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!

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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.

Little Miss Ami goes to Ami-land

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

I feel like Princess Leia right now. I haven’t been able to shake this feeling all week so I’m listening to my father’s Funeral Hymn’s CD. Maybe it’s my birthday which brought it on. I know it’s weird but that’s how I am. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee and I’ve never been able to imagine myself as an old granny.

As much as I think about death, I should probably have decided to have a become a nun by now. I’m struck by how unjust this world is and how many things there are to pray for and an urgency to pray.

I think I’ve lost that early 20s optimism well and good. (If anyone doubted I’m my father’s daughter…)

But that’s not what anyone wants to read in a blog.

Ah well, no one can avoid death and possibly the reason humor was invented.

Waiting to check-in so I can change our seats in the long flight. I hate being cramped in the middle. Also I’m so looking forward to church on Sunday together with the fam (mostly) and for the bf to see how it was for me growing up, i.e. nothing like it is here.

Meanwhile the flat is mostly cleaned due to the visit I had this morning from the insurance man. So it’s just packing today and eating my perishables. Ha! Also a few additional things to buy. Oh how exciting!

I’m not looking forward to all the travelling around, but at least I have someone to prop me up when my lack of sleep starts to get to me. And I get to drive! The bf remains skeptical, he wants to be the other driver in our rented car, BUT at $93 I don’t think it’s worth it. He drives me everywhere there, I can drive there. Mostly he just doesn’t know how I drive and I can understand that, he doesn’t want to be driven crazy all week, literally. Haha. I have no intention of letting him drive though. It’s a stupid extra cost.

Also another thing he doesn’t believe. I have no desire to bring a whole fashionista wardrobe with me. I am going jeans and tshirts all summer long, with my vans and tennis shoes. I am so ready to just be a slob for a bit. And besides if I wore anything too out there around my grandparents, they’d just think I was stuck up and full of myself.

What else, ahhh Mexican!!! And in kzoo, donuts.

This is such a rubbish post, I almost don’t want to post it, but to hell with my perfectionism, I will and now I will get ready for me trip. If you’ll excuse me I’ll see ya’ll on the other side of the pond tomorrow night.