Quick Update

Yes… quick.

Basically, this is an update before (hopefully) some more photo blog entry things and I am incredibly eloquent today, aren’t I? Well, we can blame my cold thing for that. Long story short, I’ve developed a cold and whilst it has never actually been so bad as to stop me talking or moving, I do enjoy moaning about it. I don’t get ill very often, but when I do, I let the whole world know. I don’t even know why I like letting the whole world know. I think I’m after sympathy. Either way, apart from a sore throat, feeling generally bunged up and having what I think might be a chest infection (it’s reasonable to assume that coughing up green generally indicates something somewhere is infected), I actually feel okay. Which is a pain really, because it means it’s not actually a legitimate excuse for not having started my Special Study. I’ve done a plan though, which is a start of some description. Before I moan more about how I’m ill, but not actually and I want sympathy for being ill despite functioning completely well, I’ll move on.

I visited Alice last week in Issenheim and the adventures of that will eventually appear on the blog… I still haven’t done Paris or Strasbourg, have I? Or the rest of the interrailing trip, though, in my defence, all my notes for that are at home in the UK. Yeah… so a blog entry may appear at some point in the future, but don’t make bets on when. Either way, it was lovely and seeing Alice again was brilliant. I also managed to learn some Elsass, which is the local Germanic dialect of Alsace. I feel I should probably point out that it is very much a dialect and I can read it and understand it better than Swiss German, which doesn’t seem entirely fair. Speaking of dialects, I discovered over the past two weeks that a whole raft of words I thought of as standard German are actually Saarländisch which means that my University oral exams next year might be interesting. On a related note, if anyone speaks German and has heard of, or likes Breaking Bad, I have recently been introduced to this: Recht und Ordnung – Iwwerzwersch It’s a spoof of Breaking Bad done in Saarländisch. It’s as amazing as it sounds. I’ve also just noticed that it has standard German subtitles.

So yes, I visited Issenheim and the city nearby, Colmar. It’s essentially the French side of where I was with Milena about two weeks beforehand. What else? Well, I visited Mainz. Maddy met me there and showed me around and it’s lovely, but only really in the Altstadt, the old town. In the new parts, it looks… not so nice. It also has Roman ruins underneath a modern shopping centre. I would be lying if I said that that didn’t ever so slightly blow my little mind. It does make me wonder what other cities might be hiding underneath their shopping centres, because I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority are not hiding Roman ruins. Also, whilst in Mainz, Maddy and I made plans to visit Heidelberg, which is what I’m doing tomorrow or today or yesterday depending on when this entry gets published.

I’ve started playing Pokemon because I am a child and I’m desperately finding things to procrastinate with. In a similar vein, namely procrastination, I’ve also been reading through a French magazine I bought in Strasbourg called Dossier pour la Science because it has a special on the evolution of language. Seriously, it’s a really interesting magazine. It’s got articles on threatened languages, on made-up languages (Klingon for example), the arrival of Indo-european languages in Europe, the theory of Vascon (a language which predates Indo-european languages like Latin), whether French is threatened by text language, how genetics can be applied to linguistics and so on. It’s really quite interesting and also a brilliant tool for procrastination. I would suggest anyone with an interest in languages read it, but you’d also have to be able to read French because it’s a French magazine so it’s, you know, in French because it’s published in France by French people who speak French. It’s really very interesting.

I also took part in an English experiment this week! I can’t really tell you why it was being done, just in case someone reading this volunteers for the experiment, but it’s not anything mind-blowingly interesting, so there’s no harm done by not telling you. Basically, I sat in a room for forty minutes with a microphone and was asked to name some pictures. Obviously, it was a bit more complicated than that. There were two pictures, one in blue and one in red. You either had to name the one in blue and then the one in red, the one in red and then the one in blue or say whether or not they belonged to the same category e.g. cat & fish = YES because they’re both animals. There were two of us doing this at the same time, but we were in different rooms and couldn’t hear each other.

You had the pictures for about three seconds or so before they vanished and it was actually quite taxing. I also sounded really bunged up and kept sniffling between answers, so my sound recording will be great fun to listen back to. “Yes… sniff… urgh… cat, fish…. sniff…” I also discovered that, in my crazy brain, cake and bowl belong to the same category. (According to the experiment, they don’t because one is a kitchen utensil and one is food). I know why they belong to the same category in my head: it’s because I bake a lot of cake and I always use a bowl to make the mixture, so, to me, cake and bowl belong together, because I can’t make one without the other. I therefore blame my mother.

So yes, aside from a bunch of Year 6 pupils calling me süβ (cute), there’s not an awful lot to report. There is however a lot of blog entries requiring photos that I ought to be working on, so I’ll get started on them at some point. … There’s something very unfair about being called cute by a bunch of Year 6 pupils.

 

 

 

 

St Wendel & Mainz

So! Post one.

You know I talked about Fasching/Karneval/Festival thing? Well, one of the main parts of it is the Umzug. Now, Leo.org translated this as ‘procession’ among other things, but when I hear the word ‘procession’, I think ‘funeral procession’, so I would translate it as ‘parade’. So I went to two parades. The first was in St. Wendel on Sunday and the second was the next day in Mainz. It gave me a brilliant opportunity to compare what you could call a small-scale amateur parade in a small town to a large-scale professional parade in a large city.

