Saturday, July 30, 2016

Highs and Lows July 2016

The early edition...

I haven't written much lately because I'm busy with teaching and failing at keeping the homestead in good shape. I've had things to say/write, but little energy to write them well, so instead I spend my evenings creating lesson plans and worksheets, reviewing the passive voice, and lying on the sofa with my cold fluffy pillow watching "the Mentalist" or "Big Bang Theory".

However, as always there were highs and lows this month, and I like reflecting at the end of the month on what's been going on - especially the positive things.


  • the C1 (Deutsch als Fremdsprache / German as a Foreign Language) test. It was a good experience, and I passed it!!

  • meeting a college friend of mine and three colleagues of his in Esslingen and giving them a tour of my favorite German city! It was my first official tour of Esslingen and so much fun! They were interested in what I had to tell them, were very enthusiastic about the places and views I showed them, and if they enjoyed it half as much as I did, then it was a near-perfect evening.

  • the arrival in Esslingen of four young exchange students from Sheboygan, WI (my hometown).

  • chaperoning this group and their German partners on a day trip to Ulm and leading the "Stadtführung Lite". They all joined me on the climb up the tallest church steeple in the world, and most of them went all the way to the tippy-top  (768 steps) while I waited at the third lookout platform.

The students climbed this; I did not.
  • my daughter's 23rd birthday
  • my son's 21st birthday three days later

  • another day trip with the student group to Tübingen, my second favorite German city.

  • seeing two of my former students at a film showing about Syria: before and since the war. I sat next to one of them, and during the "before" part it was so nice to hear him talk about his homeland. When a picture came up, he leaned over and told me what it was I was seeing. The "since" portion was heart-breaking, though.

  • finding out that in August I might be able to take over an integration course at the local VHS from a teacher who is going on family leave. The best part about this is that two of my former students are in this class, along with two other Syrians I know from another class at the Hermann-Hesse-Kolleg and the Sprachcafé! I am just waiting for official permission to teach at the VHS level.

  • in preparation for the above, taking a practice Einbürgerungstest (German citizenship test) and scoring 90% on my first try before starting to study. 56% is needed to pass. I just took that online practice test and scored 93%. Those darn colors pertaining to various political parties will get me every time - except for the Green party; I nailed that one.  The other wrong answer was a stupid misread of the question.

    Want to try your hand at the US Citizenship test? That one has 96 questions, so it will take a few minutes. I scored 92%. Here's a shorter one. Apparently the actual test is not multiple choice, but rather an oral test. The candidate is asked 10 questions, and she or he must answer at least six of them correctly.

    The pool of questions for the US test is 100 (from which the interviewer asks 10). The pool of questions for the German test is 310, from which 33 are asked (the last three are state-specific), and 17 need to be answered correctly.

    Back in 2008, all 310 questions appeared in the newspaper, and M copied the list and sent it to me. I still have this list, so handy that it took me less than two minutes to find it! It was one of those "I bet I'll need this some day" things, and sure enough.
my study material for the next few weeks
Update: I finished this book/workbook today.
  • receiving an email from one of my former Syrian students. He was just checking in and letting me know what he's been doing lately, about the integration class he's taking, and asked how I was. It's always so nice to hear from these students!


  • the shooting in München on my daughter's birthday. Although this happens so often in the US that it hardly makes the news anymore, this type of crime is rare in Germany because the gun laws are quite strict. The shooter (an 18-year-old German-Iranian boy who had trouble in school and presumed psychological problems) had been researching mass shootings and acquired his weapon illegally - the serial number was scratched off. It also turns out that, despite knee-jerk reports that he was Muslim and shouted "Allah...", it now appears that he was a racist neo-nazi (I'm not going to capitalize that) who hated foreigners and Muslims.

  • finishing our tour of Ulm and arriving in plenty of time at the Bahnhof to catch our train back to Esslingen, and seeing on the schedule display that our train wasn't running that day. Why? No idea, no information. Waiting another hour for the next train.

  • the Republican convention, though this could be a high because most of what I watched about it was from late night comedy, and those guys are hilarious. I just didn't hear anything about or from the convention that could be viewed as positive. Hatred, paralyzing fear, the economy is in the toilet, and the world is going to hell - those are the messages I heard. I read something the other day about the dire state of the economy - the writer advised people to turn off the news, go outside and look around their neighborhoods and cities. Where is the evidence of the economic crisis? Are houses being built? Are gas prices low? Are people still driving SUVs? Are businesses advertising "Help Wanted"? Are people still loading carts full at the grocery store? Shopping in malls? Going on vacation?

  • learning on the day of the film showing about Syria that the US had had dropped bombs on and killed several families - more than 50 people - near the town of Aleppo, having mistakenly identified them as IS fighters.

  • reading a news story about a former student of mine from my first year of teaching at my last school in Wisconsin. I remember him well. He was one of the participants on my first trip to Germany with teenage students (17 of them!), and he was one of the good ones - great sense of humor, well-behaved, and just generally nice and thoughtful. I learned this month that he committed a heinous crime in Virginia - attacking a couple (the husband had just fired my former student's wife), slashing their throats, and leaving them for dead. He was apprehended and tried, and he was sentenced to 2 life terms in prison. How does a kind, funny, thoughtful, intelligent kid from a Christian family end up there 15 years after high school?

    I wrote a blog post about it but just couldn't publish it.

Since I don't like ending with negative things, I will close with this fat little brown bunny with floppy ears (Schlappohren) in a teacup.

Have a great August!!


  1. Congratulations on passing your C1 test!

    I only got 29 out of 33 on that Einürgerungstest. Ooops! I couldn't remember which year the Euro was introduced :-(

    1. I think some of the questions (on the US test as well) are strange. The one you mentioned - for someone who wants to become a citizen today, who cares when the Euro was introduced? I'm sure many Germans wouldn't remember either because it doesn't matter for our everyday life today.

  2. Congratulations on the test results!

    I hope to take the B2 test in the next 12 months, but feel very intimidated about it. I've passed the (non-recognized) tests at the Uni that are similar, but not necessarily with stellar marks. I think that the graded speaking portion is the most daunting since we didn't do that part at the Uni (our "grade" for that comes from class sessions). I guess I have to stop whining about being nervous and be proactive and up my studying and practicing since the former attitude is not useful at all.