Illness, Illness Everywhere

Monday was a day spent doing prep for lessons on Easter. This mainly involved finding pictures of Cadbury’s crème eggs and getting them printed off in town. I also whinged about having a cold, because I am a massive whinger, and what are colds for if not to be whinged about?

Tuesday I was at work, despite the fact I felt like my brain was made out of cotton wool. This meant thinking in German was harder than it normally was, and this was not helped by one of the kids having a tantrum because I said her name wrong. I try very hard to say people’s names right. It’s just difficult when the names are spelt the same as in English but pronounced differently. Michael as ‘mish-ay-el’ I can cope with because it’s very different. Saying ‘Ashley’ as ‘Eshley’ is a tad harder. But yes. Despite the cotton headedness, I taught both my classes about wild animals, fairly successfully. Although I’m not sure if the kids were playing up more than usual or if my temper was shorter than usual, because ill.

Wednesday I was at work, and in my first lesson, I was meant to be doing a lesson with one of the guys on placement. However, he’s been ill (are you sensing a theme here?) and although he was in school on Wednesday, his voice was basically non existent, so I did the lesson by myself. I accidentally put up a picture of a goose instead of a duck, but other than a couple of coughing fits and the kids laughing at my pronunciation of English words, it was alright.

As an aside, on both Tuesday and Wednesday kids laughed at my pronunciation of English words, and I think it’s because my voice is so much lower than usual at the moment, thanks to the aforementioned cold. What I don’t understand however, is why that’s funny. They’re laughing at words they’ve never heard before said by a native speaker. That’s like me laughing the first time I hear someone say Hörsaal (lecture theatre) or  Verkehrkreis (roundabout). Ah well.

Three quarters of the way through that lesson, the teacher insisted that I go home. I insisted that I was fine, and she told me that I looked ‘blass’ – a word I can only assume means ‘terribly terribly unwell’. (Sidenote: it actually means ‘pale’, but that’s not as interesting.) And then she sent me home. So the rest of Wednesday was spent half watching films and half sleeping. What an exciting life I lead.

Thursday again, I wasn’t at work and spent most of the day preparing for my trip to Bruges, by packing and watching ‘In Bruges’. I also went on a wander through the woods when I got bored of being inside and all the trees turned into the monster trees from Snow White, so now I have some fantastic scratches. I was feeling better, and the plan was to go to work on Friday. And then I didn’t fall asleep till half two. Four hours sleep do not a functioning Kathryn make, especially when she’s still not fully healthy.

So Friday has been spent checking and double checking my packing and generally not really knowing what to do with myself. But I’m headed to Bruges in a few hours, and a nine hours on trains will at least give me something to do – namely panic that I’ll miss my connections. 


I’m English. Honest.

So my week starts on Sunday, because I blogged about my trip to Suhl already. Sunday was mainly spent either asleep or at the BC Café. There were board games, including one based on Bruges which I, more through luck than judgement, came second in. Later we played Werewolf, both in English and German, and I suck at Werewolf in both languages. Werewolf, for those of you who don’t know, is a game in which basically, you’re trying to stay alive, while by night, werewolves prowl the village, and by day, the villagers pick someone to lynch. I got lynched, despite being a good honest citizen. Up until the lynching part, it was fun. And to be honest, saying I told you so after they killed me was pretty fun too.

The weather on Monday was beautiful and I braved the sunshine in a skirt with no tights. And got a ton of disapproving looks. Which was fairly disheartening but hey, I wasn’t overheating, like if I’d worn my jeans. I also managed to forget my memory card so I couldn’t print off photos, which was the whole reason I’d gone into town. Well done me.

Tuesday I didn’t have to start till 12, because my first lesson wasn’t happening. Sadly, I forgot this and rocked up at school at 10. Whoops. In the classes I actually had, the kids were going over months and seasons again. They were pretty good, but some of the months have the same spelling in both German and English – it’s only the pronunciation that separates them –  and that tripped them up a bit.

Wednesday was a sport competition day. So I went along to the gym ready to take down points and stuff, but it turned out as the school currently has four, yes four, people on placement, they were at capacity for people to do menial tasks, so I spent a couple of hours catching up on the internet. While I‘m on the subject of placement people, they’re not allowed keys to the school. I think it’s because they’re only here for a month, but they’re not allowed keys. This means people older than me are not allowed keys, whereas I am. And the keys are important! Unlocks the computer room, the staff toilets, the staff room… Also, in the hierarchy of teachers according to the kids, I am no longer bottom. That’s right – I rank higher than placement people. The power’s going to my head.

After my free couple of hours, I had English with class 1/2b, talking about wild animals. Lions, tigers and bears, they already knew. Meerkats and hyenas, not so much. This led to Michael demanding to know how I knew it was called a hyena, to which Janek replied with ‘because she’s English!’. That is the correct answer. I am glad Janek answered for me though, because my answer was ‘Because I’ve seen the Lion King.’ Doing well.
Two hours before tutoring, I realised I had messed up making word searches. I’d put the answers to find in, but hadn’t filled out the other boxes with letters… So I ended up making them by hand. Thankfully the kids thought that was awesome. We did about sport and I almost managed not to mention Quidditch. Almost. I also had to disabuse Luka of the idea that girls can’t like football.


Handmade wordsearches. I spoil those kids, I really do.

Thursday I was doing maths on computers with class 3/4c again. Was relatively painfree, though they struggle to multiply anything by ten. Or at least, as soon as you give them a number bigger than ten they can’t multiply by ten, while I’m sitting there, willing them to just add a zero at the end.

