lately: moving house, work is crazy, planning for my trip home and sorting things out there. Mix in the departure of good friends and a lack of sleep, and you can imagine what my mind has been like.
One of the things that’s been pestering the inside of my head has been “what am I doing here?”
It has been much more of a culture shock to live in Germany than I expected. And thanks to friendships, work and facebook, I’m almost living in a satellite South Africa over here. I’m not in the minutiae of German society and life – but I’m not there in SA anymore either. A kind of weird limbo space to be hanging out in.
It is great to finally have a sense of where things are in Munich – how roads link up, and which side of the Isar River certain suburbs are. Yet I have not been to more than 2 museums in my ten months here…
It also struck me very clearly that living in Germany is so totally different to visiting it on holiday at this time of year. (the same goes for visiting any part of the world I guess). We work till 6, have to go shopping for food and stuffs at some point (everything closes at 8, including the Christmas market!) so you need to make a concerted effort to go our and experience the Christmas spirit. To fit it into your day to day life.
And then I moved last this month – finally! I cannot begin to describe the relief and soul-elation I felt when I drove away from my old apartment.
My beloved flatmate did save my ass when he said he would keep the couch that I had in my room, and really (really!) didn’t want to take down again. I’d been let down by someone that wanted to fetch it, who didn’t pitch. I am truly grateful to him for keeping it and saving me that hassle.
I still smile at his parting words to me… “I always ask if there is anything I could change, do differently?”
A momentary pause as I think to myself, “buddy, neither of us have the time for this talk!” – and instead vocalise, “nope, everything was fine”.
“Ja, I thought it was also rather pleasant with you, apart from the wifi thing of course, that is”.
Yep, a few days earlier he had finally realised that the wifi router I had bought 9 months ago, was actually used by me to surf from my bedroom. I had told him, but he hadn’t twigged it was on every night, until 3 days before my departure. Turns out he’s afraid of the “waves” the router emits. I didn’t want to break his heart and tell him that the neighbours above, below, left and right also have wifi…
And now I am finally in my new apartment, and it is almost set up – only a few boxes to empty and stow the contents of. I have a bookshelf, dining table and chairs, sleeper couch – much from IKEA, some from my dear friends. Looks like a lekker home. And then I noticed that apart from my Caleb painting that I brought from home, everything is “new” – at least to me. There is that sense of familiarity in items you’ve had for years, that have travelled with you through time – and that is missing here.
It is a weird feeling, that gives you that sense of the temporary. A painting, a tiny sculpture, the guest book my mom made and a cookbook from home are the only “historical” items – everything else has been acquired here in the last 10 months.
Add to that the reality that I am getting rid of everything at home that is in storage – and it is a real mind-fuck. Don’t get me wrong – I am (AM) relishing the idea of letting go of a lot, but there is something to be said for familiar and loved items.
This week also marks the day that I have known would come since I got here: that day when 2 of my best friends, my initial support base, start up kit and bearers of inside knowledge here in Munich head back to SA. It has been an awesome 10 months getting to know them better, and have their support, which is why it is so sad to see them go. I am, though, genuinely happy for them that they are going home – they are so excited J
A further 3 friends are leaving early next year – and I can already hear some of you say “but you did it to us in Cape Town too!!” – and you are right. Very right. But it doesn’t make it easier.
I try to see the positive – that I have wonderful new friends already – and that this is an opportunity to through myself into meeting new people next year – a running club or theatre group or drinking club or something. It is just not as easy for me as some people think. But I am looking forward to it, when I have more energy in January.
So – why am I here?
It’s not something that is easy to answer – even less so from February when the novelty factor of “I’ve just moved here from Africa” wears off and becomes “I’ve been here a year”. Then it might even become “what have I achieved here?”
Luckily I wrote down a year ago why I wanted a break from SA – and I’ll re-visit that list this week, to remind myself that there was rational thought behind this move.
There is a lot I haven’t done here yet – spend more time with my nieces and brother; visit friends in nearby London or Sweden and explore new places like Ljubljana or remote spots in the alps.
Yes, it gets lonely, yes I do have great friends here, and yes, I miss driving a car!! I miss familiarity, and I miss SA terribly some days, but it is also an exciting journey.
I’m learning a lot – about the world, about Germany, about me. I’m promoting Africa. I’m getting to go places I wouldn’t be able to from Cape Town.
I get to go skiing next year, I get to have snow now, and experience the seasons more distinctly than at home. I can read on the public transport to work – because it is a super system.
Is it forever? I doubt it. Is it 4 years or 2 years? That is also impossible to say – I’m rather going to take it as it comes, and re-evaluate every so often.
Just let it be known that while I miss my SA friends and family terribly – I know that the important ones will always have that irrevocable bond that transcends time and distance.
And that I am loving spending time closer to friends and family here in Europe.
But sjoe. I am feeling melancholy again! Time to sleep – a good one of those always helps. Especially when there is 20cm of snow on my balcony, and the temperature is due to drop to -11C tonight 🙂