Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Running in Circles

For about two months now, I've been a regular runner. My running route has changed quite a few times throughout, sometimes in the park (we have two nearby), sometimes through various neighborhoods and most recently I've found a track that I've been using.  I assume it belongs to the school nearby, but I rarely see anyone in there.

This morning as I was making my way around the track, I started thinking back on my high school days.  I ran track in high school, so while making my rounds it brought back memories of practices (running laps) and track meets (the feeling like you're going to vomit waiting for the shot gun to go off at the start of the race).  I wasn't an especially good track runner, but none the less it was part of my high school experience.  The only medal I ever won was for Javelin and that was because there were only two teams competing (so we were bound to get either gold or silver).

In addition to track I played soccer, was part of the Italian club and sang in the Choir my freshman year.  I also coached an indoor soccer team for the Winter seasons at the Boys and Girls Club and was the director of a youth drama group all throughout high school.  I also worked part time at a pizzeria.

The thing is, I don't think that my experience is all that unique or extraordinary--at least for American high school students.  I feel like it is the norm for American students (and perhaps some other nationalities might be able to relate) to be expected to do it all.  The "All-American Kid", who takes AP/Honor classes, plays sports, volunteers, is the editor of the school newspaper and works part time. 

Its not that I don't remember enjoying doing all those things--I did--but when I compare this experience to what I see in the young German students that I work with, it seems so totally different.  For them, its all about school work.  School is the priority and extracurriculars are things that you do on your own time but don't really relate to (or shouldn't interfere with) school. 

For American high school students, schoolwork is only one small piece of the puzzle.  Volunteering and sports and playing an instrument are AS important as getting an A in your Biology class, at least that's what they tell us we have to do if we want to get into a good college/university--and we all have to want to go to a good university otherwise you'll end up working at McDonald's. 

The German schooling system is set up so that a very large percentage of students by the time they are 16 are already getting ready for the workforce.  (Okay granted, they will spend three years in an Ausbildung (or apprenticeship) with part time schooling--but none the less in a grown-up environment where they are expected to be responsible young adults.) For this reason, I think the majority of German students are fairly mature.  I say fairly because the sample I have gotten to know all seem to be, but I'm not about to assume German teenagers are a bit more sane or stable than any other adolescent around the globe today.

So the stark contrast makes me wonder a bit.  Are American students running circles?  Or are Germans not opening up their horizons enough?  Or is it possible both could use a little readjustment?

Monday, July 25, 2011

"You Poor Pig!"

Germans have this thing with pigs. Not only do they eat a lot of them, they also consider the pig lucky--and they like to talk about them whenever they can.  Over the last two years, I've come to hear a lot of expressions that involve pigs, and whenever I mention this to Germans, most think I'm exaggerating.  As I'm not a polyglot, and happen to really only be fluent in 1 1/2 languages, I can't really say, but below are just a few of the expressions that I've learned. You be the judge.

"Armes Schwein!" = "Poor Pig" = I wouldn't want to be in your shoes.

"Es ist saukalt!" = "It is like piggish cold." = Man, its freakin' cold.

"Schweinereich!" = "Piggishly rich" = Filthy (or stinkin') rich

"Sauschlecht." = "Piggishly bad" = Awful, terribly bad

"Perlen vor die Säue werfen." = "Throwing pearls to the pig." = Being wasteful or not understanding the worth of something.

"Glücksschwein" = "Lucky pig." = Lucky dog, or 'you're so lucky!'

"Schwein gehabt" = "Had pig." = Sort of similar to the one above, you had luck, you were lucky.

They are pretty cute though, aren't they?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What? Your brain has never freezed?

So brain-freeze appears to be an American-only phenomenon.  Who knew?

I was trying to explain to David not too long ago about brain freeze (you know, the pain you get from eating or drinking something much too cold and your head start to hurt for a few seconds?) and he said he had no idea what I was talking about.

I tried explaining it further... perhaps the name was a little misleading, but no, he said there was no such translation of experience in German.

Okay, so believe it or not I even doubted my own sanity on this.  Was this something that I made up? But later that weekend, I saw something on Yahoo! about brain freeze--it clearly was not all in my head.  Maybe it was only David.

