Sunday, February 22, 2015

My poor neighbors!

On a recent Friday evening I had a run-in with my neighbors which was just too ridiculous not to share.

It started out rather normal, halfheartedly complaining to my couchsurfers about the baby upstairs who just never stops crying.  Well, then the crying went on and on and on and got louder and louder and we really began to wonder if everything was okay up there. Before we know it there is a knock on the door and I open up to see a very frazzled looking granny holding a very sad baby screaming at the top of his lungs, a telephone, and a list of the phone numbers for the kiddo's parents. She explained to us that she was the granny and on babysitting duty that night and that she couldn't figure out how to use the telephone to call the baby's parents.  As we are showing her how to use the phone and she is beginning to type in the phone number poo suddenly begins falling out of the baby's improperly-fastened diaper.

''Aufpassen!'' (Look out!) But it was already much too late and I ran to fetch the paper towels. In the end mama and papa were contacted, instructed to rush home as quickly as possible, and succeeded in getting junior to quiet down.

Just when we thought the excitement was over, another knock on the door revealed neighbor dad at the door.

''I'm SO sorry,'' he began, extending a bottle of red wine.

''Oh you don't have to do that,'' I responded, a bit taken aback. ''Is the baby okay?''

''Yeah. the baby is fine.  Granny - not so much...''

That poor granny - she just wanted to babysit and give the parents a night off.

What kind of memorable moments have you had with your neighbors?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

''The Mitten''

One of my goals for my kiddos is to make them lovers of reading. No matter what their specific individual interests may be, I want them to crave the knowledge that lies between the pages of books and fill up their imaginations with stories of heroes and adventurers of every kind.

On Thursday we had a read aloud of  Jan Brett's "The Mitten" and I wanted to share the lesson plan and activity that we used as we read this winter tale on a cold, snowy day here in Munich.

Lesson Prep:

The night before I made copies of animals and mittens. I used these patterns from "Enchanted Learning", although I had to supplement them, as not all of the animals from the actual story are on the forest animals print out. I colored and labeled one set of animals, decorated a mitten, cut out enough mitten patterns for the kiddos, and called it a night for preparation.
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Interactive read aloud:

I started out by showing the students a mitten vocabulary card and the mitten I had decorated and prompting them to tell me what it is called in English (we reviewed English clothing vocabulary in January).
My next step was to give the mitten to one of the students and ask her to look inside. Inside she found the animals and as she pulled each one out I made a big show of asking , "Huh?! What?!? How did THAT get in there?!?". The kids eat that kind of silliness right up.

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Once we were all thoroughly puzzled about the animals who had all come out of the mitten, I showed them the book and told them that it is titled "The Mitten". I then explained that we were going to read this book together and find out just what those sneaky forest creatures tucked inside of a little mitten was all about. Throughout the read aloud different students where chosen to identify the animals and place them inside of the mitten, following the text of the book. As anyone who has read the story knows, the book ends with the bear letting out a big sneeze and the animals flying out of the mitten.  Little paper animals went flying all over our reading circle!

Activity and retelling the story:

The next day during reading time we reviewed the forest animal vocabulary by going through the story and putting the animals into the mitten again, but without reading the book in its entirety again.  

The students then worked on the task of decorating their own mittens and animals, practiced retelling the story to each other, and were encouraged to share the story in English with their parents at home. 


I absolutely loved teaching this lesson, the children were engaged, new English vocabulary was learned, and we worked on our storytelling skills!

I love my job! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Christmas Eve in Kiev

The past month has been eventful to say the least and my blogging has suffered terribly.

After a few weeks of teacher changes and loads of overtime, I found myself stuck in German hospital for four days.  And just when I thought I was in the clear I found myself spending a weekend in bed, followed by a Monday visit to the doctor, a prescription that should finally do the trick, and a doctor's note forbidding me from working for the next week.

So as I lay cuddled up in bed, wrapped in blankets and drinking hot tea, I finally want to share the beautiful 24 hours I spent in Kiev on Christmas Eve.

Having not slept the night before leaving Baku, I was out cold the entire plane ride to Kiev.  Truth is, I can sleep anywhere! As we were landing I was bouncing up and down in my seat like an over-excited child.  It was an amazing feeling to be landing in Ukraine again after more than a year away. After a bit of an airport mix-up, we ended up meeting my best Ukrainian friend, Nastia, in the city near our hostel. 

