Friday, June 29, 2012

Last week of class

In my last entry, I forgot to say that I searched out a Zumba class in the vicinity and attended!  It was so much fun! The instructor's name is Marei Kalisch and she's an awesome Instructor! She is a professional dance teacher as well so her Zumba teaching was topnotch!!




Our last week of classes consisted of lots of grammar exercises and more songs in the classroom. They were all very helpful in my personal refresher course in the language.  On Tuesday (6/19), we all went out to a beer garden called Feierling to grab a couple of beers and socialize before heading to the movies to watch "Ziemlich Beste Freunde" (roughly translated, Rather Good/Best Friends--kinda loses the meaning in translation).  Our professor, Manfred, came along with us on this evening.  We had a great time laughing and sharing conversation at Feierling.


 


After the beer garden, we headed over to the movie theater to watch our movie.  The movie is about a man who applies to be a personal assistant to another man who is completely paralyzed from the neck, down.  Through this assistant job, the man learns to be compassionate and at the same time, teaches the other man to "loosen up" (horrible way of putting that since the guy is already paralyzed), and learn to appreciate life and take risks when it comes to people he loves.  That's a rough description because the movie was originally in French but then was dubbed over in German and the speech was extremely fast for me, so I didn't understand everything that went on in the story but that was the main idea...at least what I got out of it. :)  It was hard for me since the actors' mouths were moving in French and then I had to listen to the German.  When listening to a foreign language, I read people's lips a lot and it helps me understand more but since the mouths were moving to French words, that was extremely difficult to do, obviously. So I had to rely on my comprehension and listening.  It was an excellent exercise.


The rest of the week, we had the afternoons free to make any last minute excursions before the 2 week course was over.  On the Friday afternoon, a friend and I decided to make a quick trip to Basel, Switzerland to take pictures and see what sights there were to see.  There's a funny story that goes with this little journey...

Ririn and I went to the Freiburg train station to buy our ticket and had a lady help us get the best deal.  We bought the ticket and the lady then said that we probably will miss the next train but that we could catch the next one in an hour.  Well, we looked at the time table and saw that we still had a chance to make the train if we hurried. We ran to the track, saw the train and jumped on and sat down.  The train took off and about 15-20 minutes later, the ticket controller came through to check/scan tickets.  We handed him our ticket and he looked at it and...suddenly, we were in trouble.  He said (in German, of course), "Ooooh, this is the wrong train.  This is the Inter-City Express (ICE) and not the Regional train...the one you're supposed to be on is the Regional.  You each have to pay 25 € (symbol for Euro) for a total of 50 €."  We had gotten onto the wrong train without even noticing. :(  So, our little "cheap" journey turned out to be a total of about 38 € for each of us, when it should've only cost us each only about 12,50 €.  We learned our lesson.  Look before you leap.

 
                                          Basel train station
                                                    Elizabethan church/cathedral
                                          The Rhein River
   
 M├╝nsterplatz

Monk Kloster

 
 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chill day

While a few other groups are going to either Lake Konstanz or to Basel, France, I decided to take a rest day. Although now that I know most stores are closed today, I'm feeling just a little regretful that I didn't go to either location. No worries though...I'm thinking about taking a train to another neighboring town to do some more exploring. I will see if Tosin wants to go with me. If not, I will probably still go. I was going to use this weekend to do laundry but the office is closed for the entire weekend and so that's not a likely option either. So why not enjoy the surrounding areas instead? :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

TITISEE!!

Friday and Saturday, June 15th/16th: Another class day but only until 1pm. Manfred wanted to let us have the afternoon for planning our small group excursions over the weekend. My group went to go buy our group ticket to go to a small tourist town called Titisee. Strange name, yes. :) You pronounce it like tih-tih-seh. Very short "i" sound and not like ee. It was a beautiful little place nestled into the Black Forest. It was only about a 40 minute train ride to this little piece of paradise. We went on a walk around the lake and wound around through parts of the forest. Very beautiful! Along the main road, there are little vendor places and cafes. After our walk, we had lunch at a little snack stand. I had currywurst with fries. Currywurst tastes like a type of hotdog wurst with a curry sauce on it. Very tasty! After lunch, Marja and I went on a short boat tour on Titisee. It was nice to be on the water. It's really not known how this place got its name but people started calling it Titisee around 1750 or so. The water is drinkable and it's filled lots of different types of fish. In the winter, the lake freezes over to about 60m thick, which lends itself to ice skating and other types of winter activities. After the boat tour, we did a little souvenir shopping and then went on a little adventure to the neighboring city, Neustadt. Not a very good city for tourists. There really wasn't anything to see there except houses and a courthouse and a large church/cathedral but no marketplace for stores or cafes. After resting a little in the shade, we headed back to Titisee and searched out the Schwarzwaldkirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake). It was the authentic cake! So delicious! You know it's really authentic if they use the cherry liquor. I tasted it for sure! Loved it!! It's just not the same anywhere else! So good! After our cake, we headed back to our guest house to rest for the remainder of the evening. Tomorrow, Tosin and I are just going to stay in town and relax. All stores are closed on Sunday so we will just lay low for the day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Weiter (further)

