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!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kaputt...Kaputt...did I say kaputt?

Well today, I had to wake up normal time and it was tough to get up in the pitch black night. And I don't think it was starting to get light out till I was in Math around 8. But it was extremely foggy today, like wicked fog yo!. And so I found Mathe and Sowi (Politik) rather boring. I was really tired today and the classrooms where pretty warm, so that didn't help. It was a good refresher when I was outside during the Pause in between classes because the cold air woke me up a little bit. But I got my school ID today, so I'm officially a student at Gymnasium Adolfinum! I was before, but now I have an ID to prove it. And so I didn't really find anything intriguing in school today. I keep forgetting to mention how majority of the teachers wear jeans everyday. In the USA, in my school, the teachers only did that on Fridays. And I was also going to mention that every student participates! Literally every student raises their hand and responds to a remark or a question at least once or twice during the class. And sometimes the students will snap their fingers to get the attention of the teacher. I found that a little rude, but maybe because I'm American, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Germans are always honest, but can usually put a positive spin on a criticism. (Like I just did there). And so after school, I dropped by the store for a gift for Opa Harald and then I could the bus and made it home around noon. My host dad showed me how to fix and turn on the light on my bike because I'm riding my bike tomorrow and it's going to be pitch black, so I need the light. And I organized my receipts so they can be send to AFS and I can get all the money I've spend on buses and other miscellaneous stuff back! So we had a bean soup with potatoes and Mettwurst. It was delicioso! And I went to the store before going to training. Training has one big positive and one big negative. Everyone was extremely friendly and included me in conversation, so that was phenomenal. However, I swam terribly at practice. I was so tired and sore I didn't have much in me to swim fast. We did a sprint set and it wasn't my proudest moment of the day. But I'm still getting through the sore stage of training, so that will get better. And so I ate dinner, bread, cheese and salami and instead of margarine, like normal, we had cream cheese! When I saw the Philadelphia brand cream cheese I had a moment of homesickness. And so that's my day in a nutshell. But I feel like there are days where I feel like my German is really good and other days my brain goes through a withdrawl and only wishes to speak English. Today was one of those days and my thoughts were predominantly in English. And my tiredness made it more difficult to keep translating everything. It was pretty tiresome. But it's a gradual process, so I'm going to have good and bad language-days, but I continue to grow from each day by learning something new! Zum Beispiel, I learned the words for crutches (die Krücken) and for pumpkin (der Kürbis), as well as the verb inspired/to be enthusiastic, (begeistern). So das ist alles!

Schöne Freitag!
Matt

P.S. Thanks for the letter Aunt Arlene!! I hope you enjoy your break! My next break isn't till Christmas.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ich habe länger geschlafen!

Well today was just pleasant. I slept till 8:45, but I was running a little close to being late to class, so I had to ride my bike a little bit faster today. It was a good work out. I had English and my class acted out a skit with the characters, including the father (Solomon Barber), son (Marco Fogg), girlfriend (Kitty Wu), and a psychologist. It was pretty humorous. They did a really good job, but it was fun to participate in. And after English, I had music. It's amazing how I was born without rhythm. I'm trying to make sense of everything and the teacher asked me to play a measure (4 beats) and I couldn't play it in rhythm. But I hope that I get better, I'm pretty sure I can't get worse. But I rode my bike home, not as fast as the morning, and I had raviolis for dinner. I'm sorry if my spelling is getting worse, sometimes I can't keep it straight. But after lunch, I went to Lucka's house and I helped her with her English homework. It was a short story, and when I asked her what she didn't understand, she said she actually didn't read it. So I read it aloud in English, but there were only like 5 or 6 instances where she asked me what something meant. But the questions that she had to answer where harder, so most of my translation was about the questions to clarify what they were asking. And Lucka's host mom offered me lunch, and who was I do say "Nein, danke!" She had made a vegetable soup with Mettwurst and another Wurst that was similar to a hotdog. There were all different types of vegetables, I think I even ate a Brussel sprout! And it tasted pretty good! And so after finishing that I came home and did my Spanish homework, it wasn't too tough. And then I went to swim practice. Again, it's been a week since I had swimming, so It was a challenge. I tired easily. I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow. And tomorrow's practice is long course, so that's always a tough practice. For dinner after practice, I had spaghetti with meat sauce. Like usual, Lecker! And so I'm going to have to get up normal time for school tomorrow, and that was basically my day! I picked my subject for the Facharbeit. It's a thesis I have to write and I had to pick three subjects I would want to write about. I picked Englisch (1.), Chemie (2.), and Sowi (Politik) (3.). And that was basically it. I'm working on a gift for Opa Harald because tomorrow is his birthday, but we are celebrating it on Saturday.

Bis später,
Matt

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Road Trip!! (Reise!! Ausflug!!)

