A walk by the river.

I live a 5 minute walk from the main station in Frankfurt. When I tell people this, they pull a face and say it’s a dodgy area. It’s not. It’s between the main station and the river – a high class area. Well, by Frankfurt standards. Haha.

So, last week (not this weekend just gone when it was gorgeous weather, sadly) I walked into town along the river to show just how gorgeous Frankfurt is.

I like checking out other peoples’ balconies because I want to make something of my own.  I like that chair second from the bottom…

Walking on…

Charming!

 

On to the main part of the river. There are loads of parks and stuff around here, with people skateboarding, jogging, riding bikes…

Pretties.

There are loads of bridges taking you over the river to Sazenhausen. Those buildings there are some of Frankfurts many museums and art galleries.

In the past few weeks there have been river cruise boats lining the side of the river.

Not a very exciting final photo, I’m afraid… but on the main suspension bridge people like to hang locks with their partner and throw the key into the river. It’s pretty romantic :-)

So there you have it! A mini tour of Frankfurt! I hope I showed you that Frankfurt can be really pretty when it wants to be.

Friends and Stuff

Through a WordPress Freshly Pressed link, I came across the book MWF Seeking BFF. I’d just finished reading Cloud Atlas which was a Christmas present (it’s a door stop of a book…) so I bought it on my Kindle.

I didn’t imagine how much of an impact this book would have on me… it’s about just being in a place that isn’t the one you grew up in – and just feeling lonely. The woman (blogger Rachel Bertsche) tries to find her new best friend in Chicago by going on a long list of friend dates. Some are good, some are bad, some are terrible.

The reason this book is so addictive to me is because I feel exactly the same. Making friends in a new city is difficult. You don’t know anyone outside work, you don’t know where to go to make friends. But making friends in a different culture is 100 time more difficult.

I was really down in Japan while on JET. There were other foreigners around but I didn’t feel that they were the types of people I would choose to be friends with if I had the choice. I felt so low that I even overlooked a girl who eventually became my best friend there. I just had given up on everything. I thought maybe dating someone would “cure” me of this feeling, so when a lovely Japanese guy fell for me, I went with it in the hope that I would grow more fond of him. Needless to say, I didn’t and I feel so bad for leading him along like that since he is the loveliest guy.

I got to the stage where I just hit rock bottom and needed to be pro-active about it all. I worked really hard on language exchange sites, Mixi (a Japanese social network) and in person too – going to everything I was invited to. I managed to get a really nice group of friends and along with the new JETs that came in that I was very close to, I felt so much better and not lonely at all.

But now I have to start all over again here. Having spent most of my free time up until now with Mister, now that we’re not together any more I feel like someone has yanked away my crutches. I do feel lonely and where for the autor of my book is searching for someone who will just drop everything and go for a manicure, I am looking for someone who I can just text “hey something stupid happened” and get a reply, or someone who will just be happy walking around while taking photos with me. Someone for last minute dinner, or to go to that cafe I found with.

The book states that a person can handle 120 friends at a time – of which 50 are the closest. In the past month going through a heart-breaking break up I have come to realise how many people around me are in that 50 person space. But I don’t think I have all 50 spaces filled. MWF Seeking BFF has really motivated me to build up my friendship circle and go on more girl-dates.

I highly recommend that book to anyone – it’s slightly chick-lit-y but has lots of sciencey stuff in it too which makes me feel I’m not reading drivel haha. It’s easy to read and I bet most people – if not most women- will identify heavily with it, as I have.

German “Sakura”

I just read a wonderful blog post written by my WordPress buddy – do you know what “that person is a cheery blossom” would mean in Japanese? I didn’t! You should go check it out!

I have been very jealous the past few weeks, seeing all my facebook friends who are back in Japan talk about how they’ve had sakura parties. Germany is still pretty cold, though it’s warmed up considerably. But still not the right kind of weather for sitting under pretty trees.

In town I discovered these pretty flowers… they aren’t sakura of course, but they were pretty enough and attracted quite a few Asian Frankfurters who were taking photos.

I might go have a cup of tea underneath these trees and it’ll be my kind of hanami!

The JET Programme

This week I went to dinner with a nice American girl. I’d helped her a little in her application to the JET Programme, and she got in.

I like to help people with the JET applications in my spare time. I had a lot of help when I applied, and so I like to give back. Also, I just like that satisfaction you get from knowing you helped someone out.

So what is JET? Most people think it stands for “Japan English Teaching” but it’s actually “Japan Exchange and Teaching”. The Japanese government spends a lot of money sending young people from all over the world to live in the Japanese countryside, to live among Japanese people who would never get to see a non-Japanese person  otherwise, while teaching in the local schools. I was on the JET Programme for 2 years.

