I Held a Ukrainian Woman Hostage for Twenty Minutes: an Epic Tale of Forgetting When Class Ends

Since I’m still a baby teacher, it takes me forever to plan a lesson. I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, so I spend hours researching English grammar and plotting out examples and explanations.

Yes, it IS as crazy as it looks.

My last few lessons didn’t go as well as I would have liked, and I was just given another student for one-on-one lessons this week. My confidence as a teacher wasn’t terribly high, but I had high hopes for this new student. I took a hard look at what I had done with my previous lessons and how I could have done better. I put a lot of time into planning the lesson for this new student. I was ready for a fresh start.

First lessons tend to be hard, especially if they’re one-on-one; everyone is on edge because they’re alone with a stranger and don’t know what to expect. It doesn’t help that I have the social skills of a drunken hummingbird trapped in a hall of mirrors.

Still, the lesson didn’t start off too bad. I was proud of how well I had structured it. Everything is going according to plan, I thought happily to myself. I’m starting to get the hang of this.

Then I looked at the clock.

Oh shit, I thought. We still have an hour left and we’ve almost covered everything! WTF do I do?

What I did was stall. I dragged every bit of speaking out of her that I could. It felt like I was trying to turn everything she said to me into a conversation. After we used up all the activities I had planned as a backup, there were still twenty minutes to go, so I pretty much babbled about possessive pronouns for another few minutes. This meant I was trying to spontaneously explain a grammar point that I hadn’t planned on teaching, which is a very bad idea. Don’t try this at home, kids.

When I saw the utter confusion in my student’s eyes, I gave in and said, “That’s ok. We’ll talk about this more in the next lesson.”

Then she said, “So that’s all?”

I looked at the clock. Shit! Still ten minutes to go! I thought about it really hard. I didn’t have anything else for her. My options were: let her go now and hope she doesn’t complain to the school that I ended class early, or continue talking out of my ass and hope she learns something through osmosis.

“Yes,” I conceded. “That’s all.”

After she left the room, I looked over my lesson plans again. How the fuck did we get through all of this in one lesson? I was baffled.

At around 11 o’clock that night, I realized that the class ended half an hour earlier than I thought it did. I kept her there for another twenty minutes because I was afraid to end class too early.

I had written the class times on my calendar so I wouldn’t forget.

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My Suitcase Is Too Big: Am I Compensating for Something?

Something that people have a hard time understanding is that, even though I look young and care-free, I am not on vacation. It’s ok, it’s an easy mistake to make. There are hordes of tourists crammed into every orifice in Berlin, and I don’t exactly blend in with the Germans who live here. But even though I’m very much a privileged American, I sacrificed a lot to come here, and I plan to be here for a while. I have a bank account here. I have a job here. I pay taxes here. I have health insurance here (and don’t get me started on the bureaucratic nightmare that is the German healthcare system). This is where I live now.

And since I started living here, I’ve realized something:

Germans are very intimidated by my suitcase.

I don’t blame them; it’s quite impressive. I’m sure I could fit a few four-year-olds in there, even more if I cut ’em up first. =P

For size reference, I give you a green highlighter.

It feels like every German person that’s seen me lugging that thing around has felt the need to comment on it. “Your suitcase is much too big,” they said. “You have too much stuff,” they said. “What did you put in there?” and “Why do you need all that?” They asked.

One person even made a joke about it. “How many years do you plan to stay here?” He said with a smirk.

To which I answered, “At least two.”

All this attention made me feel extremely self-conscious. Why are people being so critical? I wondered. Are all Berliners secretly minimalists? Is it a European thing to only wear two shirts for an entire year? It felt like they were judging me. “Oh look, here’s another spoiled tourist who wants to go shopping.”

Don’t get me wrong; the people who made these comments weren’t being hostile. German culture is rife with blunt statements, criticism, and unsolicited advice. To the sensitive American, this can come across as rude and off-putting, but that’s not how it’s intended. Most of the time, they’re just trying to start a conversation. It takes some getting used to, but they’re not doing it to be mean.

So why did I need such a big suitcase in the first place?

To put it simply, U-Haul trucks don’t go across the ocean.

