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.)

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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Operation: Escape my Dorf

My village is boring. This may sound harsh, but it´s true. The population is about 1,000, and around half those people are senior citizens. There is no library, no theater, and not even a place to rent videos. No museums. No cafes. The only local clubs are the Sportverein (sports club, mainly for people who play soccer-- I don´t) and the Schiessverein (unshaven men who practice indoor target shooting while drinking German beer).

I´d only been back here for two weeks but was already getting bored. So I came up with a plan to escape. It involved a bus, a train, the city of Dresden, and my friends the Baileys, who work in western Germany. But then they noticed that their funds were getting low, so they had to back out.

Plan B. Instead of going to Dresden, I would go to Weimar-- a city in Thuringia that had earned the hearty endorsement of BC and ID, two very finicky Germanists. Goethe, the German writer roughly equivalent in stature to Shakespeare, lived there for several decades. The constitution for Germany's first brief flirt with democracy, between the two World Wars, was also drawn up in Weimar-- hence the name 'Weimar Republic.' Besides, there was a hostel there with beds for only 10€ a night.

This city clearly had a lot to offer.

Last Friday I packed my bags and took the train to Weimar. My 10€-a-night hostel was occupied by a school group from Hannover. The teachers were youngish, probably in their early thirties, and one of them was once a language assistant in England. We hung out that evening, and they offered take me along when their classes went sight-seeing the following day. (Their students were in the 12th grade, and I didn´t look older than them anyway!)

So, I got to see:
-Buchenwald concentration camp
-Goethe´s house
-the palace of Anna Amalia, a brilliant (if unattractive) 18th-century duchess with a shoe fetish rivaling Imelda Marcos'
-the Bauhaus museum

And one of the teachers insisted on paying for everything! She also invited me to visit her if I ever make it to Hannover-- I plan to take her up on the offer.

I must admit I´m jealous of their students. These were Gymnasium kids, and believe me, the difference was obvious. These were motivated, mature students with intellectual interests. My students use the weekends to get drunk and dance until dawn and can´t be bothered to come to my office hours even when they desperately need extra help in English; these kids join after-school clubs to learn Polish and Classical Greek and spend their free time taking theater workshops. I would give snippets of my liver for students like that!

Alas... But at least I had a good time hanging out with them and their teachers in beautiful Weimar, which offers everything my village doesn´t: plenty to see and do, hommus in the grocery store, and little cafes where you can eat your fill of crepes without breaking your budget.
This city definitely gets five stars.


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