Of Recycling, Rubbish and Rethinking

Before Christmas I have posted pictures of our town’s recycled Christmas tree. Strolling through Santa Maria, I noticed that there seems to be quite the recycling theme going on this year. So on my next visit to town (we live a few walking minutes outside) I took my camera and caught some of the awesome ideas:

Wine bags as a garland

Probably my favourite: Flowers made from the top bits of plastic bottles

Stars made from the bottom of plastic bottles

More recycled bottles

Christmas trees made from egg cartons

The other night, we went to the Christmas party that my little monster’s day nursery had organised. They also had a large display of artificial Christmas trees, hand-made by the kids and not few of them from recycled materials:

I love the one in the front, made from flotsam and jetsam – including bits of plastic fishing nets

Toilet roll leftover recycling

As Linda of one of my favourite blogs Rangewriter said in a comment, “For now that’s a lovely way to squeeze extra life out of all that silly plastic.” I agree, and I am just glad they are teaching the kids here the value of resources and creative recycling. Linda continues “But what happens at the end of the year?” Very true, and I only hope that one day they will do away with all the single-use plastic water bottles altogether and go over to a reusable scheme.

2012 has actually seen an island-wide campaign to get rid of plastic bags. More effort than England can claim as I complained about in another era. Unfortunately, the plastic bag ban here seems to be working only in theory. I generally have to fend off the plastic bags that I am given when shopping, even though I am usually there with the little monkey’s pram and its generous basket underneath, plus waving around my cloth shopping bag with the Berlin motive. Sigh.

The going argument is that people here, in a developing country, have more basic problems to worry about than a bit of plastic spoiling the landscape. Really? A nation that increasingly relies on tourism as an income source can afford to have foreign guests disgusted with litter-strewn beaches?

The other day I was watching a team of workers, without doubt paid by the municipality, cleaning the salt pans, one of the attractions of Santa Maria. The relentless wind here carries all kinds of garbage around, and the little salty lakes are first-class collecting basins:

Would you like to use this sea salt to season your food?

Would you like to use this sea salt to season your food?

Not very attractive. My hope is that the young generation is learning now that avoiding rubbish is cheaper in the long run than cleaning it up. The rethinking is probably not going to happen in 2013 but one day…

To all of you a very happy and successful new year with lots of adventures, friends, love and laughs.

From Island To Island

Dear readers,

My life has changed. Not only did we have another baby, we have also moved to Cape Verde, an island nation in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What made us move here is a story for another day. For now I wanted to explore the options of this blog.

I have neglected writing for a while, if for a good reason. I mean, apart from this baby business, moving to a different country has shifted my focus somewhat. So life in the UK and the quirks of the Brits suddenly didn’t seem all that important to me anymore – no offence.

But then I love writing. Okay, I’m not a bored housewife anymore, so I won’t be able to produce anything too regular. However, after only a few days here on our new island I feel the urge to put my experiences into words.

I briefly considered starting a new blog, but then I am also an attention whore, so forfeiting a faithful, hard-earned WordPress followership of, believe it or not, 51 was absolutely out of the question. Plus, we do live on an island again, don’t we? So I have decided to highjack my own blog name and re-dedicate it to my new adventures on the island of Sal. I know I will have to adjust my About page and the mission statement but bear with me, there are only 24 hours in my day.

For today, I will leave you with an impression of what Christmas in a tropical developing country looks like. Cape Verde is an up-and-coming tourist destination but one of the many sustainability problems that needs to be resolved before long is rubbish. Here is a creative and very Capeverdean way of recycling:

Building a Christmas tree

Getting there

The finished artwork in all its splendour

Happy Christmas to all of you. May you get to spend some quality time with your families and friends and may the quantity of presents only play a minor role in measuring your happiness.

10 Things that I miss when not spending Christmas in Germany

Christmas is just around the corner, the season of peace and benevolence. Which is why today I decided to be nice for a change. In other words, I won’t rant about the hardships of living among island monkeys and instead focus on the hardships of not not living in Germany.

