Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Yes, I thought I'd actually be enthusiastic in a title for once. And indeed I am quiet enthusiastic about the experience I just went through. I went to the city of Koeln for Karneval (Carnival). Koeln is the biggest city in Germany for the celebration which gets to crazyness through the Friday-Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Thereby, I came from Friday to Tuesday.

Now, I hate blogs that tell you details about what you did day to day, but for this entry I feel its appropriate. I left Friday after school (meaning I had to bring my duffle bag to school which was a pain in the ass) and about halfway through my 4 hour journey to Koeln, they announced over the loudspeaker that anyone going to Koeln had to get off and there would be another train for us. I was so confused that I asked the woman in front of me for clarification, and wouldn't you know if she was Scottish? We thereby caught the next train together and realized our second train would get us there an hour later. My friends were waiting for me and had all already arrived in Koeln. I got into the Hauptbahnhof and it was PACKED and every single person was in costume. Jumping onto the bandwagon, I put on my flapper costume and joined my friends.

We spent the night dancing at a salsa bar and all around having fun with other exchange students ranging from America, to Argentina, to Latvia. And there were only two slight downpoints to my first night. First off, being myself, I naturally absolutely whipped out on the ice outside the bar--practically cracking a kneecap. God forbid I be at all graceful at any point of my life. Second downpoint, I got asked to dance by a South American guy at the bar. EPIC FAIL. But, if I'm to be fair, I always warn people when they ask to dance with me, my first answer being "I can't dance". Literally, every guy has answered back " all?". No, not at all. But yet they insist on me proving it. So yeah. Other than that, it was a fabulous night to start the experience, and we returned home around 3 am.

Saturday was a sort of...non Karneval day for us. We went to a local parade, in which I underdressed and was therefore miserable. We then went back to our host (Marios from USA) along with two other Americans (Tess and Ian) and Elina from Latvia. Through much teamwork we made curry...or what we called "Creation" which was delicious, watched Harry Potter and the Olympics, and ate candy thrown to us from the parade. Not the hard partying expected of a Saturday night of Karneval, but I found it quiet enjoyable.

Sunday was the highlight of my Karneval experience. We went to an AFS party in the early afternoon that was horrible but provided free food...hehe. Then we went into the city. It hit dark, and under the famous Koelner Dome there were African drummers (dressed as sailors?) and a huge group of people dancing to their beats. So naturally, Tess and I joined them. Unfortunately, Ian went home that day but after getting him on his train, we all went out to a really large "typisch Deutsch" bar with tons of people in costume. We danced to not so great music, but mostly entertained ourselves by befriending Germans. At one point there was a guy dressed as a New Yorks Giant football player, and for some reason I decided that gave me perfect reasons to go sit with him and talk. And guess what? HE WAS A NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL PLAYER. What?! Nuts the people you meet in random places. After the bar we went to a Cuban club because it had great music and no entrance fee (all clubs and bars in Germany have an entrance fee from 5-20 euros). The club ended up being a bit boring and in a sudden craving we all went for curry and danced in the restaurant while waiting for food. We went home and I hit the bed incredibly hard.

Monday is known as the biggest day of Karneval, here in Germany its called Rosen Montag. We went to a huge parade in the middle of the city that had over 116 wagons. It took around 3 hours in the freezing cold and getting hit in the face with candy thrown by parade participants who didn't look when they threw. But the costumes were amazing and I'm glad I went. Then we went to (surprising) a BAR! But it had good music and was more for dancing. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling well and was so not in the mood to dance. Throughout the day I just got worst and worst, and by the time we were at a cafe at 8 pm I turned to Marios and just said "take me home". And thank God I did, as it progressively got worst to the point I didn't sleep a wink Monday night. I went home sick on Tuesday. And didn't go to school Wednesday. Not the perfect ending to my trip, but I'm still absolutely amazed at how much fun I had and am so glad I went.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spain Photos Anyone?

I apologize for the suckness of my pictures. I don't particularly enjoy taking photos nor am I artistic enough to shoot valuable ones.

They tell me this church in Salamanca was built hundreds of years ago. But my question is why there's an astronaut in the carvings?