Tuesday, June 12: Another class day and we met at the Institut. We had another language lesson with small activities and ice breakers to help with use of language mechanics. Manfred, our instructor, likes to break class up into small chunks of time to reduce the sitting time (I think) and to keep our brains going. We also went into the mediothek (computer/book room) to get oriented and introduced to the available materials for our use while we're here. That took most of the morning and then it was lunch break. We've been eating at the university dining hall (called Mensa). The food has been ok but it's been lots of potatoes..very heavy and sometimes not that tasty. Ha! Anyway, we eat there many times for lunch because we put some money on a lunch card and get 3 meals with each fill up of the card. This day we had afternoon class and it was a song lesson. The instructor gave us a packet of songs she has either collected or written herself. They're really cute and fun songs and she showed us some ways of how to incorporate these songs into either theme lessons or grammar lessons. They can also be used just for fun. It was a pretty good lesson and we are continuing next week since we didn't get all the way through. The afternoon/evening is always up to us. We can go into the city and shop or hangout or we can go back to the dorm and chill. Wednesday, June 13th: This day was used for an excursion to a nearby town called Staufen and we visited a school...it's our equivalent to a high school and it's called a gymnasium (pronounced with a hard G). The most interesting thing about this school is that most everything in the school is student-led. The teacher presence is very minimal ecxcept of course in the classroom but extracurricular activities and such are very independent. Sometimes there are adults for safety reasons if it's a sport. What's also interesting is the kids can smoke near the campus. It just has to be out a certain distance and not right on the grounds next to the building. The philosophy is that the more rules and restrictions, the more problems tend to happen and the least likely the kids are willing to work together with the adults to make a successful school. It makes total sense and this is not to say that they don't have their problems, they do, but the problems are decreased when there is less of a strict authoritarian presence. Their test results are one of the highest in the Baden-Wurttemburg region. The kids are all very self-motivated and the parents are behind their kids all the way to ensure success and are willing to do what they need to do in order for success to happen. With this parental eagerness, however, does come the pressure on teachers to perform under high expectations and high standards. This isn't a bad thing but I could see how maybe teachers could burnout possibly BUT the students, for the most part, come to school WANTING to learn!! A teacher's dream! So maybe the teachers aren't as easily burned out in that respect. The leader of tour says it always is heartwarming to see the students coming into the classroom with the willingness and eagerness to learn. They also have peer tutor groups that are student-led as well and the kids who may need the extra assistance come in free willingly and have their own intrinsic motivation to get the help. Simply breath-taking! Needless to say, it was a day filled with more new, exciting information to share with the kiddos when I get back to school. Thursday, June 14th: A day spent in the mediothek again actually checking out the teaching materials and sources. We were told that we could each pick out a book of teaching material and we could order it since there was money set aside for this reason. We can think of it as a free book! There were lots of choices and options for books so that makes the choice obviously hard but it's still an awesome opportunity to get something that maybe isn't as easy to come by where we live. The afternoon was spent learning grammar activities and games. That was really useful as well. Well, once again, it's gotten late and I need to head to bed. A group of us are headed on an excursion tomorrow and I will write more tomorrow about what we did. Until then!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Deutschland!

