Frankfurt Christmas Market! (And end of NaBloPoMo)

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It’s the last day of November and NaBloPoMo! Wheeeeee!

Goodness me, it’s been a roller coaster of a month. I started off with a very small blog with a few awesome people always reading it, then I signed up to NaBloPoMo and WordPress promoted me as a NaBloPoMoer and I got lots of awesome new followers. Then, because I had to post every day, I realised that the things people like to read aren’t really the things I thought they like to read and a few of my posts that I thought were naff did really well. THEN, as I said yesterday, there was an avalanche of new people coming to my blog after I posted about CATS!

It’s been SO much fun this year and I’m glad I had a few blogging chummies doing it with me. Thanks to everyone who came along for the ride, and I’ll be resuming my normal every other day posting from today onwards!

To celebrate the start of December, here are some photos I took of the Christmas market this week in Frankfurt! It’s my FAVOURITE thing in the world so I hope you like them!

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I don’t know who Eddy is…
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AHHHHHH Feuerzangenbowle!!!! My favourite thing!!!

 

20131128_195313_mh1385674169260My friend introduced me to this amazing place where they make Gluhwein from home made wine. It’s in a little passage way behind the carousel if anyone out there is interested!

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Thoughts on Racism

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I have half a dozen posts half written in my drafts but a link on Facebook has fired me up to write about something else completely. A Japanese friend posted a Japanese news link about the town I lived in, Ise. In Ise there’s a traditional shopping street with lots of traditional street food and crafts for sale. It leads up to Naiku, a very holy shrine that’s absolutely gorgeous and the main pulling point for the city. The king of that traditional shopping street is the “Akafuku” rice cake shop. Rice that has been hammered into little blobs are covered in red azuki beans and sold in little wooden boxes. Once a month they sell special edition cakes that we used to get up at 5am and queue for 2 hours to buy.

This was all part of the charm of the place I consider to be my home town. I spent just two years there, but I loved it with all my heart. It’s a gorgeous place, and the locals are so welcoming. Some days I completely forgot that I was different from most of the people I saw around me.

But the owners of that cake shop, the shop that dominates that whole street, think that Ise would be a lot better off without foreigners there. The former head of the company, Mr Hamada, was recently at a conference in Tsu and said such things as “with foreigners here, it’s just not right… Ise is the soul of Japan, so it should be a place that makes Japanese people happy. It’s not there for foreigners”.

I…just…

What?!

On one hand, this isn’t surprising at all as this douche (whoops did I say that?!) is 79 years old and old people tend to be more racist than the norm, no matter which country you’re in. On the other hand, the people of Ise, people of all ages, were really supportive of myself and the other non-Japanese in the town. After all, there were only a handful of us there and it was very rare that you’d get a non-Japanese tourist in the town. It was the kind of place where, if I saw another non-Japanese person, I’d narrow my eyes and demand to know who they were and why they were in “our town”.

I’d say that outright dumb racism like this is pretty rare in Japan (unless it’s against Chinese or Korean people in which case you’d be swimming in it there). I’d even say that outright dumb racism is more visible in the UK; just today I was listening to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 and even though I knew that every day he picks a stupid racist topic, I still was shocked when he had a whole section which could be labelled as “OH NO don’t let the Romanians in they’ll take all our jobs and we’ll die!” It was really ridiculous – and even though people were phoning in saying that Polish people in the UK do the jobs Brits don’t want to do and that Romanians don’t want to go to the UK (they’ve been able to come to Germany for ages and there’s not a problem here), Jeremy was still spouting out loads of racist crap.

I can’t imagine what life as a foreigner (or even a non-white person) must be like in Britain. But I guess I have a little idea from living in Japan, as it was eventually the racism that got to me and made me want to leave. There was nothing telling me to go home (I was there, after all, on the taxpayer’s dime teaching their kids) but there were people who refused to sit next to me on the train, women who held their handbags a bit tighter when they saw me, colleagues who spoke to me like I had some kind of mental problem when I can understand Japanese perfectly fine.

On top of that you have all the innocent bits of racism “oh, can you use chopsticks?” “you can’t probably eat this because your stomach is foreign”, “look mum! That person’s nose is so tall!!”

