Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I've been meaning to do this for the longest time. Everytime I look at it though I know how much energy you have to pour into a post to make it readable, so I don't write one. However, today I find myself with an excess of time and energy.

It's the end of October now and I can finally say that I am back home. It doesn't feel odd or uncouth anymore and I find myself slidding back into the comfortable life I had before I left. I look back at the past year and wonder if it really ever happened. I suppose that happens to one who finds himself transfered from a chaotic life with nonstop stress to a life of relative peace and quite.

I shouldn't say all it peaceful though. A fork in the road is quickly approaching. These are almost the worst of times in life. I know that sooner or later I am going to have to make a decision about what I want to do with my life and where I want to plan roots. The only problem with that is that I have no friggen idea where I should go or what I should do. Every choice has presented me with more than a few daunting challenges. It's funny, deep down I know that I'm just desperatly searching for the easy route but this time there is no easy route. Time to buckle down and do the dirty work.

When did I become such a boring person? Reading some of these past blogs do make me feel old or like I'm about to die or something like that. Meh.

Friday, September 28, 2007

This just in: Update!

Holy cow its been some time since I last blogged. I've been looking at this sad un-updated webpage for too long, so its about time that someone did something about it.

Things lately have been two things: 1) Very Fun
2) Very Expensive

I am still working at the pool place doing my 45 hours a week. At nights I have been spending it with friends and spending lots of money (this would be the money that I should be giving to pay back my student loans). Here are some highlights of the past little while:

I recently had the most amazing Saturday. I woke up and went to the local greasy spoon for the breakfast special. Around here it's called the "Pickle Slam". There are no actual pickles in the whole deal. After breakfast we went golfing and I didn't do that badly for once! Then we got a few beers and had a wicked cornroast. Very awesome.

I have also been really getting into church life here and I have started to go back to my parent's church (the Olive Branch). There are some really interesting people there and I am very much looking forward to geting deeper into the church circles.

I had a date.

I also met up with my good buddy Jovanna for dinner and a glass of wine last week. I'm actually going back down to see her in about 10 minutes to go out with more friends, Jo included. Very excited about that.

Oh, and who could forget the whirlwind of a weekend that was "Gary Returns to KW". It was awesome to see all of my old buds and we actually went out to a western bar for kareoke (spl?). First and last time for that. The Beastie Boys would have been ashamed of me and let's just leave it at that.

Also, Markham Fair was this weekend. I saw cows and multicoloured chickens. Tre cool.

Monday, September 03, 2007

In the Groove

Things are certainly different here in Canada. I have now realized that I am back for good and with that realization comes a myriad of feelings. Some good, some bad, all of them confusing.

I am currently working at a pool company in Stouffville, and though it is a far cry from the fulfilling work I was doing in Germany, it pays much, much better. The hours are pretty crazy though. Right now, I’m working at least 10 hours a day. Makes the 20 odds hours a week I worked in Germany look like nothing. Perhaps because that was nothing? No matter.

I recently had some Germans and Rachel and Peggy (people I met in Germany) over at my house for the past couple days. I wish I could have done more with them, but I had to worked everyday. We still went to Toronto a bunch of times and had a few laughs. It was nice to see my buds.

So, I’m back in Stouffville. I have to say that I have changed a lot. I think it took a little time in my home town to make me realize these changes. I feel bad because I have betrayed all of my youthful feelings and the typical attitudes towards going home; I like being home. A lot. Is that a bad thing? Maybe. Isn’t the answer supposed to be, “I can’t wait to leave again” ? I find that when people ask me if I’m looking to go travelling again soon, my answer is always a quick, “heck no”. It’s possible that I’m just tired of travelling for a while? After all, this was a pretty intense year.

There was a point in my youth where I wanted nothing more than to get out of Stouffville, but now I find it’s so nice to be back here with my family and friends. I’m thinking that the teenage-fight-the-man-flame is now, sadly, officially dead. We had a good run. On second though, scratch that, we had a horrible run. A yearning for a middle class normal life and a partially finished, never to be completed, degree in political science begs to differ with my first statement. So much for changing the world.

In other news, I have been reconnecting with a lot of my friends in the past 3 weeks and it has been sehr gut. There have already been lots of geek fests and party times. I’m looking forward to a very quiet fall and winter though. I think I need to do this whole life thing a little slower for a while. Is it possible to do life slower than Altes Lager though? Doesn’t seem possible.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Canada

So, I'm back in Canada. I've been back for little over a week now and things are going very well. I still miss Europe like crazy, and same goes for all my trainee buddies, but things are actually pretty nice here.

I recently got the perfect job working for a pool company. The job is not that great but the money is pretty decent and the hours are long.

We saw the new trainees heading off to Europe at the airport. In case any of you guys were wondering, we were yelling "Go back now! Frigging run!"

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Final Day

Today is not only my last day in Altes Lager, but my last day of living in Germany. Writing that down seems so impossible. It still hasn’t hit me yet, I guess.

Keith and crew are returning today and we are then heading off to a BBQ hosted my Ina Albers and family. A nice way to spend my last few moments here.

Tomorrow, I will return to the city of Amsterdam. I am very excited.

The next time I post, I will most likely be in Canada. Odd.

Well, for the record, Germany has been good. There were good and bad times, but I made and I have come out on the other end hopefully a better person.

Dear Europe, thanks for the good time and delicious beers.
-Gary

Baltic Sea

I've been meaning to post this for a while now. I had another small adventure, this time to the Baltic Sea. It was without doubt one of the best parts of my year in Germany. It was really such an amazing time and the perfect way for me to spend some solitary time to reflect on my year in Deutschland.

Right after writing my last post I realized that I was hot. Very hot. So, naturally, I decided that I should go swimming. Seeing as the German port city of Rostock is only a few hours drive from Altes Lager, I went for it. I packed my things in the little red car and left early in the morning.

Upon arriving I parked my car in a back-lot and then found my way to the HBF. From there I went into the city to enjoy its wonderful architecture. Many port cities have a look all to their own, and this one was no exception. The main square was wonderful and let me all the way down to the harbour.

So I made it to the harbour and I wanted to hit the beach. The logical thing would be to follow the water until it gets to the beach right? Apparently not, as this harbour was huge. It took me forever to get to the beach (4-5 hours), and when I finally got there I realized that there was a subway that went right from the HBF (main train station) to the beach in the first place. Oi vey.

The beach was well worth the wait. The Baltic was everything I thought it would be and then some. It was cold and with a tinge of brown. It you took out the salt, I might have thought that I was back home at the Great Lakes! It was so nice to hit cool water it that hot, hot heat.
I sat on a nice spot in the corner of the beach where one could see two brightly coloured lighthouses. This part of Germany is famous for its lighthouses and it lived up to its name. However, all that amazing spectacular…ness…makes one sleepy, so I had a little nap and was consequently burned quite badly my the sun. Prima.

After a while it started to rain so I headed back to the car to make sure that it was still there. It was, which made me very happy. I changed into some nicer clothes and decided I would go out and enjoy the night life of Rostock.

I went back into the train station to catch the lorry into town, when something odd happened: I had the most massive nose bleed I have ever had in my life. It was like a deluge of blood poring out of my nose. As first, I actually thought it was pretty funny. I looked like I had been punched in the face so I thought I’d see what would happen if I started to moan a bit (there were about 30 other people on the platform staring at me). Well, true to their form, the Germans stoically ignored me.

As I rushed to the bathroom to stop the bleeding, I was unhappy to see that the bathroom was a pay-per-use one. All of my change was in my pocket and my hands were currently covered now in my own blood. I asked if there was anyone in there who could help me and a young guy came out, looked at me, and just said, ‘Shit, you…shit!’. Stunning.

30 minutes later, after I had recomposed myself, I headed into the city and entered a nice little side café. There was a really nice girl there and we started talking and I ended up receiving a free milky cappuccino. It was really nice of her so I didn’t refuse, even though I suffer from severe lactose intolerance. She was really nice, but the rest of my night wasn’t, I had the head-ache from hell later on. So I figured I’d just go back to the car and sleep it off.

The next morning I woke up at around 6:30am. As it turns out, being cheap and trying to safe money by sleeping in your very small car is not as great as it sounds in your head. Never-the-less, I ventured forth to the beach and sat at the lighthouses and ate a small breakfast and had a small coffee. The rest of the morning was spent swimming and walking along the now mostly deserted beach (the rest of the people were very old and very naked swimmers). I also saw seals, which was very awesome.

After walking a long the beach for what must have been 4-5 hours, I went back and had a conversation with some guys I met at a McDonald’s. They told me that they were Danish and lived in a city called Gedyser. I ended up taking a ferry back with them and spent the day being lost in a Danish town. Despite their Artic island stealing tendencies, the Danish are actually pretty nice people.

After coming back I rested for a bit and then ended up driving home to sleep in my bed. It was the end of a crazy adventure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today I was bored so I started driving looking for a Media Markt (the Future Shop of Germany). I couldn’t find one no matter where I looked and I was getting pretty far away from my house. All of a sudden there stood a sign before me that said ‘Potsdam 16k’. I’d never been to Potsdam before but let me tell you, it’s nice. Really nice.

Potsdam has a quaint European style setup that is very different from the hustle and bustle of Berlin. I took a nice stroll down the street (keeping an eye open for a media markt) and came across a wonderful array of beautiful parks, churches and markets. There is even a Dutch Quarter which has nice tiny Dutch houses. What more can one ask for?

