Interim Reflection

Before – what are your expectations or anticipations as you look forward to Interim? What are you uncertain about? What question do you have going in? What do you hope will happen?

I was very excited to travel to Germany because a) I took German as my foreign language in high school b) I taught WWI, WWII, and the Holocaust for many years, and c) I had never been to Europe before. I was anxious about flying over the ocean and being on a plane for such a long period of time. I was anxious about how the students would accept and interact with me as someone who they only know as an authority figure at school.

Backward – what is the story of your Interim experience?

My Interim experience was better than I could have imagined. My curiosity and love of history was sparked and I spent much of the following weeks reading up on each city, site, and discovery. I watched several documentaries on the Holocaust and the rise of Nazism, noticing specific locations where our group was standing (the Marienplatz, the Brandenburg Gate, Dachau). Also, I felt that many of the students connected with me. I made a deliberate effort to show interest, play card games, and interact as much as possible while also giving space.

Inward – what have you learned about yourself through this experience? What was particularly frustrating or satisfying?

I learned that I have a stronger desire to see distant parts of the world than I realized. I learned that many students here at school do not know who I am, they only know what they perceive based on my role. It is much easier to connect with students as a teacher because you consistently interact on a daily basis. I have to be extra intentional to forge relationships in the “in between” moments during a school day.

Outward – What is one thing in particular you want other people to know about your experience?

I want people to know how fortunate they are to have these opportunities. They are truly incredible and a more important part of achieving our mission of developing students who are ‘globally competitive.’ Many of them have traveled before age 14-18 to other countries. I’m 41 and this was my first time to Europe.

Forward – What passion or curiosity was sparked in you through this experience that you want to dig deeper into and pursue further?
My curiosity was definitely sparked regarding Hitler’s rise to power. I have done a fairly deep dive into parts of his personal timeline that I wasn’t interested in before actually standing in those places. The feeling at Dachau was so eery and awful – the worst of humanity. How could someone like Hitler convince so many people to support him? Having taught history, I knew all about the Treaty of Versailles and the economic factors, nazi propaganda, etc. But something about physically being in some of those locations like Nuremberg and the Hofsbrauhaus made it very real and allowed me to understand things I have only previously read about or seen in documentaries in a whole new way.

Germany 2018 – Feb 25

Day 3

Berlin – Dresden

2 hour drive. Played the “name game” on the bus. Driving tour with Heidi – most kids fell asleep. 96% of Dresden was destroyed in WW2 bombing. The blueprints were saved and they rebuilt, mostly after collapse of Berlin Wall. (Soviets wanted East Germany in part because of the treasures of Dresden – it is an underestimated city in terms of historical value and sights). Ate lunch at restaurant called Alex. Dresden museum was amazing with armory and collection of clocks, figurines, green diamond, etc. Second tour guide was exceptional. Later learned that Kurt Vonnegut survived bombing of Dresden and thus based Slaughterhouse 5 (which is the room where he was sheltered) on his experiences.

 

Germany 2018 – Feb 24

Day 2

Berlin

Started day with bus tour led by “Matty” who worked for 80s radio station Berliner Rundfunk. He took us to another remaining section of the Berlin Wall where artists painted murals in sections – famous image of Brezhnev (Soviet) kissing the East Berlin leader on the mouth. Heard a local man playing an accordion and saying “Hallo! Danke!” Matty told us about famous escape attempts during the Cold War including a family who secretly built a hot air ballooon only to land just short still on the east. They had to rebuild even more secretly, but eventually made it across. The wall went up overnight without warning. Even soldiers skipped out at the last minute across the barbed wire. Families were separate and I think he said up to 4000 children who were spending the night at a relatives or elsewhere were separate from their parents. Another interesting story was about a man who was separate from his girlfriend. He was in the west and started dating a woman who looked a lot like his girlfriend who was trapped in the east. He suggested a day trip to the east, stole her passport, left her there and returned with his girlfriend. Two months later he was arrested for kidnapping.

Stopped at Saw Reichstag and learned about how Hitler used the fire to blame communists and enact police state powers, blocking out oppositional voices.

Brandenburg gate where Napoleon marched through, later Hitler, and later Reagan’s famous speech. Next to it was a Starbucks and the hotel where MIchael Jackson dangled his baby from the balcony.

Ate a meat wrap at outdoor market and fresh orange juice, then sat in Italian cafe by the window. Tried to go to the top of the needle tower (and gift from the Soviets to Berlin, similar slightly larger tower in Russia to show “mother” country relationship). The wait was 1.5 hours to top so we did not go. On the way we were stopped by a girl who wanted to trade for a lighter. We suspected she was a pickpocket or trying to distract us, so we quickly moved on.

Pergemon museum – saw Ishtar gate. The altar was closed for renovations. Walking on the way to dinner – we passed Angela Merkel’s home. One police car outside. Lives on second floor of place she has owned since age 21. Refuses to live in state residence because she believes a leader must live humbly to act humbly or else risk losing touch with the common person. Ate dinner at restaurant and stopped by a local grocery store on the way home.

Germany 2018 – Feb 23

Amsterdam – Berlin

Sat next to a guy who was sick, coughing, and taking up with arm chair – he was by the window, I was in the middle. Luckily, the flight was only one hour. Arrived in Germany and our baggage claim was small and immediately outside the plane in the airport. Got our stuff and was immediately greeted by our guide Dionysia. She greeted us with kisses and was very enthusiastic and clear with her instructions. We boarded the bus and headed through Berlin to our hotel. It was about a 30 minute drive and she gave us some history. Most of the buildings were very similar and were part of East Berlin during the Cold War – cookie cutter and boring buildings. Arrived at hotel and put our stuff in the dining area – check in was later after we returned from a quick jaunt into the city.

Road the yellow train – seemingly much more accessible than Marta. Went downtown and ate at a nice restaurant – ordered too much – salad, caprese, and pepperoni pizza. Enjoyed chatting with Erin, Alex, and Jenn. Felt the effects of no sleep and jet lag. Walked around and Got a chocolate eclair at Lindt’s. Spent the afternoon the at Topography of Terror Museum and Checkpoint Charlie. Saw a remaining section of the Berlin Wall. Then took the yellow train with the group to a mall – ate dinner – sausage and brotwurst. Then back to the hotel.

Germany 2018 – Feb 22

Day 1

Atlanta – Amsterdam

I hate to fly. First time inside the international terminal. Checked my bags and greeted families as they arrived. We posed for a group picture, said farewell to the parents and we were off. Through security and to the gate. Much nicer than domestic. Ate lunch with the bags – a chicken quesadilla. Bought a blue t-shirt at Tommy Hilfiger b/c mine was already sweaty. Boarded the plane and we were off. Read about the Beatles “Here, There, and Everywhere” written by a young studio engineer who worked with them from the start. The fed us constantly and the food was good. I listened to music and tried to relax as I read. I played the Sim City app. Couldn’t get the new iPad keyboard to work (figured out later to hold down the lock button longer). I wrote in journal a quick timeline of major life events 1976 to present as the start of further writings and documentation. Watched Thor Ragnorok. I watched along with the flight tracker no the screen in front of me – noticing the flight path closely followed the eastern coast of the USA heading north over canada, Greenland, and a couple of hours over the ocean. Seemed like in no time we flew over Virginia, DC, New York, etc. Then watched as we flew over Northern Ireland and Liverpool, England. Landed in Amsterdam in the early morning, had a Starbucks in the airport and quick transition to next plane.