Five more things…

My friend Kavey suggested a new Five Things meme in which you tell someone else what you associate with them, and ask them to elaborate. So, here are the things she came up with for me.

1. (Foreign) Language and Literature

I’ve always loved language in general, and especially the way that the systems of different languages relate to one another. It makes for a complex puzzle of logic, with a degree of illogicality thrown in to keep it interesting. I have done languages not so much to increase my chance of communicating around the world, but more for this systematic / systemic approach and the window it gives you into different thought systems in different cultures.

Doing foreign literature was initially a necessary evil rather than a choice, but I did enjoy aspects of it. Favourite sorts of literature experienced include the Expressionist poetry and drama I did a course on during my BA, and the wonderfully named MA module “Sex, Lies and Manuscripts” in which we looked at medieval antifeminist (and protofeminist) literature from France, Italy and England.

I ended up doing a PhD on medieval German poetry. I’m not too sure how I feel about that at the moment – let’s say that it sometimes has something  albatross-like about it in both conversational and vocational terms – though the title “Dr” comes in handy occasionally.

The best move ever was to do A-level English literature. I cursed it at the time, but it taught me a lot more about my cultural heritage than anything else I have done (with the exception of O-level history).

2. Germany

Germany is where I have lived for the last almost 12 years.

Why? OK, I studied German, but that is only part of the story. There were family connections and school / orchestra exchanges that also influenced me positively when I was growing up, plus we had an excellent German teacher at school, ergo German outlasted French in my education.

Actually moving to Germany was not an entirely conscious choice. In 1997 my PhD scholarship was running out, and my supervisor suggested I go for a teaching job at one of our partner universities, Tübingen. Got the job, breathed a sigh of relief in financial terms, swallowed hard in emotional terms and told myself it was only for two years and that it might look good on my CV…

I’m not going to go into a “what I like / don’t like about Germany” excursus at this point. If anyone wants to know anything specific, you can ask me 🙂

3. Photography

I had very, very little interest in photography until May 2006. I was recovering from an icky bout of depression at the time and looking for new impetus creatively and socially, plus my then partner was into photography. I tagged along (I choose that expression deliberately) to one of the get-togethers organized by Kavey in London, armed with a point-and-shoot that my Dad had given me, to try to disguise the fact that I was a hanger-on. It was a daunting experience in the sense that I was still somewhat nervous around strangers and the technical talk went over my head at a million miles an hour, but everyone was so lovely and I suddenly found myself on an exciting treasure hunt, looking around for things to take pictures of and takng time to compose my shots. To cut a long story short, I was soon hooked. Here is one of the shots I took that day.

I pursue colour, detail and form in my photography, very much aesthetic goals rather than photojournalistic or purely technical ones. I like my pictures to look like the kind of paintings I like – abstract, expressionist, colourful. Occasionally purists will rail at me for boosting the colours beyond what looks natural. But hey, they are my pictures and they portray what I want to see / be seen.

4. Wales

I guess I’m one of those people who feels a greater attachment to where they are from if they are further away from it. I never felt particularly Welsh when I was living in Wales, but these days I sometimes feel very Welsh, depending on what is going on (be it a rugby match, exposure to some annoying Little Englanders, hearing a particular piece of music or whatever). Don’t ask me to define how this feels – it is neither static nor entirely definable.

It can be tough being a Welsh person in Germany. You find yourself sounding like a broken record when you tell someone for the nth time that no, Wales is not in England. Likely outcomes of this is that they think you are some nutty insular equivalent of a Bavarian separatist, you are a pedant, or you are indelibly marked down in their memory as That Exotic Welsh Person who is wheeled out on social occasions to provide quaint Celtic charm and required to give the Welsh angle on everything under the sun.

I wish I could speak Welsh better, as I said in a recent post here. For the first few years at school, we were subjected to a trendy, apparently antiauthoritarian approach to language teaching that omitted the grammar bit. Disastrous for me, as it meant I couldn’t extrapolate anything and didn’t have my beloved linguistic system to lean upon. The upshot of this was that I was far more resistent to speaking Welsh than to other languages.

5. Teaching

This is going to sound boastful, but I am proud to be a part of the fourth generation of teachers on both sides of my family, and the second generation of university teachers.

Having said that, until I was 26 the one thing I could say with any certainty that I most definitely did NOT want to do for a living was… guess what! The thought of having to be authoritative, knowledgeable and command people’s respect and attention was something I thought I simply didn’t have in me.

