Of Wild Animals and Elephant Songs

As ever, Monday was spent preparing for tutoring, which mainly involved making lists of animals and creating worksheets, including one about what sounds different animals make.

Tuesday, of course, I was at work. In my first class, I taught the kids the elephant song that I translated last week. This meant singing. Alone. In front of people. That’s not a thing that I do. But the kids applauded, so I think that’s a good sign. Then they continued with the endless worksheets about house and home.

In my second lesson, the kids were learning about the seasons still, and to be honest, there’s not a fat lot for me to do when they’re mainly colouring in. And then in my third lesson, I brought out my pictures of wild animals again, and got into an argument about whether the snake was a rattlesnake. (Answer: No, it was a boa constrictor.)

On Wednesday my first two lessons were about wild animals. The first was with 1/2b who wanted to know what my favourite animal is and I panicked, so my official favourite animal in Germany is the lion. (I’ve been talking to too many Gryffindors, obvs.) For reference, my current favourite animal is actually the bison. Or baby sloths. In the second with 4d/e, they just wanted to know if I’d taken the photos. Which I had. Apparently having gone to a zoo with a camera makes me cool.

My fourth class had been split up because there were so many teachers ill, so I ended up helping out with maths in 1/2b. Maths with the 1/2 classes is so much easier than maths with the 3/4 classes. I wonder why… And my final class was cancelled because the English teacher was ill, so I got to go home early.

At tutoring we were doing about animals, which was lots of fun, especially as Luka has a stack of animal books. And as some of them were in Serbian I got to attempt to speak Serbian. Eastern European languages, man. They look and sound so pretty. The kids also got very jealous when they discovered I go to McDonalds on a Wednesday after tutoring and wanted me to take them with me. Which seeing as one of the servers now always speaks to me in English could, technically, be classed as part of English tutoring…

Thursday I had German on the computers with 3/4c. I had to explain what vowels were about eight times. And one of them got all giggly because a word they had to find in the wordsearch was ‘doof’ (stupid). And I told the teacher I’m not having one the kids in the computer room again, because she never does any work.

My first class on Friday was dealing with wild animals again and how to describe them. It turns out I know nothing about where animals live. Did you know ostriches aren’t Australian? I was genuinely shocked.

My second class involved singing the elephant song a record six times, telling one of the boys that yes, they could draw a secret lab in their dream house but only if they labelled it in English, and admitting to one of the girls that I had no idea how to spell latte macchiato. She was unconvinced by my reasoning that it was probably the same in German and English because it’s a loan word.

My third class was cancelled because, again, the teacher was ill, so early weekend for me. Because I am a true party animal, I went home and marathoned season three of True Blood.

On Saturday I was up at 7.30 because I was being picked up at 8.30 for a trip to Jena with one of my colleagues and her husband. 7.30 is not a time I often see on a Saturday. But we went to Jena and to the planetarium, which was pretty cool, except for the part where I fell asleep and missed a few minutes of the presentation… But, it was all fine. We then went to a shopping centre that I want to go back to. My colleague asked if we had such big shopping centres in England, and I was like, the Bullring is so much bigger than this.

Then we met up with one of her cousins, who gave us a short tour of Jena and a crash course in the Romantics and philosophers of Jena, which was really interesting though a little confusing. Basics, Goethe and Schiller are important people. Despite them never ever ever being mentioned in any lectures I’ve ever been in ever. I kinds feel like this is the equivalent of doing an English Lit degree and Shakespeare never being mentioned. Which is possible.

We were invited back to her cousins house, where he thoroughly he embarrassed his son by trying to get him to talk to me in English. Adults of the world: don’t do this to your kids. Just don’t. If we’re confident enough in our other language to attempt it, we will. And if we’re not, then you telling us to speak it will just make us blush.

After so much German and such an early start, I ended up going to bed at like half nine. Which worried my colleague and her husband a little (I was staying over at theirs), despite the fact that I’d explained several time that nonstop German was super tiring. Ah well.

