Monday, 18 May 2015

One Man's Meat, Another Man's Poison

Two of my French friends are in Thailand at the moment and like all generation X-ers, have been taking lots of photos and bombarding my Instagram page with the weird and wonderful things they have seen, particularly with regards to food. This got me thinking about how each person's definition of food "strangeness" depends on their culture and past experiences. As a Nigerian, I know that we have a lot of foods that many non-Nigerians would find curious or even downright disgusting. I'm talking for instance about Bushmeat, goat's brain in Isi Ewu, Ondo people (my parent's tribe) eating dogs, chicken feet, cows' legs, the offal and innards of cows/goats/birds, fish head and eyes etc. Even as a particularly picky child, I managed to eat and enjoy many of these delicacies without the slightest feeling of revulsion. However, one of the results of my ajala lifestyle is the fact that I have often been confronted with foods that many people, Nigerian and non-Nigerian, would find a little too strange. Of course my inquisitive nature means that I have tried and even enjoyed some of these dishes. Anyway, here's a short history of my "foodie" encounters.

Growing up, my mum (unlike my very picky dad) was an aficionado of the "exotic," and often bought and brought home various kinds of meat including Turtle, Bat, roasted Frogs and even one time Snake. I soon learnt to be comfortable with considering a lot of these as food items, and although I sometimes refused to eat things that felt too strange to me, for the most part, I tried almost everything.

Years later when I went to boarding school, I got introduced to the idea of eating insects...yummy, crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside Termites! I don't know who came up with the idea, (actually Google tells me it's a well-known snack in certain parts of Nigeria), but we'd wait eagerly for it to rain then put buckets of water under light sources. The termites, driven out of their holes in ground and attracted to the light would then somehow lose their wings and end up in our artfully positioned buckets of water. They fell in their thousands, and we schoolgirls, ecstatic about this literally forbidden "fruit" eagerly gathered up the harvest and cooked them over candle-flame. Yes I know what you're thinking, carcinogens, improperly cooked food, fire hazard etc. My school thought the same things too, and this activity was completely verboten. However as you can imagine, the taste of termites, the clandestine nature of our activity and the chance to break rules meant that we did this regularly in the rainy season. In fact writing this takes me back to the good old days of the crispy, buttery goodness that were candle-roasted termites. 

Moving to France after having being a vegan for many years, I quickly realised that non-meat diet was a misnomer for the French, and promptly gave up veganism. I then ate and enjoyed Frogs' Legs, having previously refused to touch this with a 10ft barge pole in Nigeria, and tried Caviar which I found much too salty for my taste. A few years later, I tried Horse meat while on a date and didn't like it one bit, although I put this one down to the cook who was also a disastrous date. Steak Tartare which I enjoyed, came later, but it made me worry for ages about getting sick from E.Coli.

For my first Christmas in Paris, I was invited to a friend's place and served Foie Gras (literally fatty liver), a traditional Christmas fare in France. As a former vegan, I was a little bit reticent about eating it, but then my natural curiosity won and I decided to try it...loved it! (Un)fortunately, my principles over the cruelty to animals (geese and ducks are force-fed to effectively make them develop liver Cirrhosis) still cause me to pause each time I am offered this quintessentially French delicacy.

Crocodile meat, I've had this before when I was younger, but I had forgotten what it tasted like and only got to try it again a few weeks ago when my sister visited Brussels. She tried it for the first time at a Congolese restaurant, and fell in love. And honestly, who could blame her? The taste was amazing! It reminded me a little of the Asun (spit-roasted goat meat) my father used to make when I was a kid. However, the fact that it was crocodile (CROCODILE!) stopped me from really enjoying and re-ordering it, unlike my sister who got addicted and ordered the same dish trice in one week.

In Finland, I tried Mykyrokka (blood-dumpling soup) while visiting the then boyfriend's family and had been enjoying the meal until I decided to be polite and ask about the soup. Let's just say I found it a struggle to swallow the rest of my dinner when I got their responses. During the same visit, I also had Venison (deer meat) which was absolutely delicious but made me feel so incredibly guilty. I felt like I was eating Bambi! :(
During my year abroad in Sweden, I tried Surstromming (fermented or rotten baltic herring, depending on who you ask), and nearly died from the odour that had me nauseated for hours. It was an epic fail of an experience which will never ever be repeated. On the other hand, the equally pungent Shrimp and Fish Pastes fermented in earthen pots for about 6 months underground, which I regularly had in Bangladesh was the bomb! It was used to make beautifully spiced blow-your-head-off hot curries, which we ate with Chappatis or rice.

