Fancy a roadtrip to Australia?

The Oz-Bus is starting its epic journey from London all the way to the land Down Under again in February. The route will lead travellers across three continents and through 17 countries on the way.

This service is the only one that operates a hop-on / hop-off policy all the way from London to Sydney and vice versa. This way, travellers can get off at pre-arranged points and enjoy the many destinations along the way some more. These include the Taj Mahal, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Cappadocia, Kathmandu and The Himalayas and many more. Without getting off the bus and waiting for the next to come along, the trip takes approximately 92 days (depending on political, weather and road conditions... there can be delays, like breaking down or getting lost).
Although the trip costs a staggering £ 4399, all breakfasts, ferry tickets, entry fees to all National Parks visited as a group and all accommodation, which can be hotels, hostels or tents. It also includes some extra money, should flights be necessary in politically instable countries, where overland travel might not be safe. If this flight supplement is not spent, travellers get it refunded.
With this epic roadtrip, the journey really is the destination! You don't travel 92 days just to get to Sydney if you could fly there in 24 hours. No, it's all about the travelling, getting insights into local cultures, meeting new friends on the bus and having the adventure of a lifetime.
Somehow, I've got itchy feet now and I'd love to go on this trip! If you feel the same, check out for more information, a map and departure dates. Oz Bus also offers overland roadtrips through Africa, along the Hippie Trail and they are now taking bookings for their first ever London to New York trip departing in March 2010 (lasting 95 days, through Russia, Japan, Canada and 11 states of the US, including Alaska).

So get travellin'!

And it's goodbye to the campervan!

I have been to my first ever banger race today. And it was great fun! Who knew you could get so much joy out of seeing cars beeing raced, and ultimately, crashed??

This morning, when we made our way to Carnforth, I had no idea what was gonna happen. We made it to the track in Warton (just outside Carnforth) by noon, and just in time for one of the races. Sitting and standing on old and dirty tyres, we watched the first lot of cars racing around, with some of them finishing early by either crashing into the walls or breaking down. There were two Mini races on as well, which, of course, were slightly slower than the other races, but nontheless fun to watch. If you decide to be a spectator at a race like this, though, you do need to like the smells of petrol, carbonmonoxide and burning rubber - not necessary in that order though.

Highlight of the day, however, was the last race before the interval: Their annual campervan banger race! Basically, what they do is, they take banger cars and each has to pull at least one campervan. One today even towed two vans... needless to point out he had some troubles in the corners and was the first to get smashed. The whole point of it is to be the last one still making laps around the track. In whatever shape or form (even if it's just the wheels left) the campervan still needs to be attached to the car! The reason this race was on just before the interval, is because it takes a little longer to clean up the mess. And what a mess it was! Only two cars were still going by the time this race was over! Funnily enough, one of them was the car towing the yellow camper in the picture below.

In the end, it started raining so we decided to leave. After all, the whole event was held on a farm somewhere. But the atmosphere was great and I promise you'll laugh yourself silly when you see the object of hatred for every Autobahn motorist getting destroyed... It makes all those hours trailing one of those white whales on the motorway worth it, I can guarantee it.

Roots & Routes

I do keep checking Solinger Tageblatt's Youth Page "Karl." quite regularly, because I am one of their reporters. Karl. is published Tuesdays and Saturdays, and it looks like I've been in today's edition! I found this!

I interviewed DJ Seno Phapilom a couple of weeks ago, as he was part of this year's International Summer School in Rotterdam. He had been invited to take part in the music classes by Roots & Routes, who organised the event.
It's opened up all kinds of contacts for Seno, as a French rapper he met in Rotterdam will be on stage at the Jugendkulturfestival in Soligen this year, and he will go on tour in Sweden with MC KiKo.

Postcard from Manchester

Manchester is always associated with three things: one of Britain's major airports, a football team and the Madchester music scene.

I've recently foraged into this city, for once getting off the train instead of passing through on my way to and from the airport. When I got there, Manchester held a massive Gay Pride parade on Canal street, so people dressed in flambouyant outfits and waving rainbow flags were a common sight that day. Sitting down for some take away lunch on a little piece of grass in the middle of the city, I felt very much like I was sitting on a massive university campus. Some rastas were playing drums and dancing in one corner, couples (hetero and homo) kissed around us and the kids were cooling down by running through a fountain.

