Building my new life in the black forest, day by day

Three weeks til the semester ends. Then my real work begins. By the end of September I’ll have finished my first year here. As to how the next year will look, I’m too afraid to try and imagine.

Fear. Such a strange concept for this normally fearless chica.

Well what can I say about this latest transition. 99% of the time I am distracting myself from the fact that everything about my day-to-day life is a major step-down from what I had in Nbg.

I think the fear of failing this very hard semester is quite normal, and that’s usually what causes procrastination anyway. But I mean, in terms of being afraid how much longer it’ll take for the long distance thing to end, I feel most relationships end because two people start growing in two opposite directions, and what is growing in opposite directions but a collection of daily habits and decisions that don’t include the other person?

Another year of this? No thanks.

But moaning about a new transition is stupid. I mean it was my decision and it’s a good decision. So what finding new bread, water, groceries is different! Some things, well a lot of things really have turned out to be better, and it’s not like I moved to a new country.

Yeah I’ve got no money. Yeah I’ve got student loans. Yeah I’m kinda trapped in my visa, without being able to take a break if something happens, but we can cross those bridges later if need be. Yeah I’m living in a dorm with a filthy child, but we all were filthy children once. Yeah at least 4 nights a week people stumble out of the bar 200 feet away screaming and keeping me up til 2 am at least and coming here to party every weekend. But I’m not such a light sleeper and anyway the ground floor means that my room in incredibly cool, despite the heat and it’s another motivation to get away for the weekend myself. Also who can complain about having a park right outside where they can go sunbathing between classes?

Yeah my classmates are all much younger than me and they aren’t at a point in their lives yet where family means anything positive. I know they sneer at me for wanting to have children because in Germany going to work with children means you’re a bad mother, and they really can’t imagine that I will be able to shrug off this stupid judgmental culture as not being my own, (whereas they will never be able to). But I was all about career when I was 23. In 4 or 5 years they might be surprised how much things change. I know that once we get married I will start losing all the connections I’ve made here, but you know for once I can see it in advance, and I’ll just stay grounded in what is real and not paint fantasy connections where they don’t exist.

So who cares that I feel misunderstood? I guess it’s way better than what I’ve sometimes witnessed with an older woman in a group where people start to feel sorry for her because they think she is old and bitter. I guess (relatively speaking) I might be old and bitter, but I don’t look like it, so people assume I’m like them and think I’m ok.

I’m too old to be living a student’s life, but it’s only temporary and thank god it is cheap and allows me to focus almost exclusively on my classes.

But since I am being so honest here, everything, everything here that I’ve written about would be nothing, minor issues, little gnats swarming brushed away with a wave, but the joy is gone from my life. My bf, my students were my joy, my laughter, my reason to be a better person. If my bf were here, all this would fly over my head and I’d be the same silly girl busy with our life together and finding friends naturally. At least my bf will come back into my life eventually.

God how the hole in my heart the children carved out day-by-day over three years echoes with emptiness. I can’t say enough how much I miss them. I talk with them on fb and that is really helpful (and why I am on it so much, honestly I need to check in every day and see what they are up to), but it’s a new territory and it’s not always easy. I know I will keep in contact with many of them and that makes me feel incredibly relieved. I write to say I miss them, they say it back but miss me less. And I know they have other people who’ve come in their lives and filled the place I left, and that’s what’s best and normal for them. But sometimes I worry that isn’t the case. I want to be there for them. Take my little boy (well 15 but to me always little) who I’ve known for 4 years now, always so quiet, but so capable and funny, last year we got through a tough year with his puberty together that drove me crazy. I wished him happy birthday and he wrote back asking if I’d be coming back to say hi and catch up. I won’t lie it destroyed me. I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t even write him back.

That’s the state of my emotions; either I start bawling at the touch of a feather or I ruthlessly pursue my educational goals, unafraid of what other think of me. They aren’t my family, friends, or children. If I don’t know I ask. If I have something to say, I speak up. If this means others think I am a bitch, that’s their fault. I didn’t give up the two most amazing things to come into my life and save for 3 years, to sit back and be too afraid to make the most out of it. Besides if a guy can do it this way, then so can I. And anyone who’s not supportive is just a barrier to be ignored.

But I can’t turn this self-defensive thing off. I don’t feel normal. I don’t feel like a decent person. Everything is focused on me and my goals, which is ok, but this sort of selfish life is not what makes me happy. That’s why I keep telling the bf I want a dog. I need people to look after and spoil. I need kids to make laugh; I want the bf here to spoil; I want a spare room to look after house guests. I want a balcony with little plants to grow or a little kitten to look after. I want to distract myself from myself. I don’t want new friends. As I mentioned I am not confident they will stick around, so it would be unwise to invest time there rather than in my education. Besides how can you make new friends when you feel like your personality has been reduced to stereotypes and your student life doesn’t truly reflect your capabilities and passions?

What do I wish? I wish this “transitional” period were to end soon, so that I wouldn’t have to try so hard to act and feel normal. I will be teaching kids in the fall and I think it will do me a world of good to be littlemsami again, with little 11 year-olds full of hugs and laughter. If my bf manages to get out here this summer/fall, then we will start having shared experiences here and escape from the stress of the pressure we are under to meet our goals.

Anyway enough of my whiny update. I’ll forge on with the rest of my work this semester and hopefully the next post will have some new positive developments. 😀 At least the end is in sight.