These are my two friends from Spain. Ana my host (left) and Palloma (right). I did a two month long international camp with Ana a couple Summers ago, and that's how we know one another.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Falling In Love

Yes, I fell in love this month. How year...romance. But who am I to argue? Who is this mystery lover you ask? Well its more like 46 million lovers. I fell in love with the country of Spain.

Now don´t go rechecking which blog your on, indeed I´m still on my exchange year in Germany. But a couple months ago my host family told me that during Winter Vacation they were going on a ski trip. They "kindly" told me they had no room in the car for me, and thereby I´d had to find someplace to stay for the break. At first I was a bit sad for being left out of a family trip, but I did understand that they had planned this trip before they took me in and that I fucking hate skiing. So I emailed a friend of mine who lives in Spain and asked if I could stay with her during my break, and that´s where my story begins.

I flew into Spain on the Thursday night before break began. I realized everyone on my plane was Spanish and quickly destroyed conversation with the guy next to me when he stopped midsentence after seeing I was reading a book in German. When I left Berlin it was -11 degrees and pouring snow. When I arrived in Madrid it was 12 degrees and balmy. Tip for travel: Never bring gloves, scarves, or anything you´d ever wear in Berlin on a trip to Spain, even in Winter. I was greeted at the gate by my friend Ana and her father. I got a kiss on both cheeks and had to tell them I wasn´t hungry 10 million times before they believed me (I had bought like a family sized bag of gummi bears for the plane ride, and actually felt quiet sick by then). I caught up on conversation with Ana on the 3 hour ride to Caceres and let the Spanishness start to sink in.

Oh right, that little detail I forgot to mention. I speak about 10 words of Spanish. And my list of words isn´t exactly...cohesive. Ajo= garlic. Maladie= illness. I know the numbers 1-6. Casa=house. Tranquile= calm down. Yes, for someone with a Cuban step Mom I sure don´t show it. Even better was the fact that Anas parents literally don´t speak a word of English. And this would be fine if Ana was there protecting my pride 24/7, but Ana had school and studying. She thereby awkwardly left me with her parents and my 10 words to survive. For a bit I felt total deja vu, as if I was returning to my first week in Germany. Lots of awkward smiles, hand gestures, and ¨no comprendo¨´s. But after 5 months as an exchange student, I find that awkwardness slides right off of me. Too many awkward moments this year has left me numb to them.

So Anas parents took me around town for hours and hours. We explored their city, which is absolutely beautiful. There are castles around every corner and torch lit streets. Theres tons of small Catholic churches which despite their size, are impeccably built. We also visited Santamanca, a college town where Anas siblings study. Her siblings were hilarious, trying out their English on me. Her brother would randomly turn to me and say things like, ¨You like Al Pacino?¨. I tried tons of Spanish food, which very rarely disappointed and tried to soak up as much of this culture as possible.

You see, Spain gave me what I´ve been searching for in Germany; a full, rich, distinct culture. In Spain they knew their history, ate Spanish food, listened to Spanish music, danced Spanish dances, and watched Spanish TV. They don´t try to be anyone else. Additionally, every Spaniard I met had a distinct personality, and one they definitely werent affraid to show. Unfortunately and unexpectadely, I got one of my worst bouts of homesickness during my time in Spain. I think its because all my stories of Spain before this came from my step Mom and I always imagined it as a place I would one day explore and discover with my parents by my side. I then got legit sick about halfway through my stay, due to the drinking water which I was warned contained bleach. Ana said they drink it cause their used to it, but it caused me to have headaches and a weasy stumach. Should have stuck to juice...

At the end of my trip here I realize how amazing it is that by a 3 hour plane ride I could end up in a totally different culture (something that in America would wind me up in say, Florida). The contrast between Germany and Spain is quiet shocking, but perhaps that made my trip all the more educational.

In 6 days I´ll have been here 5 months.When you start the journey you convince yourself that a year away is only that, a year. A small increment of time in the big scheme of things. But I find myself at the current moment in the ¨Wednesday Phase¨ as I like to call it. I´m right in the middle, looking at what I´ve done so far and also to the future. I´d like to finally join some extra curriculars such as a chorus and maybe art lessons or yoga. Cause time goes slow when you have time to sit and think here.

I shall post pictures once I return to German-land =D