As a birthday present for me, my parents organised and paid for the four of us and them to go away for a long weekend this week. The destination was the village where a good friend of mine lives in Germany. We have known each other since we were paired up for the exchange that was organised by our schools when we were just 14 years old (doing the maths, that means I’ve now just about known her for longer in my life than I didn’t know her!) We got on very well during our first visits to each other’s homes through the school trips, and then we kept in touch and stayed with each other on various occasions and our families have too. My family and I went to her wedding and vice versa, and this was the first time that our kids met each other.
This was also the first time that my boys went on a plane. Of course Andrew was very excited, and absolutely loved the experience. We thought that he might get a bit frightened when the engines powered up and the plane shook for take off, but he laughed and shouted: “it’s like a rocket!” He’s watched countless rocket launch videos on youtube after Grandad once showed him one! I was sat on the other side of the plane with Joel, who managed to fall asleep feeding during take off on both legs of the journey, but Daddy and Grandad, who had the pleasure of sitting in the vicinity of a very excitable toddler, recounted how he had been during the flight once we’d landed.
As all 6 of us couldn’t easily fit into my friend’s house for staying the night, we stayed over at a local hotel, which was an old castle – Schloss Hotel. It was really interesting seeing the (relatively) modern rooms inside what was a very old building from the outside. When we’d pulled up in the car park and Andrew was standing with me and Joel as the others unloaded the hire car of luggage, he looked up at one of the turrets and said: “it’s like a rocket!” Bit of a rocket theme going on here! He does generally say that a building is like a rocket if it is tall and stretches up into the sky – he says the same thing about the tower on the church we go to for example.
After we’d deposited our bags, done a bit of shopping for essential supplies, and the boys had had a nap, we headed back to my friend’s house to spend the late afternoon and early evening with them. We pulled up on the drive, where we had parked earlier when we’d first arrived before her husband had showed us the way to the hotel. Andrew let out an excited: “Here’s Germany again!” He’d obviously understood that my friend’s house, the central place of our visit, was in fact this place called “Germany” that we’d been talking about all week before we went. We’d been telling him that we were going on a plane, and that we’d travel to a place called Germany. In his mind, it was just the end destination that was Germany, not the whole country. But then why should he have a concept of a “country” yet? He’s not been abroad until now, and even now he’s done it, I’m not sure he understands that we live in one country and we went to another country on holiday.
And I can’t forget the snippets of interesting German-English interaction that involved Andrew. One funny moment occurred when we were at my friend’s parents’ house and her sisters and their children came for Kaffee and Kuchen (German equivalent of afternoon tea) on Saturday. There was a big table for the adults and a small kiddy-sized picnic table where Andrew and another little boy and girl were. Andrew had recently had a drink in a Very Hungry Caterpillar beaker, and was enthusiastically explaining this fact to the other two children. After a minute or so of rabbiting on to them, the little boy looked up to the table of adults and said “was sagt er?” (“what’s he saying?”) as if Andrew was from another planet or something, which we all found hilarious! It was interesting though, that despite the fact that they were both speaking different languages to each other, it didn’t matter – the universal language of play meant they all had fun chasing each other around the garden and getting wet with the various water games on offer.
Although Andrew understands a fair amount of German when I ask him questions, inevitably he can be quite shy in speaking it when we ask him to in front of others. But by the end of the weekend he was impressing everyone with his counting to ten in German, sometimes on demand and sometimes whenever he happened to randomly think about it! He also got the hang of “Danke” (“thank you”) – when he said it to the lovely lady in charge of breakfast at the hotel, she thought it was the cutest thing ever 🙂 Charmer!