So without further ado I present the 10 things I miss most when I don’t get to spend Christmas in Germany:

 

1. Celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve

I mean, why would anyone in their right minds wait until the 25th when they could have the goodies the evening before already?! I’m way out of my comfort zone here, so correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the Magi bring their gifts on the night of Jesus’s birth too?

advent calendar

Granted, it would be nice to get one treat more out of your advent calendar, but if that's worth the wait?

 

2. Having a real Weihnachtsmann

A friend or remote family member dresses up as Santa and gives gifts to the kids. Not before they recited a poem or sang a song for him of course. Keeps them on their toes and nice instead of naughty much more effectively than just the imaginary cookie-eater who rushes in during the night, unseen by all but the cat, and leaves gifts that may or may not match the wish list written to him earlier.

Weihnachtsmann

"No, I wasn't nice!"

 

3. Getting together…

… at my best friend’s house for a Pre-Christmas cookie baking session. I did some baking at home with the little monster this year but at my friend’s it is always more fun. Mainly because they have a much spacier kitchen. And because I don’t have to clean up afterwards. OK, I admit it, I also miss the usual suspects who normally attend this fixture. And the ruckus all the kids make that we have popped out by now.

cookies

Yeah, I made these. With a lot of love and a bit of help from the little monster.

 

4. The food

Rotkohl (red cabbage), Grünkohl (green cabbage) and Sauerkraut (you can figure that one out yourself). Yes, there is a reason why Germans are called Krauts, and I for one don’t mind the tiniest bit. I love my Kraut and Kohl. Just as much as the goose or duck that comes with it instead of the anglo-saxon inevitability called turkey. And of course the dumplings. Please, can I be excused for a moment while I dry off my mouth.

goose

Sometimes it's great to be German!

 

5. Christmas markets

I mean, the Brits really are trying but they just don’t get it quite right. The ‘Authentic German Bratwurst’ is just short of tasting like the real deal and the atmosphere is somewhat off, too. As I say, they are trying.

ChristmasMarketJena

That's how it's supposed to look like: Christmas market in Jena

 

6. Seeing the look…

… in my parents’ and grandparents’ eyes when they unwrap their photo calendars that I spent 2 weeks creating painstakingly from photos of the little monster. Sure, on an intellectual level I know that they will absolutely appreciate this gift (if nothing else because they will voice their gratefulness time and again until well into March of next year). Still, being there would be just priceless.

skype

Oh well, I suppose skype will have to do this year.

 

7. Traditional German Christmas decorations

My Mom comes from a region called ‘Erzgebirge’ (Ore Mountains) which is where most of the prettiest items originate. Christmas pyramids, Schwibbögen (candle arches), Räuchermännchen (incense burner figurines), nutcrackers… the list goes on. I used to find this stuff really tacky and I wouldn’t want to put too many of these dustcatchers up in my house but now that I don’t see them at my grandparents’ every year anymore I kinda miss them. Not to mention the nostalgia that comes with seeing the tranquil and understated light arch of a Schwibbogen in a window instead of the psychedelic, incessantly flickering lights that are, for some reason completely beyond my grasp, so popular today.

christmas decorations

Clockwise from left: Pyramid, Schwibbogen, nutcrackers, Räuchermännchen

 

8. Christmas music

I know I said I hate Christmas songs and I won’t backpedal on that one because it is still very much true for the Christmassy pop songs that are played to death before and during Christmas on the radio and in stores. What I’m talking about here are the traditional songs that we used to play and sing. I guess I need to get myself a copy of a few of my Mom’s CDs for next year. If only so that the little monster gets to grow up with them too.

music

Nooooo, not these guys!

 

9. Having a fight with my sister

Seriously. We two are very different and for as long as I can remember we have fought over little nothingnesses as soon as we have spent more than 3 hours in the same room. But she is my sister and also a diligent follower of this blog (probably even the first follower ever), and I’m sure she will appreciate being featured in this post.

streit

You can't live with them and you can't... wait, YES WE CAN!

