Monday, September 28, 2009

My Thursday Diary

6:57 am - Alarm goes off.

7:06 am - Alarm goes off again. I get out of bed.

7:32 am - It's time to take the early van in to school. This is for those who want to go in earlier than they would by riding the bus at 8:30. Three have signed up to ride in. We throw the hot box in the back before taking off. The hot box is what we pick up dinner with every evening to bring it back to the dorm and keep it hot. We take it back to school every morning. The three guys ride silently most of the way to school.

7:47 am - I arrive back at HBR.

7:56 am - I depart again, this time on an "ortho run." Different dorms are assigned at different times to provide drivers to take a group of kids to the orthodontist. It's usually on Thursday but not every week. I take Tony, Mark, and Austin with me as we leave HBR.

8:02 am - We pull in at school where four girls from Wittlingen dorm are waiting to jump in the van with us and ride along. "Ready to get our teeth worked on?" I ask. No response.

8:29 am - We pull into the parking lot for the orthodontist in the city of Müllheim.

8:31 am - I give paperwork to the nice lady at the desk, and we all sit in the waiting room and hang out. I always want to grab a book or magazine in the waiting rooms here, but then I remember... I don't know German! So I try reading a little of "A Tale of Two Cities," which I brought with me.

9:03 am - Soyoung, an RA at Blauen dorm, arrives with another vanload of five more students from different dorms.

9:35 am - Falling asleep.

10:04 am - Everyone is finally done so I leave with the seven students I brought to head back to school. After we're in the van for a few minutes, I ask, "Does anyone want to go to McDonald's?"
"YES!!!" from everyone.
"Is anyone opposed to going to McDonald's?"
"YES!!!" from one or two. Frantic whispering in the back: "He said is anyone opposed!" Then "No, no one is opposed!"

10:15 am - They switch from breakfast to lunch at 10:30 so I buy a couple breakfast items. A bunch of the students buy one-euro ice cream sundaes. Nice stop after a visit to the orthodontist, huh? This is almost tradition for any visit out there so don't think I was being an especially cool guy at this point.

10:53 am - We arrive back at the school, and the students sign in at the front desk and start walking to their respective classes. Third period has just started. I go check if I have any mail and then I hunt around for my Bible that I left at church on Sunday. No luck but it turned up later.

11:29 am - I get back to HBR and find Anna downstairs. "Ready to go shopping?" I ask. I wait for the answer, "Actually, they have hired people to deliver our groceries to us now so we never have to shop again!" Instead, all she says is "Yep."

11:38 am - We grab seven large crates to carry groceries in and jump in the van. I would never think to take crates along if I were just shopping for myself, but when you're shopping for a dorm, it's a necessity. We visit two grocery stores on Thursdays. Anna works on the grocery lists and then divides it so that we're looking for different things in the stores. Here is my list:

Brandon's LIST

Ice Tea 12
Milk 5 1.5 cases
Soda 2 Coke 1 Fanta 1 Sprite 1 Apfelschorle
1 case H-milk
1 case Multi-Vitamin
1 case Orange juice
2 cases Apple juice
2 Master Crumble fruit

5 White bread
2 Wheat bread
8 toast bread
1 Bee Pops
1 Fruit Cereals
2 Nougat Bits
4 flats yogurt
12 flour
6 sugar

11:45 am - Our first stop is at a grocery store called Lidl. Lidl is a lot like Aldi - in fact it is Aldi's main competitor worldwide. Look it up! ( I run around and fill my cart with everything on my list. 12 cartons of ice tea. Milk comes in 1.5% fat and 3.5% fat. I pick up five boxes of ten cartons each of the 1.5%. H-milk is a special kind of milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated - the H is an abbreviated German word. We use it mostly for baking although you can drink it as well. It creeps me out. The cases of soda are a six-pack of 1.25 liter bottles. I get 12 cartons of multi-vitamin juice, eight cartons of orange juice, and 16 cartons of apple juice. Master Crumble is a kind of cereal that we get that is actually quite good. After filling my cart with all of these drinks, it's probably almost as high as my shoulders and is probably the heaviest shopping cart I've ever pushed.

