The Last Week

Guys, it’s finally here. My last full week in Germany. Well that nine months went quick. Did it feel quick for anyone else? I mean, I swear I got here a month ago. Anyway, on with the week.

Monday I was in Ilmenau having a wander, posting stuff, generally doing the day to day stuff of living here. Which is soon not to be my day to day routine. Seriously, where has the time gone?

Tuesday I was at the Freizeit Zentrum with all of the 3/4 classes, doing arts and crafts based on Knights. These included wooden swords, cardboard shields, princess hats (you know, the pointy ones with wafty cloth sticking out the top) and hobby horses. It is my greatest sadness that I did not get to make a sword as well. But I did get to watch the kids bashing each other to bits with them… Why we armed kids who hit each other anyway, I do not know. Because we were at the Freizeit Zentrum I went and had a look at the animals and was quickly joined by Miriam who was greatly amused by my habit of making animal sounds at the animals.

Tutoring was on Tuesday this week rather than Wednesday, so we ran through all of the memory games and dominoes that I’ve made over this year. I gave Luka and Vicky two Roald Dahl books each and in return I got a guide to Serbia with Luka’s home town circled on it and the instruction ‘visit here’.  Then I was at my last CV ever, where Kim insisted on telling everyone. Which was sweet. Awkward but sweet.

Wednesday I was back at the Freizeit Zentrum, this time with all of the 1/2 classes, doing arts and crafts based on Native Americans. My main contribution to this was explaining what a peace pipe was, that yes it was pipe you smokes and don’t use them as makeshift weapons. Seriously, what is it with kids and hitting each other?

When we got back to school, I had my farewell from three teachers because I pretty much couldn’t have picked a worse day to be my last day at school and everyone was busy. But I have a card signed by everyone and a brand spanking new huge towel. And I got hugs from my favourite teachers, so that’s pretty rad.

Thursday I started to pack up my room. I don’t know how I have so much stuff. Thank heavens Dad’s coming to pick me up.

Friday I did some more packing (a constant theme for the rest of this week) and I went into Ilmenau to post stuff and generally have a wander.

Saturday I went into Erfurt for the last time. Went to the Cathedral and mourned the soon to be lack of elven architecture in my life. Went to my favourite book shop possibly in the world. Generally wandered and tried not to freak out that I might never be in Erfurt again. Remembered that the Great European Adventure requires me to change train in Erfurt so it’s fine.

Sunday I finished packing for the Great European Adventure. What’s the Great European Adventure I hear you ask? It’s what I’m doing for the next two weeks. Berlin, Warsaw and Budapest. All before I head back to merry old England. Because if I don’t take advantage of the fact that travel in Europe is super easy, what is the point of my year abroad?


Pass the Parcel Overload.

A confession: I may have somewhat forgotten to write this blog post. Hence it’s sparseness. Blame the weather and the fact that I’m leaving soon has suddenly hit me. 

Not much was done in Monday. Tutoring prep and wandering round Ilmenau were the order or the day. 

Tuesday I wasn’t needed in my first class, which was fine, though there was an awkward moment where I used ‘sie’ meaning they and the teacher thought I meant ‘Sie’ as in formal ‘you’ and told me I could use ‘du’ aka the informal you.  Then in my second and third class I talked about birthdays. 
In the evening I was at a CV for the first time in about a month. Not much has changed. Except for the president.
First lesson on Wednesday was Maths instead of English which was fairly straightforward as it was one of the 1/2 classes. In my second and third classes I talked about birthdays and then we played pass the parcel. I have a class of kids who can’t read ‘cake’ but can sing along perfectly to Olly Murs. Then in my final class we watched A Very Hungry Caterpillar and I was asked the difference between muffins and cupcakes. (Answer: I have no idea.)
At tutoring we did about the weather – a giant map of the UK helping my impression of a weather person – and played Guess Who.
Thursday I did Maths and German on the computers with Klasse 3/4c, same old, same old.
On Friday, I talked about birthdays and played pass the parcel with my first class. Bored of Olly Murs at this point, I ended up using Queen. Because Queen is always appropriate music. In my second class I was talking about family, which included making a family tree out of pictures of my family. Also a discussion on whether half siblings and step siblings count as just siblings, which I didn’t really feel qualified to weigh on, seeing as I don’t have any siblings of any kind. Third and final class was watching A Very Hungry Caterpillar. 
Saturday was spent in Erfurt, shopping and generally enjoying the sunshine. It was really weird to think that it might be the last time I’m ever in Erfurt. I’m going to really miss this one book shop.
Don’t really remember what I did on Sunday, so I’m guessing it wasn’t a lot. Probably some tutoring prep. 



Easter Holidays, part two

As I’m sure anyone who’s talked to me since Christmas can tell you, my Dad was coming to see me for my birthday. And my birthday happened to fall during the Easter holidays. So this was an excellent plan. Dad was going to pick me up on the morning of my birthday, so I could go have breakfast with him at the hotel. Solid plan.

