Thursday, October 26, 2006

Berlin Pause

It was much colder in Berlin than England, and there was even snow. The city was fascinating though and my German friend, Nina, lived nearby to us with her partner and son, David who was the same age as our little Nina. We spent cosy weekends with Nina and Roland and discovered the numerous well-used neighborhood parks together. In the weekdays, while Jacques worked, the children and I did touristy things like visiting the Television Tower or the Natural History Museum. We did a daily trip to the supermarket and on the way back usually stopped at a craft shop for supplies.

Since the children had no school I decided we should do something artistic. We used recycled materials and the apartment was soon full of toilet roll and cereal box creations with sticky sequins and tissue paper to decorate. Marc liked to watch television too, and didn’t seem surprised that they were all speaking German. Every day he religiously watched a science programme for kids and Disney cartoons. He never asked me what they were saying, perhaps he remembered German from his time in Zurich when he was just a toddler? Nina would walk away saying she didn’t like it.

One Sunday I took Marc to a puppet theatre. We enjoyed the one-hour show and laughed a lot but on the way out he said ‘Mummy, what was the story?’ ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ I replied. ‘Oh!’ he said ‘I thought I had heard that story before!’ As he sifted through his memories of English Snow Whites or French Blanche Neiges I wondered what he was thinking about this mix of languages.

On cold wintry days we looked for places to go that were warm and child-friendly, and the local library was both. Marc and Nina were delighted and we settled down on the cushions to read. But all the books were in German. Although I could do a passable translation of French to English I could not do the same in German. ‘Well’ I said ‘We’ll just have to guess the story.’ Being too young to read themselves they accepted this and we made up the story as we thought it should be. Months later we found the English translation of our favourite book ‘Swimmy’ and we were not far off the actual story….

In March the project was finishing and we had to move to London. I bought the weekly Guardian newspaper in Berlin and by chance saw a job advertised in a top London language school. The job, Director of Studies, was perfect for my qualifications and experience as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. At the end of our time in England I had taught English for a week and was itching to get back to full-time work after a 4-year break. I was bored at home and we both thought it would be useful to have my salary contribution in London. So I applied, just to see what would happen. I was immediately called for interview and before I could blink was offered the job, starting the first week of April. Two weeks before the job started I rushed back to London to look for a house for us to rent, a school for Marc and childcare for Nina…

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