Well, I have officially been in Germany for over a week, and it has been a complete whirlwind! I have enough details in my head to make a very long and tedious blog, so I’ll do what I can to skip to the good stuff.
My 8 hour flight to London was quite pleasant, with an empty seat next to me and comfy socks and five Disney movies to pass the time. I had so much fun I think I could have stayed on the plane another few hours! The flight to Berlin went just about as smoothly, although reading Jane Austen was a bit of a struggle based on how tired I was.
Once Sebastien had whisked me away to his house, I had less than 24 hours to get rested up and unpack my two suitcases. We began driving to Köln in the evening to take advantage of the nearly empty highway, and got to the outer limits of Köln before taking a nap in the car. This meant that we made it to the Kölner Zoo bright and early the next morning – such keeners! The zoo was a lot of fun, particularly when we got to see hippos being fed apples. Watching crocodiles being fed dead mice was a little disconcerting, but also an educational experience, I suppose! Here are a few cutesy animal photos for your viewing enjoyment:
After our day at the zoo, we found our hotel in Köln and went to an amazing Italian restaurant that was recommended to us by the hotel staff. I believe it was called “Imperium” although I could be wrong, but it was a crowded little place with lots of character and complimentary olives and bread with our tasty pizzas.
The next day, Sebastian drove me to the main train station in Köln, which is where I would be meeting everyone for our teaching orientation. Luckily I knew exactly where our meeting spot would be, since “the entrance with a view of the Köln Cathedral” was the same entrance I had been at with my WSP group last year. However, I’m fairly certain that that’s where the similarities between last year’s WSP event and this year’s PAD orientation end. While last year involved 15 or so Canadians, this year involved 140 people coming from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, and Scotland. The vast majority was from England, because for them this program counts as a year on exchange for university. The rest of us had to have a degree before we were able to take part. Once I found this huge group, we were all loaded on to buses and taken to the countryside. The place we were going to, “Maria in der Aue,” was isolated enough that we actually had to get off the bus and walk 20 minutes down a road to get to it.
We made sure to say hello to some cows and ponies on the way down, as well as slowly started to talk to and get to know one another.
The thing that I loved most about this orientation was the fact that, for the entire three days we were there, we never stopped introducing ourselves to more people. While I have had previous experiences where people form their own little groups and only hang out with the people from that group, I sat with a different group of people for every single meal, and was always welcomed and talked to. Everyone had so much to learn from one another, what with their different accents and culture, and it was interesting to hear about each person’s educational background. Everyone had a great sense of humour as well, and half the time I was amused more by the varying accents than by the actual jokes. I found out that I really need to work on my global geography…whenever I asked a British person where they were from, the only spot I knew a single thing about was London. There were only about five Canadians there, and I always find it entertaining that people from outside of North America have no idea where Calgary is.
The orientation was more helpful than I could have imagined, in regards to how much it clarified complicated details about my staying in a foreign country. I still have a ton of paperwork that needs to be dealt with, but I found out about my health insurance, how to register at my address here, how to get my visa, and how to get a bank account. I also learned a fair bit about what it’ll be like to teach; we were divided into groups based on where we will be living, and had to prepare a 45 minute lesson for our peers. They also organized the rooms so that people would be roommates with people going to their same city, which meant that I now have quite a few friends I could hang out with while I’m here. I enjoyed meeting friends that will be staying elsewhere in Germany though, and hope that I can visit them soon! Below is a photo of how gorgeous “Maria in der Aue” is, in all its isolation.
The photo right above is one of the view from the patio. I’m not sure where the fun-little-caption-thing-below-a-photo has gone, but hopefully it’s not too difficult to follow along!
On the last morning of the orientation, we had to wake up at about 6am to get ready for the bus back to Köln. We were dropped off at the station, and I hung out with a Brit and an Australian for a while before my train to Berlin was leaving. I had been extremely nervous about finding my way to the right platform and the right train, but my British friend was used to trains and helped me find the right spot within a 2 minute period. Here are a few photos I took of the train station, including the Köln Cathedral from the opposite side.
Once on the train, I ran into another girl from Britain, who was also heading to Berlin. We sat together and learned a bit more about each other, while also enjoying the German scenery passing by. I really enjoy travelling by train; it’s so fun to get somewhere quickly and comfortably while also being able to see the countryside as it whizzes by. That train took 5 hours, and at the end of it Sebastien met me at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main station), where we then bought a local bus pass for the month and then continued home. On the way there, we took a detour so that Sebastien could show me how to get to the school where I’ll be working. I was extremely grateful that he did that, because it made my first day on the job that much easier! It felt pretty good to be so comfortable with the route, and the fact that I spent three months last summer travelling through Berlin meant that a lot of parts of the journey were familiar.
My first day at work was the next day, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. However, I am going to end this blog entry now because I have to get ready for this evening’s activities, and would like to give your eyes a break. At the orientation, we learned all about working with spans of attention and I don’t want to put yours to the test!
Thank you so much for reading! Bis Morgen!