Es war einmal….

If I were to write a fairy tale, I’d set it here. A good, old fashioned fairy tale, like the Brothers Grimm collated. Above the howl of the wind in the hills would be the shrieks of dragons. Straying off the beaten path in the woods would take you to a gingerbread house, a witch lurking inside ready to fatten you up. Trolls would haunt the broken down bridges, charging pedestrians for crossing their ruins. Through the town there would be a steady stream of princes and princesses, on their way to marriages, jousts and balls. The foxes that screech in the night would decide to form a band, playing in front of the town hall. The lakes would house frogs eager to rescue lost toys from the depths in exchange for true love’s kiss. Following the smoke that spirals above the woods would lead you to Rumpelstiltskin, dancing round the fire. Bears would be princes under a spell, statues actually beautiful women and above all there would be magic dancing in the air. If I were to write a fairy tale, I’d set it here. Because although instead of briars it has blocks of flats, and instead of a castle it has factories, Ilmenau has the look of a fairy tale. And what is Germany if not the home of Once Upon A Time?


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.


Things to do, Places to see

As my family are still around, and as I have not a lot to do considering I don’t have training until the sixteenth, and don’t start work until the twenty third, we have gone on a couple of jaunts out into the surrounding area.

On Thursday (5th Sept.) we went to Erfurt. It’s the capital city of Thüringen, so in essence it is to Thüringen, as Birmingham is to the West Midlands, or Stafford is to Staffordshire. (For my southern readers, I have no frame of reference for you. Sorry.) In actuality, all it had in common with Birmingham is its status within the state. Erfurt is very pretty and is centred around a catholic Cathedral, with a market. It has traditional German houses, a river, and good shops. It was very pleasant, and it has a tram network, which is most excellent. I do love trams. The strangest part was going into a small shop that sold ornaments and cushions and notebooks and many cutesy, kitschy things, and finding a set of cushions that you can currently buy in England at your local BHS. Despite being in a foreign country about 750 miles from home, I can still get exactly the same things as in Britain.

On Friday (6th Sept.), we drove out into the forest. Let me be entirely honest here. To get to the forest one must only drive for about five minutes. But we drove through the forest, through many lovely looking villages until we stopped at a café with a spectacular view.

I am living in the “Green Heart of Germany” for the next year. Apparently, the school often takes the children for walks in the forest, so I will soon be familiar with it. I like the idea of living near a forest. All those trees in fairytale country. If I stumble across fairies or a gingerbread house, I will let you know. As soon as I’ve escaped the clutches of the witch, of course.