Nov 17. 2016
As I look at the date of my last blog posting, I realize that things are getting busier! It was easier to find time to write blogs when we weren’t teaching formal lessons or planning for them. Now it seems like one of the last things on my list – my apologies.
But, that is a sign that Friedenshaus is alive and well. We have enjoyed two communal lunches to date – one a pumpkin soup and this week Marla prepared a borscht. One of our students, who lived in Russia for a time, recognized it and asked a bit about how Canadians came to make this recipe. That gave us an opportunity to share a bit about our Russian Mennonite roots and the cultural connections to Eastern Europe. We have also had numerous simple conversations (given the language limitations) with people about our Mennonite roots when they ask about the picture of Menno Simons hanging on the wall. One of our students commented “He looks like a nice man.”
This past Wednesday, things started off a little slow. Two of our regular students couldn’t make it, but another brought a friend, so our morning class was a bit smaller. I had planned a lesson based on a story we would study together (a method called TPRS – my colleague Charlotte Kroeker would be proud!). It seemed to work well.
Since our morning students couldn’t stay for lunch, Marla and I decided to wait for our usual two afternoon students and eat with them. But no one was coming. As we began to eat alone, we thought we would have a lot of leftover borscht. But within 15 minutes, I was running out to buy more flatbread and we had a group of 10 students sharing lunch. Because we had only prepared for our two usual students and no photocopier was available the two copies were shared and a few adjustments made. Despite the need for improvisation, I believe the session went well and students did return Thursday which is a good sign. And we still had some leftover soup.
Our Thursday afternoon conversation classes are going well. Students in other German courses in Ludwigshafen have opportunity to do the reading and writing, but not enough opportunity to speak. And, in order to pass their language exams, they also need to pass oral tests. A few of our students are also interested in improving their English, so Marla and I may be able to split up and meet that need as well. Below, we are practicing describing pictures in preparation for someone’s oral test.
Marla has been enjoying numerous opportunities to meet native Germans to improve her speaking in one on one situations. She has met weekly with an elderly widow from our church who certainly enjoys the company (and speaks no English!). Another acquaintance of Greg and Jennifer’s has offered to meet with her and they have enjoyed a few visits so far. Her latest meeting was through a website called “Tandem Partners”, designed to help connect people wanting to learn languages. Don’t worry – not a dating site! She met with a woman, similar in age to us, wanting to improve her English. So she spoke mostly English and Marla replied in German – mostly. I was around for part of the evening and had to act as referee – reminding them not to revert back to their mother tongues. All in all, a great way to practice German and meet new people. But, as a self-described introvert, these meetings are quite exhausting.
Apartment hunting has been going well. We have found one short term option (a student needs a sub-letter for 5 months while he studies in the US) that looks good and will view another good option tomorrow (I have already met the landlord, who seems very open to having us stay there). We continue to solicit your prayers for this and all the work we do at Friedenshaus.
German Word of the week: der Zauberstab – this word needs some explaining and has come up numerous times, believe it or not. The last few Friday evenings, Marla and I have been watching the Harry Potter series of films on television. We have added subtitles, which makes it much easier for both of us to follow the conversations. One word that came up was ‘Zauberstab’, a magic wand – a necessary piece of equipment for Harry and all the wizards.
Then, when we were preparing soup with some fellow congregants for a church meal, one person asked for the ‘Zauberstab’ – and was given an immersion hand blender to puree the soup! A magic wand – brilliant name for this handy kitchen device. Who knew? (ours is pictured below, in front of our kitchen window)
As an aside, it’s been gratifying to know that people have actually been reading these posts. Interestingly enough, I have had two comments come my way about a previous word of the week – die Schublade (the drawer). I had pondered the roots of this word by considering the two words possibly used to form this word – Schub (from schubsen) and Lade (from Laden). I was corrected about some of the background from one reader and had an interesting commentary from a German man I met here. He had read the blog (after researching me following an apartment request – my online trail is easy to follow, I discovered!).
Anyway, he mentioned that a ‘Lade’ is quite different than a ‘Laden’. The ‘Lade’ originally stems from the word ‘Bundeslade’, which has Hebrew roots. This was literally the Ark of the Covenant, the storage container used by the Israelites to house the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Hopefully you linguistic fans enjoyed this little aside.