Brace yourself for a long read.
And so, I write this on the evening of Tuesday 7th August, ready to hopefully publish tomorrow morning at the same time as my previous blog about my first day. I’m going to try and fit in the past three days into this one blog, so brace yourself for a long read. I’ll try make it worth it, I promise.
So, where did I leave off? Ah, yes (feeling like an old man smoking a pipe telling you a story now). So, previously on ‘Dan in Deutschland’, I was very sad on my first evening here. Felt alone. No internet in my accommodation. Knew nobody in my halls. Well, the last two things there still apply. I have only ever seen one girl down my corridor, and that was on Monday when I was in a rush (the reason being coming later in this post), and basically she came out of the kitchen, I said ‘hallo!’ she said ‘Hi…’ and she walked straight past, went into her room, and closed the door. Fantastisch.
However! I am no longer a loner! Hooray! So I had my first day of my course on Monday. The first person I met was a Spanish girl called Carmen, who now has the nickname Camel. The reason being is that there are so many different nationalities here, it’s hard to pronounce some names. Another example is a guy from Nigeria who is called Tumba (sorry if that’s not spelled right!) who has the nickname Zumba. I, however, remain Dan – it’s quite funny seeing the faces of others when I tell them my name, as if they’re expecting something more long and complicated and something hard to pronounce. There’s also another girl from Turkey, whose name I still can’t remember but sounds a lot like Pistachio, but I won’t call her that just in case it causes offence.
But yes – we did a small test at the very start, and I’ve been put into the higher class (go me! Ignoring the fact I’ve been learning German for 10 years…) which I believe is B2 level. Generally, my class is absolutely Scheiße. There’s 7 of us; myself, two guys whose home countries I can’t remember (one of which I don’t think I’ve heard of before, anyway), and four girls from Russian who seem to want to always speak Russian amongst themselves; even out loud when everyone else can
hear. I swear they’re making jokes about the rest of us.
So that’s my class. It’s boring, and the teacher, whose last name is Wünderlich which I rather like, looks like Albert Einstein. No joke. The content we’re doing is actually quite easy. For example, today we did about our holidays. I did that at GCSE. But hey ho, it’s all about bringing my German up ready for the year, I guess.
Despite that class, I met more people in the other classes, including Camel, Zumba and Pistachio, as well as some other really friendly people. We had a BBQ last night and then afterwards went into town for a drink (hence the rush I mentioned earlier because I had to take my bag back to my accommodation which is 2 minutes away by Straßbahn) which was really good fun. For some weird reason, I could understand the waiter at the bar (we sat outside and they took our order there) completely perfectly; I think he spoke Hochdeutsch, or at least a near version. It was quite funny, too, because Zumba speaks English, with it being his mother tongue, but his German isn’t that amazing, and so I was basically the German-English translator of the night which was quite enjoyable, as weird as that sounds. I forgot to mention also that Pistachio is in my same halls. In a different building, but it was at least someone to travel back on the Straßbahn with!
I’m going to take a step back now and go back to day 2. I realise this isn’t very orderly, but I assume my mind is working in some sort of order so I’m going to follow it. As I think I mentioned, I went for tea (oder einfach könnte ich ‘Abendessen’ schreiben!) at Ilka’s. Though she said we were going to have a traditional German Sunday Abendessen, we actually had a leftover night, which saw a mass amount of food mixed together, including pasta, Wurst (natürlich), cheese, pesto, cucumber… And some other things. It was bloody fantastic! It was the first hot meal I’d had in Germany, and definitely a good hot meal to start with. We then had ice cream. Axel, Ilka’s husband, went to a nearby Ice Cream Parlour and got an ‘Ice Bomb’, which consisted of Vanilla, Tofu (which tasted pretty much like chocolate), another flavour I’ve forgotten, and finally pistachio. Now, if you know a bit about me, you may know that once I rubbed a pistachio nut on my lips – I was going through a weird face and worried I had an allergy – and my lips actually tingled a bit, so I didn’t eat the nut. Now, I wasn’t sure whether or not that was my mind playing tricks on me, but I didn’t want to risk it. So when Axel put a scoop of wonderful green ice cream on my plate and told me it was pistachio flavour, I began to panic (though I HAD said I’d eat any flavour of ice cream so I can’t really complain). I couldn’t exactly tell them awkwardly how I might be allergic to nuts because it was already on my plate with the other flavours. So I risked it. Eating little bits at a time. And ended up eating the whole thing, without anything happening. So good news is; I’m not allergic to pistachio nuts!
