Thursday, January 27, 2011

A day in the life

Lately some of my guys have been doing a project for one of their classes that requires them to take a closer look at their time management skills. The teacher sent them home with a sheet of paper that required them to chart what they were doing every fifteen minutes, for a full twenty four hour period. After completing the sheet they were to have an interesting catalog of how they spent their time.
Intrigued by this, I decided to do the same thing this past Tuesday. While this does not represent what every day looks like, it is a pretty accurate portrayal of a day in the life...

An alarm clock wakes me from my mighty slumber. Groggy and confused at the sound I look at the clock 6:40. I roll back over after realizing the alarm clock was not mine, but from the room across the hall. Back to sleep for a few more minutes.
Doors opening/closing, showers running, the guys are starting to wake up. I'm struggling as this is a sleep in day for me.
My first alarm goes off. My watch takes a daily beating. It is bizarre how the alarm on my watch is fairly quiet yet wakes me up every morning. I locate my watch, give it a good slap, to stop the beeping. This is my version of a "snooze" button.
My second alarm goes off. This time I need to get out of bed. I throw on some shorts, a hoody, and my slippers and make my way out to breakfast.
Being up for breakfast is not required, but it is something I enjoy doing. I enjoy sitting at the table with the guys, striking up conversation about dreams, the recent snowfall, or simply sitting in silence.
Following breakfast I walk up and down my hall to make sure my guys are waking up, getting their things together and preparing for the day. There always seems to be one guy who needs medicine, extra help studying, or a good yank of the covers to get out of bed.
This is my morning time of peace. I like to retreat to my room for a few minutes and get "caught up" on news. I typically visit and to see what is going on in the world. One of the things I miss most about living in the States is being able to read the newspaper on a daily basis. I often feel out of the loop when it comes to current events, so this is one small way of trying to stay connected.
This morning I decided to read an article about the Green Bay Packers. I'm pretty excited they made it to the Super Bowl.
Sitting in the living room hanging out with the guys. We are all a little more awake by this point, so my jokes are appreciated a little more. Sometimes they're not. Regardless of my audience, I know I'm funny. Any last minute studying is done during this time.
The guys head out the door to catch the bus. At Sonne we as staff go outside and give the guys hugs as they walk out. It was a little chilly so I put on my winter hat that resembles a monkey, a wonderful Christmas gift from my sister. The goofy hat generates a lot of laughter and smiles from the guys. I give each guy a slightly different hug, one that evolves over time. The special hugs are similar to a 'secret handshake' you would have with a childhood friend. One of my favorite parts of the day.
Staff meeting. The dorm parents, and three RAs meet together to discuss a multitude of things. Grades, social behavior, menu planning, van runs, discipline issues are all topics on the agenda, amongst many others. Keeping a dorm of 21 students and 5 staff takes a good amount of discussion, teamwork, and planning. This weekend we have a home wrestling meet, but away basketball games, so there is extra planning that needs to happen. Additionally we are doing hot lunch for our guys, so we need to plan for that as well. I generally walk out of the meeting with my own "to do" list that I have jotted down throughout the meeting.
Quite time. I need it. I need focus, prayer, purpose.
Time to take care of the to do list I just created! Tuesday is a day I like to check the grades of the first floor guys. I check to see if there are any classes I should be worried about - any teachers I need to contact, any missing assignments I need to nag about. Unfortunately today is a busier day for me in this regard. So I spend some time emailing different teachers, and set up a few times in which I can meet with the teachers to better help the guys.
I start to prep for a meeting I have at lunchtime. It doesn't take too long, but I need to make sure I know what we're doing, seeing as how I am leading the meeting.
Meeting with the students who are going on the mission trip. I met with the other leaders for a few minutes prior to the students arrival. Today we had to gather a lot of information from the students, such as passport information, travel accommodations and email addresses. We also discussed the current outline of the trip. A lot of details are vague at this point, but we are trying to paint a picture of what it will look like. The team is pretty quiet during the meeting. I asked if this is what we should expect, they laughed and said they would be a lot more energetic and loud during the trip.
I knew I would be at school, so I arranged to meet with a student during study hall. It worked out well that I could combine this seeing as how I was already at school. This was simply a fun time of hanging out, laughing, and sharing. Keeping in touch with students from other dorms isn't always the easiest thing, so I cherish times like this. This particular time was focused on hanging out and having fun. We hadn't connected much since break so it was a good time to catch up.
Back at the dorm and on skype. I love keeping in contact with alumni and had the chance to talk with a guy who graduated last year. He is in Korea right now so the time difference made things tricky but after a few failed attempts we got a time that worked. We were together in Sonne for two years and developed a great relationship. We try to talk once or twice a month depending on our schedules. Prior to this we would talk through landlines, but he finally figured out how to get skype, so we were able to do a video chat which was really enjoyable.
