Back in Germany

Saturday 20 January 2007

Well, have I mentioned that I left Fiji just before Christmas to return to Germany?!
The coup in Fiji didn’t affect me at all but still time had come to visit my folks, friends and followers (??) back in Germany, which I had left nearly four years ago.

From tropical 30 degrees (Celsius) to sub zero temperatures near Seoul, S. Korea, where I changed flights and spent a wonderfully comfortable night at the Hyatt Regency Incheon including 2 dinners and the best breakfast buffet I can remember (all payed for by KoreanAir ).

Frankfurt, Germany proved a bit warmer but the dry air was hard to get by.

It was weird to be back on German turf after such a long time…and everybody around me is speaking German, how freaky is that! Coming from the Airport to Frankfurt City (on the train) was like travelling abroad again - less and less people were speaking German, instead Turkish, Italian, Russian, and various Asian languages started to dominate the soundscape… Welcome to Germany! Yes, we are multicultural, too!
The guy at the counter of an internet cafe opposite the central train station (right in the city centre) hardly spoke German at all…

Anyways, I went on to friends of mine where I also met up with my mother who drove all the way from the Blackforest to pick me up.
After a few days in Furtwangen [wiki] (my “home”town since 1994) my parents, brother and me drove north on Christmas Day to attend the annual gathering of the greater family. Driving south 2 days later we stopped for the night at my buddy Philipp’s place (we grew up like brothers the first few years of our lives).  Even Steffi, the only other friend I know since earliest childhood, was able to come to complete our meeting. A rare occasion in our busy lives, especially as Philipp (like me) spent most of his time abroad!
So that was great to see the two of them together, I hope to repeat that soon again!

Two days in Furtwangen followed. I meant to meet up with friends who were in Furtwangen those days…but time just goes so quick and I didn’t even get to unpack my bag. At least I managed to see Miriam and her brother Felix. Felix is one of my climbing mates and Miriam and I went to youth group for many years. While I graduated from highschool in Furtwangen she went to the United World College in HongKong [wiki] for 2 years. Unfortunately I couldn’t meet her when I was in HongKong (June 2003) as she was on School holidays (visiting family in Germany) at the time. And then she started her studies in Vancouver, Canada. The last semester (or 2?) she spent in South East Asia and took some time off in Germany. In early January she returned to Vancouver.

Over New Year my family went to France for skiing (snowboarding in my case). There wasn’t much snow in ”Les 3 Vallées” when we arrived but over the week several storms contributed layers and layers of the white stuff - Yippie! One day snowstorm, next blue sky, one day nil visibility and more snowfalls, next day blue sky…and so on :D

Now I have been hanging around in Furtwangen for almost 2 weeks, surfing the web on 26 h shifts and sorting through my filled up room… should start visiting everybody I once knew in and around Germany (might be a bad time, exams are coming up for many of them these weeks). Working (=making money) sounds like another “ToDo”. And Party - “Fasnet” (=Carnival, it’s so important in this region, they call it the fifth season of the year) is coming up.

My next greater steps?
Um…good question! I might start my university studies at the end of the year here in Germany - or not?!
My world trip is not over yet, though!
I mean, after all, Africa, Central Asia, Middle East, most of the Americas (I spent some time in the US) and Antarctica are still waiting for me!

Keeping busy amongst Coup fears in Fiji

Thursday 30 November 2006

I am still in Fiji, the last few months flew by like a ray of light… I am a bit “fiji-wiser”, have been to several Hindu Weddings (Fiji really meets me as a “Wedding Nation”, everything seems to revolve around getting married here…) and I can say I slowly start to make out shapes in this complex puzzle of cultural and historical mindsets that exist among Fijians and more over Indo-Fijians.

While my job keeps me busy, I slowly start to take in more of the life around me. I keep meeting more and more people and for a change I almost manage to get to know some of these people a bit better by meeting up again, being invited to their homes and talking for more than a few minutes… Yet, I am still having a hard time to really get know anyone here. And Indian customs and traditions don’t make it any easier when it comes to making friends with the opposite sex.

But not only my social life concerns me these days… the political situation has been tense in Fiji over the last several weeks.

The army and the government have been in a feud that might lead to a Coup within the next week or two if the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is not following the demands of the very outspoken Military Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama who deems the Government as too corrupt and doesn’t agree with several bills which the government has tried to pass.

Read more about it on .

In my opinion both Qarase and Bainimarama make a point: The government is corrupt, and the Qoliqoli Bill will create further racial tensions and will affect tourism (one of the main income sources of Fiji).
But Qarase is imho right as well, when he says that a coup / a military overthrow of the government will damage not only national Democracy but also will create a severe crises throughout all levels of life in Fiji. The Fijian Economy will be set back by maybe 20 years, Employment will be less than half the current rate, Poverty will strike a majority of the population and it will take many years to recover (as seen after the last 3 coups which all took place during the last 2 decades).

