So beloved readers, here we are again, after my lovely trip home to the US. I am not going to speak too much on that subject here, as it does not involve Germany, but it was a lovely time, and great to see so many friends and family. I saw a few movies, including the amazing Les Miserables, whose soundtrack is now serenading me, and has been for the last three weeks. If you haven't seen it, go.
While flying back to America I struck up a conversation with a German woman who had been on holiday in the best country in the world. She told me that she loved it in America, and that people there were way more open and friendly. This is a comment I have heard many Germans say about Americans, and something I myself have missed while in Germany. It is not that Germans are unfriendly, once you get to know them they are great, but they have a certain shell which is difficult to penetrate, and to foreigners, they can come off as quite unfriendly. Meanwhile, Americans like to strike up conversations with strangers and are simply (most of the time) more willing to talk and converse. Contrary to last year's theme of fitting in, I decided to start this year off by putting some American culture into little old Rimbach. It was the woman on the plane who helped me realize that while Germans are less open, they love how friendly Americans are, and I decided to play that to my advantage. Thus it was that my first trip back to the grocery store had me asking the cashier in German: "How is it going today?" The blank stare I got back told the story of the differences between the two cultures. She had no idea why I was asking and how to respond. I asked again. Finally she responds: "Goood...?" At which point I realized that the only way we were going to connect was if I just took over the conversation, so without being asked I told her how tired I was from jet lag and that I had just come back from America, and my greatest fears and worries and trials and tribulations, my dreams, and everything there was to know about myself. We ended up having a nice chat, and I felt like my job of bringing American culture to Germany had successfully begun. It wasn't until a week later, however, that I realized the impact a small effort to start conversation can have on people. I was going through the checkout with the same cashier, but was having a downer day and just didn't have the motivation to start a conversation with her. I was planning on going through silently and conceding defeat when the cashier asks: "How's it going today?" We ended up having a great conversation. I still wonder at the fact, that only a week after a woman was dumfounded at the fact that I asked her how she was in the grocery store, she took initiative to ask me. I think it points to the power of making an effort to be friendly to people, you never know how you much can touch them.
It was also nice to be picked up by a fellow teacher at the airport in Germany. It was a strange feeling to be flying "home" to a foreign country, but it was nice to have friends to greet me immediately. The last three weeks have not been too eventful, as we have wrapped up the second semester. I have badly jammed two fingers in basketball and suffered a severe cut on another finger, but they are healing fast. Last week I was compelled to ask my students to anonymously fill out sheets answering how much and in what ways their English has improved this year, and in what ways my class is good and bad. I was admittedly quite nervous about the potential responses as at times I do not consider myself that great of a teacher. To my surprise, however, every response was overwhelmingly positive. Students indicated that their English was vastly improving and that they loved my teaching style. Several even called me the best English teacher ever. I feel incredibly grateful and blessed.
This Friday I was also invited by several students to go mountain biking with their sport class. I took up the challenge and joined them on a four hour bike ride through the Odenwald. Definitely a major highlight of the year to date. It was around 40 degrees and raining, but about 15 of us all toughed it out. At times it was as strenuous of a ride as I've had, climbing a steep mountain for a solid two hours. Every now and then, we had a gap in the fog and it allowed one to admire the incredible natural beauty of the Odenwald. Cows, pastures, beautiful forests, and rolling mini-mountains with little towns dotted throughout. The way down was incredibly cold, as our bikes skidded through mud and dirt splattered our faces. I was incredibly sore afterwards, but it was a great time. Today, around 15 students and 3 teachers came to watch me play basketball in Weinheim! I feel once again grateful and blessed that so many people would take 2 hours out of their Sunday to see me play. After shaking off initial nerves and my first two missed shots, I hit my last 3 and finished with 8 points, an ok game, but we won, which is the most important thing. Soon, some of the seniors will come over to my apartment and we will go over to the MLS, setting up the Super Bowl on a big screen. It should be a blast. With that, dear readers, I must leave you all.
Be merry and enjoy life, till my next post,