In the afternoon one of the teachers took my shopping for a swimming costume as an early birthday present (don’t ask, long story) and then that evening the majority of the staff went out for a meal at an Indian restaurant, to celebrate International Women’s Day which was last week. It was very odd being one of the few who actually understood the menu. And not having anyone take the mick because I ordered what I always order.


These were adorable. And I want one.

In my first class on Friday, I failed at knowing the English names of spring flowers and then explained two worksheets about wild animals. It was a very easy going lesson considering the class I was with are usually at least a little disruptive.

My second class was about houses again. There was a myriad of worksheets for the kids to do and while they got on with that, I tried to translate a song I learnt from scouts, because it’s about an elephant and who doesn’t want to sing a song about an elephant? The upshot is I now have to sing in front of classes next week.


Behold. The pinnacle of my translation career to date.

In my third and final class I was tasked with conversation practice with a class that invariably doesn’t want to talk. However, all of them did and did it well, and I was very surprised. In a good way. Even Jonnilee, who never wants to take part did. Either they were just in a very good mood, or they like me better/find me less scary than their teacher. Who knows.

On Saturday, I finally went to the Goethe Museum. Ilmenau is very proud to call itself a Goethe town and thus I thought maybe I should see what the fuss is about. For those of you who don’t know, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, playwright and politican during the late 1700s and early 1800s. His most famous work is Faust. He visited Ilmenau several times during his life and wrote a poem entitled Ilmenau, the only of his poems to be titled with the name of the place it was inspired by. It is from this poem that the town takes its slogan of ‘himmelblau’.


Selfies with Goethe.

The museum was pretty interesting, helped by an audio guide in English and a lovely room steward who kept pointing things out to me and said I spoke very good German. The woman at the entrance was also surprised when I asked for the audio guide in English and checked that I was sure I’d rather have it in English.

I then spent the majority of Sunday in my pyjamas, sewing and watching films, because as I believe I have said once or twice, I am the coolest of kids.


Week long Valentine’s

Monday I was in work. This is a foreign concept to me, seeing as Mondays are my day off. However, I was asked to join class 3/4c at the Freizeit Zentrum (remember it from a couple of posts before Christmas?) to learn about animals in winter. Twas very interesting, and I learnt that a boar pelt is more bristly than soft, and that a deer pelt is the softest thing ever. Even more so than a rabbit pelt.


I drew the line at touching the dead baby snake.

However, the kids managed to wind me up more than usual, and seeing as it was my day off, and I didn’t have to be there, I left early. Well, they say never to work with children and animals. The rest of the day was spent fairly productively. I applied for work experience, figured out what I should say about Valentine’s Day and produced worksheets for tutoring.

Tuesday, of course, I was at work. In the first class, I talked about Valentine’s Day then supervised as the kids made Valentine’s Day cards. In the second, I was greeted by four pupils who wanted to sing a song. Then the teacher turned up and said they good. So we were treated to a rendition of Lieder, a song that has been everywhere during my year abroad to the extent that I went and bought the CD. They were learning about directions which gave me flashbacks to year 8 or 9. Gehen Sie über die Brücke (Go across the bridge) has stayed with me ever since.

Tuesday evening I did not go to the BC Café meeting. Instead I stayed home nursing a horrific headache and skyping my grandparents. The latter was great, the former not so much.

When I rocked up to the bus stop on Wendesday, I was confronted with this fantastic piece of engineering. I have not stood under that bus stop since.


Behold, the wonders of German engineering.

(Yes, that is a stick propping up a bus stop)

At school, the teachers and I was very confused about where I was meant to be, and ended up in two English lessons, talking about Valentine’s Day, and then in two English lessons I’m not normally in, helping to teach about clothes. Or ‘clothe-ses’ as the teacher began by saying. The day was rounded off by yet another round of Valentine’s Day Card making.

Tutoring was interesting seeing as Victoria was ill, so it was just me and Luka. We worked our way back through the names of the continents, some names of countries and then moved onto languages. I may have been mean and put dutch in there. But he did really well, and told me all about his plans for the holidays, which was really sweet.

My two hours on Thursday were not spent in uselessness! There was no maths test, just maths work, which meant answering questions about what they had to do, and then, when the teacher went out the room, keeping the quiet. And telling them to do work. Apparently they think that I won’t notice them swearing at each other if they do it in the midst of rapid German. 1) Kids are never as sneaky as they think they are and 2) they were swearing in English. So that went well for them.

Fantastically, I got a package from home on Thursday. I’d asked Dad if he could send me a couple of Valentine’s cards to show the kids and gravy granules, because I’d run out. Making excellent use of the remaining space in the box, he also sent me a stack of English chocolate. Though, I’m not going to lie, I was more excited about the gravy than the chocolate.


Dad knows me well.

Thursday afternoon the nice man at the internet shop asked me if I’d considered getting normal internet as opposed to 3G, because I’m at that shop a lot. Awkward. Trying to explain that there is normal internet but I can’t access it because I’m not enrolled at the university is bad enough in English, never mind in German.

In other German encounters from Thursday, the power went in our kitchen. Now, I’m a grown up. I know to check the fuse box. Thing is that only helps if you know where the fuse box is. I did not. And nor could I find it. And nor was there anyone else in my flat. So I did the sensible thing and went to the site office. But because I don’t know what fusebox is in German, I couldn’t just ask where it is, and as I began with ‘the power’s gone’, next thing I know the guy’s promising to send an electrician type person over as soon as everyone’s back from their lunch break. Happily, Therese came home before that and was like ‘the fusebox’s here’. To her eternal credit, she didn’t make me feel like an idiot for not seeing it, though honestly, it’s in the hall – I am an idiot for not seeing it. This meant I then had to go back and tell the guy that no electrician type person was necessary, because I am an idiot, but thanks to my flatmate, it was all sorted.

