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.