Sunday 2 December 2012

0049-9: The November Mystery

I can't spell November. Every time I attempt to write the word I include at least three too many r's.

Well my little Würstschen, here we are again. Quite a time between this post and the last. I apologise once more. I could lie and say I've been on a month-long magical voyage of discovery with a platinum horse and a cat named Phillip, but:

1) I don't like telling fibs
2) That was only a dream

In truth, I have done some interesting things, but this has been interspersed with early school mornings, and so the bags under my eyes are becoming so large that I may need to pay an extra £30 to Ryanair for excess baggage. "BUT"- I shouted to myself as I awoke this morning, scaring Rosie and two pigeons perched on the windowsill- "I NEED ehem I need to write a blog post today about all the hijinks I have been involved in. Also, I'm still tired." I promptly fell asleep, but am now as fresh as a (pressed) daisy, so in the inimitable style of ITV news and Big Ben, here are the events of the past month:


I actually went to the Kramermarkt for the day, bought a crêpe, lots of ice cream and German beer. A good time had by all.


I visited Bad Essen, a small(ish) village near Osnabrück for the week with Rosie. I was surprised to find this normally quiet haven cheerfully interrupted by two things:
1) The hotel we were staying at, a characteristically calm German abode, was visited by what we could only assume was a touring porn film company. The question as to who was being murdered eventually gave way to the dawning realisation that a woman was either having sex in front of a camera, or she kept winning the lottery every seven or so minutes.
2) On one of the little trips through the village centre, we came across the logical scenario of a man resplendent in neon lingerie and cowboy hat, chuckling manically as he crossed the road to affront us. In fact, it was his thirtieth birthday, and he offered us lemon liqueur (I valiantly took both my and Rosie's shots- doubleLAD) before swapping his bottle for a bike and riding around a traffic island a dozen times.


My parents and nephew came over to see me! We had a lovely week looking around Niedersachsen and only wanted to kill each other a few times. Result!


Back in Oldenburg, I took part in a Laternenlauf, a traditional walk around the district where children make lanterns and sing old Christmas songs. A genuine sense of community, especially when we all returned to the start point to be greeted with hundreds of candles lighting the way to mulled wine and cake. A comforting night, and the first time I thought about Christmas.


Saw a football match at the AWD arena, Hannover 96 vs. FC Twente. Good atmosphere, but as you would expect from my first football match of the year, a dull 0-0 draw. Another point worth making is the system for buying drinks and food in the stadium. You have to buy a card for 10 euros and are charged 3 euros for the pleasure, meaning you have 7 euros to spend on your goods. If you run out, you can of course top up - a minimum of 5 euros. Very helpful system for the people working there, but I may not go again, and I have 4 euros floating about in the ether that will go to waste. Euros euros euros.

Rio Ferdinand couldn't work it out either


München! Four and a half hour journey down to the Bavarian capital to see the one and only Jason Mraz in concert! A very early birthday present from Rosie, as he is one of my favourite artists, and he did not disappoint. He has the very rare talent of sounding even better live than on CD, and I feel very lucky to have experienced that. Thank you Rosie! We of course spent a few days in the city itself, and I will describe our time there in greater detail in a new post soon.

In other news, I have developed a new dance craze for whenever it snows, meaning I remain cheerful and warm in equal measure. Expect it to be the new Gangnam Style.

The Psy seal of approval

Thank you for reading this post, it really means a lot to me to see how many views I have. Sorry for the break in between this post and the last, but I promise to be a better person from now on.

Happy Advent!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

0049-8: Al Pacino Kama Sutra

Well, hello again. Haven't seen you for a while (I imagine - I don't really know who reads this, so I may have seen you yesterday and I wouldn't know. The curse of internet anonymity). How are you? I'm well, thank you for asking.

Right, let's get cracking. I met up with Rachel and Beth (another language assistant living near Oldenburg - the entourage is growing!) on the tuesday night, and quite obviously went to my favourite restaurant in the quarter kilometre circumference covering a certain part of town, "New York New York". I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, and it's quite late here, so I'm just going to possibly repeat myself when I say it truly is a brilliantly unique restaurant. I would liken it to a kiwi (the fruit not the nationality): a little grotty and hairy on the outside, but perseverance pays off when you get inside and experience the juicy goodness on offer. As you may be able to tell from the name, the place is modelled on italian-american cooking, and the walls are plastered (sometimes literally) with photos of celebrities past and present, with bright lights accompanying pretty glass installations. A really cheerful atmosphere that makes you feel as if you're in the middle of the Big Apple. Also owned by a mafioso-style family of italians, and some sicilians along for the ride. Going to try and make it a regular place to eat, or at least have a "cohwafee" (My attempt at the New York pronunciation of coffee. Sorry.)