Well since I last blogged, I have travelled the length of Germany to Bavaria (Bayern in german) and even walked across the border into Austria. But let me start from the beginning. I was all packed (minus my toothbrush) the night before, and I woke up around 5:45. My host mom drove Lucka, another exchange student in my neighborhood, and myself to the Duisburg train station. We arrived there moments before the volunteers who chaperoned the trip. My host mom said she's always punctual, and that's exactly right! And around 7:15ish we left on our way to southern Germany. The bus had stopped at a few other rest stops to pick up some other AFSers that lived the area of Bonn and Wesel. And I was excited to find out that there were a few other Americans on the trip as well. I didn't realize that I hadn't heard an American accent in a long time. We had to make a few rest stops on the ride down, to get some fresh air (frische Luft) and stretch out our legs. Around 2pm we arrived in a town called Rotherburg o.d.T. (ob der Tauber, which translates to over the Tauber River). We got to explore Rothenburg for a few hours, and it had a unique history because all the buildings were very old, and they had not been destroyed by the World Wars. Rothenburg also has a wall that still stands from when it was built centuries ago, which makes it's story particularly unique. They gave us a scavenger hunt to do during the weekend, so we searched for a few answers there and others pertained to the Neuschwanstein that was later in the weekend. It was really damp during the day with light rain and a lot of fog. Es war sehr wölkig!! The only disappointing thing was that you couldn't see very far from the overlook of the wall beyond the city because of the lack of visability. Rotherburg is also known for the Schneeball (snowball)pastry. It was basically a flaky pastry in the shape of a ball. One of the Americans insisted that we had to try a Schneeball in a bakery not on the main street because he insisted they would be better. Well we did that, and they had theirs with powdered sugar, and I splurged for the chocolate Schneeball. It was definitely worth it. And so after taking a multitude of pictures, we got back on the bus and made our way to the youth hostel in Crelingen. (I'm pretty sure that I spelled that right). The sunset was an incredible redish pink, so that was a nice view as the charter bus climbed the skinnest street up a mountain to get to this hostel. I swear if we were an inch over to the right or left, we would have been someone's dinner guest or doing somersaults down a mountain. Although the bus driver was really good at manuevering. He made something in between a K and U turn to turn around and park at the hostel. We had dinner at the hostel and it was really interesting to converse with someone from Australia, Germany, the US, Brazil, and Russia. I feel like you gain more of a global perspective when you discuss stuff with different people. There were certainly a lot of laughs, and some German words came to mind before the English equivalent. And so, I clocked out pretty early, around 10:30, especially considering that I don't think the Latin American group fell asleep till the wee hours of the morning. And so the next morning, we had to be packed at 8am and then we had breakfast. We left the hostel a little after 9. It wasn't as rainy on Friday, but the fog was definitely still present. It was pretty neat to see the fog floating over the mountains so I took quite a few pictures of that. And we drove to another famous town in Bavaria, called Oberammergau. They have a worldwide known reputation for being an extremely religious town. In the middle ages, they prayered to God that if their town was spared from the plague, they would reenact the crucifixion of Jesus. They were spared from the plague, so every ten years the entire town participates in this Passionspiel. The play starts in May 2010 till October, so the town has already started to make preparations. And furthermore, we spent an hour in the town, and one American promised his host mom that we'd visit the church in the town. The church looked rather modest from the outside with a small cemetery, but as soon as I stepped inside, my mouth dropped in amazement and I couldn't help but be in awe everywhere I looked!! I'm pretty positive that it was one of the gems of the town. And so furthermore, we walked through the main parts of town, which wasn't too tough to walk in an hour. All of the homes and restaurants had immaculate religious paintings on them. And so by that point, I was starving!! I hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was like 3:30. After Oberammergau, we went to a cheese factory. The cheese factory wasn't so far from Oberammergau. We were still in the fog and rain of Bavaria. We watched a video (in English) that described the process of making cheese and then we got to sample each different type of cheese. There was a "hot" cheese, a "beer" cheese, etc. They all really tasted good to me! They probably tasted even better to me because I was starving for a few hours before. And so we then had a cheese platter that I shared with a few people at my table along with a pretzel (soft), Brezel auf Deutsch. I tried a Weizer Bier which I was a little cautious to drink from not having eaten too much before, but it was really good. And the Weizer Bier was not made with Pils but with another method, and I was told that it could technically be a meal with all the calories and ingredients put into it. I walked over to the monastery next to the cheese factory, which I believe was called the Kloster, or something similar to that. Anyway, the church there was even more amazing than the church I had visited in Oberammergau a few hours prior!! The Bavarians in that area really take their churches seriously, and the craftmanship is incredible!! I would really recommend going to seem them! Or you can look at my pictures. And after a quick stop at the monestary, we hopped back on the bus and headed to the second youth hostel in Füssen. We ate dinner right away and had the same thing two nights in a row, only a coincidence they said. And then we situated ourselves in our rooms, I was with 2 other Americans. I went back down to the eating room and chatted till midnight about various subject but basically it was just really funny again! I love laughing and I have been laughing a lot in Germany. I was up, once again, around 7:30. We ate breakfast and then we headed to the main attraction: SCHLOSS NEUSCHWANSTEIN!! Schloss is the german word for castle (and lock as well). There was quite a trek up the side of a mountain to get to the castle, but the views were absolutely amazing!!! It was specatcular, similar to seeing the Grand Canyon (but not the same scenery). We took a bunch (I took probably 100) of pictures before going on the tour of the castle. I lucked out being a native English speaker, because my tour guide spoke English! And a German stumped me asking what a conservatory was. I had a brainfart. The castle was immaculately built. The artisans’ craftmanship for this masterpiece to be build in the mid-1800s on the side of a mountain is astonishing. There was running hot and cold water and electricity in it too! It was really a technologically advanced work of art. The construction of the castle was never finished as planned because King Ludwig II died before the castle was finished. His death is a mystery because he was found dead with his psychiatrist. I'd believe that he was murdered, but it has never been proved. So the castle was an incredible attraction, and I couldn't take pictures inside, but I found a loophole and took pictures of the views from the castle through the windows. :-D. The sun had finally come out, so the fog was gone and it was a gorgeous day for Schloss Neuschwanstein. After a tour of the castle, we walked to a bridge where you could see the complete castle and all the scenery. I didn't feel too safe on the bridge because it was shaky, and I didn't like the fact that it had like 100 tourists on it. My friends, like the good friends they are, jumped on the bridge and made me more anxious as I felt it shake more. The pictures were pretty cool too. It was worth it! And so after a little bit of lunch, a group of us hiked for Schloss Neuschwanstein to Austria. The hike was about an hour. But we had to walk down the mountain to the bus, and then walk up another mountain (smaller than the mountain to the castle). But we made it to the border and I took the traditional picture of being half in Germany and half in Austria (Österrich in German). I complained, jokingly that I was tired of walking and had too much frische Luft (fresh air). We hiked further in Austria and came across a Gasthof (restaurant) and I had a dark beer (dunkel bier). It was, to me, better than the weizer beer I had the day before. It was funny because all the Europeans and Americans walked faster than the Latin Americans. They hiked slower so we had to wait up for them a few times. And after the beer we took a bus back to Füssen. We had dinner at the youth hostel. And there was a surprise after dinner. That surprise ended up being a walking tour of Füssen with torches. I think the fire intrigued everyone. I felt like some people were a little too dangerous with the fire, but fortunately no one got burnt. We saw the end of Romantische Straße, which is a renowned road in Bavaria that runs from Würzburg to Füssen (that was question on the scavenger hunt). We explored the rest of the town and a tour guide gave us an explanation for symbols and the significance of the statues in Füssen. They had a very good violin making industry. And so furthermore, it was very interesting to see a city at night by the light of fire. I tell you, AFS can be very creative. And afterwards we went to a restaurant in Füssen where everyone had a beer. I stayed consistent and had another dunkel bier. I also tried a Radler, which ish half sprite, half beer. I actually liked the Radler the best. It was more of a sweeter taste than just regular beer. Some people had a little too much beer, but I was too cheap to pay for more than one beer since I was paying for myself. And I’m glad that I didn’t embarrass myself. It was a lot of fun, and an awesome way to end such a great trip. We got to the youth hostel around midnight, but we were fortunate to have an extra hour with daylight savings. However, my cell phone didn’t fix the time by itself, so I woke up an hour early. I fixed it then and slept for another hour. I think that my feet where still a little worn out from all the stuff I did on Saturday at the castle and hiking! There was breakfast at 8am, and we all had to be packed and out of the rooms before breakfast. We packed the bus and some people hadn’t properly sorted their room but bringing their sheets down to the laundry. They kept calling out Room #26, but no one from our group was in that room. That was kind of funny. And so we took the bus from Füssen all the way to Duisburg, along with making the other stops. We took a few rest stops and we watched a movie, in English, so it was easy for me to remember. And there was a Garden State Parkway sign. It was green and the signs in Europe are blue! And so there was one rest stop that had a really nice picture but the rest was basically looking at the Autobahn all day. The volunteers had announced the top 5 places for the scavenger hunt, and I got 5th place, so I got an AFS flag and German flag pin! I was proud of 5th because I didn't take the scavenger hunt too seriously. And it was just the cherry on top! I scored 27 points out of 34. And then I lost my pin, but found it squeezed between my seat and the wall. There was quite a bit of traffic at parts, so I didn’t arrive home-home till 9ish. That was one long bus ride for sure!! But the trip was definitely worth it! I met new people from all different parts of the world. I took 864 pictures during the weekend, so I think that’s a record for me! I know that sounds hard to believe, and I only brought my little camera! I got home and had a beer with my host parents and neighbor. And I was basically kaputt, so I unpacked everything and went to bed. I slept like a rock till my alarm pleasantly woke me up at 6:40.

The Herbstferien was over, and I had to go back to school. I would definitely say that the toughest thing about vacation is having to go back to school and/or work. But it was nice to see everyone at school again. It was a long day with 8 hours of classes, but that’s Monday for you when you have my schedule, but after that, every other day of the week goes by much faster. I don’t really remember anything significant during the day, so after school I had a meeting with AFS. We had did the normal chatting at an AFS meeting. The meeting was in Duisburg and it’s nice to see the same faces. And so today (finally), Tuesday, I slept till 7:30 and I had Chemie, Mathe, and Spanisch. I got my Mathe Klausur (test) back and my teacher didn’t give me a grade because even though I tried, he understood that I had no idea what I was supposed to do. And Germans certainly take their grades much more seriously than Americans. Some people visibly cried because of joy or disappointment. One girl was ecstatic to get a 5, which is like a D. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a celebration for their good grades. But after school, I changed the title of my blog because my host dad said it should be in German! And that a year is technically 10 months. I went to my german class, so that was pretty normal. Because of daylight savings, the sun goes down around 5. So it’s getting dark pretty early! I get to sleep later tomorrow because I’m not participating in my Chemie Klausur. I hope you enjoyed reading about a pretty exciting 5 days. It’s amazing how much can happen.

Bis dann,
Matt

P.S. There was an on-going joke because in Rothenburg, there was a tour bus of Japanese tourists and you could always see a bunch of them snapping away taking a photo. So everyone told me that I was winning in the race of Matt vs. The Group of Japanese tourists. But they were friendlier than me because they said “Hallo” to every person they passed. I didn’t do that. But I’m pretty sure I won in the photo quantity and quality competitions.

