Thursday, May 31, 2007

Event Schmeevent

So I am going for two days in a row. The most substantial thing that happened today, though, was that I had an extra English lesson. Which means that I can take an early morning coffee break for the first period of school tommorow. This will be especially nice considering that on Saturday we get to wake up around 7 and drive out to Luckenwalde to help set up a tent or something. Perhaps multiple somethings. We will probably stick around most of the day and at some point play games with children. We might even teach something randomly American, like Dartball, or Hungry Hungry Hippos. Don’t mistake this for complaining, I have had my share of very lazy Saturdays and holidays. I am mostly commenting on the odd nature our job sometime takes on. Some weeks I forget that I am not just a simple English teacher. I am more like a local expert on English that can carry and assemble large and somewhat heavy objects. Perhaps more like a local expert on America and related subjects.
A recap of today would include: 5AM, wake up, hit the snooze, 6AM get out of bed, shower, 6:15 attempt to sleep, telling myself that if I miss the bus it’s no big deal, 6:50, head to the bus stop, fell groggy. 7:30 arrive at school and immediatly help the 5th class in an English lesson, 8:15 head to the store to buy Brötchen, enjoy a nice cup of coffee, chat in German to Frau Rasche. 9:30 teach 1st class about clothes in English, 10:15 teach other 1st class about clothes in English, 11:30 head for home. 12 noon, arrive home, attempt to stay awake, fall asleep on chair 14:00 read and think about doing something outside, 15:00 decide to go for a bike ride 15:15 find a pair of neighborhood kids/students and give them a lift on my bike. 16:00 get home and listen to some music (The Humpty Dance by Digital Underground is catchy and creative)...and after that it gets a bit boring. Plus I’m tired of listing things.
I’d like to take a brief moment to explain the providing of rides on my bike. First of all I call it ‘my bike’ to simplify things, I’m not 100% sure who’s bike it really is, but I am allowed to use it, and aside from Gary am the only person who does. I guess I could say our bike, but whatever, you get the picture. Anyway, my bike version Gold is kind of a peice of junk. I always say you don’t really need a nice bike, but I am starting to think there is a level of junkiness a bike can be that is practicably unuseable. (a side step, as German is taking over my brain, i felt the urge, and think it would’ve sounded better to say unusebar, or unbenutzbar, in that case, weird) So my bike version Gold has a seat that is too low, only one gear and no chain gaurd. Atcually it had a chain guard up until last week when I rode it up a hill that was to steep and bent the tire. I had no business driving up the hill really, but I thought the bike (version Gold) could handle it. The wheel bending cause the chain to come off, which, in turn, caused the chain guard support to snap. I don’t know why this happened, (though I suspect constant tampering in effort to stop the pedel from scraping it all the time becuase the sound was annoying) but it did. This caused the pedel to connect with the chain gaurd, instead of just scraping against it, bending it fiercely upwards. Then the pedel got blocked from revolving because the now broken chain gaurd was in the way. Fed up with the situation, I decided not to give the problematic chain gaurd a chance of rehibilitaion. Okay, I bent it back down but the pedel nocked it up again. After that I ripped the chain gaurd off, it was annoying and broken, and the bike is old. I still felt a little bad. Anyway, I was riding my bike (version Gold) and I see a couple of my first grade kids. One of them asks if he can ride my bike. But his stubby legs couldnt reach the pedels. That was harsh, 1st graders are supposed to be short. Anyway, he formualted a complicated plan where he rode on the ‘luggage rack’ of my bike. All European bikes have this on top of the back wheel, it is a little rack where you can install a basket, or just put little stuff. It apparently can double as a seat. After I drove him to his destination, I was to pick up his friend and do the same. After that I was free. I accomplished the task, but not without a few popping complaints from my bike (version Gold), who seemed to think the extra 90 pounds was too much for it. Anyway, now you know probably the most eventful part of my day. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Leave a Comment For This Post, Everyone. Really, Please. Now if you can.

