Sunday, September 30, 2012

Oktoberfest festivities...

I have just returned from a wonderful, refreshing, fun weekend in Munich! How was waking up before 7am to drink beer in a crowded tent possibly might ask? Well, first of all I met up with a good friend, Lisa, who was my year at Wake and is getting her masters in London. After nearly three months of speaking broken German and hearing only broken English, it was incredible to have a long dinner with a close friend who I have known for years and with whom I could talk about so many aspects of life Lisa and I had a lot of catching up to do since we hadn't seen each other since graduation!
I did get a little sight seeing in on Friday before the festivities commenced!
On Saturday, we woke up bright and early to hit the tents in time to get a seat. We met up with so many friends from Wake Forest...explaining about 200 times that we weren't creepy graduates who just showed up at Oktoberfest, catching up with old friends, hearing about everyone's adventures in their semesters abroad, and just loving seeing so many familiar faces here in Germany!

Me and Lisa at the entrance...circa 730 am Saturday
Lisa captured this overhead view...huge beer steins and crowded tables with constant catching up between friends!

This is right when me and Lisa were reunited with Laura and Karli, who are wonderful friends that are studying in Florence for the semester!

We had a little incident with getting kicked out...and after more than an hours work and Lisa and I convincing a beer maid and two security guards...we got our "boyfriends", Reed and Ollie, back into the tent! This was our celebratory picture!
By the afternoon it was pouring rain, and all we had in our stomachs was beer and pretzels, so we left with our map that was torn into 3 pieces (hence the three people holding it up...) in search of some pizza!

With finally full stomachs, we decided that "YOOO" (You Only Oktoberfest Once...) so we toughed out the weather and went back for some rides.

Thats Lisa and Walter up there waving from the ride...which was still fun even in the rain!

So, I know that a massive german fair, huge beer mugs and salty pretzels, along with some rain may not sound like a typical refreshing and relaxing weekend...but Oktoberfest was exactly what I needed and I am so thankful that I got to be there this weekend.

Cheers to a great weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Ability to Communicate #languagebarrierproblems

Tomorrow, I am headed to Munich for Oktoberfest with my dear friend Lisa and about a hundred Wake Forest juniors who are abroad this semester! I literally could not be more excited. And its not even about Oktoberfest (confession: I hate beer...) but its about seeing good friends who speak English! I did not realize how much I missed being able to communicate, daily, face to face...until yesterday.

Anyone who ever had a Spanish class with me, or even knew me during the 5 years I took Spanish, is probably well aware that I am terrible at it. I took it in high school for four years, and only tested into the third semester at Wake so I still had to take it my whole freshman year of college. Spanish was just not my thing. I got by, but barely. I think I only passed because I went to every extra credit option, watching countless Spanish movies that I maybe understood five words of. But, I finished my divisional and happily put the past in the past. And I seriously have not thought much about my Spanish in the past three years.

So, this week, I casually mentioned to the Spanish teacher (a really nice Chilean lady who does not speak any English) here at The Dragon School that I spoke some Spanish. All the sudden, she is having me translate her daily "offers" from Spanish to English in front of the whole school. Then, proceeding to talk to me in Spanish about my travel plans, my life back home, her children, her plans to go to Chile over Christmas break...and I felt so relieved to be able to have a real conversation with some depth to it.

And then it hit me, my spanish is terrible, but my german must be much worse (FYI I only had one semester of German in my whole I'm much worse off in that department!). Because all the sudden when English is not an option, I catch myself thinking how nice it is to speak in Spanish. I am sure this weekend I will be blown away by how refreshing it is to actually speak English with friends who know me well...but I just found it a little funny that, given my current circumstances, for the first time in my life, I was actually glad to be speaking Spanish!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play...

Its been a rainy few days here in Wald-Michelbach...and that really puts a damper on things. First of all, the dragons spend about half the day outside (its a "free school"...) so when its rainy, they are cooped up and it causes spats and disputes. Secondly, I walk everywhere so when its pouring outside, it does not leave me many options. Don't get me wrong, I am very into reading these days (I highly recommend this book) and I have just downloaded some great new music (if you need new tunes, check out this or this), but after so long, being stuck indoors gets a little boring.

But, despite the cold, rainy weather, I was just thinking about The Cat in The Hat. Its a book I adored as a child, and its a favorite here at the dragon school. It reminds me to enjoy the little things in life. Be it a new recipe, a sweet text message, a good nap, or just remembering something that makes you has been nice to be reminded, in this not-so-fun weather, that life is full of ups and downs, and it is vitally important to see the good in every situation.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekend in Wald-Michelbach

This weekend was somewhat of a "house keeping" weekend...with nothing really exciting or German on the agenda...but plans to pick up my permanent visa, go to The Dragon School open house, and do a little cleaning, reading, and exploring.