 

***EDIT***

I wrote this post and then immediately the week after, I messaged about 20 different former pupils on fb to check in on them and we had the most amazing catch-up that did me a world of good. So I am happy to report that coming to terms with my feelings here, made me realize what I could do to change it and the kids were very happy to hear from me and tell me their news. And that made me feel like myself again.

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On teaching English again away from the kiddos.

I’ve wanted to start a post nearly everyday since my holidays began, but I’ve been too busy relaxing. Shocking only because with only 8 weeks of classes, a bit of tutoring and a bit of waitressing, I really don’t consider myself stressed and needing a break at all.

Really it’s been very easy-going this first semester. Oh there’s work to be done, but there’s still plenty of time for everything else too. It will get harder and more busier, and I have said no to taking on some lessons, but only because I am not in such desperate need of money that I am willing to sacrifice my time to learn languages. Not when I have waited 3 years for this chance!

On that note, I am being very good at recognizing when people are looking to take advantage of me as a native speaker and not pay me for what I know my knowledge and experience are worth. Oh I am a cold calculating business woman, make no mistake. But Adults and professors are not learning “for fun” and they want to pay as little as possible and then make last-minute demands on my time. I am very comfortable saying no these days. If I don’t stand up for myself, no one else will. And I’m not running a charity organisation for people more than capable of paying.

Ouch this all sounds very harsh. Some examples will help illuminate this. Had a nice doctorate student hiring me to help correct some work for him. He paid very fair and appreciated the work. But then texts started coming to correct work he was supposed to correct himself and then last-minute projects he wanted me to look at quickly. I did look through his corrections but I said no to the last-minute offer and further emailed that last-minute does not work as my schedule is very inflexible now and I’d prefer a week’s notice so I can work it into my week.

It hurts my inner workaholic to turn down money. My schedule is rather fixed, but I can accommodate spontaneous projects from time to time. The problem is, or the question is rather: do my clients respect my time and abilities? Doing a correction in under 24-hours comes in every business with an extra “rush” charge. I could have mentioned that too. But that would have jeopardized our relationship more than flat-out saying no. And boundaries are important to establish, in case they weren’t clear enough before. I am a masters student editing on the side, not someone’s personal native speaker slave.

On the way to class I also got a phone call asking about correcting something by the end of the day, on my busiest day. The first thing that interested them was the price. I scoffed into the phone and said no way. Yeah you poor students are “busy” and “poor”. I bet you knew 6 months in advance when this project was due. I’m not gonna take on work from a lazy ass, disorganised person. No way, and I bet you are still getting “Kindergeld” from mama. I’ve got student loans from America, saved 3 years to go to school and still have to pay my own rent and health insurance. Cry me a river. Then he asked if I knew another English speaker that could do it for him. I said nope, sorry good luck! Wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

The next example was a professor who emailed in German a very casual weird message about me immediately having a job. I repressed my initial reaction of being flattered and read between the lines. It was written in a hurry it was a mass email, and most worryingly, it contained the phrase “some translating”. I turned him down saying I was too busy but he could check back later if he still needed help. Later from my fellow students I found out that despite their command of German he was pressuring all of them to essentially translate his book for them from German. What a ridiculously cheap, lazy ass professor. And later everywhere, he will be proclaiming about having “written” a book in English. He’s actually a knowledgeable, likable guy, but what a fraud, just write it in German you silly man and pay a translating company. It’s expensive but they have software like that for a reason. Word for word is incredibly hard work. I actually had to coach one of my fellow students working for him to tell him flat-out no, to translating, since she speaks little German, WITHOUT apologizing for something she had already told him once she didn’t feel comfortable doing. And most importantly, not to waste a single second feeling guilty for it! They are all working 15 hours instead of only the five they get paid for. What a joke! He’s not even a professor that can help them later. I dodged a bullet and I have no problem congratulating myself for smelling something afoul from the get-go.

Lastly I got an email about needing some English help. It raised further red flags, lots of questions very little info and lots of uncertainty about what she wanted. If I were working full-time, I would meet with her and discuss what goals she was looking to achieve. No problem. But for me at the moment, it seemed like too big of a risk. I only want to take on jobs where I know I will be successful. I want to work with people who have concrete goals. Languages are very personal things. Not being able to express yourself as elegantly as you want to can be embarrassing and unnerving. You are after-all presenting yourself every time you open your mouth, and when they judge your language competence, it feels sometimes like they are judging you. When someone writes and doesn’t know what they want to achieve, how can I be successful? Even if I work my butt off and give it my all, if they expect native level fluency, they will be disappointed with me in the end. That only comes after long hours spent talking with native speakers. No, I have no time to be someone’s psychiatrist as well as teacher. Especially if their questions about payment also make me nervous. They are getting a better deal hiring me privately than they ever would find with a company in a course. And if knowing that makes me a bad person, so be it. I’m not accepting jobs in order to get people to like me.

My favorite thing about Germany is that business and personal lives are expected to be kept separate and compartmentalized. That being said I have 2 permanent clients, one is an 11-year-old boy moving to Africa next year and one is a mother working on an advanced nursing degree from an online school in England. I get on with both of them very much and I look forward to meeting up with them and watching them move closer to their goals. Teaching is still something that fires me up and I guess when it boils down to it, I want to save my energy and brain for the projects that mean something to me and with people who appreciate and respect me.

