This year can be described in many ways, but certainly not normal. I did, however, feel a sense of normality when I came back to Jena after having been away for so long. I decided to teach the English school system in every class for two weeks. The students were horrified that we start school at 9am, as in Germany school begins at 7.30am. They do, of course, finish school earlier, giving themselves a really long afternoon at home. Personally, I prefer the lie in. One thing is for sure, waking up for 9am lectures next year will be no problem!
I also wanted to show examples of school uniform in Britain, so I stupidly showed this embarrassing picture of me in my first year of high school. Go on, have a laugh at my expense!
After two weeks of fairly serious work on education, I promised the students a more light-hearted lesson. I decided to teach about Ireland, given that we had celebrated St. Patrick’s Day the night before.
It is, of course, impossible to teach about Ireland without telling a couple of Irish jokes. I have found on many occasions that good-humoured lessons create a far better atmosphere in the classroom and make the students take part more in the lesson. However, I wasn’t quite sure how far I could go. The teachers told me not to hold back. After all, most of the students are older than me! So I didn’t:
Q – “Why wasn’t Jesus born in Ireland?”
A – “Because they couldn’t find 3 wise men, nor a virgin!”
I’m not sure whether they were laughing more at the joke or at the polite English guy’s embarrassment when telling it. Somewhat ironically, I started the lesson planning to show that Ireland wasn’t a land of crazy drunks and violent people, and ended up talking about St. Patrick’s Day and the I.R.A.!
But normality, if you can call it that, didn’t last very long. Soon I was unterwegs again, this time at Schloss Dhaun in South-West Germany. The Warwick University German Department host an event there every year, where 3rd years on their year abroad meet up, catch up and unfortunately, prepare for final year. Oh, and by the way, Schloss means castle, so we lived and worked in a castle for the weekend. When I say we, they stuck an unfortunate chosen few out in a hotel with cold showers, including me. The weekend was certainly a wake-up call for me. After a year of 12 hour weeks (if that), it’s going to take a lot of effort to get back to a hard-working week in final year!
But we’re not in final year yet, so even at Schloss Dhaun we had a good party!
The weekend in Dhaun showed me one thing: I have to make the most of this year. So, I will. I’m heading to Paris in the summer for two months, with trips to Dresden and Munich in between, going to festivals and making a final effort to say yes to everything. Two days after Schloss Dhaun I went to the Germany-Kazakhstan World Cup qualifier in Nuremberg. I’ve never been to an England game before, yet found myself cheering for Germany’s national team. I noticed one big difference between the English national team and Die Mannschaft. When England are drawing 0-0 to Macedonia, the fans get on their backs. When Germany were 3-1 up against Kazakhstan, the Germans were still disappointed with the way the team was playing in the second half, even mocking and booing their goalkeeper for a rare mistake. I think it’s fair to say the level of expectation is far higher in Germany.
So that’s the end of my catch-up. Look out for my next post on the most surreal week yet: learning plumbing, heating and air-conditioning in school.