If you're the trendy, arty kind, make sure you wander around the Northern Quarter. This is not omly were many famous musicians and artists live, the whole area has this whole arty feel to it. Have a drink at Dry Bar, the joint formerly owned by Factory Records, the company which had the Happy Mondays, Joy Division etc on contract. You can find any album, new or old, in the record stores nearby.

The world's longest golf course

Golfers are in for a treat in Australia. The country just opened the world's longest golf course that has an unique way of completing the 18-holes, 72-par course.

Größere Kartenansicht

Stretching 1365 kilometres from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia, the course requires several days to complete. The route follows the popular Eyre Highway along the Nullabor Plain, and golfers have the chance to play one hole in each town or at each roadhouse along the way. The "Nullabor Links Golf Course" is also a quintessential Australian experience, as it crosses dramatic landscapes from rugged coastlines to the red dirt of the Plain. Situated alongside one of the world's greatest driving routes, this golf course should provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone!

New Zealand edges closer to OZ

An earthquake on 16 July this year has caused New Zealand to shift 30cm towards Australia, scientists found. The earthquake, which had 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale (the biggest for 78 years in New Zealand) struck Fiordland on the South Island, but only caused minimal damage. A global positioning system showed that Puyesgur Point, the south-west tip of New Zealand is now 30cm closer to Australia than it was before.

"New Zealand has been very fortunate. This earthquake anywhere else would have caused huge damage", says Ken Gledhill, director of research organisation GNS Science GeoNet. "It's taken us closer to Australia. The country is deforming all the time because of being on the plate boundary, but this has done it in a few seconds, rather than waiting hundreds of years."

Postcard from Southport

You probably wouldn't immediately believe it when you see Southport today, but in days gone by, this Merseyside city was a popular seaside resort. It is still a seaside city, of course, but it's glory days have passed. That might also be due to the fact, that the sea is further out nowadays then it used to be.

Southport is the only place I know of that has an inland promenade! The sea went further and further away, which resulted in the construction of a ridiculously long (and quite dull) pier. This also resulted in Southport having a marine, salt-water lake between the beach and the promenade. I have been told by a Sandgrounder, that the sea only comes in and actually covers the grassy beach once per month or so.

If you go to Southport's southernmpst suburb Ainsdale, however, you have a proper beach and sand dunes stretching for miles! Ainsdale beach is one in only a handful in the UK, where you can kite-surf legally and safe. The only thing this long sandy beach is missing is an Aussie style surfer-backpackers (which might be housed in the derelict seafront hotel?).

If you walk through Southport town centre, mainly along Lord Street and the side streets leading to the promenade, you can see that the town was quite rich a century ago. Many Victorian-style houses still line the streets. As it seems to be common for British seaside resorts (including Blackpool, which is only 6 miles away if you could cross the water), Southport is teeming with amusement arcades around the promenade and at the start of the pier.

A beer lover's heaven

I finally found something in Southport, that I'd been looking for since I came to the UK in 2007: German beer! There's a shop at the end of Lord Street, called The Inn Beer Shop, that sells nearly every kind of beer you can wish for! Whether it's British Ales, German Pils or Australian Lagers, they've got nearly everything (and if they don't, they know where to get it for you) and you can even sit and drink it on the premises!!

What amazed me most was their collection of Kölsch! There's Früh Kölsch, which is my absolute favourite, Sion Kölsch, Reissdorf Kölsch, Küppers Kölsch, Dom Kölsch.... They were out of Schlösser Alt when I last checked but they told me they'd get some in the next few days. They also have varieties of Pils, including Dortmund Union, Kö-Pi (Königs Pilsener, for those not knowing the German abbreviations), Warsteiner, Radeberger and the list goes on. We even found Simmy's favourite German beer Franziskaner Dunkel! And, just because I haven't had one of them since I left Australia in 2007, I bought a bottle of VB, Victoria Bitter.