Dad picks me up, takes me to the hotel, I walk into the breakfast room. And bam. Surprise family. My grandparents and aunts had made the two day trip as well. Huge surprise. Think I’m still a little in shock over it, a whole week later. But yes. Huge surprise. Good surprise. Huge good surprise.

The first thing we did, after breakfast and presents and me trying to stop being surprised, was head to the Kickelhahn. It’s a tower on a hill that looks over Ilmenau and it’s important for reasons, and there’s a vague thing that if you’re at the university here, you have to go to the Kickelhahn once a year (or maybe once semester) otherwise you’ll fail. I had not yet been to the Kickelhahn, because walking all the way up sounded a lot like D of E, and I’m not doing that again. So we drove towards it, only to find that you can’t get all the way up there by car. Walking up took a lot of energy, but I think the view was worth it.


Behold the Kickelhahn.

Afterwards, we headed into Ilmenau so I could show my family around the town that’s been home for the past few months. Then in the evening we went out for tea, which was lots of fun, and an excellent end to my birthday.

Thursday we went to Erfurt, where the weather was all kinds of bleh. But the cathedral was beautiful as always.  It was, however, May Day so most shops and things were shut which made wandering a little aimless, but with good company it didn’t really matter.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Erfurt cathedral looks like something from Lothlorien or Rivendell.

Friday we went to die Wartburg, a castle in Thüringen important for many reasons, not least among them that Martin Luther translated the New Testament there. It was my third time there and by this point I know the English tour of the castle pretty well. However, it’s always interesting, and I got to show off my epic knowledge about St Elizabeth of Thüringen, which, shockingly, I don’t get to do often.

Saturday was the final day with my family, and it involved ice cream in Ilmenau and then lunch at a restaurant in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, which was possibly the best food I’ve ever had.

Having my family around for my 21st was a massive surprise and super good. Even if I did end up speaking so much German in cafes and restaurants. Though that is the point of a year abroad. 


A Small Beth Comes to Stay.

This is Beth:


Beth with picturesque Ilmenau in the background.

Beth has known me since I was 11 and wasn’t going to let a little thing like me being in a different country getting in the way of hanging out. After a couple of disasters regarding transport (long story, don’t ask), Beth finally made it to Ilmenau, where we drank copious amounts of tea and generally caught up on each other’s lives. It’s not like we skype every week or anything…

Saturday was intended to be spent wandering around Ilmenau, and while we did manage to do that, it took us a good few hours to stop talking long enough to change out of pyjamas and actually head into town. She got the grand tour, encompassing my school, the internet café and the goats that are the town’s emblem. She also got to meet two of the girls I teach, because they came running up to me in the street. I had to spend a few minutes explaining that Beth didn’t speak any German which is why we were talking in English. Beth kind of ruined this by then saying ‘Tschüss’, to which one of the girls went ‘she can speak German!’ I had to explain that just because Beth vaguely remembered the basics from five, painful, years of compulsory German, it did not mean Beth can speak German. We were wished Goodbye in English several times before we actually left them. After cake and tea and hot chocolate at the internet café, we headed back to my flat via the supermarket so Beth could enjoy the delights of Netto. Cue much talking again.


Pretty sure I live in a fairytale.

We had stockpiled pizza in expectation of a lazy Sunday, thanks to the German habit of closing everything on Sundays. However, we dressed in our best adventuring dresses and going on a wander through the wood at the back of my flat. In the rain, I might add. Beth appears to have brought the bad Welsh weather with her. We then headed towards the Freizeit Zentrum to coo over animals. After not realising that we had to pay and being gently reprimanded by a German lady, we were allowed entrance.


So my birthday’s coming up. Can has a kid?

Highlights included ‘who-ing’ at an owl and getting a reply, talking Japanese to a donkey, and baby goats being the most adorable creatures to roam this earth. Essentially we spent half an hour ish cooing over animals and sounding thoroughly mad. There were also several animals who looked like they were wearing cartoon thief face masks, and we decided that the Freizeit Zentrum is actually a cover for the International School of Animal Criminal Masterminds. There was a pheasant that Beth decided looked like Moriarty, as well as a raccoon who would make a fantastic bank robber.


The King of the Thieves.

Finally, once we had properly out-weirded ourselves we headed to McDonalds, and spent an age there waiting for the rain to ease off so we could walk back to my flat, in order to consume pizza and watch films. When leaving McDonalds, talking English, a complete stranger said hello to us. In English. Cue me being confused and Beth thinking I knew them. Well done us.

On Monday we headed to Erfurt. I gave Beth the guided tour of the town, which included the cathedral, the town hall, and side streets I’d not been down before. We visited my favourite shop, which is a kids books shop, where we spent a decent amount of time reading “Where is My Hat?” and other Jon Klassen books auf Deutsch. We also wandered into many kitsch-y shops and had schnitzel and bratwurst for lunch, as well as spending an age in a Viennese café. Essentially, we did a ton of things in Erfurt without ending up in any of the many museums or pubs.


Yet another picture of the Erfurt cathedral.