And to finish, I'm not sure how I came about this exactly, but I've had Kangaroo jerky before, and I loved it! 

So that's my strange food history. What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten?

Monday, 4 May 2015

Started From the Bottom, Now We're Here!

Pardon my brief descent into craziness, but I am feeling very proud of myself at the moment. Why you ask? Yours truly after only 4,5months has tested as an intermediate German speaker. Oya, everybody clap for me. Thank you, thank you! ;)

When I decided to start learning German in the second week of December, I set myself some goals and panicked when I realised the magnitude of the task before me. Then in February or March, I booked a ticket to go see T's family in May, and promised myself that I would be done with all the lessons/exercises on Duolingo by the 7th, the day before I was supposed to travel. At one point a few weeks ago though, I started to panic because I realised that I was so behind that it was unlikely I'd achieve my goal, but for some weird reason I became motivated again and due to some intense work, managed to finish the whole thing one week before my deadline. During this time, I noticed that the more German I did (on Duolingo/by watching TV or through reading), the more I became used to the language, and the easier it was for me to learn further. It was a virtuous circle, and so efficient that it almost turned me into a German freak. I have had(and still have) so many ups and downs with this crazy language, and have often felt like abandoning it(even taking a few breaks when life got too overwhelming), but I am so glad I never completely gave up. Of course I am still far from fluent, but I thought I'd share how I did it anyway, because it might help someone else.

So a few takeaway ideas from my experience of learning French, Italian and now German:
  1. Set goals and try to be accountable! Even if your boyfriend and friends  side-eye you for your obsessive behaviour.
  2. Speak, speak, speak. People (again my boyfriend and even my conversation partner were guilty of this) will laugh at your pronunciation and/or just not understand your babbling, but don't let that discourage you. Practice makes perfect, and your efforts will eventually bear fruit. Oh and the same people who laughed at me now compliment me on the progress I've made.
  3. Living in the country and immersing oneself in the language and culture while important, is not essential. I learnt French a bit quicker than I am learning German now, because I was immersed in the language 24hrs a day, but I've realised that these days there are so many ways of surrounding oneself with the target language. Books, the internet, radio, watching TV are all ways of bring the proverbial mountain to Mohammed.
  4. Ups and downs are normal and to be expected in language learning (and with everything in life I suppose). Embrace them. Celebrate every high, mourn every low but never stay static. This is also one very good reason for evaluating and re-evaluating your progress regularly; sometimes we don't notice the progress we've made until we take an objective test or someone else compliments us or points something out.
  5. Surround yourself with "encouragers". Blog readers, my conversation partner/friend, my boyfriend's mum and T have all been very helpful, especially whenever the going became difficult. So yeah a big THANK YOU to everyone that encouraged(s) me, you guys have been absolute darlings. DANKE SCHÖN!!!
  6. No dream ever materialises without some effort, elbow grease and a good dollop of sweat. So to everyone that has some goal they want to achieve, my advice in the great words of Nike, would be to "just do it!"
Addendum:  After putting up this post, I suddenly realised that it might mislead people, causing them to think I speak German perfectly. Well I don't. I can communicate verbally and read without too much difficulty, and I understand a huge percentage of what I see/hear on TV/radio. However (due to insufficient interaction), my speaking language skills still need a lot of work, mostly with pronunciation and acquiring more advanced vocabulary. So yeah I'm definitely still a long way away from fluency!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Clara's Travel Tales: The Bruges Edition

A million thanks to darling Duru for reminding about and spurring on me to putting up April's post for the 15 for 15 challenge! As I have only a few hours left, I'm just going to do a short but picture heavy post of our visit (with my sister), two weekends ago to Bruges.

According to Wiki, Bruges is a historic city and a prominent UNESCO World Heritage Site, and honestly it looks the part. I first went there three springs ago when I visited with friends and we spent a few days in the city, managing to fit in a 50km(!) cycle tour, and going all the way to the Netherlands. The year after that, T was already living in Brussels and together with another friend, I visited and ended up doing a day trip to Bruges. This time it was my sister's turn, and since train journeys in Belgium are cheap (at least compared to the UK), we decided to go for the day... so basically, I have visited the city three times in 3 consecutive years. Now if my blog says anything about me, it is that I love travelling, and have a desire to explore as much of the earth as possible (this by the way is why I hardly ever return to the same places, at least not without a considerable lapse of time). However beautiful Bruges, nicknamed the Venice of the North for its many canals, has managed to charm me Every. Single. Time. Anyway enough talking, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves and convince you. Please click to enlarge and enjoy!

