Monthly Archives: November 2014

Märchenstunde // Storytime : No. 1

This is a story about a girl named Chelsea who hailed from America and had a fondness for German. Even as a young child of only 19 years, this passion for Deutsch led Chelsea down a tangled, twisted, sometimes tortured path. She traversed the Valley of Separable Prefix Verbs, ascended through the infamous Adjective Ending Chart Mountains, and sailed down the deadly but often tedious Subordinate Clause River, where she searched for and, one day, miraculously found the often-sought but seldom-discovered village, curiously named Verb at the End of the Sentenceville.

At the age of 22, she emerged from the Reflexive Forest, herself a victor, herself a conqueror. Such triumphs, though celebrated, were mere hiccups for our fine explorer. Chelsea knew that though her skills had been tested and her quest had been noble, no journey could prepare her for what lay ahead at the end of the map.

Frankly, it wasn't all that easy to follow in the first place.

To be fair, it wasn’t all that easy to follow in the first place.

No, there was nothing to be done that might have allowed Chelsea a glimpse into the future. To a world in which her battles didn’t matter, her successes were but moments in the past, forgotten and made unimportant by the passing of time. To the present day, to miles and miles away, to now, where Chelsea, age 23, finds herself: as a teaching assistant, at two German schools, in Sachsen.

This is a story about a girl, a girl who spent years struggling with German, fighting her aging brain to just please let me have a little more space I only need to shove a few more irregular verb conjugations in there okay guys; it’s a story about a girl who spent many a night alone in her room, a Wörterbuch her only bedfellow, highlighter in hand and crazed glint in her eye, a girl who couldn’t sleep at night for the unending questions rattling against her skull– Is that verb reflexive? I can see how it might be… but I can also see how it might not be. But it seems like it’s reflexive. Oh well, I’ll just go to sleep… actually I better look that up.

For all that time, that effort, that struggle– and what? A decent grasp of the German language, of course. But did that prepare Chelsea to take on a role as an English Teaching Assistant? No. Not at all. Because to be an English Teaching Assistant, knowledge of German is only 5% of whatever I’m vaguely talking about. 95% is making a fool out of yourself and trying not to offend anyone. Only anecdotal evidence may shed some light on what this truly means…

Surprise!

Today with special guest, Angela Merkel!

And now, what follows, are short tales of life in a German school as seen by an American teaching assistant.  Ignore the Erich Kästner in her hands and imagine instead that our German pal Angie up there is reading these little vignette-y things out loud to you. It’ll make everything that much more authentic.

Today, we bring you 3 stories–  all true, all plucked from Chelsea’s daily life, and all not actually presented by Angela Merkel.

 


 

1) The “Beaches” Incident

Chelsea sits in a small “Vorbereitungsraum” with three 9th graders, two boys and a girl, practicing English conversation skills. A few uncomfortable moments where kids tell me their families don’t have enough money to travel to other countries and look at me as if to say “and why the hell is this your business?” I want them to know, it’s not my fault! It’s just the activity I was given! But otherwise so far, so good. Question to discuss: where would you like to go on vacation if you could go anywhere in the world and why?

Noah: I want to go to Monaco.

Chelsea: Oh really! That’s interesting. I’ve never been there. Why do you want to go to Monaco?

Noah: Um… I think for the fast cars. And also for the bitches.

(Other two kids start to laugh)

Chelsea: For the beaches?

Noah: Yes, yes, the beaches. (Noah starts to laugh)

(Everybody’s laughing now. Chelsea is laughing, but she isn’t sure if she should be laughing)

Chelsea: I mean, unless you mean bitches. Or bitches on beaches. Right? Yeah guys? Right? Haha… heh… I don’t know.

 


2) Do You Have a Scorpion for Me?

It’s almost Halloween and Chelsea is preparing a lesson for the kids at the Grundschule. Shopping for ideas, she runs across a bag of neon glittery plastic insects– spiders, cockroaches, scorpions, the like. “Perfect,” she thinks, “the kids will love these. I’ll give them to the winners of the memory game I will go home and spend three hours making by hand, with love.”

Fast forward to the following week. A fourth-grade classroom. Children’s screams echo down the hallways for sure and Chelsea stands in the midst of their source, surrounded by the kids themselves.

Kids: That’s so MEAN. It’s not FAIR that only the winners get them! It’s not even like the game was HARD it was just all about LUCK this isn’t FAIR you’re MEAN CHELSEA.

Chelsea: Blahfweaosdjkfasdljfsladf…?

Kids: THIS ISN’T NICE THIS ISN’T FAIR

Chelsea: (resigned to the fact that she is not cut out for this long-term) Would it help if I bought you guys presents and brought them next time?

One Kid, Conceding: Yes… but can I have a sparkly spider right now though?

And they weren't even as cool as these so I don't get what the big deal was GUYS.

And frankly they weren’t even as cool as these so I don’t get what the big deal was GUYS.

While no children were harmed in the battle of the Iridescent Plastic Cockroach of 2014, a few tears were shed amongst the students. All other classes were told that there were no prizes, there had never been any prizes, and anybody from another class who told them that there were prizes was a dirty, dirty liar.