Another thing: Germans are nuts about traveling. They typically get about four weeks of vacation-time per year from their employers, and the weather here is so awful that most of them can’t wait to leave. As such, when they see a suitcase, they automatically think “vacation.” And why would anyone go on vacation with such a huge suitcase? You don’t need all that stuff. It’s not like you’re moving there!

Right.

Once I realized this, I started to take a closer look at how German people keep their homes. For the most part, they looked normal, not the bare minimalist scheme I had been picturing. The person who told me I have too much stuff actually had twice as many clothes as I did. Right before I moved out of the first flat I lived in, the building got a new tennant. While they were moving in, the entrance to the building was filled with cardboard boxes stacked almost up to the ceiling.

Then I realized: most people don’t use a suitcase when they move; they use cardboard boxes. And they hire a moving van. They don’t usually drag everything they own through the S-bahn like I did.

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Second Official English Lesson

As I mentioned before, the school I was hired at gave me absolutely no guidance as to how I was supposed to teach. They basically threw a textbook at me and said, “Teach something.” As a brand-new, baby teacher, this was terrifying. It took almost an entire day of lesson planning before I figured out that their lack of concern meant I could do pretty much whatever I wanted.

During my first lesson, I learned that both of my students were taking this class to improve their English for work. After flipping through the textbook and trying to find something business-related that applied to them, I decided: “Fuck this textbook. We’re going off the rails.”

Fortunately, I already had some business-related material from all the over-preparation I did the night before, which meant I was able to calmly organize my lesson and get a good night’s sleep.

Hah, nope!

That would have been the sane thing to do. Hedgehog never does the sane thing.

Even though I already had several hours of material, I still managed to stay up until 3 am planning it all out (is–is this my life now?). When I woke up three and a half hours later, I was ready for my lesson.

Fooled you again! I really, really wasn’t. I wasn’t using the textbook for this lesson, so I needed to print everything out. Since I’d been an unemployed immigrant for the previous four months while I was trapped in immigration limbo, I hadn’t bought a printer. And the school that hired me didn’t have a copy machine.  The day before, I found an internet cafe just around the corner from the school and was able to print everything I needed for my first lesson without a hitch.

This led me to believe that I don’t have to stress out about printing my lesson materials when I don’t own a printer. It led me to believe that even though my entire lesson depended on things that didn’t yet exist in the physical world, I could trust the respectable establishment next to my school.

Now that I had let my guard down, the respectable establishment shoved my trust into the dirt and kicked it in its sad, trusting little balls.

I got to the internet cafe about 30 minutes before my class started. I happily plugged in my flash drive, hit Ctrl+P, and went over the lesson in my head as I waited for everything to print. I went to the register, paid, and then went over to the printer to get my stuff.

Nothing had printed.

I told the guy running the register and he apologized and restarted the printer. About five minutes went by. Still nothing.

He went back to the computer, scrolled through some of the documents I had printed, and then opened up the printer and started tinkering with the insides. At this point a few customers came in. He closed the printer, restarted it again, and went to help them.

The printer turned on again. For all intents and purposes, it looked like it was ready to print. The little green light was on, blinking at me. Mocking me.

Still nothing.

There was a line at the register now, and the guy didn’t so much as look at me. I glanced at my watch. I was supposed to start teaching in 20 minutes! I stood in the corner to let the people walk by, quietly trying not to freak out. Several agonizing minutes later, the guy rang up the last customer and came back to the printer. Hooray!

He opened it, poked at something, grunted, and slammed it shut, saying, “I don’t understand! Why won’t it work?”

What.

This did not make me feel better.

He apologized and restarted it again, just in time for a new batch of customers to walk into the store. At this point, the responsible adult in my head took over. I called the school and told them I might be late, and then quietly thanked Cthulhu that I’d put the textbook in my backpack on my way out. I flipped through the pages and tried to form a backup plan, resigning myself to another mediocre English lesson.

Finally, with 10 minutes to go, he came back and checked the printer again. That infuriating green light was still on, still blinking as it cheerfully held my English lesson hostage.

The guy apologized for what was probably the hundredth time and restarted it again. I looked at my watch and decided, this is stupid. I’m out of time.

I asked for my money back and headed to the school, inwardly cringing at how disorganized this lesson was going to be. When I got to the office, the woman running the front desk asked what had happened. The great news: When I told her, she said I could print from the office computer. My lesson was saved!

