30 December 2011

To my sort of geekdom

I'm still a very minor typography and lettering geek but I have high hopes for the future.

But whatever the outcome of my efforts, I'm pretty sure I won't tire of interesting, old book covers.

Najaar by Abraham Hendrik Jonker, as seen at Stellenbosch Antiques, a shop which naturally has a blackletter typeface for its name.

(Yes I made a snooty face when I said "blackletter"—nevermind that I usually have to wiki these things before I'm sure of my facts.)

Kalk Bay

We made a girl outing to Kalk Bay in Cape Town yesterday.

The world, as Norbert Wiener once remarked, may be viewed as a myriad of To Whom It May Concern messages. The significance of this statement becomes apparent when we recognize that everything that exists and happens in the world, every object and event, every plant and animal organism, almost continuously emits its characteristic identifying signal. Thus, the world resounds with these many diverse messages, the cosmic noise, generated by the energy transformation and transmission from each existent and event.

That is to say, Kalk Bay is full of shops which are full of things that will appeal to women who enjoy browsing.

While every thing and event contributes to this cosmic noise, each emits its identifying message and also has a highly selective receptivity for only a selection of these multiple messages, while indifferent or insensitive to all others.

And that is to say, it's definitely a good idea to leave the men at home.

Fun things to look out for in the pictures include what you're not aloud to take into the station or onto the train, and some hand painted signs. You'll also see some shots of the very extensive Whatnot and China Shop, of which I also made a brief video clip—you can't really sum the place up in pictures.

If you're going to visit Kalk Bay, strongly consider using the train. We didn't have any major traffic issues because we came and left earlier than many others—read: hipster kids, but since the main area of shops and restaurants doesn't span much of a distance and the station is at the centre of it all, it would've made more sense to go the public transport route. Next time!

Oh! And try cinnamon ice cream. What could be more Cape Town? Hello, spice route. (Just try to ignore the girl scratching around inside her mouth right before she serves you... I know, right?)

Quotes are from "The World as a Communication Network" by Lawrence K. Frank, as included in Sign, Image and Symbol (London: Studio Vista Ltd, 1966, p.1). This book and others procured from the excellent Quagga Rare Books & Art.

29 December 2011


We visited the Vergelegen estate in Somerset West yesterday. I'm not even sure where to begin. We went around the gorgeous rose garden before we had lunch at the adjacent Rose Terrace Bistro. Afterwards we marvelled at the majestic camphor trees and peaked inside the rooms of the homestead, all filled with antique furniture and interesting paintings. We then longed to open the books in the amazing library collection, and enjoyed even more garden spaces. Well worth a visit!

P.S. My aunt enquired, and artists are welcome to draw or paint in the gardens. Staff only need advance notice if big groups intend to visit. The library collection is also viewable by appointment, though it's probably better to contact them around March next year when the tasting room has moved out of the library into its new building.

P.P.S. It's R10 per person to enter the farm.


I promise I won't bore you with any details surrounding my Christmas. These pictures happen to be from Christmas day, but they have nothing to do with the event and everything to do with some good views of my hometown and some of the public sculptures that have been installed all over. You can read more about them on 20 Stellenbosch: Two Decades of South African Sculpture.

Pardon my complaints in the captions about my pocket camera, the Canon PowerShot A3100 IS. This camera refuses to focus when you've zoomed in on something. What is the point, I ask you!?

Speaking of captions, a note on the first one: "Post-colonial paradise".

Sometimes walking around here is a bit surreal. Palm trees, bright bougainvillea flowers, all these colours etched against the burning blue sky. And all the luxury around you, but if you were to simply float a short distance in another direction you could be surrounded by an environment that's completely different. This is just an odd country.

28 December 2011

Icing sugar

Truth be told I'm skipping my recent visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and fast forwarding to when I was taking the train to Munich to get a plane to come home to South Africa.

The sun was coming up just as we pulled out of Stuttgart and the roofs of houses and pointy steeples of churches were black silhouettes against a golden orange sky. Later I was enjoying how the villages and fields seemed to be sprinkled with icing sugar, the first real snow of the season. That's what this little clip is.

So I'll do a proper Rothenburg write-up at some later stage, and from the next post on it'll be all sunny skies and rose gardens. Don't we all just love those?

26 December 2011

Ludwigsburg & Stuttgart

Forever the backblogger. Here are a few pictures from when we visited the Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart Christmas markets.

01 December 2011


Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming") is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

So I've scanned the Wiki. And here I was thinking it's all about eating chocolates from little holes in a piece of cardboard with your favourite character on it.

But speaking of eating, here are some pictures of the Christmas markets that we've seen so far. On Saturday afternoon we went by the Böblingen market and had some sweet treats (I'll concede that Nutella on a crêpe is—in fact—pretty amazing), but as it was otherwise uneventful we continued from there to get more practical shopping done. In the evening we visited the Ehningen market which on the whole seemed more gloves-knitted-by-granny rather than scarf-imported-from-China, but either way we just partook of the deliciousness and skipped the stuff.

On Tuesday I ran into the Stuttgart market by accident and wandered around admiring the intricate decorations on the roofs of the stalls. I was also really excited to finally meet a random Japanese person. She said something to her child in the stroller and I spun around to accost her in Japanese. We had a quick chat. That's about it.

I'm sorry to be all unexcited by the markets and Christmas here. Clearly Germany invented everything that people love about Christmas, but I find the merchandise generally uninteresting and I've just come to prefer my family's philosophy on the matter. Gifts are for children. Christmas day is for eating together. Unnecessary shopping is to be avoided. As Stephen Colbert put it, "we are once again spending money we don't have on things we don't need to give to people we don't like". He then proceeds to show shoppers mobbing each other at big sales.

Personally I look forward to some quiet post-Christmas shopping for things we do actually need. Until then I'll just stick with enjoying the Glühwein, thanks.

28 November 2011

November draws to a close

So it's time to sort out all that pesky holiday stuff. Like will the German civil servants manage to get my permit in order so I can actually leave the country to enjoy the festive season at home? Who knows! WATCH THIS SPACE!

