Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vacation up until Christmas

School got out after the first three hours on Friday, and I was feeling pretty bummed out and scared about vacation. Three huge blank weeks filled with nothing but sitting at home having no friends. Thank goodness it hasn't turned out that way. Friday was filled with Christmas shopping and freezing out at night at the Weihnachtsmarkt with my sister and her lovely friends. Saturday I went to a birthday party of one of my sister's best friends, which was in fact a lot of fun. We ate mexican food and played games and chatted.

I was expecting to meet my other guest sister, who was coming back from University in France, but her train was late and I was asleep. So I met her Sunday morning. Sunday was an interesting day. Early in the afternoon we walked down the hill to another small part of the city and built a snow woman and walked through the snow in a sort of park area. Afterwards we went to coffee at some friends of my guest parents, which was nice, but awkward. I always get so red when I have to talk in front of a lot of people, and trying to explain the American college application process in a foreign language is no easy task. One exciting thing happened though-- I answered the house phone. Three times in about ten minutes. It was exhausting and nervewracking, and the next day when the phone rang I just let it go.

Monday was filled with Christmas shopping, cooking, and movie watching. It was nice. Tuesday I met up with some friends (American and her visiting friend, and our German friend) and went to see the movie Tangled. For those of you who don't know, perhaps, it is a new Disney take on the Rapunzel story. I found it really sweet. Afterwards I met up with my sister and more of her friends and we all went again to the Weihnachtsmarkt. I was very cold, having been outside already for hours, and I decided that I really do need winter boots. Frankfurt has more snow this year than practically anyone can remember, which means it looks nice but in fact you just have to walk through a lot of slush. No fun.

The next day I went Christmas shopping again (!!) and met up with an AFS USA hopee, who has applied for the scholarship that I am on. In German it's called 'PPP' (das Parlamentarische Patenschafts Programm) and in English it's called the Congress-Bundestag Scholarship. We walked through the Weihnachtsmarkt and around the river a bit, until I had to go home. It was quite nice. He asked me quite a few questions about America, which I did my best to answer, taking into account that the US is huge and could be quite different in other parts of the country. It is interesting to talk with him because he is Jewish, and his parents actually come from Israel, so he speaks fluent Hebrew. He told me about a Hebrew class which takes place every Wednesday at a sinagogue near the school I have my French class in. Of course I said I was game, and he's been super nice and is asking the teacher and director people if I can join after break. After all, what's another language? French, Spanish, German, a touch of Icelandic, a touch of Hebrew... I'm getting in touch with my heritage!

But this boy and this Hebrew class actually lead me to talk about something that I find rather ironic here. When I told people in the US that I wanted to go to Germany, some of them were shocked, and said things along the lines of 'OH my GOD, but you're Jewish right and you want to go to GERmany?? I mean like aren't you SCARed?' Well actually no, not at all, the Nazis were last century, remember? And in fact I have met more Jewish people here, and more knowledge about and respect for the Jewish religion, and more opportunities to participate in it and learn about it here, than I have ever seen in my rural home in the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave.

Otherwise, however, I'm pretty excited about experience my first Christmas. Besides all the shopping, and eating food at the Weihnachtsmarkt, I hadn't done all that much until today, when we went to pick out and cut our Christmas tree. We drove about a half hour out of the city, found the place by accident, and got the car stuck. In the process of pushing it out, I got mud splattered all over my gray corduroy pants, the only pants I have that aren't completely too small. Then we tromped all around through the snow and chucked snow balls at eachother, and finally settled on a good tree and drove back home. In the evening (after a touch of very last minute shopping) we went in the Theater. It was a quite interesting, and unique interpretation of Jesus' life. But it was cool, too, because my guest parents know the people who act there and run it all, and apparently my guest father even played a talking tree once, in a play about something from Schiller. That's all I could gather.

So tomorrow is Christmas in Germany, and I don't know what to expect but whatever it is I know it will be good! Gute Nacht, Frohe Weihnachten, and I hope you enjoy the pictures below!

Weihnachts Plätschen, so fatty and delicious...

Standing by our snow lady!

Trying to get the car in the right direction again. It took a while.

Cutting our final choice.

Cold, wet, and happy :D

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

not an interesting title

What can I say. Things are normal. My emotional weather seems to be staying pretty predictable. That is to say, unpredictable. Perhaps this is because of my extreme fatigue lingering from the weekend. I was pretty busy, by my standards, out until all hours of the night and morning with friends, and out the next day with more. I saw some interesting things, and had a lot of fun.

Friday night I went with my guest sister to a small house party of sorts by a friend of hers. I won't say how much alcohol was drunk, but I will say that only a very small portion of it was downed by yours truly. I went to bed the next morning, and about six hours later after stumbling downstairs and through breakfast and a shower, I started trying to bake chocolate chip cookies for a sort of baking slash recipe exchange party that night at a friend of mine's. I was missing a few ingredients, so I added some others, and was astonished to discover that they actually turned out alright. Absolutely nothing like the chocolate chip cookies I am accustomed to, but quite tasty. Then I rushed out of the house, barely caught my bus, and was on my way to the Christmas market in Bad Homburg with AFS. It was very cold, and there was surprisingly little to eat there (I had been counting on that), but all in all the afternoon was fun.

After some streetcar mishaps I got to my friends house shortly before nine, and we all just ate, and chatted, and made a Feuerzangenbowle. It was very impressive, and very tasty. We finally crashed around two am, and in the morning we bummed around after breakfast and watched Ratatouille. I was also lent a book: The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, in which, after three days I am on page 575 of 593. It's the kind of actually-good love story that makes you want to rip your heart out and cry until you shrivel up as you simultaneously explode with joy and deplore your own bland to nonexistant love life. Well, maybe that's just me. But let me say, this book is way better than it's movie. It also makes me very emotionaly susceptibale to anything negative, and although it has been a captivating and delightful read, I am looking forward to finishing it so I can have my life back and end my emotional trip. Or just so I can sit bored in classes again, either way.