Friday was the last day of school, before half term. In my first lesson the kids ran through a play about Snow White (in English) for the millionth time. For the last five minutes or so, I explained Valentine’s Day, but they were so not interested.


Behold the extent of a lesson on Valentine’s Day.

In contrast, my second (and last) class of the day were a delight, and spent most of the lesson diligently making Valentine’s cards, all of which were presented to me for inspection. One of them was even given to me. I also got given chocolate by the head teacher “because it’s Valentine’s Day”, which was really sweet of her.

After buying lunch with the rest of the staff from a takeaway, I headed home, stopping only to buy flowers, because flowers are fantastic and if I didn’t buy myself some, I’d never have any. This evening Beth is rocking up to Ilmenau to cause mayhem and havoc…I mean, to visit me for a few days, which is all kinds of awesome. However, I should probably tidy my room and stuff, so I’ll leave you with a selfie.


Way too excited that I put flowers in my hair.


Procrastination, Perfect Children and Poetry Slams.

As you may remember from my last weekly update, I suspected I was getting ill. Thanks to this, Monday was spent in bed, feeling very sorry for myself and making endless cups of tea. Yes, even more endless than usual. Turns out I wasn’t ill. Just lazy and self-pitying. Ah well, what’s new?

Tuesday was a fantastic day, work wise. Since the Christmas holidays the kids have been brats. Like, tearing my hair out, why doesn’t Germany appear to have any penalty system in schools, why am I working in a primary school type brats. However, Tuesday was the day that 1) I convinced yet another class that Birmingham is where it’s at, not London, 2) I did conversation practice with six fantastic kids and ended talking about Indiana Jones and Assassin’s Creed, and 3) I was informed by one of the more rowdy kids that everyone at the school loves me. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it’s nice to hear.

Of course there was a Café meeting in the evening, remarkable only for how short it was. I also learnt that while there may come a day when Dad doesn’t stress out because I’ve phoned him, that day will not arrive whilst I’m living in a foreign country.

Wednesday was a busy day as always, though in my first class I was mainly decorative. However, for the first time I joined in with chants from the textbook. I have now heard them so many times I feel like I’m never going to forget them. ‘Lots of spaghetti on a big big plate’ is going to haunt me till I die. In my second class I did conversation practice again. Upon hearing they could ask me anything, the two groups had very different reactions. The first group wanted to know if I was married; the second wanted to know what I thought of lightsabers. Priorities.

In class 3/4c we went on a 2km walk, so the kids knew what one kilometer was like. For once I didn’t have to tell the boys off for messing around in the street. Wednesday was the turn of the girls. It would be great if we could go somewhere without the kids attacking each other.

In my final class of the day, we sang some more chants and then I had to ask what colours had been assigned to numbers. Don’t ask. And then I was free to go home and collapse before tutoring. This week in tutoring the kids staged a mutiny against playing Memory, so I now have to come up with new, innovative ways of getting them to practice vocabulary. I’ll work on it when I’m more up to date with sleep…Wait, no, then I’ll never do it. I’ll work on it over the weekend.

Thursday I had my two classes as always. During the first they had a maths test so I wasn’t needed, and in the second they were doing Geography, during which they do not need help. Except for me pointing out that Rio De Janerio is a city not a country. The rest of Thursday was spent procrastinating, mainly by reading ‘It Felt Like a Kiss’ by Sarra Manning, because when one of your favourite authors has a new book out, you’ve gotta read it as soon as you get it.

My first English lesson on Friday was cancelled, so I helped in two German lessons instead. I marked Maths tests and listened to the kids read. My second English lesson was about animal body parts, so ‘mane’, ‘tail’, ‘beak’ etc. The kids found it hysterical every time I said ‘schwanz’ aka ‘tail’ because, apparently, it’s slang. I’ll let you figure out what it’s slang for. I also got into a debate with two of the kids about whether elephants can fly. They were citing Dumbo, and were shocked that I knew what happens in Dumbo. I forget that to them I’m old and therefore can’t possibly know the plots of Disney films. Being able to argue in German that Dumbo had a magic feather and normal elephants don’t therefore they can’t fly is probably one the highlights of this year. My third and final class were repeating numbers and colours. At least they were meant to be – they were more interested in hitting each other.

But it was finally the weekend and I had plans. Saturday I was at the house of one of the teachers, the teacher of the infamous class 3/4c. We had duck and dumplings (a typical Thüringen dish, I’m told), watched a fairy tale film, wandered round the village in which she lives, played Uno. It was a very enjoyable day, even if I was on my best behaviour all day. It was a little like visiting someone else’s grandparents without your friend as a buffer. But her husband said I speak good German and was thoroughly impressed with my pronunciation of ‘ü’ so I guess the best behaviour was worth it.

Sunday I went to a poetry slam because I’m under the delusion that if I go to cool things, that’ll make me cool. It was pretty good – I understood 90% of what was said, so yay me. I’m just thankful I didn’t have to analyse it. As for my Sunday evening plans, I have a date with several cups of tea and Chicago. Partying hard as always.


Of Children and Classes.