 

10. Snow

Though I will deny I said that should anyone ever claim I did. Well, I guess I should also phrase this a bit differently. Something along the lines of: The higher likelihood of having a White Christmas. There is nothing like taking a walk after a lovely (=heavy, greasy, unhealthy but divinely tasty) Christmas dinner through snowy streets where every sound is muffled and everything is just soooooo peaceful…

snow

That's right, this is outside my Mom and Dad's house

 

Of course, after Christmas is over, there are still some things German that I will miss. Like watching Dinner for One on New Years Eve. I know, it’s not even in German but it has been a tradition forever.

 

So here are two things to be grateful for this Christmas season: Skype and Youtube. Yeah, I know, they are no replacement for being there in person but they are better than nothing at all.

 

Merry Christmas to everyone!

 

 

PS: I might have pilfered one or two pictures from Google images. Dear artist, please don’t consider this as a vile act of copyright infringement but rather an hommage to further your fame and the awareness of your awesome artistic skill. Rest assured, I am not making any money with this, so you’re not missing out.

Queer cards

‘Tis this time of the year again and, after trying to ignore the impending holidays for as long as I possibly could, I am finally starting to get myself into the mood. It does take a bit of effort, you know, some tricks I’ve acquired over the years. Like ordering the presents for the kids (’cause they are the only ones getting Christmas gifts in my family) online, thus dodging the insane crowds that are currently milling through our high street and malls. Like extreme-fast forwarding the bits of adverts where huge eyes staring out of starving African children’s faces are trying to blackmail you into parting with your hard-earned savings in the name of Christmassy generosity. Or like closing my eyes every now and then when walking through the streets to avoid bringing on an epileptic seizure induced by all those hectically flashing, multicoloured, oh-so-peaceful Christmas lights.
Snowflakes

I suspect crafting is not exactly my strongest suit but I think I deserve brownie points for trying. Plus, the little monster really enjoyed running wild with scissors.

Other things that help me conjure up a Christmassy atmosphere are some old family traditions. Like crafting little things, or baking Christmas cookies. Especially with the little monster around now, these small pleasures do bring a bit of Christmas spirit to my commerce-weary soul.

Then there is the habit of writing a Christmas message or card to the most important people in our lives. I haven’t written any real cards myself in a while, mainly because email is so much faster, less hassle, less environmentally questionable and, oh yeah, cheaper. For special occasions I tend to send e-cards. Not the soppy ones with puppies and butterflies. I like the cute b-cards by German artist Chris Schlag.

Cards aplenty

They even have a section 'Suitable for terminal illness'!

I am digressing. Cards. Sending cards is HUGE in the UK. Much bigger than in Germany. Where I come from, I have never seen an entire store exclusively dedicated to greeting cards. Here, in our little town which has exactly one (1) cinema, there are actually double as many card shops. Wow! Not to mention the card aisles in the big supermarkets. Granted, they also offer a small collection of wrapping paper, ribbons and gift items like balloons or cuddly toys but by and large they are selling cards, gazillions of cards.

Unfortunately not a single one without a pre-printed message inside! What’s up with that?!

The other day I was looking for a birthday card for my granddad in Germany. He is one of the few people I know who doesn’t have internet so I thought I’d surprise him with an old-fashioned, snail mail greeting card from across the English Channel. Except he doesn’t understand English. And I didn’t fancy versing around a bog standard, run-of-the-mill text. So I ended up buying some coloured cardboard and making my own card instead. I am slowly but surely getting really good with that crafty stuff. I suppose I should thank the unimaginative card manufacturers who can’t conceive of people like me who are actually able and willing to come up with their own words. But I won’t be thankful.

Because here comes the most annoying thing about these instant cards: They are way too often sent exactly as is! I mean, if you don’t have the time to at least rudimentarily personalise my card I’d rather not get one at all, thank you very much. It’s like birthdays on facebook. Dozens of people leave messages on your wall but only a handful manages to write more than a slight variation of ‘Happy birthday, have a great day’. What’s the point?

Seriously, if I get one more Christmas card that doesn’t show any other signs of individualisation than ‘Love/xxx/All the best, [name]’ I will forget that I have put myself painstakingly into a Christmas mood and hate the holiday all over again! And then promptly discard the culprit.

PS: This one captures my pre-Christmas thoughts pretty neatly. Prominently featured: Writing Christmas cards 😉