German word/phrase of the week: Alles klärchen - okey dokey
So, dear readers, the time has come to tell you all about the promised Oktoberfest experience - but first, a few more details from earlier in the week (and that, Ladies and Gentleman, is how you draw them in).
My last blog entry ended on Friday of last week (that is the 9th September), and plenty has happened since then. On Friday evening I took a short train journey to Bremen to visit some of the other language assistants who are staying there - Jack and Enya. We had a great evening, and even managed to speak a bit of German too, when we met up with one of the teachers at Enya's school (along with a fairly large group of her friends). This was my first trip to Bremen since arriving in Germany, and I was pleased to discover how close it was and how pleasant the centre was - more Bremen visits must follow soon.
On Saturday evening, I went to another one of the WGs I had looked around during my hectic Flat hunt, but this time for a much less stressful experience - the flatmates had suggested meeting up for a cooking evening, followed by cocktails, and both the meal and the following concoctions were a very pleasant experience - it is definitely my turn next to invite them over to try a little bit of Adam's home cooking.
The following day was spent recovering as best I could, and then practising my tour guide voice in the evening, when Enya agreed to come to Oldenburg and compare it to Bremen. It is entirely possible she was simply being polite, but as far as I could gather Oldenburg compared very favourably, and I felt that my first experience was a town guide was a successful one. It feels good to be able to show another person around a town that I moved into a little over a month ago now - even if I probably miss out many important tourist sites that a professional would never miss...
On Monday evening I finally carried out my promise of cooking a meal for Sabrina and Tanja. The only shame was that I had to work the next day - that in itself was of course no problem, more the fact that I had to wake up at 05:30, so the evening could not last as long as all involved would have liked. Still, I presented my signature dish - pork apple and sage crumble - and this went down, for the most part, very well (with the exception of Sabrina, with her trademark directness, expressing her lack of enthusiasm for the crumble - oh well, you win some, you lose some). This was then followed by a very rusty guest practising some card tricks, which I hope were enjoyed by all (again, with the exception of Sabrina by the end - tut mir Leid!), and general good conversation and company. Again, an experience which must be repeated soon, and next time on an evening when I do not have to wake up so early the next day!
On Tuesday, it was back to school, after my first full 4 day weekend, and feeling like I had used the weekend to its full potential. It was pleasantly invigorating to return to school and engage with the pupils and staff again. My first lesson was with the 10e Klasse, who are the equivalent of GCSE age in the UK, and who therefore have a decent level of English (or at least should do). This was the first double lesson that I had to prepare all by myself, and (without going into too many boring and superfluous details), my planned lesson involved analysing a text about the internet and growing up, separating the class into two groups, and carrying out a debate about whether or not the internet should have an age limit. Once again, the pupils involved themselves admirably in the lesson, particularly in the debate, but also in the analysis of the text, and my first double lesson was as successful as I could have hoped for. Following this lesson, the class had to go for their start of year photo, and insisted on me coming along with them - which really made me feel at home. Once the other 10e Klasse found out that I had been in their rival class' form photo, however, it was demanded that I be in their photo too - I felt very popular (significantly more popular than I had ever been in my proper school days!), and especially enjoyed the Spassfoto taken after the serious form photo - all of the pupils had taken their sunglasses with them, and somebody even managed to find a spare pair for me. I look forward to seeing these photos soon.
Wednesday was another school day, with one of my favourite classes (it is very difficult to choose, as they are all so good), the 8a. In the morning, I took them for English, and we went through different ways of describing people's emotions and judging emotion from facial expressions and intonation. I then had this class again in the afternoon, but this time for another double session of touch rugby. This week's aim was to get the message through that you need to stay behind the ball, in order to be able to receive the ball from your team-mates. After a few teething difficulties, the kids got the idea, and we managed to have a fun game at the end, with both Wolfgang and me taking part on opposite teams, and plenty of tries being scored - a big improvement on the lesson the week before. On Wednesday evening, another language assistant came to visit - this time Kari, whom I had met at Altenberg, but is also studying German at Oxford. It was nice to unwind after work in town, and we even met a few locals in one of the pubs who were more than happy to talk to us.