In fact, going back to the topic of turning down work, without apologizing, it was from a recent conversation with the nursing student when the German expression: Wer sich entschuldigt, klagt sich an, came up. This expression means if you say sorry, you are incriminating yourself. Germans don’t say sorry as a natural reflex. When I say sorry in German, it doesn’t mean oh how nice, I am thinking of the feelings of others, it means I am a huge idiot and have guilty feelings about something. Which would explain why, even despite knowing this, my co-workers at the restaurant still tell me constantly not to apologize and look at me funny when I do. If there is one thing that irritates the hell out of Germans it is incompetence, why the hell else would they make a mandatory 3 year training program to become a flight attendant?!?!? Trust me, you do not want to reveal yourself as incompetent in Germany.

In that respect it’s a bit nerve-wracking still at Uni. I can see how much better my German is than other students here, but I need the vocab and expressions again for being at university. I want my professors to see me as a good student period and not just a native speaker with “ok” German. I’m a perfectionist, I know but I’m enjoying this new challenge.

On the other hand, coming back to my home in Nbg, seeing the kids and being reminded of how competent I was at my job, especially catching up with my boss and hearing from her about everything going on and even discussing helping out over semester break with the kids writing the hardest test, has worked wonders to soothe my feelings of being out-of-place still in Freiburg. Her good opinion means more to me than practically anyone else’s here in Germany and how good it was to think that this chapter of my life isn’t shut forever but rather always open if I choose to make time for it.

And so with that I wish you all health and happiness, success and love in 2013!

 

 

The Greek Crisis: What You Need to Know About the State of Europe Right Now.

Guess I’m not done discussing this topic by a long shot! I thought this time, I’d at least spend a bit more time giving a detailed analysis of my personal opinion and understanding of the crisis.

The reason I guess is because I just have a hard time finding anyone one out there, who I feel has a good grasp of the issue and doesn’t paint a picture of the Greeks being morally useless, or of them being totally innocent bystanders of the crisis. And the solution is either a catastrophe, Greece is going to hell in a hand-basket, the apocalypse is coming when the switch to the drachma, a la Paul Krugman and the NYT, or a la Frau Merkel, save and cut until blood runs in the street and families starve. So I figured if I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and elaborate for esp, the Americans who get very little coverage of this issue and when they do, it’s just dire predictions, that don’t help to enlighten the viewer.

I do encourage debate though and am more than interested in what other have to say about this matter, as long as they can bring something more than moral posturing to the table.

Here’s an example from John Stewart. You need to go to the website, but trust me, it’s worth it, in the very least for his shock that Greeks through yogurt as a sign of protest! Also it’s a telling comparison between the US/Greece deficit. Grecian Crisis on John Stewart The only difference of course is, that the US Federal Reserve (and our Chinese Frenemies) guarantee the value of the dollar, and therefore our deficit, is less of a risk, than that of Greece, where precisely the opposite is the problem. Who will underwrite and guarantee the value of European currency when bad bonds have been passed around (thanks to US style unregulated banking practices, a la Goldman Sachs)? See this NTY article if you want to understand more.

That’s why we are back to our discussion of Eurobonds! First off, will Greece leave the Eurozone. I’m going to put myself out there and say NO WAY. Most Americans will disagree, and even England apparently has little confidence. Thanks guys. But here’s what the European Central Bank seems to think about that.

The ECB’s “preference is that Greece remains in the eurozone. That’s the Plan A, that’s what we’re working on,” executive board member Jörg Asmussen told a conference in the German capital. Asked whether the central bank also had a “Plan B”, Asmussen replied: “There’s already been criticism that there is none. But as soon as you start talking about ‘plan B’ or ‘plan C’ then
‘plan A’ is automatically thrown out of the window.”

Then there’s this from ekathemerini.com comparing Greece to the Argentina and Asia rebound:

Economists doubt Greece could recreate their successes. Argentina and the Asian nations could rely on an otherwise relatively robust global economy, a luxury not afforded to Greece. Argentina benefited from a commodity boom in 2003-2004. “Greece’s exit could itself do such damage that its export markets would suffer,» said ABN AMRO’s Kounis, referring to other eurozone nations which could be hit by a contagion effect from a Greek euro departure.

From other sources I’ve read, another problem that would prevent Greece from recovering quickly if they exit the Euro, is that Greece’s workforce, remains highly mobile, and with such a crisis and the ease of movement in Europe, the very justified brain-drain, would delay improvement for years.

I don’t think this is in the cards. Not in the least because Merkel is a career politician, narrowly focused on local elections, and too worried about the impact of her legacy to go down as the chancellor who let the Euro fail! Although just as I mentioned in my last post, and cited in Spiegel and other Greek sources, now she’s denying suggesting such a referendum to the Greeks about whether they wanted to stay in or not.

Although I am not fond of the party, I completely agree with the quote from Nea Demokratia’s Party leader:

“The Greek people have no need for a referendum to demonstrate their choice for the euro, they have already made enough costly sacrifices to show that,” said Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party which won inconclusive May 6 polls. Merkel’s suggestion, “above all coming in the run-up to the election, is regrettable and unacceptable,” Samaras said in a statement. “The Greek people have the right to respect from its (European) partners.”

As a historian, think Merkel, as a woman and East-German is an important milestone in German re-unification history. But is that enough to justify her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom? (For that matter, when my Greek kids asked me recently, what Pres. Obama had done to win the Nobel Peace Prize, I shrugged my shoulders and said maybe the committee had turned it into a popularity contest that year.) Nevermind, it seems though that every politician dealing with this Euro crisis is too concerned with their own elections to have a vision for a unified European future. And Merkel with Sarkozy, have led Europe in completely the wrong direction.

