Sunday, December 20, 2009

To Be an American

Somehow when preparing to come to Germany, I failed to realize that people would look at me...well, as my country. It's hard to explain, but many times I feel simple questions I answer are taken as what my country does, and not individually what I prefer. This being said, I feel as if there is quiet a difference being an American exchange student as opposed to any other country (that came out sounding really egotistic). My country produces an enormous amount of media-from movies, to books, to news, to songs. We also speak the world language as our mother tongue. And here's where my confusion lies:

the people I've met have assumed that they already know my culture. What frustrates me is that the films you watch are exactly that : a story. They aren't fair representations of real life. We don't all live in NYC or LA, I don't own my own car, I don't wear designer clothes every day, I don't live in a mansion. I similarly don't personally know any celebrities. But here's where I am lacking. See, I obviously always want to share that that view of America is not the typical life of 95% of Americans, but then I'm always asked, "Then tell us what is typical American"...what? I'm caught. Because the thing is, there is absolutely no such thing, and it took me until getting here to realize it. We are all from different backgrounds, we have different ancestry, every state has a distinctly different mindset/culture. So how do I ever say what's typical? My outcome of this whole problem: I can't. It puts an awkward stamp on a conversation, when they are expecting me to clarify what my cultures really like, but now I realize I just have to answer that there's nothing typical. We are America. Every single one of us is different. It's just the way it is.

I've also had to come to the realization that the horrible stereotypes of my country are not going to go away by me being angry inside. Lets just say that it's not rare that someone full-out insults my country. When I'm angry, I think about the hypocrisy; that you insult everything my country does and yet you watch our films, listen to our music, read our books etc. etc. When I look at it calmly, I realize that I just have to be the best representation of America that I can be. Some of my most fulfilling moments here have been those when I have changed, even in a small amount, peoples view on Americans. Whether it be from my ability to speak German, the fact I'm not fat, or getting high grades in Math- these things have been ones where teens have gone, "Perhaps their different". I only hope that someday Americans don't have so many insulting stereotypes to beat.

In my time here, I've also managed to find out small insider things about Germany that I know I would never read in a textbook.

1. Army or Community Service? Every male, I believe once graduated from high school, has to either do a year in the army or a year of community service. This depends on what health your in. If there's anything hindering your ability in the army, you are given community service. Women don't have to do this. When I asked why, it was simply replied that "that's the way it is".

2. Teen Parents. During the days of the DDR, and I actually believe still, for every kid you have you were given 250 Euros a month. Great, takes care of the kid, right?! No. Instead, teens had kids so that they could drop out of school and not have to work. Then their kids did the same. This then became normal, at least in East Germany. To this day, kids have kids. Those kids are left to fend for themselves as their parents are too young to know what to do with them. When I still lived in Forst, we lived across the street from the town supermarket. The kids of young parents were always together outside of it, drinking alcohol, breaking bottles against our store window. Once, when walking into the supermarket, I saw a kid who looked no older than 8 smoking with his dad who looked College-aged. Though Germans in general seem to have kids younger (my host parents are about 45, my old host mom was 39), in the former East Germany it's sort of a big problem.

3. East Germany. Most assume that the two sides were re-united after the fall of the Berlin wall. Not so. There is a HUGE difference between east and west Germany, and I really mean huge. When taking the train out of Berlin, into East Germany, it looks like two different worlds. East Germany is gray. All the old, cracking, graffited DDR buildings with broken windows are still there, and gone unused. There's a gigantic amount of unemployment ( anytime I came home from school there would be tons of people shopping or hanging around on any given day). And also, the mindset is much different. It's always about "the good old days of the DDR". People threw parties themed on the DDR. And this confused me until I talked to a West German about it. This is what they told me, " You see, when the DDR was around, everyone had jobs, everyone had great education, everyone was taken care of, even if they were closed off. When the wall fell, they lost everything. They weren't able to get back up when they had been relying on the DDR giving them everything for so long" and that answer finally cleared it all up.

4. Drivers License. I hear these words every day. And there's a very good reason as to why. For one thing, a German teen has to wait until the age of 18 to get their drivers license. But more importantly, the cost of achieving this is absolutely outrageous, and they know it. Take for example, my older sister Linda who is almost 18. She has 2 hours of driving school twice a week, if not three times a week. Every set of 2 hours costs 85 Euros. You do this for a year...nough said.

5. Turkish Relations. When coming here, I had heard that the Germany-Turkey relationship was much the same as the America-Mexico relationship- aka the whole "we want them out so they stop taking our jobs" mentality. But I am lucky enough that I am in the capital, we have the largest Turkish population, at least a quarter of my school is Turkish. No one has any problem with them or expects them to leave. I have a feeling this is very different in other areas but Berlins open to anything. What I like best about the Turkish population here, is that I not only learn about the German culture, but the Turkish as well.

6. Arranged Marriage. Never thought I'd run into that in Germany, but indeed its here. Many days we talk about it in English class, about how another girl has been taken out of school and moved back to her home country to get married. It's mostly the girls from Turkey, but yeah, totally new concept for me. Lots of girls don't come back after Summer break, so I hear.

Just thought I'd actually share some of that with you. Let me know of any questions you might want answered!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Time in Germany

Pictures: The first is of an epic battle between America and Finland in Brandenburg. Or as I like to call it- the Brunettes vs. the Blonds. The second is of the American exchange students attempting to reenact a patriotic photo. The third picture is my advents calendar (made by my Host Mom). The 4th is my host sister, Caro, trying to master the art of cotton candy making at a school Weihnachtsmarkt.

By the way, I'm posting this on December 16th, so don't look at the date. It lies.

Let me start off by saying that Christmas season starts in like September here. But starting the 1st of December it's in full blast. Which is strange for me, because absolutely no one in my school celebrates Christmas because they are either Muslim or Buddhist (interesting fact: the other day our history teacher took a poll of how many languages were spoken fluently in our class. We came out with 9 languages in our class of 22 people: German, Turkish, French, Afrikaans, Sorbish, Thai, English, Polish, and Russian). Guess that leaves more Christmas for me!

This word meant nothing to me in America but everyone celebrates it here. I assumed advent just meant the chocolates I eat out of a calendar : D But its actually when you celebrate the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. You light a candle for each Sunday and have a nice lunch such as duck. Other than that, I'm not aware of the significance.

So I woke up on the first of December. I turned on my light, stumbled to the bathroom, washed my face, walked back. And what the hell? There a GIGANTIC mobile hanging over my bed that I absolutely failed to notice in my first-minutes-awake-grogginess. It has 25 gifts hanging from it just for me. This further proves not to demand any mental activity from Claire in the morning.

WEIHNACHTSMARKT: These are a gigantic part of xmas in Germany, and they assume that everyone has them. They are set up in town centers, with hundreds of huts selling hand made items. I've gone to three different ones, although I believe theres about 20 just in Berlin. Some are so large that they hold legit rides such as ferris wheels, roller coasters, and much more. I went with other exchange students to the Alexanderplatz one and went on a GIGANTIC chairswing in the middle of Berlin, we could see the whole city from the top and tried ignoring the -1 degree weather.

St. Nikolais- I spelled this wrong. Whatever. But this is on the 6th of December. You clean your shoes the night of the 5th, and put them outside. Then in the morning you wake up, and they are filled with small gifts and candy delivered from not-your-parents. I, unfortunately, missed this holiday due to the fact I was in Brandenburg for the weekend with AFSers, but magically my shoes were still filled with candy...freaky.

Random Quotes:

Claire: Alright, goal: not have the guy taking my order talk to me in English.
Jasmine: Alright, go!
Claire: " Ein Grande Choco latte bitte"
Starbucks Man: With cream?
Claire: Fucking shit.

Claire: I actually need grades in your gym class Frau Butke.
Frau B: Oh, well I didn't give you a grade last time cause it was really horrible.
Claire: Well...thanks.

