Category Archives: Articles

Nonna mia


Meeting new people can be exciting, especially when they’re from a different cultural background. When I first met my boyfriend Silvio’s family in Italy I had a few problems with their habits.

Getting nervous

It was summer and we were hitting the road along the Adriatic in my mum’s car. I’d known my boyfriend for a while, but it had taken some time until I got to meet his family. We’d planned to stay at his grandma’s house. All I knew about her at this point was that her name is Lola. After an eleven-hour ride on adventurous Italian roads, we finally arrived at her apartment in a small town located on the east coast of Italy called Chieti. It was late at night and the whole place seemed to be asleep. Suddenly the lights in the dark house came on and a small old woman stepped outside. I was nervous and my stomach was aching: what would she think of me? Would we get along? I didn’t know any Italian, except for ciao or grazie and didn’t know what to say or how to act towards her.

Suffering from Italian hospitality

I was pretty excited. But as soon as we approached her, all my worries were gone. She hugged and kissed us and took us into her apartment, where she’d prepared a lot of food. And when I say a lot, I mean piles of all the dishes you can find on an Italian restaurant’s menu: there were pots and pans full of pasta, vegetables like aubergines, courgettes or artichokes and: meat. Normally I don’t eat meat and I’d simply say that I prefer to eat side dishes only and everything’s fine. In this case, I had to rely on my boyfriend to translate everything for me. But he was no help: he couldn’t convince his grandma that I was fine without meat. She just started heaping our plates with food like pancetta (roast pork) or salsiccia arrosto (fried sausage) and when we’d almost finished our plates, she’d add more and more. She wouldn’t let us go to sleep until all the food was finished. As I didn’t want to offend nonna, I decided to have some meat and put the rest onto my boyfriend’s plate secretly. Problem solved. When we finally went to bed, though, my stomach was aching – not from being nervous about meeting grandma but from being stuffed with meat and tagliatelle.

No Italian? No problem!

But the next day we – nonna and I – were finally able to get to know each other. I was very shy at first and I thought I wouldn’t understand a word. But as I know a little Spanish, I could guess what she was talking about and with the help of online dictionaries we were able to have a little chat. My boyfriend’s grandma used to live in Germany for some years, so we had some things to talk about. But unfortunately, she can’t actually speak German any more. Nevertheless, we had a great time talking about German and Italian traditions and – obviously – food.

In the evening, the rest of the family came around, and I thought I could at least speak English with the Italian cousins. But they didn’t understand a single word, so Italian was the only option. And even though I couldn’t really take part in the conversation, they never made me feel left out, and I had a really good time.

Was it really that bad?

No, of course not! During our stay I met a wonderful heartwarming family, who welcomed me with open arms (and lots of kisses). I really fell in love with the whole family. They showed me that you don’t need to talk much to get along, they taught me a little Italian and gave me an insight to their culture and way of life.

And even though I probably won’t ever get used to their eating habits, I’m already looking forward to seeing them again next summer!

 

Text & Pictures: Ramona Meisner

International Workaholics Day

It couldn’t fit any better, could it?  Exams are coming up, so most of us only seem to turn into real workaholics when studying towards the end of the term. How fitting, then, that today, on 5th July, we can all celebrate International Workaholics Day! Personally, I‘m not sure whether we should celebrate or commiserate…

Worka…what?!

A workaholic is a “person to whom work is extremely or excessively important, esp. one who voluntarily works very long hours; a person addicted to working” (OED).

It can also imply that someone really enjoys the work itself or that they simply feel obliged to do it. That’s quite something, don’t you think? Certainly, we all sometimes, somehow feel a certain ‘pressure’ when it comes to work. But a workaholic comes in early, stays in late and sacrifices health and their relationships with their loved ones. Not only once, but very often. I dare say – constantly. Relaxation simply isn’t part of their vocabulary, literally. This may work out for a certain time.

But let’s face it: a healthy work-life balance is vital!

Help! I know a workaholic!

While reading this, you might have a friend or relative in mind, or you might recognise your own workaholic behaviour… In that case, you’ve already made the first step towards a better work-life balance. Remember some of the following advice that may help to be a diligent, hard-working student who can combine work and time for revitalization

  • Give your body and mind enough time to relax. This sets free more energy than you might think at first glance.
  • Set yourself a certain time limit to finish your work effectively, instead of spending too much time working ineffectively.
  • Reward yourself by organising a meeting with a mate that always cheers you up.
  • In case you have got up the wrong side of the bed: stop working for a day. Don’t force it! Try to relax and start all over the next day.
  • Remind yourself of one very essential fact: nobody’s perfect! It’s human nature to set goals you can’t attain sometimes!

