2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

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A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

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Traffic

Today I wanna write about the traffic situation in Phnom Penh. First of all the traffic here is special! When I first moved here in 2012 I said I’ll never drive a car in this craziness but I changed my mind and it was really helpful to get more familiar with the road network in town. My first rides I did during the night when there’s literally no traffic but after some time I got more and more confident and even managed to drive during the rush hour. I can say I was used to it.

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But now I was away for almost 4 months. I enjoyed the organized traffic in Germany and I also enjoyed the speed of the traffic there. I love to drive fast on the “Autobahn”. The first car ride back in Phnom Penh was a shock even if I wasn’t driving myself. It took us about 30mins to drive less than 5km to the next grocery store! Few days later I drove the first time on my own plus I had our little daughter with us who didn’t enjoy the car ride really well which means she screamed for the first 10mins. That was stressful – it felt like forever to reach our destination and to be responsible for the crying baby and to manage the car was a big challenge. Anyways we made it and after the first 10mins the little one fell asleep and I could focus more on what’s going on around me.

Rule #1 – drive slowly!!

The good thing with the traffic here compared to Germany it’s really slow motion. We’re talking about a maximum speed (during day times) of 30km/h and I guess the average is more around 15km/h. So first of all take it easy and just go with the flow.

Rule #2 – have your eyes everywhere

A car has mirrors and here in Phnom Penh there’s definitely a need for it. As you’re usually surrounded by thousands of motorbikes you need to have your eyes everywhere. But if you follow Rule #1 there won’t be a problem. Cambodians have a really defense way of driving which is definitely a plus. As long as you’re not too fast the bikes and other cars will drive around you and will always create some space for you. You only need to be careful when you want to turn because even if you indicate doesn’t mean that someone will quickly overtake you. So always have a look to the back and the side before you actually make your turn.

Rule #3 – there are no rules!

Or better no one cares about them. Generally they have a driving school in Cambodia but generally they teach how to move a car forwards and backwards and make a turn with it. Beside of that I guess there’s not much of teaching. You can find signs but the most of the people just ignore them. You wanna make a U-turn you’re just doing it even if it’s not allowed. You just need to be careful that the police is not watching you cause they’re always waiting for some extra income 🙂 Especially as a foreigner they keep an eye on you. Just because the locals can do it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do it as well!

The good or maybe bad thing about the police is the corruption. You always have 2 options…get an ticket with a fine OR tip the officer which is generally way cheaper. It happened actually once that an officer told us we should just give him some money so he can buy food for his family. That made me actually a bit sad. A police officer who is hard working, the whole day outside in the heat trying to organize this playground on the street and in the end he has not enough money to feed his family?! But that’s another story. If the government would pay a proper salary so the officers wouldn’t have a need to ask for a tip and charge the official fine instead I’m sure people would think about ignoring the rules more often.

My personal advice:

If you need to drive on your own just go slow and give yourself a chance to get used to it. The more you drive the more you will learn the Cambodian way of driving. Even if you shake your head all the time about what they are doing while driving you will get used to it for sure.

And if you can’t imagine to drive on your own just take a TukTuk and enjoy the entertainment around you 😀

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How to get married in Denmark

It’s been a while since my last post but it happened a lot during the last months! Yes, I or better we got married but let’s start from the beginning.

Have you ever tried to marry a non-EU-citizen in Germany? Well, you better don’t even think about it. It might be a difference if your spouse comes from Switzerland, Canada or the US but if it’s something else you better think of a plan B.

When we first contacted the registry in Germany and I explained our case we got a looong Email as reply. Generally a long list of documents we have to bring them in order to proof my (future) husbands identity. You literally have to bring them each single document where the name is written on from the time he/she was born till now. Once you gave them all required documents they start to proof each of them to finally make a decision wether you’re allowed to get married or not. It’s a long and expensive process and even the officer told us in the end of his Email “Maybe you should try to get married in Denmark”.

First I thought no way but still I was curious why he recommended Denmark and started a google-research. I learned that Denmark is the Las Vegas in Europe and that it is a big business for wedding agencies in Germany. But the more information I read about it the more interested we got about the idea.

