Friday, June 27, 2008

Die Europameisterschaft (Euro Cup)

So, it's currently the Euro Cup (European Soccer Championship) right now...and Germany is in the finals, playing against Spain! (The game is on Sunday...I'll be in France...)

So Tuesday night was CRAZY here, as the Germans beat Turkey to get into the finals. We watched the game at home, then walked into town which was REALLY CRAZY, totally full of people celebrating, soooo many German flags, everyone had their car decorated and was honking, people were singing and jumping up and down doing various cheers...nuts...

below: you'd never guess who is the non-German here...
my friend Ben, American, totally decked out... :)

people were driving around honking and waving flags all night

this was in the town square

Saying goodbye

So this week I have been saying goodbye to everyone at school...Monday everyone had the day off school because it's the "teachers' field trip". We went hiking together (14 km!!) and then out to eat. Here are some pictures from the week.

me playing cards with kids in the afternoon
(I taught them how to play "Spoons")

below: one fifth grade class I worked with

below: part of our hike on Monday

below: our hike ended in Perl, in the Mosel River valley
(you've probably heard of Riesling wine from the Mosel...)

below: lots of kids made me posters/signs/pictures as goodbye gifts. This one class made me a great poster, but since it won't fit in my suitcase I took a picture of it

Saturday, June 21, 2008


This past weekend I spent in Strasbourg. It was about an hour and a half train ride away from Saarbrücken, in the region of Alsace. Strasbourg is a historically fascinating city. It has a well-preserved "old city" with many houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, and from there on you can really see the development of the city.

It became French in 1681 (under Louis XIV, the Sun King), and then slowly became more and more of a "French" city until the Germans annexed this region after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). So in the architecture you can see dramatically which buildings are "French" and which "German," i.e. which ones were built after 1870. There are honestly some streets I walked down that look exactly like streets in Saarbrücken. Really interesting. Then Strasbourg became French again after WWI, and was occupied by the Germans again during get the picture. And so today it's fitting that Strasbourg is one of the main symbols of Europe, and is also the site of the European Parliament.

And I have about 125 pictures, so this is very difficult to choose:
This was the house I stayed in. I stayed with the daughter of one of the teachers I work with. It was great to stay with someone who has been living here a long time (8 years), and I got to speak French all weekend!
Her house was old and really, really central (right on the river!). Below you can see the window in the room I stayed in. I couldn't get over princess-like!
This area is called "petite France" with some of the oldest houses in Strasbourg.
The street signs are all in two languages: the dialect (which is allemanish in origin, so closer to German), and French.
The impressive Cathedral, which was the tallest in Europe for 400 years, until the Cathedrals in Ulm and Cologne were finished.

cute, small little streets. (Dad, see the sign for foie gras on the left?)
I love the colors of the houses! So beautiful! My camera does not do it justice... This monument is to "nos morts", to those who died. The woman is holding two sons: one who died fighting for France, one who died fighting for Germany. In a region that changed nationalities three times within one lifetime, this was sadly a common occurance.
On Saturday I also rented a bike and biked to the Rhine and around the city a bit.

The European Parliament:

And you know I can't go to France without being amazed at their pastry capabilities:

Luxembourg, Luxembourg

My dear family came to Luxembourg with me while they were visiting over Christmas, but it was so cold we barely wanted to be outside! This visit to Luxembourg last weekend was totally different--a few rain showers but some sun and pretty warm.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Müll: garbage

Ooh, pretty colored sacks! Can you guess what this guy is doing? Why the colors? If you haven't been t0 Germany I would be surprised if you got it right. Germany is exemplary at sorting their trash. Everywhere there are bins for glass, paper, plastic, other. This guy is going through the train station in Saarbrücken, emptying the public receptacles.This random post is inspired by a fascinating article in the New York Times on garbage disposal. In the US, we have space. Lots of it. So we don't really think about trash very often. It gets taken away, out of sight out of mind.
Italy has a huge problem right now. They generate a ton of trash and don't have a plan for getting rid of it. So they are currently shipping their trash to Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg, where the green party is very strong, is amazing:

"This city of about 1.8 million people produced 1.6 million tons of garbage a year in 1999, and only 50,000 tons went to recycling. Today, despite growing in size, it generates only 1.4 million tons; 600,000 tons of it is incinerated [and the energy produced is captured and used] and 800,000 tons of it is recycled"

"To reduce landfills’ use, governments are encouraged to reuse, recycle and then incinerate if necessary. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends a similar “waste management hierarchy,” with landfills as the last option."

Of course individuals can start to make steps by recycling and trying to reduce on packaging (buying in bulk, choosing products with less packaging or recyclable packaging), but it really has to be governmentally organized to make a big impact.

Even when I spend time in France it makes me realize how amazing Germany's system is, let alone when I'm back in the US. When you buy bottles here--plastic, glass or aluminum--you pay up to 25cents per bottle deposit on it, which you get back when you turn in the bottles. Sometimes people just need a monetary incentive to change their habits.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Class trip in northern France

So, the last five days I spent with 27 sixth graders...and survived! This was a totally different kind of class trip than the one in Holland...not quite so relaxing. :) Also, it was interesting for me to spend time in France, but the kinds of activities we did were more directed at keeping the kids occupied and it wasn't as interesting for me, although I did get to see/do quite a few new things, too.

We stayed at a kind of campground right on the Meuse River, which had a building with rooms/bathrooms/kitchen/dining room/common room. So the kids stayed in rooms of 3 to 6, and we had three meals a day at the place. The food was pretty bad, like typical camp food, but it was French, so that brings it up a notch. The meal always started with an entrée (appetizer), had a hot main course, then cheese, then dessert. And the teachers were served a bit differently than the kids. :) We got a bottle of wine with every meal, good camembert cheese and even foie gras the last night!

The town we stayed in (a 15-20 min walk outside of) is called Saint Mihiel, in the region of the Meuse (the name of the river the town is located on, south of Verdun). St Mihiel had its heyday a while back...because of the monastery. Now it's a pretty poor town, but a typical small town in this region.

Above: I like this bakery, beautiful wood frame. Also, the French man with the baguette (it is not only a stereotype!), and my school kids playing with their cell phones. Speaks to the generation gap a bit, doesn't it?
The church in the background is the main cathedral in the city, with the monastery extending to the left. In front of the church there are some people playing boule, the game where you try to throw the metal balls as close as possible to the little ball. Most French cities have a place to play boule.
The first day we walked to this glass artist's studio, where we got a tour of his amazing residence (an old church), and his workshop, and then the kids got to each make a glass hanging.
Below: The artist explaining
Below: the kids working with glass
My favorite activity was biking. Lots of the kids were complaining that they didn't want to go biking because they wanted to do activities you can't do at home...But for me biking is always amazing because you can discover so much more of a landscape than you can walking or driving. We went along the Meuse River, through fields of sprouting corn and wheat, the path lined with poppies...
Here are some pictures of me and the kids!

The kids all played a ton of Tischtennis (table tennis). And then there was a big tournament at the end of the week. Here are the winners with their prizes.