Quick Update

I have been away for a while because my life has been going at 100km/h again; 4guests in 3weeks, followed by a visit to T, and of course a full time job in my spare time. Something had to give (and I did come down with a bout of bronchitis), so I basically gave up on social media apart from Instagram every couple of days. May is looking like it will be hectic too, but after that life will become calm again since I haven't planned any trips (apart from a Nigerian weekend in London, in July). I am so looking forward to staying in Brussels and enjoying my flat, the city and my new church for a bit.

In other news, German has been going very well indeed; in spite of my extreme busyness, that's one thing I definitely did not let fall by the wayside. Anyway I'm going to  try to catch up on everyone's blogs this week, and update on my German progress as well as Clara's travel tales...

Tomorrow is May day, so have a lovely long weekend everyone!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Clara's Travel Tales: The Rome Edition

Today I'm going to talk about my first solo (sans parents) holiday.

I was 19 or 20, had just moved to Europe a year or 2 before, but had already become infected with the travel bug. I remember asking my parents if I could go on holiday to Italy with my 15 and 14year old brother and sister. They said yes, really. A naive never-really-travelled Nigerian teenager going abroad for the first time without parental supervision with two younger siblings, why not right? In retrospect, I'm not sure if this was a reasonable decision on the part of my parents. Either they had blind faith in my abilities, or they'd just got fed up of having 5 children and were hoping we'd get lost somewhere in Italy. 

Anyway they said yes on the condition that we sorted out everything ourselves. We had to fund the holiday, book the flights and hotels and even get our own passports/visas. As a bona fide OCD-er, everything went according to plan as you can imagine. I hustled, we scrimped and saved, and I looked for the "cheapest" flights and hotels. I say "cheapest" because at the time, as a rookie traveller, I hadn't discovered the low-cost airlines, and only British Airways would do. Now with my Ajala credentials well-established, I fly Easyjet and Ryanair like my life depends on it. Let's just that say my posh days are well and truly behind me and I have become a true ajepako!

Arriving in Italy after so much hard work, and with our purses full of money, we were determined to have 2 weeks of great unsupervised fun. I remember us living large that first week, eating/sampling the Italian fare and even drinking wine, something that would normally be verboten to us! We ate a lot of amazing gelato, spent a day with my cousins and aunty and went crazy with shopping. In the first week, we also did a lot of the main tourist attractions; the Coloseum, the Spanish steps, the Vatican city, Piazza Navona, the Roman forum, made our wishes and threw coins into the Trevi fountain (as an aside, I have since been back to Rome, so maybe the legend is true?). In short, life was peachy, until the day that my sister's purse and bankcards were stolen on our way back from St Peter's Basilica.

We'd got the metro and as ajebutter kids didn't realise you could be robbed. So when this pregnant lady fell against my sister's bag, she thought nothing of it and just tried to help her up. At that point, she felt a hand in her bag, but before she could react the woman jumped off the train and ran off at the next station. We were in shock! You see we'd been spending the cash I changed before arriving and were saving the money on her card to pay the hotel when we checked out; that is the cost of two rooms for 2 weeks, minus the 10% deposit. As you can imagine, quite a bit of money! In panic, we rang the bank to cancel the card, then went to find a police officer to whom we could report the incident. They were completely useless and very unhelpful, and as a result of all the running around, we missed our bus back to the hotel. Oh yes, tiny but important detail, the hotel was on the outskirts of Rome, about 1hour away, so a free shuttle bus was provided morning and evening. 

Anyway so here we were in Rome, with night beginning to fall, even less money, and definitely no clue about how to get back to the hotel. Light-bulb moment, we called the hotel who told us that as we'd missed the bus, it was up to us to find our way back. However, as no public transport went as far as the place itself, they were willing to pick us up from a train station nearer the hotel. Upset at this news which meant spending even more of our precious Euros, we got the train to the stop as they'd instructed us, and that my friends is when the real fun on that trip began.

