Saturday, 13 October 2012

Encounters of the language kind

Sometimes you have to take one step back to take two forward. I've shelved my plans to travel this winter to concentrate on getting even more experience teaching English to foreign students.

                      harvest time in Suffolk

After passing my CELTA certificate in Feburary, I have been teaching foreign teenagers at a local language school, here in Suffolk,  and have now been given the opportunity to extend my experience. I've secured a contract until Christmas to teach adults, in both general English and IELTS, (basic exam strategy in the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing).

                      harvest time in the Suffolk dust bowl.

So for now, my travel plans have been put on hold. My dreams are still to carry on with my world cycle trip (part two), but I have decided that the all round experience and opportunity of teaching both teenagers and adults that I'm doing now, will stand me in good stead for the future.

Experience is the key and after what will be a year of teaching in the 'safety' of my home town, I can learn my trade before launching myself on the world's language learners. This experience will help put me in a far better position when I start my travels again.

                      Suffolk harvest

Much of my time  now is spent teaching but I still get time to catch up with my friends. I recently met up for a regular girls' lunch with my old CELTA college friends in Norwich. Needless to say, too much wine was consumed -mainly by me - (I was travelling by train) but we chatted away as usual not realising (and certainly not for the first time!) that time had moved on and it was late in the afternoon before we finished. Oh well, that's girls who lunch for you!

              scenes of Suffolk

I've been working very hard at my teaching in this past year,   especially at making a fool of myself. I can tell you now, it's very hard work being an alien! Even the adults get subjected to my madness when I teach, but they take it well, they just roll their eyes and chalk it up to the unlucky fact they've been put in a classroom with a mad woman!  

 Suffolk cottage

But being an alien does have its uses. It's a great way to revise vocabulary with students and gives them something to laugh about as well. But just in case your're wondering, being an alien involves drawing a 'stick' alien on the whiteboard, and then standing in front of the students with my fingers pointing up from my ears and waggling them about like antennae. (well I did warn you!) The idea behind it, - is that an alien can't understand any English, so every time a student says a word or phrase, they have to explain their definition and then explain their second, third, fourth and (if they get that far) fifth definitions and so on.  Works a treat!

                     Suffolk thatched cottage window

All these 'out of world' encounters means that I'm due a break. (not a moment too soon my students would say!) - so in November,I'm off to Rugby to catch up with friends there. Then hopefully a trip to Bristol.

                   farm machinery in the fields

So with scissors in hand and trawling through the newspapers and magazines looking for suitable pictures and texts for my next lessons, I will carry on learning teaching, and leave you with my photo topic this month, scenes of Suffolk.

(If you want to see the photographs on full screen without the text - just click on each picture).

         recently harvested sugar beet

                               a walk in the Suffolk countryside

 an ancient baler

               Suffolk fields and paths

                               a thatched Suffolk cottage

              and for something completely different - a recent student trip to London


(c) copyright: all text and photographs in are copyright to Deborah Anne Brady: 2012

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bavaria, Beer and the Bodensee

Most accounts of new adventures normally start at the beginning of the journey but on my recent trip to Bavaria, I shall start with the penultimate evening of the trip.
                               Even a short trip takes some detailed planning
I'd decided to spend a week visiting my German friends, Hedi (yes, I know, Bavaria, the Alps, the Sound of's tempting.. but it's not Heidi as her full name is Hedwig - hence Hedi for short) and Franz, who I had previously met on my recent cycle trip through Europe. On the last evening, after much debate, we decided to go for broke, break the piggy bank and set off for the premier of Umberto Giordano's, opera, Andre Chenier, on the magnificent Lake Constance (the Bodensee to the Germans) at Bregenz in Austria. And what an opera! A truly spectacular setting and one of the highlights of my recent travels.
Exploring the set a few days before the premier
My travels so far have been themed on art and artists and so I was particularly pleased that the opera used the famous Jaques-Lois David painting of the French revolutionary, Marat, as the stage setting. A brief background to the painting: Marat was a severely harsh revolutionary, often sending the aristocratic French prisoners to the guillotine. But one prominent woman of the elite, Charlotte Corday, who passionately disliked Marat and his ideals, stabbed him while in his bath. Jaques-Lois David, the painter also knew Marat and hence the famous painting. The artistic director of the opera, creatively using the Bodensee itself, as Marat's bathtub. But the opera was about Andre Chenier, a French poet and writer of the time, who, although  loved by the aristocracy for his fine poetry was at first, an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, but was appalled by the excesses of the tyrannical Jacobin regime and along with his lover, was persecuted and sent to the guilliotine.  
The set for Andre Chenier opera on the Bodensee, Bregenz, Austria

                               The original painting: The Death of Marat by Jaques Lois David
A wonderful evening and possibly the most spectacular event I've been to - so far. It's the first time a historical painting has served as the basis for a Bregenz stage set, which towers 24 metres high above Lake Constance. In fact it is so good that I might make it a yearly pilgrimage - next year it's Mozart's Magic Flute.
         The curtain is about to rise and the actors begin to emerge (The Grim Reaper in the boat)

                                Every part of the stage was used in the production
                                              Even the head opens to reveal a set within (pic taken from interpretation
                                              poster at the site)
                                 amazing costumes
Notice how the knife is emerging from the water and the reflection of red light to indicate the blood flowing from the wound onto the water - magnificently creative!

