Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen."

If you couldn't tell from the title, this is going to be one of those sappy you don't know how good you got it posts. But don't worry, it will make a complete 180 and end with how great I currently have it.

Everyone knows how lucky they are to have a good family. Before exchange I knew I had a great family. They always put us first, no matter what (and I am not just talking about my parents). They allow me to go to a nice private school, they let me go to Europe three times in one year and they let me move across the world for a whole year, even though they were 100% against me leaving (the truly amazing part of all this though is the fact that they floated the bill for all three of those things).

Everyone says that exchange really puts things in perspective and boy did they hit the nail on the head with that one. Today I got a package from home. It was the package from my aunt Anita that contained some Christmas presents. Thanks to the fact that the USPS puts how much the box cost to ship right on the box, I saw how much they paid for the box. And transatlantic shipping ladies and gentlemen, is not cheap. This isn't even the first box either. My parents have sent stuff, my Oma has sent stuff and so has my Aunt Anita. The boxes are filled with American candy, junk food from home or things from the USA. Back to today's box. Getting boxes from home is just a great feeling. It kind of says "hey we haven't forgot about you and we still miss you". So when I saw that I had a package from home something just clicked like "wow dude, you are probably one luckiest kids around". How many families repeatedly spend so much money to send some comforts from home to their nephew or grandson.

Looking back on it, I could have done way more to help out. Was keeping my room clean really that hard? Did I really need to complain when my mom asked me help out around the house? None of those things really were that hard. Especially considering all the things my parents did for me. My mom would literally drive out to Williamsville at midnight to pick me up from a friend's house and did I seriously complained the few times she asked if I would make Drew pasta before football practice? I am not trying to sound snobby and pull the whole "I went to Europe and got all sophisticated and mature" thing because honestly right now my room is a mess and I still have a mess of thank yous to dish out.

I do however seriously miss my family. I miss constantly reminding Oma of how
verrückt she is and making her say bitte for everything. I miss constantly beating Oma and Opa at euchre (when you read this please remember I am just kidding). I miss going over and having Friday fish fries from the Meeting Place and just hanging out. I miss Opa going out of his way to embarrass me in Tim Hortons/trying to set me up with a complete stranger in front of her parents. I miss constantly joking around with Opa. I miss being home. I miss not being able to watch the new tv because Drew plays Call of Duty like it's his day job. I miss coming home from school and knowing for a fact there would be left over pizza and wings in the fridge. There is really no way to explain what I miss about my parents. I just miss having them around. I miss going over to Aunt Anita and Uncle Rick's and raiding their fridge because they ALWAYS have good food around. I miss how whenever I was trying to be polite and said I wasn't hungry, Aunt Anita knew I was lying and made food anyway. I miss making homemade pasta with Grandma and knowing that whenever I need advice that I should ask her. I miss the jokes from Grandpa and knowing to go to him if I need help with anything.
Somewhere in the middle of the that last paragraph, it suddenly dawned on me how long a year really is.

That being said, I have a great host family too. Most exchange students don't get to go to Oktoberfest in Munich and then 2 months later to the Weihnachtsmarkt in Nuremberg. As if that wasn't enough. We are going spending Christmas skiing in the Austrian Alps. Apart from all that stuff though, my host family is really like a second family to me. You'd be surprised how close you can get to people in 3 months. They put up with my (sub-paar) attempts at speaking German, the fact that I can clean my room on Sunday and by Tuesday it's messy again and they put up with me on those days where I am homesick and grouchy (not always the greatest task). I know I already talked about it but I made a list of the foods I missed from the USA on a recent blog post and I am pretty sure we had every single one of them within a week. We are always having "family movie night" or playing some sort of board game together. They go out of their way to make my year better and it's really great.


"The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to." ~Dodie Smith

Today I am in a really good mood. I just finished watching "Goodbye Lenin", which is probably the most famous German movie ever made. We watched it at orientation in D.C. and I had to rely on the subtitles. I just watched it with no English subtitles and I understood it. I may not have gotten every word but I understood most of it. I turned on the German subtitles but it is still a major accomplishment. Also I just answered the door and had a decent conversation with the lady there. Usually when the doorbell rings or the telephone rings, I give up and let someone else do it but I actually understood her and what she wanted. I don't know if I am going to keep this post. I might delete it. I don't know if I like how I worded everything in this post, we'll see.

Also if you're interested I created a new album on shutterfly for my pictures from Ireland. The web address is http://michaelsyearingermany.shutterfly.com/573. I will create one for Spain soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

I am supposed to be studying for the SAT right now but clearly

writing a new blog post > studying SAT material. The SAT is honestly horrible but I am sure you all already knew that.

I spent this weekend in Historic Nuremberg, home of Germany's most famous Weihnachtsmarkt. The whole city of Nuremberg was unbelievable. It was so old and historic. All of the buildings looked like they were hundreds of years old. There were a lot of cobblestone side streets and everything was decorated for the Christmas season.

