German, music

Vote for favorite song from German class

Zwei Lieblingslieder aus Deutschklasse

If you live in Europe, you’ve probably heard of Namika and Johannes Oerding. But not so for my students and I who live in Arizona. I’ve been introducing  “das lied der woche” (song of the week) since the school year began. I took a poll in German class yesterday, and these two are top contenders. Please join us by watching and listening to the videos and casting your vote.

  1. Namika, “Lieblingsmensch” 

2. “Einfach Nur Weg” by Johannes Oerding 

Maybe spit in Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

Take a taxi to London to look at the jewels.

I have never been anywhere in Africa.

I have never been to New York.

Oh, it’s really shit, I want to go somewhere else.

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

Oho Oho Oho ohoho

Maybe hide on a lonely island.

How to check in Lindenberg for a while.

Jump on other trains without a ticket and

Sing my songs on a gondola in Venice.

I have never been anywhere in Africa.

I have never been to New York.

I want to go somewhere else.

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

Oho Oho Oho ohoho

Drop by ship from the port of Hamburg.

Spend the last bit of money in Las Vegas.

Where everything is easy, Until I know what I miss here.

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy Just gone, just gone…

2010s, culture, education, In My Opinion, inspiration, music

IMO: Teaching German with Songs and Pretzels

Guten Tag!

I have 90 German students this year. Like many World Language teachers, it’s a no-brainer to implement the song of the week. I picked Peter Fox’s “Haus um See”. Students get parallel texts and link favorite words or lines as a fun way to associate what they’ve learned in context. Educating aside, as a lover of music, I’m having a fun time finding new artists with catchy melodies and beautiful lyrics. Not only does Peter Fox’s song sound like a whimsical revisit to the 1960s, but the lyrics also describe his idea of the perfect life capturing like a snapshot with images in words.

Here I was born and I run through the streets
Know every house, every store, and every face
I need to leave; know every pigeon here by name
Thumb’s out, waitin’ for a snazzy lady with speedy wheels
The sun’s blinding, everything flies by
The world behind me gets slowly undersized
Still, the world in front of me is made for me
I know she’s waiting – I’ll go pick her up
Have the day on my side, got a tailwind too
A roadside women’s choir sings for me, they do
I’ll sit back and look into the deep blue
Close my eyes and simply walk straight ahead

And at the end of the lane, there’s a house by the lake
Orange tree leaves lay on the way
I have 20 children, my wife is beautiful
Everybody drops by, no need to go out

I’m looking for a country with unfamiliar lanes
Unfamiliar faces – where no one knows my name
Win everything I play with cards that are marked
Lose everything – God’s left hook is actually quite hard
I dig treasures from the snow and sand
And women rob me of any sense I have
Someday that luck will follow me home
And I’ll come back with both pockets full of gold
I’ll invite the old folks and relatives over
And they all begin to cry tears of joy
We’ll barbecue, the mamas cook, and we slam some schnapps
And party for a week every night

And the moon shines brightly on my house by the lake
Orange tree leaves lay on the way
I have 20 children, my wife is stout
Everybody drops by, no need to go out

Here I was born; here I’ll be buried
Have lost my hearing, have a white beard; I sit in the garden
My 100 grandkids play cricket on the lawn
If I think about it, I can actually hardly wait…

Haus Am See>House by the Lake

Hier bin ich gebor’n und laufe durch die Straßen!
Kenn die Gesichter, jedes Haus und jeden Laden!
Ich muss mal weg, kenn jede Taube hier beim Namen.
Daumen raus ich warte auf ‘ne schicke Frau mit schnellem Wagen.
Die Sonne blendet alles fliegt vorbei.
Und die Welt hinter mir wird langsam klein.
Doch die Welt vor mir ist für mich gemacht!
Ich weiß sie wartet und ich hol sie ab!
Ich hab den Tag auf meiner Seite ich hab Rückenwind!
Ein Frauenchor am Straßenrand der für mich singt!
Ich lehne mich zurück und guck ins tiefe Blau,
schließ die Augen und lauf einfach gradeaus.