Grandma: These truffles are very special.
Host Sister: Whats inside them? Marzipan?
Grandma: No, it's Irish cream!
Host Sister: What's that?
* everyone turns to me *
Claire: I'm not Irish, by the way.

English Teacher: In the dictionary, it shows whether its Australian, British, or American English.
English Teacher: So Claire, could you please pronounce the british pronunciation of this word for us?
* thinks of objecting for a second and then pulls her best accent based only off of what she's heard in Harry Potter*
English Class: Wow!

Host Sister: What's relish?
Claire: It's like pickles and salad.
Random Woman: No, it's like ketchup.
Claire: Sure.

Math Teacher: Give me real life examples of parabolas
Kid 1: a tongue.
Kid 2: a bridge.
Quiet boy in class: A tampon!!

So, yeah. I'm spending Christmas break in Stuttgart with my blood aunt, uncle, and cousins. School lets out the 18th and I go back on the 3rd of January. Christmas is actually celebrated on the 24th in Germany, which means my Christmas day (spent on a 6 hour train to Stuttgart) will be sort of...lame, for lack of a better word. They also all put up their trees on the 23rd...crazy amount of work for nothing?! Yes, I think so. And shortly, things I'll miss from xmas at home:

1. My father and I gorging ourselves with the "special Christmas cheese"<---this makes it sound like it has pot in it or something, but its just good.

2. My place on our couch where I sit every xmas.

3. Spanish christmas music mixed with a little Elvis.

4. Using my gifts immediately after finishing opening them.

5. My father napping on the couch after the excitement of Christmas morning.

6. Some exchange of bras as awkward gifts either to me from my older brothers (in size EEE by the way) or from me to my older brothers (in the brightest colors and smallest sizes available)

Happy Holidays everyone!

P.S. Thanks Colin for the Christmas card, it made my day : D

Friday, November 27, 2009

All About School

I realized on a skype call with the brother and Dad that I've completely failed to say much of anything about school here in Germany (Sorry guys, I have selective memory!). Therefore, I shall explain what I think of school but firstly, here's why my school might differ from others:

- It's an oberschule, not a gymnasium (please don't ask me what this is)
- It's in Berlin
- Everyone in my school is foreign (exaggeration but I don't care)
- I thought I had more reasons, but I'm drawing a blank. So yeah

Every period (Stunde) in school is 45 minutes. After every two periods there's a 20 minute break. That being said, here's my mighty fine schedule:

1. No class, thereby I sleep in another hour.
2. English
3. French
4. French
5. History
6. History


1. AP English (its actually called Profile Englisch or Englischleistlingscoarse)but for your sake I'll call it AP cause its the same deal)
2. AP English
3. Music
4. Music
5. French
6. Physics
7. Physics

Wednesday: (aka Death Day- possibly the worst combination of classes possible)
1. AP Bio (God heard me all those times I thanked him for letting me be done with Bio last year and decided I deserved one more year of my least favorite class ever- OH and to top it off, he made it in German! Fabulous)
2. AP Bio
3. German
4. German
5. Math
6. History
7. Gym
8. Gym

1. Biology
2. Biology
3. Math
4. Math

1. English
2. English
3. Chemistry
4. Chemistry
5. German

Explanation. In German schools you have to pick two Leistlingscoarses/ AP classes. For those classes, you take part in the basic level of the coarse and then have extra classes in that subject that are harder. Thereby, I take part in regular Biology and English and then go to harder classes as extra.

Now I'll explain my subjects:

English (Basic): My teacher claims she speaks with a British accent, but I'll be damned if I ever hear a brit speak anything like her. Truth is, she just can't speak English very well. If it's puts it into perspective, she's also my gym teacher. She told me my grammar isn't perfect, but she said "more worster" so I let it slide.

French: Why am I taking French? Last time I checked I have enough trouble with German. This subject goes along the lines of Biology. A class I hated, voiced it, and now am being punished for trashing its reputation by having to take it again. The teacher gave up on my French after two days of me responding only with "I don't speak French"--glad I remember that phrase! But I'm trying to learn it again and take part in class.

History: This class actually isn't that terrible. I mostly sit there translating, but the teachers really chill and young. I think he get's that these are words I'd obviously be clueless on. He's even letting me do my projects in English. I learn a lot of useful vocabulary through translating history worksheets.

AP English: Half the kids in this class I am curious as to why they are in there. They never talk and seem to hate the class. Then again, I suppose thats like me in Biology. But yeah, the teacher has a lot better English here. We read a book called Arranged Marriage. I don't talk at all in this class cause I get a face from my teacher every time I talk, I believe it's cause I slur my words and don't have a British accent ( Sidenote: Not only does everyone think I'm an au pair, but apparently I am from England too? Cool? yes I think so)

Music: This class is do-able but the kids in the back of the class are so annoying it makes me want to stick pencils in my eye sockets. I get my neighbor to help explain things and I'm hoping to at some point take the tests along with the other kids.

Physics: The teacher refuses to admit I am in his class, which suits me just fine. He won't put me on his rollcall and when the girls go, 'yeah and claire's here" he ignores them. Thank you.

AP Biology: Hello least favorite class ever. Worst part is that the teacher thinks I have fun translating (do you know how much I want to burn my bloody German-English dictionary in a bon fire?) so she's always asking me what the words for stuff are in English. But, uhm did you learn the word for nucleotide, catabolic, plastid, or anaerobic in your German 2 class? No, pretty fucking sure you didn't.

German: Hate to say but this class is pretty pointless. I've become a master doodler due to this class alone. Reading German Shakespear aloud in this class knocked out, shot, killed, and ate my confidence.

Math: I own this math class. The teachers really tough but I like him cause he realizes I can understand this stuff with a little translating so he actually grades me and makes me do the homework and stuff. It's nice not feeling like a total idiot in at least one class.

Chemistry: The teachers definitely not my favorite, but the other day she called on me and i knew the answer. 10,000 points for Claire's ego.

Differences Between American School and German School:

- Teachers just don't show up, and then you don't have class. There's no such thing as substitutes.
- Homework 99% of the time isn't checked and is absolutely never handed in
- This being said, work done in class is graded very often and you are put on the spot in class all the time
- You can talk while the teachers talking and they don't get mad, they just keep talking.
- Failing a test is more common (perhaps thats just my school)
- Tests usually aren't announced
- You have a couple (maybe 4 or so) major tests in a subject a year called Klausurs
- There's no government transportation to school
- You are with the same 16 or so people for every single class

So yeah. That was really boring to write but I guess I can't ignore the fact I go to school here forever. It's not that bad, it's just frustrating not being able to understand yet being expected to. It's especially stressful due to the fact that I am a junior and thereby need grades this year.

And for something a little more not sucky, here's some useful German vocabulary!

1. Milchboobie- Directly translates into "milk boob" meaning a man who looks like a little kid or someone who looks like they still suck from... yeah.

2. Guile- Directly translates to "horny" but is used to say somethings really cool.

3. F-k-k- Doing something nude, for example "I went f-k-k for my Grandmas 80th birthday party"

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm Not a Freaking Au Pair!

Anyway, I'm just ganna shove some stuff into this entry that I've meant to put into others and didn't and now can't logically string them all together.

Second Weekend Here:

Friday: My options were: 1. Ice skating with the Neubauers 2. Getting drinks with AFSers or 3. Going to a massive house party with Linda.I was invited to way too many things on Friday, and in true Claire fashion I said "screw it" to all of them and opted to just go out to sushi with my host family and then go to sleep early. I truly am a special breed of teenager.

Saturday: I called my best friend Kate for the first time in two months. It's weird, I feel like so much has happened since I've been here that it was hard of thinking of something to say. I then met another exchange student, Jasmine, for the day in Berlin. We did a weeks worth of walking (aka getting lost), got Starbucks, and went to dinner. It's amazing talking to other exchange students and realizing that all of your "original thoughts on Germany" are thought of by every other exchange student here. I then rushed home by 7 in order to go to a neighborhood party our family threw with hot cider, bratwursts, and pretzels.

