our journey so far…

We started this blog in 2012 when we moved abroad to work at a school called the Black Forest Academy.  BFA is in Kandern, Germany,which from photos looks like a quaint little puzzle you might put together with your family at Christmas.

Many of you know that we have both been interested in working and living abroad since… well before we even met each other!  In fact it was something that attracted us to one another! After we got married the question became when will we go?  We thought about it, and prayed about it, and decided it would be wise to wait to pursue opportunities abroad until we had been married for a year, this gave us some time to transition into life together! And time to enjoy our friends, family and new marriage!

We didn’t quite make it to the 1 yr mark before we dove into exploring our options!  All sorts of questions came up! How? When Exactly? Where? Doing What?

After doing some research We decided to pursue working with the organization Teach Beyond.  Teach Beyond partners with people who want to serve at international schools around the world and helps to place them in a school that will fit their skills and personality best.  They also help through the process of applying to schools and raising support to go.  Yup. We had to and continue to raise support… don’t worry, we’re not there yet. So there was the answer to How, TeachBeyond!

You might wonder, why international schools?  Good question! We both worked in Portland with kids, I worked as an art instructor and Jamison is a community support specialist, Jamison met with “at risk youths” in the community and helped them develop life skills and self confidence! We both really love working with kids. I dare say, it is even something we are good at!  At BFA I teach ceramics and AP Art, this means my skills and strengths are being put to good use!  Jamison is great with helping kids understand who they are, and helping them work on the things they want to be better at.  At BFA he is a guidance counselor. Long story short, working at an international school like BFA gives us both the opportunity to serve together at the same place, in different ways, using our skills!

We were very fortunate in our initial inquiry with TeachBeyond, One of their recruiters, was going to be in the area soon and we set up a coffee date with him.  At this point we didn’t have any clue about the when? aspect of things, we were given a few schools who were in need of both art teachers and counselors for the coming 2011 school year.  One of which was BFA, We were really drawn to BFA!  When we met up for coffee with TeachBeyond’s recruiter we had a great time talking about the different schools and opportunities as well as the practicalities like raising support, and when we would go.  He knew a lot about BFA because he had spent several years working there.  After talking about the practicalities we decided to aim at leaving this coming summer of 2012.  We planned to apply to TeachBeyond and BFA, begin raising our support, live intentionally the upcoming year with our family and friends and hopefully be set to leave for the 2012 school year!  So there was the When and potentially the where!

Teachbeyond encouraged us to contact BFA to let them know of our interest.  Amazingly enough their recruiting liaison was going to be in our area in a few weeks. (crazy? or crazy awesome?) We got to meet with her and talk more about our potential fit at BFA.  It was really a joy and a blessing to get to meet with both of these individuals, talking with them gave us such an excitement to pursue working at BFA and also gave us both a strong feeling of affirmation that we were headed in the right direction.  BFA’s recruiting liaison gave us a lot of insight into what life at the school could be like for us.  She told us about different roles we might fit into at the school and a little about the kids there too!

We began the long process of applying to both Teachbeyond and BFA.  There were pages and pages of questions and essays and we had many references to ask for!  Thanks to everyone who sent in a reference for either of us!  After several months of applications and a 2 hour+ phone interview each!  We were notified that we had been accepted by Teachbeyond to serve at BFA!

We then went thru a whirlwind of support raising and training in the next few months.  August found us on the plane bound for Germany and a new chapter in our lives working at Black Forest Academy!   We would not be where you are without the support of so many.  Friends, Family and even some strangers (not strangers anymore!) are responsible for getting us to where we are.  We are so grateful to have so many people behind us!

We have been working at BFA now since 2012 and plan to stay at BFA for a few more years, most likely a total of 5 years.  We are constantly looking for more financial supporters.  You can support us on a monthly basis (the best way!) :) or you can support us with one time gifts!  (also very helpful!!)  Just follow this link to fill out forms to commit to giving for Jennifer and Jamison Loop… www.give.teachbeyond.org

Keep following us here on the blog for stories and experiences from teaching at Black Forest Academy, living in Germany, and occasionally traveling Europe!

<3  J and J Loop

Saturday Morning

I wake up to the sound of the church bells ringing out the time.  I only hear two tolls ring out and that makes me worried.  If it was one toll it could mean that it was simply 9:30, or 10:30.  two tolls means it is either 2:00 and Jamison should be home from proctoring the SAT test soon, OR it could mean that I woke up mid-chime.  Luckily it’s the later since I have a few things to do before the stores close today!  I open up the laptop which also serves as our alarm clock, and find it to be 10am.  I don’t feel guilty, but I need to get going.

We have a huge stack of envelopes to send stateside. Over the past month they have been sitting in various places in our house, even in our car for a week, but until last night the letters hadn’t been stuffed into them and they most assuredly had not made it anywhere near the post.  Last night I stuffed the letters into the envelopes and sealed them shut.  The seal was the least pleasant tasting seal I have ever licked.  This morning they are sitting on the couch in a box.  I quickly get dressed, let Gatsby out, feed him, and lock the pathetic faced pup in the room.   I’m walking into town but I don’t relish the thought of lugging the envelopes (yes, they look heavy!) and Gatsby into town for my errands.  I remember how cold and crisp the air felt when I had let the dog out so I bundle up and find Jamison’s warm mittens to bring.  I sling the bag over my shoulder, I was right, it is heavy.  The envelopes don’t all fit and they stick out of the top of my bag.  The names of people I miss and adore peek out at me.

Frost and ice greet me on the steps and follow me down the hill towards Riedlingen.  It’s beautiful and I almost always remember to see the beauty on this walk.  It’s important to me to try not to forget.  I walk thru the tiny town of Riedlingen, I take a short cut thru a cluster of houses instead of walking on the road.  When the street stops I walk across the road carefully towards the path into the trees.

