Thursday, June 30, 2011

Livin' with these little monkeys...

Dear All,

we are already approaching our Fourth of July festivities and our much anticipated three-day field trip to Germany's capital BERLIN. The students are very excited, but as teachers we cherish the fact that the students cannot begin to conceive what is in store for them. We have lovingly planned this trip for them specifically, so that we can attempt to show them a substantial part of the city. Unfortunately, like so many beautiful cities, such as New York City, London, or Paris, it is impossible to see everything. On Monday we will host a potluck supper for our families in honor of Independence Day (America has history, too, after all :) ) and in the wee hours of the following morning, we will herd the students into the ICE (Inter City Express) high speed train directly to Potsdam ( , in close vicinity to Berlin City. We will be staying in a youth hostel close to the palace Sanssouci ( of the Prussian King Friedrich the Great ( and appropriately we'll explore the area. These are just some of the plans that are in store for the students -  the full report will be included in next week's post.

Let's take a look at the events of last week. On Friday we offered an optional excursion to the Krefeld Zoo. It is a modest but very fine zoo and we had a wonderful time watching, interacting and petting some of the animals. Sometimes it seemed that the animals were returning their curious stares to the students - one must wonder who was really watching whom? Some of the highlights included some content and well-fed seals, a young rhino with some spiffy soccer skills, tropical butterflies, and, finally, the Ape House.

After the weekend we resumed our sport activities in the city park. All were involved in an exciting scrimage game of soccer (Oh, and we hope that you are aware that the World Cup in Women's Soccer has just begun and is being hosted in Germany this year. One of our students has already had the fortune of attending one of these games), but since it was such sweltering heat, we soon concluded the match and cooled off and rehydrated in the park's Biertgarten. No worries, the students all opted for a much healthier alternative, Apfelschorle, a refreshing combination of apple juice and sparkling mineral water. Once we were sufficiently cooled off, we all boarded paddle and row boats and cruised on the lake and creeks.

Tuesday was an unconventional day. Instead of our usual schedule, the students joined their host siblings in a German school. Yet due to the unusually hot weather, most of them were dismissed by noon - there are no air conditioning units, after all. While the students were out of our keep, we met with the hostparents in a comfortable setting at the city hall, over coffee and a delicious cake. One of our student's host parents are real, traditional bakers in a bakery! We very much enjoyed the feedback of the parents. They had wonderful things to say of the students and focused on exchanging ideas for excursions and family acitivites. We had a wonderful time musing over the students' humble beginnings in their attempts to adjust to the family and German food.

Today, after our regular scheduled activities, we offered another optional trip. Because of popular demand, we once again went swimming. We had a large time swimming in the outdoor pool with the three slides. At one point it began to storm but we kept swimming. It was a wonderful and strange experience.

Well, that is it for now, it s after midnight and there is still more work to do in anticipation of our trip!

Best Greetings from Germany,

Your Krefeld Team.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the Rhine.

Dear All,

we are overdue for an update and this week has been jam-packed with activities. On Thursday we enjoyed improv theater with one of the instructors of the nationally acclaimed youth KRESCH theater. The students were an absolute riot. They simply had no inhibitions as we played out various scenarios. The most common theme of their comedy routine was their take of the French flight crew from our Air France flight via Paris. We had no idea that they had been so observant of French accents and mannerisms. After the workshop had concluded, the instructor approached us to tell us how wonderful the students were and how much fun it had been to work with them.

As you knew from our first entry, we partook in a Rhine river tour downstream to oggle at castles and fortresses and the so oh-so-famous Lorelei. We gathered on a rainy sunday morning and travelled two hours south on a charter bus to board a Rhine river boat that carried us downstream past ruins of fortresses and some of Germany's most recognizable landmarks. The host families were invited along for this first adventure and it was wonderful to engage in getting acquainted with one another so early on in the program. Can you believe it, not one of the natives had ever been on a Rhine river tour? This goes to show how we tend to take the treasures of our own home state for granted everyday - have you ever visited the dunes in Indiana? (

The parents busied themselves with exchanging trip and entertainment ideas for their host children, while the students, along with their host siblings, were to be found on the upper deck taking pictures and having a grand time huddled together in one large group. They laughed and joked and not soon after we had left shore, the rain stopped and the sun cast its light on the river rock. We made our way past the Lorelei, and, you would have laughed, the cameras were "chck"-ing noisily as the giant ROCK moved by. The students found it to be spectacular - moreso than any other ROCK, because they had become familiar with the famous poem. At the end of a comfortable two hours we arrived at the foot of the hill upon which the Marksburg stands. After a group picture we made our way through the old city of Braubach with its quaint and rustic timber-framed houses all the way up the fortress walls. It was a hard hike, but that made the journey all the more rewarding, when we finally arrived on the terrace before the castle. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the fortres walls and made use of the time to check out the goods offered at the gift shop. We then explored the fortress on a guided tour. It was simply spectacular. The mediaeval toilet has since remained a point of great interest among the students. When we finally concluded, we made our way to the parking lot, where our chariot was awaiting our return to take us back to Krefeld (and to bed!). It was a wonderful trip and hopefully the students will remember this adventure fondly.