Next day we went swimming and to a Chinese restaurant, which was all kinds of good. Never actually been to a Chinese restaurant before. New experiences, yay. Then they took me home, and I spent the rest of the day mentally making a list of all the things I should be doing and actually finishing of season three of True Blood. I’m so good at this being an adult thing.


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.


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.


Of charity and children.

Hello children. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Monday, as ever, was full of lesson planning. This week’s topics: The UK, the Queen and Thanksgiving. As you may know, I’m not American (despite what a man in Prague might think) and as such no basically nothing about Thanksgiving. Happily, I do have friends across the pond (Can I still say that even though I’m now in Germany and the pond is further away?) and they were very lovely and sent me pictures of their Thanksgivings and explained what exactly a Thanksgiving is. I also made a hand turkey thing which I’ve seen in at least two American sitcoms, so it must be a real thing.


Coming up with things to be thankful was made easier by the amount of American sitcoms who have Thanksgiving episodes.

Also on Monday, I got stopped by a charity guy. His name is Franz, he has dreadlocks and if you’ve ever seen Stephen Fry’s approximation of a German, that’s what he sounds like. He sneakily started a conversation by complimenting my clothes, and before I knew it he was telling me how many kids are starving in the world. Thankfully, this is where an interesting German phenomenon kicked in. Charity people don’t get mad if you say no. They don’t try and guilt you into staying or anything. It’s amazing! So I apologized, fist bumped and walked away.

On my way to work on Tuesday, Franz stopped me again. I apologised, explained I was going to be late if I stopped to talk and walked away, again, without him trying to persuade me stay. Work was fairly boring on Tuesday, as they kids were being tested so I really wasn’t needed. I sat in my two classes anyway, the teacher occasionally checking words with me. Oh yeah, and one of the girls went mental. Called the teacher Schlampe (that’s whore for those of you who don’t parlez vous Deutsch) and stormed out of the classroom. What had the teacher done? Must have been something terrible, right? No. She told the girl to sit down. Politely. That was all she’d done. What was done about this you ask? Her guardian was told. And that was about it. She didn’t get yelled at or anything by the teacher. I know if someone had done that in my primary school – in fact when people did do similar things in my primary school –  they got detention forever and about ten other punishments on top.

Seeing as it was a Tuesday, I was at the BC café weekly meeting in the evening. Turns out if I sit with German speakers, as opposed to English speakers, I talk to more people. Hmmm… I also got a pep talk on how to make friends. Which apparently involves talking to them. Psh, whatevs.

Wednesday brought an interesting development. One of the boys asked me for my phone number. I’m gonna assume he was just practicing his English. And no, I didn’t tell him my number. For one thing, I don’t have it memorised. The same boy was later scandalised when I said that British kids generally have crisps in their lunchboxes. Just to be clear, I didn’t say they only have crisps. But I feel like this screen shot of my facebook sums up my inner (and online) response to this outrage perfectly.

fb screen shot

Yes I blanked out parts of people’s names. And what?

I ended up watching a couple of videos that go with the kids’ English textbook, and I want to know how much Sainsbury’s paid the company, because there is so much product placement I had to laugh. And then explain why I was laughing… I also ended up arguing with a 9 year old about her ability to do maths. I swear Dad and Grandad would be so proud of my mental maths right now. That’s the thing about being an adult. You have to know the answers. And fast.

Franz stopped me again. He really wants me to help support his charity. But I was going to miss my bus, so I apologized, got a high five and went on my merry way. Wednesday also meant tutoring, which went pretty well, considering I forgot to take a picture of my family with me. Awkward considering that was going to be the centrepoint of the lesson. Whoops. Ah well. Also, it was so cold when I got outside (after a quick stop to McDonalds. I hadn’t eaten, they pay cash in hand and McDonalds is next door. What’s a girl to do?). So very cold. I had on a long sleeved top, a jumper and my standard coat that in England sees me through to at least mid-December. Somehow the cold still got through. So I ended up dancing at the bustop. Not dancing really. More twitching and pacing. Either way I’m glad it was dark because I must have looked like a right idiot. It kept me warm. Is all good.

