Saturday, June 18, 2016

Life Lately

I enjoy the "Life Lately" posts of Adventitious Violet, which she posts periodically, and since I know I don't have time to sit down for a thought-provoking post about travel or differences between Wisconsin and Swabia, I thought I'd write one of these over coffee this morning so readers know I haven't disappeared.

I've been working every day (though not even close to full-time) and studying for the C1 German test coming up on July 1st, and that means it's harder to indulge in an afternoon nap. Our house is in disarray, the garden is as unruly as a teenager on Red Bull, M has all but taken over cooking, and that best-seller I've been imagining in my mind for upwards of 35 years has still not been written. Of course, I waste an embarrassing amount of time checking Facebook and CNN, but at least M blocked Fox News from our Network (at my request) so I can no longer get outraged at the comments sections of articles. I've been totally neglecting my parents despite knowing my mom enjoys getting an email from me in the morning, and my list of "to do" is much longer than my list of "have done".

Basically, since I have the same 24 hours that everyone else has in a day, I have no excuse for the current state of affairs, and during my afternoon nap today I'm definitely going to conjure up a plan to get back on top of things.

Since I'm on my second cup of coffee, though, I'd better get going on Life Lately...


I am still teaching the Englisch-AG to students with mild learning disabilities twice a week, though this will be my last year. I'm just so much happier teaching adults, even though I really like the kids in that class. Half of them "graduate" in July because this school only goes to the ninth grade.

Four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, I teach basic German at the Hermann-Hesse-Kolleg. I've had four students, whom I briefly wrote about a few posts ago, but yesterday the woman from the Ukraine had her last day and Tuesday is the last day for the woman from Japan. The school director told me that I'll probably gain a few new students next week, so we'll see what happens.

Last week I mentioned Esslingen and how beautiful it is, and we decided to take a class trip there this coming Tuesday! I'll give them an informal Stadtführung (city tour), we'll have lunch, we'll walk up to the Burg, and we'll bask in the beauty of my favorite German city.


As I mentioned, I'll be taking a German language test (C1 level) on July 1st. I have found several practice tests and activities online, and my results have not been impressive. I never properly learned the passive voice or indirect discourse, so I've been studying those especially. What I really need to focus on is expanding my vocabulary and the subtle changes in meaning when a verb is coupled with a different preposition, for example: bestehen aus vs. bestehen in. I'm now working on a book I've had for a while but left on the shelf - Weg mit den typischen Fehlern! (Avoiding Typical Mistakes) - and wishing I had started it the day I learned I'd be taking this test.


I already wrote about parts of my trip last month to visit my daughter in Philadelphia. Not long after I returned, my Schwiegermutter and I accompanied four American exchange students from my hometown, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to Berlin for four days. They were a great group, very interested, spoke plenty of German, and we had a very good trip. We saw everything we could see in that short time, and sometime after my test I'll probably do a blog post about it.

das Brandenburger Tor made of chocolate at
Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatier
The sign says "no touching", but it doesn't say a thing about licking!


Besides grammar books and the local newspaper, I've been reading a book I bought in Berlin about the wall as well as Einwanderung und Asyl: die 101 wichtigsten Fragen (Immigration and Asylum: the 101 most important questions). Irgendwo in  Deutschland, the sequel to Nirgendwo in Afrika, has been at my bedside for months, and I am making very slow progess in that one.


As I type this, M has another hunk of meat in his sous vide jacuzzi, which has been in there since Thursday evening. Tonight we're having BBQ spare ribs with a sauce that is so insanely delcious that I've been putting it on everything but cereal. It absolutely lives up to its name:

We still have to decide what we're having with the ribs. If I want my daughter to be impressed, it has to be something other than potatoes.  Update: it was fries and cole slaw. See below.

And there they are, with homemade Krautsalat.
They were decadent.


The EM games, of course, or at least the ones involving the German team. I've fallen behind in what we affectionally call my "Scottish porn" (Outlander; it's not really porn, but a historical romance that gets a bit racey at times) because I lost interest in the second season when the setting was in France rather than in Scotland.

Our other regulars are "the Mentalist", "Big Bang Theory", any and all quiz shows, and "die Rosenheim Cops". Although the first two are American shows, we watch them in German because that's how they're aired on TV. M watches all kinds of other strange shows on the Man Channel (DMAX), which I try to tune out while studying German grammar.


