Tag Archives for " Germany "

August 19, 2013

Max

Max comes to visit

Max comes to visit

We have just experienced the interesting opportunity over the last three weeks, of hosting a young 16-year-old lad from Germany. Max, the nephew of a very good friend of mine, wanted to have a farm experience during his summer holidays. We planned it several months in advance.

Apart from enjoying having someone to look after for a little while (the tragic empty-nester syndrome) having Max in the house, whose first language is not English, has given me an opportunity to see my language and culture in a new light. Max’s English (currently B but he hopes to turn it into an A next year) is very good but of course we use many colloquialisms, not taught in the classroom, and we are totally unaware that we use them.

Max on the Bobcat

Max on the Bobcat

For example, we were out working on a fence. Max was busy putting on droppers, a task he had just learned how to do. I asked him “Are you getting the hang of it?” He didn’t answer. I reflected on my choice of words (as I’ve had to do often over the last few weeks). Why the hell do we use the word “hang” in that context? Weird. But there are lots of examples just like that. For example, we use “ridiculous” and “hilarious” in not quite the same way those words were originally intended. He had to adjust to “Hi” and “Righto”.
Another example is “Good on you!” What does that mean exactly? Funny when you stop to think about it.

Max building

Max building

All this has reinforced an appreciation of a definition of language I read some time ago while studying my Master of Arts. “Language is an agreement within a social group as to the meaning of a word” [Umberto Eco]. We take our language for granted in Australia, particularly, I think because we rarely hear any other languages day to day, especially in the bush. I realise this is maybe changing in the city.

Max also made me look at my own prejudice towards Aboriginals … a prejudice I would have denied vehemently that I held. But prejudices can be so deeply ingrained in our culture that it’s “normal”, and we don’t “see” them. It came about while watching a news program and a young aboriginal woman was exhorting other young aboriginal women to follow her example in joining the armed forces. I made a derogatory comment about her use of the English language when I heard her say “Other womens should get out there and have a go”. Max challenged me by pointing out that English is not her first language. My quick retort was, “Yes, but she was born in Australia.” I didn’t think much about it at the time, but my mind kept coming back to it. My self-reflection forced me to confront the intolerant and prejudicial nature of my retort which didn’t take into account the known disadvantages she likely encountered in her education (and life) … interesting how a visitor from another culture can make you confront attitudes.

So while we are looking forward to returning to our normal routine, Max shall be missed and he will leave me pondering the use of language, culture and world perspectives. We have certainly had some very interesting conversations!

Highs and Lows of Travel

Travel is usually an exciting affair though I must admit, as I’m aging, it can be a bit daunting. We have just returned from a trip to Dubai to meet our new granddaughter, Livia,and I took the opportunity to duck over to Germany while so close.

Bathing Livia

Bathing Livia

Having a daughter working for Emirates brings benefits. But cheap travel comes at a cost. Standby is high risk and you never know exactly what might happen and so started our trip, which saw us waiting at Brisbane airport for 7 hours only to be sent home. We got on a flight the next night though, but I think all the stress took its toll. I’ve never been sick on a plane before, but our leg from Singapore to Dubai was a nightmare. I came down with a severe migraine and unfortunately for me, the pain becomes so intense that I start vomitting … and it doesn’t stop, not until the headache passes, which can take days. It was 7 hours of HELL! The crew and other passengers were amazing and really looked after me as did Chris. You can imagine how relieved I was to get off the plane, even though I had to be taken in a wheelchair to the Emirates Airport medical centre (amazing facility) to rehydrate and recover enough to get out of the airport!

But of course once recovered, it was all worth it to meet our little granddaughter and reconnect with our two grandsons. We have a daughter, Zoe and a son, Neal and his wife Lauren, living in the UAE. It is precious time with them, to understand their lifestyles and experience the extremes of Dubai – the multi-culturalism, 5 star shopping malls, the desert and other developments. This is the hottest time of the year in the Middle East – 40° to 45° and it doesn’t cool down much at night. You live in air-conditioning. So it was a relief, climate-wise, to move to the next leg of my journey, visiting my good friend, Birgit, in Frankfurt where the summer was more tepid. Of course, my anxiety levels were high getting back on that plane! Fortunately the trip was awesome and my travel-legs regained.

Lush Countryside

Lush Countryside

Germany is stunningly beautiful. What a place, breathtaking. Though I have been there once before, this time I fell in love. The countryside is so lush and despite the high population density, the landscape is dotted with forests and fields such that you have a sense of openness. I admire the German’s for their organisation, structure and dependability. The cities, towns and villages are full of character, history and interest. It was so lovely to stroll around the malls on cobbled streets with alfresco dining everywhere. I can’t wait to go back.

I returned to Dubai to see the family again and break up the journey home

Cobbled Malls

Cobbled Malls

(especially after what happened on the way over). All was good. Ramadan had started. State and Church are not separate in Dubai, so it’s law. You cannot be seen eating or even drinking water in public all day … interesting. The family decided to enjoy Iftar (the breaking of the fast at sundown). Many of the hotels cater for this special meal and it was an opportunity to appreciate some Muslim culture at its best. We had a lovely evening … until Lauren and I awoke at 4 am in the morning with vomitting and diarrhoea! The day before I was due to fly home! Can you believe it?

We recovered within a few hours fortunately and I was able to tackle the journey home – 2 kilos lighter than when I had arrived.

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