Guten tag! Yes, I know that’s the wrong language, but I’m currently in Berlin. I’ve been procrastinating once again, so you’ll notice that the week I’m basing this on actually occurred before the last post I published. This time I’m going to fill in the gaps about what I’m actually doing here with an illustrated guide to my super-organised diary.
|Ignore most of the stripey yellow boxes, most of which are imposters from my choir’s calendar
So. The first thing on the agenda is “Go see Philippe“. I promise this is (probably) the last time I’ll mention our pillock of a landlord, as hopefully we’ll only see him again when we move out. The rude letter saga was concluded at our meeting, where he told us he hasn’t read our email because it was ‘long’, before asking all the questions we had answered in the email. We then executed the least dastardly revenge-plan ever, concocted in a haze of fear and loathing the night before. This involved passive-aggressively giving him a rice crispie cake (which, I hasten to add, we had been making a batch of anyway) to make him feel ‘guilty and a bit confused’. Even to our eyes this came to seem inadequate, so we notched it up by sprinkling a very small amount of flour on the bottom of the rice crispie cake, thus rendering it a slightly sub-par rice crispie cake.
|If anyone reading is thinking of pitching a fourth Godfather film, you can have this idea for free.
Monday is when the exercise classes begin… I should probably confess that I don’t really go to all of these, but I put them on the timetable when my flatmate and I had a beginning-of-term burst of motivation and decided to do approximately 20 hours of exercise a week. Here are the ones I actually attend:
Zumba: This is exactly the same thing as in the UK, except that each class lasts an hour and a half. Any practiced Zumba-er will understand how jaw-droppingly hardcore this is, especially as the class takes place in a small, overheated room. (Incidentally, I once had a choir rehearsal in the same room, which they decided should be at an arctic temperature for just the one day.)
Abdo-fessiers: This class best translates as the dreaded “bums and tums”, but is in fact one of the most bizarrely varied exercise classes I’ve ever attended. The general schema runs as follows:
22 minute jog round and round the sports hall: This is very precisely timed for no apparent reason.
|Nothing beats watching a bunch of glamorous French girls struggling to run in chic updos and sportswear that’s suspiciously akin to a batwing cardigan and jeans…
15 minutes of stretching: The ultimate goal of this appears to be the splits, something I’m as likely to achieve as pigs are to sprout fluffy wings.
An agonising 30 minute ab workout, to a soundtrack of bangin’ 80s and 90s tunes. I spend most of this bit in a state of pain-induced delirium, but the random pauses where we get to sink into the HUGE SPRINGY FLOOR make everything worthwhile.
10 minutes more stretching: Which seems like bliss after all those crunches.
5 minutes “relaxation”: during which I invariably fall into a deep, peaceful sleep, before waking up in a sudden panic to realise that everyone else has already put their weights away.
I would like to emphasise the Badass-ness of my current exercise routine by pointing out that I usually do Zumba and Ab Fess no.1 on the same day. This explains why I’m always so sleepy in my next activity of the day…
Choir (ALL EVENING): This has been going remarkably well, although I’m still pining for the convivialité of the Oxford Singers. Our all-Irish repertoire has expanded, and by some strange turn of events now involves me doing a lengthy solo. I can’t pretend not to be delighted about this, but I am also mortally terrified and so far haven’t managed to run through it in front of people without going an interesting shade of crimson.
The first class of the week is called Version. To this day I have no idea why, as it’s just English-to-French translation. Sadly, I can’t tell you much more than that, as it takes place at the completely unacceptable time of 8.15AM. This means I’m usually late, miserable and half asleep, and spend it replying to emails and sulking.
Faculté de langage ostensibly falls under “sciences de langage”, and is the only class in which the teacher has coaxed me out of my stubborn refusal to speak French in front of 40 people. Unfortunately, this is because he’s one of the most ill-informed, arrogant bigots ever to disgrace academia.
As it’s a first year class and I’ve already done two years of linguistics, I’m basically the only person who’s encountered any opinion other than his own on the various long-running controversies about which he enjoys making sweeping, unfounded proclamations. I prefer not to start arguments I won’t be able to finish in a foreign language, but I often find my hand shooting involuntarily into the air, Hermione-esque, to disagree with his preposterously spurious ramblings. This obviously riles him a bit, so in an attempt to channel my indignation I mostly just speed-type obscenities into my notes while, in the words of a classmate, “literally emanating rage”.
|This guy wears all black ALL the time, and likes to show his respect for his students by consistently rocking up half an hour late. He also spends a remarkable amount of time reminding us that he is Not Racist, and, like a horcrux, takes on only the facts that strengthen his own point, while shedding counter-arguments like water off a slimy, bigoted duck’s back. It’s not even what he says that’s the problem, but his insistence of propounding a single point of view with little to no help from science or common sense.
Luckily this is followed by pilates, which is calming but quite hard, especially after the previous day’s exercise-fest.
Analyse du spectacle audio-visuel is a class in analysing films. Its merits are shown by the fact that it’s three hours long, and yet still manages to be my favourite. This is primarily because the teacher is nice, engaging and organised, and has (wonder of wonders) a powerpoint presentation, meaning that my notes are actually worth reading afterwards!
Tuesday really is a very long day. To counteract this, I put Fun Things in my timetable when I got over-zealous about organising my life. It’s worked surprisingly well; we had a very successful cocktail party the other week, and as a result my new life-dream is to open a bar.
|We are so glamorous (photo stolen from Margot). Cocktails included Gin Fizz, Earl Grey Martini and Dutty Grasshopper (among very many others)
Theme is French-to-English translation, and I vastly prefer it to Version because it starts at a proper time. That’s all there is to say.
Visit to Mme. Bloch is one of my volunteering activities – I visit three isolated older people, supposedly on a once-a-week rotation basis, although there have been the forseeable administrative differences which culminated in me being told off by a teammate for Getting Something Done. The people we visit are lovely though, and while it can be quite hard, it’s helpful to feel like I’m actually making a difference in someone’s life.
Hippocampus Jass Gang are a local band whose concerts I go to whenever possible – they’re great, and I’d recommend looking them up. Their concerts are also frequented by amazing swing dancers who make me feel very bad about my inability to do a spin without getting my glasses knocked off.
The only new thing on Thursday (apart from another rehearsal) is my other volunteer job at the Espace Jeunesse, which is terrifying but great for my French, as what I do is interview people on behalf of France Benevolat to help them choose volunteer jobs. Note how a) meta and b) pointless this is. It gives an insider perspective on admin here; I was party to a hilariously French conversation during one of the many meetings, in which they expressed their horror at the nationwide rolling out of a new, efficient France Benevolat website, with a list of volunteer jobs. The overwhelming reaction was “But then what will be the point of us?!? We must fight this!” I kept schtum and quietly noted that this attitude might be something to do the France’s problem with bureaucracy.
Amongst other things, there’s yoga on Fridays, which I tried and failed miserably at. Here is a diagram explaining why I chose not to continue:
This is extremely variable; I often have all-day choir rehearsals on Sunday, and sometimes go to my walking group. I also have a lot of visitors at the moment, who will have to be shoehorned into another post as this one is already something of an essay. I’ll just finish by updating you on my latest run of small disasters, the major ones being a painful fall off my bike thanks to the glassy texture of Montpellier pavements in the rain (and resulting in a bruise the size and colour of a very large blue-black thing), as well as the loss of my beloved glasses, due to switching between them and sunglasses all day. Between that and the police incident, I’m pretty happy to be out of France for the time being, and Berlin is fantastic so far. More on what I’ve been doing here soon!