Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Daily Chuckle #2

A twelfth grade student discussing the power dynamic between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth:

Student: She questions his mankind in this scene, so she is more powerful.
Me: We often say "questions his masculinity" in this kind of situation.
Student: Ah yes, masculinity. Or manhood. What makes him a man. She questions it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Market

A very German way to celebrate Christmas is going to a Christmas market. If a craft fair and a state fair loved one another very much and had a baby all through December, that's a Christmas market. Except without the "my animal/vegetable/mineral is bigger than yours" posturing.

My city is on the small side and its market is sized accordingly, so I spent this afternoon in Wiesbaden on the recommendation of a friend who used to live nearby. She told me the market was nice, and she was right. I arrived around 3:30 to preserve a bit of daylight for taking pictures. My camera gives up at night.

Market Church, in the main square.
It looked really pretty as the sun went down.

Ambulances standing by, just in case. How German.

An example of the stalls.

This orchestra played for over four hours.

Ooo, sparkly!

The light is fading...

This gives you an idea about how many people were there.
So I wandered about and ate gingerbread and drank Glühwein (mulled wine, essentially) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The problem with the crowds was that you couldn't actually walk in some places, you had to be sort of carried along in a collective slow movement. This got rather frustrating sometimes, especially when the process was further slowed by not having designated lanes.

The market is called "Sternschnuppenmarkt"...

which translates to "twinkling star Christmas market"

Slightly blurry, but dramatic nevertheless.

The Germans do love their sausage.

The market was especially pretty after dark.
 Not that my camera cares to show you, but it's true - all the trees were hung with lights and most of the stalls were edged in them. Everything smelled good, everything looked good, and we had live Christmas music the whole time. It was great.

No nativity controversy in Germany.

A final shot of the lights.
The flowers-made-out-of-light threw me off a bit. They were everywhere and very bright, but unlabeled. I'm debating between poinsettia and tulip. Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Daily Chuckle

One ninth grade class attempted to pronounce the word "whore" today, resulting in:

1. wuh-HOO-er (by far the most common)
2. HOO-er
3. HOO-reh
4. HUR
5. veh-HOO-er (in German the "w" is pronounced like a soft "v")
6. HO-are (good morning Brooklyn!)
and finally...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas, German-style

Think of your average German.

Got a good picture?

If you picked "lederhosen and beer" or "stiff businessperson," you're in line with my anecdotal evidence (also known as two friends I randomly asked) regarding German stereotypes. And as with most stereotypes, those ones aren't all wrong - Bavarians un-ironically love lederhosen and beer, and few Germans are at all demonstrative outside of soccer matches. Despite this national psyche, the Christmas season seems to bring about the tasteful magpie in German public spaces. The older of my two malls, for example, has been all decked out since the end of November.

Down the center of the mall you can find a bunch of Christmas-specific temporary retailers, selling a whole manner of traditional shapes and forms for celebrating the season.

The German "Christmas Tree Shoppe"
Lots of pretty glass ornaments
The candles make the little windmills turn.
Besides the little retailers, every surface that isn't a store window or the floor has been festooned with decorations. To be fair, most of any mall is windows and floor, but still.

All the skylights have this.
A jumbo version of the little candle windmills.
Decorated the whole way down.
Notice the two Christmas trees by the bottom of the huge windmill? Every escalator has two little trees flanking it.

Could you call this garland? I'm going to.

The Christmas Tree outside the mall
Germans of a variety of religious bents are also rather enamored of Advent calendars, counting down the days until Christmas. A number of shops whose merchandise is otherwise unrelated sell Advent calenders seasonally to take advantage of this interest. You can get many different themes, rather like Valentine's cards or wall calendars in the US. To top it off, we have a small-scale replica of one famous church as a huge public Advent calendar.
They open a door every day at 5pm.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

On the scale of "Tennessee Christmas" to "frightful," the weather outside is only rather chilly but otherwise pleasant. However, in an unexpected turn of events, we're actually having something of a white winter! Saturday was one of the first truly sunny days we've had in a week and though my fingers protested, I was delighted to run around taking pictures of a rare snow in southern Germany.

