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,

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.


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


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)


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!