Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ein Guter Rutsch!

Okay so this week has been one city to the next. But basically these days on sightseeing involve looking at the popular tourist attractions that the city has to offer. So on Monday, Mark, another AFSer came to Krefeld, and we walked through the Innenstadt, and surprisingly I discovered new things that I didn't know existed in the Innenstadt. And then we went to the movies and watched "Avatar" in German. And it was really well done! I understood all the German and it was awesome, and I want to have an Avatar now! I'd recommend seeing the movie. Dad: This movie is really up your alley. But it's was so long, the movie theater had a pause around half way through the movie, which I found bizarre. So we got back a little after midnight, and that started Tuesday. Düsseldorf was the city for the day. It was the first time I took the U-Bahn directly into Düsseldorf, which I find pretty cool. The day was unfortunately really rainy, but we had a good "typical, German" meal and the panoramic tower to see the city was dry, but unfortunately visibility wasn't the best either. But there is a Dunkin' Donuts in the Düsseldorf Hbf, so it was my highlight of the day to have a little taste of home, since I was able to get 2 Boston Creme donuts! And so Wednesday brought the city of Bonn. I went with people from my AFS Chapter, and we basically walked around the Altstadt (old part of town) and visited the Cathedral, but Bonn is well known for the "Museum Mile", but that was too far for us to go there. But I'm sure I'll be taking a trip to the Museums before I go back to the USA. And so Thursday was a day of Chilling. I'm going to Köln (Cologne), where I'll be celebrating New Year's with a bunch of AFSers. And in Germany, they wish you a "good slip" into the New Year. (Ich wünsche dir (plural is Ihnen) einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!) So I wish you all a Happy New Year's or should I say I wish you all a good slip into the New Year! And so after Köln, I'll be going to Ulm for 4 days. So I'll promise pictures of my Christmas break and another update after then!

Bis Nächstes Jahr!
Matt

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Frohe Weihnachten im Saarland!

So Christmas was a little different in Germany, compared to the annual Dunne Family Christmas party with around 70 people that gather on the 25th of December. In fact this year’s Christmas celebration was 3 days long. So I’ll explain:
December 23rd: Domi, Marie-Claire and myself drove a little over 4 hours to Saarland in a bit of traffic; usually the ride is 3 and ½ hours. The Autobahn is certainly more scenic than the Garden State Parkway, and faster.
I slept over at Oma Josefa’s house, and that is my host mom’s mom. And so the Christmas involved alternating visits between Barbara’s and Claude’s families.
December 24th: So on Christmas Eve (Heilige Abend), we all went to Claude’s parents’ house: Opa Fernand and Oma Brunhilda. They live about 5 kilometers from the French border, so my family took the opportunity to bring me to France. I was told I made the mistake of writing Paris instead of France...Paris was too far away for a day trip, but my host mom really wants to take me to Paris in the springtime. We crossed the border and visited the town, Sarreguemines (that’s the French spelling.) That’s actually where Claude was born, and the town was once part of Germany, so a lot of the people can speak both French and German, or at least understand both. In the town, we visited the Weihnachtsmarkt, so I achieved my personal goal of 7! So I was at one in France and 6 in Germany. And so we had a seafood dinner that Opa Fernand cooked. The main entreé was Jakobsmuscheln (Jacob’s Muscles). And so between the main dish and dessert, we opened presents. And there were a lot. It’s a German custom to open gifts on the 24th. I got a really nice pullover from my host family, along with a really nice fountain pen, with my name engraved. And majority of the German students use fountain pens (Füller), but they are extremely fancy and expensive like one thinks of the ones in the states. I also got enough Ferrero Rocher chocolates to last me 6 months. I’m currently eating a few.
December 25th: Marie-Claire and I went to the Christmas morning service; it was too late to go on Christmas Eve because we were somewhere between opening presents and dessert by the time that we would have had to leave to go to church. So Christmas Day was Barbara’s family’s turn. We went to Uncle Pat’s house where we had a gathering of 13. The table took up the entire dining room area, and we had salad, Wurst, potatoes, and Eisbein. The Wurst and Eisbein was actually from one of Uncle Pat’s pigs...so it was very fresh. But you’re probably wondering about what Eisbein is. Well it looked pretty disgusting from appearance, not going to lie. But I tried it like every other food in German that’s come my way. And everyone shreded the meat themselves, and then I realized that it was Corned Beef (with Sauerkraut). And when I said that, my host family was really confused because the English name for the food didn’t make sense to them. And so it was a really nice gathering. I played a lot of Wii with my younger host cousins. And I love the MarioKart game! And the family tradition for opening presents is that every present gets a number. And then in a raffle style, a person draws a number, and then that numbered present is found and given to the designated person. (For example: I draw #3, then the present with #3 on it is given to Aunt Sally because that’s who the gift was for.) And the order of drawing is from youngest family member to the oldest, so everyone participates.
December 26th: The second day of Christmas! Yes, Germans have two days of Christmas, and technically another 3rd with Christmas Eve, since that’s the biggest evening of all the celebration. Barbara and Claude drove home because Barbara had to work, so it was Domi, Marie-Claire and I back to Opa Fernand and Oma Brunhilda’s house. There I met the cousins on that side, but the are in their 20s. We had a nice lunch with chicken and various vegetables, and the best part: Vanilla ice cream with warmed raspberry sauce. Throughout the meal, Opa Fernand kept calling me „the boy“ because he couldn’t remember my name. And he kept encouraging me to eat, although he didn’t eat much himself. He was a character, and I had fun joking with him. So after that gathering, we looked around the Blieskastel Innenstadt, which was very nice and quaint. And afterwards we called it a day and went back to Oma Josefa’s house. We watched this traditional german Christmas movie, Sissi. And actually it’s a three-part movie, and I saw the 1st part on the 23rd, and slept through half of the 3rd part.
December 27th: Another Christmas has come and gone. Oma Josefa gave me enough fruit and sweets to last me a week, and they are intended for the car ride home. Gotta love her hospitality! And we stopped back at Uncle Pat’s house to say a quick hello to him and his family. And now we’re driving back home in a mix of rain and snow in the car I’ve named the Klunker. I think in english it’s spelled with a „C“, but a true german word always starts with a „K“, so I germanized a word! And this car is from 1995, so now my host family is calling it a Klunker too. So I have probably three more hours of Spanish music till we get home.
And so FROHE WEIHNACHTEN (belated)!!
Liebe Grüße,
Matt

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas in 2 Days...

So this is my 60th post in this blog! I'm proud of myself (and I'm sure my readers are happy about it) that I'm still writing. So just a quick note... honestly! The snow now is totally disgusting because it's all slush, wet, and gray...Germans don't get as much snow in this area, so the clean-up wasn't as thorough as I would have liked. I enjoyed my AFS meeting, and I made a poster with pictures of my host family that I gave them, so that was pretty funny carrying two poster boards (Marie gave me the one she made...I LOVE IT, MARIE! DANKESCHÖN!!) And for the secret Santa we did at the AFS meeting, I used the floppy disk from the previous one and it was a hit! And I got a lamp that's used for the lanterns on Saint Martin's. And the light on my bike was dead, so I used it to guide my way home in the dark...I'm sure I looked pretty humorous. So Tuesday, I actually made it to school. School was good. I used my break to print out the photos I need for all of my gifts. And school was school...I wished everyone a good break and Merry Christmas. Most of them are staying in the area, but I'm driving to Saarland to celebrate Christmas with my host family and their family there! And so I'm now done with my German language class on Tuesdays! And I picked up a package from my old host family, but I know there is still at least one more on the way...the one from my parents. And so yeah...I'm not sure when everything is going to happen for the Christmas fesitivities, but I know they involve visiting the grandparents, going to church, and presents. I know that Christmas Eve is the biggest day for Christmas, and then there's Christmas day and then the 2nd day of Christmas! So I wish you all a Merry Christmas in New Jersey, Germany, Wisconsin, Pennyslvania, and anywhere else!!! FRÖHE WEIHNACHTEN!!

Mit Freundlichen Grüßen,
Matt

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in 4...3...2...

So Christmas in soon! The last weekend to get the last minute gift shopping in is over. I'm translating English sentences from German, so some of the things I write are translated too directly, so they might not be too, too logical. So the weekend was good and dandy. Saturday i didn't get too much sleep. I woke up at 2:30am and never fell back asleep. That's why I posted the last two blog posts at like 5:30 in the morning. So I tried the Trombone on Saturday, and I told the teacher that I don't think I can dedicate myself to it. He said that was fine and he was happy that I tried. So after that we had a little "tea time" and gave my host dad, Claude, his birthday presents. He's a big reader, so he got a few books. Let me just say, more books than I probably read in a year. Sad to say...I know. And so after the cakes and sweets (Apple Strüdel and Cheesecake), I went with my host parents to the Metro, which is like a Costco or Sam's Club. Not what I expected it to be, but still an experience. After the Metro, all of us went out to dinner for Claude's birthday, and then Claude and Barbara dropped Marie-Claire, Domi, and I off at a party. It was at some hall, similar to an Elks or American Legion building. There was about 40 or so teenagers all smoking and drinking, and dancing. And so it was a fun Saturday night. I got stuck talking to a kid that asked me the hardest question I've gotten so far in Germany: "How do Americans think?" I thought...huh? That is a pretty bizarre question. So I didn't really answer it well, but he seemed satisfied with it, but I'm sure he was just pretending. So I didn't get home till around 2:30am, so i was awake for 24 hours! And so that brings us to Sunday. Marie-Claire and I were supposed to go to Köln, but we got hit with a snow storm! I found it exciting, because I was told that my area only gets rain in the Winter. But it was abnormally cold this week, so we got a lot of school. So I got to chill out, and actually rest on a Sunday, which is probably good with the holidays coming up. I had a snowball fight with Marie-Claire outside and I felt like a little child again playing in the snow. And Sunday night, Marie-Claire and I went to a musical, and it was acutally an "Alternative" musical...it was something about art rebellion, and it was all girls, and some of them played men, and I didn't understand that first. So because of all the delays, we didn't get home till 11:30pm...so it was a late night. I slept in on Monday. Tried to go to school, but didn't end up going because the S-bahn never came to pick me up...so that means (unofficial) that I had a SNOW DAY! I'm going to an AFS meeting soon.

Schöner Schnee!
Matt

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Traditions...auf Deutsch!