In good news, I just finished up our new year cards and submitted them to one of those online printing companies. A first. Let's hope that works out well!

I don't want to ruin the whole surprise, so all you get this year is a sneak peek and the knowledge that it's definitely quite similar to last year's.

I also just remembered that I have to upload pictures from this weekend's Weinachstmärkte and that I really need to wiki "advent". These people are into Christmas.

25 November 2011

Cold, clear light

There's something quite delicious about how the sideways slant of afternoon light on a cold, clear day can hit the world right in the face. I went to get a dose of this on a minor exploration of one of the many -ingens around here, Aidlingen.

The weather looks really nice, so you might hold out on putting on your gloves and then start to think it's not necessary, until you realise you've moved from cold, through pain, all the way to numb, and only by looking at your red fingers that you can't feel at all do you come back to your senses.

Seeing the ladies in black and white, which I assume to be some form of habit, always brings to mind Gauguin's Brittany paintings, like Vision After the Sermon.

Towards the end there are the rentable(?) gardening space pictures. We have these on the outskirts of Ehningen too. I assume they are rentable. Basically it seems that people who don't have gardening space where they live would get a space like this if they wanted to grow some things. It makes a lot of sense really. And it's probably not more than two or three kilometres from any corner of the village.

Tomorrow we'll really get to grips with the season by checking out some local Weihnachtsmärkte. Watch this space!

P.S. I would map out my route, but all the pathways aren't roads that you can track on Google Maps, so fail on that front.

24 November 2011

Japan album covers II

As promised yesterday, here is the follow-up of Retro Japan. Sunlight changes and paper is floopy, but we'll call this my better effort at photographing the album covers and inserts. Wishlist: large format scanner.

A lot of this is obviously quite amusing, but my favourite part is the singer "stats" given in the insert of The Checkers album. You're not a real fan until you know your favourite celebrity's height, weight, astrological sign, and—of course!—their blood type.

In the interest of being a more conscientious blogger than last time, here are the featured artists and the relevant album names.

23 November 2011

More retro Japan to come

I was planning to complete what I started with my Retro Japan post in July, but upon closer inspection some of the shots that I took of my remaining album covers this afternoon aren't so hot, so I'll have a photography do-over tomorrow.

Watch this space. I promise it'll be worth it.

21 November 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front

The other afternoon my brain was a bit finished, so I turned to this list of movies again. In keeping with my apparent love of war movies, I progressed from A Farewell to Arms to All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on the novel Im Westen nichts Neues by Erich Maria Remarque. It took the honours for best film and best director (Lewis Milestone) at the 1929/30 Oscars. It was also nominated for best writing, and best cinematography (Arthur Edeson). The interplay between direction, cinematography and editing is quite masterful in many scenes. You can forget about modern special effects, these guys knew how to make an account of war that you won't easily forget. Speaking of modern though, from what I've seen on IMDb, it looks like a remake is on the cards.

Please pardon the enormous image. I got a bit carried away with good shots and the narrative. It's also not the shortest film.

Here's an approximation of my favourite part of the writing. (Some random labelling of characters, since they die too quickly for one to remember their names.)

Beardy: Well how do they start a war?
Front: Well, one country offends another.
Beardy: How could one country offend another? You mean there's a mountain over in Germany that gets mad at a field over in France?
Front: Well stupid, one people offends another.
Beardy: Oh, that's it? I shouldn't be here at all! I don't feel offended.
Kat: It don't apply to tramps like you.
Beardy: Good. Then I can be going home right away.
Paul: Nah, you just try it.
(You'll probably get shot.)
Beardy: The Kaiser and me...
Beardy: Me and the Kaiser felt just alike about this war. Didn't neither of us want any war, so I'm going home. He's there already.
Young 'un: Somebody must've wanted it. Maybe it was the English. No... I don't wanna shoot any Englishmen. I never saw one till I came up here. I suppose most of them never saw a German till they came up here. Oh, I'm sure they weren't asked about it.
Cigar: Well, it must be doing somebody some good.
Beardy: Not me and the Kaiser.
Young 'un: I think maybe the Kaiser wanted a war.
Beardy: You leave us out of this.
Kat: I don't see that. The Kaiser's got everything he needs.
Another: Well, he never had a war before. Every admiral needs one war to make him famous. Why, that's history.
Paul: Generals too, they need war.
Young 'un: And manufacturers—they get rich!
Front: I think it's more... a kind of fever. Nobody wants it in particular, and then all at once, there it is! We didn't want it, the English didn't want it, and here we are—fighting!
Kat: I'll tell you how it should all be done. Whenever there's a big war coming on, they should rope off a big field—
Lying down: Sell tickets!
Kat: —yeah. And... and on the big day, you should take all the kings, and their cabinets, and their generals, put them in the center dressed in their underpants and let them fight it out with clubs. The best country wins.
All: (sarcastic) Hurray!

13 November 2011

Around town

Most Sundays in Germany, nothing is open. Well, not exactly. Some bakeries are open for a few hours in the morning and in the afternoon. Generally that's about it. This means that the only reason to go outside on a Sunday is to have fun, choice options being walking or cycling. Good thing we got our shopping and fun all in yesterday though, because the weather today was grey and cold, whereas yesterday was a real blue-skied pleasure. (Yes, it also follows that we haven't left our apartment today, and that we're very pretty pleased about it.)

But anyway, when I was dragged outside yesterday morning, I was happy to discover that the world had been preparing for my arrival. We strolled around town and found a cool apple/potato shop. The potato poster up in this shop was quite interesting. I mean, I know there are different varieties of things. Apples are an easy example. They taste different, and some might be better for eating, while others might be better for baking. But potatoes? I had to move to Germany to learn that you have to choose if you want floury potatoes, or potatoes that are good for boiling, or potatoes that are good for salad, or potatoes that are good for building a craft to go to the moon—presumably, I mean, I didn't read the whole poster.

We also wandered around some of the outskirts later in the afternoon. There were more apples, only most of them were rotting on the ground. Warning: be careful when treading on thick carpets of autumn leaves, they may be from an apple tree, and this will mean that you are also stepping in apple cider. For some wildlife viewing we spotted what seemed to be an enormous hare frolicking about in a farmer's field.

