Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Zusammenfassung meiner Woche!

So like the title says in German: Summary of my week. My weekend was still continuously on-the-go, even though I was still in Krefeld.

Saturday was a lot of fun in the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) Museum. I had already been there for my Mid-stay, but I chose to do the tour this time in English. And I found the tour to be better in German...probably because I found the German tour guide to be more thorough. I met some of the new exchange students in the area that arrived in February, and reunited with old one from the September group. I had some fond memories of when I as at that point in my year...makes me think how far I've progressed (and how everyone from the September group seems to have grown a bit wiser). And after the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn, we spent an hour in Köln before going back home. I only had enough time to eat ice cream by the time people had made up their mind what to do. After the trip, I got home to eat dinner and then went to a party. It was a fun time...especially since no one understood the slogan on the t-shirt I was wearing. "Ohh hann isch die Flemm." means "I really don't feel like it (as in no motivation to do something)" in the Saarländisch dialect.

Sunday was a gorgeous day. I went to the popular gathering spot; a park called Stadtwald (translation: City Forest). Very nice...and I had a lot of fun hanging out with my classmates...and it's something I noticed I've been missing out on a bit since I've recently been travelling quite a bit.

On Monday, I had a meeting with my German Congress (Bundestag) representative, Otto Fricke. I mixed up the time when our meeting was, so I ended up getting to his house two hours early. I first expected that I'd be going to his office. Instead I got to meet his family and the nanny. I even got to experience of his daily life. Because I got there so early, he invited me to come along when he had to pick his daughter up at school and bring her directly to field hockey practice, which I learned is a popular sport in Krefeld (guys and girls play it). And we chatted in the car. I spoke German and Otto...or Mr. Fricke spoke excellent English. He showed me where he's been in the USA and I lost count of all the places he's seen...certainly more than me (in the USA). Intermediately he had to take care of some business, so I also chatted a bit with his son. They even gave me chocolate milk and some sweets. Overall it was a great meeting and Mr. Fricke said he didn't want to seem intimidating, and I enjoyed spending a part of the my representative's day at home. He and his entire family were extremely genuine and Mr. Fricke invited me to his office in Berlin when I'm there for my End of Stay camp in Berlin in June. So I'll be looking forward to that. And after the meeting, Mr. Fricke drove me home, and then I had to get ready and off to fencing.

Tuesday was another nice day. School felt like eternity. I met up with Lucka after school. We shared some great points of what we've done this year, how we feel like we've changed, and potential fears about the end of the year approaching so quickly. I'm going to add my opinion to that in a little bit.

Wednesday. I lucked out with only 3 periods of class. And I watched Das Boot with Claude. The movie was very interesting to see how the living conditions really were in a German U-boat. I felt like I saw a human aspect to the Germans in the U-boat. I mean...the Germans were the "enemy" in the war, but they are still human and reconcile with their reputation up to this day. Just made me think..."War is really tragic, and I feel like everyone suffers." We watched the short version that was 3.5 hours, and I felt like it was never going to end when they were just in the U-boat not doing anything exciting...waiting to hear the slightest signal of a ship in their area. That's what war seems to be...a waiting game that you don't know how long will last. I think that's basically how we feel about what's going on in the Middle East now.

But I figured I'd end this with a thought that came to me today. A fellow CBYXer posted on their Facebook status "72". Several other CBYXers realized it stood for how many days we have left. Well, we all signed a contract saying that we would fly home on that day...so I don't feel like it's worth stressing over that fact since I don't have any control over it. But that doesn't mean I can't try to have as much fun and a memorable time as possible! I'm sure these upcoming weeks will fly by, like I've mentioned and noticed myself, but the phrase is "Time flies when you're having fun." So I'll be able to stay I had fun and had the "time of my life" all the way to the end of a year abroad that I will never forget!

From Thursday to Sunday, I'm participating on a sort of "pilgrimage" where I'll be walking a total of 75km (46.6 miles) towards Trier. We will be taking a bus for a portion of the way. I'm not exactly sure what to expect, but Marie-Claire said she had a great time last year and is looking forward to this one! I'll have to trust her on this one. :-D And plus...I've driven, taken the train, and flown to somewhere, but I haven't walked quite this far before...
Where I've Been 2009-2010 auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen

And just a quick tidbit of my weekend: I woke up on Saturday and Sunday with a bee in my room. And on Monday, there were two bees in the bathroom. And additionally, I do enjoy seeing all the bees in the garden and spring time in general!

