January Highlights

To prevent myself rambling on about every single day of my year abroad, whilst still mentioning the important stuff, I’ve decided to start ‘highlights’ of the month, so I can mention the most important bits without you readers being able to write an hourly diary of what I do (not that you would, I’m just suggesting it would be weird if you could).

So here are my January highlights:

  • 1st January: New Year celebrations in Exeter

Though this technically counts December as well, it’s still nice to mention my New Year spent in my university town, Exeter. We had a house party with Monty’s workmates, and, though worried beforehand about the mass amount of people me and Belinda didn’t know, I had a great time. Especially the Imperial breakfast the day after.

  • 4th January: Returning to Germany

On an unusually warm January evening, I returned to Germany, and was met by Ilka, my mentor, at the airport, who also had packed me a little bit of food – it was wonderful to come back to that, especially after, clever me, forgot to consider the fact I was coming back quite late and there wasn’t enough food in the fridge/freezer to feed me a meal.

  • 9th January: A trip to the Hanover British Shop

Though I’ve been to this shop a few times before, this time it seemed a little bit more special to have a fellow Briton (Millie) to get excited with. We realised that the price of stuff in the British shop, though initially thought to be very expensive, isn’t actually too pricey. For example, we found you could get a bottle of cider for around 3,30€, approximately £2.85, and a multi-pack of 6 packets of Walkers crisps was 3€. In the end, we bought two bottles of cider and a packet of Love Hearts for Fabian, whose birthday party was soon approaching…

(And to top it all off, after the woman at the till laughed at us a few times at getting excited at the likes of Yorkshire Puddings and everything else, she gave us our items in a Tesco carrier bag. Day made!)

  • 11th January: Fabi’s birthday party

Because I want to keep this blog nice and clean, I’m not going to go into too much detail. Basically, the theme was ‘Pimps & Prostitutes’, which included dressing up, a quiz, and party games. It was interesting, to say the least, and made us Brits realise that Germans are a lot more open about the whole topic of sex whilst we sat there cringing and cowering away in the corner at every single thing that was said.

  • 16th January: Our first trip to the library

After a failed trip to the wrong library last year (i.e. the maths & sciences library where we spent a good 10 minutes trying to find the languages section just to see what it was like), Millie and I finally were brave enough to enter the main library which is located near the Mensa (‘canteen’) we go to a lot. This isn’t because we’re massive geeks and like to hang out in libraries, but more due to the fact we both have university work to do, and we felt a library would be a good location to get into study mode.

All in all, the trip was a success, despite the first few hurdles of discovering you have to put all your stuff in a locker, and bring the stuff you need (i.e. laptop, books, pens…) in a basket with you. Like a shopping basket.

Bizarre? We thought so, too.

  • 18th January: A trip to Celle

After school, 5 of us FremdsprachenassistentInnen headed to Celle, a small town nearby. Though it was extremely cold, it was nice to start exploring a little more, especially exploring more in my Bundesland of Niedersachsen (‘Lower Saxony’), with me having the Semester Ticket which means free travelling around it.

We headed to the Schloss (‘castle’) and it just so happened that entry was free on Fridays – so we spent an hour or so slipping around in giant slippers and dressing up as kings and other characters, as well as creating our royal mark (i.e. stamping a crown onto a piece of paper and trying to copy our initials underneath it using the given fancy letters). We also headed to a café where we had waffles and cakes, but were concerned when Hannah’s apple pie didn’t come, and the next time we saw the waiter, he was sat having a glass of wine with a bunch of friends…

  • 21st January: Saved two Canadians from getting lost in the depths of Germany

After visiting Cologne for Zoë‘s birthday, I was on my long journey back to Hanover, when I heard someone ask in English ‘Is this Hanover?!’ to a random old German man. Problem was, we were nowhere near Hanover – but I was about to change trains to the one which goes to Hanover. So being the brave man I am (i.e. getting all excited to speak English and act all clever with my train knowledge), I told the couple, who were around 40 years old, that I’m going to Hanover and to follow me to the next train. After boarding the train, the man asked (in a very assuming voice that he was correct) that the next stop was Hanover, but the train was actually a 55-minute journey.

In the end, I got off at the central station rather than sooner at the station near me (even though I hadn’t asked if they needed help at the time) and ended up feeling sorry for them and helping them after I realised they were totally lost as they were trying to get to Bremen (over an hour away by train), and helped them work out which train they could catch.