Sunday: Basically chilled all day and then went to a volleyball game with my family and Jack. Lesson Learned in Germany: apparently screaming during sporting events is NOT acceptable. It was fun doing my usual "wooo" and receiving glares from those around me. Excuse me for having spirit...Coming home was fun. We pumped-up-the-jams (look how hip I'm getting in Berlin!) and danced in the living room while cooking bratwurst for dinner. I practically pee my pants when I hear Germans singing the dirty lyrics of English songs in which their totally unaware of.

Third Weekend Here:

Friday: Linda and I went to a Mexican bar for dinner and planned on coming back after going to the movies for drinks. We then met up with Jack and Phillip to go see 2012. The theater was absolutely the most gigantic thing I've ever seen and even had a curtain. I could easily follow the movie but it's definitely not one I'd buy on DVD (By the way, did you know that American dvd's don't work in Germany?). Thing was, the movie was 3 hours and everyone was pretty tired after sitting through that, so we just headed home.

Saturday: I went to coffee with a fellow classmate of mine. I swear, the people who work at Starbucks are always like the nicest people ever. Anyway, then Saturday night I went with Linda to this super chick party in a Berlin apartment. I felt like I was in a movie. The apartment costs 3000 euros monthly and had a great view of the city. It was only about 10 of us and we chatted and played an assortment of games and yeah I had a really good time and got home around 2.

Sunday: Linda asked me whether I'd like to go to a professional male hockey game, telling me the appeal was how good looking the players were. Showed up and realized it was a male FIELD hockey game and am still curious as to why this sport screams "sexy" to German girls.

Some Tid-Bit What Nots:

- There are a lot of limping Germans in Berlin. It seems like every other person has a limp in fact. And its not like the, "Oh I walked on my ankle wrong" limp, its like a "My ankle bone is shattered and I'm slowly dragging myself to the hospital" type limp.

- The other day at breakfast my sister Carolin asked me whether I had found a winter jacket yet. I tried saying "I haven't looked" aka "Ich habe nicht gegockt" but my second g in gogockt came out as an f and I ended up answering "I haven't had sex'.

- I was on the bus with two other classmates and we were listening to a woman telling her little kids a riddle. She says, "If a man was born in Germany, but moved and worked in America and died there, what nationality is he?" the kids ponder. My classmate goes, "An immigrant".

-For some reason the kids in my school got it into their heads that I'm an au pair and no matter how many times I say "doch" aka not true, I'm still asked about the kids I'm taking care of. One girl from my class friend requested me on Facebook and asks me the next day, "That picture with you and the two tall boys with brown and blonde hair, are those your kids?" funny thing was, that was with Jack and Phillip, who are both older than me. Plus, if I was an au pair and in their school, what the hell are my kids doing?

- My host sister Caro was trying to sing an English song by a band called Monrose. The song was "Strike the Match", but because she doesn't speak English, the words don't always come out right. Thereby my sister was going around the house for a day scream-singing "Strike the Bitch". It was way too entertaining to tell her.

- In the language school I take German classes in twice a week, they also teach English. On the walls of our classroom there are dialgues written out by beginner English speakers. Most include hi, whats up, im good, and so on. Obviously some kid didn't get the assignment and wrote this dialogue:

Frank: Hey Jennifer, have you ever been a man before?
Jennifer: Yes, I have!
Frank: When have you been a man?
Jennifer: I was a man two minutes ago!

Facts You'll Never Learn in German Class:

- Toilets here all have buttons. One for flush, and one to stop flushing. There by everyone pretty much is aware if it's 1 or 2.

- Drinking milk alone (w/o cocoa or whatever the fuck I'm supposedly supposed to be putting in milk) is considered really weird. I get questions about it all the time.

- Trains and subways are completely on the honor system. No one comes to check it yet everyone buys a ticket.

- I was told on a CBYX conference call before I left that Germans wear clothes for a couple days before changing, to which I thought "Psh, they are just trying to scare me" (my logics awesome, I know). Well, in fact EVERYONE wears outfits from 2 to even 5 days in a row and never gets a second glance for it. Doing that in America would be the quickest way to have no friends.

- Germans say "your welcome" before you say "thank you". I've been trying to beat them to the punch for the last month.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To Be a Jelly Doughnut...

Let me start off by sharing my exciting news. I'm going to Stuttgart for Christmas break!!! YES. AFS approved it today so I can stay with my uncle and aunt there. It'll be the first time that I get to see where they live, as every time I've seen them its been in America. It'll actually be the first time I have met my aunt face to face as opposed to over the phone. I leave the morning of the 25th (yey for Christmas morning on a 6 hour train!) and come back the 3rd of January.

So, I have officially been here in Berlin for a week . I must say that the difference between Forst (every time I tell a German where I lived they laugh at me<--not known to be the prettiest place or have the prettiest people). Living in Berlin is the exact equivalent of living in New York City and I just feel so right here. Theres a million things right at your fingertips-which is always the feeling I get from NYC too. I like the constant energy of a city, the flow of people, the unexpectedness of it all.

The people here are also a lot different and I like them so much for it. They are all really really edgy. Girls in my class have flawless makeup, dyed hair, designer jackets, and use big purses instead of book bags (who looks like a total dweeb with their little book bag? When I told my host mom about the girls at school using purses instead of book bags she responded "Yeah, book bags are more for little kids" Great.) I spent a lunch listening to them talk about the plastic surgery they had had done/wanted to have done which was a total eyeopener. But they are really nice, without being fake nice which is something I have learned to hate here.

OH, but I must share a story that made my life improve. On my first day, sitting in our classroom eating lunch together, I pointed out to one of the girls that her shoes were very popular in America (she was wearing Uggs). What do you know if the next day, absolutely no joke, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM WAS WEARING UGGS! I was astonished in the most humorous way. I feel like also telling them that girls in my school wear sweat pants, a dirty exercise t-shirt and their hair wet to school and see if they think thats awesome too...

First Weekend Here:
Friday: I went to my first German club. I'm holding on to that "Try anything once" mindset and therefore agreed to go despite the fact that I am a total homebody and I also get tired faster than any three year old you know. And you know what? I had a really good time! My host sisters friends were really nice and I wasn't at all pressured to drink. The club had body guards and everything and I was on my first guest list! It was actually a "twin" themed party so my host sister and I wore matching neon "I <3 Berlin"

Saturday: My host sisters and I, along with both their grandmas, went shopping in this huge shopping "castle" in Berlin. It was a really awesome place where the whole ceiling throughout the entire place had an aquarium displayed on it with sound effects<-- hard to imagine, I know. I finished my Christmas shopping, a huge weight off of my shoulders, but another huge weight put on as now (despite buying gifts between 8-20 euros) I have only 85 Euros until the first week of December. I've pretty much given up on my dream of buying a pair of winter boots, or a wool jack, or anything else for that matter. It's convinced me that other than my host family, next month I'm not buying anyone here Christmas gifts. Ahhh the magicalness of Christmas.

Sunday: My host sisters, me, and my host dad went to see Berlin play Koln in the Olympic stadium. The olympic stadium awed me for the lamest reason---it looks EXACTLY like the Quidditch stadium from the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!! Unfortunately, no one in my family understood my reference.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Host Family, New school, New life

Monday night Claudia talked to me in the kitchen and asked me, "How would you feel if I told you we found a totally nice family for you?". I didn't say anything, in hopes that she'd tell me what I was hoping-that it was them. But she told me a family friend of their neighbors volunteered to host me for the year. I know I was supposed to be excited, but for some reason nothing came out. I had no words for what I was feeling. Although a new host family is what I wanted, something was off.

The next morning I got picked up by my new host mother, Carola. And there, where I had to say goodbye to the Neubauers, was where I realized why I hadn't been enthusiastic. I had grown so attached to their family, their home, their lifestyle, that I never thought I'd ever have to say goodbye. I'm not a cryer, nor do I often show my feelings, but saying goodbye was a sadness I can't recall experiencing before. I balled hugging goodbye, balled on the ride to my new house, balled everytime I thought about the family I had left. Although my new family is only 5 or so kilometers away, it feels like a world away.

