Tuesday, January 4, 2011

“Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don’t.”

I know I promised a blog sometime over the past few days but I have been busy lately. In my defense, I still update more than most people do. So here I am eating my bag of Schokobons (thanks Anke) and writing my overdue blog post.

So since my last blog post, we went back up to the NRW (or more commonly known as Nordrhein-Westphalen). It's a state up north where most of my host mom's family lives. Last time we visited Geseke and this time we went to Meiswinkel. Meiswinkel is a little town where my host mom's cousin and her husband live. It's apparently a Silvester (New Year's) tradition. They switch years with who visits whom. I knew two things about this trip beforehand, one being that we would be eating Raclette (more on that in a minute) and the second was that there was no "ja"; I had to say " 'n jo". Raclette is a special Swiss device on which you place a cheese wheel and it melts it for you. You then tip the Raclette and melted cheese drips down onto a wide assortment of things that you choose from. I hate cheese but this was actually very good. There are 16 "states" in Germany and each state has at least 2 (but probably many more) dialects. 'n jo is the Platt (that particular dialect) version of yes (Ja).

Speaking of Plattdeutsch; there are many different versions of it. Most of the time it is only spoken up north though. I think I talked about this in my first blog post but my (real) grandparents speak Plattdeutsch. It is not exactly the same as the Platt in NRW but it was close enough. Seeing as my grandma speaks it too, I thought it would be a good idea to set up a skype call between my grandma and some NRWers. I gotta say it was really cool to hear another dialect.

This Silvester (New Year's Eve) was pretty different than the past few. To start off, this would Germany's Fourth of July. Not in the sense of gaining their independence but in the sense that they set off enough fireworks to last a month. Silvester is the one day German teenagers buy all of the explosives they possibly can and light them off in the streets. I don't mind the real ones that shoot up and explode in the sky but the ones that lay on the ground and just make an obnoxious noise I could live without. First we went out to eat and I had a Schnitzel (yeah I know, big surprise).Then we went into the city to watch the big firework show that they put on but there were just as many fireworks coming from random teenagers in the street. Then we somehow got a bottle of Champagne (I don't really know where it came from, I didn't see anyone carrying it beforehand) and toasted in 2011 with a million "Gutes Neues" and "Frohliches Neues Jahr". After the show, a few people came back to the house we were staying at and just hung out. I skyped with my parents and then re-joined the party upstairs. The people stayed there until almost 3:30. At around four we went to bed and then woke back up at like one the next day.

Sometime during the week we went into Köln/Cologne. Cologne is home to the most famous church in Germany; Der Kölner Dom. It is this old, ornately decorated, incredibly tall church. I mention that it is incredibly tall because the main attraction of this church is that you can climb to the top and look out around the Rhine river. It is over 500 narrow, stone, spiral steps high but the view along the Rhine is amazing.

I recently found my list of things that I wanted to do while in Germany. I was surprised by how much of it I have already done. The goes like this (in no particular order)

1.) Climb Der Kolner Dom

2.) See the Alps
3.) Go to the top of the Alps
4.) Go to Munich for Oktoberfest
5.) See the Weihnachtsmarkt in Nuremberg
6.) ??????????
7.) Go to Berlin
8.) ??????????
9.) Buy a Lederhosen

10.) Eat my weight in German chocolate

You are probably wondering why numbers 6 and 8 are just question marks. That would be because I haven't done them yet. You'll just have to wait to see them. You may also be wondering why number 10 has so many check marks. That would be because I have done that one many time. I even have the 10 pounds of exchange weight to prove it.

I want to quote another thing from Andrea's blog. If you guys don't remember, I quoted her blog a few posts back.

Adjusting to a new family is hard, no matter how many times you do it. In my first family, Simone and I were very similar, and had a lot of the same habits and did a lot of the same things, so I found it very easy to fit in right away there. With the other two families, more work on my part had to be done. After 16 and a half years it can be hard to change. In Canada I slept in the basement, which was underground, and my window was this tiny little slit that didn’t really let much light in. And it was cold. So that’s what I like my room to be like now, dark and cold. I never pull my blinds up, my heat is always on low, and every day my hosties come home to find me under the covers asleep, or watching a movie, in the cold and dark. And I’m perfectly content like that, but I think that they don’t like it so much. After spending all day at school with an ‘I’m soo happy’ smile plastered on my face, I want to come home and spend some time in my cave where I can make whatever pouty scowely faces I want. But anyways, this is something that was an issue in my both my second and current family, and my counsellor and I talked about it, and I am working to find the balance of cave time and social activity. Anyways, I don’t know why I wrote that whole novel, but I guess I just want to admit that as much as I like to believe that I am, I know that I’m not perfect. I’m close, but not quite there yet. Exchange students like to believe that they are God's gifts to their host families, but really we know that we are not. We have our flaws too. And it just so happens that sleeping is mine..."

All you future exchange students reading this, pay attention to that paragraph. It is really important. That is one of the trickiest parts of exchange. You can't do everything how you would do it at home. I'm used to watching tv, doing homework or being on the computer 24/7 at home. Here I don't bother watching tv because it takes effort to understand the shows and homework is nonexistent. That leaves me with my computer and I'll be the first to admit, I spend way too much time on this thing.

I have however found something new to fill up my time. I have been practicing writing with a Füller. Normal pens are basically nonexistent in German schools. Everyone writes with a special fountain pen, everyone except the foreigner. Well not anymore. I got a really nice one for Christmas so now I have been practicing writing with it. I have also been reading books. Yeah that's right, novels in German. Reading is weird though. I always turn the page only to be disappointed that there is yet another page of German. Don't get me wrong, I would rather speak German than English, rather hear German than English, rather almost everything in German than English. Reading is the one thing that I would rather do in English.

On a good note, my family is coming to visit me for Easter. The tickets are now finalized so I am pretty stoked about that. They are coming for like a week and a half over Easter vacation. I don't know who is exactly coming but so far my Mom and my Grandma are definitely coming. My Dad and my Aunt Anita are still thinking whether or not they want to come (I hope they do). My host family is just as excited about their trip as I am. We have a lot of good stuff planned for them and plenty of good German food to try out.

On another good note, I did laundry today. That in and of itself is not exciting or great. I did however forget to dry my clothes. They stayed in the washing machine all day. About an hour ago (for the record, it is one in the morning) I was sitting here watching a movie and suddenly it hit me "scheiße, my clothes are still in the wash machine". So I go downstairs to check but it was to late to dry them anyway. So I walk into the laundry room and find all my laundry not only dry but also folded and separated by sort. Greatest.Host.Mom.Ever.

I don't have much more to write about in this particular post but I will hopefully post again soon.

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