Und am Ende der Strasse steht ein Haus am See.
Orangenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Im Traum gesehen, das Haus am See

Ich suche neues Land
Mit unbekannten Strassen, fremden Gesichtern und keiner kennt meinen Namen!
Alles gewinnen beim Spiel mit gezinkten Karten.
Alles verlieren, Gott zeigt seinen harten linken Haken.
Ich grabe Schätze aus im Schnee und Sand.
Und Frauen rauben mir jeden Verstand!
Doch irgendwann werd ich vom Glück verfolgt.
Und komm zurück mit beiden Taschen voll Gold.
Ich lad’ die alten Vögel und Verwandten ein.
Und alle fang’n vor Freude an zu weinen.
Wir grillen, die Mamas kochen und wir saufen Schnaps.
Und feiern eine Woche jede Nacht.

Und der Mond scheint hell auf mein Haus am See.
Organgenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Im Traum gesehen, das Haus am See

Und am Ende der Strasse steht ein Haus am See.
Organgenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Hier bin ich gebor’n, hier werd ich begraben.
Hab taube Ohr’n, nen weißen Bart und sitz im Garten.
Meine 100 Enkel spielen Cricket auf’m Rasen.
Wenn ich so daran denke kann ich’s eigentlich kaum erwarten.

Image result for pretzels

I was raised with the notion that a way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. To catch a man, it helps if you make him something delectable from scratch. It’s a perk in his estimation. Much the same way a man who can fix anything makes him more valuable. For example, my cooking helped Jim decide I was a worthy catch much as Jim being able to fix anything helped me decide I wanted to share my life with him. What is a good pair, after all, but the ability to share talents so that life is better for both parties? Okay, I digress.

Using this principle with teenagers, students discovered that making food with friends, and then eating it, is as much fun as any event they can think of. Yesterday, they made pretzels. At lunch, twenty German students were curious and stopped by my room. I set up workstations with the ingredients in the center. We had previewed the day before what was going to happen. They had their recipe. Many had no idea how to measure or follow a recipe. They thought it was fun to knead. Ah, the magic of yeast, warm milk, and a little sugar!

Covered in the corner of my room, the dough “babies” rose all afternoon. At 3:30, we took our bowls to the cafeteria where the school kitchen staff generously allowed us to complete the final steps. I ran the oven while students rolled out their dough into ropes and twisted into pretzel shapes. Then they dunked them in hot baking soda water, placed them on cooking sheets and sprinkled their creations with sea salt. Presto! Ten minutes later they were buttering and devouring them. “Das Smeckt gut!”

Making people happy with food may be called emotional eating, but I am of the mind it is celebrating life.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou



adventure, hiking, movies, nature, travel, writing

Summer 2011: VA to VT to NM


I conducted an experiment to see how long I could function in society without owning a cell phone. One, I was on a tight budget. The land line had been around my whole life and it seemed perfectly acceptable to share one house phone with all inhabitants therein. A house with one phone, one television, one bathroom. Old fashioned for sure. Two, I was convinced the waves emanating from the thing would zap my brain cells. I thought society’s obsession to upgrade and own and create waste was wrong. I believed in living a simple life from my childhood, and I vowed to, but convenience was alluring. Finally, I did not own a cell phone because I enjoyed the reaction of others when I proudly told them I didn’t have one. I was odd, and it disturbed people I would choose not to have one. Why that would make me feel special—why I didn’t act like the rest of the world, made me feel like I was unique. Rather a silly way to distinguish oneself, yes? Still, I found as the 90s and the 00s moving along at a hyper-speed, I managed to hold out owning a cell phone until 2011.

Leg One: Virginia to Vermont in a Crappy Car.