Luckily, I will be going to the same German classes as Jack twice a week. Georg and Phillip I will see also as they take Spanish lessons there at the same time. The Neubauers gave me a card wishing me luck and reminiscing on time spent with one another. I keep it in my memory box for Germany.

But now, for my new host family. They live in Berlin- or on the outskirts. They are the Sahms. Its two parents (Peter and Carola) and two daughters-one of 15 (Carolin) and one of 18 (Linda). They are both really funny and I taught them how to play Egyptian Rat Screw which they ask me to play as much as possible-convinced they will beat me some day, which I am sure they will. Linda and I went running together and talked about the disadvantages to being short. We ate dinner together and I taught unique American dances like "the shopping cart", "the sprinkler", and "the lawnmower". It was the laughter that took place yesterday that starting healing the wound of leaving the Neubauers. AFS always tells you, when your upset, hang out with people and you never think that will help. All you want to do is sit alone. But yesterday I realized how much it really helps and that that is the only way to start feeling better.

Naturally, new city= new school. 6th new school in 5 years. You'd think first days would get easier, but god knows they don't. My school is also in Berlin, Carolin goes there, and its home to 1200 students. But I told myself that being nervous wouldn't help my situation, and spent the day going to classes with another student in my grade. Her name was Wiwi (pronounced vii-vii) and she made it totally unawkward to be with her all day (as usually it feels like I'm a burden). My German is so much better than when I started my last school, and therefore I actually made a legit group of friends instead of having the "I'm only nice to you cause your foreign but I secretly want to ditch you right now" friends. My schedules amazing, and I go home around noon 3 days a week. I'm actually looking forward to school tomorrow. School made everything feel better and I started imagining my year in this family and this city-and it looks really good. Plus, living in Berlin gives one more school break than in Brandenburg. I have German classes tonight which adds to why today was a good day.

And now for some pictures I should have posted with earlier entries:

Trip to the Berlin Zoo
Visiting a castle in Potsdam with Jack

Late Orientation Camp in September in Berlin
Countries from left to right: Mexico, China, America, Brazil, Japan, Brazil, Panama, Brazil

These are my good friends Lauren and Evan, during our orientation in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. naturally.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy...not really Halloween!

Since I'm posting pictures on this post I'm not going to make a gigantic effort to write a lot in here. Instead I'm ganna pull an AP Euro and just write little cultural differences I've seen in bullet notes:

- Theres a million different types of bread and every morning we buy fresh bread for breakfast
- Meals are at really different times. Lunch is around 3 pm and dinner is around 9 pm
- You always have to wait for everyone to eat
- When meeting new people you always shake hands, even when its a little kid or someone your age
- No elbows on the table and you bring food to your mouth instead of mouth to your food
- Lots of people sing to both the radio and their Ipod
- Acne is completely acceptable and theres no acne commercials here. This really ticks me cause I had really bad acne last year and got hell for it and I wish it had waited a year.
- One always has to look put together before they walk out the door, this includes going out for the mail.


Think I was kidding about the gigantic sheets here?

From left to right: Jack, Phillip, George, Me. We went to a power plant where we had to wear these really heavy shoes and helmets. Do I know why I was there? Absolutely not. All I know is that George has his doctorates in engineering and he had to do something here and brought us along.

This is in Berlin where we went to the classical concert.

This is on one of those trails I was telling you about.

So this week I spent in Northwestern Germany in a couple different dorfs=villages and stadts=cities. We were there to celebrate the 81st birthday of their Grandpa. The car trip reminded me a lot of the US. The three kids were crunched in the back (Who got stuck with the middle seat??) and we all drifted in and out of sleep and tried out million of different seating positions in attempt to be somewhat comfortable...which didn't work. Claudia brought lots of sweets and chocolates to eat and for lunch we went to Burger King.

Grandpa and Grandma were such typical grandparents I just had to giggle. Grandma was constantly saying "Oh I need to do this. Can I get you something to eat? Oh, let me do that! etc. etc. " with everyone else just telling her to calm down and sit and that everythings perfect. Grandpa was calm and friendly and was always asking the kids to see their cameras so he could try them out and adjust the settings. We all stayed in the same house and I finally got to see what takes place at family gatherings after the kids go to bed! Hoorah for growing up. Also, I learned that theirs a very vile German version of the tellitubbies song (nicely delivered to me by a 3 year old) that goes " stinkywinky tipsy schlampa po" (Shlampa=whore, po=butt).

We stayed from Tuesday until Saturday. There were lots of fun times and also incredibly boring ones. I swear, family reunions always leave Claire alone in a corner at some point and I have neither my Ipod or a book to read. On Saturday was the big party, we all dressed up really nice and it was a brunch, lunch, and cake party. Thats a lot of time in one room. So occasionally we would take a break and hang out outside, and I conveniently forgot my coat. We also took a trip to a Germanic war museum. But unfortunately for me, neither Jack nor I understood where we were being taken to, so I didn't think to change my shoes (which were pumps) for this museum. Also, the museum had 10 flights of stairs. Welcome to hell ladies and gentlemen.

I've also made a major accomplishment in my German. I can now understand German in group conversations-something I've been majorly struggling with since I've gotten here. This has led to a lot more fun, such as going to dinner with two teenage German relatives of George and teaching each other "native" dances of our country. Jack and I taught the Grind and the Stanky Leg...

I also wanted to share that George called Jacks giant shoes size "Children Coffins"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Putt Putt Saves the Zoo!

After reading several blogs of other AFSers I'm starting to realize that perhaps I veered away from the whole purpose of a blog, which is to tell you what's going on here. Instead Ive just been sharing my reactions lately. So I thought I would try out telling you what I am doing, which is easier now as I am on October break (yes indeed, how awesome is that? Two weeks off in October!) and I am actually doing things.

So as I mentioned in my earlier entry, I am staying with another AFSer Jack. Jack also won the scholarship that I did. We met on the train from Frankfurt to Berlin, became friends at Late Orientation Camp, then I stayed at his place when I needed a host for my SAT weekend where we grew sick of eachother, and then now I am staying with him for the two week October Break where we are both sort of like "I can't get away from you, so I'm just ganna learn to deal with you". I imagine its like being a married couple. Why may you ask, is AFS allowing me to stay with Jack in Berlin for two weeks? Yes, well, I am changing families. And until AFS finds me a new family (cross your fingers not in the same town I was in = major awkwardness) I am staying here, which suits me just fine. I have done more here in the week I've stayed here than I did in a month with my old host family.

Although I can't act like I do something interesting all the time here (aka Jack and I sat with our laptops and ate candy on the couch for literally three days straight until we both turned to eachother, moaned, and went "we have to do something!"). This led to Jack and I taking a bikeride through the town and "spazieren" which is exploring woods. We found tons of creepy old treehouses that were so water-soden that we couldnt climb all but one. The woods in Germany are amazing, theres tons of old abandoned roads and you never run into other people. All you see is farms on all sides of you and a seemingly endless trail. It always reminds me of the movie "Pride and Prejudice" for those who have any idea the scenery I am referring to. I like to take walks on these walks to think and get outside.

Also, Jack and I had taken an earlier exploring adventure in another woods. We rode our bikes to a local "wilderness park"=forest and decided we'd rather walk (actually I wasn't wearing a belt and was tired of worrying about my shirt riding up on the bike so I insisted we drop the bikes). Unfortunately, in Germany, its the national past time to steal bikes, so we had to find a ditch and throw our bikes in there to make sure they werent stolen. We quickly got lost as the path was both neverending and constantly forking. But it was all in good fun. At one point we ended up in this huge field where goats with horns were kept. It was surrounded by an electric fence which of course Jack and I spent about 20 minutes taking turns grabbing...I know, our maturity level is astounding. Finally, we-by the grace of God- somehow made our way back to our bikes. We stopped by the local shop and had Fanta and German pastries and then continued our ride home.