So I don’t have much time. I mean tonight to write, in general too really. I realize it has been awhile, but I guess the end seeming so near I haven’t felt like it. Time flies by these days and I either get inspired and the computer is busy, get inspired and forget, or just fail to be inspired. At first it was easy, everything was so different, anything happening felt new and exciting. But now it is all normal. Living in Germany is normal. Comments about my German being good or bad are normal. Kids saying cute things are normal. I soak it in but don’t feel compelled to share. These are my moments, so forgive my selfishness, but I don’t have many left. I bounce back and forth these days from wanting to leave to wishing I could stay. Mostly wishes to leave are inspired by the knowledge that it is almost time to leave, knowing that, I just want to be able to rip it off like a bandage. I am not really ready to forget all that has happened this year, to leave behind the high fives and only speaking to children in German. The monthly calls to my parents, postcards to friends, it was all just very nice.

Moving on, now that all that mush has been squeezed out the top of my brain. Today I am in a bad mood. I should feel good. Actually I did feel good early on. Not when I woke up. When I woke up I was dreading today. Not really because the class I would have to teach was bad, but because it was too early to wake up, and I knew I would only have one class period, so the day would be a waste. I toyed with staying home, but those who know me best know that it wasn’t really an option. Upon arriving to school I got a surprise. The sixth class was going on a field trip, and I was invited to join them. It was asked in this way: Frau Rasche ‘Do you want to go to the cinema?’ Me: ‘Uhh’ Frau Rasche ‘The answer is yes.’ So I went. I can’t say I wasn’t happy to have a work day that was basically chilling and watching a movie. The movie was in German, but I can understand enough that the whole ‘it’s in German’ task isn’t quite so daunting.
To explain my mood I will say this: If anyone is really happy, and wants to not be happy anymore, watch Bridge To Terebithia. It is a kid’s movie. But the end is a real downer, especially if you are excessively tired from staying up until 3AM and getting up at 6, being addicted to coffee and not having any and from sitting through a 96 minute movie in a foreign language. I won’t ruin the surprise. But it made me sad the rest of the day. Stupid movie. Not even Kid’s Club day and Adult English right after it could cheer me up. (Okay, they took my mind off of it, but only because they just made me more tired). But now I am staying up too late again to write this so you, my dear reader, won’t worry or complain. Happy Reading.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Feel Free to Give Me A Penny

