Krimskrams from the week

Spaghetti squash today, with some tomato sauce cooked with mushrooms!! Hooray. Go diet go!

I’ve finally got my stupid letter to the tax office written. Thanks only though to the bf who patiently helped me draft out something feasible in formal German. He also helped me get pictures of my kitchen sent to my landlord, so that he can come in a replace the lights that busted, so I don’t have to live in darkness after 6pm. Now I don’t want to complain, but they’ve only been broken since May!! Stupid Germans think they’re so efficient, but things take just as long here as anywhere else. The only difference is whipping out the law book can help the little person to show they mean business.

This case was odd, cause I wasn’t sure what I was obligated to pay for and what he was obligated to fix. But you can’t rent an apartment without a working light fixture. Again, only due to the bf bugging the landlord while I was in Greece, did he even send out an electrician. Meh.

Keeping positive, I also managed to make two appointments yesterday. I’m going to see the Dr. on Monday and get all checked-up and get me some immunizations and an allergy shot, so that the little kids don’t give me the flu this year. And I’m going to see the eye doctor and have him give me the 411 on lasik surgery in Germany and if it’s cheaper for students.

So I was highly productive, for once.

Yesterday the girl who wants to replace me next year came and sat in on my classes. She was a bit shocked with the little kids. There’s like 12 now and they are little monsters, who I do not have under control. And you know what yesterday they were good. I hated having someone sitting and watching who probably, based on her native language skills, could keep them under control. But what could I do. She only stayed for 1/2 the lesson. Anyway this is only temporary. In July a whole bunch came and joined and in October the class will be split to be more manageable.

I was only relieved though that she popped in again for Proficiency so that she could see that I can actually teach quite well. And to be fair I do have a system for the little kids and it involves them working on their own and coming up to me to have me check their work individually.

Anyway, got 2 classes today then we’re heading to Erlangen for a wedding reception and tomorrow a classmate of the bf is getting married, so I’m taking it as a compliment that the bf has insisted that I come without ever really asking me. He just pondered aloud if he should go and then if we should go and I said, I’ll do whatever you think is best. Which I guess meant we’re going to him. It’s best to let him think everything is his own idea, cause he has other friends he sees, which I haven’t met yet. But I’m fine with that cause I like to make sure he has plenty of guy time and when his friends fly in from Greece, there’s not much time anyway.

Plus there’s the fact that I’m an American which to a lot of Europeans is a pretty big deal, (even his family wanted to know how I could be interested in their little brother before they got to know me) and it can be weird attention.

So that’s enough. Oh and did I mention the weather will be beautiful all weekend!! Hooray for Altweibersommer!  (Old woman summer, eg. indian summer)

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Things I’m looking forward to this year

With one week already down, I’m beginning on week two. This year will be packed to the max and sooner than I can believe it, I’ll be unpacking my summer clothes again.

Speaking of which, I’m currently unpacking my fall/winter/10-months-out-of-the-year wardrobe. I wore none of my summer dresses really. In fact I think I barely bothered shaving this summer. It was hot for 3 weeks in June. In Greece I whipped out my tried-and-true skirts and tops, because I gained weight and didn’t want to buy clothes in a bigger size. In America I wore jeans and t-shirts almost exclusively and disappointed a few people who wanted a taste of Europe.

So while at home I shipped a bunch of stuff over, mostly my favorite novels and my collection of knives from my cutco days. It was fantastic unpacking everything and feeling like I finally had most of the stuff I wanted in one place and not stored away til who knows when, but now I feel like I have too much stuff. I took a break from going through my clothes cause I just want to throw half of it out.

This is probably not good, cause atm my body is in a post-America tailspin and resisting any excess calories so I’m not sure where my weight will end up and maybe all this old junk will look fantastic on me after-all, esp if I manage to find an aquatic fitness course on the weekend (My health insurance offers course for free! How much do I love Germany!!)

