Sunday, October 24, 2010

ich bin sat!

This week was a good week. By 'good week', I mean I always had something to do. The first exciting thing took place on Wednesday. I was the closest to having tee with royalty as I ever will be. This is how something like this happens: I have an exchange friend, who has a host mom, who's the vet of a duchess' pets. Connections are good in life. We drove to Schloss Kircheim in Baden-Wurttemberg to meet Angela, a duchess who still inhabits one of Bayern's castles. She answered the giant door in the garage bigger than my house wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and a vest. That's when I decided I was going to like her. He two dogs, Othello and Sirius, were named after two of literature's great works: Shakespeare's 'Othello' and J.K Rowling's 'Harry Potter'. While the vet checked out the dogs, much to their dismay, we had a private tour of the castle. You know those thick ropes that forbid entry in castles or museums? We were allowed to go right through them. I loved being able to see the ins and outs of the castle. I couldn't believe that she still lived there! Who has gold trim and 400 year old paintings in their office?! Angela. After the tour we had tee with a duchess. I just like saying that. She is a past governor for Rotary, so she was very interested in us and how we like exchange. She spoke great Englisch and complimented our German. She was really funny and used so much facial expression I had the flashing image of me being her when I'm older (without the title, of course). That night, my Kindle arrived! My mom and I decided that my tearing through books and her sending me more was a ridiculous idea, so she bought me a Kindle, which I named Luka. He is wonderful and I spent the next afternoon playing with him. On Friday, I went home with my friend Marisa, who is living in Augsburg. Her host mom and Oma cook so well that I was very excited to have lunch. We had a wonderful lasagna. Then we watched 'Wall Street'. Instead of them putting it in German with Englisch subtitles for Marisa and I, which would have made sense, they put it in Englisch with ENGLISCH subtitles. I've never understood the language they speak on Wall Street, but I got the jist of it. I have no idea how the others fared... Saturday was the highlight. Manuela and Henner took me to Munchen! We saw the main points of interest for tourists: churches, government buildings, breweries. It was a gross day, weather-wise, but the city was beautiful. One of my favorite things I saw was a memorial to 'Die Weisse Rose' by the Bayern Parliament building. 'The White Rose' was an organization of students in Munich who stood against Hitler and were killed for it. I couldn't have imagined how much I'd be affected by the significance of the act until I saw it. It's something I'll never forget. We wandered through the city and stopped at an Italian cafe where I was practically eating my hot chocolate, it was so thick. By the time the Sun burned through the clouds, it was a sunset. We headed to Jetzendorf, where Manuela's sister lives, to celebrate her sister's birthday. I was able to keep up with parts of the conversation, which made me feel really good. Also, the food was magnificent. The last time I was that full was my last dinner in the USA, but at that time there was a knot taking up half of my stomach telling me I was crazy for embarking on this journey. This time, it felt much better accompanied with laughter and happiness. There was so much laughter that I couldn't help joining in, even if I didn't really understand the jokes. They could have been laughing at me for all I know, but it was funny! It was a very satisfying night. I love my German family and they remind me a lot of the people I love back home. Hopefully today I will be riding a horse! Our neighbor, Norbert, has two horses and he's invited me to ride, but we've had to put it off all week. Flexibility is a wonderful thing to learn as an exchange student. Things are always changing right under my nose and it's good to just roll with it. Well, I have one more week until I'm with my distrikt 1840 exchange friends again for our Berlin trip and I can't wait! Until then, ciao!--sjinternational Tee with Duchess Angela Die Weisse Rose memorial: der Widerstands= 'resistance' Munchen Rathaus: Imagine a town hall like that!
With my host mom, Manuela in the Rathausplatz
'Ich bin sat!' = 'I am satisfied!'

Sunday, October 17, 2010

you want to know what the difference is between you and me?