Today was actually quite nice. After the nearly fatal French-class boredom, they watched a movie (the Bucket List) in English class. I read. In the afternoon, I had no art class because the others had math, and two hours later my Ethik class was writing a test. So I went with my lovely American friend into 'the street' by our school, where there are lots of interesting little shops. I finally bought a new diary, a lovely red book that claims to be perfect for everything because it's made with special glue and can be rolled into a cylinder without experiencing bodily harm. Better than ripping out pages from my notebook and sticking them in the back of my old green diary. I had never walked that way before, and it was a lot of fun. We went into a store called Middle Earth, where it smelled like incence and there were lots of books about religion and philosophy. I looked for The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff, but I didn't find it. Then there was another shop with a funny name, that had all sorts of games and toys and masks and facepaint and everything that is fun to look at and to play with. We spent quite a while in there, and I felt rather like a child again. It was refreshing. When I got home it was boring: I ate, and allowed myself to shed a few anquished tears for my book, and then I just talked with people on facebook and tried to straighten out problems with my bank account and my debit card and my money, in order to get Christmas presents for my family.

Oh! One thing that I have not at all mentioned yet: All students in the 12th grade in my school are required to do a Praktikum (basically an internship) during the first two weeks after winter break. I, as a normal, participating member (sort of) of my class, am also doing one. I asked the director of my old Sprachschule, and I think I have a place. I am very excited to see what I will do in a language school. I am hoping to get an insider's view on teaching English as a second language, which has always interested me. I have to write a CV and send it to the school, and then I also have to write certain papers for my school over my expectations and hopes, and then later over my experiences. This is treated as the first big Klausur (exam) grade of the next semester. Not that it matters for me, as I am still not officially getting grades, but I still want to hit it with my best shot. I have begun to write, though rather inconsistantly, as I have only written one so far, about a page double spaced about my day, which my sister then corrects. This is very, very good, and I highly recommend it to any exchange student, especially if you are learning the language only through speaking. I realized a few weeks ago that although I can hold a reasonably intelligent german converstion about just about anything, if I was suddenly asked to write about what I had spoken of, I would be utterly at a loss. So I am hoping that this will improve my literacy and my fluency.

As for the rest of this week, I am looking forward to seeing people in school and to finally getting my French exam back! (I'm unnecessarily nervous; I already know I did badly). After that comes Winter Ferien, a big wide open three weeks with nothing exactly planned yet, except of course Christmas and Sylvester (new years). My other guest sister is coming back from France, and I am excited to meet her. It's hard to believe that I've been here for more than three months already. It's hard to believe it is already almost Christmas... I remember when I started school after Herbst Ferien and saw that we had eight weeks until the next break. It seemed like ages away. I remember when I arrived in Germany and thought that Herbst Ferien was ages away! My how time flies. I'm told that the whole year goes like this, except that it just keeps getting faster. Man, next thing I know I will blink my eyes and be back in the US, with everything feeling like a dream, saying 'wait, did that just happen? But it seemed like such a long time...!' I guess that's a call for me to savor every second that I've got, and sign off the computer.

Until next time!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Here are some pictures from Strasbourg. They are completely backwards here, so start at the bottom...

The last picture of the night, on the way back to the cars.

The street were beautiful in the dark, with all the lights.

Starting to get dark.

Just finished my Glühwein

We decided it would be lovely to live on the water...

Me (left) and my guest sister (right)
More of the canal.

The Notre Dame, of course!

I found the houses completely charming... especially the one that is only two windows wide.

Some cool icicles, and a pretty view from under a bridge

The first view of the city from the parking garage

Friday, December 3, 2010

Looking Up

This week of school was far better than the last, and I have more things to look forward as well. Monday was a pretty crazy day-- if you look back at my Stundenplan, you will see that I have a free hour between PoWi and Englisch, and then three free hours before Spanisch. Well, there was no Englisch class, so I had Five. Free. Hours. It was incredible. I went to the mall with my lovely American friend, and we were mistaken as a lesbian couple by a man who curled half of her hair before she had to go back to school. Tuesday, I normally have school until the 10th hour. That is, I either have two hours of art and then two hours of Ethik at the end of the day, or I have two free hours and then two hours of Ethik. (This is because art and math alternate, and I have no math class! Woohoo!). This week was a math week, and there was no Ethik. So I went home early. Wednesday I normally only have two hours of Deutsch, and two hours of Bio. But in Bio they were taking a test, and I already told the teacher that I was not going to take it. So I hung out with some people, and then went home. Thursday was normal, and Friday, was long and exhausting, with two hours of intense basketball at the end. I know people (especially my parents) are curious to see what my school looks like, so here are a few pictures:

Saturday my sister and I woke up early once again to go on a day trip to Strasbourg, with my old sprachkurs. It was a lot of fun, but very cold. I will post pictures in a separate post, since it's a real pain here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Settling Down

This last week has been kind of a downer for me. Things (like school, and Germany, and my whole life) are getting quite a bit less exciting, and I have been feeling rather homesick, in fact. Maybe not really homesick, but missing home. Or at least, missing what home was last year for me. There is a difference, in my mind at least. It didn't help (in fact it was definitely a contributing factor to my bad feelings) that the weather was completely and utterly depressing. The sky was always grey and wet. The air was cold and windy. Everything just felt clammy and sad, and it made me miss my beautiful Maine weather, full of blue skies and breezy beautiful trees, with the sunlight sifting through them and dappling the lovely, green grass. Waiting for the bus in the cold windy wetness made me miss driving: dashing from your cozy warm house to your cozy warm car, in which you listen to lovely music and drive along lovely roads, until you get to your lovely destination, where you park and dash from your cozy warm car into your cozy warm friend's house, where you get onto the cozy warm couch together and watch a movie on instant Netflix, which doesn't exist here.

To counterract all these blues, I am trying to keep busy... I have been reading a book that my guest father lent me, called A Journal of a Plague Year, written by Daniel Defoe (who also wrote Robinson Crusoe and many other things). I have been watching the German TV series called Berlin, Berlin, of which my sister owns all four seasons. I am trying to pace myself, but I must say: the story is so ridiculous and it is so exciting to be able to understand everything that happens, I just want to watch more and more and more. I have also been listening to Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen on tape. This is nice because since I know the English version practically by heart, any German word I don't know I can immediately translate because of its context.

