Running with Scissors

English

t-shirt-casual-friday-bilder-1174Last Friday we had a ‘No Uniform Day’ at school. Normally, you’re not allowed to go anywhere near school without wearing the official uniform. If you do, you are immediately sent home and reprimanded. Even if you just wear different shoes or a different jacket, it’s simply not allowed. Not so on ‘non-uniform day’.  In fact on this day you will not find anyone wearing uniform anywhere on the school grounds. You may remember the ‘pink day’ we had a while ago. This was exactly the same but without the requirement to wear anything pink. This time it wasn’t for charity but simply to give students a chance to come to school in their normal everyday clothes.

Not having to wear a uniform for once feels great and it reminds me of my school back home in Switzerland where every day is a “No Uniform Day”. When you are at home, you take many things for granted. During my time here, I have learned to appreciate small things that are quite normal at home but unusual or unknown here. For example, the school bus is always late to arrive here and people just accept it. But last Friday it was actually on time for once. I took this as a sign that the rest of the day would also be nice and I was right.

6cbcada3-7863-443d-86cd-f4d47eb9fc68$$no_cell_phoneThe downside of the no-uniform day is, that it’s much harder to spot the teachers. Normally teachers come to work in their normal clothes while the students all wear uniform. So teachers tend to stand out of the crowd and can be spotted quite easily. However, on Friday this was not the case and many students were caught using their mobile phone just because they couldn’t hide them fast enough.

Not being allowed to use mobile phones on the school grounds is one of the many school laws and regulations. Every misconduct carries a clear sentence. If you use the mobile phone and you are caught, the phone is taken away for a full week.

casual-fridayWhen I got here, I was given a book called the 5th year journal. It’s quite heavy and almost as thick as all the books in the “Harry Potter” series put together (but unfortunately not as gripping to read…). A big part of the journal are the school laws which are all printed in this book. When you start school, you are asked to sign a number of mandatory forms and contracts. For example, there’s an “anti-bullying”-agreement that you need to sign. I have never taken the time to completely read through all the laws and regulations in the book but it’s very informative, although much of what is written should just be common sense: Don’t bully other students, don’t physically or verbally attack teachers or students, do your homework, don’t run around naked etc. I haven’t actually seen the law about not running around naked but I’m sure it’s somewhere in there.

The book lists each “law” and also the punishment that can be expected if you break a rule. The rules are not just made up, they are even based on official Irish laws.

So that you can better understand this, here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Legislation:

The school will provide information on the following legislation relating to the use of the Internet with which teachers, students and parents should familiarise themselves:

  • Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003
  • Child Trafficking & Pornography Act 1998
  • Interception Act 1993
  • Video Recordings Act 1989
  • Data Protection Act 1988

GAVEL_2717216bSo how does this very detailed book of school regulations stack up when compared to Switzerland? Well, we don’t really have anything similar. Of course there are certain things that are not allowed (such as running around naked on school grounds) but usually you’re at the mercy of what each teacher defines as right or wrong for his class. With time, students now exactly, what is possible in each class and with each teacher. Is it fair? Well, not always, because if a teacher likes a particular student, he will be more tolerant. For example, if you forget your homework, this could mean anything from staying after class to a friendly “well, why don’t you just complete the work tomorrow”.  Because the rules are not clearly spelled out, each new class has to test out the extent of what’s possible. So the Irish system tends to be fairer because everyone knows what’s allowed and what’s not tolerated.

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I’m not going to publish all of the rules and regulations here because that would be both extremely boring and also pointless. But if you are interested in learning more about the school policies, just click on this link.

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The Green Ogre

English

69050n7prr6eu3vToday, I would like to reflect on my last blog post. I got a lot of feedback and comments from my readers. Most of the feedback was regarding one of the things that the psychologist talked about in his speech. It is one of the many things that we take for granted in our society but which when looked at more closely is not really true:

“Work hard and study all the time! Then you can get a good job and earn a lot of money! That’s the only way for you to be truly happy!”

