Friday, September 21, 2012

Bonn and Back Again

September 22 is Hobbit Day, of Lord of the Rings fame. I won't be traveling to misty mountains in the morning, but I did make a journey on Wednesday to Bonn, a small city right next to Cologne. Like Bilbo, I didn't go alone.

My school (Gymnasium) has an exchange program with a school in Sweden, and this year was Sweden's turn to send its students to Germany. The eight girls each live with a different student from the Gymnasium for a week while their teachers stay with some of the English teachers (and one who learns Swedish as a hobby). Since most Germans don't speak Swedish and most Swedes don't speak German, English was our common language. Lucky for me. I went along with the group to Bonn to visit the Haus der Geschichte and join in on a guided tour in English through German history. As is true for most history, German history is very sad, but the museum included some very interesting elements despite the sorrow.

Unfortunately we were moving too fast to get any good pictures inside.

First, the whole building is set up in chronological order, with higher floors corresponding to more recent historical periods. Second, the museum includes both East and West German history, separated by iron partitions and color - red for East and white for West. You know your location based on the surroundings. One particular exhibit shows domestic items from just after World War II, all made out of grenades, helmets, and other used bits of war. Immediately above this exhibit is an identical exhibit showing the luxuries available in the early 60s, with a one-way mirror in the floor so you can see the previous items. From later in history you can look back, but from earlier in history you can't look forward.

The museum also had a temporary photography exhibit showing people in work uniforms and leisure clothes. The difference in posture and bearing is amazing, especially in cases like a German air force pilot, a nun, a priest, a butcher, and a lawyer. I wish I'd had more time at that exhibit.

Thursday and Friday were normal school days for me. One tenth-grade class included three nasty boys who laughed themselves silly when they heard me speak German, while their kind classmate told me my accent was sweet. It's astonishing how self-conscious I felt when a handful of children mocked me, but self-conscious I was. I resisted the urge to speak very quickly to him in English in retaliation. Several teachers encouraged me to correct their English at some point this next week - not to single them out, of course, but just not to feel embarrassed and shy around them. I should correct them the same way I would correct any other student. I'll try.

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