Schloss Sanssouci was also a treat. The summer home of the Great Electors the park and palaces cover an area of 287 hectares. Needless to say, I spent a very long time and was well rewarded with views of Chinese tea houses and beautiful gardens. A must see for anyone who visits the area, it was easily one of the nicest places I’ve been in Europe.

Well, after a slow lunch in the market I continued my hunt for a media store but was not very lucky. It was getting quite hot after that so I decided to call it a day and head home for a nap. I feel like I’m already retired and I haven’t even held a proper job for more than a year yet.

As for my next adventure? I’m still trying to work that one out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

This past week has been somewhat of a melancholy one. I’m not sure if it was good, bad or if it just was. Perhaps the last one feels the most correct. I’m not sure what I really expected out of my last week with the kids but I just let it happened and it went by fairly emotionless.

I believe that this state of emotionless stems partially from the fact that I was distracted this week. On Monday night I noticed that I had a slight tickle in my throat and my 12am that evening I was suffering from a high fever and sore throat. I would later find out that this was caused by a bad case of strep throat. It was very uncomfortable and it came at a bad time. I refused to go to see a doctor because it is a hassle and I wanted to see if my body could handle it. As it turns out, my body can handle it but it just takes about a good week longer than if I had gone and received a prescription. No matter, I showed that bacteria who is master of my domain: me.

Even though I was slightly delirious and oozing with sickness I decided that I should rally my strength to do my last week as an English teacher. Many of the kids had planned things for me, so I tried my best to act energetic.

My first attempt was an utter failure that almost resulted in me passing out on the floor. My second attempt was not much better. I had come wishing to say a quick good bye but I was given a gift of a 2 hour horse ride through the forest with the kids. This, normally, would have been great but for some reason the weather this month has been freezing cold and I didn’t have a jacket. I nearly died.

After that things got much better. I went on with my visits and received many good wishes and excellent gifts. I was starting to wish that I could stay with my little friends that I had made this year.

I was starting to get depressed towards the end of the week and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. It was then that Altes Lager received a visit from the First Mennonite Church of Winnipeg Choir. Now, one might think that hosting a menno choir from Winnipeg would be boring and uneventful, but it was amazing and we had a great time. Yes, most people on the choir where older than 65, but there were a couple of young bucks (30-45s) who were a real lively bunch. It was great to talk with Canadians and I couldn’t help but laugh as the conversations always seemed to turn to farming. As it turns out, wheat is very popular in Manitoba. I would have never guessed.

I even got invited along to go to Berlin with them and after a tour of the Charlottenburg Schloss, we had a nice Italian meal and then I went to the Berliner Zoo. I didn’t see Knut, but I did see many penguins which made the day highly entertaining. For those of you who are wondering, yes, the Toronto Zoo is still far superior.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Football and Parties

So, I just found out that this guy I grew up with, David Edgar, is now a football star in England. Crazy. Interesting at what happens down the road of time, eh? He’s one of the stars now of the Canadian U-20 football club. Hopefully, when soccer finally becomes popular in Canada he will come and take a place at my beloved Toronto FC. One day.

Yesterday, a party was held for us trainees in Altes Lager. You could sort of call it our going away party. All of the people who we work with attended and lots of cake was served. I had a blast, but it was sad to be celebrating the ending of our time here.

We ended up getting a bunch of really nice gifts from everyone. We received a large number of Ritter Sport chocolate bars, with many different flavours to choose from, a book of nice photos about Berlin, a Teltow-Fäming t-shirt, and a bunch of Jüterbog paraphernalia. All of these things are very much appreciated.

This now means I have one week left of work. I feel that the work part is mostly over and that this coming week will be more of a time of small good-bye parties. On Thursday I am making ‘American Style’ pizza with the kids, so I’m looking forward to that. It’ll be messy, but fun. I’ll try and get pictures on here if I can.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

gück mal! Ich habe scharfe zähne!

So, here is another blog post; my third in three weeks. Hard to believe I know, but I really have nothing better to do that find ways to waste time and this provides an excellent opportunity to do just that.

Today, Tuesday, meant that I would find myself getting up at 7am to head to the Kita Neidergörsdorf. This is one of my more favourite work places, even if the kids are a bit wild. There is this one kid who is absolutely nuts, her name is Elisa. She is 3 years old and the most Aryan child I have yet to come across. She is so white that I sometimes have to wear sunglasses if we are playing in the sun. I’m being serious.

As I was pushing her on the swings today, she was telling me her big plans to run away from home, just for the day though, and move into the Kindergarten. She had it all worked out; the sleeping bag by her bed, the route to the Kindergarten drawn on a map (I have seen it and it resembles a thorn bush more than a map), and the food...well, she was going to just eat here at the Kindergarten. She was even kind enough to invite me along, but I said that Keith (they all know of him) would miss me too much. She replied by saying that she has very sharp teeth, and proved it by jumping off the swing and viciously ending the life of a tiny flower by gnashing it to bits. The greatest mystery in the universe is the mind of a 3 year-old.

Yesterday was my last lesson at Kita Lichterfelde. It caught me off guard because I didn’t realize that it was my last time there. I figured that I have another lesson in July, but apparently I don’t. It was a very melancholy moment as I was happy, but one of my kids started crying because I wouldn’t see them again. It was my first real warning shot that my work is actually at an end. I realize that I keep on repeating the whole ‘oh my! I’m leaving soon’ theme but that’s because it is such a weird feeling that I can’t rightly describe. After living here for so long, leaving seems almost impossible. I really think you can only experience what I’m feeling right now. You can’t have someone describe it. Isn’t that how life always is though? You can’t ever rightly describe it, you have to live it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Last real week of work...maybe...ja..nein...doch

Ah, Sunday; the perfect day of tranquillity and peace. Today Keith and I had a day of relaxation as we ended up spending a large part of the day with the pastor and his wife at their house. This means that we were treated to lunch and then later on in the evening a round of Kaffe und Küchen and board games. Keith and I ended up winning at one time or another. We rule.

Tomorrow I start my last real week of teaching English. Praise the good lord almighty! My vacation days are about this close: (----> <-----). Exciting, non? Trés. Technically, I have two weeks left, but I am writing the second week off due to good-bye parties and the like. I will never have to sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ ever again! It’s not that I don’t like doing these lessons, its just I don’t care to do the same thing 10 times in a week.

Everyday now I am reminded that soon enough I will be trying to reengage myself into Canadian society. Finding a job, looking at schools, trying to fit back into an old social life, these are all things that constantly gnaw on my mind. Reintegration is always hard once one has been away from their native culture.

In more than one way I am very scared to go back to my old life. There are a lot of things that I’m not looking forward to dealing with, but such is life. I’d have to deal with most of these issues in Germany sooner or later anyways. That little voice in the back of my head is now asking those questions that I don’t want to say out loud; am I going to fit back in or will I be bitter at coming home to a place that has changed without me? That is a scary prospect to deal with all of that change.

I’ve become so accustomed to my life here I sometimes don’t even realize how different North America is. I recently ran into a group of American students who were very green in the ways of the world, or so I gathered. They were very excited about staying in Germany for a month and some of them had serious doubts about whether they’d be able to make it through emotionally unscathed. I pompously discarded their notions of worry; living is Germany is simple.

After talking about it later with Keith, I suddenly awoke to the fact that living here was not easy at all. It was hard. It was really hard. I’d simply forgot what it was like to have intense culture shock. I’d forgotten what it was like to not speak the language, not be used to the change in food or weather or cultural attitudes. I think back to my first weeks in Germany and just trying to communicate with people would a task I thought would be insurmountable.

What I’m asking myself right now is, ‘will you be able to live in Canada? Or will you find yourself back at square one: in a culture that you don’t understand anymore and you’ve forgot how to speak the cultural language because you now speak a new dialect?’

There are few people in this world who speak the dialect of true multiculturalism. When you find someone who speaks it fluently, it is like finding a long lost family member. You accept them at once and trade stories about other people in the Family. There is a certain amount of trust because there is an instant understanding between these people.

I look back into my old life and see that there are few people who I know who can speak this language. Will I starve for true conversation? Will my friends find my dialect too hard to unravel? These are questions that are going through my mind at the moment.

We’ll see how things turn out. I’ve still got a 1 ½ months though, so hopefully that will give me some time to prepare myself!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Some pictures of my German life...

A very odd feeling has come over me now that I have only two weeks of work left. That is still a bit of time, but in my work terms that means that I get to see each class two more times and then we're finished. Depending on which class we are talking about my feelings at the moment range from very sad to numbing joy.

I have a grand total of 6 weeks left until I'm at home. The reasons I want to be home all seem to be silly ones though. Whenever people ask me the, 'what's the first thing I'm going to do when I get home' question, I answer with, 'Go out and buy a box of Honey Nut Cheerios! I mean... go see my family?'.

Things have been very low-key lately. I seem to be just wasting time because I don't really feel that I have too much to acomplish other than enjoy all of my free time and be excited about my vacation plans that are coming up next month. We're also having our 'Closing party' next Friday, so that should be interesting.


My favourtie class at Kindergarten Langenlipsdorf

Keith and I walking in downtown Jüterbog

Monday, June 18, 2007

Geißen

So yesterday I returned home from my first trip to Geißen in Hesen. We had a trainee party there and I got to tell you, it was a blast and then some.

My friend Rachel came to visit us on last Thursday and after a delicious meal of sushi and beers in Berlin we were off again to Altes Lager. Rachel, Keith and myself are currently in the process of making a movie in which killer ‘moon cows’ are trying to destroy the population of unicorns...and people....and dogs. It is a long and complicated story that usually involves a very bored altes lager trainee and a camera of some sort. Anyways, we got a lot of filming done and I am very excited to see the end result at the Intermenno End Conference talent show.