Also couldn't resist this. Sorry.

Having eaten to the point of hating ourselves, and sharing some tender moments with the endearingly creepy sicilian waiter, we moved onto the Grand Cafe (again), as it was cocktail happy hour. As we sat at the bar, cocktails in hand, I was transported back to the jazz age, the years of conspicuous consumption. That is until I noticed two things:

1) The price of the cocktails was still heinously inflated
2) The soundtrack to the scene was, in fact, Genie in a Bottle by Christina Aguilera

Still, the hour spent there was very enjoyable. It's difficult not to enjoy yourself in the Grand Cafe with friends.

Beth and me at the classy bar

We hadn't planned on it, but we decided to take a short trip to the yearly Kramermarkt, Oldenburg's version of Oktoberfest, before heading on to another bar. Arrived at the Markt to be greeted by the smells of food and beer I associate so readily with Germany. First stop was, obviously, at the Erotikangeln stall. Yes, that's right, erotic fishing. Not trying to catch fish in a skimpy thong, but trying to hook a bag of rude goodies. I was voted as the (un)lucky fisherman by the group, and at first won a prize that doesn't even bear thinking about. The vendor kindly let me have another go, so instead I won a notebook with cartoon drawings of the Kama Sutra included on its pages and a large green fuzzy novelty penis. Fun for all the family.

 My first prize. (Interestingly, when I found this image on google, its title was "gadaffi-dead-front-page". Who says internet image searches aren't always interesting?)

Rambled around the Markt for another hour or so, taking in all the sights, smells and sounds that we would enjoy at greater length the next day. Also saw a fairground ride called "Breakdance" which looked less like breakdancing and more like my personal vision of hell. I didn't go on it. If I had, I would have Chai Powered all over the Kramermarkt (that's right, Chai Power is now also a verb. Get with the programme).

Made our contented way from the Kramermarkt to Polyester Club on the outskirts of the Innenstadt, and came face to face with living proof of the old "don't judge a book by its cover" moniker. It looks from the outside- and I say this with love- a shambles of a place. However, I would say Polyester is another Kiwi: the dinginess continues inside somewhat, but the 1960s eastern bloc style really does grow on you. Added to that the jaunty benches, various random seats, Electro Swing Jazz in the background, and board games on offer, Polyester is certainly a place to go for a good time. Lovely student-friendly atmosphere as well. Will definitely be visiting many times, especially as they have a table tennis night every thursday! We then said our goodbyes, all looking forward to the Kramermarkt the next morning.

Deliberately blurred edgy photo taken by Rachel

Part Two coming soon...

Monday 1 October 2012

0049-7: Chai Power

Back to school! The first time I have ever been relatively enthusiastic about those words in my life. I really didn't want to let the school down, so I put on my best non-ill face and started teaching. I was very glad to have made that decision after the interview/ interrogation conducted by Hauptschule 10 Class, which included such usual questions as "What's your favourite colour", "Have you seen the Queen" and "Do you know Jamie Oliver". Then, a student put his hand up (again) and I assumed, as he was the best english speaker, that it would be yet another understandable, sensible question. What he actually asked in the most matter-of-fact voice I have ever heard was the lovely mid-morning thought provoker "Do you believe in God?" I did the sensible thing of skirting around the question and promoting tolerance. And also spoke really quickly so they didn't understand most of what I was saying. Normality was resumed (so to speak) when the next student asked, in the style of an observational comedian, "So, what about this economic crisis?" It felt like a slightly stilted version of Mock the Week.

The impromptu theological discussion woke me up somewhat, so I had enough energy to meet Rachel again at another cafe. I promise that one day I'll make a list of all the nice cafes and write them down in one big journalistic whimsical mental jaunt through Oldenburg. Unfortunately, today is not that day. Today I speak to you about the horror that is Chai Power.

I tried for a long time to find a picture to adequately describe Chai Power. Instead, I am showing you a picture of a cheerful baby, as protection for you and therapy for me.

Chai Power jokingly describes itself as tea. I should have seen the danger signs. The suspiciously low price. The warning the waitress gave ("You know it's bio, right?") as a look of sheer terror slowly enveloped her caring face. The colour of the thing. But no, the British Council told us to say YES to everything, so why not try this?

Because it is terrible.

I can only equate the sensation of drinking Chai Power to that of trying to chew through a foot of freshly laid tarmac whilst being bombarded with dust from a vacuum cleaner that hasn't been emptied for five years. For this reason, if you ever hear me describe something as Chai Power, you now know my opinion on said thing. Still, two euros isn't bad.

