Thank God it's Friday

15th November 2002 at 00:00
MONDAY We sail from Harwich to Hamburg with 23 Year 9s in a force 8 gale. The kids in the ship's disco hurl themselves around with or without the sea's help. Some students have never ventured further than our local high street, but the river Rhine and the imposing attractions of Hamburg leave them unimpressed. The sight of McDonald's elicits a cheer.

TUESDAY Students meet us at the local school. Our group is amazed at their leisure facilities; they envy the pool and table tennis tables. They love the lack of uniform and the way German pupils sit around outside class eating. They find it difficult to believe that in some classes they are mistaken for natives - not because of their prowess at German, but because the teacher doesn't know who is supposed to be there.

WEDNESDAY Everyone seems to have settled in with their host families, although there have been a few linguistic misunderstandings. One of the German teachers asks me if I know that song by Elvis about the hard eggs. She doesn't understand the words and sings it for me: "Let the hard eggs begin "

THURSDAY The food isn't a hit. Rob thought the mustard was custard at dinner and it is unlikely that sauerkraut will become a favourite. But everyone is coping, supported by the odd burger and lots of chips and chocolate.

FRIDAY Some students have uttered their first full German sentences. Helen is thrilled when the waiter brings her the apfelkuchen she asked for. We all have our memories: mine is the children's faces as the host teacher waves us off. As the boat pulls slowly away he calls out: "Goodbye everybody. Have a good Fahrt!"

Rebecca Porter writes under a pseudonym. She works in an on-site support unit for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties in the south of England

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