Monday, December 14, 2009

is your mental healthy?

Today I took a mental health day/ sleep catch-up day and didn't go to school. It's one of my longest days of the week and I just woke up feeling super overwhelmed, and I really didn't want to spend the whole day with a knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, so I exaggerated my sore throat and exhaustion and went back to bed. Lovely. I feel like I got my snow day that New England got last week. Anyway, I slept in until about 10 and Daniela had bought some orange juice for me, which was very sweet and I enjoyed it immensely. I watched a few episodes of Gilmore Girls (in English- I was just too lazy to concentrate at all) and ate breakfast, and read a bit of Harry Potter (in German- after I woke up a bit). Then Clara and Daniela came home and we had Milchreis (milk and rice- sounds weird but tastes delicious) with fruit salad and cinnamon. And now I'm procrastinating the completion of a poster on Che Guevara I have to make for history... ugh. Plan: write in English with help of wikipedia, then translate to German using minimal brain power and a lot of help from online translators.
Last week I joined my friend Daniela at her two-hour handball practice. It was a hard workout!!! But it was fun to get that "I just worked my butt off and I'm exhausted but my body will thank me later" feeling. It's a girls-only team but the coaches are guys, and everyone was super nice, and Dani told me that I played really well for my first time, so maybe Germany has improved my hand-eye coordination! Anyway, it was a good time, and I might go again this week, and though I would like to go every week I don't know how much it costs/ how much time I need to dedicate to it. I'll look into that.
This weekend my friend Claire (CBYX) and I spent Saturday together and attempted to meet up with some other AFSers to go ice skating. Well, it was a day of epic fails- we started counting but there just got to be too many. It was still incredibly fun, although one of our epic fails was that we were an hour late to the meeting time so nobody was at the ice skating rink from AFS... so we skated by ourselves. There was a random guy who was wearing a hat that made it look like he'd stabbed a feather through his head. He was really bizarre. But entertaining.
All right, must stop procrastinating now... looking forward to having only FOUR MORE DAYS of school! Plus I have an orchestra concert on Wednesday, and that should be exciting too. Tschüss!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

two in one day! aren't you lucky!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVFlTf6vE3E

Things I Currently Miss About Northampton.
1) Snow days. You lucky ducks. And here I am, sitting in the cold, rainy yuck.
2) School. Weird, yes, I know. I miss going into class feeling confident that I know the material and prepared to learn more based on what I already know. I like that relieved feeling of handing in a paper or test that you know you did well on.
3) My family and friends. Probably should have put you first... but these aren't in any particular order so don't go getting yourselves in a huff.
4) The plentiful sources of English reading and viewing materials. aka Forbes, the school library, Blockbuster, Lilly library, the bookstores downtown, the bookshelves around our house...
5) The general atmosphere. The sense of community and togetherness that's a little tough to find in a capital city.
6) My cats. Some days the only thing I want is a furry cuddle...
7) Everything being in English. It just sounds so relaxing.
8) My bike, and the places you can bike to. I miss the bike path and all the networks of side streets.
9) All the Christmasy traditions my family has.
10) My bedroom, with a bouncy mattress and a dresser with drawers and all my books and music and pictures.

Falsche Seite, dummkopf.

So today I was biking home after school in the red bike lane on the sidewalk. The road I was biking on wasn't terribly big but rather busy, so I when I turned onto the left side of the road I just kept going instead of crossing the street. I do this same thing every day, and then cross at some point when no cars are coming. Well, today, a cranky old man was walking down the sidewalk and glared at me as I rode (slowly and responsibly) by, and said, "falsches Seite," in an angry tone. Which means "wrong side". Yes, sir, I know that I'm on the wrong side of the road... but it's a long, straight hill and I have a pretty long visiblity, meaning I could see anyone coming with plenty of time to switch sides. There was another biker going in the same direction as I was, who was a little ahead of me- he crossed the road pretty quick. So did I, but really, I think that guy needs to find something to do other than yell at teenagers. It wasn't like we were affecting him- we were in the bike lane, which is, in fact, for bicycles. Harumph. But I'm not actually annoyed really, I just wanted to share with you all my big exciting adventure of the day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

no list today... feeling uncreative and rambly.

Crud, I just spelled exhaustion with an a instead of an o. I am going to flunk the SATs next year... anyhoo. Happy Nikaustag! For those Americanisch folks among you, Niklaustag is December 6, and the night before children leave their shoes out and St. Niklaus comes and fills them with small gifts and candy. Guess who got peanut butter in their converse that morning? I was pretty psyched. Also, new socks (nearly all of mine have developed holes), Kinderschokolade (yummmm), and a pack of those kleenex with designs on them. The kind that you never actually want to use because you'd be blowing your snot all over a cute little penguin. You know the ones.

Okay, Sunday was a day of much time-squashing but overall was quite good. I went and helped out at the Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt, and it turns out I was early as I'd been given the wrong time... so I wandered a bit and bought a Zimtwaffel (cinammon waffle with powdered sugar) and listened to a band of old men playing Christmas songs. Then I stood in the cold for an hour and wrapped candles and took people's money for the candles and acted all friendly and tried to make conversation when people realized we were exchange students. I got complimented on my German by a nice couple who bought some gummy bears. I had to rush out, though, because I had to meet my class in Charlottenburg to see Kabale und Liebe. Well, I was running barely on time when I got out of the U-Bahn, and so I was power-walking, but thinking it was an awfully long way and that it hadn't looked that long on google maps. Then I figured out the numbers were way different on the other side of the street. So I doubled back and super-power-walked to the theater, where I legitimately slid into my seat right as the director came out and told us that the lead actress was sick so someone who didn't really know the lines would be playing Luise. Hence, she carried around the script with her the whole play. It was pretty good, actually- it had some cool lighting and musical aspects, and at one point the whole stage came apart when Ferdinand got mad and started pulling tables out of the floor. That was after he smashed a cello- the girl next to me screamed and hid her face. I got home at about 11 and was exhausted... no one told me that I was able to sleep in on Monday morning because our math teacher had agreed to cancel class because of the play. So I got up, biked to school, the classroom was empty, looked at the class change list, saw that my math class was listed as "theaterbesuch" so I went up to the Aula, or auditorium. Then I figured out (I was still quite groggy) that we had the class off.. and biked back home. And biked back to school an hour later to start my classes. It was a very exciting Monday. And tomorrow I get to sleep in because my German class has a test on Kabale und Liebe, and the other exchange student and I craftily "forgot" to ask the teacher whether we had to take it or not, and today she was out sick and so we asked the math teacher, who said we could stay home. :) I think part of being a successful exchange student is knowing when it would be more productive to catch up on sleep. Which is what I need to go do now! Sorry this was long and probably quite boring... Naja. Christmas parties galore coming up- I'll write about them as they occur!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Once a week, once a day... I've got a lot of time on my hands, what can I say? I write down the homework but as I have absolutely no idea where to begin I feel pretty uninspired to do it, so I just read German novels instead. And write lists.

Things that are funny.
1. My English teacher's name is Doris Preckwinkel.
2. The female minister at the church in my town has a nose piercing. So does my German teacher.
3. The teachers say "Nummer B", or "Number B". Someday I will point out to them that neither A nor B are numbers.
4. The commercials for Schwipp-Schwapp, an orange cola soda. Mostly I like the name and the way the guy on the TV pronounces it. Try saying it, it's fun.
5. The name Jane is pronounced Yana. I also know someone whose name is spelled Yana. Which is probably better in some ways because when she goes to America she'll recognize her own name instead of being like "who's Jain?"
6. All the girls don't wear makeup EXCEPT for black mascara. Pretty much every single girl wears it, but rarely anything else. It's like underwear for your face.
7. When you want to ask for a piece of gum, you say, "hast du ein Kaugummi?" I love that word. When I'm back at NHS I'm totally going to ask kids if they have a Kaugummi.
8. The word for cake is Kuchen (which, if you twist it a bit, sounds more like cookies) and the word for cookie is Keks. Guess how it's pronounced? Cakes. Confusing much?
9. An acceptable response to "Entschuldigung" (meaning oops, sorry) is "Ja." Said in a way that, the first time I heard it, made it sound like "yeah, you should be sorry!" but then I realized it was more along the lines of "Yes, okay, I accept your apology." More interesting than funny.
10. English class. The mistakes people make are mistakes I would never even think of as being confusing, and yet I can't even manage to explain why they're wrong- I've listened to a different way of saying it my whole life, but I don't know the grammatical rules behind it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rabbit Rabbit!!

Happy December! (title explanation for people like Kerry who are confused when I talk about bunnies in winter- it's supposedly good luck to say Rabbit Rabbit on the first of every month). I was creepin'on a bunch of other exchange students' blogs to see how they're holding up in this crazy wonderful country, and one of them had a pretty good idea (that she got from somewhere else- don't you love sharing?) to write a list of ten things once a week. A different theme every week. She's had some pretty good themes already- I might end up stealing them sometime.

Things I am Excited About.

1. Christmas!!!! Only 24 days. My host parents made a traditional (I think) advent calendar, made from a bunch of little bags hung on a mobile thing, and for each day there are two little wrapped gifts, one for Clara and one for me. Today I got a little change purse, which is actually really nice because it's obnoxious to have coins fall out of my pants pockets every time I take my pants off!

2. Austria in February! Second foreign country ever, plus I get to ski in the Alps and cross something off my bucket list!

3. Becoming fluent in German. Someday it will happen.

4. Finishing reading my first German book (Die Bücherdiebin- The Book Thief). And starting my next one! Harry Potter, perhaps?

5. The 2010 Winter Olympics. I'm getting my little American flag ready to wave.

6. Visiting Amsterdam in June with my class! THIRD foreign country ever!

7. December 21- the winter equinox. AKA the day on which the days start getting longer, and you start to feel hopeful that someday you'll be biking to school with the sun already up!

8. Going to two different Weihnachtsmarkts this weekend! One in Alexanderplatz with Claire, another CBYXer, and one called the Rixdorfer with a bunch of other AFSers and exchange students. I love all the lights and smells and happy faces.

9. Senior Year. Just to say I'm a senior.

10. This coming summer. I really don't even have any clue what I'll be doing, but I have hopes and dreams, plus by then I'll be bilingual (well jeez, at least I hope so!) and it will be SUMMER. And that alone is something to be ridiculously excited about.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In the Kuche

After school today, Clara and I made pasta with lecker tomato sauce- it had corn, onions, pepper powder (or something like that), salt, pepper, and another mysterious powder. But dang, it was delicious! I wonder at what point in my lunch-cooking career I can cross off "learn to cook" on my bucket list. When do you know that you've learned how to cook? I believe it's a combination of three things.
1) You're not afraid of your food. (That's what Mom always tells me when I'm stirring cookie dough. But when I try to stir like she does I end up with flour all over my face.)
2) You have a little creativity. You feel confident in adding an extra ingredient or adding more salt than the recipe calls for.
3) You know what you're cooking and where it comes from. Hence, sticking prepackaged stuff in the microwave doesn't count as cooking.
4) (Bonus item) You have mastered the art of cutting onions without completely shutting your eyes and chopping blindly. Either that or you have purchased swimming goggles for this exclusive purpose.

Another list for y'all:
-something I've noticed: It's acceptable to eat out of the serving bowl with your own spoon. Multiple times.
-something I'm excited about: Going to see New Moon with GERMAN GIRLS on Saturday! Not so pysched about the fact that it's New Moon, but since my company is DEUTSCH I'm completely fine with that.
-something funny: I learned that there's no German translation for the word awkward. How handy that would be if there was one- it could describe so many moments of the last few months. Although I will say that there've been a lot less of them!
-something rather blah: it gets dark at 4:15 and doesn't get light until 8:15 in the morning.
-something cool: the daughter in the family who lives on the other side of our duplex just came home from a 3-month exchange to Canada! She's my age, and speaks relatively good English (for a German kid) and she adores the language so she speaks it to me and I speak back in German. I think this is a pretty good compromise. She's really nice and already asked me to go shopping with her and some of her friends sometime.
-something fun: Yesterday I had a skype party with a bunch of other CBYXers! It was really fun to talk to them all and see how they're coming along, and hear that we all have a lot of common problems or have noticed a lot of the same things.

Now I have to go start my homework... do as much as I can understand... tonight I only have Mathe and Latein, though, so it shouldn't be too bad. Tchüss!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A birthday, a bond, and a book thief.

Well now, it's already almost hump day! I love how that happens. So. Saturday was the bond (see title). Or I'd like to think of it as so- I really don't know but it started with a b and I needed something to alliterate with. Anyhow, another CBYXer and I met up around noon and spent the entire afternoon just talking about everything that came to mind. We found out we had a TON in common and so I'm definitely hoping we get to hang out more! We'd both rather sleep than party, we consider nutella to be a gift from the gods, and think it's ridiculous how many meanings the word "doch" has. And a whole lot of other similarities too but I won't go into them and bore you out of your skull. I had a lovely Saturday though, and we walked for quite a few kilometers because we wandered for so long "trying" to find the shopping center, while really just rambling on in conversation and occasionally looking at what direction we were headed in, that when it was time to go we were several kilometers away from the correct bahn station. So I was feeling quite well-walked by the end. On Sunday I panicked a little because no one told me it was a German state holiday and all the stores were closed, and I'd been planning to get a birthday gift for Sebastian. Luckily Daniela had told me about an Import-Markt, so I went to that instead. I took the S-Bahn on a very pretty route to a giant industrial area- apparently it was inside the Internationale Congress Centrum. So there were all these cool unused rooms labeled as "Sydney" or "Instanbul". I really would love to see what it looks like during the week. Anyway, the main halls were full of tables and booths full of imports from all over the world. It was pretty fabulous, and I got to barter a little with an African guy. I was rather sad to end the weekend, but Monday was fun (even though I had to take a test in Chemie where I had NO idea what I was doing) because when I came home, I had a couple hours to myself while Sebastian and Daniela went grocery shopping for the big shebang. When they got back I helped Daniela set up and make the table pretty, and then both sets of Omas and Opas arrived along with Clara from rowing training. Having all the grandparents together is always pretty funny, in my opinion. But generally it feels inappropriate to laugh at such gatherings unless everyone else is laughing, especially in Germany, so I kept my mouth shut. After a dinner of soup made with fish and beets, the Omas and Clara and I played a game that is just like Trouble except without the obnoxious dice-popping thing (we had normal dice instead- it made for a much more pleasant experience). The grandparents left at around 10:30, and then we cleaned up a bit and relaxed in the Wohnzimmer (living room). I read about a book thief (part 3 of my title)! I believe I wrote that I'd bought my favorite book, The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak) in German, and was waiting to read it until my German was better. Well, I don't really feel like my German is all that much better, but I picked up Die Bücherdiebin anyway, because 1) I am out of English books, 2) I want to improve my German and a volunteer told me that one of her biggest regrets was that she didn't learn to read Italian very well, only to speak it, and 3) because I can't bear to read another word of Kabale und Liebe so I'm going with the next German book on my list. I find I can understand a lot of it, but I think that's probably because I've read it over five times already. It's still good though! One of my favorite lines in the first chapter or two: "Ich persönlich mag einen schokoladenfarbenen Himmel. Dunkel Bitterschokolade." (I personally like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, bitter chocolate). Plus it sounds better in German, I think. :) Let's see.. today was pretty bland. I had to take a test in Sozialkunde (ha,ha,ha) but the teacher sort of realized how hopeless I was and so just had me do the graphing part, which was basically finding the data in the text and making a pretty graph. I think I did pretty well with it. After school I had my second orchestra rehearsal! It was sehr schön. All the wind instruments joined us, so we had a much bigger sound that was really fun because I've played in a large band and in a small group of violins, but never played with both together. Plus the teacher told me my Deutsch ist sehr gut because I knew the difference between wissen and kennen, which are two different words for "to know", but you use them in different ways. Wissen is used more for factual knowledge, whereas kennen is used for knowing a person or knowing of or about something. So yes, that's been my last few days... not dreadfully exciting aber mein Leben ist schön, so ich bin glücklich! Til next time...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Life is good.

Wonderful, actually. Let me count the ways.
1. Today it is SUNNY OUT! And it is a lovely fall day, and the air smells fall-y, and it's not raining! It's like a miracle.
2. I have been here for TWO MONTHS! I remember a couple weeks ago I was thinking how darn slowly it was all going, but then those passed in a flash and now I think I'm really starting to get into the everyday rythym here. That's why I haven't really been writing- it seems so boring to write about what happens every day now because that's just it- it seems so everyday.
3. I would say that the end of October was kind of a falling point for me, because I got sick and then I couldn't stop thinking about how long eight months would be and how slow the process of learning a new language is. But now I've been back at school for two weeks and I feel fabulous! I can understand SO much more, and I actually took a math test the other day- I think I failed it, but at least I gave it a shot. And in most of my classes I can actually understand the general idea of what's going on, except in Physik and Sozialkunde, in which I am COMPLETELY lost ALL the time. Hopefully once my German skills really pick up I'll be able to get at least a little bit out of them. Plus I've been having longer conversations with my host parents, all in German! It's kind of exciting!
4. I'm connecting a lot more with my host family! Simon and Clara seem to find it normal to have me here now, and a couple nights ago I had a conversation with my host parents after dinner that lasted for an hour and a half, almost completely in German! We talked about a lot of things, and it was so nice because all the things I'd been writing about only in my journal and that were constantly on my mind I was able to talk about with them. We talked about learning German and making friends, and dealing with the fact that it will feel like you have two families by the end, and even boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. It's a more open topic here- it's often one of the first questions people ask me when they meet me. "Do you have a boyfriend?" But I felt much better after that, and I hugged Daniela goodnight and I think that sort of opened up a door for her. Since then she's hugged me goodbye when I go off to school or out with other exchange students, and I think it's because she was waiting to see when I felt close enough to them to give them a hug. But that's just my theory.
5. I think I have officially made some friends! There is a group of girls in my class who are all really nice and helpful. They often invite me to come with them to the cafeteria or courtyard during our Pause (break between classes), and make sure I get all the papers I need and understand the essentials.
6. I attended my first orchestra rehearsal on Tuesday! My school has a small orchestra (10 violins, 1 viola, and 5 or 6 cellos) that practices together once a week. I am surprisingly one of the best violinists- I guess I was surprised because in Northampton there are SO MANY amazingly talented musicians that I feel like a beginner beside them. But here, I was given first violin part and I was able to sight-read it easily and play along. They're playing some fun pieces, and I had a lot of fun being back with a violin again! I'm borrowing one from the school for the year, so I don't have to pay, which is really good. I hear the dollar is even worse lately... ah well.
7. I've actually felt like I have stuff to do lately- not just sitting blankly through a school day, coming home, and sitting blankly through the afternoon and evening with nothing too productive to do. I am caught up with NaNoWriMo (20,000 words today!), which has been taking an hour or so every day. On Tuesday evenings I have orchestra, and on Friday evenings I have rowing training. Yesterday I met up with some other exchange students and we went to see This is It (the Michael Jackson movie) in English. It was really fun! I love having other exchange students to connect with, because we're all experiencing a lot of the same emotions. On Saturday I'm going out with a different exchange student, and we're going Christmas shopping and having some English time! Plus I've been able to do some homework lately. English, of course, and a little Latin, and Ethik (which is currently being conducted in English because we're reading an English book about a fictional school massacre). I'm trying to do German, but it's not working out super well... and the other subjects either don't really have homework or the other students don't do it, because mostly my classmates just do work in class and then leave their books in the shelves under the desks until the next class.
8. Today is Thursday, so I only had 4 1/2 hours of class.
9. Tomorrow is Friday, so it's almost the weekend!
10. Christmas break starts in 5 weeks!
Okay that's all my reasons for now. Bis später! Tschüss!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some things.

German gym class is separated by gender- in my school, at least. I think I kind of like it- everyone seems a lot more relaxed and there's not that constant need to impress. People wear baggy t-shirts and ugly sport pants and take off all their jewelry, and then they actually participate in class. Right now we're doing volleyball- nobody's very good, which makes me feel better about being such a lame volleyball player.

German girls that are really good friends sometimes kiss each other on the lips, depending on their friend group. One of my new friends (I hope!), Sharifa, always kisses her best friends goodbye. It is a little weird for me just because it is so different from America, but it's not bad at all.

German students seem to be a lot more self-driven in class. The teacher will leave the classroom for ten minutes at a time, and everyone will continue doing their work, asking each other questions and actually trying to get as much done as they can. Even in extracurricular-type classes, like Musik or Kunst or Sport, everyone participates and tries their best. In Musik we actually have to sing, sometimes alone, and everyone knows how to read music and we're learning about why certain key signatures play well together... or something like that.

I went to a disko for the first time tonight! With Katie, Austin, and some of Katie's German friends. It was ridiculous- people were smoking, it was SO loud, and there were just lights and confetti and people jumping everywhere- quite crazy! But I got there pretty late because I came after rowing practice, and had to leave around 10:15 because a) I wasn't sure how much longer I could stand it and b) I have a midnight curfew and I don't trust the night buses to be on time. Plus I had to un-check my bag and jacket out of the coatrooms... Yes, two different rooms, because the first one I went took my jacket and then told me that I needed another chip thing for my bag, so I had to go back upstairs and buy another chip, and then they said that coatroom was full so I went back upstairs again and stood in line to put my bag in. So then I had my bag in one and my jacket in the other... sehr convenient. As I told Daniela when I got home (and she seemed very glad to hear this), it was fun but not one of my favorite hobbies, and I like more to be home reading or going to sleep early. (Mind you, that was translated directly from the German that I spoke- my vocabulary is not terribly extensive at the current point so I'm making do with what I've got).

I miss you all!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Schnee!

3 Things I learned today:
-It is verboten (forbidden) to throw snowballs at my gymnasium.
-Kids don't really care about this rule.
-German kids have really good snowball aim.

As you probably gathered, we had our first snow! Of course, it was preceded and followed by freezing rain, so it didn't stay on the ground super-long, but it was enough to make a very small snowman and enjoy the snow in our hair and eyelashes! Our field trip this morning was to some sort of energy processing plant- I doubt I would have understood anything said even if it were in English. So I sort of wandered around daydreaming while he blathered on about the huge generator. Then we went to school, but apparently the trip was supposed to take longer, because our teachers for Biologie and Chemie weren't even there. So we just sat in the cafeteria room and talked and listened to music and ate food until Geschichte (history), which passed quickly. One class today, wahoo! Except then I had to take the bus home because my bike was at the S-Bahn station where I'd met my classmates this morning to get to the plant. I dropped my bag off at home and changed into hiking boots to brave the slush, and proceeded to miss my bus twice. The first time I was at the end of the driveway, just across the tiny road from the bus at the stop, but it was already pulling away. The second time, twenty minutes later, I was waiting for the bus and it was 7 minutes late, which is rare, so I figured it had come early and decided to just walk down to the S-Bahn. About a minute later, the bus passed me walking. I stuck my tongue out at it. Stupid bus. I got some walking in anyway, even if I did get splashed twice by cars driving through puddles. I biked back through the slush and then changed into dry pants and curled up on the couch with my book for Ethik (in English!!)- Give a Boy a Gun. It was actually quite good- a collection of comments from people involved in some way with two boys who attempted a mass shooting. It was interesting to see all the different perspectives, and read the boys' history before I read anything about what actually happened. It's the sort of book that sort of twists your heart- I grew to feel sorry for the boys, but what they did was so awful that it makes me feel guilty for pitying them. It's an interesting sensation. In any case, it made me feel so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing school- both here and in America, but I was thinking mostly about America because all the school shootings referenced in the book were in America. I can't imagine anything even close to this happening at my school. Sure, we've got cliques, and a popular crowd and a football team, but I don't think anyone really and truly hates another group of people. I also don't think bullying is much of a problem in my school- maybe it's just because I haven't experienced it, but I think it was more of a problem in middle school. Once we get to be in high school I think people realize they could be doing better things- people are focused more on their grades because they count, and people are more worried about upkeeping their social profile, and in our community I believe that beating up on people would completely ruin someone. I don't think it's considered funny or cool at my school like it was in the school in the book. Of course, this book was published in 2000, also, so maybe it's just because it's been almost a decade.
Well, that was a lot of mishmash for one day, so gute nacht for now!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Darkness and day 2

It gets dark before 5 now. At first I felt quite bummed by this, to say the least. Thoughts ran through my head our whole car trip- I always feel more tired when it's dark out, so now I'll be tired all the time. The dark makes me moody and bleh. We still have another month of the days becoming shorter before they turn around and start stretching out again. Daylight Savings Time is stupid. And then I remember how nice it is to wake up one day in spring and it's sunny until 8 at night, and I sigh to myself and figure it will be worth it. This year I am determined to embrace the darkness and use it to inspire me to write more- I'm up to 5,000 words- only 45,000 more to go. This is German darkness- a different kind, so I won't experience the same exhaustion that always overcomes me after Christmas break when we come back to school. Oh, speaking of which, when I finish my Christmas break this year, I believe I won't be going back to school until Feburary because all the 10th graders have to do a Praktikum, which is a monthlong apprenticeship (did I already write about this? perhaps). I suggested something with a Tierärzt, or veterinarian, but Daniela very kindly called every Tierärtz in the phonebook who worked nearby and nobody was taking Praktikants in January. So now I'm going to be doing it with her brother, a Schönsteinflieger, or chimney sweep. I'm actually pretty excited- an excuse to take a shower every day, plus it's very Mary Poppins, I think. Daniela told me it would be very interesting to see the insides of other people's houses, too, which I'm sure is true. I didn't even know people still used chimney sweeps, but I think in Germany people use their chimneys, whereas in my house in America we tear them down. :) To be fair, there wasn't any purpose to our chimney- it was just a big brick column in the middle of our house with no fireplace or anything.
Day 2 back to school went pretty well. I didn't understand a single thing in Sozialkunde, and it was a double period... I was bored out of my skull. But we had a test in English, which I think I did quite well on, and I got all my schoolbooks (brand new!!!) from our class leader/ math teacher, AND some girls invited me to go with them to see New Moon when it comes out! Not my first movie choice, but I got invited to go somewhere! I'm pretty excited for that. Tomorrow we're taking a fieldtrip... I have yet to find out where, but I'm meeting some people at the S-Bahn station so I'm just going to follow them. I always think I'm understanding so much and then I realize how much I'm missing! But I'm missing less and less as time goes on, I'm sure of it. Thing I'm Missing Today: New England weather. I do enjoy the rain sometimes- it's peaceful and forces me to stay inside and relax, which is sometimes exactly what I need to do. But all day, every day? Not so much. Especially when my mom is emailing me about the lovely crisp New England fall days they're having, drinking apple cider and carving pumpkins. The great thing about New England falls is that they happen every year! So I get to have one a year from now, so I'm not missing it too much. But 'not too much' is not the same as 'not at all'. I'll update soon about my mysterious field trip... also, I think I have some plans this weekend! Katie and I are trying to go a disco- I'm sort of messing things up with my rowing practice, which is obnoxiously on Friday evenings. Out of all the days... On Saturday I think I'm going to try to meet up with a CBYXer in Berlin, and on Sunday I'm helping out with a forest run for the rowing club (directing people, not running) and then going to late lunch/ early dinner at Oma and Opa's house. I haven't been there before, but I've met them several times, and they're very sweet grandparent-like people. Cheers!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Aaaand back at school. Cheers.

School actually went quite well today! It started with double math, which I actually understood even though they're learning trigonometry! I was pretty excited (internally) to be able to do the work. Plus I got most of the questions right. So that made me cheerful, plus it was followed by Latin (journal time- they were going over a test) and English, which is clearly my best subject. There were a bunch of kids I didn't know because they were on a short exchange to Paris, so I got to meet them. One of them, Gwendolyn, is the younger sister of my host sister's boyfriend, so we met over the weekend at her house because her family invited mine over to look at Vincent's (the boyfriend) pictures from his trip to Nepal. But everyone is really nice, and it turns out nobody read Kabale und Liebe over vacation for German class, so she's giving us a few extra days... I'm going to try my best to understand it but we'll see how that goes. We also had no Sport, so I got to go home early (I have only had one complete school day so far, and it was my half-day so I only had class until 12:35 anyway). I got home looking like I peed my pants again, because whenever it rains my bike seat gets all wet and then my butt gets wet. But now I'm quite comfortable and feeling cheerful that I don't really have any homework except reading in German- it's so funny because the students groan painfully if they're given even the littlest bit. I would like to see them in American schools... it's going to be a shocker to go back to school next year. Oh, and last night I watched Titanic in German! I understood almost everything, although clearly not as much as I thought because I didn't even cry except during one scene. The last time I saw it I was a literal watershed. It was a little ridiculous. Something exciting: for February vacation, I'm going to Austria for a ski vacation! Weirdly enough, I'm going alone, meaning with no one from my host family- there are other kids from my area who are traveling with me I believe. Originally Clara and I were going to go, but Daniela's mom nerves kicked in and she backed out of it. Frankly, I don't think I'll really be complaining about a break from her- I do love being with her, just not all the time. Having a kid as energetic as Clara poking your butt (she's obsessed- it's quite annoying) every five minutes gets very old very fast. I'm pretty psyched though- I think I'm going in the second level of beginners or something- for the people who know how to ski but don't like going fast. :) Plus it's in AUSTRIA! So I now will be visiting not only The Netherlands in June, but Austria in February! Woot-woot! Now I have to go write more- my goal is 5,000 words by the end of today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Okay this is going to be in a kind of list-y format... I know I haven't written in ages but I'll catch up soon!
Halloween in Germany: stores have occasional Halloween-themed foods but no classic candy. People don't go trick-or-treating. Clara went to a Halloween party but didn't wear a costume. It was very weird for me. I went winter-coat shopping, successfully! and skyped home and then watched It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! on YouTube. I was pretty psyched about that.
November: HOW DID IT GET TO BE NOVEMBER ALREADY? This morning I went rowing. Yes, it was beyond freezing. No, I didn't know it was happening or I would have faked illness or something. But I am pretty much positive that it was the last outdoor practice we're having until spring! And now practices are indoors and only once a week. Cheers! Another November thing: for the last couple years I've participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and last year Mom and Olivia joined me. Last night while we were skyping Mom reminded me about it, so now I've got myself signed up yet again to write 50,000 words in 30 days. As if I don't already have enough to do... So this blog post will be short because I only have 409 words so far and I still have no idea what my novel is going to be about. I'll keep you updated.
Some things I've noticed recently:
-you have to pay to use public restrooms.
-sneezing is treated more like a cough is in America- not usually acknowledged. Sometimes there's a 'gesundheit', but more often than not there's just silence.
-Christmas is BIG here. Some places already have decorations up, and stores have had huge Christmas displays since mid-September. It's going to be exciting this year... really different but definitely exciting...
-People do laundry once a week and wear the same clothes for several days in a row.
-People lick their utensils and it's still acceptable to put them back into the main serving bowl.
-Candid pictures are weird. People always pose. Always.
Okay that's all I can think of for now... I'm back to school tomorrow (ugh) but hopefully that means I'll start finding more to do and hence more to write about. Have a wonderful beginning of your November!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I think I'll build an airplane.

I was just reminded of one of my favorite childhood books, titled "Bored, Nothing To Do", in which two young boys decide to gather materials from all over the neighborhood in order to construct an aircraft in the backyard. Fond memories... But I am not all that bored. Simply relaxed, which is rather impressive being that it was my fourth day of German school. But I only had class until 12:35, and I didn't do any work all day. In German we had a breakfast party sort of thing with bröchten and nutella and Früstuckuchen, so that was quite delicious. In Physik one of the students, Lukas, did a presentation on the Dampfmaschine, which I believe is something along the lines of a mechanical water wheel. But I didn't understand all that much. Then I had double art, and people were doing all sorts of cool self-driven 2d projects based on famous paintings- we had about 5 to choose from. So the teacher asked me what I liked to do and then listed a couple things but I only recognized the word for 'to draw', so that's what I chose. So I am now drawing a sketch of a painting of a china doll or a very china-looking girl. I'll upload a picture when she's done... but it might be a month or so as I only have art once a week and I have 2 weeks of vacation. In math, Lukas got up again and explained a problem to the class... so I sort of spaced out. But I asked the math teacher some questions after class and she answered all of them and told me that I didn't need to worry about not understanding because it will come to me quickly. After school I biked down to Frohnau and bought a Thursday treat- a Pfannkuchen, which I believe is like a jelly donut except much better. I enjoyed it quite a lot. I biked around the little Frohnau town circle- there wasn't much to see. A church, an apothoke (I don't know exactly what this is but they're everywhere!), another bakery, a fruit and vegetable store, a little grocery store, a lotto store. And a post office. It was raining (as usual) so I went home and watched some German tv for a while- some Nickelodeon shows that I recognized vaguely from the US, a little Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana, and a German show interviewing kids who were doing their Praktikum. That was cool for me because I'm thinking about trying to do mine with a veterinarian or something of that nature, so it was neat to see what other kids are doing. I also spent some time reading my first journal, which spans from the beginning of August to a week and a half ago. I stopped reading once I got to October, but it was actually kind of cool to see how my emotions progressed. In the beginning there were a lot of pep-talks that I'd written to myself about how awesome this is all going to be and how I'm going to understand German before I know it. Well, I'm not sure about that, but now I don't feel like I need a set date for when I'm going to be fluent. I've kind of settled in here and I'm okay with the fact that I probably won't understand everything that goes on in school until after the Christmas break, and that I'm going to be missing a lot at home. Tonight at dinner I actually understood a lot of the conversation, which was pretty entertaining- Daniela was making fun of Simon because last year in the military he ran every day and was fit and trim, and now he sits at home and eats. He's not fat, but it's a funny thing to talk about in the German sense of humor. But I feel like the family is starting to open up a little more around me- as though they've gotten used to the fact that I'm going to be around for 9 more months. It's really quite cool.
Tomorrow I am leaving school early (which isn't saying that much as I've done that every day except today already) so I can take the bus to Spandau for my orientation!!! I'm so excited!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SCHULE

So. here is my school schedule, then I will write all about it.
MONTAG (Monday)
8:00-9:30: Mathematik
9:50-10:35: Latein
10:35-11:20: Englisch
11:50-12:35: Deutsch
12:35-1:20: Biologie
1:40-3:10: Sport

DIENSTAG (Tuesday)
8:00-8:45: Geschichte
8:45-9:30: Englisch
9:50-11:20: Sozialkunde
11:50-12:35: Latein
12:35-1:20: Deutsch
1:40-2:25: Mathematik

MITTWOCH (Wednesday)
8:00-8:45: Deutsch
8:45-9:30: Englisch
9:50-10:35: Ethik
10:35-11:20: Mathematik
11:50-1:20: Chemie/ Biologie
1:40-2:25: Geschichte

DONNERSTAG (Thursday)
8:00-8:45: Deutsch
8:45-9:30: Physik
9:50-11:20: Kunst
11:50-12:35: Mathematik

FREITAG (Friday)
8:00-9:30: Musik
9:50-10:35: Chemie
10:35-11:20: Ethik
11:50-1:20: Sport
1:40-2:25: Physik
2:25-3:10: Latein

So I think all of those are probably self-explanatory except Kunst- Art, Sozialkunde-economics??? and Geschichte- History. So on Thursdays I only have classes until 12:35, and an hour and a half is spent doing art. I love it. So I've been in school for 2 days now, and I understand nothing except in English class. In math they're learning about material I've already covered, so once I get my book and review it, I think I'll just need to work on learning the vocabulary. They're all in their second year of Latin so I think I'll be able to do okay in that too. I asked my mom to send me my notes that I kept, so that I can review a bit. It's going to be a long process at first though- I'll have to translate from Latin into German, and then into English so that I know what it means. Hopefully soon I won't have to translate to English anymore, though! My German teacher told me that she doesn't know if I can handle the class- after our fall break, they're going to be putting on a play by the German equivalent of Shakespeare, and she said it was difficult even for the native speakers. I'm going to try my best to read the play, and if I can do it then I'll have proved her wrong, and if I can't then I'll get put in an easier class, so I'm fine either way. I haven't really had enough experience in any of my other classes to say anything about them- I either haven't had them yet or I simply didn't understand anything that was going on. All the teachers seem really nice though, as are the students, and people are willing to help. On the first day two girls, Sofia and Mirja, offered to help me because I have at least one of them in all of my classes. So they've been super helpful to have around. It's going to be weird though, because on Friday we start our 2-week Herbstferien, or fall break. So I'm going to have to get used to school all over again in 2 1/2 weeks. But I think that sometime in mid-November I should be feeling comfortable in school, and much more comfortable with the German language. Don't get me wrong- I am definitely excited for my Herbstferien! For the second week I think my host family is taking me on a trip around Germany so I can see some of the other parts. And in the first week I think I'm going to do a little American baking, and hopefully get together with some other exchange students who also have their fall break. Plus I have AFS Late Orientation Camp this weekend! I'm excited for that. Now I have to go to rowing though.. not so excited for the temperature... but after today, I only have 2 more outdoor practices! Cheers! I don't know what we'll do indoors but I don't think it will be particularly strenuous as we're a noncompetitive team. Which I am really quite fine with- I don't think I could handle much more stress in my day right now. Thank you all who have been keeping in touch, I really do love hearing from you! Really!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

schule tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I am so excited! I'm hoping to get into a Latin class instead of French- I really know about 3 words in French and I would not receive a passing grade, guaranteed. But it's pleasant to listen to, I suppose, so if I do get stuck in French at least it will sound nice, even though it won't make any sense. Simon is taking me tomorrow morning to help me get set up with classes and such- Daniela is working and Sebastian is going to Vienna- I don't know why.
This weekend was really good, starting with Friday being the official last day of language school!!! A couple of the other students, including the funny French-speaking Swiss guy who sat next to me and kept asking questions because he was even newer than I was to the class, said goodbye to me and wished me luck with my next 9 months. Oh yeah, and I have been here A MONTH!!!!!!! That is so crazy to me, I don't really know how it all blew by... Anyway, on Friday night I went out to Potsdamer Platz with my liasons, Ulrike and Sofie. Sofie is around my age, and she spent the last year in Brazil with AFS, so she doesn't speak much English but she seems very nice. Ulrike is really nice too, and I also met her boyfriend. We had dinner in the Sony Center, and I had my first German beer, which was actually a mix of beer and sprite, which sounds gross but it wasn't. Plus it wasn't too strong so I drank the whole thing. We wandered the mall at Potsdamer Platz for a while because we were going to see a movie but it didn't start until later. Then we walked over to the Brandenburger Tor and it was all lit up and very pretty. There was a demonstration against the war in Iraq- apparently there is always a demonstration there. We said goodbye to Sofie, who had a friend staying with her so she couldn't stay for the movie, and walked to the Kino. I payed a ridiculous amouount of money for M&Ms, a mistake which I will not be making again (pre-movie candy shopping at the market is clearly a necessity). But they were good, and we saw Julie and Julia in German! I understood most of it and it was quite funny, but I think that was because I'd already read the book, so I knew what it was about, and Meryl Streep makes me laugh even if her voice isn't coming out of her mouth. That took a little getting used to, but it was fine.
On Saturday I slept in (I didn't get home until almost midnight) and then Judith came home from Dortmund with her boyfriend Vincent. The three of us walked to S. Frohnau to Vincent's house and sat with his mom and talked for a few hours. She had chocolate chip cookies- even drier than Chips Ahoy, but you take what you can get here! Vincent's younger sister is in my class at school, but she's in France right now... I don't know why that is. But I met his other sister who's 13, and she seems very nice. So his mom was nice and we ended up playing this memory game with pictures from the Berlin national art museum, which was funny... Judith clobbered us, of course. She and Vincent left after dinner because apparently Judith is going to Zurich for her fall break, and her train left last night.
Today Daniela, Sebastian, Clara and I went to the Technik-Museum. We were going to go to the Judischer museum but there was a long line, and I'm kind of glad we didn't because I would really like to spend some time there without an eleven-year-old, I think. The Technik Museum was cool actually- it had all these hands-on exhibits with optical illusions and sensory stuff and displays about how things work. In the technology building it had old trains and rowing boats and sailboats, as well as sewing machines and typewriters and looms. It showed the history of a lot of machines, and we saw a demonstration about paper-making. That was pretty cool, although at that point I was getting really tired and my legs felt like they were going to melt a little bit. Luckily we left soon after that, and at home we watched a German tv show about a German exchange student in Texas. It was really funny for me, because she lived in this mansion of a Texas home with a pool in the backyard, and her school said the Pledge of Alleigance every morning, and the host mom gave this whole speech about how boys and girls can only be together in public areas. To nearly all of these things Daniela looked at me for an explanation. 'You say the Pledge of Alleigance every day?' 'American houses are so BIG!' 'You're not allowed to be alone with a boy?' So I had to debase some more American stereotypes and talk about how Massachusetts is a verrrrry different place from Texas. I think the thing she thought was the most bizarre was that girls and boys aren't allowed into each others' bedrooms. 'Hier es ist kein problem.' (Here it is no problem.)
After that little episode I skyped with a majority of my extended family gathered at my grandma's house for the annual chicken sacrifice. It was really fun to talk to them all! All of the kids gathered in front of the screen and had a fun time looking at themselves.
Well, that's all for now, I think- sometime this week I will try to post an update about my first week of SCHULE!!! I'm pumped. Gute nacht alles!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jussssst kidding...

I'm still in language school. I guess it was a misinterpretation, but I could have SWORN that Daniela told me I was starting the first week in October... ah well. I've been understanding more and more, and I had a legitimate phone conversation in Deutsch the other day, plus I've been emailing with my liason in German, so I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. Now I definitely and absolutely have only two more days of language class... and THEN I get to start school. Of course, I only have a week before I have two weeks of vacation, so that will be interesting... I'm guessing I won't be able to really start making friends until November. But I'm not giving up hope- I'm going to try to get to know someone well enough to make plans to get together over vacation at some point! I think Judith is coming home from Dortmund, too, and she said she'd show me around Berlin a little. On Friday, I'm meeting my liason! We're going out to dinner at Potsdamer Platz and then to see Julie and Julia!!! I'm super-psyched, both to meet her and to see Meryl Streep. She always makes me really happy. I'm not sure if we're seeing it in English or German yet, I think it would probably be more beneficial to see it in German of course, but I'd rather see it in English because I like Amy Adams' and Meryl Streep's voices so much.
This week has been excellent so far- on Monday I got a wonderful letter from Grandma (thanks- I'm writing a letter!), and on Tuesday I got a Halloween-themed package from Linda (thank you SO MUCH!!! Clara was very excited about the decorations.) Today I am skyping home for the first time, and tomorrow I'm expecting a package from my friend, and Friday I have my Potsdamer Platz date!!! So quite good overall. Today is really warm, and it wasn't raining during rowing yesterday so I stayed much warmer! Warm weather always makes me cheerful.
Yesterday I wandered through Tegel and found a bookstore where I bought a new journal (I've already filled up my first one!) and The Book Thief in German. It is my favorite book in English, and I couldn't resist. I'm going to wait a few months before trying to read it though.
Oh, and last weekend... it was Clara's birthday and she liked the scarf that I bought her! Score one for Jasmine. She had some friends over for a sewing party, and they all made pillowcases- she made me make one as well, and it was pretty fun, although I messed up an embarrassing amount of times, but I ended up with a fun jungle-themed sort of pillow. Maybe I'll use it on the plane on the way home... my neck got really stiff on the way here! She also received a fotoapparat (digital camera) with which she has been photographing me in every possible state, and a fondue pot, with which we made chocolate fondue the other day. Actually we just melted a chocolate bar, but as it's German chocolate, it was still lecker. On Sunday Simon, Lisa (his girlfriend), some family friends and I went to a motorcycle rally! It was really fun, and my first time on a motorcycle. It reminded me of snowmobiling, except warmer. I think I like snowmobiling better because a) you're on tracks instead of wheels, and it seems so much less likely to fall over and b) it's generally a lot prettier in snowmobiling areas than it is in motorcycling. But of course I can't really say this as I've only been once.
More to come after this weekend, perhaps sooner if I have time!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

one more day

of language school!!! And then I have the weekend and then I start in the Georg-Herweg Oberschule! I am pretty excited. Today Clara and Daniela helped me with my German homework, it was very funny because sometimes they would come across a question about a combination of articles and they would just look at each other for a few seconds while they processed it, and then they would simultaneously tell me the right answer. It was pretty funny. Also, I showed them the scrapbook I made today, so now they know what y'all look like. I think I'm going to give them their American gifts sometime next week. This weekend is Clara's birthday, so she's having a sewing party Saturday afternoon, and I think I'm helping to make a birthday cake. So that will be my first European cooking experience! Wahoo! I still have to get her a present, though. Tomorrow after Sprachschule I'm going to eat something delicious to celebrate the fact that I finished, and then go birthday-present-shopping. I hope the weather's nice- today it was cold and windy and rainy, and I braved it to go looking in Charlottenberg for an English bookstore, which I found and wandered around in for about half an hour browsing the lovely English titles. I bought She's Come Undone, which I'm saving for when I'm desperate for my mother tongue, and War and Peace, which I'm hoping will keep me busy reading-wise for quite a while, so that I don't have to go spend more money. Although I did just get a library card for the library in Tegel. Unfortunately, there are around 30 English books, but by the time I finish War and Peace I probably won't even want to read in English anymore. It was funny- apparently you have to be 18 to have your own library card or be on a family plan or something, so I had to be under Daniela's name and so I had to be part of the family, so basically Daniela had to claim that I was her tochter... which she thought was really funny. "Du bist meine Tochter, hahaha!" I don't really know why it was so funny, but it was, and now I have a library card. So that's that. On the topic of reading, the other day I remembered that Mom had sent me The Little Prince (one of my favorites- Thanks Mom!) and I so I brought it downstairs to read it- it usually only takes me an hour or so, so I was just going to enjoy the woodstove (we have a woodstove, I am so happy!), but then Sebastian said that they had the German version, and went on a search for it. So then he found it and Clara and I read them together- she would read a few paragraphs aloud of the German version, and I would read a few paragraphs in English, and so on. It's been quite nice- I can follow along in English what she's reading in German- or at least sort of, as the sentence structure is different. But it's fun. Also, Judith has the French version, so if I get bored of learning German in a few months I can start learning French instead.
Tomorrow, I need to restock my chocolate supply- I've been keeping a bar in my closet/wardrobe/cabinet thing, and eating a little bit every now and then... but they really don't last very long. But they are so good. Milka is one brand I see everywhere, rather hershey-like except not as big. It is so delicious, and it comes with all these different yogurty-fillings. But I've also been eating lots of soup and meat and vegetables so hopefully my nutrition is evening out a little? I hope so.
I am feeling really glücklich right now- certainly tired but I've had a busyish day. I understand a lot of what my host family says to me, and the sentence structure and grammar is starting to fall into place in my mind a little bit. I would say I'm quite confident in finding my way around, even if I get lost I have maps and I know how to ask for help in German. I'm about to start normal school and start making friends, and I feel really relaxed and glad about where I am.
I'll update again after this weekend- Simon's bringing me to a motorcycle race on Sunday, so maybe that will bring up some exciting stories... I love you all!
p.s. happy oktober!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

sleepy

So.. a lot has happened, and it seems really big and cool as it happens, and then afterwards I realize it wasn't really worth getting excited about. For example, today I decided to get off the U-Bahn early and take a different bus home to the stop right in front of my house, just on a whim. I got to enjoy the streets instead of the dark smelly organs of the U-Bahn, until we stopped at a stop where I would guess about 30 or 40 teenagers got on. Clearly there was a school there, and I was lucky enough to already have a seat, however I spent the next 20 minutes squished against the window as more people tried to squish on at each stop. One stop was called Grindelwald Weg, which reminded me of Harry Potter and made me happy. Then I was zoning out and staring at a Feuerlöscher, and was racking my brains trying to think of the English word, and after about 5 minutes I realized it was a fire extinguisher. Maybe it's good that I'm forgetting my English because it means I'm improving on my German! Who knows. But that was my long and rather dull story, but as it was happening I was thinking how exciting my life was. :)
Another highlight of my day: before Sprachschule began, my teacher pulled me out into the hallway and asked me in German if I wanted to move up to a harder class because it seemed like I was getting bored (which was so true, but I thought I was doing a better job hiding it!). So I joined another class, which was much bigger and quite a bit more advanced, so I had a sort of hard time understanding what the teacher said but I understood most of what was going on. I'm just going to study really hard to try and catch up... although I can't believe I just spent 25€ on books for 3 more days of class. I didn't really think it through very well. But they'll be good to have for grammatical reference, and hopefully AFS will pay for them, so I'm glad I bought them.
I will try to briefly summarize the weekend, although it was full of events. Simon, Sebastian, Daniela and I drove down to a tiny little farm town somewhere near Frankfurt. It took around 4 1/2 hours to get there, and we passed so many windmills it was like I was in windmill wonderland or something. The town was really sweet and old, and smelled like cow poop but in a good farmy way. We, along with at least 50 other people, all stayed in this little religious hotel place where we would celebrate Christa's 60th birthday. Christa is, from what I gathered from a family friend Rebecca, a member of the 'Friday Group' which was the group of young people (including Daniela I think) who had their Confirmations together and then met on Fridays for a while and became good friends. So everyone there was raised in the same religion, and Christa's husband is a priest, so there were like 5 religious services in the whole weekend... I think that's more than I've ever attended in my life. But they were pretty fun, and I got to sing loads of German hymns, and eat Jesus' blood and body. There was a ton of good food, one of my favorites being basically a hot-dog-like sausage wrapped up in a layer of tater tot. Except 5x better. And during the big Saturday night celebration, we all dressed up and drank wine (not very much for me, I didn't like it) and ate food and danced (only a couple times for me as I have no coordination when it comes to dancing) and listened to music, and everyone under the age of 30, plus a few older people, stayed up until 2:30 a.m. So that was a good time, and I got to get to know some more people who I'll probably meet again at some point this year.
Well, that was a rather long summary, but there it is. Lately it has been really cold, and I've heard that the German winters are FREEZING. Tonight I walked to the bus stop after rowing, and it was already dark out at 7:30, and I had my north face fleece on but my teeth were chattering and my fingers were tingly. Tomorrow I'm wearing my wool hat. Maybe I will find a lovely little bakery (okay, finding one is not at all a problem-they're everywhere!) to sit down in and drink something warm and delicious and study my präpositionen and akkusativ rules. Tchüss!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

lists

I was going to make this my original post but then got sidetracked... 2 posts in one day you lucky ducks!
Bizarre/weird/different things I've noticed:
-smartcars are EVERYWHERE
-on bigger streets, cars park on the sidewalk
-on smaller streets, cars park on either side of the road, and then if someone's coming from the other direction one of you has to pull into a driveway so the other one can pass.
-the lightswitches are the size of an altoids container (My brain isn't functioning properly yet; I couldn't think of anything better)
-everything looks like it walked out of an ikea store (actually I'm pretty sure a lot of it did)
-about 75% of people smoke
-you have to use a Euro coin to unlock a shopping cart to use, and then it spits it back out at you when you lock it back up (hence, no stolen shopping carts?)
-they eat SO MUCH FOOD and yet they stay skinny!!!
-there are no closets, just wardrobe thingys.
-they keep all the doors closed all the time. even the bathroom. which is annoying because for the first night I waited for like 20 minutes for someone to come out because I thought they were taking a shower, then I realized that the noise of water was just the fountain outside
-they keep their bathroom windows open all the time, even though its 45 degrees outside at night
-they eat very methodically, and make sure their meat fits their bread perfectly
-they have at least 6 different types of toilet-flushers that i've seen so far
-their toilet paper comes perforated in rectangles instead of squares

Things I miss (or probably will be missing) about America: (not in any particular order)
-family
-friends
-my cats
-pizza
-having a girls' bike
-knowing what everyone's talking about (but that wil come with time!)
-the fun spring regattas on lovely days where the race is quick and fun and mostly we all just hang out and stuff ourselves.
-English movies & books
-proximity to a very well-stocked library
-my alarm clock that plays music to wake me up instead of beeping loudly and obnoxiously

Things I don't miss:
-having crew 5 days a week (at least)
-construction in my house
-having to get up at 6:30 every morning
-living right on a main road next to a hospital
-AP homework
-NHS (I miss the people. just not the schedule/building/homework/etc)
-having a quick, small breakfast and a big, heavy dinner
-cat hair on my clothes

i love you all!

getting better, i think!

So today was pretty good overall! The morning was bleh, although I did splurge on a vanille frappe (not really knowing what it was, but it sounded good) during break and it was AMAZING. I think they used legit vanilla beans. I'm going to have a very hard time not buying another one. After Sprachschule I walked to the bookstore to try and get a receipt for the schoolbooks I bought... I didn't even think to ask for one when I bought them. But the man was very nice and taught me the German word for receipt (Quittung), and then reccommended a book for me in English (The Reader) which I bought gratefully. So now I have new reading material and a receipt, so hopefully AFS will refund me for my schoolbooks. After school there was nobody home, because Clara had Judo and Simon was... somewhere. So I watched part of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, first in German with English subtitles, but the German voices are SO OBNOXIOUS so I watched it in English with German subtitles, which was much better. It's rather blissful to hear English, even if it is British. I got about a third of the way through and then Clara and Simon and Daniela came home, so I went downstairs and I had gotten a letter from AFS about post-arrival orientation in mid-October. It's in Berlin, and I'll probably take the UBahn over, I might email some of the other exchange students and see if they want to go together. I'm really excited; we're staying in a student hostel and it will be my first AFS event with students from other countries! Plus we get to talk about what it's like to be here... and I do like to talk... Also, Daniela had a talk with my schule and she tried to tell me about it... I think I understood around half of it (of course, Sebastian was mumbling things in English to help, so that was somewhat helpful although sometimes I can't even understand their English). But I know that I'm going to have to do some kind of apprenticeship thingy starting in January- Jakob did his in a bike shop, Simon did his with computers, and Judith did hers somewhere else. But Daniela mentioned something about a dentist.. I don't know if I would want to be a dentists' apprentice, it sounds a little gross. But I'll keep my mind open. I also learned that in the end of June, my class is going to Amsterdam!!! So I'm really psyched for that.
So after dinner, which was basically apple crisp (the Germans have bizarre eating habits) that Simon made out of apples and zwieback, Clara and Daniela and I went to the grocery store. German grocery stores are funny- all the drinks are displayed in the shipping packaging, so you can either take a whole bunch all wrapped in plastic or rip it open and take one. And there are 2 aisles in this very small store almost entirely devoted to chocolate. And another 2 aisles devoted to meat and fish. And then there's random vegetables and snack foods squeezed in. But going out of the house with people always makes me feel better, and so now I'm pretty cheerful, but it has definitely been an emotional roller-coaster! I think it's bringing down my immune system, because I have a cold- I had a runny nose for a few days, and now my throat hurts and I'm getting a cough. But hopefully it's a quickie cold, and tomorrow morning I'll be all better for my presentations! I'm excited to miss language school.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beginning to connect

So I'm going to make this one short... today I successfully got to class 15 minutes early, and had time to practice reading a dorky German poem from my workbook. Then class began and I was one of the few who did my homework and could read the German poem without pausing (so I got kudos from the teacher- I was pretty cheerful inside). After school I got a chocolate crossaint (SEHR GUT) and took the u-bahn back home. Then Clara and I walked up the street to the market- it's really small and doesn't have a very wide selection of anything, but it's convenient for meat and produce and bread. But for anything else you should go into the city.
Last night I met Sebastian's sister and her husband. She and Sebastian look a lot alike. Also, Clara and her friend picked a bunch of acorns and cracked them all. I didn't even know you could eat acorns. I don't really like them- they have no flavor and a weird texture. We had a creamy yellow soup for dinner, which was good even being a soup, and then we had this yogurt-berry parfait thing with a carmelized layer on top that was also good. After I finished my homework I went downstairs and read my National Geographic Adventure magazine (English- I can't even read a children's book in German yet) and then Clara turned on the tv to Galilleo- I'm not really sure what it is, but I think it's aimed for children and the episode we watched was this guy who was trying to cook a bunch of desserts in huge quantities- so he made jello in a kiddie pool, and an enormous crepe. I couldn't understand most of it, but it was still fun to watch.
AFS had sent us the wrong info accidentally for the Survival Orientation, but I think the actual one is next weekend, but since my host family didn't know that until Saturday, they already had plans to bring me to a big birthday celebration in Frankfurt. So I don't think I can go. : ( However, I did get in contact with my liason, who seems very nice, and she said that she wants to meet me in person and she can tell me what they discussed at the survival camp. So it should all work out.
Also, I got invited to present to an English class in another school in Berlin on Thursday. I'll have to miss language school, but I think it should be fun. It's a school that's 95% Turkish, because they offer Turkish as a second language. AFS put together Thursday to be a cultural-exchange day, so I think they're having a bunch of AFSers do presentations. I don't really know what I'm going to say- hopefully I'll be able to say it in English, but I'll only have been here for a week and a half! Oh well. The guy who emailed me seems nice and he was an AFSer to Ohio a long time ago, so we have something in common to talk about.
I miss you all, but alles gut!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One week down!