I had always wanted to be on JET. I first encountered Japanese people when I did an exchange in my town with one of the Keio middle schools when I was 13. I thought those kids were amazing – I’m still good friends with some of them today. My Japanese teacher (because I would not shut up until my parents let me study it in the evenings) told me about the programme, and I had my heart set on it from that day forward.

Applying to JET is a rollercoaster of emotions. You need to write an essay, then you have an interview, then a police check – but that’s not all! You don’t know if you’ll get on the programme until around this time in the year (for a July departure) and you won’t know which area you’ll go to until June, in some cases.

I sat there across from my friend this week and I could see all the same emotions in her that I had 3 years ago. I’d been to Japan twice before – the second of which was for a year as an exchange student – so I imagine she was feeling even more nervous than I was. But I was so excited for her. I was bouncing on my chair telling her how she’ll be the star of her town, how the kids will be amazing, how the food will make her fat, but happy…

So why did I quit?

Well, there is a downside to JET. In preparation, I had done a joint degree in Japanese and teaching English. I had also had experience teaching English. I was ready and raring to rock the classroom. But you can’t as an Assistant Language Teacher. Well, not in junior high schools, at least. My job was to, if I was lucky, make 15 minute activities that couldn’t be too creative and at other times I stood in the classroom and was a living cd player. Why wasn’t I happy with the activities? Well, it really depended on the teacher and the class. Some classes were awesome – I remember doing a gap-fill exercise to The Beatles’ Hello Goodbye. The kids LOVED it. It was creative, used real English and wasn’t a textbook. Other times I was not so lucky.

The textbook had a section on how to take a train. It had a small map with stations called “Plum Station”, “Flower Station” and “Sunshine Station”. This was for 16 year olds. I was asked to do an activity based on this, so I started off working through these pages, and teaching things like “take the Apple Line to Plum Station, then change to the Banana Line”. This worked well. Then I whipped out a REAL LIFE map of the london underground. I had simplified it to a handful of stations and had written how to say the stations in katakana. The teacher wasn’t happy. The students did their best, but they just don’t experience real English. It was using all the same terms as we had just practised, just with real life stations. If it’s not in a textbook, the teachers don’t think it’s useful and the kids get scared and don’t try to understand it.

My opinions were not valid in the school, my experience and skills were not touched upon. And moreover, the other teachers in the school practically ignored me. I understand Japanese perfectly fine, but they spoke to me in a mock foreign accent… They made me so angry.

However, the students were angels and I love every single one of them. That’s why I went back to see their graduation last month. Even the kids who were little monkeys were sweet. One little boy in the first grade (11 years old) would come up to me every morning and say, in English, “Charlotte-sensei, I have a hangover!!” I’d reply with “OH NO! What was it this time? Beer? Whiskey?” While he would nod enthusiastically and choose which drink he had “drank”. Another girl named Airi was particularly close to me. She was a loud mouthed drama queen – always screeching about this and that and creating a scene. She dyed her hair and rolled her skirt up, and the teachers said she was a lost cause. Do you know what? I’ve dyed my hair since I was 12, I sure rolled up my skirt when I was younger, and teachers have also called me a lost cause (the one that sticks most in my mind is my A Level French teacher who told me I am “just not cut out for languages – if French is too hard then Japanese will be impossible”.) I wasn’t going to let her fall behind. I knelt by her desk when I was in her class and explained stuff to her one on one until she got it. And do you know what? I think she was one of the brightest kids in there. It’s just that when I wasn’t in the room, no one tried with her and so she didn’t try to study.

Look at this long post… I could talk for days on my JET experiences. If there happen to be people out there applying, I would be glad to write a post on how to prepare and so on. But I think I should make more posts about the cute things students wrote and drew for me. While looking back in my old folders I came across a stash :-)

An awesome Wii game to improve your Japanese

You know I love it when I find something that is awesome for language building skills. Sadly, this one is a little tricky to get hold of…

A few months ago I saw an advert on my 3DS for a Japanese Wii game called Kiki Tick. It seemed like fun, but since Japanese Wii games come at around ¥5000 (50 Euros) I thought it probably wasn’t worth the money. A few weeks later my friends had played it and were raving about it… I had to have it. I picked it up when I was back in Japan last month.

The tricky thing with Wiis are that they are region locked. So if you have a Japanese Wii then yay! You can play! The chances are that if you have a Japanese Wii, you can probably understand Japanese to a certain extent anyway… but this game Kiki Trick is a really awesome way to practise your Japanese listening skills.

So… what is this game? It’s a game about sounds, noises, and trying hard to listen to things when there are other noises and stuff going on. By far the most challenging section of the game I have played so far is where you have to interview a girl who is crying really hard. You ask her things like “what is your favourite animal?” and she answers “WAHHHHH NHGGG I SUPPOSE SOB SOB WAHHHHH KAH WAHHHHHH AHT” then you pick “cat”.