Having recovered from the Chai Power Experience, I was really happy to see Rosie and show her the new sights of Oldenburg that I had discovered. I therefore immediately took her to the Baldini Grand Cafe, and was not disappointed with her reaction. By coincidence, we met Rachel there again, and Rosie and I tried the Flammkuchen, which was as delicious as the surroundings.

Here is an actual real-life picture of the upper floor:

Don't say I never treat you

A quick weekend trip to Hannover followed, during which I met Rosie's new flatmates. Lovely people, and a warm, comfortable new flat to live in. We were treated to Kohlroulade, which was succulent minced meat wrapped in cabbage and lathered in a creamy curried sauce. I loved it so much, I asked for seconds, and with what was intended as a compliment, compared it to haggis. Unfortunately, not everyone has actually tried haggis, so they believed I was calling their meal Chai Power. I was certainly not. We all drank beers. Rosie nursed/ took on the role as full-time carer to her non-alcoholic one for three hours.

Went to the Hannover Oktoberfest with Rosie, Dan, Millie and Kat. Was a bit commercial, but they still had the large beers, so I was content, and by that I don't mean drunk.

Dan is the silent hero taking the picture

This is Dan! Prost!

Dan, Millie and I went down a slide on some carpet for a couple of euros, which was nice.

All in all, an enjoyable (if a little sickly) week. I also realised earlier today that it has been a month since I left the balmy isles of Britain to go on this journey. I have to admit the time has passed by pretty rapidly. Still, 8/9 of my time here left to go! Off to school tomorrow and then going out to a club called Polyester Oldenburg for its Jazz night. Should be interesting, and I still have some faith left in the "always say yes" mantra. I will, of course, keep you updated. Bye for now!

0049-6: Dogs and Gatsby

Hello! This is the first part of a double bill blog! However, it's beginning to look like I'll write an official weekly post, with additions where I see fit. I won't have an official time when I post, so you'll have to keep on your toes (all two of you - hi mum and dad!)

Anyway, on to my post!

The weekend was spent traveling to and from Hannover to visit Rosie and see more of the city. Unfortunately I'd booked the train ticket before I became horrendously ill (thanks, kids) so I had to suck it up and travel for the sake of adventure. Slash I'm tight with money, so I didn't want to waste it. Luckily, Rosie was very caring, so we didn't do that much apart from visit the Herbstfestival in the Herrenhäuser Gärten. Overall, a very relaxed, happy event, periodically interrupted by thirty dogs attacking each other/ trying to make love to people's legs.

After a couple of days slowly succumbing to what I now fully believed was bubonic plague, I had to leave Rosie, the modern day Florence Nightingale, and travel back to Oldenburg. I managed to find a seat on the train with plenty of space, so you would forgive me for hoping that this would be an easy restful trip back to my home. Oh, how very wrong I was, I imagine the twelve large Bavarians surrounding me were thinking as they simultaneously plonked themselves down onto their seats and poured rum into hefty plastic cups. I obviously therefore spent half of my time trying to sleep and the other half pretending to play stick cricket and listening to their tipsy conversations.

As a result of my plague, I had both monday and tuesday off, to recuperate and sob quietly in a ball on my bed. However, on tuesday I had begun to show signs of early onset cabin fever, and so decided to meet with Rachel to have a cup of something warm at a local cafe. We met in the Baldini Grand Cafe in the Lappan area of Oldenburg, a beautiful cafe/bar lost somewhere in Jay Gatsby's 1920s. I ordered the 'White Angel' in my best German accent, and received a gorgeous white hot chocolate. I would definitely recommend a visit, as although pricey, the decor is worth it alone.

Gatsby had just seen the price of the Apfelschorle

We were then off to that Schloss again, this time to visit the museum. Comprehensive place detailing the history of Oldenburg (including the shavings from the beard of Peter I. Friedrich Ludwig von Oldenburg's corpse. Family viewing), and the 3€ ticket lets you in to two other museums for the day as well. Bargain! I didn't take them up on the offer however, as it had begun to pour it down, and so my logical decision was not to wait it out but pedal home as quickly as I could on a wet slippery bike through thunder and lightening (it was, in fact, very very frightening). As you can imagine, this did not help my health, but I was determined to go back to school the next day.

Me leaving the Schloss

Part Two coming soon. As in probably later on tonight. I have nothing else to do. Yay!

Monday 24 September 2012

0049-5: Language is deadly

The first week was quite difficult. Getting to grips with quite a different culture takes time, and I was still yet to come to terms with the heinous fact that Lynx shower gel/ deodorant only seems to be called this in Britain. What is going on there.

