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Springing Forward

It’s finally Spring! The sun is still in the sky when I leave work, the daffodils I planted have flowered and there’s a promise in the air that warmth is right around the corner.

So I thought I’d share 3 good things Spring has brought so far apart from increased vitamin D and the ability to be in the garden past 4.30pm.

1) Doing Things

I don’t know about you but Spring makes me want to do stuff. Winter makes me want to stay in under a blanket with a hot drink, but Spring is for being outside and seeing friends and generally Doing Things.

Most notably yesterday I went to Jump In in Walsall, which is a huge trampoline park, with mates I hadn’t seen in ages. It was great fun though I am now hobbling round due to my lack of fitness and inability to jump successfully from one trampoline to another.

2) Gardening

There’s some major gardening going on at my house. We’ve been digging up the lawn to redesign the front garden. There’ll be a fuller post about it when it’s all done.

Beth valiantly digging up the grass

There’s lots of seedlings near various windows and my hands are soil lined most weekends.

Fun fact: gardening is hard work and probably shouldn’t be attempted after trampolining.

3) Healthy Eating

Winter is for hot stodge. Spring welcomes in a variety of deliciousness that extends past pies, curries and stews.

That’s 7 types of veg right there

Green is an important colour

All the veg and all the deliciousness you could want when it starts getting warmer and fresher and lovelier.

All in all, Spring is shaping up to be a great time of year. I’m looking forward to new adventures, new food and a great looking garden. What are you looking forward to this Spring?

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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.

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Porridge is a difficult concept.

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

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

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Me, 3/4c and Goethe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kids, who’d ‘ave ’em?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Word about this Week

That word is exhausting.

On Tuesday I began my year abroad properly, a month after arriving. I am now officially in English lessons 8 hours a week, German lessons 2 hours a week and with Jonas for 2 hours. For those who’ve forgotten, Jonas is one of the children with special needs. I’d been asked (vaguely) to prepare something on Halloween, and (less vaguely) something about England. Which I did by compiling and printing off photos of my home town and my friends dressed up for Halloween – obviously avoiding the ones where they looked more than usually drunk.

On Tuesday, I didn’t really know what I was meant to be doing and just sort of hovered in the classrooms, effectively acting as a living dictionary. A fairly useless living dictionary, as I couldn’t remember what those double tipped pens that remove ink and then write over it are called. (Answers on a postcard please. Or in the comments.) But then I told the teachers that I had these photos of Halloween and then I had something to do. I went into every English class to show the kids these pictures and explain English Halloween to them. I have to say, it was a little difficult seeing as how I never celebrated Halloween before university and even then it was merely another night drinking and dancing with my friends. Not that I told the kids that.

On Wednesday, I ended up doing the Halloween thing all over again, this time including a Jack O’Lantern that I made on Tuesday night. Which the kids all thought was echt cool. But Wednesday is more notable for the fact that it was my first day properly spending with Jonas. Went fine, though we basically ended up playing football. The last time a boy was that impressed with my football skills was at primary school, where they were shocked I could kick a ball because I was a girl. I think Jonas was shocked I could kick and aim a football because I’m “old”. (All the girls keep tell me how their moms are only about five years older than me…) Later that day I ended up impressing another boy with my football knowledge – namely that Dortmund (sometimes) plays in yellow and black. I have to say, I only know this because they were playing a game that was being shown in the Student Union bar in Notts and I thought, for a second, that they were Hufflepuff. This impressive display of Bundesliga information happened at my first ever session of English tutoring. Yes, not only am I a teaching assistant, but now I’m a tutor as well. Somewhere along the way I think I’ve fooled everyone into thinking I’m an adult. But yes, tutoring. Went pretty well, mainly because I ended the hour with cutting and sticking, which everyone loves. Even teenagers though try to pretend that they don’t. Not that I’m tutoring teenagers – no, my charges are 7 and  years old, and think I’m super cool.

If I may go off on a tangent here, all the kids think I’m cool. Like, I get waved at in the corridors, some of them stop and talk to me every time they see me, they want me to eat lunch with them. It’s probably as close to being a rockstar as I’ll ever get. They also think everything I say is cool – or ‘geil’, as they’re fond of saying. On Friday I was showing a class pictures of my home town, and they thought it was super cool and exciting. Walsall is not super cool nor is it exciting. It is a big, industrial town, and I’ve yet to meet anyone from there who has something good to say about it. (However, I will defend it to the death, if an outsider criticises it. Say something bad about Walsall. I dare you.) But to the kids, it’s foreign and thus exotic and exciting etc.

Getting back on track with my listing of the days, on Thursday the class I was meant to be with was not there. They were on a school trip, which I didn’t know about, so I ended up picking a class at random and attempting to help them with German and Maths. It did not go well. The less said about my failure, the better. Thursday was greatly improved by my shift at the BC-café, which you can read about here.

Moving swiftly onto Friday, as previously stated I ended up teaching one class about my home town, as well as London. At one point I had to explain that the Queen is a woman… Anyway, a different class got to try apple bobbing, seeing as I’d explained it as part of Halloween, which was highly amusing to watch. They all thought it’d be easy. Oh how wrong they were.

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Samira victorious. After about five minutes.

Outside of school, I’ve now watched all of Season 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones (I have too many feelings and opinions on it), discovered that Therese is the kind of person, who, when they need to use up eggs, bakes (which is my kind of flatmate), and kept the German postal service in business, through sending packages to England (too many people have birthdays).

An interesting development in the brain work it takes to speak German, is that I’m finding it harder to switch quickly between German and English than I was finding it to speak German all day. This means that in English class, I’ve ended up speaking a weird form of Denglish at times. Sample sentences include “Also, wir spielen Apple Bobbing, and then, in diese Foto, I mean, in this photo, is one of my Freunde, one of my friends dressed as a vampire, also ein Vampir.” (By the way, all those alsos are German alsos, and not English alsos. Though I will admit that I over use also in both languages.)

So yes, a tiring week, but I have no plans for this weekend besides sleeping and eating. Oh and getting ready for Prague. Because I’m headed to Prague next week. *dances* S’gonna be good. Not least because I get to see Maddie. At some point there will be a huge post, inundated with pictures, about our adventures. Bis dann, friends… I mean, Freunde. I mean… Oh, you know what I mean.