Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Herbst Ferien und Klausuren

So, I just returned from Herbst Ferien (Fall holidays, for the English-speaking crowd), a week of which I spent hanging out in the area of Munich, spending time with a friend I met in Brazil. She and I met on a bus tour around the Northeast of Brazil five years ago, and this is the first time we've seen each other since. It was a blast, though. She plays on a Regional League volleyball team, one step under the Bundesliga, or national level. Her team hopes to move up to the Bundesliga, and I went and watched one of their games an one of their practices. They have some hardcore drills. For example, there is a player on the team who is a specified defensive player; she doesn't have to serve, and she can come into the rotation at different times. One exercise involved her standing on a narrow beam while the other players took turns spiking balls at her, which she then tried to return. Her balance and coordination under the circumstances were very impressive. I'd have been falling all over the place.

We also went hiking in the mountains, and then went to see Schloss Linderhof, which in this case would most accurately be translated as Manor House Linderhof, since it is rather small, and shares very little with castles like Neuschwanstein. It's a beautiful area, though, and I learned some rather interesting things about Ludwig II, such as the fact that he preferred to sleep during the day and work during the night, and that on the rare occurrences where he gave audiences, he made them come to see him in the evening hours, rather than getting up for them. I'd been there once before, actually, seven years ago, but it was neat to go again, especially at a point where I appreciate such things a little more.

I also caught up with a fellow Ole in Munich, Chenoa Albertson. She's a dancer, and is working as an au pair here for a year. Another highlight was meeting my friend Franziska and her boyfriend for dinner. Franziska and I met only once, seven years ago, on almost the very last night I was in Germany. I went out to a bar with my friend Chrissy Hiller, whose family I was staying with, and Franziska was one of her friends, and we've kept in touch on and off since then. It's always wonderful to me that we can make and keep such connections, despite long absences, or not seeing each other often.

The only other major thing that has been occupying my time is correcting Klausuren, which has taken me significantly longer than I expected. Partially because of the work itself, but partially also because I'm dragging my feet a little at doing them. Some of the scores are rather lower than I'd hoped, and I feel bad giving back such grades; I like my students, and I'm anticipating some poor reactions to their grades, for some of them. :-/ But such is the role of a teacher, I suppose. I hope it will motivate them to work a little harder. Some of the mistakes I'm seeing are things they should really be past, though we have been doing some grammar and language review, of course. And most of the grades aren't bad, else I would need to seriously reexamine my test, etc. That's one thing for which I will always be grateful to my experience at Explo: the simple lesson that my teaching and my curriculum is not always good, and even when it is, it is always open for reflection and improvement.

Next week is the Berlin trip, which I'm looking forward to. You can probably expect another blog right after it, telling you all about it.

I also had my first bike-related injury in Munich. Well, in Iffeldorf, actually. I fell and scraped my up hand pretty good, though nothing to cause a fuss over. I'm lucky I didn't do anything worse, since I also hit my cheekbone on the pavement and bent my glasses a bit. They bent back easily and don't look any the worse for wear, and thankfully my cheekbone also shows no marks. It wouldn't be fun to come back and teach with a scraped up face. :-P

All the best to you all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bikexperiment, Day 2

(For those wondering, that should be pronounced "bike-speriment," with "bike" being pronounced normally.)

So, day two of riding. I rode for approximately an hour-ish today, though I don't know exactly how much. I braved the embarrassment of riding in front of others and rode around my neighborhood a bit (there's very little traffic there, so it's not a big deal), though one across the train tracks definitely pointed and evidently got a kick out of my obviously novice bike riding. Oh well. I've never minded making a fool of myself in public, so long as I knew I was doing it, and did it on purpose. I'll deal with it.

It went pretty well. I can get started/stay upright the vast majority of the time, though I'm still rather unskilled with things like turning and going uphill (though I managed uphill a couple of times, on a relatively low-incline hill), but I'm getting better all the time, that I can tell. I'm also rather sore right now, because I tense up way too much, and only start to relax when I'm going downhill, or something like that. Keeping my fingers on the brakes keeps me from squeezing the handlebars too tightly, which is also a good thing.

Hope all is well with all of you!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm on a Bike

Props to you if you recognize the reference, but don't worry about it if you don't, because it's not a very good song anyway.

If I wanted to reference a good song, I'd have put something along the lines of "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my biiike..." (Thank you, Queen, for writing so many songs that involve bicycles. Even if they are rather bizarre lyrics to include.)

