englishman abroad, parenting, the German way

Einschulung

Saturday was the day of my daughter Aurelia’s Einschulung. Einschulung is sometimes translated as ‘first day of school’, and I suppose that, technically, it often is. It’s not really that though. As I said, it happened on a Saturday and therefore isn’t a ‘proper’ school day. Besides, Aurelia has already had ‘trial hours’ (Schnupperstunden) at this school – she’s been there before. Another translation of this word is ‘enrolment’, which is also totally off. Aurelia was already on the ‘rolls’ of this school; she has been registered to attend it since about the time we moved to this town. What the Einschulung actually is, is a sort of ‘into-school’ rite of passage. Here’s what happened…

On that Saturday morning, after breakfast, Aurelia got her first proper look at the Schultüte which had been hidden away for weeks. A Schultüte is part of this German rite of passage. It resembles a brightly coloured and garishly decorated giant ice-cream cone; it’s also a bit like a Christmas stocking in that it is packed with goodies and not to be opened before the appointed time.

That appointed time is always after school, so off to school we all went: Oma, Opa, Mama and Papa. I carried Aurelia’s Schultüte, and Aurelia carried her gigantic, red and purple school bag. All German kids seem to have dementedly oversized school bags, called Schulranzen, which make them look less like first-year schoolkids than they do NASA astronauts. Off we went to school, bobbing along like an Ice-cream-themed Pride Parade for Questionable Cosmonauts.

On arrival at the school, it became apparent that I was the only one who had given this School-based theme-parkery a second thought: every single other child had a brightly coloured Schultüte and Schulranzen as well. The new space cadets first-years sat right at the front of the assembly hall and then it all kicked off. The headteacher introduced all the teachers, each year of the school performed a play or song or dance to welcome the new children, culminating with them being called onto the stage to stand with their respective mentor child and be taken off to their first, half-hour “class”. No parents were allowed of course, but I suspect that it was a little induction and introduction from their teacher. Back at home, Aurelia got to open her Schultüte at last: sweets, school stuff and her first ever alarm clock (pink, of course).

Tomorrow I’ll take her to her first ‘real’ full day of school; 8 am to 1 pm. I’m probably looking forward to it just as much as she is.

englishman abroad, Teaching English

Teaching British slang to Germans

So, two Germans and an Englishman walk into a bar…
Specifically a proper English pub, the Red Lion in Southampton. The interior is old wood panelling and armour, coats of arms and other such British minutiae. The football is on and my two German colleagues, neglecting their fish and chips, are watching the match. I’m rather more interested in my gammon steak, so I don’t notice the hapless defender score an own goal. “Oh dear,” says German 1 “I suppose any hole is a goal”.
Dear God, I need to be more careful what I say around the Germans. That’s not what ‘any hole’s a goal’ means. I’d even taught him what a gammon was, and he looked at my steak knowingly but said nothing. “Yes,” I said, “I suppose so. More beer?”
“Ok, but let’s not get rat-faced”
“you mean…”
“No! Shit-arsed”
My teaching skills are clearly inadequate. I have failed as a teacher. A proper teacher would have rightly instilled shit-faced and rat-arsed as synonyms for drunk.

“shit-arsed”. Honestly. I sidle away to collect more warm, flat ales, perhaps the most British and un-German of beers. But as I leave, my dear Krauts resume their conversation:
“This referee is a C U Next Tuesday.”
“Whatevs”
I suppose I taught them something after all.

 

 

englishman abroad, man stuff

Lush is not for boys

Mindful that it will soon be my Wife’s birthday, I did a bit of shopping the other day. The lady likes bubblebath and I was about to enter the general-purpose Rossmann when I remembered that there was another shop, Lush Cosmetics, just around the corner.

I made the fateful decision to enter Lush instead. Never have I ever been out of my depth so quickly.

Lush is not like Rossmann. Lush is like a descent into Hell.

Katabatic winds sighed ominously from the cloying maw of the shop’s entrance. Tempting. Enticing. Promising such wonders. “100% vegetarisch” sounded the siren call of the shop windows, “100% ohne Tierversuch”, “abandon all hope ye who enter here”

It was too late, Satan’s scent had snared me. I was drawn mesmerised into the bowels. I was looking for bubblebath. Shelves upon shelves of oddly shaped, brightly coloured baubles clamoured for my attention. “No…bubblebath… must get to bubblebath…” the scent was overpowering. The air uncomfortably warm.

