Wednesday, December 22, 2010

holiday blues

Well, Rotary was right; they usually are. I doubted all of the perfected charts and statistics at the orientation conferences, but I guess they've been at this long enough to be able to put it down on paper. For me, that dip in the emotional roller coaster around December/January is right on; the holiday blues are real. They started right before our exchange student Christmas weekend in Nürnberg. I went into the weekend with mixed feelings. We had to take a German test to track our language progress, and as soon as I heard the word "test" I automatically dreaded going. No doubt I was excited to see everyone together for the first time since Berlin, but on the other hand it was the last time we would be all together with the group we have now. Most of the January Inbounds are heading home before our next Rotex ski-weekend in Oberstdorf in late January. I was looking forward to seeing Nürnberg, one of Bayern's most prominent cities. Then there was facing the fact that one of my fellow Americans had left his exchange a few days before. Everyone would be so confused, not to mention dissappointed, at his absence since none of them knew he had left. The weekend ended up being better than my pre-conceived dreading had led me to believe. The test wasn't completely excruciating- in fact it was easier than all of the high school Spanish tests I have taken in the past two years. I wish that I done better than I did, but it was a pretty good score for most of the new Inbounds and, hey, I passed. We spent Saturday morning at the Dokumentszentrum, which is where the history of Hitler's regime is housed. It was rather dumbfounding just how big Hitler's empire was. We've obviously learned about WWII and the Holocaust, but I never thought about the impact he had on his own people. With the monuments and stadiums he had built, I can understand the German people wanting to be proud of something like that, even under such horrible pretenses. In the afternoon, there was a full-blown exchange student snowball war. If you ever get the chance to see Brasilians playing in their first snow, it will make you smile. We headed to the ice stadium, some of us still shaking snow out of our ears, pants, and other nooks and crannies. Despite horrible skates and a packed rink, we exchange students managed to have fun. I spent most of my time helping those who had never even seen snow before, let alone tried on a pair of ice skates. What a sight that was. That night, even though I had an earsplitting headache, we headed out into the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt, which is apparently the "best" Christmas market in Bayern. On Sunday, I came home. I was tired from the weekend, sad from saying goodbye to those who I probably won't see again, and my headache was relentless. I was a bit miserable. I struggled through school on Monday and my host club's Christmas dinner. I felt like I just needed a good break down, which I got on Tuesday; I couldn't even get out of bed. I cried a lot. It hurt but it felt so good just to let it all out. I have been strong for almost 4 months and I deserved a good cry. After a chat with my mom and my best friend, Meagan, I did feel a bit better. Now, as I write this blog down in class, next to friends who have no idea how hard this life is at times, I think about what is going on in my life. I have one more day of school, then 2 weeks of break. Maybe I'll go swimming and to the Friedberger Christkindlesmarkt with my host parents this afternoon. I have English next hour. It's raining and my boots aren't amazingly waterproof. I still miss my family, but there is truly nothing to be done about that. So, I can either: A: wallow in self-pity at the life decision I made or B: suck it up and enjoy what opportunities I have, knowing how proud my support system back home is of me. I'm going with plan B. Holiday Blues aren't fun, but the holiday season is a time to be happy and only I have the power to change my attitude this Christmas. Whatever you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year! See you in 2011!--sjinternational.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'tis the season