I went to St. Wendel’s parade because Sarah, one of the other language assistants, lives there and invited me and I wouldn’t say no to a parade where people will throw sweets at my face. It was a certainly a lot smaller, but people dressed up with equal amount of enthusiasm, though they didn’t respond to the chant ‘Alleh Hop!‘ half as well as the people in Mainz responded to their variety (which is ‘Helau!‘).

St Wendel Fasching (12)

One of the major differences between the two parades was the obviousness of their tractors. Mainz made a much bigger deal of trying to hide the fact that they were using tractors (when they were using them), whereas St. Wendel happily paraded its enormous tractors through its streets. Incidentally, the child in the bottom right of the photo was dressed up as Optimus Prime.

St Wendel Fasching (19) St Wendel Fasching (18)

There were witches in the parade, though I can’t recall why. I think it was a club of some description. That’s a thing to mention actually, a lot of the people taking part in the parade were doing so as part of a club or job or choir or band or something like that. I was just impressed that there was a cat on top of the 4×4 and that there was a witch with a spider on a lead. Mind you, if I saw a spider that big, I think I would actually temporarily leap out of my skin if only because I own no glass large enough to capture it and through it out a window.

St Wendel Fasching (30) St Wendel Fasching (29)

So this was an acrobatics group of some description. They were really quite impressive, but one of the things they did, regardless of how impressive the act, wasn’t something I’d ever really suggest is a good idea. The action in question is pictured above and to the right. The group threw one of their mates, who I presume to be the lightest of them, at the traffic light. He then proceeded to grab onto the traffic light, swing on it, do lift ups on it and the leap down into the arms of his teammates. It looked brilliant, it really did, but the traffic light was having a bit of a hissy fit afterwards.

St Wendel Fasching (31)

This is one of my favourite pictures. Okay. Look at the tractor. You see the tractor, right? (If you can’t, please ask your nearest human to take you to an optician.) Now look at the wheel. That man is ever so slightly smaller than the wheel (don’t let the perspective confuse you). Okay? You’ve got that? You understand that it’s a massive tractor? Yeah? Now look at this:

St Wendel Fasching (32)

You see that gap? No? That’s because there isn’t one, or, if there is, it’s about two people wide. This actually made me laugh. It took about five to ten minutes for the crowd to part enough to let the tractor through. You’d think a tractor that big would be able to just intimidate its way through, but no, apparently not. These Germans fear no tractor, regardless of how massive it may be.

So now, Mainz. This deserves a prelude purely for the fact that I woke up at 6amto get the there. The pain! The humanity of it all! 6am! I’m being overdramatic of course, but if I wasn’t I don’t think these entries would be half as interesting as they might already maybe possibly be. Probably the only thing that actually got me up that early was the promise of breakfast on the other side. Well, that and I hadn’t seen Maddy (a language assistant from Australia) or Maxine (a language assistant from New Zealand) for a while. I met Abbey, Maddy and one of the American language assistants at the train station and then I met some other American language assistants at the breakfast do as well. I do have to apologise, because I have completely forgotten their names. (Sorry).

So! To the parade! (On a related note, we waited two hours for the parade, watched the parade for two hours and then went off for food, even though the parade was still ongoing).

Mainz Fasching (6)

As I’ve mentioned, the people taking part in the parade are typically affiliated to a club, marching band, workplace, charity or something along those lines. This was a marching band and thinking back, I can’t help but feel sorry for the girls. It was really quite chilly and even if you were walking, I can’t imagine it would have warmed you up enough so you couldn’t feel the chill at all. Also:

Mainz Fasching (11)

HORSES!

If I had less common sense than I have at the moment, this blog entry would be dedicated to photos of the horses that took part in the parade in Mainz. It’s little wonder I ended up with more photos from Mainz’s parade when they had horses as well. The horses were remarkably well-behaved given the noise the crowd was making.

Mainz Fasching (17)

You know what I said about wanting sweets thrown at my face? It was in Mainz that I discovered that I very much want the opposite. They’d throw the sweets and I’d flinch and cover my head because honestly, some of those people were absolutely launching those sweets and it did actually hurt when one landed on your head or, indeed, any other part of you.

Mainz Fasching (23)

Mainz is one of the more well-known parades in Germany, behind Cologne and Dusseldorf. All three are famous for their political floats. Now the floats in Mainz featured poems at the front explaining the story behind the float. This one was about FIFA’s corruption. There was another about the current German coalition, another about the NSA Scandal and another about Edward Snowden.

Mainz Fasching (27)

This is just another marching band, but a rather remarkably dressed marching band it must be said. I have no idea why they’re dressed up like that. Maybe I should have bought the programme they were waving around in our faces. Oh well.

So yes. Those were the parades. Both featured varying degrees of drunkenness and litter, but they were both quite interesting to go and watch. Having spoken to my housemates and the children at school, I’ve discovered that some Germans love Fasching/Karneval etc., some actively dislike it and some are utterly indifferent towards it. That shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise, but it did surprise me a little. All in all. It was great and my only regret is that I didn’t eat more sweets.

Anyway, I’m sorry there aren’t more photos, but they’re all roughly the same if I’m honest. Also, you don’t want to give me an excuse to do a ‘Mainz Umzug: Horses!’ post.

I Had a Funny Title Two Hours Ago

But then I forgot what it was, watched an American documentary about white lions and my poster fell down. I honestly don’t know why I was watching a documentary about lions. I somehow came across it by clicking links connected to this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPyFzLeRYpg. I don’t quite understand how Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing U2 at the Oscars got me to a documentary about white lions in South Africa, but there we go. It wasn’t even a very interesting documentary. In case you were wondering: the poster fell down because both my windows are open and I think maybe the poster (my Assassin’s Creed III poster) was trying to protest in some way about the fact that I still haven’t completed the game.