Later in the evening we went out to see the Ehningen Accordion Club perform, and on our way back there was some more German wildlife—a totally adorable hedgehog. Japanese elementary schoolers asked me, more than once, what a harinezumi is in English. I'd usually get them to draw me a picture, because I didn't ever memorise that Japanese word (in retrospect though, pin mouse, duh). And then I'd see it and say "Oh! A... krimpvarkie. Listen kid, give this old lady a while, she's going to remember the English word by the end of the lesson, promise."

10 November 2011

Boxes and biscuits

If you're one of those lucky individuals who has watched me try to organise a confined space before, you can probably imagine what a room looks like when I decide to start unpacking more of our moving boxes. In summary: I apparently really hate myself.

Anyway. I found these buddies (on left) amongst all the rest—why didn't I throw out more clothes!?—and now I need to find a suitable biscuit recipe.

Possibly also an avenue to get rid of more clothes.

But obviously biscuits come first in life.

09 November 2011

Life in a day / A day in the life

You may remember a post from a while back featuring some books I rediscovered in storage back home.

And as I mentioned then, this book is A day in the life of South Africa, published in 1982 as an independent project. "[It] takes one ordinary day, Wednesday 26th May, 1982, and through the lenses of thousands of photographers, it brings you South Africa, as seen by South Africans."

Well recently I came across the movie below. It's the same idea, except it's international, it's video, and it's 2010. At one and a half hours it's a long one, so switch to HD, get cozy, and enjoy.

P.S. Staying with the documenting theme, the link to this movie was posted on Twitter by one half of the Bicycle Portraits duo, Nic Grobler. They're now realising one of the final stages of their massive project to photograph and interview ordinary South Africans who love to use a bicycle to get around. I would highly recommend backing them on Kickstarter to get your hands on one, or all, of their books.

06 November 2011

I made it for you

I made this composite after the forest excursion. I mean, I guess people mark things that are to be cut down? And colours like red and pink are easy to see?

One of the bamboo pictures was from here, the other is from a set I don't believe I ever posted. That's about all about that.

P.S. Numbering stuff is interesting. I often wonder what a lot of the non-obvious numbers around us refer to. I guess a really small percentage of the population actually knows. Or maybe it just makes us all feel that the world is more orderly than it really is. Uh, good night.

03 November 2011

Yellow in the yellow

There it is. The bicycle is here. It's been put back together. It had to take its yellow self out to go and see the yellow world.

Some minor messing around in the woods and then reorienting myself to find my way home. Thanks autumn for exhibiting some pretty excellent weather thus far. And of course, those leaves.

Update: Here's the video.

31 October 2011


Not too much to say about it. Lots of DIY. Some pretty okay weather. And we finally have all our stuff from Japan, even after a bit of a stuff-up on the German side. Hoping for a few more not-too-chilly sunny days for some cycling explorations.

Below is the palette that our TV corner is exhibiting. But we'll need to acquire a few more things before the actual apartment will be photogenic. But who cares, as long as my workspace comes into existence soon, all shall be well. Then there are no more excuses for getting nothing (important) done.

P.S. Dear family and interested parties, daylight savings time is now over, so we're back to GMT+1.

13 October 2011

The day goes nowhere

I'll do something productive really soon. I swear.

But I just saw this old scanned page from a diary I didn't find in my stored stuff last time—horror! where is it!?—and I guess it just gives you perspective. The things that used to consume my existence... Thinking about entering any such realm again is distressing. Not knowing exactly where to find the particular realm is even worse.

More notes to self

  1. Oh my ****, I'm totally screwed.
  2. Text that peek-a-boos from a picture.
  3. A picture is worth a thousand words.
  4. Marthie is going to peer at me over her glasses.
  5. Damn it.
  6. Anton ... I don't even want to think about Anton.
  7. 'Just pass,' Katrin's mom said.
  8. Go to bed and get up early.
  9. Don't get too attached to sleep.
  10. At least you have 80 for the AELS TEFL component.
  11. You had an idea earlier today that you forgot again.
  12. Well done.
  13. Brush your teeth.
  14. Dream about something amazing.
  15. Don't get eaten alive tomorrow.
  16. Text in a string.
  17. Thing.
  18. It wasn't so bad after all.
  19. Marthie wasn't even wearing her glasses.
  20. Space=dictionary.

11 October 2011

Garden-spying and spinach-buying

After a lifetime of doing all sorts of jobs and practising different hobbies it seems that many people come to gardening. I think the elderly are trying to tell us something. And it may be that: gardening is it.

In unrelated news, I found some colourful spinach at the greengrocer's. It goes with the rest of this autumn: pink, red, orange.

And that's about it. I guess I'll continue my quick revision of all things html then.

Other pictures related to this interlude are here.

10 October 2011


I finally got started with my online Goethe course. Here's to hoping I can chat up random strangers in a beer garden in no time!

In other news, we attended the launch of Catering México Lindo this Saturday. So if you're in the Stuttgart area and you need some Mexican food catered, give them a call!

09 October 2011

Stuttgart and the Wilhelma

A long overdue blog post—aren't they all? I guess we will muse about the extended German summer of 2011 for many years to come. Ending about two days ago was a stretch of ten days of pure sunshine-bliss. This post is about our October first visit to Stuttgart and the Wilhelma Zoological-Botanical Garden, which one of my husband's colleagues was kind enough to show us during this golden period.

But before we got there we took a walk up Königstraße and through the Schloßgarten, both well worth a visit. We then arrived at the Wilhelma, and now that I've Wiki-ed it I realise that the buildings are interesting because they are old.

More importantly though, this place doesn't make you want to put yourself or the animals out of their misery (cf. Tobe zoo). I understand that all animals can't actually have trees inside their enclosures, but at Wilhelma greenery abounds and the concrete-prison effect is avoided. My favourite part was how the zoological and botanical parts are also integrated in places, for example where birds, monkeys, and creepy crawlies from humid climes are enclosed with nets and glass in the same greenhouse as the plants. Another nice feature was bird or butterfly enclosures where you can walk among them freely. So two thumbs up for Wilhelma! I'm sure we'll visit again to see more of the botanical parts that we couldn't get around to this time.