I think Merkel will be gone in the next elections. I can’t blame her for wanting a bit of security for Germany, and German industry and German credit, but she was so heavy-handed and preachy. In Germany, when something goes wrong, you say don’t say, oh I’m so sorry, how awful for you, you say pech i.e. bad luck for you, perhaps even sucks to be you. This is how it seems to me that Merkel has reacted to the harsh restrictions the rescue package has put on the Greek people. Not with compassion, but by telling them to suck it up and they had it coming.

Here’s a story: bf’s father went to school til he was 11, then he left for Athens, on his own to meet extended family to work until he could pay for all of his sisters to get married. Once he had done that, he left for Germany to become a guest worker in a factory. Over the years, he supported a family and little by little began to build a house back in the village he came from. This guy does everything by the books. He refuses to bribe construction workers to move up the list, and as such if has taken over 20 years and spades of money to get just now, barely completed. He has recently retired. A few years before the crisis, my bf told him to give up the dream of moving back to Greece and at least sell the house and make a profit. He refused, and now he has a house, he’ll probably never move to, which every year will cost him increasingly more taxes.  Tell me Merkel, did he deserve this bad luck?

Hollande? In a few years he’ll probably be just as corrupt as the rest of them, but meanwhile he got his boys out of Afghanistan. And that takes Cojones. And at least he’s getting the topic turned back to Euro Bonds. What I still find really hard to understand is why all of Europe thinks Alexis Tsipras and his party if elected to the majority, would mean that Greece will automatically exit the Euro-zone. Look what the Guardian had to say about these two:

Snubbing fellow EU politicians has become a bit of a trend lately.

President François Hollande of France, already seeking to set the European agenda, was being refused entry into polite governing company in London, Berlin, Warsaw, and Rome only a few weeks ago. Now the peers and rivals are queueing up to bond with the new French leader.

Tsipras, the moral victor of the Greek election earlier this month, is also being given the cold shoulder by policymakers in France and Germany, restricted to meeting with like-minded comrades on the outside left of politics who are having zero impact on the crisis management in Germany and minimal influence in post-election France.

Here’s something I’ve learned since living in Europe: If you get your news from just one country you have no real understanding of the situation. I read the news from the USA, Britain, Germany, Greece, and beyond, and I’ll read it in whatever language I have to. And only after I’ve seen every angle, will I decide what the heck is going on. What I like most about living in Germany is that they have beautiful in-depth coverage that tries to really get to the truth of the matter, no matter how dryly presented, nor how long it takes. If you understand German look here: DWyoutube

What I hate the most about American journalism is that they try to simplify complicated issues into black and white arguments. If they are confronted with a complicated issue, American readers get bored and start moralizing.

The UK likes to beat up on the Eurozone members, esp. Germany to make them feel better about their own deficit issues, and distract voters from their own ineffective austerity measures.

Whereas the Greek press likes to point the finger at anyone but itself and presents itself as the martyr or distracts its citizens by political infighting that have nothing to do with the bigger issues.

Here’s what the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had to say:

Those who vote for people’s hero Tsipras are voting for the exit from the currency union. Full stop! The leader of the radical left wants to continue the policy that led the country to ruin. He even thinks he can blackmail Athens’ partners. If he gets the approval of voters for that, it’s their decision. But others shouldn’t be made to pay for it. This fiasco must have an end.”

(If you want the full-range of fear-mongering check it out here.)

I gotta say, I love how he responded:

Syriza’s opposition to the terms of Greece’s financial-aid program doesn’t mean the country would have to abandon the euro if the party forms a government after June 17 elections, party leader Alexis Tsipras said. Presenting the elections as a choice between Greece’s memorandum with international lenders to stay in the euro and leaving the single currency is “alarmist,” represents a “vulgar propaganda campaign” against Syriza and is an attempt to “terrorize the Greek people” with a false dilemma

And this at the Paris press conference about the austerity program:

This has driven my country to an unprecedented crisis and a humanitarian crisis. If this experiment is successful in Greece it will be exported to other European countries…. The war we are fighting in Europe is not between people or nations, it is between the forces of work and the invisible forces of finance and banks.

Perhaps the German newspapers should actually read what he says. He actually wants and encourages the Greek people to take action into their own hands.

 I don’t believe there are heroes or saviours in politics. I don’t feel like a saviour: salvation can only be found by people en masse when they understand they have power in their hands. I totally disagree with the notion of a nation looking for heroes and saviours, especially a nation that needs a saviour. Whenever I am in contact with people who tell me of their woes and say “Save us”, I always say that we are the only people who can save ourselves, altogether, when we realise the power that we have in our hands. It is a mistake to put salvation in the hands of individuals.

Right now, I represent a political party that works collectively, and which represents the struggle and anguish of a great part of the Greek people. Someone else could easily represent it. Since I am in this position, I will try to do my best but I know that my power is not dependent on my own capabilities or strengths but on the trust and strength that people will give us through their vote.

For that matter, Obama fans in America could do to read this interview.

I can’t say exactly I’m a fan of his, but I respect him for trying to turn Europe on its head. All this moral posturing is a ridiculous distraction. Listen to the ideas of others. I think someone needs to stand up to the bullies in Europe and demand dignity for the Greek people, so that a solution can be found that doesn’t punish citizens to starvation for the sins of big business and corrupt politicians.