After work on Friday, we all hoped on the train to Geißen and had a jolly 7 hour train ride. Oh sorry, did I say jolly? I meant ghastly, my bad. 7 hours on a high speed vehicle sounds like fun to most North Americans, but I’d have to say it is over-rated. I shouldn’t be so bad though, we did have some hilarious conversations. Friends help on these trips.

Upon arrival we were met by some very friendly trainees sitting in chairs in the back of a large van. There also may or may not have been some sort of beer involved. Just kidding, it was just water.

The trainee who lives there, John, then drove us home and we had a little trainee party before going to some very awesome bowling lanes. I didn’t have a super game, but I did okay. Eric, I will find some way to win one of these days.

The next day we went into the very lovely city of Geißen and had a ball running around with like chickens with our heads cut off. No wonder Europeans don’t like us, we’re so freaking loud all the time. It was a beautiful day filled with a little football, a pick-nick under cherry trees and a very hungry puppy that looked quite sad as it was dragged away from our food.

That night John made us hamburgers that were really, really good and we had mojitos and sat outside and enjoyed the night. It, unfortunately, started to rain so we moved the party back inside and eventually went out dancing. Really good music and a lot of fun, even though I left early with another friend. We’re really more pub people than club people. Go figure.

This is my last adventure until I leave Altes Lager in one month. Crazy, but I had a lot of fun and it was well worth the weeks of anticipation. Now all I have to do it wait for the End Conference

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It is now the 10th of June. One has to ask the question, ‘Where has all of the time gone?’ I can hardly believe that it has been 10 months already. Looking back I have done so much, and I find it hard to believe that it is all coming to a close. While two months is still a long time, life in Altes Lager seems to make it fly by. That or makes it crawl to a stand still.
As my across-the-hall mate Keith said that he is in between wanting to leave now and wanting to stay. I feel the exact same way.
On one hand, going back to life in Canada will be nice, but then I have to start intergrading myself back into the real world. I already know from previous experiences that trying to do that will be a somewhat painful experience, it always is.
Being in Europe means that I have total freedom, for the most part, to do what I want. I lead a life here in which I am ultimately accountable to only myself and I have very, very few responsibilities. I say that I maybe do real ‘work’ for about 18 hours a week. I don’t have to work about paying bills or where I am going to get money for entertainment. The life of a trainee is very nice.
It does have its drawbacks though, especially since I’ve been here in AL for 2 terms, as opposed to 1. We exhausted all of the free activities some time ago, really to the point that I could most likely walk through town/the local hiking trails/tierparks with a blindfold! For the most part though I’ve managed to do and see a lot of interesting things while living in AL, so I’m more happy than disappointed in the end.
The one thing that helps with boredom is taking a trip. Just when I think I can’t stay in AL a moment longer, I usually end up on a train. Travelling releases a lot of the stress I build up and reminds me how fortunate I am to be here in Germany. I travel, get tired and then get really happy to end back in my own room.
The next travel opportunity is another trainee party; this time being hosted by the Gießen trainee. Gießen is a town close to Frankfurt am Main for those of you who don’t have a knowledge of placement towns and German cities. I am very excited to get back on the road and hang-out with my friends. This will be my last major trip before I leave A.L. for good.
It is nuts just even thinking about that. While we don’t know exactly when our work here ends, we are pretty sure that we are finished around the 12th of July. That means I only have 4 more English classes to make! Woohoo! We are planning on spending the rest of our time travelling before finally heading back to Mennorode in the Netherlands for the Intermenno End Conference.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Starship Boxes

Well, it’s that time again (update time), so I suppose I should get to the updating part. Things have been going pretty steady this week, mostly on account that it was a 3 day work week. Yesterday was a holiday and so today is an unofficial holiday for me as well. I have to say, waking up this morning and knowing that it was only Friday sent shivers of happiness down my spine.

My holiday yesterday was spent listening to music. In the morning there was a music band from Chicago who played at the local theatre ‘Das Haus’. It was an interesting band, not what I usually listen to, but pretty good all the same. The people from the band were very nice and very American. This one guy was quite content to start talking with someone in rapid English, even though no one understood a word of what he was saying. Nice though. Really.

Yesterday was also the beginning of the ‘Jüterboger Spargelfest’. Spargel, for those of you who don’t know, is rather like asparagus, except pasty white in colour; and they have a festival for this thing. Back home we have a ‘Strawberry Festival’, but everyone likes strawberries! Spargel? You’d be better off hosting a ‘Broken-Needles-I-Found-By-The-River-Fest’, in my humble opinion.

After returning home from the Asparagusfest, Keith and I were dazzeled and amazed by watching one of the greatest young men movies of all time: Starship Troopers. Simply amazing to be blunt! In fact, we were so impressed that we went out today and rented the sequel, only to be horrifyingly disappointed. I had high expectations and I was caught unawares. Pity.

It’s funny how time seems to change things, especially when there are long distances involved. It odd how sometimes you can feel so close to someone and then all it takes is a little time to dissolve that friendship. I suppose I could make this more cliché by adding the traditional, ‘you think you know somebody and then...BAM!’ That seems to be the end result of most of my friendships at one point or another. I think I have something solid and then it turns out to be just another empty....um...geez, I’m pretty stuck for a word here, so I’ll just say....bottle...no...box, then it turns out to be just another empty box.

In the end it’s good to find the empty boxes, because empty means that there was nothing for me to get out of the friendship anyways. I’d most likely just end up with another ‘Christmas and Birthday Card’ friend. There seem to be very few genuine people who will actually tell me what’s going on with them; everyone seems so guarded these days. Odd.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TLDR....a very long post

Well, I’m sick. How sick you ask? Sick enough to throw up in our local Netto (grocery store), right while everyone seemed to be checking-out. A perfect ending to the perfect week. However, this does give me some time to do some writing, so not all is lost.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this week. Mostly to family, but also to the odd friend too. I’ve been trying to keep contact with the kids from Winnipeg. Sorry, I shouldn’t really be saying ‘kids’, as they are young adults. I’m only a whopping 3-4 years older than them, so I think that I’m not allowed to do that quite yet. It would seem as though Keith and I have become mini-celebrities within this small private school, or so they say. Hopefully it was the ‘this guy was practically the Fonz’ type of popular. I have to say that I’ve come a long way from being quite unpopular in my own high school to being recognizable in pictures to teens in a small private school in Winnipeg. I’d like to thank my family and my friends for all of their support.

I’ve just finished a book by David Sedaris, who is by all accounts a very talented and humorous writer. Most of his stories are about his life and his family, and something that I found very strange is the fact that I could really relate to the narratives. While his stories are, in a number of ways, highly disturbing, I could honestly really see the same type of stories happening to me and my family.

I’d like to say that my family is just ‘different’, but to be honest we are weird, and not in the sense of quirky weird (‘Oh, I bought crazy pants made out of sequins today! Isn’t that weird?’), but more like the kind of weird that people like to talk about in hushed voices. One of my sisters told me last week that she wants to move into a monastery with European monks. This was after she was talking about her friends from the French School of Circus Arts. We talk about these kinds of things regularly.

Family is such an interesting topic of discussion. When you talk to me the first, and most likely only thing, that you’ll learn from me is everything about my family. I take a large amount of pride in knowing that my family is not boring, and that my siblings tend to lead a life that is usually far more exciting than my own.

I had a family friend visit me this week, someone who is close with the rest of my siblings. Our two families have astounding similarities, so much so that we are even related on both sides of my family, even though my step-family. We have the certain members of the family that seem to correlate to each other; the nutty sister, the wild popular brother, the quite ones and then us. I wouldn’t presume to define my own role in the family out of fear that I would have a bias opinion of myself, but if I had to take a stab at it I would go with ‘the one who means well, and likes to dish out advice but rarely takes advice himself and seems too lazy to really make any sort of change’. That seems about right in my eyes.

I often find myself wondering how things are going to turn out in the future. I have a theory that the heavens will part and the stars will align and peace shall reign forth in our family when a child arrives. Once there is a baby to focus our small talk on, there shall be peace. Babies have this effect, even on those who don’t really like babies (I include myself in this pile, as I have a fear of dropping them).

I suppose family hostility is sort of a given. Like throwing up in the grocery store, sooner or later family fights happen, even if you really, really don’t want them to and there are lots of people watching. I am the oldest of 6 kids, and in a family like that (especially since we are all around the same age) you have to fight for what you want. What we needed was there for the most part, but if there was anything you wanted you had to fight for it. If there was a pizza pocket in the fridge, you had better eat that damn thing before someone else did. Even if you weren’t really hungry, it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t be there when you were.

I feel now for my youngest sister Natalie. She was the smallest in the house hold, and while she was the baby, she was also as tough as nails. As kids, it was common practice with us older kids to punch her in the head as a greeting. This eventually died off once she grew big enough to punch back, but it is still so much of a greeting ritual that we still tell her that we are going to punch her in the face when she answers the phone.

When you have younger siblings its hard to realize when they’ve grown up. By the time my sister entered high school I had already graduated. When you move out of the house and they are just 14, you have a tendency to remember them as such. Coming back you don’t realize that you are talking with an adult, to you it’s still someone with a curfew and a bedtime.