She was less enthusiastic about helping me when she found out that I needed to print 17 pages. She grumbled and said that’s too much, but she’ll allow it this time. I didn’t hold it against her. If this crappy school can’t afford a copy machine for its teachers, all its other resources are probably limited, too.

I thanked her and got everything organized, vowing to buy my own damn printer and find another school to teach at as soon as possible.

Despite the drama, I was really, really happy with how my lesson turned out. The fact that I had customized this lesson and made sure it was useful to my students gave me so much confidence. I wasn’t gonna be the teacher who drags their students through an outdated textbook just to kill time. Maybe the school didn’t give a shit, but I did, and I wanted my students to get the most of their time with me.

It turns out that teaching grammar is REALLY fun. Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but the linguist in me loves to dissect that mouth-watering syntax. I was that teacher who got really excited and waved her hands in the air while she was explaining and scribbled all over the board like a crazy person. By the end of class, both whiteboards were covered in pictures, formulas, and examples. I was very happy with how well the students responded to my madness.

When class ended, I was so happy I could have hugged both of my students, which is a big deal (as I’ve mentioned before, touching people is not my favorite). I was ecstatic. After they left the room, I closed the door, peeked out the window, and closed the curtains. Then I did a celebratory happy dance in the middle of the classroom.

For the previous four months, I’d been working my ass off to get a work visa so I could legally teach here, while simultaneously dreading the idea of having to teach. What am I doing? I constantly thought. How can they expect me to be in charge? I have no idea what I’m doing!

After my first lesson, I knew I could survive, but I didn’t feel great about it. I wondered if I was in over my head.

After my second lesson, I decided: I FUCKING LOVE THIS AND I WANNA DO IT FOREVER.

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First Official English Lesson: I Can Do Whatever I Want?

It happened, guys. I did it. I got my work visa. I’m so happy. I’ve been meaning to write about that, but I’ve been notoriously bad at writing about things in chronological order. And a post about teaching is WAY more fun than a post about German bureaucracy. The procrastination continues.

***

The days leading up to my first lesson were stressful. The lesson was three hours long on a Thursday morning, and when I was hired, they gave me a textbook and said to ask the previous teacher what he did on Wednesday so I would know what to teach.

Does this seem ridiculous? I thought so. As a brand new teacher with no experience, I had no idea what to do. During the CELTA course, it took me like six hours to plan a lesson that was only 40 minutes long. How was I supposed to plan a three-hour lesson the night before? I had virtually no guidance, no training at the school. They let me observe another teacher the week before, but only because I asked to. I’m so glad I did, because if I hadn’t, I would have had no idea what to expect or how a three-hour lesson is structured. I didn’t know the students. I didn’t know how old they were, or what their background was, or why they needed to learn English. All I knew was the chapter the class was on and that they were B2 level students (upper-intermediate).

In the end I just looked at the end of the chapter and started my lesson plan there. I supplemented the book with articles from the internet and additional speaking exercises, praying the other teacher hadn’t already covered this earlier in the week. I felt like the lesson from the book had a good structure, but I needed to have three hours of other material ready, just in case.

In retrospect, it would have been smarter to contact the other teacher long before Wednesday to see what he planned to do. That would have made life a lot easier. He didn’t answer me until 10 pm on Wednesday night, and my lesson was at 9 am the next day. Fortunately, by then I’d gotten most of the lesson planned out, along with contingency plans in case he’d covered everything in the chapter. The good news was, he hadn’t used the book at all. Despite the late reply, he was very helpful. He told me everything he’d gone over during the week, and even had a few suggestions for what I could follow-up with.

His laid-back attitude about the whole thing made me realize: The textbook is only a guideline. No one at this school is observing me teach, no one is asking about my lesson plans. I’m completely unsupervised. I can teach whatever I want. 

Good morning, class. Today we will be learning how to destroy the One Ring.

Good morning, class. Today we will be learning how to destroy the One Ring. Now shut up and eat your popcorn.

*Image from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King via film-cine.com.