So I guess I'll make a point of it, that when I come down to Southport to visit my boyfriend, I will grab a few bottles of Kölsch to take back up to Carlisle with me! Maybe I'll even be nice enough to let my friends try a sip of it as well....

Headlines and bylines

The Champion papers have been published, and I managed to get a story about Bickerbikers online, and get 9 others in print.

Those in print are:

- "Friends fix it for Carol" in the Southport Champion, as well as the Aintree & Maghull Champion, in which an amusement arcade owner thanks everyone for their help repairing everything after a burglary.

- "Crime prevention campaign extended" in the Skelmersdale Champion and the Ormskirk & West Lancashire Champion about a burglary campaign Lancashire's Police are extending.

- "Pharmacies open Bank Holiday" in the Skelmersdale Champion and Ormskirk & West Lancashire Champion, about Health centre opening times.

- "Shape up for health services", also in the Skelmersdale Champion as well as the Ormskirk & West Lancashire Champion (Page 2) about a survey the NHS are carrying out.

- "Guides wanted" in the Skelmersdale and Ormskirk & West Lancashire Champions about Girlguiding looking for new members.

- "Rare bird spotted at mere", in the Ormskirk & West Lancashire Champion, about a rare Wilson's Phalarope spotted at Martin Mere.

- "Drivers warned in speeding clampdown" in the Skelmersdale Champion about a spot check police have carried out.

- "Cathy proves a cut above" in the Aintree & Maghull Champion, about a ladies hairdressers celebrating 40 years.

- "Borther of 60s pop star Noone to stand for UKIP" in the Skelmersdale Champion about entertainer Damon Noone standing for the UK Independence Party. His brother ('the pop star') was part of the band Herman's Hermits.

Not bad, for 3 days of work experience, aye?

The thing that really annoys me, though, is that they managed to misspell my surname in nearly every piece. Just the articles my boyfriend subbed have the right spelling on them. I'm sick and tired of being Cornelia "Kaufman" instead of "Kaufmann", which would be the right spelling.... And the best thing is, I put my name under all of my articles, asking the editor to credit me with a byline. One of the first lessons in journalism is that you always spell-check, even common names can be spelled in several ways. So if a foreign names comes up, and the person it belongs to sits just across the table, couldn't you spare the second asking "Do you spell your surname with one n or two?" ???? Then again, he kept calling me everything, from Conny (which is my name, in the right spelling, I might add), over Cory and Corinne to Coleen... Honestly, people, my name is not that hard to pronounce or spell!!!

Deadline Day

It's deadline day at the Champion office and it's also my last day of work experience. I'll have a few stories in the papers, so that's alright, although I was only here for three days as they needed a helping hand to get copy written and proof read. Good thing then, that my boyfriend is actually a staff reporter with them and convinced them that I would be the right person for the job.

It was good though. English papers work completely different from the Solinger Tageblatt which I got used to now. First of all, the Champion papers come out weekly on Wednesdays. This means, that for an entire week, the reporters collect stories. They have time to follow up leads, check press releases etc. On the Tageblatt, which is (as the title would give away) a daily, you don't have that kind of luxury. In the morning you are told which events you have to cover. If you're lucky, you get 3 or 4 stories for the day. You drive out there, meet the people, interview them face to face and then come back to the office and write your story up. If you've got spare time after that, you write up press releases to fit them into the "Kurz Notiert" column, write previews of shows and events coming to town or go out to do the vox pop "So seh' ich das".

I got a few stories at the Champion, for which I had to ring people and get phone interviews, but it's not the same. It's great though, that I've finally managed to get published in a British paper, and can't wait to get all of tomorrow's editions (they cover Southport, Skelmersdale, Ormskirk, Formby etc.) to see which ones I made it into. Another feature about my view of Southport will go in next week. It's like the one my boyfriend wrote about Solingen for the Tageblatt in German which I translated from his original English story. Basically, it's an outsider's view. Since we both grew up in the city we work in, we might see things sligtly differently.

