in which I arrive in Erlangen, where I will be living for the next school year, get settled, begin the school year, and this blog is finally brought up to date.
With orientation over, it was time to finally head onwards to my town and my school. And thus, last Friday, I boarded a train in Frankfurt and made a long trek out to Erlangen. Nor normally, it takes about 2.5 hours to get between Frankfurt in Erlangen, with a change of trains in Nuremberg (or even sometimes a direct regional train that takes 3 hours or so to make the journey). But I guess I had really bad luck because my travel day just happened to coincide with the four days of construction along the route. So instead of an easy, short ride, I changed trains in Würzburg, and then again at Bamberg, where I took a special ersatz bus to Erlangen. Under normal conditions, this would have been a slight annoyance, but with well over 100 pounds of luggage, it was a bit of a hassle. Especially when I had to rush to change trains during the six minutes between trains in Würzburg. Oh well. Ende gut, alles gut.
Luckily, upon arrival in Erlangen, I had the great fortune to be picked up from the station by Thomas von Oertzen, a teacher at the school where I will be working. His subjects are athletics, history, and I think ethics? Not entirely clear. But at any rate, not English. He had been asked to take care of me since my “Betreuungslehrer” (the teacher resposnible for me) was currently on a trip to England with students. I stayed with his family (wife and daughter, Johanna, who is just a couple weeks older than I am) for my first night, since I could first move into the apartment I have for 8 weeks on Saturday. I enjoyed a lovely “Kaffee und Kuchen,” the best of all German traditions with the three of them (their son is currently in Tanzania), and then Thomas took me on a small tour of Erlangen, ending at the apartment where I am now living, so that I could meet the girl who was giving me her room so that I could sign some papers and arrange to get the key. And then we returned to his house, where we had a marvelous dinner with a few guests (he had, after all, only found out he’d be hosting me the day before). The next morning, after a typical German breakfast (boiled egg, brötchen, cold cuts, various jellies), he took me to my apartment.
My first order of business when moving in was to go and buy speakers. Music is important to me, and I decided I didn’t want to unpack until I could do so while enjoying some music. So I walked into the city center, which took about 30 minutes (pleasant in the beautiful weekend weather) and explored the downtown briefly. I can’t say that Erlangen is the most happening place I have ever lived (in fact, it’s probably vying for the least), but it didn’t seem nearly so lame as I was afraid it would be. Of course, everything is still sort of empty here, since the university, with 27,000 students (significant in a town of 100,000), won’t start until mid- to late October. The center has lots of cafés and restaurants, so it certainly seems like a nice place to live, though there are few real attractions.
And then I returned and unpacked. And by unpacked, I mostly mean I took everything OUT of my suitcase. I was not so good at actually putting things away, as the picture indicates…
Eventually, I just got tired of unpacking. So I quit. And went for a long run, about 90 minutes. There are lots of biking paths in this town that lead to various (mostly even lamer) towns nearby. And then I stopped by the grocery store quickly to get the basic supplies needed to survive until Monday, when the stores would open again. When I awoke on Sunday morning, I finished up unpacking and getting organized–my room is actually in order now. And then I went on another long run, caught up with some friends state-side, and generally passed my time pleasantly. At some point, my first flatmate (housemate might be more appropriate–I am living in a house, but it’s divided into three apartments) arrived home, having spent the weekend with friends in Bremen. He, however, was too exhausted to have much to say, and with work the next morning, he apologized and promised to be more sociable the next day. And thus passed my second full day in Erlangen.
Monday (yesterday), however, brought other adventures. I met up with Thomas and his wife (also a teacher at the school), and they took me to the Lehrerkonferenz–the first teacher’s meeting. Amid much food and drink–sandwiches, cakes, bread, juices, even some champagne–I was introduced to many more teachers than I had a prayer of keeping track of. I got a very quick tour through some of the school, too.
And then it was time for the meeting itself, which went some 90 minutes and included a heavy and thorough discussion of the proper emergency procedures in the case of Amoklauf (school shooting, incidentally, one of the more amusing German words I know, since lauf means to run–most Germans believe “to run amok” in English means to go on a shooting rampage). In fact, as I sat in the back, the German teachers got really into this discussion, asking more questions than I knew were possible. We talked about these emergency procedures for most of half an hour, literally. And, as the Germans passionately debated whether it was good for students to be able to call their parents from inside their room while the hypothetical shooter terrorized the hallways, I couldn’t help but wonder when it is that Germans become so German. Seriously, I don’t think this detailed a debate would ever happen in the US. Luckily, should I forget proper procedure, I received a detailed handout for what to do in cases of Amoklauf AND fire. A two-for-one special.
I was also introduced to the crowd, but other than my brief introduction, the meeting more or less had nothing to do with me. It was mostly just very boring. I pondered how obvious it would be to take a picture. And decided to try subtly.
But finally, the meeting came to an end, and I was taken back home. I made a much more thorough shopping expedition and got a lot of my basic items (lots of different kinds of flour for bread baking, sugar, milk, and most of the food I might need to get me through the first week or so), now that I finally had cash (I had been extremely limited over the weekend). I spent the evening chatting with the flatmate for a bit, cooked myself some dinner, with limited succes–apparently my stove/oven only has two settings: on and off, so my food got a little burned. Will have to be more careful and creative next time. I finished up my last blog posts, as can be seen below, and mostly took it easy before my first day of school, when I was to show up around 10:30 or so.
With a light rain and my only other option being to walk (which would take most of an hour, I would guess), I took the bus to school and made my way to the teacher’s room, where i have been assigned my own seat. Throughout the school, one was keenly aware of the fact that it was the first day of school, from the way students and teachers greeted each other to the class schedules posted.
I talked with another teacher, incidentally an American from Chicago, and was sent off to observe the first class, which was not actually an English class. And then I observed an English class, where students were asked to write about their summers (I was asked to grade them afterwards). Starting next week, I will be leading the class in conversation. And then it was 12:30 and the day had come to an end. Sort of awesome that I will pretty much never need to work later than 12:30.
I talked quickly to the teacher who would be lending me a bicycle for the year, and I was delighted to find it was in fact already there. And thus, I rode home, feeling much more mobile. But the bike, while highly functional and, honestly, perfect for city riding, does not look like it is my ideal for making little trips throughout my region in Bavaria, so I might be in the market for a better one in the next few weeks. We’ll see.
Last night, Johanna (Thomas’ daughter) was kind enough to invite me to come out with some friends of hers, and it was lovely to actaully have something to do and to be with people my own age. And, best of all, the beer here leaves one quite satisfied in a way the standard beer on tap in the US would never do.
Today was another day at school, equally uneventful. I chatted with some teachers, observed one class, and wrote a short note to parents to introduce myself. And thus passed my first days in Erlangen.