Saturday, August 31, 2013

Weingute Ausflug

Yesterday was the the MLS teacher field trip! Pretty funny that there was only a half day of school so that the teachers could go out with one another. At 11 am, we boarded coach busses to travel from Rimbach to the village Lautertal and eat at the restaurant/hotel Kuralpe. Riding on the bus is an adventure in itself since its so big in comparison to the small streets we drive on and tinier villages we drive through. It felt like a roller coaster sometimes.
Eating lunch 

Walking after lunch


a little bit more landscape to show where we were
When we arrived in Nierstein-Schwabsbug, at the Weingut, we were greeted with a small glass of wine, coffee and a large assortment of cakes. Shortly after, we were herded onto tractor trailers and thats when it really began. I had been..., perhaps, warned is the best word, of this trip the past 2 weeks. The Kollegiumausflug 5 years ago was also the Weingut so many of the teacher's had already been. I was told that we would be pulled around on a tractor and get drunk on wine. And thats exactly what happened.


I'm sorry, but baggied wurst is weird. No matter what the German's say, I think this is odd. We each got a little packet of food (read:two brotchens and a hunk of wurst) on the ride to enjoy with our wine. I laughed when I pulled this out of my bag, but my colleagues asked me "what else you would you put it in?".  Touche. However, I would say we simply do not each sausage in situations that aren't conducive for using plates. Then again, America is a big place and maybe I've been living in the wrong part of the country. 

i took this myself


Photo cred: Frau Wilhelm

I combined my "guest teacher card" with Annett's ability to rally people together to convince everyone this photo was worth taking. 

Romy and Tilo

All and all, a wonderful trip.

When we got back to Rimbach, a group of us decided to continue the evening by going to a local pub/beer garden. It was really nice to get to know more of the teachers, especially on a less bumpy terrain than through the Winegut, and I enjoyed getting to speak so much German. I'm so thankful for the German I learned previously. It has made it so much easier to get to know the staff, and not to mention just keeping the kiddos in line, too. I think I surprise my 8th graders sometimes that I can understand the sly comments they make in German when they think I'm not listening.

So if you are planning a trip to Germany, I would highly recommend that you add this to your itinerary. If you come in the next 11 months, I'll join you! 

Friday, August 30, 2013

When a Cactus Blooms Part 2

Clearly I know nothing about plants because I was blown away by this surprise this morning

Who knew about cacti blossoms? 

So its going to be a good day apparently. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When a Cactus Blooms

I feel almost jittery because I want to share so much that I don't know what to write about first. For instance, I'm currently staring out the window at my cactus in awe at this cactus sprout that has grown at least 5 inches this week and turned this beautiful magenta color and I want you to see how beautiful it is so we can marvel at the wonder of life together. And I want to talk about my teacher's calender and show you how organized I got today. I want to talk about teacher rooms, cubby holes, bad coffee and good pens. And I want to talk about good neighbors, living alone and being a foreigner without feeling foreign. And I especially want to say that I am so happy I came to Rimbach and am working at the MLS and sometimes I just want to gush about it because I feel giddy. But then I feel silly for feeling so giddy because giddiness is often equated with naiveté. And everyone knows that 22 year olds have reached the highest achievable level of wisdom....

Naja. Let me tell you about life at school. I teach a 9th grade English class 4 hours a week, an 8th grade class 4 hours a week and an 11th grade class every Monday for a double period. I will also be leading up to two conversation classes for years 8th-13th, but we are still working out when to hold those. And I'll be assisting with the English drama group, but that also hasn't begun yet. It's been nice to only have two classes (the 11th grade remedial English class hasn't started yet either) to worry about the first two weeks. Although, I did arrive at school this Monday at 7:25 am only to learn that the upper grades had some sort of assembly and classes were cancelled. Sometimes I'm the last to hear about things.

My 9th grade class is a dream. There are only 7 students. Which is funny since it is almost parallel to my very first high school German class of 6 people. At first I dreaded going to teach them because they were so quiet, but they've started to feel more comfortable and I think I could even say they're having fun. Its a wonderful environment to help me find my voice in the classroom. As I've learned this week, I have a long way to go before I know myself as a teacher and can apply that in an organized and regular way. But that is why the teacher's room is my new favorite place. I only taught during the first period today, but I hung around to be social and learn how to do things like keep a grade book. And drink bad coffee. And borrow good pens. Some other time I'll elaborate on German's elaborate school supply system.
Yesterday, I had a double period with the 9th graders in the afternoon so I took them outside and sat in this this outdoor, stone courtyard and discussed racism in Australia. It was a rewarding moment because last semester I took a class about how to incorporate multiculturalism (however you define that) into mainstream lessons and 6 months later, I'm doing it myself.