On Thursday morning, I woke up not feeling well enough to go into school - whether it was due to general tiredness, catching an illness from one of the pupils, or a mixture of both, I can't be sure, but Wolfgang was very understanding and said that I should stay at home. This allowed me to sleep off the worst of the illness, and I felt well enough to pack a bag together and sit myself on a train in order to visit "other Adam" in Thüringen for a night or two, before the two of us together would journey on to Munich for Oktoberfest. I must admit, as I turned up at the station in Breitungen at 21:50 on Thursday Evening, I thought I must have gone wrong somewhere - the platform was a small patch of concrete and grass, and the train station a dilapidated building with anti-Nazi graffiti sprayed all over it. Just as I was considering getting back on the train, a voice called out "Bridges", and from the friendly, brummy tones, I knew that I had come to the right place. As it turned out, the train station was by no means representative of the whole town, and even in the dark Breitungen itself made a very good impression - especially the mountains/hills (they were probably hills, but after spending a month in completely flat Oldenburg, they certainly felt like mountains), which looked even better the following morning.
On Friday, the two Adams took a trip to Erfurt, to visit a third Worcesterite - Miss Noyce - in her new home town. It was a wonderfully sunny day (which made a pleasant change from the weather I have been getting used to in my new home town), and we successfully managed to locate the elusive third Worcesterite at the Domplatz. All around us, preparations for the arrival of the pope were well underway. We looked around the cathedral itself, which was stunning, and we enjoyed some good ice cream in an Eiscafé with a view of the cathedral. The rest of the day was spent wandering around town, seeing the Citadelle, (unsuccessfully) hunting for Lederhosen, and having an interesting meal experience in an Italian restaurant in town. Interesting for several reasons: firstly, people in mediaeval dress continually walked past the restaurant, with one musician sporadically breaking into song and attempting to coerce the rest of us into joining him. Secondly, once the mediaeval people left (presumably with help of an unassuming blue box and an eccentric Timelord), some fire dancers promptly appeared to take their place. However, the highlight of the meal had to be the food itself, and unfortunately not for all the right reasons - other Adam's "Gemüsepizza" turned out to be assorted vegetables from a Sunday roast fairly haphazardly poured onto a pizza base - perhaps this is some people's idea of a good pizza, but for Mr T (and I am more than inclined to agree) it was merely a disappointment. The best moment came, however, when Sarah, who had been waiting a good 15 minutes longer than the rest of us for her food to arrive, told the waiter "Ich habe kein Essen", only to hear the reply "Egal", which Adam T and I decided could best be translated by "And?" in the context. Suffice it to say that we left an absolutely enormous tip.
We missed our last train back due to the sheer excitement of the evening, and, as Sarah now knows, we died horribly in Erfurt station, ensuring to leave a note in our pockets which read "We had a rubbish day". Either that or we were forced to ask Adam's teacher for a lift back, a lift which lasted no more than 30 minutes, and for which we were charged 60 Euros in petrol fees. Personally, I think the former is a more likely story. I leave the decision to you.
And so, dear readers, we arrive at the moment which I presume you have all been waiting for, unable to sleep properly since my last blog entry due to the sheer anticipation of my Oktoberfest report. What madness must have happened, I hear you ask. What frivolity and mayhem. In order to prepare us for just these things, Adam and I had strategically tricked our body clocks into thinking day was night and night was day - clever, I know. Our train arrived into Munich at 18:38 on Saturday evening, and we had booked another train to leave at 06:52 the following morning. Our foolproof, flawless plan, therefore, was to enjoy Oktoberfest all night long, and, in a groggy state not too far from unconsciousness, to board a train the next morning and doze away until we arrived back in Thüringen. On the train on the way into Munich, however, we learned from a fellow passenger that our perfect plan had been sabotaged by one, terrifying fact - Oktoberfest (that is to say, the festival which takes place in the Theresienwiesen in Munich) closed - that's right, closed - at 23:00. Picture the horrified look on our faces, and the foreboding music which played in the background, as this truth was made known to us.
Matters did not improve when we unsuccessfully tried to find the only Sparkasse ATM in town for half an hour, only to be pushed in front of by an irritable old man after waiting in the queue for another fifteen minutes when we did eventually find one. Still, money and directions acquired, we made our way, somewhat pessimistically, to our long-awaited Oktoberfest experience. The impression made upon us when we first saw the site of the Fest was definitely mixed. Oktoberfest looks like an enormous town fair, with all of the tacky rides and stalls that one is used to seeing at such an event; except that every now and again there are enormous pub-like structures, put up just for Oktoberfest, but very tastefully done, which smack of being typically Bavarian. Naturally, the two Adams decided that the best venue to enjoy the evening would be in just such a pub (not least because they presumably sold all the beer we could see people enjoying around us), so we set off with the intent of entering one, engaging in friendly conversation with the bar staff, and generally sampling a wide variety of Bavarian beer. From the tension and expectation I skilfully built up in the previous sentence, I'm sure you can anticipate what is coming next. There was no room in any of the pubs. None at all. We queued for what felt like an age outside beer-selling establishment after beer-selling establishment, only to be turned away from them all. It was almost biblical in its "no-room-at-the-inn" connotations.