Well I'm not going to write this post in German because not many of the readers would understand it too well. So I realized that I haven't been too specific about the Christmas traditions I've experienced thus far in Germany. So what the one's I can recognize now are: the Advent wreaths, Advent Calendars, Weihnachtsmärkte, and decorations.

1. Advent wreaths - they are basically the same, but there are only 4 candles. They don't have a 5th candle that you light on Christmas. And the candles are all red.

2. Advent Calendar (oder Adventskalender) - There are different variations of these calendars. But the point of them is that from Dec. 1 till Christmas Eve, everyday the child (or exchange student) gets a goodie everyday. Mine is a box with little doors. Marie-Claire's is a wood cut-out Christmas tree, where the goodies look like Christmas ornaments. But she has to do math to figure out which "treat" is for which day. And the third one is a string, with 1 - 24 in random order, and little pockets hold the treats.


3. Weihnachtsmärkte (singular: der Weihnachtsmarkt) - The most obvious tradition. Usually in the center part of town, or the Innenstadt. There are stands where you can buy stuff, or you can also get food like French Fries, Bratwurst, Crepes, Pretzels and of course, my favorite, Glühwein!

4. Decorations - I'd say that they are basically the same as the USA. But they strictly stick to the theme of red and green. They are more modest, simply a center piece on a table or around a doorway or a window. They aren't very much into putting lights outside, although some Germans have gone all out.

That's what the Christmas season has been like. I'll keep my eye out for more differences or unique customs.

Matt

Mehr Schnee!

So...since a little birdie told me to alter my format...I'm going to give it a whirl. I'm going to us the theme "K.I.S.S." (keep it simple, stupid). So here we go:

Thursday (Donnerstag) was a nifty day. We had breakfast in English, and we had a Secret Santa. What I got was a piggy bank, that I haven't yet figured out how to open, and a floppy disk that you only use for a computer that was built in the 1980s...if any of them are still functioning. So this next thing totally wouldn't happen in the USA and without getting in trouble. So one of the girls opened her gift, and she looked at the box, and it was a thong. A candy thong. Well the class erupted into laughter, including the teacher, and then one girl took the thong and put it on...over her clothes (duh). It was hilarious, and a great conversation topic for the rest of the school day. And then in Spanish, we did our skit...which was really funny. I wore some mask that looked humorous, and it was hilarious. I brought my camera, so you can watch in on Facebook. And so school was school after those fun four hours. After school (around 6), i photographed the Krefeld Weihnachtsmarkt. It was nice.

And Friday, I was in a really good mood! I was supposed to have a 6 hour school day, but it turned into being only 2 hours! I slept in, went to the Foreigner's Office to apply for a residency permit (since I moved). I went to two hours of Deutsch, and then I found out that English and Art got cancelled. I finished my Christmas shopping for my host family! And I'm very proud of myself. Now I just need to wrap them. And it snowed! It was a nice snow...one that made my mood even happier!! And my host sister, Domi, came home from the Universität. Marie-Claire and I went to her youth group's get together. And I was surprised when there was beer and other goodies...since they are affiliated with the church. But Germans will find any occasion for a beer! That's just fact. And I forgot to mention...that in German...you can affiliate yourself to a church, and then 6% of your taxes go towards the church. I found that unique, and my host mom told me that only German does that.

So there's one more weekend before Christmas (I accidently wrote Thanksgiving first). Today is my host dad, Claude,'s birthday! And tomorrow I'm going to Köln!

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snow!

It snowed a little bit today!!! And I was told it didn't snow here! :-D

Christmas (and not the British) is Coming!

So if I remember correctly, I haven’t blogged since the weekend. But on Sunday evening, I skyped with my parents and I forgot to write that I tried lamb for the first time, and it was very tasty. And we sat by the fireplace for the evening. Monday was a good day. School was normal. I got to sleep in because the other students were writing a Klausur. I had Philosophie, which I didn’t really understand, but the guy I sit next to is really good at explaining the stuff, so I might eventually understand it. And after that I don’t remember where I went, so it must not be that important. So it was good in Erdkunde (Geography), I got to introduce myself and then we had to watch presentations. And in Spanish we started working on a skit about immigration. So I get to play the Muslim father who lives in Spain. And my character’s name is Don Carlos, which is a title of „Shakespeare“ equivalent in piece of literature in German. So it’s rather funny. And then I had got home from school as the sun was already setting at 4:00pm. Gotta love the darkness in Germany. No wonder I feel tired so early in the day. And so Marie-Claire and I baked more Plätzchen (German Christmas cookies). Marie-Claire has started calling me Matty or Matti...not sure how she’d spell it. I’m still trying to figure out a nickname for her, but she said „Marie“ was okay, but I told her that’s not a nickname, that’s half of your name. Before I forget, for lunch we had Snails, which I didn’t like very much. Although they smell very good...there’s funny story how I came home from school and said it smelled good. And when I saw it was snails I freaked out. I thought they only at them in France. And then for dinner we ate Chinese food, and I got to try Duck, which tasted better than snails.

And so Tuesday was also nice. It was the second day in a row that the sky was actually blue! School was busy. I didn’t get to sleep in, but I had a free period where I went with Marie-Claire to her Englisch class. And even she would tell you, that my Englisch teacher is way cooler than hers. And so in Spanish we worked further on our skits. And so Mathe was boring, and we had breakfast in Erdkune, so that was a good way to start the morning. And directly after school, I ate lunch and went directly to my German class. It was incredibly painful because we did a practice test for the C1 Certificate of German Fluency. No one did that well, especially me, and it felt like a waste of time for me. It’s December already and I’m still in a Language Class! And so after that was better to be home. I skyped with Katie via ooVoo, so that was a very nice chat!

Today is Wednesday. Now I’m almost all caught up. School was good. I had a good night sleep because I got to sleep in. And the 5-hour school day turned into a 3-hour school day! I didn’t have art today. And so it was pretty simple. I didn’t understand how they were trying to build a connection between Stephen Hawking and Woyzeck (the old German Literature we’re currently analyzing). And I got to introduce myself in my Religion class. The teacher wanted to speak with me in Englisch, but I responded in German, so she realized that I could speak German. They were analyzing the Bible today, which I found bizarre, especially with the separation between church and state in the US of A. And so I went to the library after school was over after Philosophie, with one of the girls in my Spanish-skit group because she was also done with school for the day. I’m still in the process of getting Christmas presents for my new family, so I have a week left. But I’d like to be done sooner than later. But I have to go practice my lines for this skit, so I’m sure this will be comical. And I get to each breakfast in Englisch tomorrow! And I’m going to try to play the Trombone on Saturday...so that will be interesting. Marie-Claire and I sang German Christmas songs tonight, and I learned that Silent Night was originally written in German!

Bis dann,
Matt

P.S. Thank you for the Christmas cards from Louise, Aunt Arlene & Uncle Tom, and Don and Sara. I really feel the love and appreciate the thought!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Aachen on Sunday!

So I slept almost till 11 today! And Marie-Claire and I went to a "Friedenslicht Gottesdienst" (Peace-Light service) at a Cathedral in Aachen. Before the service I ran into my fellow exchange students Huguette and Marie. That was a pleasant surprise! The service was really short - 50 minutes. And it was good. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize that they were singing a song in English. But I was told it's good when you start forgetting your native language. But I don't think you can completely forget or lose it. And so Marie-Claire and I drove with a neighbor, Raphael to Aachen. We packed 5 teenagers into a Ford Focus and drove an hour to Aachen. And the Germans say "Stündchen" which means (a little hour), and I said that an hour is an hour. So they found it funny. And the service was nice, and then I hit my 6th Weihnachtsmarkt!! The Aachen Christmas market was absolutely packed! If you were in a hurry, there was no way you would get through the crowd very quickly. And so the group drank Glühwein, which I'm really starting to like, and the we had Bratwurst and French fries (Pommes Frites) with Mayo. The Belgien french fries were saltier than the Hollandish fries. And so it was nice to walk around and see. And then we had ice cream, despite the fact it was 2-3ºC (35-38ºF). I enjoyed my strawberry ice cream! And so we got home at 5:15ish, and it was completely dark by the time we got back. I slept in the car on the way home. And so then I uploaded all my pictures from the weekend on Facebook, and if there are questions...just comment. And then I made a youtube video for the Amikinder Channel (www.youtube.com/amikinder)! It's got a lot of laughing, and I think it shows how much happier I am now! But tomorrow is school. I get to sleep in because my Chemie class is writing a Klausur, and I don't have to write them yet. So this has been a good weekend! And I'm going to sleep well tonight!

Schöne Woche!
Matt

P.S. I'm so proud of Bridget Nucum for making Nationals in the 100 Fly and with a YWMC record (58.82)!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

3 Months in Germany!

Well believe it or not...it's been finally three months that I've been in Germany. So it was rightfully a very good day! Marie-Claire and I went to Münster to visit Anne (a fellow CBYXer) and the Münster Weihnachtsmarkt. I had a good night's sleep, and then I had breakfast with my host mom and sister. After that Marie-Claire and I were underway to Münster. On the train to Münster, Marie-Claire brought a notebook and I wrote a page long dictation in German, and then we did something with the 4 cases in German (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive). And then I gave her a dictation in English, but Marie-Claire did better in English than I did in German. But it was a good way to kill the time in the train, and it was pretty humorous, especially when people getting on and off the train realized what we were doing. And so when we got to Münster we met up with Anne, and we have a lot of fun speaking in Denglisch! And so the Weihnachtsmarkt was really cool because it was so large and had several sections! And I had really good french fries with mayo (that's how the Germans eat french fries...try it...it's actually good!) and Anne had her first Bratwurst. And I also drank more Glühwein, which I'm really liking! It's a good Weihnachtsmarkt tradition! And so it was fun to go through the Weihnachtsmarkt and I took a bunch of pictures...don't worry, I didn't disappoint. And so at 5pm, Anne had an AFS meeting with her AFS chapter, and so Marie-Claire and I decided to tag along. And it was the best idea of the day! We hung around the Weihnachtsmarkt for a while, and then it was too cold, so we found a café to chill at. I got some really nice night pictures at the Weihnachtsmarkt! But Marie-Claire, a foreign exchange student from Hungary, Daniel, and I had each a hot chocolate, and it was much more comfortable than walking outside. So it was some nice conversing in German that we had...and Marie-Claire corrected us when we made mistakes, which was pretty often. And so on the way home, I took the train with Lucka and Marie-Claire back to Krefeld. And so now since we got back around 10pm, Marie-Claire and I have been chilling, watching TV. And I'm totally exhausted from so much German and Weihnachtsmarkt. It was a really good and exciting day! I always love to meet up with someone from my AFS community! So I have a really sweet story to end this blog entry with: I asked Marie-Claire when she asked her parents to host me for the next 7 months. She looked back in her phone when I texted her that I had to switch host families. She said she got the text at 9:57pm on Wednesday, December 2nd, and she asked her parents two minutes later at 9:59pm. So that made me smile!