Thursday meant helping in a German class. After being asked if I find the imperfect tense hard (the answer being yes, but I use it all the time so I kinda end up guessing a lot), I was set to helping one boy with learning the alphabet. Was going fine until I had no idea how to spell ‘ant’  in German because I don’t know what ‘ant’ is auf Deutsch. After the impromptu spelling bee, it was time for breakfast. I’ve realised that thanks to the breakfast break, I get to have second breakfast. I am living life like a hobbit. Which is fantastic. Today I was told I had to try “Gehacktes”. I don’t know if that’s what it’s actually called, but that’s what I was told. It was pretty much raw mince and onions. The face I pulled when I tasted it had the entire staffroom in hysterics. Dear Reader, it was grim. Oh so grim. I’ve genuinely had the taste of it in my mouth for the rest of the day, and blehhhhh. 0/10. Would not recommend.

Also a thing that I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, is that the trouble kids always want me to sit with them at lunch. Beloved by the problem kids – if only my 8 year old self could see me now. Well, to be honest, she’d probably be too distracted by that fact that I have ginger hair to really care about kids from Germany.

Then I had my first taste of the German health system. It began with the surly looking receptionist saying I spoke good German, so that was enjoyable. The doctor spoke English to me and was super lovely. And despite stories of the Apotheke (the pharmacy) being stupid expensive, it really wasn’t. So in all in all, was pretty good. Huh? Oh yeah, I’m fine, thanks for asking. Nowt to worry about.

Friday was a day for national identity issues. I started the day with a lesson on Thanksgiving, and trying explain that there are differences between American English and British English is really hard. But everyone seemed to understand why Thanksgiving is a thing, so I’m gonna count that as a win. Then my next lesson was about the UK and the Queen. Ended up showing the kids my passport – turns out saying Welsh auf Deutsch is super hard. I also took real money in with me which they thought was super cool, despite the fact that it was mainly coppers…

I’d like to tell you I bumped into Franz again, because if my life were a book then that’s what would have happened. But I didn’t. So no more awkward charity encounters for me. Result. I also bought a coat today, in prep for the snow that I’m about 75% certain will come this weekend. It is, however, not a Jack Wolfskin coat. Though it is from a shop that sells Jack Wolfskin stuff, so I guess it’s Jack Wolfskin adjacent. (The Germans seem mad for Jack Wolfskin, in case I just lost you.)


An authorised Jack Wolfskin dealer. Because you’ve got to be on the look out for those black market Jack Wolfskin dealers. Meeting you in alleys, avoiding meeting your gaze, furtive exchanges of goods and cash.

So yes, that was my week. Hope yours was good too. If with less bumping into charity people than mine entailed…


Back to the grindstone.

Goethe once wrote a poem in which he described Ilmenau as a place where the skies are blue. I am here to tell you that Goethe was full of it. It has been chucking it down for the past week, though it has yet to become the promised snow, for which I am ever thankful. It’s not that I don’t like snow, it’s just…  I don’t like snow. What I dislike about snow is namely how random strangers think it’s okay to involve you in their snowball fights and suddenly it take twice as long to get anywhere.

But enough of my moaning about the weather. I’m actually here to tell you about what I’ve done this week, rather than living up to the English stereotype of talking (and complaining) about the weather. I’m sure you’re all probably bored with me listing what I’ve been doing, but tough. It’s my blog and after starting back at work I’m too knackered to come up with an interesting way of presenting my life.


