Saturday, 22 November 2014

A couple of emotions

This week, I had to visit the UK on very short notice. The reasons for the travel is not important to this story except that it put me in a couple of situations that evoked some strong emotions.

I was at Dusseldorf Airport, and was in the queue at the checkin desk. In front of me was a group of elderly Germans. They must be visiting the UK as a group. They were look quite happy and genuinely please to see each other. It looks they have seen each other for quite a long time. As I waited, another elderly couple joined them. They greeted with open arms and hugs, and immediately started to talk. I thought this is OK as they seem to be travelling in a group. However, when the last of the group has finished with the airline officer, the newly arrived couple walked the counter and proceed with the check in procedure. That action caused me to feel angry as I felt the order of things being upset. The fellow that is waiting behind me also voiced his opinion about the situation, which the elderly couple ignored. I can feel my emotion rising, and even proceed to give the elderly couple a nasty stare. None of their friends mentioned anything. These group of elderly Germans seem to have an air of superiority about them, a kind of "we have lived this life, and it is our turn to be respected and be privileged".  

After a few minutes, I calmed down after realising that there is nothing I can do to change the situation. In reality, the short delay will not make any difference in terms of the overall process of checking in and walking onto the airplane. In fact, they were held up in security check as I walked past them, and onto the nearest coffee house for some breakfast. Maybe karma got its back, in a small way.

The other emotion was when I returned from the UK. As I was waiting inline at the customs, waiting to be questioned by the customs officer. I noticed a couple on the booth on the right. They were going through their papers and pleading with the custom officer that they need a visa for 8 months for medical therapy. The customs officer said that with the evidence provided so far, they are only allow 3 months in Germany. For 8 months, the couple will need to provide further documentation. I didn't think too much about it, until the customs officer told them to proceed to an area where they can continue searching for the necessary documentation. As they turn around, I saw the lady carrying a child in her hands. The child looks to be sleeping, but I am unsure. It sounds like that the therapy could be for the child. The customs officer was kind enough to allow the couple as much time as they need to find the necessary paperwork. At this point, I feel quite upset. This family is so desperate to get help for their child that they are willing to come as far as the border of Germany without ensuring that the proper papers are at hand. They have travelled from Montenegro. I immediately thought about the boat people and asylum seekers that are such big news in Australia. It is so blatantly clear such enforcement at country's borders is so wrong. This situation could be decided if the child receive life saving medical care or be damaged for the rest of his life. For the sake of this family, lets just hope that my speculation is just that, speculation. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Children at the Kindertroedlemarkt

The weekend just past, we had the Stadtfest in the town my family and I lived in. It is an annual event that occurs in the September and it is a big event for the town. It is an event that brings out the locals, a chance for local town folks to catch up and say hello when they run into each other at the festival.

The other part of the Stadtfest is the Kindertroedelmarkt. This is a fantastic idea that I have not seen in Australia or anywhere else in the world. In Australia, a troedelmarkt would be known as a trash n treasure market. In the US, it might be called a flea market.

Anyhow in Germany, a kindertroedelmarkt is a special troedelmarkt for children only. I don't exactly know the reason for running such a market but there are many positives to it.

A stall at the kindertroedelmarket is for the child to have a stall for selling their items. It may be their toys from years past, their clothes that don't fit them anymore, or books that they have out grown. It can be seen as a personal milestone for the child as he cleans his personal space out and make room for the new items that will be in his life in the next few years.

During the running of the stall, the children will get an experience of commerce. They have to come up with a price for their items, handle the negotiations when someone asks how much it is, and close the sale. At least that would be how it should be. Typically, the buyer just pays for the items and takes it away.

The children visiting the kindertroedelmarkt also gets a lesson in life the value of money. When we visited the market every year, the children would get some money to spent. This year, they got 10EUR each, which would buy quite a few items. As we enter the market, they immediately saw something that they want but we advised them that they should hold off and go deeper into the market. This is basically to avoid being impulsive and to size up all your opportunities before making a decision.

Towards the end of the market, the kids were down to their last few Euros. They bought some great items along the way. One of them got a magician kit. They also purchased a wooden set of Ludo, or in German "Mensch √§rgere dich nicht " which literal translates to "Man, don't get irritated." 

As we walked out, one of my sons wanted to buy an Ambulance toy van. He asked for its price, "3 Euros" was the answer, but he only have 1.50 Euro. He told them that he only had 1.50 Euro, but the seller did not accept his offer. My son left the stall a little disappointed, but he realised that is the way life is. You can't always get what you want, nor it is possible to always to "just buy it". There also many take aways from that experience.

The day ended and the kids got many great items from the market, we also met a few friends and asked how they are going. Looking for the next year's market. 

Finally, we did the German thing at the market and purchased a Bratwurst mit Brotchen for an afternoon snack!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

What city do you live in?

In last few weeks, there have been one of the Facebook fads where everyone tries out a quiz or a survey. When they get the answer, it is posted onto Facebook for all to see.

I have noticed that the majority of results are saying that they should live in Paris. The website is at

I tried it and it say I should be living in London. (Been there a couple of times, nice city).

I had a thought to see how many other websites are there that do the same thing. Running through Google, I got 3930 hits!

The website at as no matter which answers I give it, I always end up at Brussels. (also been there a couple of times, and also a nice city). 

To give it a little bit of run, it would have been a good idea to correlate the answers with the other folks that took the tests. It could have turn out like this.