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

P.S. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! And Happy (90th) Birthday, Pop Bob!! Love you guys!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buzzz...

After a great time at the "Stufenparty" or in English, "fundraiser party for my grade", I went to bed directly afterwards. Well I woke up this morning hearing a buzzing bee. Yup, a bee had stayed in my room; probably when I left the window open yesterday to let in some fresh air. I quickly tried to let my visitor free because he wasn't flying too well, probably hungry and such. But what a great way to start the morning. A wake up call from Pop Joe! :-)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!

Bis dann,
Matt

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kochen mit ein bisschen Düsseldorf

So this week has been pretty splendid. I've been doing really well. And I haven't had anymore "reality checks" or whatever you'd like to call them. But I would consider majority of the week, except for my more-than-often occasional boredom in school, enjoyable. And I suppose I'll share the highlights of the week.

Monday: I got my fencing uniform, so now I can actually fence. I ended up winning 2 of 5 matches...not to bad for a starter!

Tuesday: I learned how to "waveboard". I learned how to ride this thing during Gym class:

Tidbit about the wonderful Volcano in Iceland. (Eyjafjallajökull is the name.) For several days, basically all major airports in Europe weren't allowing any planes to fly. And unfortunately, Claude got some tough luck and had to take a bus from Spain back to Düsseldorf. He said it wasn't bad because he got to drive through all of France. But many others didn't have such luck, and it was pretty stressful situation for everyone. The only people that probably enjoyed the planes not flying were the neighbors of the airports. And I didn't seen a speck of ash here. We had clear skies the whole week!

Wednesday: Highlight of my week! I finally asked my host family if I could cook for them. I had a recipe for lentil soup, and my host dad helped a lot in the process. He took me food shopping, and then basically showed me how to do everything. In fact, he did like 80% of the work, and he gave me all the credit. But I learned quite a bit of new vocabulary. I'm going to have to "help" cook another time soon in order to actually remember the words! But I am really not sure how to explain "Why did I cook for my family sooner?", considering I've already been living with them for 4.5 months. Well I was a bit nervous because my host family are well-educated about food, and I'm not particularly. But it was probably more a "fear of failure" that I had. Well it wasn't a failure at all, and I learned quite a bit...and now I figure, I would have learned just as much or even more if I had "failed".

Thursday: I didn't feel like going Fencing, and the weather was so nice that I ended up meeting up with Betsy in Düsseldorf. It was a great reunion and our conversation didn't seem to stop it was so fluent (plus we had quite a bit to check up on), and sometimes I forget how much I miss some Jersey people. Except when I see or hear about the Jersey Shore (did I mention it's now in German MTV?!), I find it rather embarrassing.

Upcoming Weekend: My grade is having a "fundraiser" party Friday evening. Saturday I'll be visiting the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) in Bonn with AFS-Krefeld (Yes, I was there in March for Mid-stay. It's a great museum, so I'm glad to be able to go there one more time!) Saturday night: A birthday party for two peers. Sunday: Not planned out...I get to chill for once! This is a more "normal" weekend, compared to the past few travel weekends. And this is the first time 5 weekends that I'll be home in Krefeld.

Notice I say "home" now. I really do feel like I'm at home now. My family is great! They feel like my real family! My life feels normal, and yet, rather zealous. I sometimes think it's amazing that I'm in Germany for this year abroad, but now I feel like I have a normal life, plus bits of curiousity when I try to see or do something new. The garden is really gorgeous with all the blooming flowers, buzzing bees, and great weather...so I wrote this blog entry outside! That would be another first!

Schönes Wochenende,
Matt

Sunday, April 18, 2010

3 Cities. 2 States. 1 Weekend.

So I have accomplished a milestone that I'm quite proud of: I have seen 50 cities and towns since I arrived in September. It's rather extreme, but I've always been one to put 100% in what I do, or goals that I set for myself. I never really set the goal to reach 50 cities, but to say the least, I can say that I've really enjoyed seeing a lot of Germany. So I already wrote how I went to visit Domi in Mainz...well in addition to Mainz, we also went to Frankfurt and Wiesbaden on Saturday.

