Lieber  Herbst, du bist zu früh…

…und schon mit der Tür ins Haus gefallen, obwohl im Kalender noch ganz fett August steht, ein traditioneller Sommermonat auf der Nordhalbkugel. Du machst es dir ungebeten auf dem Sofa gemütlich, zuckst gleichgültig mit den Schultern und wunderst dich selbst, dass noch kein Weihnachtsgebäck in den Supermärkten zu finden ist. Dann wartest du eben, nicht wahr? Und blickst dabei deutungsschwanger auf mein Hüftgold, dass eigentlich noch im Wandlungsprozess zur Sommerfigur war…du meinst, jetzt bringt die Gymnastik auch nichts mehr, ich solle doch gleich wieder die kuscheligen Pullis anziehen.

Lieber Herbst, nichts für ungut, aber das geht eindeutig zu weit. Du gehst zu weit. Du bist zu früh. Und ich mag keine Zu-Früh-Kommer oder Frühstarter oder Drängler. Gilt für Partygäste, für Sportler, die den Startschuss nicht abwarten können, gilt auch für Sexpartner.

Warum hast du es dieses Jahr eigentlich so eilig? Siehst du denn nicht, dass wir hoffnungslos überfordert sind mit dem plötzlichen Herbstblues, obwohl noch überall Open Airs und Sommerkinos stattfinden?! Wir haben noch nicht genügend gegrillt, in Seen und im Meer geplantscht und Erdbeeren gepflückt, noch zu  wenige Sommer-Sundowner geschlürft und Eis gegessen. Ach, ich könnte immer so weiter jammern und dabei glatt vergessen, dass dein plötzliches Dasein, den Smalltalk vereinfacht und ich auch froh sein kann, dass ich mir jetzt auch keine Sorgen mehr um Sonnenbrand oder Mückenstiche machen muss.
Überlege es dir doch noch einmal, keiner wird dir böse sein, wenn du etwas später kommst. Ich jedenfalls hätte gern noch ein paar Wochen Sommer pur.

How to turn a marathon into a party

Bildschirmfoto 2016-04-15 um 10.56.49Running 42km sounds like a nightmare to you? You’d rather stay in bed all day long on and not get up at 6am – on a Sunday – just to run, right? And most definitely running is far from being a party. Making a comparison here would be an insult to anyone who stays up all night and day starting from Friday after work till Monday morning before work.

Also vice versa – a bunch of runners may want to distance themselves from the idea of going to a „P A R T Y“ in the context of running as they are very seriously chasing records and have trained very seriously for a race.

While I have nothing but respect for all professional athletes who have a running career and actually make a living from running, the majority of „us“ runners could probably relax a little more, put a smile or two on our faces and most importantly retract our elbows that keep others from overtaking or at distance. We don’t live in a time where we have to chase after animals anymore and prove to our family and community that we can take care of them with great running (hunting) skills.

Running is a lifestyle – for some it is to demonstrate a certain level of fitness and toughness, for others it is a way to become more fit. For me, running has become a way it to see life from different perspectives – running helps me think and sometimes not to think – most often to get some fresh oxygen into me head, get my body moving. Of course I could do all that and have the same effect on any given day, I don’t have to register for marathons. True.

The same accounts for listening to music actually: you could to that anywhere and anytime, all by yourself or just with your besties – then why do you go to a club, concert or festival? Because you enjoy the very special atmosphere of how your favorite music is played and because you get to be part of the performance. And this feeling is purely G R E A T.

Just like running is to me – especially in Hamburg. I’ve lived in this city for almost six years, I call it my (second) home. Home is where your heart is, where you don’t feel stressed, right? You can be and act the way you are, right? You can run around in the clothes you feel most comfortable in or just naked, don’t wear any make-up or a lot, eat on the sofa, or in bed, sing like no one’s listening although your neighbors probably do.

This is exactly what I’m feeling about tomorrow. Why stress out when it’s about enjoying who you are and having a good time. Just like my main goal for all of last year’s runs was to have fun, I want to have a hell lot of fun tomorrow, too. Crossing the finishing line and even getting close to a new PB would be great – I admit that. Compare it to seeing someone at a party/concert/festival and making a move of talking to him or her, exchanging phone numbers or just hitting it of right there, right then

Bildschirmfoto 2016-04-16 um 21.02.59I’ll let it all happen and I’ll party from head to toe by putting on a glitzy headpiece, lace up my dancing….uhm running shoes with silver wings. I cannot wait to feel the goose bumps with balloons flying up in the air and crossing the starting line, then trying to spot familiar faces along the
race, trying to high five as many kids as possible, waving to the samba bands who stand out there for hours to keep thousands of runners moving. It’s part of the performance. It’s my way of turning a marathon in to a party.