I see my kids every day and when they tell me they want to live in Greece later and have the nerve to hope for a happy future, I tell them not to give up, but keep dreaming of returning, bring some German organization they’ve soaked in here, pay those taxes, invest in solar energy(so you don’t have to import all of yours anymore), protect and cherish your land, your biggest natural resource. Politicians may try to kill their hope, but to me dreams are invaluable compared to money and my pupils deserve to have theirs.

Defending the Greeks

Why am I always the one defending the Greeks?!?!

Last Wednesday I nearly got in verbal sparring match with my old German senior, who is convinced that Alexis Tsipras from the Syriza party is a hard-line communist.

No my friend, that would the KKE who have said, that if they get the majority in parliament, there would never be any more elections! Yes, Tsipras is radically left, but I was personally surprised that my senior was more concerned about him, than the fact that the neo-nazis (Golden Dawn) had gotten seats in parliament this election!

Here’s a quote from the NYT.

On the spectrum, Syriza falls between the Greek Communist Party, which never broke with Moscow during the cold war and rejects the euro and the European Union, and the Socialist Party, known as Pasok, which is seen as more of a patronage network than an ideology. Syriza is an umbrella of leftist parties ranging from softer-line communists to Marxists to social democrats. The “radical” in its Greek name translates more accurately as “nontraditional.”

But that’s fine. Greek politics are mind-boggling complicated. But what I tried to explain to him, was that if you have politicians who are also the wealthy members of society and practice an advanced form of nepotism, where they appoint friends and family into office just so they can qualify for the sweet retirement package and if you consider that the position of Prime Minister is practically handed down to the children of the major political families, as in the case of Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were both prime ministers, well, it’s easy to see how corrupt the politics in Greece are.

At any rate I was flabbergasted because, at this point look, I understand, Germany doesn’t want to be hated for giving Greece money. And sure you could argue that they still owe Greece money from the war, but as the US also still owes France money from the Revolutionary War, (or is it vice versa?) what does that really mean anymore. What’s more morally wrong is the history of the rest of Europe’s financially predatory money lending to Greece in every time of crisis, from the Greek War for Independence, til rebuilding after the war.

As I said it’s long and complicated and I’m currently re-reading “A Concise History of Greece” by Richard Clogg so that I can really understand the politics.

I think Europe has done massively wrong by Greece in terms of finances and continues to do so. Good. Most people won’t agree with me. Even people in Greece like to tell me and honestly believe, that it’s a bunch of Jews in NYC trying to steal the “money” from their country. Great whatever guys, blame the Jews. Yeah these bonds are garbage and they came from Goldman Sachs. But they weren’t the ones buying homes sold at an artificially listed price because the real value with inflation would have meant higher taxes. Not to mention that they were even built upon land that was burnt by arsonist. It goes on and on.

Back to my German senior, my point was only that you cannot shake your finger at Greece for corruption and then when the people finally vote these decrepit parties out of power, stamp your feet and say “we don’t like that either”. You’re not the boss of Greece. And if you fail to understand that the Greek are supremely proud of their country and don’t want help from the “nazis” who marched through it, still in living memory, then I just can’t help you.

It’d be great if they sent tax people from Europe to Greece, but that isn’t going to happen if the effort is spearheaded by the Germans. It’s unfortunate, but true: a little bit of this conflict is made worse, by the part of Germany’s history, that they’d very much like to have behind them now. What Europe needs is a better way of organizing responsibility for the Euro, i.e. European tax collection agencies, that is truly multi-national. With all the bureaucracy of Europe, it’s hard to say, go on give us some more, but I think it’s clear now that Germany isn’t effective, trying to take on this responsibility alone.

Merkel btw the way is becoming more and more ridiculous. She just suggested creating a referendum for the Greeks about whether they wanted to stay in the Euro zone. Wait a second Frau Merkel, didn’t Papandreou suggest something similar before you flipped out at him for his cheek? Have you read any of the opinion polls coming from Greece? No one wants to leave! But you can’t raise taxes, fire people, cut salaries by half, and demand full taxes from normal citizens for the first time in who knows how long, all at the same time! Greece didn’t demand to be in the Euro zone, they were invited! There would be the same reaction in Germany. You are kidding yourself. Not to mention everyone here is taking simplistic moral arguments, instead of bothering to learn further details about the crisis. How dare the Greeks stand up for themselves! How dare they decide not to let people starve because of a banking crisis! The nerve of people not to fall in line and do precisely what Germany dictates! How dare Hollande suggest growth instead of austerity!

Here’s the latest news about the changing opinion of our dear chancellor.

Don’t believe everything you read in American newspapers. I’m confronted by so much schadenfreude when I read the drivel that is printed there. We’d just love it if the Euro failed, huh? Then it would just prove that the dollar is the best and “socialism” is worthless. Puh-lease.

Excuse me for my rant, but I’m tired of people not really understanding what’s going on and calling all Greeks lazy good for nothings. Did anyone catch the Bild list of top ten European countries who work the most? Germany didn’t make it, but Greece did.

Everyone needs to take a bit of responsibility here and do a little less finger-pointing.

Btw if I have children and the US continues to tax based on citizenship, there’s a good chance they will be only Greek citizens, so I suppose it’s only fair I start defending them now! Haha.

Here’s a brilliant Youtube video. It’s not perfect, but it makes a good argument.

