Thursday, August 25, 2011

They're back!

Everywhere you look...there they are - and I have absolutely no complaints. The students have made it back to campus as school started up this past week. On Monday campus was flooded with new students and their parents, while the returning students joined them on Tuesday for our opening ceremonies.

Monday proved to be quite a busy and hectic day for me and my fellow guidance counselors. I showed up to work shortly after 8.00 to make sure I had everything in order and was ready for the big day. There were a few random tasks here and there to take care of in the morning, but mainly it was prep time for the afternoon. Starting around 11.30 I had a few students trickle into my office wanting to make changes to their schedule. Before I had the chance to breathe it was 6.30pm and we had finally changed the last schedule of the day! At that point I went home and quickly made dinner, only to return to school an hour later for an "open house" in which parents had the opportunity to walk through their child's schedule and meet the teachers. Naturally a few parents drifted up to our offices and we once again worked on schedules. Finally around 9.30 I walked through the door, home at last. It was a really busy day, but a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of students, and finally put a face to the schedules I had been working on.

Tuesday we had our traditional opening ceremonies. One of my favorite days of the year. The day begins with the seniors parading into the auditorium, each carrying a flag of a country that is represented by students and families of our school. Following a "charge" to the senior class, residence life staff, and faculty staff, we have the "roll call of nations." One individual calls out all the nations represented by students/families and then the students stand up as their nation is called. This year we have 53 different nations represented. It is moving, inspiring, and encouraging to realize how many different countries are represented, and how many different areas of the world people are working to spread The Good News.

Wednesday and Thursday brought a little normalcy to school as students started to settle in. The guidance department remained busy patching up a few schedules and rearranging a few classes. I had a few students come in this morning with tears in their eyes stating, "I lost my schedule and don't know what class I'm supposed to be in. Can you tell me?" So I quickly printed them a new schedule and pointed them in the right direction. The school is not massive, but it is a good reminder of what a huge step this is for so many students. New country, new dorm, new school, new teachers, new classes.

Throughout the week I have been blessed to have so many of my Sonne guys stop in the office just to hang out. On the first day of school every single senior stopped in at one point or another to sit and talk and catch up. I had to laugh at one of them because it was the first day of classes, and he was already asking me if I could write him a pass because he was late for class. I wrote a note, and got him excused, but don't worry it was legitimate!

It has been extremely hot here this past week - so we have been doing everything possible to stay cool. Sunday-Wednesday it was above (33c) 90+F every day. Thankfully last night a storm blew in and brought with it some cooler temperatures. Of course, it is still in the mid 80s, but it feels nice. German weather is so bizarre.

Hope you enjoy some pictures from the opening ceremonies. I admit, I did not take any of these, I am borrowing them from friends. So thanks to all you who posted them on facebook for me to take!

Tommy




Thursday, August 18, 2011

As mentioned in my previous post I am no longer living in the dorm and am living in an apartment in town. It is definitely a bit different than the dorm but I am learning to enjoy and appreciate the differences. I have continually told people that the transition is, bittersweet. There are things I desperately miss - though I have occasionally found myself saying, "I am glad I don't have to do that anymore."
With the permission of my roommate I figured I would give you a little "tour" of the place. Our Haus is about a 7 minute walk to the school - which is amazing. So every morning I have been enjoying the few minutes, and the brief exercise on my daily commute. I had to laugh the other day, because as I was walking down the main street there were more pedestrians than normal - so I chose an alternate way to avoid the "morning rush." A 7 minute commute is a huge blessing.

This is a picture of the outside of our building. I live on the 3rd floor - so we are at the very top. From this angle you can see our sky-lights. The one that is open, is right above me as I type. I have my computer under this window to get some fresh air while at my computer.



Here you can see half of our kitchen. Our table isn't huge, but it will seat a few students who are looking for a good home-cooked meal during the week.


And this is the other half of the kitchen...(notice the magnet on the fridge!)


We also have a nice living room - a futon that will certainly see a few guests throughout the year and a nice little couch on the opposite side of the room...



I have enjoyed being able to put up pictures throughout the apartment. A lot of the pictures on the walls are pictures I have taken - which is enjoyable for me to have displayed. While the apartment is not huge, it suffices. It is comfortable and enjoyable. We share a bathroom yet have our own bedrooms. There is not a ton of space but we envision having people over often, whether students or coworkers.

This is a picture of my room. You should all be proud - I did NOT clean my room, or make my bed just for the picture. This is what it looks like most of the time! I cannot stand a messy room, so I am pretty meticulous with it. Though not completely visible with this picture, I have A LOT of pictures of friends and family on my walls. It is important for me to display my friends and to be able to visibly remind myself of good memories, and people I truly love.


