Sunday, February 24, 2013

Winter wonderland

Because of my proximity to the Rhine River - about 40 feet from my front door - my area of Germany is not supposed to have much snow. The Rhine, being a large body of water, moderates the temperature and keeps us hovering just under 40 degrees all winter long. In September I was assured that a week of snow was the best we'd ever get.

That's the view outside my window as I type this. See the bits of white? Guess what that is.


To be fair, there are no great drifts or howling blizzards. The snow we have is patchy at best and nearly non-existent at worst. But do you know what the weather was doing yesterday? That's right, snowing.

I like having four seasons. I would be horribly bored in southern California where, as I understand it, their only season is "beautiful and sunny, 70 degrees" all day every day. But it's been cold and gray since November and I'm ready for spring to come along. Alternatively, I'll accept a proper winter - if it's cold enough to support snow, then by golly let's have some snow! Great big white drifts of it, flakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, the whole nine yards. This generally cold and miserable thing? I don't think so.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Daily chuckle #5

Sixth grade student #1: "Jessica, have you ever speaken German before?"
Sixth grade student #2: "That's not right! The verb."
Sixth grade student #1: "Ohhh, I see! Jessica, have you ever been speaken German before?"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We've got a long way to go

Since autumn I've been attempting to pick up some teaching pedagogy. My English major did not include a single education class and, while I've muddled through reasonably well, it's always nice to learn some of the theory behind education. To this end, I've attended the student teachers' regular seminars, in which they discuss education theory and teaching strategies. This particular seminar is held in English (it is, conveniently, the English student teacher seminar) and I've learned a great deal from it.

Today things went a little off-script. We discussed cooperative learning, which essentially means giving the students some time to work in small groups regarding their homework or current class topic. Ideally, this kind of group work follows some individual work, and the students can all ask one another questions and give one another answers, allowing for more questions, answers, and (hopefully) understanding than would be available from the single teacher. The catch? This entire discussion was in German.

I thought I'd been doing well with German. I'm no longer exhausted at the end of the day, I can eavesdrop pretty effectively, and I haven't completely confused someone with my butchery of their language in quite some time. What I'm definitely not prepared for, however, is a university-level discussion of teaching pedagogy in German. We were given a text to read and I understand how my students sometimes feel because I just stared at it, dumb. The student teachers - they can all speak fluent English - chattered away happily and I worked really hard just to understand what it was they were saying. Mostly I failed.

Pride goeth before the fall, I tell ya. I'll stick to my grocery store conversations. And the weather. I can very reliably comment on the weather.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

On Cors(ica)

Rather than becoming extremely stressed and claustrophobic in crowds of drunken German Karneval revelers, I took myself off to France last week to visit a friend teaching there. Specifically, I went to the French-ish island of Corsica, which is actually closer to Italy than France. Be it known: the island's residents are Corsican. Not French, not Italian. Corsican. They even have their own language, which is written like French but pronounced like Italian.

But enough with the chatter.

Lovely Mediterranean beach

Napeoleon was born in Ajaccio

And there are lot of statues of him all around.
 The funny thing is, Corsicans don't really like Napoleon, but he is their most famous former resident. They seem to compromise by putting up statues but also disparaging him. They do like his family, and many Corsican children are named after his siblings.

I don't think he was this tall in real life

A view from the top of the last Napoleon's pyramid thing
 Notice the group of men in the foreground? They're playing bocce ball, which is apparently a Corsican obsession. They were really intent on it too - each man would toss his bocce ball and they would all stand around with hands behind their backs, observing, then break out into chatter and gesturing once the ball landed.

Mountains and the harbor

A view from way up high on a hike

Hello Ajaccio!

Pretty snowcapped mountains and clouds, etc.
 The views here really are lovely, especially up high. We went on a little hike - which was described as a walk but definitely had some steep uphill parts - and the whole thing was well worth it just to have these views.
Napoleon's childhood home. It has a lot of furniture inside.
 The Maison Bonaparte isn't a very big museum, but it did boast a series of color-specific rooms. One room was all yellow, another all green, another all blue, and another all red. There were also Bonaparte family trees in tapestries to be seen. That was kind of it, but definitely worth a one-time visit (especially since it's free to under-25s).

The cemetery, which looks like a little village
 The cemetery was really interesting to me - rather than burying their dead underground, each family has a little house thing in this cemetery, and coffins/urns are placed in the little house thing. It's like a little city with winding streets. Simultaneously somewhat creepy and touching, since the idea is that you are interred with the rest of your family. I like the sense of history, but the idea that I was walking through a city of the dead freaked me out a bit. I also got Lord of the Rings lines stuck in my head - "The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it."

The Bloody Islands
Apparently at sunset these islands look red, like they're drenched in blood. As you can see from the bit of light at the horizon, it is indeed sunset (albeit cloudy) and they look rather dark. It's a pretty stretch of coastline to be sure, but I'm not convinced these rocks ever look very red.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Daily Chuckle #4

My eleventh graders discussed the meaning of "home" today, and one student declared "Home means somebody cooks you."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Kung-fu chicken

I often talk to myself when alone and sometimes chat with inanimate object around me as well. Whether this habit is indicitive of verbal processing or having a few screws loose, I leave it up to you to decide. But that background explains why it's not at all weird that, while making soup, I informed the chicken "you'll need to be torn to shreds in a few minutes." Out of context it does sound a bit odd.

Unrelated to chicken: it was snowing an hour ago and is now raining. I think this weekend is a good one to stay inside.