  1. The results came back that I should be living in Barcelona.
  2. The website could recommend that I contact a few of my Facebook connections as he should also be living in Barcelona.
  3. The website could also recommend that I send a postcard to my other Facebook connections who should not be living in Barcelona.
  4. Perhaps other fun connections based upon the answers you gave. 

At the end of the day, it is just a little bit of fun.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

So we had a car accident...

One of my biggest fear while living in Germany is having a car accident. Apart from the risk of physical injury to the drivers and passengers, there is also the hassel of dealing with the bureaucracy that is the German car insurance system.

I won't go into the details of the actual accident as it is not relevant to what I want to write about.

Coming from Australia, I am accustomed to the way it worked there. When an accident occurs, the drivers would exchange their details (including the details of insurance providers), and then we proceed to the mechanics to get the quotes for the repair work. After submitting the quotes to the insurance company, they would sort the details between themselves. If it is your fault, you pay the access and the insurance company pay the rest.

In Germany, things are a little bit different. It all comes down to the person who is at fault. When the police attended our accident, they advise us that all we have to do for repairing our car is to take our car the mechanic and tell the mechanic the insurance company of the at fault driver, that is it.

Having said that, there are a few things that we did that made it a little easier to deal with.

  • Always call the police and get a police report. For an accident with no injury, the police will tell you that they don't need to be present. However, having a police report provides concrete proof who is the at fault driver and a clear description of what happened during the accident.
  • Exchange the details with the other driver. Make sure that you get as much verifiable details as you can, including their driver's license details, their phone number and their address.
  • Go to see a mechanic as soon as you can to start the paper work.
  • Take photos of the accident scene. Use the camera on your mobile phone.

However, drive safely and avoid accident as best as you can. The disruption to your daily life is just not worth it.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Back on the wagon

Wow, it has been almost 12 months since my last entry into this blog. I must say that I miss the art of writing something. It has been a really long 12 months, with other items with higher priorities taking my attention.

Well, I will try to keep a schedule of one post per week, to be published each Sunday. I think have theme worked out for each week, that would help me focus on what to write.

In a rotating basis, I will write on four themes

  1. Family living in Germany
  2. Side income
  3. Children and kinder
  4. Living under the influence of Asperger's syndrome
The first article will be family living in Germany.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Our trip to Berlin and its technical musuem

It has become a bit of an Easter tradition for our family. It started during our first Easter in Germany at 2010 when we visited the Schwarzwald in the south. This year, we visited Berlin. 

As usual, we have left the hotel booking rather late, we booked it about 4 days in advance. (A mental note to myself, book it further in advance!) At one point, it was not looking very good that we may not be able get some hotel room. As mentioned during the "hop-on, hop off" bus tour, some 1 million tourist visits Berlin the Easter period. If that is to be believe, then I had some competition for those last remaining beds.

My family and I had an amazing time in Berlin. The late wintery conditions also provide some chilly mornings. It snowed quite heavily on the second day we arrived. 

While in Berlin, we visited a number of the attractions. For the children, we visited the German Technical Museum and the Natural Museum. The German Technical Museum is is a hit for the children. It had a big selection of trains engines and carriages on show. 

We took the train to the Technical Museum. Upon approaching the museum, we saw an amazing site of a plane on top of it.

This is a little bit like the Speyer Technical museum. However, this technical museum is full of everything technical. 

There were several items in the technical museum that was directly related to the world wars. The first one was an enigma machine, and the other was a carriage used in the holocaust.

The enigma machine is the real deal. The holocaust carriage, I am not so sure about. Let me know if you know one otherwise. As  step into the carriage and looked around, I can sense the sadness and futility of it all during the war years.  The holocaust carriage gave me plenty of things in life to appreciate. 

There were many trains in the museum. The children were able to climb into most of the cabin. They were having a really excited time.

It took us about 2 hours to go through the whole museum, however most of that 2 hours were visiting the train section.

One of the best part of the visiting Berlin was a chance to soak into its dramatic history in the last 20 years. I shall do a post about this.

All in all, it was a great trip, and we want to visit it again in the next few years.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Another observation about my lack of German language

When I shifted to Germany in the middle of 2009, one of the fears was how my lack of German was going to shape my life. During my research of the German cultural, the lack of folks speaking English was a surprise as I understood that English was taught to the majority of students, and that was from the start of their schooling.

As I approach my fourth anniversary of shifting to Germany, I have just one of the most disappointing experience that is a result of my lack of German. My son's started his primary schooling this year. Every four to five months, the parents of students of the class and the teachers have a get-together to discuss the situation class in the class, major activities coming up and discussion of other potential activities.

Firstly, I was really surprise that this meeting was mostly attended by mums. My son's class has 26 students in it, and only two dads attended the meeting. There was me and another dad. The rest were mums.

Secondly, I was also amazed on the topics being discussed. It ranged from the classroom events, topics being taught, new topics being introduced, sports etc. It was almost setting the curriculum via the parenting community.

Back to my lack of German. The moment that really emphasis that I am lacking is when the group of parents and the teachers laugh together about some discussion point, whereas we just sat there without any laughing expression on our faces. I guess that the only expression was bewilderment and, perhaps, a little bit of confusion.

The other moment was I had difficulty is articulating any questions that I had in such a way that would make sense in German, and also to understand the answer. I just was not able to do it.

I starting to get an insight to how my parents (especially my mum) felt when my family moved to Australia with little command of the English language.