Remember, we get up and go to work every day to earn the money or to study for a job in the future in order to enjoy the rest of our lives. Why not start enjoying now? Being hard-working definitely earns respect, but you only live once, right?

Text & Picture: Maximiliane Hil

YES THEORY

Monday morning. 6:30 am. The alarm clock rings. You get up, make yourself a nice hot cup of coffee (because you can’t do anything before that caffeine kicks in), then read the paper, get yourself ready, go to work, come home, have some leftovers from the day before, watch your favorite TV show, check up on social media and go to sleep. Next day, it’s the same procedure. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Is this what your life might look like in five to ten years’ time? Or does it already look that way?

The great feeling of knowing what to expect

Routines. We love them. We humans are creatures of habit. Schedules, plans, simply knowing what to expect when we wake up in the morning – WE LOVE IT. And most of us seem to do really well with this kind of structure for their days, weeks or their lives.

Let’s take this scenario and alter it a bit

Monday morning. 6:30 am. The alarm clock rings. You get up, make yourself a nice hot cup of coffee. Then read the paper, get yourself ready, go to the airport, take the
first last-minute flight they offer you and spontaneously go on an adventure to the Bahamas.

YES THEORY

Sounds fun? Scary? Crazy?

We fear what we can’t predict. That’s why most of us so vigorously cling to our comfort zones. But you know what? Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This is the philosophy four Canadian guys in their mid-twenties live by. They seem to have found the key to living a good and happy life: seeking discomfort. Together they came up with the concept of ’Yes Theory’ in 2015.

Things have changed quiet a lot for these guys, who used to live a rather ordinary life. They decided to step out of their comfort zones whenever they can – causing them to have unbelievable experiences. They moved to LA, went skinny dipping with strangers, sneaked into a Hollywood premiere and hitchhiked to Mexico. And that’s only listing a few of their countless adventures. And their intentions pay off: they’re all living and enjoying life more consciously and transform their anxiety into happiness and excitement. Getting curious? Go check them out at ‘Yes Theory’ on YouTube or on their blog and follow their miraculous journey.

Saying ‘yes’

Are you living a calm life right there at this warm and cozy spot in the middle of your comfort zone? And most importantly: do you feel the need to change something about it? To feel more alive, maybe? Do you miss the feeling of your blood rushing through your veins? Yes? Well, then be inspired by the ‘Yes Theory’ and try to say yes more often (starting with that very first ‘yes’ you maybe just said).

‘What makes you uncomfortable? What are you gonna do about it?’  (quote by one of the members of ‘Yes Theory’)

So after reading this, do you want to change your life for the better? Well, you don’t have to hop on a plane to another continent right away. Let’s start with baby steps out of your comfort zone, but most importantly: start.

Go to the movie you want to see so badly – by yourself, because no one wants to join.

Go jump off that cliff that seems to be way too high for you.

Go ask that boy or girl you’ve had a crush on for so long for a date.

Do what the dark, mean anxiety in your head tells you not to.

Enjoy life more consciously.

Be crazy, loud and spontaneous.

Seek discomfort.

Be happy.

 

Text: Lena Zimmermann
Picture: Fabian Prinz

 

 

Turkish food made easy

Have you ever eaten Turkish food and wondered how you can make those dishes with little effort and no time? You have? Well, worry less and read on, because I’m here to tell you how to prepare the most common Turkish-inspired dish with easy-to-find ingredients for, namely, börek. The main ingredients are feta cheese, dry parsley, puff pastry, eggs and sesame seeds, and that’s about it!

As you can see, I haven’t given you any information about how much you need of each ingredient. That’s because my mother used to say “watch and learn – I don’t do measurements! You need to learn that for yourself!” Harsh, right? But it actually helps, because once you figure out just the right amount or what you like best after some maybe disastrous first attempts, it’ll taste just perfect!

Let the cooking adventures begin!

Now, let’s start! This most classic Turkish dish, which is basically a type of dumpling, comes in all kinds of variations. Normally, you need to get up early in the morning to prepare the dough and leave it to rise for several hours until it’s ready to use. But we’re lazy students with no time and energy to do that, so we’re just going to take simple puff pastry, also known as Blätterteig.