Well, that was the incredible finale to the trip but while in Bavaria we managed to see and do a lot, including a visit to another Lake Constance town, this time on the German side, the red roofed and delightful Lindau, with its famous lion statue and lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. 
                               Lindau harbour entrance. ('the hills are alive'....)
As with all my travels, and in Germany too, there was kindness around every corner. Everyone was so helpful, polite and extremely kind and especially patient while I struggled with my very limited German! One kind 'guardian angel' was evident when waiting for my train on my return to Munich. A German, elderly lady was asking me about the ticket booth and when she realised I was English, we began the usual chat about my journey. She then suddenly produced a white plastic cross on a beaded plastic chain (a bit kitsch and awful really) and not being at all religious, at first, I didn't feel at ease receiving it from her. But then I realised what a precious gift this was. It was something obviously treasured by her and she gave willingly to keep me safe on my journey. I will remember Bridget and that act of kindness on that deserted train station for the rest of my life. I will take that gift with me on all my future travels.  
                                             The harbour at Lindau on the Bodensee
I've been to Berlin and Hamburg before but never to the south of Germany. The scenery was fantastic and my friends Hedi and Franz are very lucky to live so near to the foothills of the Bavarian, Swiss and Austrian Alps.
                               Chair lift up to the Alpengasthof on the Bruggele area in Austria
                               with the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the background
A bedraggled Franz and me on the way down from the Alpengasthof

Hedi and Franz, like me, being the outdoor type, took me walking, 1170 m up a mountain road to the Aplengasthof lodge at the top of the Bruggele  area in Austria. The only day it rained in the week and unfortunately just as we decided to walk back down!

                                Hedi and Franz
Of course during the week, I met all the relatives. Hedi and Franz have a large family with their children and grandchildren, brothers etc not only living in the same village but literally in the houses next door! There were lots of social gatherings where I met their friends and sampled the many varieties of delicious food and beer. And what food! I sampled the traditional Leberkaesa- a wedge of pork/liver style meat eaten with a pretzel, mustard and of course a German beer. I also tried the wonderful, Kesspatzle, a cheesy noodle pasta sprinkled with fried onions in flour and of course a German beer, and a huge meal one evening of Schwanbenteller, a mixture of salad, meat, Kesspatzle, and a few other ingredients, along with a German beer. The Germans know how to eat!

I struggled to speak as much German as I could muster. And just when I was feeling proud of myself for managing a long sentence with one or two of those famous long German words that are hard to get your tongue around,  I wondered why they were laughing at me with that look of maternal sympathy that mothers always give you when you are trying really hard but failing miserably. Then, I suddenly realised that it had translated into ..something like.. I am travelling home by tomato! or some such.  But with a lot of miming, punctuated with the little German that I do know, but especially due to the fact that a lot of Germans were willing to speak English - we had some great conversations and happy, alcoholic evenings.

                                           Hedi and Franz in their back garden in their village of Haslach
                                            Anna, Hedi's second granddaughter with Tanya her daughter in law

Of course being a photographer by trade, I was asked and enjoy (I never have to be asked twice!!) taking photos of all the family. I don't normally 'do' babies, but little Anna was so cute - how could I resist! And then of course I had to take photos of Maximilliana, Hedi's first grandchild. Definitely likes the camera this one!
Maximlliana - a natural in front of the camera!

And of course, all the family were generous with their presents. I came home loaded down with gifts - returning with far more than I went out with.
But the scenery, the people, the whole week, made me often want to don a nuns habit, gather it up around my ankles, exposing my little white ankle socks and sensible flat shoes and run through the rolling landscape singing .. 'the hills are alive'.. But I didn't; It would have scared the cows. 

                                Three generations: Elizabeth (Franz mother) Maxi, Hedi

                                        Maxi enjoying being the focus of attention
                         'the hills are alive'.....
                                odd stone faces in a wall in Bruggele  Austria

                                any excuse for a get together Hedi,me and friends
and what would a trip be without a few funnies....