Hello everyone! It's been a week already, but it seems like I've been here for so much longer. I started Sprachschule, or language school, two days after I arrived and it's been pretty fun. My class (of 6 students, all older than me) went on a field trip on a Berlin watertaxi, which was really cool. Learning the language is really hard simply because I feel so helpless in understanding everyone, but every day I understand a little bit more. The language school is mostly helping with grammar and sentence structure, and a bit of vocabulary. Also, I have to take a bus and 2 different U-Bahns (basically subways) to get there, so I'm also learning how to use public transportation... in German. It's been interesting. I've gotten lost a few times, but I've been able to ask for help so far and I've always found my way back.
I miss home more than I thought I would, but I'm having a really good time. I said that I didn't have many expectations of my experience, but I think that I ignored the fact that I had expectations of myself to be less homesick and quicker to pick up the language. But I keep trying to remind myself to give myself a break and just concentrate on listening to people speak in German. Someday I'll get it!
I started rowing 2 days a week with a rowing club about half an hour away by bus, plus a 15 minute walk. The other rowers have been friendly, but it's been really awkward since none of them speak very good English (which is probably a good thing) and so I just stumble around following people (and on Friday I almost got into the wrong boat. Oops.) I think that I'm on the just-for-fun team, which means no regattas to get up early for! Cheers! Of course, their idea of a practice is rowing for 2 hours straight with one five-minute break in the middle. Yikes. It's definitely different than what I'm used to. It's probably for the better though, because the coxswain doesn't have to say anything other than 'row' and 'stop' (except in German), so there's less for me to get confused by.
This morning I got up at 6 and went with my host parents and host brother to another part of Berlin, where we were volunteers in the Berlin Marathon. We got to watch the wheelchair section (they were going reallllly fast!) and then we handed out cups of water to the runners. There was an hour and a half long mass of marathon runners that pounded their way over the lake of trashed plastic cups. Sebastian said there were around 30,000 of them- that's like everyone in Northampton getting together and running a marathon. Whoa. But I did get a very cool neon yellow volunteer's jacket, which is waterproof (thank goodness, the runners were throwing water everywhere) and says Berlin Marathon on it. I was pretty excited.
Well, it's a lazy Sunday afternoon in my house, and I feel like I should be doing something more German and not connecting with all you (although I miss you all very much!!!), so I'm going to go study my language books... urgh. I can't wait until the language books get to easy for me and I can just spew out a load of German! I'm going to have to wait a little while, though. I think this experience should definitely do some magic work to my patience.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Deutschland, at last!!!

Okay, I'm really wishing I was fluent in German already. However, I know that the painful and difficult struggle I am about to pursue is part of the whole exchange experience, so I'm not focusing on my regrets. I am still pretty tired after many hours of travel but I don't think it's fatigue from being surrounded by a new country yet. I think that's probably coming soon, though. Our flight was good, although dinner was served at midnight, and so I finally fell asleep at 1 am and then at about 3:30 I woke up and it was light out (because it was 7:00 where we were flying over. We landed at about 6, which was noon German time. Then I, along with a few other people, was taken to the waiting area for people leaving on trains. For some reason my train was full of Brazilian exchange students, so I couldn't even understand the other students! But I sat with some other Americans and we played cards and bought our first German items... except we were on a train so there wasn't much to choose from. I bought a Twix bar for 1,5 Euro. It was deliciously German. Then some of us switched trains and there weren't any open tables, so I sat by myself and tried to get some sleep while listening to Portuguese. At 8 p.m. (German time) we got to our stop and I met my host familie!!! They are very nice. Clara made me a sign and a pin with my name on them. When we got to the house we had dinner: bread with meat and cheese and salad. I was so happy there was salad. I met Simon and Lisa, his girlfriend, and everyone spoke in Deutsch while I sat there eating... oh well. Then I took a shower- the showerhead was really low but I managed. The toilets are very funny- they all have a sticker on the seat with 2 pictures of a man peeing (not real pictures, just those little black figures on bathroom doors) and one says "bitte" (please) with a red x over it and the other (the wrong way) says "danke" (thank you). The one with an x is a man standing, the other is a man sitting. Apparently German men don't stand when they pee. I haven't embarrassed myself terribly yet, although I did mistake a soup plate for a bread plate. Whoopsie-daisy.
I went to church with my host parents on Sunday, for the first time in my life. It was definitely a good experience, but I don't think I'll be going every week. Or even every other week. Clara talked to me all day long, and I'm not sure she realized that I couldn't understand anything she was saying, but sometimes I could get the jist of it. She taught me how to play this simple game with pegs and dice, and then we played Rummycube (I won!!) and pick-up sticks, and after the afternoon meal (lunch + dinner combined) we played "Cafe International", a board game from the 80s that was fun but definitely entailed some stereotypes... there were cartoon pictures of men and women from different countries, and all the Cubans had cigars and military outfits, the Russians had fur hats, and the Americans had big flashy sunglasses. It was fun, though. Today Daniela (host mom) took me to the market to get food. It was an interesting experience. Did you know that in Germany you have to put a Euro coin into the shopping carts in order to use them? And then when you're done you put the cart back and lock it with the others and it gives you your coin back, to prevent people from stealing. Also, everyone brings baskets or bags, if you don't then you have to buy bags. Overall it is very eco-friendly here.
I have found that at night and in the morning I feel pretty down, asking myself how I got myself into this mess where I can't understand anything and I won't be home for 10 months. But as soon as I go downstairs and start talking to people, even if they can't understand what I'm saying it makes me feel more cheerful and very lucky that I get to learn this cool language. Well, I love you all, but I'm going to go help make lunch now! Auf Wiedersehen!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Worries, Woes, and Walla-Walla

So last night I had a dream that I was at the airport about to get on the plane when my mom tells me that I'm not going to Germany; instead she's booked me a flight to Walla-Walla. She said that it's closer to home (not by much, but it is in the same country) and since nobody actually knows where it is they'll still be just as impressed. (I know where it is. And I'm only 16. I'm sure there are plenty of 40-something-year-olds out there who know it's in Washington.) Anyway, I think Mom's sort of starting to freak out a little, and so she tells me to relax and breathe and that if I don't buy everything I need before I go then I can buy stuff there, but I think she's really attempting to relax herself. My poor sister started school today and last night my mom kept forgetting that she had to go to bed early. So then we had to go find a Staples to try and find a binder for her, because Mom keeps forgetting it's September and she's not on vacation anymore. Oh well. She'll get a kick in the rump soon enough when I'm not there lollygagging and Olivia has piles of homework and the driveway has piles of leaves.
So, now for my worries and woes... I don't really have a lot, but it made for a good title. I decided to deal with a winter coat once I get there. I bought a North face fleece that should do for fall, and I'm bringing a hat and gloves and such. There's a pair of boots I found online that look quite nice (on sale!!) but I wouldn't be able to pack them anyway so I'm just going to wait. I might have mom order them and then ship them to me anyway, though. Because she won't have enough to do. I think I've got nearly everything I need. I'm going downtown today to buy a lens filter and some new Converse, and I have to go peanut-butter-and-oreo shopping at some point. I don't know how I'm going to fit all this stuff though! I stuffed my backpack full of clothes yesterday, and it only weighed 25 pounds. I'm going to have to start using Ziploc baggies to squish out all the air. I decided on a many-layered airplane outfit so that I can take as much weight off my bag as possible (not that it matters a whole lot since I've got 20 pounds to spare.) So, now that you've heard all that gloriously boring stuff, I'll put up some pictures of my house and host family that my familie emailed me!!




Friday, August 28, 2009

Packing Frenzy

I'm back from camp and the Cape! The day after I got back from camp, still in a slight society shock, my family zoomed off to Cape Cod for a few days, which was beautiful and fun but slightly stressful at the same time because I have so much to do and there's no internet access or malls in Truro. I have a 2-page to do list, not to mention a packing list and a buying list. I'm leaving for D.C. in exactly a week! I'm super-excited, and I think I can definitely accomplish everything I need to in a week as long as I can convince my mom to drive me to Holyoke to buy all the stuff I need... mostly winter clothes and shoes, plus an ipod charger that works in Germany. I'm also packing up my room- today I sent 2 boxes out to the pod, and I have another one almost packed in my room. then I have to pack a box of stuff I might need my mom to send me so it needs to be easily reachable. And I have to pack to actually leave. Psh I have a lot to do. Hopefully I'll get one more post in before I leave, maybe with pictures of my bumload of stuff I'm bringing. Of course I still have to keep it under 44 pounds... this is going to be quite interesting.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Camp and German Grammar

Hallo everyone... so today I am leaving for 3 weeks of overnight camp! Wahoo! I'll be in my 2nd year as a Leader-in-Training, which means that we have to do more counselor-ish work, but we have to pay less to go. I'm pretty much all packed, and I have a lot of stuff... two plastic bins (the rolling ones that go under your bunk), a duffel bag, and my backpack. I think I inherited my mutter's packing skills. Ah well. I am pledging to ignore that part of my genes when I go to Germany!
So, if anyone wants to write to me at camp (please do! I promise to write back!), the address is:
Jasmine Landry/ LIT
Wildwood-Mass Audubon
P.O. Box 826
Rindge, NH 03461

Also, I've been doing a lot of German-learning, and the German grammar is killing me... it's so confusing, there is one word ("sie") that means she, you formal, and they. And the verbs only change the ending if the subject is I or you familiar. But I think I'm catching on! I put up sticky vocab labels all over the house. The only one Mom knows is "das Auto", because it's in her car. I love the word for refrigerator, it's "der Kühlschrank," which literally means "cool cabinet". It's quite fun to say.
Well, I must be going now... I have to bring all my stuff downstairs while Dad empties bales of hay out of his truck (don't ask me what they're doing there. Maybe he's fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a farmer). Auf wiedersehen!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Das Kleine Dunkel Wolke (The little dark cloud)

My German is coming along well, I have gotten the general idea of the pronunciation from Rosetta Stone and now I'm working in my German textbooks that I bought off Amazon.com. : ) They have a recent publication date but all the pictures show people from the 80's, kind of like my Spanish books at school. I actually think they're the same publisher. Maybe they use all the same pictures. Also, I found a little blank journal in my room when I was "cleaning up", and I decided to make it my German journal. I'm writing a bit in it (in German) each day. Right now I'm only doing a couple basic sentences, but I hope to build up to a paragraph or so before I leave!

