Saturday, July 28, 2018

German and Swahili

Jambo! Habari gani?

When I went back to school in 1997 to obtain a minor to teach German (I already had my B.A. in English and my teaching license and had been teaching English part time for 2 years), one of the courses I needed to take was “Methods in Teaching Foreign Language.” My classmates were future teachers of Spanish, French, and German, and the professor wanted to demonstrate to us how it is possible to teach a language from day 1 using no English. Obviously she could not use any of our second languages because the point was to introduce a new language.

So she taught us Swahili.

She had spent some years in Kenya and was therefore comfortable with the basics, which was all she needed to demonstrate. In every German class I have ever taught, I used the method she taught us and reviewed with us nearly every day. Little did I know I would even have the opportunity to teach several groups of students some of those Swahili phrases I had learned in my methods class!

That class was my very first exposure to Swahili, but since then the language has come into my life again and again. If you go on the safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, you'll be greeted in Swahili. A friend of mine in Esslingen spent some years in Kenya and learned Swahili, and when I discovered that I greeted him with, "Jambo!" My aunt and uncle spent some time in Kenya a number of years ago and came back with a CD of music in Swahili, which I still have. My dad and M's host father went on a Photo-Safari in Tanzania and Kenya and came back with great pictures and fascinating tales. 

The methods teacher taught us to count from 1 to 10 (which I can still do), how to say hello and introduce ourselves, and ask someone else’s name. She taught us more than that, but that’s what I’ve retained. And as I said, I have used her method in each beginning German class I've taught. The teacher uses lots of body language and gestures but speaks no English.

As an example, to teach the numbers, I start counting with my fingers: “moja-mbili-tatu-nne-tano!” Then I repeat. Then I gesture for the students to say the numbers with me and use their fingers, too. We count 1-5 and then 5-1, repeating often. Then I pass out cards with number words on them to five different students, write 1-2-3-4-5 on the board, and gesture for them to put the cards under the corresponding number. The student who feels unsure can wait for all the others to place their cards. Then we read the numbers while I point to each one – this helps the visual learners (like me!) who need to see a word written out in order to confidently pronounce it. I point to the numbers in a random order while they read them, then I remove the cards and point only to the numbers. I hold up various amounts of fingers while they call out the numbers. The next day I add “sita-saba-nane-tisa-kumi”!

Jina langu ni Frau HejlJina lako ni nani?“ Through pointing to my name tag and gestures, I get them to understand what I’m asking, and they hesitatingly give their name. Then through repetition I get them to say the whole sentence: “Jina langu ni Julie!”

This is so much fun every time!

At what point did I actually have the chance to teach my students in Wisconsin some Swahili? First of all I taught American Literature and added Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” to my curriculum. The story takes place in Kenya and is peppered with a few Swahili words – Bwana, Memsahib – so I started the days we read it by teaching them the numbers and phrases I’d learned. Then to my German level 3&4 class I added what is still my all-time favorite movie to the curriculum: Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001). Through that movie my students and I learned more Swahili words and phrases. They even had to take a vocabulary quiz in German & Swahili – no English at all!

What is the Swahili word for Brunnen? KisimaFeuer? MojaKind? Toto!

And guess what? If you have seen “the Lion King” (and who hasn’t?), you also know some Swahili words!
Safari = Reise = journey
Rafiki = Freund = friend
Hakuna matata! = Keine Sorgen! = No worries!
What got me thinking enough about Swahili to write this post? This beautiful song. (You can thank me later.) I wrote recently that I obsess about songs on occasion, and I cannot stop listening to this one. There is so much heart and soul in African music! Here it is with just the lyrics. I’ve learned the chorus and will work on the rest of the song next.

Incidentally, I cannot recommend Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) enough. It is a brilliant film about family, war, prejudice, home, language, friendship, expatriates, sacrifice, love, and culture shock. It focuses on a Jewish family who flees Germany in the 1930s and settles in Kenya, where the mother/wife ironically has many prejudices against the Kenyan natives. It is an autobiographical story, told by the writer Stefanie Zweig. The scenery, the soundtrack, the actors...all superb. It surely earned its Oscar for best foreign film.

