This will be my last post about the German Exchange for a while. This one I am writing this one now instead of using a previously published story.
Relationships are the most cherished memories from the exchange. The friends I have made make me long for a return visit. I think the first set of friends has been a part of our lives since 2007. Erika and Frank are some of the most generous and giving people I have met. The lessons I have learned from them are amazing. One of the enduring lessons was greeting people. As a kid, I knew that I was always changing schools and never really fitting in. A manifestation of that was that I never look people in the eye when greeting them. I would make a quick glance and then look down. I felt that everyone was better and that I should be subservient to them. The result was that I always look down when meeting people. Erika would have none of that. She said that Germans are direct and to the point and that looking someone in the eye was a part of any encounter. It was hard for me and took here a few years but now I have a better understanding and am coming to realize that I am of value and deserving of eye contact. The way she convinced me is that she wouldn’t let me have my hand back until I looked her in the eye and greet her. We have had many adventures together and my wife and I love being with them. Erika and Frank were the owners of Leo that I wrote about a few blogs ago.
Herr Groβman is an enduring friend from our exchanges. Those that know me are aware that I had a checkered past with school administrators as a child. (That is a nice way of saying I was in trouble) I still get nervous when called to the Principal’s office even after thirty years of teaching and getting an administrator license myself. Lutz was the Director of the Heimschule Lender and I was nervous meeting him the first time. A few days later Erika, who we were staying with, said that he would like to invite me to dinner. He also didn’t want any of the English language teachers to come to serve as interpreters. I walked over to his house and met his wife Irina and their two children. Even through the stumbling language on both sides, it was one of my favorite evenings in Sasbach. We talked for hours and went through the bottle of wine I brought and found that we had very similar beliefs in education and teaching. As a part of the exchange, we went to Berlin on our own for three days before going to Sasbach. Lutz grew up in Berlin and came up and gave us a tour that normal tourists don’t see. The history and stories were amazing and he told the students about riding up to the guard towers on his bike and talking to the guards. The next time we went I stayed with Lutz and his family. We did a journey to Luxembourg and visited the Saar region. We toured a steel plant that produced the materials for most of WW 1 & WW 2.
Frieda & Nathalie were Kaila’s exchange partners and they will also be forever members of our family. The year the students come to us in the exchange is 2 years before graduation. The best experience was that I was able to attend both of their graduations. These two have given us three daughters with 2 by proxy. 5 daughters with Erika and Frank’s daughters. The best part is that all five have turned out to be amazing members of society and make the future look bright. The picture is from Nathalie’s graduation. I did one from Frieda in an earlier post but will add it here.