Geez… I come to Deutschland to learn German, and on the second day I learn I’m not allergic to pistachio nuts. Feels like some sort of ‘University of Life’ like so many parents say they went to.
During this evening, I also got to know Isabella a little better, who’s Ilka and Axel’s 1 year old daughter. She’s absolutely adorable. Again, imagine Boo from Monsters Inc., but take off a year or two. Her favourite word is ‘da’ [there], and she has a giraffe today called ‘Gigi’. She also likes Kekse which are biscuits, though it was quite funny on Sunday watching her ask for Wurst (or, rather, sitting at the cupboard shouting ‘da!’), and Ilka asked her, obviously in German, why she didn’t want chocolate or sweets like a normal child. Bless her! I somehow have become a favourite of Isabella too, because she wanted me to sit next to her at the dining table – she’s just so cute! Though she cries really loud out of nowhere sometimes, which I guess is like any other child!
So that was why I went to bed with a smile of my face – I’d had a lovely evening. I honestly could not ask for a better mentor than Ilka; she seriously does feel like a surrogate mother, and I even hugged her tonight when she brought me back to my halls (I, again, went to her house for tea which I’ll mention in a minute) because her and Axel are going to Manchester for a week tomorrow just for a little getaway while schools are out (as mentioned before they’re both teachers).
So let me go back to the University. I love the people I know, and not so much my class. That you know already. My
classroom is actually in a totally different building to everyone else and I can actually get off at the stop after the University on the Straßbahn which is much quicker. The Mensa (canteen) is also at the building I’m taught in which is very handy. We ate there for the first time today and it was good food and quite cheap too, being a student. Every day (or at least nearly every day), the Sommer Akademie team have planned an activity outside of class, and today (i.e. Tuesday) it was ‘Baum-Yoga’. Unfortunately I couldn’t go due to flat viewings (which I’ll move onto soon – AH THERE’S SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!!). Tomorrow is a city tour of, what they call, the Roten Faden which is basically a red line on the streets which you follow and it takes you to all the places a tourist needs to see in Hannover! So that should be good fun. There’s also tomorrow evening a film screening of ‘Das Leben der Anderen’. Now, I’ve never seen that before, and I actually really want to see it, but I can’t go because I’m busy – yet again, I will get onto this soon.
Just to fill in the gaps before I hit today – I’ve now got a German mobile which makes me feel proper German. Or at least, I
can now text and call Ilka and any other German for 9 cent a text or 9 cent a minute.
Was noch? Ah – I also have a month ticket for transport in Hannover, including the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and the buses. So that’s really good and it only cost me about 45 Euros altogether which I think is really, as the Germans call it, günstig.
But now we come to today. Tuesday 7th August. (Endlich I’ve caught up with myself!) Today I had class in the morning from 8:30am to 2pm. Then we ate in the Mensa as mentioned., just after receiving leftover money from my scholarship which was rather nice. Then I went into town to meet with Ilka, as she had booked me two flat viewings! She keeps apologising that she didn’t sort me accommodation out before I came to Hannover. I told her not to be though as we were told the school might help but might not – but she told me that in her information pack she got it says that she HAS to help me with accommodation! Definitely not complaining there though because it’s really nice to have the help!
We visited firstly a former hotel which had been turned into flats. All in all, it was not nice. The room was OK, and I was
told it was going to be renovated before I moved in, but the kitchen was in a right state, despite her telling me that a cleaning lady comes every week to clean up! So my hopes went down the drain at that, as Ilka was still enthusiastic and asking questions. But I imagined myself living there and knew I’d get used to it (I mean, I’m living here in Dorotheenstraße and it’s not nice at all but I’m used to it now after 4 days). So then we had 2 hours until the next flat viewing so we went for a coffee at a nice small independent coffee shop. We also went to the Britannia shop which was most definitely beautiful – full of British flags, baked beans and freddos. Ilka said she’d treat me to something (see – surrogate mother!) so I picked midget gems because they remind me of my mum (cue Mum reading this to burst into tears).