What were the two most popular things in the Christmas Market? Easy, Lebkuchen and Prune-people. Lebkuchen was obvious, going to Bayern and not seeing Lebkuchen is like going to Buffalo and not seeing wings. Lebkuchen is the German word for Gingerbread by the way. Prune-people on the other hand were a completely new concept. They are little figurines made out of dried prunes. I am not sure what the point of them (and no, you can't eat them. We already had this discussion) is but they make interesting decorations.

It wouldn't be a Christmas Market without
Glühwein and Brats (pronounced Brahts and short for Bratwurst). Glühwein is Mulled Wine, which is just really hot wine with cinnamon and other spices. I don't really like it but everyone else here seems to. I opted for the traditional hot chocolate instead. We went to this little Häusle for legit Brats. It was a tiny house and had a big open grill in the center where they cooked the sausage. Unfortunately, the ventilation system was well sub-par and there was an omnipresent cloud of smoke. Because this house was practically famous, we had to share a table with these nice Italian tourists. I learned two things from that restaurant. The first being that Italians have by far the best accents. The one lady leaned over and asked "scuzi mié do you eh-speak-ee English?" and come on, no accent can beat that. I then got to translate the menu for them (that was a confidence booster). The second thing I learned is that the easiest way to spot to a tourist is to look who is eating ketchup on their sausage. With the exception of my host brother, everyone eats mustard.

Two things that I love about Germany that I learned from this trip are that everyone knows someone who has been to/lives in the USA and that ethnic restaurants are actually owned by people of that ethnicity here. Every time someone hears where I am from, they say "oh I have a [insert random family member] that lives in the USA!". I have gotten everything from "Oh I was in Niagara Falls two years ago on a vacation" to "you're kidding, my mother's brother's son's wife's sister's daughter lives in the Bronx". Okay first of all, who takes a vacation to Niagara Falls? Yeah it's nice and scenic and all but really there are so many better places to visit. I mean no offense to any people from the falls but the beaches of Florida and the thrill of New York City clearly beat the scenic beauty of Niagara Falls. On to the second thing. On our school campus, there is an Italian restaurant and not the kind where the owner was born in some little town in the USA and opened a chain of Italian restaurants (that are in all honesty about as Italian as Peking Duck). The owners, cooks and staff are all from Italy and the food is legit Italian. The Turkish restaurants are run by Turks, the Greek restaurants by Greeks, etc. We went to an Italian pizzeria in Nuremberg and had homemade Italian-style pizza. If there was one thing better than the pizza, it was the fact that every time we talked to the waiter, everything was "Si Signore" or "Grazie Signora!". They were so friendly and they also had that unbeatable accent.

Enough about all that, on to the main reason we went to Nuremberg; the Weihnachtsmarkt. It was like the crowds of New York City packed into one Marktplatz. There were so many stands and each was selling some typical Christmas time item. I have to say though, I think I saw/heard as many foreigners as I did actual Germans. They had hand carved nutcrackers (anywhere from 100 dollars to 1000 dollars), to ornate nativity scenes (just as expensive). The Market was so festive and Christmas-sy that I had to stop and think "wait a minute, it's still November?".

We stayed in a really nice hotel. We had a whole suite complete with living room, kitchen, separate rooms and jacuzzi with funky lights. Like usual, pictures are on Shutterfly.

We got to climb up this tall hill to the "
Die Nürnberger Burg" Castle of Nuremberg for all you Anglophones. It had a great view over the city of Nuremberg. The path way up was all cobblestone and snowy. Die Stadt war schön (außer ihren Dialekt, den Dialekt war nicht schön). The parts are in bold because they are probably not right. It has to do with the whole conjugating the word the and their thing that I still don't understand.

On the way home today, we stopped at my favorite American restaurant; Miss Pepper's. I had another Bacon Cheeseburger. I should probably order something different but I can never bring myself to actually do it. We go to this restaurant every time we go on a road trip. It makes the long trip in the car definitely worth it.

I learned three things this weekend.

1.) Spiders do not appreciate it when you try to kill them via Dust-buster. They actually crawl back out ten times angrier then they were when they were sucked in. Then they call upon other spiders to seek revenge. Unfortunately I learned that one the hard way.

2.)The more German I learn, the more Spanish I forget. I tried to have only a Spanish conversation with my friend Kayleigh on skype. It was horrible, I have forgotten so much Spanish since I have been here. Hopefully I will pick it back up again.

3.) I didn't really learn a third thing as much as a I found a video that was a little embarrassing. I don't know how people can't know these things, I mean not knowing some of them is understandable but some of them were so obvious. It was kind of sad that some people didn't know that the religion of Israel is Judaism and that they thought that Australia was North Korea.

Caution: one man says the f-word in the middle of the interview. If you find it offensive, you probably shouldn't watch it.


I guess that's all for this post. I probably forgot something about this weekend so you can expect another post sometime this week.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." Leo Tolstoy

Dear German School System,

I am tried of looking like a complete idiot. It's happened twice this week. That is plenty. I promise I am not usually so clueless.

Also to my Physik teacher, please forgive the sorry excuse for a test that I handed in today.

