Sunday, February 25, 2007

Family Tides

Today was my host father, Klaus’s birthday. I think he said he was 54. Klaus is a cool guy and I am glad I know him. Today we celebrated by eating way too much food and speaking (or rather, listening) to alot of German. There were interesting conversations about the DDR and problems people have here, like a lack of doctors in the area. There was also a long discussion about planting flowers and other garden/yard type plants. I always find it hard to get a word in in discussions like these. Partly because I worry my German is too bad, and partly because the people involved were speaking very loud and fast. Or at least it seemed as such to me. It was quite a feast, however. I wish I had brought my camera to capture its glory, but you’ll be glad I didn’t because you would be einfach jealous. I like to throw the word einfach into everyday topics. It means more of an idea to me, but in English it’s a triad, it can mean Simply, simple, easy, easily, and in a smaller extent it can mean sort of. It’s hard to explain, but I think saying you’d be einfach jealous would mean like you would get jealous without trying to. I don’t know, I’m a bad translator because I’ve stopped trying to put some words into English. I just accept them as being exaggeration marks, or symbols as to how you should feel about something someone said. I’m not saying I understand all German, not hardly. The other night we watched Pirates of the Carribean 2 and I rarely caught a word of what they were saying. I can tell you that I wish I did, but I didn’t. Some days I just get tired of German. But in general I like the language. It isn’t beautiful like Italian or spicy like Spanish, it is kind of utilitarian. There is something about it though.

It was fun spending time at the Förster’s, I just found myself wishing, as always, that I’d’ve said more. But alot of times in situations like that in English I don’t say much. I just don’t have alot to add to serious discussions. My thoughts are often too random. Take the conversations about the DDR. I really thought it was interesting, and for the most part paid attention, but when people are speaking German it is even eaiser to space out than when people are talking English. So some of the time my thoughts drifted to upcoming vacations, or something weird like characters in Fairy Tales, or Unicorns. Stuff like that isn’t the most normal for me, but lately I have been feeling strange. I am often really tired at night but I can’t sleep, and when I do sleep I have weird dreams. I don’t wake up feeling rested, I just wake up and feel like staying in bed. My thoughts have been racing by and varied, and I find it hard to concentrate. Maybe all this German is making me crack up, maybe I wasn’t made to wake up at 6AM every day. Or maybe it is the sign of some weird sickness I have gotten. It is hard to tell, but I feel very tired. I will leave you all with this thought: Learning German is very hard. Once you’ve learned a little, you find a million other things you should have learned along the way to learning those little things. You can go over in your head the proper grammer for everything, but once it is your turn to speak, anything can slip out. German is hard, I keep in mind I have never studied it in my life and have come about 5 million miles at seeming light speed. But it is still very hard and I have millions of light years to go. (I did mention that my mind is working strangely today, didn’t I?)