And I know that I saw a bumble bee, I just can’t remember the day or when it happened. I only clearly now that a bee stopped by in the first or second day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bereit für Bayern!

Well today was overall good. Last night, my friend Emily, another CBYXer, redesigned my blog and I think that it looks much cooler now! And I made sure that it was still legible! And so I slept in till ten today. I cleaned my room, like hardcore dusting, vacuuming and I packed for my trip to Schloss Neuschwanstein. I have to get up pretty early tomorrow, 5:45am. But I'm excited about the trip tomorrow and I'll be away till Sunday. I was told that Bavaria looks a lot different from where I live, so it should be an exciting change of scenery. Both my host brother and sister had a friend over. And from 2 - 4pm, I went to swim practice. I trained with the 2nd team instead of the 1st team I usually did just because the 2nd team had pool time then. It was a really good practice, but I was pretty tired afterwards. My host dad joked with me the entire way to swim practice asking me if I remembered where to find the pool and the locker room, or if I remembered the roads we take to get to the swim club. And then in the water, because he trained as well, he asked me if I remembered which way I had to swim. He's quite the jokester! Always!! For dinner, we had pasta with a sauce similar to alfredo sauce with ham pieces. We've had that before and it was very Lecker! (delicious). And so I'm going to visit my neighbor and walk with the dog with my host parents. I'll probably go to bed earlier today since I have to get up earlier.

But on another note, I'd like to say that when I'm introduced as an American, everyone tries to say something to me in English, and then when I reply in German, they are all very surprised. I guess that's a compliment. Or maybe they are surprised that an American would want to learn German? And I changed my e-mail account, and entire MacBook into German today. (So now the spellcheck is for German, so I've spelled everything wrong in this blog entry). I figure if I'm going to completely immerse myself, I should really have everything in German. My camera and iTouch are also in German. But my dictionary is half english, half German. Just a corny joke to end. Hope the weekend goes well! (knock on wood)

And just a quick bee story, because I was nicely greeted by one. I was walking into the swim club and a bee flew out of the bush I was passing and flew in front and around me. And then after practice, a bee flew inside the club (the doors were closed, so this bee was smart) and it flew really close to my ear, I could hear the buzz and then it flew around my hand and my backpack that I used to hold my swimming stuff. It circled my head and then returned to my left ear where it caught my attention. It flew away, but I didn't watch it because I'd like to remember the presence of it coming. I know there seem to be a lot of bee stories, but it's something very, particularly special to me and it's just been frequently happening. They really lift up my mood everytime...or they give me that warm-feeling inside.

Okay, schönes Wochenende!
Maybe I'll pick up a little bit of the Bavarians dialect?
Matt

And just another

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wohin gehen wir?

So today was full of Spaß! I took the bus - missed it by 3 minutes this time but still ended up being on time. I met up with my two friends from school. The original plan was to go to Düsseldorf, but it was too cold. So we decided to go to Essen, but it was too cold for that and parking was a pain. So I only got two pictures of Essen, but we then went to the RheinRuhrZentrum (a shopping mall in Mulheim). It was a lot of fun! We walked through a bunch of stores, most of them girl stores - sadly that's what happens when you go with 2 girls (plus one sister) to a mall. I had fun taking goofy pictures, but I'm debating whether to put them on Facebook. And you're not missing anything if I don't. The malls in Germany are very similar to the ones in the USA. The differences: everyone speaks German instead of English and Forever21 is Forever18 in Germany (that's a clothing store). We managed to go bowling today and I won bowling a 93...not my best score, but it was fun! I think in the fifth frame my score was still below 30ish. And I bought a scarf today that has a different design on both sides. Scarfs are a very popular trend for both men and women in Germany, I know that's a difference from the USA. And so after the get-together with my school friends, I went to the Moers Innenstadt and met up with an exchange student that was visiting Moers with some friends. They were friendly but the get-together was in the McDonald's but we were too cold to do anything else, so we all went home. The warmth of the house was pleasant! It took me like a solid 5 minutes to take off my layers (shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, scarf, hat, gloves - don't forget it's only October!) and the Last thing I noticed today was that Germans like to tell you what to do. But they put it in a nice way. I'm still searching for an example, so I'll get back to that...

Tomorrow I have to pack my suitcase for Bavaria, clean my room, and go to swim practice (haven't been there in a week :-\).
Guten Abend,
Matt

Monday, October 19, 2009

Münster am Montag

So I think this has been the best Monday (that I can remember as of now) since I arrived in Germany!! I got up around 7 and showered and ate breakfast pretty quickly. I missed the bus by 4 minutes but I had enough time that I didn't have to sweat catching the next bus. I actually talked with a classmate of mine that was walking by till the bus came, so it passed quickly. I was on the train to Duisburg from Moers at 8:30 and I arrived twenty minutes later. Around 9:10, I started my train ride up to Münster. i got there at 10:30, and I had a half hour till my meeting time. So I had to pay 50 cents to use the bathrooms, but i've forgotten to mention that is pretty normal for train stations because there is always personnel cleaning the bathrooms. And I ate a small (hand-sized) plain pizza while I waited. (I needed the change for the bathroom). But while I ate the pizza, a bee landed on it and then the bee flew to my nose and walked up my nose and between my eyes. I flicked it away because I couldn't believe it was a bee on my face! And so I took at walk up the street and when I came back, I met with my friend from Italy and her host sister. We walked and toured the Innenstadt/Altstadt and the architecture is really something to see. Münster is known for their churches and they are all really nice. I had Apfelkuchen (apple pie) at the café, but the whipped cream wasn't as sweet as I'm used to. I saw an old theatre that had been transformed into a skateboard shop! That was pretty interesting. And after that, the AFS group of exchange students arrived, and there were more than any other of the day trips. We really made a presents since the group of 3 became a group of 10 or 11. And all of us spoke different languages, and German is a minority. And so there was a American Hot Dog stand I had and the traditional hot dog was nothing like an American hot dog, but it tasted really good! You can see the picture on facebook. But shortly after the entire group had united, a bee flew in front of my face and then it landed on my hand and walked over to the camera in my hand. It was the camera Pop Joe had bought for me. :-D. But as we continued to tour Münster, we saw a castle that was transformed into a University building. That was really a site to see. And our group was the only group walking all over the grass like true tourists. Maybe when we all learn German we'll learn to act more like the Germans. haha! The day was a lot of chatting in English and German for me and it's always exciting for me to learn more about different people and today, the city of Münster. I was told that I have to visit again around Christmas time to see the decorations that get put up, so I hope to make it back (knock on wood). And I headed back on the train. I timed it well with the trains, but I had to wait a half hour for the bus. And Germany is COLD! I'm glad that I have a winter jacket and a hat and gloves and a scarf! A lot of Germans wear scarfs. i think there are as many hatchbacks in Germany as there are scarfs!! meaning that there are many!!!! And when I got home around 8:40pm I was in a really good mood. I skyped with my family back at home for over an hour and that was nice to hear their voices and see their faces. I had a reality check when I walked outside my bedroom and remembered that I was in Germany. And I uploaded the pictures from today on Facebook, thank you MacBook for making it easy! And I'm ready to sleep! Düsseldorf tomorrow!

Nacht!
Matt

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sonnig Sonntag (wieder)!

So today was just like I had planned. It was going to be a lazy Sunday. It was kind of cold in the house today, but for some reason...I'm not quite sure why I was so stubborn to not put on socks today. Just a tidbit but for some it will be t.m.i. (too much information). I got to sleep in till 10:30, and I couldn't fall back asleep, so I figured it was time to get up. I was warmly greeted by Beppo. I had breakfast and then I began working on the "special task" for English. So I had to re-read the entire book to find quotes for the essay. And I was easily distracted today with the computer and facebook. But after 6 hours, I managed to finish the special task. And I think I answered the question correctly. The german way of asking questions is different than America and I feel like I have to do more thinking and analysis when I'm asked a german question. But I'm glad that I didn't procrastinate on the paper, so I can have fun this week and enjoy my Herbstferien!! (knock on wood). And so we had a really good lunch/dinner. It was like 4pm, and it was spaghetti with meat sauce and a salad with a lot of vegetables I wouldn't have normally eaten before. And so after dinner, I actually finished the essay. I used my flashdrive that my host family gave me for my birthday! And that was basically all I accomplished today. I skyped with my friend Rachel and Jasmine (I'm still skyping with Jazzy! Hi JAZZY!!) today so it was fun to hear about the different parts of Germany! I pulled out my suitcase (the smaller, carry-on one) to start packing for Neuschwanstein. And yeah....I think I've covered everything! I have to get up early for Münster tomorrow!