Grüße,
Michael/Andreas (if you don't understand the Andreas part, read the previous post)


Keeping on the topic of looking like an idiot in school. Yesterday was Biologie which is not my favorite subject. We had a worksheet on the different parts of the brain (lobes?). We had to label the parts and match which function goes with which part. The people at my table were all working together so like usual, I tried to help but just ended writing what they said. So we were the first "group" done and Frau comes over, looks at my paper and basically gasps. I look up and she has look of sheer happiness on her face. She holds up my paper and says "see this is exactly what I am looking for, and from the exchange student none the less." I then crack up laughing because I understood/did basically nothing. I think she finally realized that I didn't do it and asked "whose did you copy?". Apparently it wasn't group work, oops. Well when you understand 1/5 of what's going on, everything is group work; whether the teacher wants to acknowledge it or not. I gotta admit though, even though it only lasted a minute and a half, it was nice to know that not ALL of my teachers think of me as an incompetent foreigner. I forgot what it was like to be thought of as intelligent. Not gonna lie, I kind of miss it.

On to today's embarrassing moment. Today was a Physik test (aka the worst test of my entire life). For some reason I tried to take this test. The test was 63 students in two classrooms and was proctored by one teacher. So as you can imagine, the teacher had to leave one room to check in on the other one. Now what happens when you leave 31 teenagers alone in a classroom while they take a test? Do they
A.) Quietly do their work?
B.) Copy the smart kid's test?
or C.) bust out the brotchen and cola and proceed to have a snack?

Now if you picked A, you should probably get out from underneath that rock you have been living under. If you picked B, you were correct. C was also semi-correct. Now it was completely obvious to the entire class that I had no idea what I was doing on this test. So they all tried to help out by giving me theirs to copy. They didn't understand that I couldn't copy theirs. They didn't grasp the fact that the clueless foreigner getting a perfect score on the physics test might have looked a little suspicious. So this test was on 2 months of material. One of those months was before I started school there and the other one I just didn't understand. So everyone was like "we want you to try these tests and when you can't do them, just tell the teacher. They will understand". That was incorrect. I told the teacher that I really could not do this test. He was not kind or understanding. Instead, he made a joke about it. It was in that dialect but I understood enough to pick out "something, something, STAY STUPID, something, something". That was a real confidence booster. So I just quietly sat back down. After the test when we were handing them in, he just asked "do you seriously want me to grade this?". I said preferably not so I guess now it just doesn't affect my grade. It doesn't help it but it doesn't harm it either. I just don't understand when I am ever going to need to use this. All of you people reading this who took physics in high school, how many times have you used it since you graduated? One of the test questions was "A train leaves the train station at 15:00. It gradually gets going. Please figure out it's velocity and current speed". First of all, I honestly do not care the least bit about the momentsangeschwindigkeit of a train that left the bahnhof at 3 o'clock. Second, there are no passenger trains in the USA so there is no reason for me to learn this.
I hate physics. This is an example of what we learned. I doubt I would even understand this in English let alone German.
On to some good news; Thanksgiving. Because of the wonderful Physik test I had today I didn't have time to make dinner today. Instead, I made Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday. I made a bird, potatoes, stuffing, carrots, gravy, bread and homemade apple pie. It was amazing. Unfortunately the pie crust took the entire can of crisco so I can see my arteries clogging. My host brother spent a year in the USA, so he knew all about Thanksgiving but it was still cool to get to put it all together and show them. Check out my shutterfly if you want to see the pictures from Thanksgiving.

This week in English class we have been working with the lyrics to the song "License to Kill". The lyrics are as follows.

Man thinks 'cause he rules the earth he can do with it as he please And if things don't change soon, he will Oh, man has invented his doom First step was touching the moon. Now there's a woman on my block She just sit there as the night grows still She say who gonna take away his license to kill ? Now, they take him and they teach him and they groom him for life And they set him on a path where he's bound to get ill Then they bury him with stars Sell his body like they do used cars. Now, there's a woman on my block She just sit there facing the hill She say who gonna take away his license to kill ? Now, he's hell-bent for destruction, he's afraid and confused And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill All he believe are his eyes And his eyes, they just tell him lies. But there's a woman on my block Sitting there in a cold chill She say who gonna take away his license to kill ? Ya may be a noisemaker, spirit maker Heartbreaker, backbreaker Leave no stone unturned May be an actor in a plot That might be all that you got 'Til your error you clearly learn. Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool And when he sees his reflection, he's fulfilled Oh, man is opposed to fair play He wants it all and he wants it his way. Now, there's a woman on my blocks She just sit there as the night grows still She say who gonna take away his license to kill ?
I had to clarify so much of this song and honestly I probably gave them the wrong meanings. There are parts that I was like what does that even mean. "Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool" is a good example. I know what the words mean but what is the actual meaning. Also, how am I supposed to explain it? Then we had to write about the meaning/message in the song and once again I blanked. I got it right but it took a while and a whole lot of useless (maybe correct) details thrown in. I was not having a good day today. A combination of it being Thanksgiving and me failing at trying to take that test put me in a bad mood. Like usual, German class put me in a good mood. German is the class that basically no one behaves in. We were talking about the book we are reading and about gestures. One kid said something about the middle finger and she replied with "no this [insert mental image of middle aged German woman flipping off her students] is not the gesture I was talking about".