I'm a lover of film quotes, and here's a taste:

 "Es ist wunderschön. Aber hier können wir doch nicht leben." ~Jettel
   "It's lovely. But we can't live here."

 "Das ist 'was Anderes. Weiße Frauen sind hilflos. Schwarze Frauen nicht."  ~Owuor
   "That's different. White women are helpless. Black women aren't."

 "Ich kann mich gar nicht mehr an Deutschland erinnern." ~Regina
   "I can't even remember Germany anymore."

If I'm being honest, I wrote this blog post for the purpose of sharing the song "Baba Yetu" with you. Did you listen to it? Am I nutty for being captivated by it?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Life Lately

Ahh....Summer! Even if the Rhododendron and Azaleas are just a memory and the Vergissmeinnicht are finished as well, our garden is still blooming with all kinds of other pretty flowers I don't know the names of. We've got some Hortensie (German spelling), Gänseblümchen (daisies), and roses, and of course it's been Furztrocken (dry as a fart) in our village for a long while, so we have to water most evenings. Everyone else seems to grumble about rainy days, but I do not!

It was beautifully cool the last week or so, which I find I like better than stifling heat - to me that's anything above 27°C (I'm a bit of a wimp). The heat will start to pick up now, and I'll be yearning for fall before long.

I thought I would write a general post about what I've been getting up to lately, just because. So here is what I have been...


homemade deodorant! I saw this on our noon show, ARD-Buffet, and I decided to give it a try. I don't like the fact that most anti-perspirants have aluminum salts in them (that's what turns your shirt armpits off-color, and smearing a metal on our skin every morning can't be good for us), and this is a simple recipe! I used 100 ml Hamameliswasser (witch hazel) and 3 ml Odex. The first day I used it I wasn't sure, but by the second day I was pleased with the result. It's very neutral, and I'm assuming mild and good for the skin. I'll have to see how well it works when the temps rise above 25°C, but the woman who showed how to make it said she has used in all her travels, including in Africa.


birthday cards and postcards to my children. They both live in Pennsylvania now, though they are still 6 hours apart by car! Their birthdays are 3 days apart in July.


the Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. It's an old favorite, and it's possible this is my second time re-reading it.


two exchange students home three weeks early due to...let's just say misdeeds.


the value of the exchange program. I just don't know if it's worth it to take a chance we'll get more kids who pull what those kids did. Apart from that, one in particular was a huge pain in my neck and shockingly immature. This is volunteer work for me; I should not have to put up with that crap.


lamb chops - the taste of Scotland

Lachsburger und Pommes
When my salmon burger came, I asked the waitress for some ketchup before trying the curry-mustard dip that came with it. I could have saved her the trouble, the curry dip was so delicious! And I don't even really like curry.


cherry tomatoes! I love tomatoes, M hates them, but luckily for me he likes growing vegetables. We've got some peppers growing in the same Hochbeet and Kopfsalat in another one, but the tomatoes are what make me happy. My snack yesterday afternoon was a few too many Tomaten-Mozzarella-Basilikum Spieße.

feeling guilty about

the amount of sleeping I do! I swear, I nap as much as a useless cat. We're pretty sure I was a cat in a former life, which keeps us wondering what on earth I did to get down-graded to human in this one.

daydreaming about

SCOTLAND!!!! Our next trip to Mull is happening in September, and we're both looking forward to it. I've done my share of gallivanting this year, but it's M's only time away from the office. 

Isle of Mull looking north over the sea

Highland coos on Mull

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

What have you been up to?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Fünf Fragen am Fünften; Juli 2018

Es ist wieder der Fünfte des Monats, und Nic von Luzia Pimpinella hat der Blogger-Welt fünf neue Fragen gestellt. Obwohl ich sie auf Englisch beantworten könnte, schreibe ich doch lieber auf Deutsch. Es ist eine gute Übung, und irgendwie denke ich, auf Deutsch kann ich ehrlicher sein.