So Monday mainly involved lesson planning for tutoring. Having given the kids a test last week, which they aced, I don’t need to retrace introductions, family or descriptions. So I decided to move onto countries. It turns out I needed beolingus.de (a german dictionary site) at hand at all times while making work sheets, because I know none of the countries in German. I even forgot Spain. Which is Spanien. Ah well, it all worked out in the end.

Tuesday I had work as usual. In my first class, Vincent decided he wasn’t going to play ball, which led to me perfecting my “I don’t care who started it, I’m finishing it” voice. Ashley wanted to know if her name is English or American, and when I said it was an international name, she decided it was definitely American because of Ashley Tisdale. And then one of the other girls told me she has the exact same T-Shirt as me. I have the same T-shirt as an 8 year old. I’m not really sure how to react to that.

Of course, there was a Café meeting. Don’t really remember much about it, other than talking to Kim about Torchwood. And being shocked that someone I’ve spoken to once remembered my name.

Wednesday kicked off with me being asked to write an English poem on the board, which I did no problem. Fifteen minutes later I realised I’d written ‘Snowmann’ not ‘snowman’. In my defence the teacher didn’t notice that I’d capitalised the s and doubled the n.

In the next lesson I got to talk about my home town  and Birmingham again. I think the most interesting thing about that particular lesson is that whenever I write up ’26 000, 67 594, 1 085 400’ on the board and say that the 26 000 is the population of Ilmenau, and then ask what could the 67 594 mean, the kids always ask if that’s the population of England. I mean, I know we’re smaller than Germany, but come on.

I wasn’t with class 3/4c for lessons 3&4 because they had important German things to learn, so instead I was in two more English classes. Talked about breakfast some more. Got to go to classes I don’t often see. Was pretty chilled considering I found out on the day I was doing it.

And then finally, I’ve been saying for the past few weeks that the class I’m meant to be with last doesn’t have English then any more. As of this week I go to a different class. The kids love me. I mean, seriously, they were super excited to see me. This is a class I haven’t been in since October. Oh, it’s hard being a Foreign language assistant. (Note the sarcasm.)

Thursday, surprise, surprise, the kids had a maths test. So I sat there for 45 minutes looking ornamental. But then! In the second half, I got to do reading with the dyslexic boy, which was interesting. As I believe I have mentioned before, I do not know how to say every German word. Yet I’m trying to correct his pronunciation… But he did really well this week. So yeah.

Friday I talked about Birmingham to one of my regular classes and have persuaded them that it’s better than London, mainly because of Cadbury World. Some of them had heard of Aston Villa FC, which was surprising to me, but then again, I know nothing about football. My two football facts are 1. Wolverhampton Wanderers are also known as Wolves (I thought they were different teams for the longest time) and 2. Dortmund sometimes play in yellow (I know this because I thought they were Hufflepuff). Another thing I mentioned about Birmingham was its’ partner cities. These include Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig. Now, I don’t know for definite, but I’m pretty sure the reason there’s two German cities in the list is that Frankfurt was in the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) and Leipzig was in the GDR (German Democratic Republic). I asked the kids why they thought there were two and got some interesting suggestions (and was also asked why anyone would partner with Leipzig). But it was the teacher who eventually suggested that it was because of the FRG and GDR. Guess the kids haven’t reached that bit in history yet.

My second lesson was technically cancelled, but I’d been told to go to one of the other English classes instead. So I did. But that teacher had no idea I was turning up, and was teaching about nature and animals (auf Deutsch) when I rocked up. She asked if I was there to do English, and I said yes, and she left me to it. I ended up asking the kids their names, their ages and where they’re from and then singing head, shoulders, knees and toes with them, before the teacher realised that I didn’t have anything else to do with them and came and rescued me. Basics, I’d been told she would be expecting me and she wasn’t. So it was a bit of a surprise for both of us.

My last lesson I mainly spent telling boys off for battering each other. And telling kids it didn’t matter who was the last in the line. Seriously, why is that so important to primary school kids? I remember it being important when I was little as well. Madness.

Friday night I went out to paint the town red. Well, I went out to hang out with people, maybe do some drinking and dancing. It turns out that the best wine is free wine, boys can say problematic things in Germany as well as England and I can’t dance to hip hop. And apparently my pronunciation of Scheiße is spot on. Must be all the times I hear the kids at school say it.

Saturday was spent alternating between tidying and watching tv. Seriously. That was my day. And very enjoyable it was too. Sunday involved helping with the tidying up operation after a brunch put on by the BC Café. I got to meet a couple of new people, practice speaking coherent German to attractive people (not my strong suit) and generally stress out about whether the reason I was failing at tasks was because my German wasn’t good enough or if the instructions I was given weren’t good enough. Turns out it was a little bit of both.

Sunday evening I hung out with Ausama and horrified him by the pronouncement that I don’t like olives. Think I reassured him by liking cake and wine. But there was a good ten minutes of discussion about why I don’t like olives.

And as my final note on the week, Therese’s been ill most of the week, as has her boyfriend, though happily they are now better. But our flat’s reputation as a plague house may have to continue for a while longer, as I think I’m getting ill. So if my weekly update for next week is essentially ‘I felt blah the whole week and didn’t really do much’ I apologise.


Porridge is a difficult concept.

As I was in Berlin on Monday, my weekly roundup starts on Tuesday. Not much of importance happened, other than I tried to explain porridge auf Deutsch, which was way harder than you would think. Oh, and I had a very serious conversation with one of the English teachers about how ‘girlfriend’ tends to mean more than a friend. This occurred after I’d used ‘meine Freundin’ and she translated it as ‘girlfriend’. I mean, I love Beth and all, but not like that.