So where have I been for the past slightly-over-a-week? Many, many places. To the point where it didn’t really feel like a week off at all, because I spent the entirety of last week doing stuff. I was doing something every day and whilst I’m not complaining (because it was brilliant), it has meant that being thrown suddenly back into school was slightly more traumatic than normal. Before I begin with what will likely be an overdramatic tale of my adventures, here’s a picture:

Favourite Place in Saarbrucken

I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but this is one of my favourite places in Saarbrucken. I have no idea what it is or why it’s there, but I have noticed that over the past few days, it’s been spurting water everywhere, so I suspect if may possibly be a fountain of some vague description. It would probably look nicer without the railing and the graffiti, but there’s just something I quite like about the place. I’ve only ever really seen it when walking home, but I just quite like it, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Also, I had a stroke of genius while painfully waiting forever for WordPress to finish ‘crunching’ my photos. Though, whilst I’m on the subject, I don’t approve of you ‘crunching’ anything of mine, thank you very much, WordPress. Basically, this post will be very short. As in, it will probably finish in the next few paragraphs or so. Then I’ll make two other posts (if all goes to plan) and they will cover almost the entirety of last week and will, amazingly, feature photos. This is, of course, if all goes to plan.

In the meantime, I shall fill in the gaps. I have spent the majority of this week doing very little. Besides going to the DLRG and frantically planning last-minute lessons (*coughwirtschaftschulecough*), I’ve been spending most of my evenings watching episodes of Star Trek. In case you weren’t aware, this is another one of my flaws. Or at least, I suppose it’s a flaw. Maybe it’s not. Meh. Once I start watching something or reading something that I enjoy, I tend to leap into it wholeheartedly for a good few months. Then I get bored and find something new, though I don’t stop liking it and I always go back to it eventually. So yes. This week has been marvellously constructive. I should point out that I have been doing some research, but admittedly a lot less than I’d have liked to.

So the DLRG. Well, this week we’ve discovered that snorkels hate me and I hate them. I like flippers/fins (I always called them flippers when I was young but the RLSS doggedly refers to them as fins), because they make you swim stupidly fast. The only downside is that when you take them off, your feet feel incredibly naked and no matter how fast or hard you kick, you’re not even half as fast as before. Snorkels on the other hand confuse me. When my head is flat in the water, the last thing my brain tells me I can do is breathe, but that’s exactly what you can do with a snorkel. In fact, I found this so confusing that, when doing front crawl with a snorkel, I still turned to breathe.

“But, Amy,” you might be thinking, “You’re only talking about how much the snorkels confused you? Why do you hate them?”

Well, I hate them because they hate my hair. Aside from confusing me more than biology at GCSE did (seriously, I still do not understand oestrogen and progesterone), the snorkel decided it either really liked or really hated my hair. All of you should be aware that my hair is quite long. That was not the problem. I tie my hair back into a ponytail-plait thing when I swim and yet the snorkel somehow still managed to twist itself into my hair. It was only when I was trying to take off the snorkel that I realised just how knotted it had made my hair. It took two people a minute to rescue my hair. The long story short is that I now don’t like snorkels and if I ever have to go near one again, it will be with a swimming hat… or a flamethrower.

Anyway, before moving on to the other two posts which will likely be leaps and bounds more interesting than this one. I’d just like to say that the two days in between the events that will be reported in the posts (Tuesday and Wednesday) were spent making pancakes, making pancakes fairly well and introducing Germans to the concept of Pancake Day which, apparently, is a uniquely British (& possibly also Irish) tradition (though please correct me if I’m wrong).

 

 

A Brief Summary of the Last Two Weeks

Well, I haven’t written anything for a while. The main reason being that two weeks ago, I was in Strasbourg and last week I was doing something probably unimportant and visiting a World Heritage Site in Völklingen, which is about a ten minute train journey away from Saarbrucken. Neither of these are particularly legitimate excuses for not writing a blog post, but you should be more than aware of my brilliant procrastination skills.

So, as I’ve said, I’ve visited Strasbourg. I met up with Alex there as a matter of fact and whilst Strasbourg is lovely, rain is not. It’s very hard to enjoy anything when it’s pouring down with rain all day relentlessly. Anyways, the trip to Strasbourg will be added to the photorific blog posts I have yet to write such as: the rest of the Interrailing trip and the trip to Paris.  I need to get on top of those at some point…. I will eventually. Probably. Well, at the very least, it’ll give me something to do as procrastination at the start of university next year.

I can’t remember quite when I wrote the last post (and, naturally, I’m too lazy to actually check), but it might be worth mentioning that the Blackboard’s Attack has left a mark. It’s virtually all gone, but that blackboard clearly did a number on my arm. It won’t scar of course. Nothing ever does. Anyway, so since then I have met this lovely man called Adam and, no, I’m not referring to my brother, though he is a lovely person.

My school, the Gymnasium, received an email from Adam, a previous language assistant, stating that he’d like to start going through the motions required to set up an exchange. About two weeks back, he visited the school and the English department had a meal in the evening. We were all speaking in English, but that was due to the presence of Adam’s father, who, like my parents, is not a German speaker. Adam’s a German and French teacher at a school not far from Bath. By a strange coincidence, Adam also studied at the University of Bath and did the same course I’m currently doing. This meant we spent a good half an hour talking about which lecturers are there, which ones have left, that we suspect one of being Communist and he gave me some advice for fourth year: pick modules with nice markers.

