Sunday, May 31, 2009

home stretch!

So the weather has turned beautiful here, the Rhein miraculously became blue (no longer a murky green/brown) and the grilling has become insane. Public bbqs are more or less allowed in Germany, so everyone brings these tiny, transportable grills to fields along the Rhein or Neckar and hangs out, drinks beer, and eats sausage, pork, and broetchen. It's really really fun, but I'm getting tired of eating so much sausage. Particularly because it's Mannheim's Stadtfest this weekend, which means basically a festival of eating sausage and drinking beer. I mean, the Germans have got the one thing right, and they do it again and again and again.

Here, David demonstrates perfect grill-lifting form:

I actually have a laughable number of classes in the coming month. Monday is free because of Pentecost, and next Thursday for another religious holiday (what would that be... Corpus Christy, I think). Also, on Tuesday I'm taking an entire 6th grade class to the dentist-- alone. Usually two full-blown teachers supervise these trips, but teachers are flaky sometimes, so the task fell on me. Two hours, 25 sixth-graders... that's a looong time in a waiting room.

Other exciting news for next week, though, is that the 9th graders are learning about Australia, and I have a really good friend here from Australia who has agreed to come in and teach a little lesson on it! I'm excited to show her my school, but also to not have to plan those lessons...

My free time has been good this month, as I officially start half-marathon training June first. I did a nice long run on the Neckar on Friday and I'm feeling much better about it. A and I are running a 10K in July, which falls perfectly into my larger training goals. Kendall's pushing for under 2 hours this time for the half... But, I've been playing soccer at least once or twice a week, usually with the University of Mannheim team. I was recruited to also play in Heidelberg, so I've done that once, as well. I've been really surprised at how much women's soccer is a trend among German lesbians. I play sometimes with male friends, since every boy has played since childhood, but girls are just now getting into the sport. It's an interesting time for the sport since the German women's team won the women's world cup... or something...

Anyhow, off to enjoy my long weekend. Grilling for lunch (though all the grocery stores are closed on Sundays, so who knows how we'll get food. Rather unlikely anyone thought to buy stuff yesterday...)

ah, well. cheers!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

in for the long haul...

I think I realized that my stay in Germany was more than a semester abroad when I needed to buy a new thing of laundry detergent. For whatever reason, I cannot remember the last time I needed to replace a container of detergent. I'm pretty sure I survived 4 years of college on one, maybe two bottles of Gain. Buying replacement laundry supplies really hit home-- I actually LIVE here. It's more than just vacation.

On the other hand, I spent last weekend crafting a paper chain for the number of days I have left in Germany (current count: 53). The Fulbright Orientation packet served its end purpose very nicely. And I realized, I'm really almost done here. Almost, but not completely.

In all, I'm ready to be home. It's just started raining again here and I'm settling down for another long, uneventful Saturday. The Mannheim Marathon is tonight and I hope to watch some of it with my friend Ella.

I need to buy: a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, but I'm too cheap to pay for any of them. I've become unusually freckly and I'm worried about all my uneven tanning and sun-damaged skin for all the photo-ops this summer.

No desire to leave the house in the rain. I'm going to bake some peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies, I think, and listen to more NPR. Today I nearly aced the last two weeks of NY Times Health Quizzes. Yeah, I read the entire Health section most days. Oh, free time...

Dane and Jim come in a week! yay!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

rain showers...

Dear All,

Spring has come (more or less) to Mannheim! After several days of gorgeous sunshine, however, the clouds have reclaimed the horizon and the weather report for Mannheim looks something like: rain, rain, rain forever. I hope this translates to a verdant summer, but most likely it means we've met our sunshine quota early this year. That was it. One week.

The week was splendid. Fortuitously, it fell right in the middle of Easter break. Chrissy and Kevin were here and though I was back in the States for a while, we got in some quality travel time along with Chris' former host brothers, Felix and Tobias. We hit Stuttgart, Freiburg, Strasbourg, and Basel. Yay for three countries in one road trip!

Here, St. George on an old city Tor in Freiburg. St. George is all over the place!
Here, a picture from the hike just outside Freiburg. A great view of the hills:
So just on the edge of Germany, where we later ate the Biggest Schnitzel Ever, we stopped in a really neat George Nelson design museum. I loved all the clock designs:
At this point, my camera died. We made it to Basel, and here is Chrissy inside the Rathaus courtyard:
And, finally, a picture from inside a little now-protestant church in Strasbourg I'd never been in before. My heart skipped a beat when I saw all these original wall paintings. So back in the day, all churches were painted just like this one (columns red, walls covered like stained glass with stories and saints). These beauties date from the 14th century:
Crazy, right?

