It looks like it’s learning how to swim, Sir.”
Well blow me down. First the university forces you out of the country for a year (although for many it’s a dream come true!). The most outstanding pre-departure advice is “fend for yourselves” and “avoid student protests,” which in all honestly does not leave you feeling all that prepared. Baggage restrictions at Gatwick Airport means that you’re faced with the challenge of fitting 20 years (21 years if you’re Camilla Swan) of life into 1 / 2 comparatively small suitcases. HOWEVER. The hardest pill to swallow in fact, and I’m not talking about “Calpol” here, is that Exeter German Department is still setting us homework to do throughout the whole year. Indeed to be more precise, as I was reminded when I reread the email last night, we’re tasked with completing a whole “portfolio” about our year abroad. And I thought that we Erasmus students had enough to do already!
On a more positive note, after catching a glimpse of Germany thrash Belgium 3v1 in their European Championship qualifier the other night, I’ve got a good feeling about the fortunes of my adopted homeland’s European Championship prospects next summer. Even at the tender age of 20 I’ve suffered my fair share of international football heartbreak at the hands of the English national team (every other summer I have a two week period of mourning after England are invariably knocked out at the quarter-final stage), and so it’s a refreshing feeling to genuinely believe that Germany are in with a chance of success. To date I’ve struck up a modest 4 football orientated conversations with various patrons of Gasthof Stern. The conversation normally follows the same pattern; me conceding that England are rubbish, the other participant heartily agreeing, and then a deliberation over who England’s current best player is, Wayne Rooney or Paul Gascoigne. After convincing the other participant in the conversation that Paul Gascoigne retired approximately 15 years ago, we finally agree that Wayne Rooney is England’s star name. Oh great, he’s suspended for the first match (at least) of the Championships!
Anyway, I really hope that it’s not as cold in England as it is here, or should I be slightly more precise and say I hope that it’s not as FREEZING! Not that I’ve had to worry too much about the temperature over the last two days :). The reason for this being that I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the boiler room recently (not for fun mind you, there was a purpose behind it!) As a bit of contextual information, it’s important that you’re aware that the hotel’s heating is powered by wood, rather than by gas or electricity (Bernd’s really big on sustainablity and I’ve got lots more examples to show). THAT is the reason why there is a picture of a big, retro wooden furnace above, not because I saw it on the German version of “Antiques Roadshow.” Despite your inkling, I wasn’t shacked up in the boiler room in a bid to protect myself from the cold, no, rather because the boiler-man is due today to check we’re taking good care of it. To put it in a nutshell, before I started cleaning out the boiler room it resembled more the aftermath of a bomb (possibly nuclear) site! At that point I really wanted to thank Bernd for giving me such an intriguing job, but I slowly got used to it! Despite me eventually cleaning everything away and restoring order and normalcy to the room, one problem remained. No matter how often I swept and polished, using a broom, using a brush, using a cloth, the dust just kept on returning. I literally cannot imagine a dustier place! I thought that it was a bit dusty behind my ears, I thought that it was dusty inside Henry the Hoover. This boiler room was something else. Ultimately I conceded defeat to the dust, however as a small consolation Bernd empaphised with me. The dust was determined to have the last laugh as I found out later that night when picking my nose, removing my finger I noticed that it was completely black with dust!
In preparation for the winter renovation Christian and myself have been doing a bit of wegräumen (clearing away) in the huge barn behind the restaurant. I can’t say that all that much of interest happened, (except perhaps that I’m still a pro at carrying heavy planks of wood, courtesy of my days at Travis Perkins), although there was one thing… As a foreigner listening to typical German radio, you could be forgiven in thinking that you’re actually listening to English radio. Whilst Christian and myself did all the heavy lifting we were listening to a local radio station, and I can honestly say that I can’t recall hearing even one German song. They were all English and American! Not that the choice of music was that good, in fact it didn’t even follow a certain theme, it was an odd assortment of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Bloodhound Gang’s “Word Up,” The Rasmus’ “In The Shadows,” and finally Eric Pridz “Call on Me.” The radio presenters even spoke English! Weird!
As a final note it appears that we’ve got another hectic weekend at Gasthof Stern ahead. Bernd and Heike have organised a weekend-long celebration / party at the hotel with hundreds of formal invitations having already been distributed. Special menus have been printed off, everybody will be working, and a shed load of fresh beer barrels arrived only this morning. I might just have to pop to the second hand shop for an extra pair of hands just so I can cope with all the drinks orders!
In my opinion England is, was, and will always remain the best country in the World. It’s true! But for now I’ve settled in here, and so all is good. Until the next time :).