Our luck was about to change, however: as we were queuing outside of another pub, we observed a hat fly through the air, hover hesitantly for a moment, and then land prophetically right at my feet. I picked up the hat, looked around to see if I could find its owner (briefly), and then decided the old playground rule was the fairest way to decide the ownership of this hat - finders, keepers. This hat changed all of our luck - within minutes, we had found a bar which would serve us, and were in the queue to buy our first beers. The queue was so long that we decided the wisest thing to do was to buy two beers each and let them last us for a little while. Once we heard how much we owed for these beers (half a litre each), however, our plan changed. 9 Euros for half a litre. Wincing and grimacing, we handed over the money, and decided to make these beers last a long, long time. For legal reasons, some of the events which came next cannot be recorded in any form, written or oral, but suffice it to say that the lucky hat had not lost all of its charm.
A short while later, a rather drunk man in dishevelled Lederhosen approached Titchen and demanded, in very slurred German, that he be allowed a sip of my co-fester's beer. We naturally refused, as we had queued up for quite some time to obtain this beer, and the drunken man had not asked politely at all. However, when he produced a 20 Euro note from his pocket, and explained he would not expect any change from said note if we handed over the whole glass of beer, we decided it was time to be Gents after all, and made the drunken man very happy. Feeling very charitable, and having paid a little less overall for our beers, we tried out a couple of rides, including some dodgems where the lucky hat was nearly lost - but a frankly James Bond-esque manoeuvre by Adam-the-taller recovered our fallen companion from the floor of the dodgem arena, and all was not lost after all.
Soon, however, everything began to close down, and we were forced to make our way towards the exit of the Fest. We searched briefly for a local pub to take refuge in, and settled on a hotel bar which seemed to be open and not completely crowded. There, we engaged each other in deep political discussion about the nature of national boundaries and the meaning of patriotism, until a local man saved us from our beer-induced philosophical chat. The local man, Vinzent, was very friendly, but unfortunately he brought along a less friendly man of unknown nationality (whom we named, for reasons I forget, Bog), who threw my lucky hat across the room and proceeded to repeatedly hit me on the back, in what I presume was an attempt at laddish friendliness, but all it resulted in was me not being particularly happy with this man's presence. Despite a very sarcastic farewell from Titchy ("Mach's gut, Junger!"), Bog eventually left us in peace, and allowed Vinzent to show us how friendly he was, by buying us both a beer and refusing to stop complimenting us on our German. He also gave us his e-mail address (at least 3 times, the beer was affecting his memory), and insisted that we came to visit him during the year. Stay tuned for developments on this front.
Eventually, our hotel bar closed too, and we were forced into the streets and into another bar to take refuge for another couple of hours, before being forced back to the main station and into a Burger King, where we waited for 06:52 to come. The station was a mysterious place at 4 in the morning. People were sleeping on the floor all along the walkways, in the most unlikely of positions. Apparently, sleeping flat on your face is in this year. We occupied ourselves by people watching from on high for a couple of hours, and eventually the time came to leave on our train. Needless to say, we both snored away happily on the way back to Thüringen, and slept even longer once we arrived.
Monday morning came, and it was time for me to bid farewell to my namesake, after a cracking weekend and a memorable Oktoberfest experience. Blood oaths were taken never to reveal certain details of the night, and a single manly tear was shed each upon my departure.
As for school this week, I am starting to get into a routine and the days are becoming more difficult to separate from each other. The 8a is developing well in its rugby skills, and I am beginning to notice a crowd of giggling girls which gathers outside the staffroom window (which opens up onto the playground) and stares up at me every break time. Heaven knows why… One amusing story from this school week must be related, however - in an attempt, presumably, to win back some female attention for himself, one year 7 pupil has started a rumour in the school regarding my sexuality. I am currently concocting plans to rectify this situation/exploit it to the full - again, stay tuned for developments.
That, as they say dear readers, is that, for the time being at least. Again, I hope this has not been too long a blog entry, and that there will be some interest in my next entry, which will not take two weeks next time - hopefully, it will be uploaded this time next week, after I have been to my first rugby training practice (that's right, I found a rugby team in Oldenburg), and once many more exciting Year-Abroad related things have happened.