Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sounds of Summer

I find it hilarious that the kids at school complained all winter about the cold, but now its over 30 degrees Celsius and they are all still wearing pants, long sleeves, and scarves. Yes, scarves (God forbid Man be any less stylish due to weather). Then again, I go to a school where most of the kids come from the Middle East and Asia who are very "traditional". So basically I have two options. 1: Wear what they wear and die inside of myself. 2: Wear weather appropriate clothing and get dirty looks. I take the second. I always have the excuse of being the exchange student.

Summer vacation here hasn't actually started yet but the feelings definitely there. Fieldtrips are being made, ice cream eaten at cafes at all hours, and lots of naked butts to be seen tanning in the parks. I've been enjoying going to the countryside with the host Dad and swimming in the lake and tanning by the river with friends(my fellow students think that the reason I'm so tan is cause I'm American?). Parties are a lot more enjoyable now that I don't have to wait for the train in -20 degree weather.

As far as my report card, it was sort of stressful. I am getting grades in Math, Chemistry, French, Gym, and Music. They aren't amazing grades, but I was graded literally EXACTLY the same as the other students, no "your an exchange student, I'm just ganna throw a good grade at you". But its nice, I feel like I really worked hard for what I got. Before I left, I did English and History summer school for my credits. And then I'm doing Pre-Cal in the Summer I get back.

Trying to enjoy every minute I've got left and appreciate everything I have here. Hope everyones enjoying their Summer =D

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rush Hour in Heaven

Tonight was one of those times that you tell yourself "Don't forget this". So I thought I'd write about it. Short and quick before I get into bed.

Today a family friend, Saskia, came back from a year in the US. A group of about 20 of us waited to greet her at the airport.

But before she came out...A teen guy walked out with the same look I did on my first day. His host family was waiting to meet him for the first time. I was in aww. At first I smiled and laughed, as if watching a family movie of myself. But my smile quickly faded. Realizing that seeing him was confronting me with my year. That was me. That was a scared young girl arriving in the first foreign country in her life. That was me arriving at a huge train station after dark and looking around frantically to where my host family may be waiting. There was me 10 months ago.

Then Saskia came out. Flabergasted and unable to speak German, she didn't know how to react to leaving one life for the next. In a matter of minutes, I saw my year flash in front of me. I saw my first moment in Germany. And through Saskia, I saw my last.

We all headed to Saskias house for a welcoming party. But my head was a blur. I cried in my host Moms and sisters arms knowing this party made me realize how close I am to the end. I realized my year has flashed behind me.

The party ended up being amazing. But coming home at 11, riding in the dark of the countryside with my family, seeing the planes fly over and the trains pass where all you could make out was lit up windows, I realized how much moments like that mean to me. Simple moments where I think with all my heart "I'm happy"- as easy as that. The end is coming, and its sad, but the ride is so enjoyable that one just has to close their eyes and act like the end isn't coming.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Speaking the Language

Fresh back from my End of Stay camp in Berlin (aka here), I'm now faced with the fact I have three weeks remaining. Though some cried at camp about how little time is remaining, I'm not ashamed to say that I am equally as sad to leave as excited to return. Yes, Germany has been a great year and I have tons of memories, buuuuut I also put my life on hold back home for a year, and I'm quiet looking forward to all that the next year will bring.

But one thing that was a surprise for me at camp, was how many fellow exchange students spoke to family or friends in Germany in English. Some people got calls from their host sister or friends from school, and spoke completely in English. I know they don't all do it, but it was just quiet shocking. I feel incredibly guilty talking to anyone in English, and I only have a year to learn German.

This got me to an interesting topic. Apparently, many host kids have been asked by their host families to teach them English and many host in order to "learn English". They have asked that in return for them paying for your food and housing you, that it's only fair that you speak English with them, even if its just at meals. Now, my host family didn't do that, but I'm drawn in my mind of what I would have done had they asked. I mean, I understand that hosting really is not only time consuming but takes money, but its also not an exchange students job to teach and if I came from any other country I would not be put into this position.

But I get it quiet often, people trying to practice their English on me. A good tactic is just to respond in German until they stop. It's just that in Germany, they teach English very well, and when someone hears your accent they almost instantly respond to you in English. But, if I started talking to you in German, you should respond in that language. If I was a tourist, I'd start in English.

Also, the World Cup is going on right now. Something I've never heard of in the states (because if you haven't noticed we suck at soccer...). People all around the city go to bars or viewing parties to watch the game, and in fact my host family is hosting a viewing party tonight for the first German soccer game against Australia. Last night, America tied against England 1-1. Not bad, America.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Tuesday the 8th!

Things I've Surprisingly Gotten Used To:
- Sucky weather. I got so used to it that when good weather came I didn't know how to react. But my mood lifted like crazy, until a random day of cold dark weather, in which it dropped from its high.
- People not moving on the sidewalks. When someone is coming in your direction, your ganna have to move, cause they won't. This makes me wonder what happens when two Germans walking in opposite directions pass one another. Must be cataclysmic.
- Class's "falling out" (snaps for Claire's direct translation). In school, when teachers don't come, you don't have class. No substitute, just no class. Free time. I think I'm ganna die when I come back to substitutes and busy work.

