Friday, February 22, 2008

Germany - Day 22: 2/21 (What do Italy, Turkey, and Germany Have in Common? Xanten)

Days Left to Departure: 2

It’s starting to set in for a lot of us that this exchange is just about over. For me, it’s a little weird in that I had so much more time in China, that just as I am getting comfortable and understanding things, like how to take the 27 stop bus ride from Kamp-Lintfort to Moers, I have to pack up to go home. With all of the travel, there has not been much time for anything but school and dealing with our recent cultural miscommunication flare-ups, some drama, and some punitive issues. Today felt like things were getting back into a manageable situation and that is good because I want everyone to enjoy the party tomorrow night and celebrate the friendships that they have formed with their German students and teachers during the last 22 days.

This morning we went through the normal study session, with a visit from Mike Himpele and Laura Moon, who decided to vacation in Moers this week as BH-BL is on break. Many of the students are done with all of their work, but a few have some items that are still in need of handling. Frau Canavan and I have been stressing very hard that all assigned work needs to be done when we return because we want to rejuvenate the image of the program that students return with all work completed. To their credit, I think most students have been taking this mandate seriously and have been working hard.

There was some interesting events in the study session that involved three students (two girls and one boy) trying to communicate with us from another hall way across the court yard. Frau Canavan decided that Sandmann needed one of the girls to be his girlfriend and some hilarity ensured that he may not have totally appreciated, but we certainly all did.

We next went to a class with ten year olds who were just learning English. We split the American students into groups of three and they sat with groups of 6-8 German ten year olds. There was a two way Q & A session, some reading of student essays, and then some game time. I regaled some of the German students, and J-Fogg and Erin with my three card tricks before we had another administrative conference with Herr Fabricius and all left for Xanten. One hilarious moment today: Kim went into the bathroom outside the cafeteria too close to the end of class and ended up being locked in it. Luckily, Colleen heard her cried of despair and my key actually worked to open it for her, freeing the permanently scared Pommes eating champion.

Xanten was pretty amazing, despite having quite the walk to the main attraction from the train station. It could also have seemed longer because I walked a TON yesterday. What we were going to see was both Roman ruins and some recreation, but also an active archaeological dig. Being a three year Latin student, and a three year teacher of Global History 9, I was drooling to go to this and had a great time. The single most interesting piece was the amphitheatre. After learning so much about them, it was nice to finally stand in the middle of one. A surprising note, the acoustics were ungodly. When I mocked up an Emperor’s address, it sounded like I was connected to a mic. There were also some pretty wild subterranean aqueducts, one of which we were able to crawl through. Beatrix warned me that some of the recreated parts felt very fake, and she was indeed right, but it was awesome to finally see these structures, either ruins or recreations, first hand.

Afterwards, being that Kim lives with her host, Sandra, in Xanten, we hit Xanten Centro and hunted down food. I had my favorite German combo: a doner and cappuccino gelato (somewhat ironic as the first is really Turkish and the second, Italian. In any event, it was very good. On the way home, a group of us chatted about a variety of topics, and I was able to jump off the train early as my stop was in between Xanten and Moers, and that pretty much took care of business for the day.

This evening, I had dinner with Beatrix, Hannah, and Kevin, and then saw Gideon and met his girlfriend, who is studying English and biology and has near perfect English. She has been to every state in the U.S.A., and was very fun to talk to. I also finally felt like I was able to do something for this wonderful family, even if it was small. All three of the Schwich children and avid athletes, with Hannah and Gideon currently playing basketball. The other night, Hannah came home with a rolled ankle, and Beatrix noted that this is a phenomenon that happens pretty often. Today, I sat down with her and looked at her ankle, and then went over four strength developing exercises that should help her roll it less often. She seemed very appreciative.

Even though I am getting excited about going home and seeing my wife, dogs, family, and friends, I am also growing sad that I am leaving all of the people that I have come to know and enjoy talking to. Beatrix and I have developed a fun friendship and have been joking a lot in the past week or so. She has worked so hard to make me feel at home and comfortable, giving me privacy, and exposing me to a variety of great wine, good cooking (and her mother’s cooking absolutely rocks – I am thinking of hiding some in my suitcase), and such developed conversation about so many things. Its hard to really sum up how appreciative and generous the German people are. There are so many times that my dinner has been paid for before I even realize it.

Well, one more full day and the going away party. The following morning, I am probably on the road by 6 AM so I can get to Cologne by 8 and on the plane for takeoff at 10:30. I better get some packing done and then bed.

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