I’m a night-owl by nature, and I happily stayed up until 3 am fine-tuning my lesson (note: this is not a sustainable way to live if you’re teaching full-time). I accepted the fact that I’m inexperienced and that this probably wasn’t going to be the best English lesson these people ever had, but I’d done my best to prepare, and even if they didn’t like my lesson, I would still get paid for teaching it. And I figured, if we burned through all the material way faster than I’d planned, I could make them play 20 questions or something.

In Germany, people can take a week off work for what’s known as an educational holiday (Bildungsurlaub). I only had two students, and they were using their educational holiday to improve their English for their jobs.

As I got to know more about them, I realized that the material had no relevance to why they wanted to improve their English. It felt like they were only politely feigning interest because they were stuck with me for three hours. I felt bad, because I know exactly how it feels when a teacher wastes your time, but I’d done the best I could. My timing for the lesson was actually not too bad. I took solace in the fact that, at the very least, my lesson didn’t make them forget things they’d already learned (that’s the opposite of teaching). I’m sure they got something out of it.

Also, I was convinced that one of my students was Jill Stein’s doppelganger. I immediately forgot her name and had to stop myself from calling her Jill for the entire lesson.

It felt weird to teach students twice my age. The very little teaching experience I have comes from tutoring freshman at my university. I liked teaching younger students at the beginner level. When the students can only form four-word sentences and maybe tell you their favorite color, you have to be very animated to get the point across. My wacky sense of humor was an essential tool for connecting with 19-year-old college kids.

Middle-aged Germans are much harder to impress.

This lesson made me realize that I was WAY outside my comfort zone, and I would need to change tactics if I wanted to do better.

…And that’s all I’ve got for now. Tune in next time to see how I adapted!

Tschau tschau!

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Getting a Freelance Work Visa in Berlin- the Letter of Intent (AKA the Bane of My Existence)

Hey, people in my computer. The past two months have been a whirlwind of bureaucratic red tape, unsolicited phone calls, and agonized waiting. As horrifying as this process is, remember that I’m in a country that welcomes immigrants. Whenever I think about that, it reminds me that it’s probably a LOT worse for people trying to get into the US. I was lucky to be born there. You guys, be grateful if you have an American passport and stop being so damn xenophobic. That shit is annoying.

Anyway, immigration is an immensely complicated topic and there’s a lot to say about it. What follows is a rant about just one of the many requirements for the visa application if you’re a freelance English teacher in Germany.

***

After the CELTA course (which ended in the middle of August), I was so exhausted that I pretty much collapsed in on myself like a dying star. I slept at least 12 hours every day for a month afterward, which is probably because I had only been getting three hours of sleep a night during the course. This felt familiar, and I gave myself that month to recover. Sure, I hardly ever left the apartment. Sure, the whole point of moving to Germany was to improve my German and I’d spent all my time so far speaking English with other English speakers. That was fine, since the plan was to be here at least a year. I had plenty of time, and the CELTA course was so, so intense. I needed to rest before I could function as a human again.

Then, around the middle of September, I suddenly started freaking out about getting my work visa. At this point, I had already been in Germany for two months, which meant I only had a month left to get my work visa (Americans can enter the EU as tourists and stay for up to 90 days without a visa. A visa is required for anything longer than that). I hadn’t started looking for teaching jobs. I hadn’t tried to figure out what kind of health insurance I needed. Despite my grandiose plans of living in Germany as a freelancer, I had done absolutely nothing toward getting the work visa that would allow me to stay here.

In order to apply for a work visa, you already have to have been offered a job. In the case of freelance English teachers, you need a letter of intent from at least three different language schools. The letter of intent is a document stating that the language school is interested in hiring you as a freelancer and should also state how much they’ll pay you and how many hours they want you to work. It’s not a legally binding contract, but it still isn’t something a school director will just hand out to people. In addition to applying for a job, you have to ask them to go out of their way to help you, the foreigner, stay in this country.

And so began a furious, panic-fueled campaign to apply to every language school in Berlin in under thirty days.

It was a demoralizing process. It might be different in other parts of Germany, but Berlin is extremely competitive (probably because it’s an awesome city and EVERYONE wants to be here). A lot of language schools won’t even consider someone unless they are an EU citizen or already have a work permit. Why would they go out of their way to help me when they could just hire a British person instead? (as of now, November 2016) There were so many times when it seemed like they were interested in what I had to offer, but then changed their minds as soon as they learned that I needed a work permit. All I needed was those three pieces of paper and the nightmare would end, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to help me.

slender-the-arrival-teaser-trailer_9

At least I knew what to expect from him.