I was told that today would be really stressful, as deadline is approaching, but so far it has been quite realxed. Friday and yesterday, I wrote about 10 articles per day. Today, I've written one so far and it doesn't look as if I'll get anything more to do. To be honest, it was more hectic yesterday. And I don't seem to be the only one feeling like that today. A lady sitting diagonally across from me is playing Solitaire....

Denglish, Chinglish, Spanglish....

We've probably all come across some weird and wonderful translations while on holiday.

Be it: "All passengers with luggage, including Canada...", or "If you are stolen, call police at once", they all have one thing in common. The person trusted to translate the signs has no grasp of English language and grammar. The same goes for German as well though. "Sehr gehorte Besucher", as seen on a famous Budapest landmark...

The city of Shanghai has had enough now. Many English-speaking tourists are amused by the amount of "Chinglish", they have to read on a daily basis. Signs like "Please bump your head carefully" or "Keep valuables snugly" are common in hotels. Expecting millions of tourists to descent on the city for the World Expo fair, they have now come up with a plan. Student volunteers will check all the signs in the city. When they suspect Chinglish, they have to notify the government, and the person who translated it will have to correct the sign.

Most often these mistakes occur, when a translating software is used, as these softwares go with the first matching word they can find and don't take other uses of a word and grammatical differences into consideration.

Lost in Translation

Here's a story I found on both, the BBC and Spiegel Online.

A female British tourist managed to get herself trapped in a French town hall, after the tried to check in at the impressive looking "Hôtel de Ville". The traveller, who is said to be in her thirties, had not booked accommodation when she arrived in the Alsace town of Dannemarie. Not realising, that the hôtel de ville is the town hall, she'd entered the building late on Friday and gone to the toilet before she wanted to go to reception and get a room.

However, while she was in the restrooms, a late meeting finished and the town's politicians locked the door behind themselves, not hearing the water flushing. When she came back out, she found herself locked in. After spending the night on chairs in the lobby, she wrote a note that she posted on one of the building's doors. It read "'Je suis fermer ici. Est ce possible moi la porte ouvrir?" which translates to "I am to close here. Is it possible me the door to open?". The note was spotted on Saturday morning and Dannemarie's mayor Paul Mumbach let her out.

Dannemarie itself has no hotels, although it is close to the Swiss and German borders. The mayor now thinks about putting up multilingual signs, for English- and German-speaking tourists.

I want to ride my bicycle...

I bought a bike last week! Yes, you've read right. I got myself a bike in Britain.
It's a fairly old, red, 5-speed lady's town bike (quite like the one my mum still has but brighter in colour) which has been collecting dust for the last two decades or more.
It was advertised in the Southport Champion's classifieds for £25. Which is a bargain! So I took the bus from town to Banks, where the former owner of the bike lives and bought it after I had a go around the yard on it. The only thing I have to get used to is the speed-changer, as it's sligtly different from the "twist right and left" ones I'm used to.

The brakes needed a bit of tightening after not having been used for 20 odd years, but there's nothing that can't be fixed. Simmy's friend and housemate is a mechanic, and spent yesterday in the garage going over my bike and getting it roadworthy. I guess, one of these days, I just need to get a light for the front, one more cat-eye for the wheels (there's one on each at the moment) and I need to get a basket and a "bicycle luggage rack" or rear rack (whatever it's called) if I want to use it to go to uni and the shops with. Only because I noticed that I'd suffocate myself, if I carried a heavy bag hanging across my shoulder...

We'll be in Ainsdale this week, going back to Crossens and the bike next Monday, but I might just catch the bus to Crossens one day and ride the bike along the coastal road back to Ainsdale. Since the land is all flat here, that shouldn't be a problem.

Writing for the Champion

I'm currently doing three days of work experience at the Southport Champion - well, I started today and will be there till deadline day on Tuesday. I got to write up press releases - as you would when you're new and on work experience, but I also managed to write three proper stories and one review.

The review is basically the same as my earlier post about "Brick up the Mersey Tunnels" - just in slightly different words. Mainly because I couldn't copy and paste from this blog, but never mind. So, here it is: my first properly published article in the UK that is not part of The Informer: "Review - Brick up the Mersey Tunnels"

Review: Brick up the Mersey Tunnels

A wrong postcode started it all. Instead of a Cheshire postcode, a letter to the Wirral contained a Merseyside postcode. And it all went down from there.

