Winning London

I have quite a lot to talk about again, so here it goes:

Elizabeth and I went to London for MLK weekend (the great thing about living on a military base is that we get all American holidays off while the rest of Europe is still trucking along like normal).  We took the train on Friday to Nurnberg flughafen, hopped on a plane, and two games of M.A.S.H. and a couple sudoku puzzles later, we were in London!   We were pretty ecstatic from the moment we arrived (7:30 pm London time), and quickly bought Train and Tube tickets to Russell Square.  When we arrived on the Tube, the line to the lift was very long, so we thought we’d take the stairs. Quick tip: Never take the stairs when going up from an underground train.  There’s a reason the line to the lift is long, and when traveling an unfamiliar place, always go with the crowd. We climbed at least 10 flights straight up, luggage in hand. Brilliant!

We bought Saturday and Sunday day Tube tickets for zones 1 & 2 (plenty of ground to cover), and after wandering around for a bit, we found our hotel.  We packed in a TON of walking, photographing, seeing sights, seeing people, etc. on Saturday and Sunday, so I’m going to highlight my several favorite parts of the trip by listing the

Reasons why I loved London:

  • The Tube
    • German trains are easy to navigate, I suppose, but for some reason Elizabeth and I still struggle.  Perhaps it’s the language barrier, or maybe just my tendency to stress out way too much when I have to be a certain place at a certain time (thank you, Mom, for teaching me that being “on time” really means at least an hour early 🙂 ).  Anyway, the Tube was great, very easy to navigate, and we definitely got our money’s worth for those day tickets on Saturday and Sunday.  Again, get with it, America. Public transportation is the way to go.
  • Sunshine
    • Yes, unusual for London but lucky for us, I didn’t use my umbrella one time all weekend!  Quite a nice change from dreary Vilseck weather.  We not only had no rain, but we had SUN! Beautiful weather made the whole trip 10X more enjoyable.
  • Changing of the Guards
    • Saturday morning, Elizabeth and I made our way to Buckingham Palace where there were crowds and crowds of people.  After the lift incident, we figured we’d better join the crowd because it must be something important.  Somehow we ended up right at the front of one of the gates, where we stood clueless for about 15 minutes.  Finally, we overheard Constable Steve (a solid man who took his job Very Seriously) telling someone what everyone was waiting for: the changing of the guards! What a thing to stumble upon.  We stayed put, and while it felt much like the Girl Talk concert circa 2008 (although this time it was pushy, whiney Germans I wasn’t letting in front of me instead of sweaty teenage girls), it was well worth the wait.  First came the bagpipers in one cluster, then the guards (fluffy hats [what’s the name for those things again? “fluffy guard hats” isn’t yielding anything promising on Google, unsurprisingly] and rifles and everything!), then finally the band led by a guard and a dog! Very interesting and traditional show of sorts.  Unfortunately we didn’t see Willy or Harry, which is probably a good thing because I might have fainted.
  • Piccadilly Circus
    • Piccadilly Circus is like Times Square, but less claustrophobic and much cuter.  We went here Saturday night, and it was crazy fun.  Another thing I loved about London is that everything is open late– in Germany most places close at 6 or 7 (except for restaurants), but Piccadilly Circus was hopping in the p.m.
  • Tower Bridge
    • God, so beautiful.  The architecture and history of it all makes me want to move here! Pictures below.
  • Kensington Gardens
    • This was my absolute FAVORITE part of London.  This was the first place we went Sunday morning and it really started my day off right.  The park is huge and just absolutely beautiful.  There were people everywhere, but mostly locals (running or walking or just hanging out with their families), and even a toy sail boat race (like in Stuart Little!).  It seemed unreal, and it’s definitely the image I’ll think of now when someone mentions London.  We saw and posed several times with the famous Peter Pan statue, and heard a little boy say, in an English accent of course, “Mum! Pee-tuh Pahn!”  Which brings me to my next point:
  • Men & Toddlers (separately)
    • For some reason, both of these things are cuter in London.  Accents definitely play a big role in the kids being so cute, and for some reason all of the men (seriously, all of them) seemed more attractive than American & German men.  London makes ’em tall and thin, wearing scarves and pea coats with elbow patches.  That’s all I have to say about that.
  • A boatload of other things…
    • We saw a million things in London, so check my Facebook for all the photos, would ya? It would be the longest entry in the world if I wrote about everything we did.