The only thing that didn't seem to run smoothly this weekend for me was the trains...delays...the train was delayed on the way home because someone was laying on the tracks in front of the train...and I haven't seen such incredible weather in Germany before... so I wonder how could someone bring or encourage themself to (try to) take their own life? You can only pray for that person and hope they find their way.

But to jump to a happier note of the weekend. Friday evening, Domi and I watched the movie White Chicks. Saturday was when we spent most of the day in Hessen, the state (Bundesland) that Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main are in. Mainz is the capital of Rheinland-Pfalz, and Wiesbaden is the capital of Hessen. And the Rhein River separates the two capitals. (Yes! Mainz and Wiesbaden are neighbors, so to say.) But back to Saturday. Domi and I followed a self-guided tour through the main part of Frankfurt am Main, including the stock exchange, old town, and a bit along the Main River.

Wiesbaden wasn't as immense and enormous as Frankfurt, but they can hold their own in being recognized as a really pretty city! The castle was incredible,
and the old town (city center) was impressive as well. Domi and I concluded Saturday evening by watching Madagascar 2.

On Sunday, there was a bizaar where Domi bought a bike to use for getting around the University. And after that, we took a look around the city center of Mainz. The Marktplatz and Schillerplatz were gorgeous...and Domi was right by saying it's unfortunate that we don't have something like that in Krefeld. Frankfurt am Main, Wiesbaden, and Mainz were all filled with scenic parks that insistently gave you a calming sensation. I had a really good experience in all three cities: between the exploration, extraordinary weather (not to forget to mention the perfect temperature...not too hot...not too cold...just right (kinda like the Porridge)), and my good mood! (Sorry but the only phrase that keeps popping in my head is "Gute Laune", which means good mood...that's what German can do to you!)

Three quick tidbits (or factoids) about Mainz:
1. Mainz is where the broadcasting headquarters for ZDF is (similar to ABC, NBC, or CBS in the USA). And I got a picture with a cartoon character from their station.
2. Mainz sits exactly at 50ºN Latitude.
3. The street signs parallel to the Rhein River are blue...the perpendicular signs are red.


But seriously, the weekend was really special...(I didn't find the pot at the end of the rainbow, so to say)...JUST SO!...My mood was really uplifted, and I felt like I was somewhere on Cloud 9 in this sort of ecstasy. I don't want to sound dramatic, considering I have done the same thing at least forty times before. I basically went through the a bit more of personal realization as I continued to read Nothing for Ungood and came to this one point where the author writes about culture shock being the worse when you get home. John Madison writes, "The chance to walk around a nice looking city center, without being inundated with cars and ugly billboards competing for your short attention span, is something most Americans returning home miss as well. Most of us would like to have the chance to walk or bike somewhere without imminent death waiting around each street corner." (The rest of the "Culture Shock" article can be found here: Culture Shock and you can find his blog here: Nothing for Ungood (you might need to navigate through the blog a bit)) And so I did finish reading the book over the weekend (another milestone: completing my first book written in German), and even though most of what Madison writes is humorous...I took the perspective more literally to the aspects that I really enjoy about Germany...for example the bread and the city centers (Innenstädte).

And so when I got home...I read a blog entry by my fellow CBYXer, Mike (in Braunschweig). (You can read his blog here: WoTD #134) And I feel his words articulate beyond accurately how an exchange student, particularly myself, should view their year abroad.
"Many exchange students and gap year students talk about such years as a break. A break from what? It’s different from the year before, but in my opinion a break implies a pause in an activity. Before and after the break you are doing the same thing. A year can’t be a break. A break is 10 minutes. A year…is a year of your life. The only difference here, is that on exchange the year is limited. Your unconscious frames the time with arrival and departure isolating it from the rest of your experience. I’ve decided that traveling back to the US isn’t going to be a “new chapter in my life” or however you’d like to emotionally put it, instead it’ll be a continuation of what I have here, what I have in Andover and everything else that I’ve done."
There was no way I could paraphrase that or think of expressing those thoughts in other words. And so, this helped me to recognize that perhaps I've been looking at my year here a bit perplexed. Because time made me consider this year as too limited. But Mike is right...life will go on...milestones will continue to happen. And if I focus on the limited, or constricted, amounted of time I have...what did I miss? The time that I have remaining. Like said in a million different slogans and mottos "Live in the moment!", "C'est la vie!", "Viva la Vida!", etc. The best one, "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." (Thank you, Forrest Gump). And hey!...I like chocolate...so is it too much to handle? Probably sometimes the chocolate pieces are really sweet and other pieces are too bittersweet, but at least I can say that 'I tried' and most importantly...LIVED!, making the most of my time.

