I guess it’s bound to be the time where I run out of creative titles because this blog is about to say “tchussssss!” (goodbye) forever because in three days (oops, now one day), we’re headed home! That exclamation mark is a tad contradictory because, on one hand, Germany is really cool: we’re currently listening to Dire Straits and it’s noon and we are just now getting dressed and we had strawberries with whipped cream for breakfast and the sun is ACTUALLY shining, shining so beautifully that I’m sitting here in/on the garden/patio writing my blog. (P.S. a bird just pooped on me). On the other hand, I’m ready to be back in the land of $1 large diet cokes and to see my family and to sleep in my own room that has curtains on the windows and for there to be wifi in my room and to have access to a car. Not trying to be whiny-just excited to be home and sad to leave-’tis always the sentence to spending time in another country.
A couple departing thoughts/reflections:
(**written over a period of three days**)
I use slashes in writing and in real life way too much.
The weather here is as temperamental as the weather in Bowling Green.
Thursday after school, the other student teachers came to my house (my current temporary place of residence) and we spent about two hours together, centering around a discussion/talk by Jutta. Jutta, my host mom, is an author of children/young adult books. She has quite a few that have been translated into English, as well as other languages. She talked to us about her life, covering her start as a fifteen-year-old, studying in the U. S., where she wrote her first book. It was about the family she stayed with, and all the things going on while she lived with them. She explained to us that living with these people was her first encounter with racism; they would spell the word “black” instead of saying the word, among other things. Jutta has written about 42 books in her lifetime and she’s still writing! We enjoyed an afternoon, squished next to each other in the tiny kitchen, eating pound cake, listening to her stories.
On Friday, one of the teachers at AFG asked me to help him in an art class where he has become a permanent substitute. He wanted to have students draw their favorite animals but he gave this assignment with no guidelines, until later in the lesson where he told them to make sure the subject matter covered the whole page, to use pencils with different softness/hardness, to add variety in mark-making, etc. I felt that the lesson was oddly orchestrated but tried to help the kids be successful in their work. Just another time where I noticed big differences between what was happening in the art classrooms where I had taught in BG and the one I’ve been in here. One young man (sixth grader) attempted multiple animals and eventually ended up drawing a cheetah but it turned out to be a sausage cheetah because the body of the cheetah was elongated, like a wiener dog. Fortunately, this kid acknowledged the sausage-like appearance of his cheetah and let us laugh with him at his funny drawing.
ALSO, Friday, Shelby’s family took us to IKEA!! Neither Shelby nor I have ever been to Ikea so our minds were boggled at how much STUFF was there and the orientation of the building and the food area where we split some DELISH wiener schnitzel and meatballs. We spent a good deal of the rest of our time oohing/ahhing over the displays and the quirky things you can buy but would never think of. If you were wondering if I fell asleep on the way home like I do every time I travel (minus darn planes), your suspicions are confirmed-I did.
Yesterday, Shelby, Zach, Camey, Beulah and I traveled to Cologne AKA KÖLN, a larger city, about two hours by train from where we live. Let me tell you a story about our travels: Here we were, enjoying a peaceful train ride until twenty minutes in, we reach the first station and if you’ve seen O Brother Where Art Thou and you recall the scene where the prisoners flood into the movie theater, clanking their chains in time, you can imagine what it looked like when we pulled up to the station and the train car was enveloped in a swarm of rowdy futbol (spelling?) fans and I’ve never felt more like a zoo animal being oogled. Every inch of our train was maxed out for seats so I became well acquainted with one guy’s butt closely in touch with my shoulder as he stood in the aisle (check pics for deets). Besides the unwelcome bodily contact, our train ride was okay and we arrived in Cologne about two hours later where we headed straight for the Lindt Chocolate Museum (Beulah always has objectives for trips and this was her main objective for this one). Best part: there’s an area where you press a button and a machine grabs a tiny chocolate rectangle for you and shoves it down a shoot, into your awaiting palm. We became major tourists and definitely hit up the gift shop-I left with some weird chocolate bars for my fam that include flavors like HEDGEHOG. NOT REALLY SURE WHAT THAT MEANS THOUGH. Other highs of the day: Museum Ludwig which had an incredible exhibit. It boasted modern art and I was surprised to see such an outstanding collection of work, from artists such as Andy Warhol (pop artist), Dan Flavin (famous for his works with light), Jackson Pollock (artist who throws paint everywhere on huge canvases and people always say, “omg I could have done that omg how is he famous omg”), Picasso, and Donald Judd (I love his large, industrial sculptures). See pics below! Also FINALLY fulfilled my döner kebab dreams and had some baller gelato. The Kölner Dom (basically the Cologne Cathedral) was GORGEOUS from the outside-the inside was a little boring because we couldn’t look around since mass was about to start but apparently, the outside of the cathedral has been in progress for the past forever amount of years. It’s so massive that every time they finish a section, another section needs work/repair. Twas a day well spent with friends-a lovely commemoration of the entire trip.
Today was our last day at school. The VP bid us a kind farewell, Heike gave us really gracious reference letters, and we ate lunch in town at the cafe where Beulah broke a glass last time.
A couple things I’ve noticed: the culture of Germany is very practical-everything is recycled, everyone rides bikes, people wear the same jeans every day, the classrooms don’t have excessive decorations, etc. Maybe part of this makes the students the way they are: very respectful of their teachers and adults in general, no crazy, outlandish behavior on school grounds, it seems that everyone follows the rules. There are normally four classes per day with long(ish) breaks interspersed between them. The first two classes are 90 min, with 25 min breaks after each, and the last two periods are 45 min each. The weeks alternate classes (A weeks and B weeks) and students have some days that are long (meaning afternoon classes) but most days are short. They get out of school at 1:15 most days and ride the bus/bikes home. Kids are rarely on their phones and I’m not sure why that difference strikes me so hard. I feel that something about this system is really great because the classes seem to go really smoothly and are well-maintained, in terms of energy levels. I might just be really naive and be missing something that creates this stark comparison with classrooms that I’ve been in in the U.S. but I’m not sure.
Lastly, I’m really thankful for this opportunity to spend three weeks in Germany! Thanks for reading my blog!