Monday, as I’m sure you’re aware, is my day off. This means that it was mainly spent preparing stuff for the school and tutoring. Last minute work is always the best, right? I kid, of course. I’d done the bulk of it at the weekend, but there’s always a few loose ends. So I’m teaching the kids about Diwali and Bonfire Night this week. It appears that my offerings to the school are mainly holiday based, but what can you do? We have a lot of celebrations going on in England. Best way to battle homesickness is to talk about the thing you miss, right? So yes, Diwali and Bonfire Night are my current topics, despite the fact that there’s nothing about either of them in the textbook.


One of three pictures I drew to accompany the Diwali story. 

Then I did a shift at the BC Café, the same shift in fact that I did a few weeks ago with Kim, but it appears my brain is made of soup, and I forgot most of what he told me. Whoops. Many apologies, Kim – I promise I was listening. So I got taught it all again, completely auf Deutsch this time, with a few exasperated sighs when I didn’t know the word for window sill or the verb that goes with taking the bins out. Oh the joys of not being a native. Also, at one point, I was quite fervently offered tea – though I’m not sure if that’s because I’m English and must therefore drink tea, or the fact that were still 4 canisters worth left, and we were shutting up.

The highlight of Monday was getting to see Manda. Yes, Manda from Dresden. Her school was doing a whistle-stop tour of Thüringen, and were staying a youth hostel in Ilmenau, of all places. Braving the rain, we got to hang out for a while, which was awesome, though the fact that Manda had had to get up at 5am that morning sucked.


Tuesday was first day back at work after the holidays and I felt like a rockstar. No joke, the kids were running up to me to say hi, and tell me they’d seen me down town over the holidays. It was awesome. Till one of the English teachers called me Vicky, who was not the last language assistant, but the one before that. Two years ago. She was also American. (Not that being American is a bad thing to be, obvs, but I feel like my accent is most definitely not American. Though since Prague and the guy who mistook me and Maddie for American, who knows?)

My two hours of work mainly consisted of helping to make spiders and monsters out of food. And then helping to eat them. Below you can see my offerings. And I’ll have you know they were pronounced “echt cool” by an 8 year old, so I win at life.



A vampire apple and a cracker spider. All of the spooky food. 

Then at half 8, when all I wanted to do was sleep forever, I headed to the weekly meeting of the BC Café, where I ended up agreeing to be part of a team for something which is basically the most studenty thing I think I’ll ever have partaken in. Dad, Aunts, assorted family members, you may wish to skip the next paragraph. Or not. Whatever.

So Ilmenau has a dry bobsled track, and apparently every year there’s a student event, where in teams you have to go down the track, drink a mug/cup/whatever of glühwein and then run up the stairs back to the top. And then your teammate can go. Vague explanation mainly because I wasn’t fully paying attention because I was half asleep. So yes, apparently I’m one of only three girls who has time on that Saturday. I suspect also the only girl who didn’t fully understand what was going on hence agreeing to it. Ah well. Should be a laugh. Either way I get Glühwein, so result. Also, my team members said that I understand German well. Flattery will get you everywhere.


Wednesday was the day I first tried to explain Diwali and Bonfire Night to German kids, and I confused even the teacher. Though in my defence, she was only half listening. So hopefully it wasn’t just my uselessness at telling stories. I also spent two hours with Jonas (one of the special needs kids) and he really did not want to cooperate. However, I have since been told my services are no longer needed with Jonas – in a nice way. They now have a qualified person to look after him for those two hours, rather than the confused English girl. But fear not. Though I am now two hours down, one of the teachers has basically begged me to come to their class for two hours and do computer things. Just need to talk to the headteacher, but should all be good.

I also had tutoring on Wednesday, by which I mean, I gave a lesson to the two kids that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. They’re called Luka and Viktoria, and super easy to wrangle into talking English. We talked about friends, and they decided that out of Maddie, Ryan and Beth that Maddie looked the most interesting. And considering in the pictures I took with me, Beth was wearing a sombero, congrats to Maddie. They were also desperate to know if Ryan was my boyfriend. Saying no, was difficult, because it’s hard trying to distinguish between boyfriend and friend in German. As far as I’m aware both are simply ‘Freund’, leading to explanations like “He’s not my Freund, he’s a Freund.” Yay for intonation. And hand gestures. And laughing a lot when they asked. (Sorry, Ryan.)