I really do hope the exchange goes ahead, because the Gymnasium would really benefit from having a British exchange (especially as they already have an American exchange) and I have no doubt that the kids back in the UK would benefit from learning about modern Germany (as our history lessons are unfortunately rather obsessed with 1940s Germany). I’ve been invited to come and have a poke around Adam’s school, to see if teaching’s something I would consider, and I’ve already told the Gymnasium, that if it does go ahead, I’ll be in Bath for at least (if all goes to plan) the next two years so I’d be more than happy to give them a tour.

Oh and I humiliated myself by tipping someone €3 for a €7.50 meal. I got confused, I think. One of the teachers paid for my drinks, so when I handed over the ten, I sort of panicked and massively over-tipped. I ended up feeling guilty about it all evening, which has to be one of the bizarrest things I’ve ever felt guilty about. Feeling guilty about tipping generously (with respect to the price of the meal) is just a bit silly. Then again, if middle names were designed with the purpose of naming one of our features, mine would definitely be ‘Silly’. Or, at least, I’d like to think it’d be because ‘Silly’ would be an awesome middle name.

What else?

Ollo had a birthday party and I actually got ever so slightly drunk on a cocktail called ‘Long Island Tea’ that is composed of several drinks somewhere in the region of 40%. Despite being what I think might have been slightly drunk, I still managed to balance on the arm of a sofa successfully, which surprised me actually, given how dizzy I felt. The party was on a Friday evening, but it may surprise you to know that the party started at 19:30 on Friday and ended at 07:00 on Saturday. I did go to bed at half four in the morning, but the music actually managed to stop me, which, given how tired I felt, is quite the achievement. Apparently, the only reason the music was turned down at seven in the morning was because a neighbour came up/down to say they couldn’t sleep. I’m sorry, but if you wanted to sleep you should have said something before seven in the morning because there’s being polite and not wanting to ruin a party and then there’s being an idiot. They’d have had every right to complain at two in the morning, so leaving it until seven and not sleeping is entirely self-inflicted.

I did make cake for Ollo’s birthday and I spent about three days trying to work out why the cake was so flat and why it didn’t rise. I thought that maybe I hadn’t folded it properly and that there wasn’t enough air inside the cake mixture for it to rise. That’s when I realised that I didn’t use self-raising flour (because I haven’t yet found any). I hadn’t used self-raising flour and I’d completely forgotten to put in baking powder (because I’m so used to using self-raising flour). The cake rose quite well, considering there was no baking powder in it, but yeah, if anyone knows where I can find some self-raising flour in Germany, do let me know because this will likely happen again.

What else? Well, I’ve seen some ducks. Uhm, I did visit the Völklinger Hütte with Gary and Sarah (fellow language assistants). I will probably do a photorific entry on that at some point as well because it’s basically an abandoned steel and coal factory and despite being all metal and machine, it’s got this really bizarre beauty about it. Well, to me at least, but as they say: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sorry, this will seem completely unrelated, but I just managed to scare myself with my own toe whilst writing this. If any of you thought I was intelligent, now is the time to rethink that position. This is why you shouldn’t wiggle your toes when sitting with crossed legs. How I managed to mistake my big toe for a spider is beyond even me, but I’m going to blame my brain.

I’ve also had a crisis this week about how much German I’m speaking. We don’t have a communal area in our flat other than the kitchen, and no one eats in there, so it is possible to go a whole day without seeing any of my housemates, which means I’m not really speaking German with them. I speak German with the teachers at school, but all the teachers at the Wirtschaftschule appear to have forgotten that I need to practise my German a lot more than they need to practise their English. I speak in German to the DLRG, but we spend a lot of our time together swimming, which doesn’t lend itself particularly well to talking. So I did have a bit of a worry, but Alice, being the marvellous person she is, has reassured me that you take in a lot more than you think you do. Just being in a country, you start to pick things up. Though, admittedly, taking three months to work out that Einbahnstraβe means ‘one way street’ is slightly humiliating.

So I’ve been reassured that I’m learning every day and to accelerate this, I have purchased ‘Die Büchdiebin‘, which is better known by the English title: ‘The Book Thief’. I know it was originally written in English, but it’s set in Germany and, to be honest, since learning German, I’ve always found it really weird that characters are speaking English despite being German and living in Germany and talking to other Germans. For example, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. It’s a brilliant book and beautiful film, but it is a bit weird when all the ‘Germans’ are talking in the most English accents you’ve ever heard.

Now that I’m watching ‘Star Trek: the Next Generation’, I’ve had a similar problem. Jean-Luc is French, he lives in France but all his friends and family (who are supposed to be French) have very noticeable English accents. The excuse provided by the show is that ‘French becomes obsolete in the 24th Century’ to which I say PFFFHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Clearly the person who wrote that episode has never met a French person. As if the French would ever let French become an obsolete language. It could do, I mean, who am I to say what would happen in the next few hundred years? Either way, even if French did become obsolete, I don’t think the French would all miraculously develop perfect English accents, do you?

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, so I’m going to start reading ‘The Book Thief’ in German because it’s set in Germany there are Germans in it and they’d all be speaking German. Also, whilst I’m aware translations are never perfect, the book was translated by a German, so it’ll be as close to the book as Germanly possible. (The word German appears in this paragraph far too often for its own good).

