Poseidon

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I first met Poseiden in September during my first visit in Verden with my relatives, Dieter, Karin and Janna. The evening before I departed for Rosenheim, Dieter took me took me to a farm, a ten minute drive outside of Verden. There, he introduced me to Poseidon, one of the horses he has trained and works with on a regular basis.

Poseidon is tall, sturdy and strong; intimidating at first (I have no previous experience with horses) but very gentle. I had the pleasure of walking him, with Dieter on the other side of course. But it wasn’t until my last visit with Dieter that I had the opportunity to learn the basics of horseback riding.

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The first time I rode Poseidon I was a little afraid that I would lose my balance and fall off Poseidon’s back. For that reason, I stressed to Dieter that I didn’t want Poseidon to trot. Dieter, though, didn’t give any heed to my lack of confidence. After a little convincing, I reluctantly agreed to let Poseidon trot. I bounced up and down like a ragdoll as I hadn’t quite figured out how to synchronize my body movements with that of Poseidon’s. But after some coaxing from Dieter, I had it figured out. That was because I told myself inwardly that I could do it! There was no such thing as can’t.

I kept my legs and feet tucked in tight against his sides and my hands strongly gripped the front of the saddle. The inside of my thighs hurt like crazy that first time, but I gradually relaxed and started to have fun.

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Horseback riding wasn’t the only thing Dieter taught me during my last days in Germany. He also taught me how to feed Poseidon (Yes, I regretfully admit, the first time I fed Poseidon which was back in September, I was worried that he might bite my hand off). While Dieter swept Poseidon’s stable, I fed Poseidon several carrots. I also helped Dieter brush Poseidon, put on and take off the harness and saddle. It was a little challenging at first: I had to jump up in order to get the blanket on and off Poseidon and some of the harness straps were stiff, but I did it! And I thoroughly enjoyed the learning process.

*Note: It won’t be my last visit to Germany! I fully intend to return there to visit my relatives.

 

 

 

Landscaping

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I’ve been home from Germany for almost two months now and after spending lots of time, figuring out what I really want to do for a living, I have decided to pursue a vocation in landscaping with the desire to learn landscape design.

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Actually, while I was in Germany, I had decided I wanted to pursue a career in landscaping. But, for a time over the past month, I have wavered somewhat, trying to come up with other ideas for a vocation. In the process, all arrows seemed to point back to landscaping and possibly painting.

Landscaping is hard physical work, so why do I want to do it? That’s one of the reasons I aspire to do it: I enjoy being outdoors, doing work that will enable me to become fit and healthy, two things I am currently striving hard to be. Also, here in Canada, landscapers earn a liveable wage and landscaping encompasses much more than just pulling weeds and mowing lawns. It’s an opportunity to learn more in depth about the nature around me.

Berlin Features

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Kreuzberg is one of many features of Berlin. It  was also the main feature of the alternative art tour. About halfway through the tour, we hopped on the U-Bahn in Alexanderplatz and headed to Kreuzberg.

“I love Kreuzberg because it’s dirty and it’s poor,” our tour guide said the moment we left the underground station and stepped out into the frigid late November air, onto the streets of Kreuzberg. She was right about that. The buildings were run down and covered in street art (most buildings in Berlin are covered to some extent in street art). Near the station there was even an old, torn up mattress laying on the street. Yet, despite the dirt and the poverty, it is a district that is colorful, imaginative and vibrant.

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I also noticed a lot of Turks and other people who hailed from the Middle East. Scarcely did I see any Germans or other Europeans in the area. The largest number of Turks and other migrants who had flocked to Berlin in 2015 live in Kreuzberg, our tour guide explained. Many young people also live in Kreuzberg. That’s because it remains a cheap place to live.

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Berlin is the only city in Germany — the only city in the world — that boasts a treehouse on the street, in the city core. This treehouse is very conveniently located in Kreuzberg. It was built by a Turkish man (I can’t remember his name) several years ago. This man, who is now in his 90s, uses water from the church (you can see the steeple from behind) to water his plants and every summer, he sits in the garden that surrounds his treehouse and waves to everyone who walks by. He has become a Berlin icon, our tour guide explained. Many people have had their photo taken with him. One person even has a tattoo of this man’s face imprinted on his or her body.

Even though Kreuzberg was part of West Berlin, the people there have adopted and held onto extreme left wing policies. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Alexanderplatz and other areas of Eastern Germany were re-built, transforming these places into a wealthy metropolis where corporations like Starbucks and other brand-named outlets sell their merchandise to moneyed Tourists. The people of Kreuzberg are strongly against big business and have successfully kept corporations, like Starbucks and McDonalds out of their district.

