Category Archives: Pas mal

“What a tapir” – or – How to insult a Brazilian

Tapirs, in Portuguese called Anta, do not enjoy much respect or a high reputation in Brazil. On the contrary, to call someone “uma anta” equals to denying this particular person even the most basic intelligible reasoning.

Maybe that’s why tapirs are threatened. In a mundus humanus, not being a cute animal hardly helps conservation.

Tap, tap, tapirI kind of like them. They are peaceful, slow vegetarians and like to take a swim. Plus, the little ones are cute. Don’t you think?


Why 2014 is already over in Brazil

Yep, that’s right: the year 2014 is already over. Actually, it never had a chance.

Let me explain: the year in Brazil – as in working year – starts once Carnival is over. University courses start, you get work done again, administrations function normally. Kind off…

2014 however is different. First, Carnival was late – only in the first week of March and as it lasts till Wednesday, people spent the remainder of the week on the beach or recovering from hangover. So technically, the year should have started on March 10th.

Only now is the perfect moment to strike (a greve). The federal police is striking and the post, the workers in the harbors, train conductors and hospital workers are joining them in one part of the country or another. Striking – you have to admit it – is an excellent way to spent the time till the Easter holidays in April.

After Easter, it’s already time to prepare a copa – the World cup. Nobody of the right mind down here is expecting to get any kind of work done during the world cup. The days a seleção – the Brazilian team – plays have already been declared public holidays. For all other games, the city in which they are played can also declare a public holiday.

Then comes the winter holidays and afterwards it’s already time for the general elections in October, during which Brazilians are called to vote for the members of parliament in the states and the federal state, senators, governors and of course, the president.

Till the newly or re-elected governments really take effect – fim do ano – end of the year which starts right on time the 24th of December and lasts till Carnival 2015. Or more precisely the Monday thereafter.

I’ll let you do the count.


Largest lake on an island in a lake on an island

Largest lake on an island in a lake on an island

Warning: A post with potential for brain injuries due to too much thinking.

Primera semana

The first week in a new place. In a new country for this matter. This irritating feeling to have lost all reference points. And, even worse, not really being able to speak the language.
The nagging realization that in a week’s time, there is no plane to go ‘home’. Because ‘home’ is something I want to, I have to build here and now. The distressing insight that all friends, all acquaintances, all the little places I used to go are a solid 8000 km away…

But then, there is also the police officer who walks over and then doesn’t stop chatting with me for almost an hour. That helped to boost the confidence in my Portuniol! There is the moment when taking a sport class and three ladies come over to say hello. And the successful finding of this building I was looking for even though the bus dropped me off at a 20 minutes distance. There is the chat with the lady from the university secretariat. The professor is still not in but  now I know when he should be. And the ride home in a cab that a guy at the bus stop negotiated for me. Did cost only 0.50 reais more than the bus and was much, much faster.

Leaving life at is behind to build a new one. Never easy, but almost always worth trying.


Though I don’t remember the exact date; it is a good 10 years ago that I left Germany. What started as an Erasmus year in Grenoble, brought me back to Berlin almost 4 years later. Only to leave again after the best world cup summer ever to go to South Africa.

From there to Belgium and now? Now, Brazil after five long though full and fulfilling years in Brussels.

When being asked if I don’t miss living in Germany; my answer is no. I sometimes miss my family but not much more. I love to visit Germany and I still feel very much German, especially when it comes to football, but already the few months I spent in Berlin in 2006 felt like a step back.

Living abroad, may it be France, Belgium, Brazil or Trinidad & Tobago, is never easy. It’s often complicated, sometimes tiring and occasionally annoying. Not being able to communicate, not knowing where to go when you have a problem, not being aware of different social systems all make it challenging. And still, this exactly what I like.

To me, life feels richer, fuller. I know that this is just me. Other people think differently, have different values. I remember when being all new and naive at university, not even 19 years old; I met a French student, fluent in German, studying Japanese and preparing her next big trip. And I thought: Wow, this is what I want too.

Looking back at the last 10 years, it is kind of what I got. Do I enjoy it? Yes, very much so. Was it easy to get there? Hell no!

So, what do we learn from this? Not much, sorry. Try to do what feels right to you; correct it when it feels wrong. Not exactly rocket science but worth remembering sometimes.


When exactly did this happen? How did it come that we are already at the end of this year?  It had barely started… It seems that the more intense you live, the faster life seems to go. At least for me and I’m not sure I like it.

Not that I’d be in a position to complain. I met new, fantastic people. The bunch of fellow students is more than just nice. They are cool, intelligent and funny people. Even after almost 12 months, I still don’t know many of them as well as I would like to. There is so much more to learn and to discover.

And what’s even better, I’m making plans – step by step – to move to a new country, a new continent. Isn’t that cool? Not that I’m not scarred a bit but the excitement prevails. 2012, here I come!


Another exam. Penultimate. One more to go and then it will be only papers & assignments. Halleluja.

One more deserved and much needed week of holiday. Doing the Deutschlandtour; driving from Cologne to Magdeburg, to Dresden, Jena, Darmstadt and back. Seeing more from my home country in a week than in the past 10 years combined.

Upon the return, the new life makes it first concrete step towards a new continent while my schedule gets even busier than it already was. Hard to believe but true.


What a busy month. Big conference for work, one more deadline, and even more exam preparation. At the same time, the new direction where ‘our’ life will be leading us is becoming certain. Excitement and anxiety are nicely kept in balance.

People keep on asking me how I find time to study while working. My answer by now: Nobody ever finds time. You make time by doing some things less frequently and take this time to do others more often.



Back to school. And oh is it hard to get started again. From now on, no breaks but a four weeks between classes instead of the usual three over Christmas. It is but one long finish.

On top of school work, there is even more real work (the one I get paid for, instead of paying for like the first one). But then again, there is not too much time to think about all I have to do. Just getting is done, one after the other, is the secret to remaining sane.


Break!!! No class. It feels like I’m a child again, happy about school being out. Though, it’s not out ‘out’. There are deadlines coming up in September, books to read, cases to prepare. But hey, there is no summer. So why wasting good time outside.

Still, occassional frisby duels in the park, a walk or two over to the ice cream shop and after all a week of holiday: Learning how to sail with a catamaran. No wind = no fun; but that was just the first day. The others bring wind, the trapez, the spinnaker, a storm, and a lot of fun.