Recently, I've been going out a lot. I went to see...fuck, I forget the name. Some movie with...oh God, I forget that too. This is turning out to be a really good story...Okay, so I went to see a movie with Phillip (Jacks host brother), Dennis (I'll hold out my opinions on this creeper), and Phillips friends. I actually understood the movie! Hooray me. We also went Christmas shopping on Saturday in Berlin. I'd name what I bought but my family reads this thing (hey guys!). Then yesterday, I found out that my Grandpa had passed away. It really hit me hard cause I couldn't be there and he meant so much to me. But last night I went to a classical symphony with the Neubauer's (Jacks family) which was fun, as we got to dress up all fancy-like and the concert was surprisingly more interesting than it might sound. When the last song played I was like, "Hmm that was good" BUT THEN people kept clapping, and clapping-and clapping. And three encores later I was on the verge of taking the U-baun home. This is especially since, 1. High heels are a bitch to wear no matter if your sitting or standing, 2. Panty hose from hell. I hate when the crotch falls down to like your knees and unless you go to the bathroom theres no way you can pull them up (I'm crossing my fingers some girl reading this understands my pain)--panty hose really need some evolving because I dont know a woman who actually likes wearing them . But yes, the concert was enjoyable and the family activities in this family always make me exceptionally happy.

Oh my god, I almost forgot the zoo. Today I went to the zoo with Jack, Phillip, Claudia (host mom), and another family that has a 10 year old daughter, a 16 year old daughter Leo whose a friend of Jacks, and a mom. Oh, the zoo-trip, how to describe you? I'll name my favorite parts.

1. When in the monkey part of the park Claudia goes "Hey Claire, look at those monkeys-so cute!" and I look and go 'Thats officially the ugliest freaking animal I've ever seen!" and promptly asked what the hell was wrong with its face. But then suddenly the monkey turned around and instead of seeing a regular monkey butt-I saw a typical monkey face. Turns out, that ugly monkey I had seen before was its BUTT. It had like a tumor on its butt that looked like a face. It was both incredible and absolutely pain stakingly disgusting.

2. Of course, with little kids we naturally had to go to the petting zoo. Some little kid shoved feed in my hand and insisted I feed the stupid-looking horse, and instead of throwing feed in her face, I did it (I can only imagine how proud my parents are of this). Naturally, my hand was absolutely disgusting and smelled awful afterwards so I just pulled a sheep near me and used its fur as a napkin--crafty right? Then I ran into my new best friend. It was a goat that when it...cried (is that what a goat does?) it sounded like it was choking on a spoon and gurgling water at the same time. It sounds awful but it about got me to pee myself laughing. Also, I got to see an elephant bash as one elephant got pushed over and then the other sat on it. Then when the fallen elephant got up it went out for revenge and pushed over the elephant that had sat on it. P.S. For Christmas, I want a baby elephant.

3. I have no three, that's unfortunate.

Tomorrow we leave for Northwestern Germany to celebrate their Grandpa's birthday. We are staying until Thursday and I'm excited to go to the other side of Germany. So yeah, that was my attempt at explaining a little bit of what I do. I feel like it was a bit dull, but whatever- its experimentation.

OH, speaking of experimentation. I'm going through this really cool 'what-the hell" phase where I'll pretty much try anything if you ask me just to know I tried. This has led to many new foods that I like and very few things that I've tried have been unenjoyable. I tried:

1. Cows tongue
2. Snails
3. Salad ( I actually really like it parents! I know, me liking salad?!)
4. Mexican curry
5. Sauercraut<-- absolutely disgusting
6. Bacon wrapped plum <--- the nastiest thing I've ever eaten in my whole life which says a lot considering I ate mexican worms and crickets for extra credit in Science
7. Gorka<-- like pickles but so much better (Dad, I shall make sure we eat this when you visit)
8. Doenner<-- Turkish meat pocket thats like the German blt
9. Chili Chocolate<--- Delicious at first and then has a horrible aftertaste
10. Buttermilk<-- Really popular here and does that not sound absolutely delicious? I was disappointed that its both bitter and un-butter-like. Fail.
11. My first beer <-- I always thought that beer smelled like perfume, and hey, what do you know if it tastes like it too?

My parents will be amazed by this list, as I've managed to stay a very picky eater-along with my brother- for the majority of my life. Then this Summer I realized that perhaps if I tried foods other than pizza and mac n cheese that I might actually like them, and look at me now!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mag order nicht zu mag

I think you would be proud to hear that I actually considered putting pictures up on this thing. Unluckily, my computer seems to have other plans and would rather throw a temper tantrum and make me call it foul names than actually have me like it for once. But thats only because I'm technologically challenged and also a wee bit impatient. So no pictures at the moment. I also cant put them on Facebook as Facebook and my computer are working together as evil technological supervillians set on overheating Claire's brain. But yeah, I tried.

Anyhow, I thought Id put a list of simple things I like and don't like here in Germany. I shall start will my likes as those are easier to think of and I'm also currently in an optimistic mood.

Claire Likes:

1. Haribo- I get this weird dejavu feeling when I write this because I feel like Ive mentioned it before and probably have. I repeat myself all the time in person. But maybe that emphasizes how good they are. They are gummy snacks that come in like hundreds of different types. Its both aww inspiring and addicting.

2. Brotchen- It means little bread. But its what you have for breakfast every morning with jams, nutella (Ill get to that later...), fresh cheeses, and meats. Im currently mastering the art of cutting a brotchen in half.

3. Fat "who cares?"- I love that the Germans eat and dont think about it. When its good, its good and thats that. Theres no "Oh, that will make my hips too big" or "Im ganna skip breakfast because Im sure that will solve all my insecurities". Its freeing to not have to deal with the American habit of always concentrating on weight. And ya know what, Ive hardly seen an overweight person here. So, take that.

4. Sheets- When you have a bed in Germany you have one gigantic pillow that takes up like half your bed and then one gigantic sheet that weighs a ton. Ive heard some complaints from other exchange students about it, but I love it! Its like being Patrick Star and sleeping with a boulder on top of you.

5. Transportation- I'm not used to being able to go wherever I so want to. Here, no matter if your in the middle of nowhere, by train or by bus you have the ability to go anywhere. Its not exactly cheap but its not expensive either. In my town theres just a train to Philly and back and you have to drive a car to get to the train station which pretty much deletes the whole freeness of it.

6. Weather- Cold, wet, and windy. Every day.

7. Language- I really respect the Germans, and other European countries, for how well they teach language classes. And not only that, they all take several languages. Here, all language classes are conducted entirely in that language and the teacher actually speaks the language fluently. Its a deduction from your grade when you speak in your native tongue. Kids really know their foreign languages here and could easily pull off a conversation in it. In America, you'd be lucky to pull off a conversation with my teacher.

8. NUTELLA- I am addicted. I go through withdrawal when I don't have it on a daily basis. Its really becoming a problem. And yes, I do know that its available in the United States, but had I ever had Nutella before I came here? No. I remember last year telling my stepmom how disgusting it was that a girl in my chorus class ate a chocolate sandwich, well, that was nutella. And now I am jealous of her for finding this gem before I did. It sounds nasty, but chocolate on bread is magical. Id compare nutella to america's peanut butter. But yeah, it got so bad at one point that I ended up buying my own jar of nutella to eat by the spoonful...I know....

Claire Dislikes:

1. Lack of DO for the BO- I can understand after a sports game stinking, but its like 10 am here and guys are making me back vomit and breathe through my mouth to avoid dieing. I'm not kidding, I really don't know where the governments storing the supply of deodorant but Id really appreciate if the problem was worked out. Its only with guys and the odd thing is that I get the feeling they have absolutely no idea how atrocious their body odor is. Hate to be blunt, but thats how its going down.

2. Copying US- I think this might only be a problem for me as I know a lot of others who like how United States-ish Germany is. But like, they copy our TV shows and put different names on it, and copy our cereals, and theres a bunch of English words in the German language that stand out like a sore thumb such as the word "chill" or "shopping". I'm sure there are good reasons as to why this shouldn't bother me, and I really don't know why it does. I guess I just wish everybody else didn't know so much about my country, cause it makes me feel really lame and boring.