(Quote from: “Refresh your Life” speech)

People who posted comments on my blog post had two different opinions. Some agreed with this statement while others shared the opinion of the psychologist that this is not really true.

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voicesAs with all things in life, there are two sides to every story and it’s important to listen to all sides. Things are never just black and white, true or false. Usually there’s a middle ground. That’s why I want to raise this discussion point again today. But don’t worry, my blog will not turn into a “meaning of life” seminar. But sometimes it can be interesting to challenge your own view of life and to listen to other voices.

I have thought about this quote a bit more over the past couple of days and I think that the following is a better version of the same message:

choice“The better your education, the more doors are open to you, so you have more options. Having more choices means that you are more likely to find “true happiness”. If there’s only one door, then your chances are 50:50 at best. One thing is clear, money and wealth can never make you happy, especially if you all you are worried is how to make even more money from what you already have. Always try to enjoy life, you only have one life.” Unless reincarnation does exist. What if I come back as a green ogre?

By now you’re asking yourself, what has he smoked? But seriously, the way you can reach happiness depends entirely on you. Everyone has different interests, hobbies etc.

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Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you should quit your job, runaway from school and just drift through life looking for happiness. But just try enjoy what you’re doing rather than getting stuck in a circle of unhappiness where every day is the same as the last one.

I personally need a reason to get out of bed every morning. I enjoy school, well not particularly school, but the friendship and the atmosphere of learning. I do a lot of homework but I always have to remind myself that there are also other things that count in life.

I promise to be less philosophical in my next post but at the same time, I’m hoping to get a lot of comments and feedback to this post! Join the discussion, let me know your thoughts.

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Refresh your Life

English

In my last blog post I already announced today’s main topic: The speech.

speechBut, before I talk about the actual speech I have to say that this little event wasn’t free and I had to pay for it. It wasn’t expensive, but our year head (a year head has similar responsibilities to a vice principal but is below him in rank) told us something quite logic: Multiply a small amount of money with a huge amount of students and you get the required amount of money needed to pay the speaker’s salary. The speaker was a famous psychologist but don’t let that put you off. I know that some people have a negative opinion of psychology and they think it’s not a real “science” but I am of a different opinion. Also I think that some our students could benefit a lot from a session with a psychologist. Here are some points that annoy me and that should be discussed:

  • “Building chatty circles” in the middle of the corridors causing huge traffic jams or even traffic collapses…
  • Running and at the same time pushing your way through the crowd (particularly first year students do this a lot and it’s terribly annoying!)
  • Disrespectful behaviour against senior cycle students (Remember this: “Respect us or you won’t expect us…”)
  • Taking the main stairs to get downstairs, while everyone else wants to go upstairs.
  • Leaving all of your rubbish on the table after lunch… (We can’t afford a sports hall, but we do have bins!)

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16401-Be-Thankful-And-Stop-ComplainingAm I complaining again? Sometimes I just make mountains out of molehills, but the first bullet point actually annoys me a lot! And as I know that some students of my school sometimes read my blog: Please stop the chatty circles!

Now before this post becomes to negative, let’s return to the main topic: “The speech” and the “pursuit of happiness” (this was the main topic of the speech).

I already knew that the speech was going to be great before I even entered the room as I saw how excited the class before us left. They didn’t even notice that we were there as they were too deep in thought about the meaning of life.

i-m-on-the-pursuit-of-happinessThe whole event took place in the so called “demo-room”. The seats were comfortable and the atmosphere was very curious and after a few minutes it became quiet. Shane Martin (the psychologist I was talking about) started to speak. His presentation was brilliant and it’s difficult to describe the whole speech, but he basically exposed lies of society. Our society lies to us in many different ways. From the first day on everyone tells you: “Work hard and study all the time! Then you can get a good job and earn a lot of money! That’s the only way for you to be truly happy!” He told us that he has many patients who have worked their whole lives and now they are deeply depressed. They ask themselves where all the time went. This was just an example and there are plenty other lies he showed us. He also gave us tips on how to be truly happy: It’s better to have a little success and accomplishment each day then to try and find happiness by following unobtainable goals which are beyond your own control.