So, I'm kind of tired of teaching. It's really draining and I find it unnecessarily stressful. I also find my relationship with the other teachers to be very strange and, at times, strained.

Yesterday, though, I befriended an English teacher whom I'd never met before. He told me horror stories of my predecessor and how, though we'd never spoken, he thought I had a sort of "modesty that gives an air of nobility." How delightful and bizarre! He also liked to speak English with a thick English accent and describe his times at Cambridge, Oxford, Exeter, and NYU. He studied English literature, no less. Oh, academics at any level.

What else? It's raining now. Lots to do: wedding planning, 7th and 12th grade lessons to plan, cleaning, and push-ups, too.

I'm really in love with Ingrid Michaelson's cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love." Check it out, it's on her Myspace.

That's all for now. Scattered and sleepy. Naptime.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dear All,

Sorry for yet another long break in my blogging. I really only think of posting pictures here, but I suppose most of you can also read, so I thought I'd write a little update. :)

Things are progressing as usual in Mannheim/Ludwigshafen. I got a new schedule for the new school year (which confusingly began the first week of February without any warning or semester vacation or anything. Friday had one schedule and Monday a different one). My "new" schedule is disappointingly similar to last semester's. Lots of 6th, 7th, and 9th grade classes and even fewer upper level ones. Because German high school spans such an impressive age range (from 10 to 20, literally) it leaves a lot of room open for creative and very varied teaching. I've done a lot of cool things with the older students, prefering to treat my time with them more as a college seminar or discussion course than a high school class, but I find myself more limited with the younger students. They're eager to learn and good at participating, but they're not ready to listen to Obama's Inaugural Address or discuss the role of religion in schools and public life. Instead, I have them write stories about their pets or ask them what they want to do when they grow up. Boring stuff, basically.

Teaching consumes quite a lot of my time and energy. When I'm not in school or commuting to or from school (which takes around 40 minutes each way), I'm usually researching teaching techniques, activities, and ideas. Fulbright has quite a challenge in preparing its 100 plus American teaching assistants every year in the four-day orientation in September. Not only have most of us never taught before, but the jobs we go on to do actually vary significantly. I, for example, deal mostly with middle-school ages and teach virtually all my lessons alone. Other Fulbrighters I know have a better mix of participating on the sidelines or dealing with only older students. Most of what I've learned so far has been from trial and error. Unfortunately, the teachers I work with have been relatively unhelpful when it comes to preparing lessons and giving effective feedback. I find this aggravating, since unlike the TAs who also work there, I am neither graded nor audited, just criticized occassionally and rarely offered assistance.

On an unrelated note, I visited Trier last weekend! I forgot my camera, though I saw lots of things worth photographing. I really like that area of Germany, with steep, vineyard-covered hills and winding rivers. Also, the history in Trier is unbelievable. It was really neat to see the remains of the Roman city: ampitheater, baths, and city wall--so far from Rome! Also, my gracious hosts Amber and Zack, were the perfect companions for a nice weekend visit and a fun time out on a Kneipentour (pub crawl)!

I can't wait for Dane to visit in just a few weeks! I've been working on a detailed schedule for his visit, including a surprise for his birthday (belatedly). It always seems like time drags in the last few weeks before he visits. The good news, however, is that two weeks after he leaves, I will see Dane again--in the states! I'm competing in early April for a Dean's Fellowship scholarship at Quinnipiac's School of Law in Hamden, CT. They're flying me over for a weekend of interviews, dinners, and, of course, seeing Dane. The school is literally fifteen minutes from Yale, so Dane has graciously offered to put me up for a night or two until all the interview business is over. He and I are both trying to acquire advanced degrees with little to no debt. We'd prefer to spend our money on organic groceries and expensive vacations.

I guess that's all for me. I've been running along the Neckar for an hour roughly every other day and debating with myself whether I should run in Heidelberg's half-marathon. It's in May, I think, but would require some intense training. (Anyone who has been to Heidelberg and knows the castle will agree that getting up that hill/mountain requires some serious quads). Until then, I'm definitely going to run again, maybe with Kendall in the VA Beach Rock 'n Roll half, though we're now both behind in registering because I'm not sure on the timing (my sister gets married in KY the weekend after, and I'm her Maid of Honor (errr Matron of Honor...?)).

Have a great Valentine's Day all you couples and singles! I intend to bake something(s) heart-shaped and sugary and maybe watch some sort of romantic comedy. Or, I might go to Wertheim with my housemate and friends for a weekend party. We'll see.

