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40 Jahre Goethe-Institut Neuseeland
Ulrike Handke

In 1996 the family made a fateful decision. I accepted the position of the "National German Language Adviser ". More precisely - Matthias and I decided - Lisa was 7 and was not asked. The three of us  arrived in Wellington in late August and were amazed.
We found:

  • People barefoot in front of a dairy.
  • Magical light - I wrote home: Here even a grey day is light grey.
  • Remarkable cold temperatures indoors - the first school rule I noticed was also: "Only three people allowed to sit on the heater".
  • My wonderful boss Harvey McQueen, who introduced me to the term "good employer". I told him about our wish to publish "Advantage German" and he said: "I'll stand behind you and we'll find the money. I had never heard that before. So far I had known "Meine Hände sind gebunden". His wife Anne, who even shared Christmas days with our small family.
  • The wind - where else does the rain come horizontally?
  • The people: uncomplicated, friendly, practical and warm. We sometimes missed the German directness and discourse. When we once had a "normal" and lively discussion at a dinner party, we got apologetic phone calls the next day: I'm sorry, I got carried away, It must have been the German Schnaps.
  • Project work at school: Lisa's first one caused confusion. She came home and said she should make a calendar sheet. She had understood that the topic was "Smith and Leggings".  We were clueless, thought of craftsmen, of fashion. Only when she sobbed something about dragons, a phone call to other parents confirmed that it was all about  "Myths and Legends".
  • Wonderful colleagues who became friends. It is impossible to mention everybody who still has a place in my heart, just two incidents from which I learned a lot for my later professional life: Judith, who was my greatest support in our five years in NZ, is the best feedback provider I ever met. At my suggestion to do a workshop on the German constitution, she smiled gently and in her unique friendly voice she uttered a long "Ahaaaa". I've have added this to my communicative vocabulary up to this day and it always works. Thanks, Judith!And I have also made great use ofBarry Empson´s phrase -when during a Brecht workshop with Judith and me students made pejorative noises, he walked around with his hat saying "Please, once again! I collect such noises".

When we came back home in 2001 and people said: You haven't changed at all, I did not go pale like K in Brecht, but said: "I have!"  When I used to think "Ja, aber", it was now more likely "why not?”- very helpful in many situations.
Lisa was hit hardest by the return to another culture. When asked how many foreigners were at her new German school, she said "I am the only one".

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