The last argument I had with my sister before moving away was about the fact that we were eating all of her snacks for her school lunch box meals. My mother rarely bought junk food, other than things she knew that we didn’t like. This was a sort of safety device that we all had developed. We developed different tastes so that only we could enjoy whatever it was we were enjoying. In high school I had a tendency to drink root beer and ice tea together because my father hated ice tea and my mother hated root beer.

If we bought food we would often hide it or write our names on it or do both. This in turn in would infuriate my step-father who would threaten to write his name on everything he bought. He didn’t like the fact that we helped ourselves to the food that we bought but did not return the favour, especially when it was a cereal that he had developed a taste for.

My step-father is a man of morals and rules. He liked to teach my brother and I lessons that often involved being tricked or doing something we really didn’t want to do. If we didn’t remember to take out the trash on garbage day, then he’d often give us the option of finding somewhere else to put the usual 6 bags garbage or sleeping with them in our room. I know all of the best places to dump large amounts of trash in the Markham-Stouffville area of Ontario.

He was always very good at tricking me. First, let me clarify that a prank is something that someone does on someone else that usually has funny repercussions for both people involved. A trick is when my step-father convinces me to do something willingly that usually has large short term negative effects for me, and long lasting positive effects for him.

One day my step-dad came home and told my brother that he was going to take us somewhere special and that we should get in the car and wait for him. My brother and I were thrilled at this special invitation. My step-father, in addition to being a man of rules, is a man of mystery. He rarely tells us anything about himself so to go somewhere ‘special’ for him usually means somewhere really dangerous and exciting.

After swearing that we weren’t just going to Giant Tiger (the local Stouffville dollar store) we were off on our adventure. My brother Tim suggested that we were going to a munitions dump, while I had a vision of a secret industrial junk yard. We were excited and my step-father drove us off into the night.

After several hours of guessing and disusing what we would do with our bounty my brother and I started to get cautious. We had jumped into the car rather quickly...almost too quickly. As we turned into an unknown building centre we both saw clearly that we were in fact heading to the Whitby Mental Facility. The horror of the situation instantly gripped us. We had been tricked into visiting our Aunt Dona, who is very nice, but very scary at the same time. We both clawed for the doors as my step-father sat back in the car seat and filled the small vehicle with is shrill high-pitched laughter. We were in the middle of no where. We were doomed to sit out every awkward moment of our visit.

In hindsight, this was a clear lesson learned about the importance of family. Having heard horror stories, I was not very pleased to be in Whitby to say the least. As it turned out, Aunt Dona, while still very lively, was also very nice. The lesson that family is important and deserves love no matter how weird they are was a hard taught one, but one that I’m glad I learned all the same.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It's not that I'm not the romantic type...

So time for a little update on the old blog. Keith and I just got home from seeing 300 in Berlin. It was a pretty good movie, very Sin Cityish. Seeing as I just got back from watching this film, I will only be giving you the very slim rundown on what last week was like.

So last Friday Keith and I went to Weirhof in Rhineland Pfalz for the German Trainee Spring Conference. It was really fun to see my good buddies from the program, we always have lots of fun together. We all took a day trip to Worms and I saw the Rhine River for the first time. Have to say that I was pretty disappointed; it wasn’t as scenic as I thought it would be. We also had a tour of the village we stayed in by the first trainee ever. It was really interesting as I am very interested in Mennonite history and he was the guy to go to. If there was anything else that was memorable in the weekend I forget. Oh wait, Debbie. I love Swiss people. Enough said.

After the conference a bunch of us went to say with the trainee who is staying in Enkenbach (also in Rhineland Pfalz). I got to hang out with my friends there, lots of Germans, Canadians and Americans (and a lot of very hard to understand Pfälzisch accents). My friend Hannah came on Monday and then the two of us left Enkenbach to go travelling.

Going on vacation was very nice. Hannah and I started off in the old city of Freiberg, which is right in the middle of the famous Black Forest. It was beautiful there and we both had fun. The weather was great and the meals were good too. Lots of just sitting and talking.

Next we went to the city of Basel, which is in Switzerland. It was one of my favourite cities I’ve been too. It wasn’t really touristy, which was great, and the people were really nice. Sometimes it was difficult as they speak Swiss German, but everyone could also speak High German too. The river was much more beautiful here, but the stores along the front were very expensive! Merci veil mals!

The last major city we went Strasbourg. Excuse me if I spelt it wrong, there seems to be a million ways to spell it. Strasbourg is said to be the ‘Capital of Europe’ and sits on the French side of the border. Another very beautiful city with very interesting architecture and nice people. Being in France, they spoke French, but I found my 9 years of French class to be very unhelpful. I guess I should have listened better, but luckily for me, the all spoke German. Learning German comes in handy when you live in Europe.

After France we went to go visit my friend Rachael in Karlsruhe. We had almost too much of a good time, if there is such a thing. Rachael and I made plans to go to Poland next month, so that is good too.

Then after all was said and done it was time to go back to Enkenbach, say my goodbyes, and then head back to Altes Lager. It was a good vacation, but I’m pretty tired now and I feel like I need another vacation just to rest!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tomorrow is my last day of work and I could not possibly be more excited to get out of Altes Lager. There seems to be a heck of a lot of office politics right now and Keith and I are in the middle. Too many people complaining to me at one time! No problem though, next week I’ll be in FRANCE BABY! Not to mention that Friday night means that I will be reunited with my Intermenno crew. I don’t think I could possibly be happier at this point in time.

Except there was this one small thing that happened today. Well, I was holding a large cabinet and trying to help fix it with the pastor of the church here. I may have not been paying attention and a large piece of board fell and partially stabbed the pastor in the head. It’s okay though, I drove him to the hospital and they stitched his head up really well. He was supposed to take us out for dinner tonight, but he had to cancel. Schade.

Friday, April 20, 2007

another week gone by....

I say, it look’s like it’s time for a little blogging. It’s Friday, and as such I now have a little bit of time to actually do some things that I have been putting off, like making a new post, sorting school out, making my travel arrangements for next week, find a job for next year...

This week went by at the speed of sound. I can hardly believe that it is already the weekend, not that I’m complaining or anything. This past week has been one of, for the most part, BBQ’s and tying up loose ends for my up coming vacation.

Keith is now back from his ‘Northern European Trip 2007’ and by all accounts good times were had by all. He went to visit my brother Tim in Norway for a bit and then went to Scotland to visit another friend there.

It is nice to have Keith home as I was getting a little stir-crazy for some good ol’fashioned English. Those other trainees with no-English placements deserve some praise, as it is no small feat to speak a different language for long periods of time. My German has improved quite a bit I’d say though. When you’re forced to speak, you’d be surprised how much you have subconsciously learned.

To celebrate Keith coming home and the good weather, we had ourselves a proper grillfest. German’s love to BBQ and Dan and Ben were kind enough to have left us a small grill. We had a nice feast of pork, bratwursts, brötchen and we treated ourselves to a Pilsner Urquell (got to love the Czech). The rest of the afternoon we were content to sit and relax and then we took a long walk afterwards. Quite the day and I can see why Dan and Ben were so keen on grilling.

The rest of the week has been doing much of the same, but the weather has been threatening to rain for the longest time now. We finally have the bikes fixed so we are planning on using those this weekend. Other than that I need to make some new lesson plans, so if anyone is reading this and would like to be a good sport and make one up for me, I’d be quite happy.

Schönes Wochenende!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday

Well, today can really only be described as fantastic. Outside it is a whopping 25 C and when you count that it is the glorious day know as Friday, one can’t help but be in a good mood. Especially when you get home from a long hard days work (one hour) and you forgot to turn the radio off. One might think that that would be a bad thing, but it’s not if the song it’s currently playing is the Superman’s theme song and you have a cold one in hand.

God bless Friday.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter

Today is Easter Monday, and as such I have a lot on my mined to think about. Lately, I’ve been feeling less than amazing when it comes to the ‘spiritual’ department. I often find myself wondering what is more important to me: the people in the church or the church itself. Is community the only thing that is keeping me a Christian?

I find that being part of a community is something that is really important to me. Perhaps that is why I felt such a large pull to start looking into my Mennonite roots. Being part of a community is something that validates some people; one feels like there is a place where to belong to. I really have no idea where my family comes from as it is usually considered a ‘taboo’ subject on both sides of my family. It is no wonder then that I find myself in a Christian community, where everyone can usually find themselves a caring family just by showing up.

The reason this question has suddenly struck me is due to a women in church today. The service this morning was not that great, not saying that the speech the pastor made was good, because it was, but there were very few people there and it was less than boisterous.
One old lady got to the front of the church during the service and took out a book and started to read. Even though she was reading Russian, it was easy to understand that she was reading about the death of Christ. As she was reading she started to cry and I could see that she was very hurt and upset as though a close friend had passed away.

She must have thought of Christ that way, as a close personal friend. All I could think about was how I don’t feel that way at all. Why don’t I have a close relationship with Christ? What is it that is keeping me from really becoming happy and giving everything to him?

I saw a few weeks ago a skit about a man who touched an object, and despite all of his efforts, he couldn’t let go of it. That object turned out to be sin. That is how I feel about my life sometimes, that I am tarnished with sin and that nothing I can do will ever let me be free of it. It seems as though we are doomed to carry these objects through-out the entirety of our lives.

There is nothing in life that promises us that being a Christian will solve our problems. That is something that I have come to accept. My question is this: how do I stoke the coals of Christianity and lead an exciting, fulfilling life? Something to chew on for the next little while.