So, it's Herbst Ferien, which means I have two weeks of no school to get through. I say "get through" because the first week of that is a little tough. My social circle is not very large in Rimbach, right now, so I'm, well, a little bored. I went out to dinner and then watched a thoroughly bizarre Danish film called "Adam's Apples" with some other teachers on Friday night (a film I'm still not sure if I actually liked. Some parts were funny, but on a whole, I'm not certain that I'd bother watching it again.), but other than that I don't have much by way of plans. Hanging out with a friend tomorrow, which should be fun, and I was potentially going to go to some kind of ski-aerobics class with another friend tonight, but I may not go to that, because my tennis shoes are soaked, and I'm a little sore.

Which brings me to the title of this post (it's official, I'm needlessly verbose. It took me....what, twenty lines of text to get to the point?), which is that I have officially begun to teach myself how to ride a bike. Before you all go crazy and ask "You can't ride a bike? Can you swim?" (If I am asked that question one more time, I swear, I might explode.), yes, I can't ride a bike. I got to training wheels as a child, and refused to learn how to ride properly. Mostly it was because the continued failure to actually learn it made me furious (yes, I know that falling down a bunch is normal; didn't make me any less mad), and I was a very stubborn child. I'm pretty much just happy that I didn't break the bike in the moments I was angry enough to really want to break something.

See, I used to have a really bad temper. An irrationally bad temper. Yes, anger is usually irrational, but I would get angry at the smallest, stupidest things. For the most part it was a childhood thing, and I grew out of it. I was pretty sure in Brazil, for example, that I had nothing to worry about as far as my temper went anymore. I have discovered over time that certain things will still set me off pretty easily. One of those things is feeling incompetent or failing repeatedly at something, which usually leads to the feeling incompetent. This doesn't happen too horribly often, since I usually also tend to try not to take anything too seriously, since whatever it is I'm doing probably isn't exactly life-changing. But every once in a while, something really gets me going. Attempting to ride a bike today was one of those things.

Anyone who has spent the majority of their life unable to do something that 90% of the population does without actively thinking about, and has tried to learn said thing, knows what I'm talking about. It's even a cliche. "It's just like riding a bike." I loved when people would say that to me, so that I could calmly turn to them and say, "I can't ride a bike." And then watch their face contort as they tried to think of what to say to that. But seriously, it is ridiculously frustrating and embarrassing to have so much difficulty learning something that is essentially the poster-child of "easy."

Which is why I took my bike to an abandoned patch of grass, out of view, and practiced for two hours.

I can stay upright, at least for a while, though I probably could have chosen a better spot to practice, since the ground was uneven and the grass ridiculously long. But I'm getting it. I need a lot of practice, but the simple fact that I actually TRIED today is pretty huge. So I thought I'd share.

And no, I'm not riding on the street much yet. I don't feel like getting hit by a car anytime soon, so I'd rather have much better control before I actually try to go anywhere.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


So, I went to the Mannheim National Theater fest, and saw a number of neat previews of the season's shows, as well as a couple snippets of "Avenue Q," which will be performed at the theater sometime next year, I believe. I'm not sure exactly when. It's translated into German, which I find a little unfortunate - some of the syllabation was a bit forced in the translation - but all in all I think they did a great job of it. It'll be a good show. I also got to see a preview of former guest teacher Linda's show, Bitchfresse, which is about hip hop and the like in Germany. I went and saw that this past Sunday, and that was quite a good time. I couldn't understand everything, but I got most of it, and it was hilarious. The two actors/singers who performed it played off each other very well, and were great both musically and physically. One of them seemed a bit nervous, as I saw him visibly shaking at one point, but I've certainly been there. My intermediate acting final I was shaking like a leaf during my last monologue. Thankfully it looked at least semi-intentional.

Things are going well otherwise. My English students had to take their first Klausur (one of the two major tests during their term, for the Americans reading), and I received a few unkind glances in regards to it, but I think most teachers get that when giving a test. All in all they look pretty good, though now of course I have the joyous task of correcting them. It's a little more complex than grading homework. But I'll survive, since after this week it's fall break, during which I'll be spending a week in Munich. I can't wait; the friend I'll be staying with is a girl I met in the Amazon while in Brazil, and I haven't seen her for five years. I'll also probably stop by and see a friend I made last time I was in Germany, seven years ago, and catch up a little with her. It should be a great break.

I have decided (almost 100% certainly) that Center Stage will be performing "The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde. I think it's a good show, and relatively simple in meaning, though of course not all of Wilde's puns and innuendo will carry to a German audience. I think we can make it work well, though, and it should be a good experience for both me and the actors in the group. I'm excited.

That's all for now. Hope all is well with all of you.