Secondly, take your cheese and knead it in your palms to make it all mushy and mix it in with some dry parsley. This mixture is probably the most common one to fill your dumplings with, but you can also take mashed potatoes, minced and seasoned meat or even spinach, but that would take far too long to prepare and no student has time for that!

It’s coming together…

Now it’s time to cut your puff pastry into square shapes. Then, you take your cheese and parsley mixture and put about one spoonful on each square. Fold the square in half, covering the cheese and squeeze the edges together, so that it looks like a small cheese-filled dough bag. Now, maybe heat up your oven to about 200°, or maybe don’t, to each his own. I don’t think that’s necessary unless you’re baking cookies or something. Anyway, now you beat some eggs, put sesame seeds in it and mix it all together. This is what you coat your dumplings with, so that they don’t end up too dry on the top. And that’s about it! Just shove your tray in the oven and bake everything for a good 10 to 20 minutes, and keep on checking on them. As soon as they turn golden brown, they’re done! It takes absolutely no time to prepare once you get the hang of it, and it’s a nice alternative to eating noodles with pesto every day!

Bon appétit and good luck! Just don’t burn your kitchen down, maybe…

Text & Pictures: Filiz Özer

Push yourself …

What promises a healthier body, a sunnier outlook, and the perfect opportunity to catch up? Running! And it’s one of the best butt-kicking, calorie-blasting workouts around. Still not convinced? Then read on…

Laziness

One of the most interesting races of 2017 was the Berlin marathon. Motivation, strength of mind and exhaustion were only a few comments I picked up at the start line. Thousands of runners were trying to make it through the cold weather to the finish line.

Exhausted, with my feet burning, I got up from my couch after watching TV for 3 hours. I picked up popcorn from my sweater and switched off the documentary about the marathon on TV. I really needed to do something about my laziness.

Do your homework

Running a half marathon not only takes a lot of physical preparation but also mental endurance and if you’ve never taken on the challenge before, not knowing exactly what to expect can be rather depressing. The first weeks were sheer torment. I gasped for air after ten minutes of running and felt just awful. Overchallenged and glum, I was ready to give up. A few days later, while I was walking through my hometown, I found a note on the ground that read “Do your homework“. I guess a student had dropped it. That day, I literally found my motivation on the ground. I started to run almost every single day and the running improved incredibly fast. Even cold weather didn’t stop me. In some kind of way I got addicted to running, more than to watching TV. Who would have thought?

The grand finale

The final race day was incredibly nerve-wracking. I hadn’t slept a lot the night before and was up way too early. At the location, I picked up my race materials, including start number and t-shirt and went towards the start area. Lined up there, looking around at all these athletic, good-looking runners, I thought I would never be able to make it. I heard the gun and started to run. I can’t really say anything about the race itself because it felt like I was in my own world. People were supporting us, yelling and waving on the side of the road. The feeling was just amazing. The finish line came faster than I thought and it was okay. Actually, it was more than okay because I had sprinted the last two kilometers.

IMG_0708

The whys and wherefores

Answering the question of ”Why so much pain?”: it’s the feeling of running that sets our souls on fire. If we push on, running harder, further away from the world and the structures of our lives, we begin to feel connected to ourselves. We begin to get a tingling sense of who, or what, we really are. Besides the mental health issue, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want a thoroughly trained, muscular body?!

Text & Picture: Linda Decker

The goblin in my head

goblinHave you ever noticed someone who moves abruptly, as if they couldn’t control their own body? I bet you have! But usually you’d either look away or you’d try to give the person a furtive look because you’re wondering what they’re doing. Well, I’m one of those people fidgeting around in public owing to a disease called Tourette’s syndrome. As most of you’d probably try to avoid interrogating me in order not to make me feel uncomfortable, I’m going to answer the Top 10 questions I’ve been asked because I want to give you an insight into my life with Tourette’s.

     adf

1. What is Tourette’s?

This is, of course, one of the most frequent questions. Science defines Tourette’s syndrome as a neuro-psychological disease which appears in the form of so-called tics, which are involuntary, quick and suddenly occurring movements or sounds. Motor tics are usually way more frequent than vocal tics, but they can also happen in combination. In my opinion, this definition is very abstract, which is why I prefer to explain it differently. Children can understand the illness best with the image of a goblin playing tricks on my brain. However, my favorite explanation is the filter in my brain; our brain sends thousands of commands to the nerves every day. But not all of them are useful or necessary and the filter sorts these out. In my case, the filter leaks, so that my brain instructs me to laugh and at the same time I shake my head – quite confusing, right?

