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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Berlin In Pictures

We’ve been in Berlin since early July and have seen and experienced so much of this great city.  And it just occurred to me, I haven’t shared any photos with any of you, my loyal followers.  

So, for all you armchair tourists out there, this post is for you!


A visit to The Berlin Zoo

 One of Berlin's many museums (

Got bugs?

All sorts of creepy things in glass jars.....

The Berlin Wall

An aerial view of an actual segment of The Berlin Wall and guard tower, as seen from the West.This exhibition can be found @Nordbahnhof.

A plaque marking the spot where an East Berliner was shot and killed trying to escape to the West @NordBahnhof.

 We visited mom's work place, German Foreign Office (

Even John Kerry stopped by for a visit.

 The U-Bahn Museum

Future driver?

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church a.k.a. "hollow tooth".  You can read more about it here.

View from inside the church

 Siegessaeule (Victory Tower)


View from the top.

Street view of Brandenburg Gate

Soviet War Memorial in Tiergraten

German Bundestag

Humboldt University Berlin

A plaque marking the spot of the May 11, 1933 Book Burning.  Click here for more information.

 German Bundestag Library-part of it.

Christopher standing on the floor of Bundestag.

Glass dome atop of Bundestag

A view from inside German Parliament (Bundestag)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Parent Evening & A Question About God

Last week’s parent evening was great.  Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t able to join me.  Someone had to look after Christopher.  This was a parent’s only event.   And as this is partly an American school, we decided it would be I who would attend. 

Everyone met up in the hallway of the elementary school @7pm for a short introduction by all of the grade three subject teachers.  Then, everyone was sent off in smaller groups of @15 to visit each subject teacher.  Each teacher gave parents a quick, no-frills rundown of the curriculum.  In total, I visited three teachers, with the final one being Christopher’s homeroom teacher.  Of the three, I enjoyed both his English and homeroom teachers the most.  I met his German teacher too.   More on her later... 
My first stop that evening was Christopher’s English teacher.  She made a good first impression and came across as someone with a genuine love and enthusiasm for teaching.   One important skill my little boy will learn in her class is how to write cursive the right way, not necessarily Christopher’s way.  He’s already doing this but not exactly the way it should be written.  From 4th grade onwards, students are no longer allowed to write in block form (manuscript), only cursive handwriting.  Book reports would also be included, along with weekly spelling tests and contributing to a class blog.   The use of proper punctuation marks such as commas, apostrophes, capitalization and periods will all be enforced.  Last week, each student wrote a letter to the WWF, requesting information on an endangered animal.  Oddly enough, I remember doing the exact same project as a third grader although, I don’t recall to whom I wrote.
Next up was the German teacher.  I’m neutral here, although I do believe her style of teaching is very good.  Too long to explain in detail so, you’ll have to take my word.  She claims to make sure each child writes down his/her homework assignment from that day’s lesson, if there is any.  However, when I told her my child’s homework book is often left blank for this class, she looked confused and seemed genuinely surprised.  Obviously something is wrong here.  Since then, I’ve noticed considerably more comments being made in his book.
And finally, my last stop for the evening was Christopher’s homeroom teacher.  Due to time constraints, little was discussed with respect to curriculum.  However, a few days later, parents received an email explaining the curriculum in detail.  What did happen though, I was unanimously elected as the American Parent Rep—a position I volunteered to do.  Another person volunteered to be the German Parent Rep—two alternates were chosen as well, one German and one American.  Had we four not agreed to do this, a childhood game of “Duck, Duck............Goose!” would’ve been used to determine our Parent Reps.  Electing Parent Reps is a German public school requirement.     

Last night, a separate parents evening was held at the school to, talk about religion classes.  Back home in America, this wouldn’t be possible—separation of Church and State.  Like parent reps religious classes is also a state requirement.  Our school offers five—four actually, as one is for those who don’t believe in anything.  They are Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Jewish.  Classes are taught by a volunteer from within each of the local religious communities, not by a teacher from the school and give students a chance to reflect on their values and culture.  Children not attending one of these classes are placed in what’s known as “religion rest”. 

For some strange reason, Christopher ended up in religion rest at the start of the year, even though we’d indicated earlier on he should be placed in with the Catholic group. 

At the conclusion of last night’s discussion, I had a brief chit-chat with Christopher’s teacher.  She immediately recognized me, saying how sorry she was that our son ended up somewhere else for the first couple of weeks. My email got fwd to her. Then she went on to compliment me on how well behaved he was and, unlike his classmates, knew all the religious prayers.  I explained that he has been enrolled in First Communion preparation course for the past three years in Kuwait so yes he ought to know them all very well.  She was impressed! 

Btw, only a one year preparation course is required here in Berlin to receive First Communion.  In Kuwait, it’s four. 

Speaking of religion, Christopher asked me the following question today.  “Daddy,” he said, “Do you know how old God is?” 

“No,” I replied, “but I’ll be your religious teacher will know the answer to that question.”

“Okay, I’ll ask her.” 

I’ve forewarned his teacher this is coming.  I’m curious to see what she tells him.   Ha!