Another reason I hung out so long today, was to get tips on managing my 8th graders. 90% of my classroom experience has been with children under the age of 10. So I really don't know much about middle schoolers. Apart from growing up with many younger cousins (bless your hearts). Additionally, some of the other teacher's have told me the 8b class is particularly difficult haha. But I'm totally up for the challenge. I mean, what else would I be doing? I'm here to teach. My life is quite small. For once (RIP St. Olaf). So what I'm saying is, I have the energy for this. Plus, my friends teaching in the US are teaching 5 or more periods a day. I teach at most 3 a day and only one of those are with 8th graders. I have nothing to complain about.

 The most frustrating thing is that they consistently talk while I am speaking. Everyone keeps blaming it on the age, and I'm no authority to say it isn't, but I've experienced similar problems in my other Germany experiences. Especially at the University I studied at in Konstanz I found it so irritating that people will blatantly talk with their neighbor and hardly try to conceal the conversation to a whisper. The same was true when I went to school in Heidelberg and Hannover. And even in the teacher's conference at MLS. So maybe its a cultural thing? I don't want to generalize. This is the trend I have noticed and perhaps it is particularly striking to me because I went to a private high school and St. Olaf- so perhaps its just a matter of where I've spent my time learning? Anyway, I don't know how much I'm going to get at changing that behavior. But I think I might start with a reward system (gasp!). And just like that, Alfie Kohn flew out the window.

I actually successfully baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies two nights ago to give to my neighbors. Hanna liked them so much she wants to learn how to make them this weekend so she can bring them to her class on Monday to celebrate her birthday. Also, after much "beklagen" on my part that Germany doesn't know how to bake chocolate chip cookies, I found this video from one of my favorite German bands on how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

So definitely not a flop, but not necessarily good enough that I was sad to give them all away. I brought some to the teacher's room, too. 
This is my cubby. Or "Fach" in German. Or Pigeon Hole as the German's translate it into English. I kind of like referring to is at a Pigeon Hole. 

And this is the teacher's room where I spend lots of my time. And maybe its because I can tune out German so easily, but I haven't experienced any of the teacher griping that I was warned takes place in teacher's rooms in the US.

Well, its getting late and I want to go to bed on time today for once. Although, I am enjoying how easy it is to go to bed early when you live by yourself. Before I go, let me tell you about this evening, because I paused this post in the middle of writing it so I could go somewhere.

There are a few things that I find very important to have anywhere that I am living. Among this list are cozy coffee shops, small bookstores and public libraries. While Rimbach is laking in both coffee shops and libraries, they do have something I am always looking for. Adult ballet classes. I either never fulfilled or never outgrew my obsession with being a ballerina and the dream is very much alive today. Unfortunately, you can never find classes for people my age. I am very shocked that there is such a class in this small village that I can even walk to. Life couldn't be better. Oh, but then it did, because Sabine and Hanna Schmitt (downstairs neighbors, mom and youngest daughter) offered to drive me to class today because they wanted to make sure I found everything alright. Then they picked me up. And then we spontaneously went to watch Caroline (older daughter) at track practice. And met some family friends. And there was soccer practice. And some old people were grilling. It made me feel so at home because half my childhood was spent on the sidelines of various cousin sporting events. There is a competition for all the track and field athletes next Sunday that Caroline and Hanna are in. So I'm going to go, too. It's just the best of both worlds because I'm such a family orientated person so I'm getting all the benefits of a home stay, while getting to live independently in my own space. See why I'm so giddy? Seriously, I prepared myself for a sad lonely year living in Germany for over 6 months now. I honestly didn't think I would find this many communities to be a part of. I think it helps that I have a sort of "i've got nothing to lose" spirit about it all. I wouldn't be throwing myself into this many things at home, I don't think. 

This is Bernard. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Beginning again

Hello! Guten Tag! Guten Abend!

I am proud to introduce myself as the 31st Rimbach Gastleherin! Actually living in Rimbach and starting school this week has helped me appreciate even more what a unique piece of history I am now apart of. Thank you to everyone who helped keep this program alive and thriving over the past few years. Even at the start of my year, I already feel excited to continue following the future guest teachers.

The past 11 days have been far more enjoyable and far less lonely than I predicted. I pessimistically anticipated that I would be sitting alone in my apartment with nothing to do or no one to see until school started. That was not my experience however. I have met so many generous teachers from MLS who invited me into their homes, took me on outings, and fed me lots of pflaum kuchen. On top of that, the family who I live in the apartment with has been likewise welcoming, leaving me doorstep gifts, inviting me to festivals and helping me settle into the house. In kurz, in Rimbach ich fuehle mich daheim.

Although there are many stories to tell from the past week and a half, I'll just sum it up with a series of pictures I took. There should be one for each day.

August 10th: The day after I arrived, two friends I studied abroad with in Konstanz visited me. It was a wonderful way to explore Rimbach for the first time. Here I am in front of MLS. 

August 10th: On our walk around Rimbach, we found a concert festival taking place in Rimbach that evening. Although my friends had to return to Stuttgart, I decided to go alone and ended up having a lot of fun. You know that person who is literally the first to shamelessly get up and start dancing when ever there is an opportunity? Well, that was the women sitting next to me- so I joined her. Funny that I ended up dancing at a Blues Festival when I was searching for something culturally german to cure my homesickness. 

