Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mein Geburstatg in Germany!!! (Spitze! Super!)

Well let me start off by saying that my birthday in Germany was absolutely amazing!!! No other word can describe it. I woke up to my alarm this time…not my host mom flicking on the light switch and telling me to wake up (before my alarm was supposed to go off.) When I walked downstairs, I found my breakfast place setting set and 3 wrapped presents (you never give a German a gift because gift means poison in German). I got a hug and a huge “Herzlich Glückwünsche zum Geburtstag, Matt” from my host mom, host sister and host brother (and host dog) (host dad had already left for work). They gave me 2 t-shirts and a flash drive (for my photos). Really thoughtful!!! I got ready for school, and I was like the first person there! I was there a 7:25 and school doesn’t start till 8am. So I got a present from my friend, Daniela—a box of chocolates. That was really thoughtful of her!!! And I got like 30 “happy birthdays” from basically everyone (and that was only before school started)! And then, my friends, Anica and Theresa, walked in with a cake and lit candles saying “Happy Birthday, Matt!” That was a really awesome surprise because I didn’t see them enter, and I turned around to see that awesome gift!!! And the best part is, they brought a knife (like the really cake-cutting knife), wrapped in a towel, and I explained to them that I’d be arrested for having a knife like it in an American high school. But it did a swell job of cutting the cake. And so I got to walk around school the entire day with this cake (and knife (das Messer auf Deutsch)) as my friends and I progressively ate it. It was really delicious, chocolate chip cake with hardened chocolate on top! And as people walked passed me, noticing the cake said “Happy Birthday” they all took their turn in saying Happy Birthday to me! And everyone gave me a firm handshake or a hug. My Musik class and Englisch class both sang the “Happy Birthday” song to me in English!! And it was all pretty awesome! This was definitely my best day at school and probably in Germany yet!! Plus, I turned 19 on my 19th day in Germany!! That’s pretty cool and/or awesome!!

And so after school, I took the bus home (it was kinda rainy and cloudy, so no bike today). I skyped with my parents for a little over an hour. My host mom said I skyped for 2 hours, but it was only 1 hour and 15 mins. It was great chatting with you Mom and Dad!!! (And Benny was funny in the background.) And so then I opened my cards from Gigi, Pop Bob, Mom, Dad, Brian (you’re quite funny, my sugar plum), Benny, Aunt Nancy, and Aunt Arlene and Uncle Tom (your “decoy” card came in the mail today)!!! Thanks for the awesome packages, Mom, Dad, Brian, and Aunt Nancy!!! There were really awesome, and especially the candies are what I miss from the states!! And I have enough Peanut Butter to last me a while. :-) Everyone started to come to the house for the party around 4pm (no swimming today). My host grandparents all came, and our conversation was a ton of fun (lots of laughs), and I understood it all, in German!! And I know I had a special visitor today too! But my neighbors (Thomas, Heike, Michael, and Christiane) came, my host aunt and uncle, host cousin, and of course my host family stopped by! Everyone was incredibly thoughtful and gave me presents. I got some t-shirts (which I really needed), another winter Jacket from Oma Helga und Opa Harald, and some candies and soaps and deodorants and such. And Germans know how to party during a weekday! (and of course, weekend!) We said Prost (Cheers) several times, and the beer was enjoyable. I had two (and a half (but that was because we were doing another Prost).) It was interesting trying to get pictures with everyone, because they all talk during the photos (while they’re being taken), and I had to tell them to look into the camera. That was fun saying in German! They mocked my “natural, typical American smile.” But anyways, I was extremely proud of my improvements with German, because I really was quite fluent today! I wasn’t perfect, but it was the best I’ve ever done with speaking German! I got a lot of compliments about my fluency and improvements in learning to speak German. And today really solidified all the friends and host family members and community I have supporting me in this experience! Germans are such incredibly loving people and I really got to experience that today! So I was incredibly exhausted, but I wrote tonight because I have a busy few days ahead of me and I didn’t want to forget anything from today! I really enjoyed today (way more that I ever expected), and I’m excited to spend majority of my 19th year in Germany!!!!! I can’t put it all into words how awesome it was!!!!

Gute Nacht! (Herzlichen Glückwünsche zum Geburtstag!! oder Alles gute zum Geburtstag!! is how you say “Happy Birthday” in German!!!)
:-) :-D

Matt

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dienstag...Warte. Warte. Warte.