Hope the week goes well for everyone!! (knock on wood)

Bis später!
Matt

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shoppen...Laufen,...und mehr Laufen

Well today, I was woken up a little earlier than I expected. I was promptly woken up via the "Morgen" with a light switch at 9:15. In normal hours, that's okay, but when you go to bed a 1am, it's not. I had hoped to sleep till maybe 10 or 11, but I'm going to make sure that happens tomorrow. And so I went to Centro-the second largest mall in Europe-in Oberhausen, where my Oma Karin and Opa Heinz live. The mall was very similar to any mall in the states: lots of stores, kiosks, a food court, and in fact, this mall was so big it had two Starbucks - one at each end. I went to the Centro with my host brother and host sister. My host mom told me to keep an eye on my 10 yr. old host brother, but thinking about it, he'd have no trouble getting around, I'm the one trying to learn German in a strange mall in Oberhausen, where I've never been before! But I think we walked around for about an hour and a half, circling the mall twice. I feel like it was between the sizes of the Freehold Raceway Mall and the Woodbridge Center Mall. And so we all walked to Oma and Opa's house. My host sister told me it was 15 minute walk, and it was actually about 40 minutes. And then she told my host mom that I got tired of walking. I tried to explain that I was only expecting to walk a fraction of what we actually did, so it was the anticipation of arriving made it feel like I was walking forever. Unfortunately I couldn't explain that so wonderfully in German. Mein Wortschatz ist nicht sehr, sehr gross. (My vocabulary isn't that large). But it's getting there. I feel like i'm starting to get a really good idea of what's going on around me, but the responses I give take more thought. So once we finally arrived to Oma and Opa's house, where the pick-up location was, Oma offered me a yogurt (I spelled it like the German way first, Joghurt, and I didn't realize it till SpellCheck gave me the red underline) and a bunch of crackers. And Opa lent me a DVD of The History of Rome to watch on a rainy day. He picked it up during his vacation in Rome last week. And Oma gave me €5 before I left. I feel like they adopted me like their own (host) grandchild. So that made me happy. And the rest of the day, I was lazy, watched some TV in German, went on Facebook (in German) and tagged (tagging is when you put a name to a face in a picture placed on Facebook) the photos I took this week. I have an Englisch essay I'm supposed to do, but I guess I have tomorrow to attempt to do that. And around 6pm, friends from the swim club came by and stayed till midnight. There was bier from Poland, it didn't taste as strong as German bier. My host mom cooked all day and some good dishes. She called it "Schwein", so I assumed it was pork with mushrooms, there was a fish dish that looked like lasagna, and a "italian" salad (I couldn't tell you what was in it, but it was tasty). So today, I ate mushrooms and tomatos...not in my normal diet. And there was also pizza, but I didn't eat that. And my host mom also baked Muffins (like cupcakes), vanilla with berries, and chocolate. After dinner, I watched the same show I did last night, Das Super Talent 2009. There were really good contestants and really goofy ones. There was a man that farted a song and also managed to blow out 6 or 8 candles via farting. Kind of humorous, if you find that funny. I did! And there was a fat man (chunky, pleasantly plump, you get the idea) that was wearing a thong and shook his belly. Germans certainly love skin more than Americans. But the farting man made it to the next round. But I should mention that there where also really talented (I thought) contestants. And after the show, we played SingStar and I lost everytime. And we also played darts. I lost by 1 point to my host dad. I had 300, and you had to get exactly 301. Ah...maybe next time. it's Sonntag now. Hope it's a sunny one. (knock on wood)

Schlaf gut!
Matt

Friday, October 16, 2009

Düsseldorf. Dortmund. Duisburg.

Well two days have gone by, and let me say...I don't think I've ever walked so much in two days or configured my own traveling itinerary with trains and buses. Thursday, I woke up around 8:30ish (if I remember correctly). My host dad drove me to the train stations (Moers Hauptbahnhof) and I was there 25 minutes early! I guess that's why Germans are always punctual...they leave for everything like an hour earlier than they should. I saw a bumble bee flying around me at the ticket machine. In fact, the bee landed on my hand. Instead of fear, I took a sense of comfort in that. And after going from Moers to Duisburg, I met up with the other AFS exchange students that were going to venture around Düsseldorf with me. I bought a SchöneFerienTicket which allows me to travel anywhere in Nordrhein-Westfalen (the state I'm in) with mass transit during the 2 week break from School. And in the past two days, I've certainly gotten my moneys worth! I think we got to Düsseldorf a little bit before noon. We had a map and no idea where to go. We found a post office, and someone needed stamps, and I felt honored that I got to be the interpreter from Englisch to Deutsch and vice versa for one of the students! I wasn't perfect, but it was start. And so the post dude was nice enough to direct us to Königsalle, which is similar to Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills. It's the most expensive street in Germany I believe? It's the most expensive street on some scale. And they aren't kidding!! There was a watch being sold for €149,000! (That's $222,080.03). And to think that someone in the world has enough money to buy that watch without even batting an eye. And so after Königsalle (a.k.a. Königstraße), we went to the Altstadt (or the older part of the city). It was really neat, we got to walk along the Rhein River. The sky was bright blue and only a small few clouds. Thank god it didn't rain and it was a beautiful day. As for the warmth, the sun could have turned the heat up a notch. It was really windy, but the photos I took didn't suffer for that. So in the Altstadt, we found Bolkerstraße. We had a typisch Deutsch (typical German) meal, and it was worth every bit of the €11!! And a funny, yet embarrassing story once again, is that I needed to use the restroom after the meal. And so I asked the person next to me where they were and I got the directions where to find them. And so I walked into the first stall (the door was open) and after I was finished, I walked out and saw "Damen" written on the door that had been open. Apparently, "DAMEN" isn't sure for "DA MEN'S ROOM". So I accidentally used the Women's room, but thank heavens no one else was in there, or made a commotion about it. But laughter was my remedy when I told the other exchange students of my oops. And then I saw the men's room door twenty feet behind where I was sitting. On another note, furthermore, the restaurant had a darker beer which tasted really good! Although I'm not sure what makes the beer darker? I had two beers yesterday and as a souvenir, I took the two coasters. (All yesterday, the german word, Bierdecke, came to my mind before "coaster"). So I must be learning German if I had a brain-fart in my native language. Anyway, if you ever go to Düsseldorf, find Bolkerstraße, and you can have a beer at one of the 100 bars on the street. And the street is only about a long as 2 football fields. (I hope my analogy is accurate). And afterwards, we found a tower that showed all the sights of Düsseldorf, called the Rhein Turm (tower). We went to the top (via Aufzug/elevator) and the 360º view was quite spectacular! The visibility was phenomenal, and you could see everything in sight! Each of us (the exchange students) leaned on the glass, which was at a 45º angle from/to (?) the floor, so it took me quite a few tries to be willing to lean on the glass. But I got the picture to prove that I did it! After the Turm, we saw some interesting architectural buildings (the red, white, and mirror buidlings). And the buildings in the harbor area were all uniquely designed and it was a really awesome sight. I've never seen anything like them in the USA. So after about 7 hours in Düsseldorf, I was kaputt. My impressions of Düsseldorf were that it was a really clean city; very high class with the cars and shopping; very interesting with each building more different than the other, and it still had the "typisch Deutsch" feel-you didn't have a sense that you weren't in Germany. But before I forget to mention, in the Düsseldorf train station, there was a DUNKIN' DONUTS!! I've seen several Starbucks, but no Dunkin' Donuts and I looked at the donut flavors, and none of them were the same as the USA. Instead of a jelly donut, it was filled with Nutella. Perhaps Germany decided to put their own flair. And so when we took the train from Düsseldorf back to Duisburg, we hopped on the ICE (Intercontinental Express), which was a high class train that we weren't supposed to be on. Luckily no one checked our tickets. Moreover, after being out for 12.5 hours, since the time I left home to the time I got back (I had to do a lot of waiting for the trains and buses), my feet were sore, I had a headache, probably from the cold, and I think I lost ten pounds from all the walking I did. I slept really well last night!!

And no need to worry, Friday was a shorter day in the city. So I don't think that I'll be writing as much. But I can't promise that. I slept in a little later till 9:15, and this time we met in Duisburg around 11am. We got to Dortmund (it's a longer train ride than to Düsseldorf) around 12:30. And I was really hungry, so we went to a joint that made Döners! I was told that Germany was renowned for the Döner and it's really not like anything in the USA. It was a mix of chicken and sauces with veggies and other stuff I can't recall right now, but it was really good! If you go to Germany, you have to try a Döner, although I think technically it's a Turkish food. Anyway, it was certainly unique. And after lunch (Mittagessen), we explored the walking area of Dortmund, it was much smaller than Düsseldorf, yet still quite larger than Moers. The weather was quite hormonal today, it was sunny for 15 minutes, drizzle for 2 minutes, rain for 20 minutes, etc. And so the points of interests we chose depended on the weather for the moment. But it was a very nice city, but I liked Düsseldorf better. The Stadtgarten (city garden) in Dortmund was quite beautiful, and the neat thing about Dortmund was that it had randomly painted (I didn't understand their meanings) rhinoceroses with wings and unique children-"playground" equipment in parts of the walking center. I also had fun taking part of the toys, so I can't say that only children would find them amusing. You can see what I mean, from the pictures I put on facebook. And so after feeling like we'd had enough of Dortmund, we went back to Duisburg early and it was pretty cool to see Duisburg. There was a huge mall as well as a huge courthouse and Opera and Theater. Duisburg is the city next to Moers, but I haven't had a chance to visit and see it. It was night time when I went for the AFS Monthly meeting (Stammtisch). And I had "Cookies" ice cream which was a nice treat. And I got home around 7pm, and I arrived home and about thirty seconds later, my host family came in from a shopping spree. I boasted that I only spent €5 and they spend a lot more than that. We walked Beppo, and after that we watched Das Super Talentshow 2009 (America's Got Talent is the same format, the candidate and three judges say "yes" or "no"). And so there weren't many commercials during the program, but it lasted for two hours. And so the Germans are certainly more liberal than Americans when it comes to television viewing. For example, there was a group of four guys that did a dance, where they stripped to nothing but "chicklets" covering their you-know-what. And the butts were not censored, in fact, they were zoomed in on a times. So that was a bit of culture shock, but next week there is a guy that claims he can fart a song. But I'm sure I've covered my past two days. I look for the weekend to be a little less busy. But tomorrow I'm going with my host Oma to the 2nd largest shopping mall in Europe in Oberhausen. I have no idea what to expect, but I think it'll be fun. (knock on wood).

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Viel zu Machen...

Hallo! I'd like to start off by saying that my Host dog, Beppo is really smart. On Monday night he decided to sleep in my bed, but he was very courteous. I said to Beppo that I needed more space (ich brauche mehr Platz), and Beppo moved over!! I'm not sure if he understand Denglisch, but I'm sure that he will by the time I've spend my year in Germany. And so I got up on Tuesday and walked with Beppo. I explored yet another field that surround Kapellen, and I'm not quite sure if Beppo had taken that trail before but he seemed pretty content with the walk. I met up with Marie and Lucka, the other exchange students at my Gymnasium, and we walked around the city, chatted, ate at a Bakery. And I ate an "Amerikaner". You can see the photos I took on facebook. It was a lot of fun, and we had some on-going jokes during the afternoon. And so after spending 4 or 5 hours with them in the city, it was getting kind of cold, I had to find my friend's house where I was sleeping over. Well luckily I was able to catch a ride, and the get together was nice. I learned that my friends take even more photographs than I do, and I didn't think that was possible. He took 200 photos in 2 hours and another recorded the party for a half hour on Video. I guess if I ever get in trouble with the Police, I can use them as alibis. And so we sang, and I was hungry after a such a long day in the Innenstadt, that I ate a whole pizza (probably a medium pie in USA sizes). And I didn't realize that I was paying for the pizza myself. I have to get used to the fact that I have to pay for everything myself!! But hopefully third time will be a charm. (knock on wood). And we ended up going to bed at 3am and I woke up around 9:30am, so I was pretty exhausted after that night of singing, speaking German and such. But I learned the word, "ungefährlich" which means dangerous!. And so I basically chilled the rest of the day. I took Beppo on a walk and took a different path. I found it funny when Beppo looked both ways before crossing the street. Shows you how intelligent this dog is. And I made plans to go to Düsseldorf tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to the new sights. So I'm pretty tired after these two days, and I'm going to check in early for bed because tomorrow is busy.

Matt

Monday, October 12, 2009

Müde Montag...wieder!

So I wasn't originally going to write this entry because nothing really happened, and I was kind of in a dull mood. But thanks to Kelly, my ooVoo buddy, my mood turned around really quickly! But let me describe my day in a few sentences:

I woke up and said good-bye to my host mom and brother. They are on a training trip till Friday, so it's my host sister, dad, me and Beppo. But today, my host dad and sister drove the group to the training trip destination. So it was just me and Beppo. I took Beppo for a walk that last over an hour. I think I tired him out that I had to drag him across the driveway because he gave up. But I explored a new path with Beppo, so it was enjoyable. And it's nice not to have a dog that can dislocate your shoulder when you walk with him. After walking with Beppo, I really didn't do anything. I ate a lot of candies from my birthday, and I watch TV in German. MTV was kind of dumb, but I watched Married with Children, 2 and a Half Men, and the King of Queens, all dubbed in German. It was amazing how much I understood from the body language and expressions and I picked up a word I recognized here and there. My host dad and sister came home, and I ate lunch. I went back to the computer and then I went to swim practice. I felt like my body wanted to stop working. I probably didn't look too much better in the water. The endorphin rush was good, but I was pretty sore. The swimming wasn't the hard part, it was the dryland. So that was my day in a nutshell.

And to get back to why my mood was better! I was kind of bummed that I didn't have anything to do this week. Tomorrow I'm going into the Innenstadt with Marie and Lucka, the two exchange students with AFS from my school, so that should be fun! And they only speak German with me, so we have fun making mistakes and not understanding anyone else when they speak German. But my school friend invited me over their house for a karaoke party, and I accepted the invitation, and I get to sleep over. So it was a nice change of events and my host dad didn't have any problem with it as long as I got the information, so everything is good! (Alles klar!) So then, I won't be able to write tomorrow, so I'm going to wish Gigi and Pop Bob and HAPPY 58TH ANNIVERSARY!! Love you guys! And I hope that you really enjoyed your dinner last night!!