Anyone hailing from Merseyside, or indeed the Wirral, will know that the tunnels running underneath the Mersey are the lifeline for the Wirral peninsula. Commuters travel to and from work in both directions each day. However, the self-proclaimed upper class on the other side of the river looks down on Liverpool as being below their aquired standards- and the Scouses had enough!

That's the setting for Dave Kirby and Nick Allt's show Brick up the Mersey Tunnels, in which three lads from Liverpool have had enough of being regarded as lower class. To show every Wirralian how dependent they are on Liverpool, a three men scouse terrorist group, known as the Kingsway Three, decides to cut the peninsula's feeding tube.

Although it helps to be from Merseyside - as understanding all the cultural references and, of course, the accent - anyone will be able to enjoy this amazingly funny night out. The two rival regions, portrayed as a Wirral mansion and a greasy spoon on Dock Road keep bad-mouthing each other, without taking themselves too serious either. It is this ability to take your own faults and laugh about them, that makes this play truly brilliant. Mix this with new lyrics to well-known songs and a singing and dancing cast and you've got a great modern show coming out of Liverpool.

Männer und Logik

Hin und wieder bin ich der festen Überzeugung, dass Männer und Logik in zwei verschiedenen Welten existieren. Ich bin zur Zeit bei meinem Freund in England. Zusammen mit seinen zwei besten Freunden teilt er sich jetzt eine WG. Das Haus hat drei Schlafzimmer (wobei eins allerdings die Größe einer Abstellkammer hat) und ein riesiges Wohnzimmer.
Zwei dieser drei Jungs haben Freundinnen.

Aus irgendeinem Grund haben sie die Zimmer jetzt so verteilt: Größtes Schlafzimmer: Junge mit Freundin, kleineres Schlafzimmer: Junge ohne Freundin, kleinstes Schlafzimmer: Abstellkammer, Arbeitszimmer und mein Freund hielt es für eine klasse Idee, dass er das Wohnzimmer kriegt. Da hat er sich jetzt seine Matratze in eine Ecke gelegt und einen Sichtschutz drumrumgebastelt. Allerdings sitzen alle abends bei ihm im Zimmer und gucken fern, und morgens um 7.30 kommt der erste Mitbewohner durch's Zimmer gerannt, denn das Wohnzimmer ist der Durchgang zur Küche. Privatsphäre gleich Null! Anstelle zu sagen: "Die zwei in festen Beziehungen kriegen die vernünftigen Schlafzimmer, dann sind die etwas ungestörter." Pustekuchen.

Mein Freund meint jetzt, dass er das Wohnzimmer gekriegt hat, weil er am geselligsten sei. Aber ich denke mir, dass die drei zusammen das Haus ausgesucht haben. Warum konnten sie sich für keins entscheiden, dass drei ungefähr gleichgroße, abschließbare Zimmer hat? Die Klamotten meines Freundes sind über das ganze Haus verteilt, weil er nicht wirklich ein eigenes Zimmer hat. Hier benutzt er den Schrank, da die Abstellkammer.... weil im Wohnzimmer neben zwei Sesseln, einem Fernseher samt Tisch und einer 2-Sitzer-Couch nicht viele Möbel stehen.

Mein Freund sieht das alles nicht so eng. Aber ich find's schon komisch jedes Mal wenn man Schritte hört zu denken, dass da gleich einer im Zimmer steht. Sein Mitbewohner ohne Freundin hätte das normale Schlafzimmer gekriegt, denn "was nicht ist kann ja noch werden." Vielleicht bin ich ja egoistisch, aber hin und wieder ein bisschen Privatsphäre wäre doch schon ganz nett.....

The fine art of packing to weight limits

I'm going back to Britain tomorrow afternoon and I'm still packing! After an exchange year, a gap year and so far 2 years of studies abroad, one should think that I'm used to the whole thing now. Don't get me wrong, I could still pack my gap year backpack in three minutes flat if I had to... but my clothes, toiletries, shoes etc. were rather limited that time.