Well Tuesday is the day I get to sleep in a little bit! So I slept till 7:30, although my host mom is insistent on waking me up when I have my alarm set. And when I say I'll wake up at 7:30...she makes 7:30, 7:20. I guess that's why Germans are always punctual. But I went to school, and had Chemie which went pretty fast. I had 2 hours of free time, I went to the bookstore and bought a notebook for Musik and a very large English to Deutsch dictionary. My little one has helped a lot, but it doesn't have all the words I need for school. And I went to math and I'm starting to understand about 5% of what's going on. Then I had Spanish and I could actually understand everything! A bunch of people told me that my birthday is tomorrow, and I was like...yeah! I know that! But in Germany it's unlucky to wish someone a happy birthday before the actually day. So I'm not quick sure what to expect tomorrow, but after swim practice, we're having a get-together with some of my extended host family and some neighbors (Nachbarn). But I had some free time between school and my German class, so I surfed Facebook, made an ICQ (which is the AIM (an instant messaging service) equivalent in Germany), and try to study the Genitive case (in German), but had no desire to really comprehend it. But at my German language class, I'm in the C1 level, which is the most difficult, and upon completion of the course, you have become very fluent. After understanding absolutely nothing the last week, I had a better idea of what was going on. And some of the other people helped me out. Everyone else in the class has lived in Germany for at least 2 years, and I've been here 17 days. So I'm pretty proud to be in their company, and it shows me that I'm learning a lot. Because a lot of words I recognize are from what I've learned in Germany. So overall, today was swell. Tomorrow I'll be 19. My first birthday in a foreign country (Germany)!!! And in german they say "Alles gute zum Geburtstag!". I should get to bed, so i'm well rested. I get to Skype with my parents tomorrow. :-)

Tschüs! (My last blog entry as 18)
Matt

Monday, September 28, 2009

Montag war Lustig!

Usually I have a case of the Mondays, but that was not evident today! I woke up for school at 6:31 and I biked to school at 7:15 in the thickest fog I've ever seen. School was good, German was complicated and vague, English was fun, Music...was musical? It was my first time in Musik (that's how they spell it in German) and I thought it was more singing, but it's actually music theory. But I figure I know more of this from my 7 years in band rather than no experience with French. The teacher seems really relaxed and I got to sit next to a few of my friends. And i had an hour free after Musik before Sport (gym). So I got invited to explore the walking city center of Moers, and I gladly accepted the invitation!! Everyone was friendly and one of them is a photography buff and he was an exchange student in Australia, so his English was very good!! Badminton in gym was great! Again I have a few friends in that class, so no complaints! I basically relaxed after school. No swim practice after the weekend-long meet, and I did my English homework. So tomorrow I've got a pretty good day at school. Spanish, Math, and Chemistry, so I'm happy. Although I must admit, some German words are starting to come to me faster than English words. For example, in the English book I'm reading, the word "fuss" was in a sentence. But 'Fuss" in german means "foot", so I read that word as "foot" and managed to confuse myself. But that was a proud moment that German was predominant in my thought process. The weather was a little chillier today, although this is warmer weather than normal for Germany. But there seems to be a lot of fog in the mornings. But the afternoons have warmed up nicely.

Not too much is new.

Bis morgen.
Matt

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wunderbar Wochenende!

Well, it's amazing how fast time can fly by. As the expression goes, "If you're told you have one day to live, go to a swim meet because it will feel like forever." However, Saturday was a long day. I went to my first swim meet in Germany and on Saturday i swam the 100 Back (1:11.49), the 100 Breast (1;17.87), and on Sunday I swam the 50 Fly (30.41) and the 50 Breast (34.75). These times are in Long Course Meters, so it's a starting point for me to compare my other times and the upcoming swim meets. However, it was interesting to learn how the swim meet system worked and how the little differences there were, like the language difference. And after that I skyped with my roommate from D.C. for a half hour. It was interesting to share how different impressions of Germany. And at the swim meet, my host sister and host brother did really well and placed high enough to get a medal. (I just missed that :'( ). But after skyping on Saturday night, I went to Michael's house (the neighbor that picked me up from Frankfurt) and we had a "traditional German dinner" with a few modern adjustments. The dinner was 4 courses, one better than the next. And it was very formal, but I learned some little things about German cuisine eating. For example, you place your fork and knife at 5 o'clock on the dish to hint that you enjoyed the meal, but you put your fork and knife in an X to hint you disliked it. I also got to try red and white wine, and I learned the proper way of holding the glass. My host father was a jokester and did everything the opposite, I guess he was being the example of what not to do. But he was very funny, and the evening was a blast. After dinner, we played Wii and I bowled a 246 in bowling. But we also played a Wii game called "Rülpser" and you shake the Wii remote as fast as you can and then the character burps so intensely that it knocks down the city of Paris. Kind of bizarre, but it was hilarious!!

