German word/phrase of the week: ein Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl - a cryptic hint
My apologies for uploading this later than was promised in my last entry - there is a good reason for this, however. The Oldenburg Cheetahs (the rugby team that I found in my town) played their first ever match on yesterday (Sunday 2nd October), and I wanted to wait until the match had taken place before updating my blog. Once again, a lot has happened between now and my last entry, so I hope that what follows will be of interest, and I will try to avoid too much superfluous detail.
On Friday of last week (the 23rd September), shortly after uploading my last blog entry, I went out into town with my flatmate and two of his friends - this would have been an unremarkable Friday night in town (that is not to say that it was not enjoyable, simply that it was not out of the ordinary), except for one detail - Waldemar introduced me to a cocktail bar, Patio, in town, which has more choice than I have ever seen before in a cocktail menu, and whose beverages were truly delicious. Those who know me well will be able to imagine my joy at finding such an establishment - cocktails and I get on very well together. The only issue was my lack of funds - my stipendium had still not been paid, and therefore I was unable to sample as many of the extremely tempting concoctions as I would otherwise have liked - however, the upside of this is that a second visit is definitely in order soon.
Saturday afternoon was spent in Bremen, with some wonderful weather and good company, and then in the evening I went out with a few of the teachers in Oldenburg. The evening started at one of the teachers' houses, and a good time was had by all - though I have to say that I cannot keep up with my colleagues when it comes to their enthusiasm for Schnapps and beer!
On Sunday I made my way to Hannover, where Kari had kindly offered to put me up for a night and show me around the next day, once she had finished school. Due to several delays on the train, I did not arrive until fairly late, but I eventually managed to navigate the Hannover U-Bahn system (more or less, anyway), and Kari picked me up from the local station. As the English teacher that Kari is staying with was ill, the two of us agreed to take the whole double lesson for the 5e Klasse by ourselves the next day, so we went over our lesson plan in the evening, and then got an early night ready for school. The next morning, I was greeted with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation by the family dog, Charlie, who is only 6 months old and very excitable. We soon got to know each other a little better, however, and I was made to feel incredibly at home over breakfast with the whole family - Kari's flat is in the UG beneath the family home. After breakfast, Kari took me to school with her, and introduced me to another English teacher, whose lesson we then helped with for the first Doppelstunde. After that, it was our time to shine as teachers, alone in the classroom for the first time, and the lesson went remarkably well - largely due to Kari's natural flare in the classroom. The theme was counting, and the pupils were well behaved (if a little loud, probably due to the fact that there were now two real, live English people in the room with them), and the experience was a very positive one.
After the second double lesson, we left school for the day, and met up with Fabian (one of Kari's friends in Hannover) in order to go on to the zoo. It was a beautiful day, and we took our time going round the zoo, making sure to see every single enclosure and all of the animals. A particular highlight was the polar bears, who put on quite an underwater display for us once we found them, coming right up to the edge of the water tank (which was full of live fish). Having unsuccessfully hunted for the elusive penguins, and having finally found the gorilla enclosure, we then made our way out of the zoo again and back home, to give me time to cook a meal for the three of us and another one of Kari's friends. The meal went well, and there was even a little bit left over for the family to try once we were done. Sadly, as I had school the next day, it was then time for me to leave, so I said my goodbyes, promised to return again soon, and made my way back to Oldenburg.
The working week started again, and, as I said last time, the days tend to blur into one when it comes to school - not because they are in any way dull, mind you; precisely the opposite. So much happens in a day that you hardly have time to commit any one event to memory before something new happens. The 10e Klasse is developing very well in English, and getting more and more used to expressing themselves orally. This Tuesday, I was allowed to leave school early, as many of my classes are sitting their termly tests at the moment, and I spent the afternoon preparing myself for my first rugby training session with the Oldenburg Cheetahs. I arrived slightly late at the training session, due to delayed buses (the first since I've been here), and made my apologies to the trainer. He was very warm and welcoming, and I was immediately impressed by what I saw. I am no rugby expert, but I have played for a good 8/9 years now, and in all honesty was not expecting too much from this team - their homepage had informed me that they had only started training together a year ago, and that the first ever 15-man match they had played was to take place at the weekend. My expectations were completely wrong, however - the Cheetahs trained well, and they trained hard, the backs drilling their moves and ball skills, and the forwards repeating the lineout again and again until they got it right every time. The training session was a hard work-out, but all the better for it, and left me feeling really excited about the game at the weekend.
On Wednesday I had rugby again with the 8a, and we played two separate matches this time, in smaller groups, which worked a lot better, and meant that everybody was a lot more involved - although 11 a side is more representative of the actual game, in a mixed class where sporting ability varies drastically, I think it worked out much more entertaining for all to play in teams of half the size. One of the teachers at the school is also involving me at the moment in a sporting achievement award, which involves achieving certain standards in different disciplines in 5 different categories. So far, I have successfully completed 3 of the 5 categories, by running 100m in less than 13.5s, jumping over 1.35m in the high-jump, and throwing the shot-put over 8m. The distances and times required are probably not too challenging (I am not a very good judge), but some of them are a challenge to me (particularly the high-jump!), and I am enjoying doing a bit of general athletics again. The next challenge is the 200m swimming, which makes me a little more nervous than some of the other disciplines, but I am willing to give anything a go.
