Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Incredibly Small World

So last night I'm out Blues dancing, and after a group of us leave the bar where we dance, we're walking down the streets of Heidelberg, and suddenly someone calls my name from behind me. At first, I'm confused, so I turn to see if I was maybe just hearing things, but then someone calls it again. I see a tall fellow with blonde hair walking toward me, a younger guy with a beard, who doesn't really look familiar. He says, "Is your name Ian? Ian Hathway?" I say yes. "From Janesville?" I say yes, wondering who the hell this random person is who knows where I come from, and he says "I went to Craig high school. Eric; we were in Band together. I played sax."


That's right. I come to Germany, go Blues dancing in Heidelberg (admittedly a very international city), and by chance run into a person who went to high school with me. I saw him AGAIN by chance early this afternoon at the train station, and we talked a little bit more. He graduated in 2009, and after seeing him again, I clearly remember him being in Jazz Band with me my junior year, when I was in Jazz II. He's studying at the university in Heidelberg for a semester.

The world is a far smaller place than we ever realize.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Well That Was Fun

Things are collectively going well, which is the good news. I cooked dinner for five other teachers tonight, and it went pretty well, though somehow some of the rice didn't cook properly, but it was all right in any case. It's interesting trying to host anything in this apartment, though, since there really isn't a table made for more than four people, nor seating for even that many, so it's kind of an adventure. It all worked out though, and we had fun, as usual.

I'm also going Blues dancing again tomorrow, which should be great. I will have to be careful, though, which brings us to the bad news: I have somehow managed to rather heavily bruise my ribs on my left side. There is no outward sign of it, no swelling or discoloration, but the pain is definitely reminiscent of a bruise, as opposed to having pulled a muscle or something similar. I say somehow because I'm not quite sure how I did it. I did collide with another player while playing soccer on Tuesday last week, but my ribs didn't start hurting till the following Sunday, so I'm not sure if that's the sole cause. So I'm taking it easy and not moving too fast for the most part, since anything that jars my upper body hurts. Unfortunately, laughing also hurts, so I spend a fair amount of time in pain when I hang out with some of my friends here. One compassionately suggested that she could punch me whenever she made a joke, so that I wouldn't laugh, but I kindly refused her generous offer.

Things are picking up in school. I'm now singing with the a capella group, the Voice Boys (kind of an amusing name, in my opinion), as well as playing with the big band, playing soccer (though not right now), and tomorrow is the first meeting of Center Stage, the English theater group, which I am now the head of. The teacher who normally leads it is pretty swamped, and although she'll be helping me at all stages of the group, I'm the one actually in charge of it this year, so that should be fun. I'm looking forward to it, though (Dona, thank you for so many good theater exercises! I will put them to good use!), and to picking a show for us to do. I also have to write the first Klausur, or major test, for my English class. They'll take that on Wednesday.

The other note of bad news, which is something I find thoroughly infuriating, is that a student turned in homework that was quite literally a paragraph copied straight out of a National Geographic article. I cannot stand intentional plagiarism like that. When a student forgets to quote something, okay, that's an honest mistake, but cribbing a whole paragraph and turning it in as your own is lazy and insulting to your teacher, besides being illegal. Not to mention how ridiculously obvious it is. Suddenly perfect grammar and an expansive vocabulary? Hmm, whatever could this mean?
I spoke with my class about the issue of plagiarism at some length, and I believe I made enough of an impression as to not have to deal with it too much in the future, but only time will tell. I of course also spoke directly to the student in question after class was finished, and said student seemed genuinely repentant, so here's hoping the lesson sticks.

I think that's all for now. I hope life is treating everyone well.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Best Day

Yesterday I went to a theater piece at the school, called "Tannöd," and although I only understood perhaps 40% of the speech, I enjoyed it. It was an interesting, dark piece, about a family who had been murdered, and from what I understood, I believe the killer stayed in their house for a couple days, feeding the cattle, etc. Very bizarre. The play itself dealt with the after effects, interviews with other townspeople and things of the sort. It's amazing how much can be communicated through simple body language and expressions.