“Take off your jacket” hissed the jelly bombs, “we’ll make it worth your while…”

“Never!” sweat formed on my brown and I pushed on. Despair. There couldn’t be bubblebath here, I was a fool. A fool who would die in Lush. Bubblebath was far too simplistic an indulgence. Lush would torture me with bath products beyond my ken. It would claim my soul and I would never leave.

An acolyte noticed my distress and cackled gleefully, springing from behind the knot wraps. She showed me the bath carrots. The horror. The horror. Carrots made of soap. She filled a sacrificial ewer with water and swirled the carrots around, revelling in my dismay. The water turned the orange of ungodly betrayal. I knew it was too late to turn and flee. She knew that I knew. She removed the carrot and, from jug to jug, she juggled the orange liquid, the water somehow turning a darker and more pustulent orange by the moment. Witchcraft. Foam seethed on the viscous orange ichor, every bubble a lost soul entreating for release.

“I… I was just looking for bubblebath,” I stammered in German, hardly daring to hope. “Schaumbäder?” she whispered menacingly, her Medusa-like stare freezing my heart with dread, “this way” she susurrated, leading me hypnotically deeper into the Minotaur’s lair.

Had she raised my hopes just to dash them again? I didn’t think I could bear it. She showed me to a table laden with coloured gewgaws. Pandora’s box had been upturned and laid out before me. “Here,” she said wickedly, handing me a fully functioning fidget-spinner bath bomb, “like this?”

I screamed. I retched. I tore out my hair. A fidget-spinner bath bomb. Such feats were unnatural. An abomination before God. A chimaera of Beelzebub himself. I clawed at my face, I wailed and gnashed my teeth. All faded to black.

I awoke later in a daze. I was at home. My clothes were heavily scented with a cloying musk. A brown paper bag clutched feverishly in my grasp. “You’ve been mangoed” writ large upon it. An oil bath. The lesser of many evils, yet still palpably obscene.

It was too late. I knew I was damned. I knew that I would return once more against my will.

I had been mangoed.

 

englishman abroad, work

I’ve only got one pair of hands

Last December we bought a house. It was originally built in 1949 and there’s a fair bit of renovation to do as you might expect with such an old place. So far, all of the electrics have been stripped out and replaced, two of the outbuildings (a large aviary and a small god-knows-what) have been knocked down and smashed up and then taken away by my very enthusiastic father in law and his gigantic hydraulic truck. The wallpaper is being stripped off and pasted up anew in record time and a new bathroom is being fitted upstairs, this latter part required a couple of new walls and digging up the driveway to find the mains sewer (old house!). These have been our weekends and several of my afternoons per week: DIY and liaison with handymen. The mornings are my usual work with the MariLANG project and my teaching duties at Jade. These teaching duties are about to double because my class has doubled in size since last semester. Things are going to pay off after all this work is done.

Earlier this week I was once again in the UK as part of the MariLANG project, this time for our 5th transnational partner meeting which went really well! This time we were in Kenilworth, a place I’d never been before. It has a palpable aura of sleepy little town in Warwickshire, because that’s pretty much exactly what it is. Jennie, a very hard working colleague from Greece, made a short video of the meeting which I’ll post here:

Anyway, all of this zipping about, DIY, teaching and general business has meant I’ve neglected this blog for far too long. Here’s hoping I can grow another pair of hands.

englishman abroad, the German way

Feeling at home

I haven’t spent any proper time in England, where I was born, for years.

However, on Sunday I got back from a week’s training at Southampton Solent University. It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet with lots of interesting international people and contribute to the ongoing development of the Marilang project.

I spent a week in England and discovered that I no longer feel at home there. On the simplest of levels, things are different: the money looks different, the prices have gone up, Brexit is on the news all the time these days. But my feeling of unease is more profound: I’ve become a bit German. I waited at the traffic lights instead of jaywalking, I put my cigarette ends in the bin instead of just dumping them, I even spoke German with my colleagues when I wanted to be frank.

When I first came to Germany I thought I was an outsider working my way inside. It wasn’t until I went to Southampton that I realised another truth: I was an insider here, and I’ve worked my way outside.

Bittersweet as this feeling is, it’s for the best; Britain hasn’t been doing too well recently. Germany, on the other hand, has been kind to me: a wife and child, our own house, interesting projects and maybe, one day, citizenship.