A heartening Cracked article about epic escapes from East Germany, the Commies, bears, etc. All of these heroic lunatics sound like my more Germanic German students. There is something dogged and epic about Germans. For example, Student 6, who seemed to regard thumbing his nose at the GDR as akin to making a cup of (manly, black) coffee or coming to my school – that is, just one of those things a man has to do.

When i leave Ultima Thule i will miss teaching the fire fighters. i’ve been teaching these guys for more than 6 months now and feel i know them fairly well. They are all crazy in that cold, steely German way, friendly but also willing to plunge into a burning, collapsing building because it’s what they’re paid for. Of the 5 students, only one actually wanted to be a fire fighter, the others ended up there by accident, more or less. A conversation with the 40-something pie-eater, let’s call him Jens:

Elberry: Have you ever used a helicopter or plane in fire fighting?

Jens: Of course. A few years ago there is a forest fire and I must to go up in the air to see the fire from the sky. Then I must tell my men, you go here, you here.

Elberry: How many men did you command?

Jens: 300.

Elberry thinks “this is Sparta” but says: Did you have training in aerial reconnaisance?

Rotund Leonidas: No.

Elberry: Was it hard to assess the situation from above, if you weren’t trained?

Rotund Leonidas gives me a “what planet do you live on” look: Of course. But it is my job. There is a fire, I am there. I cannot say, sorry I am not trained. I must do it. So I do it.

It seems a million years from the English way, which is to refuse to do anything you weren’t specifically trained for, in case you’re sued for breaching Health & Safety regulations. It’s especially admirable because Rotund Leonidas didn’t even really want to be a fire fighter in the first place.

We’re doing Military English (i got to do a chapter about Hannibal, with quotations from Patton) and a few weeks ago we were discussing recruitment posters. The book featured 4 different adverts for the army. i asked them which they felt was most effective. They dismissed a “Master the Present, Dominate the Future” advert as “something young people would like, it sounds like a computer game”. Instead, they all unanimously settled on my favourite, which showed a mud-encrusted soldier with the caption: “Mud on my face. The soil is our soil” or something similar. One translated it into German (it sounded a thousand times better), and we all sat there nodding approvingly and wishing we could be lying in a ditch with an assault rifle, covered in mud and human blood, holding off the screaming Muslim hordes so the women and children can escape. We know we will perish, finally overwhelmed by millions of bearded, nightgown-wearing, ullulating, scimitar-waving Muslims, but by our heroic sacrifice the women and children will escape to Avalon where they will be safe, and sing epic ballads about our last hour, the glory & death & honour & loincloths.

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