Thursday late afternoon is looking a bit snowy
The train station at 7am on Friday has a light dusting
We're on the way...
Now you're talking!
Notice the accumulation on the fountain
At this point (the middle of fourth hour) the rest of school was cancelled because some buses stop running when it snows and the students could be stranded at school. I never did confirm whether these were only the buses that drive along back country roads, or if the German public transportation system is just deathly afraid of ice on the streets. My landlady noted with disapproval that some people use salt when it snows, to the detriment of the environment. I refrained from telling her that salt is de rigueur in the States, at least where I come from.

Saturday dawned bright and clear
Recycling bins with festive caps of snow
The pigeons are cold
Return of the swans
Let it be known: swans are evil. Pictures of swans in the snow are rather pretty. Of course at this point one swan started stalking towards me and hissing, so I backed off. When I relayed this story to my parents, they chided me for reinforcing the swan's behavior and encouraged me to become the alpha swan by standing my ground and hitting the thing when it got too close. I'm not sure its worth the possibility of a bite or buffet. Swans are heavy, I think they could do some damage. Plus, I have no idea about their protected status in Germany - Siebenschläfers are protected, why not swans?

The Germans are big on Christmas, so I'll share some pictures of Christmas decorations around my city just as soon as I take them on Monday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Integrative learning

One of the teachers at my school has quickly become a role-model for me. She's very natural in teaching and managing her classroom, and does an especially good job of expanding her lessons for the younger students beyond their textbook. To help them connect their grammar and their overall theme of the US, she made up a foreign exchange student named Cilly who is spending a year abroad in the States. Cilly began in New York (their first chapter) and then traveled to Texas (their second chapter). Every time they learn a new concept, grammatical or thematic, she has them write a letter between Cilly and her friend back in Germany. This seems to work pretty well, and I've noticed they're better and more comfortable than the other class at using the grammar they learn when talking with me.

Of course the family they made up is a rundown of every American cliche ever. Upon arriving in Texas Cilly starts a homestay, where she lives with a blue-eyed, blonde American family. The father of the family is a lawyer, the mother a teacher. The daughter is a not-very-nice cheerleader named Emily and the daughter's boyfriend, Jake, is the captain of the football team. The twin younger sons play in the school's marching band; one is shy and the other is a "playa," according to my class. Cilly likes the "playa" twin, but thinks the shy twin likes her. They also have a cat and a dog, but oddly enough, no guns. I find this whole family uproariously funny. The students take it very seriously and can't understand why I would laugh.

My teacher for this class is very clever and had her eleventh-grade class practice their grammar and new vocabulary by writing an installment of the story for the eighth-grade class. So, having settled into her homestay, Cilly experiences a homecoming dance. The mother informs her that "y'all need to go shopping today" (I was impressed by this correct usage of Texas speech) in order to buy a dress and, under duress, Emily takes Cilly along. While the two are trying on dresses Jake shows up, because there's nothing high school football players like more than going dress shopping with their girlfriends. But, in a stunning turn of events, he sees Cilly from behind, thinks she's Emily, and compliments her dress. Emily overhears and flies into a jealous rage. Specifically, she's angry that Jake mistook Cilly's "elephant legs" for Emily's own slender ones. Great drama ensues.

Let me tell you, if high school homecoming dances came with that kind of show, I'd have actually gone to them. Soap opera story notwithstanding, the project is a fabulous way for both classes to practice what they've been learning, and I hope to use a similar tactic some time in the future. Perhaps the twelfth grade class can write about Cilly's spring break, which will naturally be to Mexico to get very drunk. I would hate to interrupt the cliches this late in the game, after all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lost in translation

Many teachers at my school use a particular set of textbooks to teach their students English. These books are predictably grammar-heavy (the older classes don't use them nearly so much), but also do a reasonable job of touching on some of the highlights of the US, even though I'm fairly sure the authors are German. Sometimes their choice of highlights is funny to me - for eighth grade, the chapters go from New York City to Mesquite, Texas to the American West with nary a pause in between. Sometimes the choices are just really odd.