2. What kind of tics do you have?

All kinds! From shaking my head or rolling my eyes to clearing my throat or hiccupping or twisting my legs. Sometimes a certain tic doesn’t occur for a year and then – all of a sudden – it reappears, but even worse than before. Or it disappears forever. In principle, my tics always vary and from time to time I ask myself how my body is actually able to carry out such movements or sounds. And although it might look funny, my tics can be very painful; there was a time when I used to dislocate my thumb so I had to wear a splint for weeks.

3. When do your tics occur?

Whenever they want. Usually, they get worse when I feel stressed in a certain situation or place or when I’m surrounded by strangers. But very often they occur when I’m totally relaxed, as if my brain was getting rid of all the tension, and my tics unload. In periods like this, I need to do less in general because the tics occur in concentration, which completely exhausts me. The funny thing is that sometimes, I’m tic-free for several days and during the night, I’m totally calm as well. So, as you can see, Tourette’s has a mind of its own.

 4. Can’t you control your tics?

I’ve already partially answered this question. So, I can hold my tics back for a short time in order not to attract too much attention. The only problem is: whenever I suppress a tic, it’s really tiring, and comes back much worse. That’s why I usually let my tics come as they do because suppressing them has always had the opposite effect to what I wanted to achieve with it.

5. How does having a tic feel?

That’s hard to answer since I don’t know a constant state without Tourette’s. But you could probably compare it to the feeling before you hiccup, when the pressure slowly rises from the throat before it happens. And this light pressure persists the whole day. However, if small tics like rolling my eyes occur, I usually don’t even notice them anymore.

6. Why don’t you swear?

Yeah, Tourette’s is mostly associated with vocal tics, especially swearing. And in some rare moments, I think that it would be so great to hurl an insult at a grumpy waiter and to even have a ready-made excuse for it. But actually, only about 20 % of those affected suffer from this severe form of Tourette’s. And I’m very happy to be one of the other 80 % because so-called ‘coprolalia’ is emotionally trying and very restricting.

7. What do you think about Tourette’s jokes?

I have a sense of irony. So, if the jokes are funny, I can laugh at them. However, if the jokes are meant to hurt someone’s feelings, I confront the person, which usually helps!

 8. Are you disabled?

That’s quite a question! I think nobody wants to be asked whether they’re disabled. You can probably imagine how shocked I was when I heard this question for the first time. This was actually the moment I realised how conspicuous my tics really are. Of course, I tried to stay calm on the outside and keep my poker face. But on the inside, a part of me, the part that believed that I’m as normal as everybody else, just broke. Naturally, I tried to convince myself that these people simply don’t think about how their words can hurt people. But after this event, I cut myself off from the outside world for a while and it took me a long time to get over it.

9. Does Tourette’s syndrome restrict your daily life?

That’s always kind of a tricky question. As I’ve already said, my tics vary in their manner and frequency. Minor tics like rolling my eyes occasionally don’t have a big impact on my daily life. However, if I’m stressed or nervous, I also combine tics. I start rolling my eyes and at the same time I shake my head vigorously and hiccup. Sometimes, my motor tics are so frequent and heavy that I can’t drive since I can’t have a constant eye on the traffic. At such times, my mom or friends drive to minimize the risk for others. And there are some things I can’t enjoy like others do:  a rush of adrenaline or alcohol aren’t good for me and my tics get unbelievably strong because my brain is overtaxed with so many stimuli at the same time.

10. Can Tourette’s be cured?

Unfortunately not. I’ve been suffering from Tourette’s since the age of four and believe me, I’ve visited a lot of doctors in my life so far. Of course, there are medicines to suppress the tics, but they usually have a strong sedative effect as well. From time to time, scientists conduct surveys about new ways of healing, like a medicinal cannabis spray that helps sufferers to relax. However, all these drugs have very strong side effects so that I’ve never tried any. I think as long as I’m not suffering from one of the severe forms of Tourette’s, I’ll just try to get along and find other, more natural ways to relax.