Day-off Potpourri

I have my first wrinkle. Well actually I think it’s a laugh line and you can only really see it when my skin is tired. BUT for goodness sake’s. I thought this would be an issue when I hit the big 3-0. At any rate that is the current joke with the bf, that from now on I’d try to keep my face expressionless. Guess my youth is departing.

Although thinking back, most of my life has been spent laughing and especially these last few years with the kids and in a new relationship with a very funny guy. There are worse things. At least they aren’t frown lines and crow’s-feet!

Which reminds me of a very superficial decision I’ve made recently. So in German there are these things called umlauts (ä ö ü) They are my enemies. The first one is ok. It’s like the sound in bear. The second two suck. You have to round your lips like you’re waiting for a kiss, push them forward and push the air out, (with the second the bottom lips juts out a bit more). Unfortunately, when speaking quickly, this is something I can’t be bothered with. I either say it with a MEGA annoying American accent, or stop everything I’m doing to round my lips and focus on getting out a öööööööö and not a ough, which looks idiotic of course.

If I choose the first one, I have to repeat things a few times, because the person doesn’t usually expect me to be foreign and are typically caught off guard and stop listening. If I choose the second, it comes out right, but meanwhile I’ve stopped, taken a deep breath and look like I’m a few cards short of a deck. Plus from the two years spent observing my seniors, I’ve noticed that they all have major lip wrinkles, and my personal theory is, not that they were all smokers, but umlaut lovers.

Call me vain and superficial but lip wrinkles are disgusting, and I don’t know if it’s a wise use of my time to spend hours correcting my accent, when I’ll just be laying the groundwork for a something I’ll wish wasn’t there later. Plus despite how irritating I find my accent, others think it’s cute. So oh well, my German accent can suck forever, and the other languages I’ll learn to say things correct the first time. Laugh at me all you want. A woman’s first wrinkle, it’s a wake up call.

Anyway it’s my first day off for these two weeks. But this morning I woke up with a start at 7am after having a dream about a particularly trying class that was taking a test and cheating. I was in the middle of confronting them; my pulse was racing and it took a minute to calm myself down. Now that is my favorite way to start a break: having the kids exhaust my patience in my dreams as well as reality.

Not that the kids are all bad. I keep coming up with various new things to get them producing quality work for me. I actually got one class to play mad libs successfully. They were a group of quiet girls that can’t say so much in English yet. So I’ve been joking that I’m like a crazy bum talking to myself. But they got some creativity hidden in them, and they’re not full-blown too-cool-for-school teenies yet, so I was hoping it’d work. I had another class similar to them and we had lots of fun with silly stories.

The first about a sandwich was a moderate success. But then we got out the secret admirer one (for girls), put in the name of one of the girls with things like stinky and smelly and that was it. They were in stitches. I’ve never seen them laugh so hard.

On Saturday it’s the same age level too. (my favorite really) They like to ask me everything in Greek on Saturday and I answer in English. One little girl has a question a minute. I don’t know what’s going on in her brain but I love it. They kept trying to get me off-topic, so asked them why I was even coming and getting money for teaching. I told them I was their joker, and they responded, no you’re not a joker, you’re an entertainer. When they left, my little question-asker needed to hug me goodbye (I never hug the kids), then all the girls had to hug me, then I said to the boys, it’s not fair only the girls get a hug, so they got one too. I told the bf about this later and he was shocked, What is this littlemsami’s cuddle course!

I strive to be a good teacher and that takes a lot out of me during the week. Both to the seniors and to the kids. It’s easy to slack off when you’ve only got yourself to disappointment, but it’s incredibly difficult to inform a group of 12-15 pupils that you’ve forgotten or neglected to do something. I did that enough the first year and got myself out of that habit really quickly.

*edit*

I didn’t manage to publish this yesterday. I was too busy getting my photo taken for my application, waiting at the dr’s office for allergy meds and finishing my CV in German. It’s nice to actually get things done for once!

So I’m gonna end with a quick moan and get back to work.

I just can’t win with my eyes. I wanted to get lasik, they’re too bad. I considered the lens insert surgery, too expensive. I wanted to get hard contacts to save the cost, nearly 200 euros, cause of my bad eyes. And need to be replaced in 6 months to a year according to Frau anal wannabe doctor. So I stuck with soft contacts, because if they break it’s not a money emergency and my eye sight hasn’t worsened in at least 5 years, so wearing them has had no bad effects. They’re expensive too so I thought I’d try to save money by wearing glasses during my planned Uni time.  I don’t expect to have lots of contact money during my studies, so I need another option. I’d really rather use this money towards a surgery, but meanwhile I’ve got to see on a daily basis.

Well my glasses are super heavy. They leave a permanent nose pad mark on my nose, which will probably lead to ugly broken capillaries by the time I’m 40. So I thought fine. I hate glasses but screw contacts for the time being. But I know it’ll be round 200 Euros for a new pair because of my prescription. Clever me, I’ll order a really lightweight pair online and save a bundle!

So yesterday, surfed around found adorable frames that I filtered through based on weight, but when it came time to put in my prescription it didn’t go past -10. (Mine is -10,25 and-10,75) So I’m nearly blind but not THAT far over this arbitrary boundary.