This is quite long… this is why I shouldn’t write an entry every two weeks. Oh well.

I suppose I’ll finish with two thoughts.

First thought:

It’s Fasching/Karneval/FestivalwherealltheGermansgobonkers this weekend. It’s a very popular and widespread German festival that the rest of the world is almost entirely unaware of. From what I’ve read, it’s a festival that starts on the 11th November at 11:11 am (the irony is quite impressive really isn’t it) and continues until the start of Lent. It’s a pretty neat idea really. Go mad, celebrate, drink and eat as much as you can before Lent when people would traditionally fast in preparation for Holy Week. Sadly the closest equivalent the UK could claim to have is Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, and that’s just when we shove our mouths full of pancakes (fulfilling the eat everything you have left before Lent). So I’m going to St. Wendel and Mainz (on Sunday and Monday respectively) to see the Umzug or parade. From what Torsten at the DLRG was telling me, the Umzug basically throws alcohol (in the form of beer because it’s Germany and encouraging the drinking of any other form of alcohol is sacrilegious) and sweets into the crowd. You have one guess why I’m going aside from to marvel at a cultural event with no equivalent in either France or the UK. So yes. Oh and people dress up in silly costumes. I’m going as an English schoolgirl because I conveniently have my school tie with me.

Second thought:

I SWAM TWENTY-FIVE METRES UNDERWATER!!!!

For those of you who aren’t aware (which will likely be the vast majority of you), I’ve been working towards a German lifesaving qualification, the silver lifesaving qualification. It requires you to do basic things like tow someone clothed 50m in four minutes, or swim so many metres in so many minutes, but there were two requirements that I was really struggling with. The first was diving to the bottom of the pool and collecting a five kilogram ring three times in three minutes. The problem was that the bottom of the pool is a whole 3.8m from the surface and the deepest I’d dived before joining the DLRG was 3m. I did manage it first time however, through sheer bloody determination if nothing else. The second requirement was the one that was really getting to me. 25m underwater: no surfacing.

I’d had four or five people coach me on how to do it and we’d all established that I can hold my breath long enough: fifty seconds is more than enough oxygen to get you across twenty-five metres. The problem really was, as everyone had been telling me, a Kopfsache, a head thing. You can hold your breath for more than long enough to swim twenty-five metres, the problem is that once your brain starts telling you that you need oxygen, it can be quite difficult to ignore. That was the problem I had. I knew I could go further, but every time my lungs would start burning, I’d panic ever so slightly and shoot up to the surface as fast as possible. Everyone was telling me to think of home or somewhere I love in order to get me to the other side. Clearly that was the wrong approach. What finally got me to swim the whole 25m underwater was very much indignation. I had decided that I’d had just about enough of the water beating me and that I’d be damned if I’d lose to the bloody pool again. So I did it. 25m underwater. And all because the pool had somehow managed to annoy me. I’m sure that reveals something about me, but I’m not quite sure what, but there we go.

Deep Thought:

42

 

 

Today I Was Attacked by a Blackboard

I think it might have been a revenge attack for all those times I’ve mentioned how much I dislike blackboards. I’m actually quite chuffed to have something as dramatic as that for the title. I Was Attacked by a Blackboard. I reckon that could be a horror film and, as bad as it sounds, it would still be better than Sharknado. Mind you, it wasn’t as quite dramatic in real life. The classrooms in my one school have two blackboards which can be moved to meet each other in the middle. Said blackboards also have rims at the bottom upon which the broken remains of chalk are often found. When writing on the one board, the second board leapt at me with its rim and inflicted a small mark. Despite loudly announcing, ‘ow!’ no one in the classroom made any comment. I suppose they didn’t understand me because I didn’t say ‘ow-uh’. Those language barriers… so difficult.

Now, this may come as a shocking revelation to some of you, but last week one of my teachers has informed me that I’m very sarcastic. Now, I’ve always been aware that I’m a bit sarcastic, but I don’t think I realised how utterly ingrained it was until last week.

We were talking about the American political system and the disadvantages of the Electoral College, when someone pointed out, correctly, that the Electoral College sometimes means that you can win the presidency without a majority of the popular vote. I agreed and tried to see if I could get an example out of them. The example I was going for was George Bush vs. Al Gore in 2000. In order to try and prompt this answer, I told the class that it was, “everyone’s favourite president, even in Germany he’s your favourite president”. This, of course, was sarcasm. I did this without thinking. Completely unconsciously. The pupils didn’t get the sarcasm and were apparently guessing presidents like Washington and Lincoln. Whoops.

Sabine, the teacher in question, didn’t mind of course. In fact, she actively encouraged my sarcasm as it will help the pupils realise just how sarcastic people are in the UK. Seriously, I don’t think we actually realise how much we overuse it and I don’t think the straight faces we use help either.

So yeah, what else have I done? The DLRG (being the wonderful people they are) let me look at all their boats on Saturday, though I won’t be uploading any pictures (my apologies). We went out for a drive in the minibus and were going to get in the boat for a bit of a gander on the Saar, but the rain kicked in at about one ‘o’ clock and just didn’t stop, so we ended up just driving around towing a boat. I imagine it looked quite odd. It was great fun and everyone I’ve met via the DLRG has been absolutely wonderful. I’d like to write more, but there’s not an awful lot more to report about it.

