Bikes, Bants & Banks

A week has passed since my last post and so much has happened that I’ve struggled to keep up with the absolutely overwhelming torrent of new people and experiences. So I’ll try to keep this post succinct without too much digression.

Beautiful Erlangen

On Saturday I met with my supervising teacher for a chat, which was interesting; she warned me of the naughtiness of German children. Sunday was dedicated to acquiring a bike, which was a slightly stressful experience as I know absolutely nothing about bikes, and I had to quickly familiarise myself with them and with things like the German laws regarding bike lights. However, I was successful and secured a lilac-coloured men’s bike in working condition that was actually big enough for me; the sellers were even nice enough to drop the bike off for me at the closest petrol station to my apartment.

Early Monday I set off to Cologne for the Einführungstagung (induction seminar) and arrived at the meeting place two hours before the arranged time, therefore I reckoned that I could get away with going into the CBD for a quick lunch. Cologne is a special place for me, as it was the first German city I ever stepped foot in, so I was keen on returning to quaff a Kölsch beer or two. I ended up with a plate of Himmel un Ääd (Colognian for “Heaven and Earth”), a traditional dish consisting of mashed potatoes, fried onions, apple puree and blood sausage.

Himmel un Ääd at Brauerei zur Malzmühle

After rushing back to train station I managed to return to the meeting point, where I encountered a large cohort of fellow teaching assistants from the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (somewhat surprisingly there was only one other person from Aus and one from NZ). I was a little pleased that they separated us from the USA cohort.

Naturally, the induction seminar began with a profuse amount of administrative information which many of us had already took care of and thus felt a little like a waste of time. The program itself took place in Haus Altenberg, a very nice location with quite good facilities, and we were separated into groups based on our allocated Bundesländer (federal states). I also shared a room with two guys (a Mancunian and a Dubliner) who were also allocated to Bavaria.

Haus Altenberg

The food at Altenberg was absolutely atrocious and possibly some of the worst food I have ever been served in my life. On the first night we were served spaghetti bolognese which looked like it had been made with ketchup and tinned meat. I expected everyone else to be equally horrified, but intriguingly most of them found the food “okay” or even “quite good”. I guess people from the British Isles have much lower gastronomical standards. Nevertheless, the fact that there was a bar made up for the suffering and was easily the highlight of the entire program. We were presented with German beers at cheap prices and this mixed with a bunch of English-speakers, who more or less love Germany and the German language, makes for an interesting sight and yields oodles of bilingual banter.

English teaching assistants getting keen

The mix of English accents, which I weren’t used to, was somewhat stupefying for me, and I really had to concentrate to follow some conversations, especially ones involving the Irish. We spent a lot of time making fun from of each other’s accents and in many situations it probably would’ve been easier if we just spoke German to each other. In any case, it was incredibly bizarre yet enjoyable to be surrounded by a large number of people who were, more or less, as nerdy about the German language as I. Unfortunately, the program ended just as we were getting to know each other and it was a little bit sad when we had to all go our separate ways to our various cities and towns.

Today is Friday and, after a complicated slosh through paperwork and signing a dozen forms, I have just opened a bank account at the Sparkasse and am proud of myself for completing the entire process in German. The only major item left is my residence permit; if it goes the way everything else has gone so far, it should be smooth sailing.

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