0

Cures for (English) Homesickness

All cures are tried and tested by me, and I guarantee that they work a hundred percent.*

1. Blasting the Johnny English theme song.

2. Tutting at foreigners who have the audacity to queue jump.

3. Watching Blackadder/Monty Python/Doctor Who online and giggling to yourself about the sheer Britishness of said programmes.

4. Letting someone stand on your foot and then apologising to them.

5. Working out exactly how many miles you are from England and therefore from chavs.

6. Starting a conversation about the weather with an unsuspecting foreigner.

7. Remembering that no matter where you are, the British probably invaded at some point. So you’re not the first person to think this place would be better if it were a little more British.

8. Rejoicing in the fact that for once you simply sound English, not Northern or Southern.

9. Watching almost any big budget Hollywood film because the villain is English and the accent reminds you of home.

10.The biggest cup of tea you can brew.

* for me, at least.

1

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

2

To boldly go

This week I went to training for being an English Language Assistant this year. Firstly, this meant getting up at an ungodly hour in order to make the five hour journey from Ilmenau to Cologne, which is where we were being picked up. It turns out that getting up at half six is surprisingly easy; it’s the staying awake that’s the problem. But somehow I managed to stumble bleary eyed to the railway station and get on the right train.

Three trains, five hours and two chatty old ladies later, I arrived in Cologne. I made my way to a café in order to take advantage of their free wifi (for those of you not privy to my endless moaning, I have restricted internet access here in Germany) and to play spot the English assistant. Hints leading to success in this game include listening in on conversations to see if the people are speaking English and deciding if their suitcases are big enough to hold a year’s worth of stuff.

Eventually, I had to go in search of the meeting point. With 90 odd twenty something year olds standing around in the main atrium of Cologne station, it wasn’t hard to find. I’d say plucking up the courage to ask someone if they were a Language Assistant was difficult, but after having to try and sort out internet in German by myself, asking someone a simple question in my native tongue wasn’t hard.

The double decker coach seemed to take forever to get us to Maria in der Aue, which was where we were staying for the three days, and it was also the second nosiest place I’ve ever been in; the first being the bar on the last night of this course. With most people sitting next to people they’d never met before, everyone was talking, trying to make friends, and to keep a conversation going for an hour.

We’d not been given any information about where we were staying or what to expect, and although I suppose I could have googled it, I didn’t. So, being perfectly honest, I was expecting a hostel, with dormitory type bedrooms. I even brought Haribo with me, in case the meals were terrible. I was wrong. Oh so wrong. It was a proper hotel, with twin bedrooms, and meals three times a day where you could help yourself to as much of the gorgeous food as you wanted. And there was a coffee break each afternoon with cake.

With everyone trying to make friends, and the point of the first day being getting to know people, it felt a lot like Freshers. But with less clubbing and more German geography. The weirdest point of the first day was definitely finding out that my roommate for the week had shared a house last year with one of my best friends from high school. It is indeed a small world after all.

The point of this course was to prepare us for the year, so there were sessions on how the school system worked in each Bundesländer (state) and simulated lessons, where we got into groups and then prepared and delivered a lesson, on a topic of our choosing to an age group of our choosing. Real teachers gave us feedback, and mostly it was positive, which was reassuring.

Of course, as is always the way, the main things I learnt weren’t really to do with teaching. I learnt that I have to watch and read Game of Thrones, that kiwi fruit can be a huge talking point, and that the Canadian accent is glorious. The latter came about because it wasn’t just British language assistants on the course – there were Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians and people from the Republic of Ireland thrown in for good measure.

Germany is the only country to offer such a course, and I’ve got to say, I’m really glad they do. Last week I was having a bit of a wobble; wishing I was at home and wondering why on earth I was in Germany. (Shhh – don’t tell Dad.) But spending three days surrounded by other people doing exactly the same, and making friends with them has reassured me greatly. For the first time, I’m actually excited about this year, which makes a change from the stomach gnawing nervousness that has been my general feeling towards it in recent months. So I am now prepared to boldly go to the school on Tuesday and start work. I mean, it’s not a different planet, but I feel it’s worth the split infinitive.