Of course a perfect example from my life is my grandpa. I had my Pop Joe for 18 years of my life. I know some people lose loved ones at all ages...each relationship and bond special in their own way...that's human nature...unique! And I will know that someone has it better than me...and someone has it worse than me. That's how I don't understand how people can write in Facebook or say "My life is terrible." Life is the greatest opportunity...because without it, you can't live at all. I won't deny it's not hard at times, or you have to wait a while to see the light at the end of the tunnel...life is also not perfect. And these are things that I continue to have to remind myself of, so that I don't get too carried away. But I will say that I'm loving the roller coaster, called Life, that I'm on right now! It does feel like my normal life...but this weekend I felt like pinching myself to remind myself that this IS real!

So back to school tomorrow. I don't start school till 1pm on Monday because of a Klausur (test). And I will be resting a bit more this week. And I will be staying in Krefeld next weekend.

Schöne Woche!
Matt

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Versuch mal!

Well in January, I felt like my life was falling into a pretty typical routine. I have school and fencing on Mondays and Thursdays. But I've noticed that I get bored very quickly if I'm not doing anything. And I've been trying to avoid going on Facebook all the time. And well...Facebook is for me...too addicting.

But what could I do differently to amuse myself? Well I borrowed this book Nothing for Ungood from my English teacher. It's written by an American who lived in Germany and it's opinion and perspective on the quirks of the German culture. I found the blog in English too, if anyone is interested. Nothing for Ungood I got the book over 2 months ago, and I finally started to read it. And I'm happy to say I understand a whole lot more now than when I tried to start reading it when I first got it. I began a week ago, and I've been enjoying the book quite a bit! I haven't been too much a reader, EVER in my life, but I'm kinda focused on still building my vocabulary. In fact, I still walk around school with a huge 130,000 dictionary. The Godfather (and Sun Tzu originally) said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer." That's why I keep the German language always by my side.

And so now to jump to a completely different point: learning German. I'm sure I've written this before, but you cannot learn German in three months! I had three years of German before I came here, and I'm still learning new words everyday. And then I feel like I forget a few of them a few days later. But don't interpret me incorrectly, you can make a lot of progress in learning German and understand most conversational things in three months...but on the other hand, it feels like the German language has many more words than the English language. All-in-all, this has not been as easy as a year that I had expected...to start off language-wise.

But to skip back to the first topic...what else could I do? Well now that the horrible German winter (I know I didn't have the worst conditions) is over, I can ride my bike more! And in general, spend more time outside. That has more pros than cons...I think I will be able to finally say good-bye to the few pounds that I've gained this year. And further, if I don't want to look as skinny as a pole, I can still watch TV in German...which is contrary to me in the USA. I used to (at least I thought) watch a lot of TV, and here I don't watch much at all.

But sometimes I've forgotten how enjoyable the simple things are...and they tend to work out much more smoothly than complex plans and agendas. Or even trying something new can get you out of the lull of being bored. The title means "try something"...or "give it a try" is the translation that sounds better to me. And fortunately I feel like I got through my period of depression after spring break...at least I'm going to have to knock on wood for that one. But I'm still evermore curious how I'm going to bring my new experiences home with me? I've learned a whole lot and adapted quite a bit...so I'm imagining I won't be totally the same when I go back home? But it definitely won't be extreme that I left a good student and person (I always tried to do the right thing) and return Goth...that won't happen. But I'll have to wait and see a little bit longer, but that time will perhaps come quicker than I would like it to.

And so to complete this somewhat random blog entry...I tried something new! A map of all the places that I've visited this year! And the total as of now is 48 cities...more than I realized. I'll consider that I've been so enormously blessed to have been able to experience everything that I have thus far!
YOU MAY HAVE TO ZOOM IN OR OUT AND MOVE USING THE ARROWS TO SEE THE CITIES!

Where I've Been 2009-2010 CLICK LINK ON THE LEFT OF THIS SENTENCE TO SEE A LARGER MAP
YOU MAY HAVE TO ZOOM IN OR OUT AND MOVE USING THE ARROWS TO SEE THE CITIES!

Tomorrow I'm going to Mainz to visit Domi at her university!

Schönes Wochenende!
Matt

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Braunschweig ist da BOMB!


Well this weekend has finally concluded the most eventful and Europian spring (Easter) break of my life. It concluded with me visiting a fellow CBYXer, Mike. It was a weekend that was certainly worthwhile. So I started off with failing to put in one contact lense in on Friday...and I didn't realize it till I was in the train to Braunschweig. And surprisingly I managed to do okay reading a book, playing ultimate frisbee, and get my first impression of Braunschweig. I could still see how ugly the main train station was and the eye sore that the New Yorker® store is. A funny tidbit: All cars licensed in Braunschweig have "BS" on their license plates, which does not stand for Bulls***. But other than that, I found the center city very pretty. Rather typical German...Braunschweig also has a small Red Light District (very little), a building where Goethe had written something on a wall, and castle that was renovated into a mall. I got to try the local beer, Wolters®. But I swear, I couldn't differentiate beer brands for my life...but it tasted good...to me like every other Pilsner. However, one shameful aspect of Braunschweig is that this town is where Hitler took his German citizenship test...and well the rest is history. But other than that, I found the city very pretty with the multiple parks and the Braunschweigers (not sure if that's the correct term) certainly have pride in their town. In fact, the Wolters Brewery was bought by InterBrew, and in 2006, the town of Braunschweig found enough private investors to buy their local brewery back, since they didn't like outsiders making their beer. And they are just as enthusiastic with their sport teams (soccer, basketball, and American football).
So on Saturday, another CBYXer, Ian came to Braunschweig, and I got to see Braunschweig again wearing my glasses and with a bit more sunlight. It was a good and relaxed day. An embarrassing anecdote from Saturday. Mike, Ian, and I had a Wolters® and I saw on the menu that I could order a "Krefelder". I live in Krefeld and had no idea was the drink was. I had expected a beer that was brewed in Krefeld. And I got a concoction of half beer and half Coke. I always knew of this type of drink as a Radler. So it was funny when I reacted in a "What the heck is this?" way. Saturday evening...Mike and I went to play poker...and I was the first person to lose (from 7 players), but Mike won...and had finally had more than €5 in his wallet. The rest of the evening was just hilarious! Because we decided to walk instead of taking the bus...and it was certainly more eventful.

And after an exhausting Saturday, Sunday was basically chill. I learned about some new world records, thanks to the Guinness Book of World Records 2010 (in German). And that brought the conclusion to Braunschweig, where I then got back on the train and went home. A special thanks to Mike's host family to letting stay there for the weekend!
The Braunschweig Theater

Well I would consider the train ride home was the time I used to reflect on the past seven months. Yes that's right, I've hit the seven month marker. I feel like I've accomplished so much, but it's alarming that I have less than 90 days left. I'm 100% positive that these three months will fly by faster than the first three months. And I started to feel a bit depressed. I remember when I was looking forward to my spring break when I started the year...since it would be my last break, and that made me realize how quickly the time has seemed to go by...I tried to figure out how many cities I've seen in Germany this year: the total came to around 40 cities in 4 countries. But that just made me realize all that this opportunity has offered me. And Mike and Ian had also mentioned how excited they are to start college in the fall...but I'm not mentally there yet. Personally, I'm too focused on Germany and feel like there's time when I get back to get excited about college. But Germany, overall with the weather warming up and summer approaching, the days getting longer, etc. I'm really enjoying the fact that I can spend more time outside and not worrying about freezing in an hour. But that train ride helped me realize a bit more than the changing weather. When my family visited me in Munich, that was the first time that I had seen a bee since November. And since the visit, I'm noticed the bees still buzzing around me. One even came in the bathroom when I was brushing my teeth. And it struck me that since I haven't seen a bee, I felt like I moved on somewhat not having my Pop Joe around. But on April 11th, April (my bird who died 7 weeks ago) would have turned 14 on Sunday. And I know, my bird wasn't a particularly huge aspect of my life, like Pop Joe was...but I asked myself..."What will I have when I go back to the States?" I'll get to that answer in a minute. But it feels like I've already lost some aspects of my childhood and how I knew my life back at home. I will admit that has been the hardest thing for me this year...knowing Pop won't be physically around. He will be buzzing around...but still. Pop has just been on my mind a lot, and I've cried recently because I miss him so much. But now to get to my answer: My family and friends will be all be a year older (and hopefully wiser). I have about 6 weeks to transition myself from being in Germany to moving into college. It took a few days to accept this, but I know my life will settle down for the summer...I'll reunit with my friends and family...but no matter some things won't be the same. But I've also tried to figure out, "What will I have gained this year?" The answer to this question could end up to be rather long. I have a host family that I love just as much as my real family. I've had experiences that I wouldn't have never had in the USA. I was pulled out of my comfort zone, which has made me be a bit more open-minded, more sensitive about others, and certainly more resilient. I know I've gained some friends this year that I feel will be my friend for a much longer time after the end of my CBYX year. But the fear in the back of head is...how many of these awesome, or interesting, people will I eventually lose touch with? This has happened to me before...including this year. I feel like I've really learned who my friends are back in the States...but will it be a similar case when I go back? I'm not a fortune teller, a psychic, a meterologist, or God; so I won't be able to find out that answer for a while. But I can sum this up by saying how this my time in that train just gave me another reality check about life. I will never have all the answers to my questions...which I tend to ask quite a bit of them. And you need to depend on other people. At times that's hard, but you do know who's your friend when they pull through for you in the end. I'm definitely confident that I am an independent individual...but I'm always more confident when I have some pals to count on because when I fall, it's a lot less painful when they catch me instead of figuratively falling on the ground. That was a summary of my recent thoughts.

Being back in school has pulled me back from my ecstasy of vacation exploration! But I seriously needed a few days and a lot of sleep to get myself back into my normal routine. Although school is not as thrilling as the break was.

Bis dann!
Matt

Monday, April 5, 2010

Back from Dublin and Munich

I would say that one of my main goals when I came to Germany was to see or try something new as much as I could, in other words: I wanted to travel. And that's exactly what I've accomplished for my Easter break. So far (the break is over on Monday) I've made it to 5 different countries...and I'll be explaining which ones in good time. So I don't write my fingers off, so I'm going to try and sum things up the best I can...or be as succinct as possible.

From March 23rd to 26th (Monday to Friday), I was in Dublin, Ireland. In retrospect, the week seemed to fly by, but in the moment, the week seemed to feel much longer. I had some mixed emotions during the week. Number 1: I hadn't seen my old English class since I switched families. Number 2: I was flying to Munich to see my family the upcoming Saturday. But as the week went on, I realized my anxiety wasn't necessary, rather just human nature. But to move onto my experience in Dublin...nothing stuck out as peculiar to me except for the traffic lights (the sound that it makes when you're allowed to cross the street) and that they drive on the opposite of the street. But during the week, I did more tours than I could count including: a city tour, a tour of the Wicklow Mountains, the Guinness Factory (where I got a complimentary Guinness), the Jameson Distillery (where I received a certificate saying that I'm an official Jameson Whiskey tester), the Book of Kells, Trinity College, and Dublin Castle. I also somehow managed to get my group and I a complimentary (a.k.a free) tour of Kilmainham Gaol, the prison in Dublin. You could describe Dublin as a compact city to where you can basically work to anything in town. It was a very pretty city, especially with the River Liffey running through the middle of the city. It felt good to be able to understand just about everything that my old classmates were conversing about in German, considering that was still pretty difficult after 3 months of being in Germany. In fact, I was responsible for translating for the Germans into English...and I had the opposite task in Munich with my American family. Dublin was really a wonderful time, and the city was gorgeous. We even lucked out weather-wise!