And then the final day of the Beth&Kat show we had a wander into Ilmenau again, seeing as I needed to go to the post office. Afterwards, we headed to the chocolate café, which turned out to be closed. Not to be deterred, we went to the ice cream parlour and ate Spaghetti Eis. Because when in Rome. We did not go to the café meeting, but instead stayed in, eating way too much chocolate.

It was a wrench to get up on Wednesday, not only because Beth was leaving, but because we’d made a habit of staying up till 4am, so we weren’t great at the whole getting out of bed thing. However, we made it to Beth’s train on time and there was much rejoicing over that, until we realised that meant she’d have to go back to Wales. Ah well.

I spent the rest of the day consoling myself with fast food and tutoring. And at tutoring I got paid the normal amount, despite only Victoria being there. The parents of my tutees are the best. Beth eventually made it back to the UK, though as I was asleep by the time she started back to Cardiff, I don’t actually know if she made it…


Living in a Fairytale.

This week began as every week does. With Monday and lesson planning. However, it was only lesson planning for tutoring. This week we were doing about describing people, and this obviously meant I had to draw out people. Yes, I cut everyone off at the shoulders, and yes, some boys have long hair and yes, some girls have short hair. Welcome to tutoring with Kat.


Yay for my terrible drawing skills. My attempt at a mohican for Gregg is particularly spectacular.

The other thing I did on Monday was an ARD shift at the BC-café. The ARD is the clean-up shift – the one I normally do. This time round it was with Florian who was super lovely, and talked to me in English until he forgot what a mop and bucket was in English. I’ve started to remember what to do – I am a master at tidying up the table decorations now. Though for the first time I had to sort out the aforementioned mop and bucket, which involved kneeling on the floor of the guy’s bathroom. Super not fun. (The cleaning equipment is kept in there, in case you were wondering.)

Tuesday felt like a waste of a day. I only do two hours and I wasn’t needed for either of them. Not that I found that out until I was in school. Ah well. Then when I went to the weekly meeting for the BC Café I ended up rediscovering Twitter, and not paying attention. Although, I was still half listening, and at points properly paying attention, and I would like it on the record that I understood 98% of everything that was said. 98%! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – maybe a year abroad to improve your language really does work.

[EDIT: Also, if anyone wants to follow me on twitter, you can find me here: https://twitter.com/MasrikaG Though I cannot be held responsible for the drivel I put on there.]

Wednesday was interesting. So I did my first English lesson, like normal, and ended up making friends with the work experience girl which was cool. I’ve been smiling at her in the corridor for the past week but I hadn’t actually met her until Wednesday. They don’t let the work experience kids have keys you see. Or let them be in the staffroom.

But then I headed to the Franz von Assis (That’s St Francis of Assisi to you lot) private school, where I talked about Christmas In England to a group of 11-13 year olds. Meant I spoke more English than usual, cracked a couple of jokes, and made England out to be some kind of godless, obese, obsessed with chocolate nation. Whoops. But the kids seemed to enjoy it. I could do that for the rest of my life I think. Not teach. Stand up and talk about things I know about and make people laugh. It’s a good feeling. Also, the very first question the kids asked me is whether I believe in Santa. Thankfully, as they were all between the ages of 11 and 13, I could go no, I’m twenty, I know he’s not real.


The private school. I could go on and on about it but a picture’s worth a 1000 words, right?

I then got a tour of the school, led by three lads. The school’s got a kitchen, a ceramic workshop, a printing room (as in lino prints and book printing, not reprographics), two wood workshops…The list goes on. And outside they have treehouses and a castle which has a moat, and the school is just spectacular. Their new sports hall is bigger than my secondary school. After the impromptu tour, I headed back to the classroom to await my ride back to my normal school, and was presented with a ceramic leaf dish to say thankyou. I also made an angel ornament, because why not?


The castle. Which had a moat. Why did I not get to go to this school growing up?


The teacher made this for me. Like, actually made it.

When I got back to my normal school, I got given a milk a mug filled with chocolate to say thankyou for doing the lesson at the private school, and a Christmas present from the secretary. Yes, I have opened it (sorry Dad) and it was a teddy bear, so, and I quote, I never have to be alone in Germany. Have I mentioned how awesome and lovely the staff at my school are? They also opened my gift to them on Wednesday – two boxes of Thorntons.

My plan for Thursday was to do my two hours at school, go to Erfurt, go to the Weimar Christmas market. Only one out of those three happened, and that was my two hours at work. I went into German class as usual, and did basically nothing as usual. Except for the part where I made a boy cry. Not deliberately, I hasten to add. He struggles with reading a lot – I suspect he’s dyslexic, so when I’m there the teacher gets him to read to me. But today it was just too much. In the end I put the book away and started asking him questions about what he was excited for about Christmas.