Thursday and Friday were special days at my school, since Friday was the 'Tag der Offnen Tur' - Open House Day. That means that every class prepares some sort of project which people can view or participate in or learn from.. Thursday my class spent several hours getting everything ready, but since our project was about the class trip to Berlin and I wasn't there, I felt rather useless. Afterwards I went to the Frankfurt Weihnachtsmarkt with some friends from school. We walked around and looked at everything, and smelled all the yummy smells. It was very cold though. When I got home I called my parents, which was nice. It was the first time I had talked to them since I got here. Then I called my grandma, which was also nice. Then I called my brother, which was also nice. After that I was completely burned out from talking so much on the phone.

Friday I was able to sleep in, since I didn't have to be at school until 2:30. I cooked a bit beforehand with my host dad, which was nice, and then went out into the cold again, which was not nice. The Open House was alright, but as I was still feeling homesick and was still bumming over the weather, it could have been much better. Friday night it snowed, big fluffly white flakes, and Saturday morning, during breakfast, I got a package from my parents! It contained a few small clothing articles from home, my winter jacket (!!!) and, as a Hannukah present, one of my all time very favorite books, I, Claudius, by Robert Graves, which I have of course begun to read. Saturday evening I went with my host sister to see some friends of hers from her old school, who had a stand at the Weihnachstmarkt for our part of the city. We walked around a bit and drank some hot wine, which was alright. It was very cold though, and I was glad to get home, eat dinner, and watch some more Berlin, Berlin.

Today, Sunday, the snow is still here and we went in the morning to a birthday brunch of a family friend, which was both awkward and fun. I hope this week will be better than last but I'm still fighting some bad feelings. I am hoping to put up some pictures soon. Bye.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I titled this post with an expression of uproarious laughter because that's what I feel like doing, and have been doing a lot today. Classes were all really boring, and since I am a bad student and coerce others into joining me in my badness, friends and I covered many a sheet of paper in funny notes and drawings. But it didn't all start out that way...

7:03 - I leave house at a brisk trot to the bus stop.
7:05 - I board bus.
7:20ish - I board metro.
7:38ish - I get off two stops early to go to the other school where I have French. I wait with some friends, and realize that today is the day of my French test.
7:50 - I go upstairs to wait to get into my French class.
7:58 - I realize that something is not right, since I am still sitting in the hallway all alone only two minutes before classes start. I check my phone, and see that my French companion called me two minutes earlier. I try to call him back, and he doesn't answer. I text him, saying 'Shit! Where are we!?'
8:02 - I decide that perhaps I can find out more information in my regular school, so I walk back to the metro, take it two stops further, and start making my way up the stairs.
8:10 - My phone rings, and I learn that we are having French in room dreihundert vier. Drei, null, vier. 304. Thinking I must go back, I get right back on the metro again.
8:17 - I get out of the metro at the other school once again, and sprint up the stairs to room 304. I knock on the door, open it a crack, and see a strange teacher and a class full of ten year olds. 'Entschuldigung!' I say, to curious giggles from the students, and close the door.
8:23 - I count from one to ten in a whisper, trying to figure out if there are any other numbers that sound similar to drei, null, or vier. I decide there aren't any, but I go downstairs thinking that perhaps, perhaaaps I had misheard and it was actually EINhundert vier. But I don't have the guts to open the door this time and face more laughing ten year old faces, and I am still sure I heard the number correctly. I don't know what to do and am starting to stress out really bad.
8:28 - It suddenly dawns on me that it must be in the Other school. MY school. 'Ohh nooo!' I think, and I run once again back to the metro to wait for the next train and try to be calm and not completely freak out.
8:32 - I dash out of the metro, tear up three escalators, and hurry into the street. Already out of breath, I keep on sprinting lopsidedly (due to my school bag slung over my shoulders) until I reach the doors of my school.
8:38 - I try to catch my breath as I quickly climb four flights of stairs, two steps at a time.
8:41 - I arrive, winded, red in the face, completely haggard and emotionally drained, into my French class. Everyone laughs a bit, including me. But now that I am finally there and can let the stress go, I almost start crying right there. It's awful. I tell a very brief version of my hin and herrings from school to school, got my test, and began to read.

Why, why, why, why does this always happen to me? Why am I the only one who forgets that everone knows that we were taking the French test in MY school today? And Why did I not realize that before I went all the way back to the Other school? In any case, I got an extra half hour to finish the test, which I was able to do just fine. No doubt at a very elementary level, though. I often say now that coming to Germany is helping me learn two new languages (German and Spanish) and to forget the two I already was good at (English and French, of course).

But nobody laughed to hard at me, for too long, and never meanly. Perhaps my total lack of common sense just adds all the more to my sweet, winning personality? Ha ha. In any case, the rest of the day passed just swimmingly, except that I had so much energy I practically went nuts sitting still. Some of that energy seemed inclined to escape through ridiculous fits of laughter at the silliest things. And then everyone else around me would laugh, and we would all just hope that the teacher wouldn't notice.

The last class of the day (which goes until 5pm or so) was Ethik, but my teacher was absent, so we had no class (I Love this about Germany!). I went home feeling immensely, warmly happy for every single person on the earth. I also felt really old, because I kept watching people on the bus and thinking weird old people thoughts about life, and youth, and happiness, none of which I can really remember now. Perhaps the spirit of Santa Claus decided to pop in for a visit. Or Maybe it just wanted to get to Bergen Enkheim, and decided to travel with me. But what a day, right?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Day Bad Day

I think I can say that I have officially made my first big dumb mistake, and had my first really bad day here in Germany. Two big firsts, that's reason enough to be happy, right? I will spill all: The dumb mistake, well, wasn't even technically a mistake, since I don't consider it technically my fault. But it still happened, and it's still bad. Here's the scoop: my monthly bus/u-bahn/straßenbahn/s-bahn cards fell out of my wallet. Either that or it was stolen... Either way, three months worth is gone. That is, 58€ for September, 58€ for October, and 58€ for the nice fresh month of November. What would normally have happened is that I would have sent all these cards to AFS (in December, was the plan) and get reimbursed. But of course now that's impossible, and I have to pay for it myself somehow.

The bad day began with buying a bus ticket. Never having needed to do so before, I was a bit in the dark as to what must happen. I had my 2,30€ ready in my hand when I walked on the bus, and the bus driver looked at me as though he was waiting for me to sprout an extra head or something. Feeling already a bit awkward, nervous, and abashed, I put the change down in the metal dish in front of me. He did nothing. I accidentally on purpose flicked one of the coins into a random coin slot, because I didn't know what else I should do and the moster bus driver certainly was not giving me any clues. Well, he just about had a cow at me when I did that, and was quite a bit more than huffy as he extracted the false coin, and demanded WHAT I actually wanted. I said, with a question and a bit of defiance in my voice '. . . a ticket?' Turns out I was supposed to say 'ein einzelfahrt ticket, bitte,' and turns out that in the morning, einzelfahrt tickets actually cost 2,40€. Was I born on Mars or something? Gosh.

I got to school and sat through PoWi (Politics and Economy) and then did this and that with these and those people. Then I sat through English (not having done my homework, I had nothing to add). Somewhere in there I got tickle attacked, rather viciously I might add, and ended up curled in a ball on the floor, paralyzed. Of course, all this happened just as my guest sister's Ethik teacher (a very stern, serious looking man) came out of the elevator, and as all the other students in the school started flooding down the stairs. It was almost as humiliating as the scene on the bus. Then I had a three hour break in which there was nothing nothing nothing to do. I didn't know where to go or what to do to get a new monthly ticket, and nobody had free time at the same time as I did, so I couldn't be helped. Instead I sat in a cafe for three hours and 'studied'. Which meant that I actually spent my time alternately drawing or gazing out the window.

My Spanish class was good though, as always, and the kids are really really nice. I learned a bit more what I think I have to do to get another fahrkart, too, which is good. After chatting a while after class, I walked to the U-Bahn, bought a ticket, and chatted with another acquaintance until I had to get off. (What is the word for aussteigen, in English?). I started listening to music that always makes me happy, and by the time I got home I felt right as rain. Which is good, since it's been raining all day today.

It really makes quite a contrast to yesterday, which was absolutely beaut. I woke up early for some reason, so I went running in the park in time to see the sun rise, and ended up sitting for about half an hour in this wonderful tree, just looking and listening, and breathing and not thinking. It felt really, really nice. I tried to make American pancakes for lunch, but everything feel a bit flat. Including the pancakes themselves. Maybe next time everybody will be in a better pancake eating zone. Later that day I went with AFS to the Goethe Haus, of which we got a tour. I understood everything, and it was really very interesting. Afterwards we walked all around, and talked. It was quite a lot of fun, and due to my fahrkart predicament, I got a lovely ride home.

That's all for now, so bis später

Friday, November 12, 2010

the oper! and other things

This week has been pretty super duper, let me say. School is good, and the people I know are amazing and I just keep meeting more. On Wednesday the teachers had a workshop or something, and so everybody had only three hours of school. The other American girl and I went to our friend's house and baked all sorts of goodies, and watched Dirty Dancing, which I had never seen before. It was a lot of fun, and it was nice to have a full tummy all afternoon. For those of you who remember how much I normally ate in the US, just know that I am eating more. And I am still always hungry.

A bit before five, we all went our separate ways again. My way was to the Opera. It was quite impressive. We all had little opera binoculars, and I have to say I really enjoyed spying on all the people below me. Our seats were pretty terrible, as we could only see half the stage, but they incidentally afforded an excellent view of the pit orchestra, in which there was quite a very good-looking trombone player. So, whenever the actors were out of sight, my sister and I just watched him. The opera itself, by Wagner, was pretty exhausting to hear, and almost impossible to understand. There was a subtitles screan above the stage, but not knowing half the words makes comprehension a tricky task. However, the whole ordeal rekindled my longstanding vauge desire to learn the cello. I know it's not an intrinsically 'cool' instrument like the guitar, for example, but I think it's really beautiful and I know I could be decent at it. There were three acts of the Opera, and during the last one I feel asleep probably five times, and upon each re-awakening realizing that my mouth was open, closing it again, and sneaking a covert glance to the man next to me, hoping he didn't notice.

The next day I slept over at my American friend's house. She has four brothers, which was quite interesting and rather intimidating, but we didn't really see them much. We ate some, did some homework, did some facebook, and watched She's The Man! I didn't realize how much I didn't realize how scripted that movie is, the last time I watched it. But all the same, it gave me the warm fuzzies and made me wish my life could be a bit more like Amanda Bynes'. Wait, what?? I'm living an incredible year in Germany! No it didn't!

Friday was good, despite some mishaps which required apologies. (If any future exchange students are reading my blog, remember, Always apologize when you mess up, even if you wouldn't normally do so at home. Better safe than sorry). Today, Saturday, was windy, and rainy, and not very cold but I didn't go outside because it looked so sad out there. Instead, I sat on the couch and read (For Esme, With Love And Squalor, by JD Salinger). After lunch I made a brownie mix with my mom, and cleaned and vacuumed my room, and then I got on the computer intending to write my blog, but actually I facebooked, which lead to skyping, and so I have been on the computer all afternoon. Bad, bad, bad. Bye then!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

school life &c,

What a long time it has been. I have now dashed through two weeks of school and an AFS weekend, and have hardly had time to cut my fingernails. I guess I'll start from the beginning. Wow, the really beginning.

Two days after I posted my last post, was the Frankfurt Nacht der Clubs. This is how it works: twenty of Frankfurts clubs were open to anybody with a green Nacht Der Clubs bracelet, which meant that you had payed the 10€ ticket. I went with my host sister and some of her friends, first into a salsa club, where I drank a coffee with milk and sat. Then we went to a different club, which was much hotter, louder, and more crouded. It took a long time just pay to stash our bags and coats in the coatroom. Having never been clubbing before, I was pretty impressed. Lights, and music, and people all dressed up, and just a very intense atmosphere. We drank a bit and danced a lot, and met up with more friends. Then, after a few hours we went to different club, which was by far worse. Upstairs it was too crouded, loud, and the lights were too bright and changed too fast. Downstairs it was not crouded enough, too loud, and too smoky. Mother, you would have hated it. And so did I. We did not stay long. Around four or five am we went to McDonalds, ate and drank, and went back home. I finally crashed into bed at around six, and slept until ten.

That was Friday. Monday was the first day of school, which turned out to be awfully uneventful. I trailed my sister until we had a meeting with the school director and got my schedule worked out. Here is my schedule. At first I thought it was awful, but in fact I like it.

Just a quick note about school in Germany- there are three different kinds of schools: a) Hauptschule, which goes until the 10th grade, and focuses on more hands on work than on college academics, b) Realschule, which is a bit more academicy, and which ends also in the 10th grade, from where people can either start work or they can move to c) Gymnasium, the university-bound track at the end of which (12th or 13th year) all students must make their Abitur. My impression is that it is a bit like France's Baccalauréat. Every student must pass this test in order to go to University, so the last year is a stressful one, since nobody wants to take it twice. There is no third chance.

In Gymnasium, starting in the upper grades (11th, 12th and 13th I believe) people can choose up to three main subjects, which they will study more intensely and more often than the other subjects. These are called Leistungs courses. My Leistungs courses are French and History. One of your Leistungs courses is first, and the other is second. Your normal courses (Grund courses) are taken with the other people in your number one Leistungs course. Originally I wanted French and Art as my Leistungs courses, but now I am so glad that I have History, because everybody is nicer than I ever could have imagined. I was nervous to come to school, because I had heard so much that German teenagers are closed, and though not necessarily UNfriendly, they certainly don't need you, and you'll have to work your butt off to find friends. Maybe that's true, but I sure haven't seen it. I have been able to talk and laugh with anyone, and everyone was always willing to talk with me and help me. People think coming from America is cool, which I think is kind of funny.

Before I start talking about each class, I just want to preface it with this: there is another American exchange student in my class, so when I say we without saying who, I mean her and me. My English teacher is very, very, very nice. We try to be helpful in class. Sometimes people make little English mistakes and we can't help but laugh. We're not laughing at them, of course, it's just that what they say is very cute. My teacher for Art and Biology are the same, but when I went to my first biology class I didn't realize it (having seen so many new faces, and all) and I went up and introduced myself again! She gave me this funny smile, and said she knew, and I went back to my seat feeling confused. Only when she took off her coat and I saw she was wearing Exaclty The Same Things as the day before did I realize my mistake. Oops! But art is fun, and what we are doing in Biology I learned two years ago and have since just about forgotten. My Politics and Economy teacher seems nice, but I have only met her once, and we had to do a test. It was a little ridiculous, and we spent most of the two hours huddled over the dictionary trying to figure out what the passages meant. My German teacher confuses me. Partly because I can't understand what he says in class, and partly because he looks like an American, and partly because I never know what he thinks or feels, and partly because he is just a bit strange. We spend most of our time in German class writing notes and silly drawings, and laughing too much about stupid things, and looking words up in the Dictionary. Somtimes we try to pay attention too, but since what's going on is often so far out of our grasp we just end up zoning out and daydreaming instead. My Ethik class seems like it will be alright. I sit next to people I don't normally see, and that is good. They are all, as usual, very very nice. The teacher is a bit strict and looks like of like this. Not really, just kidding. Maybe more like a fish. He is nice. We watched a video on Freud, which was interesting. My Spanish teacher is younger than all my other teachers, and also really nice. Spanish is not that hard, but since I missed the beginning of the year I have to catch up on the basics. My History teacher is really nice too, and funny, but I can't understand most of what goes on in class. That's okay. The only class I have not had yet is Sport.

Now. French deserves its whole own paragraph, because let me tell you. It has put me through quite some stuff. First of all, my school does not offer French, so I have to take the metro a few stops to this other school. The first day a boy in my class who also has French took me there. Everybody went around the room and introduced themselves to me, in French. Of course I understood everything, but when it came my turn to speak I couldn't! I had to concentrate so hard just to figure out how to say 'My name is, I am an exchange student, I am seventeen years old', and every other word popped out in German. It was so embarassing! But also sort of funny too. I said a lot in German and apologized for being so bad at French right now, but really it's all German in my head. Everybody was, again, so, so nice, and I was able to contribute just fine to the making of a dialogue, and reading sentences aloud with grammar points and so on. So I left thinking 'I'm going to listen to French music and read French books, and at least the first big hump day is over and everything will be good from now on!'.

Well, of course that was not the case. The next day of French class, I lost track of the boy who also goes to my school for French, and instead walked with some other friends who have Physics as a Leistungs course there. They said 'Do you know where you have to go?' I said 'Yes!' ...But my French class wasn't there! I knocked on like every door on the second floor hallway, and found either empty rooms, or other classes. I thought: OH NO. So I sidled up to some people talking in the hallway, and said I had French here but I didn't know where it was, and did they? They said, look on your schedule. I said, I can't, because I am normally at the Max-Beckmann Schule and it doesn't say a room number on my schedule. They said, well go downstairs and look on the yellow doors, and there it says all that information. So I thanked them and went back downstairs. I found the yellow doors, and I found the paper, and I found the period, and I found the little F1, standing for Französisch Leistungs Kurs. It was on the first floor this time, go figure. So I knocked, and there was my French teacher, and the whole class looking at me. I apologized for being late, and said I had no idea it was in this other room, and I had to ask these people upstairs, and nobody told me that the rooms changed from day to day! I hope that nobody thought any the worse of me, but again, it was awkward. After that things went fine, and I was able to contribute just fine again. At least my grammar and conjugation are still solid, I'm discovering that. Next time, French class will be held in my school, on the third floor. This time I won't mess up! :)

I find that it is useful to be good at stuff, in order to win friends. I think of it as rather a process, and you win or you lose. My exchange student friend and I are winning. She is a whizz at math, we are both whizzes at English, and I can help people with art. These skills have already lead to new connections. As for the rest of my life, outside of school, most of it has been spent reading. I am almost done with The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. Excellent, as always. I am hoping to start playing some casual soccer, and on Wednesday school gets out early and I am invited to go bake things with some people from school. There could possibly be some light English tutoring on weekends, which would also be fun. There is a giant Fleamarket in Frankfurt every Saturday, which I am hoping to go to this weekend with my exchange student friends.

