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.


Keith said...


I read this, and even though you are in the next room, everyone likes getting a comment. I just thought I would encourage you, at least about the changing part, that you will never notice when you change. It happens so slow, over the weeks, that everything still feels normal. When you finally get out of something sometimes you realize a difference. Also, as exciting as change seems, it is not always all it is worked up to be. You are a good guy, and it is good if that stays the same. I have noticed a change in you since we got here, I won’t notice it as much as someone who hasn’t been around you the whole time, but I notice some things. The most obvious is that you can speak German and understand it. I mean, maybe you feel like you can’t sometimes, or that you aren’t good, but you are good and you can understand. You have to focus on what you do know, and just hope to learn more. I still hope to learn more English sometimes. You are creative and fun, and maybe you were before you came here, but living in Altes Lager will have made you ganz ganz viel mehr Kreative. Yup.
(why do I always end things off with Yup?)

You Knows Whos

Eric said...

Hi Gary,

I don't know much about change, but I can relate to that "sub-par" feeling. First off I'd say this: the way things are set up in the first place makes it hard for you to actually accomplish much - you've got no previous expertise, no training or curriculum you can follow, or the language even goddammit, so that means most of your effort is dedicated to these groundwork efforts (e.g. the 'quite-key' - brilliant! I would have killed for that idea at the time) In light of that, you're probably doing a lot better than you realise.

And second: Small things DO make a big difference. If you can even just build the association between learning and fun for these kids, then you've had an important impact on a child's life. Think about it, and maybe even take pride in it.

Keep the posts coming. You have no idea how much I enjoy living in Altes Lager vicariously through you. I get pretty damn Euro-sick some days. I'm eternally planning my return.

Mach's jut.

Eric Martin

Anonymous said...

Life is just what it is, life. It is not so much what happens to you but it is the way you respond to it. You can look at the positive side or the negative side of it. Choose the positive, it is a choice.

I have know you for years. I don't think you realize you are an incredible person. You offer so much to others. At the end of the day it is the little things in life that make the difference, not the big sensationalized things. You will never know how you influenced those kids until they are older. They will remember that someone gave a year of their life to help them and make them feel important.

Scott said...

Gary my man,
Andrea and I also know that feeling exactly. We felt it in Guate. I recall sitting in my room after spanish school and wondering what the heck I was doing there? I still felt like the same dumb high school kid that left with wide eyes and big hopes for change. When I got back to Canada I could feel the change. It's like you said, you have to look at things at a distance to really understand them and appreciate them. I found that it was when I got back home and contemplated my experiences was the time when I realized that I wasn't that dumb high school kid anymore. I had seen and done many things and I had matured as a person as a result. Don't take any moment there for granted because when it's done and you are sitting on your couch here in Canada, you'll have wished you would have appreciated it a whole lot more. Take each day as it is, a gift from God, even though each day won't be full of surprises. Enjoy those times when you have nothing to do, sitting in your house in Germany because it beats sitting in your house in Canada.
We'll be praying for you Gary. :)
you are the coolest.

your bro,

gary h. said...

no Scott, you're the coolest

Anonymous said...

sure I have to start by saying your a knob! But what else were you expecting to hear? Introspective stuff is great in small doses. Change like most ggod things happens slowly with purpose. You have changed and so has the game( no not war craft)I think the ability to suceed is to adopt while maitianing purpose. Still praying from you! Here something to try with your kids
1. Say silk silk silk three times
2. Then ask "what do cows drink'?
Bob Albright

gary h. said...

Dear bob, you are too crazy. ps. tell 'anonymous' that I say hi.