Saturday, July 31, 2021

Putting myself back in normal life again...


 Two weeks with important dates have passed recently. Three days of written exams for me, and a few days later the oral examination. Only one more part of the exams and then a few weeks of waiting for the results, until the middle of September. Of course, that is a long wait, and several people have told me that that is not exactly according to German law - we should be given the results of the overall performance after the oral exam and then be considered a fully qualified employee. But the virus has influenced all this, normally we would have had to wait for the final oral exam until the middle of September, and then it would have been in accordance with the law. But I don't really care about that right now - I am not really worried that I might not have passed, so I can wait after that practical exam is over coming Thursday...

Another important date was last week's graduation 'ceremony' (very minimalistic) for my Senegalese friend and foster son which I got to attend on the sidelines.

The first African graduate of this school of
mechanical engineering, but that was not mentioned.

Much to my own surprise I did not start crying. I thought I probably would, but I kept my wits together. What a ride it has been - and a practicum is around the corner, which might be an entry into a well-established firm of mechanical engineering, thanks to connections, we will see...

My son finished 10th grade (he is one of the students who profited from the virus and digital home schooling, at least in terms of grades) and immediately entered a bus that took him and his basketball team to Berlin where they are playing a small tournament. The parents are a bit worried about the infection situation there, which is not exactly optimal, but he was safely two weeks after his 2nd shot. Although ... no, I just hope they will be cautious and nothing will happen.

After my own exams (well, two thirds of it) I can safely start clearing up my desk, don't need to do all that studying anymore. But it is taking time to get back into a state of mind of some kind of normalcy. I find myself sitting around a lot, doing nothing, and the urge to get creative is still mostly focussed on 'making' rather than being truly creative. So I am finishing knitting projects to fulfill the self-imposed rule that I need to finish at least a part of what used to be approximately 6 or 7 unfinished knitting projects all over the house. I can tick of 2 - a pair of socks using up remnants (the pair in the top of the picture):


A sweater made from handspun yarn, 3-ply.


And I am getting closer to the finish line with this sweater for me. I think after that I am allowed to swatch a bit and make up my mind which of the zillion combinations of yarn and designs I have been pondering I will actually start.

 And spinning a wonderful silk fibre, which turns into a meditative activity that is keeping me occupied. But because the thread is very fine indeed it is taking a long of time, too.


I have been adding some more to the weaving piece on my design wall which I started for the SAQA regional zoom meeting. It is growing, but it is also still brewing. Not quite happy with the size right now. It will come.

Of course, this weekend I am thinking about the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, which I couldn't go to first because of the exams, and secondly because  of the virus and quarantine restrictions. I am hoping it will be possible again next year.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Berry Meditation ...

It is that time of the year – berries in abundance. Despite the fact that I have been shamefully neglectant towards my garden (“I will start doing it all when my exams are over!”) it is offering me a bounty of berries harvest. 


I started working on it last week with white and black currants, gooseberries, the first, early red currants bush. 


I even had some helpers, one completely voluntary and eager, the other had to be enlisted but has been attentive about this since.


Now the other reds are very ready to be picked and although I would have preferred to be able to defer it for another ten days – which isn’t possible at all, and they are clearly later this year anyway – I got started on them yesterday. The abundance makes it necessary to spend hours, and I don’t really have that time right now... but at least I got started. And found myself meditating over the berries, the past year, developments, options.

This past Tuesday was a weird day. And a good day. I am not going to talk about the weird part. But I want to mention the good part. Over one year ago I posted about the Senegalese whom I have been fostering for almost five years, and who had won a seemingly small but very important victory in terms of his status of residence in this country. (One of the helpers above.) The story of course continued, because he had to procure a passport, which he then needed to hand over to the authorities. Several months later he did just that, and now, a few months later still, he has passed his final exams in the technical school that he is attending. This was not his first choice in terms of professional orientation, but the only option to take – a purely vocational school, for this he did not need a work permit to be allowed to attend. Germany typically has a dual combination of vocational school with a section of professional qualification in a business. For this, however, a work permit is required, and his status of residence prevented him from getting that permit. That was the reason why he was not allowed to start training as a hospital caretaker four years ago at the end of the one-year preparatory class in which I taught German, and where I first got to know him closer.

Imagine yourself, in a strange country, having to learn the language, and authorities are constantly trying to demonstrate to you that you are not really wanted here. Going to school under these circumstances is hard, going to school in a field that wasn’t your personal choice, is even harder. And it is a tough school, as it competes with the dual mode of training and has to prove that the students are equally qualified at the end of the course. I admit, there were times when I was afraid it might have been too difficult a school, but there were good times when I was confident he would pass. I enlisted another helper for the technical lessons, I covered tutoring for German, English, social sciences. The exams started at the end of June. And the results were given out on Tuesday. I am so proud to say that he passed all the written exams, it is not necessary to take an oral to make up for a bad result. He is in fact going to take a voluntary oral exam to try to improve one particular subject, but it will not be counted against him, he has passed his exams. Now we need is to get the written work permit, and then there are options for him to find work. These are almost five long years of ups and downs coming to a good conclusion. We are almost there.