The speech was really inspiring and brilliant and I don’t regret the fact that I had to pay for it. I mean that’s his job and he has to pay his bills too. It was worth it and I would gladly listen to the whole speech again.  I even heard a teacher say: “School isn’t everything”, which is something I’ve never heard a teacher say before.

If you want to know more about Shane Martin, here’s a link to his website:

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CLICK ON ME!

The first page mentions the “Refresh your life” seminar, and that’s exactly what the whole speech was about.

I know, I haven’t written a lot of blog post lately, but it’s been extremely busy!

I promise to follow up with more stories of life in Ireland on the weekend. Stay tuned!

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Back to Life, back to Reality

English

Hello everybody! After turning into a true swine, I have now returned to human form.

bacons_revengeI’m still alive and kicking but today something very disturbing happened. As you may recall from my previous post, the Irish will soon have to pay for their water and they are none too happy about this! Well, I’m annoyed by the fact that the water has a metallic taste. When I first drank tap water over here, I noticed the strange taste but I didn’t think too much about it. After a while, I got used to the taste and now I don’t even notice it anymore. But a few days ago I did a little research about Irish water taxes and the Irish water supply system in general. I was quite shocked, as I found information about lead contamination, bacteria and diseases and a certain amount of chemicals that the government puts into the water to keep it “clean”. I was doing my research with a full glass in my hand, filled with a poisonous substance. I could feel the lead starting to contaminate my blood and the chemicals eating away at my stomach….

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I’m just joking of course, I don’t take this type of information very seriously and I will continue to drink tap water as I did it the last three months. I’m still alive, am I not? But the fact remains that Irish water is not very healthy. You don’t believe me? Let me google it for you:

Click on me!

water bottles_shutterstock_77875327_300Even if the water has a metallic taste and hasn’t the same quality as the water in Switzerland, it’s still drinkable. Just imagine how many water bottles I would have to buy, if I couldn’t drink the tap water here. So, I just hope it doesn’t kill me too quickly, as I want to survive the exchange year. Up to now, the Irish couldn’t really complain too much about the quality of the water because at least it was free. But now that they have to start paying for it, hopefully the quality will soon improve.

sleepyreading_LargeI had three tests today! Three tests! Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the first time that we have three test on the same day, but usually we get a couple of days advance notice. Our biology teacher told us last week that we have a biology test today, so I had plenty of time to study for it. But our chemistry teacher only just told us yesterday. And I wasn’t even in class, instead I was listening to a famous speaker in another room (more about this in a future post….). So I only heard about the test from my friends. The test is about chapter 5 which is probably the biggest chapter in the whole book. In fact, it’s so big that it could be it’s own book! I studied until midnight yesterday and in the morning as I woke up I continued studying. I even studied in the school bus but it was tough because there were a bunch of first-graders shouting and screaming, so I couldn’t concentrate. Where is the respect for the senior students? Just kidding….

The third test was a French exam but I didn’t really have to study for that. Always remember that the one-eyed man is the king among blind people!

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Fact is, that I’m absolutely exhausted at the moment due to a lack of sleep. If only the Christmas holiday would start sooner!

During yesterday’s chemistry and PE class I was in a room with a famous speaker. It was extremely inspiring. More about that in my next blog post! Keep reading….

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Swine Flu?

English

ar125731479890744As I woke up yesterday, I felt extremely cold and my throat was hurting and I felt very weak. As I got out of bed, I felt even colder and miserable. I must have caught the flu! At home I rarely get the flu but here in Ireland the weather is sometimes so harsh that getting a cold is almost inevitable. I thought I couldn’t catch a cold because of all the healthy smoothies I drink. Obviously, I was wrong.