My 25th college reunion is going on this weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin (USA). My former classmates are posting lots of photos on Facebook, and it's embarrassing how many people I don't remember well. It was and is a small college, after all. I suppose if I hadn't got married in my second year, I would have spent more time on campus and with my classmates. I think what's going on is that the classmates with whom I was really close are also not attending. By "missing" I don't mean I wish I were there, but rather I am not attending because I'm just too far away.


Since I'm in town for teaching nearly every day, I run into my former students and other Syrians I have met through the HHK and the Sprachcafé at least once a week. It is always a pleasure to see them, and they greet me warmly, even from afar as they wait for their bus and I'm dashing past to pick up more Bergkäse from Aldi. Usually we have time for at least a brief chat.

A German teacher friend of mine from Colorado is in the area, and we'll be meeting next weekend! It will be nice to get together for the first time since 2012, and M and I are looking forward to it.


Yesterday I met one of my former students for several hours so he could tell me about his story - his life in Syria and Lebanon before the war, his journey to Germany when he decided he had to leave, and his life here since arriving nine months ago. I will be talking to as many refugees as want to share their stories with me, and I am writing about them. I am not entirely sure what the end product will be, but at the very least they and I will have a written account of what they have gone through. Their stories need to be shared.

That's what I've been up to lately, for those who might have wondered. But now my coffee is finished, and I best get back to preparing for my test! We also have plans to get some yard work done today. The hedge is getting out of control!

Have a great weekend!

one of our Rhododendrons a few weeks ago
They're all finished blooming now and ready for beheading.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Misty of Chincoteague

My daughter and I have both been horse lovers and riders since our respective childhoods. I admit without apology that I influenced her a bit mercilessly: buying her stuffed horses to play with, decorating her room with the Breyer models that survived my youth, reading horse stories to her, watching every horse movie I had and could rent, and getting her on pony rides from the time she was old enough to grasp the saddle horn. She started riding lessons at age 11 and less than a year later we were leasing her a horse. He was Boomer, a chestnut National Show Horse (part Arabian, part Saddlebred).

I love this photo. They're both annoyed with each other,
and you can totally see it in their expressions!
This is us with Boomer. 
I don't know when I introduced her to Marguerite Henry and her horse books, but we both remember her pop-up book (1993) and the last of the Misty books, Misty's Twilight (1992), and my daughter did a class project on the annual pony penning festival on Chincoteague when she was in middle school.

It was therefore somewhat logical that we should make a trip to Chincoteague Island, Virginia when I flew over to visit her last month. We chose Holiday Cottages for our 2-night stay and were very comfortable. We stopped at a grocery store before driving onto the island and cooked both nights, which saved money. The beds were comfortable and the location was great.

We first explored the island to get our bearings, and then went to the museum. The museum is really a must for anyone visiting Chincoteague (admission $4). You'll see the Misty exhibit and learn about the history of the island as well as island life. I admit I could do without the taxidermied Misty (Stormy, one of Misty's foals, was away being restored) because she looks so much more beautiful in photos, but there she is.

Then we walked along Main Street and found the Misty statue and the theater in front of which Misty's hoofprints are set in the sidewalk.

The next morning we went to Sundial Books, from which my daughter had ordered a hardcover copy of Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague. She also bought a Chincoteague sweatshirt, and I bought a ton of postcards. We were there before the tourist season starts, which was perfect for us. We almost felt like we were the only tourists on the island!

We also found the graveyard where the Beebes are buried.  The Beebe family played a main role in the Misty story, both the fictional version and the actual Misty story, which I find more interesting!

We were mainly biding our time until our boat tour started. She'd booked a "guaranteed pony tour", and it was well worth it. Captain Dan, who grew up on the island, apologized a lot for the uncooperative weather - it was quite windy and a little wet - but I hadn't really expected anything different. Instead of going all the way around Chincoteague we would have to go most of the way between Chincoteague and Assateague (the island where the wild ponies live) and then come back. That turned out to be perfect, because we got closest to a band of ponies on the way back - which we would have missed had we gone around the island.