Here are some links of fun creatures I couldn't get good pictures of. I've labeled them with their Latin names so you can get the full effect of seeing them before knowing what to expect!

04 October 2011

Once upon a time there was a T-shirt

If you're in the JET programme for about five minutes and have any interests, skills or talents that your students or colleagues can feed or find a use for, it shall be so. I love watching friends perform in serious-looking Japanese plays or posting pictures of the bugs students and teachers must love showing to them.

So I suppose word got around that I could supposedly draw or design and my first project, way back in 2008—remember that? because I know I barely do—, was a T-shirt design for a small, combined school and community sports festival. The drawing combined two of the main sights of the village: the old weeping cherry blossom tree and one of the traditional watermills. After the sports incarnation, pictured on left, it went on to be printed in pink on navy windbreakers and aprons for the autumn watermill festival.

Fast forward some years and they were thinking about an update. First we talked about a cap, which I didn't get around to, and then before I left the one teacher said she'd been thinking about a picture-letter idea (letter as in character) and showed me some examples. I had seen some of my junior high students do a project with kanji, and then you can get something like this, though theirs looked cooler. Anyway, it seemed a fun idea. I just had to make sure to finish it after all the madness of an international move.

But here we are, it's DONE. I'll see what configuration is chosen, but below are two ways to do it. どう?

P.S. See the weeping cherry blossom tree here and here. You can also see some of the watermills and their festival.

P.P.S. If you haven't been to Ishidatami I suppose it would be good to know that: the Is represent the big flat rocks—rocks like tatami mats— that you get there as well as the stone walls 石垣 you can see in the area; the S is the Fumoto River 麓川 that runs there and has a covered bridge like the Tamaru Bridge 田丸橋 you can see on your way to the village or the bridge at Yuge shrine 弓削神社; the H is the elementary schoolers who all learn to ride a unicycle; the first D is part of a watermill 水車 wheel; the first A is rice; the T is a wayfinder to the two major sights; the second A is soba noodles 蕎麦; and the M is the weeping cherry blossom tree しだれ桜. If you don't get it, that's okay. But let's hope the locals do! Fingers crossed!

28 September 2011

"Work" in progress

Colour palette, live

I talked about movie colour palettes before, and today I was struck by some real palettes as captured by two of my friends.

The first one is a South African who just arrived in the U.K. to study at Oxford. She put some pictures of her first explorations online. (Pale sky, dark blues, greens, greys, washed-out browns, whites and creams, gold.)

The second one hails from France and has spent a fair bit of time in South Africa. He currently resides in Johannesburg. (Bright blue sky, oranges, yellows, browns, bold accents of blue/purple/pink/green/white.)


27 September 2011

With love from me, to me

What a beautiful sight.

Thanks to Hiroko who helped me to pick out all the tasty products. It's funny how the cuisine of a country is on your mind more after you've left it than when you're in it. And that's when you need to figure out how to make it. Well, this time I'm prepared.

A big up to all the postal workers, truck drivers, ship captains and whoever else got this cooking fun-box to me. (My husband and his colleague who drove it home too I guess!)

Word has it that our big Japan shipment has also arrived. (Were the boxes on the same ship I wonder?) More unpacking and perhaps more feeling at home soon!

23 September 2011

For bored housewives: Part 2

Continuing with our last theme, don't forget to keep your camera handy and don't forget to switch on that macro function.

In this instalment we have three more creative ideas that will really brighten your day.

1. If you're stuck at home chopping those vegetables, don't forget to really look at them. You might discover amazing vistas of sunset visions right there in the pumpkin peels.

2. When you're out shopping, remember to look on the ground for interesting things that fell from trees. You can have at least ten minutes of fun photographing them once you get home.

3. When you're not looking on the ground for flora, remember to be on the look-out for fauna. They can be so interesting!

Well that's all folks, and if that didn't really grab your attention, maybe it's time to get a job.

For bored housewives: Part 1

First, make sure you know how to switch on the macro function of your camera. It's that little tulip-looking button.

Next, try some of the following.

1. Even if you don't have your own, appreciate a neighbour's garden.

2. Discover your inner artist by playing with your food.

3. Be enthralled by small details. Pretend you're Beatrix Potter. Have a real relationship with lichen.

And of course, document all of these things with your camera and its macro function.

Tune in next time for some more creative ideas.

16 September 2011

Dear Katrine

I'm not a big writer of lists of regular daily events, but yesterday seemed to warrant it. So here it is.

15 September 2011

Dear Katrine

Thanks for another one of your updates. I think my family wishes that I wrote eloquent essays like that but I’m just boring old me.

We (but mostly I at the moment since Evan is in Italy for a conference) are pottering along here in Germany. But today was not the greatest. They talk about culture shock and it sounds like some stupid melodrama but I’m sure you’ve also come to realise it’s a real thing.

It started out well with a cute outfit—quite the feat since most of my clothes were drying on the balcony—mascara and the discovery that I have lipstick that matches my jersey. It seemed a good day for the Frida soundtrack as I went to catch a train to go walk about the main town. (We live in a village that is one stop from Evan’s work and two stops from the main/central town of this amalgamated thing we call Böblingen-Sindelfingen.) I couldn’t find the store I was looking for as I’d left the map I drew from the internet at home, but I had fun just cruising around anyway. Things started going downhill on my train journey back.

I’d got used to us using train passes when we first arrived because there was this summer deal where you could buy a one-day pass, but use it for two days. And it’s valid for trains and buses. So this was worth it pretty much all the time. This summer deal being over I tried my hand at buying a two-zone four-journey ticket. It’s not really much cheaper but at least you don’t have to buy a ticket every time. And yes, two-zone four-journey, I think that’s over-complicating things too. But anyway, it’s a good strategy when you have problems like a) one of the two machines on the platform doesn’t work; b) the machines don’t take 50 Euro notes; and c) it’s really hard to see on the touch screens when the sun is shining. So as you may gather by all this talk of machines, the small train stations—pretty much all on our line I think—aren’t staffed. With a ticket of this kind you even have to put it in a different machine to get it stamped before you travel. It’s all kind of tedious compared to the Japanese system, but anyway, let’s not bore you with more details or get too hard on Germany yet.