Take care!

Friday, January 9, 2009

There goes December...

My dear Readers,

I apologize for missing an entire month! A lot of nice things happened since I last updated, including a visit from Dane, an adventure with a paper bunny, and Christmas at home. All three made me realize how wonderfully comfortable I've become in Germany and at the same time, how much I miss loved ones. Distance can be hard.

Here's one from Strasbourg. Dane and I didn't get a single picture together! But we did see some really neat stuff in Strasbourg, including the first snow of the season (huge, fluffy flakes) and all the gorgeous Christmas decorations. This is me in front of the cathedral:

Dane and I also admired the inside, both its apse and Astrological clock (yes, I mean Astrological and not Astronomical... it has all the sun signs on it!):

Also, as part of a 2nd-grade class project, I received a laminated paper bunny (hand-colored by a little Michigander). The bunny was named Felix and, like the gnome in Amelie, I showed him around Heidelberg and took some glamor shots. Here are some highlights:
First, a famous statue of Mary in Heidelberg:

Christmas market nativity display!

Christmas at home was great (I don't have any pictures, sadly), but I did have a foretaste of Christmas morning on December 6th here in Germany. "St. Nikolaus" (my awesome housemate Tobe) left a shoe-full of goodies outside my door, as is German tradition for Dec 6th, St. Nick's day. See!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it is full of time well-spent with family and friends.
Auf Wiedersehen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

about time...


Sorry I haven't updated in Forever. I haven't even been that busy. Just exceptionally lazy. I apologize. Things are going well in Germany, though passing the time on the weekends takes some inventiveness. Here are some super-quick summaries of the last month or so:

1. Dijon, France. Rainy, gray, cold, cramped, French, yet delightful:
Here, medieval Fachwerkhaeuser:

A wonderful French street. I think this is near their indoor farmer's market.
Hallo, Knut! Aside from this Eisbaer (the official protector of Dijon), there are owls all over the city, marking the delightful 2-Euro self-tour of Dijon that I insisted on completing with my poor American friends. The famous owl himself is on the corner of Dijon's Notre Dame. Rub him with your left hand for good luck!
My travel buddies, Amber and David. David and I took approximately 7 different trains coming home in a journey that lasted pretty much forever. And wasn't cheap. But fun, nonetheless.2. A German Bundesliga game; Hoffenheim v. Hamburg, only the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the league. It was a really exciting game to watch. Hoffenheim, the underdog, played exceptionally well and earned their decisive win.
And finally, a picture of my little room. It's on the at the very top of a very long spiral staircase and just off the kitchen in my apartment. I got all the furniture for free and most of it from a woman whose mother died last year. Kind of depressing, but nice, wooden furniture! Also, my host family and I carried all of it up the four flights of spiral stairs. Fun for everyone!
Things Are Good. Generally. I saw Weinheim with an American family from Kaiserslautern this last weekend and am looking forward to Dane's visit, which should include Strasbourg, more Heidelberg, and potentially Speyer, Metz, Bad Wimpfen, Schwetzingen, Worms, Koblenz, or Trier. Mal schauen.

Take care, everyone and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

more catch-up, please


Thanks for checking my blog even though I update it rather sporadically. I finally went inside the Heidelberg Castle and visited Chrissy's host family in Stuttgart and Heilbronn. I also made a small day trip to Speyer, which is home to a beautiful Romanesque cathedral.
Some more shots of Heidelberg:

Here are some from Speyer! The cathedral dates from the 1000s. It is also home to the tombs of Salian emperors, circa. the 11th and 12th centuries. The crypt itself is huge--the largest Romanesque crypt in the world--and was described as "the most sublime monument on German ground" by Reinhold Schneider, a poet.
The crypt, so wonderfully solemn and spooky:
A view of the cathedral from the street. It's giant.
A monument/tomb at the entrance of the church:

Finally, some shots from Stuttgart: here, the castle and fountain

A lovely farmer's market view from outside the Markthalle in downtown:
The Haeffner brothers, Felix and Tobias, in a tent at the Stuttgart fest. They were all about their cool cameras. I'll bother them for pictures and, with any luck, post some ones far superior to my blurry shots.
Well, those are all the ones worth posting, really. I'll throw in a view from our kitchen window:
Instead of the original plans to visit Vienna, my friends and I are going to Dijon, France tomorrow morning at about 6am. I'll be back Friday evening and, I hope, ready to get back into the daily grind of things--my ever-stressful 12 hours a week.

au revoir!