Tuesday, January 29, 2008

cute mistakes

So today I taught a fifth-grade class parts of the body and then we played Simon Says. It was really cute. They asked me "How do you say Knie in English?" (Knee), "How do you say Kinn?" (Chin), etc. And then they had to write it down, and I would spell it in English. Afterwards we put the words on the board so they could see if they spelled them correctly. Mostly they did, but the mistakes were adorable. A lot of them misspelled "Foot" as "Food" because they have a hard time distinguishing between "d" and "t". :)

Another funny mistake from this week: I gave them the assignment of writing about where they would like to travel to in the US and what they would like to do there. This one kid wrote that he wants to go to a National Park because he likes nature. He would like to go hiking and fly dragons. I was confused and thought maybe he meant catch dragonflies...but then a teacher looking over my shoulder realized he probably meant fly kites, because the German word for "dragon" and "kite" is the same (Drachen). Interesting...mistakes like that are really insightful.

Speaking of funny translations, look at this picture Jake Boyce took in China, of a translated Emergency Fire Escape Route. The English is hilarious.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I always walk by this sign and smile. The word is just so long...It is a warning to pedestrians that there is a walk/no walk signal because of the parking garage in a weird spot where you might not see a car pulling out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Deutsche Schulen....

So...busy week. Monday night I went to a really interesting talk about the German school system, called "What kind of school does democracy need? Good reasons for a school for democracy in which children learn and live together."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Gymnasium system, the Germans separate their students at age 10 (fifth grade) into three levels of schools: Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium, the last being the highest level, which leads to the college-entrance exam Abitur. There are other ways of getting an Abitur, but this is the most common one. And handicapped students are not at the same school as other kids but are in Sonderschulen, "special schools."

Anyways, the speaker, Susanne Thurn, was very critical of the German system, saying it's the last element of a class system in German society, and that parents will never get rid of it because, deep down, they want to be able to say "My kids go to Gymnasium." The problem is, of course, that not every kid goes to Gymnasium, and there is a pretty obvious social and racial divide between the students who are at this school if you look at demographics. German politicians are currently talking about changing it into a two-school system, which would only be somewhat of an improvement of the current system, according to Thurn.

I was really amazed by this woman and her work. She is extremely politically active in trying to make changes in Germany, and also teaches at an experimental school in Bielefeld, Germany, which has no classrooms, no grades, and tries really unique teaching methods which they believe promote success among students.

Another fault Susanne Thurn had with German schools is that they are not all-day schools. They get out around 1:30 for the younger kids. I also notice this problem, but see the challenges of changing the system. Structurally, German schools will need cafeterias and staff to switch over to having full-day schedules.

The audience members were all really supportive, not any critical voices, and all hoping the system will change in Germany. I guess it's pretty political, because the CDU, the current party in power, is a bit more conservative and it's harder to set through such educational changes. And, like I mentioned, parents are always afraid of change and there is a lot of opposition to getting rid of Gymnasium because it's elite.

Tuesday I went out to eat Schnitzel with my roommates and some friends, and realized that ordering a Schnitzel was ordering three Schnitzel. Oh man. It was an experience though. It was a local little bar/restaurant and there were lots of old Germans sitting around who know the owners, smoking and drinking their beers...

Wednesday I went to record my native-speaker voice again, for the Saarland's standardized tests next fall. I had to do some conversations with other native speakers and the teachers are going to write questions based on what we talked about. It was interesting.

In the evening I went to a lecture (with lots of slides!) on the British artist Henry Moore and the Shelter Drawings he did of the London tube stations while they were being used as bomb shelters in 1940. It was really interesting, and the art historian who spoke was really passionate about the topic, which made it even more interesting.

Thursday I went to a nearby art museum with students to see the Duane Hanson Exhibit "The American Dream." Duane Hanson (more info) was actually born in Minnesota, which I didn't know. He's famous for doing those hyper-realistic sculptures. Well this exhibit was full of sculptures representing people from American society who didn't realize the American Dream. So it was a bit depressing. But interesting. Even more interesting were the students' comments afterwards. Their assignment was to write a stream-of-consciousness paragraph or an interior monologue, pretending they are the person in the sculpture.
Above: One of the sculptures I saw on Thursday

Thursday evening I went to France with some friends to see Into the Wild. In France it was showing in English with French subtitles, and in Germany they dub everything. So that was fun. Great film, and I love any opportunity to go to France. Next time I'll have to go to an afternoon film so that the grocery store will be open afterwards and I can get some good cheeeeese....

Monday, January 21, 2008

random Germanness, Teil II

Some random things to ponder...

German doorknobs are never the round kind you twist like in the US. They always have a handle you push down.

German showerheads are always vertically adjustable, not like the permanently mounted kind you usually find in the US.

Sidewalks are made out of interlocking bricks, never concrete slabs.

It's illegal to turn right on red.

There are no four-way stops. Usually there are traffic circles instead.