So on the way back, there we have it, I forgot to stamp my ticket. And then the German system slaps you like this: as soon as the train moves the guy next to you turns out to be an undercover conductor, he flashes you his ID card, and asks to see your ticket. As you take it out you remember, oh, bollocks, I didn’t stamp this sucker. He pulls out his nifty machine, the kind of machine that’s used to issue tickets that you can buy on the train in Japan, but this German man then proceeds to ask you for ID and issue you with a 40 Euro fine. Needless to say this oversight of mine and the consequences thereof bummed me out immensely.

I tried to comfort myself by visiting a stationery store and buying paper. The people there were kind of nice. I like it when people check my short answers and deer-in-the-headlights expression and switch to English. It makes me want to shop at their establishments. I’m some sort of cultural-linguistic imperialist like that.

I tried to find further comfort in a book I found on the free shelf of an Irish pub. As an aside, this Irish pub hosts weekly quiz nights, in English, and this is probably one of my favourite things so far. Pub quizzes are like school, but with beer. What’s not to like? On our first night there, with me, Evan, his colleague that introduced us to the place, and a friend of his, we tied for second place. Evan and his colleague then proceeded to rock at blind darts—Evan had to throw blindfolded while his colleague had to verbally direct—making us the official runners up. Anyway. The book is Yes Minister. I don’t know if you’ve seen the BBC TV series? If you haven’t, do yourself a favour. The book is based on it and totally hilarious and at least the Cabinet Minister character tends to have more disastrous days than I was having, so that’s good.

Until someone rings my bell. And it’s this lady. And she’s saying things about the cellar, a light, and pointing to the board at my door that shows that I’m apartment building Kehrwoche (like… “caretaker” or something) this week. And whereas I can understand all these lexical items I have no idea how they are connected, but she has kind of given up on trying to explain and is just marvelling at the fact that I really don’t speak German. Eventually she just leaned into my door and flipped a switch. Way to learn that the caretaker is supposed to keep this switch on for the week in order to have light in the cellar (where the shared bicycle room, room for washing machines and dryers, and separate storage rooms are). “Just sweep the pathway on a Saturday morning” my butt. Give me a list of duties please!

Later, I was getting my broom ready to go and inspect the aforementioned cellar storage room. The apartment used to be occupied by the mother of the two current owners—a brother and sister. She passed away some months ago. They needed some time to finish moving her things, but I remembered that they said the storage room and garage would be empty by Tuesday. Anyway, I’m standing by the door and just then there’s another visitor, my sweet old-lady neighbour. She proceeds to lead me to her apartment and explain things. For some reason my doormat is in her apartment, and it seems she has cleaned it. This lady is pretty good at just talking until I seem to understand, eventually I got that the “poetsvrou”, or however this would be spelled in German, comes on Thursdays (and she’s who I met earlier), and then this is the day that you should take your doormat inside, clean the metal rim and the mat, and then put it back outside again. All good. Just kind of embarrassing that your old-lady neighbour took it upon herself to clean your doormat since you, once again, weren’t quite informed enough on building happenings. Maybe they wanted to tell me in the morning but I was out getting fined by Deutsche Bahn. Anyway, I said sorry, thanked her, and then we had another one of our chats where she talks, and I try to catch every 5.78th word and struggle to think of ways to respond. Meaning is often easy enough to deduce, I mean, a “poetsvrou” is obviously: 'n vrou wat dinge poets (polish). There’s just no way of reverse engineering this process of understanding German through Afrikaans to producing German through Afrikaans. Also, trying to explain that one is taking time off to pursue personal projects after which you will explore options for further study is hard enough to explain to someone who understands English. “So, what did you do today?” “I… cleaned. And… wrote… some things.” I’m beginning to see how Evan must’ve felt when people in Japan kept asking “So, what… is it that you do at home… all day?” And he was doing something real.

I actually made a little action list last night of all the things I want to work on. It’s kind of long. I’m not sure if it would be worse to fail at regular-job work or your own personal work.

Anyway, I did end up inspecting the cellar. I think I’ve talked too much about cleaning in recent times so I’ll just say that things are somehow always dirtier than they seem. My family has this word: “spookdrolle”. I’m sure you can translate that for yourself: “ghost turds”. It’s dust bunnies, but really it’s more that kind of dust that’s like a combination of spider webs and cotton candy that just hangs down or sticks under things. So I cleaned my fair share of spookdrolle when I did the apartment. Well the spookdrolle on the ceiling of this storage room were black. So long story short, after the clean (and one unblocking of the vacuum cleaner pipe) I took myself, my shoes, and my glasses straight to the shower.

So that’s two pages of just one day and I’m kind of tired and hungry now. I’ll leave more interesting and positive tales for some other time, or you know, you can check Facebook. I actually thought of a funny status update this morning—yes, it’s a disease, I think in terms of Facebook status updates—but our internet situation is another mess I don’t even want to talk about anymore. Basically I’ve decided to stop feeding the mobile provider all my money. I have to save it for Deutsche Bahn. Anyway, the non-update was a memo:

Dear Ingrid,

The German word “wasser” has more to do with “water” and less to do with “washing”.

The German Language

This is related to two stories. The first being when some people were at my door trying to explain that the water will be off for 30 minutes. But our washing machine had been delivered the previous day. It took me a few seconds to realise that the discussion had nothing whatsoever to do with my washing machine.

And then this morning I took another look at the bottle of Nivea product I purchased yesterday. And then I realised it’s “face water” a.k.a. toner, not face wash a.k.a. who the hell knows. Really the viscosity of the product should’ve given it away. But I lose again.

I got another memo later.

Hey Ingrid,

Heard what happened with German. Sorry I’m such a bastard child :(


06 September 2011

Blue skies and rose yoghurt

The German summer is something like a rainy winter's day in Cape Town. Half of the time.