We tried to call the hotel a million times, but the combination of my non-existant Italian and their bad English meant that everything was lost in translation, until my phone battery finally died. Frustrated with the whole debacle, we decided to try to find a bar where we could use the pay phone and where we could have a meeting point for them to come pick us up, since the train station was completely deserted. Anyway when we tried to communicate with the people there, we were told that you needed a special card for the pay phones which we of course did not have! I swear at that point, I started to wonder if the people from my father's village had followed us all the way to Italy and decided that we'd never return home. Well that is when God/fate decided to remember that he/she had 3 young kids somewhere in the Roman countryside who needed to be delivered from a bad and rapidly worsening situation. Basically, a kind but completely BONKERS woman heard us talking about our dilemma and offered to drive us back to the hotel. Ecstatic at this wonderful answer to prayers, we jumped into the car, only for her to tell us about 5minutes into the journey, that she wasn't supposed to be driving her car because it was no longer road-worthy.

She drove recklessly in the car that had only one dim headlight, smoked cigarette after cigarette, chattered Italian non-stop, asked us to hang on to the doors as they could fall off at any time, and told us to keep an eye out for the police! I can still remember the fear that gripped me each time she took a bend, I tell you, we were beyond relieved to arrive at the hotel safe and sound. Amazingly, she refused to accept anything from us and even seemed embarrassed when we became too effusive with our gratitude.

After this adventure, we decided (mostly because we had no more money), to stay at the hotel for the last couple of days and truly enjoy the facilities. As the resident OCD-er, I made a budget, subtracting the hotel fees and airport transportation costs from the funds we had left, made a budget for all three of us and divided the money equally.  We lived off cheap tinned foods, until my brother (the ajebutter) rebelled after the second day and refused to eat any more of it. He spent the rest of his money, then promptly made friends with a British family who basically fed him for the rest of our stay there...awon Oliver Twist tinz. Anyway everything went okay, until we decided it'd be a good idea to leave for Rome a day early so we could at least visit my cousins and say goodbye before going home to England. Being that it was the final day, (and due of course to my impeccable money management skills), we were able to treat ourselves to fine food, make the (very foolish) decision to store our luggage at the train station and do some final sightseeing before going for dinner at my aunty's.

The staff at station quoted us a price for 24hours which sounded sensible and within our budget, so we agreed and left our stuff. The next day, arriving at the station early in order to take our train to the airport, imagine our surprise when they told us that the fee was at least 100€ more than the initial quote! Remember every single cent of our money had been calculated and accounted for. When we'd begged/cried to no avail, we reported them to the police, but they couldn't and didn't give a flying fuck about our situation. Eventually, I did some calculations, and realised that if we gave them everything, and asked our parents to come get us from London, we'd be missing only 25€. That is when I decided to do something that still makes me proud of myself, but also makes me cringe in shame whenever I remember it. I basically left my siblings at the station and started begging on the streets. I repeatedly offered my phone to whoever wanted it, in exchange for the money. Of course I wasn't very successful. No one wanted my shitty phone, many people didn't speak English, and of course the stereotypes of seeing a black child begging on the streets of Europe meant that many people instinctively avoided me, that is until I came across my American Samaritan. He was young, (must have been in his early 20s) and didn't seem particularly to have a lot of money, but he took pity on us and gave me the money without taking my phone. He even refused to take my address as guarantee that I would reimburse him! He was just a good Samaritan plain and simple. Thanks to this amazing kindness, we were able to pay, retrieve our luggage and rush to the airport....but of course the story doesn't end there haha!

We got to the airport late and had only a few minutes to spare before our flight left but thought we'd make it because things were finally going well, that is until we got to the security/border control.  In a hurry, and still stressed from the events from earlier on in the day, my sister got pissed and became very sassy with the officer who then decided to pay us back by holding us hostage. He repeatedly checked hers and my brother's passports, called his colleague over and wasted precious minutes laughing at the pictures. That my friends is how we missed the flight.

After all that kerfuffle we sha arrived at the BA counter, where the British people, took one look at us and decided to take pity and put us on the next flight home. Miraculously this was completely and utterly free of charge. Looking back, and writing this really makes me think how God/someone was watching out for us.

Anyway, back in London, we made up some flimsy lie and got my parents to pay for our coach tickets home over the phone. Till today, we have never shared that story with our parents, initially because we were scared they'd prevent us from going on future trips, and now because it's a kind of special secret between us children. We still laugh about that holiday, and the three of us became closer after it. The younger two think we're cool survivors, and are kind of jealous of our Italian adventure. 

So, ever been on a crazy holiday or trip? Please share your experiences and let all laugh about them!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

Still going hard on the grind. This week was also really productive even though I seem to have lost the feeling that I'm progressing in leaps and bounds. I think that is what happens as one moves away from being a complete beginner; the steep learning curve which also means massive leaps in knowledge acquisition gradually becomes less steep and of course the leaps become "just" strides.