Power nap. A pretty full day so far has left me a little tired. Plus, I ate lunch while on skype so now that the food has settled I am drifting and enjoying a quick cat nap.
Every Tuesday I write a note I title "RA Homework" to the first floor guys. It is a random letter, but also includes a question for the guys to answer. This week I bribe them by stating I'll make a treat for those who answer the question. The guys will be home soon, so I put this together real quick and leave it on their desks.
The first group of students come home! We have a snack prepared for them, and they typically come running in, and hover around the snack table. Today, Chris made some AMAZING guacamole. Chips, guac, and salsa proves to be quite the hit. This hour is spent hanging out with the guys. I spend some time in the kitchen watching PJ cook as he talks to me about his day. He tries to teach me to eat with chopsticks which is an entertaining sight. He is a good teacher, I am an awful student.
Run. By this time some of the guys have gone to their rooms to do homework or take a nap - so I lace up my shoes and head out for a run. I am training for another marathon so I am trying to stay on a strict regiment. Thankfully today is a shorter run so I can squeeze it in here. It's cold outside so I was whining. Running continues to be a break, a joy, a way to get away and be alone for a bit. Running also provides me with time to reflect on the quiet time I had earlier. Running is amazing. I love it.
The rest of the students are back by 6:00 and we are hanging out before dinner. Nothing too structured as dinner will be served soon.
Dinner! Tonight we have "Hawaiian chicken" Some of the guys complain, I find it delicious. Dinner conversation is always entertaining, tonight is no different.
Dinner is over and it is gratis time. Every student has a specific gratis (chore) they do on a daily basis. I have my guys that I monitor and help. Caleb vacuums the first floor so I make sure he does a good job, especially outside my room. He always seems to chuckle when I inspect his gratis.
I escape to my room for a few minutes to catch my breath. Read a few emails, check up on the latest Packers news.
There is a lot of commotion in the hall. Nothing bad, just a lot of horseplay. All the laughter brings me out of my room and I join in for a bit.
Time to stop the fun, and pull out the books. The guys are in their rooms for the next 90 minutes for study hours. I sit in the hall and make sure anyone coming in/out of rooms is studying. Kyle and Ryan sit by me from 7:30-8:30 and work on Algebra homework. The three of us work through all the problems and compare our answers. I am a little rusty on my math, but thankfully I had a good math teacher! From 8:30-9:00 Ryan and Keith sit by my side and I quiz them in German. They have a vocab test coming up and want to be prepared for it. I enjoy putting a funny accent into some of the words, which throws them for a loop.
Freshmen meeting. I pull all of the freshmen (5) into my room for a quick meeting. They all thought they were in trouble. I just needed to explain to them our video game policy. They love playing video games. If only they loved studying as much as they loved playing video games.
Late night snack and hanging out. Nothing too organized so I just float around and join in different conversations with different guys. Some guys are giving David a hard time for spending time with a female friend. I listen, and throw in some jokes here and there. Good time of laughter.
8 minute abs. Not entirely sure why, but my guys have started working out together at night. I join them, and we cram 9 guys into a hall and follow a video made in 1994 that leads us through 9 different ab workouts. I'm not sure what is more entertaining, a work-out video from the mid 90's or a group of guys grunting and complaining.
I come back to the first floor and start the wind down process. Lights out are at 10.30 so I start to get them ready for bed. By 10:20 they are in their own rooms brushing teeth, setting alarms, packing their backpacks for the next day, setting out the clothes they ironed earlier in the day. YEAH RIGHT! At 10:29 I'm still chasing guys around, checking under beds and behind doors trying to make sure everyone is where they should be.
Perhaps my favorite time of the day. I walk into each and every room on the first floor and say good-night to the guys. In some rooms I tell a bed time story, in others I pray with the guys, it all depends on the night. Tonight Caleb and Sunshine get a bedtime story. I honestly can't remember what it was about - but they were laughing and enjoyed it. Caleb will laugh at almost anything I say, which I appreciate.
After my guys are in their rooms I make one last round through the dorm. I check my schedule to make sure I got all my tasks done for the day, help lock up and head to my room.
I head to my room, ready to unwind.
I hear a knock on my door and a senior walks in. He hasn't had the greatest of days and wants to talk about it. I shut down my computer, grab a chair and chat. I talk a little, and listen a lot. I ask questions and offer insight where I feel appropriate. Through the conversation my heart hurts because of his pain and confusion. We come up with a game plan to make tomorrow a better day. I am blessed, encouraged and thankful he feels comfortable to come to my room. I pray our time has been helpful and encouraging.
After he leaves, my bed is looking very inviting. I get myself ready for bed and close my eyes. The last time I look at my clock it reads 12:36. I smile. It has been a good day. I groan. It has been a busy day. I chuckle. It has been a great day, and I get to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