Also, hier sind Nics Fragen und meine Antworten.

1. Was magst du am Sommer am liebsten?

Alles in der Natur ist so grün, farbenfroh, und lebhaft. Ähm, ok heute regnet es zum ersten Mal seit Wochen, und unser Rasen ist eher braun-grünlich. Ich mag es, wenn es abends kühl ist, und die lange Tage genieße ich. Ich mag frisches Obst, Smoothies und Straßencafés. 

2. Was an dir ist typisch deutsch?

Ha! Ich liebe diese Frage, weil ich keine Deutsche bin! Ich glaube - und hoffe - dass ich mehr deutsche Eigenschaften habe als amerikanische. Ich bin keine Träumerin, sondern ein Realist. Ich bin ehrlich und direkt, aber nur mit meinen Kindern, M, Fremden, und Deutschen. Wahrheit und Direktheit sind für viele meiner Landsleute beängstigend. Neulich wollte eine Ami-Mutter mit mir über ihren Sohn reden. Ich habe ihr gesagt, ich rufe sie gerne an, aber ich werde ehrlich sein. Ich habe bis jetzt nichts mehr von ihr gehört.

Ich bin pünktlich und weiß es zu schätzen, wenn andere pünktlich sind. Ich bezahle lieber bar statt mit Kredit Karte. Ich bin selbstkritisch. Ich respektiere und folge Regeln - bei rot stehen, auf die Geschwindigkeitsgrenze achten, Nachtruhe respektieren... Und ich trinke lieber Sprudel als stilles Wasser!

3. An welchem Kurs oder Workshop würdest du gern teilnehmen bzw. was würdest du gern mal lernen?

Ich brauche hier kein Konjunktiv! Ich werde an einem Falknerkurs teilnehmen! Ich habe schon mit zwei Jagd-/Falknerschulen gesprochen, und die Kurse sind wahrscheinlich im Herbst oder Winter. Ich lese und lerne schon, denn der Kurs wird nicht einfach sein. Ich will meinen Falknerjagdschein oder wenigstens meinen Sachkundenachweis machen!

4. Wo bist du deinem Partner zuerst aufgefallen oder er auch dir?

Diese Frage habe ich schon beantwortet, also ich sage hier nur: Mein Mann ist mir 1986 in seiner Heimatstadt (Esslingen) aufgefallen, aber ich bin ihm zuerst ein paar Jahre später in meiner Heimatstadt (Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA) aufgefallen! Wir kennen uns schon seit fast 30 Jahren.

5. Welcher Cocktail beschreibt dich am besten?

Das ist eine lustige Frage, aber ich kenne wenige Cocktails. Cosmopolitan - sicher nicht! Tequila Sunrise - zu süß. Sex on the Beach - eher nicht. Irgendwas Kaltes und vielleicht auch ein bisschen sauer. 

Wein wäre einfacher - ein trockener Grauburgunder. Den trinke ich am liebsten, und ich trage auch sehr gern graue Kleidung. Ich war noch nie in der Weinregion Burgund, aber wer weiß?

Zum ersten Mal habe ich es geschafft, die fünf Fragen am Fünften, am Fünften zu beantworten! Ich freue mich schon auf die Fragen für August.


Insel Mull, Schottland

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Slow Down, or not

I'm an admitted song-obsessor. I hear a new beautiful song, and I listen to it 20 times before I go to bed that night, and it's stuck in my head for days. One of my former students posted this song on social media, which is how I first heard it earlier today.

I know how these links only work for short periods, so the song is called "Slow Down" and the version I heard is by Nicole Nordeman (not the one of the same title by Selena Gomez - yuck!)

I love these mother ballads. I think my favorite is "Durch meine Finger rinnt die Zeit" - the German version of "Slipping Through My Fingers" by ABBA. I like the German best because I first saw the musical in German when M's sister and her husband sent us to that musical in Stuttgart as a wedding gift in 2006.