See, I'm going back to university for my final year. Trying to avoid looking like a chav, I need to take something for every occasion. There's a wedding I've been invited to, so I need to bring shoes for that. It's Britain I'm going to, so boots and sandals are both options... Heels for work, flat ballarinas and sneakers for leisure. Tshirts, fancy tops, warm jumper. I brought my towels with me when I went home for the summer, because somehow they get softer and just plain nicer when mum washes them, so I can't forget to take them back with me! However, all of this is using up an awful lot of space.

My laptop bag contains my laptop (I know that was a give-away), my portfolio, various electronic bits and bobs like an external harddrive and all my charging cables. Luckily I'm a girl, so I get to take a handbag as well (they don't count as hand luggage, for some reason). my handbag is stuffed with books, my camera and a cardigan that didn't fit in the suitcase anymore.

On my Gap Year, I didn't really care how I looked and what I wore. I had 2 pairs of trousers, a couple of tops, one jumper, socks, underwear, sneakers and sandals plus toiletsries and a towel. that was it. But now, I'm packing for half a year of studies and work. I'm not on the road, where I can exchange worn clothes at the second-hand shop for new ones. My Gap Year was one endless summer but now it'll be winter soon. I'm living in Britain, have done so for 2 years now. But when you go home for the summer and then return, you have to pack all your summer clothes you took with you in the first place, plus all the warmer stuff you sent home in spring because it was taking up space.

I could fit everythink into my large suitcase. My large suitcase, however, won't fit in my boyfriend's Mini. So now I have a trolley sports bag. A big-ish sports bag, but still a bag.

But I think, I manage. It always looks ridiculous, when I come back from my summer at home, because I'm carrying so much stuff. But it's basically my life in a suitcase an handbag. I only take what's absolutely neccesary. Though my parents will have to send some more stuff over once uni has started again. Like some books and DVDs. It's weird having two flats to alternate between. Because if you forget something, you can't just go and grab it, it's in a different country! So I have to think about the films and series I want to watch and the books I might want to read before I leave for half a year and pack, or send a parcel, accordingly. It's not as easy as it sounds....

Anyway, gotta go, that suitcase isn't gonna pack itself.... Unfortunately...
I also still need to do the dishes, dye my hair, tidy the place up and sleep a little before my plane takes off....

Internet to go

I'm currently contemplating whether I should get mobile broadband for my last year at university.

See, the problem is: We've had internet at the house before. Which went wrong big time! It took us ages to decide on a deal, and somewhere in the process, there was a screw-up. Suddenly we were charged two landlines, plus the internet. And the person who's name the account was in decided to collect the money but not pay the bills for a year. Which we only found out about when they cut us off. The the rooter broke and it took us ages to get reconnected - only for the contract to run out 2 weeks later. Great! Especially since the two journalists in the house need the internet on a regular basis.

People said they wouldn't contribute to the bill as they are not using the phone or internet. However, my take on things is: They CAN use it when they need it, that's what we have it for. Therefore, they should pay for it too.

But to save me all that hassle, I'm gonna get my own broadband, won't need a phone line and won't have to chase after anyone to get their share of the bill. I can also take it with me on travels or to uni and work on my laptop wherever I am. And I reckon, there are some good deals around out there, so it's not really that much more expensive, if you take the cost for line rental and downloads into consideration. Since I'll be in my third and final year at university from September onwards, and working on final projects, my dissertation and the usual studies, I'll need a constant access to the internet. It's also my lifeline home to Germany.

Will you be there?

My sister kept humming this song at dinner... It's "Will you be there" by Michael Jackson, most of us probably remember from the "Free Willy" soundtrack. How long ago was that though? Must have been one of the first videos I ever got from the library...

Rather inappropriatly, we had sushi, while my sister was humming this song.... But it got stuck in my head, so I had to find it again and give it a proper listen.

Whatever Michael Jackson was, he was an amazing songwriter and singer! I still get goosebumps all over when I hear this!