One eighth grade class just started the American West chapter and is learning gerunds (nouns ending in -ing, as in "I like swimming") through the story of a teenager who lives in the mountains of Wyoming, far away from everything. His name is Dean and he has to drive two hours from his house to get to school in the morning. Apparently his parents didn't consider a) homeschooling or b) enrolling him in a different school when they found a place to live. The two hour commute is already a little strange - I've been to Wyoming and yes, it's pretty empty, but mostly people live near one another or avoid one another on purpose. They don't live far away and resent it the whole time. Plus, Dean's parents own a gas station, so clearly he's near some kind of town. Nevertheless, the point is that Dean spends four hours a day commuting to and from school and never has time for friends. His mother suggests, in all sincerity, that he go to live with his friend, Michael, whose parents own a ski lodge and who only has a twenty-minute commute to school. Nobody in the story mentions that it's kind of odd for a seventeen-year-old boy with a happy home life to go live with his friend because...I'm not quite sure why. The solution is offered and accepted, and they arrange that Dean has to come home once a month to see his parents. His mother's parting words of advice are "Don't be spending too much time on the slopes or at the rodeo or parties, study hard!"

Slopes and parties, I get. He's seventeen and living near a ski resort. But the rodeo? A den of iniquity if I ever saw one. And an entirely typical hangout for Wyoming's teenagers. Or maybe it is? I was too busy laughing hysterically to consider the possible truth of the situation.

One of these things is not like the other...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Film studies

I woke up yesterday and it was December. Craziness. Since I live along the Rhine this month does not come with a blanket of snow or Jack Frost nipping very hard at my nose, but it does come with two very exciting movie premieres.

Guys guys guys, The Hobbit and Les Miserables are both almost here!!!

Now The Hobbit comes out on December 14 in the US, just under two weeks from now. It premieres on December 13 in Germany. I would stick out my tongue like a child at anyone in the US who is also a Tolkien fan because I get to see it first, except maybe I don't.

Here's the first trailer as seen in Germany. Notice it's not in English (and seems to have a touch of 3-D in the backgrounds). When I looked up the movie theaters near me, their websites all seem to indicate that they'll be playing the film, like the trailer, in German. Sadface. The dilemma is that between knowing the story very well and generally doing pretty well with German, I'll understand most of the movie. Its visuals will be gorgeous, its music will be stunning. But the voices will be wrong, the songs will be different, and I'll have to work to understand everything instead of being able to sit back and let it wash over me. All my attempts to find an English-language version have come to naught. Of course I still need to stop by the movie theaters and double-check that their movies will all be in German, as the sites don't say, but it's not looking good for our boys in blue.

So I might need to wait until I get back to the US on December 20 to see The Hobbit. I'll probably have to swear off Facebook for the period between the US premiere and when I get home, because everyone I know shares my love of Tolkien and can't be trusted to keep quiet. Despite this possible setback, I haven't given up! Updates to follow.

With Les Miserables I have no such angst - it comes out December 25, and I'll see it sometime after that. It is very likely that I will drag along some friends who haven't seen the play, and spend the whole movie either squealing with delight or muttering how Broadway did it better. My poor, long-suffering friends.

But! In case you haven't already seen it, I present the Les Mis trailer for your enjoyment. In English, this time.

While my expectations for this one aren't nearly as high as for The Hobbit, I'm still really excited. Throw in a Christmas Market, friends, family, and home, and this is shaping up to be a lovely holiday season. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to clean my apartment while listening to Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas albums, because it's that time of year.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A recycling story

As I mentioned before, Germans take recycling super seriously. When I first came to my apartment my landlady explained the recycling/trash rules, but in the rush of other information, I totally forgot. Two weeks ago my upstairs neighbor, having noticed that I was doing it all wrong, offered to explain everything to me again. Here goes:

All waste material is split into one of seven categories: paper, plastic/metal, clear glass, brown glass, green glass, compost, and trash. You throw things in the trash only as a last resort - if something could possibly go into one of the other categories, it darn well should.

Plastic, metal, and the three glasses should be washed clean of food waste. If, for example, a glass jar has a label, that label should be removed and put into the paper container, because it is not glass. The washed-off food waste should join normal food waste in the compost containers.