Anyway this post is about things this year that I am looking forward to, so let’s start there:

  • taking an aqua fitness course for FREE
  • Also yoga if I can fit it in too, why not?? it’s FREE
  • getting my schedule finalized, the new proficiency class, and other new classes/students that I’ll enjoy getting to know
  • my new intensive German course, cause the kids make fun of me, and it’s true, I haven’t been challenged in German for awhile
  • How my German senior courses are much easier than last year.
  •  the Altstadtfest (Old City Festival) here. It’s so CUTE and all the restaurants have tents and there’s Federweisser which is really young white wine sort of half fermented, sweet and refreshing! It’s like a big beer garden atmosphere, but you don’t have to drink beer.
  • The falling leaves and the crisp weather, with just a bit less rain and a bit more sun than normal.
  • This TV show It’s about lonely German farmers looking for wives. The bf and I love it, not in the least because the biting German commentary, the hilarious regional accents, which occasionally require subtitles, and the messed up expectations there are about relationships and life in the country. It’s a bit of a contrived “reality” show. Maybe we should be embarrassed, but we get to cuddle up Monday evenings and watch the awkwardness turn into a love story.
  • All my rich fall colored-clothes I got in the US, esp my super comfy new teaching pants. Finally pants that aren’t jeans that look formal, but are more comfy than jeans. Hurrah!
  • Riding a bike for as long as I can, then my yearly 6 month public transportation pass when the weather gets unbearable, which is worth the money for simply making it easier to get out of my house and into the city doing things.
  • My new wellies (galoshes). The bf thought they were ridiculous and thinks I’ll never wear them, but I’m willing to make style sacrifices this winter to keep my feet warm and dry and to fight off colds for as long as possible. Besides I’ll just bring a change of ballet slippers.
  • My Entla is coming to visit me with her husband. I’m so excited!! Together again in Germany and at the Christmas market time at that!!
  • Also the bestie is visiting in Nov. sans bf, which is a shame but it’s a relief to have the next date to look forward to. It also means I don’t have to rush over to England for the next holiday.
  • Hopefully I’ll have another visit, and if not, at least another reunion over Christmas time.
  • Getting a check-up. Yes I’m looking forward to it! Last year I was constantly getting sick. And I need a new eye-check up for new contacts/lenses.
  • Figuring out where I’ll be next September and what I’ll be doing.
  • Also the new niece that’s arriving sometime in October. Yay!
  • I can’t quite decide for sure if I want to risk another Greek course, but I’ll go to the first lesson and if it doesn’t work, I’ll cancel it.

So that’s my list for now. Off to improve my German articles!

Another long, drawn-out cultural rant brought on by my students

Some days it seems like all I do is constantly defend one nationality from another. With my Greek kids I try to tell them that the Germans aren’t all cold and cruel and racist. With my German seniors I have to say that Greeks aren’t at all out to steal Germany’s money. Etc, etc, etc…

I don’t know why I do it. Maybe it’s some weird American hang-up of mine to try and promote multiculturalism whereever I go. And I guess after all those school and college years spent listening to white people telling me it’s the bee’s knees, I’ve turned into a little melting pot evangelist.

Maybe it’s cause I’m slightly possessive and protective of my classes. They are my responsibility after all, plus I don’t like something that I’ve seen the vulnerable side of being attacked in any way.

(Oh man just had to do a quick preposition check just now. My poor brain is awash in a sea of languages and doesn’t know what sounds right anymore. Is it vulnerable side to or of?  HA!)

Thursday, wow. I jumped right in with my seniors this week. They were grumbling and negative, but I care about them and teaching them a second year requires less prep work. On Wednesday we had a smaller class than normal and we had a rambling discussion about European politics, the housing market, the Euro vs. the DMark, humidity, September 11th, Germany’s former territory in Poland and then the War: the one and only that matters here.

I can’t describe it in a paragraph. I need pages and pages to tell you about the depth of my feelings when it comes to WWII and Germany. They don’t want to bring it up, they are tired of being told they’re Nazis. They were children during the war for the most part, and they are tired of being told they knew, and they are tired of having to pretend the trauma of their childhood doesn’t count for anything, because they weren’t Jews. And if we were in Berlin, many of them would hide a rape or two at the hands of the Russian soldiers.