Walking this path is familiar, it reminds me of the drives that become a part of you, to work, to church to the store.  You almost don’t see while you travel those roads.  The path changes with the season and even day to day there is something new to see.  Today I am not seeing everything though, I am thinking through my errand and the conversation I am going to have at the post.  I’m also thinking about how much time I have for my errand.  I left before 11, it usually takes me about thirty minutes to walk to school from home and the post is not as far as school, I only have 15E in my pocket, and sending all these letters stateside is going to come to a bigger bezahlen than that.  If I walk further into town to the bank, that will add some time and I can’t remember if the post closes at 12:00 or 13:00.  If it closes at 12:00 I might not have time to go to the bank and back to the post.  I would have to ask if I can use my card to pay.  I don’t really want to, I like to use cash, it’s what everyone else does, besides, that way I can listen to the numbers, find the exact change and leave the cashier at the post smiling.  I spend the next bit of the walk, thru the golf course, going over the words.  I know how to ask if I can pay with a card, my new goal in my German language this year is to start speaking in more complete sentences and to learn new phrases so that I can be more than just polite.  I’m trying to think how to start off by saying that I have a lot of mail! (Ich habe so veil Post!) and next how to ask if I can pay with card (mit karte) or only with money (nur mit gelde) once I have that all figured out in my mind I roll it over and over again.  Fully aware that if I were not alone on this path through the golf course someone might see me and be concerned about the way my lips are moving in silence.

I pass out of the golf course path and come into the beginning of town.  Ah, Kandern.  To my left I see the large mountain, Hoch Blauen, looming in the distance, covered with snow.  I’m ready to go thru the second scenario.  If I have time to walk to the bank and get more cash out and then return to the post.  What then will I say?  I decide to keep with my plan to joke about my large amount of mail and then wing the rest.  I walk down the hill into town, Penny the grocery store on my left, next the bus bahnhof on my right and now the Post.  The sign says on Samstag it is open until 12:30.  I walk a bit forward till I can see the time posted on the bank next door, it’s only 11:07, I made good time and I can avoid using my card to pay and walk to the bank.  I have to readjust my bag of envelopes.  I’m telling you, it’s heavy.  I stroll to the left and around the corner past the Eis Cafe, open only during the warm months, I think about the “spaghetti eis” I will enjoy in June.  Vanilla ice-cream pressed through a metal pasta maker of sorts to look like noodles in your bowl, covered with strawberry “marinara” sauce.  I  pass the Topferei (the local ceramic artist’s shop,) past the Café Gemp and the small Saturday Markt in the markt platz before coming to Volksbank.  I use the ATM inside and the machine shoots out the European money that reminds me of Monopoly money.

I pass by everything once again on my way back to the Post.  I pass happy strangers on their own Saturday errands.  I greet them as they pass and my favorite person to greet today is an elderly lady out with her walker who gave me the brightest smile with her greeting.  Things go well at the Post.  I set down my mail and explain that I have “So veil Post!”  I hand the woman the envelope on top which goes to my doctor in Freiburg, I explain that this is the only letter for Germany, all the rest are for the USA.  She takes all the envelopes bound for the USA and counts them up.  There are two envelopes that have several other letters in them to be sent to our Mom’s to distribute around town to those who live too close to them to warrant the cost of mailing them one individually.  One of those packages is over 1000g she tells me, so it costs much more.  I know what she’s saying to me so that makes me happy and I don’t want to think about how long it would be before I returned to the post to mail the larger package after dividing it into two packages so I pay the higher price.  The trip to the bank is worth it, I am able to give her nearly exact change, she’s the friendliest worker at the Post (in my opinion) and the almost exact change is enough to make her smile and exclaim schönes Wochenende! to me as I turn to go.  “Gleichfalls” I say back (you as well!)  TSCHÜSS we sing together.

Back outside I decide I deserve a reward for my morning excursion.  After all, it’s the Saturday after finals week, I walked into town and was successful in my excursions and, I havn’t had breakfast yet.  I walk back towards the Café with my now weightless bag swinging by my side.  Inside the cafe smells absolutely delightful.  I glance at all the options, I could get a croissant and snack on it in the cold on the way home, or a slice of küchen (cake) for later… some quiche?  Then I spy a Rosenküchen.  It is as close as you might ever find to a pan of cinnamon buns, only I know better than to think they are going to be as gooey, as sugary, or as sweet as Cinnabon’s or my mom’s!  They are delicious in a subtle less sugary sweet way.  Your teeth don’t feel like they may have suffered some casualties after indulging in one.  I order my treat and pay.  The lady behind the counter and I call out Schones Wochenende to each other at the same time, we smile at one another and I call out tschuss, as I walk out the door with my Rosenküchen in hand.

Back up the hill, into the golf course, through the wooded path and the street of houses behind the road to my street. Kirchbergstrasse.  Kirche means church, the Riedlingen church is at the bottom of our street and I stand next to the church now and look up the street, which from here is a hill.  I walk up the hill, some kids are outside playing and they call out their hellos in their sweet playful voices.  There are always kids out, adults too, even though the cold is out to play as well.  They just bundle up, practically, with the clothes they must wear in order to compete with this weather.  I make it up the hill and to our house, I walk down the steps to my apartment, the ice has melted in the sun.

I’m tempted to heat up some water for tea and pop a piece of the Rosenküchen into the oven immediately.  Instead I pick up the apartment.  Jamison has been gone since before 7am this morning to proctor an SAT test at the school.  I decide I can wait to eat my treat until I straighten up the house as a little present to Jamison for when he returns.  Clothes away, bed made, this and that around the house put away, thrown away and to finish it all off I sweep the floor free of our furry companions fur!  Now, finally I turn on the kettle, heat the oven and pull a piece of the sweet dough free from the rest.  After everything is warm I sit on the couch in the living room with a view of the hillsides and farmland sloping away from me.  I soak in the accomplishments of my morning with a soft doughy piece of Rosen küchen, a warm chai and my cozy friend Gatsby.

saturday morning

cafe und kuchen

Christmas.