Okay! Gute nacht readers!
Matt

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rainy, Regnetsvoll Sonntag

Well it's Sunday, but where did the sun do? (Wo ist die Sonne gegangen?) I managed to sleep in till 10:30 today! And it felt pretty good to sleep that late. But my host family was all in full swing with their activities of the day. I organized my receipts to see how I was doing with the money I was spending, and to my luck, I'm doing better than I thought. I should be getting a third of the money back because they are things the scholarship reimburses. So a funny thing happened last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I woke myself by saying a sentence in German. It kind of made me confused for a moment or two because I don't have a recall of it being a dream, but exciting as well to say that I was able to speak German in my sleep - as the phrase goes! But I wouldn't say I'm dreaming in German yet...it's still too soon I'd say. But you never know! And so at noon, I went to the movies with my host sister and brother. We went to see "Oben" which in the states is titled, "Up!". It's a 3-D movie that I had seen back in June in English. It was pretty interesting to see the movie in German because I understood everything that was going on, but I didn't have to exhaust myself by translating every little word into German. And I knew majority of the words spoken in the movie, and they were speaking normal speed - usually people speak a little bit slower to me, so I have more time to comprehend what they're saying. It felt like the movie was faster when I watched it in German, but I'm pretty sure it was the same length of time. (I tried writing timelength, but SpellCheck wouldn't accept it, so I couldn't apply the German word logic to that). So I had noticed some difference about the movies in Germany. -The theaters are immaculately clean. -You can buy beer at the concession stands. -The concession stands are even more overpriced (as well as the tickets) than in the states. You can by a jumbo drink for $8.00 (US). (It was €5,50). -When you get a ticket, they assign you a seat, and you don't get to pick what seat you want to sit it. We got good seats, so that wasn't an issue. -You can still smuggle in candy. -And there were a half hour of annoying commercials you had to watch till the movie started. -And there wasn't a commercial saying "Silence is golden" either (oder Ruhe bitte!). And after the movies, we had lunch which was really good. We had Schnitzel, potatoes, and a vegetable I can't remember the name of. I was on the computer for about 6 or 7 hours today, since it was rainy and nothing else to do. I uploaded pictures onto Facebook with the Supermarket party and my Birthday party I had on Friday. And I fixed my e-mail - the one I use to send pictures directly from my computer. So I made a few smaller accomplishments today. And I still managed to feel exhausted. I haven't even been up 12 hours and/or done anything incredible exhausting. I guess today was basically a lazy day for me, but it was probably the rest I needed. I think the weather can also make one feel tired. But I don't think anything monumental is going to happen tonight, so I'll probably watch some TV and call it a night. I hope the Anniversary dinner with Gigi and Pop Bob was fun! Missed you guys! Good luck tomorrow, but I get to sleep in because of Herbstferien!!!

Gute nacht!
Matt

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What an eye-opener!

Well in my attempt to see in really late today, I woke up at 9am. And I couldn't fall back asleep. I guess that what happens when you get into a schedule for getting up earlier for school. But I hope I sleep a little bit later for the rest of the break (knock on wood). And furthermore, I found out after a long discussion with my host parents, the expenses they are paying for me to live with them. They told me that it costs then 50 Euros a day for food! And that's the typical cost of living in Germany! And Bavaria/Bayern is even more expensive!!!!!! I now have a new level of gratitude for my host family! And after that eye-opening discussion, I went to my host brother's soccer game. He wore his Jersey Knight's hat. And there was a bee that was really flying around me and my host parents, and Opa Harald, Oma Helga, und Opa (he's the Opa for my swimming club - everyone calls him Opa). So techincally I have three host Grandpas/Opas. My host Oma asked me if I was homesick, and thinking about it, I don't think that's hit me yet (probably a good thing - knock on wood). I know I'm a little superstitious as I write this. My host brother's team lost, so he was a little upset, but he cheered up quickly. We went to Bayer, the swim club, to swim for an hour, and my host dad slaughtered me when we swam breaststroke, and he told me after practice that he felt that he was slow today...(I must have been like molasses in his opinion. Not to mention, that my host dad is the German National record holder for Breaststroke in the 45 yr. age group).

After the swimming hour, we went back to the house and watched the German Fußballmannschaft vs. the Russians. It was the first time in the history of the German National Soccer/Fußball Team that they played on Turf grass, and it was in Moscow. I found it interesting, and enjoyed it! I felt like I was watching history for German Fußball. The Germans won 1 -0 and they qualified for the World Cup that will be held in South Africa in 2010. I feel like this was only the beginning of my experiences with German Fußball, and I can't even imagine how psychotic it's going to get. And afterwards, my host parents showed me a video game called "Buzz" and it was a trivial game, in German, so maybe I'll get better at it as my German continues to improve. And my host parents and their friends made a DVD that was a parody/spoof of the game and it was hilarious! And they showed me a Carnivale parade that takes place in town in February...and let me say that Germans certainly know how to have a fun and interesting time!!

Das ist alles!
Bis dann,
Matt

Friday, October 9, 2009

Geburtstag Fete mit Freunde

My birthday party was a lot of fun! Pretty mellow, but still enjoyable! My friends gave me tickets to the movie theater, a digital photo keychain, and a lunch at a café in town! We played a karaoke game on PlayStation called SingStar. I wasn't very good, and when the songs were in German, I butchered the pronunciations, so everyone had a good laugh at me. We drank a lot of soda, so it was good that I went to the supermarket to buy more, but we didn't eat as much as I expected. So I have enough extra food to feed a small army. But yes, tonight was great, and everyone went with the flow...I just hope I keep improving my German. I feel like I'm really more determined to pick up as much as I can, but I'm trying to tell myself to be patient as well. A bit of a paradox, but it'll all work out when it's supposed. It's a gradual process, so I'll breathe. Absolutely exhausted after this week! Schoenes Wochenende!

Bis bald,
Matt

Donnerstag und Halb Freitag...Guten Appetit!

Well, Donnerstag is literally translated to "Thunder Day" in german, but the weather was beautiful! I was kind of sleepy in school, but I was still trying to catch up on some sleep. My Mathe Klausur was like me trying to speak Russian or Chinese...failure! I really did try, but I think I just did something completely contrary to what I was supposed to do. And everyone asked me how I did for the Klausur, and I said how I had "Keine Ahnung!" (no idea). I tried, so I'm sure I'll do better on the next one in like two months when I understand a lot more. And in Sowi (Politik), my teacher really wants to include me in the class. He wants be to understand, and he wants me to participate and just not sit bored for two hours. Probably a good thing, since he's making sure that I'm placing attention of the instruction. But it was a political debate, and Germans debated more enthusiastically than Americans. I'm still trying to figure out who was debating on the side of which political party. And I left school at 11:30 and I met up with the other exchange student, coincidentally, from the Czech Republic. Her German is better than her English, so it's good that we can practice our German with other people. We walked around the Innenstadt because we had missed the bus and had to wait awhile. We stopped at a bookstore, and when the cashier spoke to us in German, we said how we didn't understand and then she offered to speak English - I tell you, everyone can speak english!!. We stopped at the bakery just before waiting at the bus stop, and I saw another bee. And the bee followed me and my exchange student friend out, all the way to the bus stop which was a solid 200 feet walk. After I got home from school, I took a nap, because I desperately needed it. I had to do some more shopping for my birthday party, but because my host parents weren't available to take me to the supermarket, I had to bike. The bike ride was 5 minutes, but I carried 8 soda bottles, chips, pretzels, pizza dough, cheese, etc. in my backpack and a plastic bag and I bike it all back home...I'll post the pictures of how I looked like a pack mule soon. That felt like a workout before swim practice. I did dry land training, and then swam for an hour. We got out early because of the supermarket party. But I shouldn't forget to mention that my family didn't eat lunch - the big meal, because of the party, so I was extremely hungry by the time the party rolled around.

Now you're probably thinking that the supermarket party sounds strange, and it is! But this is my conclusion, Germans can have a party anywhere as long as there is beer. I brought my camera along for this one because I needed proof to describe this one. It was an annual party at the local supermarket called Edeka, and it was sold out for 200 people, and you pay 15 Euros for anything you can eat, drink, and there were tables in the aisles and a dancing area with a DJ. And all of this was placed in the middle of a supermarket! I got to drink a beer in the frozen items area and in the produce department! I'll certainly give the Germans kudos for being really creative!!! And my host family had a bunch of their friends over the house for a half hour before the party, and then they came back when the party was over and continued the party for themselves till midnight. I was so exhausted, I went to bed when I got home. We got back a little after 11, but I tell you, this party was such a unique experience, I don't think anything like that would happen in the states.

