Having lived in Germany for a while, it’s rare that I’m still surprised by anything. The German bedding system, the massive signs for “Dildo King”, the early morning beer drinkers, the speed at which supermarket cashiers operate, the poo shelf, the reverse poo shelf…
Reverse poo shelf
All of these things I take in my stride. But I do still like to be surprised on occasion, and this is exactly what happened at a service station on the way back from Münster.
Manfredas: I got you a present.
Me: From the toilet?
Manfredas: Well, yes, but I think you’ll like it…
He was right. It turns out that for the bargain price of around €5, you can make me the happiest girl on earth. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – the “TravelPussy”.
Once my initial mirth had subsided, I just had to take a look inside. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t this.
Me: What the hell?
Manfredas: What the hell?
Clearly, I would need to read the instructions which, apart from being enlightening, were also one of the funniest things I have ever read.
Open up TravelPussy. (Sure, a closed TravelPussy is no use to anyone.)
Pour a very small amount of TravelPussy-Gel into the “vagina” and spread it. (The quotation marks had me in tears before I even got to the word “spread”.)
3. Turn TravelPussy upside down and fill gently with warm water or simply blow air into it. IMPORTANT! Make sure the water is not too hot, check with your finger! (I really am not making this up.)
4. Place some TravelPussy-Gel on your penis and you are ready for a wonderful experience. (I wonder.)
5. After use, empty TravelPussy and leave it to domestic waste – not in toilet! (Yes, please guys, have some respect for your Pussy – not in toilet.)
The environmentally-aware among you will be pleased to hear that TravelPussy is made from eudermic and eco-friendly material. TravelPussy-Gel does not contain any paraffin which is good news for those who fancy a smoke while playing with their Pussy. But be careful, it also does not contain any contraceptive or spermicide so you run the risk of knocking up your sandwich bag-hot water bottle if you don’t use a condom. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Over the course of my Saturday night out, the topic of TravelPussy came up. (OK, I brought it up.) Proving that it (she?) still had the power to surprise, it emerged that my dear friend, Nigel, had actually bought a TravelPussy. “For the laugh”, you understand.
Me: How would you sum up the experience?
Nigel: Confusing. Disappointing.
Me: Sorry, I’ll stop laughing eventually.
If you want to see confusion and disappointment in picture form, I highly recommend clicking on this link:
Go on. I dare you. It’s not that I think people need an excuse to take down anybody seen with a selfie stick, but German law enforcement might look on me a bit more kindly if I were (properly) provoked.
OK, so this isn’t limited to Berlin; it could apply to any city that attracts a decent amount of tourists. But Berlin is my city and with 12 million visitors in 2014, I thought it might be about time to share my feelings with the twatty tourist who thinks that his or her idiotic face in front of some monument/building they haven’t even looked at is more important than me going about my daily business. (Clue: it isn’t.)
Back when I was earning rather a stupid amount of money for doing a not very important job, I used to travel by myself quite a lot. While I’m not a huge fan of seeing myself in photographs, after a while I began to realise that I had all of these amazing photos and I hadn’t appeared in one of them. I could have just downloaded them off the internet and pretended I’d been to all of those places – if I was that way inclined.
In the (good) old days, this was where some random helpful soul would step into your life. In halting “insert language here”, you’d attempt to communicate while pointing first at the camera and then at some attraction you wanted to ruin by standing in front of it. As a lone traveller, these little exchanges could make your day. To be fair, you probably still looked like a bit of a tool, but at least there was some kind of human interaction involved. And brightening up some auld lad’s holiday by convincing him that the blurry mess you were looking at was “really good! No, really! Perfect!” just added to the experience.
It seems that those days are gone though. Selfie sticks and pointless posing are taking over the world and it offends me enough to have caused the odd rant to those within earshot.
Me: God, I HATE selfie sticks.
Poor long-suffering Nigel: I don’t know. They have their uses.
Me: WHAT?! We can no longer be friends.
PL-SN: No, wait. Hear me out.
Me: (picking up handbag and preparing to vacate in dramatic fashion) Go on…
PL-SN: Well, when I see someone with a selfie stick, I instantly know that they’re a total penis and I don’t have to waste any time on them.
Me: Huh. You might actually have a point there.