Generally you can get married in Denmark in each commune even if you’re not a danish citizen. You only need to be legal in the EU-Zone which means you have to have a Visa or you need to be a EU citizen. Beside of that each commune has different requirements. So we checked out Copenhagen and Sonderburg but there are way more options. Some communes require that you stay 3 days in advance in Denmark but others don’t. We finally chose Copenhagen as they only need 3 documents: the filled out wedding form you can find on their website (http://subsite.kk.dk/sitecore/content/Subsites/CityOfCopenhagen/SubsiteFrontpage.aspx?element=header) copy of your passport and if needed copy of your visa and certificate of your marital status. In case you have been married before additional a certificate of the divorce. The second plus for us was that we could submit all documents via Email.

Once they proofed everything they’ll send an Email with bank account details to transfer the fee which was 60€ and after that you can book your appointment at the registry. As we wanted to get married in July they were pretty busy and beside of sending everything via mail we had to call them couple of times but generally everything worked out well.

We arrived 2 days before our wedding in beautiful Copenhagen and we really enjoyed our time there. The city hall in Copenhagen is an amazing old building and the absolute perfect wedding location. The ceremony itself was short… it just took us about 5 minutes to say “Yes, I will”…but it was nice the same time.

All in all I can say I would recommend to get married in Denmark. There’s no need to use one of these agencies as everything was easy to do on our own. The only thing which takes a little time is to find the perfect commune for your wedding. For us it was definitely Copenhagen but for someone else another one might be better. But you can find detailed information about almost every commune online this research just takes a little bit of time.

The next good thing was that we got an international wedding certificate which is already issued in 5 different languages. As it is a European certificate it is well accepted in Germany. We just had to go to the local registry to register that we’re married. The only challenging thing was the change of name in Germany because in Denmark it is not possible to change the name if you’re not living there. In our case the registry officer said we have to go through the normal German process if I wanna change my name which was a bit of a  shock in the beginning. At home we started the next google research and everything I found was that it’s possible to change it. So I wrote another Email to the registry and asked for a written comment why he said it’s not possible and few hours later we got the response to come around again so he can change it 🙂

So whatever they’ll tell you at your registry…it is definitely possible to change the name as it is your right to do so if you get married. Only if you want a German wedding certificate to be issued you have to go through the complete German process!

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Every-Day-Life in Cambodia

Dear readers…I’m so sorry for my long absence. First of all the last month were kinda stressful and many things needed to be sorted out and second nothing really spectacular happened. It’s “just” my every day life here in Phnom Penh.

06:00am – wake up time
As I’m not a morning person at all that’s my every day challenge! I snooze one time but around 6:15am I really need to get up. Latest with the cold shower I’m awake 🙂 The temperature of the water depends on the outside temperature…the more it rains and the chillier it gets outside the colder the water is. It might sound a bit strange but generally I enjoy the refreshing cold showers as usually it’s really hot outside.

06:30am – breakfast
My mum always told me – never leave the house without breakfast so that’s what am I doing next. I enjoy the relaxed time in the morning eat some bread and cheese (the german way 🙂 ) and listen to the sounds from outside. As the Cambodians are early birds the whole neighbourhood is awake already. They start washing their cars, listen to the radio and the first people already leave with their motorbikes to work while I’m enjoying the last quiet minutes before the busy life starts. Latest when I hear the cambodian national anthem I have to go, that’s point

07:00am – my journey to work
As my school is around BKK1-area it takes me about 20-45mins to get there. It’s actually just a 7km drive but the traffic in Phnom Penh by that time is a bit special as everyone starts to drive to work around that time. The earlier I leave the house the easier and faster it is. My personal TukTuk driver Sophea waits for me every morning infront of my house to pick me an drive me safely through the crazyness of the Phnom Penh rush hour to my school.

07:20am – at school
Usually around that time I arrive at CIA PP international school and the students welcome me with a friendly “Good morning Teacher Kate” and a biiiiig hug…that actually makes my day already. It’s unbelievable how much love these children show every single day. The first 20-40mins I spend in my classroom preparing my first lesson or the homework and the second time I enjoy the quietness of the morning!

