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"