My good deed of the day was done. I even told them there were lots of food places and cafés in the train station they could hang out in as they had a 45-minute wait. Hero.

  • 23rd January: Taught whole class by myself for the first time

The day finally came – I taught a whole class by myself, with the teacher sat watching. All in all, it was very stressful, and there are definitely points I could pick out that I definitely did wrong (such as giving the students sticky notes ready for a game before actually telling them the rules. As soon as they got those sticky notes, I had no chance they were going to listen to me due to pure excitement).

Generally, I found a lot of improvisation is needed, and to not worry if you’re detailed lesson plan goes a bit off the rails, which it did a couple of times. In fact, there was one point where I had 4 students at the front of the class and I thought to myself ‘what the hell am I doing? This is not how I planned it’ but I managed to get my way out of it.

Afterwards, I remember thinking to myself ‘The answer to ‘Do I want to become a teacher?’ is: No.’

Then again, this was a 7. Klasse (Year 8 class), and I know I definitely prefer the sixth form students as they’re simply more interesting in learning. So maybe a sixth form teacher is my goal? I don’t know. I have another year and a half to think about it.

  • 24th January: Homemade Feuerzangbowle
As you can see (or perhaps not), the fire wasn't too great.

As you can see (or perhaps not), the fire wasn’t too great.

Feuerzangbowle is a warm, alcoholic German drink, a little similar to Glühwein (‘mulled wine’), and we made our own one evening in our WG (‘flat share’)! Well, when I say “we”, I mean I stood and watched, whilst Elsa wore oven gloves and Lars tried to set some sugar on fire so that it melted into the Feuerzangbowle. Though the fire miserably failed, the drink was wonderful, and definitely better than Glühwein.

With our Feuerzangbowle, we went a little English and played some darts. In a total of 4 games, after saying I couldn’t play darts (which I can’t), I somehow managed to win 3 of them. Must be in the blood? Or maybe a bit of Anfängerglück (‘beginner’s luck’) despite the fact I have played darts before, in which case maybe it was just pure luck. Luckily for him, Lars won the last game, after fears he wasn’t going to win a single game. Elsa, as you can work out, won none. She reckoned she wasn’t bothered, but you could tell she was crying inside.

  • 25th January: A trip to Hildesheim

    The Hildesheim Town Hall

    The Hildesheim Rathaus

Just like the previous Friday, a bunch of us decided to head to a nearby town after school – this time it was Hildesheim. Like Celle, we didn’t find too much to do, but we did come across the Marktplatz (‘market place’) where it seemed all the main and important buildings were, such as the Rathaus (‘town hall’) and some other really spectacular buildings.

We had a look in the tourist information point, where I discovered a leaflet about ‘die 9 Städte in Niedersachsen’ (‘the 9 cities in Lower Saxony’) which apparently tourists have to check out. To my surprise, I’ve actually been to all but 2, and, not so to my surprise, I live in one of them! This means I have around 5/6 months to visit the other two. Easy.

Afterwards, we headed to an Eiscafé (‘ice cream café’) where we had tasty ice cream, and a waiter who very much enjoyed our company. Perhaps enjoyed it too much. After being spoke to a little bit in Italian, being told a ‘secret’ which we can’t tell anyone else about Hildesheim, as well as, what we think was, a joke about people with nut allergies (Millie especially finding it a bit heinous), we managed to escape.

  • 26th January: Millie and Alex’s birthday party

Millie and Alex’s birthday was on 28th January – now, I know most Germans now will be thinking ‘Heh?! Wieso haben sie vorgefeiert?! Das bringt Unglück!’ (‘What?! Why did they celebrate before their birthday?! That’s unlucky!’). Well, in Britain at least, this isn’t actually unlucky.

Despite nearly every German we mentioned the party to saying that it’s unlucky in Germany to celebrate your birthday beforehand (however, they’d accept it if you ‘reinfeiern’ – i.e. celebrate the night before when it’s going to be your birthday at midnight), we had a brilliant time playing Ring Of Fire, Kicker, and this cool gap-fill game, which was more fun than I realise it may sound, and was also a good way to practise some German. A trip to Baggi and McDonalds was included, and we returned home at around 5am. I don’t know how these Germans make party so late (or so early?!) because I got up at 2:30pm and felt I had wasted most of my day!