The other half of the time it's all blue skies, cool breeze, and old people tending abundant rose gardens or going shopping by bicycle. It's the stuff of European postcards, live action version.

To add to all the charm I visited one of my new favourite places, the Red Cross store in Hulb, again. I documented some of the crockery this time. I was most tempted by the four plates with the exercising human figures on. I also love the deep green 70sey teaset, but alas, it won't go with our greener-than-green IKEA table. There are of course also some kitsch gems: dining essentials like an apple-shaped glass bowl.

What I actually bought was a plain €1 glass bowl and an adorable 30c red wooden box for knitting needles.

More nutritiously, I also popped by a greengrocer that's only open some days of the week. I was reading about parsley yesterday, so getting root parsley was a no-brainer. I'm quite excited to know what it tastes like. I'm also doubly excited to go try some of the rose-flavoured yoghurt I found, right now.

04 September 2011

The other end of the line: Herrenberg

To pick up where the internet availability left off, the day after we visited Kirchheim we decided to go to the other end of the S1 line and see what Herrenberg looks like. So here it is!

29 August 2011

The end of the line: Kirchheim

In order to soothe our museum fatigue, we figured we'd spend the second half of our day using our train passes to go as far as we could on the S1 in one particular direction, so off we went to Kirchheim unter Teck.

Turns out the town centre includes lots of old-style buildings, which I'm obviously already in love with. So touristy pictures abound! In fun news, we also saw a really weird slug. The end.

28 August 2011

Mercedes-Benz Museum

The shops may be closed on Sundays, but it seemed that one half of Germany was out and about on their bicycles, and the other half joined us at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

I'll start with the first confession: we couldn't make it all the way through this museum. It's really long. But this is not to say that it's boring; it's probably the best museum I've ever been to. We'll definitely go back and do the second half some other time.

Here are some random interesting facts...

Karl Benz was supported greatly by his wife Bertha Benz, both financially and with the nitty-gritty of developing and improving his invention.

Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler both worked on automobile inventions at the same time, but never met each other. Benz focused on engines and cars, whereas Daimler wanted to power every kind of vehicle, including boats and aeroplanes. Daimler worked closely with Wilhelm Maybach.

The placing of the steering wheel moved from centre, to the outer side of the road to see the side better, to the inner side of the road to see oncoming traffic better. The placing of the pedals was random for quite some time and standardised much later.

The adoption of the automobile gave rise to tourism as we know it today, and the economies of some places became based on this industry.

The Mercedes brand was named after the daughter of businessman Emil Jellinek, a rather interesting character—...when he was 17, his parents found him a job as a clerk in a Moravian railway company, [where he] lasted two years ... before being sacked when the management discovered that he had been organising train races late at night.

The shape of the car had to evolve from something that was a copy of a horse carriage to the longer and lower shape we know today in order to improve steering and safety.

...and much much more. To be continued I guess!

The second and final confession is that there are way too many pictures in this slideshow.

Picture street

Well folks, here we are. This is Germany. Guten Morgen.

There's much to say, and also not really. Frankfurt airport was the worst, but at least people stop at zebra crossings here, and 90% of shoes in shoe stores aren't frightening.

Yes, inevitably this will be a Japan comparison, at least for some time. Or maybe just until I receive my luggage. Needless to say it wasn't sent overnight, as it would have been in Japan. Whine whine whine, I know.

The good and the bad of everyone speaking German instead of Japanese is that we can catch some of it. Good. Can we reply or ask a question? No, bad. So we have more of a clue but no way to prove it. Because even when you try to remember a German word, the Japanese one comes to mind. Thanks, brain.

Below are two clips from yesterday when we went hunting for a laundromat. Which we found. The old lady there was very nice. Similarity: old people generally speak no English, but are super nice. Anyway, these two streets make you want to move into a cute little German house and breed.

19 August 2011

More book procrastination

Now that the box of books I'd like to send to Germany—once we have an address!—is just about ready, I have to start packing everything back into boxes that will have to be stored for another undecided amount of time. The books below are some I bought at a sale of the J.S. Gericke some years ago. I opted to just make a few scans of the pictures I like, so the books can stay right here.

For some encyclopaedic knowledge of man, the animal kingdom, etc.: Die Afrikaanse Kinderensiklopedie: Deel I, onder redaksie van Dr. C.F. Albertyn. Nasionale Boekhandel, Bpk., Kaapstad, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, 1959.

For a million-and-one diagrams of bodies of different shapes and the clothes they supposedly should wear: Clothes Make Magic, by Emmi Cotten. E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1956.

For everything possibly related to dressing yourself: Dress: The Clothing Textbook, Third Ed., Eleanor J. Gawne & Bess V. Oerke. Chas. A. Bennett Inc., Peoria, Illinois, 1969.

And as a final homage to people like my one grandmother who had a degree in home economics: Good Housekeeping Book of Needlework, by Wyn Munro. Ebury Press, London, 1966.

11 August 2011

Let's forget about catching up

Or chronology, or any of that nonsense, and go get our stuff out of storage, recall that we inherited or bought or collected lots of awesome books, and take pictures of them!

The slideshow below includes some shots of, amongst others:

A day in the life of South Africa, published in 1982 as an independent project.

[This book] takes one ordinary day, Wednesday 26th May, 1982, and through the lenses of thousands of photographers, it brings you South Africa, as seen by South Africans.

Tales from the Malay Quarter, recorded and retold by I.D. du Plessis, translated into English by Bernard and Elize D. Lewis, with book design and decorations by Nerine Desmond. Maskew Miller, Ltd., Cape Town, 1945.

The Malay Quarter and its People, by I.D. du Plessis and C.A. Lückhoff, with photography by E. van Z. Hofmeyr and J. Lückhoff. A.A. Balkema, Cape Town and Amsterdam, 1953.

100,000 Years of Daily Life: A Visual History, by Jacques Brosse, Paul Chaland, and Jacques Ostier, edited by Robert Laffont, and translated by Anne Carter. Golden Press, New York, 1961.

In summary, I'm a total sucker for history, historical narratives, visual history, and encyclopaedias! Yay!

