Greetings from Herbern! (Pronounced “hair-ben” in case you missed my last post.) Things have been so busy I have hardly had time to write! I will give a brief update on happenings this past week…
Above: A statue symbolizing peace and reconciliation, near the Berlin Wall.
I realized I haven’t written much about the schools, despite the fact that I am here to complete my student teaching. The funny thing is, all the language and cultural differences aside, German classrooms are not all that different from American classrooms. There are well-behaved students and wild students, excellent teachers and mediocre ones, engaging discussions and lessons where getting answers feels like pulling teeth. Students wear clothing (often with English words) similar to our students,’ and behave much as I have experienced in classrooms back home. Every day reminds me what an important role teachers play and how I cannot wait to have my own classroom to develop a curiosity and passion within my students.
I have only had the opportunity to teach one lesson so far (mostly I have been observing to prepare to teach). My schedule was a little messed up due to several absent teachers, but on Monday I will be teaching a lesson to a bilingual biology class! We are going to be talking about the heart. They are learning the vocabulary for the first time in both German and English, so it should be interesting! I am thrilled to discuss such a fantastic and mind-shattering organ with them. If you are bored of reading this or have extra time to be reminded of the amazing feat that is our existence, I suggest you watch this short video that shows how blood pumps through your body (he mispronounces vena cava, but I think we can cut him some slack): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEWjOCVEN7M
This past week has included lots of traveling and exploration. We are teaching in Werne (Ver-nah), and there is a beautiful park and city center nearby. One major difference between this area and BG is how bike-friendly it is here! In Munster, there are more bikes than people (according to a local source).
Below: Jennifer, Anna and I on one of Werne’s many spacious paths.
I also took a day excursion with Anna to Dortmund. We proudly (and confusedly) navigated our way through the train station and to the cathedral and humongous mall, where we got sucked in by a store called Primark, which is basically like Forever 21 on steroids and even cheaper (hard to imagine, I know). After an hour and a half of the soul-sucking shopping which ended in purchases that made our grand total of remaining cash (between BOTH of us) 2 Euros, we decided it was time to explore elsewhere. (In our defense, I only spent 5 Euros and Anna a few more than that- we just didn’t budget well when we packed money for the trip). This led to our comical ice cream adventure, where we were forced to choose between peeing and getting an ice cream cone. Can’t say I ever thought I would have to make that choice! (Our decision to wait to find a restroom was soon overturned by the overwhelming realization that sometimes nature trumps your desire for ice cream- rare as it may be). This was followed by a stroll through the Dortmund Christmas market, which can only be described as a magical Christmas land filled with the smell of mulled wine and other delicious treats. (See Anna’s blog for the story of the Indian man who became our unofficial tour guide and would not leave us alone even after we tried to sprint away and claimed we need to head to the cathedral for religious purposes).
Below: One of the magical structures in Dortmund’s Christmas market.
Lastly, this past weekend we went to Berlin. This was an incredible (and cold) adventure into Germany’s history and the division that existed just 25 years ago. It is one thing to read about this in a textbook or see photos online; it is quite another to stand before the last remaining fragments of a wall that devastated peoples’ lives and literally prevented them from achieving their dreams and desires. I realized how immersed I am in this American mindset- “anything is possible”- and yet, if there was a wall outside my home with guards ready to shoot anyone who tried to pass, how that dream would have to die. How as much as we breathe our free red-white-and blue air, no human is invincible. This is particularly interesting in light of the Ferguson protests, but that conversation will have to wait for another time.
Below: Standing next to the remaining portion of the Berlin Wall, preserved so that Germans never forget the past in this city (and country).
Alas, I still don’t speak German. I can say I have, you have, he/she/it has…But every day I am reminded that I do not speak the language of the country I am living in. I have had some great discussions with my fellow teachers about what it must feel like for our ESL students who are new to America. It can be overwhelming and discouraging to sit in a room filled with people and to not understand a word that they are saying. But I have learned how much can be communicated without words, and how we all say similar things in a different way. For all our differences, sometimes we are not all that different after all…
Below: A hole that looks from the East to the West; a glimpse of life on “the other side”
Now that I have written nearly a book….If you have made it this far, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Also, you are probably a family member or friend, so know that I love and miss you and am sending hugs from abroad! Enjoy your turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie (yum), and think of me while I enjoy bread and more bread….
Tschüss! (Scrunch your nose and say “choose”…Finally I can say goodbye!)