As I write this it’s T minus 12 days. Over the past few months a lot of the markers which mean that the year abroad is getting closer – German Soc elections, last essay, exam season, results day etc – have been and gone. Now the markers are turning into things like last day at work and the family “auf wiedersehen Paul!” party. Great fun! I figured it might be a good idea to do a
reccie rekkie rekky however you spell the word that means a short trip to get your bearings so that everything wasn’t brand new when I got there. I’d also been invited to a teacher training day at one of my schools so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone!
Day 1 (Sunday)
Anything for a bargain. My day started with a rather early set of trains to take me to London Southend Airport, which only recently opened and isn’t much bigger than the size of my house. Although it’s a bit of a trek it’s a completely hassle-free experience and the flights were also dirt cheap! After an uneventful flight I landed in Berlin and was picked up by Janina’s lovely parents, Petra and Tom. I spent the night at the Boltze household, where we were joined by Janina’s sister, Verena, and her granny, Ingrid, chatting auf Deutsch for about 6 hours. Having not spoken a word of German since June and having never spoken this much German in one go ever in my whole life, it became quite the effort as the evening dragged on and I was glad to hit the hay. I didn’t even mind the German square pillows!
Day 2 (Monday)
Caught the train from Berlin to Leipzig Hauptbahnhof (two amazing train stations) and had a most pleasant discussion on the train about Tetris with an elderly woman after she’d watched my play it on my phone for about 15 minutes and cried out in despair when I lost the level. After I arrived I checked into my B+B and went to meet Janina who was coming to visit me for the afternoon.
We had a nice afternoon – lunch, sightseeing, trying to find my school for the next day, coffee, shopping. Then she left. And then I realised why the rekkie was such a good idea. As I watched Janina’s train leave, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone. I was in a city that I knew precisely nothing about, had no friends or family around and was facing the really nerve-wracking prospect of meeting my new colleagues and housemates the next day. Deep breath, move on. The feeling passed very quickly but had I left it until the time when I was actually coming out here for good I think it would’ve been a lot worse!
Day 3 (Tuesday)
Tuesday was the reason I’d come here in the first place. In the morning I had my Dienstberatung (teacher training day) at the new school, followed by a few hours to myself and then heading over to my new apartment to meet my flatmates. As I went for a shower in the morning I walked straight past a couple in the corridor who then said “guten morgen!” just as it was too late to say it in return without seeming ignorant. Note to self: say guten morgen tomorrow.
So, off we go. I caught the tram to the school and was met at the door by the secretary, who started by asking me something along the lines of “Haben Sie sdfjaiofvjaniosfnba jsdvjasdiofnjio v uvil;ofuasilvbafs oABUFCVNIASOVBRFUJASEIOVUIOA hudjskalfhkjfh Zimmer?” Having reached the golden third repeat I just took a wild guess that she was asking me about my accommodation so I launched into a rambling monologue about how I was staying in a B+B this week but that I do have an apartment sorted. This was met with the German equivalent of “riiiiight…” and I was swiftly escorted to the deputy head’s office. Turns out she was only asking me if I knew where the staff room was. Good start!
I eventually made it to the staff room, where I was met with a sea of blank faces when I introduced myself. It was this point I realised that the piddly little deodorant I’d bought for the 100ml airport security rule wasn’t especially effective. I was, as I always am after a) the most moderate bit of exercise or b) any kind of nervous situation, sweating BUCKETS.
Thankfully, things did get a bit better after this. I met my mentor, Corinna, plus a few other teachers who were really friendly, but it was certainly a baptism of fire. One day I’m sure I’ll be able to laugh about it rather than cringing massively.
So, the Dienstberatung was over and now I had a few hours to myself. I had a bit of a walk around and was pleasantly surprised at how nice Leipzig is! I also met Corinna in the street again, I’ve heard that it’s quite a compact city that you can bump into people in, which seems to be true.
That evening I met my new housemates in my Wohngemeinschaft (flatshare) just a few minutes from the city centre. Christoph, the guy whose room I’m renting, will be on an ERASMUS year in Barcelona, and I’ll be living with Marv and Federico. They seem like really nice guys and I left feeling quite excited about the whole thing which is reassuring!
Day 4 (Wednesday)
Said good morning to the German couple in the breakfast room. They looked at me as if I’d just presented them with a dead baby, muttered “guten morgen” and scurried off. Ah, the Germans.
I headed back to Berlin and had just enough time to take my picture outside the House of World Cultures, or as the locals call it, die schwangere Auster (the pregnant oyster). I’ve had my picture taken outside it every time (except the first) that I’ve been in Berlin and it would’ve been wrong to have missed it out!