August 11: On my second day, Romy, Jutta Meyer, her husband Bernt and their two French friends invited me on a trip to see some local sites. We visited the Welde brewery for a tour and sampling, the palace Schwetzinger above, and the town of Weinheim. I was so happy to be included on the outing and it was wonderful getting to know Romy and Jutta better since they are also English teachers at MLS. 

August 12th: This evening I was playing the card game Ligretto with the Schmitt sisters downstairs, Caroline (12) and Hanna (10). It was a really cute evening getting to know the girls and their mom even brought us gelato from the shop down the street. After the summer rain shower, we caught this rainbow bending over Rimbach. 

August 13th: Tuesday. No plans. I woke up, and as soon as I did, I moved to my "living room" and read for most of the day. Apart from when Caroline and Hanna invited me to play with them on their trampoline (which was great), I spent a luxurious day doing nothing. At night, I lit some candles and finished my book.
August 14th: After morning coffee at fellow english teacher and neighbor, David Katzer's house, I took a trip to the nearest biggest city, Mannheim, to get some errands done. Although only 314,931 residents, it felt like NYC compared to Rimbach. Despite the excitement, I was happy to come home and will look forward to going back.

August 15th: Christina Nowak, another English teacher, invited me to her home in Bensheim for lunch. We walked around the old part of the city in the afternoon and got ice cream. It reminded me of being in Konstanz a little bit and also a little jealous of all the things big cities have to offer (i.e. public libraries, frauen tanzen gruppen and international gatherings). Later that evening, Romy, Tilo and I came back to Bensheim for a free outdoor music concert. It was great music and made me feel at home. 
August 16th: One of the things I've enjoyed most about being in Rimbach, is getting to have a space of my own to rearrange and design. Although this photo is already a bit outdated, this day, I swapped the desk and the bed. Maybe you second generations can appreciate the task knowing how heavy the desk was. I was pretty proud of myself. 

August 17th: Fisherfest. I was invited by the Schmitt family to bike to the local Fishing club to celebrate in the annual festival. The fisherfest basically is just a big fish eating party. I even got a fillet even though I am not usually a fish eater. But when in Rimbach... One thing that I loved about this event was that everyone who was there lived in the Odenwald. I liked feeling apart of the local tradition and not engulfed in a touristy ritual. Additionally, it was great to spend time with the Schmitts and meet their relatives who were there too. On the way home, we biked through the village at night and the girls showed me where their grandparents (both sets) and cousins lived and we called up to their open windows to wish them good night. It was adorable. Then they showed me not only where the bakeries were, but also where they eat Doenner during lunch, the banks, the toy store, the shoe store, the florist, the drug store. It was so endearing, I pretended I was seeing it all for the first time. 
August 19th: So I had a cute idea to make back to school rice crispy treats, even though Edeka only offered Special K. Luke left a bag of marshmellows in the pantry, so I thought I was all set. But apparently if marshmellows are too old they don't melt. I tried to redeem the occasion by making chocolate chip cookies, even though my baking record in Germany is really bad. Living in Konstanz for 5 months, and over 6 cookie making failures. I don't know what it is, but I can't bake outside of the US. This day, I was so anxious, I literally sat and watched the cookies in the oven. So then I shamelessly took a picture of myself doing so. I wish I could report that I finally succeeded, but it was another flop. Next time. 
August 19th: First day of school picture taking apparatus. I tried to get the Schmitts excited for this tradition, but they weren't really feeling it, so I finagled this thing to take a picture of myself on my balcony (after school). School the first day was great! Firsts for me are never hard because I feel like I have nothing to lose. Its the second, third, fourth etc times that I get nervous about. On Monday, it was just fun. Good energy. A lot of teachers greeted me and introduced themselves, so I definitely felt welcomed in the teacher's room. The computer, printer and copy machines were less friendly... I taught an 9th grade English class which miraculously only has 7 students in it (long story) and then an 8th grade class. It didn't go horribly, closer to good than bad, but things definitely need to change. There is a lot of energy in that group. In the afternoon, I went to have coffee with Helmut Hartmann (we had dinner together a few nights ago- he is a retired english teacher, teacher trainer, and was very involved in the Olaf/Rimbach program earlier) and he gave me countless things for my apartment. Including a rug, an old fashioned purée crank thing to make soups, couch pillows, storage drawers, mixing bowls, a ceramic pot to cook bread in! Honestly, the afternoon was more exciting than school. Like I said, I'm having a lot of fun moving in and Herr Hartmann's generosity is very much appreciated. 

August 20th: It was only Tuesday- and I only taught one double period class of 7 students- and I came home so exhausted, I felt too tired to even sleep (if that makes sense). I don't know, something about lesson planning and copy machines and navigating around the school really exhausted me. But, this cactus that Helmut gave me put me in a good mood just to look at. There is just something really adorable about it. But I like my 9th graders. I'm looking forward to a good year with them. I'm mildly scared of my 8th graders.