Monday, September 27, 2010

more vlog!!

That's right, I've done it again! When will it ever end, you may be asking yourselves.

Who knows.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Music classes in Germany

So Yesterday I got to spend my morning observing two 7th grade music classes.

The first one I went to the teachers described as "praktisch" or "practical". In my opinion, it was more history-based. They started the lesson by singing a couple songs together - warming up, they're teacher told them. I noticed they didn't really discuss anything about the music they were singing, no looking at the meter, discussing the repeat signs, they just sang. To begin the actual lesson, they a cartoon drawing of 9 composers in a room, each with a defining characteristic. For example, Bach was surrounded by small children, beethoven had a hearing aid, Mozart was a small child at the piano, Schubert had a thought bubble of a man on a horse with his child (Erlkönig, anyone?), and Wagner was dreaming of an opera singer (besides, Wagner is incredibly recognizable, even in cartoon format). As a class they went through those, discussing why it was each one, which composers were grouped together (e.g. Bach and Handel were classical), where they lived (this was my favorite, because they were all cities the children actually knew! and some very close to the area... we're about 30 min Bayreuth), and what each composer was known for (church music, symphonies, piano music, etc).

After this review, the teacher explained that they would learn more about the Classical and Romantic periods in 8th and 9th grade, but in 7th grade, they would focus on Baroque. They listened to a typical Baroque piece and named the instruments they heard. When they got to the blockflöte, more commonly known to English speakers as the recorder, the teacher whipped one out to show them and busted out the piece they had just heard on it. I was impressed. They talked about why most music was composed in the Baroque period, where it was performed, who heard it, etc.

At the end of the class the teacher announced the school Big Band needed new members to replace those who had graduated. Who plays Saxophone? Who plays drums? Guitar? Trumpet? Trombone? Some of the kids had been playing their instrument for 4 or 5 years already (keep in mind they were only 7th graders) and when someone only had 1 or 2 years of experience the teacher would simply tell them, "oh, that's not enough, you can join in a year or two."

My second music class was again 7th graders and described to be more "Theoretisch" or "theoretical". When the teacher told me this, she seemed sure that I would not want to sit in on it. I had to explain to her that I had studied music in college and any sort of music class here, I would find very interesting. So I took my seat in the back of the class.

The lesson was 6/8 meter. They also warmed up by singing a song (in 6/8 of course), then the teacher began taking volunteers from the class to keep beet on various instruments. First just the dotted quarter beat on a tam (which I learned in German is still "tam" or "tam tam" or "aufhängende Tam" if it is on the drumset). After the class sing through with this new emphasized beat, a quarter-eighth quarter-eighth rhythm was added on the tamborine. 4 or 5 kids gave that a go before one of them could actually keep it consistant with the added singing. They did this exercise for maybe 20 or 25 minutes switching out different kids on all the instruments. Only afterwards did the teacher give an actual explanation of what 6/8 time was. They discussed why it wasn't the same as 3/4 even though it had the same amount of notes in it. then they reviewed the value of the notes: eighth, quarter, dotted quarter.

At the very end of the lesson, they discussed how a conducter would show 6/8 time to the ensemble. First the pattern in 6, then the pattern in 2 (with an explanation as to why it would need to be in 2)

So those were my music classes yesterday. Hopefully I'll be able to visit a few more through out the year. It's always very interesting. I also hope I'll get to sit in on some orchestra or big band rehearsals.

my first photo-shoot

I know I promised an update about the music classes first, but this was too strange... I had to post it!

I had to get some passport photos today so that I could get my visa to stay in Germany past the normal 90 tourism limit. Normally there are just photobooths all over that you can pay €5 and get your 4 passport photos. Well, does Forchheim have such advanced technology? Of course not. So I had to an actual photo shop and get a pack of passport photos made for €12! The price, however, is not what was so weird about the experience. So the first big difference that I noticed was there are several different types of "passport photos" because the ones for actual passports and IDs and driver's licenses all have a different format. The one I wanted was "biometrisch"... Not really sure what that means/translates too.

To give you a basis of comparison for this next part, let me tell you about all my passport photo obtaining experiences in the states:

I go to Sam's (where it's usually cheapest), they stand me against the closest white wall, take a picture, format it to the right size on the computer, and print it out. The end.