I loved London, this is true, but I also want to talk about

Reasons I am happy to be back in Deutschland:

  • The Exchange Rate
    • Holy Macaroni.  Elizabeth and I thought living in a country with Euros was bad… whew! Right now, the exchange rate for pounds vs. dollars is 0.652416. Pitiful!  That is one pound = 1.53 American dollars.  Elizabeth and I were extremely frugal in our spending (I bought postcards [SEND ME YOUR ADDRESSES PLEASE! For real!] and some 99 pence tea bags.  It was harder to find inexpensive food, so we ended up eating the continental breakfast every morning (killer!), skipping lunch, then eating at a pub for dinner.  Soups were pretty cheap, so that’s what we mostly ate.
      • Sidenote:  We kept seeing “jacket potatoes” as an option on all of the menus.  Finally, on Saturday night at the pub we ate at, we asked the bartender what they are.
        • “Heh, heh, Are you serious? You’re serious?”
        • “Umm, yes?”
        • “Do you know what a potato is?”
        • Ugh. “Yes.”
        • “It’s a big one, with stuff in it. Like cheese, beans, you know.”
        • “Oh.”
        • Still standing there, laughing at us. “I guess it’s an English thing, heh heh heh…”
      • So, I ordered a jacket potato.  It was delicious! Worth feeling stupid for asking, definitely.
  • Helles and Radlers
    • Oh, how we missed the giant cheap beer.  The cheapest beer we found in London was about £4.00, which is really like $8.00 to us.  Not so fun, especially when it’s not as good as Germany’s finest.
  • The Feeling of Community
    • More than once in London I thought to myself, “I wish we could just go sit at the end of that table over there and eat our meal with those people.”  I love the feeling of community in Germany.  London was so active and fast-paced, which was a great change from the day-to-day here, but coming back to Germany I felt relaxed.  (Well, once we ran through Gatwick and finally found our terminal, I felt relaxed).  I feel like Germany is more my pace, too, at least for my every-day.  We went to Harrod’s in London which was totally foreign to me (giant, giant, giant, GIANT shopping place with everything you can imagine, all very expensive–all name brand! Lots of very rich people [wearing lots of fur] perusing the racks of pricey clothes.  We saw a newborn baby sweater for £250.00 [so, like, $400.00] which sort of grossed me out. It’s hard to believe people spend mass amounts of money on things like that like it’s normal).  I realize there are places like that everywhere in the world, though little Vilseck sure is far away from them.

So, had a wonderful time in London Town, but am definitely still excited to be living in Germany, too.  Our flight from Gatwick was at 8:05am this morning, so we had to be at the Russell Square Tube when it opened at 5:00am (we had to go from there to King’s Cross/St. Pancras, then take the train from St. Pancras to Gatwick, check in, go through security, find our gate, etc.).  We woke up at what we though was 4:40am, got ready, packed up everything, and then glanced at our watches.  Elizabeth miscalculated the time difference, so it was only 2:40am!  Haha, we were all up and ready to go two hours early (and the weird part is, I didn’t feel tired at all. ?). We went back to bed and got up at the right time, and it was kind of a rush to get to the airport on time.  I was stressin’, but luckily Elizabeth held her cool and we arrived before everyone boarded.  Note to Future Self: Always take out the baggy full of liquids in your carry-on when going through security (even if they didn’t check it on the way out of Germany) or they will unpack your whole suitcase in front of everyone and check for radioactive materials. Lesson learned.

Oh, ALSO, Elizabeth and I were asked for directions twice in London! And we gave directions both times!  We must really look like high-fashion Londoners.  Either that, or they just didn’t catch us taking pictures of literally everything we saw.

Alright, some pictures are below, but check my Facebook for the rest of them.  So many, and it takes forever to upload them to the bloggo. Enjoy!

