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Published: September 20th 2022
It's almost been a year since I wrote my last blog. At that time Covid still dominated our lives. Now it has become a background irritant. Something to be aware of, but no longer ever present. I had hoped it would have reached this stage earlier. I think many people hoped the same. I had plans to finally re-start my travelling in January, but a third (or was it a fourth?) wave put a lid on that idea.
However it is not as if nothing happened during this time. In fact some pretty big events transpired. Jenni quit her job, and found a new one in Hagen, which is up north, closer to me. So, she not only quit her job, she also moved. From pretty, fairy tale like Schwaebish Hall in the south, to a grim German rust-belt type town in the Ruhr. Hagen isn't beautiful. But it has its charms. It's located in a valley, forests surround it on all sides, and its disjointed layout can make it feel like some giant just decided to pick up some villages and toss them together to create Hagen. It has both the village feel, and the ugly industrial wasteland feel.
Dressing the Christmas tree
It is multicultural, which is a big plus, and the people are friendly. At first glance, when arriving at the station, you might think you have wandered into the German version of the Bronx, but all those shady people are just in your mind. At second glance they turn out to be friendly and welcoming. Boisterous perhaps, loud certainly, but not dangerous.
Hagen is blue collar, with high unemployment, a mix of old Germans and new Germans, in other words locals and immigrants. It is not a rich city. This is the city that Jenni now calls home. She got an apartment with a balcony, on the 4th floor of a block of flats, on a hill. Her new job was a half an hour bus ride away on another hill. She was being trained to become the help desk of her previous life. In other words, when there is a problem with the computers, or the cash machine, or the lights or anything else in a bookstore, they call Jenni to help them out. Well, obviously not just Jenni, but anybody they can get on the other side of the line. In her other life, she might have
been the one placing the call... now she was on the receiving end.
Unfortunately her old life caught up with her... Sort of. Her back gave out. The stress of last year's continuous workload, old injuries, moving from a primarily standing job to a primarily sitting job, and probably many other factors created a perfect storm. An MRI revealed extensive damage in several disks in her upper back. And that was that. There was no returning to her new job. And no looking forward to anything else either. She has been concentrating on her back ever since. And not without results. She started out with excruciating pain, unable to sleep or move much, and has progressed to being mobile again, and while there is still pain, it's not excruciating and not all the time. She did all this through exercises and physiotherapy and a lot of willpower! It is helping. Slowly. However this is a long process, which most likely will end up with surgery in the end. There are ups and downs, good days and bad days. Yet she perseveres, and she is strong and she will overcome.
It was not all about back problems and moving
Winter scenes from my window
to new cities though. We went on a short break to my old university town: Delft. A pretty, canal filled city, sometimes called little Amsterdam. In Dutch history it's important because our founding father, William of Orange, lived and died there, and our royal family is still buried in, what is called, the New Church, though it is not particularly new at 600 odd years. I showed my old haunts, my old student houses, the faculty. After that we went to Rotterdam, where my father came from, and we passed the old flat where my grandmother used to live. But the Rotterdam of my memory was rundown, while the current Rotterdam is full of amazing architecture and spruced up neighbourhoods. It has risen like a phoenix out of its ashes.
There was Christmas and Easter of course, and birthdays too. Spring and summer. Our old pool was renovated, it went from oval to rectangular. And it took forever. Originally planned for April/May, it ended up being end of August! Sure they came in April, took away our old pool, left a hole in the ground and then discovered the groundwater was too high to continue. The rest of the
summer we stared at a sad empty hole. And it was a hot summer! That hole would have been much more pleasant with water in it!
Luckily we could escape the heat for a while. After two years postponement, we finally celebrated my mother's 80th birthday. Not in Lithuania as originally planned, because some people were a little nervous about Mr. Putin's nasty behaviour in Ukraine, but in Ireland. Neither was the original gang all present, due to various circumstances, but it was good nonetheless. We stayed in a lovely refurbished manor/farmstead for a week, and went on many excursions from there. And when the week was over and everyone parted ways, my mum and I spent another week exploring the west coast before returning home ourselves.
And then, not much later, the new pool arose! We had perhaps a couple of weeks of fun from it this year. But there are many more years to come. In the meantime it was my turn to do something, I decided to re-lay the tiles around the pool myself. That was when I still thought it would happen at the beginning of the season, and I could do the job
at leisure. As it turned out, by the time it was finished, I had an appointment with my clinic. Another trial. Ireland had depleted me. I managed to do about half before leaving. The rest will happen when I get back, and before I leave for my next adventure...
Yes, you read it correctly! After more than two years, His Dudeness is going on a trip again. Beyond the confines of Europe. To where? Ye shall discover that if you read my next blog toward the end of October. Until then: be good and don't do the Putin thing! War is bad!
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