Hope to see you there. Cheers😉

 

Why Brazil made me happy-sad

When people are asked about Brazil they think of soccer, sun, beaches – first and foremost Copacabana and Ipanema – Caipirinha, Havaianas, maybe even Capoeira. At the same time they also think of favelas, poverty, drug abuse, and street crime. It’s for a fact that Brazil has all of that – the things, places, and climate we dream of from the other side of the globe – but all the other ones, too that often make people avoid countries like Brazil or worry very much when you tell them you’re actually going to Brazil.

For all the good reasons and for my never ending wanderlust, my hunger for traveling and new, exotic adventures far far away, I made Brazil my next travel destination nonetheless.

So I packed my backpack (this time just 8,3kg), did some but very little preparatory reading on where to go and studied basic phrases, checked places to stay with my travelmate, booked a roundtrip and boarded an airplane after work on December 30th last year. I prepared mentally for a robbery and felt a major flashback to the time I visited Colombia (in 2014).

I imagined I would hand out my cash and my belongings should I be robbed, without hesitation. I would probably bite my tongue to not yell at the thief. I would try not to worry too much and move on for I wouldn’t be the first one to be robbed and I would probably be able to replace most things after all, if I thought I really had to. So many „ifs“ and „woulds“, right? Well.

Our trip started: we celebrated New Year’s Eve in São Paulo, we walked around the deserted city centre on New Year’s Day, took the nightbus to Foz do Iguaçu and visited the breathtaking Iguaçu Waterfalls on both the Brazilian and the Argentinian side (which got us an extra stamp in our passports), we flew to Rio de Janeiro where we sunbathed at Copacabana and Ipanema and watched the eager vendors selling anything from refreshements and grilled shrimps to swimwear, handmade jewellry, and sunglasses, we strolled around the Avenidas, did all the touristy stuff from visiting the Christ statue, admired the sunset from Pao de Açúcar, tried to take photos on and from the Escadaria Selarón – a somewhat selfie must-go destination – fell in love with the Brazilian relaxed friendliness, induldged lots of Caipirinas and almost daily Açai, kept trying to say things in Portuguese even though it was pretty hopeless for the locals would pronounce things and places so differently we could have just pointed at a map or the menue in the first place, but we found joy in these daily adventures and projects from making our way around, and finding a laundry place to booking tickets or understanding the instructions at Crown CrossFit where we walked by just by accident and I got to drop in for a team WOD one time during my three weeks in Brazil.

Here’s a selection of pictures (out of cam – didn’t have time so far to edit them), but read on below, the story isn’t over yet😉

Our trip continued: we went to Ilha Grande, swam in natural pools with lovely waterfalls, had more Caipirinhas, watched fishermen and had a good laugh with some Brits on a rainy afternoon when we took a boat taxi from one beach back to the main town Abraão and got tickled by „liquid sunshine“. We followed the tracks of pirates in cobblestone paradise Paraty, slided down Tobogã waterfall that locals can actually surf, fed little monkeys, learned how Cachaça is made and tasted different flavours. We also learned to accept the rain in Petrópolis, a small town (compared to Rio or São Paulo) totally different from all the sunny, beachy places we’ve seen before. A town that took us back to 19th century imperial Brazil. We felt like backpacker prince and princess.😉

And so the weeks went by, we met travelers from many places, actually even ran into someone I know (from my CrossFit box in Hamburg) – how odd and great was that?  We had great talks over beer and caipirinhas in hostels, in a favela restaurant (Bar do David in Rio apparently serves incredible ribs…I of course didn’t eat them, but I know for a fact they made someone really, really, really happy) became friends with some travelers and marveled about others who palavered about conspiracies or played online poker literally all day long.

Eventually it was time to pack up again and sqeeze all the memories and new Havaianas into my luggage. The last day in Rio was quite melancholic for I realized there are still sooooo many things to see and do in this city alone and then of course in the entire country. However, it was time to say goodbye for now.