How is this good for lower ability Japanese learners? Well, when we play this, it’s usually with a big group. In this group are other translators like myself who have a good understanding of Japanese, one person who is studying towards his N3 exam and has a good foundation but little real life Japanese experience and my friend’s boyfriend who knows no Japanese.

The following game is excellent for people who have little to no Japanese – you have 4 objects, half of which are probably katakana English (potato chips, banana, candy etc) with some basic Japanese objects too (umbrella, newspaper, orange, apple etc). Customers come and ask for an item, and you give it to them.

My friend’s boyfriend knew all the words and was able to play quite well. Along with basic nouns, he could also pick up basic greetings and other expressions. This is all without being exposed to Japanese before.

For more advanced Japanese speakers, there are also more challenging games – like where you have to interview various characters who have strange voices. They start off by giving you one word answers but when it gets more difficult you have to build different parts of the sentence to re-create what they have said. Even for advanced Japanese learners, this is difficult. You have to really pick up on the key points of their sentences, and avoid falling into the pitfalls they have created to trick you. Does this sound familiar?! Why yes, this is exactly what the higher levels of the JLPT test does!

If you happen to have, or know someone who has a Japanese Wii, I highly recommend this game to Japanese speakers of all levels – even native speakers!! This game is so very addictive. And as I said, this tests a lot of the skills that you will need for the listening sections of the JLPT test. Of course, in the test all the speakers will be speaking normally, but you will still have to listen out for the key points and you may even have distractions around you from other test takers, or from old cd players used to play the tracks.

If anyone else has experience playing this game, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Maybe the best app in the world?

So I have a new addiction. It’s an app, and it’s called Draw Something.

This game is basically pictionary, but with letter tiles to control the words you choose. You play with friends over facebook, or randoms online.

When you have set up a game to play with a friend, you have a choice of 3 words of varying difficulties. Then you draw the picture. Here’s me drawing “hop”.

Once your partner has guessed the word, you get to watch them guess it. When guessing, there are bombs to eliminate some of the letters to make it easier. But bombs cost real money. You can also buy bombs when you have enough coins from playing constantly (like I do…)

This part can be the most embarrassing if you’re like me and can’t spell for toffee. All your guesses are shown so if you spell it incorrectly, your friend will see, and will probably judge you.

Once you have watched your partner guess your word, then you get to guess theirs. Once that’s finished, you just have to wait for them to play the game and do the next stage.

If you don’t have this app, and you do have a smart phone, then you are missing out BIG TIME! I have all my friends addicted to this. And LOOK! You can draw some really amazing pictures on it too!!

… or you can do like myself and one particular friend do and make every picture to include penises.

Being a girl in Frankfurt

Like most people in the internet world, last week I sat and read Samantha Brick’s article in the Daily Mail with disbelief. For those who do not want Daily Mail dirtying the reputation of their screens and who don’t know about this story, basically a rather plain woman wrote a stuck up article about how she’s so beautiful that men give her attention wherever she goes and women hate her for it.

As I read, I kind of felt sorry for her. You will never catching me boasting about my looks as Mrs Brick did, but I am also a plain girl. You wouldn’t look twice at me on the street. And yet, in Frankfurt average girls as myself get constant attention (wanted or otherwise) from men in the street. Someone who didn’t know better, as is perhaps Samantha’s case, might take that to mean that they are overly beautiful.

So, what kind of attention am I talking about? Guys will often just shout hey to you as they walk by. Workers will stop and stare as you go by. For me the worst thing will be when cars pull up beside you and guys will shout at you to get in, or call out from you. This is even more distressing to me when it’s professional guys in their company vans doing this. Shouldn’t these men be working instead of paying attention to a normal girl stood waiting to cross the road?

You may say that since Frankfurt is a multi-cultural city, it’s people from other cultures doing this but actually it tends to be 50% German guys and 50% other (often Turkish…) causing these problems. I just don’t know what it is about this place that makes men think that they can hassle women on the streets like this. If you see a girl and think she’s pretty, then try to start a conversation in a normal way. Isn’t this common sense? Apparently not, because it seems to be that wooing techniques around here include encouraging women to get into your car, and making cat-calling squeaking noises at them.

Another thing I have noticed is that if you wear something out of the ordinary, women round here will also give you a good staring down. Though I don’t like a lot of Japanese fashion, I did enjoy using how eccentric it is to make my own wardrobe interesting. German women are on the other end of the spectrum and dress mainly practically, plainly and in quite dull colours. The other day I was wearing my favourite tights. Their colour is called “mocha” and they are a gorgeous slightly-darker-than-skin-tone beige. But apparently this was not acceptable here and women would really glare at my legs as I went by. I was wearing a pencil skirt, so it wasn’t the case that my skirt was too short, either. Again, the same as the men, if you find me some how interesting or funny, then sure it’s normal to look at other people. But isn’t it common sense not to glare someone down?! It’s quite upsetting when this happens.