I watched Inglourious Basterds and I expected to like it. But I hated it. It was like some glorified WWII video game; like you could just prance into a situation and it would be crystal clear, without a doubt what’s right of wrong. I turned it off after Diane Kruger shot the Nazi dad. I love Tarantino. I just wish he had chosen any other topic. It could never be a lighthearted flick for me. As if history is that simple; as if everything is so black and white. As if no one suffered anything but those deserving it. As if American soldiers didn’t go AWOL like cowards after they found a new European mistress. As if many good ol’ country boys didn’t go back home leaving bastard children to grow up without fathers. As if America didn’t follow the same old tired politics of only taking action when there’s enough popular movement not to rule out a re-election.

And we did good things in the war and we certainly sped up the process from the previous drawn-out hellhole that was WWI and brave men died far away from home.

But simple? No. Good vs. Bad? No. All Germans were Nazis? No.

And I ask myself why I get so worked up. I ask myself why I get so annoyed when I hear Americans talking about the war like it was yesterday. I ask myself why it’s so important that they see Germany is so much more than Nazis and Hitler.

But I’m convinced that this matters. I’m convinced that blurring the humanity of the Germans is dangerous. I’m worried that we’ve been able to glorify war to a dangerous level by always having them on foreign soil and leaving the mess for someone else to deal with. Why are all these men coming back from Iraq and not getting the psychological help they need? And then they go out shooting civilians and we ask why. And Vietnam vets? How did they fare?

I didn’t say anything like that to my seniors. Oh, I behave myself very well! My bf doesn’t always believe it, but as much as I can talk when you get me going, as a teacher my job is to guide the conversation, not dominate it. I only said the bit about how the American who come here for WWII have their eyes closed to everything else Germany has to offer.

The relief in their eyes, after I said that, after it was clear that I wasn’t looking at them with judging eyes I think I will always treasure. Pain is pain. It doesn’t equal holocaust atrocities. But I think the Germans have been working a long time on how to be honest and come to terms with their past. I love that about them. We will forget, us Americans, the real story first, because we won’t need to remember the little bits about taking a train to strangers to escape the bombs or eating chocolate from an American GI. We’ll forget the little details because we don’t to constantly ask ourselves what happened, who did what, what can we do now?

Later on my advanced class had to consider what would happen to society if we all lived to be 100. Needless to say, before I knew it, the class dissolved into German bashing and how German seniors citizens suck and are selfish. Of course Greek grandparents are better.

SIGH

This is my life people. I try to put them all in each other’s shoes. I can’t help it. I am a frickin bleeding heart. I poked holes in their arguments. I called the out for being selfish too. I asked them to imagine being old and lonely with no close family nearby. I considered the serious arguments they offered me and asked them why, why, why?

I know one reason why the last class passed proficiency. I taught them critical thinking. That’s my thing. Cause they absolutely need that in the Speaking and Writing part. You can’t be wishy-washy with such complicated topics.

My advanced kids were happy to come in today, they gave me big smiles and I was a bit taken aback. I want it to be a safe place, where they can state they opinion as long as they have the ability to provide some logical justification when it’s too out there. They ought to question what they hear and check what people tell them. Luckily I can cut through their b.s. With the seniors, out of respect I ignore a lot of crazy statements.

I can already see these year coming to a close and I will once again have done practically nothing in terms of my personal language studies because I will have given all my energy and effort, love and patience to the kids and seniors.

Please forgive this moment of ego. I’ve worked really hard at this and I know I’m a good teacher. Not perfect, competent. Coming soon I’ll have another class to prepare for the proficiency test and I’m so excited.

There’s more that could be said. But I’ll leave you with some classroom pics. Maybe sometime I can take some individual pics of the stories students have written that I have on my door and post them here too.

