Thursday, 26 September 2013

Where Are You Now

In limbo. That's where I am. That's where I have been for all 269 days of this year. And it feels like that is where I'll remain until I move into my own place, the university starts and my life heads somewhere again.

In the meantime I am sorting through old postcards and photographs. A pipe burst in the basement where everyone in the building stores their stuff. Nothing is inundated, the water just slowly drip-drip-dripped out onto the boxes containing old books and photo albums.

Now it is my task to sort through my great-grandmother's obsessive collection and see what can be thrown away and what should be kept. Fun fun fun.

As a distraction from sitting and sifting though damp papers I baked cookies. They should've been salted caramel Nutella stuffed double chocolate chip cookies, but I didn't have all the ingredients. It is strange how you know your own kitchen (or rather, my mother's kitchen) and by comparison cooking somewhere else does not cut it, entirely. Our kitchen at home is spacious and well-equipped. Here it is more cramped and only the most basic of utensils are available. Anything for cookies though.

Adapted from Top With Cinnamon, here is the recipe:

1/2 cup (110g) butter
1 1/2 cups (350g) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (55g) cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
1 slab of the cheapest milk chocolate, chopped into pieces
1 handful of hazelnuts, also chopped
flaky salt/ fleur de sel/ maldon salt, for sprinkling
approx. 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) nutella

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Take off the heat and stir in the brown sugar and eggs. Then add the cocoa, salt and baking powder and stir until well combined. Add the flour and stir until no floury patches are left. Lastly stir in the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts.

Take 1 heaped tbsp of dough, use your finger make a large indentation the centre of the dough and fill the indentation with a small blob of Nutella (like 1/2 tsp ish). Top with a flattened tablespoon of dough, and seal the edges.

Sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake for 8-10 minutes.
And then you get this: 

Top with Cinnamon adds salted caramel or a piece of chocolate containing caramel and omits the hazelnuts in the original recipe. I couldn't find chocolate with caramel in, so that is why I replaced them with hazelnuts. It worked out quite tastily, like a harder brownie with a Nutella centre. Om nom  nom. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Tea & Sympathy

After last week's sad sad Friday the 13th (maybe I should've taken the ominous date as a hint that no good could come), this week's Friday is a lot better. In the meantime I have managed to find a place to live, ordered a futon mattress, bought a knife and two mattress covers at Ikea and made bobotie and malva pudding. Both dishes were a bit disappointing in that I couldn't find all the ingredients and that thus they only tasted like 3/4 of home. 

However, I did visit an interesting tea shop last week. It isn't really a tea shop, more of a tea-experience. The Tadshikische Teestube  is almost 40 years old and the interiors were originally a gift by the Soviets to the Society for German-Soviet friendship after they were exhibited at a fair in Leipzig in 1974. If I understand correctly, the tearoom used to be located elsewhere and recently moved to its current location in the Oranienburger Straße.

I am used to rooibos tea in a pot. Here, it was a different experience all together: you sit on the floor and then order which kind of tea you'd like. We went for the Russian tea ceremony, where you get what I would call a tea-espresso (as in a lot of tea in a little water) on top of a silver urn that contains hot water, which I think is called a samovar. You then dilute the tea with a chosen amount of hot water (we went for 1:3) and sweeten you tea. The options were: sugar cubes, orange/lemon fondant, candied lemon and orange peel, strawberry/rhubarb jam, rum raisins and various types of sugar candy. There was also a bowl with different cookies, although they all looked as though they came out of a packet and weren't baked by the Teestube.  

It was a lot of fun trying out the different types of sweetening methods. Oh, and I forgot: there was a shot of vodka as well. Hot damn, my alcohol tolerance had really become weak. One shot of vodka and I was a bit too glad that we were lounging on the ground: there was no way to fall. All the sweeteners were interesting, although the only one I'd use at home again was the addition of jam to tea. That was quite cool. 

We also had borscht and solyanka because at the moment Germany is a cloudy cold mess and soup alleviates the lack of sunshine a little bit. I really miss the sun. Yesterday I laughed out in the S-Bahn because my mom had said that when Europeans are in SA and have time to sit in the sun, they look like a rabbit does when headlights flash onto it: paralyzed but looking straight at the light. Now I understand why. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

I'm not here/ This isn't happening/ I'm not here/ I'm not here

I cry very rarely. But now, somehow my tear ducts are in overproduction. I was surprised to find myself crying when I said goodbye to friends at a Jeremy Loops concert. I cried on the way home from the concert. I cried at the airport. I cried whilst standing in line, waiting to get my passport checked. I cried whilst waiting to board the plane. I cried in Doha whilst waiting for the next plane. I thought I had cried enough. 