Saturday, July 10, 2021

Thank you, Japan.

In accordance with my family of origin's history the Olympic Games have always been a presence in my life. For many years I would watch a good part of the coverage if possible, although over the last two decades I would probably choose to go and exercise myself rather than watching some competition on TV.  Last year I was all in favor of postponing the Games due to the pandemic, and I am very much in favor of Japan's recent decision to ban visitors from the stadium. The soccer European Championship has shown how unwise a decision it has been to permit large numbers of spectators, numbers of infections that are traced back to those soccer matches are terrifying. Is this what we all have been making sacrifices for? Yes, we all want a normal life back. But is this what we want - another season of lockdowns after a few soccer matches and a week on the beach? I am appalled at the recklessness of people who are now complaining that their holidays in Spain may have to be followed by two weeks in quarantine. What did they expect? 

I had a furious husband to deal with this morning, he is fearing that a canoe building course he has signed up for in September and which would be the first thing for him to get him 'out' since March '20 (at least nine interesting concerts he wanted to visit have been canceled, and some of these won't be refunded) and he was threatening to get really mad if that course would have to be canceled because everybody now wants to go back to normal and caution is being thrown out the door. I have to say, I was rather helpless - of course I understand his frustration. But why yell at me...?

I have had very busy weeks with studying for the final exams that are coming up week after next, so not a whole lot of stitching has been going on. But I did receive note yesterday that my SAQA benefit auction piece indeed arrived on time. So I can now show a picture of it here.

text messages - but to be honest, I have lost track of the
numbers of pieces in that series of mine...

I also started a new piece because the SAQA regional zoom meeting on Monday is going to be about 'what's on my wall right now', and I was the one who suggested that topic. So I figured I needed to be able to present something myself. Since last year's benefit auction piece I have been meaning to take up that method again, weaving those strips of silk as I did for the small piece "Love. Protect. Repeat." as was shown here. It hasn't really progressed terribly far yet, but I like the way it's going, and that it is taking on a life of its own. I put in pieces of African fabrics that had been biding their time, and there is a bit of brocade I bought in Jerusalem, Old Town, sharing it with Yemima. Too precious to cut up, but it will be a wonderful addition here.

Looking forward to see how it will develop.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Technological revolution

 A technological revolution happened here two days ago after my son had received a new computer device which he had managed to wriggle out of reluctant parents, because nowadays EVERYBODY goes to school with a handheld device, there is no such thing as writing on a sheet of paper, and God forbid, it cannot be assumed that healthy and strong youngsters should carry a folder with several sheets of paper in it to school. Simply not acceptable . So gracefully I was handed down a not very old smaller handheld device which I am now getting used to, playing around with, and of course I must not overstretch the youngster's patience by asking too many questions about functions and how-tos that arise with elderly non-digital-natives when they are learning the system from the other side of the digital divide... 

I have learned that this one is not - yet? - bilingual. It couldn't take it that I was typing in English although the default language is German. So I shut up the autocorrect. I will learn how to use it to my real needs eventually. 

So far I have also understood that there are many things I never knew I didn't need... such as a camera setting for infrared photos. Which I wanted to include here, but can't find the button in blogger right now to do so... searching ... something seems to be diasarranged with the display presentation. Let's see...

 Now that worked, after several attempts. 

I also didn't know I didn't need a kaleidoscope camera setting.

Detail of my husband in kaleidoscope

Detail of then environment I think it was on our terrace:

But I might develop a use for it. And the suggestions for auto insert are getting more English... we will see how often I will actually do blogger on this. It is at least a reduction in luggage weight should traveling become a possibility again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

How do you spell 'relief'?

When I had graduated from American High School and went on a trip across the country with the other exchange students, the girl from Sweden was frequently wearing a t-shirt with 'how do you spell 'relief'? G-R-A-D-U-A-T-I-O-N' printed on it.
Today I feel a lot like that, except that I would exchange the word of relief-causation V-A-C-C-I-N-A-T-E-D. My son turned 16 early in May, and as soon as vaccination was made possible for 16yr olds and pediatricians would be allowed to vaccinate we signed him up with his longtime pediatrician. We got a call two days ago, and today was the big day.