Something actually pretty funny happened yesterday. We were in German, discussing the meaning of the song above and one kid suggested it was about dictators falling in love. My teacher then asked "do you mean dictators like (dramatic pause, then turns to me) GEORGE BUSH?". It was so awkward but yet still funny. Then he was like "no no I am just kidding, I have no problem with your presidents.". Then the kids around me turned to me and asked "do you like George Bush?" and I replied with an uncomfortable "umm not really I guess(I was to scared to say otherwise)". Then everyone let out this sigh of relief.

I found this on the internet and it made me laugh. I don't know if you can understand all of the things it talks about but i'll try to explain them.

You know you are German when...

You separate your trash into more than five different bins. (I have explained this before)

You carry a "4You" backpack. (they all have backpacks that say 4you on them)
You eat a cold dinner at 6pm.(by cold dinner, they are talking about bread)

You call your cell phone "handy" and a projector "beamer".

You have no problems with nude beaches and saunas.
You have gotten splinters from environmentally friendly toilet paper.
You call an afternoon stroll "Nordic Walking".
You own a pair of jeans in a color other than blue.

People start talking about Hitler and Hofbräuhaus when you tell them where you are.
Your diet consists of beer and Döner.

You yell at people for jaywalking.
You think college tuition is an outrage.
You routinely go 100mph on the highway and tailgate heavily.
You wear brown leather shoes.
You have ended an English sentence with "..., or?".
You expect chocolate in your shoes on December 6th.
You complain that in other countries everything is dirty.
You spent hours in school learning to pronounce "th". (almost no one here can say th)
... taxi drivers drive Mercedes and the police on the Autobahn drive BMWs.
... if you go to school in a gymnasium.
... if you say PorschE, not Porsh!
... if you freak out at the fact that Canadians/ Americans/ Brits use margarine for EVERYTHING... or SALTED BUTTER! For cooking! For BAKING! ON BREAD WITH NUTELLA!
... if ich ständig Nutella Brote verdrücke - I can't get enough Nutella sandwiches.

... if you have guests coming and everything must be cleaned so it is sauber....even though it already was.
... if there is no such thing as BBQ only grillen
... if the cold evening meal is eaten off wooden boards not plates.
... if you are looking for the "esszett" i.e. ß on your keyboard
... if you know what Das Sandmännchen is.
... if you can identify with movies like: Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei, Sonnenallee, Good Bye Lenin... (I have seen 2/3 movies, that has to count for something)
... if you eat raw pork with raw egg mmmh, lécker Hackepeter ;) (just for the record, no one believed me when I said the people here eat them raw. Everyone thought I made it up, well I didn't)

... if you do gifts on Christmas Eve - the proper way. Or is it just the Brits, US Americans, Canadians etc. that don't do it the proper way? Most European countries do!
... if everybody calls you "zee german" and thinks that you LOVE sauerkraut and sausages... then you are german.
... if you own a David Hasselhoff tape (they have inexplicable infatuation with David Hasselhoff)
... if you just don't get baseball and think it's boring
... if you speak English but the German way...even when it sounds strange e.g. 'everything in order by you?'because order is so important! OR "I made the laundry"
... if you only drink Sprudel Wasser and you add it to every other liquid you drink and call it Schorle!
if you like to eat your french fries with mayonaise and are revolted by the thought of vinegar on them.
... if you keep going on about the ear worm that you currently have and people look at you like you have some tropical disease. (here an ear worm is a thought or song that is stuck in your head)
... if you think stores are closed on Sundays apart from the local railway station store (in most probability LIDL)
... if you confuse your "if" and "when".... ;-) (almost everyone mixes these up)
... if you cringe when you hear the English version of 99 Luftballons - 99 Red Balloons.
... if the concept of small talk still puzzles you
... if you’re the only one recycling not just bottles and cans but also light bulbs, water filters, batteries, printer cartridges …

... if you reuse the plastic bags from the supermarket for your rubbish
... if being on time means 15 minutes earlier to you

. ... if you wonder why all those people are standing waiting in line when it's easier to walk straight to the front
... if you can't stand the sloppy white British/ American bread - the one where you try to spread your Nutella and it falls apart!
... (native German) if you have absolutely no idea who the von Trapp family are and you can't sing along to any of the Sound of Music film songs.
... if you have a compulsive feeling to correct things that are wrong - Ordnung muß sein! (order must be) (also, this one is really true)
... if you still differentiate between West Germans and East Germans (Wessis & Ossis) after xx years of reunification
... if greet everyone in a doctors' waiting room with a friendly "Guten Tag!"
... if you always complain about Dutch caravans on German "Autobahnen"
... if you can't laugh at British humour. (we have such different styles of humOR)

... if you go to the pictures, the cinema/ theater is empty but you still look where your assigned seat is - even if it's the left-most seat in the front row

... if you are queuing for bread rolls at 6am in the morning whilst on holiday ... on the other hand:
... if you refuse to stand at the back of a queue!
(first of all, it's a line not a queue)
... if you own a bicycle that brakes when you try to peddle backwards
... if you know at least 15 different ways to cook potatoes (they love their kartoffeln)
... if you are really upset when the Deutsche Bahn is yet again 5 minutes late (that's late? If only it were only 5 minutes in the UK!)
if you feel uncomfortable saying "you" to adults in English classes. (that whole du vs. Sie thing for respect)
... if you're the only one knocking on your desk after a lecture to show your appreciation while everyone else stares at you. (they don't clap, they knock on the something to make noise)

... if you switch the light off when you leave a room, (much to the dismay of your British flatmates).
... if you wish every person around you "Mahlzeit" at mealtimes.

...if the sentence "you can say you to me" makes perfect sense to you. (in German you have to say "can you please here to visit", the infinitive is always the last word)
... if you have a blue eye instead of a black eye.

... if you love your Apfelschorle. (watered down, carbonated apple juice)
... if you write your Nouns with capital Letters when writing in english... and your Nationalities and Languages beginning with a small letter! (German grammar says that all nouns are capitalized)
... if you say "Guten Appetit" before lunch and dinner, but NEVER before breakfast (ever noticed?)
... if it's your birthday and YOU are paying for the drinks!
... if you answer the phone by identifying yourself with your surname rather than just "hello".
... if you get a Zuckertüte on your first day of school
... if you wait for the pedestrian light to turn green before you cross the road for fear of being fined!
... if the English words 'peddle', 'paddle', 'puddle' and 'piddle' confuse you when you hear them!
....if you think all houses should have wooden/PVC roller shutters (Außen-Jalousie) so it´s nice and dark in your bedroom even in daytime & rain isn´t so noisy on the window you have to turn up the volume of your TV to watch your favourite "Tatort"!!!
if ... you mix Coke and Fanta and call it "Spezi".

Top 10 Reasons You know you're in Germany

  1. It costs as much money to buy a coke as a beer
  2. There is a transportation system, that is very efficient, running within each city and going to neighboring cities with buses, street trams, taxis and trains. Also special bike paths and walkways are made so one can go all over town.
  3. You eat sandwiches for breakfast (especially Nutella on bread) (even more bread)
  4. Beer actually tastes good
  5. There are 4 cans/trash bags to put garbage for every household (yellow is normal trash, blue is paper, green or brown is glass, and clear is plastics and metals).
  6. If you drive 4 hours almost in every direction, you will be in a new country which speaks a completely different language and has a new culture.
  7. Saying "Wie geht's'" (how are you?) will certainly not be responded to with a short phrase such as gut (fine or good) but rather by a long explanation of everything on that person's mind.
  8. People are allowed to drink (age 16) before they learn to drive (age 18)
  9. The date is day.month.year
  10. McDonalds serves drinks in Liter sizes rather than Ounces (also, they serve Schnitzel McNuggets)

More reasons You know you're in Germany

  1. Mayo on fries (Pommes) is normal
  2. The street light turns from red to yellow before it turns green (so that you know to change gears)
  3. People go for a walk after lunch, and sometimes after supper, through nearby park, forests or pathways.
  4. You pay extra for mayo or for ketchup, about 30 cents
  5. People go to the grocery store, the backery and the butcher meat shop every day or every other day.
  6. There are nude beaches and even at the local swimming pool people like to lay out and tan themselves without tops on.
  7. Everywhere you go or look you see graffiti
  8. Alcohol-free beer is available at any restaurant/brewery/bar that beer is served at
  9. A train can split up and move on different tracks or just have half the train not move at all.
  10. Cars park half on the sidewalk and half on the road
  11. There are no water fountains nor free water anywhere
  12. There is beer available for breakfast
  13. There are Autobahnen and Zuge rather than Highways and Trains
  14. There are no ice cubes in the refrigerator. (they don't use ice, ever. The only reason we have ice is because my host brother prefers it since he came back from USA. The fridges/freezers here don't make it)
  15. "Eis" means ice cream and not ice.
  16. You must tip people to use the bathroom, but it is not required to tip for a meal
  17. Salads come with a variety of lettuces and cabbages, and you do not get to chose the dressing.
  18. Burger King tastes better than McDonalds
  19. You have to return bottles and cans from where you bought them to get your pfand (deposit) back
  20. People will hike up mountains, go over boulders, or go across country sides when they have time to spend for fun exercise
  21. There are cigarette ads on billboards and in the movie theaters (especially Marlboro) (don't forget to mention the cigarette vending machines that are everywhere)
  22. Fruits and Veggies are not sprayed as much with pesticides or herbicides
  23. It takes an hour or more to wash clothes in the washing machine (and often times there is no drying machine).(I don't understand this one. The washer is really fast and we have a dryer).
  24. Buildings do not have air conditioning.
  25. Cereal is available only in hostels (because real Germans eat bread for breakfast)
  26. Streets and sidewalks are all stone bricks
  27. Water comes only with carbonated bubbles
  28. Watching Wild West movies in black and white is popular
  29. There are no water towers (can't see what city you are in) and no above ground
  30. If someone bumps into you, they do not say "sorry"
  31. Any chain store or restaurant is from America.
They are all so true. This weekend we are going to Nuremberg for the world famous Christmas Market/Weihnachtsmarkt/Christkindlmarkt. Here are some pictures from the internet.


http://www3.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Nuremberg+Christmas+Market+Opening+8OF7YuP7_LKl.jpg


http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/images/9099391.jpg




http://images.travelpod.com/users/ambough/bellaitalia2007.1195695000.munich-christmas-market-stand.jpg


http://traveldreamsite.blogs.com/photos/the_nuremberg_christmas_m/gingerbread.jpg

Well that is all I got for this one. I get to eat Thanksgiving with my family home. Thanks to Skype, I can sit at the dining room table and converse with everyone live via webcam even though I am in Germany. I am really looking forward to that. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Also I just remembered that 3 people had a birthday recently (well alright 2 people and a dog). Happy Birthday to Oma, Grandpa and Flash! I hope you guys/creature had a great birthday.

Also today is the 25% mark. It didn't really phase me though. It was more the whole Thanksgiving thing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

Let me just start off by saying that I am really getting good at understanding movies that I don't actually understand. We watch movies here all the time and as you probably guessed, most of them are auf Deutsch. In the beginning I just kind of sat there and had no idea what was going on but now I can actually get what's going on without hearing it in English. With a mix of knowing more German, watching their mouths speak English and watching what's going on in the film, it's actually not that hard to understand anymore. Last Friday we went to see the new Harry Potter. I don't know why but for some reason I was prepared for it to be in English. I guess I forgot that I was in Germany for a moment. Needless to say once it came on and came on in German I was a little bit disappointed. Then once I realized that I didn't need it to be in English, it was all good again. Movie theatres here assign you a seat. It's not like at home where you can walk in and pick your seat. For those of you who haven't seen it, the new Harry Potter was good but it definitely wasn't the best one.

Being an exchange student in a tiny town definitely has it's perks. This morning while walking in the pouring rain to the bus stop, a girl asked if I wanted to share her umbrella. I have never met or talked to this girl but she knew who I was. Usually my accent gives away that I am "that exchange student from America" but I hadn't said anything when she knew who I was. The same thing happens in school. People are always saying hi to me and striking up a conversation. Two people in particular come to mind when I write about this. One is this girl who I don't know. I have never actually met her but everyday since school began she walks by and says "Hi Mike!" or some other friendly greeting. The other is this guy who I have also never met. Every single day he walks up and says "Mike, are we going out drinking this weekend?". This happens every day and every day I give him the same answer "yeah... of course" but we never actually go. Every time he says it I just think to myself "who are you and why do you want to go drinking so bad". At first I just thought he needed me to buy him alcohol (because I am 16) but he is also 16 so he can legally buy his own alcohol. So last week when we were in Reutlingen we met up with him on the supposed train home. Because we took the wrong train home and were stuck there for like an hour he talked about drinking, again. He gave me this exact speech
"Mike, you are in Germany now. This is the only year of your life where you can legally drink at 16, you need to take advantage of it!".
I find it kind of funny that he is so hung up on going out drinking.

The next thing on my list for this blog post is student teacher relationships. I can remember school in Spain perfectly. I walked into my first class (computer skills) and the teacher said "please open your books to page 37 and turn on your computers". This being European school, obviously it didn't happen. One kid yelled "Callate Elayna" (shut up Elayna). I just thought to myself "did he just call her by her first name?" and more importantly "did he just tell her to shut up?".Now in the USA if you called a teacher by their first name or told her shut up, you would be in a boatload of trouble. In Europe, not so much. She just became quiet and went back to her desk. The rest of the class was free time. Like really, you aren't even going to reprimand him? It was completely normal to call teachers by their first name in Spain. It is not considered rude and the teachers don't mind. In Germany school is like this except you can't call them by their first names. As far as being under control goes though, it's not much better. I am not sure if I already posted this but we had a bio test. Now obviously no one wanted to take the bio test. Three girls took out lighters (another thing I don't understand) and literally melted the soles of their shoes so the room would reek and we could leave. They got off with a warning. I gotta say though, European school is so much more interesting than American school. It always makes me laugh when I think about how teachers at home freak out about talking during a lecture, showing up late to class and chewing gum. Here that stuff is absolutely normal.

Keeping with the idea of school. PDA's (Public Displays of Affection) are basically everywhere. At home I go to private school so PDA is non-existent. Going off of what I hear from public school kids, it happens but the teachers break it up and usually give them detention. In Germany, as you probably can guess by now, that's not the case. Two people can be making out in the hallway and the teacher just walks on by. I also find it funny that teachers know that students drink/smoke and don't really care. Today in German one kid walks by and the teacher says
"You smell like cigarettes" and he replied "yeah I was smoking before class started". She just laughed and went back to the lesson. Wait what, you should at the very least say something about how bad smoking is for you, never mind the fact that he is not old enough to. Same thing with drinking. Last Monday in English class
Teacher "what did you do this weekend"
3/4 of Class "drank"
Teacher "did you show Mike some good German beer?"
Me "what?"

Honestly, you should probably stop encouraging them.