Even though Suva (Fiji’s capital, ca. 4hrs drive from Lautoka) seems to be the only place where one actually can notice the increased military presence, the people are worried all over the country and many are making preparations to leave Fiji to Australia/New Zealand in case of a coup (which is believed to happen within the next two weeks, if Qarase is not meeting the army’s demands).

I’ll be standing by and following the situation closely for another three weeks, then I’ll be off to Germany to spend Christmas with my family (many of whom I haven’t seen in almost 4 years - that’s how long ago I left Germany to discover more of the world and its complex network of global inter-dependability.

Stay tuned… like my trip through China in the middle of the SARS epidemic in June 2003 a crises such as this reveals more about the true nature of a nation than when everything is happy hippo peaceful and nobody is complaining.
It’s like a pond in the sun, when there are no ripples on the water’s surface you won’t be able to see to the ground as the reflection will be brighter than the murky water. Disturb the surface and you will be able to see through it! But if you disturb it too much, the waves will obscure your view, too.

going Hindu

Thursday 21 September 2006

No, I am not converting to Hinduism. But yes, I am learning a lot about Hindu culture and their language (Hindustani) through my work place and everyday life.

For those of you, that don’t know much about Fiji: About half of the population is Indo-Fijian, which means that their ancestors came from India and most of them still live the Indian way, speak their traditional language and often stick to their people.

The company I work in is completely Indo-Fijian. Some of the staff might be Muslim Hindus, but they all speak Hindustani (and of course English which is the official language in Fiji). Thus I have picked up quite a few words over the last weeks… my colleagues are always eager to teach me new words (useful as well as silly ones ;) )

Maybe next time I will get to give you a little language course…

Sugar Festival 2006

Tuesday 5 September 2006

My daily work has become busier and busier…and than the Sugar Festival started and I was assigned the official Photographer for all the events of the week. So my working hours were extended to sometimes more than 16 hours a day…

I still have to catch up on sleep…so more later!

working in Lautoka

Wednesday 2 August 2006

The last week in Fiji has brought a few surprises, ups and downs… and coconuts! ;)

Shortly after posting my last journal entry I checked into the Nadi Downtown backpackers for 12 FJ$ a night for a dorm bed incl. breakfast and 10mins internet. As I was really tired I basically slept from the late afternoon till the next morning and even missed the free breakfast…

At least I could still use the internet to quickly check for mails and answer a few.

I had a look at the nearby Hindu temple; even payed (uncommon for me) 3.5 FJ$ and walked around it three times (hindu tradition: once for your family, once for your friends, and once for yourself) taking heaps of photos from the colorful statues. This one is the largest Hindu temple in the South Pacific; yet it seemed quite small compared to hindu structures like Prambanan near Yogyakarta (Java, Indonesia), which was actually mostly distroyed during the big earthquake not too long ago.

Later that day I took a minibus to Lautoka (2 FJ$, ca. 20mins) and changed to a local bus to Vuda Point marina in the south.
At the marina I stuck a “Crew Available” note up on the notice board and talked to a lot of yachties on and around their boats. Many of them were heading to Vanuatu soon, unfortunately noone needed crew.

The sun was going down when I left the marina and some locals told me that there wouldn’t be any cheap accomodation in Lautoka; so I decided to go to Nadi Bay where several cheap Backpackers are clustered along the beach.

With a few lifts (I didn’t even put my thumb out) and a local bus for the main road stretch I arrived at Horizon Backpackers long after nightfall. I booked in for 5 nights (stay-5-pay-4 special deal -> 60 FJ$), as I thought I need some time to adapt to “Fiji Time” and relax on the beach. The first shock were the food prices: 15 FJ$ for dinner at Horizon’s restaurant seemed a bit out of proportion (more than what I paid per night!). And the next cheaper eateries/shops are 1/2 h’s walk away along the main road (Queen Rd). I was hungry and didn’t have any provisions, thus I walked back to where I had gotten off the bus (Queen Rd) not too long ago and got some fried rice with chicken for 2.7 FJ$.
As I realised the next morning the beach wasn’t quite as paradise as one would expect of Fiji: grey sand, murky water and in general not the most idyllic setting…

The following 5 days went by anyway (mostly talking to other backpackers and locals). At least I found a few coconuts to supplement my otherwise quite simple diet.

Unfortunately my credit card disappeared and when checking my account via online banking I realised that I am pretty much broke (just enough left to cover my insurance till the end of the year).

So yesterday I went to Lautoka to follow up on a hint I got from a girl at a photoshop in Nadi City.

And here I am now, found work and a place to stay and food is also included, yippie!