That doesn't make any sense

It has taken me a little while to digest this one, and figure out exactly how to most appropriately present this in a blog.
On my international flight from the States back to Germany a few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to get a seat in the exit row. I didn't realize, until on the plane that my seat was directly across from where the stewards and stewardess sit during take off and landing. It took me by surprise at first, because I am not accustomed to having somebody face me while flying. At first I didn't think anything of it, as I was hoping to sleep and fight jet lag from the very beginning. However the steward sitting across from me had an alternative agenda. Apparently my closed eyes did not tip him off to my intention of sleeping. After trying to politely dismiss myself from the conversation I was reminded of a story a fellow RA shared about her travels to the States a week prior to my flight (See The Spallinger Scoop post titled, "Thomas"). After being reminded of this I began to trust that my seat assignment was not random but rather a divine appointment. With this realization my attitude changed, as did my interest in the conversation.
It was obvious what he did for an occupation, so I couldn't ask too many questions about that. Which left the door open for him to ask me what I did, and whether I was traveling home to Germany, or traveling to Germany for vacation. Unaware of his beliefs I purposely left my answers a little vague to see whether or not he would inquire further, which he did. As he asked about the demographics of the student body I saw this as my opportunity to state what the school stands for, and where most of our students come from. Then came the kicker, he asked whether or not the school paid well - to which I responded, "well, I actually raise support to be there, and through generous donations of family and friends am in a sense paying to be there." Even though we were 6,000 feet in the air, I think his draw dropped so fast, and so far, he hit the earth.
He looked me in the eye and with disbelief said, "You work that many hours, to put up with that many teenage kids, and don't get paid to do it, and still love what you do? That doesn't make any sense!" He offered, and I think he was rather serious, to "beat some sense into me."
To be perfectly honest it was not the first time I have heard the phrase, "that doesn't make any sense" in response to my explanation of what I do. I have yet to fully wrap my head around that response, and am not capable of expressing in words the way in which it makes me feel.
I struggle to see their view point, because to me it makes perfect sense. I simply love what I do. I love where I am and the students I get to interact with. I love having two underclassmen attempt to showcase their strength by wrestling me, only to find out how close they can resemble a human pretzel. I love getting down on all fours to help PJ get to his room, after rolling his ankle. I am sure it looks silly, and sounds bizarre, but we were both laughing the entire way.
I feel encouraged and blessed because I know that I walked off the plane knowing that I was traveling back to a school, and back to a job, that makes so much sense to me, and is a place where I can thrive and thoroughly and passionately enjoy what I do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

They're back...and jet-lagged!

Well we started this semester in similar fashion to the way in which we finished last semester, a lot of airport runs that were complicated by delays, cancellations and missed flights. Yet at the end of the day everyone was where they were supposed to be, and everyone was in one piece. Our first student arrived at the dorm around 10.00 am and the final students came straggling through the door shortly before 1.00 am.
The day in which the students come back is always one of my favorite days of the year. I love sitting in their rooms as they unpack, and watching the unique food, clothes, gifts they brought to the dorm that in some way represent the country they just came from. It is also really enjoyable to be able to sit and hear them tell stories of their break. It seems as though the overwhelming majority of students are actually anxious and excited to be back at the dorm. Though they readily admit they are not ready for school to start! But they are all generally excited to see their dorm brothers once again and to be in a building that has over twenty guys their age. The excitement is contagious and entertaining to watch, that is, until the jet-lag kicks in!
This year more than any other I have been fascinated by the affects of jet-lag. I personally had a few rough nights of sleep as I adjusted back to this time zone - but this semester I have seen more students than I can remember struggling with jet-lag. Part of me attributes it to them having to fall back into a routine...mainly getting to bed at a decent hour and waking up while breakfast is being served, not lunch!
This semester we had a good number of students traveling from the States, meaning they are at least six hours BEHIND if not more. But we also have students traveling from as far east as Korea/China who are at least six or seven hours AHEAD of German time.
While on break it was not uncommon for me to be asked the question, "Do you find it harder with jet-lag going to Germany, or coming back?" The fascinating thing this break is that I am witnessing students where both are represented. We have students crawling into bed at 9.00pm because their body is telling them it is 3.00am. But then his roommate cannot fall asleep until 4.00am because his body thinks it is still 9.00pm. Throughout the week I heard guys waking up around 5.30 and starting to shower and get ready for the day, because to them it was already mid-morning. But for me, and others, 5.30 was a time in which we were just starting to fall asleep!
Overall it has been very interesting and entertaining to witness. Thankfully we are at the tail end of this and it feels as though everyone is pretty much getting adjusted.

It is great to be back, and it is great to once again have a full dorm of guys. This weekend will be pretty relaxed as we settle in and fall back into our routine.

Blessings from Germany!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Headed back

I am sitting in the airport (one of four I will visit) on my way back to Germany. Over the past two weeks I have been able to spend time with my family and have come to once again realize something I have always known...
I love my family. I love spending time with them. I am blessed to have them, and I will deeply miss being around them.