Within my apartment building we have communal compost, plastic/metal, and trash bins into which our apartment's smaller versions should be emptied. The compost bin should not have any paper or plastic in it, so no putting food waste into bags to throw away. Compost and trash are picked up on alternating Monday mornings at 6am, so the appropriate bin should be dragged to the front of the building on Sunday night. If the bin is not dragged back into place by around noon the next day, the neighbors get irritated with the eyesore and tuck it away somewhere, leaving us a note detailing where to find it. Recycling is picked up every third Thursday at 6am, and must be put into special yellow bags that one can only get from city hall. If the recycling is not in the yellow bag, the recycling people will leave it.

The glass and paper go into color-coded neighborhood bins that live in the little parking lot next to the neighborhood park. Green glass goes in the green bin, clear glass goes in the white bin, brown glass goes in the brown bin, and paper goes in the blue bin. Some buildings have their own glass and paper bins that get picked up like trash and recycling, but we don't have that. I was chided for mistaking another building's paper bin as the place to put my paper. You only make that mistake once.

In addition, batteries must absolutely be recycling and only an antisocial Neanderthal wouldn't recycle them, but I've yet to find where one does this. I'll have to take them home to my local library's battery recycling bin, or risk being shunned by all upstanding Germans.

Let me tell you, I took notes on this little talk and made a schedule so as to not get anything wrong. They'll make a German of me yet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A collection of smiles

#1: The buses here are often between two and five minutes late. This is very un-German, and I'm assured that the problem is unique to my city. Very reassuring. Despite (or maybe in response to) the lack of punctuality, German bus drivers have no interest in braking for a couple more seconds while you run onto the bus. Can you tell I have personal experience with this? Today, however, a bus driver waited for me. Thanks, nice bus driver.

#2: Fortunately or unfortunately, the lateness issue is only true of the buses. I've had a few issues with plumbing since moving in to my apartment, so this morning a repairperson was scheduled to come in at 8am. Not my idea, let me assure you. At 7:46am sharp my bell rang and it was the repair guy. This morning I was irritated, but in hindsight, German punctuality really does make my type-A self smile.

#3: Germans are obsessive about environmental cleanliness. Except for the smoking thing. Every trashcan is actually three trash cans: paper, plastic/metal/glass, and real trash, and these are very important - my first day in Germany a homeless man berated me for throwing something in the wrong bin. Sometime soon I'll tell you all the rules governing recycling and garbage for my apartment. It's a serious thing. In fact, most German cities have a dedicated team of people who wander around with bags and those little claw-on-stick tools picking up garbage. These people are dressed head-to-toe in reflective orange or yellow and seem to generally be burly forty-year-old men. Imagine my delight when I passed a toy shop today and saw one of these men happily playing with the "create a path for the marble" toy on display while his cart of garbage-collecting tools waited nearby.

#4: Starting next week I have a new school schedule, since there are more English classes than hours I'm allowed to work every week. This means I had to start saying goodbye (possibly temporary, possibly not) to a couple of my classes. One seventh-grade class greeted my announcement with a collective sad sigh and a round of applause.

#5: My landlady is an amateur DIY-er, even for jobs that maybe shouldn't be done by one's self, like electricity and plumbing. You can imagine, therefore, that prior to calling the repair guy mentioned in #2, she tried to fix my plumbing problems herself. On Saturday I got a knock on my door and she came in to try tightening the washer on my kitchen faucet. When that didn't work she took the whole faucet off the wall and went away to a hardware store to see if she could find a solution while I stood there somewhat dumbfounded. As it turns out, she did indeed fix both my dripping faucet and clogged shower drain. And no, hair in the drain was not the problem. Now I have a bitty plunger I'm only to use on the shower if it backs up again and a new washer on my faucet. Problems solved.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's a German thing

We're talking about jobs in my ninth-grade class, and on Tuesday started to describe the skills needed for different paths of employment. I asked the students to think of a job they may want to do in a few years, and make a little word map regarding the skills, positives, and negatives of that job. Then I wandered about as they did so and tried to translate the un-translatable jobs they wished to perform (turns out there's a general word for someone who works in an office). Happily, the teacher I'm assisting has a smartphone with a German-English dictionary.

I also chided some French exchange students who spoke no English and little German, because I thought they were just not doing their work. Oops. My actual students quickly corrected me. The struggles of only seeing a class once a week.