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brb, Vilseck

I have to say, I’m already very fond of the German lifestyle.  As Mary put it this weekend, they “really know how to do the outdoors.”  You hike up a mountain, eat at a little restaurant, have a few drinks, then hike back down.  Or in our case, ride a ski lift up to the top, then toboggan down the foothills of the Bavarian Alps (although our new German friend Wolfgang says, “Mountains? No, these are not mountains. These are hills. You haven’t seen anything yet.”), eat at the little local restaurant (potato soup and gluhwein [mulled wine, i.e. god’s greatest gift to mother earth]), then nap on the way home.

     Sidenote/one reason to add to the list of why I am an idiot:  You know how people talk about “The Autobahn”?  This whole time, I was thinking the autobahn. One giant German highway (5+ lanes) on which everyone drives like a maniac to get where they’re going quickquickquick, right?  Well, we asked Wolfgang (one of the teachers at Vilseck, Paula’s, German boyfriend) where, exactly, is the autobahn?  He laughed. Autobahn is just the German word for highway. “Errhhmm, every-vare, heh heh!”  Dumb Americans!

Bahh, I can never go in order when I write; this entry is pure stream-of-consciousness. I’ll attempt to restore some order, ahem:

Saturday

Elizabeth and I woke up fairly early and wandered into town to look around during the day. (Our days are so short here during the week; we go to school at 7:30am and leave at 3:15ish– we only have a couple hours of misty grayness [not even close to sunlight, so I can’t bring myself to say daytime] in the afternoon before it’s pitch black again. Vitamin D supplements: on my grocery list.)  We walked around the neighborhoods and saw crazy cute houses and lots of dogs (weee!).  We got a phone call from Patty (another teacher at Vilseck Elementary) who wanted to give us her old television (score!).  We told her we were walking around town, and she said, “Oh, great! My husband and I are in town and going to Amberg for a couple hours. We can take you there if you want to walk around and shop, eh?”  So, off to Amberg we went!

Elizabeth's Colaweizen and my WinterBier

our lunch; toast with cheese and cranberry sauce, and two small pizzas-- tomato and mozzarella and salami and cheese

the open square in Amberg on the main shopping street.

so many beautiful bridges in Amberg! This is looking down one of the "alleys" off of the main street. beautiful.

Shopping was a good adventure (did you know the cashiers will cut off the tags for you if you want? so convenient!), but eating was even better.  In Germany (in Europe?) you walk into restaurants and find open seats–often at the same table as other people enjoying meals.  Elizabeth and I chose a long table hoping some interesting Germans would come sit by us, but no one did.  However, we did see many, many dogs!  Outside stores, inside stores, in the pub, in our restaurant…  I did a lot of squealing and pointing (“PUP PUP!”) that day.

Sunday

We went to Garmisch on Sunday with Paula (teacher), her boyfriend Wolfgang, and Mary.  In the morning we went tobogganing, as I mentioned before, which was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the snow.  Germans are super serious about sledding; picture Narnia, all downhill, with built-in bumps and ramps. My tailbone is sore today, for real!  You have to steer with your feet out in front of you, and hold on to the toboggan behind you.  It was quite a ride, and we went twice!  What’s crazy is that we only had to drive about an hour and a half out of wet, rainy Vilseck to get to Garmisch where there is 5+ feet of snow.

Skis all lined up

Ready to Toboggan! Can you tell who's who?

Coldest part of the whole day was riding the ski lift up up up. Goggles went on immediately after this photo.

We then went to the snow and ice church about an hour away from where we tobogganed in Garmisch. When we bought our tickets (only 5 euro) and prepared to hike up the big hill to the church, the workers at the window asked if we wanted a shot of Schnapps!

looking up at the church from halfway up the hill

inside the church! actually warmer than you might think; no wind.

ice blocks for pews

Elizabeth!

me, duckbill hood and all, walking like an Egyptian

On the way home, I took deep breaths when we drove over 100mph on the autobahn while Wolfgang explained and then quizzed us on how to tell which country and city each car is from.  The thing about the autobahn, though, is that everyone follows the rules.  No one drives in the left lane unless they’re passing someone, and no one passes on the right, no matter what.  Paula said that it was easy to learn to drive (fast) in Germany because there’s no weaving in and out of traffic.  Makes sense.