A time of Celebration and Rejuvenation.

When the last bell of school on friday rang, I was relieved.  I took a big breath and smiled.  That last day of school I told my students to have a great break, I told them that I wouldn’t miss them for a week or two but that I’d be sure glad when they did return.  :)   Jamison wasn’t able to breath a sigh of relief yet, he had to proctor an ACT the next day.  I guess I didn’t get much of a breath either, I spent the next few hours boxing up my pottery and running over to the Art Factory to set it up for the sale which was Friday evening and Saturday morning.  None if that mattered though, not the sale, not the ACT, well it mattered, but we didn’t care too much about stressing out about those things, We were going on vacation Saturday afternoon!

jensellingpottery

We needed a break.  We needed a change of scenery. We needed our own bathroom (we’ve been sharing with our frau upstairs because ours is being remodeled.)

We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go on vacation, I think the Lord knew how much we needed it because thru the generosity of Christmas gifts from supporters and the profits from my pottery sale we were able to take a trip to get our mind off of school and onto each other and REST!

So… we went on a road trip.

We left Saturday afternoon and drove for 7 hours until we reached Southern France.  We got some shut eye and drove another 8 hours the next day until we arrived in Alicante, Spain!  (Isn’t it crazy that we can go thru 2 countries in the same amount of time/miles it takes us to drive from N. Oregon to S. Cali?!)

cmas (2 of 23)Alicante isn’t a huge city, we mostly went there because it was cheap, by the sea and had great hiking nearby!  Oh… and Gatsby came too!  He was a traveling champ!

Our first day in Alicante we walked around town and spent a lot of time on the beach!  We miss the beach, but we didn’t miss the beach as much as Gatsby did!  (he hasn’t been to a beach since we left the states!)  As soon as his feet hit the sand he lost it!  He was full of happiness and tore around in the sand digging and running everywhere!!!

The second day we went on a long and amazing hike, we summited one of the amazing mountains of the Costa Blancas. From the top we could see the sea and the surrounding mountains.  It was hard work and took us most of the day to summit and return to our car, it was worth it!  We loved the new terrain, something like high desert, and it’s always refreshing to experience the beauty and artists details of creation.

cmas (3 of 23) cmas (5 of 23) cmas (6 of 23) cmas (7 of 23) cmas (8 of 23) cmas (9 of 23)Our third day we spent time walking on the beach and we also went into the city in the evening to a real MEXICAN restaurant (not Spanish food, Mexican)  It was delicious.  yum!

Then we started the journey back home.  We drove the long drive back from Alicante to S. Spain.  The next day we headed into Italy, but we stopped for a walk along the shore line of Nice, France, somewhere I’ve always wanted to see (hopefully we have a chance to stay there for a day sometime!)  We drove into italy and even stayed the night in Milan! (which is only about 4 1/2 hours from us in Kandern!) People drive crazy in Italy.  In Germany you only get honked at if you are in danger of death.  In Italy they honk at you just because they feel like honking.  Also, they might as well not have lines painted on the roads.  Just saying.  We drove the 4 1/2 hour drive from Milan to Kandern in the daylight and  now we would love to go hiking in Southern Switzerland.  It was breathtaking.  Jamison said “God wasn’t messing around when he made this part of the world!”  It was true!  Amazing blue waters of lakes, striking beautiful mountains falling into valleys of bright green grass and quaint little villages.

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The only thing I wasn’t a fan of on our last leg of the journey was the 17km long tunnel.  I like to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel at all times thank you very much!

We both had the same highlights/favorites.  They were the amazing hike in Alicante and the amazing views of Southern Switzerland.

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Matthäus 2:10 Als sie den Stern sahen, waren sie überglücklich. 

After our trip we were ready to cherish the joys of Christmas.  We went to a Christmas Markt in Freiburg with our friends.  Christmas markts are magical with their cheery lights and their adorable stalls that look like little clusters of wooden huts.  Towns string up lights along the walkways with stars and snowflakes.

In Freiburg they had decorated with strings of Moravian stars which are a beautiful symbol of advent.  Last year my favorite Christmas scene was the star hanging above the church in our little town of Riedlingen.  Everytime I saw it lit up in the night it made me feel warm, it stirred something inside me that didn’t make me cry, but made me feel awestruck.  It spread the Joy of Christmas by its light.  They sell these stars in different styles, shapes, and colors.

This year Jamison bought a star for me and I placed it in our window so that others can see it’s light in the dark and feel that warm joy rise up inside them.

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November & December (Where did you go?!)

You know that saying… “time flies.”  Sometimes people say “time flies when you’re having fun.”  There are a lot of great quotes about time… Dr. Seuss explains it all…

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
―Dr. Seuss

If time flies though, why don’t we notice it when it does?  flight: I think a large loud plane or a huge beautiful bird when I think of time flying! Those are noticeable things.  I feel like time is sort of a sneaky thing, and when it goes by quick it’s because time is being especially sneaky so that you don’t notice it.  Fast and sneaky time.  That’s what the last part of October and November and the beginning of December were like.  Fast sneaky time took those months right out from under us, like a rug.  That rug dumped us right into Christmas break.

So, here are the highlights from those “lost” months.  I chose 2 things that were memorable to me and Jamison chose 2 as well.  So for those months, this is all you get.  My goal for the new year is one SHORT post a week.  That way I avoid writing these lengthy posts every month… or 2… or 3 months.

Jennifer’s Lost Months

My two highlights are a special ART CRITIQUE and an ART SHOWING/SALE

ART CRITIQUE:  I might have mentioned the “class” I’m teaching.  Independent Study AP Art.  We don’t have an official AP ART class at BFA (yet!) However, four of my ceramics 3 students last year wanted to continue on in their ceramics thru an independent study.  Since I know one of the guidance counselors fairly well ;) He was able to make sure they all took their ind. study during the same class period.  This way I am able to teach them all at once instead of leaving them on their own in this endeavor!  Well, they have been working all semester.  The students had critiqued one another, I had critiqued them.  This was going to be even bigger!