Image via pewdiepie.wikia.com

I got so sick of being told, “Sorry, can’t help you. Come back if you figure it out.” The thought of another day filled with begging, indifference, and rejection was almost enough to make me want to give up and go back home.

To put things into perspective, I applied to over thirty language schools in Berlin in one month. Each time I applied somewhere, I put their information with the date I contacted them into an Excel spreadsheet. Every day I would look for more schools to apply to, either by emailing them my CV or by going in person. Once I’d done that, I would follow up with a phone call two weeks after our initial contact.

Over thirty language schools, and not one of them called me back.

I’m told that’s how it is here. Language schools receive tons of applications every single day, so you have to scream to get any attention. If you don’t scream loud enough, you must not really need the job.

That month was tough, but through it I learned how to steer the conversation toward my work permit instead of bluntly asking for a favor. I used to work in a hospital, so if I was able to find the school director, one of the first things I would ask is if their school offers medical terminology classes. That opened up the conversation so I could talk about my past experience and what I could offer the school. It gave them a very concrete detail that made me stand out from the dozens of faceless emails they had to sift through every day. I’ve worked a few office jobs, so I would also ask about classes on business English and corporate communications. Then, after I’d gotten their attention and made them think about how I could benefit their school, I would ask if they were willing to write a letter of intent for me to use on my visa application.

I still got rejected a lot, but even as they told me “no,” a lot of school directors said that I should stay in touch because they really thought they could use me. And even though I heard “no” a LOT during that month, I only needed three people to say yes.

I think the biggest challenge was not giving up. There were days where I had to fight just to get myself out of bed in the morning. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t take another phone call that ended in rejection, but the only way to find out if the next school would help me was to call them. Even though the last three calls I had made put me through to a bored-sounding receptionist who had probably thrown my resume in a drawer somewhere and forgotten about it, the next one might get me a job interview.

That’s exactly how I got the three letters I needed. Despite the overwhelming rejection, despite being told over and over again by receptionists, “Well, if they haven’t contacted you by now, they’re probably not interested,” I still kept putting myself out there. By consistently sending out applications, going in person to harass the school director, and following up with phone calls, I was able to secure an interview on top of the three letters of intent (I’m still waiting for one school to email the letter to me, but that’s a whole separate issue).

The first one I got came as a complete surprise. By then, I was used to school directors losing interest once I mentioned the work permit. I had gone to apply to a school in person and had already asked the school director about the kinds of classes they offered. I sat in front of his desk in my spiffy interview clothes, bracing myself for the inevitable rejection as I told him about the kinds of classes I would be able to teach, when he glanced down at my resume and said, “Oh, you’re an American. Do you need a letter of intent for a work permit?”

This was the complete opposite of every other conversation I’d had so far. He said he could have the letter ready for me in a week, and then looked concerned and asked if I needed it sooner. At that point, I wanted to leap across the desk and sweep him into a huge bear hug.

This process was stressful and dehumanizing, but I learned so much from it. Even though there are tons of schools whose policy is to not lift a finger to help a freelancer (even though their business depends on freelancers), there are also good, compassionate people out there who will treat you as a human being.

The tricky part is finding them.

***

As of right now, I still haven’t officially applied for my visa. During the panic phase in September, I went on the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) website and was able to book an appointment for November 17th. That was over a month after my 90 days as a tourist were up, but because the appointment was booked within those 90 days, I was allowed to stay until the appointment.  That bought me an extra month to get everything I needed.

That helped ease a lot of the stress I was feeling.

I’ve heard other Americans say that when they tried to do the same thing, there were no appointments available at all. I got lucky. Cthulhu be praised.

wp_002457

I think if I hadn’t been able to book the appointment at the immigration office, I would have shown up without an appointment before the 90 days were up and just hoped they would give me an extension on the paperwork I was missing. I’ve heard horror stories about people who didn’t have an appointment having to show up at 4 am to get a place in line, and still not being helped until the afternoon. Obviously that’s not ideal, but if my options are to have one shitty day at the Ausländerbehörde, or give up on everything I’ve worked for and go back home, then it’s no contest.