Government responds to tuition fee petition

In March, I asked you all to sign an E-Petition against an increase in tuition fees. At over £ 3,100 per academic year, tuition fees are already hard to pay for most students.

Yes, there are ways of financing it, like loans and bursaries, but I for example, as an EU instead of Home student, have to rely solely on my savings and earning and to be hoest, I don't think I get my money's worth....

Anyway, after five months, the Prime Minister has finally responded to the petition. Read to on 10 Downing Street's website.

Tell me what you think. Can you see whether he says yes or no to the increase? It all sounds fairly vage to me..... I wonder whether politicians would even think about this increase if they were poor students again and had to pay their way themselves!

Surfing without waves

Hotels are expensive and don't have that personal touch that make a house a home. But a new "sport" could help.

It's summer, and while other spend their holidays at the seaside, many young people don't have enough money for a break. The cash for the cheap flight towards the sun could just about be organised, but a hotel would be too expensive. That's the thought behind Couchsurfing, a network of currently 1,258,401 globetrotters worldwide, who offer their sofas to weary travellers.

Whether you have a couch or not - anyone can participate. It's all about hospitality, and showing others your city, country and culture. Those of you who are afraid to sleep on a stranger's couch or host somebody could offer a drink and a city tour instead. There's no limit to the degree of participation. Surfers come from 62,108 places around the world and most of them are between 18 and 24 years old. A sense of adventure and a bit of courage won't go astray though.

"During spring-time I spent two months travelling through Israel - and surfed couches everywhere", says 23-year-old Lena Zenses from Germany. "My friend only had great things to say about Couchsurfing, so I signed up and got in contact with a few people." Her first surf was a bit strange, she confesses. "My first host was a single guy and I was travelling by myself. But once I got there it turned out to be great!" She is still in contact with many of her hosts.

Judith Enders is a couchsurfer as well. "I spent a few days in Dublin in November. This summer, I'll be surfing in Spain." She's still waiting for some responses from potential hosts, but that doesn't stop this 22-year-old. "If all else fails, there are always youth hostels." She also likes the informative groups on the couchsurfing network. "You can get tipps and suggestions for cities, countries, cultures, routes and so much more. Even if you don't plan to couchsurf and just want to look up your next holiday destination or where to go for a semester abroad - those tipps are really worth it!"

Many big cities worldwide hold couchsurfer meetings. Everybody - surfer, host or just interested people are welcome to come along, meet nice people and find out about the city. "I haven't been to one of the meetings yet, but it's a cool thing. You can also go when you just moved to the town, don't know anyone yet. It's a great way of getting to know a place", says Judith. "Everyone is always trying to make the surfer's stay as unforgettable as possible. I'm certainly hooked", adds Lena.

Love and marriage...

It's amazing, really, how many of my friends are engaged or already married!
Older people think that we're the generation with commitment issues, that we're just after fun and nothing long-term. That we're all happy singletons until we're over 40.

However, that's not true!
A friend of mine who was a fellow New Zealand Exchange student, got married and had a daughter when she was 18. That was 4 years ago.

Friends of mine, who I went to school with in New Zealand, have already been married for almost a year. They met in 2003. Another couple I was good friends with at school (and who got together in 2003 as well) will get married next month. They're all in their early 20s.

One of my best friends gets married next March. Of course I'll be there, though she told me, instead of making me Maid of Honour, I'll be the godmother of her child...

Several others of my friends have gotten engaged as well. Just because we're all still young doesn't mean we can't have serious, long-term relationships! I'm in a long-term relationship myself. Most of our grand-parents were married or at least engaged at our age. My parent's got engaged when they were in their early 20s married 5 years later. Many older people now think that my generation is still too childish to be taken seriously as adults.
I'd say, let's prove them wrong!

Back to Blighty

It's weird that i only have 8 days left in Germany! Don't get me wrong, I'm really looking forward to going back to the UK and seeing my boyfriend again (and on a regular basis too, that is!) but it's just weird that I've been in Solingen for so long!