I could sit here and type about all the different kinds of racism that happen in Japan and in Britain until the cows come home. The fact is that I really wonder if there will ever be a day when humans will be seen as humans and not a threat or a hinderance or dumb just because of the skin they’re in. What’s great about the JET Programme is that it puts people like myself in little towns like Ise and forces people like Mr Hamada to come face to face with people from other countries. It’s so much easier to hate on a certain kind of person when you’ve never met a person like that before. The world is getting smaller and so many people are living abroad that I hope that one day people are less afraid of people they’re not familiar with and that we can all live with a heck of a lot less racism.

I’d like to end with a letter one of my students wrote to me when I left Japan. She was in the 1st grade so started school in the April and I left in the July to start my new life in Frankfurt. I hope people like Mr Hamada and Jeremy Vine become “able to like” foreigners as well soon, too.

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“Thank you for the past three months. Of course, my best memory of you will be the fun games you did with us in class, and also when you passed by me in the hall. I was always really happy when you spoke to me and smiled at me. I wasn’t too keen on foreigners before. But because of the classes with you I’m able to like them now. It was only 3 short months but thank you so much!”

Photos of Late…

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Since I don’t really have anything for today, here are some photos I’ve taken around Frankfurt in the past few weeks!

Along Leipzigerstreaße there seem to be lots of really cool graffiti on the closed shop fronts. I really love asian goldfish so this one above was my favourite.

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As crappy as the main station in Frankfurt is, I LOVE it around Christmas. They really make a lot of effort to make it smell less of pee so that it’s a nice place to be. There’s usually a massive advent calendar towards the middle, with lots of stalls selling wooden toys, crepes and roasted nuts along the main part of the station. For the past few years (well, the two that I’ve been here for Christmas) there’s been some kind of televised event in the front part of the station. I always seem to catch it on that day and the mass of people make it so difficult to get to where I want to go!

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Along Bockenheimer Warte station’s platforms, they have these cool photos of the university in the 80′s (70′s?). This photo is my favourite. The woman in the front is all excited about the baby, as are most of the men. But the woman to the left of the centre couldn’t care less – she’s looking at her watch wondering what to have for dinner. The woman on the right is just looking down her nose at it – babies are gross.

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The main station renovated the little “market” area and it looks super nice now. It’s really cute with all the signs and stuff…almost makes you forget that it’s an area for Burger King, Coffee Fellows and some other fast food places.

Sorry for the lame post today! Hopefully I’ll have enough time to finish one of my real posts for tomorrow!

Hair and Skincare Abroad

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Here’s one other thing no one tells you about living abroad – your skin and your hair will NOT thank you for it! Your skin and hair are both used to the water you’ve been using, so when you move abroad many people experience problems in these areas.

When I lived in Japan, my skin was pretty happy, but my hair was curly because it just couldn’t cope. Seeing my strong, straight hair today, it’s hard to imagine how my hair used to be, but it’s really surprising how much a change in water can change how you look. Like I said, my skin was happy and I didn’t have too much acne but in Japan it’s really hard to find a face soap that doesn’t contain skin whitener. Once I found a brand I could trust, everything was smooth sailing from there.

In Germany, my hair is a little worse than it should be but my skin isn’t happy at all. I have terrible acne here that I just can’t get rid of. I’ve been on the Nutregina course for about a month now and it’s made a littttle difference, but not cleared up the problem all together. I’m considering using bottled water to wash my face with…

With hair, it’s so much easier now I have short hair. When I had long hair I used to spend a great deal of money on expensive shampoos and conditoners. Now I use a lot of organic stuff, and it seems to work.

Even in the week that I was in Turkey, my skin wasn’t happy at all. I became more spotty than I’ve been in years while I was there (perhaps a sign that I shouldn’t move there after all???)

Fellow expats! When you’ve lived abroad, did you have trouble with your skin and hair? If so, how did you tackle the problems?

Transport in Frankfurt

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Last night on my way home from having some drinks with some friends, I planned out this blog post about transport. I feel I have to go through with it now or the tipsy me from last night would be sad. Besides, I rarely know what do write on the weekends since I always get a massive dip in the amount of people who come to read this blog. The numbers game doesn’t affect me much (ok, I lied) but I’d rather not put my heart and soul into a post to only have a fraction of the people I usually get reading it.

I’ve already posted a little about how trains work here in Germany, as well as some bad things that may happen when you ride them. But here’s a list of other things that you may like to know about traveling in Frankfurt.