But the real meat of this post, though it may not be very long, is that I just had the best day. My friend Jana picked me up around 12:30, and announced "We're going to Heidelberg." I had no problem with this, and so we got into the car and drove to Heidelberg, talking about music and listening to a French group called ZAZA, who I really like, now. I joked that I was glad I'd made a friend with good taste.

In Heidelberg, we continuously joked around, and ate Japanese for lunch, and walked up to the castle in the humidity (and were sweating more than we thought we would. She griped, so I picked her up and basket-carried her up the last set of steps as a joke.), and just stood and enjoyed the view. I hadn't grabbed my camera, since I didn't realize we'd be going to Heidelberg, but I'm sure I'll go there again. We turned back when we saw you had to pay to actually go into the castle, and randomly talked with some older ladies from Alabama on the walk down the hill. We then stopped and ate what are without doubt the BEST WAFFLES IN THE WORLD. I kid you not. I had a fresh-made Belgian waffle with homemade raspberry sorbet and hot chocolate sauce on it. It was pretty much the best thing I've ever eaten. She had the same, but with maracuja sorbet. We walked back to the car and drove back to Rimbach, where I showed her some Lindy Hop videos so she had some idea of the kind of dancing I do, and then upon her protesting that she cannot dance, I taught her a little basic Blues, at which point I discovered that she follows very well. We then proceeded to dance for an hour and a half to the songs on a Blues CD I gave her last week, before she went home, instead of watching "Shawshank Redemption" like we'd planned. Best change of plans ever made.

Today was the best day. ^_^

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Will You Do When You're Old?

So, in my conversation class today, we talked about what we're going to do, and what we all want to do in the future, and I encouraged the students to ask questions, either of me about the United States or about myself, or else of each other, as well. And one student asked about whether or not I wanted to have kids later in life, since I had mentioned that I'm not a fan of small children. I responded that I don't want to have children, or don't see any reason for me to have children (with my usual caveat that I'm not going to say "I will never have children," lest I end up with eight). And another girl promptly asked me, "But what will you do when you're old?" I knew what she meant, more or less, but for the sake of a little black humor I cocked my eyebrow and looked at her, and said simply, "Die." I laughed and said I was joking, of course, but that I would probably continue doing when I was old whatever it was I was doing the year before, and the year before that, etc. And she said, "But you'll be alone." To which I responded, "Of course I won't. I have brothers, and they'll have kids, and I have very close friends, and very tightly knit friendships. But as for dying alone, well, even if I had kids, I wouldn't force them to live in my basement till I died, so I highly doubt that they'd be in the house in any case." We all laughed and joked, and kept the conversation light, but it did spark a thought that I think is rather odd.

In the U.S., and here as well, it seems that people think that to have family means only to get married, and have kids. I think that's silly, since our families are much larger than just that small nuclear unit, but also because we oftentimes forge friendships that are at least as close as the bonds that blood makes between us. My brother Andy, for example, is neither biologically nor legally my brother, but calls my parents Mom and Dad, and is such a part of the family in so many ways that he can't really be called just a "friend." He's my brother. For my parents, for quite some time I imagine it was almost like having another son, since he was at our house so often, and would help out with things when we needed it, would go on family trips with us, or take care of things for us when we were gone on trips he didn't/couldn't go on. The concept of ever actually being alone, truly alone, is preposterous. The only way for someone to be alone is for them to be physically or socially isolated, by themselves or others, from contact with other human beings.

Coupled with this idea is the implication that a person can't have a fulfilling life without having kids. That, I definitely think ridiculous. Now, this is not to take anything whatsoever away from parents. My own, for example, are incredible people. As a matter of fact, I would argue that raising a child is by far the most difficult endeavor a human being can undertake. But to think that it is somehow the only way for a person to feel fulfilled in their life is something I just cannot credit.

So, if I end up old, lonely, and bitter at all my friends who have children, please remind me that I said this now, and say "I told you so." :-P

Best wishes to you all.