I mean, I met the DLRG’s beast of an emergency vehicle and I couldn’t help but compare it to a fire engine, though it’s more like an ambulance. It’s like the offspring of an ambulance and a fire engine. So that was impressive. Oh and one thing I forgot to mention is that when we were pottering about trying to find somewhere to unload and drive the boat around, we were pottering about four to six kilometres away from the Saarschleife. In case you don’t know what the Saarschleife is, it’s one of the Saarland’s most iconic sights. It’s on a lot of postcards. I still need to go and see it.

Ooh! And I’ve discovered  a curryhouse or ‘Indian’ if you’re strange. (On an unrelated note, do you write curryhouse as one word or two? My gut says one word, but given that almost everyone I know who’s not from Birmingham says ‘Indian’, I suppose it’s an unnecessary question anyway isn’t it?) It’s called The Star of India and is a hop, skip and a jump away from the town hall. Now, because I’m used to the prices in the UK, it did seem a bit on the expensive side, but if you converted it back into pounds, it’d probably cost about the same. It was nice. It was nice to hang out with some of the other assistants and eat chicken curry. Curry’s always one of the things I miss when away from home (for better or for worse).

I’m sure there’s probably plenty of other things to talk about. I’m not sure how much of it would interest anyone and, to be honest, I’m in one of my housemate’s rooms watching GTA IV, so my attention is split between writing this and watching delicious ridiculous video game violence (and that was also sarcasm – video game violence can’t be delicious: you can’t eat it).

Oh! I got accepted by Lourdes. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it previously, but I’ve applied to be a volunteer at Lourdes. Now, originally, I just applied to the Service pilotes, but they could only give me three weeks. They did however, because they’re lovely, redirect me to Cité Saint-Pierre which is run by Secours Catholique. (Cité Saint-Pierre is a bit like a hostel but not, its basic aim is to allow everyone to visit Lourdes, regardless of their financial situation). They have kindly been able to give me three months. So three months in Lourdes! I have no idea what the internet access will be like so this could be fun! In all honesty though, it’s volunteering and helping people and I’m looking forward to it.

So yeah, that’s all that. Except for the fact that this blog post was supposed to be up last night. I’d nearly finished writing it when one of my housemates asked me to take a look at something. Turned out to be an application letter for Rockstar North. It’s not his application letter, but a friend’s and in case you’re wondering who Rockstar North is, it’s a video game developer in Edinburgh famous around the world for the creation of the GTA series. I took a look and I fiddled a bit with it and then it was midnight and I needed to go to bed, so you were supposed to see this blog post yesterday. I guess GTA is just determined to stop me writing blog entries.

So yeah, that’s it for this week. I’m off to Strasbourg this weekend to meet up with Alex, so there may be a blog post on that at some point, though having said that, I still haven’t written the entry for Paris or the rest of the Interrailing trip, so yeah, I wouldn’t bet on there being an entry on that for a while.

Mysterious Lack of Ducks in Saarbrucken

I’m going to write the title at the end because I can’t think of anything particularly clever or interesting. It’ll probably end up being something silly, knowing me as well as I do. To be entirely honest, not a lot’s really happened this week. So I suppose this entry will be shorter than normal (except it likely won’t be because even my ‘short’ posts are longer than I’d originally anticipated).

I suppose I’ll start with a sudden realisation I had. I’ve left my old diary in the UK. Now this probably won’t seem significant to anyone really, but the reason I mention it is because I was using that diary to write up the Interrailing Posts and it’s just occurred to me that the diary’s in the UK, making this task slightly more difficult than I’d initially thought. You might have already guessed, but this will mean that the Interrailing Posts will end up being slightly less detailed than they otherwise would have been. At least there’ll be photos though, right?

In other news, I’m in school tomorrow. In case you read this later than it’s time of publication, tomorrow is a Saturday. At this stage you’ll be wondering one of two things. You might be wondering if German schools often have lessons on Saturdays, as can be the case in some countries. Alternatively, you might be wondering what cruel person decided to make school happen on a Saturday. Well, it’s an ‘open day’ is the best way to explain it. Whereas in the UK, we’ll have an ‘open evening’ where parents and potential pupils can have a bit of a gander around the school and pester teachers and students alike, in Germany they have these ‘open days’.

From what I can tell so far, it won’t be all that dissimilar. There’ll be information points on different subjects and each subject will have beautiful coloured boards full of information that no one ever actually reads in any great detail, there’ll be presentations of school clubs and bands and so on and so forth. The only major and intriguing difference is that there are normal lessons, or ‘live lessons’ as they seem to be referred to. Essentially, this is a normal school day with normal lessons. The only difference from Monday being that potential pupils and their parents can come in and watch these lessons. It’s a bit of an odd concept for me, really, but I can see how that would be a useful thing for parents to see.

What else?

Ooh! I saw ’12 Years a Slave’ with two friends from the DLRG. We were originally planning to go and see ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ but, as it turns out, the whole of Saarbrucken (which may not actually be an exaggeration) had the exact same idea. We gave up on the one cinema (the one by Pizza Hut if that means anything to anyone except me) pretty quickly due to its very long queue and one till. After a bit of discussion, we made our way over to another cinema (which I hadn’t seen before). It was there that I noticed ’12 Years a Slave’ was playing and, having heard that it’s supposed to be good, I recommended we go see that. So we did. The film was a German dub, so I’m quite proud of myself for understanding almost everything that was going on. What I’m not proud of is the blubbering that went on towards the end of the film. It’s a good film. Watch it. Take tissues.