With word maps finished, we shared some of the attributes of their chosen jobs. The students told me about what was needed to be a nurse, engineer, banker, police officer, lawyer, and computer repairperson. I asked if anyone had picked a creative job, like interior designer, actor, musician, or even a museum guide. Please guess how many people raised their hands.

Got a number in your head?

Remember that number.

You'll want it in just a minute. Ready?

Zero. Not a single person in a class of thirty had chosen a profession in either the humanities or creative sectors. And this is a class of ninth-graders, with four more years to go before they have to take their big final exams. They weren't choosing their jobs, they weren't declaring anything, they were just picking something they might be interested in to write about for a classroom exercise and they all picked very practical, useful jobs. I was flabbergasted. I said so, and told them that an American classroom would definitely have included some aspiring actors, singers, artists, or communications majors. They looked at me with polite disbelief, as if I'd walked into the classroom wearing Princess Beatrice's hat from the royal wedding. I gave them the same look. It was a fascinating sociological clash.

Later, talking to a friend about this, she said that such a response is very typical for Germans. The students may have indeed cherished secret dreams of becoming the next big actor or actress, but these dreams are considered non-serious and possibly a bit shameful. Definitely they remain a secret. I told her about the American slogan that you can achieve anything you want, and she laughed at me. Germans don't say that, she said, because it isn't true. We don't tell our children they can do whatever they want because they can't.

Yikes. Part of me feels like German students miss out on something important by not hearing this message. Then again, Germany has one of the strongest economies in the world, along with one of the highest standards of living. I've not seen Germans unhappy with their lives, they just enjoy themselves outside of work. The concept of not loving your job - or at least not wanting to love it, in an ideal world - is entirely foreign to me.

On a totally different note, I found Hobbit-themed super-sweet fake chai at the grocery store. Did I buy it? You bet I did!

Tastiness, plus Elrond. Win-win.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Today is an odd day to be in Germany. At home my family is preparing to eat Thanksgiving dinner, students have a half-week vacation, and stores are full-to-bursting with turkeys, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and canned pumpkin. I can definitely find potatoes here in Germany but the rest of it is hard to come by, especially the gathering of family.

I'm fortunate enough to go home for Christmas, and I only have four weeks until my flight to the US, but that doesn't make Thanksgiving away from home any easier. There is something to be said for the food and the stomach pains after consuming it all, but Thanksgiving is about friends and family more than anything, and most of them aren't here.

So I feel a little sad today. But, happily, mostly I feel thankful - 'tis the season, after all - for what I have here. Therefore, a list:

1. I'm thankful for friends and neighbors, with whom I am going to have a little Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night. I'm not alone here, and that feels really good.
2. I'm thankful for my job and colleagues, many of whom not only asked after my emotional health with being away from home for this holiday, but have made my time in Germany a wonderful, worthwhile experience. I'm thankful for them today and every day.
3. I'm thankful to my friends and family back home, who have supported me through Skype, emails, and Facebook posts. I miss them, and I'm excited to see them at Christmas or next summer (depending on geography).
4. I'm thankful for my students, who listen to me even though I have no idea what I'm doing, and who provide me with enough funny stories to make my sides ache for weeks on end.
5. I'm thankful for the internet. It provides me with a link back home and hours of entertainment in English, when I just don't want to work so hard.
6. Rounding out this incomplete list, I'm thankful for the kind Germans who patiently help through their language and country. I've felt nothing but welcome since coming to Germany, even from total strangers who work in the cathedral treasury and compliment my German.

Tomorrow or the day after I'll be back with crazy stories, but for now, thanks y'all.

Postscript: okay, one funny story - in explaining the concept of Thanksgiving to one class, one of my students asked "but who are you thanking?" and I explained that for some people it's God or a god, and others are just generally thankful. "I understand with the church and God" he said, "but if you aren't go to church, I don't think it's very good to thank, because you thank yourself. It's like bragging."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Monday I took a day trip to the Roman town of Trier. Trier is Germany's oldest city with possibly the highest concentration of churches I've ever seen (and I live in the Midwest). It was very pretty. Take a quick tour with me?