Bis später! Happy 3 Months!!
Matt

Friday, December 11, 2009

My First and Second Day of School – Round 2

Well today was my second, first day of school in Germany. And so I got to sleep in because all the students had to write a 4-hour test (Klausur). So I took the Straßebahn to school and it took about a half hour. But anyway, I met up with the schedule director-dude. He’s the band director, and found out I can play the clarinet (sort of), and I think he’ll try to recruit me. He was incredibly nice and told me because I don’t get any grades this year, I can basically pick and choice as I please...but I’m going to try at stick to the rules of Nordrhein-Westfalen for students in the 12th grade. As of now, I picked EV/Pädagogik (along the lines of Psychology) and Englisch for Leistungkurse (LK) (sort of like honors). And my other classes are: Deutsch, Spanisch, Sport, Evangelische Religion (Protestant Religion), Philosophie, Mathe, Kunst (art), and Chemie. And today I went to Chemie, where there were only 7 people in class, but normally there are ten. And then I went to EV/Pädagogik for a double period, and both of them were torture. I guess school is similar on both sides of the Atlantic. But I’m more excited about tomorrow because I have German (Deutsch) with my host sister, Marie-Claire, and my liaison, Esther. And I also have Englisch (LK). I have more class hours than I did at Gynasium Adolfinum, but that’s probably better because I won’t sit at home bored. And right now I’m having difficulty connecting to the internet, but that’s probably a good thing that I don’t waste all my time online. And so I walked with some people in the Innenstadt of Krefeld before I started school because I had a free period. And it was much nicer, especially because I could converse in German. So that was good. And did I mention that there’s like 20 something girls and only one other guy in my Pädagogik class? But as I move on to after school, Marie-Claire and I met up with my host mom in the Innenstadt. They did some pick Christmas shopping because they have packages they want to send out. And we ate at Café Extrablatt, which was a good pepperoni (actually salami) pizza. And then when we got home, I checked e-mails and then for dinner, there was ham, potatoes, spinage (Spinat in German, I’m not sure if I spelled that right), and salad. And then we played a board game, which my host mom is on a winning streak. So I just counted my class hours, and as I went from 28 hours at Adolfinum to 34 or 35 at the Marienschule. But that can always be revised. I have tomorrow Mathe, Deutsch, Kunst, and Englisch. Gotta get to bed now!
So now I’m onto the second, second day of school in Germany. And it went even better! I went to school via the S-bahn with Marie-Claire. And I had free the first period, so I went to Spanish with her. And so after Spanish, I went to the second period of Mathe, and it was good. I got to introduce myself and it was pretty funny. And so that became the theme of the day. In Deutsch was absolutely the best introduction. My German teacher is also the band director, and he wants me to try and play the trombone! I think it’ll be interesting to try, especially since I’m trying as many things possible! And so my introduction had some humor. Someone gave me the list of books of old German literature and I stated that they were my favorite books of all time. German sense of humor is very sarcastic, so it was appropriate. And I didn’t really like Pädagogik, so I switched to Erdkunde (geography) with my host sister, Marie-Claire! And after Deutsch came English. And by then, everyone wanted me to give another introduction, but his time in English. And I translated what I had been saying in German to English. So it was cool to be thinking in German and translating to English. But I found out that I get to watch American Beauty again! (That was really sarcastic!). But my class seems really nice, and they English skills seemed better than my other Englisch class. And then I went to get a SchokoTicket, which ist he bus and train card where I can go anywhere in the area and save a lot of money, that I’ve spent on transportation in the last few months. And that area includes: Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Duisburg, Essen, and Dortmund! Which is pretty swell! And then I finished my school day with Kunst (art). We analyze some painting that is in a Hannover Museum. I introduced myself again! Although i think that everyone had known me by then. And so then I got home a little after 3, and it was nice. For lunce, we had Reibekuchen, which is basically potato pancakes. And then Marie-Claire and I went to some dance show at a dance school for one of her friends from school. I sat next to the girl Marie-Claire knew. And it was nice. And then we went back home and pigged out on ice cream!!! Good night. We’re watching TV and tomorrow we’re going to Münster to see the Weihnachtsmarkt and to visit Anne, my fellow CBYXer!
Gute nacht und Schönes Wochenende!!
Matt

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Neuer Monat. Neue Familie. Neue Stadt.

Well I know that I haven’t written since Thanksgiving, which is not like me to leave you all hanging in suspense like this. But since Thanksgiving, I’ve made the biggest change possible during my year in Germany. I have switched host families and schools. But like my rhythm for this blog is to take it one day at a time…I’m going to keep it going like that. So I have to go back almost two weeks—and I took notes, so I’m not going only on memory. P.S. I’m writing this on Wednesday, December 9, 2009, although I’m not sure if I’ll be posting it today.
So Friday the 27th was good. I didn’t write anything about school, so nothing important must have happened. And so on Friday night, I went to a meeting with AFS Krefeld. I had to take a bus and an S-bahn (Straßenbahn = streetcar)…and I was still the first person there! I’m getting the hang of this punctuality thing in Germany. And so we played a game called “Activity” and in each round, it involved that a member of each team had to describe the thing with words, drawing, or charades. And so that was funny because we actually played the “Junior” version because our German skills couldn’t handle the “grown-up” version. And so that gathering lasted until 1:30 am, and I played twister by myself because everyone was so tired. And the spinner was broken, so everyone tried to figure out the hardest spot for me to reach…it was humorous. And so after everyone left, I slept over the host’s (Marie-Claire) house.
And that brings us to Saturday. I walked through the Krefeld Weihnachtsmarkt with Marie-Claire and her sister, Dominique, and they helped me find good Christmas ideas. And so, it helped out…A LOT! And so after the time in the Innenstadt of Krefeld, we went back to Marie-Claire’s house. Marie-Claire had to sing in a choir, so I went to church on Saturday evening. It was confirmation, so the service was 1 hour and 40 minutes! And there was no room at all. I had to move my spot two or three times, and it was comical that I had to converse with people that just automatically assumed I was a native speaker. But it was a pretty interesting service. And I know I was able to understand at least half of it. And so after church…we chilled around the house and then at 10ish, we went out to a party. I told them that’s the time (←alliteration; didn’t do that on purpose) I go to bed, and they laughed. And so it was a fundraiser for one of the AFS-Krefeld liaison’s school, so we went. It was pretty packed, and I almost didn’t get in, but the liaison explained that I was an exchange student and I couldn’t speak any German. Sometimes it works out when you play dumb. And so it was fun to finally to get to my first real German party! Marie-Claire was speaking Spanish and someone asked her if she came from Brazil. And then someone asked me where I came from. I told him to guess. And his first guess was France, then Russia, then England. And I took him out of his misery and told him. And so we got back from the party around 3am, so I slept in really late.
Marie-Claire and Dominique went to church while I slept in. And so in the afternoon, we baked Plätzchen, which are the typical German Christmas cookies. And so while we waited an hour for the dough to cool/harden in the fridge, Marie-Claire and her mom taught me how to play Rummy, the 13-card version. And I won the first three rounds—beginners luck. And then Barbara, Marie-Claire’s mom, ended up winning the last round, and so she won in the end. And so Marie-Claire and I went back to baking the Plätzchen. After we finished that, I had dinner with them, which was typical food from Saarland, the part of Germany Marie-Claire’s parents and rest of the family are from. They drove me home, and that was a great weekend!
So school was on Monday a pretty normal day. In German, people gave presentations about some old German literature stuff; in Englisch, we prepared for our big test that was coming up on Wednesday; Musik, we continued to watch the Opera by Richard Wagner; and in Sport, we played Badminton, since that’s the only thing we do there. And during my free period between Musik and Sport, I had ice cream with my friend, Julia, who also lives in Kapellen, despite the fact that it was probably 50ºF outside. And we walked through the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in Moers. And so after school, I went directly to the AFS meeting in Duisburg. We baked Plätzchen, so I felt like a pro after baking them on Sunday. It was a fun meeting, and the winter AFS arrival group only has one more meeting before they go back home, which is a little depressing, and I don’t want to think about that when I get to that point.
So Tuesday, I lucked out and didn’t have school until 11:40. Which is really nice, so I rode my bike. I only had Mathe and Spanish. After school, my friend, Julia, helped me work on what I would say for my presentation on Tulum (Mayan ruins in Mexico) that coming Friday. I showed her some of my pictures of home and she was really interested to see where I came from. And so I had to go to my German class, which I actually understood literally 95% of what happened.
Wednesday was a pretty big day. I got a problem in Chemie correct! And I had to write my second English Klausur, it was four hour test. But I finished early, so I had been done with school an hour earlier than I usually am on Wednesday. Under the instructions of my Mom, Gigi, and Aunt Arlene, I went and bought new shoes. And they were only €20! And so after school, I tutored my neighbor, Alex in Englisch, and his family offered me to stay for dinner. We had schnitzel and French fries, which is always a hit with me! But Wednesday night was when my host family and I decided to that I needed to switch families.
So Thursday was a very transitional day. School was boring, because it is absolutely my most boring day in school. I did a lot of talking on the phone. And I went to the Moers Weihnachtsmarkt twice, in the afternoon with Leon, and then by myself in the evening.
And Friday, I only went to Spanisch because I had to give the presentation, and I didn’t get much sleep. My host mom told me to relax on Friday to recompose myself. I hung out with my fellow exchange student, Marie, on Friday. We worked on my Mom’s Christmas present, and I was by Marie’s house and we played music, although I could barely master the basic skills on piano and drums. And so after Marie’s host mom drove me home, I skyped with Mark, the exchange student I saw in Troisdorf-Spich, till around 1 in the morning.
And now Saturday, I went to the Hattingen Weihnachtsmarkt with the AFS-Duisburg chapter. It was by the end of the time, a very nice time. It was really rainy, nothing surprising since I’ve been living in Germany. I was prepared with an umbrella. I took some really nice pictures that I put on Facebook. It was, thus far, my favorite Weihnachtsmarkt because it had different sections and it was larger than Duisburg, Moers, and Krefeld. And so after the Weihnachtsmarkt, I went to the youth group meeting for the church I went to in Duisburg. I took a subway, and did quite a bit of walking. But it was a nice gathering, but the challenge is getting there. We had a rather quiet chatting time. I was told that the group is usually more people and much louder, but the rain can tend to depress you. And so after the meeting being over at ten, I didn’t get home till 12:45am. Like I said, the challenge is using public transportation. But I’m proud that I brought my umbrella because I might as well have gone swimming it was so wet. But I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got back home.
Sunday was a depressing day at first. But it got much better when I went to lunch at Marie’s house, and they had goose, Brussels’ sprouts, Rotkohl (not sure what that is in English), potatoes, and some other goodies…and I ate it all! Even the Brussels’ sprouts! Aren’t you proud of me, Mom? But more importantly, they tasted good! And so after lunch, Marie and I chilled out. Her parents invited me to a movie, which I didn’t find out that it was about two women with depression until I got there. But I actually understood the entire movie! Everything!!!! That was the most exciting part for me! And so I came home, and my host mom was on the phone. She informed me that I had a new host family. Which was very, very exciting news!
Monday and Tuesday were tough days at school because I had to say to everyone that I was switching schools. And everyone told me that they would miss me. My Englisch teacher said that she still wants me to go with them to Dublin, but I’m not sure how that works with insurance and stuff, but I’ll still knock on wood. Everyone wished me luck, and I returned my books. But Tuesday was the day I moved, I moved from Moers to Krefeld. My first night by them was awesome! In fact, I’ve already introduced you to my host family. My host parents are Claude and Barbara, and my host sisters are Marie-Claire and Dominique. Marie-Claire was an exchange student to Paraguay for six months and Dominique spent a year in China. I’m very excited to be spending my next 7 months with this family! I feel like I fit right in!!
But I’m sure you’re all really curious what happened? Well it’s easiest to simply say that my first host family and I didn’t agree on everything, and our hobbies weren’t exactly the same either. So we just said that we are too different to be able to live together. The three months I spent with them was a wonderful time. But we realized we couldn’t live together for ten months. The original plan was that I would stay till Christmas, but I decided I’d rather change host families sooner than later. So after discussion all last week, I had a new host family and moved in 9 days after the first discussion last Monday (Nov. 30th). So now I’m going to be starting my new school tomorrow. I’ll be in the 12th grade, like my host sister, Marie-Claire. I pick my classes tomorrow, so I’ll fill you in with the details later. But I just want to make a remark about the support system I had to help me through this transition. From my fellow exchange students in Germany to my liaisons to my host families (new and old) to my family (esp. my parents) and friends at home to the German-speaking Sue. I appreciate all the support and I really appreciated just being able to vent, a special thanks to Mark with that. As the phrase goes, “Things work out the way they are meant to in the end”. I feel like this is just another step in the right direction.
Bis gleich,
A content Matt ☺
P.S.- It was great to skype with you Aunt Arlene, talk about good timing! And it was a great surprise. And thanks for the e-Card Aunt Nancy…that was the perfect representation of everything that was going on and it put a smile on my face!