08:00am – morning assembly
All teachers and students start the day together…at 8am the school bell rings and the students line up in our outside playground. The principal welcomes them to school. On Mondays we have the flag ceremony as well which means two students raise the Cambodian flag and we listen to the national anthem. Afterwards class by class goes upstairs to their classroom.

08:15-11:30am – in classroom
During the morning I’m teaching 18 children, 4-6years old, about English (Phonics), Numbers, Social Studies and Science. In between they have 30mins breaktime. Beside of that they have one time per week PE (physical education) and two times they go for swimming. We have a garden in school and teach about farming, plants and life cycle and we have a library to read with the kids or once in a while watch an educational movie. We teach them about good behaviour, which might be the biggest challenge in my job, respect and rules. I’m working together with 2 teaching assistants and they make my life a lot easier…thanks to Vichheka and Maly for that!

11:30-12:30pm – lunch break
Normally I’m staying in school during my lunch break and eat in our Canteen. The food is good and cheap, 1,25$ for rice, stir fry and a big bowl of soup 🙂 Once in a while when I feel like having western food I’m going out to one of the coffee shops in the surroundings or we oder fat boys ( similar to subway) sandwiches to school.

12:30pm – prep time
For one hour every day I have now time for preparations, writing lessonplans and weekly reports about my students. Normally I spend this time in my classroom searching online for worksheets or teaching ideas, preparing homework for the next day or the materials I need during class the next day. It’s a quiet hour while the smaller students nap for an hour and the older ones have cool-down time in our library. In case I’m really well prepared already I use the time sometimes to “supervise” the students in the sleeping room…which means I also have a nap for an hour 🙂

1:30-3:30pm – afternoon class
Our full-time students have another 2hrs class in the afternoon. Mostly we do revision of topics we did in the morning. The biggest groupe of my afternoon students was also enrolled to school during the second half of the school year and they all need to catch up. So we use the afternoons to teach them what they missed during the first half year so hopefully they’ll be able to move on to the next level after summer.

3:30-4:15pm – prep time
Another 45mins to sort my classroom, correct homework and get preared for the next day. I just realized when I started this job how much a teacher actually needs for preparations. That’s actually the “hard” work as a teacher. Even if the internet is full of worksheets and materials and you can find tons of good educational movies and websites sometimes it still takes time to find the right things for the age group or the topic you wanna teach. Sometimes I start doing my own worksheets if I can’t find the right things online.

4:15pm – my journey back home
If it’s stressful in the morning to go to work sometimes it’s even worst to go back home. I really praise sometimes the shiftwork I worked in Munich because you don’t have to be on the road while everyone else does the same! The good thing is I don’t need to drive on my own…I just lean back in my TukTuk and Sophea tries his best to avoid the traffic or squeeze us into the small gaps between hundreds of motorbikes, TukTuks and cars. Usually it takes around 30mins till I finally arrive back home but the worst it can take up to an hour.

5:00pm – home sweet home
During the week normally we don’t schedule a big program anymore. In case I coudn’t finish my prep I need to do that once I’m back home but luckily that doesn’t happen really often. One of us cooks something for dinner, we eat together and have a chat about our days. Afterwards I just relax, read and write Emails, facebook-ing,…it’s time to stay in touch with my old friends and live back in Germany.

10:00pm – Good night
As I get up so early every day I normally go to bed around 10pm. I’m not really a late-night-person anymore…I really need a good night sleep to recover for the next day. That’s maybe the good thing without shift working my body has a good rhythm now. In the evening I’m tired and I don’t have problems to fall asleep anymore. Sometimes even during the weekend I wake up in tze early morning but only to check the time and to be happy to turn around again 🙂 Even if I’m not a late night owl anymore I think I’ll never turn into an early bird!