We’ve been doing Ausdauer Training at the DLRG for the last two sessions and you know what? I still haven’t looked up what Ausdauer means. I assume it has something to do with stamina because in these sessions, we end up doing about forty lengths or so and it’s more about getting the lengths swum than swimming them quickly. Incidentally, I just quickly looked up Ausdauer (die Ausdauer if anyone’s interested) and it means ‘endurance’ or ‘stamina’ or ‘hardiness’. It can apparently mean ‘patience’ as well, though I’m a bit sceptical about that one. So yeah, anyway, I managed to pull a really odd muscle doing this Ausdauer Training and said muscle, being the evil so-and-so that it is, delighted in causing pain when I laughed. I hate it when laughing hurts. It just feels like my body’s plotting against me.

I finished two books this week. (I’m really running out of things to talk about now, aren’t I?) ‘Holes’ because three classes in the Wirtschaftschule are studying it and then ‘War of the Worlds’ because I got it on my tablet’s Kindle App and hadn’t read it in a while. As it turns out though, the fourteen/fifteen year-old me reading it didn’t really do a very good job of it because there are so many things that go on in that book that I couldn’t remember happening. On a relatedish note, the 1975 ‘War of the World’ Musical thing is actually very accurate to the book, minus the journalist’s wife because she just sort of vanishes for 80% of the book. Oh and the film from 2005 is very liberal with the story. I think Hollywood must have assumed that if aliens weren’t killing people within the first fifteen minutes, people would get bored and walk out of the cinema. In the book, it takes at least two or three days before the tripods start walking around. So yes, anyway, I’ve read some books and the only reason I mention it is because I haven’t read for pleasure since I started university.

And then bank stuff. Essentially, I want to be back in the UK for the 31st May. The reason being that Hayley, my cousin, is getting married. Now the reason the bank has any involvement in this is because I get paid on the 30th (usually, whatever workday is closest to that date) and I have to close the bank account. So the problem was that I had to ask the bank if the account could be closed automatically at a later date. The answer, as it turns out, is yes. I just need to go in at the start of May, and fill out a form. All they need is the date when the account will close and the IBAN and BIC of the account that the money will be forwarded to. They seemed more worried about the charges than me! I’m already fully aware that international payments are charged, but they seemed much more concerned about that than anything else and considering the charges are only around €11 anyway, their concern was actually quite amusing.

So yes, aside from the purchase of an amber ring which is coming from Hereford, there’s not an awful lot to report. Well, I had to raise my voice at some A-Level students which would have put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day had I not had a group of wonderful Year 10s, and then I practised French last Friday when I went to a game night and played ‘Time’s Up’ with some French speakers. (Said game night has provided me with some odd vocabulary of a debatable degree of usefulness).

So yeah. Maybe next week’s blog will actually be more interesting. Though maybe this is interesting. The school bit probably is. I don’t imagine my reading habits are particularly noteworthy, but meh. And keep an eye out for an Interrailing Post. There might be one soon when I inevitably use it as procrastination to avoid doing more research for my Special Study.

A Christmas Carol + a month

You know. I had actually begun writing an entry before I left on my two week holiday to the UK for Christmas. Thing is, I never finished it and it seems silly writing it now and making feeble attempts to catch up with myself. So this entry will consist of bullet points and pictures of my room. Then, hopefully, I can get back on track and attempt to do one a week. Though that will likely go as well as research for my Special Study currently is.

I don’t know if I’ve actually put up pictures of my room before. I  do know I put up a picture of Dave, the unicorn in the unicorn poster, but I don’t believe you’ve had an update of the room since then because now there are even more posters! More than is probably wholesomely necessary, but I never did like plain walls. So, without further ado:

Room after posters (1)

So, the view from the door. Only two things to say here really. One: yes, there are no curtains, I instead have shutters, which every building on the continent seems to be equipped with. Two: yes that is my bed. I am sleeping on a mattress on the floor and thoroughly enjoying it. I could quite easily get a bed frame but I actually quite like it the way it is, so I’m just going to leave it I think.

Room after posters (3)

The other ‘bed’ you see here is a sofa bed, but it’s a lot of effort to turn it from one to the other and I’ve had at least three guests so far, so I’m just going to leave it. The advantage of leaving it means that I have a lot more dumping ground space then I used to. That is essentially what it is now, it’s a dumping ground. An organised dumping ground, but a dumping ground nonetheless.  Also, the return of Dave.

Room after posters (4)

More posters (so many posters) and my desk. So yeah, my room. Absolutely fascinating, I’m sure. No, it is actually quite a big room, larger than I’m used to really. When I had the loft back home, I had a room that was bigger, but I’m actually used to small rooms now, so getting used to the size of this one took longer than I thought it would.

Also, you’d think a room this size wouldn’t retain heat very well and it didn’t used to, but we’ve had the heating system bled and this thing can turn into a sauna now. We used to have the problem that the radiator would heat up, but only one fifth of it would get warm, meaning that it was heating the room a fifth as well as it could be. Since the radiators have been bled, the whole radiator has started getting warm and the whole room can be warm in five minutes. You hear that tiny rubbish room in Bath? Radiators can heat up whole rooms in less than an hour!

I should point out that that was all written before the holidays, but even if the photos were more recent, the only new thing you’d notice is the presence of Till, my German keyboard. Oh and you might notice more things on the dumping ground bed than in the photos above. I’ve been quite disorganised this week and I’ve actually got a half-decent reason for said disorganisation. Two reasons, technically, though the second reason isn’t quite as justified because it’s just me being my usual indecisive panicky self.

So, what went on before Christmas and after?