Porta Nigra (Black Gate)

Christmas Market, regrettably not yet open

Trier Cathedral, including a relics room

Liebfrauenkirche - Church of Our Lady

Church of St. Gandold

Basilica of St. Castor/main Protestant church, built by the Romans
 As you can see, it started off a gray day and became more sunny as time went on. As you can see, the sheer number of churches is rather startling, to the point that I have some pictures of churches and no names to put with them. The ones here are the main group.

I enjoyed lunch at a counter in Trier and window-shopped at a number of different places, nearly all of which were far too expensive for me. I was sorely tempted by a wool shop - I was thrilled to find yarn and knitting needles last week, and special yarn would be fun to play with. I resisted the impulse.

See?!? Pretty wool shop. Possibly has a cat? Wool shops at home do.
There's also a smattering of Rococo over-eagerness. Seriously, pink and curliques?

The imperial baths, where I sunbathed happily for nearly an hour.
On the way home. Clearly I'm living a charmed life.
It was really a lovely visit. I hope to make more day trips as time goes on, and will be sure to keep you all in the loop as I do. Where to next? Not sure. I would like to visit bigger cities like Frankfurt, but bigger cities and I never get along well, so we'll see about that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Loan words and false friends

German and English have been intertwined ever since English was created out of a mix of German and Latin/French a long time ago. English words derived from German include: good (from gut, pronounced "goot"), pretzel (from Bretzel), waltz (from walzen, meaning "to roll or dance"), angst (from Angst, pronounced with a short "a" sound), and bratwurst (from Bratwurst, a kind of sausage). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. If my high school Latin teacher is to be believed, something like 40% of English words have Germanic roots.

Today we see a reversal in the relationship between German and English, with German taking a number of English words and pronouncing them slightly different. These are called loan words, as they are taken whole-hog from another language. Thus,

email = das Email
to flirt = flirten
to babysit = babysitten
camera = die Kamera
alcohol = der Alkohol
computer = der Computer
laptop = der/das Laptop
camping = das Camping
bestseller = der Bestseller
club = der Klub
tip = der Tipp (as in advice)
sexy = sexy

Most of these words also have an official German word (camera is actually der Fotoapparat), but everyone uses the English term to the point that my seventh grade students could not translate der Fotoapparat when they saw it in their book. A similar example is traffic jam, which is technically "die Verkehrsstauung," but the native German who taught me the word noted that everyone just uses "der Traffic Jam" and many younger people wouldn't recognize the German word anymore. Many technology words are English loan words, as are words related to romance and relationships - the examples of flirting and sexy above.

By comparison, here is the entire list of German loan words I can think of:

kindergarten = literally a garden for children or a space for children. The German is der Kindergarten.
zeitgeist = literally the ghost of the time. The German is der Zeitgeist.
schadenfreude = literally pleasure at harm. The German is die Schadenfreude.

That's it. Of course with English's roots in German, it's not as if we didn't steal a major chunk of our language hundreds of years back, so that feels better. It is a little odd to note how few modern German loan words we use, however, when the Germans use so many English words.

There are also some German words that sound like English words but mean something totally different.

das Gift = poison
der Schmuck = jewelry
der Arzt = medical doctor
bekommen = to get or receive (one of my students wants to work with "women who become babies")
der Chef = boss, CEO
das Gymnasium = secondary school, high school
komisch = strange or odd - "funny strange" instead of "funny haha"
das Mobbing = bullying
die Pension = bed and breakfast-type hotel

And I can assure you, both my students and I make mistakes with both loan words and false friends on a regular basis. It has become something of a running joke that whenever I can't think of the German word for something, the word is the English term in a German pronunciation. Except when it's not, on occasion, so I can't let my guard down.

Words, they really do trip you up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kids say the darnest things

A roundup of student quotes from the last two weeks:

In a seventh grade class, we’re trying to get the past and future tenses of “I must/had to go to the store” - “yesterday I had to go to the store,” for example:
Teacher: Can anyone tell me?
Student 1: Must.
Teacher: No, that’s present tense.
Student 2: Have must.
Teacher: Not quite.
Student 2: Ohhhhhhh, had must.
Teacher: No.
Student 3: Needn’t.

