Well, once again, it has been far, far too long. I’ve been back in Germany for a good two months now, with a visit back to Scotland thrown into the mix, and am once again in the preparation stages for my mammoth trip back out to Namibia, this time for twelve months. We will see how that goes. At the moment, I’ve just submitted and got feedback on a roughly 6000-word proposal, which may give you the erroneous impression that I know something of what I am doing with the next year or so. Please do not get the wrong idea. I do not.
Nonetheless, with the proposal under my belt, and a big list of things to do to make sure the Namibians won’t chuck me out, I will now take a break and turn to what is really actually important in Germany right now.
In case you were not aware, there is some football on at the moment, and my adoptive country’s team seem to be doing rather well. I’ve never really been one for sport; being from the UK makes most international sporting events a wincing exercise in plumbing the depths of anticlimax and disappointment, but since füßball seems to drive the people here a bit mad, it makes sense to get at least a little bit into it. I refused to buy a shirt, but thanks to a good friend I now have a rather fetching tricolour cape. The next Germany game is on Saturday, and all being well I should be watching it from a biergarten next to the Rhein in nearby Bonn, which I’ve never been to, and which I have been told is rather pretty. It has to be, in comparison to Cologne, although I don’t like talking much about how ugly and modern the architecture is given that it was sort of our fault. Ahem.
Well, I can pretend I’m going to see the city of Bonn as much as I like, but when we managed a four-to-nothing victory over Portugal, I couldn’t help whooping and cheering and really getting into it, so of course I’ve got to show my support für unsere Jungs as well. I’m not the only one getting really into it. Football also seems to bring out the latent patriotism Germans have. You won’t catch them flying the national flag very often, but as with Karneval, when they do show it, do they ever.
All fun and games. Aside from that, I had a rather enjoyable trip back to Scotland recently, the first time for about six months that I actually went to my home country. As expected I both drank and spent far too much in Edinburgh, and everyone laughed at me when I forgot myself and used my newly adopted “Ja, genau!” interjections in conversation, but it was great to see some of the old crowd again. It is very strange going back to the country you have almost always lived in as a visitor. I kept looking at people on the street when I heard them speaking English, feeling very rude as I could accidentally eavesdrop on their conversations, although to be fair I have got better at doing that in German, even if my own German is still embarrassingly poor. I suppose it gets better with time, which to some extent it already has.
After Edinburgh, I saw the folks up north, complete with our new woolly and snuffling acquisitions (the eleven sheep and the two pigs respectively), and have decided that while the sheep are somewhat endearing their stupidity and timidness is a little wearing, and the pigs are far more entertaining as company. One of them will be Mum and Dad’s Christmas dinner, I am told.
It’s actually quite fun, and being able to tell people on fieldwork as well as in Germany that Mum and Dad are smallholders/farmers makes for interesting chats, as well as something in common with about ninety percent of the Owambo and Herero people I meet when I’m out in Namibia. I know this because the first thing I was always shown was pictures of a man’s cattle. There was sometimes a picture of his family in there too, but not always. I should get some of these printed to show people.
The other upside of Mum and Dad having a croft is that I can work a tractor. Well, barely.
Needless to say, I put the flail mower over a rock on the acre of grass I was mowing and broke the failsafe shear bolt, with the uneven grassy result reminding me why I don’t shave very often. Still, if anyone needs a mini tractor driving about, I’m your man. It was quite fun, actually, and in combination with the fishing and the mountain climbing meant that I had my regular dose of countryside, which I desperately need. I’ve lived in cities for about six years now, and they still make me antsy.
My return to Cologne was punctuated by probably one of the worst storms I think I have ever seen, including the ones I experienced in Africa. I was sitting out on the grass with a colleague enjoying the warm weather, the clouds not bothering us too much as perseverance in the face of weather is something of a Northern European speciality. Granted, we were a little concerned when the sky turned green and a breeze got up, but I was not too concerned, having not seen extreme weather in Cologne before. I learned later from some Americans that when the sky turns green, you run. Good information.
Apparently, weather in Cologne is perfectly capable of being extreme. The gusts that followed tore branches off the trees beneath which we sat, and bowled over my poor bicycle Gretel. I picked her up and along with Enid bolted for shelter. I have to say, I cannot remember before that day actually running in fear for my life before. We dodged more falling widowmakers, and finally took refuge in Enid’s flat, which I was unable to leave for an hour as rain pelted the windows and the most phenomenal forked lightning rent the sky overhead. Thus went my first night back in Germany.
I learned later we had been very lucky for a number of reasons. It turns out it was a bit more than your regular storm. I landed in Düsseldorf about an hour and a half before the Nordrhein-Westfalen was hit by that apocalyptic weather system, and was fortunate enough to be able to get a train before they all stopped for a good number of days. My bicycle ride back from Enid’s flat to my own after the worst had passed was incredible, swerving around fallen trees and giant puddles in streets still thankfully very quiet as people stayed in waiting for it to happen again. I have since revised my thoughts on extreme weather in the Rhineland.
Nonetheless, I still remain here and in one piece, and ready for the next crazy adventure for either Germany or Namibia to throw at me. I’ve learned it could be either that does it.