I then headed home because I was so tired I was pretty sure I’d fall asleep on the train and end up in some far flung place not in Thüringen. However, in the evening I went to an event at the BC Café, which was professors from Ilmenau university reading Christmas fairytales. As some of you know, I have an interest in fairytales, and seriously, why do we never get to study the Brothers Grimm at university? *ahem* So tonight I heard Christmas themed Star Trek fanfiction, Rumpelstilksin with focus on him as the good guy, a tale about scandanavian folk lore and the afterlife attached to that folk lore, and a tale about how you should be nice to outsiders and be grateful for what you have. It was interesting, and I’m glad I went.

Friday was mainly characterised by not being needed in English lessons. Though in my second lesson I ended up trying to explain Christmas in England to a class I don’t normally see. They were one of the Klasse 1/2  classes, so it meant speaking in German all the time. I then got involved in a ten minute discussion about Santa, and I have never been so thankful for our time to be up. I don’t have younger brothers or sisters so I’ve never really had to defend the existence of Father Christmas.

The first thing that happened on Saturday was that I actually talked to one of my neighbours rather than just nodding and saying ‘hallo’. He was very lovely and pretty sure we’re now friends. Let’s hope so. I then went into Erfurt to have a wander, maybe have some alcoholic hot chocolate, definitely buy a purple shirt. I ended up bumping into one of the English teachers and meeting her kids. Also, she massively complimented my dress sense which was all kinds of awesome. And I advised her to buy the bright blue jeans because they were fantastic.


Things I have learnt on my year abroad. 1) How to stop apologising so much. 2) The joy of taking selfies.

After the obligatory wander round the Christmas market, I then ran across town to make my train home. Which I did with a minute to spare. I ended up talking to the lads opposite me, as they were super confused as to why the conductor wanted to know where they were headed. The train from Erfurt to Ilmenau is normally made up of three carriages, one of which doesn’t go to Ilmenau, so the conductors check with you that you’re in the right carriage. But I explained this to the two guys and we chatted most of the way back. They’re not German but are studying at the Ilmenau University. One of them doesn’t speak any German, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to live out here and not speak any German. Then we wandered onto the fact that their native tongue is Urdu, and they said if I can learn Arabic, I can definitely learn Urdu. We’ll see… Once back in Ilmenau, I headed to the Ilmenau Christmas market. I’d already wandered round it during the day, but Christmas markets are so pretty in the dark, I wanted to go again. I’m now the proud owner of a copy of Grimm’s fairy tales in German and a vocab book about pirates. I’m going to know all the useful vocab for fourth year.


Christmas tree in Ilmenau. Look how pretty.

Sunday was a very lazy day that has mostly consisted of tidying my room and wrapping presents. However, I did go on a wander up the hill at the back of my flat. There was a cloud bank coming over the hills and I swear it looked like a wicked witch’s curse rolling out over the town. With only my phone to use, the pictures don’t do it justice, but I’m genuinely worried that we’re going to be put to sleep for a 100 years or something. So if you don’t hear from me again, that’ll be why. And you can tell Prince Charming that if he stops and asks for directions then it won’t take him the full 100 years to get here. Though if it does take him that long then at least the debt from my student loan will have been written off.


So Much Christmas

As previously stated, I spent a good chunk of Monday traveling back to Ilmenau from Dresden. The rest of the day was spent making a powerpoint about London for tutoring and finishing off my lesson plan about Christmas in England. I also proofed a friend’s C.V, a friend’s Masters proposal and the family Christmas newsletter. I’m good at proofing – I live to correctly position commas. If I can get into the copy editing business, I’ll be a happy (and lucky) girl.


My favourite slide. Look how cute.

Tuesday meant two hours of work as usual. In the first, all I did was staple flip books together for the kids and point out that blonde is spelt with an e. Though I did discover my new favourite German word – Takerei. Not entirely sure what it means, but it has to do with staplers. It just sounds fantastic. And speaking of staplers, well done English on calling a spade a spade. What does this do? It staples. Let’s call it a stapler. (Not sarcasm – genuine pride in my language being logical for once.)

As always, Tuesday ended with the weekly meeting of the BC Café, where I found out that Kim now owns a TARDIS, that chocolate Lebkuchen tastes even better than normal Lebkuchen and that even German people who’ve talked to me and said my name correctly can’t read it correctly. There was also alcohol which I feel is a welcome to addition to any meeting.

If I may go off on a slight tangent here, Prost is a serious business here in Deutschland. (Prost means cheers, if you were wondering. The exultation before drinking, rather than the slang for thank you.) In England, I think I’ve only ever said cheers followed by clinking of glasses a handful of times – all of them on special occasions. In Germany, I have watched two guys in a club, on the dance floor, say Prost and clink glasses every time they took a swig of their drink. Every. Time. They. Drank. If you drink with Germans expect to say Prost before touching your drink. I once drank without saying Prost, and the looks I got were like I’d walked into a mosque with my shoes on or started eating without saying grace in a Christian household. And you have to try and clink glasses with everyone. That includes the person at the other end of the table who is about three arms lengths away. Viel Glück!