Wednesday began with me talking about breakfast with yet another class. Trying to explain porridge does not get any easier, no matter how many times you do it. And then I went with 3/4c on a class excursion to the Town Hall. I met the mayor – lovely guy, very firm handshake. I’d get starstruck but I’ve met three regenerations of the Walsall Mayor, so meeting mayors is kind of old hat now. We also got a tour of the town hall, where one of the kids asked me if the EU flag was the flag of the United States. I had to very gently explain that just because a flag has stars on it, it doesn’t make it the USA flag.


Me, 3/4c and Goethe.

Yet again on Thursday the class I have two hours with were doing a test, so I was very much a spare part. Though I did go make some copies of a worksheet for the teacher. From the thanks I got, you would have thought I’d done something impressive. Maybe she hates working the photocopier. Who knows.

Thursday evening I was hanging out with Ausama, which was pretty fun and involved cake. Cake is always good. He’s really sorry for me that I’m an only child. And he also thinks Dad’s awesome. You can tell he hasn’t met him. (I don’t mean it Dad – honest.)

Friday brought talking about Walsall to one of my classes. They think the art gallery looks cool, but other than that they couldn’t care less. Except for when I taught them some Black Country words. These were bostin (good), gammy (injured) and bost (broken). They haven’t quite got the accent down but they’ll get there. 

In another class we recapped the theme of breakfast, and yes, German kids saying sausages is still one of my favourite things. Thankfully I didn’t I have to re-explain porridge because I did that last week. Then we moved onto animals. Many names for wild animals are the same in German and English, it’s just the pronunciation that’s different. I also have to say, getting the kids to tell me what things are called in German is difficult, because they’re so eager to show off their English. Which, I mean, is great but unhelpful for me.

In my final class of Friday, I was the replacement CD player. Seriously. There was no CD player to be had (not even for ready money) and so, as an “echte Englanderin”, I was the replacement. Some of the kids find my pronunciation funny, because occasionally it’s different to their teacher’s. This is because Germans have difficulty with the ‘a’ sound – it often comes out as an ‘e’. So black becomes bleck, cat becomes cet and so on.

As for the weekend, it has been mainly spent watching Misfits, listening to the Beatles and marvelling that I now live in Narnia. Oh, and also cursing the fact that the ‘n’ key has decided it doesn’t want to be part of my keyboard any longer. If anyone feels like coming out here to fix it for me, I’ll pay you in chocolate and funny stories about the kids at school.


If the White Witch appears and offers me Turkish Delight, I’m taking it. Love me some Turkish Delight. Especially if it’s Fry’s.


Kids, who’d ‘ave ’em?

Happy weekend, dear readers. The sun is shining, I got ten hours sleep, and as long as my iTunes doesn’t decide to wipe my library again, it’s going to be a lovely day. Now, as I mentioned, I’m headed to Berlin to tomorrow, so I’m going to catch you all up on my week now, because the kids have been…annoying this week. And by annoying I mean, alternately horrific and amusing.

So Monday, as ever, was lesson planning. This week it was a lesson about Birmingham and Walsall, which mainly involved wikipediaing the populations and comparing them to Ilmenau. For your reference, Birmingham: 1,085,400. Walsall: 67,594 (in the built up area). Ilmenau: 26,070. Then I did the ARD shift with Hauke (His actual name’s Felix, but apparently the BC Café has an infestation of Felixes). Was all fine, though I would like to take this opportunity to say that everyone does the ARD differently. I mean, there are certain things that everyone does, but no-one does them in the same order and then there’s things that only some people do. It’s a little confusing, and also means my most used phrase is always ‘what do you want me to do now?’

Tuesday I was at work and witnessed exactly how little discipline there is in German schools. Or maybe just in mine. Two 8 year olds got in a fight, and I mean, one of them was swinging around a key on a bike chain like it was a nunchuck type fight, not a your hair looks stupid fight. You know what happened? They were told off, and the parents were told. But that was it. Maybe I’m remembering primary school wrong, but we would have at least been sent to the headteacher for that. Maybe even lost playtime as well. Possibly, if it was a repeat offence, got detention.  These things do not exist in Karl Zink Schule. Which is awkward because now three teachers have asked me what I’d do, and I’ve had to go, well, *this* would have happened, but apparently you’re not allowed to do any of these things.

Wednesday is my longest day at school, but with one of the English teachers out sick this week, I only had four classes not five. The English classes have mainly been about the weather. The kids find ‘fog’ hysterical. Because they think it sounds like ‘fuck’. Wednesday also means my two hours in German/Maths with Frau Hilbert’s class, but this week, we went on an excursion. We saw the oldest post office in Ilmenau (no longer a post office, it’s a chocolate café), a house were Goethe lived, the chronometer (you can find out about that in this blog post) and then Frau Hilbert took it upon herself to explain to me why there’s a plaque of Jewish names in one of the town squares. Spoiler alert – it’s commemorating the Jews from Ilmenau who died during the Holocaust. Something, shockingly, that I already knew. (As a side note, some of the children were shocked that there were “German names” on the list, and it was very hard not to try and explain the whole ‘1) Hitler legally defined Jewishness so you might not have been a practicing Jew but would still have been considered a Jew, and 2) many Jewish people were fully integrated into German society, because, you know, they were normal people, and therefore didn’t necessarily have “Jewish names”.’ But I feel I’d be best leaving it to their teachers.)