And then I ended up in a full-time teaching job in Tübingen, as mentioned above, and to my great surprise loved it from day one. It was a combination of things: the students were around my age so there was a peer-group atmosphere that we all enjoyed rather than a scary hierarchical relationship. They seemed dedicated on the whole, and to my great surprise they seemed largely to appreciate what I did for them, even expressing enjoyment at times. I, meanwhile, was on a very steep learning curve in terms of both subject matter and teaching methods, but I loved the challenge and the feeling that I was imparting knowledge and skills in a subject area that really mattered.

Nowadays, of course, the students are younger (!) and the atmosphere in class perhaps not quite so matey, but I value the fact that students tend to comment on the positive, motivating atmosphere in my classes, and they seem to continue to enjoy what I do (within reason – there are boring bits that I still need to work on). It’s a hugely rewarding job for me.

What about you?

If you’d like to leave a comment on this post, I’ll be happy to nominate five things that I associate with you, which you can then expound upon in your own blog (or we can find some other solution, if you don’t have a blog :)). Also, if there are other things you associate with me more strongly than these things, I’d be intrigued to know and would be happy to comment on those.

Do please provide a link to your blog if you do your own version of these five things.


Filed under Books & reading, Intercultural & interlinguistic, Photography, Up close and personal, Work stuff

28 responses to “Five more things…

  1. Andre

    I’ll give it a shot 🙂

    • OK, here goes – there are tons of things I could have opted for but have limited myself to these:

      helping friends in need
      being gratuitous 😉
      roast dinner
      vast knowledge of military history / detail
      immaculate ironed shirts

      If you don’t like any of these, I can give you Douglas Adams and film as alternatives 🙂

  2. anne-julie

    I could need 5 things, I should definitely write a blog entry soon! So go ahead 🙂

    Btw – I associate happiness with you 🙂

    • Right, here is a miscellaneous collection for you:

      food allergies

      If you feel uncomfortable writing about any of these, I would suggest Esprit and Lush as alternatives (or additions, if you like 🙂 )

      Happiness: hmm, I’ve never been a particularly happy person, though as the name of this blog suggests, I have been doing my best to change that 🙂 I am definitely pleased that you associate that word with me – thanks!

      • anne-julie

        OK I’ll see what I can come up with. 🙂

        I think of happiness when I think of you because you smile a lot – and because you always succeed in making me happy when I’m not feeling well!

  3. I’d have said nearly the same for you that Kavey chose, except #1 would have been “English”. I do appreciate the (few) people that keep our language going.

    I’ll give it a go, but I dread to think what those five things might be!

    I have not been running a blog, but I did get a WordPress account going, so maybe I’ll start it properly…

  4. I would like to know your ideas about number 2 in terms of what you like and don’t like. And as well the five things challenge – bring it on! 😉

    • Paolo, I will think about your question re no. 2 and will get back to you on that. In the meantime, here are your topics:

      An Italian in Munich – how the heck does that work?
      Complaining about stuff 🙂
      candle-light setting on camera 🙂
      “non tutto il male viene per nuocere” (you quoted this at me once, and I liked it)

    • OK, since you asked, here are some likes / dislikes about Germany:

      – having to use your elbows to get anywhere in terms of getting served in some shops (no orderly queues!)
      – overly bureaucratic attitude towards certain things like residency and the place you live in
      – TV that is either stiff and dull (ARD, ZDF) or braindead (most of the rest)
      – Stiff, dull politicians
      – Not getting to watch films in the original English (NONE on TV, very few in the cinema here). I watch hardly any films / series on TV as I just can’t get into the dubbed versions
      – Lack of variety in sandwich fillings, and lack of moist juiciness in sandwiches in general
      – Gassy beer
      – Being forced to endure Fasnet annually
      – Shops are shut on Sundays
      – Being a foreigner

      OK, whinge over; now for the good stuff 🙂

      – Efficient and varied public transport (I am thoroughly sick of people whingeing about Deutsche Bahn – it’s great, though pricey)
      – Easy travel to neighbouring countries
      – Excellent, honest and reasonably priced options for eating out
      – Wonderful general quality of life here in the South
      – Decent wine produced in the surrounding area
      – Excellent quality of water, both chemically and in terms of water pressure (shower etc.)
      – Solidly built houses
      – Bike paths

      • nettys

        I dislike similar things about Germany. You get used to using your elbows when you are growing up in Germany.
        I like the gassy beer (also like Guinness) & Weizenbier in the summer. Yes, I wish the shops were finally being open on Sundays.