All this time in Brazil I almost never felt insecure. Yes, I was a little hesistant when we walked around São Paulo on January 1st which felt like we were in an apocalyptic movie or on our first day in Rio, when we navigated to our Air BnB located in a favela (which was in fact safe as decribed by the host and a really cool and real starting point for exploring Rio with all its facades) or this one time I rented a bike in Paraty and rode it back home in the dark without the lights on…because it didn’t have lights.

There’s in an undeniable injustice in Brazil, of course, too: with wealthy neighborhoods and nice accommodations that will lay out towels folded to swans even though they are not a luxury hotel just a few blocks away from some of the poorest people, incredibly little understanding for plastic waste while lush nature slowly vanishes, noisy traffic, ice-cold air-conditioned metros, cinemas, and, shops. And so on. You’d be lying if you’d only romanticise about Copacapana and Caipirinha, the sun and sound of singing birds in the jungle.

Whatever image you have of Brazil or in fact any other country in the world: go, see, feel, smell, live it for yourself. Be open – make an effort. I’m not saying you should take risks, or do something irresponsible – that’s totally up to you. I’m just hoping you’ll give all impressions an honest place in your memory and perhaps can even make a change to the injustice, not only in Brazil.

We may have been slightly more conscious about our valuables than normally when going out in Hamburg, and we avoided the areas known to be dodgy. Maybe we were lucky and maybe my relaxed face – which people often mistake as a mean look – helped to keep pickpockets away. Maybe someday in my homecountry someone will try to rob me and maybe even suceed.

What no one can take from me and what obviously exceeds the value of a camera or my credit card, are all the mental pictures. In the end: Happy End.

Die Silvester-Frage

Manche hassen sie, manche kennen die Antwort darauf schon im Juli: Jedes Jahr das gleiche – mit Freunden oder Familie in eine Skihütte oder ein Haus am Meer. Andere wiederum wissen bis zum Silvestertag selbst nicht genau, auf welche der vielen Privat- und Clubparties sie gehen sollen oder ob die Couch nicht doch der beste Ort ist, um den Jahreswechsel zu begehen.

Ich bin ein Hybrid was die Silvester-Frage betrifft: Am liebsten würde ich sie umgehen und ganz oft weiß ich erst kurz vorher, was ich mache. Meistens feiere ich erst zu Hause, mit der Option noch um die Häuser zu ziehen. Gerne wüsste ich aber auch schon jedes Jahr im Juli, dass ich irgendwo hin verreise, wo zwar sicher auch gefeiert wird, aber die Reise allein und das woanders sein eben geiler ist als jede vermeintliche Party des Jahrhunderts. So beginnt man das Jahr gleich mit neuen Eindrücken, trifft neue Leute, hört noch nicht gehörte Geschichten und erlebt seinen Alltag in einer fremden Umgebung als Abenteuer.

Da ich das Hütten-Ding bisher noch nie gemacht habe, kann ich nicht absehen, ob ich auch irgendwann zu den Fans dieser Variante gehöre. Die Vorstellung mit lieben Menschen ein paar Tage unterwegs zu sein und einfach das Beisammen sein zu genießen – mit allen Macken und Gewohnheiten – finde ich auch gut. Vielleicht komme ich nächstes Jahr in den Genuss.

Nachdem letztes Jahr Couch und Fischmarkt auf dem Silvesterabend-Programm standen, zieht es mich dieses Jahr tatsächlich wieder auf eine Reise. Ob und wir mir das Tanzen und Feiern ins Jahr 2016 in der Megacity Sao Paulo gefällt, werde ich dann im nächsten Jahr erzählen.

Jetzt muss ich nur noch etwas zum Anziehen finden. In Brasilien trägt man nämlich traditionell weiß. Nur im Post-Weihnachts-Winterschlussverkauf bin ich so gar nicht fündig geworden, zumal ich a) noch arbeiten muss und b) sommerliche Teile derzeit auch eher Mangelware sind.

Ich werde Silvester wohl also erstmal shoppen gehen (müssen) und dann…ja dann…ein bißchen bailar, cantar und beber!

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Kommt gut rein – wir sehen & lesen uns im nächsten Jahr!

10 things I learned since eating vegan

It all started with a one week experiment last year in November and the question: Can I go 7 days without cheese and other delicious dairy products? And of course meat, but I haven’t missed that since summer 2001, when I decided to turn vegetarian.

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The base: fresh veggies ’n fruits.