 

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Execution Hedgehog, the Diplomat

Hey, Internet. The hedgehog is still alive, even if she’s been hiding under a rock for the past month. Between dealing with immigration bureaucracy, a breakup, and looking for work, the writing department of my brain ist schon wieder kaputt. Don’t worry; there will be plenty of wacky foreigner stories once life stops exploding in my face.

Until then, here’s an old one I wrote a few years ago. It’s about something that happened during my freshman year of high school. I hope you enjoy it!

***

I used to run track in high school.  I ran all three relays and did both the high jump and the triple jump.  On one memorable track meet, it started raining right before I was supposed to run.  They usually call off track meets if they see lightning, but the rain had only just started. Like responsible adults, the people in charge decided to ignore it and hoped it would go away. There had been no lightning so far.  What was the worst that could happen?

The rain didn’t stop.  I was dressed in my track uniform, which mostly consisted of purple spandex, and I (and all of the other runners) had been standing on the track in the bitter cold while they were deciding whether or not to cancel the event.  Finally, they decided that making teenage girls dressed only in spandex run on a slippery track in the middle of a downpour is a really good idea. I was so cold that my fingers were numb.  The pistol went off and I ran, doing my best to ignore the freezing drops of water that were hitting me in the face.  All was fine until I hit the curve of the track.  As I hit the curve, my feet slipped out from under me and BAM!  I fell and skidded on my side across the next three lanes.  I ended up with a bloody elbow and an area about the size of a tennis ball just below my hip where the skin had been scraped off.  Since I had crossed out of my team’s designated lane, we were disqualified from the race.  I was sent to the trainer’s office so they could bandage me up.

I was fine with this.  Sure, I was irritated that we had lost the event and I was cold, bloody, and wet, but I had no problem with the trainers at my high school.  They were good people who cared about the students, and we were lucky to have them.

The problem was that there were other students also being treated in the training room when I went in.

The training room was basically an extra space in the football team’s locker room that had been crammed with an ice machine, four benches, two stationary bikes, several cabinets full of medical supplies, and a desk.  This was their workspace, and I often felt bad for the trainers who had to spend all day in there.  It was cramped, and there wasn’t much room for privacy.

I became acutely aware of this very soon.  The scrape on my hip had to be cleaned and bandaged, which meant I had to lower my shorts so the trainer could do his work.

In full view of the other students.

The trainer was nice; he took me to the corner and tried his best to hide me from view, but some of the students saw what was happening.  One of them was a boy who also ran track.  As the trainer was cleaning the gravel out of my hip, I happened to look up and see this boy grinning at me as if I were his half-naked birthday present.  It felt like a bright, lecherous spotlight were shining on me the entire time.

I practically sprinted from the training room as soon as the trainer was finished bandaging my leg.  My injuries still stung, but at that point I would have ripped off my bandages and rubbed a fistful of gravel back into the wound if it meant getting away from that guy and his hormones.  Fortunately, the rest of the track meet went smoothly; the rain eventually stopped and all of the other events went without a hiccup.  I even got a medal for the high jump.  All was well.

Until the following Monday at track practice.

I was warming up on the track field with one of my friends when I noticed the guy from the training room walking toward me.  No, not walking.  Strutting.  I could see the self-satisfied smirk on his face from halfway across the field.

Great.

Ok, here he comes, I thought.  Just stay calm and defuse the situation. Don’t do anything weird and it’ll be fine.  I did my very best to appear aloof as he swaggered toward me.  When he finally arrived, he slowly looked me up and down, as if I were a piece of meat for him to enjoy. The feeling of his eyes on me made my skin crawl.

“Hey,” he said. “You’re hot.”

“Your MOM!”

He visibly recoiled, looking extremely confused. I can’t say whether it was because of the screeching of my voice, or the fact that I aggressively complimented his mother. Either way, he turned around and walked away without another word while my friend was doubled over on the grass, laughing at me.

Situation defused.

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The Drunken Beard Trimmer Incident

NOTE: This post gets pretty graphic. If you don’t feel like reading about my pubic hair, please stop here.