And I slept really well after that exhausting day. I woke up early again to go back to the swim meet. My events were easier on Sunday, so I was not complaining. And I met some more swimmers and I was confident enough to speak German with them. And no surprise, but they were really friendly. And so overall I really enjoyed the swim meet (especially on Sunday). And afterwards, I did my German homework and then when I showed it to my host mom, it made no sense to her, and it was a really vague essay about sentence connotations in German (it's only my 2nd week, so I'm still learning). And after that, my host dad and his two friends came back from their Masters swim meet near Cologne/Köln and we chatted in the "garden" and then when it got cold, we moved into the basement. I shared my photo album of my "NJ Life" with them and they were really interested. I also got to try the local beer in Moers and the Oktoberfest Beer. The Oktoberfest Beer is stronger, but to me they both tasted the same.

It was a good weekend, with good vibes and good weather. I've got school in the morning. And since I don't have a locker, I have to transport my school books (which isn't much), my gym clothes, and a badminton racket because German schools don't supply you with equipment such as that.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Angela Merkel (CDU) won the German elections today!! My host mom calls her "Angie", but I'm sure there will be discussions about the elections in my Politics class. I was told that these German elections were pivotal in German history (or something like that), so it's exciting to think I'll be living in Germany as it happens! Or it might just end up staying the same since the last election. I'll let ya know.

Ich wünsche euch einen guten Montag!

Matt

Friday, September 25, 2009

Freitag! Endlich!

As my German teacher would write on the board every Friday "Endlich!" because it's finally Friday. I woke up for school, and I was expecting a challenging German class. And I found out it was a surprise party for my German teacher. He turned 60 today. And the cake was really good! But the second period of German, we were given an assignment that I have to explain to the class. So I have quite a bit of translating to do this weekend. And the teacher has the "main computer" that can view what the students are doing at any time. He wrote a message to all of the computers saying, "Gott sieht alles!" So I thought that was kind of bizarre, but my partner in my German class for this group, presentation said, "It's a little bit like Big Brother." I concur. But I really enjoyed Spanish class today too! I understood everything going on, although I was thrown for a loop when the translations were done in German. That really confused me because I had to translate two languages into English. But it worked out, and I'm looking forward to Spanish again! (Tuesday). And it was an adventure biking to the separate Gymnasium where I take Spanish. And after that, I switched my schedule. I switched out of French and Geography to take Politics and Music (that's going to be interesting). But my school hours are the same, so I have no complaints. I enjoyed my first class of Sozialwissenschaften (or Politics). They did presentations about the German elections. And the German elections are this Sunday, so it'll be interesting to see how the voting decides. And when I biked home, my host mom told me I could get fined for listening to my iPod while biking, so since she's in the Police, that's a big no-no, oder nein-nein. After school I did my Spanish homework, and every word I tried to write in Spanish, I thought of in German first. It made me realize I'm really picking up a lot of German. And I also watched 2 and a Half Men, that was dubbed in German. I understood it, so I'm going to try and watch some German television every day so I can immerse myself a little more. And tonight I went to Swim practice, and after that we set up a little bit for the swim meet tomorrow. I'm swimming next to an Olympian! (yikes) And after practice, I played a game called "Manhattan", which is probably the game that inspired Donald Trump to become a property tycoon. I got 2nd. My host family was really funny, but also really competitive during the game. My host sister won. But they said she always wins. And tomorrow I have my first swim meet in Germany. It's at my club's pool, but it's a long-course meet (50m). And my host dad said there'll be around 1,000 people at the meet this weekend. From Russia, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany (duh), and one from the United States (although technically swimming under the German Swimming Federation)! And also tomorrow I have a formal dinner party to go to, and the host wants to teach me about the traditional table manners and German way of eating properly. I hope I remember all that my host mom told me! I'll be sure to sit up straight.

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

P.S. Thanks for the card Gigi and Pop Bob, and that's for the package Aunt Nancy! My host family said I have to wait to open them till my birthday because I'll have something to open, and it's unlucky if you open it before your birthday! Danke! Ich liebe euch!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Donnerstag...Donnerstag...what's today again?

THURSDAY!! School went smoothly. I was done by 11:30. The other students were telling me how easy my schedule is. Maybe compared to them, but I'm still trying to learn German. And so I explore the Innenstadt (the walking part of town) for about a half hour. I brought my camera around, so I had a ball snapping photos. I put them up on Facebook. When i got home, I had lunch with my host mom, and she gave me "a talking to". Not that I did anything wrong, but it was because I didn't know otherwise. German table manners are very specific and she clarified them for me. As well as I need to work on my posture. So I was proud of myself that I didn't take offense to it because my host mom said it was hard for her to criticize me like that. But I didn't take it personally, and it's just another little thing that I have to work on improving, focus on it, and remember. And I went to swim practice. I only swam and hour because my host sister had to study for an English test. I ran I think 4km and then swam for the hour. The main set was a 3,000m straight freestyle!!!! This club is intense, but it felt good to get into the water after two days. I think i function better when I've been exposed to chlorine. So yeah, today was kind of low-key. Nothing major, but continually a learning experience. I have to free time, so I'll probably make a youtube video (www.youtube.com/amikinder), go to bed.

Bis Freitag!
Matt

P.S. Thanks for the cards, Mom, Louise and Maury! They were a pleasant surprise to get three cards in one day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mittel Mittwoch...

It's Mittwoch! For you English speakers (everyone other than me), it's Wednesday! And today was a pretty easy day. I woke up, drove to school with my host mom and host sister. Although I must admit that I don't appreciate the German method of waking you up, abruptly by flicking the light switch. But I had two hours of Chemistry (oder Chemie pronounced like Shemy) and then I had my first Klausur. You probably have no idea what that means. Well I didn't either till Monday. It's a 4-hour test based on the specific subject matter for the course you have the Klausur in. Today was for my English class. So I was the first or second person done, and it felt like it was redundant with my answers to the questions. It was three essays that had to total around 1,000 words. Not too bad for me when you have 4 hours, but it is certainly challenging for a non-native speaker. And all of the students had 6-inch thick German translation dictionaries along with the book that was Klausur was based off. And they had to supply their own paper and fold it in a specific way, so that the teacher can correct their errors. There was a specific method to the Klausur that I had no idea it required so much thought. I was tired before I started the silly test from thinking about separating the papers, how to write on the papers and put them in order...yikes! And another note, in gym class, the student is required to bring all of their own equipment. Thank heavens, that I'm not doing hockey. But after the test, I got to leave before the 4 hours were over, but I had to wait till everyone that needed to use the bathroom was done. I thought about it, and they did that so you couldn't share answers on the test. (Only one person was allowed out the room at one time.) And after school, I went shopping for some clothes because my host mother couldn't believe how little stuff I brought with me. I explained I only had 44lbs. and that I was told to buy everything in Germany that I needed. AFS forgot to mention that everything in Germany is twice the American dollar selling price and with the Euro at $.68 for every $1 US. But I picked up so really nice clothes, and my host mother assured me that they were cheaply priced. Everything was 20% off, today only, that's why I had to wait till today. But after shopping, I got home and dosed off watching the news in German. There was something going on in Sweden and a sandstorm in Australia. I went to my host brother's soccer game, where he's the goalkeeper, or "Torwart" in German. His team won, but I must say the Germans really get into their sports! Nothing to compare to it that I've seen. (I shouldn't forget to mention that it was 9 and 10 year-olds playing.) And after the game, I went to a birthday party for one of my neighbors. Everyone was extremely friendly and the asked me if I understood what they were conversing about, which I really didn't understand much at all. And they also asked me if I liked being in Germany and how I was adjusting. I was told about a great photography spot to go to in a neighboring city, so I'm excited to get there.

Gute nacht!
Matt

P.S. I got a very nice package from my parents yesterday. I forgot to write that. Thanks for the treats. And thanks for the passport wallet, Holowatch family!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blah..Blah..Blah

Today is Tuesday, Dienstag, Martes, however you'd prefer to say it. I made notice today of all the walking, stair-climbing, bike riding, etc. there is in Germany. I feel like AFS should recommended that I train for a marathon before flying over to Germany. That way I'd be in good enough shape. But this morning was blissful! I got to sleep in an extra 45 minutes because I didn't have class till 9am. I couldn't find the chemistry room, but after being guided, I was in the wrong building and would have never found my way there. But I understood a good amount of the stuff covered during the class period. And after that, I picked up a few of my text books. I had two hours off before Math class, and I understood a lot more than my first math class last week, when I thought they were speaking Chinese. And Spanish was cancelled because the teacher was sick. I went home and finished reading the section of Moon Palace I had to have completed before my test tomorrow. But this test is a really big thing for the German students. They only have 4 of these in each subject per school year. And the test takes 4 hours! So I'm hoping it won't be too bad before it's in English, so I should understand. (I hope I don't confuse it with German.) So tomorrow I have 2 hours of Chemistry and then a 4 hour English test. I think I'll be okay, still learning, so when it all seems new to me and I am still absorbing all this information, the time tends to pass quickly. But tonight I had my German language class. That was the dreadful part of my day. I got on the bus to take me to the class, but I got off at the wrong stop. And I forgot my German-English dictionary and I forget my city map. So I had to navigate myself sheerly on luck (and perhaps instinct?). But surprisingly enough, I found my way with not much trouble. I was about ten minutes late to the class, but the teacher was kind enough to let it slide. I was lost basically the entire class. Not in the best of moods, I wasn't too happy to be in a class with people that were significantly older than me (I think the youngest other than me was like 30). The teacher seemed more like a Yoga instructor to me than German as a Second Language teacher. She spoke extremely slowly and had a calming voice that made me want to sleep. And my classmates had all learned their German through listening, whereas I learned through reading, so my strengths differ from theirs in German. This is all part of my experience in German, so I'll keep trying to improve everyday. I should get a good night sleep before my test.
Gute nacht!
Matt

P.S. My host dad wore his shirt I gave him today! And I feel like I'm having English withdrawl, where my brain wants me to communicate in English. Maybe it will cooperate a little more tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Müde Montag...