The people of Kreuzberg ardently believe in community: They help one another in times of trouble, they provide shelter for the homeless and they stick up for one another. They will rise up and riot over any injustice that is inflicted on them. There is even a community of people in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin who live in small trucks on land that does not belong to them. Normally this is an illegal thing to do but in Berlin, it has become the norm.

The next day, I hopped on the U-Bahn and headed further east to Datscha, a restaurant located on Gabriel-Max Strasse. This restaurant is located in the Friedrichshain district, a district that was once part of East Berlin. Like Kreuzberg, I noticed this area also had a community of people who lived in an abandoned area. It was hard to tell exactly which type of buildings these people lived in as I was walking on a bridge and a building several stories high, partially obscured this community.

On my way to the Datscha restaurant, I took a wrong turn. I found myself walking down a street, in a community that seemed devoid of life save for a few passerbys. The buildings were old and covered in graffiti. Several stores and restaurants that once thrived, were boarded up with metal curtains. I could hear a few children playing in the park nearby, but the park itself was mostly empty. It felt like this community had been forgotten about.

The images of that community are imprinted in my mind. Never before in my life have I seen anything like it. But at the time, I wasn’t able to pause and let the surroundings evoke emotion in me because I was a little stressed out, having no clue where to find the street where the Datscha restaurant was located.

After stopping and asking for directions, I finally found the Datscha Restaurant, a quaint Soviet themed café located in a neighborhood as old as the one I had just walked through. Yet, it was more active. The server, a young lady who looked to be in her early twenties, greeted me warmly and presented me with a menu. The restaurant was not large, but it was clean and it had a traditional feel to it. I cannot find the right words to properly describe it, but the atmosphere there was welcoming.

I looked at the menu for several minutes, flipping through the pages, reading through the options and trying to decide what I wanted to eat. It was past twelve and I was quite hungry, having eaten very little that morning. However, I ended up ordering a Riesling Wine and spent at least half an hour sipping on it.

I learnt one thing from that menu: The Soviet government did allow their people to take holidays. The Datscha was a home (what we in the west refer to as a getaway home) in which people could relax and spend a given time pursuing their passion, be it gardening or sunbathing.

Berlin: City of Street Art

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Berlin is famous for its street art. Everywhere you go, you see graffiti and other forms of art painted into the walls of buildings. They are an expression of pain or hope of a better life to come. Before I came to Berlin, my good friend Sonja, who had visited the city three years ago, told me about the free alternative art tour. Much of my visit here in Germany has been spent on visiting cathedrals and old city centers that date back to the medieval times. However, when I came to Berlin, I decided I wanted to see different things.

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Berlin is a very expressive city. It’s fascinating, colorful, yet dark. Much of the street art expresses the despair many people feel.

Beside the dancing ladies, you will see an animated little girl. That is Little Lucy. Little Lucy was a animated show produced in the Czech Republic during the communist bloc. Little Lucy chronicled Lucy’s adventures with her cat, called Kitty. Of course, this show carried messages that were pro-communist.

Our tour guide — a 20-something English woman — explained that an artist from Frankfurt, disgruntled by the communist messages in Little Lucy recreated the show in which Lucy gets revenge on Kitty. In the image above, Lucy is wearing mittens. Those mittens are made from Kitty. Our tour guide gave us several examples of how Lucy got medieval on Kitty; all examples were downright gruesome. I don’t remember most of them, but I do remember one: In one episode of the re-created Little Lucy show, Lucy ties Kitty up and uses Kitty as a swing.

Our tour guide told us about how one woman from New Zealand was so choked by these stories, when she returned to New Zealand, she created her own street art where Kitty gets revenge on Lucy.

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In the past, I’ve heard of stories of how Eastern Germany still relies on Russia to provide for them. I never knew what that looked like until I went to Berlin. Many Berliners continue to live in the past. The wall was torn down twenty-six years ago and the people of Berlin united, but I got the feeling that the wall was never truly demolished. Many people in that city continue to live, wanting to believe that the Soviet Union still exists.

Yet, on the other hand, there are many other people who loath the communist system as portrayed in the example of Lucy gets Revenge on Kitty.

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I’m not sure exactly what message the artist was trying to express in this painting in the image above.  However, when I see the wall in the painting, stretching for miles, I get the strong feeling the message has to do with the Berlin wall and the west’s struggle with the communist east. The tiny person, resembling a goose, reminds me of the story of David and Goliath: the tiny person dares to fight the giant tiger.

So many people had been shot to death when they tried to sneak over or under the wall into West Germany. It could be that this tiny person symbolized all those brave souls who attempted to escape East Berlin during the communist bloc. This painting also makes me think of one short story the tour guide of the free history walking tour had told us: One family attempted to smuggle their young child into Western Germany. In order to get the child past the wall without being caught, the parents hid the child in a box. The child made it without being caught, but sadly that child did not survive. It suffocated inside the box.