A couple weeks later, by total coincidence, I'm preparing an English lesson that springs off an article in TIME on the topic of 7-11 Slurpees (there really was something worth talking about involving Slurpees, I swear) and the title was "Why Free Things Can Cost A Lot (And Make Your Brain Freeze).  So in class I ask my student if he knows what brain freeze is.  He says he does.  I'm relieved, until he starts describing it as something that happens when you forget what you want to say.  While he was correct, I described to him the other scenario that we like to call by that same name, and he too was at a total loss for what I could possibly mean.  His reaction,  "What's wrong with Americans' brains?"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Japan vs. England

So... Women's World Cup is going on right now in Germany.  Which, despite the nation basically ignoring, I find it pretty cool.  (If you want to read about the national support of the tournament (or lack there of), have a look at another blogger's post here:  A Nation Shrugs.)

Anyways, I posted a while back saying that I had tickets to the US vs. North Korea game in Dresden--which unfortunately, I had to sell.  But with luck, a friend of mine had a spare ticket to the Japan - England game in Augsburg which I was able to attend on the 5th. (THANK YOU JENNY!)  Even though Japan has made it to the semi-finals (they beat the German team, a two-times world champion!!!), they lost in this particular game to England 2-0.  Here are some photos of the game.

Before the game, some friendly rivalry between fans. Jenny + random Japanese tourist.

Almost 21,000 people attended this game.

I couldn't decide who to root for so I ended up cheering for the loosing team, which happened to be Japan.

Some English football hooligans.

During half time.

Appreciative players saying thanks at the end of the game.

Being at the game really made me wish I could have seen an American game--it would have been awesome to support my home team, especially since they are doing so well at the moment. Hoping they can win against France on Wednesday to make it to the Finals... GO USA!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

+1 point for the Germans!

A telephone conversation I had this morning in German.

Other Person:  Hello, So and So's office, So and So's assistant speaking. 

Me:  Hello, is Mr. So and so there?

Other person:  No, unfortunately he doesn't get into work until nine o'clock.

Me: I see.  I have a little problem.  I have a class that begins at 9 o'clock at XX and I can't make it today because I am sick and I don't have a phone number for any of the students. Can you help me?

Other person:  Yes. But first of all, WHO IS THIS?

Me:  (feeling stupid) Ahh so sorry!! My name is...

And that ladies and gentlemen, is a pretty common phone mishap that myself along with other English speakers make when talking on the phone in Germany.  I swear, we're not trying to be rude by not giving our name first (although Germans have told me before that it comes across that way), I'm just so used to the person on the other line asking for it with that extra sweet little phrase, "Can I ask who is calling?"...

How to make myself remember!?


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Put on a Happy Face

The last two weeks were quite relaxed as most of my students were away on vacation. Germany just celebrated Pfingstin and Frohleichnem, and so schools had two weeks off and parents took two weeks off to be with their kids.

So by default, I also had almost two weeks off .  Normally I have something planned, either going away myself or working with the holiday language camps for kids--but this time I decided to spend the time running lots and reading and studying lots of German. My thinking was by the time the last week of June rolled around, I would be fit and ready to work until August (when most of my students will once again plan another vacation).

New week starts, I'm feeling pumped up and energized, and Monday in class, I take a sip of water and hmmm... that's funny, my throat starts hurting.  At the time, I figured it would be a one day thing and didn't think much more of it, although thinking back now, I should have attacked that sucker with hard core doses of Vitamin C and the likes.  Fast forward one week, I have absolutely zero voice, my body aches and my tooth (the same darn tooth thats been giving me trouble for months) is acting up again (although I think this is unrelated).  As a result I've had to cancel some classes, hence losing more income (freelancers don't get sick days mind you). 

Normally I would be quite aggravated by the perfectly bad timing of the situation (why couldn't I have gotten sick during the two weeks I had no work!?), but as of right now, I just can't bother using up my energy on such thoughts.  Best case scenario, I wake up tomorrow morning and its vanished ;)--worst case, is it lasts another week and I end up needing a root canal to boot. ;( 

Here's hoping. Wishing you all a healthy new week,