Well I've decided to call today tired Monday, but it's better in German (müde Montag). I went to school and it was fine. It was interesting to listen to everything in German class, but I really didn't understand anything that was going on. English was pretty easy, and I found out I have a test on Wednesday. I guess I have a little bit of studying to do. And I also found out that my English class is taking a week long trip to Dublin!!!! My teacher said she'll give me the details after the test. So I hope that all works out. And after English, I went to Geography. But I was in for quite a surprise. I had no idea what was going on. And the teacher, although nice, was extremely monotone and I almost fell asleep several times. So as of now I would prefer to take a subject I might have a better idea of what's going on, but my host mom was telling me that my schedule isn't too hard?! I would beg to differ because I'm still trying to learn the language and possibly explore new interests. I'd rather take art over geography, so I'm going to give my classes a week and see how they all work out. After geography, I went to a bakery with the other exchange student, Marie, and I had a really good Pretzel (Brezel in German). And I was supposed to have Sport/gym class, but it worked out that I couldn't find my right teacher, so I got to go home early. But I wasn't too eager to speak German today because I was just exhausted and wanted to go back to bed today. But everyone is really starting to be friendly, and I got invited to an event, but it's the same time as my AFS Late Orientation Camp, so I had to explain how I couldn't make it. But I really wish I could go. But when I got home, my host mom explained to me that Germans wear one swim suit and then change into another (dry) swim suit before the next race. She showed me the multitude (like dozens) of suits my entire host family had. And I only came over with two. So I'll be figuring something out in that department. But all-in-all, kind of tired today, probably because it's Monday. But I was excited to get to meet a few more people at school and to explore my new classes, even if they all weren't as thrilling as I had hoped. I leave for swimming in twenty minutes, and I'll probably sleep well tonight!!

Bis bald,
Matt

P.S. My host brother wore his Jersey Knights soccer jersey today!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sonnig Sonntag!

So after such a wonderful "Tracktor treffen" I was really excited for Apfelfest. I got to sleep in again!! (that's exciting with in itself) But I walked with my host sister, Sina, and another family friend the same age as Sina, named Gerrit. We basically walked through the town of Kapellen (the division of Moers where I live) and I saw two apple stands and it was basically a flea market like event. Well I definitely got to see a variety of people, but it was basically a walk through and I didn't buy or eat anything. But I then went home, and I Skyped (video-chatted) with my parents for a solid two hours. It was great to see their smiling faces, share some extremely funny stories about me living in German and transitioning and knowing I have the support of everyone back home. So around 4pm today I met my other host grandparents (on my host mother's side) and they were named Karin and Heinz (yes like the Ketchup!). But I left shortly after they arrived to go see a "Hot Air Balloon festival" that happens once a year in Moers. It was a three-day festival, but there weren't any hot air balloons today, so instead I took some photos of the park. During the bike ride, I figured how to bike home from the Gymnasium where I'll be taking Spanish. So I took a positive out of that. And while I was riding home, I got hit it the head with a acorn that fell off a tree. I hope nothing happens next time. (Knock on wood). And I won't be opening my water bottle when I'm riding my bike (or even stopped at a stop light). And after that, I gave my host family their gifts and they all loved them so much! I said it was a thank you for their hospitality. Beppo loved his dog toy. And my host dad needed a new hat, so he loved the Jersey Knights hat. (P.S. Uncle Mike, I absolutely love my Jersey Knights jacket!!! I wear it everyday). Sina liked her I Love NY shirt in Pink and my host mom liked her Mug and she said the Reese's Pieces are tasty! But the other funny thing is I had written some subtitles in German of the photo album I made to display American lifestyle and a note in the New Jersey book I showed them, and they had fun correcting me with my incorrect words and grammar. But it's all good because I'm still learning a lot everyday. But Monday is a really long day tomorrow. I have class till 4 and then I have swimming. So it's going to be a busy start to a most likely busy week!! Ich hoffe, dass alles gut geht!
Bis dann.
Matt

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Samstag...Genau!!