So, on Friday, I traveled to the nearby town of Heppenheim to finally get my permanent visa that officially allows me to live and work here in Germany. The getting it was no problem, the downside was that not only did I not get a stamp in my passport (which I am trying to fill up to mark it off my bucket list!) but I actually look like a serial killer in the picture. They wouldn't let me smile and my hair was in a braid...somehow I ended up looking like a scary man. 

So after getting it, I thought it'd be nice if I explored the town a little bit and caught the bus a few stops down. Well, the exploring was nice, but I couldn't catch the bus where I thought I could so I ended up walking for several hours...which was certainly not part of the plan.
This was a beautiful church in Heppenheim and the cute yellow bike that serves as the "mail truck"!

This picture is me and all my friends...haha and though photos do not do it justice, I wanted to show the cute gardens and floral arrangements that you find in front of almost every house around here!

So, on Saturday, it was the day of the open house for our school. Much to my surprise, it was more than an open house but more of a showcase of the students' work and bake sale (which also meant less focus on the speech I had to give in German...PTL)! By far my favorite part was the pan on a pole that was used for cooking crepes over an open was such a fun idea and it was my first time making a crepe! I loved it! I also introduced my polaroid camera for the first time, which the dragons were amazed by!
On the left is me and Sebastian, he is my best English speaker and my translator. Such a sweetheart. And then we have Linn Sophie riding on my shoulders, yanking my hair to direct me where she wants to go. I am working on teaching her "Left" and "Right" and hopefully she will get it before all the hair on my head is gone!

Here is Eva, me, and Neele...two girls that are always enthusiastic about hanging out with me. And then I am holding Adrian on my lap as Janna is cooking crepes over the fire! It was such a neat idea...I want to bring it to America!

Sunday was a pretty quiet day...I went to church in town, stopped by my favorite cafe, explored the town a little bit, and then came home to do some cleaning and reading! It's strange how tiring it is attempting to translate and understand another language all day, but even after this not-so-eventful weekend, I am completely exhausted. 
This is Lipp's, my favorite bakery in town (with great hot chocolate!) and just a nice view of the little bitty town of Wald-Michelbach!

I wish I was a real photographer, because there are so many cute historic places and fun fall colors that this would be a wonderful place to do a photoshoot!

Also, I want to thank everyone for the encouraging e-mails, texts, Skype sessions, and prayers after my last post. Its always tough to feel homesick, but I am feeling much better and trying to embrace this one year adventure.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The places I'm not...

You know that feeling when someone has told a joke and you don't get it, but you wish you did because everyone else is laughing. Maybe you even pretend you did and laugh along. But the reality is that the situation is not that fun for you. Well, thats kinda what my life feels like these days. All day I struggle and try to understand German, getting bits and pieces of conversation, but really I am just confused most of the time. I think this feeling would classify as my first bout of homesickness. As I sit in my apartment tonight, its pouring down rain. It's been exactly two months since I left and I really miss home. The song "Carolina on my Mind" just came on shuffle on my iTunes. Its homecoming at Wake Forest this weekend and words cannot express how sad I am that I won't be there. And, I can't even go on a cool weekend trip to distract myself, because we have The Dragon School open house on Saturday. Not only do I have to be present for it, I have to give a speech [in German!]. Well, my life could be much worse, and I realize that. But suddenly I do not feel like I'm so good at the leaving-home-and-not-being-sad-thing. So, in order to commemorate and help myself deal with this bout of homesickness for Wake, I wanted to post about where I am not this weekend. I wanted to commemorate my wonderful friends and four fun years at Wake.

I also think that its crucially important to remember, especially at times like this, that no matter who you are or where you live, there will be good days and there will be tough days. Today is a hard one for me.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coldplay and Colder Weather...

Well, it has been an eventful few days. I had plans to travel to Leipzig, Germany this weekend to see Coldplay. Everything was underway but my train got in a serious accident. I won't go into the gory details but it was really sad. It really put a damper on my mood and added a 2+ hour delay to my travel time. But, after that fiasco, I managed to make it to Coldplay and the concert was still incredible.

 I had checked the weather a few days in advance to make sure it wasn't going to rain since the concert was in an open arena, but randomly it turned COLD and I had not packed appropriately.
Please notice that I am wearing a tank top and everyone around me has on winter coats...whooops!

 Just as I had hoped, they played almost all of my favorite older songs, including Fix You, In My Place, Yellow, Speed of Sound, and X&Y. It was quite a show: they had confetti, gave everyone light up bracelets, shot off fireworks from stage, and these huge blow up statues popped up around the crowd. The pictures aren't particularly great and pictures never do a concert justice anyways, so I'll just share a few to give you a feel for the evening.

