Saturday, December 10

Chrismukkah

Today I have to do NOTHING AT ALL until baby sitting at 7pm. I had/still have a lot of good intentions for the day. Like:
-running,
-cleaning my room so I can stop falling over the air mattress to get from my bed to my computer
-grocery shopping so I don't have to eat nothing but spagetti and cereal tomorrow,
-crocheting the scarf I've been working on for two months,
-reading the book we're going to talk about in class on monday,
-planning some stellar lessons instead of coming up with something ten min before each class next week,
-writting christmas cards
-or at the very least updating my blog.

Ta da! guess what the first thing on that list that's getting done today is? right.
it's 2:10 and I have yet to put pants on. Yessssss.
Eh, I still have like four hours, I can do a couple of those things yet. And hey, it's saturday.

So... update time.
Where did the week go?
In school I did lessons on job interviews, some everyday situation role plays, some pictionary with English idioms, and gave a little talk on my personal experience of being German in America, which also turned into a little bit of being American in Germany. I told them about my family history and my teacher wanted me to talk about what it means to be german in the US... the problem is that something like 40% of Americans have German heritage, so it's not exactly something rare and exciting. My family is closer to our German roots than most, since I'm only second generation American. But still, my mom and her siblings didn't learn German at home and besides a few traditions like St. Nickolous day and familie recipies, we don't exactly stick out from the rest of the population. I told them there are some German towns in the US, like New Ulm. And that lots of cities have Oktoberfest celebrations. Which they think is funny, because Oktoberfest is only a Munich thing, even other German cities don't have Oktoberfest celebrations. We eat Bratwurst and say Gesundheit when someone sneezes... but that's about the extent of Germaness it would seem. I explained that after the War being German was not exactly popular, so Germans in the US weren't big on showing pride for their heritage or speaking the language. It makes sense. but things have changed. I still cared about my heritage enough to decide to learn the language, and I have liked the country enough to keep coming back and to live and work here for a year, but I certainly don't feel like I belong here because of my roots, or like this is my country or nationality. I'm proud of my German history now as well, but I'm still American, through and through, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here's one good reason why... all that "PC" stuff that we make fun of at times and that Europeans think in completely rediculous, well, now I appreciate and understand it. Bavaria is a Catholic state. You won't find any German equivilant of "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" around here. It's all about Christmas and nothing else. I find it overwhelming and I'm catholic! One of the families I'm babysitting for is Jewish and I talked to their Mom a bit last week about being Jewish here. Her son's school (an international english speaking school by the way) is doing a Christmas market fundraiser. She's trying to be understanding that she's in Bavaria, but is bothered when they call her to ask her to volunteer for something which is not her Holdiay, especially asking her to voluteer on a Saturday, which she can't do. There is not a very big Jewish population here anymore, there are Jews, just not a lot and I have been suprised by how little contact Germans have with Jewish culture (or any other culture for that matter).

At one of my schools I'm helping to plan an "English Christmas Sleepover" for seventh grade boys. The plan is to spend the evening speaking english and learning about American and British Christmas traditions. Great. But, the thing is, something like that would never happen in America to begin with at a public school. I told the teachers this and that in American schools around the holidays we always learn about Hanukkah and Kwanza and even Native American winter solstice tradiontions along with Christmas, even at my catholic elementary school. I think most americans have some idea of what Hanukkah is even if they don't know the whole story. Here, however, they have absolutely no idea. I suggested that we incorporate some kind of Hanukkah activity into the sleepover, learning about the holiday and then maybe playing the dreidel or something. The teachers were a little taken aback I think, and uncertain of what the kids would make of soemthing like that. They also know pretty much nothing at all about Hanukkah themselves. Had never heard of a dreidel, or manorah, nothing, they don't learn about other religions at all. But anyway, they agreed that I could be in charge of finding something Hanukkah related to do at the sleepover, so I'm looking for ideas and will ask the family I baby sit for also. Jewish items are pretty hard to come by in Munich, so I'll have to be a little creative I think, but it should be interesting. The sleepover is next Friday, I'll let you know how it goes.
So anyway, the moral of the story is, even if being "PC" can get out of hand or seem stupid in the US, I like that we are sensitive to other peoples religions and cultures and that we actually have people from other religions and cultures in the US and that schools care about teaching kids about other cultures and traditions. Germany is still lacking when it comes to multiculturalism. Despite the large Muslim population I think it will be a long time before they are teaching German school kids about Islamic holidays and traditions. but that's a whole other can of worms.

Hooray for the melting pot/salad bowl/mosaic that is American culture and multiculturalism. German Americans and Jewish Amercans and everything else. It's not perfect, obviously there is still a lot of discrimination and self segregation, but I feel like a lot of intelligent open minded people are making an effort and that it is generally recognized that valuing each individual culture and still treating everyone eaqually despite their cultural background is something to strive for. I don't get that feeling in Germany. Maybe all us Fulbrighters will eventually make a difference :) There are some parts of American culture and idealism that I don't mind trying to spread to the rest of the world, as long as we do it in the right way. I'll do my part by playing dreidel with 20 some German seventh graders :)

4 comments:

Alexis said...

Hooray for American inclusiveness!

You are a brave girl to spend an evening with a bunch of 7th grade boys.

Alexis said...

They didn't give you anything when they took out your wisdom teeth? That's cruel.

Christin said...

I hope your Christmas party works out well. I like American cultural sensitivity too and learning about other holidays! Still, I think it might be cool as a visitor to experience the holidays in a completely Christmas atmosphere since I'm Catholic too :-P

Alexis Brion said...

Very interesting comments!
Specially the ones about multiculturalism. I don't feel myself discriminated here, but my country was also (as the States) built by immigrants. I miss a little bit the feeling of respect to the other's people thoughts or religion.