Anyway on to this week's review...
  1. Done. As with last week, I did a bit of listening to radio, because I automatically put it on whenever I am out and about in Brussels. However, I am loving Das Erste and ZDF; German TV stations where I can watch stuff with subtitles. I even watch a short 6minute documentary last night about Nigeria. Love, love these two stations!
  2. Done. I saw Hanna on Thursday and spoke quite a bit of German. I am really glad I met her, becuase apart from the German, we get along very well and spend most of our meetings giggling. Last time I met her, an elder gentleman stopped us as we left the restaurant to tell us how refreshing he found us. He'd been watching, and said he loved the fact that two young women could just meet up and spend the evening laughing away. It was so sweet!
  3. Done. I wrote a super long email to MIL on Tuesday (the words flew off the tip of my fingers), then got Hanna to correct it on Thursday, the poor thing. I hadn't done that in a while and it was good to have her input, and for her to pick up on my many many mistakes.
  4. Done. I finished the book I was reading and started another one. It is about 250pages long, so it should take much less time anyway, but I think I've also become a bit better and faster at reading in German. It's a much harder book to read, but I like the story and am enjoying the book, so I will not give up.
  5. Done. I reviewed the 12 chapters that I previously done and became a bit more confident with some of the rules.
  6. Done. I am so happy that I have re-found my zeal for Duolingo. I have done it everyday since last week and I find myself flying through the levels. I kind of re-did the whole thing, but it was worth it, and I think it was good to refresh my memory.
I'm hoping I can repeat last week's successes and work even harder this week, although I have another friend visiting this weekend. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

After so many weeks of slacking with German, I seem to have found my zeal again, thank God! I worked hard this week, and felt myself slowly sliding back into the world of German grammar and vocabulary. I learnt a hard lesson which is that no matter how hard you've worked previously, slacking off usually leads to a loss of muscle tone, in this case brain muscles. I am basically having to re-remember vocab. that was slowly becoming normal to me, and catching myself making silly grammar mistakes. Still I'm back on the horse now, and happy with my progress. I'm off to see MIL and Jen from Ibibio girl in May, and I am determined to impress them both. As I've got just over 7weeks left, I'm going to have to knuckle down and work really hard.

So on to this week's review...
  1. Done! I did a bit of listening to radio, but really focused my energy on watching lots of German TV. I've discovered that I can watch the public channels online with subtitles (for deaf people), and this is such a life-saver as it means that I can follow the programme both by listening and reading. Already seen a few films and documentaries, and there seems to be a whole lot waiting to be viewed. I am so very thankful for HOLA, the browser add-on that lets me change my geographic location online!
  2. Done. I saw Hanna on Wednesday and again spoke a lot of German. She taught me a few choice words this time, and we were both much less in the polite, well-brought up girls mode. I was a bit tipsy, which made pronunciation a bit interesting, but I have so much fun.
  3. Done. I wrote an email to my MIL, and immediately noticed the wasting away of the German muscles of my brain. As in it was hard to get the words to sound smooth on paper, but I persevered and did it. This week should be better.
  4. Done. I am STILL reading the book I bought about 4weeks ago, but I think I'll be done today, as I only have a few pages left. I am sooooo looking forward to reading something else. At this rate, I'll probably end up reading much fewer books than I usually get through each year.
  5. Done! I did my one chapter, but I think this week's grammar goal will be revising all the previous chapters to make sure I've really got the lessons.
  6. Done, and I am so happy about this! I finally managed to get back into Duolingo and I realised it really helps with the vocabulary and even the grammar. 
I'm hoping I can repeat last week's success and work hard, even though I have friends coming over this weekend. And on that note, I wish everyone a lovely week!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Recovery and Recuperation

Normally I have a hectic lifestyle, but these last four weeks have been particularly tiring. I'm not sure if it's because I'm getting older, or just because I overdid things, but I am exhausted! Of course this has taken a toll on my healthy lifestyle and German goals. My diet although far from being completely disastrous, hasn't been perfect, and the quality and quantity of exercising plummeted this last week. In addition to this, I have been struggling with achieving all my language goals. The straw that broke the camel's back though was the terrible day I had at work last Wednesday, when I was attacked twice (once quite viciously) by some of the children. My head has been really messed up since then, and although I had my lovely sister's graduation to distract me this weekend,  I am apprehensive about returning to work. As someone with slight OCD tendencies, I know that routine and order help me cope, and are the best means of dealing with my anxieties. So I have decided to push the reset button by going on a four-day lifestyle detox, encompassing every area of my life including food, sleep and socialising. I'm going to try to eat right, sleep well and take time out to do the things I enjoy doing. I haven't had the time to interact with many people in the blogging community recently and I miss that for example. I also actually enjoy reading, working on my German and seeing my progress, so I am looking forward to picking it up where I left off...
So yeah,  Monday to Thursday will be spent looking after Clara and nursing her, body and soul, back to health.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Last Weekend.

