The End Of My 2012 Year Abroad Life!

Well, it’s the end of my 2012 year abroad life! In the past week, I’ve been to Christmas markets, pulled 4 Christmas crackers in total, received lots of presents, mostly edible, been ice skating twice, and generally got excited about today, namely due to me flying back to my Heimat in about 4 hours. Just like before, I’ll try and cut down the past week so you don’t have to read too much. Though I’m sure you’d love to know every single detail…

This weekend just gone was my long-awaited trip to Cologne for the Christmas markets, where I met with Shane, who lives there, as well as Phoebe who’s a Niedersachsener like myself, and Kate and Anna (or ‘Heeeeeane’) who are doing their year abroads in Spain, and wanted to see what Germany has to offer in terms of Christmas. I’m pretty sure they were not let down.

Reunited with Glühwein and Kakao.

Reunited with Glühwein and Kakao.

On our first evening in Cologne, which was Friday, we didn’t too much, other than get all excited about our reunion, go to Culux for Anna and Kate’s first Currywurst, and go to the Christmas markets for some Glühwein and Kakao. Due to us having to get up the day after very early to fully explore Cologne, we went to bed quite early.

Saturday saw the three girls climbing up the Cologne Cathedral, but Shane and I, after having done it a lot ourselves, decided to wuss out and go have a look around some normal shops which wouldn’t really interest the Spaniards who we were trying to impress. Afterwards, it was time for the Christmas market next to the Cathedral, which was generally quite packed – not ideal. So we didn’t hang around for long until we set off for the next one.

A visit to the Lindt Chocolate Museum was naturally included in our tour – it was just like going back in time to Year 10 and 11 when we visited all the Christmas markets and the Chocolate museum. We even checked out another Christmas market which I’ve never been to before in the Stadtgarten which had a nice little twist to it, purely because it wasn’t swarming with tourists. There were also some cool notebooks with extracts of maps as the front and back cover – of course, I immediately spotted out 2 Hannover ones, and could even say ‘I can see my house from here!’ with my street being on part of one. Though, at 25€, I could unfortunately not bring myself to it.

"It's a skating move", she said.

“It’s a skating move”, she said.

Keeping our trend of eating at restaurants, we ate at Vapiano on Saturday, which is the Italian place where they make your pasta right in front of your eyes. Sunday night also saw a visit to Bento Box – my temporary Wagamama replacement. Apart from the waitress seeming like she couldn’t speak very good German, and adding to the fact we’re not exactly fluent ourselves, especially with Kate and Anna there, it was quite tricky to actually ask what we wanted for, but we all enjoyed what we finally ended up with anyway.

After Bento Box, it was ice skating time in the Christmas market on Heumarkt. Despite Shane’s hand being glued to the side, and Kate’s bravery which led to falling over, it was a lot of good fun (well, I guess Kate falling over was good fun to watch in itself), and the evening ended with another Glühwein. Of course.

Then it was time to Hannover on Monday, and like always I was happy to get back and be greeted by the Hannover S-Bahn, as well as the nice lady’s voice on the Straßenbahn (unlike Cologne’s which sounds like she has a bit of speech impediment – we think she’s purposely been slowed down with it being more touristy), and I wasn’t home 2 seconds before I was back out again with Millie, Sabrina and Fabi in none other than Jim Block, ready to use my 8€ voucher which I received from Wichteln last week. I guess that does mean I ate out 4 nights in a row. But hey – what else is the grant for, right?

I helped out again on Tuesday in Ilka’s other school – Sophienschule – which was good fun again, and then I went back to my school, IGS Roderbruch, with my fingers, toes and eyes crossed, hoping that the Christmas cards from England had arrived so that we could have our Weihnachtsfeier (‘Christmas party’) early the day after. Luckily, they had arrived. Afterwards, I met with Millie, and together we had 1/2 metre Bratwursts and headed to Primark so I could buy my 84 Christmas crackers. Yes, I did feel stupid. Yes, I did get a lot of looks. And yes, Millie took a photo of me with my big giant bag with ‘Primark’ scrawled over it. But it was all to be worth it when I showed them to several of my classes.