I got home Sunday night around 8:30 to find out that I have two new nieces!  Elisabeth and Alaythea McGraw, two little twins that I love so so much.  There will be two tiny German somethings coming your way!  And I’m keeping my eyes open for small lederhosen for Benjamin. Can you imagine? So cute.

Alright, blogging is hard. Goodnight, goodnight.

Lovelove,

Kaitlyn

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Prost!

Hi all,

snow!

We had our first snow the other day!  I think I was more excited than any of the kids in my class, haha. The above picture is in my room, facing out one of my windows. I haven’t taken any pictures of the base because I’m not sure I’m really allowed to. :/  I’m gonna wait on that one til I hear for sure if I can or not.

Oh, I have so much to say. My plan was to update weekly, but since everything is still really new and exciting, I find myself wanting to tell you everything. So, I will.

It’s been an interesting transition to introducing these three new things in my day to day: Germany, teaching 2nd grade, and military life.  Let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start, when you read you begin with “ABC,” when you sing you begin with “do, re, mi”…).

As you know, we stayed at Elizabeth’s mentor’s house that first night in Vilseck.  We went to school the next day, all jet lagged and exhausted, and were received with such warm welcomes.  Every teacher, secretary, and administrator at the school already knew our names and literally everyone has gone out of their way to help us get settled. The main secretary took us to get housing on post during the school day (address and phone number in the right hand column of the page, check it!), then took us to Grafenwoehr (another post very close to Rose Barracks) to get military IDs (a very long process) and took us to the giant PX there (think small Wal-Mart without food).  The next day the Vice Principal asked us to put together a list of supplies we need (silverware, pots and pans, towels, blankets, etc.), and today we received almost everything on our list. A very generous community indeed.

One of the teachers that works here, Mary, went to (drumroll…) Truman!  She did her internship at Vilseck Elementary five (?) years ago, went home and taught near Kansas City for a few years, and then was hired back on as a paid teacher.  Crazy, no?  She, Elizabeth and I went out to eat at Zur Post (excellent and somewhat inexpensive German restaurant in Sorghof) where we filled up on Helles and cheese Spaetzle. Yes, it is essentially German mac & cheese, and yes, it is delicious. Are you at all surprised that I found my comfort food this quickly? 🙂  We asked Mary a million questions about Germany, Vilseck, Amberg (where she lives now), her experience with DoDDS, how she got hired, etc. It was great!

     

Zur Post, home of the best (and only) Spaetzle I've ever had

Welcome!

Ok, so TEACHING:

1. The kids are absolutely adorable.  The school atmosphere is similar to American schools, but there are definitely some big differences.  Lots of the kids are from places other than the U.S., which is really incredible.  We are reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret as a read-aloud right now, and the setting is in Paris, France.  We asked, “how many people here have been to Paris?” for an introduction to the book, and at least three-fourths of the kids raised their hands!  They also have slightly different specials, like a Host Nation class where they speak German and learn about Bavarian culture.  Spanish is also taught on Wednesdays, so these kids are crazy brilliant when it comes to language acquisition.  Three languages before third grade! Get with it, U.S. schools; why aren’t we teaching a second language earlier than middle/high school?

2. My mentor teacher is one of the kindest and most interesting people I’ve ever met.  She is from Guam and is married to a man in the U.S. army.  She lives here on base, very close to us, and gives us rides to school every morning. (We only live about 10 minutes from school, but Vilseck mornings are very dark and very rainy-windy. And this genius didn’t pack an umbrella.)  She’s gone above and beyond to teach me her ways, which I NEED to learn because her class is so independent!  She has trained them to know the routine and daily schedule, and in the morning they come in, do what they’re supposed to do, and are on task pretty much all day.  Also, she’s taking Elizabeth and me to Poland to go pottery shopping sometime in the next month or two. Boo ya!

