Life has kicked me in the gonads one too many times. I’ve decided to be Cartman and say screw you guys, I’m going home. But home sucks, so I’m looking for a new one. Somewhere I can hang my hat, kick back and enjoy life, because shit, it can’t really be this messed up everywhere right? Right?
My first destination was Germany, the land of beer, cars and apparently 90% of the world’s dog population… none of which are German Shepherds, irony. I chose Germany because my sister harassed me and said she wouldn’t stop unless I visited her. Curiously, I wrote this article because someone else did the exact same thing. I am beginning to think I might be a victim of bullying.
The first thing I noticed about Germany was that it was the land flowing with milk and beer. There is beer everywhere and it is ridiculously cheap, but then I think my views are biased because it’s expensive in Zimbabwe. PS: I’m talking about what I drink, not lion, castle or a scud.
I literally got off the plane and they poured me a glass of whisky as welcome. They do not have the concept of rationing, which I found amazing. Unlike home where they measure by the shot glass and don’t even fill that, the bartenders I met would eyeball it and they did it so liberally I would end up saying “whoa, leave room for the coke”. And it’s not just the hard liquor they do right, they made beer taste good… err… better. Let’s be honest, beer tastes like ass(I’m looking at you lion and castle), but German beer tastes like refined ass. Then there is Weißbier, which they mix with either orange juice or a soft drink to make a beverage that I have no words to describe so, here is a picture of my happy face.
The best part of this beer culture, however, is that it is not illegal to drink in public. Just don’t try to drive, they will lock you up faster than you can say, Prost!
While on the topic of driving:
Germany loves its pedestrians and cyclists a little too much, sort of like a creepy uncle who is too friendly during family get-togethers. Despite this, it still manages to be driver country. They drive on the wrong side of the road but the rules seem pretty sane. The icing on the cake would have to be the Autobahn, large lovely roads where you can let loose and release your inner speed demon. I didn’t drive myself because:
Remember that creepy uncle? Yeah well, German’s are like that over dogs. There are dogs everywhere. There are big dogs, there are normal dogs, there are small dogs, there are cows pretending to be dogs and even things I am sure are not actually dogs but are rats on leashes. The dogs play dress up, the dogs get carried in bags, the dogs get pushed in strollers, the bloody dogs live a better life than most humans. If there are any cats in Germany I didn’t see them, my guess is the dogs ate them all.
I arrived in Germany a few weeks before Christmas, which means winter, meaning I froze my ears off. After coming from Tanzania where the temperature was in the upper 20s/lower 30s(Celsius), I was not prepared for the cold harsh reality that is sub-zero temperatures.
Good God it was cold.
The first thing I did when I landed was to buy an overpriced woollen hat in panic because my ears threatened to divorce my head because of the cold. My first morning at my sister’s place, I thought the heater was broken because I woke up an icicle… until I opened the balcony door and realised that the heater was working just fine.
While the cold was a shock to me, I found out pretty early that Germans are fine with it, at the airport there were people wearing shorts and t-shirts. While in Munich, there were two, shall we say “guys?”, wearing rainbow pattern short shorts, bright pink string tops, flip flops and cowboy hats. I didn’t need to share that last image but it’s burnt into my mind, I see no reason why I should suffer alone.
The cold Christmas weather is also home to my favourite thing about Christmas…
Christmas markets are fun, there is food, booze and lots of people, and then there is gluhwein. Gluhwein is hot wine, a drink that is perfect for the weather. It is amazing. If ever you are in Germany during the Christmas holidays insist on getting Gluhwein. You will not regret it and you will get a collectable gluhwein mug, I got 4 of them.
Because it was my first time in Germany my sister felt I had to do touristy stuff, so we went on a road trip to Munich. Why Munich you ask? Two reasons
I am a BMW lover, I love BMW and BMW world was a super treat. There were cars and motorbikes and cars and the gift shop and cars. And the best part? They were all BMWs. Sweet!!!!!!!!!
Oh, there were also Minis and Rolls-Royce, meh.
Lesson one, snow is white, except when it’s yellow, you should probably avoid it when it’s yellow.
Lesson two, wear gloves and if you don’t have gloves then don’t play with snow, that shit is cold.
Lesson three, watch your footing and walk carefully, slipping, falling down and sliding/tumbling to the bottom is funny, unless it’s you, then it’s not.
Lesson three, point 2, a DSLR camera is expensive, lens even more so, your cellphone not so much. If you must fall, save your camera.
Lesson four, snow balls hurt, or were those things ice balls… or rocks… either way, they hurt, don’t get hit by them
There should be videos on facebook, so watch those.
And finally about photo ops. We took the train all the way to the top and on the way up there was a beautiful view if a frozen lake but I missed my chance of getting a photo.
That bummed me out.
But luckily in the final tunnel before the station, there was also a grave or shrine I saw for a split second and knew I wanted a picture of. So on the way down, I waited and watched for it and managed to snag the following photo, in the dark, from a moving train.
