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.
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.
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.
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.