Most girls in these sorts of situations will put it down to the people around them being a bit strange and forthcoming with their cat-calls or glares. But I can see it easily happening that people like Samantha Brick take these kinds of things to mean that they are something special. We’re not special. People are just rude sometimes. And normal gals will understand this.

I’d like to end by saying that despite what I’ve said about men here calling out to girls, Frankfurt is really safe – I truly think they would not lay a hand on me even if they did want to come and cause trouble. I often walk home alone at night time and I have never once had any problems – the worst is as I said, with the guy who pulled up and told me to get into his car. Frankfurt is a lovely, crazy place to live, and is perfectly safe.

Frankfurt – The town of crazies

When I moved to Frankfurt, one of my colleagues told me something that is quite possibly the truest thing I have ever heard – that Frankfurt is actually a massive open air mental asylum. It is. Aside from all the people who are on drugs here and off their faces, there are other just random crazy people here. Just from this weekend alone I have three wonderful stories about crazy people in Frankfurt.

The first was from Saturday morning. My new flatmate and I were walking into town to buy some things for the flat. There were some people protesting against battery chickens.

Guess how they were protesting.

No, they weren’t caged up themselves.

This is how:

By having a massive pillow fight and throwing feathers EVERYWHERE. They were being walked into shops, breathed in by passers by, and they were just EVERYWHERE.

On a scale of one to crazy, this is pretty mild. It’s also pretty cool. But it’s still rather crazy. My poor flatmate, fresh over from Japan, didn’t know what to think…

Crazy story two happened that night on the train. My friends and I sat down and saw a letter hanging out from the bin on the side.

It was a crazy letter. Written by a woman telling all her most intimate things… about how she gave birth, about how she likes her sexy times, about what she looks for in a partner… it was written in German too so my friend had to translate it for us. It was hand written but a photocopy. Why was it written? Who was meant to read it? Did she mean for random people on the train to read it? I do not have the answer to these questions.

Crazy story three sadly has no photo. It happened on the same train, as we were reading the letter. A man suddenly came to me and put his wrist in my face, saying “smell this”. It smelt of cheap man-smell. I told him it smelt really bad. He said it was a gift, and walked to the girl sat behind me. She had obviously said it smelt nice, because he gave her a bottle of the cheap man-smell.

There are so many stories like this… but don’t take this as me complaining. I love Frankfurt and the crazies. It would be a very very boring place to live if this was a normal city.

Happy Easter

A tad late, but Happy Easter!

In Frankfurt it’s tradition to eat boiled eggs with green sauce at Easter, and on the last day of work some of my friends had that for lunch. I don’t like green sauce (… it’s green…) and it didn’t look so appetising so I stuck with the lamb.

So here’s some green eggs and lamb for a happy Easter!

Pajama Trousers

I’m back on the blogging horse.

Every Sunday I go with my friends to have brunch. We used to go to an English pub, but the large numbers of big British men coming and eating all the food, then being noisy and unsociable made us look to go other places. But that’s a story for another day.

This is relevant though, because on the way to our brunch location last week, I happened to see some girls carrying Primark bags. Why was this out of the ordinary, you say? Well, it was a Sunday so shops are usually closed. BUT Primark bags are weaker than I am during a Mario Kart contest – there is no way those bags were that fresh a day later. Primark had to be open.

So, after eating I checked the internet (I lie, someone wonderful who speaks German did it for me) and I found that it was indeed open!!! I rushed over there, seeing as my Saturdays are usually busy and I’ve not had the chance to shop and also OMG Sunday shopping.

I love Primark. I dislike German shops. German fashion is basic and functional and completely non-fun. Primark, an Irish shop, has quirky clothes that, sure, fall apart within a year, but come on! 6 euros for jeans?! 3 euros for t-shirts?! (I always feel bad about the people who make this stuff.. but it’s not like H&M don’t do the whole sweat shop thing too… even expensive places like Topshop are guilty…)

One of my favourite purchases of the day was a pink silk blouse with pink birds on them. Maybe when the office stops being so cold, I will wear it and show you. But today, I’d like to show you the trousers I bought. They are cool because they look like pajama bottoms.

I had thought that maybe with some heals, they might look less pajama-y. But no. They still look like I am a Scouse girl in Tescos on a Saturday morning. But that is why I love them.

I have this friend who wears the brightest and loudest clothes. I really admire her. I tell her I love her skirt and she tells me it’s made from Ikea curtain material. She is wonderful. I have been wanting to channel her attitude towards fashion, and these trousers made me that little closer today. In the station on the way to work, people did glare at my legs (why do they do that?!) But, you know, I don’t care. It’s awesome.

Also, The Guardian says that I am trendy. So there.