Normally, I love cold weather. Last winter, I went to Finland with my family. There’s lots of snow in Switzerland but there’s even more snow in Finland! If you really want to see a lot of snow, go to Finland in the winter. So what I’m trying to say is that I’m used to being cold but I don’t like the kind of cold you feel when you have the flu.

Smartphone with cloud of application iconsStill, I decided to go to school since I had a number of important lessons coming up. So the first thing I wanted to do is put on my school jacket. Unfortunately, I had left it in the school locker the other day. So what now? Should I just put on another jacket? No, that would be unthinkable! Only the official jacket must be worn at all times. Doing otherwise could mean severe punishment. So I went without my jacket but I used the “Dublin Bus App” to time the moment I left home so that I wouldn’t have to wait in the cold for a long time. The app shows you the arrival of the next bus in real-time, so you can wait in your living room.

As soon as the app told me that the next bus was about to arrive, I went outside. A cold wind was blowing but I made it to the bus station just in time. Inside the bus, it was nice and warm! Now I had to walk the short path between the bus station and the school. It felt like an eternity and my teeth were chattering all the way to the front door.

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The first thing I did inside the building was to touch a radiator to get some warmth. Unfortunately, the radiator was turned off and as cold as ice. My hand stuck to the cold metal and I had to pull like crazy to get it off again. Looks like the school is saving on heating expenses….

Quickly I made my way upstairs, so as to avoid the watchful eyes of the teachers while I was walking around with the official school jacket.  I opened my locker, grabbed the jacket and put it on.

ws_Frozen_Window_1920x1200One thing you have to know about our uniform is that it’s made of material that’s both too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter. It’s main purpose is to be rain-resistant. So I still felt cold as I was sitting in class and waiting for the school day to end. To add insult to injury, somebody asked the teacher to open the window to get some fresh air in. Immediately, a strong gust of wind entered the classroom and I felt even colder. My seat was right next to the window!

alarm-clockAs I got home, all I wanted was to rest. So I went to bed but I set my alarm to ring at 8 o’clock in the evening, so that I could start on my homework. When I woke up, the flu was still there. So my only hope now is that the flu will get better or even disappear overnight. Usually, I would look forward to going to school tomorrow, since we have our weekly sports (or PE) lesson but I don’t know if can go again if I feel the same way as today.

Maybe I should tell the principal that I have bird flu, swine flu or something highly contagious and he’ll let me stay home for a week or two….

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Sing for the Moment

English

Unfortunately the mid-term break is already over and school has started again. It’s amazing to see how a week of holiday can be exhausting instead of refreshing. All the students look so tired! But maybe it’s just because it’s early in the morning.

back_to_schoolAll my friends had a lot of homework to complete during the mid-term break. For some reason, I didn’t get any mid-term homework. This made me feel privileged, until today. It seems like all my teachers have signed up for a homework competition where the winner gets a week of holiday in Spain. At least it feels that way because if I take all the homework I got today and stack it up in the middle of my room, I’m unable to see the top of the pile, because it’s above the clouds. I have named this pile the “Mount Everest of homework” and I plan to climb it soon to place my flag on top of the paper mountain. So much to do in so little time!

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music-notes-Today, something really embarrassing happened to me. My phone went off in the middle of the history lesson. And it did not just start ringing, instead it started playing Eminem’s “Sing for the moment”. One of my favourite tunes but not really something I want to share with my history teacher. As soon as the music started, everything went really quiet. You could have heard pin dropping! Everyone was staring at me. It only lasted a couple of seconds but it felt like an eternity. I immediately turned off the music but it was too late. I had to hand in my phone to the teacher. If only I had put the phone in the locker, like I usually do.