But back to "Slow Down." I find it a lovely song, and as it started and I realized the idea, I figured I'd tear up at some point. I did not. I must be a different kind of mom. Yes, the time flies by though it doesn't seem like it will in the middle of a collicky night or when the police call to say they have your teenager in the back of their car. But I loved every phase and step of my kids' growing up years. I thought they were adorable when they were newborns, and then they were able to crawl. That was cute and scary because we had to redecorate, and then they were able to walk. (My daughter took her first steps holding onto her Opa's fingers in an airplane on our way back from Germany!)

Then they learned to talk, and I taught them some German right from the start. I read them children's books, sang German songs with them, sent them off in the grocery store to find "zwei Äpfel, vier Bananen, und Salat." My daughter called her younger brother "Baby Ucky", and when he could speak he called her "Alla". I can't really explain either one, because "Ucky" was Alex and "Alla" was Stephanie.

Their language skills thankfully improved, and we starting having real conversations. I can still talk to my daughter about anything under the sun except that one thing no daughter ever wants to talk to her mother about, and my son is very open with me:  (yesterday) "Ucky, during your growing up years, did you EVER lie to me, and if so, did you get the feeling I did not believe you?"  Without hesitation, his answer; "Yes and yes." There were no follow-up questions because I didn't need them. I knew I had done my job.

The hardest thing I recall from the early years was dropping them at kindergarten because I believe kids are inherently mean. "That's an ugly dress!" "Why did you bring THAT for show-and-tell?" "There's no room for you at our table!" I hated the thought of my children being sad.

Alla and Ucky
But we all made it through those first days of kindergarten, and they found their way after that.

They learned to read, and we talked about books. They learned about astronomy, and I showed them the Big Dipper and Orion. They learned about Egyptian history and I brought out my big book about Egypt. They struggled with quadratic equations, and I told them to ask their father.

I tried to get my son interested in horseback riding, judo and soccer. He took up baseball, basketball, and for a few horrifying months, football. My daughter dutifully took riding lessons, stuck with soccer for two years, endured softball and Girl Scouts (I wanted the Thin Mints!), and joined the forensics (public speaking) team I coached.

When my daughter went off to college, I helped her pack and drove her up there (roughly an hour from our home), to the college I'd attended 24 years earlier. Driving home alone I knew I was supposed to be sad and all that, but all I could feel was excitement. What an adventure she was beginning! I could not wait to hear about the friends she would find, the classes she would take, and the decisions she would make (the good and the bad).

I had the same experience when I drove with my son to the university he was considering for a college visit. I didn't know the school at all, but I knew how important his attendance there would be, the friends, the classes, the experiences...

The kids have traveled with M and me to Scotland, Germany, Austria, and Tennessee. The older they get, the more fun they are to travel with.

Scotland, 2017
What I'm trying to say is that every age they have been has been better than the one before. I really like that song, but I did not need my children to slow down. The pace of their lives has been and will continue to be just as it should be.

My children are not perfect and neither am I. But I consider myself lucky to be a part of their lives and I hope they have learned something from me along the way. That's our job as parents, right? To give our kids the best start in life they can have. And then let them go.

Never mind that I nearly passed out when my son had 4 teeth pulled.
Never mind that I didn't attend every basketball game or bowling match my kids participated in.
Never mind that I forgot my daughter was already 18 when she was applying for a new passport and advised her to wait a month until her 18th birthday.
Never mind that, when my son turned 3 and had to give up his Nuk (pacifier) because that was our rule, I skipped the country (taking a group of students to Germany for 15 days) and left him with his grandparents to deal with that.

We did ok. And I'm looking forward to every phase and step with them from this point on.

Ucky leaves home tomorrow morning to start a new life with his girlfriend in Pennsylvania. They've loaded up the truck and will say their good-byes before the sun rises. It's the start of a new adventure, and I am excited for them!!

Live it up, kids! Explore the world! Learn from your mistakes! Change the world for the better!

My favorite line from that song: "Before I knew it you were teaching me the only thing love can."