Hodge Podge

It was a strange week for me this week. For starters I have been sleeping somewhat badly, which made for a quiet tired work week and a pretty lazy weekend. Though I woke up and felt awake around 7AM both weekend days, I laid around until 9 just because I could. Most days this is not an option for me, so I decided to capitalize on the opportunity to be lazy. Though I suppose sleeping until 9AM is hardly considered lazy in the States. Not on a weekend, but these days, to me here in Germany, sleeping till 9AM just doesn’t make any sense.
Other changes in my personality is my use and atcual addiction to using a daily planner. People that know me know that despite my many attempts to get organized, a daily planner is something that I would normally forget about in about 3 hours. But these days I find myself glancing over at my planner longingly, wishing I had one more thing to write down in it, and often double checking what I already have written down. I’ve also become more honest about telling people when they are wrong. The other day I asked the 2nd Graders a question, and alot of people tried to answer it, but were wrong and I just said, You’re wrong, without even feeling a slight twinge of guilt. They were wrong, after all.
The weather this week has been comparatively bright. I think there was only 4 days of cloudy skies instead of the usual 6 or 7. This made for a few short bike rides, even though some days it was quite cold and windy. I am excited for warmer weather, which will bring renewed bike riding and walking opportunities. The sun has also started to come up earlier and go down later, which brings a bit of cheer back into my life.
As for school this week, Monday was Fasching, the offcial Fasching this time and not just one of the many pre-Fasching celebrations that started with February. This meant no classes, as most other Bundesstaaten got the day off of school. We still went, but we threw a party. For lessons I taught Costumes, which was a big hit with the kids. I attempted to play Bingo with them, but mostly it did not work because I didn’t know all the words to explain it. But the kids didn’t seem to mind. I told them what the costumes they wore were in English, and though they won’t remember, they at least thought it was fun.
A good story from my work as an English assistant: I was with the Sixth class, which is a difficult age for kids to be in any language, and we were learning comparisons. One thing I like about the English lessons here is that at the end of a unit, the teachers ask the kids what they though of the unit, and the kids can say things like ‚It was boring,’ or ‚It was dumb’ and no one feels insulted. That is besides the point, but I like it. I was just helping the kids pronounce ‚Than’ and ‚Then’ when I heard one of the kids mocking me in German. I gave him a talking to in German about how I can hear him and that sort of thing. I was in the middle of this when the kids started chiming in with things like ‚Keith is better than you’ ‚You are lower than Keith.’ Though I felt somewhat bad for the guy, I couldn’t help but feel loved, which is something you don’t often feel from sixth graders.

Monday, February 19, 2007

My Euro Mullet

One of the girls at school once asked me: ‚Wie viel freundin hast du?’ now, mind you it was meant to be a joke seeing as at the time she was referring to the number of 1st-4th grade girls that were hanging from most of my torso, but still, these days I have to take the question seriously. You see, I have a new, rocking haircut. It happened a few weeks ago atcually, when I finally gave up my goal of acheiving long hair after having longer hair starting getting on my nerves. (Between having to blow it dry and sweeping it out of my ears, I was starting to get shoulder aches.) I walked on down to the hair cutting place in Altes Lager named something like Hair Dreams, in English. I figured it would be a good idea, seeing as the name was in English. I took myself a seat and started waiting, as no one was really at the front desk. After about 10 minutes I started to get uncomfortable seeing as the lady getting her hair dyed kept giving me the ‚what are you doing here’ eye. I gave the hair cut lady five more minutes to show herself, but ended up walking out of the place as she didn’t seem too excited to have customers. I walked five minutes down the road to the other, less visable, hair cutting place, where I was met by a questioning stare by a lady cutting hair. I said quizically, ‚Ich brauche ein haar schere?’ The lady just looked at me for a second before saying ‚Wie bitte?’ ‚Ein Haarschnitt?’ She told me they were busy, and to come back in 30 minutes. I said Ok and passed the time in the Truck Stop watching TV. I came back to a more empty hair cuttery and the lady told me to have a seat. ‚Now, what do you need?’ asked the hair lady. ‚Well, I’m American, but I want something European I said.’ ‚What kind?’ She asked. I had no idea the kinds available, or the German translations. I made a thinking face until finally she had mercy and just said ‚Well, I just take some off the sides.’ I said, ‚Good idea,’ and resigned myself to get a Euro cut the next time. It wasn’t until later that day, when Gary saw my hair that he noted ‚Oh man, she left it long in the back, that is very European.’ I checked it out, and, sure enough, I had myself a Euromullet. Friends of mine can view it in all its glory on facebook. Everyone else can just imagine it shimmering in the partly cloudy, very windy weather of Altes Lager.
In other news, my cold has finally left my body, only to transport itself to Gary. I’m sure everyone else will blame the sandals he’s so fond of wearing. Today was Fasching, and at school we had a party for it. I dressed up like an American, mostly because the other teachers told me they were dressing up ‚A little bit’ which turned out to be a lie. I had difficulty explaining to the kids what I was, even with my American Eagle shirt and Polo jeans, but I wasn’t about to expose the flag on my butt, since that is a prime target for tiny first grade hands (among other hands, like random girls at concerts.) I guess I will explain that one. We went to a Snow Patrol concert with our fellow trainee Steph and two of her friends. It was standing room only, so things got a little crowded. All through the opening band there were two girls behind me who took to resting their hands on my butt whenever they felt like it. I was quite uncomfortable, but couldn’t move my body enough to turn around. Other than that the concert was quite good. We also have a new girl at school, she rides my bus, and this morning, as I closed my eyes to get a little ‚bus rest’ she woke me, by asking if I was asleep. I said no, and then she asked what I was dressed as for Fasching, I said an American. I guess it was just fun because the new kid said something to me. All the kids were excited to see me at the Fasching celebration, as if they never see me during the week. It was fun and made me feel good to have kids faces light up just by seeing me. Other than that I’ve just been reading, studying German, sleeping and listening to music.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentines, Baselines and Games like Zombie