While some art carried subliminal anti-communist messages, other art as displayed in the images below, was the outlet of people who were disgruntled with life in general.

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Not every piece of art expressed the despair and angst some of these artists felt and continue to feel. There were a few pieces of street art that express hope, fun and togetherness.

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The image above shows dancing ladies. This is actually a series of art called The Dancing Girls. According to our tour guide, the artist of ‘The Dancing Girls’, inspired by the more positive things in life, will randomly take pictures of women dancing on the street (or in clubs). He will then ask for their permission to post their image on the city walls for everyone to see. Apparently he has created the ‘Dancing Men’.

‘The Dancing Girls/Men’ express the brighter side of Berlin, where people come together, let loose and have fun. Our tour guide explained that the great thing about this artist was that he did not just take photos of thin women; he used the images of women (and men) of various sizes in his street art.

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Berlin: A City of Scars

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Photo above: Me in front of what’s left over of the Berlin wall. This part of the wall was built (or should I say reconstructed) in 1975.

I realize I’m not writing about my experiences in chronological order, but I just feel I have to start with my trip to Berlin.

I arrived in Berlin the evening of November 26th 2016 and I stayed until the afternoon of November 30th. I found Berlin completely fascinating on different levels. It’s a city of diversity, of imagination, creativity and poverty. I also call it a city of scars; Berlin still bears the scars from the time it was divided between the communist East and the capitalist West. Parts of the Berlin wall still stand, reminding the people every day of the division that separated them for 40 years. Between 1961 and the fall of the wall in 1989, many people were shot to death while trying to escape East Berlin (more on this in a later post).

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Anybody who’s been to Berlin has heard about Checkpoint Charlie and no doubt have seen it. This was the American sector in Berlin during the time when Berlin was divided between East and West.

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Our tour guide, a young Hispanic man from California (the man in the blue coat), explained to us that the moment the wall went up, anyone who worked across the street from where the wall was built was forbidden to return home to his family. He could visit his family for a day, but he could not live with them.

Our tour guide explained: One night after work, a husband discovered he was going to be a father. He would have been overjoyed on hearing the news, but one day a few months later, he went to work only to find out that he was forbidden to return home to the house where he lived across the street. That was because a wall was being constructed on that very street that separated his home from his work. He would see his infant son or daughter from across the street. His wife would stand in the window and hold up the infant child for him to see. That was, other than the occasional day visit, the only communication he had with his family.

Our tour guide was amazing, but he constantly apologized for the historical information he gave us. To me that was completely unnecessary because that’s what actually happened. What people did to each other throughout history was brutal, violent, cruel and dark but it’s history. No one can deny it happened, no one can rewrite it and no one should apologize for it, but learn from it. That one example he gave us was just one example of undoubtedly many families in Berlin who were separated by the Wall.

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Yet, what is really interesting is how many Berliners, particularly those who had lived behind the Wall, believe that living under communism was easier than living in the capitalist system they now reside in.

The photo above: these were the cars (called Trabant cars) that were driven in East Germany during the time of the communist bloc.

 

 

 

 

What Travelling has Taught Me

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Several people knew I came to Germany with the intention to teach for the Berlitz centre in Rosenheim for one year. My real hope/plan was start my life anew in Rosenheim. For many months leading up to my departure from Canada, I often imagined myself establishing friendly relations with my to-be-colleagues at Berlitz in Rosenheim, working hard but finding great satisfaction in my job, making close friends and finding the man of my dreams.

Well…it didn’t quite turn out that way. When I arrived in Rosenheim, I found out a few things about the job offer that I really didn’t like. Nothing was as I thought it would be. In the two months that I lived in Prien, a small village east of Rosenheim, I joined a few meetup group events with the hope to make some new friends. Though, I always ended up feeling like a complete outsider, not welcomed. Needless to say, it was discouraging.

On a more positive note, I met Andrew and Daniela, two people who I befriended instantly. Like me, they were not from Rosenheim: Daniela is from Speyer, a city in western Germany, and Andrew is from New York. Few times while I was in Rosenheim, Daniela invited me over to dinner. I was so thankful for their friendship (I still am even though we are now living in different locations) as it kept me from feeling utterly lonely.

Despite my German uncle’s best efforts to help me and encourage me to find work elsewhere so that my resident and work permit would be approved, I eventually decided I didn’t want to live and work in Bavaria. Trying to settle and have a career in a land far away from home, learn the language, and secure a job that pays decently was, I discovered, extremely difficult, especially since I was on my own and had no friends in the area who could recommend me or help me in some way. I really like Germany, so I decided to turn this into an extended holiday.