Here is a picture of me with my hair ‘In Ordnung’ as we like to say here in Altes Lager. I bought the ladies of the Altes Lager hair salon a thank-you card. They laughed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Well, yesterday I did what I have been threatening to do for a long, long time and cut my hair. It wasn’t so much as a hassle as it was a trial of human endurance. Don’t get me wrong I’m glade it is not over, but it was an ordeal that I will not soon forget.

I was debating my decision all the way to the barber’s shop and even while I was sitting waiting for the inevitable. I think the only reason I went through with the act was the fact that Keith was also getting the deed done. He had been talking about getting an ‘irok’ (Mohawk) for a while now just so he can keep up with his very trendy Euro-lifestyle. His haircut took about 20 minutes and turned out rather well.

My haircut, on the other hand, took closer around 2 ½ hours. For those of you who know me, you know that I tend to grossly exaggerate pretty much everything and that you need to take what I say with around a bag of salt. This time I’m being strait-up.

I feel pretty bad for the poor souls that had to work on my hair. I say souls because there were, at one point, 3 different women brushing the knots out of my hair. One of them had to stop to take a break because her arm got too sore. It took a long time, and a hefty supply of industrial strength conditioner, for those women to work their magic. The out come of all of this is that my hair is now 4-5 inches shorter and, essentially, back to the poofy, curly, uneven state that I really didn’t like in the first place. The one glorious exception would be that my hair has no knots and thus is no longer beginning to breed its horrible knot-offspring and consuming creatures of small manors. I’ll have pictures soon of the whole process.

In other news, Keith is off to visit my brother in Norway and then off to visit a friend in Scotland. This means that I am effectively alone for, what seems like, a long time. I have so far spent today in peaceful solitude, the only interruption being a visit Daniel and Waldimar. They have spring break now and decided to come by to chill for a bit. I still have to work tomorrow but I get Friday and Monday off, which as anyone will tell you is awesome.

I would also like to take this moment to reflect on a good friend of mine. That friend is BCC World Radio. Does radio get better than the excellent British programming that I look forward to every morning, afternoon and evening? God bless the U.K. and their host of well primed journalists, with out whom I would be very unaware of the world around me.

Happy Easter

Monday, April 02, 2007

April

Well, time for another amazing update. I am happy to report that I am in a better mood than my last post. It seems like a lot has happened since then, but I suppose that is just due to the fact that I have been very busy of late.

The Canadian kids are now gone. After dumping lots of sweets and farewells on us, we parted ways early this morning. They were an interesting group and it is sad to see them go as we had lots of fun and they seemed to make things here in Altes Lager that much brighter.

The past weekend I also had a trainee come visit us, Christine that is. I am now happy to report that every Intermenno trainee has been here to see Keith and myself here in Altes Lager. We did the usual tour items, seeing Berlin and Altes Lager. Fun was had by all. Again, it was sad to see her go this afternoon as that means it is now back to just Keith and I.

April is here and that means that I have now been here for 8 months, leaving just 4 short months to go. This is the time where one starts to really think about making arrangements to go back home. It also makes me think about how fast the time has been going. I am not ready to leave yet; things are just finally starting to get really enjoyable here. It seems as if Keith and I are just finally starting to break into the community here, something that has taken a considerable amount of effort. Doesn’t that always seem to be the case though? As soon as you get comfortable in a situation, its time to leave.

Hannah is coming in one month. Very, very, very, excited.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Well, this certainly could count as the worst day I have encountered since being here in Germany. I just need to crawl into bed and sleep for a while. I don’t feel really all that bad. I suppose these days come and go, and I deserved most likely half of all the bad things that happened today.

You know those days where you have a really, really bad morning and you know for a fact that it’s going to get worse in the afternoon? That is the kind of day that I had today. It is all the more horrible because you know that there is nothing that you can really do to avoid the impending doom, so you just sit and brood over it, effectively making it worse.

Well, at least all of the bad things are over and done with and I can move on. That is unless I end up breaking my legs in some freak basketball accident, which at this point would not surprise me at all.

Its times like this that make me really want to fly back home to the safety and comfort of Canada; A place where everyone can speak my language (most people), and I can express what I really want to say without any hindrance. I’m sure though it will be times like these that will make finishing out the program all the sweeter. If we all gave up when times get tough then we all wouldn’t go very far in life.

I need a hug.

Monday, March 26, 2007

We are North Americans!

Time for an scoop of update goodness. I’m going to try and make this as short as possible, but there has been quite a bit of stuff happening lately.

Well, the group from Winnipeg is now here. There are about 8 grade 12 students and 2 married couples. They are all a really awesome bunch of people and I am looking forward to doing more cool stuff with them.

So far I have been doing quite a bit of work that I did see coming. Keith and I were really not told anything about the group and were not involved in the planning at all, which personally I think was a little silly. People on the German side were complaining that they had too much to do and didn’t want our help. The past couple of days have been busy though with driving, helping out, and I even have one staying with me now. It’s all good because we scored some free meals and I also enjoy just spending time with people my own age and talking glorious English.

The group arrived on Friday afternoon and then we all got acquainted. Right after that they all went to Tropical Island, a sort of indoor tropical beach. Keith and I opted out due to the price and instead went to Luckenwalde and purchased Scrubs on DVD. It was a night full of laughter at least. That can be a pretty funny show but I really don’t find the main character all that funny.

The next couple of days were filled with mingling games and whatnot between the Russian, German, and Canadian youth. I do have to say most of the games were some kind of violent beatings, but everyone seemed to enjoy them pretty well.

Yesterday all of the students were dropped off to stay with different families in the area. It reminded me so much of my first time here and how nervous I was. Some of these guys were sweating buckets, as none of them know German, and I thought of that first car ride into town after arriving at the Jüterbog train station. Watching them all get out of the van, all I could really do is laugh.

If anything, this group being here has really put how much I have learned into perspective. I have survived here for 8 months, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but survived none the less. I can feel a major sense of accomplishment when I here someone asking me about the area or the language and I can give them a proper answer.

We are going bowling tomorrow. I bought a bowling t-shirt to help my score. It’s pretty much the most awesome shirt of all time. Pictures soon.

Ps. Keith and I had another paper interview with Frau. Duve. Hopefully, it went better than the last one.

Alles Gute,
William

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dearest William....

Most of this post is inspired by a response to a letter to a close friend.

First off, let me start off by saying that the chances of the weather in Canada being around -100000000000 C is rather impossible. That being said, it has also been quite cold lately here. I thought that spring was here to stay, but there has even been talk of snow. March is by far the worst month in Canada, not even a contest; if it is not cold and snowing, it is cold a raining. If I were to state my least favourite thing in life it would March. Not only is the crappiest weather of the year out and about, but there is all of this talk about March Madness.

Personally, basketball is ridiculous. It’s not that I don’t like the sport, well actually yes, I guess that would be the main reason of my hostility towards it. I just don’t like it. Nothing personal, except for my ill wishes again the Raptors. They are not good, plain and simple. They always need to have someone carry the team on their back (i.e. Carter, Bosh). I’m sorry to say it, but the Raps will never, ever be the Champs.

Thank you for the words of encouragement. I get worried sometimes that people think that I don’t like it here. Granted there are some things that are less than desirable, but for the most part I really like it here. Here I’ll put it in bold to emphasize my meaning:

Altes Lager is a swell place to live.

On occasion, it is permissible for one to make a stop at Starbucks. Yes, it is expensive, but I suppose you’re buying a little bit of pretentiousness with every cup of coffee (and we all secretly love to be pretentious now and again). I wonder why feeling pretentious is addictive? Why is there such an inherent system in all of us that yearns for us to be well composed and perhaps even ‘upper class’. I do like their apple cider though....mmm. Although, it seems like it’s always too hot and I burn myself every single time.

I also have the same problem with studies. Every semester it was the same ‘I’m going to do it this time!’ attitude. However, after about 3 weeks I usually begin a slide that ends with me not doing half as well as I could be. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been talked to by profs and teachers about this. Too many to recount in this blog post.

I do have to say that I believe it will actually be different this time. Obviously this seems like I’m following the previous pattern but the difference is that this time I want to do school, as opposed to needing to do it. I wonder how it will all turn out? Let’s hope that the time tested formula can be broken on occation.

As for the topic of names, I do in fact like the name William. For the benefit of those you who are just reading, my roommate and I came up with a plan. One of the great things about collage is that you can change who you are, to a certain extent, because most people you meet there don’t know anything about you. I don’t like the name Gary (sorry, mom), so I’ve decided to change it. I once tried this in high school with the name Ben and it almost stuck. This time around when I head back to collage I’m changing my name for good. So far the front runner is William, but anyone is more than welcome to make a suggestion. Think scholarly British names (Nigel, Thomas, etc.)

I certainly do not like the name ‘Gärchen Bärchen’, which I have recently been hearing. All through out high school, older girls always called me ‘Gar Bear’. I swore to the Lord Almightly that I would never go through that again. Same with moms, they called me that too. The moms of all the girls I’ve ever dated called me by some nick-name that just added to my annoying ‘cuteness’. I have had so many nick-names I couldn’t possibly count them all. Most of them are in some way degrading.

Today was pretty swell as a matter of fact. Keith is back from München and he has no voice left. That meant that I had to drive around with him today and help him with all of his duties, like mailing letters and what not. I also happened to mail something, but I forget who I mailed it to. I also certainly added enough postage this time.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It is Saturday and, believe it or not, I actually even got to sleep in today. I woke up a 7 am wide awake but I forced myself to lay in bed until 8:30. Why is it when I want to sleep I never have enough time and when I find myself with too much time I want to be active? Ah, cinnamon and gravy!

