As the trip is winding down, we were going to see more of the sights and sounds of Berlin. Today we went back to visiting a school, which we haven’t done in a while. This school was an elementary school for Jewish students. Arriving at the school in a double decker bus, the school was definitely older, but showing character and vital signs of learning. We were greeted by the principal and ushered into the cafeteria. Immediately we had what I believe were second graders who performed a wonderful musical performance for us. Following this, we heard a brief introduction to the school, before we were split off and visited different elementary classrooms. At the start of the fellowship, I had already given all of my elementary goodies away, so I was empty handed. I noticed in the 2nd grade classroom we were observing, the SMART Board would lift up or down accordingly to whether it was in use. We were going to watch a reading lesson. Since I couldn’t understand a thing that was being said, I decided to create a gift for a kid. I found a piece of paper and a pen and drew a picture of the creature from the book the students were reading. I also added a soccer ball, and the German and American flags. The little boy that kept wanting to see what I was doing received the picture. He was smiling ear to ear. Actually, I think Kimberly was more pleased by it as she almost cried… funny. The boy put it by his desk as he worked and the teacher saw it and smiled. After the lesson, we went back to the cafeteria and heard more about the school. The students took us outside to their wall of bricks. Each one had a name on it of a Jewish person who died in the Holocaust. Every exiting sixth grader would have to research one person and add this brick to the wall. I noticed two sixth grade girls who wanted to talk to an American sixth grade teacher. While the language barrier was there, we were able to have a fun conversation. It was hilarious when I noticed from one girl the outline of a phone standing out underneath her shirt and I politely asked if phones are allowed there. No translation needed, she simply zipped up her shirt and seemed to not want to talk to me anymore. I just wanted to know if they use them! Taking a train to the fancy lunch at the Federal Foreign Office. Nearby they had delicious chocolate for sale alongside a giant chocolate bear, Reichstag, plane, and Brandenburg gate. Passing through security at the Federal Foreign Office, we were once again reminded that to be on our best behavior for the sponsor and that whomever sits next to them, to not mess up. Perhaps one of my favorite moments of the trip involved the never ending elevator. It literally never stopped. It was crazy to see it move and see everyone nervously step aboard. It was crazy seeing it and jumping in, waiting for the number seven to appear when I would literally jump off. Katarina led us to the area where we were to have lunch. A large room with a giant table, immaculately arranged table sets, and a view high above all of Germany knocked me off my feet. Go figure when it was time to get our seats, it was like a game of musical chairs, I end up sitting next to Dr. Heinz Wirth. He was a very pleasant man who is in charge of German relations with United States and Canada. He was reserved in speaking, but from what everyone said, I more then held my own in keeping up conversations. I actually did enjoy the conversations, though the food while fancy as it was, I’m not one for a giant fish on my plate to eat for lunch. It was a meeting regarding the economics of Germany, which surprisingly to me, I really enjoyed it. I found out about Germany’s role in the European Union and Greece’s current problems. Following this, all the meetings were done and Jenny had taken us to a boat tour through downtown Berlin. Sitting with Jenny and Joe, I thoroughly enjoyed the open air and simply cruising along the river. We really didn’t see too much different from what I’ve seen in my previous ventures through Berlin, but going on a boat tour was a nice change of pace. Heading back, we were to get dinner on our own and Joe wanted to get dinner together. Jenny said if we wanted to meet by 8pm, she’d take people to see Checkpoint Charlie, which I wanted to visit. Service in Germany is much slower than the United States. I was getting worried that I’d miss the 8pm meet up time, though everyone at dinner said they’d go see it anyways. I didn’t trust them enough to risk not seeing it. I quickly ordered my currywurst to go, in a styrofoam container and ran back with my food, gulpingit in my mouth as I ran, making a complete mess. The sun was setting as we walked through Berlin, eventually arriving at Checkpoint Charlie, which for as known as the name is, was really an unspectacular place. Next to it was the epitome of capitalism, a McDonalds restaurant. We made our way to the familiar Brandenburg Gate and took a few more pictures before Jenny said she was going to start taking everyone back, seeing as it was 11pm. I asked the group and Joe if they would want to join me to see the Victory Column that peered in the distance. To my surprise no one was willing, but I should have known, it was 11pm and my phone said we had already walked 11 miles. I headed out on my own, in the opposite direction. I began to realize that the column was much farther than what I anticipated. There were sections of the streets where there were no lights, it was late, I was alone, and VERY tired so I decided to expedite the picture walk by jogging to the destination. I throughout couldn’t believe how far it was, meaning the column was only bigger than what I pictured. Being exhausted from the run and the time of night, I knew the pictures I took were sloppy, which they were. Now the realization came in that I’d have to walk not only all the way back to Brandenburg Gate, but seeing as I don’t understand or trust my use of the public transportation, I had to take an additional 2.5 miles back to the hotel. Jenny said it was simply a straight line, so I hoped she was right. The walk seemed to last forever as I got back at around 12:30, only to see Jeff and Amanda in the hallway. I went back to my room and crashed, not before briefly calling Kelly. I was tired, that was an unassuming busy day.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.