Thursday, February 07, 2008

Germany Blog - Day 7: 2/6 - (GSG: 1st School Day)


Wake up game earlier than it has felt so far this morning. Today was the first day students would be attending classes at GSG, otherwise known as Geschwister-Scholl-Gesmatschule. Frau Langebeck and I arrived at about 7:55 and I made my way up to the American Students Study Room, located in the blue building (of the three: blue, red, and yellow). Students were there waiting and I heard that a German student had pulled the fire alarm, so there was some early drama. From 8 am until 9:30, students worked, after Frau Canavan checked in with each to see how things were going, personally, and on a large scale. There are some issues, mostly I think related to cultural confusion and misunderstanding, but in the long run, I don’t think anything will turn out to be a major issue.

After that was taken care of, students tried to get organized and rocking on work. Of course, no one wanted to do any and a large part of our period was spent looking for computers and working on getting access, explaining procedures, etc. When all was said and done, it turned out to be a pretty hectic 90 minutes and I thought the decompression from Berlin was good, but that also we needed to take a more strict approach to future sessions so work could get done. I am making that a secret goal of mine for tomorrow.

At the end of the block, the German hosts arrived and took our students to their individual classes. Frau Canavan and I had some time to kill before our first “activity” of that day, which included going with Frau Lohoff and her fifth graders to the Zentralbibliotheke (Central Library). We took a walk across the street to an internet café to get some coffee as she had not had any yet and was getting cranky.

It was a cold, rainy day. The walk, while short, was not pleasant. When we made it to the café, I walked in and realized it looked more like a pub with some computers in the back. Then I hear a loud “woof” (and for German 1 students: it was actually “Das Bark” if you are curious), and this bull mastiff-looking beast comes walking toward me. One of the culture nuances here that keeps catching me off guard is that dogs are allowed in public establishments. They are out in public, in groceries, at restaurants, and this beast actually had part of a bench set cut away and a bed inside of it so if you sat at his table, he would be under your legs. The coffee was good and strong and Frau Canavan and I tried to unearth the details about Super Tuesday from the news reports.

Once we were done, we hiked back to the school to meet Frau Lohoff and catch the “school bus” to the library with her students. The school bus was really a city bus with the word “schulbus” written on the front of it. The fifth graders were typical and reminded very much of American fifth graders. They also reminded both Frau Canavan and I why we teach in a high school (“ugh…miniatures: small hands, smell of cabbage!”). I did notice that there were two Turkish-Muslim students in the class. It was easy to tell by both their skin tone and the style of their clothing. AS we awaited the opening of the library, some of the girls came up and asked me my name, which was odd because I had already been introduced by Frau Lohoff. Feeling Canavan’s uproarious look, I simply said, “Herr Mody”. They giggled and ran away. Canavan took delight in noting that they had been working the courage to come over and talk to me for some time and that I had a fan club. I guess I can finally use Bill McLain’s line (a rugby team mate of mine): I am kind of a big deal in Germany (just in the fifth grade).

We listened to a speech by the librarian. I pretended to pay strict attention, looking at whoever was talking and nodding whenever I recognized a word, even if I had no idea what they were talking about (she did say “Play Station” a lot). Canavan found this amusing enough to take a picture of it. We then toured the three floor library. I took pictures of various books that I found amusing, such as Harry Potter und der Stein mit der Weise. Canavan asked me which one it was. Since I saw the word stein I said Goblet of Fire. She laughed and told me to stop thinking about rugby all of the time (the literal translation was Stone of the Wise – I don’t care for that title, personally). The library trip seemed to be a time filler for us (or maybe for me because I didn;t understand almost anything the libraian said), so I used it to observe the students as much as I could. I couldn’t get over how segregated the Turkish students were and made a note in my mind to talk to Beatrix about it at dinner that evening. I am becoming more and more aware of the struggles between Germans, Turks, and Russians.