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Turkey today...But plenty of Rain!

So this week had been a mix of some good and some homesickness. Naturally with the holiday season, an exchange student is likely to miss their family and holiday traditions, but I'm trying to focus on learning another way to celebrate the holidays. But I'll get to that when I write about Thursday.

Monday was a rainy, rainy, and very rainy day!!! It was really ridiculous how much it rained...and I believe that it has rained everyday this week! But every Monday, I have Deutsch for the first two hours, and I got a free period because the teacher was sick, and in the "Oberstufe" (11th to 13th grades), they don't have substitutes. So I enjoyed my free period! And then in Englisch, we continued to analyze American Beauty, and I learned two of the most important words I will every need to know in German: die Tribüne (bleachers) and der Schwamm (sponge). I learned sponge because I said that my shoes absorb water like a sponge. And in Musik, we watched an Opera by Richard Wagner and then we compared it to Pirates of the Caribbean. It was in German, but the Pirates of the Caribbean was better, however, I understood the Opera better because there were subtitles. And so I went from school to swimming, with a five minute pit stop home. Swim practice was fine, but we finished a half hour early because of thunder. The wind was so strong that the bubble that covers the pool was moving and the car was being pushed by the wind as we drove home.

Tuesday (Dienstag) was my day where I felt rejuvenated. I got to sleep later. And Chemie went well. During my two Free periods (Freistunden) I walked through the Innenstadt with Marie (not the one from Belgium), my new break buddy since I found out that we had the same free period. So I'm still working on Christmas gifts, and I'm not as good as Mark and Claire with getting the Christmas present done so quickly. But it's still 4 weeks till Christmas! I say that now, but it'll be here before I know it. And so after the Freistunden, I had Mathe. My teacher explained the math with a Physics problem, and I understood the physics, but the rest of my class didn't. So I wasn't sure how to apply that to the math we are learning. And I left Mathe early to get to Spanisch. And I didn't pay too much attention in Spanisch, but I had good practice with my German, and I'm getting better at translating Spanisch to German. I got to sign my friend Julia's binder, which her group of friends have signed, so I think that's a good thing (knock on wood). But I was never so honored to sign anything before! And so Julia and I rode home to our development after Spanish. But the interesting part of my day was at my Deutsch as a Foreign Language class because we talked about Banking and Finance. So now I have to learn all of these banking terms, which I didn't even know in Englisch. And I was supposed to describe to the class what the article discussed, and that was pointless because I didn't know the words in Englisch, let alone German. So my teacher gave me a vocabulary book from German to Englisch about Banking and such terms. But I've yet to look at it...knowing myself, I'll probably cram on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday was a swell day. I had Chemie, where we did an experiment. I can follow the procedure of what we do, but I don't understand the reasoning of why the liquid turns purple and the terms and stuff. But...like everything else, I'm getting there. And during Chemie, I got a text from my host dad that I didn't have swim practice, so I got to make plans. But in Englisch, we analyzed American Beauty...I'm kind of sink of analyzing that movie, because I'm finding that movie stupid and aggravating. And in Musik, we continued to watch that Opera we watched on Monday. So the plans I made was to go to the Deutschkurs with my fellow AFSers in Duisburg. And so the class was fun, but I was more excited about seeing everyone, since I hadn't seen them in a while. And so I took the train with my good buddy and fellow exchange student (from Belgium) to Duisburg. We explored the Weihnachtsmarkt after the class, so I put those pictures on Facebook. And it was really nice with the booths and the lights, so I'm looking forward to exploring more Weihnactsmarkts! And there wasn't a train home, so we took a bus that took longer, so Marie had to wait awhile for her bus. I lucked out and was able to catch mine. A guy from school chilled with her while she stayed in the city for her bus, so I didn't leave her stranded. And so I also picked up a German book, that I'm going to start reading. It's Mitch Albom's Die Fünf Leute, die dir im Himmel begegnen (The Five People You Meet in Heaven). So I'm looking forward to picking up more German and seeing the differences in translation from English to German. And so the bus driver helped me out when I went home about a "Freizeitkarte", where I can take the buses and train in my town for €6,50 a month! That was exciting! And then I called Gigi for her Birthday! And I randomly told a girl I sit next to in Musik, and she said..."Oh I forgot...today is my grandma's birthday too!" So I found the coincidental that I randomly said that.

And so for Thursday, I wrote on my facebook, which is so true: "Thanksgiving is a normal day in Germany." The people in school didn't seem to get the point of Thanksgiving and how it's a holiday that allows you to eat as much as you want and feel fat afterward! But I learned the word for harvest (die Ernte), and the Germans have Erntedankfest in Oktober, but it's different. And so school was boring! I find that Thursday is my dullest day in school because I find, now, Mathe and Sowi boring. And in Sowi, we debated and it seemed like it was the same three people saying the same things back and forth...and other students were saying that it was, so I must have understood something. But Thursday was a good day of conversation, so I'll take that as a positive. I came home and worked on some postcards to send home. And swimming was tough. I was excited about skyping with my family, so I found swimming long. But we do the same set on Thursdays, which is not my favorite set of all-time. It's 4 x 100 m (long course) all out. But I'm sure it's helping me improve, so I try to keep that in focus. But I was also a little homesick because it was the first day that I had swim practice on Thanksgiving. Hey what do you know...another first for me (in Germany)! And so after practice, I got to skype with the whole Knoth Family! It was great to talk with you all! And from what I heard, it was a good feast. And then I skyped with Claire as she waited over an hour for her family to overcome their techincal difficulties, and then I chatted with Anne, the CBYXer that isn't too far from me. And I didn't go to bed till 10:45ish, so it was a little later than I'm used to going to bed.

Friday as broughtforth the weekend! School went quickly. It rained cats and dogs as I walked to the bus and then to school, and then during first period, the sky was nice and blue...boy this german weather....But two girls in my German class did a presentation, which I didn't understand much, but it had 45 slides, so it was way too long, I found it to be. In Spanish, we watched a movie in Spanisch, and I'm confusing German and Spanish. The teacher said, "¡Buenas dias, clase!" and I responded "Guten Morgen." But I had to translate a bunch of adjectives from Spanish to German which was challenge, because I knew it from Spanish to English or German to English, but bridging the connection to Spanish and German was harder. And in Englisch we were in a computer lab working on American Beauty analysis. I had a fun conversation in full out Denglisch, so it was good. And I got home, and Sina tried a Pop Tart, and she liked it a lot. And so it was a fun afternoon. I have to pack for my weekend in Krefeld. I'll be back Sunday.

Schönes Wochenede!!
-Matt

P.S. Happy Black Friday! And Aunt Arlene, I forgot to thank you for the card...I got it a week ago, and I loved that everyone signed it! Thanks Mom, Dad, and Brian for the card and newspaper! Brian...you're a good-looking G. And my host family loved their card as well! Love ya'll!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What a week! Halleujah!

Well please don't think I haven't blog much since week because I don't want to share what happened this week, I was simply busy. And I was still a little sore from my Swine Flu vaccine. So I know I'm getting into a rhythm for this blogging thing, so I'm going to keep it going for this entry too.

Wednesday was pretty low-key. I woke up for school, still having pain to lift my arm where I got the vaccine. But school was much better than Tuesday...no fever and chills! In Chemie, my lab partner and I got the right pH! I give him credit because we were a group of three last week, one kid wasn't there, so he basically had to do more work with explaining everything to me! Props to him. And so in Englisch and Deutsch, I texted...but I don't usually. However, my phone beeped during Deutsch, and my teacher told me that cell phones are forbidden in the school. And so my class goes on to show that every single student has a cell phone, and then the teacher showed his too...so I guess that rule isn't strictly enforced. And so I decided to try an after school activity (Frisbee AG). And it was a lot more little kids, than kids my age, so I tried it, but I don't think I'll become a member of the club. I got home and helped Leon with his English. And then I ooVoo'ed with my good Peer 4/5 buddy, Maureen E.! And then I booked my train ticket for the weekend. I had to make an account and everything, so now I'm a member of www.bahn.de.

Thursday was a lazy day. I understood something in Sowi, which is like economics. We worked in partners, and my partner helped me to understand, for once, what was going on in the class. So it was exciting to realize that I'm starting to pick up some of the school terms. Because I can hold a conversation with person or two, but it's harder to follow specific terms used in school that aren't used in everyday speech. And so I find it amazing how my 6 hours of school on Wednesdays seem to fly by faster than my 4 hours of school on Thursday. And furthermore, I ran into my host parents in the Innenstadt, and then I started to look for Christmas shopping ideas. And so then I was on the computer for basically the rest of the day, but Leon and I got a record of 31 consecutive hits in our own version of pingpong.

And so now onto another busy weekend! Friday was a day of drastic change. School was fine. I will be giving a presentation (in German) about the Mayan ruins that I saw two years ago because I was in Mexico, and the theme in my Spanisch class is Mexico. And then, afterwards, my Sowi teacher asked me what I normally do in class. Well I wasn't going to say daydream or doodle, but I find it interesting how he expects me to understand everything as quickly as a regular student. But then I told him that I never had economics, and then it all seemed to "make sense" to him. And furthermore, the moment that my host mom had been waiting for a long time (because she was most insistent on me getting a hair cut), after school I got my first hair cut (Haarschnitt) in Germany. My hair was too long to control, and so the hair dresser is a family friend and she did a phenomenal job! I got a "young-looking European" haircut, and as long as it wasn't a Mohawk, It was basically willing to try anything. So directly after the hair cut, my host dad dropped me off at the train station, and I went with the train to Troisdorf-Spich, where my fellow AFS, Mark lives. But on the train, I heard someone speaking Englisch. And so I decided to ask him where he came from, and he was an AFSer from Australia! Talk about a small world! It was nice talking with him till Düsseldorf. And so it was packed on the train! Therefore I was about 20 minutes late with the train. And then Mark didn't recognize me without my glasses and so much hair. But he had a get together of 6 exchange students, and we went Kegeln. it was pretty awesome! His host family was extremely nice, and so in Germany there is normal Bowling, and then there is Kegeln, the german form of bowling. The alley is curved, and in the shape of a Y. And the balls are smaller with no holes, and there is only 9 pins. But check out my pictures on facebook, and you'll see how good a time I had! And so Kegeln was awesome, but for dinner, we had Japanese food: rice with tuna fish, and an omelette made in front of me and I ate with chopsticks! That was a first for me in Germany. Mark's host sister had spent a year in Japan, so there was a continuing Japanese theme in the house. And so a funny story...In the German language, when you place "chen" at the end of a word, it acts as a diminutive. For example: Brot (bread) becomes Brötchen (rolls). And so I had shared that I tried to say "cubs" (from a lion), I said "Löwechen", but that was wrong, they say "Löwenjungen" or "Löwenbabys"...and so I was giving actual examples of that for other exchange students, saying "Mädchen" (girl), Brötchen, Kätzchen, etc. And so one of the exchange students then say "Kuchen", but that is like the one exception to the rule, so it was funny! But I think you would understand it better if you had learned or speak German.

And for Saturday, I slept over Mark's house. And it was nice to talk with two Americans, Mark and Michal, in English about how experiences thus far. And so After goign to bed around 2:30ish am, We slept till 10:30. And the one exchange student from China actually woke up at 4:30am to call home and congratulate her uncle on getting married. But the girls had left around 11:30, so Mark and I toured Spich and the other parts of his town. I got to right his host sister's bike that was a "Holländisches Fahrrad", so it was something to adjust to compared to my bike that I normally use. And so I got pretty good at taking pictures while moving on a bike...check those all on Facebook. And so Mark was very good at providing some of the bizarre stories of the statues that were in the walking part of town. And we had a Pomm-Döner (french fries with a Döner is such a heavenly combination!), and I tried a Kölsch beer, which is distinct to that part of Germany. I found it tasty, but it was stronger than I beer that my host family drinks. And we ran into one of Mark's friend's Mom, who had lived in the US for 5 or 6 years, and she was a delight to talk to because she had also been an exchange student, and she could also speak Spanish, so I was shuffling too many languages in my head. And they got Mark and I "Spaghetti Eis", which is vanilla ice cream that is created to look like spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce was strawberry flavored, so it was a nice treat. And so that time flew by, like it usually does when you're having fun. So around 5pm, I hopped on the train back home. I booked a different route on the way home, so it was a bit of a challenge to figure out where my different bus stop was and such. But in Köln heading to Krefeld, I ran into a group of film students that needed help figuring out which train to take. And they told me that I spoke very good Englisch, and I explained how I was American, who is learning German. It was nice to realize that I know the ropes of the German train system better than I did before I came, since I had to figure out how to read a train schedule and get a ticket and such. That all worked out well, and then I went to my neighbor's birthday party. That was a nice gathering, but I was the first to leave the party at 11:30pm. So that shows that when the Germans get together on a Saturday, they are out till the morning! That's something I'm still getting used to. But it was a nice party and it seems like that my neighbors are all jokesters.

And so Sunday was the most uplifting! I went to church for the first time in Germany! I went with my other host neighbors to their church (Protestant) in Duisburg. And it felt like a great fit. (Thanks to my host mom for suggesting that I go.) There is a youth group that meets every Saturday night, so I'm looking forward to going! And the church service was really nice! I sat in the balcony with some of the young peoples, and they were really friendly. I felt like I was back at Triennium again. And I was excited to have understood a lot of the service. More than I had expected, and the songs were all in Englisch (which isn't typical of the service), so it was coincidental (or a higher power at work) incident that I lucked out with that. The leader of the youth group gave me a tour of the church, and it is really modern (they just renovated) and there's a "youth lounge", so I feel like I found the FPC of Matawan equivalent in Germany. So now the challenge is figuring out how to get there, but I'm determined! And so I chilled out on the computer, and there were quite a few CBYXers on skype, so we had a "skype party", where we had our own conference call, so it was fun to discuss about how everything was going for us! And it seemed like we were all having different experiences, but the transitioning to life in Germany has been similar for us all! That was pretty cool, and talking with a CBYXer always puts a smile on my face! And so after the skyping fun, I went with Beppo, who likes to lay on the ground when he wants to stay put...I'm sure it looks funny when I try to encourage him to keep walking in German, because Beppo doesn't understand any Englisch, he is a genuine German Hund. And so tonight we celebrated Oma Helga's birthday! We went to the same Restaurant (same time, same table) for Opa Harald's birthday three weeks ago. It's a good tradition, and I had the Cordon Bleu, which was superb! And then we had dessert, which was the cherry on top (not intended to be punny). Dessert was a "Dänemark Coupe", which is like a sundae with fudge. And so once again, i don't realize all that I've done, till I look back and write this down here. I'm going to be going to be soon because Monday is always a nonstop day for me. So I wish everyone a happy Monday (knock on wood).

Bis dann!
Matt

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Amsterdam and back!

Well let me start off by making a correction from my previous blog entry: That typisch Deutsch meal, did not have Sauerkraut, but it was Rotkohl (red cabbage) instead. My host mom read that mistake a got a good laugh, so now she wants to take me to a supermarket and test my knowledge on fruits and vegetables. I'll keep you posted on that one.

But now it's time to talk about the weekend! Friday had been pretty mellow, but Saturday had more going on, but it was still pretty calm. I woke up a little after 7am because I had swim practice from 8 - 9:30am. Practice was a lot of techincal stuff, so it wasn't tough. And it felt good to have a morning swim. And after practice, I biked to my host brother (Leon)'s soccer/Fußball game. And like the German weather never to fail, it rained cats and dogs during the game. And so I was fortunate to have to bike back home in it. I brought my camera too, but I put it in the car before it started to really rain, so it was okay. And after the game, I hung out in my room and watched TV. I wanted to hear some English, so I had the choice between MTV and CNN, so I chose MTV, and some of the language was quite vulgar, and the Germans don't censor the curses (Schimpwörter). And so around 4pm, there was the World Championships in Berlin on TV, and Paul Biedermann destroyed the 400m Freestyle world record that was 7 years old! It was quite a feat! And I also got to see Michael Phelps in the 200 butterfly, but he didn't look too great. He got 5th and he wasn't shaved, tapered, and didn't wear a LZR fastskin suit. But after that, I biked to the Innenstadt where I watched another soccer game with my fellow AFS exchange student, Francis from Italy. It was nice to chat about the roller coaster ride of emotions and adjustments we've both had for the last two months still adjusting and such to this diverse German culture (I don't know if I would have survived an Asian or Latin culture). And so after the game we went to Café Extrablatt, where I ate a pizza and a sprite. It was pretty chilly watching the game, so it was nice to have a warm pizza. And so after the café, I biked home (in the dark), but it was good with my lights on my bike! Although the wind got a little pesky at times. And when I got home, I wanted Pokémon Movie 2 with Leon, and I was happy to realize that I could understand what they were saying in German!!!! So it was a good end of the day, and that brings us to my adventures on Sunday!!

Sunday was definitely awesome!! I went to my first non-German speaking country in Europe: The Netherlands (quick tidbit: The true name of the Netherlands is the Netherlands, and many people say Holland, but truly that is only a section of the Netherlands.) I went to AMSTERDAM, folks!!! So I was up around 7:15, and at 8:00 I biked to a nearby hotel, that was the meeting point for the group. When everyone showed up, I had a nice visitor of a BEE!!! He flew around the group and myself once, and then came back again! So I knew it was going to be an awesome day! And it gets even more coincidental but you have to wait for that part of the day. We left punctually at 8:30am, and the ride was about 2 hours, and no one was extremely talkative so early in the morning on a Sunday. And so after looking at a map, I basically drove all the way through the Netherlands, and it made me realize that the ride from my house in Germany to Amsterdam is about the same length of time from my house in NJ to the Poconos!! Shows you how small Europe is, at least for an American! And so we stopped at a rest stop-gas station, and at the gas station, the song be played through the radio/speakers was my favorite Phil Collins song with a lot of sentimental meaning...:"You'll Be in My Heart". I found that to be the ultimate sign that somebody special is truly with me, because I seriously don't believe those two incidents could be a coincidence. And so 15 minutes later, we were in Amsterdam! It was rainy all the way up to lunchtime, around 1pm. Luckily one of the liaisons was wise enough to bring a lot of umbrellas! So we didn't get as soaked as being in a swimming pool or dunk tank. Although my shoes absorb water better than a sponge, so I had damp shoes the entire day, but I'm used to it by now with all the rain in Germany. And so we walked around the Altstadt and it was already decorated for Christmas. And we tried to get into see Anne Frank's house where she hid during the Nazi invasion, but it was a long line, so we didn't feel like waiting an hour in the rain. But we found a pancake place to eat. And the pancake was big and expensive. I got a pancake with mixed fruit and whipped cream, and it was pretty tasty. I also liked the chocolate milkshake I got along with it. And so the word for pancake is: der Pfannkuchen. And so after lunch the guys and girls split up into 2 groups after lunch to explore different parts of the city. And so we saw a parade where they handed out cookies and all the parade people were painted in black. And it had something to do with the tradition of St. Nikolas in the Netherlands, so I didn't completely understand it. But I got a lot of interesting pictures and some cookies too! I put the pictures of Landschaftspark-Nord Duisburg, Gas-O-Meter, and Amsterdam on Facebook, so have fun looking at all of those! And so after the parade, we walked through the Red Light District (you can read more about it here: http://www.amsterdam-red-light-district.info/). But it's basically an area of prostitutes and sex shops and coffee shops (where they sell Marijuana - I saw a few people rolling joints in the coffee shops). It's what Amsterdam is renowned for. And you're probably wondering if I tried marijuana, and I'll answer it like this: If I tried pot, I would be writing this blog entry as I was flying back to America. So no, I didn't break an AFS rule, meaning no mary jane. And so all in all, Amsterdam is an incredibly liberal city with crazy bike riders that will run you over if you don't get out of their way. And I almost got ran over with a bike 2 times, a car once, and I almost walked into several poles. But I survived. And so many of the shops had the theme of sex with them, in and around the Red Light District. I was extremely surprised, I think as an American, to see so much stuff that is taboo in the States. And I though the Germans were too liberal, well the people of Amsterdam are like 100 times more liberal!!!!!! But overall it was an absolutely awesome day, and I want to go back and see and learn more! It is a really cool city, even though it is a pretty big eye-opener for an American! I went with AFS-Krefeld and it was awesome!!! I absolutely love AFS, and when you check out the pictures, you definitely understand! And so I got home before 7, and that basically concluded my weekend.

Monday, again, like usual, meant that I had school again. Deutsch was okay...we finished watching American Beauty in Englisch, and it was a pretty shocking ending, but it was okay...but Musik was the best class of the day. The first period, we had to research on the computer an Estonian composer, Arvo Pârt. The teacher told me to research him in Englisch, and then the second period two people had to give a summary about their findings. And so I guess you're getting the feeling that I got to present mine...and I did! But I presented it in Englisch. It went well, and I actually had to translate some of my thoughts from German to Englisch, and when I said "prism", they thought I said "prison (like jail)", but the clarification made the meaning clear. And another funny story in Musik, I had gone to the bathroom during the Pause between periods, and the door was locked. I tried knocking but with no success, I texted my friend in the class and then they opened the door...she thought it was the funniest thing ever...I thought it was pretty creative! And so then came Sport, and Badminton was more fun than it usually is...a lot funner! And so after school, lunch/dinner was Schifferessen (a mix of weißkohl/red cabbage, Kartoffeln/potatoes, and Gehacktes halb und halb/a mix of pork and beef) with Wurst. I had to eat quickly because I was getting the Swine Flu Vaccine. It was about a 15 minute ride to the doctors, and after waiting a half hour, it was a 1-minute thing with injecting the vaccine. My left arm has been sore since the vaccination. It's painful to lift my arm, similar to a tetanus shot. And so after the vaccination, Leon and I studied his English and took Beppo for a walk. And after that Leon and I played ping-pong in my room, and we got a record of 15 consecutive hits. So that concluded Monday, bringing us to Tuesday...

Tuesday has been cloudy thus far. I got to sleep till 7:30, but I tossed and turned because of my sore arm. I biked to school, and make every light, and I made it on time to Chemie but the skin of my teeth! Two girls in Chemie asked me to explain a buffer (der Puffer) to them in German, and I thought it was funny they had asked me...but I was able to clarify it, and my Chemie teacher is awesome because he told us to sleep it and not come in till the 2nd period tomorrow!! I blogged during my free period. Math went quickly, but I had the chills, so I wore my jacket. The Germans love Frische Luft! (fresh air), so there is always a window open in class. And I biked to Spanisch, and it was good. Because my Gymnasium finished school (the entire school) after 5th period, not everyone went to Spanisch. So it was a small class, but today I couldn't understand the word, "diez" (ten in Spanisch). I got home, and ate Chicken Schnitzel and potatoes for lunch. My host parents put an extention onto my desk. And the window cleaners came today! I took a nap because I had a fever from the vaccine, but I felt better after the nap. No German course tonight!

Fröhlicher Mittwoch!
Matt

P.S. Aunt Arlene - I got a picture frame for the picture you mailed me and now it sits on my dresser! Danke schön!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th!! Nicht schlimm...

So yesterday, November 12th was officially the day announcing that I've been in Germany for 2 months now! I find it hard to believe, looking back on my two months, that so much has happened, and I'm sad to say that already 20% of my exchange program is complete. But I can only stay optimistic and focus on making the most of the time I have left! And I'd say that I don't have regrets. But I'll work on the describing all that happened the last three days. And today was Friday the 13th, and it wasn't bad at all, superstitiously speaking. ;-)

I'll start with Wednesday because that follows Tuesday, on the calendar I use. School went pretty quickly. Six consecutive hours...no free periods. Chemie and Englisch went well. But I found Musik pretty awesome. I originally wanted Art (Kunst) in my schedule, but because it didn't fit, I opted for Musik instead. But what we did in class was we drew how we interpreted the piece of music the teacher played for us. I used more bright colored because it sounded somewhat heavenly to me, but then the teacher told us that it was a piece dedicated to a dead composer. And then the class had to pick 5 out of the class and explain why they felt the specific drawings most accurately depicted the piece. It was a nice change of pace, than the normal listen to music and then analyze it, especially when you have no idea between a Zwischenspiel and a Betonung. And so lunch was Lentil soup (Linsensuppe). I showed my host mom some of the thousands of pictures I've taken so far in Germany...starting with Schloss Neuschwanstein, and I showed her 818 pictures in 30 minutes. Approximately 2.20 seconds per photo! We were like blitz! (lightning). And then we looked at the photos of Duisburg, Dortmund, and the St. Martin's parade. And so onto to training, it went really well! I had to swim two 800s at a pretty quick pace, so I was proud of myself for swimming them under 10 minutes (at least I'm pretty positive that I did). And this week was taper week, so I always love TAPER!!! And so on Tuesday night I went to bed around 8pm and slept for 10.5 hours, and then I went to bed before 10 again. So I was working on catching up on sleep.

Onto Thursday, school was monumental for me! In Mathe, I played a number game similar to 24, but a little more extensive. But Sozialwissenschaften was the class of the day! The teacher had given the students their grades, and they were not all content, so the teacher gave them about 10 or 15 minutes to make a list of criticisms and critique his teaching style while he was out of the room! And then the spoke aloud what they thought was good and what could be changed! I know this wouldn't really ever have happened in any of my classes in the USA. Germans are very honest people and they will tell what they think to your face...just be ready for it, and don't take it personal because they don't mean it to offend you. And after my 4 hours of school, I went to the camera stores to search for a camera case to replace my little camera's case that is held together by duct tape...but I didn't find one to my liking. And Lunch was typisch Deutsch: Sauerkraut, Bratwurst, and Kartoffeln (potatos), so I found it very tasty! The sauce was really good too! And a little after lunch, my host brother and I took Beppo for a walk. Swim practice wasn't bad. It was long course, but we swam less than 4 km, less than normal. And before practice, during dryland, I biked 16km in a half hour! And after practice, i found a very sweet letter from Aunt Arlene, and that picture was great!! I'm still figuring out where to put it in my room!

So now Friday! Finally the weekend! School was good, I took the bus. Deutsch went well, I tried to read the new book we're reading, but I didn't get passed page 7. And so after Deutsch came Spanisch, and there I worked on a poster, but one of the girls did 98% of the work on the poster. I drew a sun in the corner. And I went back to my regular gymnasium for Englisch. We watched more of American Beauty, and I would thus far consider that film an embarrassment to be the representative of "typical America" that the German students (in my school) base their opinion of. It's nice to hear an American accent, but the family in American Beauty is not normal, I don't care what anyone else says. After school, my host mom made raviolis. I love Italian food, so it was again Lecker! My host mom said that she should be half Italian, based on her food preference. And so I chilled till swim practice. We played Fetzball, the German version of dodgeball, and it was good. Practice was about 1.5 hours, so it went quickly. And after practice and Abendessen, I chilled more on the computer, and chatted with some CBYXers and caught up with some people. I'm shocked to learn how many people are changing their host families for one reason(s) or another. However, I have practice at 8am tomorrow, so I better get to bed!

Schönes Wochenende!!
Matt

P.S. Stay sanitized because of the Swine Flu! And in my previous entry, I spelled GLÜHWEIN incorrectly, and Lebkuchen are gingerbread cookies. I found that out watching MTV today...it's the only channel other than CNN in English. But the German is coming along. I'm not sure if I dreamed in German last night, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that I did, but I'm not 100% sure...I'll wait to be positive when I dream in German next time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spannend...und Achtung! Schweinegrippe!!