26 July 2011

Summertime zen

It was but three years ago that I encountered rice paddies for the first time, but here I am, clearing up my third and final Japan school/office desk.

Here's a video from the sunny afternoon that was Friday afternoon. Nothing actually happens in it. You have been warned.

24 July 2011

Retro Japan

Another blog comes to a grinding halt as the demands of real life take over. Specifically, packing. Also, finishing up all kinds of work before I can leave the country.

Anyway, my two favourite things to buy at Hard Off in Japan were Miffy and Moomin crockery (packed!) and weird old LP covers. The clerks were always kind enough to tell me that the quality of the record—it being second-hand—is not guaranteed. I generally tried to explain that I'm buying the pictures, not the music.

I've kept the ones featured below out of boxes because I want to gift them to friends. So before I give them up, I SD card immortalised them.

10 July 2011

Ladies and gentleman dinner

Just to mess with any and all semblance of chronology I'll show pictures of a more recent event, when we revisited Hanagoromo 花ごろも in Gorō, Ōzu 大洲市の五郎. Maybe you recall the previous post which turned out to be a major menu translation project.

It was once again absolutely phenomenal. The tomato soup with eggplant mousse in the bottom was a highlight. We couldn't get at all the mousse in the bottom of our glasses with the spoons, so we had to switch to chopsticks. Mottainai, naturally.


The last post I tried doing—but couldn't because Google was being stupid—before my laptop went in for repair. But now he's back!

Hermes Ginza April 2009 and June 2011.

29 June 2011

One kyo

On our way to catch a ferry to jet around some Tokyo rivers I spotted a clock. It was five minutes to the hour. We went closer. We waited. Nothing happened. After enjoying so many moving clocks in Japan (like the Botchan clock and the Moomin clock), I guess I had to be disappointed this once. Was it broken? Were they saving power? Who knows.

After we passed under the many many bridges—my civil engineer father wondered out loud whether Tokyo ever considered saving themselves the money and just filling in the river—we arrived in Asakusa, ready to pose in front of the new Sky Tree and the Golden Turd.

We spent the rest of the evening walking around a not-so-shiny Ginza—power saving. I also had to show off the Tokyo International Forum, stitched together in all its boat-like ceiling glory in the last picture.

Then we went to Tokyo

And here's a boring gif, assembled from two of my dad's pictures, to prove it.


And I say boring, because check out Cinemagraphs, it's way cooler.

28 June 2011

Perfect lettuce

When we were sitting with our many empty plates and bowls, could we even have been 10% mentally prepared for how much deliciousness we were to consume?

Our last night in Kobe was spent eating various waves of Chinese food. The best dish was the perfectly shaped lettuce that you use to wrap some porky mixture. Or was it beefy? I forget, because mostly it was heavenly.

27 June 2011

Two ladies shopping in Ashiya

One, dead sexy and dressed to kill, making her selection of meat. The other, taking funny pictures of herself in shiny pink bottles.

Guess which one doesn't belong.

Also in Kobe

Visit a sake brewery around the Nishinomiya area, where the water, and consequently the sake, is delicious. And, if like me, you've been there before, take pictures of things like decorative cups or the stamps they used to use to mark the covering of the sake barrels, or of course the packaging.

We visited the famous Kikumasamune 菊正宗, which has a rather shocking English website, but a much nicer Japanese one.

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution

Quite the mouthful, isn't it? This is a museum we visited in Kobe. I feel compelled to reignite my travelogue flame before my PC goes in for a bit of doctor-doctor at DELL central.

Anyway, I guess the name speaks for itself: the museum is dedicated to teaching us about the Great Hanshin earthquake as well as other natural disasters and how we can reduce their impact—and it does so in great detail. Worth a visit.

23 June 2011

Also in Osaka

A bookstore was being sneaky by openly exhibiting little Seigensha books where I could see them. As you may know, I have an affinity for them.

I caved later in the trip and bought three. More about them some other time, because I really shouldn't browse online about these books. It's not safe.

22 June 2011

Osaka station

Be excited, this is a sort of chronological post about our trip in that it's about the start of it.

We visited the recently renovated Osaka station. My husband and dad had a chuckle at the curved bench of the roof garden.

And if you're into details, you can see everyone keeping right on the escalator. Because in Kansai you keep right, but in Tokyo you keep left.

20 June 2011

Rain day

Literally. This morning the town announcement system woke me up with something about our old friend "Big Rain" 大雨 and a warning and school. I had to check around to confirm, but sure enough, no school today. We may not get much snow, but we get the rain.

I took the morning off to reimmerse myself in packing stuff. It's coming along slowly.

In more interesting news, I'll still put off launching into a full travelogue just to tell you that I believe I can pump out some interesting sets of photographs once I've mined Picasa to complete my albums on manhole covers and the like. For today, something from another potential collection, a bicycle sign from each part of our trip.

From left to right: Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo.

19 June 2011

Smiley Melon and Milky

I don't know where to start with our recent trip, so I'll just go with something conveniently related that isn't bound by exact places and events.

To fully appreciate today's featured food packaging it's good to note that the local speciality product is a big deal in Japan. If you visit a particular place you basically have to see x, do y, and, most importantly, eat z. I'm proud to say that I survived my first you-went-to-Hokkaidō-did-you-eat-...? interrogation with flying colours this Friday. I do however have to explain to my colleagues that I don't visit zoos or other famous animal enclosures if I can help it. Moral issues aside, why travel hundreds of kilometres to see animals in cages? I can think of quite a few other things I'd rather do with my time. (Eat more z?)

Anyway, along with eating z yourself, it's also polite to bring some of it or something that's styled to taste like it back for your friends and colleagues to try.

So on right and below you can see Puccho ふっちょ, a soft candy available all over Japan, in flavours that match the particular regions' specialities. I like the packaging in part because the die cut on the front is useful for making adorable picture frames, and the big picture on the back of the inside box makes a good postcard, as I did with apple and mikan Puccho before. This time I got melon and milk, two of Hokkaidō's specialities. While you can definitely get tired of the cute personification of objects around here—why does a poo or a toilet need a face, really?—this packaging is just super sweet.