After we returned, I went with Frau Canavan to her host family’s house for a lunch that resembled a German Breakfast. Coffee, bread, salami, cheese, butter. I met their dog Rasmus, who was pretty cool as he understands commands in English as complicated as “be quiet” and “go to your bed and lay down”. I thought to myself that I wished D.J. understood commands that well in English, but sadly, though D.J. can out German the dog in physics class, I think he cannot beat him in this regard.

Today was designated as a sport day, which meant a school day where students have mandatory gym time. Before we entered, I spent time trying to get Fogg and Erin to collapse in laughter as we waited to get into the gym. It was again pretty easy and they are complaining of both ab and side soreness. I posted a video of Fogg ready to spit out her drink and then have difficulty staying on her feet while laughing.

It was followed by 90 minutes of some of the worst volleyball I had ever seen, but it was fun to watch, even though I wouldn’t call much of it play. A highlight included Canavan nearly killing Jan, who she must have mistook for an opposing rugby player because she rucked over him (a rugby term meaning run over violently - well at least it means that loosely). We then tried to teach the German students how to play kick ball. A note to others teaching students games with a language barrier: if they don’t know baseball, they are not going to get any game like baseball with only three minutes of instruction. My sense was that there was not a German in the room who was impressed with the game, chaperons included.

At 4:00, the day was done, and I met Frau Langebeck for my ride back to Kamp-Lintfort. I headed to my room in their basement and worked feverishly to get my blog done from Berlin and formatted pictures. At about 7:30 P.M., I went upstairs and had an awesome dinner that included a creamy chicken and green something sauce and greenish noodles. It was accompanied by some wine from South Africa. I think that they must have wine each night at dinner, or at least it is a custom when serving a guest of the legal age, or of relative "honor". I use that term loosely because I cannot think of a true alternative. Once dinner was done we had a great discussion centering on a variety of topics. They included:

  1. Harry Potter
  2. The Simpsons
  3. The Civil Rights Movement
  4. The Holocaust
  5. German attitudes towards reunification of Germany
  6. Issues involving Russian and Turkish immigrants and assimilation
  7. German Movie Star Horst Buscholz (pronounced Orst Boo-holz, I finally now know)
  8. Gone with the Wind
  9. Animal Farm
  10. Catch-22
  11. 1984
  12. American Literature
  13. “American History X”
  14. The American Presidential Primary Races
  15. The Reichstag’s Seating Arrangement
  16. Places of Interest in Kamp-Linfort

As you can see, it was a pretty eclectic discussion. I enjoyed it immensely. Beatrix is an articulate and intelligent woman and it is nice to speak with her because I feel like it gives me a much better understanding of Germany. I was concerned to ask about the Holocaust when I came here, but I really wanted to know how Germans felt about it and she was candid and insightful in conversation. It reinforced that if you are willing to ask honest questions politely (such as bringing up the Holocaust only after explaining how Americans asks themselves tough questions about the Civil rights movement and the Atlantic Slave Trade), you can really learn a lot of important information about a place you don’t know much about. I also think that I am coming across as genuinely interested in their culture and language and I think since I am even trying to use my terrible German to speak when I can (not that have enough even to be able to call it "my German"), it as seen not as an affront to their culture, but that want them to know that I am trying to be respectful. The result is that everyone has been more or less friendly and open.

Finally, we settled down on the sofa and watched the nightly news. It was slightly frustrating that everytime McCain, Obama, or Clinton tried to speak that it was quickly voiced over in German, but I understood the gist of what happened. We also watched a documentary on the shrinking gorilla population in the Congo. While I could pick up enough from the context clues and the words that are similar enough on the screen (titles like doktor), it was just a string of images and video with a German voice doing background speaking. At about 11:00, I headed back down stairs, did some further blog work and am now finally calling it a night at bout 12:15 A.M.

1 comment:

bekah said...

wait you said you had an assignment for us...uhh idk where or what it is. how do i find it?