I often wondered what it would be like as a vegan. Could I consider myself a vegan if all that’s plant based in my life would be my food? Why wouldn’t I switch all my cosmetics, my clothes and domestic products to vegan, too? Honestly, I thought it would be very hard to eat and cook plant based, altough I don’t mind cooking at all. I also thought it would mean I’m making a political statement which was never my intention. Also I was unsure if I had to compromise in terms of sports. And I worried that I had to spend heeps of money on a bullshity cooking book.

But to find the answers to my questions, I had to find out for myself whether this vegan thing worked for me and what the effects are.

So if you’re unsure if vegan is at all anything for you or you’ve just recently made up your mind that it is and are still looking for adivce, or you’re just not convinced yet, maybe my list of top 10 things I observed since eating vegan will help.

Spoiler alert: I disapprove any kind of dogmatic preaching – so if you’re longing for „vegan is the only true kind of diet/living“-arguments I guess this list won’t help you. But, please read and find out for yourself😉

1.) It’s super easy!
No, really it is. It turned out that one week was not a challenge, it was way too short to try all the yummy sounding recipes for soups, pasta, and all sorts of cakes and baked or non-baked sweet goodies.

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Snack balls with dates, nuts and coconut sprinkles. They are even paleo.

It’s that easy because conventional grocery stores sell lots and lots of vegan stuff. Some aren’t necessarily labelled as vegan, but they don’t have to be: I usually spend most of my money on fresh fruits and veggies (surprise, they are vegan), then legumes like chickpeas and lentils, some on oat milk (my favorite milk substitute), nuts, and carbs (yes I eat carbs). So I skip the dairy product section, the candy corner (okay sometimes I’ll grab a bag of chips) and the corner of processed frozen meals. Of course I could also hit farmer markets for most of my shopping, but I haven’t made that switch yet for „my supermarket“ is just a 5 minute walk away from home.

By that I managed to get more variation into my cooking habits. I took time to read and tried to understand those tiny printed lists of ingredients somewhere hidden on packages or at least research them (e.g. soy lecithin or preservatives) later.

2.) Learn to question lists of ingredients
So why is there soy lecithin in let’s say Oreo cookies? They are considered vegan, but not labelled as that, because they could contain traces of milk – usually because products like that are manufactured/packaged in the same place as conventional foods. And what about soy, seitan, starch or coconut oil in my food? Where do these ingredients come from? How are they processed? And so on. By investigating on ingredients I gained a better understanding gratitude for food in general.

3.) Stay active and follow your athletic (amateur) goals
Until today, I haven’t seen a doctor and asked for a blood check or a vitamin B12 test so I obviously can’t provide any scientific proof how the switch to plant based foods has had a positive effect. However, every time I donate blood my blood levels are grandissimo (and I haven’t blacked out yet afterwards). And let’s look at some other facts: I finished several runs this year very close to my personal records (which honestly I could have achieved with a more disciplined training and fewer cakes), I hit several PRs in crossfit, and I’m finally able to do proper kipping pull-ups. Plus, I feel I’m constantly improving and I’m thrilled for running and crossfitting more and more in the future.

4.) Asking will save you from pouting.

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Falafel plate with egg plant and sesame sauce (about 4EUR) at one of my favorite falafel places in Hamburg: Kimo

It’s also easy when you ask and speak openly about your eating habits. People can’t read your mind, so don’t be disappointed when there’s just the usual. Ask waiters at restaurants if you’re unsure about a meal, your friends if you’re invited to a dinner/brunch/coffee & cake party, your family to just accept and not be afraid that it’s a crazy diet or that you want to convert them (you should’ve seen the reactions at Christmas last year).
When you’re traveling learn how to ask the necessary questions – ideally in the local language. I’m currently preparing for a trip to Brazil and my survival Portuguese definitely needs an update.

5.) Relax. You won’t die from a tiny bit of cheese. And you won’t die from the questions people ask.
Geez. Are you feeling bad or disgusted whenever you eat cheese, because a tiny bit fell into your salad, or you drink a regular Cafe Latte (with that Pumpkin Spice extra for instance) and can’t resist grandma’s apple pie? You shoulnd’t. Because you chose to not eat certain things. It’s a luxurious position you put yourself in. If you don’t want to eat the cake or finish the salad you started…fine, live with it.

If you feel redemption is necessary, do 10 push ups, donate to a vegan organization, or whatever makes you feel better.