And then we got to the second flat viewing. Basically, it was fantastic. Three bedroom flat and a fantastic location which I believe is also a student area. We met the guy who’s moving out, and he was lovely. The other two are his brother and someone else, who are 27 and 25 respectively. I believe the 27 year old works and the 25 year old is doing a diploma at the moment, or perhaps has just finished one. Either way, the flat was great: but there was just one problem which I slowly started to realise as I chatted away with the guy in German. I had to meet the other two flatmates, of course, and Ilka was going to Manchester tomorrow. So, yes, that’s right – I have arranged to go back to the flat on Thursday, all by myself, to meet the other two guys. Gulp! Though I really feel I’m becoming more confident, despite only being here 4 days – Ilka made the phone call afterwards to Stephan (the guy with the nice flat) and she said to him that she’d pass the phone to me to organise a meeting. If you know me, I HATE phone calls. HATE. But I didn’t panic at all. In fact, I spoke to him fine. So woohoo for meeting possible future housemates on Thursday.
Due to Ilka going to Manchester for a week, she’s really worried about me (and again – surrogate mother) and she invited me around for tea again tonight, which included bread, meats and cheese. We then had ‘Rote Gürtze’ or something like that for pudding which was basically loads of red berries in a sauce, and then we had vanilla cream on top. It was divine, and apparently a Northern German food. After that, Ilka introduced me to loads of her neighbours who live in the flats above and below her (they all get on really well – it’s really nice!). I met a lady who I should call if ever I don’t like it in Dorotheenstraße (my current accommodation) and she will give me the key to Ilka’s flat and Ilka said I can happily stay there, which is so, so sweet of her. And then she introduced me to a family above her, which consists of mother, father, son and daughter; the son being exactly my age (or thereabouts). We’ve exchanged phone numbers and are actually going out for a drink tomorrow, hence why I can’t go to the film screening. His name is Henri and he seems really cool, and is finally the first German person I’ve met my age. He said he’ll show me the English pub in town, conveniently named ‘The Shakespeare”, as well as an Irish one which is nearby. We’re meeting ‘Unter’m Schwanz’ which literally means ‘Under the tail’ – basically, there’s a statue of a horse outside the Hauptbahnhof and all the locals say that they’ll meet ‘Unter’m Schwanz’ which I think is really cool!
One thing I have realised though, is that everyone Ilka has introduced me to (be it neighbours, or even friends of her we pass on the street), the person I meet seems to think I can’t speak German. Or at least, not very good German. The landlady of the nasty flat we went to see spoke to me in English, to which Ilka quickly reacted and said I can actually speak quite good German. Henri’s family, including Henri, also started talking English at first, and they actually thought I was only here for a week – so they were quite surprised when I told them I’m here for a whole year!
But yes. Deep breath. I believe that is all for now. So yes – everything is extremely exciting right now. Admittedly the first day was very hard, as you read, but with a massive thank you to Ilka, I’m easily getting settled in here in the capital of Niedersachsen. I have lots planned for the next few days, including a visit from none other than Sam Longden who is inter-railing with his brother at the moment, so it’ll be nice to speak my normal English accent face-to-face with someone. At last!
I won’t post again for a few days (I think you’ve got easily enough to read here for now!) Hopefully next time I write, I’ll be talking about how I’m good friends with a German my age, and also have a flat. Hopefully. But for now, I’m just enjoying myself here. So the class is a bit Scheiße, but not everything can be perfect, eh!
I’ll leave you with this quote I read in our text book today, and it pretty much does actually sum up what I’m feeling now, despite myself enjoying everything!
“Erst die Fremde lehrt uns, was wir an den Heimat haben” – Theodore Fontane.
Apologies if I’m a bit wrong, but here’s a rough translation: ‘Only foreigners can teach us what we have at home’. Ist schön, na?