I made it to Germany unscathed and really tired. My journey started out early on Saturday, the 9th and ended with a 2 hour train ride from Frankfurt to Freiburg on the 10th. The whole journey lasted about 20+hours. I was exhausted! I was a little worried about finding the right train ride to my destination but I found the Deutsche Bahn office (Deutsche Bahn means German train--DB is the organization's name) and then I found the right track with no problem. But I still had a little anxiety so when I got to the track, I saw a nice looking girl about 18 years old and asked for confirmation that I had the right track and clarified information on my ticket. She was so helpful and then she and I just ended up being train buddies because she was actually headed to the same town as I. We sat together on the train and told each other about ourselves a little. Half in German, half in English. I found out she was just coming from Portland, Oregon from an exchange program. What are the odds that we were coming from pretty much the same area of the country? It was nice to have her there to help out. When we got to Freiburg, Silke and I went our separate ways and I headed to the guesthouse address that was provided for me. Once I got there, there were already a couple of people there who had been there since 11:00am. There was nobody there to give us room keys and we waited for about an hour and finally somebody showed and gave us our room key. The nice thing is we each have our own room with our own bathrooms and the rooms have a balcony door and window that open up all the way to let the fresh air into the room. That evening, a couple of women and I went into the city to get our bearings and look around. The city of Freiburg is a university town. The university is called Goethe (pronounced goo-teh) Institute and lots of people from all over the world come and take German language courses. We returned to the guesthouse and pretty much turned in for the night because we were so tired and knew we had a long day ahead of us. Monday, June 11th: Class day started and we began with introductions. There are about 16 people in our language group and they come from almost all corners of the world: 1 from Finnland, 3 from Russia, 2 from Poland, 1 from Czech Republic, 2 from Turkey, 1 from Macedonia, 1 from Nigeria, 1 from Taiwan, 1 from USA (me), 1 from Indonesia, and 2 from France. Very diverse group to say the least! We had instruction for the first part of the day and went to the bakery for a snack. I had almost forgotten how much a temptation the bakeries are here! The smells permeate the outside area as you walk down the street, and the baked goods are all laid out with care and eager advertisement. It draws you in every time. I have to watch myself. Fortunately, we walk everywhere! Lots of walking every day until our feet can't take it anymore...then we walk some more. The afternoon was spent on a city tour led by our instructor and then we did more walking in partners while we completed a scavenger hunt. By the end of the evening we were exhausted once again. The one thing that is the most intensively tiring thing about traveling abroad for language courses? Thinking, processing, speaking in the target language almost 100% of the time. German is the only way we all can communicate with each other. Tosin, the girl from Nigeria, knows English so every once in awhile, she and I will converse a little in English but quickly change back to German. Sometimes our conversations are half in German and half English! Haha! So far, I'm having a great time and I will have to write more about what we did on Tuesday and today but for now, I better head to bed. Tonight is the big soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands and there are for sure tons of people out in the bars and restaurants watching it but I'm so tired and lately it has been so chilly and rainy, several of us didn't feel like going out again after being out in the rain today and we decided to stay in and chill out in the common room with our computers and surf the Internet. We happened to also meet a guy who was watching the game on his laptop so we are watching it all together. I will write more later though.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Updated look


This is an updated picture of myself after I took a plunge and got a haircut that was totally out of my comfort zone.  It's an asymmetrical A-line style.  It took the rest of the day when I got it to get used to looking at it but now I LOVE it!!  It's pretty easy to style--just blow dry, straighten out the front and then put a tad of molding putty on it and it's good. :)


Here's the back of it.  Totally off of my neck, which makes working out even better!  Nice and cool.  Just have to keep the neck shaved because I have a weird hairline and it grows back pretty fast.  Anyway, thought you'd like to see the updated version of me since I haven't written in awhile.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gute Reise! Bon Voyage! Happy Trails to you...

Well, I leave for Deutschland on Saturday!  I will fly to Phoenix, layover for about 2 hours, fly to Philadelphia, layover for about 2 more hours and then I'm on my way to Frankfurt.  It'll be quite a long day but it'll all be worth it to be able to go back to Germany!  I never would've guessed that I would get the opportunity to go visit again.  Kyle isn't going with me on this one though.  He gets to go with me in Spring 2013 on the student trip I'm doing...and that one will be almost free, if not, completely free!  That will be exciting too--2 trips for me to Germany in a span of a year?  Wow!  Looks like this German teaching position is opening up some awesomely huge doors this year.  I never would've imagined it.  I'm beyond fortunate and I thank my husband for being so supportive of this trip coming up.  He was the first one to tell me, "You have to do it."  So...I agreed.  Not much convincing needed really.  The only thing I really have to pay for is the plane ticket and that was a tad bit pricey but it's always pricey to leave the country.  And in actuality, the price isn't bad considering I had about 3 weeks to book it. 

The reason I'm going this time?  I'm taking some seminar classes to help improve my German language skills and rebuild confidence in the target language.  I applied for this program way back in late September and was turned down then due to so many applicants but I didn't realize that there was the possibility of spots opening up, much less, a few weeks BEFORE the program started!  What's going to happen once I get to Germany?  Not sure, all I know is that I have to catch a train from Frankfurt to Freiburg and once I get to Freiburg, I have to get to a guest house, which from what I understand, are dormitories where I will be staying for the 2 weeks.  I'm a little anxious of the unknown but my colleague, Jamie, has reassured me that it's a totally awesome experience and they really take care of you.  I will get a travel cost allowance while I'm there and some meals are provided.  Also, we will go on an excursion the following weekend.  Don't know where we'll go but I'm sure it'll be amazing wherever we go!  I'm just so pumped to be able to go back and refresh my language skills and regain the confidence that I have lost over the years since not speaking as much German as I had when I was teaching full time. 

After the seminar is done, I will head over to the southeastern part of the country to Erlangen, where my host family from 2005 lives and I will visit them for a couple of days.  I haven't seen them in 7 years!!  It'll be so great to get to see them again because when will be my next chance to see them?  The 2013 trip won't provide a chance because we'll be on a structured schedule and won't be able to stray too much, plus having to watch kiddos too.

Anyway, during the trip, I will have my Ipad with me and I will be updating on Facebook probably most days--unfortunately, I won't be able to upload pictures onto the Ipad onto the blog but I will write updates on here of what all happens.  If for some reason, I don't have much time for that, I PROMISE to have a nice, long update once I get back home. :)

Hope everyone is doing well and I will stay in touch.