Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Name:
Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Off the Wheel and Onto the Dance Floor

Sometimes the hamster has to stop running before it remembers how to get off the wheel.

I had a two-week vacation from work (and from university classes)at the beginning of this month, followed by a nasty sinus infection that kept me in my apartment for five days--in effect lenghthening my vacation. I experienced free time-- REALLY free time, with no pressure to plan lessons or work on my term paper or grad school apps or whatever-- for the first time in two months.

This enabled me to come to a few important conclusions:

1. I like having free time. Having free time is good.

2. When I have more free time, I am happier in general.

3. When I'm not stressed out, I actually really like Germany.

4. I will only be here until the beginning of July.

Basically, this year I have the chance to live in Germany-- something that I like a lot, and might not get to do again for a long time-- but I've been so busy with university classes, etc., that I haven't even been able to enjoy myself. What a waste! Why should I spend all my time at the university, when I can do that back in the US?

So I cut my course load down to my three favorite classes: Beginning Dutch, Intermediate Italian, and North German Dialects. Now that I'm taking fewer classes, I enjoy the ones I am taking a lot more. And I also have time to see friends on weekends, read for pleasure, travel a little, etc. I've been much, much happier lately. And this has led me to Make Discoveries.

For example, the discovery that, contrary to long-held opinion, I am actually not the Worst Dancer in the Entire World.

I've had this complex since elementary school, and I generally blame it on the fact that I got kicked out of ballet lessons when I was six. (It's true; you can ask my mom if you don't believe me.) Intellectually I know they booted me out because I was a pain in the ass and wouldn't shut up, not because of my clumsiness. But deep down, I've always attributed this early disappointment to my lack of dancing ability. Physical coordination has never been my strong suit, and I was never able to enjoy dancing because I thought that people would laugh at me. (And to be fair, sometimes they did!)

This changed last Thursday.

We had a teachers' party at the school to celebrate the end of the semester, and it was a ton of fun. There was a buffet dinner with free drinks (I only had one, but was nonetheless tipsier
than most people who'd had three or four!). The other young teachers convinced me to join them on the dance floor, despite my protestations that it would only be painful for everyone involved. Even though we'd all forgotten to bring our own CDs, and therefore had to utilize the school's collection (a mixture of extremely cheesy early '80s music, Italian hits from the 1950s, and funk), we still managed to get down. As I expected, I was repeatedly reprimanded-- but for having convinced them that I was horrible, when in fact I'm just about average.

Isn't that great! It turns out that I'm not bad, I'm MEDIOCRE!!!

Only the younger teachers danced, and gender-wise it was a bit one-sided. Actually, it reminded me a lot of the seventh grade-- about ten women dancing and having fun, plus one or two brave men we'd convinced to join us-- and then a big group of guys huddled in a corner on the other side of the room.

After the party was over, as I piled into a small, ancient Volkswagen with four student teachers, I imagined how our students would have reacted had they been able to see us dancing. I pictured my eighth-graders howling with laughter at the horrendous music and our cheesy dance moves.

'Look at them! They actually think they're cool!'

Then I pictured my own 8th grade teachers grooving on the dance floor, and I burst out laughing.
But these were people who were prone to pairing corduroy shorts with lavender tights in winter (my friends and I termed this the 'Benjamin Franklin look') or playing Enya and the Indigo Girls as background music during our creative writing exercises. I'm not that lame yet.

Probably.

8 Comments:

Anonymous kimberly said...

so glad to see that you are happier, dropping those classes was a good idea! dancing is definitely a good substitute too. it is very good for stress and exercise! i took ballroom dancing last semester, but it is too expensive, so i had to quit. now i just watch dancing with the stars. i hope the rest of your year in germany is great!

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrienne a pain in the ass... Impossible!

Rick

7:18 PM  
Blogger Ada said...

Kimberly--

I'm going to have to find an excuse to dance more often! I think that ballroom dancing is still beyond me-- too much coordination involved. I'm better off sticking to the kind of dancing that has no actual rules. But some buddies and I are making plans to go out on the town in M√ľnster some evening. :)

Rick--
People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!

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