So yesterday was Valentine’s Day, which everyone insists they celebrate here, but I saw no real celebration. No valentines were made and passed out, no couples were parading themselves shamelessly through the streets. It was pretty much a normal day. Gary and I celebrated by engaging in the manly right of passage of teaching German kids baseball. This is an extremely difficult task, and we ended up playing a game that I could call chaotic at best. Then I helped with the Klub kids, we made Valentines and ate food and most of the kids coughed or sneezed on me. (There is a cold going around.) Then we watched Kill Bill, which is a decent movie (if you don’t mind excessive fake blood). I also finialized my second trip around Europe which will consist of me visiting Norway and Scotland (both of which use different currency than Euros, so I may just convert a few dollars to pounds and kroners, though Euros trade better.) It is stressfull to spend money, but trips are fun and I am hopefully going to have free places to stay. I am travelling on my own, but am visiting friends I have made during my life, so it should be fun.
Needless to say I didn’t get any Valentines, but eh, I never really got them anyway, so save your letters for something good like my birthday...or something. We also spent some time in the Truck Stop, which is a nice place to hang out and watch TV (which is something we can’t do everyday), the guy that owns it is very nice and sometimes gives us free things, so it is cool to hang out there.
Today we taught Baseball again, and it was easier as we were more prepared (I wrote out some rules in German, my written grammer is quite good, but I usually get confused when trying to speak) And the kids were better, and actually listened to us. It was alot of fun, even though I got stuck playing Catcher, which I don’t enjoy at all. I also made Valentines with the first graders, but it turned chaotic as they all asked for my help at the same time. We arrived home around 4 PM, pretty tired and looking forward to a little time to be lazy. I had just settled into relaxing with some Reliant K when my doorbell rang. It was Ina, one of our bosses, telling us we had Sportgruppe today, even though we were told it was next week. I roused Gary from relaxing and we grudgingly headed to the Sporthalle. It turned out to be pretty fun, we played soccer and a game called Zombie which is really quite fun. Then we all played this pointless game called something like Berliner Höhe Ball, or something. You just throw the ball in the air and call someones name, they catch it and yell stop and try to hit someone with it. If someone gets hit, they call the name. That is it.
It was a weird realization that we have been doing the sport group once every two weeks now for six months. I thought about the first time we did it, and I was excited about knowing some of the kids from school. We rode our bikes there, but it rained on the way back, we vowed never to ride bikes there again, but if we get the bikes fixed I am sure we will ride there again (we are a bit tougher about the rain nowadays). I remember it seemed to go on forever and I couldn’t understand what was going on at all. We knew no German whatsoever and the kids would try to tell us to do something but it made no sense. It is alot different now, we understand the kids, and sometimes give them suggestions. Not as many kids come, but it is still alot of fun. Sixth months gone by now, so fast, time does fly. I just think back to this time last year as I started my job lifegaurding at the YMCA, now I am enjoying the fruits of that labor, travelling across Europe, and I still wonder if it was worth the hours.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Montag, ach nein, Montag

