The last days on Cherry Mountain Road before Christmas

It’s a strange sort of sentiment, wanting to go home, but knowing that you’re going to miss where you’ve called “home” for the last few months. At least I know that I’ll be back in less than 3 weeks. Cherry Mountain Road has become a second home for me. I feel more comfortable here than I have done at uni., but 3 months or so is about enough of a stretch without going back to Newbury once more. Granted, I’ve seen family while I’ve been away, but it’s not the same as being at home with them; especially around Christmas time.

Last night (Tuesday) was the staff Christmas party. We broke up from school yesterday as well, so it was only fitting that the staff Christmas party took place then. It was a glorious affair. The school hired a coach for us and they took us to a Landgasthaus (a bit like a quintessential village inn) in the middle of nowhere (N.b. I think the village was called Querfurt…). There was free drink, free food and lots of glad tidings going around. A four-course meal was put on for us, including the customary welcome glass of Rotkäppchen (an East-German “based” sparkling wine) on arrival, a soup course and a salad. All of these were leading up to the main course: Roasted Rudolph served with duck legs. It wasn’t actually real reindeer (although many of the teachers at my table swore that it was!), but venison and dreadfully overcooked. It tasted like tough, stringy beef. The duck was brilliant. Anyone who knows me is more than well aware of how big a fan of duck I am, so to be served a German version of duck ‘confit’ was a brilliant way to end the last few months at the school. And with a Grand Marnier parfait for dessert as well? What more could you ask for?

They also did a Secret Santa-esque event. Everyone had to bring something to give to someone else (“Oh, is that how giving presents works?” – Everyone reading this.), but there was a twist. My mentor teacher told me to find something disgustingly horrible and tacky and to bring that with me. I had nothing suitable at home, so frantically searched for something in the local village shops, deciding eventually on a tacky, small and already-scuffed and worn figurine of Santa, which I bought for 1€. Lovely, or so I thought. I didn’t wrap mine before I got on the bus and was unsure as to what to do. Katja (my mentor teacher) pointed out that there was some kitchen towel on the bus, presumably to mop up any spillages or to clean up any incidents that may occur therein, so I set to wrapping my figurine in it. It looked horrific. So cheap, so tacky, so poorly thought out; the teachers were laughing with me at how bad it looked, but you could tell that they were praying that they didn’t receive it.

Fast forward to the party and we’re asked to place our presents under the tree just outside the dining room of the inn. I surreptitiously place mine so as to attract the least amount of attention possible towards the kitchen roll-wrapped monstrosity that I had brought with me. After the meal, we’re asked to roll a dice and whoever rolls a six gets to choose their present first. Eventually, I roll a six and pick a decent-sized box from under the tree. I notice that my parcel is still there and crane my neck once I’ve sat back down in order to see who ended up picking it up. The caretaker, with his 8 inch long goatee is looking very dismayed with what is in his hands: my present. Thankfully, a dice at the headmistress’ table is rolled twice and we pass our presents clockwise four or so times. My present ends up in front of one of the teachers at my table who was “in” on the “joke” that I was pulling. I can relax ever so slightly, or so I thought. I open the present in front of me and examine the contents: a jar of peanuts with a dubious-looking tin inside, a book of wordsearches and crossword puzzles, a small bottle of vodka-based schnapps, which I pocket instantly, and a bar of chocolate. Someone had clearly put far more effort into organising a present than I had. Unsure as to how to react to these “gifts”, I smile and carry on drinking my beer. The other teachers received tat like me, but some received perfume (which smelt foully sweet) and bath or skincare products. The Santa clearly disappointed, but I doubt that anyone was supposed to be happy with the presents they receive. If I’m here next year, I’ll know what not to do! I also came away with a bottle of red wine, courtesy of the school. Can’t be bad!

Today, after waking up nice and late with not too much of a headache, I started to pack my bag for my flight home tomorrow (Thursday) and headed into Leipzig. I needed to print off my boarding pass and wanted to busk a little. I met up with Hannah and Mary, two English Language Assistants from New Zealand and Canada respectively. I printed it off and we then went for some lunch at my favourite Asian restaurant, just off the Marktplatz in the centre of town.

After we’d wandered around the Christmas Market for a while and went for a cheeky beer at the Brauerei an der Thomaskirche and said our goodbyes, I set up my my mandolin case outside the big Galeria Kaufhof (a huge shopping centre) and proceeded to play. The busking Gods clearly didn’t want me to be playing tonight. Less than ten minutes in, my strap (a piece of string tied around the body of the instrument) snapped. Brilliant. Thankfully, a very kind passing local asked a stall opposite where I was playing for some ribbon and I’ve now got a very Christmassy-looking mandolin. Lovely. Shortly thereafter, my high E string snapped. Awesome. Instead of 8 strings, I now only have 7. This happens, I realise, but I’d like to think that it shouldn’t happen less than 5 days after replacing the string. It’s probably down to the weather, but I’m still annoyed at it happening.

My flight is in the afternoon tomorrow. I’ve still got to finish packing and tidy up the kitchen one last time before I leave. Should be alright. Looking forward to getting back to Blighty, but it’ll be strange not being in a quaint little village, surrounded by unintelligible Germans for a while.

Je vous embrasse

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