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Tourist in Germany

For the first time I visited my homecountry as a tourist which was an interesting experience. I wasn’t in Germany for almost a year and it was time to see my family and friends for christmas and new years. Plus I wanted to show my country and former live to my fiance. We were both excited about the trip, booked flight tickets about 3 month in advance, applied for the visa and then we found ourselfs in the plane towards Germany. It was incredible how fast the time was running and even on the way to Germany I could hardly believe that I’ll be back home in just a couple of hours 🙂

We arrived Frankfurt in the early morning of Dec,22nd and my Dad picked us from the airport. He was prepared with my warm winterjacket and even some boots but gladly it wasn’t too cold so without changing clothes we started our drive to Weingarten/Pfalz, the village I grew up and my parents still live in. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weingarten,_Rhineland-Palatinate ) We had a warm welcome and a nice christmas celebration together with my parents, sibblings, nieces and nephews. We spend some days with my sister and her family in Mannheim, went for ice-skating in Ludwigshafen and had a lot of fun with her kids.

Next stop was Tauberbischofsheim to visit Tine, a friend I met during my travels in 2011. I’ve never been to that area of Germany before but it’s definitely worth it to go there. Tauberbischofsheim is located in northern Baden-Wurtemberg in the beautiful Taubervalley. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tauberbischofsheim )
Tine was a perfect tour guide for us. She showed us the nightlife of Würzburg, the old town including the castle of Wertheim. We went for some outlet shopping to Wertheim-Village and checked out a Thai-Restaurant in that area. I know it’s a bit funny to travel from Asia to Germany and then go to a restaurant to eat Thai food but it was really delicious and worth it to go there! After 2 days with Tine we started our trip to Munich.

It’s a three hours train ride with a short stop over in Nuremberg. All in all we had a smooth journey beside of the fact that we arrived Würzburg train station just a few mins before departure time. So it was a bit of a rush to buy the ticket, find the right track and hop inside the train. But we made it in time 🙂

It was really nice to be back in Munich and to see that almost nothing had changed during the last year. It still felt a bit like coming home for me and it was really nice to meet my friends again after such a loooong time. I showed Lawrence different parts of the city and we did a lot of walking at least as long as it didn’t rain. We went to the Olympiapark where the Olympic Games were in 1972, we saw th BMW-World, te english garden including the river surfers. We walked around Schwabing and I showed him my old flat in Ramersdorf. We went to the hospital and I showed him my former working place including some of my former colleagues. We had an awesome new-years-celebration with about 10 people at my friends place and btw thanks for that to Katrin, Tobi, Alex, Dani, Dana and Maik!

The highlight for Lawrence was definitely the visit of the Allianz-Arena including Arena-Tour and FC Bayern-Fanworld. But generally it’s an interesting Tour even if you’re more interested in architecture then in soccer 🙂 so even for me it was an interesting afternoon.

We went for shopping at the Riem-Arcaden one of the newest and, in my opinion, nicest shopping malls in Munich. We searched for the best Döner in town as Lawrence fell in love with this turkish fast food. In our opinion the best one we found at Ostbahnhof/ eastern station!

In in between all that we spend time with my friends, ate fresh homemade cheesecake (thanks for that Chrisi), had coffees and just enjoyed our time with doing nothing.

After a week we made our way back to my parents. We found a “Mitfahrgelegenheit” which is maybe one of the cheapest ways to travel in Germany. It’s a car sharing community in the internet http://www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de where people offer rides through Germany. You just search for the connection from city to city and you get a list with all drivers and their contacts. The website is only in german but many of the drivers do speak english as well 🙂

In the end we spend another week with my family and all in all the 3.5 weeks were gone really fast. We had to pack our stuff again which was not as easy as we thought in the beginning and after my sisters birthday celebration we went back to Frankfurt on Jan,14th to catch our flight. The last highlight was that Romy came to meet us for a coffee at the airport before we went for te security check. It’s so nice to see that friends ar actually leaving their office and tell their boss it’s more important to meet at friend at the airport than to do teir job…thanks for that ❤ I guess that’s what friends are for!

 

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Pre-Christmas in Cambodia

It is my second year out of Germany during pre-christmas-time. Last year I was travelling though SEA and busy with arranging my trip, sorting pics and trying not te get overwhelmed from all the new impressions every day. But this year it is different…I’m settled in Cambodia and it is still strange to me to have 30°C or more outside while the house looks like Christmas.

I was wondering how it would be like to get ready for Christmas in a mostly buddhist country. But it wasn’t a problem at all…Christmas is EVERYWHERE! No matter where you’re going to…shopping malls, restaurants, Café’s…you can see glitter and glimmer and Santa all around.

