I like to think this trip started eight years ago. That puts the ending so far off in the future it’s impossible to imagine. Maybe one day Laith or Owen will come to Freiburg to study, or Felix, who had just been born when we were here four years ago, could come to stay with us. When you open your home to a guest, or stay in the home of a family who welcomes you in, these people’s lives become a part of yours. The day I arrived here my host had just found out his father would need major surgery. A few nights later we were at his parents house for dinner. His father and mother showed me around the garden they had spent their lives building, a landscape they had modeled after the Alhambra in Spain, which they had visited early on their marriage. They had brought trees and flowers from all over the world to a hillside at the end of a valley in the Black Forest where their grandparents had been farmers. Above their house they flew the flag of the European Union. The world does not need to be a divided place. On Sunday, I visited Manuel. His son, Felix, wanted to show me his bedroom. Being four, Felix speaks much better German than I, but we had a conversation about his toys in which I felt like I was pretty much holding my own. My host’s father’s surgery went well on Monday. He’s recovering well, much to everyone’s relief. My bags are packed, and I would prefer to think of myself not so much as leaving as moving on to the next stage of this trip. It started eight years ago with a conversation in the hallway when one of my colleagues mentioned that two teachers from Germany who were guests at our school might enjoy visiting different people’s homes for dinner, and I thought to myself, “I don’t know if my family and I will ever have the chance to visit Europe, but at least we have a chance to have Europe visit us.” What it’s come to now is that I feel like I have neighbors on two continents.
For those who may not know, I’m beginning the summer in Waldkirch, Germany with the GAPP students from ROHS. Like them I am staying with a host family. My German goes back to high school, so I understand it somewhat well, but I have had very little experience with speaking it for the past thirty years. For the past week, though, I’ve noticed some funny things happening with the way I think and speak. My hosts and most of the people I deal with speak English well. When I need to be understood or if we’re having a conversation that is moving quickly, English seems to work fine. At the same time, however, I am constantly thinking of how to say things in a way that will be clear to them, so I’m not exactly speaking the way I would normally. I am also at the same time constantly surrounded by people speaking German. On goal I had for this trip was to improve my own German, so I’m also always trying to think of how to say what I’m saying in German. I find myself switching between languages between sentences, or between words, or translating myself while I speak in ways that I don’t expect. When I start to think and talk, I’m never quite sure what will come out. This is probably how we normally go through the day, but between two languages I’m very conscious of this uncontrollable tossed word salad of my thoughts. Yesterday I was at a music concert and it was about a minute before I realized I could understand what the musician on stage was saying because he was speaking English. Anyhow, keep blogging and check out these AP Lang sites from last year under the tab at the top of this page. Comment on them.
You took me down a narrow path. It was my first
awareness of both shade and forest, strapped
in a seat on the back of your bike.
We fell, but if it hurt I don’t remember. It’s the joy
of being with you that stays in my mind.
I know we teach our sons the things we love, the invisible
paths of golf balls through the air, cue balls on a field
of orange felt, or long, high, home run balls flying
through warm summer air as we sat watching from the
upper deck overhang.
I don’t remember when you took me down the driveway
for the first time, or the trails our skis left in the snow
the day you did that. I remember trailing you
much later, down snowy slopes.
This is the path that I followed, the path you
started even when it took me places
you would not go. My sons have walked through
rain, mosquitoes, dust, and mud on islands
and in forests, sleeping on the ground The path I followed
driving in the winter morning darkness
with two quiet boys holding sleepy conversations
in the back seat on the way to soccer games. The things
we love are almost never things.
The path I follow now, not knowing where it goes
but knowing always that the best part is who we are with.
Ahead of me, you showed me how to be a father
and when you lead the way, you brought my sons along.
My summer blog reflects who I am during the months when my teacher self goes into hibernation. This year it will probably focus on reading, travel, and projects around my house. If you’re in my class next year, write about what you want. Definitely follow and post to #roreads on Twitter (you should read a lot during the summer). Also, check out the sites on the ELA 11 and AP Language Blog tab at the top. Read about the topics students researched in the spring and join the conversations they invite you to join by posting to their hashtags or using their sites’ comments threads. Have fun. Start your summer reading and writing.