What are they playing at

Arranged to meet with another English Language Assistant living in Oldenburg, Rachel. Was happily minding my own business waiting next to the Schloss in the centre of town (I may write a piece on it for you. But probably not. At least not for a while) when a cold wave of fear washed over me. There, nonchalantly swaggering his way past me with his entourage, was the local big-dog, the gangster of Oldenburg, adorned with matching “thug life” sweater and jogging bottoms. He was ten years old, and his entourage were his parents, but I was intimidated nonetheless. Had a lovely time with Rachel; it was nice to hear another English voice, and a northern one at that!

Left Rachel to meet with my mentor Heike, and collect my bike for the year. Oldenburg really is inundated by two-wheeled maniacs, so I was glad to have my life flash before my eyes only once on the ride back home. To be fair, riding a bicycle in Oldenburg is very easy. The other cyclists are friendly, the roads are safe and the motorists are diligent. It is therefore completely my fault every time I almost die.

Oldenburg Hauptstraße, five minutes after I collected my bike

School started, and I actually enjoy it somewhat! Throughout the past three weeks the kids have been excited to meet a real-life Englishman, and I think I’ve only slightly disappointed them! Result! The time in school I have free is also vital, as I sit in the staffroom talking to other teachers. This is German central, and so most days when I get home I’m knackered. However, the immersion does seem to work, as my understanding has evolved already.

The second week of lessons was where I started actually working in the classes, as the first week I merely ‘hospitiert’ (sat in). This was immediately rewarding: not only because I could see that the children had some incentive to learn, but because of some of the brilliant mistakes that were made. I know full well that my German is atrocious, and some of the things I inadvertently say are probably incredibly insulting, so I am truly on the side of the kids when they make these mistakes. However, one that was made on Monday stuck in my mind for the rest of the week, because of 1) how easy it is to actually make the mistake and 2) how very different it makes the sentence. The original sentence in the textbook was:

“I will call you very soon”

What the boy actually said was:

“I will kill you very soon”

I corrected him and we all had a nice chuckle, but I had my eye on him for the rest of the lesson.

Overall, the start of school has been fun, lively and rewarding. One lesson, where I helped out in 6th Grade PE, was particularly lively, bordering on violent, when a version dodgeball was introduced to the class. It was seen as a success when I only had to fetch one ice pack.

Tall for their age

Oh yes, and half way through a lesson, one boy took his sandwich out, licked it, and placed it back in his lunchbox for safe-keeping. I can only assume he was sensibly marking his belongings.

Next stop, week three/four (I really need to work out which week I’m in)

Bye for now!

Saturday 15 September 2012

0049-4: Cathedrals and Cricket

Before I start, I'd like to apologise for the tardiness of this latest post, and by latest post I mean my second proper post (what a good start). As you can imagine, moving here has been quite stressful, and so I haven't really had time to write. 

I also really haven't had the motivation to. Don't worry, this isn't going to be emotional - I am living in Germany after all. When I say motivation, I mean that I simply haven't been in the mood to write anything that could constitute being humorous or - dare I say it - witty. However, all that is about to change! The best way I can see to pull oneself out of a rut is to write about that very same rut. Catharsis, what a writing style. Anyway, I’m feeling pretty good at the moment, having travelled to visit Rosie (the aforementioned lovely girlfriend) for a couple of days. I’m writing this in the same room as her, and she doesn’t know! Haha! Master of espionage!

Me resting on a glass.

Right. We have a lot to get through. I think I may write this post as a few separate posts, so your eyes and my typing fingers don’t get too tired.

Having travelled on the Eurostar to Brussels, Rosie and I stayed in a self-styled ‘urban chic’ hotel called Pillows. The irony was not lost on me when I found there to be a distinct lack of pillows in the room. However, the hotel as a whole was very classy, and the room was very tastefully furnished with a minimalist eye. Directly in the centre of Brussels, it would be perfectly situated for anyone spending a longer amount of time in the city. Quite pricy normally, but we managed to get it at a hugely knocked-down price thanks to one of those many discount websites. Thank you discount websites.

Admittedly I had a mini panic attack the next morning when I realised that within two hours we would be in the country I would call home for nine months. The panic attack having eventually subsided, we boarded the train for Cologne main train station, from where we would travel with many other excited/terrified English speakers to our teacher-training course.

This course was, of course, held in a monastery. A village monastery attached to a gloriously out of place cathedral. Touted as a three day training session for the budding new teaching assistants, it was really a mixture of long days creating lessons and long nights creating hangovers. Very friendly people in a very welcoming atmosphere…

Look how glorious and out of place it is!