 


3) Rebel Rebel

Chelsea walks in to a 4th grade classroom. This class isn’t always the most well-behaved, but there’s a certain group of girls who make up Chelsea’s “fan club.” They usually participate and try to impress with their knowledge and enthusiasm for English class.

Today, they grab Chelsea’s arm and notice… her tattoo.

Evita: Is that a tattoo!

Chelsea: Uhh…

Leah: I want one! That’s so cool!

Evita: Me too!

(The girls run to grab a pen. Chelsea sits at the front of the room. Silent. Wondering if this is what parents mean when they call something a “bad influence”)

Katja: Can you draw it on me, Chelsea?

Chelsea: Umm… I don’t think that would be… I don’t know if… Uh, well, you go ahead, I guess.

Yeah... yeah.

Yeah… yeah.

 


So! Meine Damen und Herren, until next time.

This has been the first edition of MÄRCHENSTUNDE//STORYTIME, brought to you diesmal by Angela Merkel & friends. Join us next time for the fun with a different German moderator, just as much unnecessary extravagance, and, most importantly, more tales from the Vaterland about Chelsea, our adventurer, and the ridiculous things that happen when you hang out with foreign children in school all the time.

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Gewürz up your life *

Today marks the official last day of Herbstferien, that magical two-week time period in which I got to be in Leipzig and didn’t even have to do anything, ever. What a blessing! And with so many Euros in my pocket, no less! But alas, today is the end of days, and while I still don’t actually have to go to school tomorrow (Monday is my free day, ha!), I’ll be back to the daily grind on Tuesday, tellin’ kids about English things once again.

And really, that’s okay, too. There is nothing bad about working 12 hours a week and getting rubber-band presents from children who think you’re the bee’s knees.

The ghosts even make this a seasonally appropriate joke.

The ghosts even make this a seasonally appropriate joke.

But, as you may guess, Herbstferien has been great. I will admit to doing a LOT of sleeping. But I’m a 20-something girl with probable insomnia, okay? It’s just how it is. Plus I love sleep and hate mornings. Don’t judge me. However many other things happened, too. I shopped a lot (which was, eh, probably not so advisable), I had 4 visitors who came to stay during various times of Herbstferien *shoutouts to Babz, Helen, Breanna & Tracey– sup, kidz* which made for pretty fun times, I went out and about quite often with the roommates, celebrated Halloween in more ways than one (masks & pie, explanations forthcoming), and was even slightly productive when it comes to my grad school applications (still gotta be more productive in that regard, though, time’s a ticking).

So you know what? I will dare to call this Herbstferien a success. I WILL DARE. It’s been fun. I didn’t travel or anything special, but I have made a promise to myself that I’ll get my shit stuff together (i.e. grad school apps) before I allow myself to galavant this time around. And I stuck to that, and I’ll continue to stick to that! Soon enough.

Oh yikes, that's all too accurate.

Oh yikes, that’s all too accurate.

But I mean it.

Anyway, yeah, about the masks and pie. In light of Halloween approaching and Halloween & pumpkins being so closely associated, Vanessa and I decided to make a pumpkin pie. Which we did. And we ate it yesterday and it actually tasted PERFECT, which was surprising since we accidentally made it out of pickled pumpkin chunks.

Yes, that’s right. I said pickled pumpkin chunks. You can’t buy canned pumpkin puree in Germany, because nobody makes pumpkin pie in Germany. And we didn’t feel like buying the pumpkin and making the pumpkin puree ourselves, because that would have added like a whole hour onto the pumpkin-pie-making process. So we bought a jar of pumpkin, and only when we opened it at home did we realize it was pickled pumpkin, made by this company that specifically only makes pickled things.

This. This is what we bought. It doesn't look all that menacing, but just imagine a pumpkin pie that tastes like pickles. Ughhh.

This. This is what we bought. It doesn’t look all that menacing, but just imagine a pumpkin pie that tastes like pickles. Ughhh.

As I said, LUCKILY, all the spices you put in pumpkin pie totally eliminated any potential-pickle-power (PPP, from now on). All traces of PPP were engulfed by cinnamon and nutmeg and other seasonal Gewürze, and the pie tasted great. General consensus was somewhere between “it tastes like autumn” and “it tastes like Christmas.” So, Thanksgiving. As it should be.

Later that day, Thursday, the day before Halloween, I went to a Masquerade Party with my roommates & company! It was pretty great. I made my mask myself, having bought a blank mask from this craft store. Nathan and I spent an hour or so the Tuesday before jazzin’ them up and then I finished it the next day, when I decided that masks need to be TOTALLY COVERED IN GLITTER (there was, thereafter, glitter all over everything in my bedroom) (and continues to be).

(I also glittered my fingernails). (I may have a glitter problem).

It's totally hard to tell cause of the masks but this is a picture of 4/5 of the original Spice Girls. Dead serious.

It’s totally hard to tell cause of the masks but this is a picture of 4/5 of the original Spice Girls. Dead serious.

* Note to anyone speaking German, the title of this post makes sense in a very loose understanding of the word “sense.” Note to everyone else, I’m making a lame Spice Girls joke, because of course I am.

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