Don't let this fool you though, German school is legit. It is way harder than American school. Having Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, Biology, German, French, English, Art, Music, History, NWT, GWG and GMK every year is a lot of work. German school is pretty demanding. It doesn't involve much homework (thank God) but it does involve many tests. If I had to stay in German school for 18 years, I would need to go out drinking on the weekends (just to de-stress) too.

Another thing that I like about German school is that they organize class trips. We have a class trip to Berlin and then another trip to Wales. The trip to Berlin is a tour but the trip to Wales is actually staying with Welsh students and going to Welsh school. I am not doing to the trip to Wales but the trip to Berlin should be great. Those are just for our "klasse" not for the whole school. We have trips to Europe through Canisius but they are for the whole school and cost thousands of dollars. Other countries are so close that the school trips don't drain your bank account.

I am not sure why I never posted about this before but something fun is that Germans don't say Michael. They say Mee-khy-ell. My host family asked which one I prefer but everyone else just says Mee-khy-ell. Well everyone except my German teacher. She thinks my name is Andreas. I am not entirely sure why. Michael, Andreas; they're clearly the same name. I never answer her because I am not used to being addressed as Andreas, it's not that I mean to ignore her. At least when other people don't know my name they just yell "Yo America" and I know that they are talking to me. Today when she called me Andreas, one kid was like "really why don't you just say that American, it's probably easier. On that note, one girl had to read an article out loud and she was making mistakes pronouncing the words so one kid yelled out "Come on, Michael can say these better than you can". I am not sure if that was an insult or a compliment but it was kind of funny.

Another thing that I noticed is that a lot of German people ignore each other when they say something. It doesn't matter if you're one meter away or across the hall. If you don't feel like answering, you just don't. Which I am kind of used too. At home we all sit upstairs and watch tv and when someone calls our name we just say "I don't really feel like getting up, if it is something important they'll call again". Sure enough there is the second call. "Ok now we will wait one more time." Either they let it go or they come all the way upstairs and say "why didn't you answer me" and then you have to use the whole "were you calling me" excuse. My mom knows exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes they just aren't in the mood to hold a conversation so they don't respond.

One more thing before we get into the latest news. Pronouncing things in German. In German, letter are not pronounced the same way they are in English.
R) pronounced like a gutteral W. Rot (red) is pronounced almost like Woht.
W) pronounced like a v. Wichtig (important) is pronounced like Vicktich).
V) makes an f sound. Vier (four) is said like fear.
ß) No this is not an uppercase B. Its an ess-zett. It makes the sound of a double ss.
ö) pronounced like oe. Sch
ön (great, beautiful, amazing) is said schoen.
ä) pronounced like ay. Spät (late) is pronounced spayt.
ü) almost like a mix of oo and ee. T
ür (door) is pronounced tour but with one syllable.
J) always makes a y sound. Ja (yes) is said yah.
Q) makes a kv sound. Quell (source) is said like kvell.
-e) at the end of the word it makes an -uh sound. Gute (good) is goot-uh.
-g) at the end of the word it makes a -ch sound. See W.

There are so many more differences but I don't feel like typing them right now.

Yesterday was a big fair in Stuttgart. It was an indoor convention. It was divided into a bunch of parts. There was electronics, games, baby stuff, home stuff, craft stuff and then more that i forgot. Well anyway on the way there I saw a US soldier. It was kind of cool to see. I knew there was a US army base in Stuttgart and that there were a lot of American soldiers here but it was still cool to see one. Then at the actual convention I met a lady from Montana. She has been here 26 years on the military base. She teaches there. The convention was cool. I bought a cheap German keyboard so that I can type all of their letters (ß,ö,ä,ü).

Today was the first day of snow.
It was the kind of snow that melts as soon as it hits the ground but it was still cool that it was snowing. It wasn't even that cold this morning but it must have dropped by 2nd period. Now the snow is gone and it is just normal rain. Also today I corrected my English teacher. I felt kind of weird doing it but it was a funny mistake. He told me to correct him when he makes mistakes so I guess it's not a big deal. He was going over some mistakes that they made on the last test and one girl wrote "the polars are melting and and the animals are dieing". He said the correct thing to say is "the Poles are melting and the animals are dying". I suggested the phrase "the polar ice caps". I wasn't sure if the "Poles" was correct though.

On that note, I guess that's enough for this blog post. If you haven't noticed, there is a new poll on the side of my blog about where you would like to visit most. Just something I was wondering about and thought it might be cool to ask.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Ships in the harbor are safe, but that's not what the ships were built for."

I have been in a really good mood lately so I figured I should put it to good use.

Before coming to Germany I was prepared for the Tokio Hotel and Rammstein type German music. Most of the guys here listen to rap music. On Wednesday they were listening to music in the hallway and the rapper said "swag". I then had to explain swag to practically my whole class. The urbandictionary.com definition of swag is "apperance ,style ,or the way he or she presents them selves
." Basically, you know those "punky" teenagers that have their pants hanging off and have that goofy walk. If you are over 40 and reading this, don't act like you don't know what I am talking about. Everyone over 40 complains about it. Unfortunately, they didn't understand so I had to demonstrate swag. It was really funny.