I invited several artists to sit in on a critique.  The panel was six artists and myself.  mike, who taught drawing and painting last year and is highly respected by his past students(now he and his wife are awesome dorm parents!) Jeremy who teaches at the elementary school but is a phenomenal artist and has his degree in the arts.  Jon who teaches the art classes that I go to Thursday nights, he is very articulate in his descriptions and suggestions which was perfect!  The other studio art teachers were also invited Emily (foundations of art and graphic design) Karen (painting and drawing) Lexi (yearbook and art appreciation.)

Each student gave a short artist statement talking about their background and work and had 20 min with the critics to talk about their work and give them suggestions!  It went very well and seemed to inspire the students to think thru and plan during break.  I was proud of the students for their hard work and the chance to showcase their work.  I was also thankful for the artists and teacher artists who gave up their time to give these students the opportunity.

One of my Ceramics 2 Students working on a set of vases.

One of my Ceramics 2 Students working on a set of vases.

ART SHOWING/SALE:  I have been joining some artists in a class at the Art Factory on Thursday nights this semester.  Each month we focus on a different medium.  We’ve worked with oils and also watercolor/mixed media.  It’s been so good to have that time set aside to continue to foster my own creativity and to learn new techniques.  It’s also a fun time of fellowship with other artists, which can’t be beat!  The Art Factory had an open house where we got to show some of our best works so far.  There was also the chance for me to sell some of my ceramics.  I bought some clay and glaze and set to work, squeezing in throwing time wherever I could!  It all ended in a mass glazing rush, everything turned out pretty well and it was fun to sell my work, not only because it meant we had money for Christmas fun, but also because I love when people purchase a piece of functional art.  They will appreciate the artistry and design as well as the wonderful function of holding flowers, or holding delicious warm beverages duringWinter!    I didn’t find time or space to do an art sale last year so it felt good to buckle down and make art to show and sell again!

Art work.  The landscape and large work on the left are mine.

Art work. The landscape and large work on the left are mine.

Jamison’s highlights… MONACO and STUDENT ACCEPTANCE LETTERS

The country of MONACO:  In November Jamison got to go on a business trip… to MONACO.  He and the head of the guidance team went to a convention for guidance counselors of international schools.  They actually did a lot of work.  Meetings upon meetings.  Jamison learned some things that can help him while he works with our BFA students to find schools that will fit them.  He also learned about schools from all over because the convention invited college admissions counselors to come and show off their schools.  Jamison also had a lot of fun because they “had” to fly in the day before the convention because that was the only flight… bummer, they got to sight see around Monaco for the day!  It is second in it’s smallness only to the Vatican City (which is seriously a country?  It’s 0.2 square miles!)  Monaco is only 0.7 square miles, it’s population is 32,000 people!!  The country is mostly centered around the Monte Carlo Casino and Monaco is also known for the auto races it holds yearly on it’s own city roads!  Jamison was flabbergasted by the yachts.  HUGE ones.  He also saw a car for sale for several million euros.  All in all he had a good time, both because he got to go to the 2nd smallest country and also because of all the things he learned while he was there!

STUDENTS:  Jamison has LOVED his new job at the high school,  It’s something he sees himself doing life long.  (Maybe not his whole life at BFA, don’t panic mom’s!)  He has enjoyed meeting with seniors and helping them apply for colleges around the WORLD.  Some of his senior students applied for early decision and have already received their acceptance letters!  He feels privileged to be a part of this exciting process.  Jamison has also enjoyed helping those who are nervous or unsure about school find the right fit somewhere.  If you know Jamison you know it’s hard to feel upset, nervous, angry or frustrated in his presence, he has a very calming effect!  Another favorite part about the students is when he meets with underclassmen.  He has been surprised and interested in the goals that some of these students have for their lives at a young age, as well as their direction.  He loves listening to the hopes and dreams of students and for the chance to help them get where they want to be.  I think he is a pretty good guidance counselor, but I guess I’m pretty biased!

Well, those are our highlights!  Stay tuned for a post about our Christmas break adventures and rest, with lots of photos!

J and J Loop

Balancing Busy BFA

You might know this about me, but I love to use alliterations.  I use them on my class project titles when possible… examples being “cultural coils” and “tea for two.”  I’ve used them when showing art and in everyday conversation they tend to pop up.  It’s really just fun to use the same letter repeatedly.

Balancing Busy BFA is the biggest alliteration of them all.  Right now it is the most important one too.  Everyone involved in Black Forest Academy is constantly putting pieces of a BFA puzzle together, everyone has pieces, pieces that don’t go together with their own pieces, but match up with someone else’s pieces.  sometimes you can’t tell if the piece you are holding is an “important” piece or not.  Other times you know you are holding one of the all important corner pieces and you better be sure to place it well!  Let me make this illustration more accurate though.  In all honestly sometimes it feels like we are holding not one or two pieces of a BFA puzzle, but maybe 10 or 20.  Oh, and they are not normal puzzle piece sized!  They are the puzzle pieces from those 32,000 piece giant puzzles (that you can actually buy from Ravensburg and it might be Jamison’s dream to put one together) Now at the same time you are putting together the BFA puzzle, with about 50 other people who also have 10 random pieces of the puzzle, you also have a few normal sized tiny puzzle pieces that you might forget about, but dont, because they are very important!

These little pieces are you personal puzzle.  They are relationships, your personal health, your sanity, your alone time, your family and friends back home, your financial supporters, cleaning your apartment, walking the dog, etc. etc. etc. It is this small puzzle that can be forgotten because those pieces fit in your pocket so they don’t seem important.  Especially when your ministry is BFA (and the insanely huge and complicated puzzle that sits before you)

Those tiny pieces though, they are your life.  Stop.  Take time to slip out of the insanity of the never ending BFA puzzle.  Find a quiet corner, a cup of tea and sit.  pull out the pieces of your personal puzzle and put them together.

