Light-hearted Melodies

I apologize for not having blogged last week! Last week was Winter Break and although I decided to stay in Berlin, it was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had up ’til this point.

Before I continue: Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! The start of it was last week, but I had forgotten about it until a friend of mine brought this to my attention. Happy Year of the Rabbit/Cat! This is my zodiac year (the zodiac cycle is every 12 years), which makes it even more pathetic that I had forgotten about the Lunar New Year. For those of you who are not familiar with my family’s traditions: the Lunar New Year is my family’s version of Christmas. And as much as my distant relatives in Berlin cannot understand this, I am absolutely not lonely nor am I missing my family terribly during this time. I think I’ll be ok.

(Inside the cupola of the Reichstag taken in October 2008.)

Fun, superstitious fact pertaining to the Lunar New Year: my Mom once told me that if it’s your zodiac year, it’s bad luck to be far from home regardless of the reason. I think it stretches back to the days when one always lived in the same village/town/city as one’s relatives from the time of birth until death. My Mom told me this the last Year of the Dog (I don’t remember which year, sorry). My Dad was contemplating flying to Vietnam to spend time with my Grandmother because everyone thought she would pass away that year. My Mom was worried that he had to travel so far during his zodiac year and explained the significance to me. Hhhmmm…I just realized something. My Dad was originally born in Vietnam. Technically, he would be traveling “back home” if that had been the case. Is bad luck still involved?

In any case, I wanted to tell this little story because I’m apparently far from home this year. Here’s hoping that bad luck from this superstition has disappeared due to globalization!

I’ve been wanting to share some sweet moments that have occurred during some of my classes in the past few weeks. I’ll make a list!

1. The 9th graders absolutely love the song, “Billionaire”, by Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars. It’s a great song with a slow rap that doesn’t include any swear words (at least in the “clean” version). I played it for the 9th graders when U was sick and I was substituting. It was a stretch, but we were covering future occupations in the class and I thought, “well, this song is quite whimsical in the idea of ‘I wanna be a billionaire’, but heck, I’ll go with”. They, of course, all knew the song and we ended up singing and rapping together as a class. This was back in December. When the new semester started, they begged U to sing the song but U didn’t have a recording of it, especially since I was out sick. I brought my USB drive to class mid-January and the students sang and rapped along while U and I chuckled. Here’s the best part: the 9th graders choreographed the song in 10 minutes and performed it for U and me. How many of your students suddenly choreograph a song during your English lesson and perform it proudly? Needless to say, I love this class.

2. When asked a refresher question about the story the 6th graders had to read before Winter Break, the student I work most with, P, raised his hand. Pleased that he was being more confident with his English, A called on him. “What did they do at the park, P?” A asked him. “They are going to picknicken (to picnic).” He proudly answered. The class, A and I absorbed the answer for about 5 seconds. We all then bursted out laughing (please note that we did not laugh at him, but rather at his answer, and P knew this well enough). P became confused and asked what he said (he basically translated the sentence word-for-word from German to English) while we all continued chuckling. The student next to him, one of the brains of the class, whispered to him, “P, it’s ‘they went on a picnic’. There’s no picknicken in English. That’s German.” A was very humored and warmly told him that we all understood what he meant.

3. This past week was my first with the 8th grade class A teaches. Due to scheduling changes with the 10th grade class, A asked me if it would be ok to continue coming in during this period but help a different class. I obviously readily agreed. A allowed the class a Q&A session with me for the first twenty minutes in order for them to get to know me (I only did this once before, and that was with B’s 5th graders). I was excited because it was my second one with students and knew that they would ask me interesting questions. One of my favorites? “Do you like Germany?” one girl asked me. “Oh, I absolutely LOVE Germany!” I answered in typical American fashion. The students all then paused (they had been rapidly firing questions at me for about 15 minutes already). A and I became confused at their sudden taciturn behavior. “What’s the matter?” A asked? The same student immediately raised her hand. “Yes?” A asked her. “But…why???” she asked me in a disillusioned tone. “It’s just so…cold here..and..and…” A realized the problem and smiled. “Are you so surprised that Americans would like a different country so much?” A asked. The girl nodded but then quickly added that Germany was so boring compared to America, and the weather was especially disheartening in Germany too. A and I laughed at that. The students also perked up when I told them a few minutes later that I could speak German. One of the other girls came up to me after class and wanted to know how well I could speak German. She spoke to me using the formal “You”, and I had to immediately stop her and tell her that she must address me in informally. Furthermore, she had to tell the others too. I think the students may enjoy speaking to me in an informal way. I’ve called some of them out in different classes too. I don’t like the idea of being called Frau Nguyen and having students who are a bit like younger siblings to speak to me as Sie (informal you). It’s weird.

Sorry for the long entry! I hope it more than makes up for my absence last week 🙂

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