3. No Naturalness- This goes for the women here, and I believe its only where I live. But I could count on one hand the amount of women Ive seen with their natural hair color its so few. Even old old women in walkers have crazy ass dyed hair. The old women with white hair especially like to put pink in their hair ---NOT kidding. Women here also are not discrete about how much makeup they wear. I'm used to at my school girls being embarrassed that they need to wear makeup, but here girls put it on like a beauty pageant. Its crazy colors and lots of liquid eyeliner and I just sort of like the naturalness of American teen girls.

4. Dependence on Alcohol- I know that when me and my step mom talked about drinking, we spoke about the fact that since alcohol isn't illegal for teens here then they don't drink to get drunk. But I'm really disappointed at what Ive seen. Kids in fact still find drinking a "bad ass" thing to do despite the fact its totally legal for them. Theres broken beer bottles everywhere and at night the kids hang around public places, get absolutely smashed, fight, and make complete asses out of themselves. Its also assumed that at a gathering of friends that some sort of alcohol will always be there. I think I'm incredibly biased on this because I'm sure it goes on in the US and I just don't see it. But still, I'm disappointed in how teens here wanna get drunk for fun as well.

5. Homophobia- This is much like the drinking situation. I thought that since Germany had legalized gay marriage that there wouldn't be homophobia and that it would just be totally socially acceptable. Unfortunately, its the same as in America. Kids make fun of gays and have nicknames just like in English for them. Its something to be ashamed over and to poke fun at. I'm really ashamed of the people like this who are so egotistical that they believe others are less human than they are.

So yeah, its a give and take just like it is in any country. But already its broadened my thinking and given me a new perspective on some subjects. And of course on others its only strengthened my beliefs. For now, I am staying with my friend Jack inbetween Berlin and Potsdam and we are being "Faulkinder" (lazy kids) sitting on the couch with our laptops eating Haribo and listening to music. Right now its cold and raining so we are stuck indoors.

I have no interesting conclusion for this so, Tschuess!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Claire Can't Walk

After a couple weeks in Germany Ive come to the sad conclusion that Im not physically capable of walking. Ive given in my best shot here but apparently my best efforts are not cuttin it here. Id estimate that I trip about two times on every street. When I turn onto a new street, two more trips. And God forbid I be on public transportation which seems to make me fall over at every stop. BUT in my defense, all the streets here are cobblestone and if youve ever visited Philadelphia you cant lie and say you never tripped. Also, I have new German shoes that have a heel on them. Cobblestones + Heels= Claire in a ditch somewhere.

Anywho, I thought Id go over some observations Ive made on Germany. Please remember that this isnt for all of Germany, its just for where I live. Ive heard a bunch of things from other CBYXers and a lot of them dont apply to me and Im pretty sure some of mine dont apply to them. So here we go.

Eating Habits. I cant begin to describe the differences in eating habits here. First off, Im almost certain that theres a quick eating competition going on with prizes and Im not aware of it because people eat lighting quick. I have tried to match their incredible speed but have eaten dust. Secondly, its totally acceptable to talk with food in your mouth and I mean like full on "A glub blug aggh Rah fah" type of food-talking.

Blowing Your Nose. This one I find absolutely amusing. Let me start off by saying that the people here seem to be perpetually sick and everyone always has tissues on them. Whats the best part is that here its absolutely okay to FULL OUT blow your nose. You know in America youll like go into the bathroom to blow your nose and when you do it in class its really awkward and loud and everyone looks at you? No such thing here. You can blow your nose talking to someone, eating, in class, riding a bike, you name it. And as loud as you want. You would even do it here talking face to face with a guy you like. Its so weird for me.

Sleepovers. Lets just say that sleepovers have a bit of a different meaning here. A sleepover is between opposite sexes and its perfectly normal. I was absolutely mortified to hear that my host brothers girlfriend was sleeping over (especially after having to spend a whole day watching their out right disgusting PDA). But its perfectly normal here. The thing thats unheard of is having a sleepover with the same sex. I did with my friend Mili (Australia) on a school night and when we go on the bus we were promptly informed wed just declared ourselves lesbians. Not exactly what I was going for with my sleepover but it shows you the cultural differences.

ALSO I went to an AFS meeting for the weekend in Berlin and it was absolutely amazing. I had the best time which rocks and sucks at the same time. Its awesome cause i met great people and had an amazing time but its made this week that much harder cause ive missed them so much.

At the moment Im trying to figure out my weekend because I have to take the SATs on Saturday morning so I need to find a host fam. Im pretty sure my brain will be blasted by the end cause people always ask me the english words for stuff here and I forget 99% of them cause I dont use them now.

Whoa...I just had the greatest idea...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kein Sex mit Nazis

Ive officially been in Germany for a week. A week seems like such a small increment of time compared to a year and though Ive had to time to think about it, I still cant imagine what a year here would be like. But Ive gotten more and more comfortable in my surroundings and I started school on Wednesday.

Oh yes, school. I never particularly enjoyed school in America ( so much work inside and outside of school) but here its a bit different in both good and bad ways. For example, theres a lot of freetime inbetween class here and you have 2 hours off everyday for lunch. Although in the future Im sure ill appreciate this time, being a new student who cant speak the language and has to find something to do for two hours is a bit...blah. Whatever, hasnt been a problem yet. The kids are really nice and humor my German. I cant understand the teachers one bit and sit and class translating the papers I'm given. My host Mom says I dont have to do the homework or the tests until my Germans good enough. The sucktastic part of school is that I have two trains and two separate buses to get to school so I have to leave at 6 in the morning and wake up at 5. My Germans not very impressive at 5 in the morning.

Food- The food here is okay. I like the sweets and have become addicted to Haribo (its like gummy worms but ten times better). The actual food isnt fantastic but its not bad either. I expected there to be truck loads of meat here but Ive only had one meal with meat in it since I arrived. I also have been introduced to German drinking, which is both frequent but not obsessive. I never drank in the US, but here its a social thing and Im fine to drink when offered at parties or family functions. I just refuse to be the dumb American who gets trashed and ends up embarassing their country and themselves. Oh yeah, and let me say that a dietician would be absolutely bedaffled by the Germans being that they eat ALL the time and Ive hardly seen a slighly overweight person since Ive been here. Its a medical mystery.

Language- I indeed got a nice kick in the butt at school. My German isnt bad, its just sentence structure that I often stumble on. I have a German tutor and I will hold back my opinions on how big a jerk she is. Plus she doesnt speak English. But I digress. I have my good and bad days with language but I am told Im better than when I arrived. I want to buy some books here so I can read in German instead of English. But if I cant even understand my teachers Im not sure if I could read a book. The sucky thing is that my family had a foreign exchange student before me who by the time she left had perfect German. People keep telling me that and I feel like if I dont have perfect German by the time I leave then Im somewhat of a disappointment, especially since the other exchange student started off with no German.

My Town- My town here is really interesting. Its in the former GDR and on the Polish border. But when I say Polish border I mean ON the border. Down the street from my flat is the checkpoint into Poland and everyday I run along the Polish border and if I went a few yards to my right would be in Poland. Whats surprising to me is that my family hates Poland. They think they are cheap and theifs and they refuse to go into their country. In my mind, I expected the countries to be best friends. Its sad for me, because I have a good friend Karolina in Poland and Im not sure my family would support me visiting her. Also surprising is that my family has no problem with the Turkish population. The town has all cobblestone streets and former GDR buildings. On every lightpost theres a poster for the neonazis which is kind of freaky. Im also not allowed to go outside alone cause my family says its too dangerous because the Neo-Nazis dont like "auslanders" or people from other countries.

I would post pictures, but its so freaking time consuming and I still dont understand how to work this computer. So maybe later when Im not so lazy.

