GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
KKG / The Last Full Day
We were suddenly in our final full day in the state of Bavaria in southeastern Germany as part of the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) between our students from Warwick High School in Lititz, Pennsylvania and their hosts from König-Karlmann-Gymnasium located in Altötting, Bavaria. For three full weeks our students had experienced the German culture by living with host families from our partner school, who gave them the experience of the local history, traditional foods, public education, points of interest, recreational activities, and everything in between associated with the lifestyle of living in Germany. The departure date was about to appear on our calendar of events with the rising sun the following day. As a result, it was time to seriously think about tying up any loose ends, packing our suitcases, and carrying out the the final event of the exchange. The Goodbye Dinner serves as an important culminating group gathering of our Warwick students, their KKG partners, and their hosting parents. It is a time to show our humble gratitude and provide a small token of thanks for all the hospitality and friendship given to us by our German brothers, sisters, and their accommodating families. Wendy had worked feverishly behind the scenes during our 21 day stay to bring all the details together for this final evening at KKG. Orders had been placed, arrangements had been made, and now all had to come together to make it happen in a few short hours. We left school with our Warwick students in tow, planning to divide and conquer the list that Wendy had made and checked twice to make everything extra special nice!
In order to set our course, we first met at Wendy's favorite ice-cream cafe where all our kids were treated (bribed) with a complimentary cone of ice. Not wanting to break from what was tried and true, I ordered my usual flavor fix of snicky for at least the 12th time. It was delicious and thus, habit forming! With the kids now content and thoroughly "sugared" up, Wendy handed out the assignments to several small groups of students who went off in search of previously ordered Goodbye Dinner party supplies, located throughout downtown Altötting. One group went off to pick up several dozen flowers, another to buy 100 pre-ordered rolls at the local bakery, and I was leading the group to the butcher shop to buy the 20 pounds of ground round hamburger we would need for tonight's dinner. We were planning on putting on an American style picnic for our German friends with good ole American fare of cheeseburgers and accompanying fixins as the main course! I was glad to have my bilingual teenage companions along to help handle the verbal transaction with the metzger. I don't know how common an item like ground beef was as a regular purchase because I believe it had to be special ordered in advance. We were given two huge plastic sacks full of fresh hamburger and made our way back towards the center of Altötting. Along the way we found a small shop I had not noticed before that exclusively sold Bavarian themed souvenirs. This was the store I had been hoping to find since first arriving in Bavaria. A tourist trap off the main drag that sold high quality items at reasonable prices. It was the perfect place to dispose of any remaining Euros in our possession. I had been looking for the traditional Bayren flag of the state of Bavaria to add to my classroom flag collection and finally found it on my last day in Altötting. Go Figure! The kids stocked up on items for various acquaintances back home and then we were off to meet up with the rest of the group at the designated rendezvous point on the square.
Butcher Shop / Metzger of Altötting
We walked back to KKG and found the kitchen, where we stockpiled the combined lot of our party foraging expedition. We all went into action, each taking on a chosen task. A few went to work slicing up the lettuce, tomato, and onion fixins, while other attended to beverage storage detail or table setting duties. My task turned out to be quite a challenge, transforming two enormous mounds of ground beef into 100 uniform hamburger patties for the grill. Although an experienced customer, I have never worked in the fast food industry, and was at the mercy of my backyard barbecue experience for my family of four. I would have to find a way to effectively multiply my production by 25 times my normal patty patting pace. I needed to have a minimum of 100 total burgers, one for each guest attending the dinner. It was rough going at first, causing me to start over with a new game plan of attack! I divided the mountain of ground beef into ten smaller hills of similar size and density. Next, the hills were shaped into a rectangular brick and then divided evenly into ten uniform squares by use of a knife, and finally rolled and patted into a circular patty. It took some time but I ended up with 100 hamburger patties of a similar size and shape, ready for grilling. They were stacked on trays between layers of wax paper and placed in the industrial sized refrigerator unit for safe storage. It was now time for our students to meet up with their German partners, who were just getting out of classes for the day. They soon began to make their way to their home away from home for final preparations for the night's activities. While Wendy and I would provide the main course, our students and accompanying German families would bring additional food items to compliment our transplanted American style picnic. Many would make a variety of traditional salad creations to properly compliment the filet mignon of the American palate, the quintessential American cheeseburger.