…which didn’t help when we were left once again at Cologne main station with a good luck and bon voyage (not even in German- disappointed). Realisation began to dawn for everyone as our numbers dwindled, and suddenly it was my turn. Had already said bye for now to Rosie, so I was ready to begin my epic journey. Except that the bloody train was delayed. And then the next train was delayed. At least it meant I snuck in some valuable ‘Stick Cricket’ practice on my phone.

I arrived in Oldenburg tired and annoyed, but was greeted by my cheerful and helpful mentor Heike. She gave me a lift to my house, and helped me with my luggage and organisation for the next few days. Met one of my housemates, Carola, who gave me a very warm welcome, but works night-shifts, so had to go to sleep. Was left for the first time on my own in a strange country, so did the best thing I could think of in the situation. Suffice to say, I now have a really good score on Stick Cricket.  

129-0 from 5 overs if anyone actually cares

Wednesday 12 September 2012

0049-3: Here's what's coming up on this week's blog post!

(I'm doing another quickie post so it looks as if I've got my finger out and written something when in fact all I have done is write an advert for my eventual blog post at the weekend I would post one tonight but I'm going to Hannover to visit my lovely girlfriend and there's very little internet ok stop asking me questions no don't really I'm actually quite an open person.)

Journeys are undertaken!

MORE journeys are undertaken!

A monastery is stormed by english speaking people of young age and ill repute!

Games are played on a phone!

Tears are shed!

Laughter is shed!

Sandwiches are licked!

All that and MUCH MORE in the next exciting (mediocre) episode (post) of (from) another englishman in Germany!

(me at the counter in Lidl last night)

Sunday 2 September 2012

0049-2: quick message

Hello again! This is just a quick message to say I'm going to a teacher-training course in Cologne for four days. Yes, that's right, I'm actually off to Germany! Good-bye England, see you next year. Also please rain all year so I feel better about living in another country. That is all.

To make up for the ludicrously short post, here's a picture of a german girl living it up with two goats. I hope there's not too much underage/non-human drinking. Just look at that violin!

Will update you on Thursday. Bye for now!

Monday 27 August 2012

0049-1: Please leave a blog after the tone

Aren't blogs very strange creatures?

I'm immediately analysing whether that first sentence of (hopefully) many to come is too self-indulgent. After all, why have I started my blog with a question that will - supposing you're reading this in the few days/weeks/months after posting - be answered by precisely no-one but myself? And I've already asked another question right there. That's two questions in five sentences. 

Blogs are meant to be clear, direct and have a specific writing style. At least, that's what I read when in the research stage of my blog preparation (by "research stage", see "typing the word blog into google stage"). A good blog must:

Have an appropriate writing style and tone
Be updated regularly
Allow comments
Be "written, not defecated" (apparently)

Good luck with that then, I say to myself sitting in front of the home computer wondering what this blog is actually going to include. You see, I have no idea what I shall be writing about. This isn't some pretentious way of introducing the next in a long line of boring stream-of-consciousness-oh-writing-is-great-oops-back-to-subject-blogs. 

The reason is that I am moving to Germany in precisely six days. While this makes for a promising premise and underlying theme, I'm writing a live blog, and so the actual themes of each post are sort of up in the air. When you read each post, the content will have been experienced by me a few hours beforehand, which is possibly exciting for you (depending on weather I can rite good) but utterly terrifying for the author.

Why Germany (I hear my friends and grandmother ask)? Well, I don't fully know why myself. My dad lived and worked there for a few years when I was younger, and so the country has always had an exciting, almost magical quality to it; a place my dad travelled to and explored, and returned from to tell the tales of his jaunt. I also live with a fascination of accents and language, a characteristic that sometimes becomes the marmite factor of my personality. So imagine my surprise when I began to realise I could study at a fabulous institution that would not only help me develop a hitherto unimaginable fluency in another language, but that would also help pay for a year-long trip to the actual country in question! 

Yes, I know, you can study languages at almost every university, but I was about 10, and my enthusiasm has only slightly waned from that point.

Starting "younee", the compulsory year abroad seemed years away. It was: two years away. But that time flew past me on a conveyor belt of novelty and other sweeping comments. However, that's another story. The time has finally come to roll up my long explorer socks, put on my explorer goggles, and embrace the terror and childish glee that have been creeping up on me in equal measure over the past three months. If anyone does read this, and decides to read on, then I hope you enjoy experiencing this year with me. If you are a prospective year-abroadist from the future (do we have hovercars yet?), then I hope this gives you the courage to take the next step and push yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone. There's plenty of room.