Being from Nashville, I've been to my fair share of concerts. But I was nervous, going to a concert alone. I ended up, however, having a fabulous time and really enjoying the beautiful music of Coldplay. 

Now, as for the weather, I was warned that it would turn cold in September. And they weren't kidding. I mean, right now its nice and chilly. Its boots and hot chocolate kind of weather, which I do not mind. Around 50 during the days but you can really feel the winter winds in the mornings and evenings. But, as I was walking home from church today, with a few groceries in hand, I started thinking about how cold its going to be in the winter. And I have been making almost daily trips to the store, since I go everywhere on foot and carry everything I buy, its much easier to get smaller quantities and go frequently. But I am not sure how thats going to work out for me when its snowing and negative 20! Haha, ok hopefully it won't be that cold, but I may be going on a serious diet this winter solely to avoid trekking to the grocery store. Until then, I'll keep enjoying my hot tea and comfy sweaters...and getting to bust out all those warm clothes I packed when it was 100 degrees in Nashville!



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life with the Dragons...

People keep asking me how teaching is going, and it is undoubtedly going well so far, but it is really hard for me to put it into words beyond that. (And we technically aren't allowed to take I can't just show you what a typical day looks like.) But, here is my best attempt at explaining what a joy it is to teach english to these little dragons every day!
I am already reppin' the dragon school on my water bottle :)
Firstly, the dragon school is Montessori/Non-Violent-Communication school. So that means there are no classrooms, no lessons, and no homework. It makes my life as a teacher both extremely easy and sometimes hectic. So, basically, the idea is that the kids take their education into their own hands and learn at their own pace. For some kids, that means they ask me to read them 10 Dr. Seuss books everyday. For some kids, that means that adamantly study math all day because they love it. For some kids, that means they play outside all day long and never crack a book. And all of that is acceptable at the dragon school. I am not sure how much I buy into this way of learning, though I do see some definite benefits. The school is a bright and happy place, on any given day you can walk in and hear laughter and the sound of 32 little kids enjoying life. And, for me, it makes my life exponentially more fun than the average english teachers because I have the freedom to just enjoy being with the kids and communicating with them in English, however that may look.

So, here is a little glimpse of my students and the fun we have at school:

ART: A lot of the dragons (the girls especially...) are really into art. They do everything from felting purses, drawing, origami, to painting chairs...and here are just a few pictures! The first are chairs the kids painted, the middle picture is two portraits of me that Janna drew and a picture of the ocean (I mentioned that I liked the beach...) from Lucas and Luis, and the last is an origami flower from Anna.

SWEET FRIENDS: Most of the kids are really sweet to each other, very inclusive, even with me. I checked my box the other day to find a friendship book from this shy, adorable little girl Lina. She wanted me to fill it out as her "friend". I thought it was precious that she considers me a friend and I had fun looking at all the other entries from the other students.

FREE SCHOOL: While the kids technically do not have to do any school work, almost all of them love reading. Pictured above is Luca in the reading room, pouring over a book about cars, his favorite thing. Especially with the little ones, I spend a lot of time in this room reading out loud to them. Also, the girls love for me to make them pictures with directions in English of how to color them in, which is what is pictured above to the left. They proudly display their work around the school when its finished.

THE BUILDING: Like I mentioned, the school is a very happy place. The walls are painted bright colors and the walls are decorated with students' work and shelves are full of games. The Dragon School is a fun place.

OUTSIDE: The vast majority of the kids adore playing outside (especially the boys...) and the school has a great back yard. They just got a trampoline last week, and the dragons ask me to double bounce them about 1000 times per day. They also love playing tag but somehow I always have to be "it". All the running and playing always makes me exhausted by the end of the school day, but if that is my biggest complaint about my job, then I think I should count my blessings.

COOKING AND BAKING: One thing I love about this school is that the kids are very involved in the kitchen. Everyday one teacher and two dragons cook breakfast, and you will often find kids in the kitchen at other times either cooking Spanish lunch with their Spanish teacher or doing a science lesson. So, today, I decided to introduce them to my favorite homemade cookies. They were a huge hit, the dragons got in a fight about who got to cook with me (there's a 5 kid limit in the kitchen...) and the ones who ended up baking with me loved it. By the time we had all eaten plenty of dough and were finally putting the cookies in the oven, the kids were ecstatic (middle picture)! And the cookies were delicious. The kids devoured them in minutes. We will definitely be making cookies again soon.

I hope this gives you a little taste of what my daily life looks like. I promise its not all fun and games...I do have to sit through a 5 hour staff meeting in German every Wednesday and I spend about half of every day confused because I can't understand German. But this post does show the little blessings God has put in my life. I want to leave you with a verse that my friend Katherine sent me yesterday that just fits so well with this whole thing...Its John 11:40 and its a great reminder for everyone, no matter what your life is like these days. "Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?' "