12:14 pm - We pay and head out to the van. The driveway down to the parking lot which you drive onto and push your cart down is sloped downward. So when you're pushing the kind of cart that we push, it makes for a really fun experience. When we get down to the van, I think aloud, "I wonder how many liters of liquid are in my cart?" I quickly add up everything in my cart, and the answer is: 161 liters. There are 161 liters of milk, tea, soda, and juice in my cart. And this was only supposed to get us through the weekend. The majority of it would be gone by Monday night. I told Anna, "Have you ever watched those 'World's Strongest Man' competitions on ESPN? I felt like this was one of the events - how fast can you push 160 liters of liquid down a hill and unload it into a van?"

12:20 pm - We arrive at the second grocery store of the day called Penny Markt. I get all of the cereals and breads and decide to get only three flats of yogurt instead of four. Each flat has 20 yogurts on it so that was still 60 yogurts. Again, just to get us through Monday.

1:13 pm - I pull up next to the front door of HBR. Anna and I transfer everything from the van indoors to the pantry. This takes a while.

1:59 pm - Arrange the last item on the shelf and pay a visit to the laundry room. I did laundry on Thursdays last year, and it worked out for me to have Thursday once again. I do the laundry for the seven sophomores in the dorm every Thursday. Because of the busy morning, I hadn't really done much to this point so I just transferred stuff from washers to dryers and put another load in the wash as well.

2:08 pm - I walk upstairs to my room for a brief respite.

2:12 pm - I leave for school again, this time to meet with a friend named Lee. Lee is the middle school chaplain at the school, and he is excellent at asking good questions. His first question to me is, "Are you getting your rest?" Go back to the beginning of this blog post, and start reading all over again, and you'll know what we talked about for the next few minutes.

3:04 pm - I drive over to Palmgarten dorm to hang out with a really special lady named Lizzy.

4:00 pm - I head back to HBR. The bus usually shows up at about ten past four with whoever wanted to come home early that day. It could be four guys or it could be 14.

4:12 pm - Anna made cookies as a snack for the guys who came home. I grab one and head out the door to take Michael to the doctor. Similar to the entry about visiting Palmgarten, there's not a ton you need to know about this trip. Let's move on.

5:57 pm - Normally, I would go pick up dinner at the school at six, but Anna had already left to do so since I was busy at the doctor's office. So I lay down on the couch until she returns and brings turkey stir fry with sesame noodles back with her.

6:15 pm - "It's dinner time! Everybody come downstairs! It's time for dinner!" Made by Anna on our PA system.

6:30 pm - You'd think we starved them by how fast they inhale their dinner. If you've ever eaten with me or seen me eat, then you know I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm the last one sitting and eating at the dinner table every single day.

6:46 pm - Guys are either doing their chores or sitting at a computer or playing outside or are up in their rooms at this point. I find Anna in the kitchen and make sure it's ok that I take a short nap. I climb the stairs to my room and collapse on my couch for a while.

8:03 pm - Study hours start at 8:00 for the juniors and sophomores, and normally I would stay up on their floors to monitor things/help guys study/discourage goofing around. But since I still haven't finished laundry, I walk downstairs to work on that. Thursday is the day off for all dorm parents so Greg and Danielle are not around, but we usually have dorm subs come in on Mondays and Thursdays to help out, and Eric and Viki are here to help preserve the order.

8:05 pm - Doing laundry is a time for quiet reflection in the dorms. Faithful blog readers will bring to mind my laundry blog from the first semester of last year. It takes a while when you're trying to do laundry for seven teenage guys all in one day and end up with it nicely sorted and folded! I pop in a mix cd, and start folding.

8:37 pm - Still folding.

9:14 pm - Still folding.

9:43 pm - I finish folding, and venture back into the world of the living.

9:44 pm - I climb the four flights of stairs up to my room for probably at least the tenth or eleventh time today.

10:00 pm - Toast time! Study hours end at ten, and the guys are allowed to go downstairs and enjoy some toast and milk. When I first heard about the idea of toast time, I wasn't sure what to make of it. Why toast? But now it seems completely and absolutely normal. Toast time!

10:03 pm - Our dorm subs Eric and Viki don't have cars so I leave to drive them home. They both live in Kandern. Good night! Thanks for your help!

10:20 pm - I get back to HBR. Lights out is at 10:30 for the sophomores and juniors so I start hunting around for anyone who looks like they'll want to make trouble tonight and avoid going to bed. This usually isn't a problem, but I like to be ready to practice some Clint Eastwood lines on them anyway. Well, do ya, punk?

10:29 pm - Tonight is a little more frantic than most nights because tomorrow is a spirit day at school. They have these once in a while where there is a random theme to dress up as for the day. Tomorrow students are supposed to dress as their favorite Bible character. This leads to one of my favorite lines of the day.

10:31 pm - On the junior floor, Jay is standing in the hallway and flexing in the mirror. I'm yelling, "Alright, get in your rooms! It's lights out!" Jay is basically ignoring me and eventually proclaims, "I don't know who to go as." He follows that by saying in all seriousness, "I'm thinking of going as Samson." I laugh, and then give him some serious counsel about how he could dress up tomorrow.

10:35 pm - All of the younger guys are in bed. Marco is out in the middle of the senior floor designing a Roman soldier's costume. I stick around and talk to some of the seniors for a while. I'm basically done at this point. It feels especially good tonight because it's my weekend off, and I won't have to be on again until Tuesday morning. Thank you, Lord, for giving me rest! I need it!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rugby, Fall Party, and a Sad Goodbye

1.) Rugby

Two weekends ago, there was a student-led rugby tournament that pitted each of the three boys' dorms against each other on a field in the nearby town of Holzen. All seven dorms were present with boys playing and girls cheering. Now, rugby is a sport that I haven't thought about for longer than five seconds at a time ever in my life. All I knew is that I should be ready to make a run to the hospital despite Tony's assurances that rugby was safe. Tony is one of our sophomores, and he has lived part of his life in the UK where rugby is quite popular, and he has played on a team before at his former school. This made him one of the very few who knew anything about the rules and gameplay so he attempted to teach rules and strategy to our guys before we left for the game on Saturday afternoon. With BFA being a place of great cultural diversity, students are always ready to embrace a new event or game despite their lack of knowledge about it. To me, having a big group of teenage guys sprinting around playing a game they don't understand and just trying to hit each other is a little scary. They were pressuring me to play, but since we had enough to form a team already, I labeled myself an "emergency reserve." After we played a few games, and my fears that the game would be a war of attrition were realized, I was forced into service for a few minutes at the end of our last game. Yes, we did have a couple injuries. Greg left early on to take Will to the hospital, and after the games were all over, I took Ross to the hospital. Don't worry - they are both ok now. Here are a couple pictures from the afternoon.

Here is everyone before the games getting ready to leave.

And here is a picture from one of the games. Greg titled this picture "sweet shoestring tackle" while I titled it "old man getting owned." I'm not sure exactly what's happening actually.

2.) Fall Party

Faithful blog readers and those familiar with BFA know that Fall Party is a big party that takes place on one of the first weekends of the year where everyone dresses up in a costume. Last year, the theme was "Black and White," and I, along with my co-RA Andrew, cleverly dressed up as gray issues. This year the theme was "Opposites," and the party took place last weekend. Here are some of the costumes this year:

David and Joseph were a businessman and a slacker.

Samuel and Han Gil were an angel and a demon.

Ross and Jeremiah were rich and poor.

Reece and a friend Josh were a Mac and a PC.

Anna and another RA Bonnie were Coke and Pepsi.

By this time, an exceptionally clever blog reader who is also my friend on facebook would realize where my current profile picture came from. This year I went along with fellow RA Chris dressed as war and peace. This is why I'm a bearded, tattooed, fur-wearing, war-mongering, giant-sword-wielding Viking. And why I'm accompanied by a friendly yet strong-willed hippie. I thought it was quite original and clever, but evidently a few more people thought the same and showed up with their own interpretation. Oh well, I liked ours the best. And it was the second year in a row I broke out my tattoo sleeves for Fall Party.

3.) Sad Goodbye

Don't worry, the sad goodbye was not for a student, a staff member, or even a human for that matter. The goodbye I'm referring to was for our beloved van SY 50.

We usually refer to our vans according to their license plates, which is why this van was known as SY 50. The LO at the beginning designates the district where the vehicle is from, which in this case is Lörrach, a larger town not far from here where almost all of our vans are from. This van belonged to HBR last year and actually has been here at this dorm for roughly the last twelve years. That's not a joke. So you can see how a strong connection has been made between the van and the dorm.

Let me describe the character of this van. It had no power steering. It had no power windows. It had no power locks. It had no power, period. It could barely get up a hill sometimes. It had no radio. The transmission was on its last legs. We had to double clutch in and out of second gear. After the engine was started, the key could be taken out of the ignition with no repercussions, and it often fell out on accident. In the winter, students were supposed to sit in the back of the van to help give it more weight and better grip. It made weird noises. The interior had torn upholstery, ripped up flooring, chunks missing from seats, and random pieces and handles missing. The outside of the van had various dents, scratches, scrapes, and rust spots. Don't get me wrong, the van was completely safe to drive, we never had any huge problems with it, and I loved driving the heck out of it. Everyone loved it.

Well, the van was sold this year and no longer resides anywhere at BFA. I felt like it was my duty to our guys and to anyone who has lived at HBR for the last decade to hold a memorial service for the van. If you are understanding me so far, then you know what I mean when I say I'm not sure if the service was supposed to be a joke or serious. It was a little of both. We definitely did not intend to mock the passing of people in our lives who have meant much to us. But we invited the students, especially the returning ones to meet outside at 7 o'clock in the evening on Sunday yesterday for this service and to dress nicely.

We met outside on the basketball court next to this tree.

I put together these pictures of the van from the past years. Some of the pictures were from years ago, and the guys really enjoyed looking at them.

I shared a little bit about SY 50's past and delivered a "eulogy," if you will. I shared some of my favorite memories. One time I was riding in the passenger seat last year as Andrew drove, and all of a sudden my right foot was soaking wet. I looked down and found that a puddle was forming after a hose had come undone and was spilling windshield fluid all over me. I couldn't believe it. Another time, I was taking a student to school, and it had just started snowing. I compared it to if you had just bought a brand new pair of the fuzziest socks you could find and then sprinted around on a freshly waxed floor. It was a little scary.

A lot of the students chipped in with memories of their own as well.

We took all of the pictures of the van and put them in this pot and burned them.

Then we headed down to the creek and spread the ashes and sang songs.

This time with the students remembering this van will be one of favorite memories I take from BFA when I leave. I'm glad that we did it.

Things continue to get a little easier in the dorm although it is nonstop busyness all the time. Greg and Danielle were off this weekend so it was just Anna and I, and we also had a couple come in as dorm subs. It felt like every day presented its own new crisis over the weekend. But everything is fine! Please pray as we continue to learn and take care of our responsibilities.

Please pray for Timmy, an RA at Maugenhard dorm who is here in his second year. His support is very low right now. At this point, it's not looking good for him to return for the second semester, and he might not even be able to make it through this semester. This would be really terrible if he had to leave. Please pray for the people who know him and his ministry, that their hearts would be softened and they would be willing to take hold of the opportunity to use the resources God has given them to support Timmy and his ministry. Thank you for praying! God bless!

In His Service,