I made this little photo collage of scenes from the Rocky Mountain National Park that I took when I went hiking back with my family in August. It's a little blurrier here than I thought. I kept glancing at it all day today and it brought my mood up in an instant. The girls from the last class gathered round it at the end to look at my boyfriend and inform me he's Greek looking.

I constantly refer to my map of US states. We either talk about the size of things or I try to point out where things are located and that the US is very, very big. Now I've got a new addition of which state names come from Indian languages, because there's always some smart aleck who hopes asking my why it's called Mississippi will distract me from the lesson.

Here's my somewhat messy desk, with my new photo addition. I was too exhausted to deal with all of today's vocab and put stickers on their little notebooks, so all this is waiting for me tomorrow!

Wusstet ihr schon, wie gerne ich Lehrerin bin?

Oh wow, terrific news yesterday that I guess never landed in my text message inbox during August while travelling: every single one of my 11 kids passed the Michigan ECPE that they took in May!

Ahh my little teenies have done it!! I knew they all could, but I figured there’s bound to be one who misunderstands something or runs out of time or just is too nervous to write well. But no, all that prep work, all those essay corrections, all those pep talks and extra essays I dug up and made them read, all those discussions I dragged out of them. We prepared them for every angle. *Sigh*

I’m just so happy for all of them. They all worked really hard and they all deserved it equally. (There was a couple lower level students with the lower English test, the FCE, who really did deserve it and didn’t get it for stupid reasons and I was crushed for them.)

I’ve also had them for almost the whole time I’ve been teaching there and was so bummed not to see their little faces anymore. They were my mini, almost-adults, and when they did a bunch of work I rewarded them by teaching them the slang they wanted to know. I can’t believe that we never took a picture all together. 😦 sad, a bit, but really SOOOOOOO happy.

I’m also super ecstatic (Greek word) that my boss has such a great statistic to tout around and use to recruit more students (and me more hours). Also these kids were split into 2 days, which meant I saw both classes and my boss saw one and the other teacher saw the other one, so they all saw me, which in the very least means that I had something to do with their success. Not to downplay my boss’s role, she is an amazing teacher and businesswoman, it’s just nice to have something concrete to vindicate all my hard work and it gives me a bit a breathing space in that I don’t have to be so hard on myself because I think maybe my boss doesn’t think my effort is enough.

Oy we perfectionists can work ourselves to death as teachers.

Anyway as a native speaker I feel sometimes that other teachers think we’re a bit of a joke since we aren’t the grammar czars they are, and since I do more “fun” things, like making them have discussions about history, pollution and space exploration. Yes, teenagers love these topics. But I know my boss respects the job I do. It’s just a nice thing to push away doubts in anyone’s mind.

Plus today I got to brag on my kids to the math and physics teachers. Heehee. And as soon as I see this year’s proficiency group and the one that has yet to be formed, I’ll be bragging up and down about how great this last one was.

Cause I play both sides of the cultural card. As the American, I will build this kids up with positive reinforcement, because I don’t care what the Europeans say, if I kid grows up hearing it’s stupid, it’ll think it’s stupid, but if they get an “atta-boy” when they try, they put in more effort. And more sustained effort equals more success.

But as a so-called adopted Greek, when my kids start slacking off and making ridiculous excuses for poor performance, I will annihilate them with wit and logic until they realize it won’t get them anywhere. A good example: last year I didn’t see one class I used to have, cause of scheduling issues. I got them back at the end of the year and tore them to pieces for how little English they understood and used and how bad their vocab scores were now. Then I told them I hope everyone wasn’t telling them to take the FCE next year, cause I wouldn’t bet on anyone passing.

Their little mouths were hanging open and I said “What? I’m not afraid to tell you if everyone else is. You guys are making no effort and you can’t snap your fingers and think you’ll speak English right before the test. If you don’t start now, it won’t be enough.”

I make fun of my kids all the time. It took me ages to realize you can’t handle Greek kids with kid gloves like you have to in America. If I crack a good joke and the class laughs at one of my cheeky students, they won’t be repeating that habit again. Being nice to everyone won’t work. My 13 year old girls call each other fat ALL the time. If someone called me fat when I was that age, I’d burst out crying.