It's the weekend!!! Yay!! But other than to name the obvious, today was awesome! Super! ¡Bueno! Wunderbar!! I slept in till around 10 again (I'm going to miss those days when I get really busy). And I read my english book (Moon Palace) till around noon. And after that, I went to see a little bit of my host brother's soccer/Fußball game. I stayed for only about ten minutes before I had to leave to go to the first meeting for my AFS district. My host brother's team had scored 2 goals in the time I watched the game, so they won! And I got to meet two of my host grandparents (Opa Harald and Oma Helga). Everyone was so nice, friendly, and kind today!! I carpooled to the meeting with a girl from Turkey. When we got to the meeting, I had a little bit of trouble telling the difference between the liaisons and exchange students. But that was all sorted out quickly. I found the meeting to be a lot of fun, but I find discussions like that interesting. And we had the option to do the meeting in English or German, and all the other exchange students knew enough English to understand, but everyone has a lot of German to learn. They asked me how long I had been in Germany and they were surprised that I had only been in Germany for one week! I took that as a compliment. And after the meeting and getting to know my AFS chapter-group (not sure exactly what you would call it), I went to the tractor-party. And I was in for such a huge surprise!!! It was AMAZING!! There were tractors everywhere, and I got to ride on one. It was bumpy but fun. And there was Wurst and a myriad of drinks. Everyone was incredibly friendly and I had a lot of good laughs. I learned some very important words and the differences between them. But that's the kind of stuff you only learn if you live in Germany. So anyway, I had so much fun today that I lost track of time. Er war viel Spaß!!! Let the adventure continue tomorrow at the Apfelfest (Apple Festival)!! (Gotta love these Germans!)

Tschues!
Matt

Friday, September 18, 2009

Englisch Heute!

Well today was a nice day. It's kinda late, so I'm going to write a short one today. I managed to sleep in till 10 today because my morning classes were taking a 4-hour test and there was no need for me to sit in there and watch them take the tests. So I walked Beppo this morning, and I guess most dogs have an instinct to keep you on your toes with the leash. But I road my bike to school today. A 6 km trek, and it went well except for one little thing: I pulled out my water bottle from my back pack and the water was carbonated and it apparently got shaken up, so I was sprayed with the water while I waited for the light to change at one of the stop lights. I'm sure the people driving next to me (also waiting at the light) had a good, hardy laugh at me. But luckily my shirt dried quickly before I made it to school. In English today, I was actually able to understand everything going on in the class! That was exciting, and afterwards, I got to go home. But I have to continue reading "Moon Palace", I'm still not caught up to where the other students are. And after school, I went swimming. I felt like I was going to die during dryland (oder Kraft-training auf Deutsch). I ran for what felt like forever, and then practice was 6 km today! So like 90% of all my movement today was me moving myself (without the convenience of a motor). I hope that made sense, because it sounded good in my head. And after practice, I watched Monsters, INC. in English with my host sister and her friend, and then 15 Wilden Hühner in German. I didn't understand much of what they were saying. And tomorrow I get to meet my AFS liaison and the other AFSers in my district, from all over the world!!! I'm excited to meet them. And it's finally the weekend! Hope everyone has a good one! I'm going to so "tractor party". Not quite sure what to expect, but this is a learning experience. And I also had a lot of laughs today with everybody, but most of them were at me. It's all good because someone at the AFS orientation said, "We all laugh at foreigners." And if you think about it, you DO once in a while (at least). So I'm been having fun laughing too! It's the best medicine!

Gute nacht!
Matt

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My first day of school!