Wednesday is my busiest day. 5 hours at school and then tutoring in the evening – I’m so overworked. (Note the sarcasm.) I was meant to be in English for the first two hours, but as the kids had a sport party (more on that a bit later on) I went and used the internet in the media room for a couple of hours. Then I was with Klasse 3/4c. Normally I do maths on the computer with them for the whole 2 hours, but this time we started with a short excursion. The children have a colouring book of Ilmenau, and they get to go see the things they’re colouring in. One of the things is a cabin, which I’m not quite sure why it’s important except for the fact that it’s old. After we’d been out in the cold for about 20 minutes – the cabin was shut for repairs so we couldn’t go in – we were back in school and it was time for me to do maths with the kids. It was addition up to a 1000 and it took one girl 20 minutes to do what was taking the other kids 5. The problem with me helping with Maths is I don’t know how they’re taught. I mean, the way they’re told to do stuff might be different to how I was taught. It’s a different country and I left primary school 9 years ago. Ah well. At least my mental maths is improving.

I don’t remember what happened in my last class. I suspect I had it free because of the Sportparty. But instead of heading home, I hung around waiting for Monika. Monika is one of the teachers and wanted to take me to the animal park in Ilmenau. Which was pretty cool despite it being freezing (does that count as wordplay?). The only issue is that Monika thinks I come from London and spent a lot of time going “that’s a sheep, they live in fields.” Now, I know I have had to say I’m a “city” girl because I don’t know tree names, but I do know what sheep look like. But it was really nice of her to take me, and even nicer to pay for lunch.

Tutoring was good. Both of the kids have been to London, so I got them to tell me about where’d they’d been. Then I did a rundown of the top tourist sites and then we did arts and craft. The idea was that they’d draw their favourite place in London, but as Viki’s favourite place is Victoria Station, which I didn’t have a picture of, she ended up drawing the queen. I drew a double decker bus, if you were wondering.


Why yes, I did give up art in year 9. How could you tell?

I think on Thursday I slipped into a parallel dimension. I ended up helping at the second Sport Party. What this involved was giving the kids candyfloss at 9am and hoping they didn’t get too hyper.


Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, heu heu heu.

So what it actually was, was six different stations of various activities, like crawling through tunnels, or trying to knock down 9 tin cans, or one of those strong man tests where you hit the thing with a hammer and if it makes the bell ding then you’re the strongest person alive. This was led by Michael. Ah Michael. Fetchingly garbed in a chef’s hat, pink jeans and a lime green tank top, it was his job to hype the kids up. Which was highly amusing to watch but also slightly terrifying. But there was music (most of it English, none of it censored) and the repetitive cry of Zicke Zacke, Zicke Zacke (the German equivalent of Oggy, oggy, oggy) and the kids had a ball. And I got to have candyfloss and popcorn for my second breakfast.

My plan for the rest of Thursday was to head to Erfurt because there was a job fair on (I know how to have fun). After falling asleep on the train in, I couldn’t figure out the trams and gave up. Went to the Christmas Market instead. Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.


Ferris wheels and fairy lights. What more could you want?

The Erfurt Weihnachtsmarkt is very pretty. It’s in the square below the cathedral and is fairly big. What was cool was they had sideshow games as well, like hook a duck. No, I did not attempt it – I have enough stuffed toys as it is, thanks. I did however buy Christmas presents, a bratwurst, and a chocolate apple. The chocolate apple was delicious. Might even be better than toffee apples. Is less sticky at least.


Behold the deliciousness.

I then headed to Arnstadt. Arnstadt is a town 22km from Ilmenau and I’ve been meaning to go for a while, if only to put another sticker on my map. Because I’m a dork, I bought a map of Germany. And it now has pink stickers where I’ve been this year and black stickers where I’ve been in previous years. And if you ignore one pink sticker, then the others mark out the train route to Prague from Ilmenau. I really ought to stop going east… Nah. But Arnstadt was a place I wanted to go and the Weihnachtsmarkt was opening on Thursday. So I rock up at 5 past 5, when, by the way, it is already dark. And when I say dark, I don’t mean the sun is starting to set, I mean I suddenly understand why we’re afraid of the dark and am ever grateful that we’ve invented street lights. I make my way to the town centre to find the Weihnachtsmarkt closed. So England’s been having some storms recently, and Germany is getting the winds from that. Which meant despite the fact that the Weihnachtsmarkt was meant to being officially opened at 5pm on Thursday, it had been closed at 3pm. Leaving me with nothing to do but to work very slowly back to the railway station, admiring their Christmas lights as I went.


Look at the pretties.

And now we come to Friday. Today was Nikolaustag, which mean on Thursday night the kids cleaned their biggest pair of boots and left them outside the door, hoping St Nicholas would leave presents for them. Which he did.

I started in English where I was used a walking dictionary as ever. I’m always grateful that I’m in a primary school and therefore don’t need to know big English words. Not because my vocabulary is limited but because I don’t think the kids would appreciate me going ‘it’s that word that’s like Versailles but isn’t.  Oh what is it, I can never pronounce it. It’s…er… It’s…wait, it’s verisimilitude.’ The problem with learning long/clever words from books is that they never tell you how to pronounce them, making what was meant to be an intelligent sounding sentence sound like gobbledegook. I’m looking at you ‘epitome’.