I just wanted to use that line from 'The Parent Trap'. There's not much to pinpoint from this past week. Life went on, I had my deutschkurs every day, excess water fell from the sky, and there was no Sun to speak of. I need some Vitamin D, Deutschland! I wanted to take a blog post to highlight some of the changes my life has undergone since I've arrived in Bayern. I have to be really careful when pointing out differences between my German home and my USA home, because I know that some of the differences are case sensitive to me and my personality. So here is what is different for me: Food: The one thing I can say about food is that I feel like it's 'fresher'. Henner always gets food from the market or the biological/organic food from the store. I love it. Never underestimate the power of some fresh cheese from France. There is also bread here like you wouldn't believe. The bakeries are going to be the death of me. They lure me in with their warmth and smells, not to mention that there are usually about 5 on one street. One of them is bound to get me. I have not been eating so much meat. I had nightmares about getting wrapped in wurst by a man in lederhosen, but that has not come to pass, thank goodness. Also, beer has not been so prevolent, like the stereotypes say. Granted, I'm not supposed to drink beer with Rotary, but there is the same amount of beer in my life here as there was back in the USA, without me drinking it. Milk is my biggest problem. I drink a LOT of milk. In Deutschland, the milk comes in these little cartons instead of hulking gallon jugs. I feel bad for Manuela and Henner, who've now taken to buying at least 3 cartons at a time to keep up with my calcium intake. School: As of right now, I'm in a deutschkurs for 4 more weeks. Going back to my 2 weeks in Realschule I can say this: It's not overly different. Sure, the set up might be different. Instead of six 70 minute classes until 3:15, I have six 45 minute classes until 1:10. Everyday I have different classes instead of having the same classes everyday for 9 weeks. The teachers here also move from class to class instead of the students, which I think causes much less chaos in the halls. As for discipline, I feel like the USA has more consequences for students. However, I haven't been around long enough to deserve a detention here myself, so this is slight speculation. Fashion: They (fashion magazines and travel writers) say there is a 'European' style. If they mean that Europeans dress nicer than sagging pants drooping past their derrieres, then that's altogether true. I feel like all of my friends at school just came out of a fashion catalog. In the USA, it was easy to go to school in sweatpants and a tee-shirt and no one would think anything of it. Here, people actually care about public appearance, which I find quite refreshing. Sure, I've had to refine my taste a bit but I feel like I'm more socially sophisticated for it. I've now taken to leaving the sweatpants for nighttime. Interaction: From everything I read and heard to prepare myself for this year, Germans were 'unapproachable' and 'didn't like to be touched'. I find this to be completely untrue in my life here. Girlfriends at school greet eachother with a kiss (yes, sometimes on the lips) and my host mom has no qualms about giving me a spontaneous hug. Germans are definately not 'cold' people. I feel like more people in the USA are uneasy with contact and wouldn't be as open to a foreigner in their lives. Language: I feel as though in the USA we expect exchange students to ALREADY know Englisch. True, they study it in school longer than we study any foreign languages, but language in school, as I've learned, doesn't even compare to learning a language by living in it's mother country. I know that when I speak German here, I sound like a blubbering idiot with golf balls in my mouth sometimes. If I was in my school back home, we'd make fun of such a spectacle, even some of the teachers would join in (I've witnessed this). Not here, at least not from what I can understand. Here, everyone is so encouraging and impressed when I speak to them in my German. I've gotten more comfortable speaking with people in German because of this and even if my German isn't that of a high class aristocrat, they can understand what I'm trying to get across. In this situation, I'm glad I'm an exchange student in Germany and not in the USA. It's harsh, but true and necessary to put out there. Family: I'm most definately not going to talk about my personal relationships in detail over the internet, but I'll lay out the scene. I have a wonderful bond with my parents. I never hit that 'teenage angst/ I hate my parents' stage in all my 16 years. I love them so much and this experience has made me appreciate just how good my life is at home. My brother and I have also bonded more now that we're thousands of miles away from eachother (not across the hall) and beginning completely new chapters in our lives. That being said, I also have amazing host parents. They treat me like I'm part of the family and I'm perfectly happy with them. I've heard many stories where relationships with host families have not been so great to the point of misery, so I am most grateful to have Manuela and Henner, where the only negative feelings I have are those of occasional boredom. To sum it up, I don't believe that much is different between my lives here and at home. There's the language of course and a different culture that I experience every once and a while, but my life from day to day is the same. I haven't changed drastically myself yet. Little changes of course, but I'm still Sarah Jane McGinn or 'Michigan' if you prefer. Same spirit, same ambitions, different address.--sjinternational

