It's been a while since I last posted and thanks to the numerous people nagging me to update this thing I thought maybe today would be a good time to do it. This week is Herbst Ferien (Fall break) so I have no school this week. On Friday we drove to Nordrhein-Westphalen (I hope that's right), which is a northern state in Germany. It is the part of Germany that borders Belgium and the Netherlands. Friends of my host family live there and we stayed with them. We stayed in Geseke (near Paderborn). We went into Paderborn and saw the Cathedral there. It was an old cathedral, from like 1200 I think. I have seen a lot of old churches since I have been here and they joked around that "I would think the only thing in Germany is old churches" but after my trip to Spain, the amount of churches I have seen here is nothing. In Spain we saw maybe two churches a day and even though they are very interesting, after you've seen twenty mid-evil churches in a 12 day span, it's nice to see something else. This cathedral was huge though and it had something that I have never seen before, a crypt. All the bishops from the past couple hundred years were buried in the crypt. The cathedral was very ornately decorated and everything was done with such detail but unfortunately I am pretty sure it was all redone after World War II. I could be wrong but I think I read that it was damaged pretty badly during the war and then rebuilt after. Later Saturday night, Simon, the son of the family we were visiting took us to a Lan Party. I don't really know why it is called a Lan Party but basically everyone brought computers and played each other in Call of Duty. There was maybe 7 of us and we played COD for a few hours. That's just one more thing the Germans school me in. There are two things that the Germans school me in (besides their nearly impossible grammar) and they are soccer and COD. That whole Europeans being good at soccer thing, completely true. The next day we went to a Schloss/castle. It was an old castle but also had a museum inside it all about the SS. The castle was supposed to be made into the headquarters for the SS but I think the war ended before anything major happened with the castle. In case some of you don't know what the SS was, it was the group within the Nazis that was responsible for a lot of the killings and crimes against humanity (thank you wikipedia). The castle was also not far from a concentration camp which part of the museum discussed in detail. The castle itself was a triangular building but it had the middle open as a patio and it was on top of a hill. The castle had a whole diagram and other maps of the concentration camp. After that we went to Kloster Abdinghof. It's a monastery in Paderborn that is also over 800 years old. It was absolutely huge. There are pictures on my shutterfly account of it. There was a huge church, the library, the sleeping quarters as well as a museum that showed all of the major monasteries in Europe. It was right on the edge of a woods so I got to see all the trees changing and it was such a great view. There was a bunch of gardens and decorations within the kloster.Seeing as that night was Halloween, we went to another party with Simon's friends. In the USA, people go trick or treating until they are like 17 or 18, in Germany once you hit 16 (the drinking age) your plans for Halloween change. First off since I am fully aware that only my family and church read this blog, let me clear something up. On Halloween I was feeling sick and the last thing I needed to help my stomach was alcohol so yes, I was a good kid and stayed clean. That's the good thing about Germans, if you don't want to drink (even though everyone around you is drinking) they don't care. They don't pressure you drink or make you feel awkward for not drinking. They played a game where you have to draw cards and depending on what card you draw you have to do something and if you draw a king you get to make up a new rule for the game. In the beginning of the game, I drew a king and my rule was that they weren't allowed to speak German until the game was over. It was pretty funny until I realized that Germans have amazing English and that they had no problem saying what they needed to anyway. It was still nice to understand it though. Then we walked into the city and went to a bar, which I am not even sure how I got in because there was not only a big sign that said "No one under 18 allowed" but also if you are under 18 then you can't be out after midnight in Germany. Even though I am 16 and this was like one, I still got in. And again let me say, I was clean and responsible. I played Foosball in the bar. The next morning we went to another castle. They asked "don't you have castles like this in America?" and I answered "No, this castle is older than America.". It was cool because they had part of the castle modernized into meeting rooms and conference centers but most of it was still decorated like it was in the 1500's. Then we went to the farm.The lady who we were visiting has parents that own a farm and it has more cows and pigs than I have ever seen before. They had a whole barn filled with cows and calves. The cool thing about this farm was how modernized it is. The cows wear a censor on their ankle that when they walk up to the food machine, it reads the censor and knows how much food to give them depending on how much milk they give. Also there was an automatic cow brushing machine and heated rooms for the baby pigs. The adult pigs though, some of them probably weighed more than I did. There must have been hundreds of baby pigs and they were the loudest, jumpiest things I have ever seen. Whenever you looked at them, they would squeal and run away but as soon as you looked away they would sneak up to you and investigate. After the farm we drove back to Baden-Wurttemberg. Today, I had off because of Herbst Ferien so we drove into Stuttgart and saw the Fernsehturm. It was kind of like the CN tower in Canada. We took an elevator to the top and I ran into another exchange student (the only one I hang out with). She was with her family and her host sister did an exchange year in Hamburg, New York so it was nice to (briefly) talk about Buffalo with someone who knows about it. After the Fernsehturm we just did some errands and sightseeing around Stuttgart. We went back to the train station and saw the Stuttgart Einundzwanzig protests. So that's about it for the weekend but I have now have fun stuff to talk about.
Just about everyone knows that a lot of foreign people don't exactly look upon the USA as fondly as they used to. Well obviously while spending a year in a foreign country, you are going to see some of it. While the people here are for the most part incredibly friendly and welcoming, you do get the occasional stereotype moment. I was expecting the questions about how often we eat McDonald's, about how we drive pick up trucks and hummers, about how we own guns and how lazy/ignorant we are. Don't get me wrong, I get those questions too but occasionally I get a question where I am just like where did that come from? We had a lady come into our school from the drug center and she asked me something and I didn't answer and my classmates explained to her that I was an exchange student and she asked where from. When I said the USA she replied "Oh a perfect example for today, someone from the land of illegal drugs". It gets better, after that comment someone else commented on how apparently 1/3 of America is addicted to cocaine. Oh and also on our trip to Nordrhein-Westphalen, I learned that the only difference between American English and British English is that apparently Americans substitute every 3rd word with the F word. This one I especially don't understand because I have heard the English F word more in Germany than I did in the USA. My all time favorite question that I got about the United States has to be the time one kid asked me "In America, does money grow on trees?" and right before I answered someone else popped up and answered "No but stupidity does". He was just kidding and didn't mean to be insulting but honestly I had to laugh.
I realize that from this post, it kind of sounds like the people here are sketchy with their alcohol consumption and not friendly towards Americans. Both of those are entirely false. Germans may drink a lot but (with the exception of Oktoberfest) they don't get drunk. They drink a few beers and then they are finished so they are very responsible with their drinking. As far as how they view the United States, most of the time they ask questions like "Is it true that in America..." so they are not trying to be insulting but rather trying to figure out. They actually are very friendly and very welcoming. Also, my life her in Germany is not always like it was this weekend. The parties and drinking is pretty rare. I hope this post didn't sound too sketchy and I promise the next one won't quite so questionable.