Go home for lunch, Take a run(or a walk) thru the hills in the afternoon and watch each day as more leaves turn red, orange, yellow.  Go on a date, spend time with a friend.  Journal, sketch, take a class for yourself, read a book, play your guitar,  pray while you do these things.  Whatever it is you need to do for you.  Basically. Breath.

Now, come back to the BFA puzzle.  Realizing that all of your pieces have meaning. (Even those tiny ones in your pocket.)  Start fitting your BFA pieces into the puzzle, teaching, lesson planning, class sponsoring, bus duty monday morning, grading, dorm subbing, coaching, driving the tennis van (thanks Jamison!) organizing the PSAT or proctoring the ACT,  meeting with students.

This week I took out my precious personal puzzle.   I took out the pieces of my own creativity, and my health.  I spent time piecing them together.  I ran thru the woods with my dog.  I worked out ideas of my own from my sketchbook.  I spent quality time with Jamison,  We visited our friends even though we had other “important” things we could work on.  I took a breath.  I needed it.

Now I am able to step back, look at my BFA role(s) and calmly and assuredly work out the pieces.  If I don’t take time to step back and take care of myself, If you don’t either.  We will come to a point with the BFA puzzle where we drop our pieces in frustration, maybe we will even give up, we will doubt our place and doubt our influence, we will wonder if we are useful here.

Today, reach into your pocket for a sacred personal puzzle piece.  Take care of yourself; then, we can all take care of one another and the students and school we love.

What Makes Us BUSY

I just wrote a piece about balancing life at BFA.  Those of you who are back in the states, well, I know you want to know WHAT we have been so busy with here.  So I will try to sum up the past month and of course, show you some pictures!

Well, we started school.  After the excitement of the first week we began to dig into the nitty gritty of projects and responsibilities!  I have 5 classes this year (last fall I just had 3!) I am also the head tennis coach this year.  Weeks have flown by where I felt like I was working on tennis during my only 2 prep periods and had no time for loading, unloading the kiln, cleaning or prepping for lessons.   After school is tennis practice.  I usually get home around 6 and after dinner I need to work on the things I didnt get to during the day, like lesson planning!

Jamison has been busy as well!  He spent the first few weeks of school meeting with all his seniors and talking about where they are at in their college/future plans.  He has been working with kids to help them decide where and what they might like to do after graduating.  Jamison is also in charge of testing services, he has already proctored both an ACT and an SAT (early saturday mornings!)  He is currently getting prepared to administer PSATs to over 100 students this coming Wednesday!

At the end of September, the Töpfermarkt came to town again (ceramic market) I met with some of my students and walked thru the beautiful pottery.  We talked about techniques and gained some ceramic inspiration together.  I have some really skilled seniors this year, I will miss them next year, but I’m sure the Juniors this year will rise to the occasion next year in their ceramic skills!

Every other Monday we are subbing at a dorm, we have had fun doing that, and hanging out with our students in a different setting besides school.  We are also class sponsors for the freshman class.  This past friday was field trip day for the freshmen and sophomores.  The trips are educational, the freshmen went to the WW1 trenches (1 hour drive from here)  and the sophomores went to a concentration camp from WW2.

We went to the trenches and had a great time exploring the area and learning from the history teachers.  I even found an old bullet shell! There was a group of French police looking officials there.  It turns out that they had found two undetonated bomb shells from the war and they were carefully removing them.  They were really excited about them and even showed us the bombs and let us take a photo! (yes I will post it below)  The  most surprising thing was how close the French and German front lines were. (photo below)  I had always imagined a large distance, like maybe 1/2 a mile or so.  Nope.  The closest point seemed to be about 20 yards!  The other interesting thing was the mix of people walking around the trenches, both French and German people hiked through the trenches together.  100 years ago their ancestors were murdering one another on this ground.  Today, they casually chatted and smoked cigars and pipes.  (sorry I didn’t take a photo of the French guy smoking his awesome pipe, It was going to be to obvious!)  The German side trenches are in much better shape.  The history teacher said it was because there was more rock on their side of the hill… but we all know rock or no rock the German trenches would be built well!  They even included grates for wiping your feet before entering into some of the little bunkers.  Ah, the German way.

Saturdays have been spent with the Tennis team.  Jamison has been driving one of the school vans for the team so it has been nice to get to spend Saturday together even though we are still working.  The tennis kids are fun, I would say they are my favorite, but I’m not supposed to have favorites, and I think honestly everyone is my favorite so, that sort of defeats the purpose of favorites.  ANYWAYS, As much organizing and work that tennis has meant this year, it has been an enjoyable time and I’m surprised how fast the season has gone, next week is our last match!

One of our away games was especially interesting because we stayed the night (not uncommon when we travel more than 4 hours)  But this time instead of sleeping on the gym floor, the other team organized host families for each of the students.  When we met back together the next morning at McDonalds the kids were all sharing about their different experiences with their military base host families.  Many of them were confused when their hosts kept offering them food past 10pm, oh America.  One family asked a student if BFA was “like a monastery school” she was able to dispel this myth for them, no we are not a monastery school.  It was a neat experience for the kids, and hopefully for the host families as well.

My friend and I hosted a baby shower for our friend Valerie who is due in December!  We had a lot of fun playing games and eating delicious food to celebrate the newest addition to an already stellar family!

Lastly, We found a tiny snake in our sink.  That was awful.  We captured it and let it go outside.

There are more things I could talk about, but those are the main, and more exciting happenings.  Enjoy some photos!

ceramic students at the töpfermarkt

ceramic students at the töpfermarkt

topfermarkt

topfermarkt

Sharing their tennis host family experiences

Sharing their tennis host family experiences

playing tennis

playing tennis

 

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

German line on the left, French on the right

German line on the left, French on the right

lookout

lookout

bombs

bombs

Freshmen "Fighting"

Freshmen “Fighting”

Val's Baby Shower

Val’s Baby Shower

snake. ew.

snake. ew.

Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu.  Do you know what it means, it’s French for “already seen”  and we use it to describe the feeling that “this has happened before” but it hasn’t… or has it?

This week has been a repeat of sorts or… “already seen” I think the best way to describe the opening ceremonies is to do a compare and contrast from what they were like last year.

Opening Ceremony/Day 1

Last year at opening ceremony I was in awe of the students, new to me, without names, just faces of the year to come.  I remember thinking about how many of them would be in my class.  (what would that be like?) All the seniors lined up outside with the flags of their country in hand, ready to start a new year too, ready to start a final year at BFA.  The image of the seniors lined up ready to parade into the auditorium in front of their friends, family and teachers was a beautiful idea, but some of this day left a mystery.  I didn’t know these students, I didn’t know their families, I didn’t know my fellow teachers very well.

This year…   I arrived to the opening ceremony anxiously awaiting the sight of the BFA seniors with their flags outside.  My students were back.  Seeing them lined up in clusters with their friends brought a surge of joy to my heart.  This year the faces were familiar and attached to them are memories of last year.  Many of these kids were my students, or my tennis kids, or Jamison’s soccer team kids.  They know me.  I know them.

Everyone is taking pictures, you feel like you are a part of a red carpet event.  I take a few shots and then make my way thru the lines to find some of my star pupils (not favorites, just stars)  I take some photos of these special students, hug them and welcome them to a new year.  This is the starting point, the springboard, the year is about to begin.

This year there is one more feeling that I didn’t have last year.  Sadness.  Each of those students with a flag, waiting outside on the cool september morning will walk into BFA today to begin their senior year.  In June they will walk out of BFA with their diploma in hand and leave an empty space at BFA.  I think about last years seniors, they were all such great kids, I see their faces and their personalities, the unique ways they learned and experienced art in my classroom.    It feels like my heart sighs.   For there is a great and wonderful thing happening called life, transition and moving on, but sometimes the goodness of it all stings a little.

And then it’s time for the procession to start, and I smile.  All these beautiful people here at BFA today.  The students yes, but the staff, and all the new staff, starry eyed with the prospect of the year ahead.  The parents,  proud parents, many leaving their students here for us to watch over.  There are beautiful people all around.

Wed, Thurs, Friday WHIRLWHIND

Jamison and I were kept pretty busy this week.  Jamison spent his time coming in early, staying late and being in his office during lunch to help students fix, or tweak their schedules.  Jamison will still be doing “testing services” which means he is in charge of the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and some other standardized tests.  He is going to be busy, not just this week, but all year!

I am teaching 5 out of the 7 periods.  1st period I have a group of four students working on creating AP Art portfolios, we don’t have an AP art class (yet!) at BFA so they are taking an independent study, we are treating it like a class so I will be teaching them formally which is not typical of an ind. study.  They have lots of good ideas and are already getting their hands back into the clay!  I teach again 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.  Back to back classes felt crazy this week, but I think once they are all working on projects it will feel less hectic.  I LOVE having students back in the classroom, I’m excited for the work they will make this year.  I have a ceramics 2 class and a ceramics 3 class, these are all students I know from last year, It was fun to see them come into the classroom again. They are confident and comfortable in the classroom and anxious to start work and learn new things.  I love that my classroom can be a safe haven for them and a time in their day to slow down and create something with their hands.

TENNIS! 

Last year I was asst. coach of the tennis team, I came to practice a few times a week and helped coach to the matches.  This year I am the head coach!  I spent my prep periods this week running around making sure practice was going to go smoothly (or something close to it.)  We take a bus out to a nearby town to practice because we dont have access to tennis courts here in Kandern.  This week was fun getting kids out on the courts and practicing, there are some new kids on the team too, so it’s fun to get to know them!  One of my friends is asst. coaching which I am incredibly thankful for!  In fact, I have two asst. coaches this year.  Having so many hands will help the kids get the most out of practice and lots of advice as they play.

New Commitments

Last year we were really careful about how many extra things we said yes to.  We were transitioning to this new place and we wanted to be cautious.  This year we felt like we could add a couple things to our plates.

We are excited to be Freshman Class SPONSORS! Being a class sponsor means that you help the students put together the different parties and activities.  We will go on the class outings with the freshman this year, next year we will continue to be their sponsors while they are sophomores.  We don’t know how long we will be at BFA yet, but it is going to be tempting to stay to see this class thru to their senior year.

The other thing we are adding to our plate is… DORM SUBBING!  It is going to be neat to see this other aspect of the kids’ life here at BFA.  We will be subbing every other monday night at a girls dorm called STORCH It isn’t too far from us so we are hoping to ride our bikes over after school and then back later.  Monday is the day the R.A.s have off so we will be joining the dorm parents there for the evening while the RA’s enjoy their day off.

As you can see, there is a lot going on!  We feel like, with special care, we can balance these new commitments with our previous commitments.  We must be intentional with our time, both with each other and working on fostering our marriage relationship as well as with our dear friends, we have such good friends here.  Please pray that we will be diligent this year in managing our time and taking time to nurture all our relationships!

first day of school

Our First day of school, Gatsby isn’t as excited as we are since he doesn’t get to come.

IMG_0006

One of the wonderful BFA seniors
IMG_0008

Seniors with their country flags, they can choose to carry their passport country’s flag or the flag where their parents/family live.
IMG_0012Some of my ceramic students!

Preparation.

It’s saturday morning here and as I begin this post I am laying in bed, awake, but allowing my body some extra restful moments before beginning the day.  Jamison and Gatsby are pretty much still enjoying the beauty of sleepy saturdays.

The first week of school at BFA has come and gone, and there is much to say about the week!  Before this first busy  week began there were several other busy weeks of preparation!

