24 March, 2010

The Long Night

Last Saturday was the 'Lange Nacht der Museen' here in Stuttgart. At this event, all museums, art galleries, and other cultural spaces were open from 9pm to 2am. You just needed to buy a 15€ ticket and you could go to as many (or as few) places as you liked AND the ticket price included free transportation too (special buses were put on connecting the event places).
Some of the places open were the City Art Gallery, the castle, the Porsche Museum and some local vineyards. But that is just a little taster; there were more than 90 places to choose from...

With this smorgasbord of places to choose from, we started of by visiting a WWII era bunker which had a photo exhibition entitled "Angels & Anarchy". The anarchy photos were all famous Stuttgartians (who i dodn't know) posed on/with/next to an anarcy logo. The angels were photo portraits of the local Hells Angels and in the bunker they'd also set up a biker bar for the event. Bit scary but interesting as the bunker isn't normally open to the public & i don't go to biker bars.

After that, we made a quick stop to a local art space and then took a massively crowded bus to the harbour. For those of you who don't know, Stuttgart isn't by the sea. It's really really far away from the sea, but it is on the Neckar river, which is a main transportation route. So there is a harbour on the river. From there, we took a 30 minute cruise up & down the river, looking at the scenic view of silos, warehouses and heaps of scrap metal.

After our harbour tour, we went to the Mercedes Benz museum. Wow! This museum is brand spanking new & a really impressive piece of architecture. It's really beautifully laid out & there was always something to look at. One of the funny things was that the local radio station was having a club night there (until 4am) as part of the Lange Nacht, so while we were wandering round, we were serenaded by the black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and other such music.

Apparently, the Lange Nacht is not special to Stuttgart and happens in cities all over Germany. It's an idea that I've never heard of, but is a fantastic idea. And judging by the number of people out & about, I wasn't the only person who thought so.
And later in the year, there's a similar event, where live music is played in various bars, clubs & spaces around town. I'm looking forward to that one too & hopefully the one in Mülheim too.


Some Random Observations...

The Police do live up to their stereotypes - even in Germany
Was sitting in a cafe, when up pulled a police car. Out got the police man, and into the cafe he came. There, he proceeded to by some donuts/cake and then headed back out to his car & drove off.

Men aren't that different in Japan & Germany

I've had a few instructors here telling me how different it would be teaching German & Japanese students. So far, as i've mentioned before, there aren't too many major differences. And sometimes, there are some HUGE similarities.
For instance, in one of my basic classes this week, we were discussing housework & who does it. My students (1 woman and 5 men) were making sentences such as 'I do the vacuuming'; 'My wife does the laundry' and so on.
The end result was my female student saying, "I do everything. My boyfriend do nothing".
Then one of the male students topped that by saying, "My wife does everything. The best house machine is my wife".

15 March, 2010

März Madness

Is it half way through March already? Nearly a third of the way through the year? DAMN!

Since I last wrote, I've got more classes & am teaching 5 days a week. Not all day teaching (i.e. 9-5), but at least one class a day, usually more. Still have some gaps to fit a couple more classes in, but my schedule is quite nice as it is (still have time to do all my hausfrau duties as well....)

So, what have i found out in my first month of working? Here's a little run down....

There are a lot of similarities to what i did in Japan and what do now in Germany:

  • The students all want to learn, they (mostly) need English for their jobs
  • Companies spend a LOT of money on English training
  • Low level students are still a bit giggly & nervous
  • High level students are demanding & ask tough questions (related to English)

This means that work isn't too challenging for me. I don't mean that in a negative way; I have 13 years experience teaching in the corporate field, I know what to do & I know I do it well. And now I will stop blowing my horn.....
But it does mean that when I have got used to things (i.e. travelling around town), I can focus on joining a German course. If work is easy for me to do well, then i can definitely afford some time on studying. Just want to get a couple of months under my belt first though.

On the other hand, there a few things that are really different here in Germany:

  • When I commute, I can sit down on the train. I can buy a coffee, eat breakfast, read the newspaper, prepare my lessons & not get elbowed, pushed or generally mauled. I spend approximately 40 to 60 minutes travelling to some of my classes (others are a 15 minute walk away), and i find it relaxing. I go through fields & hills (lot of tunnels in Stuttgart), I can people out enjoying the countryside. It's SO different from the infuriating sardine-like trains in Tokyo, where all I saw was concrete, more concrete and neon. I never thought I would enjoy commuting, but I had never commuted outside of Japan before...
  • This does mean, however, i have to be really careful with bus/train schedules. If I miss one, I could have to wait for up to an hour for the next one. I'm used to a train every 2 to 5 minutes, and buses every 15 minutes or so. I've been both spoiled & scarred by commuting in Tokyo...
  • In class, when I ask my (higher) level students for their opinions, they actually give them. And they are not afraid to disagree with each other. It's a refreshing change not to have to cajole an opinion out of them. On the other hand, it has really screwed up my time management as an activity that would have taken 10 minutes with a Japanese class, now takes twice as long with my German students...

And those are the main things I have noticed so far. I'm sure there will be more & i will be sure to keep you updated....


And one completely unrelated observation: I love that Euros come from all over the place. Each country got to mint their own coins & could change the design a little (ie German 1€ have an eagley thing & the Spanish ones have King Juan Carlos on them). It means that in my wallet i can have coins that have travelled across countries. Don't know why, but i find that fascinating. It's probably actually verging on geeky, but hey, everybody needs a bit of geek in them...