I’ve never been the greatest fan of Mondays. Today was a shining example of why I feel that way. Okay that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was hard to get out of bed when the alarm clock sounded at 5:50 AM. As far a teaching goes, it wasn’t a bad day, I taught one class by myself and helped with two others. I even sang ‚We Are Family’ with the kids even though I really don’t care for the song. About this time last week I was prepared to announce that my cold was on its way out the door, but it seems I was quite wrong. Perhaps it was a cold day in Berlin that brought its strength back, but it hit with force today. I’m feeling that light headed, apathetic feeling that is tied to a cold, and also haven’t really felt hungry all day, though I know enough to make myself eat something. Perhaps the reasoning for this Monday seeming so bad is that this past weekend we were graced by guests in Altes Lager. A fellow trainee and a few of her friends made their way here for a concert and stayed a couple of days. It made for a pretty amazing weekend, and for one that flew by a little too quickly. Also, Sunday I was graced by the voice of my former Housemate, Katie, which made the weekend even better. This made it even harder to fit into the Monday grind after a nice week at the Hort. Though it is nice to be around the kids again, who seemed to miss me, and who like my new haircut even if my fellow trainees (me included this time...) described it as a mullet, or at least as having mulletesque qualities. All in all, I admit, it wasn’t a bad Monday, but it was still a Monday and I still feel sick and tired and cranky. But, on the brightside, I am alive and living in I guess it’s a tradeoff.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nochmal im Hort

After a mindblowingly amazing midterm conference, I returned not to work, but to Hort (nochmal). Sorry, that means again and for whatever reason, at this moment some things are easier expressed with German. Not that I am going around speaking German to myself, but German words keep creeping into my thoughts. I’m sure some might say it is a good sign, but I must reiterate that I have alot to learn in the German language. Anyway, all that aside, the Hort (like a Daycare, in case you have forgotten) is like a vacation to me, in that the kids are usually quite nice to me and want to talk to me. In school it is alot different because alot of the kids think English is boring, or too difficult, so they tend to not pay attention. At Hort I can just play games with the kids, which is what they like to do. Well, that and jump on me whenever the situation evolves. Though the kids tend to wear me out (for example; or, as I have used almost exclusively here in Deutschland, zum Beispiel; Today the kids thought it was fun to have me spin them around, and it was fun, until they all took about 5 turns and I was dizzy and exhausted [und die Kinder, zwar, fragt nochmal] meanwhile the kids asked for one more turn), and I also have taken to walking home (When you are walking, Altes Lager is perpetually 5KM away, or so it seems if you believe the road signs), I find working at the Hort a blast.
Another good thing about the Hort is that the kids tend to compliment me on everything. With the kids at Hort I don’t have to do something great, just better than them, or maybe just in general. Like today I found a guitar and tuned it up and started playing a bit. Now, I am pretty decent with a guitar, but the kids and the Hort teacher all came by and said it was great and that I could play well. They also have this snowboarding videogame which they let me play and which is not too difficult since you can do tricks by mashing buttons, on my second try I got some meager sum of points, but one of the kids declared that I was the best snowboad videogamer in the whole Hort. Of course, to put things in perspective, the same kid runs around calling me his best friend or best pal all the time, so he might exaggerate things abit. I guess what is really special about the Hort is that I feel appreciated and helpful and the kids are happy that I am there. I’m not saying that this is not the case at school, but at school I often get discouraged that the kids aren’t learning. It is just a nice change to feel not at all discouraged.
Also a random note on the weather: Holding true to the pattern of it getting really cold only after I shave my beard, it has gotten cold recently. It has snowed (sprinkled really) the past couple of night and last I checked was snowing right now. Nothing major, but enough to cover things in white, which is somewhat novel to me after a year in Louisville, where it snowed maybe once. My face was really cold on the walk back home today, but I survived, and it doesn’t feel extremely cold because there is really no wind chill, which I am used to. And now...Some pictures: