1993 Annual Letter


If you don't enjoy reading about juggling, teaching juggling, writing or writing about juggling then maybe you should skip this letter and wait for next year's. With any luck I ll be up to something different.


Early in the year my life was best described as disparate. Afternoons I taught juggling at die Etage, the school where I work. Weekday mornings from 9-12 were spent learning German at the Volkshochschule with other foreigners. The juggling students noted and were grateful for the slight improvement in my bad German. My fellow German students helped reinforce bad grammar and accents from all over the globe. Friday nights and week-ends I was renting videos at the local US army base. Any soldier nearby on week-ends suffered through my non-stop rambling in American. (After teaching a workshop in London in September I realized I don t really speak English.)


To keep the edge on I was also writing three books, two of which were delayed due to a broken arm that has since healed pretty well. I suspect if Berlin weren't so big and I weren't constantly riding buses and subways it would have been okay. As it is, a good part of most of my days was spent waiting for connections to get someplace. Ever play pinball from the point of view of the ball? A lot of banging around with very little forward progress.


For a break I went to France several times to teach one-week workshops at the circus school. Away from Berlin's hectic pace I could settle down uncomfortably and try to teach in another language I don't speak. Of course, Chalons brought in some German students so I could alternate teaching in both languages I don't speak. The most fun came when I would translate between the two groups.


It looks like I am on a circuit teaching juggling workshops. Instead of just teaching juggling tricks I get to help very good jugglers create and improve their acts. It saves me from having to practice myself. Used to be that if I had an idea I would have to learn all the tricks to see if it was good; now I just pass on my ideas to very motivated, talented jugglers and they try it. It's like having your own living Ken and Barbie juggling doll sets. Some good acts may come out of all this.


In late spring the second diabolo book had enough form to it that I quit the German class to spend mornings working with my illustrator, a Polish artist. Hieronim is the husband of a woman in my German class and needed help filling out delinquent US tax forms. Turns out he is a good illustrator who doesn't play diabolo so I was constantly with him to show where the arrows go. He doesn't speak German and I speak no Polish so the illustrations were done in English.


This fall was a lot calmer. I no longer work at the army or study German formally. Instead, I began teaching evening juggling classes at the Volkshochschule. Imagine a city-wide network of adult-education classes and you know what a Volkshochschule is. They charge the lowest tuition and pay their teaches pretty well. Teaching juggling instead of taking a German class is not as good for learning the grammar, but my more casual students don't put up with my bad German as easily. I am finally de-learning some frequent mistakes that my regular students had resigned themselves to. (Do a lot of sentences end in prepositions?)


One of the books that is about finished is from days with New Games and will be about how to play all different types of parachute games. Dale Le Fevre and I have written it together. We have a German and an American publisher. Working on this one has got me thinking about the good old days and since bell bottoms are coming back I might start to teach New Games workshops again here in Germany. I'm trying to see if the publisher would also like to act as the business end of producing the workshops. Maybe sometime next year.


What's my schedule these days? Happy to say I'm pretty healthy. Still writing with more ideas for books than there is time. I've gotten interested in juggling again and try to put in about an hour-and-a-half of practice each morning. Right now three mornings per week is considered success. Surprisingly, I am finally learning ball tricks that I have been teaching for years but have never mastered myself. I'm also juggling hats. Hmm, two more books? With Beavis and Butt-head controlling the cultural scene in the US these days it looks like I'll be staying overseas for a while.


copyright 1993 by Todd Strong


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