And Friday morning came a little too quickly for me. I wish I had gotten more sleep, but I survived the school day without following asleep. I took up doodling today (Friday). I colored some of my German notebook, and some of my small dictionary. My class was talking about the different meanings a word can portray, so i was lost again. And I had to take a bus to spanisch, since it's in another school, and I didn't feel like riding my bike to school. It's really dark in the mornings and it doesn't really get light out till about 8am! And the light on my bike right now is kaputt. And in Spanisch, we had a vocabulary section, and the teachers handwriting was a little difficult to read, she writes "m", "n", "r", "i", and a few other letters similarly, and a lot of my teachers' handwriting is illegal. I think I need the rosetta stone for me to read my Deutsch teacher's handwriting. And so I had to translate a Spanisch passage into German, and that was a lot of thinking for being as exhausted as I was. But I like that class because I've been learning words in Spanisch, Englisch, and naturally, German! Although I feel like I get most brain cells working in that class too. And I walked back to Adolfinum, where I have Sowi. I continued to doodle in that class and I was doodling "HALLO", but my teacher told me to listen and not draw, so I only got to write "HAL". And then he asked me to read aloud from the text book. It took me a while to pronounce like 6 lines, but my class gave me the pity clap for effort. Surprisingly, the pity clap wasn't that embarrassing for me. But by that time, I focused on the remaining half hour I had in school before my October vacation. So I was really excited for HERBSTFERIEN!! (Fall/Autumn Holiday). I took the bus home, and after a bowl of cereal for lunch, I took a three hour nap! It was really refreshing!! So that brings me to now, I've having a few school friends over to celebrate my birthday, so I'll write about that in my next entry.

But I got a request to write a little something about the food I've been have in Germany. The food is really good here, it's just you have to be open to trying it. There is a lot of meats, like pork, chicken, salami, and a lot of "Wursts" are similar to hot dogs, the meat just varies. And I think they have over a thousand varieties of "Würste" in Germany. I've really enjoyed schnitzel too, but I think it has a lot of oil in it. But I'll say that my host mom is a really good cook. The pizza has been awesome, but I was told that Germans don't fold their pizza like Americans do. But my favorite thing about German food has to be the bakeries! They are literally everywhere and you can walk in a get a quick roll or pastry to go...And they taste really good. I had an amazing apricot pastry (it looked like a mini pie), and the fruit was an actual apricot. But I would definitely say that Germany has a lot of good eats. They have McDonalds and Burger King. I've eaten at McDonalds, and it wasn't too shabby, but the McDonald restaurant is much cleaner than the ones in the states. But that's because working at McDonalds is people's full time jobs, and they have to go through years of training. Germany is strict with their workers and their skills. A waiter at a restaurant has to have at least 3 years of training!!!! But I'm not exactly sure what else to say because I feel like I'm being a bit random. I can photograph some food and clarify then. But for my average meal times, breakfast is usually some bread with jam or butter/marmelade. At school I have a sandwich with usually a slice of meat and/or cheese and the bread is buttered. And for lunch, that's the major, hot meal. I've had soup, meals with a lot of potatoes. My host mom usually includes a vegetable of some sort. My host brother is a vegetarian, so the meal can't be all meat. And sometimes a sweet treat after lunch, but I have enough sweets to last me a while from all the birthday gifts. And lastly, dinner is around 8:30pm and we have an open-faced sandwich with sliced cheeses, meats, and butter the sandwich. Although my host family uses "marmalade", but I'm not exactly sure of the differences. So yeah, I'm really eating well in Germany. (I keep spelling eating with two t's and spell check is helping me out). I'll try to pay attention to the food a little bit more, and take some pictures. I'm glad that I'm off from school for the next two weeks!! Yay for Herbstferien!!

Happy Freitag!
Matt

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dienstag und Mittwoch...

Well I got home kind of late, so I didn't have time to write this and get enough sleep. In fact I was really tired all today. More after school, but yeah...Yesterday, I woke up late because I can sleep in on Tuesdays, and I found out that I had no Chemie. Well I had free periods for the next three hours while I waited for Mathe and Spanisch. In Mathe, we spoke about the Klausur (2 hour test I have tomorrow) and what to expect on it. I'm not quite sure because I didn't understand the explanation in German. Tomorrow should be fun with that! And in Spanisch we covered the same worksheet we've been reading and rereading for the last two weeks. So yeah, after Spanisch, I bike home in the rain/drizzle. German weather is not comparable to Bermuda. I'm typing this during a thunderstorm. So I read Moon Palace, when I got home. I went to my Deutsch als Fremdsprache class (German as a foreign language). I had to give a 3 to 4 minute speech about how I ended up in Moers, and even though I wasn't perfect, I didn't get nervous or anything, and I believe that everyone understood me. It's nice to realize that I'm understanding more and more each week with the German I've been speaking at school, at home, at swimming, etc. And I got to leave early from my german class to go to the monthly AFS chapter meeting in Duisburg. It was viel Spass!!! (lots of fun) I met all the AFSers in our chapter, and some had been in Germany since February, and I was able to have a good conversation with them. At the meeting I had to introduce myself to the group, but the one thing that astonishes me is that everyone can speak English!!! People say that Chinese and Arabic are becoming more dominant languages, but I really think that English is still ahead and kicking butt! But I hope we can soon do the meetings in German, so I can practice more. I'm trying to take every opportunity to learn something in German. I have a notepad and I'm writing words I learn in it. We'll see how that goes...

And today, I had again no Chemie. So I have free the first two periods. I hung out with a kid from my Chemie class, and he was nice enough to explain to me why we didn't have class. And I played some computer game in German, and I was terrible, but it was fun anyway. And I finished Moon Palace. Everyone dies except the narrator, who is basically in a trance after finding his father and then the father died too...and in Englisch, I got my Klausur back and I got a 141/150, or an 1 (eins) which is like an A. I got the highest grade in the class, but I think I've had some more practice with my English than my other classmates. We also starting making plans about what our itinerary should be for Dublin!! And in German class, I got a new book that I have to start reading, but I think it's like Shakespearean german. In other words, it's going to be quite an interesting time reading that. And the students have to pay for the books. They write and highlight, underline in the books. So that's something I'm going to have to get used to. Maybe it will be good practice for college. I also got a username for the computer system in my school! so that was exciting that I can use the computers!! And I'll have a school ID soon! (knock on wood). And after lunch, my host family and I played Fettnapf, which is a card game, and it took a little getting used to but I lost anyway. I'm sure I'll do better next time! And I went food shopping for my birthday party with school friends that's this Friday. I went with my host dad and he told me to buy as much as I think I needed. And this entire time I thought he was paying for me...well was I wrong. When I got to the register with no money, we were both surprised. So now I'll be sure to carry enough money. My host dad covered it and I paid him back, so it worked out. And I went to swim practice for the first time in a week and a half, and it was a good practice, but I'm sure i'm going to be sore tomorrow (der Muskelkater auf Deutsch). I'm basically kaputt now. And tomorrow, I'm going to school, swimming, and a party in a supermarket. I'll explain later...

Bis später!
Matt

P.S. I hope the phone call, Gigi and Pop, was a pleasant surprise. :-)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Montag mit Regnet.

So today was a Monday...I woke up for school. We were all ready early today, so I think I got to school before the principal/direktor. I got to school at like 7:25. And so it was really confusing to pay attention in Deutsch today. They were talking about the different uses of a word - and the connotations they can imply. So the example used was "salat" (salad), and so we gave examples of the different types of salad. But salat can also mean a mess (colloquially/idiomatically??¿) And so I understood we were talking about salat, but I didn't understand the point of it. And I actually participated a little bit in the class. And then I went to English, and next class we get to plan the activities for the trip to Dublin. And Musik was cancelled today, for the reason I'm not sure of. We had an assembly about the Facharbeit (research paper) everyone in the 12. Klasse must do, and I get to do one too! It's due sometime in March, but all students work on it for a really long time. I spoke with my Englisch teacher, because she's like a class advisor, and she said that I should just do one in Englisch. I just have to pick a topic. I have 4 weeks, but jetzt habe ich keine Ahnung. (I have no clue). And I walked around the walking area of town with my friend, Philipp, during the free period before Badminton/Sport. I got a really good Apricot pastry, and two bees flew around me. :-) And during Sport, we were taught the proper technique and the biophysics of how to swing the racquet (oder Badmintonschläger). And we started setting up a tournament. And I got beat. :'(. And there was one kid that forgot his racquet, so he walked around with a plunger all period. I think he even tried to play with it. It was funny! And that's how I learned the word for plunger. "der Stoffer" but I just looked it up in the dictionary and it said, "der Sauger"? I'll figure this one out, and let ya know. I have to do a little bit of reading before bed, but sleep is calling my name like a siren. Tiring weekend and a long Montag.