PL-SN: What are you doing?
Me: Writing down “selfie stick = total penis” – I might use it in a blog post some day.
PL-SN: You’re weird.
Yes, I have been known to take the odd silly photo but at least I wasn’t in anyone’s way at the time. And I’d rather photograph a penis any day than look like one. Who’s with me?
I’m happy to say that I’m finally feeling a bit more settled in Berlin, thanks to my new home and my two lovely German ladies. (And no, we don’t braid each other’s hair and have pillow fights, in case you were wondering.)
I’ve got my head around my work schedule and feel that I’m now in a position to talk a little about what it’s like to be an English teacher in Berlin.
I guess I should start by saying that if you’re looking for a safe bet, Berlin probably isn’t the place for you. Most schools hire on a freelance basis, and won’t interview people who don’t already live in Berlin. The only thing you can do, which is what I did, is find a list of English schools here and send your CV to ALL of them. Then cross your fingers and hope one or two reply, move to Berlin, cross your fingers again and hope that you get an interview.
I got two interviews (and two jobs) within around a week and a half. I now realise how insanely lucky I was after talking to another teacher who said that it took her four months to find any work at all. In short, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
In addition, if you’re looking for a job where you go to a school, work five or six hours a day in the same building and go home again, you might want to rethink Berlin as your first choice. If you’re freelancing, you’ll likely be travelling to different companies to teach there. And as most companies want lessons either before or after normal working hours, you’ll probably have to get up at stupid o’clock to get to 8am lessons.
Of course, it can be a bit tiring, but seriously, who wouldn’t want to spend their days wandering around Berlin? I’ve got to see so much of the city this way and, every day, something new surprises or tickles me.
In short, Berlin is fantastic. And there are also some pretty impressive, double-take-inducing German moustaches roaming the streets. (Attached to men, of course. Berlin is crazy, but not that crazy.)
The school that I get the bulk of my hours from is fantastically well-run. The teachers are financially taken care of and support is always available. We even get paid for training, induction, and travel expenses. And, every now and then, the Director of Studies bakes…
And finally, ze German students… In my (admittedly still limited) experience, they’re great – warm, friendly, chuckly, open, smart, hard-working, and pleasingly self-aware. I recently had two students act out a telephone role play.
Me: Um, it was good, but maybe a little… direct?
Fritz: You mean too German?
Me: Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
So overall, it’s hard work, it’s stressful in the beginning, but if you’re really determined to move to Berlin, you’ll find a way to make it work eventually – and it will be worth it.
Still, all work and no play makes Linda a dull girl, so last night I had the honour of being invited to an English stand-up comedy night by Victoria over at The British Berliner. We met up for Happy Hour cocktails at the rather fabulous Bellini Lounge, and then to the main event at the Quatsch Comedy Club.
The star of the show, Daniel Sloss, is a young, up-and-coming Scottish comedian, and if you like no-holds-barred comedy, which made half an audience in Indianapolis stand up and leave the show, then he’s the guy for you. If you’re not easily offended and like penis jokes – as I do – then you’ll laugh your ass off.
The warm-up act, the very funny Jack Woodhead, joked, sang and played the piano in an outfit and make-up that would have had a Latvian woman squealing in envy (and a Latvian man squealing in fear and pushing himself up against a wall – not that he’d be in any danger, I’m sure. Jack looked like a discerning individual…)
We got chatting to both comedians over a couple of drinks after the show, but I had to pretend to be a sensible person and leave early(ish). 5.45am starts bring out the sensible in most people. At around midnight, as I was walking from the train to my flat, the strains of people singing roaring along to ‘Suspicious Minds’ drifted my way.
Naturally, I should have kept walking but curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself outside a cute little French bar called ‘Place Clichy’. The bar was heaving when I managed to push open the door.
“HOORAY!!!”, roared everyone.
“HOORAY!!!”, I roared back, with no real idea why. I went to the bar and got talking to a very merry German.
Heinz: Where are you from?
Heinz: (roaring) SHE’S FROM IRELAND!!!
And so, my new buddies and I shouted along to Elvis tunes, and drank €2 glasses of wine, until around 2am, when I really had to be sensible and go to bed.
Ah Berlin, there’s never a dull moment with you, is there?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain