Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Final Countdown.

Dear All,

the last days are here. Last week we tried to jam in as much as we could. Our students insisted on living in denial about the impending departure - they could not come to terms with leaving friends and new family behind. Together, we powered through a busy week, lots of practice for our final recital, finalizing our courses, and as a finale one last, wonderful trip to Cologne.

This trip was marked by our students' independence. They were so at ease with themselves, each other and their language skills. I think, they've all required German sarcasm (believe, it does exist). It was wonderful to watch them.

While in Cologne, we enjoyed a cathedral and city tour. After a short break and snack, we climbed the Cologne Cathedral....500 something steps, you'll have to ask the students, they counted each step. Exhausted and over-heated, we finally made our way back on the ground, where the students did like the natives and jumped into the great fountain behind the cathedral. This was one of our random and unplanned adventures, which turned out to be a total hit.

As a group, we then walked the Roman ruins - an old street, a mosaic, and some city walls. Our students then decided between visiting two museums, The Roman-Germanic Museum and KOLUMBA, the museum of the Cologne Diocese. After a sufficient amount of intellectual stimulation, our students had some free time to explore the city for themselves and do their last minute shopping for souvenirs and gifts for home. Don't be surprised, if your gifts are all from Cologne, ha!

Usually our students enjoy the weekends away from school and teachers, but on Saturday, the host families organised and sponsored a Beach Volley Ball tournament for the kids and their host siblings. The students also made plans with each other and their families, every moment was booked up.

By the time we reached Monday, our students attitude had changed. They now seem prepared for their departure and are looking forward to their return home and seeing their loved ones. They feel secure that their relationships and friendships in Germany will last and that they will visit Germany again.

Tonight it is already time for our Farewell Party at Castle Linn. Our students have rehearsed for many hours to present the host families with a wonderful programm, which they planned themselves as a sincere thank-you. The students also planned an after-party at one of the host parents' house and a pajama sleep-over party for the girls.

The countdown goes,

you missed them. We will miss them.

Until soon, home, in good ole Indiana.


The Krefeld Team

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"I left my heart in Berlin"

Dear All,

our Fourth of July festivities were a huge success. All host families were in attendance and contributed to a gorgeous potluck feast. Even the students prepared home-style dishes and most host parents were careful to honor the colors red, white and blue. It was wonderful to see (and eat). The students serenaded the audience with the American national anthem, some "minimalist" poetry and carols - we really had a large time.

That night our students were supposed to get rest, because we were due at the central train station in the wee hours of the morning, in order to embark on our three-day journey to Berlin. Regardless of the little sleep our students apparently had, they were so excited throughout the four-hour train ride to our nation's capital. It was a blast. Upon our arrival, we first checked into our youth hostel on the Wannsee lake (simply gorgeous, with sail boats and a beautiful view) and settled into our rooms. Soon after, we hopped back on the train on our way into the center of the city and boarded a city-tour bus that took us around the entire city. It gave us a great overview and first impressions of one of the largest cities in Europe. Afterwards, our students had some free time and liberty to explore the area around the Potsdamer Platz for themselves. As a finale to the long day, we enjoyed a show by the Blue Man Group. It was a hit and the students were howling with amusement. Afterwards they confessed that this was one of their favorite experiences in Germany.

The next day, we visited the Jewish Museum (designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, whose design for the Freedom Towers was also accepted as plans for the memorial for September 11th) and it made for one serious history lesson. Our students behaved wonderfully and with the utmost respect and curiousity - nothing else a teacher could ask for. Afterwards, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie, where the students were free to eat lunch and roam about. Afterwards we walked further along the main roads and eventually made our way to the Reichstag (our parliament building), but not before stopping at significant points of interest, such as the newly premiered outdoor installation "Topography of Terror" and the Holocaust Memorial. Finally, we reached the Reichstag and climbed atop the fascinating dome and caught a wonderful view of the city. It was a fortune that we did not have to wait long in any lines, because as we were climbing the dome, the fan mile was already filling with hundreds of thousands of people in anticipation of the Spain/Germany semi-final game. We opted to watch the game near our hostel, but not before we were decked out in German shirts, war paint and flags and twigs of oak trees. We do not have to go into the details of how the game ended - the German octupus Paul had warned us all. There were some (many) tears. At this point, we ought to congratulate our sister program in Spain on becoming the World Cup Champion of 2010.

Thursday was a day of walking. We basically walked about the entire city and sort of let our interests guide us. Just by chance, inspired by curiosity, we enountered one of the best exhibitions (motions and art) we could have hoped for, while visiting the Bugatti store to oggle at the most expensive cars in the world. Afterwards we picniced in the city and eventually made our way to the Berlin Cathedral. This stop was especially interesting to many students, because it was a Lutheran cathedral and not Catholic (at this point, they've seen a lot of Churches) and also houses a crypt beneath it, which is home to several Prussian kings and queens, about whom we've learned in our classes. We also climbed on top of the dome and enjoyed yet another amazing view of the city. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day.

We eventually made our way back to the central station, where we grabbed some "grub" and got on the train. We anticipated that everyone would be exhausted and fall asleep - wrong! They are like Energizer bunnies, they keep going and going and going...

Berlin was truly a wonderful trip and so much fun. Some even said that they left their hearts in Berlin and plan on returning. What a success!

For now we wish you a wonderful time until your kids are back...there is only little time left and the next week will be bitter-sweet, "Parting is such sweet surrow..."

All the best from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team and Co.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hot Summer!

Dear All,

Yep, it's time again. We are currently enduring a sweltering heat-wave, but that hasn't slowed us down.

We started the week off with a classic game of mini-golf - thankfully under a canopy of thick oak leaves and some ice-cream to cool us off. On Tuesday, we planned our regular creative activities, during which time we rehearsed for our small poetry jam and performance of the American National Anthem, with which we plan to grace (why are anthems always the most difficult to sing?) our host families come tomorrow at our slightly-delayed-but-just-as-special Fourth of July party. Perhaps, today, on the 4th, our students are remembering home and missing family and friends with a little less inhibition....

On Wednesday, it was finally time for our long distance field trip to Aachen - our first of three major trips. In our courses, the students had learned about some major historical figures that helped define Europe, most significantly Karl the Great (or Charlemagne, as you might know him) and Barbarossa. The most dramatic venture was to Aachen's Dom/Cathedral and the Schatzkammer (treasure vault). Our students' jaws were dragging along on the floor - they just couldn't conceive the treasures they saw, and to stand so close to Karl himself! It was so wonderful to see the students listen attentively to our (fabulous) tour-guide, take photographs and thoroughly enjoy learning about German culture and history. The students really observed the fine details, too, and independently took note of shell-damage on the outside walls of the cathedral - a sad reminder of World War II. They are really putting the pieces together - a demonstration of their maturity and sensibility for Germany's complicated history. Our trip to Aachen was a wonderful preparation for our three-day trip to the nation's capital, Berlin, this Tuesday.

We can only venture to guess what the students did this past weekend, but our best bet is that it involved ice-cream, water and the World Cup. Once again, our boys (yes, we, like the rest of the nation, claim them to be of us), celebrated a major victory. Yet another four goal game, this time against Argentina. Germany will enter the semi-finals against Spain (our highest competition) on Wednesday, when we are in Berlin. We hope that you will be watching these last two games and cheer on for Germany - it is a comforting thought to watch such a spirited and positive sport, knowing that across the great pond, your loved one is watching, too.

Well, this will have to do for now. There will be lots to tell after our trip to Berlin, but we only want to provide you with the guarentee that your children our enjoying a great time, without robbing them of their stories to tell you when they return home.
We send you the warmest greetings from hot Germany,

The Krefeld Team & Co.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer's here!

Dear All,

we've just about reached the halfway mark, and our students are already heavy-hearted with the thought that our time here must eventually come to an end. We've been busy and time just seems to go by faster and faster, like when one approaches the end of a toilet paper role (ok, this is an inside joke, our students have to explain. Klopapier!).

Gorgeous weather has finally reached Germany, ranging somewhere up in the lower 30 degrees Celsius, but without the humidity that seems to currently be plaguing you folks in Indiana. We've made good use of the weather thus far, and last Monday our students either enjoyed the public pool with mega slides (ok, admittedly, it is no Holiday World), or a classic soccer match at the park. Come Tuesday, we were busy doing our creative activities, which continued through to Thursday. Wednesday night was very important, because Germany played a qualifying match to move onto the next round. Just yesterday, we played a historic match against England, and won 4-1/2. Next up is the match this Wednesday against Argentina . It is so lovely to see that all of our students have really gotten involved in the whole spirit of these World games. We really hope that Germany will endure to the final round, and even more that they will ultimately win the Cup. It would make for such an awesome memory, "Yea, I was there, when Germany won the World Cup in 2010...."

On Friday, we finally visited Castle Linn as a group. We've teased our dear student Lynne for some time, that we would be visiting her castle very soon. So when we finally arrived, our students kneeled before her and she was crowned with a crown from the 1 Euro store. It was all very funny. The castle itself was a the perfect opportunity to apply some of the culture we had learned about. The castle originates from the 1000s, and is deeply marked by significant historical episodes, such as the crusades (Barbarossa), mediaeval culture, the Thirty Years' War, and modern times. Everyone was fascinated, and especially enjoyed climbing the castle tower to enjoy the panoramic view of Krefeld and beyond.

The weekend appeared to have been eventful, many travelled beyond Krefeld to cities such as Hamburg or Muenster, the namesake of Munster, Indiana. Our students are very independent, but value the time they share with their peers and host-families, and so the appropriately manage their own time, by planning trips to the city center, enjoying a public viewing of the World Cup, eating German food (none have been tempted by McDonald's, though everybody seems to be craving brownies!), and much more.

Today, Monday, we enjoyed the weather on the edge of town by playing some mini-golf. Everyone enjoyed the game, even when they semed to rack up the points. Each student played with good humor and were even able to laugh at themselves - it seems they've all overcome their inhibitions, something they had to do from the start in order to fully immerse in German.

For this week, we are looking forward to our field trip to Aachen to visit the Dom, Charlemagne and all the other gothic goodies. It is going to be a decadent feast of historic delights.

Until soon, and all the best from us,

The Krefeld Team and Co.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Busy Kinder!

Dear All,

time seems to just fly by. Yet another week has passed and there is so much to remember. While our students are always busy getting to know their host families better, we also take the initiative to bond as a group of peers and instructors. Though the German National Soccer team has since lost a match against Serbia (but not all is lost - check out tomorrow's match against Ghana), we were still very much elated on last Monday, when we played a friendly game of soccer ourselves. Our teams were appropriately named "Deut" and "Schland" - all in the spirit of getting acquainted with Germany. We also played on the playground (very interesting, since there is a lot of curious and strange equipment there that had to be experienced), rode some paddle boats, hiked around the city forest and ate ice cream in a gorgeous beer garten. The weather was wonderful and no one wanted the day to end.

On thursday, our students joined their host siblings or those of their friends on a visit to a German school. Surely, it must have been a curious experience, but it seems they may enjoy our school just a wee better! :) After all, we are a special bunch and do an entirely different kind of learning. During this time, we instructors had a relaxing Kaffeeklatsch with our students' host parents, just to get some feed-back on the progress of our students. The responsive was overwhelmingly positive and most parents discussed opportunities for joint family activities. We are so proud that our students are described as being polite, intelligent and independent. What else can we ask for? We need not emphasize that during all of this, our students' German skills are constantly improving.

On friday, we had the pleasure of meating the vice mayor at the city hall. We were well received and, in our honor, the city of Krefeld raised a special flag of red-white-blue. Our vice-mayor stressed the importance of the relationship between the US and Krefeld, and Germany in general. Our students represented the US with poise and grace and asked very mature and political questions. Once again, a successful event! We also were in the newspaper, with the title: "The Indians are here!"

After Friday's classes, our students were free to begin their weekend. Most of them ran home just in time to tune in on the (sad!) game between Germany and Serbia. Others opted to join us on an excursion to the zoo. We didn't miss one minute of the game either, since we tuned in via the radio. See, old technology still works! The zoo was absolutely lovely and we even got to feed and touch the elephants.

The weekend activites were filled with many private activities. Some students visited the Netherlands and Roman ruins in Xanten, while the majority celebrated Hannah's birthday at her parents' house. Good times were had by all. We know, we've seen the pictures!

There is still plenty to report, but it will have to wait for just a day. It is late and tomorrow is a school day, ha!

We wish you all the best and can relay the message from all of your children: "We miss you!"


The Krefeld Team.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cup of Good Hope

Dear All,

now it has nearly been a week, and we had some fun these past days. Classes are in full force, and our dear students are fully engaged in topics of culture, grammar, conversation and literature. This weekend has been wisely used to cure our jet-lag, but also to get acquainted with the German culture. At the center of all lies the awesome performance of our German national team in the FIFA World Cup game against Australia in Durban, South Africa (4-0 if you are interested, ha!). Today our students still had smudges of "war-paint" in colors of black, red and gold on their cheeks, and eagerly shared their stories of their screening sessions with their host families and friends. Watching the game is a family affair! We anticipate many more opportunities to spend time together as a new extended family. After our regular courses, we have organized extracurricular activities. On our usual schedule we have creative outlets, like choir and theater, and today we made a special visit to the KRESCH theater here in Krefeld (a theater for and by young actors of Krefeld) to do some improvisational theater. We all had a blast and some full hearted belly laughs. Our students are so creative and know no inhibitions. It really brought us together as a group. Tomorrow we plan to spend the afternoon at the city park to play some sports and do some other nature oriented activities. This is something we've been hoping to do as the weather has been improving. We will update soon with more photos and stories as the week progresses.

We send you the best from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Steps...

Dear All,

we are sure that you craving some news, so here it goes! We've made it through the first 24 hours just fine. We met Wednesday morning (I write this at 1 am on Thursday, German time) at the VHS (our instruction site), to begin our placement examination. It took some time, but while individual students had to undergo the "oh-so-terrifying" oral exam (it was a breeze, our students did great!), the others bonded over some card games, frisbee, and lunch. We, too, partook in some card games and were mightily impressed by our students' communication skills and lack of inhibitions- imagine explaining the rules of a card game in a foreign language! One can call that an accomplishment!

When we finally wrapped up our last formalities, Peter took us on a city tour of his native Krefeld. There were a lot of cameras! Around 3 p.m., we finally made our way back to campus and the students were free to do as they please. Many of them explored the city on their own (straight for the stores, I think!) or had made prior arrangements with their host families. All in all, they all made a very comfortable impression.

Tomorrow we begin our first proper courses and activities. We will soon follow-up with more updates!

If you are on facebook, we encourage you to join our official fanpage to view some first pictures. We will try to find an alternative to facebook if there is a demand.

Best greetings from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team.