Friday came and went as a pleasurable day. I dropped Keith off at the train station at around 7:30am. He is going to visit the lovely city of München or Munich to you non-Deutsch speaking peoples. I hope he has a very good trip and brings me back something shiny.

After dropping Keith off, I enjoyed a relaxing morning of listening to the BBC World service, as it is now my only source of information about the outside world that I can understand in detail. I love British people. There is something so inherently awkward about being of British lineage, and by that I mean that being able to make any situation awkward and then go about as if it never happened is something that runs in the blood of all English people. I am a magnet for those kinds of situations.

After working at Kita Hohenseefeld and Petkus, I returned to an afternoon of napping. I had a quick lunch and then slept on my couch while listening to some classical music. I lead a very cutting edge life. I don’t mind it though. How many times have we been stuck at work only to wish that we could be at home napping? More times than I can remember, that is for sure. Going back to a real 45 hour work week will not be pleasant for the first little while.

I do have to say that there is such a thing as not enough work, something that I previously though mythical. Almost like saying that the other day you saw the cutest little dragon – it might get a laugh out of me, but we all know that its pure fantasy.

Sometimes, I find that I need to be doing more work. Most of my jobs consist of playing, and sometimes my job history of ‘constant working’, that being if you stop working its because you have a break or something is wrong, comes back to haunt me.

Just this past Tuesday, I was suddenly hit by a wave of anxiety because I wasn’t really doing anything other than playing soccer with the kids. I then rushed off to the broom closet and started to sweep the sidewalks. This impressed the my German hosts (not being ones to say no to a good sidewalk cleaning) but also confused them when I tried to explain that I felt I wasn’t doing enough. Personally, like all good people, I blame my parents for this condition.

After my nap, I was invited to head along with the youth to go Bowling in Luckenwalde. We are all trying to get our game improved so when the Canadian students that arrive this Thursday come, we can smoke them and in the process impress them as well. I previously held the record of a whopping 144 points in a single game; I was the envy of every high school boy.

It was sadly, not to be my best game ever on that particular night. The times when I become most ‘agitated’ are when I am in a game that I am relatively good at, and I find myself losing to someone else due to shear dumb-luck. This is quite a small occurrence, because there are not a lot of games that I am good at, thus making it all the worse.

My sister Vanessa has a rather uncanny talent for this. When we were kids, and just learning to play bored games, I found that I had a rather good talent for the strategy games, my favourite being Risk. Playing against my family I would slowly conquer the world until it was just within my total grasp. Then, as if the good Lord himself had willed it, my sister would roll double sixes, time after time, until my chances of victory would be totally nulified. I would watch in horror as my strong-holds of Europe, North America, and Africa were punctured and then before long massacred. Soon I was left with only little Australia, alone and soon to be defeated. And she didn’t even like the stupid game.

This time the aggressor was a 15 year old girl by the name of Sascha. She did not bowl so much as toss the ball and in that small time frame of maybe 10 seconds, I was forced to endure the utmost pain. Every time I would watch the ball thud against the ground, serve clearly towards the gutter and then, as if by a powerful mystical force, the ball would turn at the last second and knock all of the pins down. Apparently, it is not uncommon for the Russian teenagers of this area to train in the arts of the Jedi.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kick the Dark Horse in the Tooth!

So I had friend send me an email in which she expressed some of her difficulties working with 2-3 years olds. Apparently, the time when they are at their sweetest is when they are sleeping. I can seriously relate to that, but I still think that 3 year olds are the best age group to spend time with.

Take today for example, one in which 3 year olds had most of my attention. As we were playing outside today I had a group of about 6 little girls following me around. This is actually quite rare as most of these girls previously were quite shy or just plain scared of me. Today however, I wooed them over my starting a round of ‘Alle meine Entchen’ or ‘All my Little Ducks’, a common children’s song. Obviously, I was doing a poor job, so that had to show me how to do it right. Then I started singing Great Big Sea songs and they all pulled up little chairs and we sat outside in the sun. I would finish my song and then they would start a song of their own. As much as I hate to use this word it was ‘cute’. Watching us sing in our circle was so cute, it would have made puppies blush.

Again at this Kindergarten I got a reprimand, but this time it was for bringing treats for whoever one the game we played in English (actually I brought enough for everyone). Last week’s was for smiling while the teacher yelled at a kid. I felt horrible; all I really want is for someone to validate the work that I do here! Make’s you want to scream sometime.

Anywho, other than that today was pretty good. I came home to the realization that we had to do 2 hours of Sport and then right after do English for adults. Needless to say, I was hardly in a working mood after working all day. However, English for adults was cancelled because only one person showed up and for kindersport only about 4 kids (and 3 adults...) and two of the kids were the other adult’s children, so all worked out pretty well.

Keith is going to München tomorrow, so I’m all alone for the weekend. A co-worker asked me if I wanted to accompany her to go to Poland. I said no, but I might consider. I’ve seen Poland, and I kind of wanted to chill for the weekend. It is going to Poland for free though...mal sehen.

Ich wünsche dass ich besseres Deutsch sprechen könnte...und schreiben...und buchstabeiren...und, und, und....

note: edited for horrible German spelling and sentence structure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Living Healthy

Today was one of the best days I have had in a long time. Sitting here now, I have a large amount of satisfaction in recalling all of the things that I accomplished today.

The day started out simply enough, with Keith ringing my doorbell. I seem to incorporate the doorbell into my dreams frequently, most of the time it is a bag thing seeing as, unless it’s Keith, the only time someone rings on my door is when something is wrong or someone wants something from me. Anyhow, I keep on imagining the doorbell ringing so when it does ring, I’m never sure if I just making it up in my head. Today, I wasn’t; Keith wanted the keys to the car to drive to work.


I then proceeded to ride my bike to work, fulfilling a promise to myself to ride to work when it was feasible. Lately, I have not done so but today was a good exception. I went on riding to Malterhausen at 7:20am and it was, unfortunately, not as warm as it was yesterday (21 C). As such, it was a worse than usual decision for me to wear my badder-lachen (flip-flops).

I also found on the way there that my head phones now only work in one ear. This is somewhat of a tradition. Every pair of head phones I have ever owned in my entire life have eventually broken down so that they only play in one ear. You cannot believe how annoying this is, especially when you’re in the middle of your favourite Eels song.

Kindergarten was no worse than usual, in fact, today was actually pretty good. The Quiet Key game has effectively been destroyed – every child now carries their own ‘key’ in their pocket to open their mouth when I shut it. I would be more upset if I didn’t find their actions amusing and quite clever, for 5 year olds. We mostly ended up playing ‘What Time is It Mr. Wolf’.

On the ride home the weather was much friendlier and my mind started to wander a bit. I began thinking about what I was going to do when I returned home and found that I was apt to do so due to the fact that my apartment is well, for a lack of a better word, it is disgusting.

This made me pretty upset, the fact that I didn’t want to be in my own room because it was so uninhabitable. So I did the only thing that I knew would make it better and went on a absolute rampage. I vacuumed everything (and took the vacuum back), then I dusted, then I cleaned my bathroom so well that even my mother would be proud (my back still hurts from scrubbing the bathtub for 45 minutes). Then I took out my recycling, garbage, paper waste, organized my papers and then proceeded to go do two loads of laundry. This took up most of the day.

After that I was feeling very good about myself. One always feels better after doing a good long day’s work, something that I have not done in a long time. To keep up with the streak I went to the grocery store and bought healthy food, with no beer or sweets. I almost caved and bought a bottle of wine, but I’m trying to save money for traveling. What is wrong with me? I actually did everything that I should have done. Something is different; I might be sleeping near an open gas vent because my life is getting crazy.

AND to top it all off, I phoned my friend Hannah and we had a nice long, fulfilling chat about everything. She’s coming to Germany at the end of April and we are planning a trip together, most likely France or Belgium. I am really, really excited. Should be a good time.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Off to Berlin

Frau Förester is currently on her way to pick Keith and I up to go to a musical in Berlin. This will be my first musical experience besides 'Seseme Street' when I was just a young lad. I've already had a taste of the ballet this year and I doubt it could be worse than that.

Other than that, I've just made some pea soup and I am famished. Driving old people all day works up quite the hunger!

ps. work on the 'The Taming of the Kuh' is coming along quite nicely. Be afraid.

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So, I am now reporting back here on the evening out. Wow. That is what I have to start with. The musical wasn’t so much of a musical, as it was a ‘euro-dancical’. I did not understand one thing that was going on, and it wasn’t because of my lacking German skills to say the least. It was called Rhythmus Berlin, and it was a musical about Berlin through the 20s to present (although they really didn’t go in any specific order when the play was going along to my dismay).

The dancical was 3 ½ hours long with a 15 minute break. That is a long time to still watching people dance and sing in a foreign language. By the end I was glad to be out, if not for that reason only.

I suppose it was okay, I’d give it a 6/10. There were some things in it that I liked, such as silly dancing Germans (silly is not in the German vocab), and there were some pretty good acrobatic scenes, lot of flips and whatnot. Not to mention there was a part with ballet Nordic –walkers, simply hilarious.

Overall, it was still nice to spend some time with the Föresters. It was nice of them to take us to Berlin for the afternoon for a bit of good culture. They even gave us a bit of sekt that they had hiding in their trunk.

I give this day 3 stars out of 5. The story was lacking at times, but the graphics were sweet.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thorns

Today is Thursday. Usually, Thursday is by far my favourite day of the week, but today was just more than a little strange. I really can’t think why though.