Sunday, October 10, 2010

this weekend's happiness was brought to you by distrikt 1840

This past weekend was our first Rotary planned trip! After Deutschkurs on Friday, exchange students Viktor, Marisa, Vicky and myself made our way to Augsburg Hauptbanhof (the train station). There, we met up with a couple other exchange pals and hopped on the train to Oberstdorf, which is in southern Bayern with the Alps. Oberstdorf is a hot tourist spot, especially in winter because of it's awesome mountains. We have a Skiwochenede in Oberstdorf in January as well, so we'll be back. We stayed in a youth hostel 15 minutes away from the main town. We were in a valley between these 4 mountains that just took my breath away. To say the least, this weekend was so wonderful. I was a little nervous because I'm not incredibly outgoing and a lot of exchange students are. I didn't want to spend the weekend twiddling my thumbs, afraid to join the party. However, getting to know this group of students was so much fun. I really broke out of my comfort zone and became friends with so many people. Games on the Friday night required sitting on eachothers' laps and rat-tailing people with a rag to learn names so introductions very quickly turned into friendships. On Saturday, we went 'tramping' or hiking as the USA calls it. We made our way up one of the mountains we were surrounded by and stopped at the top for lunch. The view was AMAZING! That's my flag. 6 by 4 feet large. It's a little bigger than is easy to tote around, keeping in mind that it can't touch the ground. Most of my exchange student friends laugh at my vehemence of the American superstition, but I don't know if I'll be able to make it 9 more months without it touching the ground. I'll do my damnedest. So the first Rotary weekend has made me look forward to every other ROTEX planned event coming up in my life, the next being the Berlin Trip at the end of the month. The ROTEX for distrikt 1840 is so cool. They organize all of our events and trips. Our ROTEX seem to genuinely care about all of the exchange students and their happiness. I'm really glad they're my mentors this year. I can't wait to see me newly-made friends again in 3 weeks!--sjinternational

Monday, October 4, 2010

170 km/hr to my heart

I've fallen in love. No, not with a German boy, but with the Alps. They're more dependable and steadfast than any teenage boy anyways. I took my second trip south to the mountains this weekend after shopping on Saturday. My Sunday was supposed to be lazy with absolutely no plans at all. Zilch, Nada. But, needless to say, that didn't happen. Instead, Henner and I drove for a couple of hours on the Autobahn until we reached the village of Oberammergau, best known for it's Passion Play. We topped off the speed limit at, you guessed it, 170 km/hr. I can't explain the craziness that is the Autobahn. Usually, it's not all that scary, but on our particular stretch of road every person with a motorcycle in the region of Bavaria thought it would be a wonderful idea to weave in and out of the cars at 200 km/hr. The view was worth the heard attacks in the car. If it were up to me, a 16 year old from Michigan, everyone in the world should be allowed the opportunity to experience the feeling I had on top of one of those mountains. I would make it mandatory, but that seems a BIT extreme. I couldn't capture the beauty in an artistic way, like my friend Tory could, nor can I capture the feeling of exhileration in more than my words. All I wanted to do was share that experience with the people I love, especially my Dad who loves a good scenic view. This was the best of my years.
After enjoying the view from the top of this mountain, we began our treacherous hike down and around it. Let me just point out the fact that this trail was no more than a little path carved by gnomes over rocks and trees. I would also like to clarify that there was no "hiking" in how I made my way down: I half slid, half tumbled down this mountain. It was a beautiful fall. After our descent, the day was not over. Oh, no. Henner took me and my aching self to a castle! I was tired and in pain, but I am so grateful that my host-dad pushed me through that. King Ludwig II was known for diminishing Germany's economy by building his fantasy castles. We Americans have him to thank for inspiring the Disney Castle with his Schloss Neuschwanstein. I did not go to Neuschwanstein, but a much smaller castle nestled in the Alps called Schloss Linderhof. Smaller, not uglier. There is once again no use in trying to describe the beauty. Sunday was an adventure, to say the least. I can now feel that adventure in every part of my body. Moving is no easy feat as muscles I didn't know existed protest my every action. Oh, well. I still say it's a small price to pay for an experience so amazing. Until next time, ciao!--sjinternational