Things I Don't Think I'll Ever Get Used To:
- Seltzer Water ( ALL water here is with bubbles, and despite my year long exposure to it, I can't drink it. My family thinks I'm nuts that I drink from the tap)
- Lack of shorts/skirts. Lets just say its been over 20 for a couple weeks now, and NOT ONE person in my class has worn shorts or skirts.
- Meals. My stomach, after 16 years of having Dinner as my biggest meal, is still not used to lunch being the biggest and eating practically nothing for dinner.
- Using the formal and informal versions of "you" (much like in Spanish). I can't seem to remember that when speaking to strangers or elders I should use "Sie". With strangers its not a big deal, but the elderly here get really peeved if you don't show respect.

I also wanted to discuss the grimy parts of living in the countries capital.

1. Gypsies. Yeah, yeah, Ezmerelda was cool and pretty in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but these ladies are no Disney characters. With gold teeth, long skirts, and always seeming to have a baby in their arms, I find myself avoiding certain parks and train stops so I don't run into them. They always ask the same question, "speak English??" and when I first came here, I fell for it! EVERY TIME! I kept thinking it was someone needing directions. But once you say yes, they'll hand you a card explaining some tragic story and asking for money. I think it goes way too far when I see them training their young kids to beg for money or when they come into restaurants or coffee shops to beg. So if your ever asked in Berlin if you can speak English, don't answer.

2. Pfand Diggers. In Germany, they have a system in which if you give back the bottles you buy for soda/water/etc. then you receive money back (Pfand). Its similar to what the states has with cans, except it gives back a lot more. Its a way of encouraging people to recycle and not just throw away their bottles. But this invites a huge group of homeless people to spend their days going through all public trashcans looking for bottles. Some will come with flashlights to look into them, and some come into trains to check those trashcans. THIS goes too far when you are in the park or at a picnic and they come and wait for you to finish drinking and then snatch your bottle. But many people work with them, giving them the bottles to get them out of the way.

3. Neo- Nazis. Now, Berlin's a bit different from the "East-German-Hood" (as we CBYXers have named it) of my past host family. In the EGH, the neo Nazis you see are indeed that- nazis. They are real and scary and truly believe in those ideals. But in Berlin I find it to be different. The neo-nazis are just punk kids trying to look tough, who drink a lot and pee on city buildings and all seem to have a huge dog with them ( I was napping in a park once and one of their dogs licked my face...). They won't hurt you, their just sort of douchebags. BUT the other day I saw a guy with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, technically illegal, but that's a good sign he was legit. One just has to remember to speak German when their around you, as to not raise your hand as a foreigner.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why I've Been Gone

Hi. To all. So, apparently my blog disappearing created a bit of a stir. And yes, I know, it's been gone for quiet some time. Heres the thing: I really didn't like writing in this thing. At the beginning, when everything's new, it's really fun to verbally vomit out your reactions. But after Christmas I had nothing new to write, yet with the buzz about my blog I felt this extreme pressure to say something, anything. I had my political opinions on Germany or social expectations I felt strongly about, but readers are only readers when your feeding them information they agree with...or it seemed that way. And I'm not a journalist, so after a few really negative comments I just sort of said...."ya know what, fuck it. I don't like writing in here, and they don't like reading it". So when I had some technical problems with my account, I just let it be a reason to let my blog "disappear".

This being said, I've missed writing. If not just for the soul reason that ever since I stopped the blog I've had to actually respond in full to peoples emails as opposed to just saying, "yo, check the blog". But in reality, it's because I'm coming to the end of this little adventure's hard not to write about it.

I guess I'll start by informing you on the dillydallyings of my life during my hiatus (in which I actually had to open my assignment book to see because my brain has unfortunately deteriorated due to not giving it daily...cough weekly cough...workouts). I joined a chorus. My chorus "broke up" dramatically like a boy band. I went to a German opera- fell asleep and ripped my black panty hose resulting in me sitting with my hand awkwardly laid over the hole of my leg the rest of the show and a teen girl whispering "Schlampe" (slut) as she passed me. Why thank you, I loved the last song as well! I started cooking for my host family. Though Kraft mac n' cheese got the bigger smiles. I can read books in German. Like legit books, I like it a lot. Currently just finished Die Welle. I saw Alice in Wonderland in German and 3D, it was a brain explosion. I ran a 10k with my host Dad and proceeded to then eat the largest currywurst you've ever seen. My parents visited despite AFS constantly telling you not to have them. I started yoga. I started owning my French class ( Clarification: In Claire's deteriorated mind, owning French class means getting C's. But hey, I'm being taught French in German so...YEAH!). I turned 17, and my host family surprised me with tickets to the sold out Black Eyed Peas concert in Berlin. And then I went to London and stayed with friends for a week.

In short, thats a recap. Might go into more detail about them a little later. But first just wanted to establish myself as being back. Hope its okay.