Well today was the most monumental day of my adventure this far...I asked if I was going to have some kind of mentor to help me get to class and stuff, but instead I was told I had to ask and find my way. It sounded scary, but i was able to find my way. I had to figure out the floor plan because there is a stair case that takes you up to the second floor, and there was another that took you to the fourth or fifth floor. But after figuring that out, I was introduced into a few people. And AFS said you should try to make friends as quick as possible, but they forget to mention on little thing...THE LANGUAGE BARRIER! but i was able to somewhat overcome that. Thank heavens, that German students are good at English, but I used my German than English. But I was able to understand most of it. But my math class is CALCULUS!! So I'm going to be learning about integrals in German...and I didn't want to take them in English. But there was a communication misunderstanding when I was making my classes, because I was asked if I had taken "Analysis" and my AP Statistics and Analysis class is what I was referring to, but in German "Analysis" means Calculus! WUNDERBAR!! I'm going to learn a lot in that class when I start to understand everything. And in french, I found out that the class is in their 2nd year of learning french, but i insisted in staying in the class to see how I can adapt, but I'm going to have to put a bit of focus on French if I want to pass. And I hope my accent is somewhat decent, but i have to focus on my German accent first. Does it seems like I'm involved in a little too much? Well I usually am, but ich weiss, dass alles klappen wird! (I know that everything will work out.) But I was really excited to have met some people in school, and I hope that all goes well. And then after school I had to take the bus home. Lucky for me the bus driver was very helpful, but I learned it once, and I was confident to ride the bus from my language class. But after doing some school supply shopping with my host mom, I bought a German cell phone and a calculator. And let me say, the Euro is not very friendly. But I think I had walked like 10 miles today! and Yesterday for swim practice, I ran 4 kilometers before practice and then I swam 5.5 km. I'm going to say that the German swimming style is more dedicated, because they won't cut laps. Even when I did 5 x 800s as a main set on Tuesday night. And last night was 10 x 200s breaststroke kick...I'm still walking a little funny from being so sore. But I sleep like a baby last night for sure. And tomorrow I get to sleep in till 10! Because my German and Spanish classes have a huge test, and I was told not to show up to them. So I don't have French this Friday and I only have to go to English. The book I started reading is pretty good, but it's interesting to see the footnotes for the German students to better understand the literature. But I'm sure it's a good book. I'll let ya know! But to get to my favorite part of the day...my Language course! I was complaining about it yesterday, but my teacher told me I was too advanced for the class I was placed it, so I have to move up to a more challenging class, and I can earn some sort of German Proficiency Certificate! I think it might be through the Goethe Institute. But yep, all was good today. But my level of exhaustion seems to be basically constant. I'm been napping every afternoon, and my body has basically shut down because I try to keep myself awake. You can really exhaust yourself when you are learning a new language by "total immersion". And let me apologize know for any mistakes I make, because I'm not proofreading these too much and my brain is thinking of some words in German before I think of them in English. Alles klar!! Bis bald.

Matt

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mein Studentplan!

Well my first day of school ended up being a lot easier than I thought. I met with the two supervisors at the Gymnasium, I'll be attending. My host mom was there too, and I met another foreign exchange student (with AFS) from Belgium. She was really nice, and we are both going to be in the 12. Klasse (technically the 12th grade, but it's more complicated than that). And I'll be taking, Chemistry (Chemie), Geography (Erdkunde), Spanish (Spanisch), English (Englisch), French (Französisch), German (Deutsch), Math (Mathe), and Gym (Sport). My schedule worked out nicely, but I also hope I can comprehend somewhat of what the class is teaching. I have to go to a neighboring Gymnasium to take Spanish, and that's like a ten minute bike ride, so I'm going to feel like quite the "German commuter" on my bike. I already have the first novel my English class is reading. But I start classes tomorrow. I was given the option, and so I got the chance to meet the other foreign exchange student (from Belgium), and she speaks French, Dutch, and Flemish!! I thought that was neat. We went to McDonalds and I ordered a beer there, but it wasn't as good as I had hoped. But I hope that I'll be able to meet a few more people, and find out how to survive a German Gymnasium tomorrow. At the start of the school I saw a single bee. (That's a huge symbol in my life at this point, but it's a lot to explain). I also signed up for the german language course that I have to take, as a part of being a CBYX Scholar. I have to take that class till the first week in January, so it's not what I hoped for, but I'll have to make the best of the situation at hand.

But today, I feel like I'm really starting to get the "gist" of everything that is going on! (Knock on wood of course). But I'm sure I'm still going to be humbled by intimidation of the German language while I still get my footing in the language. But anyways, I have swim practice tonight. I'm starting to know those swimming abbreviations they use in German, but now I have lunch. Lunch is the big meal (like dinner in America). And I think my host mom made mashed potatos. Yum yum! Bis später!

Matt

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Here I am again!

When I started this blog, I thought it was going to be something I wrote on about once a week. But it seems like I'm writing almost everyday. Perhaps because I can't really, indefinitely explain myself to anyone. Some people know some English, but often the words have to be twisted a little to understand the meaning. Maybe because it's being spoken from the "german-language perspective". But I think this is probably such a learning experience, that you can reflect on anything and remember something from it. For example, I had to select the events for the first swim meet that I wanted to swim, and then I asked What "lagen" meant. My host mother told me "IM (individual medley)", and then I had to think about it, but they I remembered that La is short for Lagen. But tonight I wanted to share some of my initial perspectives about Germany:

1. Not understanding German is quite intimidating.
2. I saw a bumble bee before the airport and when I arrived at the house. (Only a few of you will understand that one).
3. Germans are really, really tall. (I'm the same height as my 13-yr. old host sister).
4. Germany has a hatchback-Auto epidemic.
5. Every car is a manual transmission, but my host family can change gears smoother than I remember my host parents doing so last year. (You could really feel when they changed gears.)
6. When you can only pick out words in a conversation, you tend to notice how often the words are used (zum Beispiel: scheisse).
7. The USA is a huge influence on the German culture. (They avidly watch the Simpsons, 2 and a half men, and they love Robby Williams). I have never heard of Robby Williams. My host father introduced me to Falco today (the first #1 song in the US by a German artist in 1984).
8. Everything is within a 5 minute car ride, literally. I'm in a suburb of my town, and it's really close to the Innenstadt (inner city).
9. Every German uses a different preposition and they same something a little different. But maybe I'm just way too confused to completely comprehend everything I'm told, or observe through listening.
10. A lot of people say "oder" to finish a sentence. Maybe they use that like Americans use the word "like".
11. It's colder (noticeably) in my town, and it rains frequently.
12. My host family is conscious of the amount of lights they use. And they unplug their electronics when not in use because leaving the plug in the outlet actually wastes energy. And you get fined if you don't recycle.