It seems to me Christmas is in between a multi-religious or better non-religious celebration all around the world and I don’t know if I like that fact. Everyone is celebrating Jesus’ birth without even knowing that this is the actual reason for it but it made my life way easier this year.

I bought different things to make my own homemade-x-mas-decoration, started to listen to christmas songs and I even found some non-baking-cookies-recipes. I didn’t make them so far but that’s my target for this week. I really miss an oven though to bake “real” cookies but maybe I’m able to do that during our time in Germany. I prepared and Advent-Wreath and an Advent-Calendar for Lawrence.

We had a women’s church service at the 1.Advent-Sunday and therefore we also decorated church for Christmas. Also in school we build up a christmas-tree and hang stars all around > “It’s beginning to look like Christmas”

My absolute highlight so far was the Potluck on our rooftop yesterday night. We gathered with friends together, sang hymns, prayed and sure we ate some yummy food. It was a great evening with a silent and meditative beginning and funny in the end. Now am looking forward to our pre-christmas-dinner with friends next weekend.

In between we need to do the last preperations for our trip tp Germany…only 10 days left and I’m really excited about going home and meet my family and friends.

All-in-all it wasn’t a big deal to get into christmas-mood at all. With nice people around and a little bit of effort it doesn’t matter if it is warm or cold outside. Now am starting to sing “I’m dreaming of a white christmas” which we most likely will have and leave you with some pictures.

Merry Christmas…Fröhliche Weihnachten

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My Advent Wreath

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Takeo-Province

WOW…I can’t believe that it’s more than a month since I wrote my last post. Time is flying so fast these days!

Last week we had a long holiday because of waterfestival. This year all the celebrations were canceled because the country is still mourning for King Sihanouk Norodom but anyways we had 6 days off.

The waterfestival itself is normally a big celebration where several million people from the cambodian provinces travel to Phnom Penh to celebrate for three days the end of the rainy season as well as the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. Boat races take place along Sisowath Quay and it’s a big party along riverside.

We decided spontaneously to do a 2-days road trip during our time off to escpe from busy Phnom Penh. Because even if the boat races were canceled the city was quite crowded during the last days.

We left Tuesday morning with the car southwards along the national road 2. Our first destination was Tonle Bati a place to have a picknick along the river. It’s about 30km away from Phnom Penh but because of traffic and the road conditions it took us about an hour to get there. It’s a beautiful absolute non-touristy place and the place to be if you just wanna hang out and relax. We went there by car but it’s also possible to hire a TukTuk for a day. We spend there abround 3 hours in a nice little picknick-hut directly at the waterfront – eating, drinking, relaxing in the hammock and enjoyed the nice view over the river. Generally you could also swim there but the brown water was not really inviting.

From there we drove furthe on NR2 for about 10km to Phnom Tamao Zoo – a wildlife sanctuary. It’s a nice park area to have a walk and see lots of differnet animals…elephants, lions, tigers, sunbears, peafowls, deers, differnet monkeys, birds, turtles, wild pigs, iguanas and much more. Also to the Zoo you could hire a TukTuk in Phnom Penh to do a day-trip.

After the Zoo we drove further south on NR2 till Takeo, the capital of Takeo-Province. It’s a small and really calm city and Takeo itself has not that much to offer. But after this nice day outside we arrived at our beautiful guesthouse Daunkeo2 (www.daunkeo2.com). We had a room with fan for 7$ per night in a nice garden bungalow and just relaxed in their garden in the evening.

The next morning we started the way back to Phnom Penh with a stop at Phnom Chiso (Chiso Mountain). It’s about 30km north of Takeo also along NR2. Once we climed up the 412 stairs to the temple we enjoyed the amazing view over Takeo-Province. The oldest part of the temple is from 11th century and in between it’s more a temple ruin with some new build temples and buddah statues around.

It was a great short get away from Phnom Penh and am sure it won’t be the last trip to Takeo as the surroundings has a lot more to offer and the guesthouse is nice and amazingly cheap 🙂 Next time we might hire a bout to visit Angkor Borei and Phnom Da or drive further towards the Vietnamese border to Kirivong to enjoy the nature there.

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