Reading other peoples blogs always inspires me to write one of my own. ‘If their boring lives can spit out a story, then surely my interesting life in Germany can come up with at least 3,’ I often tell myself. I think the real truth is that no one really sees their own life as exciting. I know it is the case for me-sure, I live in Germany, but I have been here for over 9 months now, the novelty wore off a long time ago leaving only my pitiful attempts to master the German language.
That isn’t to say that nothing ever happens. Why just today I sat in a garage watching my car (whom I decided to name ‘Scarlet’ against Gary’s wishes, who is still pining after ‘Deer Cutter Zwo’ or ‘Reh Schneider’, but watching our little Ford Fiesta getting her steering fixed and also getting ‘neue Schuen’ I was struck by a moment of inspiration, then again I was a bit bored.) getting fixed up. I sat there, looking past the posters of naked women that decorated the walls, wishing that I was skilled in the art of small talk. For a while here in Germany I was able to get by pretending my German was too bad to be able to carry a conversation. ‘I have plenty to say’ I thought, ‘if only I knew how.’ Now I cannot carry the same disillusion. Imperfect though my German is, I could still talk about the weather or how I need new shoes, or even what the kids did today. I can at least blame a little on my lack of German grammar, but the bulk of it lies in my inability to make small talk. Set me in front of a room full of people and I can pull a long winded speech out of thin air, but stick me in a little garage one on one with a mechanic and I freeze up entirely. Part of the problem is that I put too much pressure on myself. ‘Come on,’ I urge my windpipes ‘say really, now.’ But it never seems to work.
Last weekend I spent my Saturday with Sophie Hanneman, the daughter of my favourite teacher at Blönsdorf. We were talking in English to help her with her upcoming exam in English class. For a few minutes we managed a few things, but I spent most of the time trying to think of things to say. I guess with certain people, or certain times I just can produce anything worthy of sharing with the world. I blame my vivid imagination, which often beckons me to my internal world, which most other people don’t understand. When I am feeling extroverted sometimes I share some of these thoughts that occur in my moments of silence, they usually receive laughs or funny looks and only a few select people (like my buddy John Eicher) are able to roll with them and make me feel a little more normal. All this to say that after spending the whole day on the beach surrounded by naked babies and topless old women, I was spent on the external world. We had already talked about former jobs, possible future jobs, the weird hobby that is windsurfing and how nice the weather had been. All of these conversations were forced from my brain while my true thoughts were spinning pictures of past events. I sat in the passenger seat, attempting to stop thinking. ‘It’s a long and boring ride,’ I thought ‘so say something interesting to pass the time.’ After a few moments trying to think of something interesting, I realized I was stalling. ‘I’ll say,’ I thought. Just as I thought the word ‘now’, however, my windpipes locked up. ‘Oh no,’ I thought ‘I’ve lost the ability to talk.’ And for a few minutes this was true. In a panic, wondering if I had spontaneously gone mute, I thought of something interesting, anything, to say. I attempted to begin my sentence, but froze like a child on the high dive, staring down the depths to the pool so far below. Finally I spit out something about school, it was so boring I don’t even remember what it was, but I rejoiced the reclamation of my vocal cords. Most of the rest of the journey passed on in silence.
After Scarlet (sorry Gary) was all finished, the mechanic (coincidentally Frau Hanneman’s Husband) and I took her out for a test drive. I told him about my lack of German speaking abilities, he said not to worry about it. He explain the problems Scarlet had had, and how he fixed them, and I nodded in recognition even though I wasn’t completely sure what he was talking about (car parts are not essential to my German vocabulary). We laughed at people who stared at us, and Herr Hanneman explained that the car was his son’s first Automobile. The test drive only lasted a few minutes, but we had a pretty decent, if not mostly one-sided conversation.
It seems that conversation is, as my father is fond of saying, a two way street. One person can’t really carry the whole of it, especially if that person is me. One thing I’ve learned during my time in Germany is to focus on what I can do, instead of what I can’t. The bulk of this lesson was delivered by my friend Dietmar Claßen, who told me that self pity is like peeing your pants in the winter. (I wrote more on that in December). His words left a lasting impression, especially the ones he said about learning German. ‘It is important,’ he said ‘to concentrate on what you can say, instead of what you can’t say.’ Thus far, those words have never lead me astray.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Let the French make Toast

Some stories, dear readers, have fallen by the wayside. I feel I must apologize for those, but those who know me are likely to receive an ear full the next time they cross my line of sight. I have written a few down, which I may type out on slower days, but I am afraid I must jump ahead to the more recent past. After an epic case of what I have scientifically named Stomach Blues that lasted an entire weekend, I was a bit weary about returning to work this past Monday. The 6AM alarm found me feeling the most awake I would the entire day. After falling asleep on the bus, I found my legs walking me to the teacher’s lounge while my head had taken to delivering a sharp pain every few augenblicks (German word for moment, literally, eye blinks). Upon my arrival I was subjected to questioning by the teachers. ‘Feeling better?’ they would ask. ‘Yes’ I would reply, ‚a little.’ They didn’t really buy it. I blame my weary delivery. I believe some of them caught on to the stubborn approach I have developed toward being sick, or perhaps it was simply motherly instinct, and it is quite possible that they assumed I could not take care of myself (those of you that know me, realize there is a little truth to that). Whatever the reason, one of my favourite teachers, Frau Hanneman began talking me through a list of remedies and suggestions in the form of orders. Things like, drink tee and eat something called Zwieback. Both of which she later procured for me. First she looked up Zwieback, the dictionary said it was ‘French Toast’. I was somewhat taken aback. All these years and French Toast is good for your stomach. Surely not. It wasn’t until later, when Frau Hanneman returned with Zwieback and Fennel tea that I realized what it was. Zwieback can best be described as whole crutons, without any flavour, and seem to be similar to the American, at least in my family, saltine cracker. I still haven’t given up completely on French Toast.