I only have two hours on a Thursday. And that’s in a German class. Which today was actually a maths class. Ah school. But you know that line in Mean Girls? The “math is the same in every language one” not the “I don’t think my father, the inventor of toaster Strudel, would be too happy to hear about this” one. Well, I am here to tell you that Cady was full of it. Germans have different notation for division and multiplication, which leaves me going, ‘No, I have no idea what you have to do. Ask your teacher.’ Which is super unhelpful, and frustrating for me and the kids.

The breakfast break was particularly fun, because a tradition has been reinstated this week. And that tradition is that all the teachers have breakfast together. Not sure if you’re aware of this, but Germans do breakfast is a big way. So we had all of the food. And black bread. How had I forgotten how delicious black bread is? Shame on me.

I ended up having a massive conversation with the secretary, which somehow ended up at the topic of how it was easier to get an abortion in the DDR rather than modern day Germany. No, I have no idea how we ended up there either. She also thought I’d been in a club the night bfore because I had writing on my hand. Now, I know I am a student, and we’re hugely famed for our excellent decision making, but even I draw the line at going out partying when I have to get up at 6.20 the next morning.

Then I had my photo taken, after being press ganged into it and lent makeup, as it was school photos day. I confused the photographer entirely because I can’t spell my name auf deutsch. It ended up being Kathrym Herras. Close enough, right?

So as I only have two hours on Thursdays, which is actually only an hour and a half because it’s two classes and classes are 45 minutes long, I headed into Erfurt in the afternoon in order to see if I could get a ticket to see the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode in the cinema. And despite the fact the cashier had no idea what I was talking about, I now have a ticket. And because I have my TARDIS T-shirt out here, I already know what I’m going to wear.


On Friday I taught two classes about Diwali and Bonfire Night, and they all thought it sounded super cool. Most of the boys preferred the sound of Bonfire Night, because of the fire aspect, whereas the girls preferred the sound of Diwali because it lasts longer. And they say there’s no gender difference. Both teachers seemed really pleased with what I did, which was mainly explain the two holidays with the help of photographs. Ina even went as far as to say that I’d make a good teacher, which is a huge compliment. Course, she then asked if I wanted to be a teacher, and it’s hard to explain that I’d like to be a teacher when I’m older. I don’t want to go straight from school to Uni to being a teacher. I feel like I could benefit from some life experience. But I don’t have to decide yet.


Behold, the board before I wrote all the helpful words on it.

I’ve also been asked to talk about Thanksgiving next week, and about Great Britain. So if any Americans reading this want to help by telling me stuff about Thanksgiving in the comments, I’d be very grateful.

I may have mentioned before that I’m not meant to discipline kids, and it’s also really hard because they don’t get told off for stuff, that English kids get told off for. How many times did you get told to have all four chair legs on the floor? The kids here never get told off about that. I’ve even seen a girl completely fall off her chair because she was resting back on two legs. So I try to keep out of it, because if I tell the kids off for something they’re allowed to do, it seems very harsh. But on Friday some of the boys were messing around on the stairs, pushing each other, so I told them off. I walk away and five minutes later, there’s a six year old coming down the corridor crying. Crying children are my kryptonite. If they’re crying for a good reason, rather than because they’ve been told off. Turns out after I’d left them the boys had continued messing around, and knocked this girl over on the stairs. If I’d been in England, I would’ve taken her to the secretary, but I had no idea if that was standard response in Germany. So I took her to the nearest teacher. She’s fine by the way. So all’s well that ends well.


Hard Week at Work.

So thanks to the only national German holiday, I merely had to work for two days this week. Yes, that’s right. Two days. This week I had to concentrate for less than time than everyone in Notts who’s currently enjoying Fresher’s Week. And I mean, for two hours of six of those hours I got to draw a kick ass hedgehog.