Wednesday was some special day at school so there were no classes. We had to learn about public speaking and presentations. It was boring but it sure beat Trigonometry and Physik "auf Deutsch". My group gave a presentation on McDonald's and no the American did not pick the topic. It lasted about 5 minutes and we aced it. The teachers gave the directions "you can pick your own topic, anything you want". I bet they regretted that one. One of the other groups did their presentations on something that is not "school appropriate". The teachers didn't care though, they just burst out laughing. The female teacher was not amused. That is until they brought out the diagrams and cut out cookies. Then she joined in the laughter. Then our main teacher made a bet with the class. He bet that we couldn't do the rest of the presentations without saying "ummm", "uhhh" or any of the other things like that. What did he bet? A round of beer in Berlin. Yeah our teacher bet us a round of beer. We won that bet though. I want to see if he actually does it but I wouldn't be surprised.

Remember in the last post when I made a list of the things I miss most. Well, I don't miss them anymore. I posted it on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning I came downstairs and found a bag of pasta. That was our lunch. Then I came home from school and my host mom and Philipp had baked about 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies. Then today we had homemade Macaroni and Cheese for lunch. The Kraft style doesn't exist here so we had to make it from scratch. It was the greatest mac and cheese I have ever had. Then for desert we had yogurt. Oh and on Wednesday I walked over to my host mom to she what she was looking up on the computer and she was looking up recipes for Cabbage and Noodles. If that wasn't enough, I got a package from my mom full of American candy. I don't miss any of those things anymore.

Also I apparently gave you guys the wrong definition of doch. It has to be used like this.

"Das Wetter is nicht schön
"

"Doch! Das Wetter ist schön"

I guess you can only use it when the original sentence has the nicht in it and the adjective has to stay the same. I also learned that Germans have their own version of "eh". They say "gell" but the people in my area don't really say it.

After school on Wednesday I went to Reutlingen with the guys from my class. I swear I spend like half of my free time in Reutlingen. They wanted to buy some new clothes. I know in the last post I talked about how expensive it is here but whoa I had no idea. We went into a Burton store and just a plan flannel shirt was 60 Euro. That's about 90 dollars. It was ridiculous. I did buy some new European clothes though. The way that people dress here is really different. They take the effort to make themselves look presentable when they go somewhere.

A list of the no-go's
  • sweatpants
  • ripped clothing
  • jeans hanging low (see above)
What they do wear.
Guys
  • Sweaters
  • Scarves
  • Nice jeans or dress pants
  • Hoodies
  • Nice jackets
  • Skater shoes
  • Spiked/"done up" (for lack of a better word) hair
Girls
  • Tight jeans
  • Dress boots that usually go to their knees.
  • A nice shirt
  • Sweater and scarf
  • Make-up
Obviously not everyone dresses so well but most of the people do. Also something that I just noticed is that my friends all wear the rosary around their necks. I am not Catholic so I don't know much about the rosary but I didn't think you were allowed to wear it. Just something interesting.

Back to the point. So we were in Reutlingen and then at 6 we decide to go home. We get on our train and it starts moving. About 5 minutes later we realized that it wasn't our train. We ended up on a train to Stuttgart. For those of you who don't know, that would be like going from Lockport to Pendleton and somehow ending up in Buffalo. We got off our platform and they went to buy McDonald's. I wasn't in the mood for Mickey Dee's because literally that was our 3rd McDonald's stop that day. There were police everywhere. So many more than usual. I asked someone why there were so many and apparently Germany raised it's terror threat level. Eventually we made it home though.

Yesterday was my host Opa's birthday so my host mom and I drove back to the Schwarzwald to visit him. He was pretty cool. He made jokes the whole time and we went to a Fasching museum. Fasching is the German carnival. Everyone wears these homemade costumes and masks. It looked really cool but I didn't have a camera with me.

Just a few new things that I stumbled upon and thought were cool. The first is NSLI-Y. It is a student exchange to countries that the US government says have "critical need languages". The countries include China, Korea (south), Turkey, India, Egypt, Tajikistan, Morocco, Jordan, Taiwan and Russia. The US government pays for the whole exchange. That is definitely an option for me. The second thing is a website called Postcrossing. You sign up and they give you addresses all across the world. You have to send a post card from your region and tell about where you live. I sent 5 postcards; one to Taiwan, one to Finland, one to Belarus, one to Russia and one to USA. That means that I will get 5 postcards from around the world.

Tonight we are going to see the new Harry Potter. That should be fun.

I usually write a blog post and then the next day think of 3 or 4 things that I wanted to add. That's kind of what this is. It is not nearly as good as the last few have been but I am in a rush.

Also there is this thing on my blog (not the flag counter) that I can check who visits my blog, what countries visit it the most, where people get my website from and how many people read each post. I checked it today and 2 things pretty much made my day. The first one was that someone stumbled upon my blog by google searching "toast brot Deutschland". I just think it is kind of funny that google searching something so random leads to my blog. The second thing was that apparently I have 9 Iraqi viewers. So thank you to my viewers in Iraq and to "toast brot person" you made my day.