You know what screw you Germany! I went online to a similar website in America and they have until -18 and charge a bit more, but you know what that’s ok. As long as I can save on frames, I’ll pay extra for lighter lenses. I’m tired of being monetarily punished for my bad eyesight. I’ve had this bad eyesight for a while, but I never felt like I was limited in my options or the ability to wear contacts in the US. But here, wherever I go I balk at the price or express shock that there’s nothing else and all I get is a finger shaken in my face and shrugged shoulder with a pech (i.e. serves you right for having bad eyesight, what do you expect?)

Yeah American health insurance may suck, but at least they don’t make me feel guilty for having bad eyesight. And they don’t take everything so seriously that they can’t offer higher prescriptions online. I really thought Germany was great for people with glasses, but over the last year I’ve collected so many piss poor interactions, that I’ve actually made up my mind to buy my eye wear products (except replacement contacts) from the US from now on.

For now though I’ll concentrate on getting my applications finished and sent and figure out where I’ll be studying and moving to, and then I’ll sort of this glasses fiasco.

Sometimes the only way I can sum up my expat-life is to say it seems at times like everyone wants my money. But at least I have the option of spending it in whichever country offers me the best deal, even if I need to buy a plane ticket to take advantage of it!

A grumpy little update

Writer’s block would be a better excuse for not writing in here for a while. But I guess I’ve been following the little adage about not having anything nice to say.

So I’m reading and ignoring the fact that I’ve retreated into my introverted little shell. HA. It is what it is.

I guess recently I’m just tired of working my butt off and, well, let me word this correctly, I’m not getting directly criticized per se, but I feel like I am constantly surrounded by people who just want a frickin dictionary and pay no mind to the actual work I am doing. You can’t translate a language word for word, how often have I repeated these words to deaf ears?!?!

It’s more like I have negative comments and disappointment and scorn and American stereotypes sort of floating above my head, not exactly hitting me, but after an extended amount of exposure, not exactly leaving me unscathed either.

Neither are English classes a place where I can improve my German. I write things down to be polite, but my brain is fully concentrating on the lesson, working and answering questions and thinking ahead to the next activity. They can tell me all the German expressions they want, but in five minutes I’ll have forgotten it completely.

I did go away for a month and took a course, but that might as well have been another lifetime, for all the good it did me. If I want to learn Greek, (and I had darn well better do it, while I’m surrounded by it everyday) I don’t have time for ANY German.

If it were the kids only being stupid, I guess I’d be doing OK. Kids need to mature and learn things the hard way. Ignorance is forgivable when you’re young.

But oh dear, this cynicism from the seniors. I don’t need to defend all of America, from some pig-headed old man, who has decided that all English speakers who come to Germany purposefully don’t learn German, and they’re incapable of learning any language well, just cause they don’t have to. Nor will he listen to my careful explanation of the American high school experience and my argument that one might not meet a native speaker of French or German or even Spanish until almost out of their teens. Forget a “short” trip to Paris.

It’s not all about me mind, but when I’ve taken the time to address his wildly-outrageous, old-man-the-world’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-worldview, and doesn’t he just have that arrogant look in his eye, that tells me even this man thinks poorly of my German. And I tell you, yeah it’s enough to totally deflate me. And these aren’t one-off stereotypes either. I hope to God, my world doesn’t revolve around conspiracy theories if I reach such a ripe-old age.

You know work colleagues, who cares. We’re not going to be friends anyway and I didn’t learn German or Greek for them. If my boss wants to explain to the little girls that I don’t know Greek and I understand every single word, but just sit there feigning ignorance, because…really.. why bother interrupting your boss, who cares. I’m not paid to speak Greek there, and I don’t speak Greek in class, cause it’s hard enough maintaining classroom control without speaking in a funny accent/making a stupid mistake that’ll have the kids laughing for ages. If I want to say something, I say it right, or don’t say it.

But you know, I know in my heart that there will be some kids who explain for the rest of their lives, yeah there was this American teacher we had at Frontistirio and she tried to learn Greek, but it’s like totally the hardest language in the world and Americans can’t learn languages anyway. I mean she was cute but she spoke German with a stupid accent too. The other teacher said it was awful too. We did so many bad things and she never realized it.

“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I see all my goals are within my grasp, but meanwhile I have no time to make progress on any of them and people are constantly trying to shut the door on my progress for me. I don’t think I’m over-reacting. But I can’t deny that I’m burned out   and resentful.

The thing that I hate the most, is how being this way makes me incapable of really being present with the kids when they are sitting in front of me, excitedly greeting me and willing to learn and I’m stuck in my own head, and no amount of chewing myself out is helping.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pouting while I teach, or copping a major attitude, kids don’t deserve that and the seniors just want fill up the hours of their weeks with pleasant chitchat. I’m just quieter, but repressing my irritation also has an adverse effect on my stress levels. Furthermore it leaves me grumpier in the presence of the one person I see during the week that I completely trust and respect and want to see everyday.

All there is to it, is to focus my effort on moving on to the next step and moving to from this chapter of my life. Sometimes you just gotta admit that you’re grumpy for a reason and carry on living.

Check out my zoo pics on FB. We had our typical bad-luck-streak in Munich, but oh well. It’s just added to the interesting experiences we have together and laugh about later.

Little Miss Decision-Maker ~has an Awesome Brother (& 2 others, no offense)

Oh ye. All work and no play isn’t doing me any favors.

Am I mixing my metaphors? It’s ok; my sighs and groans are all in German or Greek nowadays.