I arrived back from the states Wednesday evening of the 21st missing Germany (and Jamison!) terribly but thankful for the time I got to spend with friends and family.  I can say confidently that though I had my doubts about taking this little pilgrimage of sorts back to the PNW I feel it was helpful and I have clear sights for the year and a freed up heart for my students, friends and family here.

I also feel that if I had spent a day more away I would not have been prepared for the year, maybe this is a dramatic idea, but maybe it’s true!  I hit the ground running here spending a few special days with Jamison and our friends, and then diving into the madness of prepping my classroom, curriculum and myself for school.

The following week was meetings upon meetings.

Let me share with you a secret… Teachers are the worst students.  Now, maybe some of you fellow teachers are reading this comment with horror because you feel like you are a diligent student, I apologize.  Here’s the thing, we whisper and fidget and check our facebook during meetings, we get slow and groggy and complain after the 3rd meeting of the day, and many of us don’t take notes.

What I realized through this intensive week of preparation/meetings is that teachers are energized and inspired by teaching and sharing with students, investing in their lives and seeing them learn and grow.  Everyone was anxiously awaiting the arrival of their inspiration and purpose, the students!

All this adult time was a bit much.

A little confession though… I did enjoy a few of the meetings.

We have amazing leaders at BFA.  The people in place to lead our school from the Vice Principle to the Dean are insightful, inspired and diligent people.  I enjoyed the meetings where these leaders shared the vision they have for BFA and the purpose that BFA has in missions.

Jamison was already working hard all week putting final touches on the student schedules and decorating his office.  He has four Timbers scarves and a Thornes scarf to boot!  He is excited about his job as high school guidance counselor, and he is pretty happy about having his own office too!

jamison helping me get readyJamison helped me clean around the studio!

new aprons I made for the wheel

I made these new aprons for throwing on the wheel.

my classroomThe wheel throwing area, complete with some summer time improvements!

 

Playing Summer Catch-Up

It’s nearly August, and it’s time for summer catch-up!

At the beginning of the summer we sent out an email to everyone on our email list about graduation and the end of the semester, If you didn’t receive that email and you want to be on our email list to get the inside scoop and prayer requests just send me a message.

Graduation

Graduation was… well… it was something.  I found myself comparing the day to the opening ceremony at the beginning of the school year.  That day the seniors paraded into the school with flags from their home or serving country and anxious ambitions of the new school year.  At graduation the seniors paraded out of BFA with memories, tears, laughter and timid courage.  A lot of times people talk about how  graduates are now going off into the real world.  sort of.  Most of them are going to the next four years of the education, here we pray that they continue to learn and grow, they are no more or less in the real world than they already were at BFA.  When does the real world start?  With the bill of your first university loan payment? ;) BFA grads are already living life the best way they know how, and I pray they continue to grow into the life ahead of them.

I’m proud of the BFA grads and I look forward to their future with hope and anticipation.

SUMMER TIME 

Part 1 (work weeks)

Part of our job for BFA is 2 weeks of work at the school during summer.  There is office work to be done, and a LOT of campus clean up/spruce up to do!  We decided to do these 2 work weeks back to back right after school got out.  So graduation happened on Friday and Monday we were back at work.  Only with a slightly different wardrobe!

We were both assigned to the maintenance department team.  We got to work together the first week mowing the campus, pulling out brambles, sorting the tires for the dorm vans (in Germany there are winter and summer tires and with so many school vehicles, it was about time they got sorted!)  Oh, by the way, it was HOT that week, we came home tired everyday.

The 2nd week Jamison had work to do in the guidance office but I stayed on the maintanaince team and the task for the week was to SANITIZE THE ENTIRE SCHOOL!  Scrubbing chairs that hadn’t been cleaned, ever, spraying down every surface that people touch, and scrapping gum off of chairs and desks!  The work was hard but the company was good, and there was a lot of bonding over the task.  Oh, and lots of iced coffee breaks!

Part 2 (LOOPS VISIT!)

I have to be honest, part of the reason we decided to do our work weeks right away was in an attempt to make the time between school ending and Jamison’s parents visiting seem shorter, It worked!  We finished work weeks and had a few days to get ready for them to arrive!

It was so amazing to spend time with Lar and Lor and to show them our life here.  We were reminded of Germany’s little cultural quirks as the Loops experienced everything for the first time.  Yep, life is different here!

Everyday was full, we did a LOT of walking.  We showed them our town, the school, the towns nearby in France and Switzerland and then we went on vacation with them!  For them it was a vacation inside a vacation!

We went to Rome for a few days.  It was hot and busy!  I never thought I would get to see Rome, seeing things I had seen only in a text book before.  We were glad we went but it wore us all out, all that tourist stuff.  We were ready for our last bit of vacation, to the BEACH!

I don’t know about you, what your favorite kind of vacation is, but mine is the beach.  (Or when in Oregon, the coast!)  There’s nothing like sand between your toes.  We went to Palma Majorca, Spain for a few days to finish up our vacation.  It was just what we needed.  Sunny warm beaches and water at the perfect temperature for swimming and floating in.  Jamison andhis dad “snorked” around while Lor and I enjoyed the sunshine.  In the evening we would play cards and relax together.  We came back refreshed, and a bit sunburnt…

After our trip we just had a few more days before Jamison’s parents went home, we saw a few more local things and soaked up the family time!  What a blessing it was to have family here with us for those few weeks!

Part 3: (Lisa visits)

We had a day to recover and clean house after the Loops left and then we picked up our friend Lisa from the airport!  Lisa came to our area of the world for her cousins wedding in France, she was able to come a few days early so that she could see us.  Her husband wasn’t able to come, we missed you PETER!

Lisa and I (Jen) took the train into Freiburg and to Lake Titisee while she was here and walked and walked all around.  In Europe there is a lot of walking to do!

It was fun to have her visit, bittersweet though as it was a reminder of the deep and dear friendships we left back in the states.  We are thankful for the friendships we have here, and that the friendships we had/have in the states are not lost, just waiting across the ocean.