Thank god that this happened during the history lesson! My history teacher returned the phone to me right after class. If this had happened in any other lesson, I would not have seen my phone again for at least a week.

speaker-volume-iconAs I was sitting in biology class, I heard the familiar voice of our principal. Another one of his classic public announcements! “This is your principal speaking…” This time, he reminds us that there is an official school jacket and that students to not follow the dress code will have their jackets confiscated, regardless of the outside temperature. Currently it’s freezing cold outside with temperatures getting close to zero. Students who arrive late will be sent home. So what about students who arrive late and with the wrong jacket? They would probably be expelled from school for life!

freezing

A bit later the teacher tells us about the new fire evacuation rules. More fire evacuation rules? There’s so many rules that they could publish a book about it. Compared to Switzerland, I think that the fire evacuation rules here are bit too complicated. A fire is an emergency, and people can’t think during emergencies and they forget everything they’ve been told. So it’s important to have very simple rules. In Switzerland, there are only three basic and simple rules that have to be observed in case of a fire:

  1. Go to the assembly point!
  2. Don’t panic!
  3. Sign out!

In Ireland, we have to:

  • Assemble directly behind the school, which means that the burning building could collapse right on top of us
  • Arrange ourselves in alphabetical order according to our surnames. There are over 900 students so this is a recipe for pure chaos.

stairsLater today, as I was working on “Homework Mountain” I started to get thirsty. I went downstairs for a glass of water. However, Margaret told me that a pipe has burst further down the road and that means the whole street is out of tap water. As I went back upstairs, I saw Conor tap-dancing in front of the bathroom because he couldn’t go to the toilet. Outside it was raining but not a drop of the water inside the house. Just as the Irish government is starting to charge for the water, the pipes start bursting… Let’s hope that they spend the money on fixing the old rusty pipes.

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Diary of a Smoothie-Killer

English

coconut1Today I almost blew up the house! The day started like any other normal day but then everything went very wrong. As usual, I went downstairs to have breakfast. While I was eating, I noticed that there are three coconuts in the fruit bowl. Why so many coconuts, you ask… A perfectly good question. It’s because I love the taste of a good coconut smoothie in the morning (and in the afternoon, and in the evening). So I tend to stock up on my supply of fresh coconuts at least once a week. I try to avoid the tinned coconuts as they have a chemical taste and are not as healthy as the fresh stuff.

The disadvantage of buying fresh coconuts, is that you can’t just put them in the blender. You have to smash them with a hammer of sharp object and then you have to cut the white coconut flesh out. It’s both work and fun! As you can imagine, the smashing is more fun than the cutting. Once you have the coconut pieces cut out, it’s best to put them in the blender right away because it’s easier to store.

black-smoke-440366Another fun fact about coconuts is that even when you cut it into pieces it’s still quite a tough fruit. It’s not like when you cut a banana and the pieces are all soft. How I know this? Well, as I noticed the three coconuts in the bowl I immediately smashed them, cut them up and put them in the blender. Soon after turning on the blender, I started to hear some strange noises. Not the kind of noises you want to hear from your blender at all! To make things worse, soon after the first noises, black smoke started to emerge from the blender. I wanted to turn the blender off but when I touched it, it was so hot that I had to let go again immediately. The kitchen started to fill up with black smoke very fast and visibility was decreasing by the minute! Words like “Hiroshima” or “Manhattan Project” came to mind as I was thinking about the imminent explosion!

In a last heroic effort to save my host family I grabbed the blender even though it was still quite hot, ripped the cable out of the socket and ran for the back door as fast as I could. As I pulled open the door, I noticed Casper. He was looking at me with his beady little dog eyes. So in one smart move, I threw the hot smoking blender into the garden. Then I grabbed Casper and ran back inside and closed the door on the diabolical machine. I put Casper down, put my fingers in my ears and counted to 20. But there was no explosion. What a relief! Surely, this would have made the local headlines: “Crazy Swiss exchange student tries to blow up house of host family!”  Casper must have sensed that something is very wrong as he runs around the kitchen and barks at me.

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Just as I’m thinking about how the blast would have ripped “Monstro” to pieces, Margaret enters the kitchen. Naturally, she’s a bit surprised about all the black smoke in the kitchen and ask for an explanation. As I tell her that I have just almost blown up her house she reacts in an unusual way: She laughs, and laughs and laughs… Casper is confused about her laughing too. He must think that I did something wrong so he runs over to me and grabs my left foot with his teeth. Ouch!