Oh yea, and to explain the title. Theres a fair on the street outside my flat right now and the headline of it is "Kein Sex mit Nazis" which is "No sex with Nazis". Im determined to take a picture of this and figure out why this would be their slogan.

By the way, tonight Im going to see Inglorious Bastards with my host brother, kids from school, and my friend Mili whose an exchange student from Australia. Prima.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Orientation and Deutschland

First off, let me complain a second about the fact that my computer adapter doesnt work so I have to use the home computer that has a totally funky keyboard. The y and z are switched and all the keys like $%(/ are in different places. OKAY cool, got that out of my system.


Orientation was an experience that I will never forget. Though I think everyone came into thinking it was worthless, I dont think anyone would skip it after they went through it. Along with learning a lot about AFS and Germany in general, the orientation allowed everyone to meet great people who were all willing and open to friendship. It was absolutely astonishing how fast we bonded and how strongly. For the last day or so it has been hard to deal with how much I miss everyone from orientation. Luckily, today it has been a bit better but I still very much look forward to seeing them again.

Travel to Germany

So on Friday I got on a giant plane full of Germans to go to Germany. The flight was okay, though I got no sleep and did'nt get to read the Time Travelers Wife or do my game book. But thats okay, I could read it on the way back. On the flight I was unexcited only because I could never imagine the feeling of being in another country. When I stepped off the plane the Frankfurt airport greeted me in its utter beauty (corny right? horrah!). But seriously, thats when I had my "oh fuck" moment where I realized what have done. From there I was on the train ride to Berlin. Luckily there were other American cb's on my train and I didnt even notice how long it took to get there. Stop after stop, exchange students kept leaving until it was just me and Jack from cb. We both got quiet nervous and I personally felt quiet sick. But my family greeted me off the train and we got drinks and then headed home. On the car ride home I managed to fall asleep a couple times, doing that awkward head-snapping thing.


This is probably not a good day to write about my impression of Germany because Ive had a rather bad day. We went to see my school, principal (direktor), and my teacher. To my surprise and displeasure we also ran into my class and it was incredibly awkward and intimidating. I did not get one My kind of class right there. Oh well, I just have to remind myself that this is not the first time I have started a new school and I should take it one day at a time. Its just hard being lonely, misunderstood, and starting a new school all at the same time D:


I'm absolutely baffled at my German skills. Somehow God blessed me with random German skills on the day I arrived. I came from a German class that hardly actually speaks german and Ive only had two years. But Ive totally held my own in the language department and have gotten compliments on how fast I talk. I think tomorrow that that will all go down the toilette when i go to school and realize that I cant really understand or speak much German. Blah...

So yeah, thats it. Right now Id kill for a hug from a cbyxer, or to have a good laugh with one of them. But I guess patience is a virtue and Im not supposed to be comftorble right now. Now I go to the bank to exchange my dollars and basically ask for the worth of my money to decrease.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Last Day

Today is my last day in Pennsylvania. Am I excited? Not especially. Am I nervous? I suppose. Am I packed? No. So pretty much, I'm not ready in any shape or form. But that's okay, I like doing things the old fashioned way where everything magically comes together the day before you leave. Tonight I have my final dinner with the rents at my favorite Italian restaurant and then hopefully get enough sleep to look half decent in the morning.

From there we drive to Washington D.C. for a delightful four day orientation...

And then somewhere down the road I end up in Forst, Germany. My host Mom has told me that my room is ready and that everyone's waiting for me. So I think I'll write an entry every two weeks... If I don't, don't blame me cause there's a million other AFSers who started a blog and forgot about it a week later.

So, auf Wiedersehen! <--- After years of German class, I just found out today that that phrase is not spelled "Aufiedersehen". This gives me loads of confidence heading into the coming year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Neverending Joooourrnneyyy....

Five days. What seems to me like an eternity seems to my parents like a minute. I've finally started packing, started wrapping up E-mails with my host mother, and more importantly planning outfits. I'm convinced that the Travel God has a vendetta against me. I have now received my AFS travel-information from Washington D.C. to Forst, Germany. And here is why it sucks:

Step 1: Six hour flight to Frankfurt <---not including time on the runway. I better be sitting next to someone who firstly doesn't sleep and secondly plays a mean game of Egyptian Rat Screw.

Step 2: Eight and a half hour train ride to Berlin. This step convinced me I'm going to die on this journey.

Step 3: Two hour car ride from Berlin to my house. I will be extremely surprised if I don't nod off in the car.

I will arrive in Forst around 10 pm their time. And considering my hair will not have seen a straightener in at least 16 hours, it will be what's commonly referred to as a m-i-r-a-c-l-e if I don't look like complete bollocks for my first introduction to the host fam. I only pray it doesn't rain. But maybe that God hates me too...

Anyhow, I read a blog entry the other day that entertained me with lists about some guys AFS experience in the Netherlands. Being the blog pirate that I am, I decided to jack his idea...or I suppose his "booty" for less of a better word. I was also asked through a comment for any advice to get the CBYX scholarship. So I shall combine both brilliant ideas, neither of which are mine.

Five Things That May Help You Win a CBYX Scholarship

1. Dress for success. You'll have an interview somewhere along the road against other kids vying for the scholarship. When I woke up that morning I put on jeans and a T-shirt like a complete twit. If it were not for an argument with my Stepmom in which I wanted to punch her in the face for trying to help me, I would have came into a room of claddly dressed kids dressed like I was going to school. Luckily, I acquiesced to her wishes and wore big kid clothes. When I was doing my interview, they promptly complemented the color blue I was wearing. Kudos to Marilyn.

2. Have things that the interviewer will remember you for. Whether this be experiences you bring up, sayings you use, or how polite you are, make sure you're not just another face in the crowd. As an example, I talked about dealing with my mothers disease as an example of why I'm mature enough to go abroad and was also full of unintentional sayings. Like, when they asked me how I would deal with German bluntness, I decided I would use the saying, " I would take it with a grain of salt", but being the dimwit I am, I forgot the words to the saying. Was it and out of my mouth came "I'll take it with a grain of sugar". Instantly I knew it came out completely wrong. But then all the interviewers started laughing and going "Oh she's so clever, take it with a grain of sugar! Cunning!" thinking I did that on purpose. In fact, no. I did not. Did I admit this? Of course not. They remembered me for it.

3. Don't come off like a total tool. Remember that although seeming polite is important, you're not trying to be a lapdog, your trying to prove your capable of handling the responsibilities of an exchange student. Prepare examples of things you've done in the past that tells them you've faced challenges in your life that may have given you skills needed for a year abroad. This being said, there's something to be said for admitting a year abroad would be a huge challenge for you BUT one your ready to face.

4. Have your parents at the interview. Not only does it give a comfort level, but it shows that you have a steady support system that will help you get to Germany. They also get to ask questions and speak with the parents of other interviewers.

5. Breath. You'll be hit with some rather odd questions that you can't prepare for and I'm convinced are designed to throw you off. Think them through! Don't just have verbal diarea explode out of your mouth. Make it a conversation with the interviewers because they are people too and you'll be more relaxed if you laugh a little and aren't so stiff.

I know I mostly talked about the interview, but as long as you have decent grades and fair teacher recommendations your set. Its the interview that I found the most pivotal. Also, good bit of luck might help as well and probably attributed to my acceptance. I mean, can you imagine if I had said " Take it with a grain of sand?"...yeah, no.

And now a picture for your viewing pleeeeaa-sha.

Peggy and Chris in Amsterdam.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How is five pictures a reasonable amount?

Chris and Sven in Japan

They have a pool in their garden, not something I am particularly ecstatic about.

This will be my class in Germany. They don't change rooms, just teachers. So basically these kids better be cool because I'll be in one room with them all day. Also, can you say "Claire needs to buy a black jacket"?

Their kitchen. The girl in the yellow is their former host daughter, Mika, from Japan.

Peggy and Chris holding up my application picture. When they sent me this I was mega glad I chose a non-embarrassing photo for that application.

For some reason this blog only let's me post 5 photos at a time...lame.

I delete you!