OH JE: (with a German y sound for the J) expecting the worst/made a stupid mistake

OX: (with a nice gutteral Greek CHI) shock, surprise, disappointment

Tja: (tu-ya, German) na was soll’s, resignation

Opa: (Greek) clumsy me, I’ve just dropped the marker/the pen has flown out of my hand.

Tsk: (A Greek sound for no, best accompanied with an upward rolling of the eyes.) Nope try again, you idiot.

Popo : (Greek) I am shocked/frustrated.

Ehhhhhhhh: (Greek) Like the Canadian but drawn-out, and slurred out the side of one’s mouth, with a touch of impatience/boredom. Also a borderline rude: HEY.

Tzaaak: (Greek, prob. I’ve learned this one from the bf so I’m not sure.) It’s like an etsi, or the sound you make when you’ve set something in at’s appropriate place/calling attention to a certain action.

BWAH: (bu-whah, German, hated this at first, but it does the job of conveying my feelings with fewer words.) Means: man, disgusting, lame, boring.

I do a lot of communicating with little words. These must be my top ten sounds, well they would be if I could think of one more. Ha!

I made fun of my little I. in class, cause she was standing at the board, had written her answer and was impatient to sit back down and not be the center of attention anymore, so she blurts out “EHHHHHHHHH, Kyria.”

In English it’s rude, especially to a teacher, but she doesn’t know and it cracked me up. Between my fits of giggles, I told her to stop sounding like my bf when he’s irritated with me. She’s a giggler, so then she was useless for the next ten minutes.

I do try to avoid saying OPA with my German classes, because for them all it means is grandpa and I really want my senior citizens to think I’m making fun of them.

Speaking of the senior classes though, today was the weirdest scenario I’ve ever had. Half an hour late to my beginner’s class, in pops one of the recent additions, apologizing for her tardiness. It becomes immediately clear that she has just two lonely teeth in her mouth.

My first thought is: oh my goodness, what is going on? Is she ill? But she grins proudly and explains she’s just come from the dentist, has no teeth and can’t let another week go by without English.

Now she’s a handful as it is: bossy, stubborn, vocal, and a know-it-all who tries to take over my teaching duties. I’m concerned, but if she has no vanity complexes and wants to be here, fine, I’ll look past it.

But slowly as the lesson continues, I realize she is as high as kite!! Pupils dilated, smeared glasses, spit flying out as she talks, interjecting loudly, and asking her neighbor nosy questions.

We all try to politely ignore her at first, and her neighbor patiently shares her book with her, but what can I say: after awhile it was just frickin hilarious. Oma was having a little spin on the dentist pain medication and we all went along for the ride. She didn’t even notice how she was making us laugh.

Oh life is absurd, ehhh! (Question tags would be better, wouldn’t they? But that would make me an even bigger British poser and irritate my brothers more. Better to just be Greek and rude sounding.)

I’ve had decision fatigue real bad this month. Sounds serious but all it really means is that I’m tired of being the one everyone arounds me turns to for the tiniest decision.

I think all teachers (of children, at least) must constantly replay the scenes in the classroom over and over again in their heads. Did I say that right? Was I too mean to her? Did she misunderstand what I meant? Were they whispering because they were cheating, calling me names, or gossiping? Did I handle that right? Should I say anything about them smoking? Did I embarrass them today? Did I do too much talking? Yes yes yes, of course I did. I always talk too much.

Since September I’ve woken up and immediately been confronted with a list of choices all day long. You can wash your dishes or prep for tomorrow. Take a shower or do your Greek. Go to the gym or cook a decent dinner. Can’t have both.

Then with the kids (and seniors) it’s… I would say a decision every 5 minutes. Can he go to the toilet, you decide? Can he or she say the answer? Oh it’s wrong, who will you call on next? Can he eat his McDonalds? Are you sure he can’t? He’s going to pout for the rest of the lesson, are you really sure? She wants to tell you something, let her? Someone has a question, is it about the lesson? What this word in Greek? What’s this word in German? Will you write down in their grades when they come in late? Writing today or next time? How much homework? Are they ready for the test or should we wait? Did they understand you, or should you repeat in German? 

Then on my vacation, or my half a weekend, my bf wonders why I get so riled up when I ask him to make a decision and he dinks around and asks me to help. Mostly he wants to make sure I’m happy, but I hate discussing things to death when I don’t want to be in charge.

But how do you recover from decision exhaustion? It does exist, I guess, or something like it. I’ve certainly read about it whilst avoiding the choice between cleaning my kitchen or preparing my taxes. (So far done neither, score!)

I can’t not make decisions and new things keep coming up. And I’ve got pretty much nothing over the next year that I’m looking forward to. BWAH.

Oh man no one warned me this is what being an adult feels like.

Tomorrow I’ve got to call up the German university and explain to them that my very expensive (this is not bragging, these are my d*** student loan payments) private-liberal arts Bachelor’s Degree is actually generally considered to be a good thing and not something to be viewed skeptically, so that I can apply for the Master’s program I really want to do.

And then if German rules fail to comprehend the multi-faceted, wonderous variety found in this thing called life, well then it looks like I’ll be having another set of decisions to deal with.

I’m not unhappy, but I’m not enjoying my students anymore. It’s just a job, with no weekend, and not enough pay for the work I do outside of the classroom.

I’m trying. At least I have awesome bros. And Sat is 2 years with the bf and Sunday is the Super Bowl in the COLTS STADIUM we toured last summer and the lesser Manning, but better than none. I mean a girl shouldn’t get greedy.

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)

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!