Also-- I have to take back something I said in an earlier post, about German movie theaters being small. I went with my lovely liason to a positively gigantic theater, near the shopping street. It was quiet impressive. The movie is called The Kids are Alright, and I thought it was very, very good.

So, that was the monster post to get everything up to date. I will try in the future to post smaller posts more frequently. Bye!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some Crazy Stuff

The past week or so has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me. Now that things are finally settling down, I sometimes feel a bit homesick. Don't get me wrong--I love it here. But sometimes it is hard to think how easy and familiar everything is back in Maine. Something that I've noticed bothers me, though it's really not a big deal, is that I am still a bit of guest. This is how I know: I always get offered food first. Sometimes I feel like screaming 'Why do I have to be first!? I don't know how things work here, All I want to do is copy You!'

Yesterday, Tuesday, was a full day. I went with my host mother and sister to IKEA, for the first time in my life! My favorite part was the huge room full of bedrooms. Maybe I am tired... Then we payed a lovely visit to Oma, my host mom's mom. We drank tea and coffee, and ate home made plum cake that my guest father cooks every Sunday. Then we looked at photographs (I am beginning to know all the family, at least in pictures) and watched old movies that all the cousins made when they were kids. Very funny. Oma told me that I had very good German, which was very nice. I can understand now almost all that happens, except when I'm taken by surprise. It was pretty exhausting though, concentrating so hard all afternoon, and by the time I got home I felt like crashing.

Today was strange. In a way it is sort of a small, condensed version of all the ups and downs that I have gone through, and will no doubt continue to go through. This is how it went: In the morning I felt listless, and a bit frantic at the same time. I talked a lot with some other exchange students on facebook, with my ipod, which is always stressful just because it's so small and sometimes inconsistant. I miss a lot of messages, and don't see chats at all unless I'm waiting for them. I knew the last thing I wanted to do was stay at home all day, because especially at this time it is important for me to stay busy and keep my mind occupied and happy. I have been wanting to go to the library for a while now, since I only brought one English book with me and I've already read it several times. I talked to my host mother about it, and she was so nice and called the Stadtbucherei for me, and asked about what I needed to get a library card. Which turned out to be my passport and official proof of residence. So that meant that I had to go to the Rathaus and get a special paper to prove that I live where I do. It's very close, and so I walked there right away and got all that I needed very quickly and easily.

Then, I made the great first expodition, and walked right past the huuuge Stadtbucherei without even seeing it. Oops. When I knew I'd gone to far, I turned around and felt silly at how obvious it was. I walked in through the doors, and it felt like heaven. People must have thought I was crazy because I was grinning like mad. The first thing I saw was a little Flohmarkt (books for sale) and on the shelf were two American College books. I wanted to laugh out loud. I skimmed the pages on Bowdoin. Then I got my library card, and went exploring. The library is big, and spacious, and warm, and comfortable, and it felt like home. Downstairs I found the books in other languages. I paroozed the French books, but since I didn't know what to look for I moved quickly on to English. It's hard to describe how I felt. Just like there was this huge well of happiness in me, and I was riding totally on some huge natural high.

I ended up picking out The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. She is one of my favorite authors, and since I loved Oryx and Crake I'm excited to finally read something else by her. I also picked out Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger. I'm doubly excited because it is by one of my very favorite authors, and it was recommended to me last year by a really good friend of mine. So at this point, as I was walking out of this gorgeous library with two goreous books in my hand, I felt on top of the world. And then, I got in the metro, and it didnt drive away, and it kept getting more and more crouded, and my happy bubble burst. The beginning of the book also reminded me of my life, which was strange, and disheartening. When I finally got out of the bus near my house, it was raining, and I sprinted home feeling empty and like a ghost.

It was all very strange. I feel fine now, though, especially because it is supper time. So tschüss, and guten appetit!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It Goes

Hey everybody. It's been a little while since I have written, and I find that it is actually a bit difficult to think of things to write about. (I haven't just been sitting at home all day, though, I swear!). Let's see. I am finished with my language course, which is a way a relief and a way a bit sad. It has helped me immensly, to the point that when I meet new people, they tell me that my German is very good, and ask me how long I have been studying it. This is very exciting :D So far, I have been able to tell someone the time, give a lady directions to a hospital, and confirm for several slightly confused souls the direction of the U-Bahn. I can also ask and (mostly) understand directions, read maps, and navigate my way through very large subway and train stations, all of which are very useful skills. And considering I'm just a poor girl from rural Maine who used to be afraid to take the subway alone, I think I'm doing alright.

So far this vacation I have met some more of my host sister's friends, and hung out with some of my own AFS friends. Normally we just go our for coffee, or hot chocolate, and shop or walk along the river. Last night we went out for cocktails in the local bar, which was fun. Having never drank (or is it 'drunk'? grammarians, help me!) before, and being very tired, I only had half of my Vanilla Sky. It was quite tasty, though. Afterwards my friend and I went out into the city. But since it was cold, and we had to be back soon, we did not spend a lot of time outside.

I have been trying to think of some sort of a list of differences and similarities between German and American culture and people, but I am afraid I have not been able to come up with a lot. However, one thing that I did notice from the very beginning (and it took me a while to get used to) is this: In America, when you go into a store or a restaurant, people say hello, and ask you how you are. When you leave, nothing happens. In Germany, when you go into a store or a restaurant, nobody asks you how you are, but you (and they) always say 'tschüss' when you leave. Another thing is, of course, the food. In Germany people eat a lot of bread. I find that very understandable, because the bread is good. On the bread goes butter (the more the better) and jam or cheese or meat. That goes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The rest of my vacation is pretty full of no plans at all. There are some scheduling complications, and my host parents still have to work this first week. I am hoping to make some day trips to other cities or something, but I will have to wait and see. After that I will be starting real school, for which I am nervous and very excited.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life So Far

Well, I've been in Germany for about three weeks now. It feels like longer, but in a very good way. I still feel great with my family, and my German is still getting better. Although, there have been some slightly embarassing situations arising from my inability to understand strangers when they speak to me, but no matter.

