Pictures in the Rain

English

I hope you enjoyed the “Dublin at Christmas” pictures from the last Blog post. Here’s some background on how and when I took the pictures.

christmas-ornament-border-clipart-Transparent_Christmas_Blue_Ornament_ClipartIt was the 23. Of December and as I was looking out of my window, I could see the spirit of Christmas everywhere. Everything was covered in Christmas decorations, and not just buildings, even cars were decorated Christmas-style. So I wondered, what will it be like in the centre of Dublin?

As I don’t have to study for school, I have a lot of spare time at the moment, so I took my camera and made my way to the bus station. There was a light drizzle outside, as is normal for Ireland at this time of the year. But as I was looking through the bus window, the rain got a lot worse with each passing minute.

IMG_3799[1]Still, I thought nothing of this, as the weather here can change very quickly.  I was hoping it might change back to a light drizzle long before the bus was due to arrive in the city centre. But it never stopped! So I immediately had to look for shelter as I got out of the bus. I waited for a couple of minutes but then I realized, it might stay like this the whole day. So like a true Irishman, I ignored the foul weather, took out my camera and started to take pictures. Every couple of minutes I had to stop and wipe away the raindrops from the lens with piece of soft and lens-friendly cloth.

How-Batteries-DieMost of the pictures are from the area surrounding O’Connell Street which is right in the centre of Dublin. Normally, this area is packed with people. The bad weather had one advantage: people stayed at home and the streets were empty. Perfect for taking pictures of Dublin’s famous monuments. The worst point came when I wanted to take a picture of “the spire”. To get the right angle, I had to point the camera upwards and heavy raindrops were splashing on my face. But it was funny to see all the water running down “the Spire”.

As time was passing, my clothes got more and more soaked, and eventually the battery of the camera died.  So I made my way back to the bus station. As I was standing on the bridge I had a very nice view of the river and the city. So I turned on my camera for the last time and took a final picture just in time before the battery was completely empty. This final picture is one of my favourite images from that day.

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Now I hope I’m not going to catch a cold from that day! My next blog post will be about the Christmas dinner, so check back soon… I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas yourself.

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King Lear

English

The Christmas holiday is finally here, and I have the next two weeks off. The last days at school have been very busy, as I have been working on “King Lear”, a famous play by William Shakespeare.

2000px-Tudor_Crown_(Heraldry).svg (1)The play is extremely difficult to read because Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) wrote this in “Old English” which is a language that is no longer in use. On top of the already difficult language, every character in the play has a unique way of speaking. For example, “the fool” and “Tom the madman” always speak only in riddles, so whatever they say can have several different meanings. Our English teacher helped us to understand the most difficult parts of the text, so that we weren’t completely lost.

But now that we’re finally done with the book, after countless hours of highlighting important lines, summarizing chapters and discussing the meaning and the quotes in class, I’m actually a bit sad but also relieved.

stockfresh_1412216_3d-angel-and-devil_sizexs_d47e60So what does “King Lear” tell us? How a simple action, a small mistake can have terrible consequences. It also teaches us that we should try to make rational and logical decisions and not be guided by our own flaws of character. Without revealing too much about the story, just remember that the main character in the play becomes the victim of his own ambitions, driven by decisions that are not based on rational thought. But I would really like to encourage you to either read the book yourself or see one of the many plays. It’s a good story and also you’ll be able to show off in front of your friends by reciting “King Lear” quotes!

shakespeare-blog-cartoonHaving finally finished the book is both a blessing and a curse. We had to write a five page essay about the play. Now you also know why there have not been so many posts in the last couple of days. As usual, I first had to write the essay on my computer and run it through the spell-checker, so as to avoid any typos. Unfortunately, the essay has to be written by hand so I had to copy everything back to paper in my best handwriting (not the world-war II style, I’m used to). It took forever, but now it’s done and to quote “King Lear”: “Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.”

Last weekend, I went bowling. The timing was slightly inconvenient because I had my essay I was working on but this was a mandatory EF event. I had some trouble finding the bowling centre, and I arrived 15 minutes late. As you know, being late is not common for a Swiss person. Swiss people like to eat chocolate and cheese for breakfast, they only drink milk from their own cow and they are never ever late. Staying in Ireland has changed me, I’m becoming more Irish!

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I won the game against the other EF exchange students and the main prize was the last piece of delicious pizza. It was great fun and we also talked about the next EF excursion in February, which will take us across the border to Belfast and the famous “Titanic Museum”. I’m already looking forward to that!

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

English

despicable_me_2_movie-wide2I’m standing in front of approximately half of the students of my school together with one of my friends and we’re expected to dance and sing in a few moments. I quickly scan the room for possible escape routes but it’s already too late and the music starts playing…
I pinch myself, expecting to wake up at any moment but I’m not sleeping! So how did I get myself into this situation, you wonder? Let me explain….