        In Wales, I miss the German bread.

        You think it is hard being a foreigner?
        In Wales / esp. Cardiff & Aber – no problem, Machynlleth is more difficult (a smaller place). I do not like the hatred of some of the Welsh towards the English. Some English friends had very sad experiences.

        For TV, English programmes via satellite.

        Hwyl 😉

  5. it would be interesting to see of you really could come up with 5 keywords for me, just for for funzies. we didn’t really share that much personal detail so I wonder what would spring to your mind.

    • Hmm, OK, let’s give this a shot…

      – Morrissey (it was you that wrote about him, wasn’t it??)
      – Studious glasses
      – Pursuit of British swearwords
      – Reading (the place, not the activity ;))
      – Converse boots (I guess that is partly down to your Twitter avatar)

  6. I’m up for a challenge.
    Interested to see what 5 things you’d associate with me.

    • – Stripy umbrella
      – Grope Lane (oops, I still need to send you the photos I took there)
      – Cat
      – Columbus, Ohio
      – The way you pronounce “squirrels” (i.e. “squirls”)

      Bit of an odd mix, but that is I guess the nature of this beast 🙂

  7. I would also add to your list “friendly/helpful”, although that sort of comes under “teacher” as I think these are qualities that a good teacher requires.

    You probably don’t know me well enough to put down 5 points, but if you do it would be fun.

    Paul a.k.a @madam3181 – the wannabe German speaker who is not confident it will ever happen 😦

  8. Pingback: Five things « The Lab

  9. Now lets try your psychic powers! 🙂

    • Right then! *Rolls up sleeves for the challenge*

      Gorgeous landscape photo on your blog banner (Where is it?? Reminds me an awful lot of home!)
      Pipe smoker
      Design (do please tell a bit about what exactly you do in this area)

      As you will notice, these are pretty much associations that occurred to me after a brief look at your blog. But hey, I wanted to honour the fact that you left a comment here 🙂

  10. I’ll get back to you about the 5 things and the like/dislikes about Germany this weekend latest on my blog – I’ll post here again when ready. You brought up some interesting points (for both topics)…

  11. Here you go:

    For the like/dislikes of Germany, give me the rest of the weekend… 😉

  12. >For the like/dislikes of Germany, give me the rest of >the weekend… 😉
    And…. I didn’t make it…

  13. nettys

    Hello dear Bexxi. Sut mae!?!!

    Me again – I want to comment also even though we have not met yet. I feel kind of close because you are from Aberystwyth (where I am now / living in Machynlleth).

    You are a person from Wales living in Germany. I am a person living in Wales.

    Re. language: I studied Angistik as one subject in Göttingen. I love Chaucer! I still do!
    I taught Welsh myself and with the help of a few kind Welsh people. Since 1992 I had wanted to speak Welsh, I became pretty fluent in 1999 – but now brush up my other language skills (Italian, etc.). In Cardiff I spoke a lot of Welsh – I was more in the Welsh circles. Mark speaks English – so all the Welsh speak in English to me which can be a bit annoying.

    Re. Germany: Well, I have lived in Wales for 9 years – a bit shorter than your time in Germany, Bexxi. I loved to visit Cymru fach as a student – every year I came to Wales at least once. When I moved first to Cardiff I thought it is a move for good. Later, I learnt for myself that it is a far more global world now – and nothing has to be for good. I had serious health problems in Wales 5 years ago; they could not help me here. I am ok now. I prefer hot summers also. I miss a lot here, esp. in rural Wales. I am ready to move.

    Photography: I have been supporting Mark with his work as a photographer here in Wales and abroad. I enjoy seeing different photographs – and visiting exhibitions wherever I go.

    Germany: I would miss the British Sunday papers in Germany, Marmite – I know where to get it, even near where my parents live (I love Marmite), I like the good old pubs in the UK, I like the lonely beaches (but not always), I do not like certain German ways (time plays an important role with some, certain style, etc.). Our move does not necessarily mean Germany – somewhere different on the continent…it all depends on work, too.

    Work: Well, I used to work in archives, libraries and museums – now I’d like to combine culture more with IT.

    This was more about me. I am sorry – good to compare.

    What do I think re. to you (forgive me if anything is wrong):
    1. hard-worker and broad-minded
    2. brilliant German
    3. well-read
    4. well-travelled
    5. overestimated by some and under-estimated by others (good motto! / I know what you mean.

    Hwyl nawr, Annette

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