Tag Archives: England

Penguins of the Past

One story that I forgot to mention from England was my host family.

The program our school went with organized homestays with a family in the town we were staying at in the south of England. This was quite the experience, but I had a clear unfair advantage. I was put together with an 18 year old kid, who knew next to nothing when it came to English. So, I would have conversation with the family and he would give a very confused look. They would politely ask him, “Do you like England?” and he would look back at me with look of fear and confusion, I would translate, and he would nod his head in a viscious motion to show his answer.

Well, the family and I actually hit it off pretty well. They were an older couple who had been living together for some years, but had yet to get married. They were planning on doing that after Christmas. I fixed their computer and this put me on their ‘good’ list for the next 20 years, and they offered me a free place to stay, if I ever should come back to Britain. This is pretty awesome.

Now, they were very nice, but one thing that was holding me back from immediatly taking them up on their offer within the next month or so was their obsession with penguins. I understand liking an animal, or having some weird quirks, but these people took it to a new level. Everything, I mean everything, in the house had penguins on it. There was a toilet paper dispenser with penguins on it that quacked everytime you reached for a piece of paper.

The best was a giant penguin that sat at the dinner table. The husband had some how won it in an auction a few years back. This thing was about twice the size of a normal person. It stared at me when I ate, and they made sure to set a place for it every night at dinner. At first, I was fine with it, but then those beady little eyes started to penetrate my skull and generally creeped me out.

When I left, I gave them a handmade picture of a penguin as a thanks. They were very pleased. But I’ll need a break from penguins for a while.

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Apple Pie

Taking trips to England with a group of Germans is an interesting experience. For one, it made me realize that no one really has a desire to learn the others language. The entire trip all I heard and spoke was German, except for a few random times when I wandered off by myself. I suppose this is understandable. People are afraid to make mistakes and cause confusion. But one of the few times a person is forced to use another language, when in a foreign culture, is when you order food.

After a 20 hour bus ride from Germany to England, we pulled into a McDonalds to get the full British cuisine experience. The students acted like they had never seen one before and exclaimed,

“Oh, McDonalds, yum!”.

The students happily ran to the Mcdonalds because they spent the whole bus ride expressing their fear about how awful the British food was, while eating cold wursts out of plastic packaging.

We all scampered out of the bus and hobbled over to the McDonalds. It was about 6 am and they had two people working there; for some reason they were both very happy. I, for one, would not be happy if fifty sixteen-year-old germans stampeded me at my usually calm 6 am shift at McDonalds. I placed my order with my sweet American accent, which fortunately the Brits understood, and then stepped back to observe the sure-to-be-humor whilst sipping on my coffee and eating my bagel.

The first few students made it through with honors, but then two girls stepped up the counter. They whispered to each other and pointed at the menu. They then asked the overly-happy, and soon to be confused teller,

“Could we have some apple pee please?”

I snarfed up some coffee, while a look of horror slowly swept across the once happy face of the teller. The girls didn’t realize anything and congratulated one another on their perfect English. The teller gave a slow response,

“What?”

The girls then became flustered and repeated their question one more time, but louder and slower.

“Aaaaa-pple Peeeeeeeee” and pointed once again at the menu.

For those of you who don’t speak German, they pronounce “ie” as if it were a long “e”. After a few minutes the employee realized this the blunder and was saved from urinating into a cup.

I don’t want to think about the many times I’ve tried speaking German and have seen that same look of horror sweep across a random persons’ face. There will be many more times I’m sure.

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