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Goodbye, Dortmund!

In a short while, I’ll leave for Münster – and will have to wave Dortmund, my home for the past four months, goodbye. How fast everything has blurred past! I can’t even begin to recap.

So, what to tell? The first thing that springs to mind is the multitude of people that I met while at the Carl Duisberg Centrum, where I took part in a German course. These folks came from all over – Europe, off course, but also Latin America, different parts of Asia, Africa. What a lot I learned from them – about their countries, cultures, religion, and lots more! My only regret is that I didn’t spend even more time with them.

Travelling made up a big deal of my time here in Dortmund. In Paris, we had the privilege of being shown around by a British lady who had lived there for quite a while. Here I was also forced to buy a shirt in order to visit the Moulin Rouge (obviously, the cheapest decent shirt I could find, but which I think has since become my favourite). In Amsterdam I found the grave site of some of my relatives; visited a church service in the Keizersgrachtkerk, simply enjoyed the beautiful city, and had a mouthwatering cheese-fest, probably adding half a kilo in weight on the spot. I presented my (seminal? hopefully) paper at the SBL conference in Tartu, Estonia, and I got some good critical feedback. I also had a joyous reunion with my friends and colleagues from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Ancient Languages. During a trip to the Schwarzwald, I felt the cold creep up on me for the first time. Nevertheless, we had a great time – eating black forest cake, of course, and afterwards having dinner in the rain. (We refused to move, so we could have a view on the lake. Was worth it.) I met with a friend in Cologne, after cycling there via Wuppertal. Another time, a group of us South Africans (we travel in packs) simply stopped over there on our way to Aachen – also a worthwhile experience!

Of course, I did a lot of cycling in- and around Dortmund, too. Cycling is quite a solitary exercise, and perhaps that’s why I enjoy it so much. Of course, it’s much better still if you cycle with someone, but even then, you’ve got lots of time to mull over things. And mulling over I did! Cities close to Dortmund were my first target – those that impressed me most being Soest and Haltern-am-See. I visited a bunch of museums, including the most impressive Bergbaumuseum (mining museum) in Bochum and the DASA (German Occupational Safety and Health Exhibition) in Dortmund – twice. Worthy of note is also the Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, where one of the biggest finds of gold coins from the Roman era is on exhibit.

Naturally I travelled not only by bicycle, but also by train. Not all experiences on the train were so great; at least once, in trying to navigate during ExtraSchicht, a most wonderful cultural happening in the Ruhrgebiet, I got totally depressed.

I remember another time when I travelled with a (male) friend, and we ended up in Essen, during a gay festival. My friend, being from Iraq, was at first quite unsuspecting – I found it rather funny, especially when a more-than-drunk man complimented my friend on his shapely legs. The night ended in another highlight, namely, an Iraqi restaurant. (Well, the cook was from Iraq, anyway.) Good food, good times! I especially liked the drinkable yoghurt.

Another special night was when the Mongolians arranged a dinner party. What a great night! I had been learning about Mongolia all the while, 7 of the people in my class being from Mongolia, but this night was really special. We ate Mongolian food (OK, it was Russian food, mostly; real Mongolian ingredients are hard to come by in Germany, but it was good nonetheless) heard a Mongolian poem, a Mongolian song, and generally basked in the friendliness of the people of Mongolia. They are so proud of their country – as is most ambassadors here at the language course – that I involuntarily had to think about what makes me proud of being South African. (Another day, another post.)

There are a number of other experiences that I could relate, but these will have to suffice. One more needs to be added, though, as an afterthought. Last week, I met with my “Doktorvater”, Prof Gert Steyn, along with one of his other doctoral students, Peter Nagel, in Münster. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought this would be possible – but there we were!

Yes, I am very excited to start my studies in Münster. Thus far, I have been a bit lazy – just soaking up what’s happening in Dortmund and Germany. (And reading. Oh, my goodness, did I read! German books, mostly, but also some English books. My must-read list expanded considerably; it now includes Dostoyevski, Oe, Rafik Shami, Galsan Tschinag, Nâzım Hikmet, Can Yücel and Goethe).

From now on, it will be back to the (academic) books. First, however, I’m going on a cycle tour. Here’s a map, if you want to have a look. I’ll blog about my experiences when I get back; but for now, I know it’s going to be cold and rainy. Looking forward already!

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