Tuesday, 31 March 2015


March has come and gone... 
and with it, Spring has come and we hit the 2-year mark of being married. 
Hello year 3! 

what did March look like for us...? Well...

//we celebrated pie day//

//we finally had coffee on our sunny balcony//

//we hung pictures, sewed curtains, and called this place home//

//we opened the box of Easter eggs we've had since before Christmas//

//we watched the solar eclipse//

//I got all mushy and sentimental about our wedding anniversary, which lead to cookies and fudge//

//we went into town to the Marburg Spring festival//

//And walked home along the Lahn, despite the cold//

//We celebrated our wedding anniversary with cake and coffee in the morning//

//I proved that English language ability does not equal scone-baking-ability//

//We planted flowers and watched our daffodils bloom//

//we switched to summer time, and now have sunny evenings with beautiful views at dinner time//

We've seen prayers answered and had good discussions, met new people and dreamt of the future. March has been pretty good! 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Being a Bartlett

Did you know, there's a Bartlett school of Architecture
It's also the name of a town (well, there are a few towns). There's Bartlett creek, and Bartlett peak. There's even Bartlett Island. There's a Bartlett High School. 
There're many famous people with the surname Bartlett. 
Then, let's not forget the great Bartlett Pear. (who votes we name our first daughter Carolina Gold???) 

Am I the only one who found it so weird to suddenly have a new name to learn about?

Since becoming a Bartlett, the only joke somebody's made about my surname, is when they referred to me as the president's wife - the reference to the West Wing went over my head and they needed to explain. (Although, come on, that Bartlett is spelled with only one 'T' at the end)

Only a month ago, Malcolm and I were congratulated by the friendly lady at Sparkasse when I told her I needed to change my name because I'd got married. The fact that it was actually nearly two years ago at the time was a little awkward to explain - we'd been putting it off until we could change my name and our address simultaneously after I finally managed to change my name here in Germany last September-ish. Anyway, that was the last place that still had me recorded as Erica Bentley, and now, if I remember to use the new bank card with my new name, I don't have to think about which signature to use anymore.

Though I still sometimes miss my old surname and all the car references that came with it, I think I'm the happiest Bartlett girl in the world, married to the very best Bartlett. 
He might not have a Wikipedia page about him (yet) but he's the best reason for me to love our surname.

Today, two years ago, we had a very unceremonious ceremony in home affairs, I signed my butterfly signature with a different ending, and I legally became his wife. What a moment.
From there it was back to the old house and setting things up for the next day, the real wedding and the real celebration of it.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lessons from the Cafe

I volunteer at a cafe in our area twice a week. In the time I've been there, about a year now, I certainly have learnt a lot. 
Of course, what people there tell me about their lives is confidential and I wouldn't post it all over here. Plus, since my listening skills are better than my speaking skills, I'm not all that good at German gossip.
But, the diversity of people that come through those doors, means I'm bound to learn something practical! 
Today, I thought I'd write some things down.

1. where I can buy mustache wax, for styling mustaches.
(Hint: Ahrens, Universit├Ątsstra├če) 

2. how to make a latte  macchiato. With visible layers.
(Hint: slowly but surely)

3. which dentists and doctors to avoid.
(Hint: many.)

4. how to cook a variety of meals.
(Hint: mostly German meals. If in doubt, add bacon, onion, and potatoes and you're good.)

5. a lot about child birth.
(Hint: It seems gruesome) 

6. where to go to ask about a steueridentifikationsnummer, and other long words.

7. what Griesbrei can be used to make.
(Hint: anything goes) 

8. how to write the alphabet and numbers the German way.
(Hint: start writing numbers the German way on day #1 so that when you look back on where you wrote your bank account number, it's correct.)

9. the names of different kinds of wurst.
(Hint: Lachsschinken isn't salmon, it is in fact, you guessed it, pork.) 

10. how the education system works.
(Hint: Abi is a big deal.)

11. traditions - first day of school, Fasching, Abitur stuff, St Martin's day...
(Hint: any excuse to dress up, and it's usually a little dark.) 

12. the lyrics to the same songs we keep playing.

13. that those daffodils that are sold with their buds closed, turn out really pretty and sunny.
(Hint: just add sunlight and water!)

15. asparagus, and what to do with it.
(Hint: just wait until asparagus season...) 

16. Who Andreas Gabalier is.
(Hint: he doesn't look like his music sounds.)

17. The difference between rolling ones own cigarettes and the ready bought ones.
(Hint: less is more.) 

18. seasonal decor is a thing.
(Hint: there's such a thing as "Easter-moss") 

19. How to mop like a princess.
 (Hint: it's in the wrists) 

Friday, 13 March 2015

A tree with many roots

On paper, I'm 100% South African, AND 100% German. 
Duel citizenship has opened various doors for me, and on paper it is great. 

Born and bred in South Africa, I count myself as African. 
Culturally, though, it's complicated. 

I grew up with a combination of traditions from both my mom and dad's sides, yet in a South African context. There're plenty of things that I do, or thought patterns that I follow, or words that I use, which I would consider to be South African. 
Having a German passport in the drawer, and one German parent, did not automatically instill stereotypical traits like punctuality, a love of cheesecake, or the ability to ride a bike with no hands while holding an umbrella and a loaf of bread.  
A lot about life in Germany is totally foreign to me, and many things about the language and the way of doing things make me uncomfortable.
However, I am also aware that the education system I was in and the nature of my upbringing, is very European. There are things that I grew up with, things that I love, that are German. 
Introducing myself, I usually say that I'm South African. 
This usually requires an explanation and, often, it feels like people are trying to push me back into the box that I'm meant to identify as German, or at least European. Often times I feel like they're trying to fit me back into the mould that since my skin is a certain colour and I have German ancestory, I should just say I'm German, even if I have only just started living here. 
And yet, I am also German, and I think I've fitted into life here a lot easier than many others might have. 