Everything began a few days ago during French class. Our teacher told us that we would get the chance to see a French play at our school because a French theatre-group would be passing through Adamstown this week and showing their current play at Adamstown College.

Money Flies Away - AAs I have already come to expect, this event will not be free. Every student will have to pay 6 Euro to attend. But again, this is worth it, because to see the play you have to miss three classes including PE and chemistry. Up to this point I still had a positive outlook on the upcoming event but all that was about to change…

The teacher now told us that they would need two volunteers. They would have to “read” a short text in front of the audience. Why have I put quotation marks around the word “read”? You’ll soon learn why, just wait and see…

Do you know this feeling when you are asked to volunteer for something but you have absolutely no desire to take part in an activity? A “deer staring at the headlights” kind of moment?

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Over the years I have found the following strategy to be very effective to avoid being picked, I have labelled them the “PLEASE NOT ME” rules:

1. Avoid Eye contact!

The teacher is more likely to choose someone who looks into his eyes.

2. Don’t move!

Any noise or movement means that you will be noticed and that you could be chosen.

3. Look at your worksheet!

Looking out of the window means, you’re not interested and the teacher might pick you, just to teach you a lesson.

4. Don’t Breathe!

Not sure why, but this seems to help. If you do this for too long you’re in conflict with rule two because your head will turn bright red.

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Extra tip: Depending on the situation you can also try to look busy, for example if you pretend to search for something in your schoolbag. However, do so quietly (see rule two).

The rules work well most of the time, however most students know them and tend to use them. So if all the students use the same tactics, you can still get picked. Some teachers deliberately pick students who are using the “Please Not Me” rules. If you know this about a teacher, abandon the rules and just volunteer enthusiastically right away. Then you are sure that you will not be picked.

By now you probably think “why doesn’t he volunteer? Reading a text sounds like fun!” Yes, but the problem is that you cannot trust your teachers to tell you the whole truth about an activity. They know that if they told the whole truth from the start, many students would faint or even run out of the room or try to fake a heart attack.

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If only I had taken my own advice. But when my classmate said “Tim, let’s volunteer together, I think this could be fun!” I abandoned all caution in a moment of madness and said “Yes”. At this point we both still believed against all previous experience that we would simply have to read a couple of lines from a sheet of paper.

A couple of days later, our names were called over the speaker system. We went to the schools largest room where hundreds of chairs were ready for the big audience. Apart from me and my classmate, there were also five other volunteers from other classes. The room was still empty as we were only there to learn about our part in the play.

Soon after, the French theatre-group entered the room. You probably think it was a pantomime group, but no not all French theatre groups are pantomime groups. That’s just a common cliché. They were quite friendly and also funny, cracking a lot of jokes while explaining our task.

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Our group of volunteers was made up of two boys (me and my classmate) and five girls. Of these seven people two would have to sing and dance while the others would only have to sing. The words “sing” and “read” have the same number of characters but obviously they are completely different types of activities. Now you know why I’ve used the quotation marks.

To make matters worse, for reasons only known to the French theatre group, my classmate and I were picked for the sing/dance part! Before I had a chance to snap out of my “deer in the headlight” moment and run into the forest, a huge crowd of students started to enter the room.

Our French teacher was sitting in the audience too. Feeling just slightly deceived, we made our feelings known but she just laughed and waited for the show to begin.

In the end it wasn’t as bad as I thought (it usually isn’t) but still I’ve learned yet another lesson about volunteering. I’m just glad that phones aren’t allowed at our school, so what happens in Vegas, um I mean Adamstown, stays in Adamstown.

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What was the song we had to sing? “Le Lion est mort ce soir”, which is the French version of “The lion sleeps tonight…”.

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Dreaming of an Irish Christmas

English

canstockphoto9751902_EducationToday, I had a look at some of the topics of my previous post. What strikes me is that a large number of the posts is about school. While I have done my best to describe the school building and the rooms, I realize that without actually seeing a picture it’s hard to imagine what it’s really like.

I want you to try a little experiment: Have a friend or colleague describe something to you and try to draw a picture at the same time. Then show the picture to the friend and see how reality and picture match.

So now you know why I took some many photos of the school and posted them on my blog. From now on, whenever I write about a certain room or area at school, you can look at the pictures and you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

1964052823787147144Christmas is approaching quickly and there is a lot of frantic activity, with people trying to buy the right gifts for friends and family. At home, I usually have a very good idea of what I want to buy, but here it’s a bit different. Obviously, I don’t know my host family as well as my family back home and I don’t really know what they might like or not like.

I’m sure you all know the feeling, when you absolutely have to buy a Christmas present for someone at the last minute. In Switzerland I usually buy at least one gift for everyone who participates in our yearly Christmas celebration (including my clumsy cat).

222323Since I will be spending Christmas here in Ireland together with my host family, I will need to get presents for them as well. Obviously I can’t share my ideas with you yet because there is a possibility that Conor is secretly reading my blog to discover what he might get for Christmas. Conor, if you’re reading: yes, it will be a Santa Christmas sweater! But seriously, I’m not going to reveal my secret “gift ideas” before Christmas. To my readers: If you have any ideas for host-family Christmas presents, write a comment please! Thanks!