Grocery stores are not open on Sundays. Nothing is.

Most things I don't even notice anymore, because they seem normal to me. But I will try to continue this list.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

warmes Wetter

It's in the fifties again here today. just thought I'd rub that in.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


This week was the Max Ophüls Film Festival in Saarbrücken, a good chance to see lots of German films from young new directors. Friday I saw a series of short films on the theme "Love and Doubt" and then in the evening 2 mid-length films. Really cool, creative pieces. And since it's a film festival, a lot of the "team" members are there--directors, actors, scriptwriters, etc. So they talk and then answer questions after the showings. Saturday I saw a documentary called "Luxembourg, USA" about how Americans today celebrate their heritage, in this case Luxembourger heritage. Sunday I saw the winning short film, "Dunkelrot", and a regular feature film "42 plus". All in all, super event and I'm really glad I went to lots of films. This week we might take the tram to France to see "Into the Wild," since in Germany it's dubbed and in France it's not. Not that I have anything against German (I hope you know me better than that) but I think it's so important to see a film in the original language.

Friday, January 18, 2008

mon écharpe

I don't believe in fate or anything...but less than a week after I lost my black scarf, I was given a beautiful French one from a teacher at the DFG as a belated Christmas present. what are the chances! it's très chic and even smells like France (lovely). :)

off to the cinéma, then Spanish tapas for dinner, then more cinéma....la vie est belle!

Thursday, January 17, 2008


School story of the day:

With a ninth grade class I read a text about crime in New York City, out of the textbook mind you. Then there were 10 true/false questions, one of them being "Cocaine is expensive." Which I then had to debate with the class. I couldn't get over the fact that we were discussing whether cocaine is expensive...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

16. Januar 2008

So, I haven't written in a while. But I have a good excuse: nothing exciting has happened. Well, not to say that my daily life isn't exciting. Because I think it is.

I started a new job, working after school at the GaR (Gymnasium am Rothenbühl) doing the same sort of thing I do after school at the DFG. Which means I am almost working normal people hours! 8:00 to 4:00? (okay, sometimes it's 9:00 to 4:00...but teachers have homework, too!)

Cute story from school:

This one little girl (I can only assume she's French since she addressed me in the plural you in German....Seid ihr aus England?) asked me if I know Paris Hilton. Seriously. And when I said "no" she asked me, "Don't you know any stars?" Uh....no. Honestly, 15 minutes later they were talking about Hannah Montana (and I almost didn't catch who they were talking about because it sounded like Hah-nah-moan-tahn-ah)...and I made a knowing nod when I realized who they meant. Same girl asks me, "You know?" And I said, "Yeah, of course." And she studied my nod for a sec, "Really know her? Or know her like we know her?" AH! NO! I DON'T KNOW ANY STARS! They're all obsessed with High School Musical, so if I knew Zac whateverhisnameis that would be best.

It has been unusually warm here...like in the fifties. I lost my scarf so it can stay that way as far as I'm concerned.

This week there is a big film festival going on in Saarbrücken. Unfortunately, it is coinciding with a bad cold. Last night, after weighing the 5,80 I paid for a ticket with the coziness of my bed, I decided to listen to that inner mother in everyone's head and stay home. And today I took my first sick day. And now, after lounging and drinking tea all day, I don't have a problem with getting out of bed twice to go to the cinéma, sorry, Kino. This afternoon I saw Polska Love Serenade, and later tonight I'm going back to see a series of short films done in New York. I love this kinda thing. Good (hopefully) European films...that more likely than not will never make it to the US. But who knows?

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Today is January 6th, Ephiphany. In France they have a special cake, galette des rois, kings' cake, with a hidden figurine inside the pastry. The person who finds the figurine is king for the day.

My friend Klara came (six hours by train!) to visit me for the weekend, and we took the tram to France to get our kings' cake. This morning we went to the Epiphany service and then came home and had lunch and ate our cake. I was queen!

I didn't know this, but traditionally you leave one piece of the cake uneaten, which is the piece "du Bon Dieu", God's piece, the piece for the virgin or for the poor. And then the next person who comes to visit gets it. I just love traditions like this! It's just unbelievable...even though Europe really isn't as religious as the US, they keep all these great traditions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Frohes neues Jahr!

I went to Frankfurt to celebrate the new Year with my friend Katie and her friend Colin. We had a really nice dinner at Katie's and then walked into the city, which was CRAZY with people setting off fireworks, drinking champagne in the streets (man, I wish that could happen in the US!) and singing and cheering. Katie and I learned one verse of Auld Lang Syne and sang it on repeat, much to the joy of everyone around us. Seriously. We were loved.
And Frankfurt looked pretty nice with its big Tannenbaum.

Family Reunion in Paris

We got up early the morning of the 28th and drove to Paris. Way to go, dad. We took the métro into the city and met Ansgar and Eivor, our Swedish relatives for a family reunion in Paris. It was a fast but really really enjoyable time in Paris.