First of all, there'll be no language review this week because....well I only did 4/6 things on the list (conversation exchange, reading, grammar book and radio), because I was yet again very busy. The thing is that I don't actually have the right to paid holiday at the moment, because in Belgium you have to work for a whole year before you can take time off i.e. I can only take my 6week holiday for 2015 from January 2016 onwards, and if I no longer work for them, they'll have to pay me in lieu. In reality, what this means that I have to make up all the hours before or after, every time I travel. As you can imagine, I am exhausted from all the extra work because God knows February was more than crazy. Anyways enough whining for today...

In other more important news *drumroll please* T met the fam! We both left our respective cities on Thursday and travelled down to England to spend the weekend with my family, and I honestly was amazed at how loving everyone was. My naturally shy T completely opened up and really made the effort to talk to and get to know my siblings, my parents outdid themselves with all the cooking/driving/spending/etc., and my siblings...gosh, I have no words! They all told me so many times how good/respectful/sweet T was, and they made such an effort with him. At some point on Saturday, I was completely ignored while all the boys chatted football, then later on hung-out around the XBox. Honestly, I was super worried about this meeting and had been trying to put it off for as long as possible, but that became unsustainable because my parents (mum in particular) were really pushing for T to meet them. Well I'm glad to say that my fears were utterly and completely unfounded, as even the English weather cooperated! 

I stayed one day longer in England to rest, and will be going back to Brussels and real-life tomorrow, at least for a few days....I'm off to Paris on Friday for my younger sister's graduation. Hoping I'll be able to get back on the language horse this week.

Have a lovely week everyone, I hope your weekends were as happy as mine!

P.S. Many thanks to Duru who checked on me when he noticed I'd gone AWOL online. I'm fine, and the busy times are (mostly) behind me now so I'm back.  

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

I think I've reached a plateau in my language learning. This always happens to me at some point during the journey (it did with French and later Italian), and usually occurs when life becomes busy. Well February has been more than busy, because I have spent/will spend 3 out of the 4 weekends abroad (Paris, Vienna, England), and as I currently am not entitled to paid holidays, I've had to make up the hours. All that to say I am slacking seriously with German, but looking forward to resetting the motivation in March (although that's already looking to be very busy too!).

Anyway on to this week's review, which will be short and sweet...
  1. Done. I have the radio on whenever I walk to work, and I of course make sure I watch at least 2 programmes in German every week. I particularly like Karambolage on Arte because the programs are very short and they're all about explaining the German and French culture and way of life to the foreigner.
  2. Done. On the conversation front, things are going quite well and it feels like I can hold up my end. I now use words that I have subconsciously learnt from reading.
  3. Done. I wrote an email to my MIL as usual, but decided this time to really pay attention. I'm starting to move past the stage of being unable to communicate, to the stage where I have the vocabulary and know how to construct simple sentences, so I have decided to be stricter with myself and work harder on avoiding mistakes.
  4. Done. I am still reading the book above, which I bought in Vienna. It's a normal novel for adults and is similar to the kind of books in English that I would normally pick up, so that makes it hold my attention. However my reading speed is much slower, and I will probably only finish it in another week.  Still, I am learning lots of new vocabulary which gets imprinted in my head, because I see the words being used repeatedly.
  5. Done. I did my one chapter and managed to assimilate it. In fact I think that because I am working hard with the reading and conversation exchange, each week the chapter/grammar exercises seem easier. Kind of like the book is slower than my actual progress!
  6. Not done. This is where I am really slacking. I can't seem to find the time or the motivation to do this to be honest. I might have to review this goal soon (maybe reducing the frequency), because I feel so bad whenever I realise I haven't achieved it.
I felt the week was a total flop, and was rather sad about how February seems to have gone, but writing this makes me realise I'm still making a lot of progress. And to be fair, doing 5 out of the 6 things on the list can in no one's books be classified as being an abject failure. There are a few more days to go before we finish the month, so I'm going to try to work hard and finish February on a high.

Wishing everyone a lovely week!