Part 3 (Recovery)

We said goodbye to Lisa on Thursday morning.  As much as we loved the time with friends and family, we needed to recover from all that expended emotional and social energy!!!  We’ve taken it easy the last few days!

Saturday was nearly 100′ here in Kandern so we escaped to a nearby lake in the mountains (1 hr drive away.)   We spent the day in the water and trying to get our dog Gatsby in the water, he isn’t a fan.  The day left us feeling refreshed and reconnected.

Part 4 (Preparation)

This next week Jamison will be in the office working on getting organized, school prep and testing services duties.  He is really excited about his new position at the High school.  He will be full time at the High School this coming year in the guidance office, helping prepare BFA students for university, and beyond!  He will remain in charge of testing services (AP, ACT, SAT, etc)  He will be pretty busy!

This next week I will be working “in the office” aka the ceramics studio on lesson prep and organizing all the curriculum for my three levels of ceramics classes.  We’ve got a lot to do before the school year starts in the beginning of September!  We are already excited about welcoming back the students and for our second year here at BFA!

J and J Loop

(Click on the photo to see it larger!)

Romania Re-cap (About Time!)

I hope you had a chance to follow us on our trip to Romania!  We would like to share a video with you that will give you a better picture of our time in Romania and the family we worked with there.  This video is available HERE on our vimeo account.

You can also look at photos on the romania blog www.romaniahome.wordpress.com or on Jennifer’s facebook page.

When i”ve been asked how Romania was my first response is… cold.

Something that stood out to me about Romania is the difference in standard of living,  like many other developing nations (politically correct for 3rd world) there seems to be a very stark contrast between the rich and the poor and a lack of middle class.  Each day we drove 20 minutes to our work site into the small village of Baltesti, driving past houses that were either half built or crumbling apart.  About 45 minutes away from Baltesti is a mall.  We stopped there once to go to the bathroom and another time simply to walk around.  Inside the mall were all the stores you would expect, fancy clothing stores, large grocery stores, a movie theatre, restaurants.  The people inside the mall all looked much different from the family we had been working with and the other people in the small town of Baltesti.  I wondered if these Romanians in this mall realized the poverty in which their fellow Romanians were living, literally just outside the doors.

Likewise, in the large city of Bucharest we toured the Romanian Parliament building, 2nd largest office building in the world (2nd only to the pentagon)  This building was massive, elaborate, disturbingly beautiful.  We took an hour and half long tour and then were told that we had covered only 5 PERCENT of the building.  The tapestries on the floors and walls where exquisite, there was marble everywhere.  Our guide with Habitat told us that many Romanian people are not proud of this building, it was built by the late communist dictator.  It’s original purpose… to be his home.  Over 20,o00 people worked on this building for 10 years straight, day and night, around the clock they were working, to finish this home for the dictator.  Over 30,000 Homes and 28 churches were destroyed so that the foundation for the building could be placed.

One thing I loved about working with Habitat is that the family who is receiving the house is required to work a certain amount of hours on their house.  In this way (and others) Habitat promotes empowerment and not charity.  The difference, in my opinion being vast.   The family was there at the sight with us everyday.  The men of the family were working right with us layering plaster while the women and children were picking up insulation as it flew away or sweeping the floors of the house inside at the end of the day.  Even though we did not share a language we did share a goal, to create a safe home and hope for the family.  I loved seeing the determination in our students as they worked thru cold weather and hard tasks, they believed in the project and it’s importance, they could see that building this house was much more than giving this family a home.

 Much good will come to this family thru their home.  It is easier for a Roma (Gypsy) individual to secure a job when they own a home.  Roma’s are stereotypically nomads and employers do not want to risk hiring someone who will leave on a whim.  Owning a home provides the family with stability and something to stay in one place for.  The family will “pay rent” on their new home for a set number of years to cover the cost of the homes materials (again, empowerment not charity) the cost per month is very small, around 15 US dollars a month.  They currently rent the “house” they live in now for about 90 Us dollars a month, money which would be saved and could be spent on sending their children to school.  School costs about 15 dollars a month, if all, or even some of their children can go thru school they have the chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty that their family is in.

Together we worked for 5 days on the home but we were not able to finish the inside flooring, insulation in the roof or the outside final coat of paint.  These are things that the family are able to do now on their own because of the funding we raised for the home and materials.  Habitat is keeping us updated on the family and has told us that they are continuing to work on their new home, with the goal to move into their home this summer!

Many of our students are anxious to go back to Romania and help other families who are in need of homes.  Some students are already brainstorming fundraising ideas for another trip next year.  I think this is a huge testament to the impact that Habitat and the family we worked with had on our hearts.

May we all continue to have relationships and experiences in our lives that soften our hearts.

ParliamentThe Parliament building (photo not taken by any of us)

IMG_0078Our team with part of the family in front of their current home

(Their bathroom and kitchen are outside)

Big picture in the snowWorking in the cold, and SNOW!

IMG_0043Our entire team

BFA+FES

Art Critique

I am so proud of these BFA students and their art!  

 Yesterday was critique day, It was a good fit because it was the last day of classes before break. The ceramics 1 class was critiquing their Japanese tea bowls, the ceramics 2 classes critiqued lanterns and ceramics 3 tea sets. (All hand built projects)

Not only did these students create lovely pieces, I really feel that they were able to effectively express their own aesthetics and personalities in their work.

To top it all off!  Every class had wonderful critiques. These high schoolers talked more poetically and used more artistic vocabulary than many of my peers (and myself) did in our college critiques! Maybe because I forbade the words, “pretty”, and “nice”… and maybe because if anyone was too vague I asked them “why” over and over until they elaborated… Or maybe it was the tea and coffee… but I think mostly they really had a lot to say about the artwork!

Okay, enough bragging about the awesome BFA students! I wanted to post a few photos from critiques so you could see the work.

Art Critiqe 11

Art Critiqe 3

Art Critiqe 2