3. So far I’ve been observing, working with small groups, taking them to and from specials and lunch, reading aloud every day, and giving spelling tests.  I’ll start teaching Math full time next Thursday, and then slowly pick up every subject shortly after.  My mentor is very ready to give me some/most/eventually all of the responsibility; she has 19 students (one new kid came just today!) and lots of them have IEPs and are pulled out of the classroom throughout the whole day.  It’s pretty fluid, but still, having so many kids with so many different needs makes running a smooth classroom a lot harder.

Giant double chalk board in my classroom

my classroom. cute, no?

my classroom

our giving tree; the windows behind it go all along that wall, and there is a door towards the end that opens to the outside. so convenient!

Elizabeth and I walked off base and into Vilseck today; it’s about a 2 mile walk one-way, so not too bad unless it’s raining.  Fun Fact: the train station (i.e., the reason we went into town) is closed today for a German holiday.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any Sternsingers at the doors of houses and definitely didn’t buy train tickets to Bamberg as planned… But we did stop at Kreta, had onion and bean soup, and garlic bread with Tzatziki sauce.  Of course we washed it all down with a Helles and a Radler.  Well worth the walk into town, I must say.

German Countryside

our local gambling club. where everybody knows your name!

"Velcome to Feel-seck!"

Germany's Geno's 70's club!

in town

fun buildings! they are not afraid of bold colors on their homes.

at Kreta. Prost!

Next weekend we have Monday off for MLK day.  Off to Prague, or maybe Vienna!

Lovelove,

Kaitlyn

P.S.  Shout-out to my sister-in-law Jessie, who is still so pregnant! I can’t wait to see pictures of my new little baby twin nieces.  Hang in there!

P.P.S. I have pretty stellar and ridiculously expensive internet hooked up in my room (which, by the way, is in the building where they house Officers… Very Nice!) so I’d love to get some use out of it.  Skype me!  Much cheaper than phone calls, ya?

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Do you speak English?

Whew. In Germany!

I’ve just returned from my first German meal (which was actually at a Greek restaurant) (but actually actually it was Italian because I ordered pasta), where I washed it down with a giant Helles. It’s been a long and exciting journey so far!

Our flight from St. Louis to Chicago was horribly delayed, so Elizabeth, Lisa and I were transfered to Logan’s flight.  Although my finger-crossing for a first-class upgrade didn’t pull through, we at least had a direct flight to Munich.  Once landed and through customs we waited for our luggage, and after seeing the same hard red suitcase go around the conveyor belt a good 25 times, we realized our luggage wasn’t gonna show.  The good news is Lufthansa gets your luggage to you quick, so our checked stuff will show up tomorrow.  Probably for the best, though, because immediately after that, Elizabeth and I paired up and tried to tackle getting Euros, putting minutes on our phone, and buying train tickets to Vilseck all in one swoop–all a lot easier to do without giant suitcases. The phone minutes failed (we even had an army dude mess with it on the train later, no luck), but we got Euros and purchased train tickets and off we were! Except not nearly so smoothly.  We did a lot of “ummm, excuse me, do you speak English?” and we got a lot of “of course!” responses.  Almost every German we’ve met so far has pointed us in the right direction, or at least tried to help us figure out where to go.  We had to take three separate trains to get to Vilseck from the Munich airport, and with all maps and signs in German it was definitely a challenge.  At one point Elizabeth and I looked pitiful enough standing at the train station in Munich Central, eyebrows furrowed and faces pink, that someone came up and said, “do you need help, ya?”  Ha!

All was well once we arrived in Vilseck and met up with Elizabeth’s mentor teacher who took us straight to her (absolutely adorable bright yellow quaint freshly built) house where we showered, resisted naps, and went out to eat with her friend and friend’s son (3 year old lover of ice cream, who already knows my name! …except sometimes he calls to Elizabeth and I by saying, “hey teeeachers!”).  So: pasta, giant beer, lots of chatting.

Tomorrow we’re going onto the base and into school to meet my mentor teacher (hooray!) and figure out paperwork, military IDs, and where we’ll be living.