Since I left school, the longest I've tayed at home was 6 weeks. Now I've been here over 3 months. It was good seeing all my family an friends again, but to be honest, I didn't do much. I've been to Köln once, to Düsseldorf twice. I could have gone more often! Then again, I did 5 weeks of work experience at my local paper, after that I've been freelancing for the rest of the time and must have made an impression, as they now book me for whole days and not just for a story at the time.

But in my free time, I had a lot to catch up on, which didn't really work that well. I meant to get my contacts book sorted, for example, and I just can't seem to finish updating it. I get distracted. Or I fall asleep. One of the two.

Solingen itself has not a lot to offer. There's a city festival Echt.Scharf.Solingen on at the moment, with wine festival and live music and the shops will be open on Sunday (they are usually closed). But I'll miss my favourite event, the Zöppkesmarkt. It's a city-wide flea-market held every September. It's quite good if you're after old vinyl records and cheap junk ;)
I haven't even managed to take my bike onto the Korkenziehertrasse, although that was one of my goals for this summer. my lame excuse is that my bike was flat and I couldn't find why as there's no hole.

And now I'm going back to England. Of course I'm looking forward to it, but I don't have a job over there at the moment. And I don't really fancy going back to uni and spending loads of money on tuition fees for nothing! They still have me waiting on my results whether I passed last year or not. And personally, I learned more doing work experience than during 2 years of study, which really says it all about the University of Cumbria! Honestly, if you consider enrolling there, DON'T!!!! You'll regret it! My Travel Journalism degree turned out to be not about travel journalism at all. It's journalism and tourism management, the two faculties have no idea what we're doing and I'm supposed to find a job at the end of this! Just great!
But then again, I think I'll travel a bit more this academic year. Even if it's just weekend trips. The best thing is: my boyfriend will keep me company, so we sould have a good time whatever happens ;)

Jillaroos and Outback

Lately, I've been having a "McLeod's Daughters" retro session.

This Australian TV show is one of the most successful Australian shows of all time. And for once, it's a show that doesn't revolve around cafés, fashion and star gossip. It's about sisters who have to run their cattle station Drovers Run in rural Australia and have to face the problems of farm and country life.

Half-sisters Claire and Tess McLeod inherit Drovers Run from their dad. Claire had been working on the farm all her life, but Tess had grown up with her mother in the city. They have to prove that they can muster, ride, shear and work on the farm as well as any man could. Later, more and more girls help out on Drovers. There's Becky, who was a troubled teenager and becomes lead station hand, Meg Fountain who used to be Claire's nanny and is now the housekeeper, Meg's daughter Jodi who first hated the country life and then came to love it, there's Kate Manfredi - Jodi's best friend and young farmer, Stevie Hall - Claire's best friend who becomes lead station hand after Claire's death and Becky's departure and later runs Drovers. So many girls help, come and go, I lost track (it also helps that I couldn't follow at least 3 seasons, so I don't know the current cast too well). Then there's the local boys, Alex and Nick Ryan, who are more than neighbours to the McLeod girls. Alex wanted to mary Claire but she had a fatal accident and Nick married Tess. There's Dave, Pat, Rob (Matt), Riley, Terry, Harry, Alberto, Craig, Jake and all the others, who help the girls but can also make their lives hell.

I used to love the show when I was still at school. After graduating, I could only watch it on rare occassions. Now I got the first 4 seasons out of 8 on DVD. The best thing about it: It's got the English audio track on it, as well as the German! Maybe it's got to do with me having had my first major experience with the English language when I lived in New Zealand but I just love the Down Under accent! And some of the main actors are Kiwis, too! But I can watch it in either of the two languages I like!

Then there's that whole Jackaroo/Jillaroo thing. The actors actually work with the animals, on the farm. They muster on horseback, they shear the sheep etc. I have worked as a cowgirl (Jillaroo) in Australia myself, and I loved it! But I can also appreciate, how hard the work is that they have to do while acting! Holding sheep down while shearing them is not as easy as it sounds! It's a completely different concept for a show, it's all filmed on location and the work is actually carried out by the actors, which is why I like the show. That, and a really good script!

Some may say, I'm girly admitting I watch the show, but then again: I AM a girl. If you don't like it, don't watch it! Simple, really!

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