Wendy and her Steed
Wendy had to get home to attend to additional details concerning the Goodbye Dinner and offered to drive me back to Tüßling to the Galneder residence where I had been staying. Wendy was driving a vehicle borrowed from her host family and was more than a little nervous driving solo on occasion for the first time ever in Germany. With false confidence we prepared to test our assimilation level to the foreign rules of the road with Wendy at the wheel and me riding shotgun acting as her severely flawed GPS. Our first challenge was to actually find our way out of the center of Altötting... Piece of cake or strudel or whatever? I had driven this route almost everyday since first first arriving in the country three weeks earlier. How hard could it possibly be... really? Wendy eased the car out of its parking space with white knuckles firmly welded onto the steering wheel. Immediately, I faced my first directional decision to turn right or left as we were about to exit the school parking lot... left it would be, which was, of course... wrong. However, throwing caution to the wind we forged onward as my internal GPS skills attempted to reroute our planned course. We turned right, left, zigged, and zagged only to come to the conclusion we were lost. However, we bravely pushed on and rolled up a slight hill, suddenly finding ourselves on the edge of the sacred Kapellplatz church square. More than just a little alarmed, Wendy instantly rolled down her window and asked the nearest pedestrian if we were allowed to have a car here... The woman turned toward our car and took one look and said VERBOTEN! She wouldn't have looked more shocked if we would have been wearing pink Easter Bunny costumes. It was time to do a quick 180 before we were attacked by a mob of local yokels donning hay forks and torches, got arrested by the police, or had to answer to Pope Benedict XVI himself!
Picturesque View of Tüßling
Can you say... Epic Fail? We made a quick about face, wondering if we had been caught on any video surveillance cameras, and decided it was best to quickly distance ourselves from the church square. An old term suddenly came to mind from a previous trip I took to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a friend of mine a few years ago. After doing something no permanent resident would ever do, like driving through a one-way mile long tunnel the wrong way for instance, my friend called us a couple of tourons... Tourist + Moron = Touron! Wendy was mortified and it was definitely a bone head move to be sure, but what a great story! I reassured her that her only mistake was taking directions from me! Eventually, we (Wendy) figured it out and we were soon heading out of town toward Tüßling. Wendy dropped me off safe and sound and before she departed, I jokingly asked her if she wanted me to explain the best way to travel to get to her final destination of Garching Alz. I thought it was funny but... hey, we laugh about it now! The house was quiet and I had a few hours to go before the Goodbye Dinner was scheduled to begin back at the school. One of my favorite activities over the past few weeks was riding bike through the beautiful Bavarian countryside. It was a gorgeous day and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to take one last bike ride around the village I called home for the past 21 days. After changing into comfortable cloths suitable for biking, I borrowed Andy's mountain style bike and headed out onto the road toward the center of town. Aside from walking, riding bike was the best way to slow down and really take in the scenery. You can see things on a bike you could never experience in a fast moving car.