Tutoring happens on a Wednesday and this week we recapped describing people. To aid this I took Guess Who? with me, which we ended up playing for half an hour. Firstly, because it’s an excellent tool to teach about distinguishing features, and secondly, because what I had planned only took them twenty minutes.

Thursday I spent two hours sitting at the back of a class, watching while they did a test. I was so much help that day. They really needed me there. (Note the sarcasm.) I really shouldn’t complain. Having so many friends who are FSA (Fremdsprachassistenten – Foreign language assistants)  I see many stories on Facebook of people going in and being kept hanging around for hours before they’re told they’re not needed (Also, I think if someone collated FSA’s facebook statii as a book, it would be fantastic. Someone make it so. And give me money for the idea.)

Friday, as anyone who’s my friend on Facebook or follows me on Twitter knows, I called a girl Emily. You wouldn’t think that would be such an issue as her name is Emily. But no. I said it in my English voice and she huffed back that “I’m not *English accent* Emily, I’m *German accent* Emily.” Which led to me thundering back ‘I’m sorry, I’m not German.’

To fully explain the scenario, she’d just thrown something across the room at one of her classmates. So I said her name as a warning. Clearly she knew who I meant, otherwise she wouldn’t have replied. And the German for Emily is something like ‘em-MI-li’. The differences between the English and German pronunciation are very subtle. It’s like I can’t say Vincent or Robert auf Deutsch. So yes. I also have a problem with this because the children can’t say my name. And yet I answer to all the variations they use. I know, I know, I’m an adult blah blah blah. But honestly.

Friday was also the day I discovered that 19 German eight to ten year olds taking it turns to say ‘sausages’ really warms your heart. One of my classes I doing about breakfast and their teacher told them to go and read out the vocab to me. ‘Sausages’ it appears is a difficult word for Germans to say. And they looked so frustrated when they messed up half way through the word. They all managed it in the end. Even if it meant I spent half an hour just saying ‘sausages’ over and over. The other word they had difficulty with was ‘honey’, which came out as ‘hon-ayyyyyyy’, which made them sound rather gangsta.

Which brings us to Saturday. My plans for the day are not grand. Perhaps finish watching series 4 of Being Human (I’ve been marathoning it this week). Pack for Berlin naturally. Maybe plan out next week’s tutoring. But whatever I do, I’m sure it’ll be a decent day. And I hope yours is to.


Queen Kat of English.

Welcome back to the usual weekly updates of my life. Let’s begin, as always, at the beginning. Monday was spent wandering round Ilmenau fairly aimlessly, because I had no lessons to plan. The highlight of which was someone talking to me in the café and me having no idea what was being said to me. So I apologised and told him I was English, or apologised for being English, I’m not quite sure which. He asked me if I came from near London, and to my eternal shame I said yes. Don’t revoke my Midlander citizenship. I’m sorry.

Tuesday I was back at school, and two interesting things happened. The first was an English teacher telling me that ‘jumper’ must be a regional word because the textbooks all say ‘pullover’ or sometimes ‘sweater’. Naturally, I took to Facebook to document this and it appears my fellow FSAs have had the same problems. And my American and Canadian friends assure me that no-one across the pond says ‘pullover’ either. Ah well, sometimes it’s nice to sound like you’re in a Famous Five novel. The second thing that happened was I somehow ended up talking about the Royal family. And the kids wanted to know if I was a princess. It was eventually decided that I was the English Queen of the Karl-Zink Schule, and that if I ever marry Prince Harry (George, of course, being too young) I have to invite the kids from school. Though they do seem to be under the impression that it’s more a case of when I marry Harry rather than if. (Though I’d get to play this song constantly. I always did love Calamity Jane.) But if I did marry Harry, my sister in law would be Catherine. Which would make four Catherine/Kathryn/Katherines in my family, and I’m not sure I can cope with that.

Wednesday I emailed in ill. I went to bed at half ten. You know what time I actually fell asleep? Half four. I have to get up at 6.20. Trying to get up after 2 hours of sleep resulted in me nearly throwing up, so I made the executive decision that I wasn’t going to be any good to them. So some time later, after actually getting some sleep, I went on a wander because it was beautiful day.


I’m going to miss the woods when I’m back in England.

Then that evening I went to tutoring. It was Victoria’s birthday, so we did about dates and how to say Happy Birthday. I gave her a birthday card in which I spelt her name wrong, but she gave me a christmas card with my name spelt wrong so I think we’re even. Her and Luka told me how to say Happy Birthday in Serbian and Bulgarian, but I can’t remember it, because they refused to say it more than once. They told me not to be too upset that my pronunciation was horrendous, because they’re difficult languages. At which point I told them I’ve studied Japanese, Russian and Arabic. Cue wide eyes and demands to know how to say ‘hello’ in the different languages. We also had cake because it Victoria’s birthday and we played Uno. Sadly I had to leave halfway through a game otherwise I would have had to walk home. And seeing as it takes about an hour to walk whilst the bus takes 20 minutes, that wasn’t something I wanted to do.

Thursday I really wasn’t needed at the school. I watched the kids do a maths test and then helped them with normal maths work and then the teacher said I could go. So that was a grand total of 25 minutes work on Thursday.  However, I had a doctor’s appointment at 1pm, so despite being finished by quarter to nine, I stayed in school till 12. When I finally got home, because I still had no laptop cable, I ended up reading more of Game of Thrones. Or A Song of Ice and Fire, I suppose I should call it. I read two and half of the books in four days. Have you seen those books? They’re huge. That’s what happens when you don’t have a functioning laptop. You get all productive.