My experience this morning, however was much different:

I told them I wanted my biometrisch passport photos and they take me over to the shooting area. it was a little niche, but with very professional lighting, back-drop, tripod camera, etc. As soon as I sit on the stool, a woman came up to me with powder make up - "I'm just going to give you a little powder" - and proceeded to powder my face. Around the nose, forehead, chin, on the nose.... I felt like I was getting ready for news broadcast. Then another woman comes over to take the picture. "keep your shoulders back, now bring your head forward. No shoulders stay back. Look a little to the left, too much! now tilt your head to the right... ok, no smiling, look relaxed. relaxed. stay relaxed" She snapped three quick pictures then went over to the machine to format them down to size. Oh right, and completely edit my face. She's starts editing the picture, changing the lighting in places, smoothing out my skin... AND REMOVING MY FRECKLES! Legit. She pressed a button and BAM no more freckles. Now, no kid ever wants freckles when they're little; they're to the kindergartener what braces are to the 7th grader. But by the time you're 23 and you've lived through the childhood of torment, and relived the torment when South Park told the world about "gingers" and "day-walkers", they sort of become a defining part of you. Yes. I have a lot of freckles. They may look like specks of dirt, they might be evidence of my lack of soul, but they are part of me! But for the year, to the German foreign department, I will be Emily Gauld, freckleless.

Finally, after all the beautifying, posing and editing I got to take my pictures go get my visa.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Schon wieder?!

OMG! Another VLOG post?! Can you handle the excitement?

trust me, if they keep coming out at this rate, you'll be over it soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Liebe Grüße aus Starbucks

Hello everyone, from beautiful Starbucks in Erlangen. What makes this Starbucks so beautiful? Free wifi!! Woo hoo! So I thought while I was here, I would give you, my adoring fans, a quick update on my weekend... :D

As is apparently the life of a Fulbrighter, I have had so much free time! I was at school for a grand total of 5 hours this week. Tough, I know. Since I had Friday off, I met some friends in Nürnberg. Total, we were 5 Fulbrighters from around Bavaria (mostly between Nürnberg and Bamberg). We spent the day just walking around the altstadt, walked through a fall market, and had a few beers on the city wall! It was really not all that productive or constructive, but I have a feeling it won't be my last time in Nürnberg. And the important thing was we enjoyed ourselves :D

On Saturday I met my friend in Erlangen to use internet and take care of the business side of things and work on some Fulbright paperwork to be sent in. Afterwards, I headed to another friend's apartment outside the city for Funfetti cupcakes and dinner. Funfetti, it was like a taste of home! One of the girls had gotten it from her parents and brought it to share the joy with us. It was just a nice evening in with friends, nothing too crazy! Unfortunately, I didn't get back to Forchheim till about 12:45am and had to walk the mile or so home from the train station in the freezing cold! You think it would wear you out by the end of the night, but really it just wakes you up... a brisk walk in the 40º weather.

Today I spent the late morning walking around Forchheim, checking out some of the points of interest. The weather is just so beautiful right now, it was nice to walk around and soak up some sun. According to my teachers, the sunshine won't last much longer. Now I'm back in Erlangen getting my internet fix for the day with a couple friends (some of whom also don't have internet at home).

I also had such a great response the vlog that you can definitely expect more to come (and probably soon if I don't find anything productive to do with my free time!)

I'll do my best to be as interesting as possible before my next post :D

Friday, September 17, 2010


So I made an awesome vlog (video + blog = vlog) for you guys!! Check out by clicking the link below...

Monday, September 13, 2010

First impressions of Forchheim

I hate to disappoint, but if I don't give you the abridged version of my first weekend in Forchheim, you would all probably hate yourselves by the end... nobody wants to read that much and I don't really want to type that much.

I'll just let you know that, although she was almost 45 minutes late picking me up, my land lady got me from train station on Thursday (yes, the main train station that only has 4 tracks!) and brought me back to the apartment....

Ahh, the apartment.

It's actually pretty big. Unfortunately it looks like the 1970's threw up on it. I've already been to Ikea, so my room looks like it might actually come out of this century, but the rest still needs work! (Hey, have you seen the pictures?! Check them out to get the full experience: PICTURES!) Here are some highlights from the apartment (you can find PICTURES! of all these):
  1. American flag bed sheets! I actually slept in that bed for 3 nights. I've never felt more patriotic.
  2. the world's tiniest shower. But THANK GOD there's a bath tub... right... don't you always take baths???
  3. Slanted ceilings in every room. You can't actually walk all the way to both ends of any room standing straight unless you're about 2 feet tall.
  4. the fact that the oven is kaputt (that's German for broken.)
  5. (My personal favorite:) The barbed-wire toilet seat. There are no words, you just have to see the pictures.
When I got there, my land lady told me I pick from one of two rooms and said the middle room would just be empty. Well... my choices were
  • room with big bed, horrible desk, no way to rearrange, door to the patio, but no real way to decorate
  • giant room with 2 twin beds, the world's ugliest couch (seriously), pretty nice desk, but just too big to work with.
So I peak in the middle "empty" room to find a cozy room fully furnished with a nice desk, great storage space and a sky-light type window on the slanted ceiling. I wanted that room! So after 3 nights of crashing in the super giant room I finally just ask my land lady "is it ok if I take the middle smaller room?" You would have thought I asked if I could trade her soul for chocolate. She could not understand at all why I would possibly want the smallest room. I tried to explain that it was just more comfortable for me and I didn't like living in a giant room. I feel like she doesn't trust me anymore because I like small rooms.

