Today I had my first encounter with Laubach, the town where I’ll be teaching for the next ten months. It takes a short while to get to the middle of nowhere from somewhere, and when that somewhere is Bonn, it takes a little over 2,5 hours. (Side note: I finally saw a community of tipis on the train ride down; I’ve always heard how much Germans love to imitate Native American culture (or, at least, what they perceive it to be), but it wasn’t until today that I was able to witness this particular stereotype in person. “Gah,” is all I have to say).
Bärbel, one of the English teachers at the school in Laubach, is my contact person for the time I’m in Hessen, and was kind enough to pick me up from the train station in Gießen and drive the 20 minutes to Laubach. Throughout the day we were able to
-rent a room for me in the student housing complex about a 15-minute walk from the middle school where I’ll be teaching
-have a quick tour of “downtown” Laubach (by this I mean we stopped by the town hall, had a cafe au lait, and Bärbel pointed out a few buildings)
-stop by the bank, attempt to open an account, realize that I’d left my passport in Bonn, slink away sheepishly…
-go to the school, make general introductions to the teachers (specifically to the 10 English teachers whom I’ll be helping)
-have me, just for fun, sit in on/help with my first class…which happened to be in French. Thank goodness I’m a polyglot.
-have a 40 minute question & answer session with a class of 7th graders in English; the best question was definitely “do you like jelly beans?”
-drive up to a convent/look-out point between Laubach and Lich, on the way back to Gießen
-go shopping for a bit in Gießen at Karstadt
Apologies for the lack of pictures, but my general first impressions of Laubach were basically what I expected; it is extremely small compared to what I’m used to. The surrounding country and the town itself, however, are both very beautiful. Laubach itself lies on the outskirts of a huge natural area called the Naturpark Hoher Vogelsberg (poorly translated website with pictures here), excellent for hiking and biking. On the downside, my worst fear was confirmed: there is absolutely no place to dance in town. In Gießen there are definitely places for salsa, along with random dance studios, but before I freak out and start begging for rides from my flatmates I think I’ll focus a bit more on getting integrated at the school and being outdoorsy while the weather is still decent. More updates to come as I figure out things to do…
On an extremely positive note, all of the people are perfectly lovely. Bärbel was especially helpful of course, but the other teachers are truly excited to have me for the next school year and the students I met today were as well. I have a tentative schedule worked out where I’ll rotate as an assistant to different English classes each week and have two additional workshop sections that I’ll lead myself. The workshops, or AGs, or Arbeitsgemeinschaften, are divided into beginner and advanced conversation groups. Oh, and did I mention I only work Monday-Thursday? In case I get bored, I suggested to Bärbel that I direct some sort of one-act play for the students who weren’t able to fit the conversation AG into their schedules, so perhaps it’ll be a return to theatre that will substitute my dance cravings.
So, where to now? Erm…Austria, it seems! Innsbruck, specifically. I was chatting with Maike a few days ago and she mentioned she had a multiple-person train ticket to anywhere in Germany and that she was planning on using it to get as close to Innsbruck as possible to visit a friend there, and if I’d like to come with her I could. According to Patrik, I have friends in strategic places so that I never have to pay for a place to stay (which is mostly true), and as it turns out I now have the chance to visit Michaela and Jo, two friends whom I haven’t seen since 2003! I leave tomorrow morning and plan to come back on Monday, so it’ll be a few days until I can post again.
Until then, safe travels!