Rustic Barn Wrapped in Color
During my stay, I had traveled in a car to the village of Tüßling by way of two different roads that led to the small quaint town. On the less direct route, we passed a rustic old barn numerous times that had caught my photographer's eye and Wendy and I had just passed it once again. The clock was ticking and if I wanted to get the picture, it was now or never. Due to the very recent failure of my internal GPS skills, I should have been concerned with getting lost. However, the steeple of the hilltop church was easily visible for miles in every direction and provided a beacon to guide me home. It proved to be a sentimental journey as all my senses absorbed the scenic beauty that is Southwestern Germany one last time. All alone on a bike, in the quiet solitude of the late afternoon sun, I reflected on all I had seen, experienced, and tasted during my stay. One final time, I was humbled by the thought... I can't believe I am here. I left the edge of Tüßling in my wake and began to cross the expanse of rural wheat filled fields before me toward the tiny village of Teising. Looking back at Tüßling, the sun reflected off the level red roof tiles of the collection of homes spread throughout the valley with the hilltop church looking over the landscape protectively. I was really going to miss this place. I soon entered into the outskirts of Teising and found the familiar dark wooden barn with the window box overflowing with color that I passed by so many times before. The sunlight was perfect for the shot and was now captured on my camera. Mission accomplished! With time to spare, I took the liberty to explore some of the neatly maintained side streets of the village to see some new sights on my final adventure.
Uniform Side Streets of Teising
As in most residential areas, which would be labeled as suburbs back in the states, each home was contained within a visible physical border. Although the homes were relatively close to one another, each was very private, accomplished through a combined effort of plantings and fencing. Some homes were almost completely shrouded from view, only visible by way of the opening from the driveway. Each property resembled a hidden oasis serving as a protective refuge from the stresses of the outside world. However, despite their best efforts to block my view, I did get quite a few great pictures of some beautiful traditional homes. It was now time to take the return trip back toward the center of Tüßling. I took the liberty to revisit the colorful town square, the small fairgrounds where I spent my first evening at the town festival, and the beautifully renovated palace grounds where I attended the annual flower show known as Gartenque. I also took the time to pass by the Shadhauser residence where I had enjoyed traditional Bavarian goulash, prepared in a kettle over an open fire. Eventually, I turned down the familiar street and the last house on the right at the end of the lane came into view. I had returned to my starting point, 16 Kreuzweg, Tüßling. Now, I had some time to finalize packing a few things in my suitcases to prepare for our early departure the next morning. I had been getting my belongings organized for days and wanted to be at the point where I could simply zip everything up for a quick exit. It was finally time for the big event. Wendy dropped by to pick me up to prepare the meal for our 100 guests expected at the Goodbye Dinner. I asked her if she planned to cut through the coveted church square of Altötting this time or go around it. Ha!
The Hausmeister and Grillmeister
The Warwick crew reassembled to put the finishing touches on the KKG cafeteria, where the dinner was scheduled to begin in about an hour. My task was mammoth, grilling 100 cheeseburgers to perfection for tonight's distinguished guests! Fortunately, I was assisted at the grill by the friendly hausmeister of KKG known as Georg Mauer, who was originally from Romania. In Germany, the head custodian of a school often actually lives at the school in an apartment right on campus where he can be available day and night if needed. He and his wife resided in a flat within the school building located on the first floor in close proximity to the teacher's lounge. In fact, we could look out over their well maintained backyard gardens every morning through the large windows that ran the length of the lounge. Herr Mauer had a fun filled, exuberant personality and was always there at the school entrance each morning to give a cheerful greeting. He knew about as many English words as I did in German, so we made an interesting team at the grill. I had assumed I was going to be grilling the burgers on a gas fired grill similar to my backyard version back home but it turned out to be a large flat restaurant styled one in the cafeteria kitchen. This was all new to me and I found it hard to prevent the burgers from sticking to the cooking surface until Herr Mauer came to the rescue with a large bottle of rich olive oil. East met West and the American style burgers had a Romanian- German-Bavarian flavor that would probably be more agreeable to our globally diverse guests. We worked well as a team, communicating through a complex dialogue of simple German and American words helped along by a lot of pointing and sign language gestures created on the fly. Within minutes we settled into an efficient fast food assembly line of cheeseburger production. The finished product was transferred to a warming tray and Wendy appeared to take over the bun assembly and serving responsibilities. Ronald McDonald would have been proud. The guests began to arrive and it was time to say goodbye. Tune in next time for my final installment of the An American in Germany series.
Beef... It's What's for Dinner!
Please stay tuned for the final installment of our adventure!
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