On Monday we had our first sports day and since the weather was still questionable, we planned an afternoon at the swimming pool. We started off in the indoor pool, comepeting for the title of Best Cannonball. Since there is an outdoor facility with three super slides, we decided as a group to brave the cold and head for the ladders. What a strange sensation to swim while it is raining, but it was hilarious as we catapulted down the winding slides. Our laughter and shouts of MARCO - POLO attracted the curiousity of the locals - we have caused quite stir in these parts. :)

On Tuesday we were invited to the city-hall for brunch with the vice-mayor of Krefeld (Mrs. Meinke. Before we entered, photographers of the local papers took our group pictures in front of the American flag that had been hoisted in honor of our visit. The mayor greeted us generously and took her time in answering all of the thought-provoking and mature questions that the students had prepared ahead of time. We then concluded our visit by signing the city's guestbook to document our visit in the Krefeld archive. We each received books of Krefeld as official gifts from the city. We then returned to our school (which is located immediately next to the city hall) and enjoyed a long break before we started our first session of theater and choir. It was a long but wonderful day.

Today we were off of school for the state sanctioned holiday Corpus Cristi. Many students had made plans with their host families and some travelled to the Netherlands or nearby towns for a short family trip.

Since our arrival the students have enjoyed our original holiday, called Doenerstag, which we celebrate at least once a week. The name derives from the German word for Thursday, Donnerstag, and Germany's most famous fast food, called  a Doener, and marks the occasion when we eat as a group at our favorite Doener shop just around the corner. The students sneak this snack as often as they can, in addition to the Spaghetti ice-cream. Check out the Doener at the following, .

Classes will resume tomorrow and we plan to go to the Krefeld Zoo. Next tuesday the students will join their host siblings in school, so they can gain impressions of the German school system.

We hope this update finds you well and satisfies some of your curiousity. Best,
Your Krefeld Team

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Steps...


Dear All,

we are sure that you are craving some news, so here it goes! We've made it through the first few days and it has been wunderbar! Upon our arrival in Duesseldorf the students suddenly fell silent, with nervous smiles frozen on their faces. It took us instructors a moment to realize that it had gotten quiet - we were suddenly able to hear ourselves think again! Our students had been chatting and laughing non-stop since we had left the States. They were truly great - they immediately bonded over games, snacks and mutual excitement! When we had made our way through baggage claim, we were received by the eager families and our students were quickly whisked away for food and some much deserved sleep!
We met on Tuesday morning at the VHS (our instruction site), to begin our examination. Our students were visibly excited and quickly weathered the examination. They demonstrated such independence and curiousity, so that we didn't even have to bridge the silence by prompting or steering conversation, but answer countless and insightful questions instead! By noon the students were picked up by their families to be shown around the city and partake in family activities.
All of our students arrived early for the first day of school today (Wednesday - Did you know that this name derives from Wodan, another name for the Norse god Odin? Well your kids do now, ha! ) and were already engaged in excited conversations before the instructors even arrived! We were so pleasantly surprised - we had thought that we would be early! After a few announcements (and singing Happy Birthday!) we began our classes. Our students were fully engaged in topics of culture, grammar, conversation and literature. Each student surprised us of their command and complete ease with the language. They operated at a level that we had not anticipated until at least the second week! As teachers who love to share German culture and language, we are incredibly excited for the weeks to come. And I think the students are as well...
When we finally wrapped up our first school day, we took the students on a city tour of 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 in groups on their own (straight for the stores and in search of Spaghetti Ice-cream they had heard so much about!) or made arrangements with their host families. All in all, they all made a very relaxed impression.

Tomorrow we are joining a local improv theater company after school, which was originally intended to "break the ice". Well, the ice has melted a while ago and so, we guess, we are swimming! :)

This sunday the instructors, students and their host families are going on a Rhine River tour to visit the culturally significant Loreley ( and view castles and fortresses that decorate the water banks. We will also be visiting the Marksburg, a fortress straight out of a fairy tale! ( I don't think the students even realize what is in store for them!

Trivia: You may have heard the NBA player Dirk Nowitzki has assisted the Mavericks to recent victory, but there is another German "hero" we will be rooting for tonight. The ice-hockey player Christian Ehrhoff ( will be representing Krefeld in the Stanley Cup finals tonight. So be sure to tune in and cheer on one of our Krefelders!

If you are on facebook, we encourage you to join our official fanpage to view some first pictures.
Good-bye for now and best greetings from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team.