You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2009.

i just heard my boss muse to another teacher: “Maybe Elberry needs more hours”. Worrying. i’m already working about 7 to 8 hours a day – almost all my spare time is taken up with lesson preparation, and my lessons are still haphazard, anarchic, alarming. Today i was teaching the Arbeitsamt group about interviews and interview technique thus:

Elberry: Dietrich, have you had a bad interview?
Dietrich: Yes, my first interview. It was terrible. I was very nervous.
Elberry: Nerves can be a problem. You know what you can do if you’re nervous? You can get drunk. If you want, you can get very drunk.

Followed by disbelieving laughter, before i assured them that i spoke whereof i knew. Later, i talked with a student, an occasional drunk, keen Fantasy-reader, even keener Dungeons & Dragons player. He’s also passionate about logic and mathematics. Although i am useless at such things – having the exact opposite of a logical, organised mind – i am fond of logicians, and mathematicians.

i have had a private student this week – an elegant, lovely, intelligent German MILF – 3 hours alone with her leaves me high & lunatic, more so than usual. Today she was wearing exciting tights/stockings – i almost complimented her taste but bit my tongue, wisely perhaps. It’s an intensive 15-hour course, shared with another teacher, so our last lesson is tomorrow (woe). She is a painter, a lover of classical music, and when i mentioned Arvo Part she said casually: “Of course I know Arvo Part, I have meeted him in 2006 in Talinn.”

i still know almost no German. i eschew tedious means of language acquisition (memorising vocab etc.) and instead speak English with a strong German accent, also i bark orders at people and slap my thighs. In this way i hope to simply sidestep the whole language acquisition business, and convince my brain that i already am a Kraut, and can therefore already speak Der Krautsprache, as it is known.

Seemingly every minute of free time is consumed in lesson preparation. i wrest five minutes from this horror to write an email. i no longer read blogs or books. i have no time to learn German. Vexingly, i need huge quantities of sleep – i just slept 14 hours and am still tired. i dream entirely about teaching. i feel like Taylor in Platoon, “i think i made a big mistake coming here.”It is tough, tougher than office work and the boredom thereof, but i can take it, just about. It’s an interesting kind of pressure, unpredictable, always human – office work was more like being slowly crushed by a machine. If i fuck up here, and i often do, it’s in human ways, and the problems are human problems (a student can’t understand my lesson because i am unprepared). i relish the pressure; i need it, to change, to become a different human being. i have seen some big-ass ravens and crows, and heard magpies.

This morning, my pretty German landlady, Lena, asked which ear rings went best with her dress. i replied, “those – they’re the same shape and colour as the buttons on your dress.” i will acquire a reputation as her “probably gay lodger”, who is on hand to offer fashion advice and blog titles (she started a blog last week). i reasserted my masculine credentials by putting together a chair i bought from Ikea – however, they’ve given me the wrong screws so i must perforce fashion my own from bits of driftwood and human bone – that’s the English way.

It’s a small flat. Lena & i have already had the inevitably early morning encounter, i about to go to work, she in a skimpy nightgown.

i wander the streets muttering aloud in a pronounced Yorkshire accent. Some of my sayings:

“Jesus, look at that huge white man’s afro.”
“Bloody Germans.”
“SS killer alert.”
“That’s not a hot dog.”

Germans pretend to sell hot dogs but they come in small buns. So you get a big sausage – a good sausage, mind you – in a manifestly inadequate bun. i don’t know what they’re thinking.

They all wear jeans. Maybe it’s a Cold War thing. i got my JobCentre students talking about the Russians and Stalin – some good bad vibes there. i try to encourage their military and nationalist tendencies, as one might encourage a shy spectacled girl to experiment with high heels.

At first i thought German women were made without curves, especially in the rear. However, i think it’s rather that they all wear baggy jeans – whether to conceal their true form or out of sartorial ignorance. Another cause of woe.

Snatch of dialogue from one of my groups:

Elberry: Helga, what films do you like?
Helga: I like French films.
Elberry: Are they pornographic?
Eva: You can’t say that!
Elberry: Why not, if Helga likes pornography i’m not going to stop her.
Helga: The films are not directly pornographic.
Elberry: Classy girl.

Hungry. i’m going to get an inadequate hot dog. Then fashion new screws from bone. Then do lesson preparation.