Short and sweet update, but I am le tired and my eyelids are heavy.  Wanted to let everyone know we’re safe and sound and excited to explore more of this town!  More detailed updates to come.

Gute Nacht!

 

 

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Heart of Gold

wanderlust |ˈwändərˌləst|  noun

a strong desire to travel : a man consumed by wanderlust.

I leave in less than one week. EESH!

——————–

Research updates:

  • We (my research professor and I) finally pinned down an Official Research Question before I left KirksVegas for good.  TA-DA:  How do students’ purposes differ when reading for pleasure versus assigned readings?  So, I’m heading in a different direction than I immediately thought.  I found out that I’ll have 18 students in the classroom, but lots of them are in and out of the classroom all day long (special needs, IEP restrictions, etc.)– in fact, I’ll have all 18 kids in the classroom at once for only one hour each day.  So, aside from being a challenge for general every-day-lesson-prep, it also complicates my research.  At first, I thought I would have to include most (if not all) of my students in my sample (bigger sample size = more valid results, right?).  Luckily, with “Action Research,” everything seems pretty qualitative-turned-quantitative (finding patterns in student’s responses and in my daily observations, etc., instead of measuring/timing certain variables) which allows me to work with a much smaller sample.  I can’t really define that yet since I don’t know the students, how the classroom works, or what their reading groups are like, so I’ll have to hold my horses and wait to see what it’s like when I arrive.
  • I have a question, GREAT! Now I actually have to, you know, do some work. The first part of my paper is a literature review, where I basically research what other people have done regarding any part of my research question.  I’ve done a lot of sitting-and-thinking-and-staring-at-my-computer, and what I’ve discovered is this: I really should have started this while I had access to those little cubicles in Pickler.  I am a huge procrastinator in St. Louis!  Making lunch dates and visiting other towns and (oh yes) sleeping in all sound SO much better than reading dense articles. Whew. But I finally got myself together tonight and, after a two-hour nap, began writing. It’s not so bad.

I also got new luggage for Christmas (thanks Momma) and I think I could sleep comfortably in the biggest suitcase, so roomy!  Here’s to hoping I can fit 6 months of necessities (plus some wall art & trinkets; I know, I know, but the need for my room to feel homey and familiar is not something I can just forget) in one suitcase… and here’s to hoping I don’t hate myself for packing so much while I’m lugging it all around the airport.

Still no updates on my address/living arrangements since my last post, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

Oh ALSO, I’m pretty excited to say “auf wiedersehen” while I kiss my mom, dad and sister on both cheeks Heidi-style at the flughafen on Sunday.  One day you’re in (America), and the next day you’re out.

Lovelove,

Kaitlyn

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Hello, world.

Well, here I am, another twenty-something student blogging about her adventures abroad. Boring, right? WRONG.  I’m the most interesting person you’ll ever meet (aside from this guy of course).  Ok, ok, I’m really only of average interest at best, but this new adventure should up my points a bit, eh? I’ve never been abroad before so, seriously, this should be entertaining.

Oh yeah, I’m going to Vilseck, Germany and will be living on a military base with another student my age (wassup, Elizabeth!). I’ll be teaching 2nd graders on the base in Vilseck, which I still don’t know too much about (communicating with my mentor teacher via email with this time difference is insane) but will hopefully know more about soon.  I don’t speak any German (YIKES) and plan on traveling lots (HOORAY).  I’m, oh, you know, excitedscaredoverwhelmednervousanxiouspumpedstokedready… all those expected emotions.  Sort of.

I’m bringing in 2012 with a 13 hour plane ride, so check back for updates in early January. In the meantime, I’ve got to think of a topic to research while I’m there. So far brainstorming has gotten me two weakling ideas: “what happens to my students’ level of engagement with books when I read aloud to them every day?” or maybe something like “how do students respond if I encourage them to reflect on a book through different mediums (draw a picture of how you feel after reading xyz, make a comic, write a song, etc.)?” Whew.

Alright, friendlies, I hope your mid-Decembers are fantastic and full of hot cocoa. :] Goodnight!

lovelove,

Kaitlyn

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