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.