So my Monday and this past weekend have been quite "spannend" and interesting...and most importantly....FUN!! I slept about 11 hours from Friday to Saturday morning. This weekend was a swim meet in the town next to mine. In fact, I biked 8 km to the swim meet because I was only swimming one event, and the rest of my host family had to stay at the meet a few hours longer than I did, so it was logical to bike. It was a pleasant ride, and I got to see something new. I find it amazing how there can be so much to explore, even in a small radius of your host community. So on Saturday, I swam 100 Breast. I got 2nd in my age group in 1:13,55, and thus, I got my first medal in the German Swimming Federation!! It was pretty cool to get a medal, I haven't gotten one of them in a long time, so I felt like a litte, joyful kid again. So after getting my medal, I biked home, with a little drizzle (very light) and it started to get dark. It is around 5 that it really starts to get dark. I got home and uploaded the pictures from Schloss Neuschwanstein! I've finally caught up to all the pictures I've taken recently. Beppo and I went for a walk, and then I went with my host parents to our neighbor's birthday party, the same neighbor who took me to Landschaftspark-Nord Duisburg the previous Saturday (Halloween). It was a fun gathering, and they served a spicy sauce, similar to the consistency of cream cheese, called Rote Griechisch. I had it on Italian bread, and maybe that helped me swim as well as I did on Sunday. But just another note about the party, Germans love to take pictures of their get togethers, and then show them at following gathering, no matter how off-the-wall they may get. Germans, my host community in particular, know how to have a good time, and it seems like the occaisions are very creative, such as St. Martins and the party in the Supermarket.
And so getting to Sunday, I woke up earlier, around 8:30, and I was at the swim meet from 10am to 7pm! Talk about a long swim meet, but I never expected to swim as well as I did. (P.S. All of these times are in meters because they don't swim in yards in Europe). I got 1st place in all 5 races I swim. I went 1:06,04 in the 100m Back, 2:36,13 in the 200 Breast, 2:24,94 in the 200 Back, and I split a 26,62 in the 50 free (relay) and a 34,00 in the 50 breast (relay). I got a medal for each win, and a cup\trophy for the free relay. I wore my LZR fastskin on Sunday, and it was good decision! In the 200 Breast, I split a 1:15 and then I came from behind to beat my host dad in the last 50. We have an ungoing joke that he's going to send me home early, and he told me that he has to beat me at least once in a breaststroke race before he can send me home, so I can stay longer!! And he was a really good sport about it...but I certainly haven't met a jokester (Witzer) like my host dad...he keeps me on my toes, not knowing what joke or humorous comment to expect next. And in the 200 back I split a 1:11,59, so I basically split the same time in the 2nd 100. And I came from behind to win! Maybe I have a new strategy for swimming a 200...But certainly the best event of the day was the 200 Mixed Free Relay (die Krawl Staffel). It was my host mom, host dad, my host dad's training partner, and myself. My host mom started off with a personal best in 28,95, and then the three guys split 26s. The race came down to the last arm stroke, and Thomas, my host dad's training partner, out touched the other team by a finger nail! I certainly had a wonderful at this past weekend's swim meet, and I can honestly say that I haven't had so much fun at a swim meet like that in a long time!! And so afterwards, I had a Döner for dinner and skyped with my parents for a little over an hour. And so I went to bed before or around 10...
And so Monday, unfortunately, brought the end to the weekend. From the time I left my house to the time I came back, it was about a 10 hour school day. School was fine. We started to watch American Beauty, and I realized that we will be analyzing the movie, so that was a bit of a bummer for me. Between that and Sport, I feel like they make some things a little too complicated. But I got a new book we're reading in German LK (honors), and I skimmed through it and realized that I could read and understand what I was reading!!!!!!! That was a huge self-esteem booster to realize that I can read some German Literature now. But those were the highlights of school. After school, I had pasta with alfredo sauce and pieces of ham (der Schinken). My host family decided to not to go to swim practice today, probably from the long weekend of swimming. But I ended up being in for quite a pleasant surprise! Monday, November 9, was St. Martin's Day! North-Rhein Westphalia (NRW), is a Catholic state in Germany, so there was a St. Martin's parade at the Elementary School behind where I live. So I walked with my host brother, who now goes to the Gymnasium, through the parade all the way up to the front. All the children sang "St. Martin songs" with lit, paper lanterns. And some children went around house to house and sang for candy. After walking in the parade, my host brother and I played some marble game (I don't remember the name...however, I learned the word for dice(die) = Der Würfel). And then the neighbors gathered outside, in one of the neighbor's driveway, after the parade. I got to meet some of the other neighbors that I hadn't been introduced to yet. We drank Glüwein and ate Lebkuchen (special St. Martin cookies). The Glüwein hit the spot because it was warmed and it was perfect, considering the chilly weather that night. So HAPPY ST. MARTIN'S DAY!!!! The bell has rung, ending my free period, so I have to get off to class.
So to describe Tuesday...it was nice. I slept for 10 hours! And I didn't have to wake up till 7:30. Chemie was okay, the teacher didn't give me a grade, which I had expected, just simply because I couldn't really participate or write a test. Math went quickly too (after the free period). And I biked to Spanisch. I got a 2- for the marking period and a 3+ for the Klausur, so I'm content. It's difficult to work on learning two languages at once because everytime I try to write in Spanish, it comes out in German. And so I biked home, and helped my host brother with his homework. I went to my German course and found out that the class got cancelled because my teacher is sick, potentially with the Swine Flu (die Schweinegrippe). All of Germany seems incredibly concerned with the Swine Flu, but I'd like the states are concerned too? But the vaccine (die Impfung) has been a big topic of discussion and debate recently.. I now carry around hand sanitizer around with me everywhere, thanks to my host mom. Probably better safe than sorry. And so it's raining, again tonight. And I'm going to play a game with Leon now.

Bis gleich,
Matt

P.S. Thanks for the letter, Pop Bob. I didn't realize you had travelled so much through Europe! And I would agree with you, it probably was a very exciting trip!!! Love you! Send Gigi my love too!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Change!!! and More Change!!!

Well I believe that I've stated that the weather in Germany in chilly. Well this week my host mom told me that it can be -20ºC, so I shouldn't be wearing a hat and gloves yet. So I managed without them this week, and it worked out well. I didn't freeze! And so school was pretty normal. A long has happened these last 3 days, so I'm only going to focus on the highlights. I saw a bumble bee after coming out of Rossman, on Wednesday, (the CVS equivalent) flying around my bike. And then I got on the bike and the bee continued to fly around. I explored more of Kapellen in search of a gift for my neighbor. But I had to wait the next day and get him something from the Innenstadt. I'm sure you're all curious about the 5:45am practice. It was 2,800 meters, and it was pretty good. We did an 800 which was a challenge, but the rest of the practice went smoothly. I was pretty awake going to school from waking up in the pool. Before school I had a Käseschinkenbrötchen (cheese and bacon on bread...very Lecker!) and a Berliner (jelly donut). That was Wednesday. I didn't go to practice at night.
On Thursday, I had school till 11:30, but I was in the Innenstadt till 12:30. I took the bus home. But in school, I understood how to do my math homework! I understood the instruction in German!! I had to ask a few question, in German, but I was excited to actually able to do my Mathe Hausaufgaben (Homework). Thursday was a pretty swell day, and I had practice, it was long course. On Thursdays, training is long course (50 meters). We did a test set, and I swam the first three 100 breaststrokes in 1:21, 1:22, but I was out of gas for the last 100, so I don't know how I did with that one. And after practice, my host parents and I went over to our neighbor to celebrate his birthday. When we get together, it's always a good laugh. Sometimes I'm the subject, but I still find it funny.
And Friday was good. I rode my bike to school. School went well, Spanish was the best class because I already knew how to do the subjunctive. But after school I ate a Pommes-Döner (doener with french fries) in the Innenstadt with Marie (the exchange student from Belgium) and two other students. It was fun. I rode my bike home, where waiting at a traffic light, I was visited by a bee that flew around my head, and around 4 went back into the Innenstadt because Marie, Lucka, and I planned to spend Friday night there together. Unfortunately, there wasn't a good turn of events. Lucka was informed that she was switching host families. In fact, she only got 6 hours notice. So that was depressing to hear that the exchange student, and my good friend, that lived 3 streets over from me won't be going to the same school I'm in and is moving to another town. It's only the next town over, but my Gymnasium has gone from 3 exchange students down to 2, and that's pretty epic if you're one of the 3 exchange students. Lucka is moving to the town over, so we'll have chances to meet up, so that's not a problem, the timing was just very tough.
And so tomorrow, my host family has swim meets. So I'll be swimming the entire weekend! I'm high in the rankings, so I'm looking forward to the races!

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

P.S. I'm glad you liked the birthday call, Amanda!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Down time? What do you mean?