I have still been going to language course every day. The language is hard, but sitting still for three hours (hungry) in the same room is harder. For those of you who know me, I have a sort of quirky sense of humor (an english teacher once described it as "bordering on the absurd"), and I tend not to have an outlet for that while I'm sitting in language class. But I have to remind myself that it's all worth it.

I have not done a whole lot of exploring of Frankfurt, except for that one day when I couldn't open the door. However, I am becoming very well acquainted with the shopping street with three H&Ms, and what more do I really need? Just joking. I'm planning on going to the Historisches Museum quite soon. Last week I went to a fresh foods market with a lady who was in my German class, and it was quite nice. I explored a very big bookstore with a couple of other friends from my language course, and it had a very good classics section, but I thought the art section was rather weak.

I have been to see two movies with my host family so far, and let me just say: going to the movies in Germany is very different than going to the movies in Maine. For one thing, the theaters here are much smaller, and the buildings were obviously not built with the intention of showing movies. Outside the one (or two maybe) movie-showing-rooms is a bar/restaurant, where you can obviously buy drinks and food. The first movie we saw was in a little town outside Frankfurt, which had a caslte! It also had a spring (Quelle), whose water apparently does wonders for the health (Gesundheit). It tasted foul, to me, though.Unfortunately, it was dark so I could not take any pictures.

The film we saw was called Babys. It had almost no talking, but it was ingenious. It followed the lives of four babies for about a year. One born in California, one in Japan, one in Mongolia, and one in Namibia. The differences in their lives, environments, and how they were raised were really astonishing, and sometimes a little shocking to my silly American eyes. I won't delve any deeper here, but if you want to see the trailer for it, click here. It really is so eye opening.

The next day (last Saturday) was a long day. In the morning I went with my guest parents on this tour of an apple orchard. It was very cold and wet, and started to rain halfway through our walk. I am still not exactly clear on what it was all about, but as far as I can tell we can take care of some trees, or an area of trees, and then we can take the apples and do what we want with them. This was very exciting for my guest father, because he loves (and I mean lloovveess) applewine. There was an article about it in the newspaper the other day, and he said to me "have you read this? Because it states my opinion exactly: applewine is the best drink in the word." When I got home I took a very hot shower, and blowdried my hair :).

Later, we went to the Museum für Moderne Kunst (Modern art museum). We were there quite a long time, considering that I don't think any of us were particularly impressed with all the photographs of naked Japanese women tied up with rope, in various awkward and explicit poses. At least we went for free, because it was the last Saturday of the month.

Then we ate dinner, and went to another movie in my family's favourite theater. This film, also, was very very interesting. (Too bad American theaters can't be bothered to show worthwhile things). It was called Kinshasa Symphony, and it was about the only all-black orchestra, in the DRC. It was mainly in French, naturally, with German subtitles. Quite the thing for my brain, but I really enjoyed it. My French is good enough that when people with milder accents spoke, I could understand them, and my German is good enough that when I couldn't understand the French, I could at least get the gist of what was happening. I won't say more here about this movie, either, but it was also very eye opening and if you want to learn more about it, click here.

The next day, Sunday, my host sister and my host mom and I went to a huge fabric market. It was still a bit chilly, but not so bad. All the colors and textures of the different fabrics together was a bit overwhelming, but very pretty too. In the afternoon my host parents and I walked to a small medieval event that was taking place very near my house. There were things to buy and things to see, and things (mostly meat) to eat. It was quite small, and we didn't stay very long.

One night last week, I had my first taste of German Gummy Bears! After supper we brought out the bag, and my sister got The Gummy Bear Oracle Book. Here is how it works: You pick five gummy bears with your eyes closed, and depending on what colors you pick, you have a different fortune. I picked one red, one yellow, a green and two orange bears. I learned that I am a free, passionate spirit who loves big wide landscapes but who has bad luck in love. In other words, I once had a farm in Africa.

Wednesday night there was an AFS meeting/get together, where I met all the other exchange students in my area, and learned that hard alcohol counts as a drug. We went over AFS rules, and then just socialized. Everyone is very nice, and a few of us (along with a couple AFS people) have plans to go out for coffee or hot chocolate this Sunday. But I'm sure the rest of us will all get together soon enough as well. It is nice to think that my social will finally start existing with people my own age again! (Also, in addition to a bag of gummy bears, a sticker and a pen, we each all recieved a tshirt from AFS Frankfurt! That makes AFS tshirt number two, so far :p)

I wanted to say some differences and observations about life and people here, but I seem to have forgotten them all now. Remember, though, feel free to comment and ask questions. Below are some photos.

this is a real eis kaffee. its coffee with ice cream in it.

museum of modern art

sad at my gummy bear oracle

frankfurt skyline twice

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The First Week

My first week in Frankfurt was great. I saw some sights with my host parents, ate a lot of good food, and slept. My family is super nice, and I felt at home right away. Their house is medium sized, and very pretty. They do a lot of work on it themselves, so its not entirely finished, but it doesn't matter. And since my house in Maine is far from completed either, it really doesn't bother me at all. I have a pretty room which overlooks the garden. There are lots of books around, and currently I'm reading Harry Potter und der Feurkelch. Can you guess? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's good to read, since I know the words so well in English it helps me a lot with my German. There is a beautiful park that overlooks Frankfurt a ten minute walk or so away from my house, out of the city, and maybe sometime I will put up some pictures.

My daily routine goes something like this: I get up around eight, leave for my class around nine. I catch the bus and go until the end of the line, and then I catch the tram, which drops me off right near my course. Everybody is very nice there. German grammar (cases, mostly) I find somewhat confusing, but I'm sure I'll improve. On Tuesday I had a little adventure. Upon arriving home after class, I discovered that I could not open the door. It was a pretty ridiculous predicament, and I didnt know what to do, so I went out again, and came back, and went out again. I took the metro to a stop that looked on the map as though it was near the river. I got out, and didnt find the river. I did, however, see a new part of Frankfurt, and now I know where the Goethe Museum is! I got back a bit late because I walked around for so long, and my family let me in. It was somewhat embarassing, once I learned how to open the door, but it was a good day overall. The rest of the week passed without incident. I'm understanding more and more, and I was able to tell a lady waiting for the tram the time.