Germans pick up a surprising amount of odd expressions. For example, during today’s Arbeitsamt (JobCentre) class, on telephone technique, one student answered an imaginary phone with a brusque: “Who are you, bitch?”

Another great lesson, with the Wehrmacht soldiers, an unruly group of ruffians and killers: i had them practicing question forms by interrogating one student about the murder of another. The suspect suggested it might have been a suicide, so i prompted them to speculate about motives. They rapidly came up with:

“Thomas killed himself because he can’t speak English.”
“Thomas killed himself because he has no friends and everyone hates him.”
“Thomas killed himself because he is shit.”
“Thomas killed himself because he smokes too much crack.”

An excellent lesson. Later, one of the Arbeitsamt jobless people said: “You are not the best teacher, but you are the funniest.” Good use of superlatives there.

i taught a class of jobless young people in the morning – the Kraut Job Centre forces them to attend for 8 hours a day but they are surprisingly remarkably motivated and friendly. My class includes a woman who studied Architecture for 7 years, an ex-engineer, ex-estate agent/soldier, and a practitioner of Mixed Martial Arts. Many are married and say they enjoy playing with their children – not what i’d expected – in England they would be grey-faced junkies with 10 (abused) children they never see, by 10 different partners, and their career history would consist of signing on once a fortnight, with occasional spells in McDonalds and prison. They would be covered in tattoos. They would lack foreheads. Very different in Germany – lots of foreheads, no tattoos.

Yesterday, walking through the park near my flat (the park has a pond and ducks), i passed the remains of a German drinking session – a dozen empty beer bottles neatly stacked by a park bench. Some things are eternal – booze; some things are very different (in England, the bench and path would be strewn with broken glass and vomit).

On the subject of booze i discovered a bottle of good cheap red wine for under 2 Euros, got sozzled at lunch, then staggered back into the school to teach the jobless people for another couple of hours. i managed to introduce the expression “i like drinking cheap wine” into the class – a nice bit of ‘realia’ there. To my delight there was a new student, a demure blonde MILF, quite lovely. i had to restrain myself from leering too horribly, though i prompted her to ask one of the rakier students: “You’re a sex, drugs, and rock & roller, aren’t you?”, to which he replied coolly, “I am indeed.”

And now i must lesson plan.

The annoying comments were mainly deposited in my Spam filter, so fear not, i was not impelled to a lofty and unapproachable mountain-top stance by any regular, sane commentators. And the insane comments were just the catalyst for a deeper dissatisfaction with having a public face, an audience.
i’ve cobbled together a characteristically haphazard and impractical way of posting via email, so i should be able to blog from work on Saturdays, when the school is quiet. At present almost all my free time is taken up with lesson preparation, eating mohn apfelkuchens, and the mire of German bureaucracy.

This week i’ve taught about 3 hours a day – and that took up all my free time in lesson preparation. Next week i teach more like 5 hours a day, mostly to new groups, including soldiers from the Wehrmacht – huge, testosteroned killers disenchanted with German niceness, eager to get their hands on some live ammo or failing that a good Bowie knife. i shall assume my drill sergeant persona and form them into a cadre of English-speaking guerrillas, waging war on bad syntax and Political Correctness.

i also have a conversation class with some old biddies in their 80s – last time i talked about Wittgenstein, lesbians, why teachers should beat their students, and how this world is going to pieces because of the goddamn liberals and peaceniks and young people. We got on splendidly. As one of the old dears put it: “down with the young!” Things were better under Bismarck.

i’ve decided to disable comments for good. i have enjoyed most conributions but on the whole the cons outweigh the pros. After a spate of venomous comments, i was idly wondering how i would, magically, go about permanently blinding a troll, and pulled myself up short – i’m not a nice person, but it seems better just to disable comments altogether.

Seemingly only one internet cafe in K___, in some derelict ghetto. The connection at work is slow and strange, and the staff room isn’t the best place to be blogging. Everything is going well here, i just gave my first lesson, where i introduced my students to the words ‘brothel’ and ‘immoral’. i have a room in a flat, sharing with a pretty German girl who has liberally decorated with pink paint and Christian sayings. The room has a huge wooden writing desk, on which i mean to do more handwriting.

i think this blog will continue in some fashion but we’ll have to see how things work out.

i’m in Germany. Things seem to be going well but i’m probably going to be damnably busy for the next couple of months. Internet access is tricky so i shan’t be around here much for a while.

wordpress hit counter