However, if you DO feel like reading about my pubic hair, please continue.

Enjoy! =)

***

As I mentioned before, I have trouble with hair removal because I have really sensitive skin. After the traumatic experience of using the Horrible Machine on my pubic hair, I decided that no, I will not remove it. If anyone is granted access to that region of my body, they’re just gonna have to deal with it. It’s my body and I will not apologize for it.

Still, the hair gets itchy.

I tried trimming it with scissors, but it was very labor intensive. It turned out that it was hard to get into a position where I could both see what I was doing and manipulate the scissors without cutting off my labia.

So I bought a beard trimmer. It seemed like a very practical solution, but I was pretty intimidated. I had never used one before, mostly because I’ve never had a beard. After I bought it, I opened up the package and carefully read the instructions. I charged it, took it apart, examined all the pieces, and put it back together. I was now an expert. I didn’t have time right then, but I told myself that, sometime soon, I would have the best trimmed pubes Germany has ever seen.

I put it back in the box and it stayed there for three weeks.

Like I said, I was intimidated.

Then, for some reason (at about 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon), I decided I was officially Done With Adult Stuff, and proceeded to drink approximately all the whiskey over the next few hours.

It was great. I spent the rest of the afternoon sprawled on the floor of my bedroom, alternately doing the robot and contemplating my life choices while listening to stuff like this:

*This song is mostly a jagged electric blue spiral, shot with flashes of black, metallic gray, and yellow. There’s also a sound in the chorus that makes me think of Doctor Who and it makes me so, so happy.
**If that sounded completely insane to you, here’s a link to my post on synesthesia.

A few hours into this funk, I made an important realization. True, eventually I might have to go back to the United States and be a waitress until I die, but that didn’t mean I was helpless now. There was something very important that I had yet to do, and now I had time to do it. The thought of getting up off the floor was daunting, but I made up my mind: If there’s one thing in my life that I have control over right now, it’s the length of my pubic hairs. LET’S DO THIS!

I pushed myself up, grabbed the beard trimmer and stumbled into the bathroom.

I reread the instructions, just to make sure I knew what I was doing, and then I undressed, stepped into the shower, and went to work.

I was definitely gonna have to clean the tub, but compared to the Horrible Machine, it was fantastic. I was halfway finished in what felt like no time at all. This was such a good idea.

I decided: Drunk Hedgehog is super good at operating machinery.

Then I felt something snag.

I switched the trimmer off and froze. Nothing happened. Nothing hurt. Still, I thought I should check to make sure everything was intact before I kept trimming. I reached down to feel where the trimmer had snagged. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but when I looked down, my fingers were covered in blood.

PAT. PAT.

That was when blood started dripping into the bathtub.

Labial wounds bleed a lot, you guys.

As I watched more blood spatter against the porcelain between my feet, I wondered how I was gonna fix this. I had put some paper towels on top of the washing machine, but that was on the other side of the toilet. I really didn’t want to leave a trail of bloody footprints and hair stubble across the bathroom. Even if I did leave the tub, my landlady had what looked like a well-loved, brightly colored bathroom rug next to the bathtub. It had probably been in her family for generations. I supposed I could take a giant step from the bathtub to the tile on the other side of the rug, but that seemed like a huge risk. I would probably drip blood on the rug as I stepped over it, and in my current state, I would probably hurt myself in the process.

My solution was to lean precariously over the edge of tub and try really hard not to do a faceplant into the toilet seat.

It turns out that approximately 300 shots of whiskey does not beat four years of yoga. I was able to reach way out from the tub to grab the paper towels without losing my balance. I didn’t even get blood outside the tub.

As I stood in the blood-spattered bathtub, drunk, naked, covered in hair stubble while holding a beard trimmer in one hand and pressing a wad of bloody paper towels to my crotch with the other, I couldn’t help but wonder: Did I lock the bathroom door? This would be hard to explain if my landlady were to walk in right now.

The bleeding stopped pretty soon after I applied pressure, and I leaned out again and grabbed my handheld mirror from the washing machine to survey the damage. At first I couldn’t find it. When I did, I felt a strange mix of relief and outrage.

It looked like a tiny papercut. WTF.

Labial wounds bleed a lot, you guys.

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