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If you have followed my posts on the Irish weather then you should know that it’s very windy at this time of year. My school bag is quite heavy and that’s a good thing! One morning I accidentally left without it and the wind almost lifted me off my feet…

2000px-Zeichen_113.svgThere is no snow at the moment, but the ground is icy and it’s easy to slip and fall if you’re not careful. I saw at least twenty students limping around the school building today, holding their backs and displaying a painful facial expression. It’s a constant reminder that I must tread carefully!

More about Christmas in Ireland in my next posts….

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Good News, Bad News

English

virtual-enterprise-network_good-and-bad-news_id5456741_size300Do you know the feeling when your teacher says: “I have both good and a bad news for you, which news would you like to hear first?” Hearing this sentence is never a good thing and to me it’s a similar feeling to cold ice water running down my back.

Can you believe my surprise when I heard exactly these words over the speaker system, just as I was sitting comfortably and listening to my teacher explaining about a particularly interesting moment in history?

Typically, people want to hear the good news first. I guess our principal must have a sixth sense, since he anticipated this and didn’t even wait for an answer. So what are the good news, you ask?

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Here’s what the principal said: “Every teacher in this school will participate in a protest march on Tuesday, so all students will have a day off.” This sounded too good to be true, right? A day off? Just like that? There must be some really bad news coming…. So I braced myself and waited….

But first here’s a short explanation of why the teachers are protesting. Apparently, the government wants to make a change to the Irish education system with regards to the Junior Certificate.

teacher-toon1In future, assessments should have more weight and should influence the final result much more than they do today. The assessments should be reviewed and corrected by your subject matter teachers. Teachers are humans too (yes, really!) and the way they assess a paper or test is always influenced by personal views and values. Every teacher has a favourite and a least favourite student, even if they would never admit this openly. So I have to agree with the teachers that would be a change for the worse. I was looking forward to my free Tuesday and “Kudos” to the teachers for standing up for what’s right even if that means standing outside in the cold Irish weather for many hours….

pop040But I still haven’t told you the bad news, which was soon revealed over the speaker system: The upcoming parent teacher meetings! As soon as the principal announced this, it got very quiet in the classroom. Every student was thinking about each time they forgot to do their homework or when they were late for school…. There was only one person in the room, who was still smiling and that was our history teacher. Clearly he was looking forward to telling the parents about our mistakes and shortcomings!

Grades_CartoonThe parent-teacher meeting was supposed to start about 30 minutes after school hours (so at about 3:45 pm). As soon as the bell rang, all students went to the canteen to wait for their parents. In my case, because my parents can’t fly over to Dublin just for an afternoon, my host parents are coming to the parent-teacher meeting on their behalf. Many students took out their phones, probably to talk to their parents. Normally, this is not allowed but on this special occasion, the school has made an exception. Actually, there’s no worse place to take out your phone and the reason is the fact that it’s the one area in school that can be seen from almost all other rooms and offices. Since phones have bright and clearly visible displays, they can easily be spotted…. The principal has a clear and direct view of the canteen from his office window. His office is very close to the canteen and he often walks around the building looking for students that are disobeying the school rules. Because of this, I have dubbed the canteen as “the Lion’s Cave”.

We don’t normally have pictures of the inside of our school (Adamstown Community College) on the public website so I took it upon myself to educate my readers by taking many pictures. Here are some recent pictures that I took while I was waiting for Margaret.

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In fact, while I was taking these pictures, I saw a lot of other parents arrive. So I started to get worried and called Margaret. I did not want to be late for the parent-teacher meetings! But she had not forgotten and told me that she would be there in a couple of minutes.

I needn’t have worried too much about the parent-teacher meetings. It’s quite different from the way these meetings are held in Switzerland. In Switzerland these meetings tend to occur more often and usually only between the head teacher and your parents. Here the meetings only happen once a year and instead of one teacher, you have to talk to all your teachers on the same day! So you get a lot more feedback and suggestions (both good and bad).

eCommerce-checklistEvery student receives a checklist. This is a list of every teacher you have to talk to during the event. The reason for the checklist is so that you don’t just talk to the ones were you know that they will provide a positive comment but also to the ones were you expect some criticism.

First you had to find your teachers. Some of them were sitting in the canteen area while others preferred to wait in the classroom. Because all of the students had to talk to all of the students, this meant that sometimes you had to wait a while because your teacher was already busy talking to someone else.

So what can I improve? All the teachers told me something I already know. I have to improve my handwriting! If I had lived during the time of World War II, my handwriting could have been used to code secret messages… But we live in peaceful times, so I should try to change my handwriting so that other people can read it too.

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I hope that you will be back for more blog posts, which I promise will not be written by hand but on my trusty computer keyboard.

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