My second English class of the day was teaching about Christmas in England. Had one smart alec kid ask how Santa goes all round the world in one night, and my mentor teacher neatly stepped in to point out this was the British Santa Claus, so he only had to deal with Great Britain. My answer was going to be ‘magic’. The issue with talking about Christmas to children, of course, is not slipping up about Santa. (Spoilers: he’s not real.) They were super impressed by a paper chain that I made whilst very tired a couple of nights ago, and if anyone from 13e2 is reading this, they loved the Narnia we created in M12.


Yes, we did win best decorated classroom, thanks for asking.

At lunch one of the boys asked me if I’d got presents from St Nikolaus and I said no, explaining it doesn’t happen in England and I didn’t know I was meant to leave my boots out last night, he gave me a chocolate Santa. Because he felt bad for me, being English and not having St Nikolaus Tag. But I had spoken too soon. When I headed to the staffroom at the end of lunch to check which classroom I was meant to be in, it turned out I had a package. A package that was super difficult to get into.


English sweets, christmas pudding earrings, the brightest knitwear you will ever see and a Santa badge.

Dad has fantastic timing. He managed to send me sweets and gloves (the two most popular gifts) for St Nikolaus tag without even trying. And speaking of my Dad being fantastic, you see those Christmas pudding earrings? He made them. That’s right, my Dad can make Christmas earrings out of beads. I have Santa ones from last year.  The hat and gloves were made by my grandma, who doesn’t expect me to wear them. But when it looks so good, how can I not?


For someone who doesn’t like hats, I have an awful lot of pictures on here with me wearing them.

In my final English class of the week, I confused them by saying I’m 20 years old. They only know numbers up to 10. And then I read out descriptions of monsters. Because why not? And because they’re learning about body parts. Afterwards I headed home through the snow, because the snow has made a reappearance. Which has sent my internet screwy. And though when I got in, I really ought to have been productive, I watched The Jane Austen Book Club instead. But now I’m going to go be productive. Well I say that, I have a skype session planned in ten minutes. But either way, I shall bid you farewell. Bis bald.


The Day of the Doctor

Warning: Here be spoilers. If you have not yet watched the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who and wish to go in knowing nothing, do not read this post. I won’t have you blaming me for wrecking it for you.

I am a massive geek. This is not news. So when I found out that the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who was being shown in Erfurt, I went and got a ticket. I was super excited. I love Doctor Who, I really do. When I checked my ticket yesterday though, it turned out I’d accidentally bought a ticket for the 10.45 showing, which would mean a five hour wait in Erfurt railway station, waiting for the first train to Ilmenau in the morning.  I’m not going to lie to you, I was fairly prepared to do that. But first I went to the cinema to see if they had any tickets left for the half eight showing. They had five.

With a spring in my step because I could see Doctor Who and get home before 7am, I then headed to the fish and chip place, because if I was going to have an evening of Englishness, by George, I was going to do it properly. This also meant forgetting how to speak German and having the cashier resort to talking to me in English – something which hasn’t happened in a really long time. Ah well. Blame it on Doctor Who.

When I went back to the cinema, I was super excited to see people dressed up. I could have gone all Amy Pond because I am now ginger and do own a miniskirt and (many pairs of) boots. But it was cold. So instead I wore all the layers and my Tardis T-shirt. I ended up asking a woman in a TARDIS dress which screen it was in, in very bad German. Five minutes later, she walked past with her boyfriend telling him, in English, all about the German girl who complimented her dress. I was that German girl. I managed to talk in German to one of the few other native English speakers there. Well done me…

The atmosphere in the cinema was incredible. Everyone was so excited, and when the adverts went on for ages, you could feel everyone getting more and more anxious for the start of the episode. Of course, because we were in a cinema, we got two (yes, two) pre episode shorts. One with Commander Strax explaining movie etiquette to us and the punishment for breaches thereof. (Pain. Lots of pain.)And one with the 11th Doctor telling us to activate our 3D spectacles and how to tell if the person next to you is a Zygon. Then we had the 10th Doctor telling us to watch out for the 11th Doctor’s chin in 3D. And then it started.

Yes, there were cheers/screams/squeals when David Tennant first appeared. Yes, references to Old Who got cheers. Yes, meta references were greatly appreciated. There were, of course, a few jokes where I was the only one laughing because it passed the Germans by. Like the throwaway line about Derren Brown, and the one about Dick Van Dyke. And I may have laughed at “we have peace in our time” and then realised I probably wasn’t in the best country to be laughing at that. And there was applause at the end, and a girl behind me said that she was dead and it was the BBC’s fault. Which seemed about right. (For all you tumblrites, ‘feels feels feels’ is the same auf Deutsch.)

