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.