In June 2011, I started my road trip from Virginia toward the Green Mountains outside of Montpelier, Vermont to attend my MFA graduation ceremony at Goddard College. The radio in my was car was destroyed. I owned no Ipod or other gadget to listen to music, so the eleven hour ride was quiet except for inner dialogues and ruminations. I was only 30 miles out-of-town, and I planned for a pit-stop to say hello to a good friend of mine. Her subdivision had those wretched speed bumps every twenty feet that were moguls my car groaned over. Sure enough, something broke underneath, something important like an axle, and I had to have the thing towed and the part replaced no sooner than the following day. Bless my friend who put me up, fed me food and wine, and took me to the shop to pick up the car the next day.

Off I go, only ten more hours to Vermont. I was a little worried about missing the ceremony, a little worried about my car, (What about that other axle?) a little worried about the dent in my wallet from the $382.00 automotive bill. Don’t you know it rained in the entire state of Pennsylvania? It rained in the entire state of New Jersey. After six hours of pelting storms and standing water on the freeways, I was exhausted. I still hadn’t made it up New York State or crossed over the Hudson River into Vermont. I was hours and hours away from my destination. Also, where were the pay phones always at gas stations or corners of streets or in governmental buildings? Where did they all go? I needed to tell Goddard about my tardiness. Maybe it would comforting to tell someone about my plight? I splurged and got a motel room. I still had time. I could still catch the graduation ceremony the following afternoon. I’d just be two days late. . . .


After a dead sleep, I woke and made it to Vermont just in time to check in at Goddard College, visit with my peers, complete the final requirements of the residency and attend my MFA ceremony. This was Sunday afternoon. Then the plan was to follow my friend Carolyn and her husband down from North Central Vermont to the Boston area to spend the night. I could leave my car at her place and fly out of Boston to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the following morning. I was heading to the 35th Annual German summer immersion program; a four-week stay at the Taos Ski Resort sponsored by the University of New Mexico.

Ja Wohl!


Remember my crappy car? On the way down to Boston, the back window broke. Then the car rattled this-way-and-that across the highway. They were leading, but I couldn’t call them because I did not have a cell phone. I flashed them with my lights and eventually they pulled over. I went first, in case the car broke down, embarrassed. I kept thinking of that other axle. Was it about to go? My friends said they’d have a friend take a look at it while I was away studying Deutsch.

Ich habe Angst, ich werde wie ein Idiot klingen. Ich bin zu alt, um sich fließend!

At the Boston airport the next morning, I waited and waited to board the plane. Something was wrong. The plane’s toilet malfunctioned and they couldn’t take off. We had to wait for a plane flying in from Paris to be cleaned and serviced before we could go ahead to NM. Missing my connecting flight, we passengers scrambled to reschedule our own flights by using the airway courtesy phones. Five hours later, we were on our way. I was worrying about trying to speak nothing but German for four weeks and my fears were getting the better of me. I wanted to call Carolyn and ask her to take me to my car.

Me and my adventurous spirit.  Humph! I wanted to go home back to Virginia. Not having a cell phone, I had to find pay phones in the airport. I knew they were somewhere–but not by me. By the time I finally found a pay phone, she didn’t respond. She had her own plans, and I missed the option of canceling the trip. Besides, after the 4 weeks at Taos Ski Valley, I made plans to visit my son and two grandchildren in Phoenix.

By the time I arrived in Albuquerque, it was late at night and I had missed the three-hour shuttle ride to the ski resort. I was stuck in the airport. I asked the baggage manager for help, and she gave me a coupon to stay at an airport hotel since it was the airline’s fault my traveling day was a disaster. Any other time I would have been thrilled, for the hotel room was luxurious and an oasis for my nerves. I paid $35 for a $200 room. Whew! With no cell phone, I had to use the room phone which was expensive. I arranged for the shuttle ride. The people running the summer school program had no idea where I was. They couldn’t contact me. I’d have to wait until the next morning before calling them. I’d have to tell them all that happened—auf Deutsch. Also, I was beginning to wish I had a cell phone. I was tired of all the inconveniences.