I'm sure there are a few more I can think of later, but I start school tomorrow, so I have to get a good night sleep tonight. And I also get to take a German language course 2 times a week till the end of November. But I can qualify to take a "German proficiency certificate" test. So I'll be swimming 3 (or 4) nights a week, taking a German language course two times a week, and then I'll be going to school also. And did I mention that this will all be in German? I find it amazing how a life can be transplanted so quickly. Only a week ago I was nervous in the car with butterflies in my stomach about the beginning of my CBYX experience, but I'm far away from Washington D.C., and my life has changed completely from English to German (only to name the obvious), but I seem to feel a comfort within myself, a greater force, my host family...I'm not quite sure what it is, but it's a good thing. I get to pick my classes tomorrow, and I have no idea what to expect. I guess I'll go with the flow and have fun!

Bis bald.
Matt

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dritte Tag auf Deutsch

Well this is my third day of Germany. And it's amazing to me how the brain can absorb so much. And with my brain trying to absorb every little thing, I was exhausted by noon today. And I was with my host mother who only speaks German with me (my host dad knows English) and I think I picked up a lot of words. But the one word I cannot seem to remember is the word "remember" (sich erinnern), so I'm probably going to write it a lot of times in order to remember the dang word. But today I went to the supermarket with my host mom while my host siblings were at school. And I'm supposed to take a language course at the community college, in supplement to starting school on Wednesday. But tomorrow in my German aptitude test to see what class I should be placed in. But other than that, my family found it funny that I normally have waffles for breakfast. My host mother told me that it's not really healthy and that I need to drink more. But it's been a lot of laughing all day. So I didn't realize that I seem to learn quicker because I'm making basically 50 mistakes in every sentence that I say. And last night I played a karaoke game (SingStar) with my host sister and she won every song (including the English ones), but she has had a lot more practice than me. The only song I won was 99 Luftballoons. The only German song I know. But back to today, I got my first letter in the mail from Tia Arlene and Uncle Tom. But tonight I start swim practice, and I hope I'm not too tired to endure the 2 hour practice. I'm starting to understand what AFS (the exchange company) means that exchange students are always tired at first. And it's only been 3 days--learning a language can be draining I suppose.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Deutschland, Germany...Here I am!

Well after having a lack of sleep all week from the CBYX orientation in D.C., I've finally made it to Germany. We finished up the CBYX orientation, and it was a lot of fun because the people-the volunteers and exchange students-created such an exciting and awesome environment to transition into Germany with!! But the flight was good, but a little long. My host father, host sister, and their neighbor picked me up at the Frankfurt Airport, and majority of today was a mix of English and German, so you may say "Denglisch", but it got the point across, and now it's just a test of my memory to be able to recall all the new words I'm learning, and I'm still practicing on the beloved German grammer...as of now I'm throwing all the words I know out, without considering the word order. I knew not to expect myself to be perfect, but my brain is tired from a long week and I really want a long night sleep. Gute Nacht! Und this is my first night in Germany!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Washington D.C. Orientation

Well day two has come to a close. I got to the Crowne Plaza around 1pm. Everyone was so excited to start this whirlwind of an experience and a lot of the people seemed to notice me from Facebook. We got to know a lot of people on the first day. Got our small groups, where I really like everyone in my group, and we are kind of eclectic. And Sydney, the group leader, seems really cool. Everyone seems scared about not having any German skills before flying over there, but we got reassured that we'll be fine and learn German very quickly. I'm really excited to start using my German, and I've already started.

Day two was all of the Washington DC political stuff. We went to the Department of State, the German Embassy, and then we went to meet our Congressional Representatives, mine was Rush Holt, and he wasn't there :'(. But so we did so much walking and sitting today that they just exhausted us, and so I was ready to go to bed are 11am, and I was like "wow...longest day of mein Leben (my life)." But I did enjoy it, and all the CBYXers are a lot of fun. I'm kinda sad that I'm going to have to say "Auf Wiedersehen" in two days because I really don't want us to scatter all over Germany yet.

Tomorrow is all the workshop sessions....