Exchange

It was the worst punishment his parents could have given him. Spending the best part of the year far away from his beloved city of Cologne, locked up in a small Scottish town to improve his English. Yes, he had always wanted to be an exchange pupil. He knew that English was an important language but didn’t come along well with his teacher and never achieved as high as he would like to. But first of all, why had his parents chosen Scotland? The people here didn’t even speak English! At least it was not the English he was used to from school. And second – and worse – why did they make him go during the second term knowing that he would miss Karneval, the big street party with people dressing up, huge parades with flood that were full of sweets and a lot of music and dancing? What else could it be than a punishment for his stepping over the line last Karneval, when he had more beer (one of the few alcoholic drinks he was allowed to have at his age) than he should have had, ending up in a police station for doing stupid things he didn’t even remember properly?

They could have given him any punishment: take away his mobile phone, lock him up in his room for a month or two or even make him accompany his grandmother to her weekly knitting circle. But they had not done any of these. His father had shouted at him the next day, his mother had told him how disappointed she was and his older sister had looked at him with disdain – nothing new here – but that had been all. Until half a year later when he got accepted for the exchange programme and he had noticed that it would be during the Karneval season. “Well, at least we don’t have to pick you up at the police station” had been all his father had said and he knew that this was the punishment his parents had planned for him.
The last five days had been the worst of his life. All these pictures of his friends on Facebook wearing costumes, celebrating Karneval in school and on the streets and watching the parades in the brightest sunlight. If it only had rained. But no. There was not justice in this world. At least it would be over this day. Once the big straw figure called Nubbel was burned, Karnval would be over and lent would begin.

He got up and put on his school uniform. It still felt unfamiliar, as if he had been wearing a costume for the last two months. He went downstairs and heard his host mother being busy in the kitchen. There was a delicious smell in the hallway. Was it pancakes?
“Pancake Day!” His host brothers, an eleven-year-old pair of twins shouted with joy, running into the kitchen. What?
He followed them and spotted a huge pile of pancakes in the middle of the table. Why did they have pancakes on a – as far as he could thing of – ordinary Tuesday? Usually all he got for breakfast was a wide range of cereals. Nothing to complain about but pancakes were far better.
His host mother must have noticed his confused looks. “It’s Pancake Day today. Don’t you have it in Germany?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“See, the day before Ash Wednesday we eat pancakes because lent is about to start and traditionally you can’t have them then” she explained.
Eating something sweet before you had to fast – that sound a lot like the main idea of Karneval. He grinned and helped himself with some pancakes. Pancake Day would become his second favourite day – after Karneval of course.

Rut Neuschäfer
What were your prompts?: Pancakes, Knitting, Sun

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