My only gripe about it was the lack of Christopher Eccleston. But let’s face it, that was always going to be my problem, because he is my Doctor. I love Matt Smith, and David Tennant’s okay, but for me the ninth Doctor will always be THE Doctor. But there was so much good about the episode. From Bad Wolf’s costume (I love love loved it) to the Tom Baker cameo, it was fabulous. I loved it a lot and I want to rewatch it stat. Shame I have terrible internet here. Guess I’ll have to wait till Christmas.

Coming out of the cinema I phoned home, because I needed to spaz out about the episode with someone or someones, and those people ended up being Beth’s voicemail, Lucy (who didn’t know who I was – very disappointed) and my Dad. I sat in the railway station for a good twenty minutes deconstructing the episode with Dad. When I got off the phone the people next to me were geeking out about it in German, so I may have asked their opinions. They looked hella shocked that I could speak German, but hey. I got to talk to some people out here about it.

And then on my train home, I bumped into Julio and Javier from the BC Café, which was an excellent end to a fantastic evening. If you watched Doctor Who, I hope you had as good an evening as me. And if you didn’t watch Doctor Who, that you are re-evaluating your life choices.


Adventuring in Thüringen

After running round Prague for four days (which you can read about here), me and Maddie (see the Prague post for an introduction to Maddie) returned to Ilmenau. Our train from Prague to Erfurt was late, but they held the train to Ilmenau for us, which was lucky as it was the last train of the night. Thankyou Deutsche Bahn for not making us sleep in a railway station.

The weekend was spent catching up on sleep that we’d missed out on in Prague and eating our body weight in chocolate and lebkuchen. This does pretty much set the tone for the rest of Maddie’s time in Ilmenau. But after the hecticness of Prague, a chilled out week was awesome. We did climb the hill out back of my accommodation so I could show off about the view.


While England had severe weather warnings (and I hope you’re all okay), we just had an awful lot of wind.

On Monday 28th Oct., we headed into Erfurt so I could show Maddie just how little there is there. We had a wander, and went into every pretty looking shop we could find. We did also go into the cathedral, which for me is the third time in two months but it’s still impressive. Though Maddie’s the first person to say it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings.

On Tuesday we went to die Wartburg in Eisenach. It’s a super important castle for many reasons, including the fact that St Elizabeth (the patron saint of Thüringen) lived there, Martin Luther translated the New Testament there and about a billion and one other reasons that I’ve sadly forgotten. It’s definitely worth a visit, and the guided tour is really informative. The only downside is that because it’s a castle, it is up a hill. And even if you go by car or bus, you still have to walk up enough of it to make you question your life choices. Especially when German grandparents are overtaking you.


Terrible photo but I hope it illustrates how high up die Wartburg is.

Wednesday was a designated chill out day. I took Maddie into Ilmenau so she could discover that it’s bigger than it looks. I showed her the important places, like the library, the post office and, of course, the café that has wifi. Where we got stared at by old people until they realised that we (or at least one of us) could speak German.

Weimar was where we went on Thursday, with Maddie wearing a bat headband and me wearing spider hair bobbles. What? It was Halloween. Apparently Weimar’s not as big as Erfurt, but it definitely feels it. It’s also prettier. We headed to the Weimar Haus, which is billed as a history museum for people who don’t like history. If you ever go there, take a history student with you. It’s hysterical. Maddie had an issue with the way much of the historical information was presented, and kept pointing out inaccuracies. But because it was the English presentation, there was only me there to hear her grouching. The Weimar Haus only covers from the earliest settlers in Weimar to Goethe’s residency as theatre master, which is weird because the Weimar Republic is an important part of Germany history, and surprise surprise, has a lot to do with Weimar. Strange. But I did learn that Thüringen is named after the Thuringii tribe who lived here, so called because they worshipped Thor. (I want to make an Avengers related pun, but my brain’s refusing to cooperate. So insert your own pun here.)

We also went to the graveyard where Schiller and Goethe are buried, though we were too late to go and see their graves. Instead we wandered through the modern part of the graveyard. I think it’s the first time I’ve been to a German graveyard that wasn’t WW1 or WW2 related. Shock horror, it wasn’t that different to an English graveyard. Old people, young people, families buried close together. Peaceful.


The walk up to the modern area has very few graves in it.

Heading back into the city, we ended up sitting outside a café in the cold due to the fact that they had no inside seats left. And when I say it was cold, I mean I had coat, scarf, gloves on. Winter is coming, my friends. In fact, I think it’s already here. Seeing as it was Halloween we had pumpkin soup and Spezi, which looks like polyjuice potion, but is actually Fanta and Coca cola mixed together. The Germans love them some weird fizzy combinations. Continuing the Halloween theme, we then went home and watched Hocus Pocus. And also drank Glühwein, which is technically a Christmas thing, but it’s delicious so shush.


Pumpkin, honey and ginger soup.

Then on Friday we chilled in Ilmenau again. Watched some terrible yet fantastic films. Mentally prepared for getting up early so Maddie could catch a train to Munich.  Saturday meant saying goodbye to Maddie, which was sad, because having a friend around has been all kinds of awesome. However, I’m back at work on Tuesday, and this means preparations. Mainly drawings that are appropriate to teaching small children about Bonfire Night and Diwali. And speaking of Diwali, while there are no fireworks, Ilmenau did have a Lichterfest today, which meant the streets were lined with lanterns and shops were open on a Sunday. I don’t think it actually had anything to do with Diwali, but it kind of felt like home.