I woke up at 6:15am this morning; this is the earliest I have ever risen out of bed for work, with the exception of going to Blönsdorf with Keith. I really wanted to do a good job with English today. I was continuing my lesson of Insects to try and keep things interesting. I had been working on materials yesterday and I even went to Jüterbog to purchase some items that I was missing. By the end of everything, I still felt that it wasn’t enough.

I arrived at the Kindergarten and did my little ‘Englisch Spiel’. After the kids had effectively memorized 4 different kinds of bugs (spider, dragonfly, ladybug, etc) I helped them, with the assistance of the kid’s teacher, make their own bug out of cardboard and just about every wacky thing that you could glue or staple onto it. Over all, the kids really enjoyed it, but I still felt really horrible at the end of it. I had spent a lot of time on this and it still felt really sub-par.

I have been having that feeling a lot lately, that everything I do here is really sub-par. I can’t work at a level I know that I’m capable of and I’m finding it really frustrating. I don’t feel useful here, I guess is what I’m really getting at. That really bothers me because I feel that my life here is sometimes just a big waste of time. I like feeling that I make a difference and I can’t say that what I do is really all that important. I suppose that is what Intermenno said life would be like here sometimes. We exchange our time doing jobs that are sometimes not the most gratifying for the opportunity to experience something real.

I have had too much time on my hands lately, and not enough things to vent out my excess energy. I’m all out of books, the TV is broken, I can’t really afford to go anywhere, so I find myself looking for things to do every night and at the end of it all the only thing to do is go to bed. Or write in my blog.

Don’t get me wrong though, this is not a tears post. I still like it here, but I really am feeling the need to do something bigger. I have a friend, a fellow trainee, who is coming to visit at the end of the month. Her visit also coincides with the arrival of a group of youth from Canada. They’ll be here for a week and I’m sure that there will be lots of good English conversation and the like.

One other thing has been really bothering me lately. I was sleeping soundly the other night dreaming of myself on the flight back to Canada. I was talking to one of my friends on the phone, on the plane, and they said that I must have changed so much since the last time I saw them. It was then, on the plan ride, that I realized that the only thing that has really changed in all this time is that my hair is longer and I am about 5 pounds heavier. I awoke to a round of cold sweats.

I was expecting such a huge change coming here. Isn’t Europe the place where all young North Americans go to ‘find themselves’? If anything I have found that I am just more of the same person I always was. I am the same old me, but now amplified in a sense.

I suppose that I should just come to the final conclusion that I will never, ever change who I am. I may not like a lot of things about who that person is, but there are a lot of good things too. Since going to university, I’ve expected this huge change to just come about soon-or-later and then everything would be better; only waiting around meant that I was stuck doing nothing but waiting, instead of trying to slowly improve my social skills.
I don’t like a lot of the stuff I’ve done, and continue to do. It’s always the things that have happened in the past that come back to haunt you for all time. The plain fact is there isn’t much you can do about that, the past I mean. I could spend my entire life wishing things in my past were different, but that won’t do me any good. We all get dealt the raw deal card sooner or later, but there are a lot of good cards in the deck of life as well.

The Intermenno card has been a good one. If nothing else, it has given me lots of time to think things over, which is something I really needed to do. Sometime we need to remove ourselves from the day to day life we live and examine it from a distance. When one is more impartial about things, it’s often easier to spot the thorns; even if you can do little of anything at the time about taking the thorns out!

This post is way too long.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Future is Coming!

Let me start off by writing that I have changed my settings so that anyone can now post a comment on my blog. Apparently, I had the settings messed-up.

What a tiring day. Apparently the past few weeks lessons at Kita Lichterfelde have not being going too well. I guess they felt that I wasn’t doing enough English with the kids, which is a fair thing to assume because they hate it. The only time that they are not bored is when we do non-English games. We had a meeting about what they would like done and it was productive in a ‘German’ manner.

Everything seems to be going well other than that though. It’s another beautiful day out side and it really does feel that spring is finally here to stay. It’s all very exciting to say the least. Lots of things to do outside now, which is always nice.

I do have to say that I am tired though. I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I often find my body trying to convince my mind into sleeping in for the whole morning. Seeing as I get one day every two weeks to actually sleep in, I can fully understand why. No wonder I take so many naps.

I’ve been thinking a lot of what I am going to do when I go back. Right now the plan is to move back in with the folks and work for the coming semester and pay back all of my old school debts. After that it starts to get a little bit fussy.

One thing I know for sure is that I’m not going back to Waterloo. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s time to move on somewhere else. For the most part, my time there was good, but it’s time to start over somewhere new.

I’ve been really thinking a lot about Ottawa or moving to Toronto. I like both of those cities. They are much more vibrant and while the community aspect is a little different, it makes up for it with actual things to do. Got to love those markets.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ode to a Blog Post!

Man, what a day. I took such a ridiculously long nap, like 4 hours and now I’m really feeling out of it. Oh my, complaining about having too long of nap. I’m sure there are many people out there who would be more than willing to give me a good cyber-punch to the kidneys.

So today’s lesson was ‘Bugs’, and I have to say that it went off quite well. We played some insect games and then made paper butterflies. I feel that I am now starting to actually become a Kindergarten teacher. My kids are so awesome.

I promised Keith I would write a ballad about him, here goes:


Ode to Keith, From Yonder Room
Written by Gary Hallman
Sung in 2/4 time




Once I knew a Roberts-man, from Virginia was his home.
He was tall, and strong, with mullet fierce, he wandered to and fro.

His beard, it slew 10,000 men, their cries still on the wind.
I would not fight it for anything, to do so would be a sin.

O tells me a tale of Keith the Brave! Hark! Here ye all and know!
Those who wise to deny this man, will end up down below!

(Lute interlude, accompanied by Italian diva)


Fin

Sunday, March 04, 2007

What a week this has been, certainly the best I’ve seen in a long while. This past Thursday marked the 7th month mark. I have now passed the mark of half-way and have now 5 months left to live in Germany. Writing that down makes one think that 5 months is not that much time to spend enjoying the newfound good weather and company.

This Thursday also marked Keith’s 24th birthday. Happy birthday buddy. We celebrated by having a night out on the town, and by that I mean we went to the local truck stop. We had a few cold ones and watched some colour TV. Our TV has been broken for quite sometime, so this was a special treat.

The rest of the week was easy enough. I was happy to be back at school after a week of being sick. I really missed the kids and it was nice to play for a while. My English lesson for this week was hobbies, it didn’t really go so well. This week I’m going to try Bugs. I’m sure that will be a better attention grabber.

Keith and I are also working on our first movie ever. Its called ‘The Taming of the Kuh’ and guest stars the people of Altes Lager and various animals from the surrounding area. Keith plays a bold scientist and I play the loyal camera men, who are on a quest to save the Year of the Unicorn from falling to the evil Moon Cows. Terrifying creatures!

We have been filming for about a week now and so far, I’m happy to say, we have some excellent footage.
Coming to a conference near you!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Today’s events were very low-key. I woke up feeling very tired because I kept on freaking myself out last night. I was dreaming that there was that girl from ‘The Ring’ inside my room and when a pop bottle fell off my desk, I nearly fell out of bed in terror. Then I decided to stay up past midnight, seeing that’s when most ghost attacks occur, to prove to myself that I wouldn’t have my mind flayed by extra-dimensional beings. I am happy to report that I remain ‘un-flayed’...for now.

After waking up and helping myself to last night’s birthday leftovers, I took a shower to wake myself up. My shower, I am sad to announce, has no more curtain. At first the spokes for the curtain were always coming loose and hitting me in the face, but recently while drawing the beast I accidentally plucked the whole thing right out of the wall. It gave me quite a shock to say the least.

Today I made the trek out to the small village of Lichterfelde to teach a whopping total of 6 kids, in two separate lessons. Today’s lesson of hobbies didn’t really go over that well. At first we starting talking about thinks that we liked to do, the kids responded well to that. However, when it came time to start on some English translations, they were happy enough to continue on about what they like.

As a by-product of today’s mayhem I have developed a way to keep children quite by playing a game. The game starts with me taking an ‘invisible key’ out of my front pocket. Then I explain that this key has the ability to lock a kid’s mouth shut. When I lock your mouth, you can't talk. When they have something to say they can then raise their hands and I will ‘unlock’ their mouths. It worked like a charm. I am really hoping to get some positive feedback from the rest of the kindergartens.

After work, Keith and I went to Jüterbog to cash in some gas vouchers. I recently received a 35 euro ticket for accidentally parking in a handicap zone. I know what you are thinking, it’s usually pretty obvious, but on this occasion it wasn’t, believe me. Herr Lehman decided that it was an excellent opportunity to give me a fatherly talk on the ways of German driving. I felt so embarrassed; he really was letting me have it. I now have a ticket total of around 100 euros and therefore take the honour of being the trainee with the most tickets in the history of Intermenno. I'd like to take time to thank the academy and those two housewives in red Jüterbog coats who gave me all of these tickets in the first place.

After our little driving lesson, Keith and I headed out to Luckenwalde to see if Keith could scrap up a cheap toaster oven. No such luck was to be had, but I ended up getting a good deal on a movie (Batman Forever.

In other sad news, Keith and I will be the last trainees to be in Altes Lager. We were recently informed that there will be no trainees here next year due to the fact that one of the major contributors to Neidergörsdorf trainees has pulled their funding. It’s a shame in a way; this was one of the most interesting placements in my opinion, not to mention the only one that was in the former GDR. I think this would have gone better here if they had let it be made a six month placement.