I used to think, hey why are all the Greeks so mean to me? Then I realized they are “mean” to everyone. If I weren’t so damn sensitive when I was there for 4 months, I’d be fluent in Greek right now, but every comment and wisecrack shut me up. This was after I lived in London for 6 months and had all the regulars at the bar taking the piss out of me every night. So please bear in mind, I thought I was pretty desensitized to such commentary.

Tangent aside, tomorrow is my first day teaching the seniors and the kids. I had a wonderful day, albeit with a rocky start at the accountant’s office. It’s sunny autumn weather and I was reminded today how fall is the best in Germany cause that nasty wet weather is gone for 2 months and it stays crisp but mild.

Not to mention after 3 weeks of constant driving, I went bouncing all around the city thinking how wonderful it was to feel the pavement under my feet again.

So I am pinch-me-a-little-bit-if-this-isn’t-a-dream happy!

 

little compare and contrast

Finally home. Seems like I’ve lost 2 full days to travel and exhaustion. But we are here despite some minor airport rescheduling and 8 hours later, so were our bags.

It’s much better than being stuck an extra day in America and me panicking about making it to work on Monday morning on time. That being said I hated having to talk to all the airline employees and try to sort everything out and knowing that depending on their mood and my approach determines which rules they are willing to follow and bend. But it’s not worth getting into, I’ve traveled a lot and I know when to call bull on their little game of pass-the-problem onto the customer.

The important thing is to make sure you ask for what you want and make it clear when things are not appropriate. Like when you go to Starbucks and you ask for no whipped cream and they give you whipped cream, to ask them to make it again. I’ve lived up to the part I’m responsible for and it doesn’t make me a bad person to ask for what I ordered.

Ahh in America I’m a bit rude and demanding from time to time. I’ve lost the saccharine waitressing crap I never liked anyway, but in Germany I’m still a bit of a pushover. But especially if it comes to things I’m consuming and things I’ve been looking forward to, if I am going to consume and pay for it, it has to be worth it.

Things that were tough in America this trip is a tiny little list, but includes:

  • translating everything, over and over for the bf, essentially having many conversations twice
  • being responsible for any issues that involve extensive talking, like what directions the person gave or what the rental car guy said i.e. things that I’ve gotten used to the bf doing here, so it’s only fair anyways
  • finding things that I wanted to eat, that didn’t have added sugars, that didn’t have chicken, that didn’t have pork, (or at least non organic meat) that included some veggies, that didn’t have corn syrup (practically nothing). It was easier in Colorado, for sure. I still gained weight which was the reverse of what my body was doing in Greece. But it’s hard to control all that when you aren’t making all the meal decisions. This is a rant for another day though and something I knew I was getting myself into and deal with every time I go to America.
  • not getting enough time to read
  • no sparkling water

Things that I enjoyed back in America:

  • Family and friends, duh
  • driving again
  • orange and cranberry juice
  • pumpkin in food and coffee
  • Kind Coffee and dunkin donuts
  • Estes Park and the mountains and wide open spaces
  • FREE PUBLIC RESTROOMS (I have sprinted around so much holding it in Europe. I almost always have to plan my shopping around a bathroom break. It’s alright, but I love going into practically any store and knowing it’s there if I need it).
  • Books in English, duh
  • Steaks- Had the best filet ever with dad at a trying-to-be-eco-friendly steakhouse. I don’t like anything about how they raise/slaughter animals in the USA. (read Eating Animals by Jonathon Safron Foer.) I made a compromise for steak/beef  this trip, might not make it again next time. Time will tell.
  • The friendliness and smiles and being able to talk easily and pleasantly to strangers, with the added bonus of not thinking about grammar rules while doing so.
  • Corn on the cob
  • Colorado beer
  • oh yeah and reunions with lots of people after 4 long years

On Monday it’s back to school and back to work and back to the daily grind, but I’m lucky to live in a place where vacations are accepted as necessary! So that’s all tonight, time to reset my body clock.