So the very next day, where I wasn't even home for twelve hours, I packed my suitcase for Munich and was back at Düsseldorf Airport going to fly to Munich. It was mind-boggling to think that I would see, hug, and talk face-to-face with my family for the first time since September. My family and I e-mail and skype, but it's different when it's person-to-person. My family and I saw Munich forwards and backwards. We travelled by foot, by bike, by car, by tram, by train, and by subway! We visited Dachau (the concentration camp), Salzburg, Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Zugspitze, Oberammergau, and the Starnberger See (Lake). In Munich we saw the BMW Museum, the English Garden , Nymphenburg Palace,
the Olympic Park (from the 1972 Olympics) and ate at many breweries, including the well-known Hofbräuhaus, and Augustiner Keller. In Salzburg we did a "Sound of Music" tour that brought us around and outside the city of Salzburg to the places where scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed.
Salzburg, with the river through the middle of the city, had reminded me a lot of Dublin. In Nuremberg, we toured the Imperial Castle, and saw the center city, where we found Weißbergergasse (the only street in Nuremberg not destroyed after World War II and the prettiest street I've seen in all of Germany thus far) and even a piece of the Berlin Wall! A nice change of plans I had made to the plans for Tuesday were that we went to Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany. We needed to go on a clear day to get great views, and my goodness were they spectacular! I feel like my pictures don't do them justice. There we ate at the highest beer garden in Germany, and due to the altitude, we all had a bit of a headache or lack of oxygen. Oberammergau was a stop along the way home from the Zugspitze, and this town is well-known for the Passion Play that they put on every ten years (because they prayed to God if they would be spared from the plague, they would promise to perform this reenactment every decade).
On Easter we went to the Starnberger See, and it was a gorgeous lake with the small towns surronding it, including a castle and a few cathedrals we got to see. And to conclude the trip, my host parents drove down to Munich to get to meet my family. And I wasn't sure how it would all work out, but it everyone seemed to get along even better than I hoped. And Claude introduced Brian and I to Weizer Beer, which is, I believe, considered to be a sweet beer.

The time in Munich that I spent with my family reminded me a bit more of how your family is and will always be your family. My brother is still nocturnal; my Dad will watch a movie (doesn't matter what language: German, French, Spanish, English, etc.) before going to bed; and my Mom will always keep everything together and think of the words I can't think of in English. It had been the first time a bee had flown around me since sometime in November, so Pop Joe and the rest of my family became predominant in my thoughts. But it was a special moment because my CBYX buddy, Emily, came to Munich and met my family as well and she understood the bee's significance to me. On another note, I had so many laughs and frustrations with my family, it was great to have the time to catch up with them...chat about stuff you forget to mention in Skype and such. It was also to see how they adjusted without me being there for the past six months and now I'm noticing how I had to adapt as well. But I would consider this "adjustments" something good.

The reality of my family coming was also a wake up call to tell me that my time in Germany seems to be winding down faster and faster. I have less than 100 days before I'm on American soil again. I had to have the discussion of which college I would decide on which college I want to choose, and what I hope to do and potentially accomplish there. I've come to the decision of The College of New Jersey, if you're wondering. And even though reality is approaching, I'm going to stay afloat and enjoy the time I have in Germany.

But that only sums up the first two weeks of my spring break. On Tuesday, I went to Burg Linn (the "hunting" castle that is in Krefeld) with Lucka and a couple AFS folk. And on Wednesday, Domi, her boyfriend, Marie, and I went to the Netherlands to the coast and saw Middleburg, Domburg, and Veere. (We drove through Belgium...making it my fifth country in two weeks!) I tried fried fish (in German "Backfisch", not exactly sure about that in English), french fries, and ice cream. And even though it doesn't sound really healthy, they are specialties of the Netherlands, so naturally I had to try them! I even tried on a pair of clogs. But the Netherlands felt like a completely different planet when you compare it to their German neighbors. I found the Dutch language funny to listen to. The food was great. The architecture was quaint and creative with the different doors, shutters, and façades of the buildings. The canals and bikes everywhere gave the area a "small-town" feel, and the complete opposite of Munich.

I'm off to Braunschweig tomorrow for the weekend to visit another CBYXer. That will conclude my spring break...and I would consider this break to be quite a blessing all that I have done. And a quick note on Easter celebrations in Germany. Even though I didn't "properly celebrate a 'traditional' Easter. I'm aware Germans going to church on Saturday evening, and the family gathers on Easter Sunday...usually to eat dinner.


Schönes Wochenende,
Matt