Looking back, I must admit I am really grateful things didn’t work out in Rosenheim, because if they did, chances are, I would be miserable. As John Lennon once said; “Life happens when you’re busy making plans.” The best decision I made for myself was the day I decided to leave Bavaria and travel Germany for a few weeks.

There are so many stories that are begging to be told, but I cannot tell them all in this one post, so I will post them over the next few weeks.

Travelling Germany has made me realize a few things. I realize how important close friends and family are in this life. While I won’t return to my job as a cashier, the best part about my job at Pharmasave, was that I had a chance to talk to people every day. In doing so, I met so many wonderful people. That was truly a blessing in itself. Unfortunately, it was also a time in my life when I was feeling unfulfilled. The emptiness inside blinded me and I couldn’t recognize all that I had been blessed with. But now I do recognize it and I am truly thankful. I never want to take anything, especially people, for granted.

I had come here to Germany thinking that my life would be better in some way only to discover that there is no place like home. I had for so long believed that there are no good opportunities for anything on the Sunshine Coast, but now my perspective has shifted. I now believe the Sunshine Coast offers great opportunity for those who seek it and when I return home, that is what I will do.

There is no perfect place in this world but we all have the ability to choose our thoughts. When things never seem to go the way we want them to, how we react determines the outcome. The door to having a career as an ESL teacher in Germany closed, but it wasn’t that great of an opportunity to begin with. In fact, it’s a new beginning in my life, a chance for me to do something way better, something that will bring far more meaning to my life.

In the meanwhile, I have established a really good relationship with my relatives in Verden. I have also met some amazing friends. That’s reason enough for me to return for another visit. The possibilities are endless and my travelling days have not come to an end.

 

 

 

 

How Naïve Can You Be?

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The ebook, ‘How Naïve Can You Be’ was written by my German friend, Daniela Schwan. She actually published the English version first, but plans to publish a German version soon.

I met Daniela through her boyfriend, Andrew. Andrew was the first person I met shortly after I arrived in Bavaria. While sitting at the kitchen table at the Airbnb I stayed at when I first arrived in Rosenheim in September, I saw that Andrew had posted on the English Speakers in Rosenheim Page. His posting highlighted his desire to meet other English speakers in the area. I was determined to learn the German language in a short time and desired to befriend German-speaking people. At the same time, I also wanted to meet other native English speakers. Besides, I was so new to Rosenheim, I didn’t know anyone and I was eager to make new friends.

Andrew and I hung out a few times. In those times, I learnt that Andrew was a huge Football fan — liked to play football himself — and that he’s a wellness coach. Andrew explained to me that he uses this marketing platform called My Paying Ads to promote his business online while making a little extra money  in doing so. It’s a type of MLM marketing where you purchase ad packs for however much you are able to spend and you earn money back for surfing ten websites on the platform. Like anything, you get what you put into it. The more money you invest in ad packs on My Paying Ads, the more money you earn. Before I met Andrew, I had never even heard of this marketing technique (or quick way to earn money online scheme, whatever you call it). I had considered signing up and getting involved with My Paying Ads. It could possibly be a good way to promote my Crusades History course, I thought. However, since I am here in Germany, relying only on the savings I had saved up to get here, I decided not to pursue it.

In early-mid October, I received a message from Andrew on Facebook, explaining that his girlfriend really wanted to meet me and had invited me over to dinner. Of course, I jumped at the offer!

Daniela and I hit it off the moment we met each other. I quickly learnt that she’s a Law of Attraction Coach and also an internet marketer. She was writing a book about her experiences in the internet realm, how she got badly scammed and lost all her money as a result.

So many experts talk about how easy it is to make a good income online. They are complete liars! There is no quick and easy path to earning good money online. In fact, before I came to Germany, I read somewhere that 90 percent of all online jobs are scams. So, are there legitimate work at home jobs? Absolutely, but you have to really — I mean really — do your research. Unfortunately, so many people who aspire the freedom to work from home, on their own schedule, continue to fall for the so-called experts who promise wealth, prosperity and financial freedom. Here’s the crutch: these same people who promise to help make you rich, require you to fork over an X amount of money. And what happens next? They take your money and run!

In her book, ‘How Naïve Can You Be?’ Daniela explains how she got scammed while trading on Forex Trading as well as with Traffic Monsoon. The people who she had befriended on Facebook, those people who had expressed kindness and who had promised to help her get rich through investing on Forex Trading were those same people who had taken all of her money. This experience had compelled Daniela to become a Law of Attraction Coach. Her ebook sheds light on the internet scam issue, a topic that is a perpetual concern in our society given how many people continue to look to the internet as a means to earn a well-paid fulltime income. You can find ‘How Naïve Can You Be?’ on Amazon.com.