Then the past two weeks have been so busy that there has been no time for crying, no time to think about missing home. Then I went to Flensburg for two days to find a commune, extremely hopeful and optimistic and going into charm-everyone mode. How hard could it be, right?

Hah. I'm crying right now. Maybe it's being overwhelmed, just for a moment, by everything. Maybe it's not really sleeping for two days because a very cute kitten kept bouncing around on me at night. Maybe it's discovering that the university consists of two buildings. Small buildings. I think I handled everything pretty well, until I got back to Berlin with two rejections. 

The rejections were still ok, as well. But then not getting any support from my father, having to live out of my suitcase, not having a moment to myself, not having any space to call mine, well, that made the flippen tear ducts start up again. Fuck. 

I know all of this is not as hard as I make it out to be, I know somehow it'll work out, I know I still have time to find a room, somehow, somewhere. Just in this very moment it would be nice not to feel so very much alone. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

No Man's Land

Like I said, the other day I went to a photographic exhibit. I expected white walls, red wine and people standing around in muted silence, careful to look contemplative but not to utter any real opinion of the work.

This place, exhibited at somewhat of an in-between space called Mein Haus am See (My beach house?) , was full of hip-looking people wearing Ray Bans, skinny jeans and untamed hair. Many girls opted for jeans shorts over dark tights and with little booties. I probably shouldn't be too judgmental of people who are all trying to look like an individual and yet somehow all end up looking alike. It is just interesting to note how cool kids everywhere stick to the same trends, whilst believing that there is an individual culture, an spin that each one puts on their outfit that will set them apart from all the rest.

Seeing the actual photographs was a bit of a mission since the photos were hung on the wall and there was a labyrinth of Sperrmüll couches in between me and said wall. I'm guessing the point of an exhibition is to actually see the work, but here one needed a telescope to really view the photographs. 

Luckily, Photocircle, who hosted the entire thing, is more an online platform where one can look through the work of numerous photographers and then, for a reasonable price, order the works in various formats and sizes. A percentage of the proceeds goes to a charity of your choosing and then you get sent you new artwork. Especially in an age where tourists go around snapping pictures of everything that moves (or doesn't), this project aims to give something back not only to the community whose image has been appropriated but also to the photographer. Wonderful. 

Here is an explanatory video:

On Photocircle I could also have a closer look at Kevin Russ's work, and it makes me want to jump into my own camper van and drive across the USA. Have a look:

Street Bison
Cloudy Horse Head
Umpqua Rays
Winter Horseland
Anderson Lake
Rocky Mountain Moose
Sunrise Forest

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Life's for the Living

I haven't posted in a while because before a move there is always so much that still needs to be done, and the same thing goes for when you have arrived where you moved to. At the moment I am in Berlin, whilst trying to find accommodation in Flensburg. At least the university only starts at the end of October, so I'm hoping that that will be sufficient time not only to find a place, but an awesome commune with great roommates. Aiming high :)

In comparison to Pretoria it is amazing how much is happening here at all times. Through my FB stalking I saw that Bastille was coming to SA for Ramfest next year, and I was superjealous. That is, I was superjealour until I found out they played here, yesterday. Ok, I missed them, but the likelihood of them playing somewhere accessible here is greater than in SA.

On Wednesday we spent the day on the Museumsinsel (museum island) where the amount of statues, paintings and information was overwhelming. Afterwards, we went to a photographic exhibit in Mitte at Mein Haus am See. Walking in felt a bit like being home, because it was full of hipsters. Then I remembered I have no friends here and after a long day of walking around I looked decidedly uncool, so my whole 'I have found my people!' sentiment went out the window pretty quickly. Maybe the Apfelschorle instead of beer didn't help my coolness factor either. Anyways, becoming slightly more German in order not to be astounded/confused/enraged by everything is a long process, apparently.

There was a guy playing on his guitar as well, Graham Candy from New Zealand, who was quite cool. He started of with a cover of Bon Iver's Flume, and mixed covers of the Black Keys, Alt-J (I think) etc., in with his own stuff. Very nice, Mr. Candy.

The photographs were by Kevin Russ, and upon further investigation (meaning I went to the website) it turns out he works with Photocircle, where you order the photos you want, printed the way and in the size you want, and a part of the price goes to different charities. More on that at a later stage.

Here are some first-experiences photos :)

Somewhere over Germany

Alphonse Mucha-inspired enormous mural in Pankow

On the Museumsinsel



Yo. Cup. 

Kevin Russ's work

Graham Candy