In the end it’s up to you how you feel about yourself. Don’t let other people judge you for not being a „real vegan“ – for whatever that means. I personally believe it doesn’t mean you’re weak. I concluded for myself that a) there’s still a lot that can be done for more vegan-friendliness especially in public and that b) I could act like an intolerant diva but since that’s not what I want to be I always carry an emergency snack with me instead of blaming others for being not that food foward thinking yet.

6.) Pack some emergency food

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Bars with dates, cashews, hemp powder and some more superfoods.

Like  a bag of nuts, a vegan oat bar (homemade or from the store), fruits (like a banana or an apple). That way you won’t feel angry and hungry at the same time. And we all know that a hangry person is no fun to be around.

7.) It’s affordable.

Looking at my monthly expenses on grocery shopping, they’ve increased – by 20% in average. Looking at my overall expenses though I’ve pretty much stayed at the same level like one year ago. How is that possible you ask? Did I not heat during winter? Did I quit going to the movies? The answer is: I ate more home cooked foods and reduced buying snacks on the go. But I still had fun going out, hanging around with friends and enjoying life.

Oh and by the way I found most inspiration from food blogs and magazine, like Schrot & Korn (a free magazine at organic grocery stores) or minimalistbaker.com. I haven’t bought a vegan cooking book yet and just recently got one from one of my co-workers who dislikes the author very much.

Funfact: Most vegan/vegetarian meals in restaurants are cheaper than meat/fish meals. Those foods made to substitute meat and cheese are pricy. I personally don’t think they taste very good so I don’t purchase them. There are a few kinds of „cheese“ that I buy as a specialty, but not every week. These can be found at some regular grocery stores as well (Edeka for instance is constantly extending its vegan food section).

8.) It’s not necessarily healthier. But it can be.
Just because you skip the meat and dairy products it doesn’t mean you’re a healthy vegan food guru – so don’t act like one (I guess you can read this as dogmatic). As a matter of fact there’s a shit load of crappy food that is vegan, like chips, pizza without cheese, all sorts of white flour foods, softdrinks, etc. They are less nutritous, increase high blood pressure, impair your digestion and make you feel fatigue. If that’s what you want – stick with your routine.

However, if that’s the least you want rethink your eating habits. Even though I generally enjoy sports and a healthy lifestyle I do sip an icecold Coke once in a while, munch a bag of chips or celebrate with a glass of wine (luckily there are more and more vegan wines). I try not to wash these things down in a bulk but actually taste them consciously: Sweet sticky softdrink, salty, crispy chips, dry, sour, fruity red wine. You’ve heard that drinks and foods are supposed to taste that way – but how do you taste them?

9.) Explore tastes – together. 
It’s fun to cook and dine together. By that you can share the shopping, cooking and chopping part – and if you don’t own a dishwasher, also share the washing up part. Whether you’re a kitchen chef or a kitchen rookie – give it a try. See it as a game with various levels. A basic meal could be a mixed salad with garlic baguette. A more advanced but still simple meal could be pumpkin soup with roasted pine nuts and a baked apple for dessert. And a pro meal…well if I knew that I could open a restaurant, couldn’t I?!😉

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homemade Gado-Gado

Maybe cooking isn’t for you. You hate chopping up veggies, mixing herbs and spices together, experimenting with equipment in your kitchen – or maybe you feel utterly overwhelmed with too many ingredients, too many cooking steps, too many gadgets to cook with. That’s okay. Try to find a or many companions to help you with the basics and explore new vegan recipes and things to taste together. That’s also the best way to show someone who eats anything what a plant based diet can actually look like.

10.)  Feel better.
Again, I don’t have a medical certificate that quantifies my well being. Just like with my athleticism I look at the soft facts: Less fatigueness and generally more energetic even on stressful days.

So one week of experimenting turned into a year of experiencing. I’ve learned more about food processes and ingredients in general. Which is why I’m gradually substituting my cosmetics, too. I truly don’t know if I’ll change my whole lifestyle to vegan, but eating consciously was definitely a good start to live and consume even more sensible than I have before.

What do you think? And what do your encounters with vegan eating look like?

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Homemade chocolate muffins served at a coffee date with my grandparents.

As I said in the beginning I’m not dogmatic so I won’t run around waving my vegan flag in your face (yet). I generally live by the idea of „live and let live“ – something I need to thank my family for. A family where a mix of German/Korean/global fusion meals with meat, milk, butter, eggs in all forms and sizes, and of course veggies and legumes as side dishes are served. But as long as they know that 10 is true they won’t try to change me either.