Talking about Hurricane Sandy in a tenth grade class:
Me: And did you talk about some of the reasons why Hurricane Sandy happened? Big, dangerous storms like that are not typical in that area of the United States.
Student: I heard on the news that some people think it was the hand of Allah striking down America.
Me: Yeah, there are definitely some crazy people with really crazy theories out there.
Student: Ah, good. I wasn’t sure if they were crazy or if all Americans were crazy.
Me: Well…

Talking about must/need/ought/have to:
Teacher: Does anyone know the answer to number two?
Student: He ought have to go there.
Teacher: Close, we don’t want the infinitive of go…
Student: He have ought to go there.
Teacher: Remember we’re working with the verb right now.
Student: He ought went there.

Discussing job interview success, comparing a picture of a colorfully, sloppily dressed and clearly bored woman with one of a professionally dressed eager-looking woman:
Teacher: So, if you were hiring someone, which one would you choose?
Student: Well, possibly you would want the woman on the left [the colorful/sloppy one] for a creative job like working at a gay bar.

 Student is giving a presentation:
Student: So in Depo Sausitee [sic] we can see that-
Teacher: Pardon, in what?
Student: Depo Sausitee.
Teacher: Do you mean "Dead Poet Society"?
Student: Yes. Depo Sausitee.

Student is reading instructions aloud:
Student: It is wery impotent to look at the pictures first.
Me: Very important.
Student: Wery important.
Me: Vvvvvvery.
Student: Wwwwwery

Monday, November 12, 2012

St. Martin's Day

St. Martin's Day was yesterday, November 11. In largely-Catholic southern Germany, where I live, it's a real live holiday; no way was I going to miss this little slice of German-ness.

Friday evening I met up with a friend a few blocks from my apartment. Because of daylight savings it was already dark, but per German custom, everyone under the age of ten had a little lantern they'd made at school. These lanterns mostly reminded me of the pinatas I made in fourth and fifth grade by gluing a bunch of tissue paper over a balloon and then popping the balloon. In a nod to the modern era, the lanterns are largely lit with little electric lights instead of candles, significantly reducing the episodes of children crying as their art projects go up in flames.

Quick storytime: for anyone who doesn't know, St. Martin of Tours was a fourth-century Roman soldier. One day, riding into a city, he saw a beggar freezing by the side of the road. Possessing a very warm Roman cavalry cloak, St. Martin ripped it in half and gave one half to the beggar. That night he dreamed that Jesus came to him wrapped in the ripped cloak and said to a bunch of angels "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me." According to the bastion of information Wikipedia, Martin became a Christian and then served in the army for two more years, before determining that his faith did not allow him to fight. (Be still my pacifist heart!)* He was charged and jailed for cowardice, and volunteered to go unarmed in front of the troops to prove this wasn't true. Before he had the chance, though, the other army sued for peace and he was let go. Eventually he became a bishop and a hermit, possibly not in that order.   Now German Catholics celebrate his day.

Unfortunately my camera does not do well at all after dark, so what follows is a series of very blurry photos. Let me explain.

No, it is too much. Let me sum up.

People with lanterns and torches. It's ART.
There's St. Martin riding his horse. You can see the horse's legs if you squint.
Here's looking back at all the people parading along with torches and lanterns.

There's the bonfire at which we eventually arrived.
There's the firetruck on hand to make sure the bonfire stayed where it was.

Here's an idea of all the people present. Several hundred, at least.
 After the twenty-minute procession through my neighborhood, we ended up at the park across the street from my apartment and hung out for a while. Sausages were on sale, though I didn't feel like one. The children got free St. Martin-shaped doughnut things. I was too tall to pass for a child. I did, however, try out a St. Martin's roll/bread/pastry thing at a bakery earlier in the week. It was a sweet-ish, eggy bread, kind of like challah or brioche, sometimes with raisins. Very tasty.

* Further evidence of St. Martin being awesome: while a bishop he apparently temporarily convinced the emperor not to kill the members of a sect deemed heretical, because as Christian he was against violence. Of course after the left the imperial presence, the emperor forgot about that and beheaded the Pricillianists anyways. But still, go St. Martin and your peaceful convictions!