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German Farewells: The toughest part of travelling

11 Jun

Hi Everybody!
I am currently writing this post on the plane from Frankfurt to Calgary. Naturally, I don’t have internet access, so by the time you read this it will have been transferred from a word document to my usual blog.
I would like to use this entry as a chance to describe how my last few weeks in Berlin went. To be honest, it’s a bit of a selfish and boring blog, and more for my own memory than for entertainment purposes.
While the goodbyes were sad, I got to create a lot of great memories with the people I have befriended this year. While it is an unfortunate fact that travelling means having to say goodbye often, partings are sometimes a great way to let someone know that they have played an important role in your life. One of the inconveniences of not knowing a lot of German is that sometimes I couldn’t find the right words to tell someone they meant a lot to me; but I like to think that usually I got the message across.
The first goodbye gathering took place during my second-last week of work. A few of the students in my Conversation Course could only make it every second week, so we decided to have a bit of a party that week instead of waiting for my very last class. I brought in cookies that I had baked at home, and the lack of leftovers showed me that they were pretty well received! One of the grade six students was sweet enough to bring me a coffee mug, and two of the grade ten students gathered their funds to buy me more chocolate than I will ever need. A grade seven student brought me a bottle of champagne, which I’m assuming his dad bought. So much of my work this year was as an “assistant” and I spent a lot of time hovering in the background, and yet these students stated that their English was better thanks to the work I had done with them over the course of the year. It was a very memorable class!

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The next day was my last day with my favourite grade six class. When I first started working at this school, I never would have expected that I would enjoy working with younger classes; the idea of trying to keep a group of young kids under control seemed extremely daunting. However, while older students were constantly worrying about the impression they made on their friends, young students were eager to learn and would constantly put effort into their work – no matter how many mistakes they made. There were three or four classes that I worked with a lot over the year (whereas there were other classes which I only sporadically worked with), and I feel like I made a connection with a lot of the students in these classes.
Grade sixes are unfortunately not the best of secret keepers: the teacher I work with had told me there would be a surprise for the last half of the class, and as the students walked in, at least three asked her loudly about when we would get to eat. However, we spent the first half of the class being productive, and then the teacher announced we would be walking to an ice cream parlour nearby. It was a gorgeous and sunny day, and the parlour turned out to be on a pretty street I hadn’t really noticed before.

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The class also presented me with a group photo they had taken the week previously while they were on a field trip – and they had all signed the back. It is such a nice memento, and I think it’ll be great to be able to remember what each student looked like when they were so young.

There was one grade seven class that I consistently worked with throughout the year, regardless of other schedule changes. It was actually the first class I ever taught – it’s quite strange to think back now to how nervous I had been back in September. The teacher of this class was one I really enjoyed working with, and on my last day at work she presented me with a card that the grade sevens had all signed. On my last day (which was Wednesday May 28th, thanks to the holiday that was that Thursday) the English teachers all presented me with a few gifts as well: a coffee mug and notebook for when I go back to university, and a novel and card. I was so happy that they showed this recognition for my work over the year!

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I had two classes on that last day: one with a grade ten class, and my very last Conversation Class. The grade tens also presented with me a card – I really enjoyed preparing material for this class in particular, and I feel like they found me quite relatable as I worked with them this year. Conversation Class was pretty small, but there was one student who had gone home thanks to sickness earlier in the day, but made it to class since it was my last one. I was a bit emotional as I walked away from school that day; it was such an amazing opportunity to get to work there, and I can hardly believe it’s over.

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Besides school, there were other groups of people that I had to say goodbye to. While most months I tried to avoid doing too many costly activities, I didn’t want to miss out on anything in my last month in Berlin. I have a group of friends doing the same work as me, whom I met at the orientation in September. Right before my last week of work, about six of us got together for a night of Indian food and karaoke. There were plenty of cocktails involved, and a lot of laughs. Sebastien and I got home at about 7 in the morning from a night club, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how great a time it had all been.

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After that, we made sure to get together for one last “Sneak Peek” movie night. We actually read online that no sneak peek would be taking place that week, so we decided to go see the newly-released “Maleficent” instead. One of my lovely British friends, Sarah, came over before the movie, and we cooked a tasty vegan meal and watched “Sleeping Beauty” so that we would be all caught up on our Disney references before seeing “Maleficent.” We then met up with the others for dinner, and had a great time at the movie. That evening was my last time getting to see Sarah, as well as my Australian friend Simone. The goodbyes were unpleasant, but I have high hopes that I’ll get to see both of them again soon.