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We opened the windows to let the smoke out and soon everything was back to normal. Except that now everyone calls me the “Smoothie Killer” and the other problem is that we no longer have a functioning blender.

imageSo I went to an electronics store nearby called “Power City” and bought a new and improved blender. I don’t know if it’s coconut-certified but at least it has a two-year guarantee. So if another “incident” should occur, I can just bring the broken blender back to the store and have it replaced.

Back home, I immediately had to test the new blender. Blowing up the old blender wasn’t such a bad decision since the new one has a couple of nifty features that the old one didn’t have. For example, you can control the speed of the blades and it also has bigger jar. I can now make bigger and even better smoothies!

Tomorrow, the mid-term break is over and I have to go back to school. Funny how time flies when your’re having fun or when you’re blowing up household devices….

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The Green Monster

Englisch

Halloween is day of celebration in Ireland and people start to decorate their houses several days before. As I came home from the gym yesterday I saw this:

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Everyone wears a costume and I mean everyone! Even Casper, who is dressed up in full Halloween gear today and seems to really enjoy himself. He chases me around the house and barks like mad. At first, I did not want to join the fun and wear a costume but Margaret convinced me to wear Robert’s Halloween costume from last year. I’ve always wanted to be “the incredible Hulk”!

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Eduardo, Conor and me

Casper has a costume for every occasion and it seems to that whenever he is dressed up like this he is even more annoying than usual. He just can’t stop barking! So I went into the garden to get a bit of quiet time.

After a couple of minutes I went back into the house and I got the biggest Halloween scare of the day….

a.baa-Can-we-be-friendsYou remember “Monstro” the giant spider? He has returned on Halloween night to haunt me! He was sitting right there on the wall, looking at me with his eight evil eyes… My screams have alerted the family who probably think that there’s a vampire or a werewolf in the living room. They immediately come to my rescue.

A discussion on animal rights breaks out and we split into two opposing schools of thought: Sean and Conor take my side and they start looking for a powerful bug spray to put the beast to rest once and for all. Margaret thinks that we should spare it and release it into the garden. However, she is afraid what might happen if there is full moon…

When we turned around to put our plan into action, “Monstro” was gone. The beast has disappeared and is hiding somewhere inside the house. A ghoulish laugh can be heard from upstairs….

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Because my “Hulk” costume has obviously not impressed the spider and because I’m starting to feel a bit hot, I take the mask off. A soon as I do, Margaret starts laughing. I check the mirror and do not see my reflection…. I must have turned into Vampire! But who is this green-faced creature looking at me? Then I realize, that my face is still green even though I’m no longer wearing the mask. How can that be, am I truly turning into the “Hulk”? Has my anger over “Monstro” released my powers? No, sadly the answer is more simple. When Robert was wearing the same mask last year, he painted his face green so that he wouldn’t have to wear the mask all the time. Some of this green colour must have stuck to the mask and now to my face. Or is it a curse?  It took me more than 10 minutes to scrub my face clean again.

IMG_3438Later that evening, I heard the doorbell ring. I opened the door but there was nobody outside. Someone must have played a prank! But then I heard faraway voices coming from the ground. As I looked down I saw tiny creatures in Halloween costumes: kids from the neighbourhood. The voices were saying “trick or treat” and the little hands were holding out small bags. They were asking for candy and sweets.  Luckily, I was prepared. Margaret had stocked up on candy and sweets just for this day. Here’s a picture of “Candy Mountain”.

I made myself a special smoothie just for the occasion. I bought some special ingredients from the supermarket. The smoothie looked slimy and green but tasted monstrously good! For the second time that day I felt like a green monster, very similar to the one you see in the video below.

As I was drinking my monster smoothie, Eduardo was hollowing out a giant pumpkin. It wouldn’t be a real Halloween without a scary looking pumpkin on the doorstep.

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