The weekend came, and Saturday my guest sister took me shopping on a big street that has three (three!) H&Ms. So far I've only been in one. On that street I went up the longest escalator in Europe, and bought a shirt, a scarf, and a sweater. After three hours we were pretty exhausted, and went back home for a quick bite to eat before going to a Französich Party organized by my language class program. We didn't know anybody there, so we just ate a bunch of deserts for an hour. We were actually about to leave, when two young guys we're acquainted with came in, and we ended up all sitting at a table outside in the cold, because inside it was so hot. We finally went back home around midnight. It was a long day. Sunday morning one of my sister's friends came over, and then in the evening we went to another friends house to meet a bunch of other friends. There we watched a very strange movie in which Daniel Brühl played a schizophrenic. We got back quite late, and were very tired in the morning.

In three weeks fall break starts, and I think we might go on a small trip somewhere. And on October 25th I will start actual German high school (in my case Gymnasium, the university-bound school track). Very exciting.

I try to give pretty comprehensive posts, but if there's something you're especially curious about that I haven't mentioned, please do comment, or contact me with facebook or email.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Alright. This was written in fact on saturday morning, bit I couldn't post it until Tuesday. Somtwtime later I'll write about the whole first week.

What a time it has been! I'll start from the beginning. I left Tuesday morning on a 7:10 flight, where I met up with the four other Congress-Bundestag recipients from Maine. We flew from Portland to New York, then New York to Washington DC. There in the airport we met some AFS volunteers, and went to the hotel where we would be staying and having our orientation. People arrived throughout the day, and by the time all 50 of us were there it was definitely hard to remember eveyones name. Luckily we had name tags on lanyards that we had to wear ALL THE TIME.

The first day we had an early start. We bussed into DC. Because we were running early we had to visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and a few other sites in walking distance if we wanted to or had time. Then we headed to the State Department. I think most of us were expecting a tour or something along those lines, but instead we sat in one room for some talks and questions. It was interesting, though a bit strange, and we were spoken to afterwards for not asking the expected questions.

From there we went to Union Station, where we ate lunch wherever we wanted and went to visit our Congressional Representatives, to say thank you for their support and talk a little about the scholarship itself. The hope is that despite the tough financial times, if they ever see the Congress-Bundestag scholarship they will remember those nice kids who came to see them, and they will keep it going. We from Maine were not actually able see our rep, but we spoke to a really nice staffer who was a recent grad from Bowdoin.

Later in the afternoon we went to the German Embassy, where a Congress-Bundestag alum gave us a vey interesting and helpful presentation on the German government. Then we practically bombarded he with questions about her stay in Germany, her experiences in regards to this or that, her perspective on this, what advice she had about that. It was a lit of fun, and we got pins and pens at the end. After taking a group photo in front of the German Embassy sign, we went to dinner at a German restaurant and then bussed back to our hotel to crash after the long day.

The next day, Thursday, we did a lot of activities, and had a lot of in depth discussions about what we wanted to gain from our experience and what it means to be an ambassador. The regular AFS students began to arrive. We also did some role-playing over situations we might encounter in Germany. On Friday we were all getting very anxious to leave. But until then, we talked some more about what we hope to gain and what it means to be an ambassador. (In fact we did more than just that but it's so hard to remember, and that was without a doubt the recurring theme).

The airport went relatively smoothly. We had two volunteers actually flying with us, and when we got off the plane after a basically sleepless night, AFS Germany volunteers were there to put us on our trains or bring us to meet our host families. And this is where everyone's experiences start to diverge.

I saw my host family upstairs, and it was very exciting to meet them. We drove home through Frankfurt. Though my house is still in the city, it's far from the center and it's surprisingly green. We ate breakfast, and I went to the market with my host father and sister to get fresh food. The whole day is sort of a blur... I ran some errands with my host mom... We ate lunch... My sister took me on a small tour of the neighborhood... We ate dinner... I went to bed.

It's amazing to me how much I can understand, considering how I only sort of taught myself German over the summer, and at the same time how much I don't understand. But I already feel quite comfortable with my family, and I'm getting used to hearing German all around me.

Well, it is almost breakfast time so I think it is time to go downstairs.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Last Week

So this is it! My last week in Maine has been pretty busy so far, with bridge jumping and going to the mall, getting lost, riding my bike, hanging out with friends and family, packing, and studying, studying studying!

I'm doing sort of an on-going trial pack (which means that whatever I don't wear is actually going to stay in my suitcase from now until I get to Germany). My suitcase weighs 41 pounds, but my scale is a bit inconsistent so I'm never quite sure. Anyways, with the 44lbs limit, I think I'm all set.

My German family is signing me up for a German language course, with a program called A-Viva. I think it is the German version of the Alliance Française (where I took classes last summer in Paris). I took a Deutschekenntnisse Test, a German knowledge test, and they placed me at level A2. That means I don't know much but I'm not a total beginner! So that's a plus.

I'll fly to Washington D.C. with a few friends on September 7th for my pre-orientation, so there will me more to post about soon.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hallo Jedermann!

Hello everyone! As you all know I received the Congress-Bundestag Scholarship and will be leaving this September to spend a year as an exchange student in Germany! So I have decided to keep a blog to document what I'm doing and let other people know too.

However, I hope I won't have too much time to write really long posts, so I'm just going to use this blog as a tool so that everyone can keep in touch with what I'm up to without me having to keep up a lot of email correspondences. That said, though, please feel free to email me or contact me on facebook! (I also adore snail mail, so if you want my home address in Frankfurt shoot me an email).

So, having said all that I will give my first bulletin: In the beginning of the summer I went to an AFS pre-departure orientation. It was a lot of fun and quite informative, and I met a lot of really cool people, many of whom I'm excited to be traveling with soon! Since then I have been working, volunteering and teaching at a summer enrichment program for kids, and teaching myself German. I have a guest family, which is very exciting, and we have corresponded a little bit. At the beginning of September I will have to be all packed and ready to leave for Washington D.C., where I will be doing activities with other scholarship recipients and then going to another AFS orientation directly before I fly to Germany. So that's all for now, bis bald!