Christmas is in the air. Snow keeps falling, lights illuminate the streets of every city, town and village, and the smell of glühwein- a traditional drink that is much more popular than eggnogg ever was- fills the christkindelmarkts that line the streets. Last weekend I went to a christkindelmarkt in Mering with my friend Sophia. I ended spending the weekend with her, becoming friends with her friends and dominating Sing-Star, partly due to the fact that all of the songs were in English. We made a record amount of plätchen (Christmas cookies) at her grandma's farm, where I met some of the cows and their babys. My host father has been away for about a week now, leaving me either alone or with my host mother every day after school. I feel like this time together has helped us get to know eachother a lot better. They always said get on your host mother's good side. I'm not sure if my host mother has a bad side per say, but I don't plan on finding out. Together we went to a Weihnachtsfeiern (Christmas Party) with the group of people I walked with in the Oktoberfest Parade way back in September. She took me to München to meet my friend Lily and we went to the München Christkindelmarkt, which is by far the biggest one I've been to. I ended up going to see Harry Potter 7 in German with my host mother and then, naturally, to the Augsburg Christkindelmarkt. It's safe to say that I'm all Christkindelmarkt-ed out. Yesterday was the third day of Advent, meaning there are now 3 burning candles on the wreath we made two weeks ago. Coming up in my life are some exciting things. Tomorrow, my class is heading to München to see 'A Christmas Carol'. Friday, I leave for Nürnberg for our Rotary Weihnachtswochenende with the other exchange students. I'd be more excited if we didn't have a Deutsch language test. I'm pretty comfortable communicating but tests just ruin any kind of confidence I've built up. It's also the last time we will be all together with our current group. The Australians and New Zealanders and a couple others will be leaving in January. That means that some of the people I've become really good friends with will be gone. Not exactly the most cheerful situation. In two weeks, our Weihnachtsferien starts! No school for two weeks! I am supposed to take snowboarding lessons after Christmas with Sophia. At the start of the New Year, my host parents are taking me to Berchtesgaden in southeast Germany where my host mother's parents have a house. See. Exciting things. Sidenote Story: Last weeks I gave a small presentation in my English class over the American High School. Through pictures and anecdotes, I gave my peers an idea of how my school life is back in the U.S. I got so many comments about how cool school looks in the USA and one boy bluntly stated, "I'm coming home with you." It was really interesting to explain my high school. It made me realize how much I miss the spirit, the classes, and yes, even some of the teachers. I'm excited to go into my Senior year with a whole new outlook. As I said, only two weeks until Christmas break and, like the rest of the student population, I'm counting down the days!--sjinternational

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


November has come to a close and sadly, we've left autumn as a thing of the past. Falling has become the theme of my life now. The first is the snowfall. I've woken up to a shining, white layer of snow for about a week now. I've never been a huge fan of the frozen water, but it certainly brings a sense of cozy, Christmas cheer with it. It also brings me to my second fall: me simply falling. With the first overnight freeze I fell off my bike on the way to school. I'm talking complete wipeout on the main road outside my apartment. I've fallen up and down the stairs in my house numerous times in the past week, leaving my body bruised from the cold marble and me running on ibuprofen. I spent the past Sunday in München falling in love with the Christmas market called Tollwood and the French-Canadian show 7 Fingers: Traces that we saw. I've never seen a show that I enjoyed so thoroughly. I also spent much of Sunday and Monday falling down laughing with my friend Hayley from Australia. I had an astoundingly good time with her.
Here comes the fall with the hardest landing: falling apart. It happens occasionally. I can't pretend that this exchange all snowflakes and Christmas cheer, because it's far from it. There are so many times a day that I have to ask myself "Why am I even here?". I say, "Sarah Jane, you have such a great life at home, why are you giving that up for even a second? You must be absolutely bonkers, girl." And maybe I am. I have given up a year with parents I adore, friends who know me better than I do, a dog who is on his home-stretch of life, and most of all, comfort in my life. This is what I chose. Every cloud has a silver lining, though. I can't remember the details of my last miserable night or day here, but I can vividly recall the pure joy I felt in the happy times: My new school friends taking me to ice cream for my sweet sixteen, going to see Blue Man Group with district 1840 in Berlin, Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with my friends in München, Lily spending the weekend here, going to Tollwood with Hayley. Notice anything about my moments of happiness? They all exist because of the people I was with. So, you see, I may be miserable sometimes, but for me, the fleeting moments of joy to remember or to look forward to somehow make everything worth it. I want to stress something to any prospective exchange students (Rotary or otherwise): Make sure that a year of exchange is what you want. It's a big decision and a year is a long time. I applied on a whim, although I knew I wanted to study abroad, but it still wasn't as though I knew what I was getting myself into. Don't arrive and after three months decide that was enough. Rotary isn't for everyone and other programs can be just as fufilling. I know people who have made a mistake in choosing Rotary as their program and they have left their exchanges early. Although I support their courage to correct their path, it is always sad to see someone leave. Find something that works for you. I promised to write the truth in this blog and this is as raw as it gets.
On that delightful note, I begin falling into place (again). I believe that Rotary is right for me, if not for the program then for the people I've met through it. The people I have gotten to know and the things I have learned have convinced me that although a whim, my choice was right for me. I'm okay with the lonliness and getting better at dealing with the occasional misery. As I head into winter and more slippery accidents, I'm sure, I keep myself busy with friends and the ever entertaining book selection I have on my Kindle, Luka. I'm looking forward to my first skiing experience and holidays with a new family. Break out the advent calendars and brace yourself for Christmas: Winter is officially here.--sjinternational