Tschüs,
Matt

P.S. I made another youtube video - it's kinda goofy- at www.youtube.com/amikinder

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lustig Late Orientation Camp!

So I was in Möchengladbach for the weekend for the AFS Late Orientation Camp (LOC). The youth hostel was really typical German, and it was really nice!! It was in the forest/woods. And there was a basketball court, some interesting wood configuration piles, a bridge, and ping-pong tables. You'd agree that's it was nice if you look at my Facebook pictures. And so the LOC was a gathering of the Krefeld, Wesel, and Duisburg AFS chapters. It was a really unique gathering of people that could speak all different languages from Vietnamese to English to Russian to German! I think it was somewhere around 25 of us in the Youth Hostel (from the USA, Italy, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Russia, Bosnia, and Vietnam) this weekend plus the volunteers. I met some other exchange students also living in Moers. I'm looking forward to getting the chance to get to know them better. And everyone was able to speak English but I wanted to practice my German! But I ended up doing the translation for many of them when we were spoken to in German. :-) And I find it hard to believe that it's been 3 weeks! Time feels like it's flying by and yet standing still as well. So we did a lot of workshops that helped us compare our home countries with our host country (Germany). There seemed to be a lot of cultural differences between the countries, and I agree. But some students said they can't stand the carbonated water, but to me that's something pretty menial. There are bigger things to worry about in Germany (like the language)! And so the workshops were helpful, but the entire weekend we were busy. No chance to sleep in this weekend! But we had the workshops and the food was okay, but I'm not going to complain because I wouldn't want to be the cook that has to cook for like 100 people a day. The youth hostel was really busy with people. My group was old compared to the choir that also stayed there whose ages ranged from 6 to 12. (I must be ancient at my right-old age of 19). But the LOC was really fun at night because there was a larger (not huge in the American's scale of size) room that we gathered and had a dance both nights. There was music in all different languages, so I didn't understand majority of it, but I got to learn about some of the other exchange students and how they are adjusting. We joked all weekend about the questions, "Alles klar?" (is everything okay?), "Wie gefällst du Deutschland?" (how do you like Germany?), "Warum?" (Why?). These are the three questions that Germans ask us, and it gets annoying when you get asked the same thing again and again by the same people too!!! So it was a nice chuckle when anyone said "alles klar?" and then you'd answer back "Alles klar!". So yeah, all-in-all I had a really enjoyable time at the LOC. Today (Sunday), the host parents also had a meeting and expressed their concerns. A volunteer told our group that some exchange students made their host families feel more like a hotel service. I asked my host mom if she felt that way (it was okay because Germans don't take that kind of stuff personally). She said no, the only problem she had was that I refuse to speak English. She'd like to speak some English with my host brother and sister so they could practice. But I say I'll learn German first and then teach my host siblings English (or practice with them). So that tells me that all is going well! (knock on wood) But there are two stories from this weekend that I want to share:

1. There was a talent show this Saturday, and it was the 4 Americans, 1 Russian, 1 Belgian, and 1 Brazilian. I stole the idea from a group I saw in the AFS-NJ talent show. We had three bodies (without arms) at a table, and someone else's arms were the arms used in the skit. So we had to pour water, and it spilled over someone. And the hands had to put my glasses on, so I got poked in the ear. And on girl had lipstick put on all over her face! It was pretty hilarious!! And the hands started to go wild, and they started to choke us, so the waitress got all scared and ran off without taking our food order. I thought it was classic, and it really worked out to be funny!!

2. So today, I was walking around the woodsy area of the Youth hostel, and I was standing on the bridge (picture is on facebook) and a friendly little bumble bee flew around me! And then when we were in our last workshop of the weekend, a bumble bee (I'm sure the same one) flew in for a visit during then. And when we took the group picture of everyone, a bumble bee flew around me and then towards the person that used my camera to take a picture. Tells me a lot, and I feel supported spiritually, mentally and excited as ever! AFS said that the first month is really exciting because everything is new, and I'm agreeing with them. New (host) family, new school friends, new swim team, new life, new country!!!

Morgen ist Montag.
Matt

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fun Freitag!

Just a quick note before I go to Moechengladbach. School was pretty normal. No idea what's happening in German. Spanish was cancelled because the teacher wasn't there (they don't have substitutes in Germany). I walked around the city. And English was good. There was a huge discussion/argument about whether the book was written in the 1st or 3rd person. And it kept switching between English and Deutsch. But my english classroom is on the 4th floor of the building which about 50 ft up, and there was a bee in the window. It flew inside, and when I was working on my homework assignment, the bee flew away. Some of you will understand it was Pop Joe, but it's significant to me, and just thought you'd know he's watching over all of us. Even those in Germany! No Hausaufgaben for the weekend! Off to Moechengladbach!

Schönes Wochenende! Tschüs!
Matt

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lazy Donnerstag!

Before I forget to mention...On Saturday at the swim meet, the announcer had the hardest time announcing my name. I think he ultimately said "Mattfetew Kunot(h)". It was funny, and my host sister likes to say my name like that now. Boy do I love German humor...

But now to today. I woke up, kinda tired from an amazing birthday! But everything went back to the normal rhythm. I rode my bike to school. Everyone said their friendly "hallo's and morgens", and I had Mathe. I have a Klausur in a week, and my teacher told me to just give it a try. So I've got a week to cram some calculus (in Denglisch) into my brain. But that's not on my mind right now because I'm going to an AFS Late Orientation Camp tomorrow!! But during the 5 minute break in Math, I pulled out my camera to take a picture of the rooftops, because my Mathe class is on the 4th floor (Stück D) and my Math teacher brought me to the fifth floor into a locked room to get a better view. So I thought that was awesome nice of him to help me get a better shot! I put them on facebook today, so check them out! I also put up the pictures from my birthday. (Notice my natural "American" smile). And after Math, I went to Sozialwissenschaften (or Sowi for short). They were taking a Klausur, so I didn't take it. But a few people in the class took the Klausur for credit (to get a grade) and others just took it. I wouldn't really want to take it "just for fun." So since it was my second day in the class, I read my Englisch book, and the story was really sad. It was about really sad at the end of the chapter when the old man dies because he developed a bond with that narrator, and his death, and the details provided in the book were similar to the passing of my Pop Joe. I nearly cried while reading this, but it really provoked my thoughts. This old man that died was really a jerk and mean and blunt, but by the end, the narrator loved him for all the good that was in him. Made me think that you tend to see a loved one in a glow and optimistic perspective because that's all you have of them. The memories, and you don't realize what can provoke these emotions. But this book was an example, and my perspective on life for the moment. But after I finished reading the Englisch homework, I had to hang around school and wait for Anica and Theresa because we were going to hang out. I finished school today earlier than them, but we chilled for a few hours. Theresa's mom made a really good chicken with cheese and pineapples. And Anica and Theresa taught me so new words like pipe cleaners (der Pffeifenputzer) and drums (das Schlagzeug). And we had some laughs because I had trouble pronouncing some things. But it was kinda rainy today, so my bike was unfortunately wet. I was ingenious and took paper towels to dry my seat! Pretty saavy!. But I found another way to ride my bike home, and after that I worked on the pictures from the past week or so and i skyped with my friend Emily who lives near Ulm and is from New Hampshire! And I packed for the AFS LOC-camp. Well I'm like half packed. But I'm really excited for this weekend, although I'm really curious how we're all going to communicate this weekend. Exchange students from all over the world, and I don't think we all have a common language because everyone doesn't speak German. Possibly English? I'm not sure. I'll let you know! I need a good night sleep for the weekend ahead!

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

P.S. Aunt Arlene - I got your real card today! Danke schön!!