Some of the Hokkaidō things featured on the front and back of the individual packages inside include: historical buildings and the night view of Hakodate; the Sapporo Clock Tower 札幌時計台; eating Jingisukan ジンギスカン, sushi, crab, Hokkaidō-style donburi, and Sapporo ramen; the flowers of Furano; and sculptures from the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. If you view the side of the box too you get a good list of Hokkaidō animals like cows and sheep, BEARS!, salmon, seals, the Hokkaidō fox, deer, and some kind of eagle.

A world in a candy box.

18 June 2011

The best drink in the whole world

My very first day in this town, I was taken to meet my landlord and more than anything else I remember the delicious, sweet, red juice I was served. Red shiso juice. A juice I haven't had the privilege of consuming ever since, because it's not really the kind of thing you can just buy in the supermarket.

Fast forward to another one of those conversations about things one likes. Turns out, if you have enough red shiso 赤紫蘇 you can make the drink at home. Really!? Well I promptly bought some plants and stuck them in a pot... and then went on holiday so that they could die in peace.

Cue today, when my husband arrives home after his Japanese lesson with a gift from one of my eikaiwa students: homemade red shiso syrup in a jar. Superheroes I tell you, superheroes.


Wonderfully comfortable and mundane. So much so that I'll interrupt this post just after starting it to go and hang a load of laundry.

Anyway, good luck to that laundry, considering all the rain-rain-rain times we're having, yet again. It seems it's been pretty wet while we were away, as we realised when the announcements at Haneda airport for flights to Tokushima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, Ōita said something like "this flight may return to Tokyo due to bad visibility". Noooooooooo. Fortunately we could land in Matsuyama and didn't have to fly back to Tokyo to...? Sleep in the airport?

On my way home yesterday I captured some of summer vibes here. Butterflies, flowers, flooded paddies.

14 June 2011

Sapporo is about beer

And really, if a place has to be about something, isn't beer just right up there in the top 10?

My only complaint about this museum, and some other exhibits I've seen, is that the interesting visual materials—labels, posters, etc.—aren't put into a beautiful book for me to buy at the gift shop.

Went to the moon

Saw a steamy landscape, a smoky crater, and took the appropriate sulphuric baths.

We also took a few moments to spy-photograph some people's seriously excellent gardens.

11 June 2011

Till we meet again, Hakodate

WOW. What a full day. It calls for a bullet list.

  • Super friendly people at the Asaichi 朝市 market. "You're from Africa!?" "Yes... Africa."
  • Appreciation of some people's beautiful gardens.
  • Even more appreciation of the beautiful Goryōkaku gardens 五稜郭公園.
  • Two really friendly guys at the Northern Pacific Fisheries Documentation Museum 函館市北洋資料館 who wanted to know all about us and show us all the great videos. "This one's about kujira. What's kujira in English again?" "Whale." "Ah yes, here, on the info board, there we go." — and then a whaling video from like 1950 that can only remind you of The Life Aquatic... in a morbid way.
  • Public sculpture!
  • Buildings, buildings, and more buildings that I love.
  • Sushi so fresh it'll bite back!
  • The Museum of Northern Peoples 北方民族資料館, which needs some serious graphic/information design help and a critical overhaul, but that at least has lots of pretty patterns!
  • Ice-creaaaaammmmmmmmmmmm.
  • Buildings.
  • Buildings, and churches.
  • And some buildings.
  • And funny cars on the street after dinner—like a Moo Moo taxi that makes moo noises!

There's no one picture that really sums this place up, so this is another montage of sorts. Full sets and more tales to come, later. And hopefully more pictures some years from now, when I visit here again!

10 June 2011

With love from me

There are things in this country that have a habit of stealing your heart. What's left of mine, I give to Hakodate.

08 June 2011

Two Tokyos

Around lunchtime a guy was practising his fue in Kitanomarukōen 北の丸公園. I recognised the song he played—I've heard it as a part of taiko performances before. In an unrelated yet closely located incident, some girls were practising a dance.

Later we spent some time at that Starbucks at that crossing in Shibuya 渋谷. You know, where lots of people... cross. And obnoxious foreigners like me take pictures and video of them doing so.

Big and small

Went there.
Bought this.

05 June 2011

Paper, paper... more paper, and paintings

We gave the German consulate in Osaka so much paper, they couldn't possibly find any fault with our application. Here's to hoping it continues to go well from here on out.

While we waited I looked at the catalogue for an exhibition of Kandinsky and Der Blaue Reiter, currently on at the Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art. Good job on the waiting room literature, consulate.

Below are some pictures of the works I liked. I didn't actually have time to see the exhibition, so more about what we actually saw there—and what we're seeing in Tokyo now—later.

02 June 2011


Have to interrupt this vacuum packing venture to pack a suitcase to go on holiday. Not mentally prepared for any of it, but here we go. Do it. Do it. Do it.

01 June 2011

Live baseball

There are some nice ways to crop this picture, but I'll leave it as is because the texture of the wet ground was so fantastic.

After watching yesterday's baseball game from start to finish I could only conclude, once again, that baseball is the most boring thing I've ever seen.

But instead of getting into those particulars, I'd like to share some other things that dawned on me.

Baseball is hard. Or maybe, the way baseball club is approached is hard. Hard in many ways. You practice hard, all the time. When you play, you give your all. If you don't, or if you make a mistake, you'll get called on it. Immediately. And you have to own up. YES, SIR! And then you have to move along and be better.

I think all of that is easier said than done. And I really gained a lot of respect for my students who conform to this pattern of behaviour day in and day out. Taking off your cap and shouting greetings loudly are just the tip of the iceberg. I can see what the baseball teacher was talking about.

31 May 2011

More water levels

I hung out with the Life & Gardening Club (my translation of 生活情報部) today. They were stylishly prepared so we could walk between venues to support the endeavours of the school's sport clubs.

I'll have a good editing session with all the sporting and other pictures tomorrow. For now, here's another Oda river 小田川 post-typhoon comparison, albeit not quite as tight on the same angle as the previous one. The top picture is from May 5th.