Well:

  • I went to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ performed at the Staatstheater in English.
  • Then I went to a Parents’ Information Evening at one of my schools.

It was at this Information Evening that I met our old friend. Do you remember the problems I had with accommodation at the very start of my Year Abroad in Germany? That the person had said ‘yes’ over Skype only to say ‘no’ when I met her in person? Yeah? Well, I met her at the Information Evening and the awkwardness meter must have broken. To be fair, I wasn’t as friendly as I probably should have been, but given she didn’t even ask me if I’d found accommodation in the end, I like to think I might have been justified.

  • I went to the one of the school’s Christmas dos.

It was lovely, the food was great and I got talking to some new teachers. (Though some teachers admitted that, after three months, they still thought I was a student).

  • I went to the other school’s Christmas do.

Well, it wasn’t really a Christmas do, it was more like a buffet in one of the staff rooms and I came across it by accident really. All I wanted to do was pick up a school magazine. I was encouraged to stay, stuffed myself with more food than wholesomely necessary and then got talking to some of the teachers, who, being the marvellous people they are, want to organise a get-together in January so they can talk to me outside of school.

  • I went to Karsten’s birthday party.

Karsten’s a member of the DLRG and it was his birthday, so he invited me (which I thought was a lovely thing to do considering I haven’t really been there all that long). When I told Mom about it, she was initially terrified because I’d understood the party to be in a ‘tent’ in a ‘forest’. As it later transpired, the ‘forest’ is very close to the city centre and the ‘tent’ is a wooden hut owned by the local council that is rented out at the cost of €75 for events and parties. It was absolutely fantastic, if a little cold (there’s only so much heaters can do when battling December). I met some wonderful people and had a whale of a time.

  • I flew to the UK and spent five hours in Frankfurt Airport.

I was so bored that the misspelling of Manchester (to Marchester) successfully amused me for a whole half an hour.

  • Spent the holidays in the UK

Technically part of my Year Abroad but mostly involved meeting up with friends and family, eating more than I should and generally avoiding my to do list. GTA V helped with the avoidance of said to do list. Oh, and I got a unicorn onesie and my Granddad wore it. I think those two weeks might have been the best Christmas holidays I’ve had.

  • Came back.

I would like to point out that my flight out of Frankfurt and my flight into Frankfurt were both delayed. You know that thing about Germans being punctual? Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn are clearly unaware of this.

  • Lessons.

Mostly going well. Though the teacher who I mentioned way back has managed to get me doing lessons again. Admittedly those lessons are on songs (as songs are arguably poems), but it does feel like we’re right back to square one. As in, we’re standing on square one and I’m apparently the only one who’s noticed. She’s even back to giving me lengthy feedback at the end of lessons. I do wonder if her repeating herself is because she thinks I don’t understand. Bizarrely, I can understand everything she’s saying to me. I wonder if that’s because she tends to say the same things. Everything else is going swimmingly though.

  • Trash Film Night.

Ollo invited me to go to a Trash Film Night last week. One of his friend’s adores really bad films and he does evenings dedicated to the watching and enjoyment of these shocking films. Hearing that they were going to watch Sharknado, I tagged along. Sharknado came with a hilarious analysis and drinking game. Also, it’s not just bad, it’s sooo bad. We watched the outtakes and behind the scenes at the end and it appears, despite how ridiculous the film is, the director was taking it completely seriously. I’m still unsure as to whether he was being sarcastic or deadly serious.

  • I got a letter from Lourdes.

Yes indeedy! That was what has been making me so disorganised and panicky this week. I got the letter on Saturday and spent Saturday to Wednesday trying to fill it in, pick dates, work out how to get to Lourdes from Birmingham and so on. Still! It’s all filled in now and it’s been sent off. If all goes to plan, I’ll be working as a pilote/guide in Lourdes from 16th June to 16th September which will be exactly three months. Incidentally, one of my official powers as a pilote would be to shush people. (MUWHAHAHA).

  • I got my Erasmus Grant. (I know!)
  • I did more recordings for the listening exams.

And they were pickier than you could believe. They spent most of the time saying ‘langsamer… nein, langsamer‘. There’s only so slowly I can speak before I will start to sound less like an authentic native speaker and more like an authentic Dalek. It felt more like work this time around, but I met Luke, the one English language assistant I hadn’t yet met, and we had fun talking and messing around between recordings, so it could have been worse.

  • I went to Jess’s birthday party.

Where we all ate far too many things dipped in chocolate fondue and played Tabu. We did alright at Tabu actually, though I did at one point get Mord (German for murder) confused with Morte (French for death). It was excellent fun.

  • I’m failing to work on my Special Study.

I’ll work on it eventually, but this week’s been a bit stressful with the Lourdes thing and then me trying to decide if boots where your heel slips a bit is severe enough a problem to send them back and potentially get a size too small. (Yup, my worries are completely reasonable and not at all silly). I guess I’ll either start tomorrow or Sunday because I highly doubt I’m in the mood to do it today. I’ll continue planning it though. The idea is to have all the research done by (at the very latest) the end of March so that I have two months to write it (April and May) before heading off to Lourdes without my laptop (no worries, blog readers, I will be taking a tablet).

So yeah. There we go. That’s a blog update for you before I start actually updating regularly (because that’s gone sooo well in the past that it’s bound to work this time). On a vaguely related note, you know the spellchecker on WordPress is bad when it’s trying to replace ‘ate’ with ‘eight’. We all eight far too much food? Really, WordPress?

 

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