On a not so cheery note, last Wednesday my alarm didn't go off and therefore I got up late for crew practice. I rushed downstairs and threw on some clothes and called my coach in a panic, apologizing for being late and shoving a Kashi bar down my throat for breakfast. So, already in a hurry, I biked downtown and down the Fort St. hill and was pulling onto the dirt road when I saw a car turning around a little ways ahead, so I slowed down. Unfortunately for me, there had been an enormous rainstorm the night before and there was a tiny mud patch right in front of me, on which my bike slid and I went flying. Fortunately for me, the car that was turning had been full of Jehovah's witnesses, who gave me tissues to wipe up the blood and a cell phone to call my dad and his truck to the rescue. Then Mom and I spent most of the afternoon in the doctor's office/ hospital, only to find out that I had broken my radial head. So now I have to wear my right arm in a sling, and my knees are still all bleedy and gross and where they're not bloody they're purple and bruised. My nose and right hand are swollen, and it kind of hurts to walk PLUS it's a right pain in the arse to do everything left-handed. So the moral of that lovely story was SLOW DOWN and WEAR A HELMET. (I was wearing a helmet. I was just saying. Don't forget.)

Even a broken arm can't dampen my excitement though!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthdays and Berlin

Today I finally received an "official email" telling me that my host family is in fact who I am going to be living with for 10 months!! Their phone and address look really funny and different than ours. I will definitely be contacting them to work on my German and find out more about them!! My host dad is a physician and my host mom is a nurse, so Dad hopes I'll be getting a medical background and Mom hopes they'll have lots of money and will bring me traveling. : ) I would be quite pleased with either of those scenarios and hopefully any others that come along! I'm excited that I get to be Clara's Groß Gastschwester!! Plus hopefully I'll get to meet Judith and Simon over the holiday breaks, I think they're both going to university next year. I'll have to confirm that, though. My house looks to be in a nice area on google maps, but I couldn't really tell. Unfortunately, I also looked up the distance to downtown Berlin... it's a half-hour drive and about 3 1/2 hours of walking. Hmm. I guess I won't be walking downtown.. but thats fine, I think my house is right near a train station and of course the public transportation/ biking in Europe is supposed to be much better than here. I am soooo excited! (Also I've been working on my German... I can now translate a line of a Dolly Parton song- "Das Himmel ist blau und Das Gras ist grün". (the sky is blue and the grass is green). Very deep.)

Also, I am finally 16!!!! I had a wonderful birthday, and a lovely few days afterward still enjoying the birthday feeling. (and cake.) I made these cupcakes from one of my birthday presents, a cupcake cookbook! But the frosting was terrible- I was trying to make sunflowers and halfway through eating them my uncle goes "Hey wait, are these supposed to be sunflowers?" Oh well. I'll have to keep working on my piping skills. I got loads of really great gifts from my family members. I went on a weekend trip to Boston with my cousin and two friends to celebrate, which was tons of fun. My aunt and uncle gave me $50, which of course went right into the bank for Germany! I got some money from my great grandparents, and my grandpa sent me this gorgeous photo of the Harvest moon (that he took himself, of course) and my grandma sent me a little Venus goddess and a handmade book of all these inspirational and philosophical poems and such. My other aunt and uncle gave me The Exchange Student Survival Kit, which I read on the beach the other day. It's awesome! To any exchange students reading this, you should definitely get it out of the library! It's by Bettina Hansel, and it has all the stages you will go through in your exchange and that it's normal to feel certain ways, etc. And then for the big shabang.. I think my parents were thinking ahead and therefore gave me gifts for not only my 16th birthday but next Christmas and my next birthday as well. I got rosetta stone German (yes!! it's awesome, I've been using it all the time), and a great EMS internal frame backpack that I'll use to pack in! I already took it hiking once, I really like the size. I'm going to start practice-packing soon... I have to get it under 44 pounds! Mom and Dad also gave me iTunes money, a touristy Berlin book, a German dictionary, a book of women's travel writing, a blank journal, some goods from Sweeties, a Sweeties t-shirt, Burts Bees chapstick, and antibacterial wipes. Which was apparently everything I need for the trip. =]

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pre-Departure Orientation

On Saturday, my mom and I drove to Storrs, CT for my pre-departure orientation. It was really fun, there were several returnees, some of which were still in high school, that we got to talk to plus I got to meet a bunch of kids who are going away next year also. Actually I was one of the few who was going for the whole year, there were a lot of people only going for a summer. Several girls said that they really wished they'd signed up for a year now because they are getting more and more stoked about this experience.
So. The returnees were definitely the most helpful- they told us loads of stories about their experiences and what they had to deal with. There were definitely a lot of hard things they had to go through but overall they all seemed to have a really great time!! One girl, Samantha, went to Belgium and couldn't stop talking about it!!! She really bonded with her host family and became a part of their culture, which I think is the coolest thing EVAH. Another returnee, Christine, went to Germany as a college student, and she says Berlin is the best city ever!! Plus in a conference call last week I realized that I will be in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). So that will definitely be an enormous party!!! I'm totally psyched. I am hoping to find out more about my host family though- most people who know about theirs have received official notification of some sort but I've only gotten an email from my family. I really hope I get to stay with them though, they seem really nice!!!
As soon as the school year is over (14 more school days + finals!!!!!) I am planning to get Rosetta Stone for German and get some practice in. I've already put up vocab stickers around my room, which help a little (although they tend to fall off things).
7 days until my 16th birthday!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Phone Calls, Pre-Departure, and Host family!!!

So things are really starting to shape up now! Last week during my dinner break at rehearsal, I had to call into a conference call about receiving the scholarship and all the details. So basically it was a guy who told us congrats, but don't accept the scholarship if you think you want to travel around while you're there or if you want to leave early to go to prom or a wedding or if you want to come home in the middle for some event or something. It was a little intimidating, but there is no way I'm not accepting (plus I signed the papers weeks ago).
Yesterday I got an email about pre-departure orientation, held at UCONN on Memorial Day. I think it's for everyone in New England who's traveling with AFS next year though, not just to Germany. So I'll get to meet some other kids, and that will be fun!
But the most exciting news is that I got an email last week from a family in Germany who wants to be my host!!!!!! I was so excited (although I haven't heard back from them yet and nothing is certain). But I'll tell you what I know about them and change this later if it doesn't work out or something. The parents are Daniela and Sebastian, and they have 4 kids, but only one of them lives at home. Judith is 21 and is living in Spain, Simon is 20 and completing his mandatory military service, Jakob is 16 but he is coming to the US next year through AFS, and Clara is 10 and is living at home. So I get 2 older brothers and an older sister! Although who knows if I'll actually get to meet them or not. Also, 3 of the kids are rowers!!!! So I'll be staying buff while in Germany, I hope. I really hope they email back soon, I am getting quite anxious to hear back...
In exactly 2 months, I'll be 16!! Which actually doesn't affect anything really, because I haven't even gotten my permit so I can't get my license, and the only other freedom I can think of that comes with 16 is the ability to get a body part pierced without parental consent. But I'm not planning on going on any piercing rampages, so I guess I'll just celebrate with the fact that I get to go to Germany next year (and drink beer, because the drinking age there is 16). Woohoo! But I can't think about celebrating right now because I have an A.P. Modern European History test coming up in less than a month!!!!! aaaahh!

P.S. My mother has now started to frequently remind me that I wrote in an earlier post that I would never doubt her again if I got the scholarship. Well, I guess I dug that ditch for myself. Oh well. I think I can withstand another few months of that, then it's off to Berlin!!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Congress-Bundestag Scholarship

I. Got. It.
I got the scholarship.
I am suddenly eased of the burden of almost $10,000.
I can call myself a Congress-Bundestag Scholar.
I am going to Germany with a full scholarship.
I just got a full scholarship to Germany.
Oh. My. God.
Wow.
I am so happy.
I am ridiculously happy.
I still can't believe it.
That is all I have to say right now.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Global Leaders Scholarship

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank AFS-USA immensely for the Global Leaders scholarship they have awarded me. I am so excited for this adventure, and I am so grateful for the support I have received from AFS, both financially and emotionally. This experience has been my dream for such a long time, and it seems absolutely amazing that it is actually happening. Even though I don't even know what country I'll be going to for sure, I am so happy that I am even getting this chance to be immersed in another culture for an entire year. I have become even more inspired to fundraise on my own in order to fund this year abroad, and when I return from my adventure, I want to be able to help and support others who have a dream of living in a whole other world. It is my dream to become fluent in a whole new language and become comfortable in a brand new culture, and AFS is helping me to achieve this. Thank you, AFS, for letting me be a Global Leaders scholar.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Interview...

Yesterday Mom and I drove to Schenectady, NY for a 4-hour session in which I had an individual interview and got to meet several other Congress-Bundestag applicants, as well as one of last years recipients. It was kind of stressful- I thought they would ask me about my reasons for applying and why I wanted to go to Germany and all that jazz. Instead they asked totally philosophical questions about impossible situations (their words, not mine). I think I did all right, though, although I kind of spaced out during one of the questions and kept repeating myself. The other applicants confessed to doing that, too, though. Each individual interview took about 20 minutes, so while one person was getting interviewed the rest of us would talk. Last year's recipient, a German guy named Tim, told us a lot about Germany and what it was like to be an exchange student. He was really funny. The other kids were nice, too. I have some really tough competition, though- one of the girls was a senior, and she already got accepted early admittance to Dartmouth!!! I really hope I'm good enough to get one of the 50 scholarships... Anyway, after we all finished our individual interviews, we had a group "interview"- that's what they called it, but it turned out we had to build a tower out of a few sheets of paper, a paper bag, some straws, and some pipe cleaners. Oh, and a roll of scotch tape. Then we sat down afterwards and had a discussion in which the interviewers all wrote furiously. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Yikes!
I have to wait until early March to find out, so I'm going to spend February working like a maniac to earn money as though I wasn't getting the scholarship. Just in case. Mom says it's like a snow day- if you don't do your homework and prepare, fate will make sure the storm goes the other way.