Have you ever tried to be good at something and you just can’t do it well? That’s my relationship with the German language. I comprehend it adequately and pronounce the words well, but ask me to build a sentence that sounds other than what a five-year old would say, and I fail miserably. I  can’t seem to grasp the “whole” picture. I understand that part of the problem wasn’t me or the teacher. I had the motivation; they had the compassion for putting up my butchering. Once you leave the foreign language classroom, I forget about it. I seem to be in a permanent state of review and recall. Throughout chunks in my life from the age of 13 to 48, I have pursued this hobby and have amassed total of 25 hours of college German. Impressive?

Ich kann nicht Deutsch sprechen sehr gut. 30 Jahre später, habe ich noch nicht. Wie Deprimierend.

Okay, I’ll stop badgering myself. It’s my fault I don’t make an effort outside of the classroom to improve and keep it alive in my head. I should attend German clubs. I should listen to German radio and watch German T.V. I was apprehensive when I was accepted to attend a total immersion program sponsored by the University of New Mexico. I felt an immersion program was the only strategy left for the language to make an imprint in my brain. Perhaps, this time, I would become fluent. Practically, I thought I could get a teaching endorsement. It would be fun to finish out my teaching career teaching Deutsch instead of English and history. The day-to-day interactions would keep me from forgetting everything. So I accepted and vowed to speak only Deutsch with my peers in the room, at the dinner table, at social events—everywhere I went—only Deutsch for four weeks.


It was very clever of UNM to pick the Taos Ski Valley as their destination. It was so remote, you can’t really get away with speaking English unless you leave and go to town to pick up provisions to restock the ski resort condominium. As soon as we left the mountain for the drive in to town, we RELISHED the English language and took turns venting. I listened to post-graduate Deutsch students and professors give lecture after lecture while we took notes. I copied down words and tried to make sense of it. Later, I translated the words I didn’t know and then tried to write an essay about what I had heard—auf Deutsch. In class, we sang German songs and learned grammar. We read articles in Der Spiegel, the German equivalent to Time magazine and we had to summarize and report to the group and discuss the articles. Oh, how painful that was. The good news, by the grace of God, somehow I managed to pull off a B+, an A, and an A+. I earned six more college credits. When it came time to decide whether to take the proficiency exam to earn the teaching endorsement, I did not. I was happy to walk away with the six credits.


The German films we watched were awesome—like The Wave. It’s an allegory of WWII, set in the present day. The movie shows how a group of students are inculcated by a mesmerizing teacher. The students become a cult and madness erupts.


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) which is set in France is a haunting, decadent and disgusting all wrapped up into a visual orgy. The film happened to compliment the 18th century philosopher, poet, and playwright of the month at the summer school, Friedrich Schiller.

Serious academics, here! I took the pressure off myself and focused on improving my speaking. I must say, after four weeks, don’t you know, I did improve. The only bad thing that happened to me was I insulted the head professor by accidentally calling him a drunk when I meant to say he was the life of the party. He was not amused. I avoided him for two weeks.


The way I could keep my sanity and escape from people, Schiller, and the Deutsch was to go for lengthy, daily walks by myself. The area was breathtaking. I enjoy visiting ski resorts in the summer. It’s empty, green, and the temperatures are perfect. Taos is 9,000 above sea level and it felt like the Alps, hence, why they hold the German immersion program there.

My stubbornness for avoiding technology backfired at the summer school. I did not have a lap top. No phone. It was a nightmare trying to borrow a lap top with internet capabilities. They had a computer lab, however, access was limited. It was dreadful trying to research, write and edit my work. My old dictionaries were not serving me well. I wanted to use the electronic translators my roommates used. My roommates grew tired of me making my long distance phone calls in the central living area of the condo.

After my summer adventure ended, after I visited my family in Phoenix and flew back to Boston and drove home to Virginia (the car held up, and I still drive the thing), I reflected over my crazy summer.

I went out and bought a cell phone.

So endet meine Geschichte! Tschüss.