But I do love my little ikea'ed middle room! It's working out pretty nicely!

Today I had my first day at school. School actually starts tomorrow, but today was the welcome back teachers meeting. Yeah, one day before students come back, the teachers decide they should show up too. The meeting was in teacher lounge and I was quickly reminded of the German's need for order - my mentor teacher had to help me find a seat because everyone had "their" seat and you can't just sit there (mind you none of these seats are actually assigned, they just always sit in the same place). We got there almost 30 minutes early so there was a lot of meeting people, shaking hands and saying "yes, I do actually know German." I ended up sitting near and talking to a couple new teachers/referendar[in]

HEY! what's a Referendar? Well, in Germany, to become a teacher, instead of 1 semester of student teaching, you have to go through 2 years as a "probationary teacher" or a "referendar" (and if you're a female - "referendarin"). Meaning these people are usually younger and right out of Uni (that's basically a Europe-wide way of saying "university")... hey, like me!

I wasn't following the meeting completely because 1. it was hard to follow without being familiar with their educational system and 2. my teachers gave me their text book to look through. I think the text book deserves a post of it's own. I'll give you just this one example:

if you're traveling to the UK or the USA, you'll meet lots of people in many different situations. Both countries and their people are considered very polite. This means they are often less direct that the Germans.

The English are famous for 'understatement'. here is an example: (there's a picture of a wooden bench)

Accurate description: A very hard, uncomfortable bed.
English understatement: the bed is a little on the hard side

the section goes on to explain small talk, which is a completely foreign concept to Germans.

At some point in the meeting, I noticed they started announcing students names then going through their grades "English: 3, Math: 4, Latin: 4 - they passed" (oh, btw, in Germany 1 is the best grade you can get and 6 is the worst, 4 is passing) I missed the whole who and why part, but I thought it was an interesting technique. They went on to announce students by name who did not pass on to the next level, students who left the school, and students that would probably need extra attention...

at 5 there was a short break, so they let me leave. I don't have to go to school tomorrow, because it will probably just be a lot of meetings, rule readings, etc. So my first real day will be Wednesday, then I just observe for the first week or so before diving. At least I'm pretty confident in my abilities to speak English, if nothing else.

Friday, September 10, 2010


oh you silly German language, you! Einführungstagung is how you say "orientation"... and that's where I was at the beginning of this week!

About an hour after the last post I did wake up, get dressed, packed and caught a cab to the bus that took me to the airport that took me to Germany. Oh, but there's more. Once in Bremen (the city I flew to) I had to get from the Airport to the train station. Of course I take the tram. But even though I planned on buying my ticket from inside the tram, I couldn't figure out the system there, so I just rode the tram without buying a ticket (what, in German, is known as "schwarzfahren") The very first thing I did when I got to Germany for my Fulbright year? Schwarzfahren. But I made it to the train station undetected, and bought my train ticket to Köln where we were meeting to take the bus to the orientation hostel.

At the meeting point, there was already a pretty sizable group of Fulbrighters gathered around. As new people came up we played the same game of "What's your name? Where are you from? Where will you be teaching?" I met a lot of people and forgot a lot of names. Our hostel was sort of church affiliated deal, connected to a Cathedral. I really knew I was in the right place when, during the opening remarks, the director assured us that the "strict no alcohol policy" would be lifted for our visit before even going over the schedule for the week. We were divided into rooms based on Geography, so that our roommates and hallmates were all people who would be teaching in neighboring cities. My roommate happened to be a girl I met right away in Köln. The best part was, we pretty much bonded right away because she had also spent a year for study abroad in Zurich a year or two before me! Swiss German runs deep.

Over the next two days we were divided into groups based again on Geography. It was nice to get to know all the people in your area, but was also helpful because the schools vary slightly from state to state. It was pretty amazing, though, how most the people I really started to get along well with were those also from Bavaria. What can I say, we're a special breed down in the south.

We spent our days learning about the German school system, speaking with former Fulbrighters, learning how to teach, and actually getting a chance to "teach" a class (of our peers pretending to be German students) ourselves. And every night they brought in German beer and wine (we had to pay for that though, but it was only like 1 euro for a half a liter!)

Overall it was a really positive experience. I feel a lot more comfortable about working in a German school and more prepared to teach them. I also really enjoyed getting to know all the other Fulbrighters and comparing stories, concerns, experiences, etc. It's nice knowing everyone is basically feeling the same excitement and apprehension

I'll post more tomorrow about my arrival in Forchheim and the new apartment. Suffice it to say an emergency trip to Ikea is in store!