  • 27th January: ‘Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus!’

This month, me and my housemates spent most evenings sat in front of the TV (well, the projector) watching Germany’s version of ‘I’m a Celebrity – Get me out of here!’ which was extremely fun. I learnt a lot of conversational vocabulary, as well as animals and insects (my favourite word I learnt being ‘Kakalake’ (pronounced ‘Ka-Ka-Lah-Ka’) which means ‘cockroach’.

27th January saw the final farewell where all the stars are interviewed (it’s a little different to England where they get interviewed as soon as they leave), and now Elsa, Lars and I aren’t quite sure what to do with our lives.

  • 28th January: Millie and Alex’s actual birthday

Having avoided the whole German ‘Unglück’, Millie and Alex made it to their birthday. Millie and I had a trip to Ikea, where we both bought plants (mine being a cactus) and had Schnitzel. After taking about 7,50€ worth of Pfand bottles back (Pfand bottles being where you take empty bottles back to the supermarket and get some money back – it’s approximately 0,25€ per bottle), we went to ‘das kleine Museum’ with some others for tea, which I’ve probably mentioned before as this is my third visit, and it serves tasty and günstig French food. I went for the goat’s cheese thingy which was beautiful, and reminded me of my dear friend, Kate.

After geeking out over a ‘useless information about language’ book which Alex got for his birthday, and also hearing Elsa, who has a wonderfully typical British accent when she speaks English, say the word ‘rum’ in a Yorkshire accent without realising it (cue the new challenge of giving her my accent), we headed home.

  • 31st January: A trip to Hameln

Bringing us finally up to today, I just got back from a trip to Hameln, the home of the Pied Piper, with Kat and Vicky, two other foreign language assistants in Niedersachsen.

This time, there were no Christmas Markets to get me distracted with sausages, sweets, and alcoholic beverages, meaning I saw a lot more of Hameln. Generally, the buildings were very German-esque, as you’d imagine a typical German town to have. We checked out the Museum Café where I had Niedersächsische Kartoffelsuppe mit Lachsstreifen (‘Lower Saxony Potato Soup with Salmon) which was bloody delicious and helped warm me up on this unusually windy day.

Afterwards, we had a look around the music in Hameln which typically had a lot about the Pied Piper, but also had some other interesting things. The highlight was watching a 10-minute show with mechanical characters about the Pied Piper (i.e. the Pied Piper had the head of a desk lamp and so on and so forth) which was actually really good, albeit the interesting creepy music, and the bit at the end where speakers behind us starting playing voices which scared me half to death.

Other things to mention:

  • I’ve successfully received an extension at my school, meaning I will now be working until the end of the school year at the end of June! (This means I’ll have to do another move at the end of May, which will by my 7th, not including moving to and from Germany… Meh, YOHOYA!)
  • I have booked train tickets for Cologne next weekend to celebrate Karneval, booked trains and hostel for a weekend in Berlin with Millie and Alex in 2 weeks’ time, and also booked flights to Barcelona to see Anna and Kate in March!
  • My sister, her fiancé, and my nephew are now definitely coming to see me in March (March is going to be a good month!) for a week during my easter holidays!
  • Elsa and I are now at war – we scare each other and try to take videos (and I think Lars is secretly on Elsa’s side). This started at the start of the month when I accidentally scared her when she came out of the bathroom, and then it just went on from there (though, I’m sure a lot of you will be surprised, it wasn’t actually me who started the whole recording thing – I think I’m even surprised it wasn’t me, too!) – the current score is 3-2 to me, if you count every scare which was recorded. But I definitely think my videos of Elsa’s reactions are way better. She just reacts brilliantly!

So that’s it for my January update. Though it is quite a lot, it beats me detailing every single thing in about 10 different blog posts. Hopefully February will be just as fun, especially with it being Millie‘s last month here before she moves to France.

Which then makes me think – Who am I going to make random trips to the Mensa with, despite saying we’ll eat at home to save money? Who’s going to laugh at my accent and judge me when I don’t know what a fish fork is? And who’s going to be on my team when we play table football with Sabrina and Fabi? It really saddens me just imagining a year abroad life without the one and only, Camilla Jones.