These were my Top-10-questions about Tourette’s, answered by someone affected and not by scientists just giving theoretical explanations. I really hope that my article has uncovered the mystery of this disease so that the next time you see someone making weird movements or sounds, you won’t freeze in total shock or pure fascination but remain relaxed and open-minded. Because as you know now, people like me only have a goblin in their head fooling around.

Author: Theresa Hartl
Picture: Konstantin Hartl

Mother Goose

With their sweet melodies and nostalgic associations, nursery rhymes and lullabies seem innocent. But when you really listen to the lyrics, this perception might change…

A nursery rhyme is a short story written in rhymes, often set to rhythmic tunes or music and is designed for young children. The stories have been with us for decades and can be used anywhere and at any time. These rhymes are also part of many cultures and often serve as an oral record of historical and political events and can even preserve archaic forms of language. The most commonly used nursery rhymes in the English language date from the sixteenth centuries.

A learning tool

Typically, a nursery rhyme has a catchy rhyme and simple vocabulary; children quickly learn to sing along. But nursery rhymes have more to offer than entertainment. Not only do they enhance the child´s imagination, introduce the idea of storytelling, promote social skills, boost language development and help phonemic awareness, but they also lay the foundation for reading and spelling. And because they build vocabulary and engagement slowly as a result of their repetitive and funny lyrics, they allow us to memorize basic structures and patterns in the English language, so kids can easily follow the now familiar words, as their parents or teachers slowly read to them.


nursery_shrinkCollections

Nursery rhymes are often collections, such as Mother Goose, which originated in France and is still a popular collection of nursery rhymes. Translations were also published in England and the United States, each with minor revisions, but they have remained true to their rhyming tales. Even though some of these collections use very old rhymes, which might be confusing to some children because of the language of Mother Goose, it provides an interesting insight into how people once spoke.

Hidden meanings

Nursery rhymes can also provide a quick history lesson and therefore connect us to the past and in some cases a nursery rhyme might have dealt with controversial topics and served as a mode of political expression or social commentary with hidden messages. If you dig a little deeper, they reveal shockingly sinister back stories. Gruesome tales of violence, scandal, medieval taxes, religious persecution, unlike our disneyfied modern perceptions; these aren’t exactly the topics that you expect as parent or teacher in poems meant for the nursery. Now, let’s look at some nursery rhymes and get their possible original meaning. Here are some backstories that may have inspired some popular nursery rhymes:

BaaBaaBaa, Baa Black Sheep

Baa, baa black sheep is about the resentment towards the medieval wool tax imposed by King Edward I in England during the thirteenth Century. Under this imposition, a third of the cost of a sack of wool went to King Edward I, another third went to the Church, and the last third went to the farmer. As a result, nothing was left for the poor shepherd boy who lived down the lane.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty

Humpty Dumpty depicts the fall of Colchester; it was believed to be a large cannon which was used during the English Civil War (1642 – 1649). At the time Colchester was under siege during the English Civil War and was a town with a castle and several churches protected by the city wall. A soldier named Jack Thompson had to take charge of a cannon nicknamed “Humpty Dumpty” on the walls. A shot from a Parliamentary cannon damaged the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty, which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, “all the King’s men” attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. But because of size and the weight of the cannon, they were unable to lift it back up onto the wall. Or it was shattered after the fall so “All the King´s horses and all the King´s men couldn´t put Humpty Dumpty together again!” Consequently Colchester had no choice but to surrender to Parliament.

Rock-a-bye-baby

Rockabyebaby

This song is about the Glorious Revolution, the overthrow of the last ruling Stuart king, James II. The baby in Rock-a-bye-baby was allegedly the son of King James II, but rumor has it, he was the child of another man. The king and his wife were unable to have children of their own, a baby was smuggled into their chamber in order to guarantee a Catholic heir. The ‘cradle’ represents the House of Stuart, while the ‘wind’ that rocked the cradle may be the Protestant forces from the Netherlands. Editors of the 1765 print version, Mother Goose´s Melody commented that the lyric ‘may serve as a warning to the proud and ambitious, who climb too high that they generally fall at last’.

Nursery rhymes have been memorable for generations; you will still overhear parents chanting them to their children or children reciting the quirky content. Whether the rhymes take you for a walk down memory lane, serve as time capsules, giving us insights into the past or into English words, or are just for fun, try them!

Text & Picture: Elisabeth Stützel