                                        animals do the weirdest things.... this pooch was riding in a basket
                                       on the back of a bicycle
street art in Lindau
zum vole Hedi and Franz  (I've probably spelt this wrong but it's - cheers)

and no matter how far you roam, it's always nice to come home - a Suffolk landscape

(all text and photographs in this blog are the copyright of Deborah Anne Brady(C): all rights reserved)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

reading between the 'e' lines

"You told me you'd never do it" my friend admonished me during an evening out in Bristol recently.  "You were absholutely adamnt", she ranted; the wine I noticed, gradually beginning to take effect. "No, you told me... I was sitting right here.." she continued, " and you said you would never....."
"Okay, Okay",  I said, I admit it,  I did say that, but I've changed."

Since that encounter with my friend that evening, I've thought about it for a while and decided that it was about time to own up and put the record straight.
Helen and Rachel - my CELTA college friends at a recent lunch in Norwich
It's been something that's been gnawing away at my conscience for many months and is something that I just couldn't keep from doing for much longer.

I'll let you make your own caption for this one.( It was the middle of the afternoon in Reggio St Emilia in Italy!)
So, here it is: I've gone over to the other side! I am now a confirmed e-reader! The temptation was just too much. Travelling as much as I do now, I couldn't resist the 'on offer' window display glaring out at me one evening when passing WH Smiths in Liverpool Street railway station.
Oxford Canal - Warwickshire
There it was; all small and compact, bordered by a simple white surround with a purple, cushioned-effect back and the word KOBO clearly and unobtrusively printed at the top of this slimline, electronic wonder. So, like a shifty Miss Jekyll cloaked in envy, I slipped into the shop, averted my traitorous gaze from the towers of books stacked like disapproving sentinels on the shelves, and with as much deftness as a stealth fighter plane, I weaved my way around the aisles avoiding the book radar and grabbed my first e reader. Being the traitor that I was, I made a quick exit (after paying for it I might add!) and I took my guilty pleasure away to a quiet, dark corner, out of reach from those beckoning paperbacks and started to e-read.

After years of snootily rejecting this new technology, I finally succumbed when I remembered the emptiness of travelling without anything substantial to read. Even the the smallest book in my cycle panniers added too much weight to my bike and I missed reading so much when I was away in Europe.
Seeing double- Rugby Library
Of course, the e-reader never can and never will replace a book. There's nothing so wonderful as having a real paper book in hand, with those musty, comfy-smelling pages to get lost in. But
e-readers are a godsend for travellers like me; not only when I cycle but also because of the strangling weight restrictions and the piggy-bank-emptying excess luggage charges of flying. Being able to store over 2000 books on this little white marvel (it comes in black, and other colours too!) and being slim and small enough to take up no more room than having an extra large map in your bag, is a joy.
You'll never be out of work if you're a Brussels window cleaner!

One to watch- Thai student jockey trying it out on a recent outing to
 Newmarket Horse Racing Museum
There's a choice of free books to download, although I tend to ignore those now (after all, there's only so many times you can read Pride and Prejudice in a lifetime!) But there are some good cheaper priced books as well as the latest releases and other bargains to download. The Kobo e-reader even allows you to download from your local library! e-credible!

Arrow flights
My mode of travel dictates that I can never be a great souvenir collector but I will pick up one here and there. Space and weight restrictions when I travel means the largest souvenir I can handle is a bookmark. They are cheap, small and something to remind me of the places I've been to and useful into the bargain. I always pride myself on finding small, useful momentos, so I was especially pleased the other day when I bought myself a lovely leather bookmark, complete with gold embossed design and the type that has those soft, leathery fringes on the bottom that you can never stop fiddling with when reading. An intelligent choice for a Kobo e-reader!   

Ruins of Pella near Thessaloniki in Greece - Alexander's birth place
and where he grew up before setting out in his early twenties on his conquests

But I feel more complete when I travel now with this e-marvel in my bag. I hope real books will forgive me - I haven't eschewed them altogether - I've just diverted for a while - I will be reunited with them one day. Whether the staff in my local bookshop will ever forgive me is another matter. When having my regular coffee in Waterstones, I now have to dodge the suspicious and admonishing looks of the staff, as I snatch a quick read of my Kobo under the table while pretending to do up my shoe laces; their dissaproval evident when they discover what I'm doing by slamming the coffee cup down on my table in disgust. 

steps to a house in Renoir's home village of Essoyes in France
Talking of reunions, I met up for a girlie lunch with two of my CELTA course colleagues, Helen and Rachel, a little while ago. A group of us have kept in touch and Galina, one of our Russian 'family' from the CELTA course, has been keeping in touch too. We chatted for so long over lunch, we completely forgot the time - we were there for 4 hours! But then that's what girlie lunches are all about!
the obligatory sunrise photo - Sunrise in Suffolk
Kobo is an anagram.


(all photographs and text are the copyright of Deborah Anne Brady (c) all rights reserved: 2012)