Pediatricians use kid band aids even on 16 yr olds, and never before was I so happy to see him with a band aid. Between the three of us we have received three different types of vaccines, and of course the Junior still needs to get the second dose in 4 weeks. But there's a silver lining on the horizon. Perhaps that's a good enough reason to make another quilt with that topic. But I have a number of ideas, so this one is not on the first position of the list.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

On trying to save a bit of money

One of the woes of May besides continued lockdown and cool and unpredictable weather was the fact that the open-air pool did not open as usual at the beginning of the month. Pandemic regulations. This pool is the biggest highlight of the city, it is what keeps me sane in summer.

Last summer they had set up a strict regime of separated lanes which I found much preferrable to the usual open pool where people just tended to swim in groups, usually making it hard for lap swimmers like me to just swim straight who do not chat with neighbors. So everybody was eagerly waiting – we have experience in swimming under pandemic conditions! And numbers of infection are going down, the map looked much better recently!


Then rumors appeared they would open after all, perhaps, then rumors sounded terrible about having to preregister well in advance and stuff like that. But on Monday last week we could go and buy season’s passes at a slightly reduced price. In other years this would be possible for the whole month of April during opening hours of city hall because the pool is owned by the city. This year, only on one day, and only two hours, twice. The line was outrageously long when I got there just after the beginning of the second set of opening hours in the evening.


For quite a while it seemed as if the line wasn’t moving at all, certainly people were not coming out who had finished their purchase. Then people in line started to give up, which was the first ‘progress’ felt. About every 8 to 10 minutes one person would come out. If you have 15 people visible ahead of you, and you know you can only see up to a corner after which you may as well assume another 6 to 8 people waiting you can calculate how long it will take. I started writing an email message on my phone, it got to be a long message and I stopped way before I was getting nearer to the top of the line. The worst thing about it was the complaining going on around me, though. Germans can be so negative about things, and when it is rather disconcerting to be waiting in a slow-moving long line, it is even more so when the people around you are constantly going on about how awful this all is. I wish I’d brought my earplugs to drone it all out. I waited 1 ¾ hours. If you give a bit of value to your personal time spent like that and compare it to the amount you ‘saved’ by getting a season’s pass at a 10% discount... it wasn’t worth it. But having gotten a season’s pass is definitely worth a lot. Right now we don’t even need a negative test to enter. Life has become a good deal better with the pool being open.

And it is strawberry season. 

I have been a big fan of strawberries from very early on in my life. Some good things never change. 


Saturday, May 29, 2021


 Life has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster lately. Not that much was happening, perhaps it is more the fact that not much is happening, the pandemic is still on, although numbers are going down right now, vaccination in Germany is a prime example of how-could-this-not-be-organized-better in this country of supposedly perfect organisation, and in a way everybody is going nuts. That includes me, probably some hormonal swings on the side... My God. Workouts in the open were rare because the weather was unfriendly. Very few moments in May looked like this.

Yesterday provided a pretty good harvest from my rhubarb plant, though, which is definitely a plus on the life side.

And my son and I went shopping to Munich this past week. We had recounted how house-bound he had been since he and I went to Berlin in the end of February 2020, he needed some clothes, infection numbers are going down so that some shops are open again, and both of us needed to get OUT OF THE HOUSE!!!!!!

I have rarely seen Marienplatz in Munich so empty...

We were successful in spending a good amount of money, as you can see in the number of bags and their fullness.

Of course I am trying to get enough studying in for my upcoming exams and yes, I will be VERY glad when this course is over and all I need to do is go to work and get on with my life! I am also trying to help my Senegalese friend with job applications, and perhaps that is stressing me more than my own situation. So I had got to the point where I thought, "well, this may be the first in many years in which I won't manage to get a piece for the Saqa Benefit Auction done". Because I thought deadline was June 1. But when I had sort of resigned myself to that, because I am also trying to draw lines of rejection when it is getting too much, I went to the website and checked - and lo and behold, it's the 30th. Well, I can do that. I have started, am on the facing now and will be done soon, a quick finish.

And then a mail came from Saqa, titled "Auctionaries", and at first I thought, what is that? But when I opened it I realized that it concerned me, too!

I am not sure how many years in a row I have entered and donated a piece for the Benefit Auction, but it must be over ten, because I think I remember that I saw a marker +10 or something like that next to my piece last year. And last year's sold for 750$. Admittedly, most others before sold much later in the auction, which means for a much lower price, none before had gone for more than 150, I think. Last year's was extremely powerful, I thought so myself, and yes, I am praising myself here.

"Love. Protect. Repeat." (text messages 22) 2020
12 x 12"

But I wasn't sure whether in total that would make it to over 2000? So after realizing that this mail concerned me, too, I clicked on the link, and there it is. A list with my name. I am an auctionary. Should I put that on my business cards now...?