Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

An evening of Christmas, singing and joy.

Last night, everything seemed to come together, finally. I had been invited to come along to the Lehrerchor. It is a choir which encompasses all the teachers of Erfurt and happens to take place in my school. I was tired and time seemed to run away from me. I had hoped to walk down to Domplatz leisurely, enjoy the sights of the pretty cathedral and of people finishing their working day, and then jump on the tram to school. This didn’t happen though. I watched two trams leave without me on the way to the tram stop down to Domplatz. I was too late by this point to walk. I then had just missed the tram from Domplatz onto school and as it was the evening, I had to wait for a long time for the next one. I had also forgotten my school key and was then worried that if I was late, I might not be able to get into the building.

I needn’t have worried. It seems that a number of people on my tram were actually going to Chor so we arrived together. We weren’t late either which was a bonus. When I entered the Aula, I headed straight for Iris, the lady who had invited me. She confirmed a few details with me and then proceeded to introduce me in front of the whole group. A little embarrassing, but far less so than doing it myself would have been! There were 30-40 people there from all the schools in Erfurt. I was significantly younger than everyone else but had expected this. In the UK, I could start teaching aged 22, when I had finished four years at university. In Germany, it takes longer than that, they must study two subjects and they start university later too. All this combined means that I am the youngest in the entire teaching faculty by a number of years. I have found this quite isolating. I am the same age as most of my students, or younger. Therefore, the teaching staff find it difficult to think of me as anything other than a pupil, although they do try. Last night was different though. I was part of the teaching body in a place where only teachers ever are. And they weren’t teachers either, they were friends who had come together due to a common love for music and for song. I felt included and I felt part of what was happening.

They have been preparing for Christmas and so we sung Christmas songs all evening. It was wonderful! The sun had set and it was dark outside which only seemed to make it feel more Christmasy. We sang together for 2 hours in multiple languages. I didn’t know any of the songs but they weren’t difficult and I was able to read the music and sing along with little difficulty, much to the amazement of the people beside me which was rather flattering! In all honesty, it was the language that was much harder than the music. I think it will do wonders for my pronounciation though. I was listening really carefully to how they were saying things, and it wasn’t always how I would have thought to. It’s funny what you end up learning in these situations, isn’t it? It’s so often not what you expected.

The highlight of the rehearsal was the end. No, I don’t mean I enjoyed it ending. Every week, everyone who’s birthday it has been during the week receives a rose and gets to sit down at the front, choose a song and have it sung to them. It was so beautiful I wanted to cry. What a lovely idea? I hastily got my diary out, my birthday is a Tuesday! I certainly shan’t be missing choir rehearsal then! I now have something to look forward to for my birthday. I have been worried about it, about being away from my brother on our birthday for the first time and coping with the inevitable sadness that will bring on such a big day. There seems to be real friendship between the group. People care about each other.

This friendship group is not closed though. I was invited to the pub after the rehearsal. I was tired and was very ready for bed but in the interest of always saying “yes”, that is what I did. It was so nice. I expected there to be lots of people there and to just get lost in it all, to stay for a bit and then make my excuses. I didn’t expect to be part of any conversation but didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity in the future by saying “no” the first time. There were 7 of us ladies. We sat together around one table and just enjoyed each others company. I didn’t contribute like the others did, of course, but I did contribute in the conversation and I was following what was going on. Even better though, Iris sat next to me and every so often, particularly if the topic of conversation was something I might not know about, she would lean over to me and give me a really quick summary. This allowed me to actually keep up with everything. They were also really impressed with my German and couldn’t believe how convinced I am about how terrible it is. They were lovely ladies and one even drove me home at the end of the evening.

I am so pleased to have found this choir. I feel as though I now have something, as the evenings get darker, to look forward to. To love and to enjoy. To remind me that Christmas is coming. There are three concerts we are taking part in before Christmas, culminating in a very special one at the Rathaus in Erfurt, the weekend before I go home. This means that Ramsey will be here and he will be able to come! Ramona is also very keen to come and visit so I shall have a fan club of sorts, however small ;). Afterwards I’m sure there will be Christmasy drinks at the Christmas markets to look forward to and I suppose I will get to know all the members of the choir that I haven’t had the opportunity to meet before. I feel as though I have found my place here, the place where I really fit in, even though I am younger and not a proper teacher. I have been invited over to Iris’ house in a couple of weeks time for an evening of food with the other 6 ladies. They were all so keen I would come, it was lovely and heartwarming.

Music brings unity. It brings people together. It is powerful and there is something so satisfying about choral singing. The sound you can create is so beautiful and you all become so much more than just a sum of your parts. I know that choir is going to be the thing I wait for all week. I already can’t wait for next Tuesday :).

The Rathaus. We’ll be performing there soon enough!

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