find the german in you!

Today I decided to explore options related to Resolution #3 from my last post–where to volunteer??  Being unashamedly nerdy, I thought immediately of the German American Heritage Museum.  (Okay, “immediately” is a big exaggeration.  I combed the internet looking for German museum-ish places, and after a lady on the German Embassy’s answering machine told me they were decidedly NOT looking for volunteers or interns, I picked the museum closest to a metro; hence, the German American Heritage Museum.)  I headed down to the Gallery Place metro and enjoyed a nice walk through DC’s Chinatown (and by town, they really mean block) before arriving at the museum.

Neither me nor my parents are German, but Mom & Dad did live in Düsseldorf for a year before I was born.  So Lisa and I grew up with a small to moderate amount of German influence–when our parents wanted candy without the kids knowing, they would use the German word (Süssigkeiten) instead; most of our Christmas tree ornaments are handcrafted out of wood shavings; Tante Gertrude, my parents German teacher, made her way into conversations quite frequently.  So when 7th grade rolled around and I needed to choose which language I wanted to pursue, German was a no-brainer.  When I got to college, continuing my German was another no-brainer, especially because the classes were truly interesting.  Unfortunately, swimming monopolized all–literally ALL–my time, so a study abroad course or extended German vacation was impossible, leaving my accent distinctly American.  (Compared to the crisp, clean, precise speech of the Germans, Americans talk as if they have “potatoes in their mouth,” a characteristic I have yet to overcome.)  Something about German speaks to me; there is a military strictness to the spelling, word order, and pronunciation that English lacks, an easy way to say exactly what you mean without having to meander around the point without ever being able to make it.  I love that you can string words and words together to make a new one; one of my favorites is the word for potato, Erdapfel, where erd means Earth and apfel means apple–together you get an Earthapple! I love the history of Germany–you could devote a whole semester long college class on each decade in German history since the early 1800s and it would all be fascinating.

My original hope for post-collegiate life was to achieve a Fulbright award, which would allow me to teach English in Germany for a year, at no cost to me.  Sometimes, however, life has interesting ways in working itself out, and I got to the very last stage of the selection process before being named an alternate.  I still have that hope of one day living in Germany, as a resident and not a tourist, so if that ever materializes for me, I better be prepared.  Thus, I am exploring volunteer jobs in places that will allow me to exercise my rusty German tongue.

The German American Heritage Museum is in a wonderful little house on Sixth Street, with three floors packed full of information on German immigrants and their impact on American society.  (Trivia–did you know Elvis Presley has German roots?  Same with Babe Ruth!!)  When I was there, it was also crowded with adorable German children, and it was all I could do to not steal one.  German babies are all blond-haired, blue-eyed, bowl-cut, turtleneck-wearing, cuteness, with names like Detleff and Eva that make you smile when you say them.

can i have you please?!

When all the German babies left, I finally got around to looking at the material on display.  The museum is pleasantly modern, with minimalist time lines on the walls and no unnecessary descriptions.  To be seen:

An original dirndl, next to a great view!

A HUGE bust of a famous German man–maybe a composer?

The steps between levels are artfully decorated with any and all household German names, with portraits and bios on the walls.  This is actually a very arresting display that catches you right as you walk in–I particularly enjoyed the German color theme.

I really liked the museum, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.  You have to be genuinely interested in learning a little more about Germans in America, but the museum does a good job of not inundating you with details.  It’s pretty interactive, so kids could definitely find things to occupy themselves with.  I wish they had some German food–a good roll and some cheese would have been something I’d have happily purchased if it were available.

The volunteer opportunities didn’t seem so great, unfortunately, so I’ll have to broaden my search and try again next weekend.  I’ll be sure and keep you updated!

 

Do you speak another language?

I speak a little German, but I really want to learn French next.  I was going to buy Rosetta Stone and learn it that way, but then Michael Phelps did those commercials for them and so now I think I’m going to do it a different way.  Because we all know Michael has a little trouble with decision making sometimes.

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One Response

  1. Just found out that you are not German. Learn French–it is so fun and then we could have 4th grade-level conversations about food and shopping! I need to brush up on French. I also would like to learn Italian.

    Michael Phelps has marred so many products.

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