Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ein Guter Rutsch!

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

Bis Nächstes Jahr!
Matt

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Frohe Weihnachten im Saarland!

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas in 2 Days...

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

Mit Freundlichen Grüßen,
Matt

Monday, December 21, 2009

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

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

Schöner Schnee!
Matt

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Traditions...auf Deutsch!

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

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

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


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

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

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

Matt

Mehr Schnee!

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

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

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

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

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snow!

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

Christmas (and not the British) is Coming!

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

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

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

Bis dann,
Matt

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Aachen on Sunday!

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

Schöne Woche!
Matt

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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

3 Months in Germany!

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

Bis später! Happy 3 Months!!
Matt

Friday, December 11, 2009

My First and Second Day of School – Round 2

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Neuer Monat. Neue Familie. Neue Stadt.

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