Dan knows the ponies and was able to identify the various stallions. He also told us about their behavior, and on a few occasions we then witnessed what he had descibed (like stallions peeing on poop dropped by other horses to mark their territory - nice). 

I would write more about the ponies and their habits, but how about just more pictures of ponies??

Rainbow Warrior
Puzzle and his band

Riptide trying to get friendly with Starry Night,
unsuccessfully, as it turned out.
After he was "denied services," Riptide started bullying one of his kids
Riptide trying to play it cool.

If you really want to indulge, click here to see stunning photos of beautiful wild ponies, taken by a photographer who lives on the island and knows the ponies.

We also drove over to Assateague Island, which is where the ponies live - and no humans live there! Happily, on the Virginia end of the island the ponies and the beach-goers are kept apart by strategically-placed fences. This means we can't get close to the ponies, and I think that is best for them. Too many tourists are clueless when it comes to wild animals. 

The story of the ponies is quite interesting, if you're into horses. 

The island of Chincoteague also has a history and culture apart from the ponies that is worth exploring, and along with many informational signs and books available, there are numerous tours one can book to learn more from those who live on the island.

Missing from this timeline is that the Gingo-Teague tribe, who was living here when the white men arrived in 1671, were driven from the island a year later. (source)

My daughter was mainly in charge of planning this trip to Chincoteague, and the only part that was not enjoyable was the longish drive there and back (roughly 3 1/2 hours from Philadelphia). The highlight for both of us was seeing the ponies, of course, and it was a fun mother-daughter trip.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Dodging an Embarrassing Moment

I am once again - happily - teaching German to foreigners at the Hermann-Hesse-Kolleg in Horb. The school director asked me to come back for a new small group, and I agreed with some trepidation. What if they are not as motivated as my former students? What if they are young (I've discovered the joy of teaching adults who understand the value of learning)? What if they don't know enough English to understand my Denglisch explanations of German grammar?

Well, any worries I might have had were unfounded. First of all, they're all adults. One of them is from Tanzania, and she's learning German because she married a local and wants to be able to stay and work here. She's been learning German off-and-on for a few years. Another is from the Ukraine and has been learning German for several months in Germany plus a while in the Ukraine. She'll be going back to the Ukraine soon, but would like to return - and I hope she does! Travel and/or moving from the Ukraine is not terribly easy from what I understand, but all things become easier in Germany if you know the language. Then there's a lad from Saudi Arabia. He has finished his studies and was working in Dubai, and is considering a practicum or further study in Germany. He has been here for three weeks, and what he has learned in that short amount of time is astounding. Then today a 73-year-old woman from Japan joined us. She was nervous about joining a class and said her German isn't very good, but it was clear after just a few minutes that she fits in with us just fine!

I just realized I totally digressed from the point of my post. Sorry 'bout that.

The other day I arrived at school at the same time as the director who hired me, and we walked up the stairs together. After we greeted each other, he said to me, "Du kommst ziemlich gut an." Ok, ankommen is "to arrive" and "ziemlich gut" is "pretty well". My morning brain translated that as "You arrive pretty well." That makes no sense, so I grappled with it for a split second. Maybe he meant "Good timing" - we both arrived at the same time. Or more likely "You're pretty punctual" (punctuality is extremely important in Germany). If I had decided to pretend I understood, I would have replied with either:
   "Haha, du auch!"  ("Yeah, you, too!")  or
   "Allerdings!"  ("Indeed!")

I was tired (I am a major Morgenmuffel) and had a headache, and so I decided not to pretend I understood what he said. And it's a bloody good thing I didn't.

I simply 'fessed up and said, "Sorry - was bedeutet das?" ("Sorry, what does that mean?")

He explained (in German or English - I don't even remember) that he meant that my students speak well of me.

OMG...can you imagine what he would have thought if I'd gone with one of my other possible responses?

    Director:  "Your students speak well of you."
    Me:   "Indeed!!"

Sometimes being a Morgenmuffel is a good thing!

"Morgenmuffel: Not yet responsive. Please wait..."

**I do not consider myself a great teacher (I know great teachers - Linda and Doug, I'm looking at you!). But if my students are satisfied and feel that they are learning, that makes me happy and I will put my heart and soul into every day.