On Friday, I went into town and was delighted to discover that my pay had arrived in my account. Dizzy with my newly acquired wealth, I decided there was only one way to celebrate the fact that I was now rich beyond imagination. And so, I looked up the bus timetable, and promptly climbed aboard the next 308 Bus. I stayed on until the very last stop, and excitedly stepped off the bus, to be greeted by the sight of my desired destination - IKEA. Naturally, with a little bit more money now at my disposal, the first thing that had entered my head was that I urgently required a wash basket. I love adult life. I have never particularly enjoyed the experience of IKEA, however. The shape of the building from the outset is off-putting in the first place - so blue, so cuboid, and so imposing. The big yellow letters themselves, spelling out IKEA, are so bold, so unashamedly present and visible, that it always leaves me feeling uncomfortable.
And then comes the entrance. Sadly, the days are long gone since I could end my frightful experience after passing through the revolving door, by taking refuge in the ball-pool and play area. A shame that Kipling made no reference to this milestone in "If" (a poem I intend to go through next week with the 10c) - if you can resist the temptation to cower in the corner of the IKEA ball-pool, and continue on to the horror that awaits beyond… . I will have to finish that some day, it sounds promising. In any case, being now a man, I cautiously stepped onto the escalator which would lead me up to the true nightmare - the labyrinth like construct, in which, somewhere, my long sought-after wash basket was hidden. Out of what I can only presume was a long suppressed sense of teenage rebellion, I obstinately refused to follow the frankly rude arrows on the floor, which demanded that I follow their unforgiving route, nothing more than a herd-animal, a sheep, which had left his free-will at the entrance with the ball-pool. I started out ignoring the arrows, anyway, and I believe this made the decision even more depressing when it eventually came - ultimately, I ran out of options, and was forced to be led along by the evil white arrows, I, too, having temporarily signed over my liberty. I was more than relieved when I stumbled across a suitable wash basket, and hastily made my way to the exit in order to escape this demonic experience, avoiding all Minotaurs and Poltergeists along the way.
Saturday was spent in Wolfgang's flat, preparing a meal for some of my colleagues, whom I had invited to come along on the evening. Wolfgang had generously allowed me the use of his kitchen and flat, as there is not quite enough room to entertain seven people at my place, and I navigated the chaos caused by Kramermarkt (this will be explained later) in order to make my way to his place. Ela, another one of my colleagues, kindly made some time in the day in order to help me with shopping, and I met her at about 14:00 in order to pick up the list of ingredients we needed. The menu was as follows:
Starter: Balsamic Mushrooms and Onions
Main: Boeuf Bourgignon
Dessert: Lemon, Sultana and Butterscotch Pudding
We managed to find everything we needed, until the very last ingredient - for the dumplings, which I was planning to prepare to go with the beef, we needed suet, and for the life of us we could not find what this was in German. I tried my best to explain to Ela what it could be, and we asked several shop assistants and read the ingredients of many a packet of pre-prepared "Knödel" (a type of German dumpling), and I even consulted Kari for some extra translation advice - but to no avail. Sadly, I was forced to abandon my dumpling plans, and made a mental note (and now an electronic one) to ask the parents to bring some suet with them when they come to visit me (now in less than 3 weeks time). Despite this, the cooking went well, and the boeuf bourgignon worked very well. To my delight, the pudding worked as well (the last time I had attempted it, it had not been such a success), and there was enough for everybody to have their fill. Following the meal, we continued on to Kramermarkt, which is a festival in many ways similar to Oktoberfest, only a little smaller and specifically for Oldenburg. It involves many different stands selling food and alcohol, and fairground rides of all shapes and sizes. We spent a few hours wandering round, sampling the beer and some of the rides, but I then had to bid a goodnight to all, as I wanted to sleep well before the rugby match the next day.
And then the day of the match came, and, despite my more extensive rugby experience, I have to say that I was both very excited and fairly nervous. I had no idea what to expect from the opposition (a team from Bremen), and, despite my positive impression from training, I was unsure as to how we would play together as a team, given that this was the Cheetahs' first experience of 15-a-side rugby. The team arrived punctually for our pre-match training and warm-up, and it was immediately obvious that similar thoughts were going through my team-mates' heads - everybody was excited for the match, and everybody was curious to see the culmination of our training during the game.
The opposition turned up, we ran through some moves and we warmed up, and soon the time for kick-off came. For me, it was a shock to see women playing on the opposition team as well as men (about 3 in total), having not experienced this in any of my school or university rugby days, but everybody certainly looked the part in their kit and having seen the Bremen team warm up as well. Bremen kicked off, and soon the cries were coming from all around - "Unterstützung!" (support), "Linie" (line - for defence), "ich bin links/rechts!", and so on. It was not long at all before we got a break and scored our first try - and after the first, many more followed. It was hard work in the 25 degree heat, and we needed as much water as we could get during the break-downs, but the Cheetahs were on fire. Support came in from all sides, nobody switched off for a second, and we played the 80-minute match without conceding a single point to our opposition. With a final score of 62-0 to Oldenburg, the first match for this relatively new team was an amazing success - and not all of the opposition were complete newcomers, either, with several English voices echoing over the pitch during the game (particularly from the coach, who joined in himself during the second half).
And, dear readers, this is how our blog entry must come to a close, for the time being at least. Today has been spent in an organisational way, correcting work and preparing lessons for next week. However, do not despair - many more exciting events are lined up on the horizon, with this week's highlight being a long-awaited trip to Bonn to visit Miss Liebermann, and to take her out for a very belated Birthday meal. I hope you will tune in next time,