1. There are weird people on trains.

I think that Frankfurt is just an open air funny farm because there are so many strange people around. Most of the time it just makes for interesting stories but occasionally it’s pretty annoying and/or scary. The other day I caught the S Bahn train from Niederrad to go back to the main station and I was stood by the door listening to some music. I noticed a man sat nearby who was waving his arms around…I took an earphone out to listen to see if he was in trouble or something but he was shouting at me! It was in German but I understood that he was explaining how much money he would pay to have me, and saying that I probably have lots of young men around me. It was pretty intimidating and the train ride seemed to go on for ever. There were people – including a train company worker and one of my colleagues – around but no one really did anything. It would have been nice for someone to at least come and stand by me or block the man’s view of me.

2. Beware of escalators.

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This escalator is special, because it goes both up and down! (You can tell by the triangle on the right.) You are basically in a race with the people at the other end because if they get on first you have to use the stairs. It happened to tipsy me last night only I was the winner and shouted an apology to the lads who had to take the stairs. HA. 

3. Sometimes trams don’t go where you thought they’d go.

Probably the most annoying thing about Frankfurt is when you get on a tram and think you’re going somewhere but then they take a different turn and you end up in a completely different part of town. 80% of the time the driver will “GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN” and you’ll see all the people groan and get off and so you’ll work it out. But the other day I didn’t hear the GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN over my earphones and no one grumbled and got out so I was stuck on there until I could get to a place with a train station.

4. If the tram is cancelled, taxis around you become free.

It’s only happened to me once. The trams were frozen to the tracks (don’t EVER let a German person tell you that in Germany they are sorted with the seasons and the public transport network never breaks down in the snow!!) and I was trying to get home from work. Suddenly loads of taxis turned up and they said they they’d take me to the nearest working tram stop for free. Awesome!

5. There is no logic to ticket checking.

There are machines upstairs in train stations and you’re expected to buy a ticket (or a monthly ticket) before you go down to the platform. There are random checks to see if people bought tickets or not but there is no easy way to cheat the system as the timing and placement of these people is completely random. On the way home last night a woman on the train told me she had no ticket and asked whether she could ride with me (you can take one person with you if you have a monthly ticket) but as I was getting off at the next stop, she asked whether I knew if the people would come check. I replied in better than normal German (thanks, beers) and told her that I don’t think they’d come around so late at night but it’s probably not worth risking it.

So that’s my funny little post about travel in Frankfurt. Are there funny quirks about traveling about where you are?

Friday Letters 22/11/13

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Dear Saturn customer, good choice. Well done.

Dear U, who went out of her way last night to tell me how much she loves my blog, thank you again. I’m sorry I’m pretty British and can’t take compliments very well. But I really appreciated all that you said to me. :)

Dear GP office downstairs, why do you have to be shut this week?! I’m not usually one that says one country’s way of doing something is better than any others, but I do wish the German doctor system was a bit more like Britain’s, where there is a doctors’ office with about 5 doctors in it, so there’s no need to be shut for 2 weeks while people are on holiday. GAH.

Linkies of the week!

Still on the medical theme, Angloyankphile has a hilarious comparison between American and British dentists – American dentists sound pretty much like German ones in the guilt department!

Flashpacker Family has a great list of travel mistakes… YES – please remember that there is no public transport in London on Christmas day!

Two links from The Kitchn – one that has an…unusual way to cool drinks at a party, and another showing you how to properly cut a butternut squash (my favourite food right now).

I feel that everything seems to be screaming “Tel Aviv” at me right now. One of my podcasts had an episode that said how much of a great tourist destination it is…then I found not one, not two but three great blog posts on it. Perhaps I’m going to have to put it on my to-do list…

A sweet link for gamers – Nintendo Swap Note (an app where you can send pictures to your friends) was closed recently after men used it to groom and send gross things to little girls. Nikki, the Swap Note mascot, seems to have moved to Animal Crossing, and here is a sweet blog about her life there!

I’ve found this amazing electronic musician called Bo-en. I heard his music being used in the background of one of my favourite vlogger’s videos and knew I needed that music on my phone. Check out his stuff here!

And this time there is no one video of the week; I‘ll give you a collection of the British Christmas adverts that are being aired right now.

Do you have any good links for me this week?

Frankfurt Burgers – Walden

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The other day I went for drinks at Walden – and immediately regretted just going for drinks and not a full blown meal as the burger that went past me looked a-mazing. I settled for just wine but made a mental note to go there again soon.