Friday I talked about London and breakfast in England. This included me trying to explain to eight year olds why I’m not a huge fan of David Cameron and yes, there are different types of eggs. That was really it on Friday. I came home and crashed out for the rest of the evening. I know, I lead such an exciting life.

Oh wait, no, one more thing I did on Friday. I bought a ticket to see Eddie Izzard in Berlin next Sunday. I’m a huge Eddie Izzard fan and I saw his current tour last year in Birmingham. So Kat, I hear you cry, why are you going again? Because, dear reader, he’s doing it in German. Oftentimes he tours in France in French, but never have I heard of him doing other languages. So to Berlin I am going. (If you’ve never heard his comedy, I would like to recommend The Death Star Canteen, his thoughts on empires, dictators and cake or death; and Robin Hood. Though I probably should point out there is liberal swearing in most of it.)

So Saturday I was on a cleaning up shift at the BC Café, which involved much washing up and talking about TV shows with Kim. It also involved a guy who looks like Daniel Brühl’s younger brother and Kim insisting that I speak fluent German. And free food. Can’t forget the free food. And then Saturday evening I went to hang out with Ausama, who lives on my corridor and plied me with cake and tea. Was a very pleasant way to spend an evening, and I got a crash course on variations within Islam, the geography of Syria and Syrian etiquette.


The phonetic spelling of what this is called is Kneffi (according to me).

Sunday I was at the BC café again, helping to pack away after the Spanish brunch. Every month the café puts on a themed brunch and you should care because Therese, my flatmate, helps organise them. Again, this involved much washing up. Pretty sure my hands are just going to remain prunes forever at this rate. And I thought Queens had people to do their washing up for them. Hmm… Might have to work on marrying Harry quickly.


A Shorter Week then Usual.

So my round up of my week begins on a Sunday for once, because on Sunday I went to someone’s house to make crepes. Not pancakes, crepes. Anika (whose flat it was) has a thing to make crepes, like a giant hot plate, but dedicated to making crepes. Hanging out with people was lots of fun, as it usually is, especially when it includes watching Despicable Me 2 and eating a ton of crepes.


Crepe making 101.

Monday was lesson planning as usual. The kids at tutoring said they wanted to learn about towns in the UK, so I made a powerpoint about cities that didn’t include London. Because London is getting its own powerpoint next week. Cities included St. Andrews and Plymouth. Oh, I covered all the important cities. No but seriously, the cities ranged from the capitals to Birmingham to Bristol to Liverpool. And the powerpoint had all of the buttons on it, which I had to google how to do, because the last time I put buttons on a powerpoint it was, like, Windows 95, rather than Windows 7 where they’ve moved everything around.

The other thing that happened on Monday was I angered a cashier by being too British. She asked me to lift up my rucksack out of the trolley, presumably to check that I wasn’t stealing anything. The only problem was that I didn’t understand the word for ‘lift up’ and after she’d said it twice, I politely asked her if she could speak slower. She was not impressed by this and got increasingly pissy with me. I finally understood and complied, but every time I said please and thank you after that, she scowled at me. This is the tale of how I managed to annoy a cashier by being too polite. Yay Britishness.

Tuesday was a school day as always. I explained Thanksgiving to one class who didn’t really care, and then went to my other classes, who were not there. They were at an open day for a high school, so after doing some more prep for tutoring I got to head to my favourite café. The café that has free wifi. Whose wifi is currently down. But it did give one of the staff a chance to ask me if I come from Ireland, so not all was lost.

Later that evening I also tried to explain Doctor Who to Therese, which is way harder than I would have ever thought. As Beth later pointed out to me, it’s not really a question you’d get asked in the UK. Most people have a vague idea of what Doctor Who is. Trying to explain it quickly is difficult, so I went for “There’s this alien and he travels through space and time having adventures.”

On Wednesday I was saluted when I arrived at school, which was sweet. I’m trying to make it a permanent thing but it’s not going very well. I went on a trip to a Regelschule with some the fourth years (A Regelschule is the equivalent of a comprehensive, if you were wondering.) We were shown round, then I had coffee with the head teacher and a teacher from my school, and then I got to help with an English class. By which I mean they played Jeopardy and I read out the English questions.

On the way back to our school, one of the kids asked me if I was really English. I’m not sure what they meant by that. I’m hoping it means my German’s that good I couldn’t possibly be English. I think what it actually means is my English doesn’t sound like RP. Surprise, surprise. That would be because I do not speak RP. I cannot cut glass with my accent. It’s sad sad times. Or you know, it would be if I cared.

Tutoring was fine. The kids got super excited when I brought out my laptop, though by the end of the powerpoint they were flagging a little. There were a lot pictures of a lot of cities. I’d made a worksheet but we ran out of time, and yet again, they asked if they could do it for homework. These kids don’t know what the Taj Mahal is or who The Beatles AND they ask for homework. I swear they’re aliens.

Thursday was a pretty short day. I only have two hours and as the kids were doing a test, I was not needed at all. But Thursday is the day the staff breakfasts together, which is the best thing in the world because black bread. I helped tidy up afterwards which really impressed the secretary. I don’t think anyone’s been so impressed with the fact that I tidied up since Dad discovered I don’t live in squalor at university. Then I headed home after buying an advent calendar and spent the rest of the day starting to plan out lessons on Christmas and London. Why am I doing it on a Thursday and not at the weekend like usual? I’m so glad you asked. There’s no school tomorrow and I am headed to Dresden to visit Manda and the Christmas Market. Hence this blog post being today. Sorry if I messed up any long standing plans to read my blog this weekend. I’m sure some of you are devastated.