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The more I write, the more I realize that we had a lot of “goodbye” visits…one of my friends left on the same day as my last day of school, and we went out the night before that. Sebastien and I went out for one last “Sneak Peek” (I know I said “Maleficent” was the last one, but by this time there were only two from our original group left) and on that evening I was able to see two more of my friends for the last time. For the record, the movie was “Walk of Shame” and it was a pleasant change from a lot of the intense dramatic movies we had seen lately!
I had one week without work before leaving for Canada, and on June 2nd I had my last band practice with the orchestra I had joined in Berlin. The fact that I was leaving was announced, and we managed to take a lot of great group photos. We wanted to take one of us all posing with our instruments, and someone said that I should stand in the middle since I’m the one leaving – it’s a good thing I thought to lie my string-bass down on the ground and sit beside it, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see most of the band! While a few people always agree to come out for dinner after practice, that week a sizable group all came along. We ate at my favourite Italian restaurant, and it was a lovely evening. A lot of people took the time to come up and say goodbye to me individually, which I found touching. I must have heard the joke “well, you’ll have to come back for our concert in November!” about thirty times, but I thought it’s very sweet that they want me to come back!

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During the week I had off of school, I also took the time to do a few “last” events for myself. I went to my favourite Irish pub for lunch, and sat there for about two hours reading my new book. I hear that that pub is insanely busy during the evening, but in the afternoons it’s quiet and relaxing. I also went back to my favourite bookstore one last time. I managed to resist buying any books, but enjoyed perusing the two-floor English selection for quite a while.
This past weekend, there was a Cultural Festival going on in Berlin. Sebastien and I, along with a group of his friends, decided to check it out. It was about 30 degrees outside, and there were about ten of us walking around enjoying the sunshine and the sights. The festival consisted of lots of food and drink booths from all sorts of countries, and at least four different musical stages with live music. My favourite was the salsa/Spanish stage, where performers effortlessly played types of music I’ve only heard in restaurants or night clubs. Some booths were serving coconut drinks straight from a coconut, and by about 4 in the afternoon there were coconuts littering the ground everywhere. The American contribution was mini-donuts and churros, which made me chuckle a bit. There were a lot of vegan options at the festival, since a lot of cultures thrive on this cuisine. I decided to stick with my langos, mainly because once I was hungry it was the first delicious thing I spotted.

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We spent a long time at this festival, but once we left, we headed to a bar with three of Sebastien’s closest friends. We didn’t stay long since we were all exhausted, but we shared a heartfelt goodbye. It makes me so happy to know that these people are my friends too, as well as Sebastien’s – I’ve known some of them for three years by now. I really hope that I will be able to visit again soon!
On Sunday, we had one last dinner at Sebastien’s parents’ house – and we enjoyed our meal outside in the 35 degree weather. I am so grateful to Sebastien’s family: while I am extremely excited to return home to my own parents, I have always appreciated the fact that Sebastien’s family is so welcoming.
Monday was reserved for just Sebastien and me to relax. I did all of my packing on this day (and was able to fit it all comfortably in my suitcases without exceeding the weight limit. Woohoo!) It was hot again, and we went for a swim in the lake nearby. Over the past while I have been asked countless times what Sebastien and I are planning to do since we’re back to long distance; we’ve been pretty good at managing it so far, and I think we’ll continue to do so without any trouble.
The goodbyes I have gone through have been tough, but they’ve provided me with a lovely way to truly appreciate the bonds I have created with different people over the course of this year. There were so many aspects of my life here – work, international friends, the orchestra, and Sebastien’s circle of friends – that I had to enjoy. In my short life, I have been to a lot of places, and been able to meet a lot of terrific people; I consider myself to be the luckiest girl in the world for this. While I hate having to leave Berlin, I am so excited for all of the people in Calgary I will be reunited with – and by the time September comes, I will be embarking on an entirely new adventure.
Sorry for all of the sappy sentiment! Thank you so much for reading this blog. It is because of positive feedback that I continue to write, and I am so lucky to have people that care about what I have to say.
Auf Wiedersehen,
Robyn

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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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