Lastly, a view from my bedroom window down the street. I felt this would give a good idea of the German streets (small and skinny), as well as my immediate surroundings , and the typical German weather (overcast).


And finally - some may think that two males living in an apartment rely on frozen pizzas, paper plates, and cereal. While I am not quite ready to host my own cooking show - I enjoy cooking and can handle my own in the kitchen. Over the weekend I had some chicken and was pondering what to use to compliment the chicken. After some thought I had an idea, walked to the grocery store and an hour later was pulling my chicken enchiladas out of the oven. I made enough for dinner one night, and lunch the following day. They were very tasty, in fact some would even be bold enough to say they were deee lish.



There is always a place for you to stay if you want to come and visit!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hi-ho Hi-ho it's off to work we go...

The students are not back yet, but there is still plenty of work to be done before they come. The Residence Life staff have been back for close to two weeks and are furiously working to make sure everything is in order. Meanwhile the teaching staff (of which I am now a part of) are busy at school making sure all the I's are dotted and the T's crossed.
While I am preparing for my fourth year here in Germany this year has proven to be very different in that I am in a new role. I have been caught off guard a bit because I am back in a village that is familiar yet at the same time it feels more foreign than it did when I left. I am living in an apartment in the heart of "downtown" Kandern (I will blog about my apartment in a week or two.) and am enjoying the thrills of getting that set up and setting a foundation.
I had a few days here before I went into my new office so each day I took on one task. Though it may seem odd to have only one task on the "to do list" when operating in a foreign country one is enough. One day was all about groceries, one day was banking, one transportation, one for the apartment, etc. Thankfully I was quite successful with my adventures and feel as though I have been productive and taken care of all the odds and ends.
As soon as I felt good with that, it was time to tackle the job. This year I am moving to the academic side of life here, and will be one of three guidance counselors. My role will be varied and will look different every single day. Some days I will be bunkered at my computer emailing parents and fixing student's schedules. Other days I will not touch my computer and will have students coming in looking for help with their applications, recommendation forms, class schedules, etc. This year I might even have the opportunity to enter the classroom every now and then as a "guest speaker" on a variety of topics.
Regardless of what the day holds - I am in that role with the intention of being an advocate/mentor/friend/brother to the students. I am excited to be in the role and feel as though it will be a very good fit. My office is in a great locations, where I can see everyone who walks down the hall. Therefore my door will be wide open and always welcoming to any passerby looking for a conversation, or a small piece of candy.
So far this week I have been doing my best in acclimating to the new and different demands of the job. Each morning I sit down with my supervisor and we talk for an hour or so and discuss certain "issues" I may face on a daily basis. After our conversation he releases me to my office, where I go and work on what we just talked about. So far I have learned how to check graduation requirements, class schedules, and four-year plans. Today I was adjusting schedules and hoping to make them mirror the student's request. I have had fun moving the classes around and have viewed it as a puzzle, or as some may understand; a game of Rummikub. I sit there and say, "Okay if I move Algebra 2 to 4th period I can move Chemistry to 5th, but then need a place to put US History..." It was quite enjoyable, but after doing that for the entire freshmen and sophomore classes, my head was hurting a little bit.
Of course, right now it is not all work, there is a little time for fun and games. I have joined a local soccer team and am training with them a few times a week and hoping to play in the games over the weekend. We are still trying to figure out how to get a German player's card, but hopefully that will come soon. Perhaps a longer blog about this experience will come in the future.

For now, I am going to work on putting together some home-made posters for my office. Right now the walls are ghostly white. It's pathetic. I simply don't have anything to put up. I found a few of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes, as well as some classic strips from the comic, "Calvin and Hobbes." While on my way to soccer tonight I had the thought of putting up a "question of the week" for students to answer. An example might be; "Who was the first person to break the four minute mile?" If you have any good trivia questions, or fun facts for this portion of my wall please email me.
Of course, I am working on getting a big Green Bay Packers flag to hang above my desk. I need to make sure everyone is reminded of who won the Super Bowl last year!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Safe arrival

I am happy to say I have arrived back in Germany in one piece. To be perfectly honest, it was a pretty smooth and harmless journey back. My total travel time was just over 15 hours, but that is not too bad. Thankfully all of my luggage arrived and the lady at the check-in counter did not charge me extra even though my suitcase was over the weight limit by a few pounds!
I have spent close to 5 hours this evening unpacking and moving in to my new apartment. It is taking a lot of work, but it is looking good. I am definitely one of those people that needs to get everything arranged and organized before I feel at peace. However, the Church bells from across the street just chimed, (as they do every hour!) telling me it is midnight here. So I am going to call it a night and head to bed.
Thanks for everything! I will write more next Thursday, if not over the weekend.

Tommy