This leaves me in a tricky situation when it comes to 'cultural dress'. My culture, in South Africa, has no typical dress. School uniform, maybe? I can't claim to be Zulu, and no German outfit captures my culture, either. 
What's a girl to do? 

Tired of wearing my shirt from the World Cup in South Africa, I decided while home for Christmas to sew myself something. 

A Shweshwe Dirndl. 

It's not actually a pattern for a dirndl, but it's close enough when a blouse and apron are added, and can also be worn simply as a Summer dress with a yellow bow. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

5 alternate uses for emergency blankets

Who else out there has space blankets lying around at home? Let's see a show of hands...? Anybody...? 

The fire in our building was at 4:30 in the morning in the Summer. This meant it was light enough to see what was going on, and it wasn't too cold. However, when rushing out in PJs and slippers, it can get pretty cold after a couple hours. Fortunately, we were provided with emergency blankets (or space blankets) to keep us warm while we waited.

Somehow these blankets survived the last 6 months of moves and now, our limited storage space is taken up with 3 blankets that won't fold back to their original packed size, and seem like they could still be useful for something. 

However, a quick Google search gave me no good ideas considering I'm not planning on going camping any time soon. 

Indoor uses for an emergency blanket? 

I can only think of a few. 

Use it as a pretty prop for ballet

Build a space-age blanket fort 

Use as a picnic blanket. 
Just add friends! (since we have one stable dining room chair)

Use them as packing material

Use to make a house-warming gift to remind others of how far we've come

And now I'm considering using it to line our duvet since our heating keeps shutting off. 

What else should be added to this list? (Besides using it as a distraction for putting of housework...)

Monday, 2 March 2015

Mkhuze {part 2}

After braaiing, we headed back to the tent for the night. Not long after crawling into bed, we heard something moving the trees outside. There was snorting, cracking branches, and rustling leaves. The tree that was still illuminated by our veranda light wasn't moving, but shining our torch into the bush didn't help since it lit up only a tiny spot. Eventually, we fell asleep. At about 2am I awoke again to the same sounds. This time, the tree about 10 steps away from our tent was moving, and one could see the tusks of an elephant jabbing at the tree. It seems the elephants were on their way back through the camp and stopped for another snack. I was a little concerned about my car which was parked under a tree, but fortunately the elephants didn't wander that side of our tent! 

We fell back asleep, and woke up early to head out to the hide. Mum and daddy were already there, but we drove with Malcolm's parents to first see if we could find the elephant, since we'd heard them trumpeting nearby, and then when we couldn't find them, we also headed to the hide. We spotted a rhino on the way, and when we walked along the trail to the hide, we saw a mom rhino and her baby leaving the watering hole. Unfortunatly we'd just missed the four rhino that had been getting their morning drink. But, we saw SO much anyway that it was just wonderful 

Watching the wildebeest rolling and tussling and wading through the mud made it really entertaining, but I couldn't help but feel sorry for this little terapin, in the middle of the muddy waterhole, it somehow managed to survive without being waded over or sat on!

This baby wildebeest waded in really deep and the thick mud seemed to be getting the better of it. One could see it was getting tired, and it was struggling. I felt so helpless watching it and not being able to intervene... fortunately, it made it across and back to it's mamma!

We were nearly alone at the hide, and it was a really special opportunity to get to see such abundance. And with a cup of coffee and a box of Ouma, it doesn't get better! I especially enjoyed seeing the warthog - they're my childhood favourite!

After going back to the camp and having breakfast, we packed up and headed for a drive to the lake. Along the way, we saw all these vultures.

They were hanging out at the spot where a mom rhino and her baby, as well as another male rhino, were poached two days before. The day we arrived, somebody was lurking around, intent on shooting them for their horn, and the baby was shot for no reason at all. It's heart-breaking, and absolutely cruel. The statistics are shocking and the topic is extremely complicated from a legal and social point, but there are numerous people and organisations trying to prevent poaching.

We continued driving, until we got to a hide where we could get out. Not too much was happening, but it was good to enjoy the view and the breeze since it was extremely hot.

After leaving that hide, we drove just a little further to a picnic site where we had lunch together while watching a hippo across the lake. We heard one close by, but fortunately it didn't pop up where we were!

After lunch, we left the reserve and headed home. Rural KZN is incredible. It makes one realise what one takes for granted, while it simultaneously reminds me how beautiful SA is.

We thought that our car trouble for the trip was over when we had a puncture. But my car had something else up it's sleeve and all of a sudden cut out. It was on a really busy stretch but the road is also wide enough to pull over and we're glad that we hadn't started overtaking the truck in front of us when it happened! We pulled over, Malcolm's dad fiddled, we tried all sorts, then towed the car to a safer place where cars weren't whizzing by. The car still couldn't be repaired there, so Malcolm's dad towed us to Mtunzini... I'm so glad that we had the radios, since they really helped communication while being towed.

We finally arrived in Mtunzini where we ended our family holiday with pizza at the clay oven. It was such an incredible time. Now, sitting in cold and foggy Marburg, I really wish I could be right back there at that moment - family, warmth, pizza.... 

*** All watermarked photos are taken by my dad.*** 
The problem with traveling with a photographer is that I get lazy taking my own photos. For more of his photos check out Zululand Pix on Facebook***