The last parts of Intermenno history in Altes Lager will end on July 12, 2007. Schade.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

DDR and the magic cinderblock

I am really full. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten this much before. Today we went to the Familie Förester’s household to celebrate the birthday of our ‘Dad’ Klaus. This family has kind of been our host-family since we have come here. They’re really sweet people, with a really good ability to cook.
There was pretty much every kind of Teltow-Fleming delicacy that you could name, not least of which being klem kuchen with fresh cream. We had a very passionate discussion on the fact that the cream was actually with 13% less fat. That seemed to please people quite a bit.
Other than that the conversation was very interesting. They talked about the DDR days and how they compare to these days. Apparently, things are not all that better. While they all agreed that the freedom was nice, they do not like the fact that there seem to be very few jobs and no young people or doctors for that matter. Everyone, they said, is moving to the west.
It would seem like the whole world has this bigger and better syndrome. Like if I can only get to this place, than everything will magically fall into place and life will be good. I feel that people are often mislead about the West. The West does not equal a made life, what it does equal is an opportunity. I know plenty of people who have failed to achieve a good life in my spot of Canada, which is arguably one of the best places to live in today’s world. It still takes a heck of a lot of hard work.
Still, I understand that people really only want an opportunity in the first place.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Der In Ordnung Hammer

Spring, I believe, is finally starting to poke it’s head here in sleepy Altes Lager. Keith and I even managed to go for a walk today, which is something that we have not done in a while. Soon we’ll be back on our bikes with the wind in our hair and the road will feel our savage tires of wrath! Hopefully, I’ll start to shed some of this winter poundage as well.

This week has not been entirely great though as I have been sick for the majority of it, with what I suspect to be the stomach flu. Sometimes, I feel perfectly fine and then the next second I’ll be doubled over in gross sickness. The beautiful weather of late has been naught but salt on the wound.

I spent a large portion of the day reading the old trainee yearbooks. Dan, if you are reading this, your page was pretty funny. I know exactly what you mean when you said you felt married to Ben. Here I am not just myself, I am Gary and Keith. We are fused as one.

Reading those kinds of memory journals made me really sentimental of my time spent here. My love/hate relationship with Altes Lager is slowly turning more into a love relationship. Now that the winter is ending I can see light at the end of the tunnel and things don’t look so bad. I’d say life is becoming more level, instead of the highs and lows. I really do feel like this place is my home now, in an odd sort of way.

Speaking of odd things, I forgot to mention the fact that last week Keith and I had to teach baseball. Oh lord, Europe is not ready for the Great American Game. Needless to say, the 9th graders we were trying to teach did not understand a lot – especially since our handle on the language is limited at best. However, we did have fun by the end of it, even if the rules were too complicated and the baseball gear turned out to be for T-ball, as opposed to gear for 14 year olds. That will be a good memory. Das war ‘Der In Ordnung Hammer’.

On a side note, I’ve been having a little bit of an argument over the issue of alcohol in Christianity. I’ve got some people telling me that in ancient times that wine was mainly used because water was often contaminated and unhealthy. While I do not doubt for a second that water was less than perfect back in the day, if people only drank wine based on that fact and not the fact that it tasted good and had an alcoholic part to it, no matter how slight, then folks I will eat all of my clothing and go naked for the rest of my life. If this were true than why is that practice not more commonly used today? Has the water quality really improved that much in the Middle East? I think not. I suppose alcohol is taboo for many Muslim people to a larger extent.

Also, were the same drinking rules not practiced back then as they are today? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that the old testament had some say on the subject and that certainly didn’t stop the Jews, who were far more conservative than today’s Christian conservatives, from drinking. Just a few thoughts.

Keith also says that he killed a mongoose today. I’ll have to reconfirm that and get back to you all.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Snow Patrol and Visitors

We had some friend come and visit us and we all went to Snow Patrol. It was an excellent concert and we all had a blast.


Here is a picture of us in the German Reichtag (Parlement Buildings).



Mid-Term Conference

So it’s certainly been some time since my last update. I know that I need to start doing this more regularly, but we all know that I’m lazy and to be honest one needs to be in the mood to blog. I am currently in one of those aforementioned moods.

Well, let’s think back to what has happened over the last month or two. Let’s start with the mid-term conference. In the middle of the year the Intermenno program hosts 5 days of fun, learning, and relaxation for all of the trainees. This year it was hosted in Thomashof by Karlsruhe. I don’t think that I need to say the whole thing was, well, awesome. Most likely the most fun I’ve had in months.

Keith and I got up nice and early and made sure that we got to the train station with ample time to spare. Our last conference we had decided to walk from Altes Lager and subsequently, missed our train. Not this time though! We had to take transfers in Lu Wittenberg, Leipzig, Frankfurt, and Mannheim, but everything went quite smooth.

When we got to Karlsruhe, we took a bunch of trams and a quick bus ride and found ourselves in the middle of Thomashof. The first thing that we did was search our friend Rachel, who is a trainee and works at the conference centre we were staying at. It didn’t take us long to find her and that was the official kick-off for our conference.

We were the first people to arrive but shortly after Mattias came and then everyone else followed, the last person being our friend Josh who didn’t arrive until 8pm that evening. It was so nice to see everyone again and I was running around screaming like a chicken with its head cut off. I don’t think that I shut my mouth the entire time that I was there.

The next few days were something of a blur, I’m sure it doesn’t take a degree to figure out why. Trainees will be trainees. However, here are the finer points of the weekend:

- Seeing the committee members. I have severe beard envy.

- Going to Karlsruhe to see the Schloss and tour around the malls and whatnot. Screaming on the elevators and buying fake mustaches!

- Trainee party day-1. I saw Kees gangster-style.

- Going to the Ballet and watching Johannes Neufeld giggle like a school girl at the men jumping around. Too funny. Then getting ‘locked-out’ of the third installment with Eric to sit at the bar and have a cold one. Great night.

- Debbie and her constant hair insults. I’m still thinking of a perfect insult.

- Trainee party day 2. Sara and Saskia are the light of my life. You will never meet more awesome Dutch people than these two women. Singing, dance parties, and 85 cent beer.

- Going on a hike through the area. Just beautiful, much more interesting than the flat plains of Brandenburg. Nice trees.

- Shalomj
- The abundant english conversations.
- The trainee talent show. Cats on things they’re not supposed to be on are amaaaazzzzinnggg!

Well, that was about it. I was sore to see the time go by so quickly. I mentioned that it’s certainly interesting how we are all such different people but we get along so well, seemingly. It all just goes to reaffirm by belief that mennonites are certainly awesome people. I love Intermenno and I’m almost sad to see the first half of the year come to a close. I’m happy, however, that I won’t have to go through the whole adjustment phase all over again though.

The next 6 months look like they will be much more stable than the last 6. Man, what a crazy life I live. Looking back, the past 6 months have been beyond challenging, beyond amazing, and beyond words. Let’s hope the next half doesn’t go by too quickly.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Foil Dinners and Book Reviews

I need to finish a little presentation I’ve been working on, but I have writer’s block at the moment so I figure I’ll warm myself up with a little blogging.

The past week has been very crazy and it looks like I now have a little bit of a breather before I’m right back at it again. Mattias came to visit us this week and what a week it was. Lots of party-time and late nights, which in-turn has given me a larger than usual lust for naps. We did a number of fun activities, such as making foil-dinners and hotdogs out in the forest by a well made fire, lots of music jams, and a late night party day in Berlin last Friday night to top it all off. All in all, I’d coin it a very successful visit.

This Thursday I’m off to Karlsruhe (or rather Thomashof) to head to the Midterm conference. I’m very excited to see all of the trainees and committee members. Looks like it’ll be a full 5 days of Menno goodness. The little presentation that I’m supposed to be working on is for the first night of the conference. It’s okay though, I’ve practically finished it, so a little procrastination to think of a good ending is most likely a good idea right?

Other than that it’s just been pretty low-key. Today, I did my usual old people driving and then Waldi, Keith and I watched a movie with Rowan Atkansin in it, and it was quite good. Very British, if I do say so myself. Then I took to reading for a while and taking a well deserved nap.

I’ve done a lot of reading lately, and so far I’ve been very pleased with the books. Tim bought me ‘Everything is Illuminated’ for my birthday and I loved it. Way different than the movie of course, but I think the movie was great in its own way as well. I read it while we went to Auschwitz; I laughed, I cried, I read in silence. I’d give it a grade A.

Then right after, Hannah sent me ‘The Life of Pi’. In a few words, I’d call it life changing. It was exactly what I needed. Reading that book gave me enough epistemological thoughts for me to chew on. I would say, it didn’t change my religious beliefs but rather how I look at religion in general. A much more peaceful approach that I find is much more in tune to my beliefs as a Mennonite. Plus, it’s amazingly well written and has lots of Canadian references, which I highly approve of.

Currently, I am reading ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’. I’m currently feeling in a really math and science mood, which is very odd considering these two subjects have more often than not been the Bain of my existence. Something that I’ve learned so far is that science can be very interesting if put into perspective and not written by scientist. I find that the most amazing minds of our time have usually been sub-par writers, as is the norm with most academics. It’s the same with university professors, they may be a genius in their perspective fields, but they suck at teaching and conveying what they know into practical terms. I guess that’s what a TA is for, right?

Anywho, time to get back to my little project and then I still have to make lesson plans for this week.
Ciao Darlings.