Let's go!

First views of Maidan
Our hostel was the absolute best. It was right on Kreschatik, Kreshatik 8 to be exact, and for 5 euros per person we had a big, clean room, an extremely friendly welcome, hot showers, and the most ideal location.  If you're ever in Kiev for a day or two, I can recommend TIU Kreshatik 

Our first stop after checking in at the hostel was Puzata Hata.  Oh how I missed Ukrainian food! We all loaded up our plates. For Thomas and Markus it was their first time in Ukraine, but as they loaded their plates with soups, salad, meat, and dessert, it was clear that at least the food in Ukraine wouldn't disappoint.  

Our ''welcome to Ukraine'' feast

As we walked Kreschatik we saw a kiosk advertising excursions to the former president's home.  Nastia described what her friends who had taken the excursion had seen - from garages full of fancy cars to a personal zoo - I somehow wish that we could have made the trip out there.  Also dotting the street were Ukrainian flags, tshirts, hair ribbens, wrist bans, bumper stickers and just about everything patriotic you can think of.  Markus and Thomas bought toilet paper with Putin's face on it from this woman on Kreshatik.

Maidan felt like a somber place.  A place which my memory associates with a fun, lively atmosphere, festivals and concerts, and carefree days with friends has become a memorial to Ukraine's current struggle and those who have lost their lives fighting for freedom.  As we walked past candles and flowers Nastia pointed out to us where she had seen dead bodies laying during her time helping provide food to the protestors on Maidan.  The hill going up from Maidan was lined with pictures of those killed and it seems as if it will never come to an end.  All of the stones on the sidewalk are new, as the old ones were dug up and used as weapons during the fighting on Maidan.  One very beautiful thing we saw was the results of a candlelight vigil which Nastia herself had taken part in.

It must have been so beautiful lit up
We ran into a protest calling for more money for Ukrainian troops fighting in Donetsk.  While walking through a park we suddenly had to move to the side while a huge line of policemen came marching through.  There definitely was an air of tension in parts of the city. 
It was apparent to us the Ukraine is really pulling itself closer to the EU.  In prominent public places the EU flag hung next to the Ukrainian flag.  At the airport, the passport control had one line maked ''Ukrainian and EU Citizens'' and one line marked ''Other Passports''.
Since Markus and Thomas were in Kiev for the first time, we tried to see as many of the must-see sights as possible.  I think we did pretty well in completing that task. In any case, Markus and Thomas both said that they would come back to Kiev again!

Motherland statue

WWII Museum

St. Andrew's - my favorite church in Kiev

Funicular Ride

Bridge lit up at night

We even found a Christmas market in Kiev!! We couldn't believe it! The market was incredibly beautiful and we all enjoyed a cup of mulled wine.
With the hrynia's loss of value everything in Kiev was incredibly inexpensive.  While the reason for this drastic change in the exchange rate is certainly not good, it did lead us to buy basically everything and anything we wanted, enjoy our day to the fullest, and treat Nastia everywhere we went. The decline of the hryvnia's value and the cost of the crisis in general is hitting the Ukrainian people hard.  Talks of raising the metro fare from 2 to 4 hryvnia has students wondering how they will be able to afford to travel to university each day.  Nastia told stories of classmates getting fake pupil cards, as school children ride the metro for free in Kiev.  She also told of university professors giving unfairly low grades, as they hope to fail students out of the stipends they currently recieve from the state.
Despite all of the dynamic changes taking place in Ukraine, one thing that will never change is how must fun the dynamic duo of Nastia and Chelsea has when we get together.  We spent the day talking, laughing, hugging, smiling, and just enjoying the company of a dear friend.  Saying goodbye was really hard at the end of the day, but I was glad that Nastia stayed with us so long. When shortly after midnight we finally got Nastia a taxi and gave our final goodbye hugs my heart was full of happiness even if the tears running down my cheeks looked pretty sad.
I had mixed feelings as we drove to the airport the next morning.  On the one hand I was sad to be leaving Ukraine, having been momentarily thrown back into a place were I have spent so much time and made so many memories.  On the other hand I was simply so incredibly thankful for that short, but oh so sweet, visit to Kiev in a time of uncertain and exciting change in Ukraine.  Until next time, Kiev!