If I may approach the bench

Your Honour, this week has been pretty good. If I may present the following evidence, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that describing it was “pretty good” is an accurate representation.

  • I went to Zumba again this week, which is always pretty fun, mainly because I spend a lot of it laughing at myself. But this week one of the songs was swing themed, and last semester I had so much fun at swing dance class, that the sudden arrival of a basic swing step into Zumba made me really happy.
  • On Tuesday, a girl I’d never seen before came up to me in the cafeteria, hugged me and then insisted that I eat lunch with her. I thought maybe she’d been in one of the classes and I’d forgotten her, but no. The next day when I walked into my new class (yes, I’ve still been doing observation, so I’ve been in a different class each day) she was there. So she’d seen me wandering round school and decided that I’m going to be her new best friend. Which is a little weird but kinda sweet.
  • A few posts back I said I’d looked after a boy with special needs for a while. Well, this week I agreed to do it for two hours every week. Just so you know.
  • In yet another ransack of Ilmenau library’s DVD section, I discovered that not only do they have two copies of Galaxy Quest, but they also have Cowboy Bebop, East is East, and Serenity. Definitely a good collection.
  • Whilst watching one of the classes do Sport, I realised it would be pretty easy to teach them Quidditch, seeing as they already know how to play Handball and Dodgeball. But some of them have an issue with the concept of non-contact, so I might give it a miss.
  • As I’ve previously mentioned, all the kids begin their day with circle time. On Thursday, the teacher I was with went out to deal with a troublemaking child from a different class, leaving her class to finish circle time and then start to get rowdy. After telling them to be quiet, I ended up talking to them about England and cities in England to keep them from getting rowdy again. It actually worked, which surprised me, and when I asked the question ‘what cities are in England?’ answers ranged from London to Scotland to Spain. Feel like I might have to start a British geography club.
  • On Thursday, I was helping with my flatmate’s society (BC- café is its name) to cook for a ‘welcome to Ilmenau meal’ for international students at the university. Well, I say helping to cook. First I made a Mexican layered salad (Me! The girl who puts chicken nuggets in salad.), and then I did all the washing up in the world, before helping to set up the buffet table. Five hours of work, which hugely beat sitting at home. But while I may have become the washing up fairy here, do not expect it in England. It turns out I’ll do all the washing up ever and carry heavy food across a uni campus while trying to make friends. I already have friends in England.
  • Saturday brought a trip to Erfurt to meet up with Sonia, a fellow Language Assistant based in Thüringen, whose shock at finding out that my gingerness is fake, has pretty much made my month. Our day involved a lot of wandering around, attempting to go into places of interest but not actually succeeding, and finding shops that we loved.

So in conclusion, Your Honour, I think you’ll find that this week has, indeed, been pretty good. And I hope that if anyone tries to suggest otherwise, you’ll fine them for contempt of court.

(N.B. I have no idea why I did this post like this. Think the cold weather is getting to me.)


Exploring Erfurt

As I spent the weekend not doing a fat lot, I decided to go into Erfurt this Monday. As I believe I have previously mentioned, Erfurt is the capital city of Thüringen, and is my closest city. I am loathe to describe it as my closest big city, seeing as at home my closest big city is Birmingham, which definitely counts as big, whereas Erfurt, to me, does not.

Despite using the ticket machine in English, I still manage to end up with a ticket which wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Yes, it would get me to and from Erfurt, but I’m pretty sure I bought a ticket that meant I could get on any train going anywhere in Thüringen… So €22 later, I got on the train and headed to Erfurt.

Part of Erfurt is called Anger, which amused me greatly, leading to me taking a fantastic photo of a Burger King sign.

ImageThen I had a wander, attempting to aim for the main shops. I ended up way away from where I wanted to be. Last time I was that far from where I was trying to be, I was on my Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition, and ended up walking for 13 hours in a day. Thankfully, Erfurt has maps handily posted around, and after walking past what felt like every single church, every single hairdressers and the rather cool looking  building below, I finally found the shopping area.


Whilst wandering the shops, I discovered that apparently the 70s is in (fig. a), some mannequins who would get very cold if they braved the German winter (fig. b) and a rather fabulous hat that would have set me back €130.


Fig. a


Fig. b


Fig. c

The weather was fantastic, and Erfurt is very pretty. I actually managed to find shops that I could afford (Hello, C&A) as well as being watched very carefully in one department store after I tried on the fabulous hat. I got stopped by a charity person, and after I said “Sorry, I’m English”, he actually switched to English, which was a surprise. He was very lovely, though skeptical about the fact that I was spending a year in the area (pretty much my reaction when people tell me they’ve deliberately moved to Walsall) and despite the fact he had no idea where Brimingham is, he was very enthusiastic about my home country. Which is always nice to hear.