Monday, September 6, 2010

British English

I decided to really concentrate on practicing my British English whilst enjoying all that Edinburgh has to offer.

Don't forget to get the full blog experience by following along with the picture commentary posted: HERE

I have had an amazing 2 weeks here in Edinburgh visiting my friends from Zurich and am very sad to see it have to end. Post-my-last-update, things have been more or less calm. After the fancy party (interesting to see a high-end Edinburgh flat, but awkward to be the guest of the girlfriend of the child of a guest...), we went out in the city to meet people for drinks. Although, it was supposed to be a pub crawl, after standing in our heels all evening, Shahida and I abandoned any plans that implied movement and decided to stay at a whiskey bar so I could try my first authentic Scottish whiskey. I'm really a hard liquor person, and especially not whiskey, but I could definitely appreciate the two whiskeys I tried. However, I don't think I'll be picking up the habit anytime soon.

On Sunday we slept in late and went to the castle in the afternoon. Of course the weather was amazing -- as it has been the entire time I've been here -- so we took our time enjoying the castle and the many different museums. I'd definitely recommend visiting the castle to anyone visiting Edinburgh!

Wednesday morning, Shahida didn't have to go into work, so we took the opportunity to wander up Arthur's Seat - the highest hill in Edinburgh. Although it was the first overcast day since I arrived, it was still an amazing view over the entire city. At the top most point, there were maybe 30 people gathered checking out the many views, contemplating the meaning of life, etc. when a girl announces: "everyone, if I could just make a quick announcement, I just want you to know while we're up here with this breath-taking scenery that Jesus loves us, and he saves. Jesus saves!!!!" And then everyone continued with their conversations, picture takings, and hiking as if no one had said a word. Almost to the point where I thought I made up the crazy mountain top evangelist. But Shahida heard her too... proof that the bible belt doesn't have all the crazies. But to her credit, it was pretty cool to be up there.

I spent most the day Thursday in the city visiting museums and monuments. Highlights included seeing Dolly the cloned sheep (the original... I think...??!!) at the natural history museum and seeing paintings by Botticelli, Raphael and Da Vinci. I also climbed the almost 300 stairs to the top of the Scott Monument. Definitely worth the £3, but not recommended to anyone who has a problem with small spaces. There is only one staircase for up and down, and it's the most narrow spiral staircase I've ever been on. There were parts that were so narrow it was physically impossible to pass someone, you just had to decide who had gone furthest and send someone back up or back down till everyone could get through. but again, worth the amazing view over the city.

Friday and Saturday Shahida and I spent in the highlands. I could go into the amazing beauty of the area, but it's better in the pictures (link in my last post). What I'll definitely remember about that trip, besides the scenery... is the walking! first we arrive in the city center only to have to trek a mile and a half back out to our hostel. After arriving, unloading and eating lunch we check out the hikes in the area. The number one recommended hike was to the Lost Valley. Six kilometers from our hostel. We could walk or call a cab. So guess what we did... But I actually am really glad we walked, because we got to enjoy the mountains more! and we saw highland cows. Totally worth it! The hike itself was only just over 2km to the valley then back out. Unfortunately this was a valley you actually had to climb half the mountain to get to. And I don't just mean walk on an upward incline. We were literally climbing up rocks for bits of the path. It was very intense. After almost 2 hours of beautiful nature and mild self-loathing, we made it to the Lost Valley. It was, of course, beautiful. We sat down for a while to rest up, enjoyed playing with the mountain echos too much, then began the sojourn back. Of course it took all of 40 min to get back off the hike since it was all down hill. but we still had our 6 km trek back to the hostel. All in all we figured out that we walked over 16km that day. gross.

Needless to say we past out in the hostel....
oh wait, that was a lie. we were in a 6 person room and one of the guys snored so loud all night Shahida and I barely got an ounce of sleep!

So the next day we decided to rent bikes and cycle over to the next town. We stopped for a relaxing lunch and a game of scrabble before heading back in. We returned our bikes then walked another 2 miles back out to catch the bus.

Today was spent mostly packing, with a final trip to the city for fireworks! Now I'm supposed to wake up in an hour to catch a cab by 4am, but of course I can't sleep because waking up to be at the airport in time to catch a 6:20 am flight is mildly stressful. But I'm very excited to be off to Germany, meeting new people and getting settled into my apartment. I'll be in a small town just outside Cologne until Thursday, then off to Forchheim! Unfortunately I don't know when I'll have access to the internet again, so this might be it for a couple weeks, but I'll update as soon as I can!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Pictures from the Highlands are up! a real post and more pictures to follow...

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