Luckily my gorgeous friend decided to have her birthday party there – HAZZAH! Without even looking at the menu I knew what I wanted – another glass of their lovely red wine and their homemade cheeseburger. I don’t know what it is with the word “homemade” in Germany but whenever it’s there I have to eat whatever it is.

The other food seemed pretty nice – some veggie couscous, curry chicken, a good salad. But the burger. OH the burger. It was good. I’d say it ranks probably 4th in my Frankfurt burger list. But I’m not sure as it’s been a while.

Luckily at this birthday party I managed to recruit some burger champions who agreed to test out the burgers of Frankfurt one more time with me. So hopefully I’ll be able to give you a definite top ten in the coming months. See? I work so hard for you all!

Find Walden tucked away at Kleiner Hirschgraben 7, 60311 Frankfurt. Be willing to wait a bit for a table if you’ve not reserved.

Gogglebox – with a Pinch of Homesickness

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Guys, I’m in love. With a tv programme.

It all started when I was skyping my mum and my littlest sister was watching tv on her laptop – a show called Gogglebox, on channel 4. Whenever I go home I get eyestrain from rolling my eyes at British tv; I can’t stand all the Celebrity Strictly Come in a Jungle Factor Live or No Deal. But mum INSISTED I watch this Gogglebox – because there was one episode that was quite emotional and she wanted to know if I’d cry at it. I know. My mum is weird.

I kept my promise and watched some of this show. The concept is this – you are watching people sat on their sofa (or, in one case, in bed) who are watching tv. You can see what their reactions to that week’s tv was.

It’s probably no surprise that this kind of show is popular – we Brits seem to like peeping Tom kind of shows, from Big Brother to this show I seem to remember from ages ago where we just watch a family go about their daily business. We like watching people, then pointing and screaming at the tv with “WE DO THAT TOO!” It brings us all together.

Only, I don’t do that too. Because they are in the UK, watching all the normal tv, and I’m in Germany, putting on a proxy to try and catch up with British goings-on. And I think the reason why I’ve found myself so addicted to this show is because it makes me feel like I’m back home, while making me pretty homesick.

The show itself is hilarious. They’ve got a great slice of Britain – a kind of dumb family, a super smart family, a gay couple…and the posh couple (above) who are my favourites. There was a moment which I think is the most British thing I have ever seen. They were watching the emotional scene that mum wanted me to watch (from Educating Yorkshire, where a little boy with a stammer talks for the first time thanks to some headphones and a bit of music). Yes, it made me cry. It was pretty hard to watch and not get emotional. Posh Lady on the sofa agreed, and started to tear up herself. Posh Man noticed and turned to her to say in the poshest accent ever “Darling, are you having a bit of a cry there?” To which Posh Lady throws back a mouthful of her cocktail, wipes her eyes and denies having emotions. My friends, you don’t get anything more British than that.

I found out about some really terrible programmes through Gogglebox as well. The worst one (so far) is a gameshow called “Release the Hounds” where a man runs down a course with a bag of money on his back, while being chased by dogs. If he makes it to the end then he keeps the money, but if (as happened in the clip I saw) he gets caught by the dogs then he is supposedly bitten to pieces. WHAT IS THIS AND WHY ARE PEOPLE WATCHING?!

Going back to how it kind of makes me homesick, it just really highlights how far away from my own culture I am right now. I wouldn’t want to watch half of that crap, but there was a segment on poppy day and I realised that it was the first time ever that I hadn’t been wearing a poppy – I’d flat out forgotten about the day and the silence. I was trying to tell my flatmate’s girlfriend how it made me sad but it just sounds lame “I forgot to wear a paper poppy to remember the people who died at war and it makes me really sad and I’m tearing up”. No really, I teared up.

I’ve found a YouTube video of one of my favourite parts – Nigella Lawson’s show on Gogglebox. I think this just shows how hilarious the posh couple are. Hope you all enjoy it!

Mutiger Montag 18/11/13

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Another Monday, another Mutiger Montag (and another eye-sore photo decorated by decopic…hehe)

Today I wore a leopard jumper – it’s just about cold enough to wear this now. Again, not the most flattering thing in the world, but you know I love cats.

My friend Ines also joined in again! Huzzah! Check out her Mutiger Montag here!

As always, if you have clothes you don’t have the guts to wear then come and join us by being brave and doing Mutiger Montag!