I have officially deleted both my facebook and my twitter accounts, big moves for a 16 year old girl. I wanted to do this before leaving because I know how addicting both of them are (seeing as I checked them frequently even during finals week) and how much I would be impelled to check them. I did not want to be using English on a regular basis or hogging the computer at my host's house. Now I am left with the life question of, what do I do now?

This weekend has probably been my most productive weekend all Summer. We bought a new camera for my trip, shot and printed pictures of my home town, and also figured out my money situation. My family decided to get me both a mastercard and a visa card for my trip (because some places don't accept one or the other). They are debit cards cosigned with my parents. This way, they can put in money and also check my spendings. We also had two of my final favorite meals for dinner including chicken parm and spinach pasta : D omnomnom

As far as interactions with the host family, they are counting down. I planned to send an email tonight to my host Mom but it takes a lot of time and well...I'm just ganna do it tomorrow (aka Lazy). I am a bit scared as they have not mentioned that birthday card I sent Chris which makes me suspect it didn't go over so well. I'm not sure my neverending sarcasm will go over well there, as it many times bites me in the ass even here. I have also decided to pass up on bringing my laptop or even my Ipod to Germany. Neither will really be of use to me. I say this now, but I may regret the decision about .2 seconds after arriving.

Also, who would have had the first day of school today had she not been going to Germany?! Yes, ME! I was tempted to wait at the busstop and then when it came, get on and go "oh yes, how silly of me, I don't have to go to school!" and walk off. Instead I slept in, which was equally as satisfying.

So I will now post pictures because that's the only part of blogs people actually look at...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The 10 Longest Days of Summer

I've officially decided that the last two weeks in the United States will be my longest and hardest part of this whole experience. This means a lot considering that its competitors were summer school and waiting to find out whether I got accepted for cbyx (my scholarship). But no, indeed the last few days have been killer. Somehow the free time that I would have murdered my best friend for during finals week, has lost its shine and sparkle. One can only play online bingo so long (and not win once) until they have no other option but to sit and stare at walls until the days pass.

I have 10 days left. Technically, I have 14 because there's a four day orientation in Washington D.C... but 10 days to entertain myself at home. I no longer even have companions in my Summer boredom. My brother Tyler moved out on the 17th and my brother Colin left this morning for his Sophmore year at Dickinson. He also took my bedroom TV...*inserts incredibly angry face*. I have considered starting to pack, but seeing as I'm packing a years worth of clothes, I'd be better off doing it closer to me leaving. Some cbyxers started packing last month, which makes me question what the hell their wearing, if anything, right now?

As my last gift before I leave, my stepmom has offered to cook my favorite meals for the week preceeding my departure. Kudos to my stepmom for this brilliant idea. I am helping with the prep process which will be tomorrow. I can't cook, I can just cut shit. So that's what I contribute. My list of "Last Suppers" include black beans and rice, crab cakes, chili, and spaghetti. I obviously have a very sophisticated palate.

Oh yes, so now for the translating disasters that I know you so crave to hear. I seriously start to wonder whether I'm the only kid pulling this stuff. Anyway, in one of my E-mails to my host mother I attempted to ask whether we could purchase a hair straightener when I arrive there (This is because AFS has assured me that if I try to plug it in while in Europe, it will surely blow up. As much as I would like to pull a mythbusters and see if this would actually happen, my parents might not be so proud to hear I set my host families house on fire my first night). Unfortunately, I don't know the word for "straightener". As the lazy teen that I am, I would much rather plug that into a translator than actually look it up in my German-English dictionary. So, I did..finished the E-mail...and sent it. When I got an E-mail back, I was promptly told that I had just asked if I can purchase hair plugs when I arrive. So pretty much my host family is expecting a prematurely balding chick to show up at the train station. Damn you Babble Fish!

Friday, August 21, 2009

School and Birthday Card Fiascos

Haaaalllllooo<--- I actually hate saying hello like that because there is a German blogger named Katrina who literally starts off every single video (she does like two a day) with "haaaaallllooo". Grrr. Sucker punch her in the face. And by that I mean...absolutely nothing. I hardly ever have a method to my madness.

So, I have finally finished summer school. Yey for only having 18 days of actual summer now. Important to note is that I do not in any way promote the summer school program I used- Aventa. It has continually disappointed my family and I by being unreliable and inefficiently run. For example, I got my online report card for the class today and I had an 82 in history. You know why? Because my online teacher decided not to grade any of my discussion questions I turned in, thereby giving me 0/100 for discussions. I know, fascinating. Basically, if you have the option, don't use it.

Moving on to a topic slightly more stimulating. Last Friday was my host brothers 17th birthday. I thought it would be a nice gesture to buy a card for him. Unfortunately, my sense of humor tends to override my sense of judgement. I try so hard to be funny that many times I get myself into a pickle. See, I decided that instead of a regular card, how funny would it be to get one of those music cards, right?? And that's really where I should have stopped. But knowing me, God forbid I not make a total ass out of myself. I then chose the Cinderella princess birthday card for this soccer playing 17 year old boy. When you open the card it makes a magical *dodododo* sound and then has cinderella wish him a happy birthday. The kicker is that inside it wishes "the beautiful princess" a happy birthday. So I crossed out the "ss" and made it prince. And I sent it.

Now, I totally regret it. Of course I would never second guess it before I sent it because that would be all too convenient. Even though in the writing I made sure he knew it was a joke, I feel as if it may not have been my smartest move. This is especially since I have never once talked to Chris or even sent an email. So my first impression is sending him a princess card. BUT they keep raving that they are a very funny family so this will be a true test of their sense of humor. Then again, I have also heard that German humor is completely different than America slap-stick humor. And if it completely bombs, then little to say, it will be a very long year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making Up Credits

I know that I wish someone had given me direct guidance in how to handle credits while overseas. I would assume that a big deterrent for people considering a year abroad would be the fact your school may not accept credits. So I'll share what I did, and maybe that will give you some ideas of what you could do.

First step: Stake a claim in the guidance office. I practically LIVED there this year trying to figure out all my Germany stuff. Not only do you need their help on your application, but you'll need their help with credits. I would find the most liberal and probably the youngest guidance counselor you have and go the extra mile to get on their good side. I was really tight with my GC and it seriously pays off.

Second Step: Find out in general what classes you will be taking in Germany. This can be done by contacting former exchange students or asking AFS. Then find out how many credits you already have in school and how many you need for the coming year. If you have taken AP classes or an extra course, this will help you a lot because you wont need as many credits. Take this to your guidance counselor and ask him/her what credits the school is willing to give you for your school year in Germany. Important: Most schools will give you credit for math and science in Germany because it's pretty much fact that their standards are higher there. As for English, you will be taking ESL and therefore will not get credit for that and history will depend on your year in high school. Since I was supposed to take American history, I will not get credit for history in Germany.

Third step: Once you know what classes you wont get credit for, find a good summer school program. I highly suggest doing Summer school (even though it TOTALLY sucks, I'm not ganna lie) as opposed to some kids who do it during their year in Germany. Doing it during the summer gets it out of the way so you can enjoy your year abroad. I would think that taking it during the year would greatly take away from your experience plus your german. Oh yeah, and summer school. This is another thing that guidance will help you with. I did it through a program called Aventa. Important: Make sure that your summer program is the FULL COURSE and not the remedial course. I almost made this mistake and it could have cost me a lot. Also, summer school does cost a fair bit of money. I think each course was about $1000 dollars.

As a sidenote, for those who are told by their guidance counselors that they do not need the credits or that they will work it out when they get back, I would suggest getting a second opinion. The last thing you want to happen is to get back and realize that you should have taken Summer school. Some kids are taking courses just in case, which I think is smart but I would suggest figuring out exactly what credits you need so your not doing too little work but your not making up credits you dont need either.

So thats my two cents on making up credits. The only reason I post it is cause I got so frustrated trying to figure out where to start with making up what I need to for my year away. I am sure others are doing it differently, but I feel comftorble leaving with the credits I've made up.