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


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!