Please send hugs and sympathy

I have been ill for the majority of this week, so there is a severe lack of stuff to tell you about. Unless you want to hear about the different films I’ve watched or precisely how many times I’ve wished I was at home (Answer: once.) But I’m going to tell you about my week anyway, because otherwise I’m sure the many hundreds of people who read this blog will be both devastated and worried sick. (Please note the sarcasm.)

So Monday was a day of nothing apart from the bit where I felt well enough to go and do my shift at the BC- café via going to see if I could find my hoodie at the club I was at on Saturday. Yes, I managed to misplace my hoodie. No, I haven’t found it. Yes, it’s fine – it wasn’t my Hufflepuff hoodie. So my shift was fairly normal, except for the part where I’ve started to remember what to do. I guess it helps not having a three week break between shifts. And when people speak in really slow German. Accompanied by hand gestures.

On my way home from my shift I bumped into one of the girls from school, who said hi. I, of course, said hi back. I swear at the moment I say hello on autopilot. Anyone could say hello in the street and they’d get a hello back. I’d probably even greet Voldemort. You know, if he wasn’t dead. (Sorry, spoilers.)

Tuesday I was meant to be going to the theatre with the school, but because none of the kids were ill, there was no ticket for me. Which meant a day off for me. Where I did nothing. Seriously. I watched Serenity, got sad because of character deaths (That’s not a spoiler – It’s a Joss Whedon film. SOMEONE has to die.), watched, got nostalgic for the Christopher Eccleston series of Doctor Who because Noel Clarke, watched V for Vendetta and got side tracked watching the bonus features. That was my day. That and sleeping.

Wednesday I went into work and despite having felt better, felt exceedingly bad at school. Everyone was lovely. In fact, they all went above and beyond. I now have the address of a recommended doctor. I only did half lessons. The kids behaved themselves. And I was told a million times I could home if I wanted. But I’d braved the snow and wasn’t feeling as bad as I had done, so I stayed. More importantly, I wanted to be there. I enjoy my job. It’s awesome.

Yes, you may have noticed I said that I braved the snow. It snowed on Tuesday night. When I got up on Wednesday I was greeted by one of my flatmates excitedly asking me if I’d looked out the window. It has snowed. In fact, it is still snowing. I’m not sure what the appropriate reaction to this is.

Thursday was a better day. Apart from the bit where I didn’t go to work. But other than that good day. I left the house and went to the library to stock up on DVDs. Have I ever mentioned how much I love the DVD collection here? Because it’s fantastic. Like, they have some of favourite films, that I never would have expected to be able find in Germany. Like Easy Virtue. And Serenity. And they have Bend it Like Beckham and all of the rom coms you could wish for. They also have stuff like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. For when you’re bored of the rom coms.

The rest of Thursday was mainly spent chilling and writing my last blog post, which, judging by Facebook, you all seemed to like. And thankyou for that. It meant I spent a good half hour squeeing and jumping round my room.

Friday I was off to Erfurt for a meeting that no-one seemed to know what it was for. Turns out it was for all the Language Assistants in Thüringen to basically check everything was going okay. It was pretty cool to meet up with people from the training course again, but what was also cool was the fact that this was not just a meeting for English speaking assistants. Oh no. This was for all language assistants, so there were people from Mexico, China, Quebec (counts as separate to Canada because it’s Francophone), France and Russia. This did mean that our common language was German, so despite being with fellow Englanders, much German was spoken. I was so tired by the end.

When I got home I collapsed for a couple of hours – my apologies to anyone who tried to talk to me on Facebook during that time, I fear I wasn’t making much sense – and then headed out. Because it was the birthday of the BH Club, and this meant presents. It also meant alcohol in return for these presents, which as a member of the BC Café, I got to help consume. Don’t worry – after a week of being ill, I wasn’t going to be stupid enough to go crazy.

We ended up sat in the BC club pretty much falling asleep, until I mentioned that if it snows in England, you can pretty much guarantee schools will be closed. The Germans were up in arms about the unfairness of this, until they realised that we don’t get days off if it gets too warm in summer, like they do. We were joined by three guys, one from Turkey, two from Colombia, and for a good couple of hours we were comparing all four countries, laughing at the stupidity of each other’s home lands.

During the course of the evening, I managed to get into an argument about where Hochdeutsch originated (the linguistic geek in me couldn’t keep quiet), apologise for England making you need a special visa to visit if you come from Colombia and learn a charming German drinking song. There’s a heavy dose of sarcasm on ‘charming’ by the way. I’ve also spent a hell of a lot of time making conversation in German. Now, I know all you people back in England are sitting there going ‘but Kat. Surely you make conversation in German every day.’ Well, you’d be wrong non year abroaders. I speak German (almost) every day. I talk about lessons and what I did at the weekend. But honest to god conversations that aren’t based around ‘where do you come from? What do you study?’ are harder to come by. Mainly because my conversational German is useless. But today, possibly thanks to alcohol, I overcame this uselessness and partook in conversation. Several of them. In German. I think the whole ‘go abroad for a year to improve your German’ might actually be working, and isn’t just a ploy for uni to get rid of me for a whole year.

Also, I’m going to start a club for people whose names can’t be easily pronounced by Germans. There will be badges and the motto is ‘Yeah, the Germanic version that doesn’t sound like my name is fine.’ And cake. There will also be cake.