The final place we visited was a concentration camp. I’ve read the history, I thought I understood what happened during world war two and the Holocaust, but being in that place, in the dead of winter brought about a new level of understanding of exactly how terrible the acts committed there were. It is a sobering reminder of the dark blotch the Nazis left on the pages of history and it’s something which we as humanity should never condone again nor forget.
It saddened me and scared me more though when I saw that there are people who do not get the gravity of the atrocities committed there. Or they do and they just don’t care. I bring this up because while I was there, there was a guy who had the audacity to loudly and proudly declare that Hitler had the right idea before striking victory poses with pictures of the SS and victims.
Not cool bro, not cool.
Moving on to lighter things.
When I wasn’t traipsing around like a tourist I was living my life as a normal Germ and noticed a few things about living there.
Firstly, unless you speak German, you are in for a not so nice time. I had spent the preceding 3 months studying German and while I did not in any way think I was good I was shocked to find out exactly how badly I sucked. Obviously, there are people who speak English there, but they are few and far between, so much so that it’s always a treat when you run into someone who does speak English. It’s like bumping into a long lost friend, which coincidentally is the reason I love visiting German banks, there is always someone who speaks English there.
While My German wasn’t good, it wasn’t totally terrible. I can carry out a very basic conversation most times if the other person speaks slowly enough. I believe I’m probably a very bad A1 right now and my goal is to hit B2 by the end of the year, so if I start blogging in German you’ll know why.
Second thing I noticed is the easy availability of tech and toys. Now I have to qualify this before I proceed. You can find tech and toys in Harare easy enough, true, but they usually have caveats and strings attached that are annoying. Such as being overpriced or having limited options. An example of this would be video games. There are plenty of places to get games in Harare but you can not usually get a new game the day it is released. When you do get it, it can cost you anywhere from $80 to $120, this is a problem because it should cost $60 or less.
But Germany, much like any other developed country, has everything in unlimited varieties at the proper retail prices at the official release date. I couldn’t find the Lenovo Yoga Book anywhere in Harare or Dar es Salaam weeks after release day. But Saturn had all versions of it on display and on sale. Now, whether or not I like the Yoga Book, and I don’t, is another story, but I was just happy to be somewhere where they stocked it reasonably early.
Thirdly, I hate the qwertz keyboard layout, enough said.
Fourth, new years. These people be crazy. I thought new years would be different but somewhat sane. It was really cold, -4 to -8 degrees where I was. I figured most people would be partying indoors, maybe launch a few fireworks at midnight and then go back indoors afterwards.
Boy was I wrong.
They started shooting off fireworks at midnight and it didn’t stop for the next couple of hours. It was loud, it felt like I was in the middle of a war zone and it didn’t help that there were people who had firearms and were shooting off what I can only hope were blanks.
A fun twist, during the new years celebration, people made a huge mess. The streets were disgustingly dirty with firework boxes, exploded shells etc. But amazingly by 8 am the next morning all the roads and sidewalks were pristine again. That rapid public clean up was amazing to me and something Germans take for granted. And while on the topic of public infrastructure…
Lastly, the public transport is good. It’s really good. It’s refreshing not to be harassed by mawhindi(touts) every time you think of going anywhere. Everything moves on a time table, which I sort of remember from my time in South Africa and Aussie. The only downside is that if you are not sticking to touristy routes and don’t want to get lost, you need to understand German to go anywhere. Also don’t ever get into a tram, train etc without a ticket, that’s a €60 fine. I can totally see myself not in a hurry to buy a car… actually scratch that, that autobahn is way too tempting.
I read through this article and realised I probably came off as gashing and overly loving Germany, but honestly, my first impression of it rocked. I never used to consider it on the list of places I wanted to move to, but now I do. Australia was and currently still is my number one choice but German is now a close second.
While the trip was fun, it was also depressing. There is a very painfully visible difference between there and home. While the difference is visible between South Africa and Zimbabwe, it doesn’t quite hit you over the head the way it does with places like Dubai and Germany. Zimbabwe has a lot of potential to become an amazing country to live in but we aren’t quite there yet. There was a point when I thought we had caught up, but I was forced long ago to concede that we still have a long way go.
While I’m still leaving, I have to acknowledge the simple fact that regardless of where I go, I will eventually come back because every time I land at Harare international airport, regardless of where I’m coming from, I always breathe a little easier and feel a little better. Zimbabwe is a mess and needs a tonne of work to fix it, but the old saying is true, there really is no place like home.
King Pinn: I Salute You. I’m driving halfway across the country and this song is on repeat. Rest in Peace Tonderai Makoni. You were awesome.
After a few weeks off I’m back to business. This is just an update post detailing plans for the rest of the year.
At last we finally have the great reveal, our mystery project was implementing RSA encryption in rust.
We build the final piece of our mystery project, a function that computes modular exponentiation. Come on in, we have large numbers.
We build another part of the mystery project by creating a function that calculates the modular multiplicative inverse of a number.