His name is Henry or Isaac, depending on which language you ask me in. Gotta love alliteration.

So, on the Tuesday I was 6-8 year olds, helping with German and Maths, getting my pronunciation corrected by a seven year old, and drawing the aforementioned hedgehog.  Then I came home and pretty much collapsed, because doing Zumba on a Monday night and then getting up at 6.20 on the Tuesday is exhausting. Who woulda guessed?

Then on the Wednesday I spent Stunde 1 and 2 (both 45 minutes long, if you were wondering) helping out in Klasse 3&4 a, which meant helping 8-10 year olds with German and Maths. Not going to lie to you, I was terrified they’d ask for help with German and I wouldn’t be able to help them. As it was, it was only the maths I couldn’t help them with. And that’s because I couldn’t understand the German instructions. After the break, I was back with one of the Klasses 1&2s, because Klasse 3&4 a had Sport, and I can’t help with Sport. So we played ‘Max says’ (you may know it better as ‘Simon says’) and then I went with them to Music.

Now, before I tell you about Music, I should explain something. As a British Coucil Speaking Assistant, I’m not meant to be left alone with the kids, because it’s not my job. (I’m also not meant to discipline kids. We’ll see how long that lasts.) Now, I have been left alone with the kids. I’ve stayed with a class because their teacher had to go make an announcement, and they couldn’t’ be left alone. I’ve been left with a class who didn’t know me at all, because the teacher had to go talk to a parent. I’ve been left alone with the kids, because the teacher had to go and do who knows what. I don’t mind. They’re little kids, they’re not going to eat me alive. But I was scared today in Music, and I wasn’t even left alone with the kids.

Let me set the scene. There’s a separate Music teacher who was taking the class, which was all fine. There’s a boy from a different class at the back doing work because, well, I’m not really sure why. There’s one of the teaching assistants, who is dedicated to working with and looking after Jonas. Jonas is one of the children with special needs. And then there’s me. Gold star for you if you can see where this is going.

I was keeping an eye on the boy at the back, because he’s not the sharpest pencil in the box and needs a little extra help. That’s not me saying that by the way, that’s what I was told when I was in his class. He sticks his hand up, I go over to help and guess what – he has no idea what I’m saying. While a lot of the kids make allowances for the fact that my German is shocking, he can’t, because I’m just confusing him more. Which is totally understandable. So I go to ask the other teaching assistant if she can help him, which she agrees to, but asks me to stay with Jonas. This is where the fear comes into it.

Just to be clear, I wasn’t scared of him, or anything like that. I was scared I would somehow mess up. And before anyone tells me that I don’t have to do anything I’m not comfortable with, it’s not as if I was left alone with him or anything. We were still in music class, with one of his regular carers less than five feet away. So yes.

As probably could be expected, because there was nothing rational for me to worry about, it went fine. I possibly should have told him to be quiet a little more often than I did, but as he loved the lesson, I didn’t have to work to keep him engaged in it. He’s also got a serious sense of rhythm, at times he was more on beat than I was. So yay, story of facing something that scared me (a little.)

Other important things that happened are I bought a Käsebrotchen (see below), and yes, it was delicious as it looks, and if you think I didn’t eat it all in one go, then you my friends, don’t know me very well. I also discovered that Ulrich from Lichtenstein was a real knight, not just made up for A Knight’s Tale. (Yes, I borrowed a kids book about knights from the library. I know how to have fun.)


The bakeries are one of the best things about Germany.

Finally, the weather. All last week people kept telling me it was cold, kept asking me why I wasn’t wearing a coat. It was not cold. Sure, you needed a hoodie, but not a coat. I was going to write a blog post about it, but then the weather did suddenly go told. Even had to break out the knitwear. So yes, Germany being cold in the latter part of the year is not a lie.


How’s it sit? Pretty cunning, don’t you think?