A Hot, Bureaucratic Mess and the Best Students in the World

Brandenburger Tor Fall 2010

The above picture is of the Brandenburger Tor taken last Saturday. I finally ventured out to the middle of Berlin and saw the Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, Spree (the river that runs through Berlin) and the Berliner Dom last week. The visit was extremely brief and surprisingly enough, I remembered my way around (I went with a newfound friend, Katie, who was also kind enough to go to the Jason Derulo concert with me last Thursday night). I guess that’s what happens after seeing the sights 3 times already?

Last week was a good week in that I was stressed for two days and then just didn’t care anymore after a few factors. The stress stems from the bureaucracy I have to deal with. Unfortunately, the Fulbright Kommission and the PAD don’t have a certain officer at the Aliens Department who handles the teaching assistants’ visas. I called several times and was on hold for 15 minutes at one point…*sighs* I don’t want to dwell on this issue seeing that I’ve had a cold since Friday night but here’s the long story short: just go directly to the Aliens Department, get a number, wait in line for 4 hours and get the stupid visa. E-mailing and calling won’t do any good because they don’t answer e-mails and never pick up any of their phones. Even my school called and didn’t get anything. Needless to say, I have a great ally in the school. Jens K√∂gler, the head of the languages department at my school, is really my bureaucratic ally. He was my contact while I was still in the US and was the one who was sincerely angry and frustrated on my behalf due to the visa issue. Oh…I didn’t mention: some of the banks required that I have a visa in order to open up an account. Well, the nearest Deutsche Bank branch demanded that. The other Deutsche Bank branch I went to was extremely busy so I didn’t even sit down with any of the personnel. The Sparkasse bank wanted to charge me a banking fee because despite the fact that I am under 27 years of age, I was not a student at a German university and so could not qualify for free banking. This is utterly ridiculous considering many of my friends in other German states have been able to open up a bank account no problem without even showing proof of admission at a university. Furthermore, the Fulbright Kommission told us that we shouldn’t open up a bank account if the bank chooses to charge us the regular banking fee because every person under the age of 27 in Germany has the right to free banking. Riiiiggghhhttt…

As for the good news of the week: my students are absolutely wonderful! I haven’t helped teach all the classes I’m assigned to yet, but the classes I’ve been in have all been absolutely lovely. It’s not hard to pinpoint a favorite class at this point because I’ve had more interaction with the Leistungskurs, the mixed 12th and 13th grade class, where the students have chosen English as one of their major subjects to test in for their Abitur (the test that all German students take at the end of their high school career. At least the Germans who are at Gymnasium, one of the four different high schools in Germany.). The Leistungskurs usually is one grade level (12th grade, and another class for the 13th grade). However, my school is so small, that there’s just not enough students to form two classes. Hence, a mixed one.

The Leistungskurs is my utmost favorite class because of the level of the students. What have I been doing with them? U, my mentor teacher, has me sit with the two best and most arrogant students in her class (no joke, she told me this), and has me discuss points from the book we’re reading (by the way, the book is Falling Man by Delillo). The book follows an estranged couple through their post-reactions to the 9/11 attacks. What have we really talked about? Politics. The two students are so articulate and intelligent in their discussions about the 9/11 attacks and how terrorism has affected international relations, that I have to ask myself: why am I even here? I’ve told them that twice now. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit this but their ability to talk about politics in English surpasses my German ability to do so.

Great week juxtaposed by German bureaucracy and my absolutely amazing students. Hhhmmmm…am I allowed to already call them my students?

P.S. I know I broke the promise of posting an extra…well…post, but I’ve been sick with a cold and have had little energy for anything else besides bureaucracy and school. I will keep that promise, though, and post something that is actually a bit more light-hearted!

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