'Greetings from the Winter-Zoo'

‘Greetings from the Winter-Zoo’

After going back to mine to drop off the 7 massive boxes off, Millie, Matthew (from Hildesheim) and I went to Hannover Zoo. “Again?!” you may say to yourself – but behold; this time of year, the Zoo becomes the Winter-Zoo, and basically most of the animals aren’t there, but you can go ice skating. So after a quick walk through the Zoo and seeing about a quarter of the normal amount of animals, Millie and I headed to the ice, and I showed off my skills after practising just two days before. By ‘skills’, I think I just mean ‘I didn’t fall over’, which is still a pretty impressive thing, right?

On Wednesday, we had our big Weihnachtsfeier with the 5. Klasse (aged 10-11) and their Christmas cards. It was so much fun watching their faces as they got their cards, but not as fun having to translate every single card for them. It got a bit tedious, especially when a lot of the cards said very similar things, and especially when the same kids come back to you and ask you to repeat what it was in German again. The Christmas crackers were a blast, though it took them about 5 minutes to work out what I meant by ‘stand in a circle, cross your arms, and make sure you have one cracker end in each hand’. I ended up having to actually hold some of their arms and move them to the cracker. But in the end, we managed it, and there were a lot of screams and laughs when all the crackers popped. The only depressing moment was when I noticed one of the students cleaning up, and he was putting the folded paper crowns in the bin as if they were just rubbish – I soon sorted that one out very quickly, don’t worry. I am also unaware as to how, after pulling the crackers, about 10 students came up to me and said they didn’t have a cracker and would like a new one. No children, I’m pretty sure something went wrong on your end of things there!

I pulled Christmas crackers with a 13. Klasse as well (aged 19-21ish) and they enjoyed it. I showed them pictures of Christmas in England, and Ilka also brought in some Christmas jokes you’d find in crackers. Just to give you some Christmas cheer, here are a few examples of the ones I actually liked:

Q: What did Adam say on 24th December?

A: It’s Christmas, Eve.

Q: What did Father Christmas say to his wife when he looked out of the window?

A: Look at all the rain, dear!

Q: What happened to the man who stole a calendar?

A: He got 12 months.

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did.

On Wednesday evening, I headed to Bremen to meet up with Rosie, David and Silke, who Rosie and I met back in London last month during the UK-German Connection conferences. Though I didn’t stay for too long, it was nice to soak in yet more Christmas atmosphere, as well as try my very first Feuerzangenbowle. I’m not sure what it is, but it tasted like strong Glühwein. Not complaining.

On Thursday I was at school again, and was very happy to walk into my 12. Klasse (aged 17-19ish) because they’d all brought the tables together and all brought food in. Luckily I’d actually forgot to bring my pack up! Before we ate, we all popped more Christmas crackers and had a laugh (and a moan) at some of the jokes, and after tucking into a variety of salads and cake, I showed off my photos again of English Christmas which they all seemed to enjoy, particularly the baby photo of me with my purple Christmas hat on.

In the evening, Elsa and I cooked a Thai curry together (Well, I say ‘together’, but I basically just cut the peppers, which I’m sure if you know me well you will probably laugh at) using some weird coconut cream stuff rather than coconut milk because our local Rewe had run out. Though we bought some Glühwein, we were done after finishing off another bottle of wine Elsa already had open, and before we knew it, it was around 11pm and time for bed, with Elsa having to catch a train at 9am this morning.

My wonderful collection of Christmas market mugs - Hameln, Köln, Hannover, Bremen and Hamburg.

My wonderful collection of Christmas market mugs – Hameln, Köln, Hannover, Bremen and Hamburg.

And now that brings us to Friday – 21st December 2012. We’re not dead, which is great, but what’s not great is the wait for my flight. When I booked my flight back in October, I picked late on Friday thinking that I’d have to work on Friday. But after I found out last week that I have no lessons today, I soon regretted it, and have already been into town to buy last-minute presents, packed my suitcase, watched Ratatouille in German, cleaned my room, and wrote this. And I still have 2 hours to wait until I go. Year Abroad pains.

Seen as I probably won’t write again until after Christmas, I’ll just use this last little bit of my post to wish you all eine fröhliche Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! (The Germans literally say ‘a good slip/fall into the New Year’ which I do find quite funny). I hope Father Christmas spoils you all and you stuff yourself with turkey or goose or whatever else you traditionally have. Ilka gave me some special spice to make Glühwein, instantly meaning this Christmas is going to be brilliant.