I remember in the first few weeks on my stay in Germany, I thought that I too much free time, and I figured I'd get busier as more opportunities came and as my German improves. Well I suppose that has precisely happened. But let me start with Monday. Monday is certainly my longest day of school, running from 8am to 4pm. So I woke up at 6:30, expecting to take the bus, but my host mom informed me that I was getting a ride with her to school. So I didn't have to rush as much. First period, I have German literature, certainly not the easier class to have first thing on a Monday morning. But I used my usual distraction, my dictionary. I have a notepad in school where I write down German words that I randomly hear and find through the day, so I've been making a pretty long vocabulary list. It makes me feel like I'm learning a little bit more German. After German, came Englisch. I got my term/marking period grade - a 1, which was the highest grade in the class. The rubric for the grade was in German however, so I added a lot of words to my vocabulary list from that little piece of paper. We started a new theme, the American Dream. And so now I'm going to learn about the German stereotype of a typical American. I'm sure I'll be asked a lot of questions. And my homework was to describe my family...kind of vague if you ask me. And right after English, during a Pause (15-min. break), I was eating my sandwich and standing in a group of 10 or people (in a circle), and a bee flew in circling about a third of the circle, and then the bee flew towards my hand (with the sandwich), nearly landed on my hand, but circled around me a few times. I was very still and calm as the others around me were more anxious, but the bee quickly flew away. So it was nice to have a pleasant visit, and my day was very good the rest of the day. And after the Pause, I had Musik. I'm starting to pick up on some of the musical terms that we are using to analyze the music. In fact, I asked a question during class, and the teacher was, I think a little surprised, happy that I participated. And while during the verb "betonen" (to emphasize), I came across the word "der Beton" (concrete). So now I can say, "Mein Vater arbeitet mit Ziegelsteine und Beton". (My dad works with bricks and concrete). Thought that'd make you proud, or at least chuckle, Dad. I learned "das Hospiz" in the first week on being in Germany. And so after Musik, I had a free period, where I had a Döner and a Berliner (jelly donut) for lunch. Really healthy before Gym and then swim practice. But in Sport (gym), we continued to play Badminton, but it's so much technical practice, it's really killing my enjoyment for the game. And directly after Sport, I was picked up and drove with my host dad and sister directly to swim practice. I did my Englisch homework in the car on the way. And practice wasn't too bad, considering I was totally tired from my long day at school. But practice was mostly 50's (short distance), so it was easy to manage. I finally made it home around 8:30, after leaving the house 7:15 that morning. It was a long day, but I certainly feel like I was immersed the entire day. For dinner, my host mom made grilled cheese with salami, ketchup and cheese. It was good because I was so hungry after practice. And so at 9, I skyped with my fellow CBYXer, Anne. It was fun to catch up with what was going on with her. But one last note about Monday, I wore my "fitness shoes" to school, and I was informed that it's strict in Germany that you have shoes that are specifically worn in fitness facilities-you wear normal shoes outside, to and from, and then you change into your shoes in the facility. It seemed more strigent than the USA since I always used my school shoes as gym shoes.
So now onto Tuesday, I slept till 7:45, which was good. I got ready, and rode my bike to school. I had Chemie and it went quickly because it was only one period, not a double period. We'll be continuing the experiment tomorrow too. And so during my 2 free periods, I went to visit my friend in the hospital. She dislocated her elbow in gym yesterday, but she was doing much better now. A sling for 2 months, but she has to stay in the hospital longer. I asked the friend I came with why she had to stay in the hospital so long, and she explained to me that the hospital gets more money from the government the longer she occupies the hospital bed. And after the visit, I had Math. It seems like it takes my math teacher a very long time to clarify questions and homework, like literally it takes 10 minutes per question. It's a little intimidating that it's so complex. And after Math came Spanisch. Spanisch was probably my most successful class of the day. I translated a paragraph from Spanisch to German! And then I was gutzy enough to read it aloud, and everyone understood it. My Spanisch teacher I think was a little surprised. And after Spanisch, I rode my bike home. The weather was chilly but it had blue skies. (It started to heavy downpour around 7pm). I had Lasagna for lunch, and then I continued to work on editing my so many pictures from the last week. I posted pictures from Köln (Cologne) on facebook, but tomorrow I'll work on the captions. So I'd suggest waiting another day. And I walked Beppo for a little while before my German as a Foreign Language class. The class went well. We read and spoke about newspapers articles, and I got the gist of the article I read, realizing I wouldn't have understood it my first week in Germany. And then we did a grammar review, which I owned at! I'd like to thank my German teachers for pounding German grammar charts in my head. And so I got back home, in the rain, around 8:45. I had the normal bread and cheese for dinner, and it's really good so I'm always glad to eat it again. And now I'm writing here and going to go to bed! I'm getting up at 5:10am tomorrow because I've decided to give the morning practice a try! Plus the night practice, normal time. I'm planning on needing a nap tomorrow, but I've gotta be in bed a little bit earlier tonight.

Bis bald,
Matt

P.S. The one thing that's been on my mind a lot is that I'm still clearly thinking in English. But I'm able to readily reply in German or formulate what I'd like to say (with mistakes of course.) I'm able to understand a lot more and reply pretty well too, but I feel more exhausted now than I did in the first month. I guess there's so much to absorb, it never stops!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sonntag...Man hat viel Geduld.

Well today was a wonderful day! However there was one catch to today...patience (Geduld). Last night I made plans to go to Köln today, and that's exactly what I did, it just took a while to get there. I woke up at 7:55am and got ready for my day. My entire host family was asleep by the time I left around 8:45. Sunday is the day that my host family likes to sleep in, since we're usually really busy every other day of the week...as my family says themselves, they are very active. And so I met with Lucka, and we met up at the bus stop that wasn't going to pick us about till 11:15, so we walked to another bus stop. But we still had to wait 45 minutes to be picked up. And so after the 12 minute bus ride, we walked to the Bahnhof (train station). After some technical difficulties with the bus ticket machine, we missed the train by one minute. So we had to wait another hour. And so after waiting an hour, we had to wait about 45 minutes for the train to take us from Duisburg to Köln. However, that train was delayed, so the wait was closer to an hour. So I planned to be in Köln around 12:15, but I didn't get there till 1:30. Luckily it was planned that I'd meet the two other Americans in the Köln Hauptbahnhof around 1, so it all worked up. And so we went to a huge cathedral (Dom) right next to the Bahnhof, and it was a pretty awesome. Really, really big. And I walked up over 500 steps to get a view of the city from above. It was absolutely worth the €1!! And the pictures came out pretty neat too! The stairs you used to walk up were spiral and less than 1 meter in width. It was tight when someone was passing you in the opposite direction. And it was certainly a challenging work out! And so after the cathedral tower, we went inside and it was a pretty specatcular cathedral. One of the Americans knew a lot about the history of the cathedral, so I got a nice history lesson. And I'd certainly like to take a second look at that cathedral. And so I lit a candle, and afterwards, we walked towards the Altstadt. We had a Döner, which was really tasty!! They are addicting, I tell you! And so we took a quite stroll around the Altstadt where it met with the Rhein river. And I heard there were a lot of good places to eat, so I'll certainly be heading back to Köln eventually. The last thing we did was we found a Dunkin' Donuts in the main street (in fact, two!), and we introduced Lucka to Dunkin' Donuts. I described it as heaven, and she understood it when she tasted a donut and hot chocolate!! Now she's sad that there aren't any Dunkin' Donuts in the Czech Republic (near her). But I felt like I was back in the States for the moment I ate my marble frosted donut, although it was called "Sky Blue", but it was marble to light blue icing. The donuts were more brightly colored. It was a very nice day till around 5pm it started to rain and it's still raining now (9:26pm). And so we all headed back to Moers, but again there was a lot of waiting: 1 hour for the train to Duisburg, (but we ran into two exchange students from Rotary from Ecuador as we sat in the middle of drunk, soccer fanatics from the Fußball team in Duisburg. Lucky me and Lucka, we got to get off the train with them. We were kaputt, but they had a lot of energy!), 45 minutes for the train to Moers and then another 30 minutes for the bus to Kapellen. It was okay that I had Lucka to hang out and chat with the entire time, so it was all good. Someone (eh emm...) said me a card saying, "In life, it's not where you go, it's who you travel with." So I feel that was specifically true to today. And it's absolutely right. And so I arrived home at 8:45, so basically 12 hours I was out and about today. I had a little dinner, and now I'm about to go to bed. Monday is my busiest and longest day of school, so I need some rest. I really think that's it. I took over 150 pictures today, so I think I'll give my cameras a break tomorrow.

Schlaf gut! and Happy Monday (and November)!
Matt

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Busy, Busy Wochenende!

Okay, so it's 11pm on Saturday night and I had no plans going into this weekend, and it ended up working out that this weekend has been one of my busiest ones yet! So I'll start with Friday. Since that comes before Saturday, at least the calender that I've been using. And so school went by a lot faster than Thursday did. My german teacher gave me an essay about the book we're reading in German, since I don't understand enough German to read that book yet. So I read that and then I had to bike to the school where I have Spanish. We took the Klausur (2 hours) in an Aula, like a huge assembly room. So I felt like I was taking a college exam of some sorts. But the test wasn't bad. It was 3 essay questions, but Germans really keep track of how many words they write. I wrote 500 words, and with that I felt like I had stretched my answers out long enough, but a few people stretched their word counts to 600...700..even 800 words! I feel like sometimes quality is better than quantity. But that was much better than my Mathe Klausur that I didn't even get a grade on because I didn't get anything right. And so after the Klausur was over, I went back to my gymnasium and had English for the last two periods. I was quite surprised when my Englisch teacher put her address on the board because a student forgot to hand in his homework, so he had to give it to her at home over the weekend. That would never happen in the USA, without someone getting fired or at least a trial (I think). And that went by pretty quickly. I worked on the photos from Schloss Neuschwanstein, which I'm still working on. And I also relaxed a little bit before swim practice. Swim practice was good, instead of dry-land training, we played a game called Fetzball (similar to Dodgeball), except they only played with 2 balls and those that are out sit on benches in between the two teams as opposed to the sides of the court. Everyone was active even those that were "out" because they would wack a rolling ball back to their side. It was fun and my arm was pretty sore today (Saturday) as well. And after swimming, my host dad and I went to visit our neighbor, Michael. We had some fun laughs, and there are a million inside jokes that if you don't understand the German sense of humor, particularly my host parents, then you can't appreciate them. So anyways, I had made plans with Michael to go photograph an old factory area that was transformed into a park. I must say, the Ruhrgebiet is quite an interesting place. The Germans in this area are very creative in how they can transform a factory (an iron/steel mill) into a park. It was called Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, so maybe you can google it. And I took about 200 photos there, and then Michael and I went to Gas-o-meter, which is a phenomenal overlook of Oberhausen, Duisburg, and I believe, Mulheim. It was spectacular views with the lovely, clear day it ended up to be! And so I was photographing with Michael from 10:30 to 4:30, and then from 4:30 to 9ish, I went to dinner with my host family to celebrate Opa Harald's birthday. My host dad did a funny job of wrapping Opa Harald's gift because he took candies and put the number of years he was on the present, but he handed it to me upside-down, so the number looked like it was '89'. Like I've said previously, my host dad is a jokester (Witzer auf Deutsch). And so it was Yugoslovian restaurant and I had ordered a huge plate of meat and it took me an hour to finish the meat till I couldn't eat anymore. I walked with my host sister and brother to pick up a magazine nearby the restaurant. And then we took some funny action shots with my camera and it was a lot of fun which many laughs at our goofy faces. And so furthermore, I had ice cream for dessert, and it was a really nice dinner. I get to go back in 3 weeks to celebrate Oma Helga's birthday there! Although, I don't think I'll order quite so much meat next time! And so after we got home, we had to pick up Beppo at Michael's house because Beppo always barks when the doorbell rings, and there were a bunch of trick-or-treaters. So it wasn't a good idea to leave Beppo home alone. I stayed there till about 10:30, and I finalized plans to go to Köln (Cologne) tomorrow. So I'm looking forward to exploring another city! (knock on wood) But yeah, you're all probably wondering how I celebrated Halloween. Well Halloween isn't really a big holiday here. So I didn't really do anything for Halloween, none of my friends did anything and my host family doesn't celebrate it either. But I could say that I was a photographer today because I basically carried all my equipment the entire day and looked pretty professional if I don't say so myself.

Schöne Sonntag!
Matt

P.S. I finally got my bus card to ride the bus, so I don't have to keep dishing out €2,20 for every bus ride to and from school and have to wait on AFS to pay me back! So I'm happy that's been resolved!