Monday, February 28, 2011

"Keep your coins, I want change."

This might be the only advantage of moving to a place and understanding absolutely nothing.

I spent last week in Bad Honnef. Bad Honnef is a little town in the north of Germany. There were 25 people with the CBYX scholarship who met up there for our "Mid-stay Orientation". The other half of the AFS-CBYXers have their camp this week. Let me start by saying, I was not looking forward to this camp. The AFS camps are not usually the most fun places on the planet. I just kind of figured it would be a bunch of exchange workshops and speaking English. I'm not gonna lie though, their were a bunch of AFS workshops and we spoke mostly English. The workshops were not that boring (and they were mixed in with a bunch of fun activities) and I enjoyed speaking English. 

After speaking German for 6 months, a week of just English was like Heaven. It was nice to speak with absolutely no effort. We got there and automatically started in English but eventually the leaders of the camp told us that we are in Germany and therefor, English was forbidden at this camp. I think it is safe to say that lasted all of 46 seconds. We would start a sentence in German but then switch over to English about halfway through and eventually continue on in English. We had to speak German in the workshops but all the free time was spent in English. The leaders of the camp are all teenagers who exchanged to the USA last year. Even they eventually switched over to speaking English. 

My piece of advice to the potential exchange students reading this is to not speak English at the camp. Now that I am back and have to speak German, it is 10 times harder because I just spoke English for 7 days. 

The leaders of the camp were really what made it good though. They made sure what we had plenty of fun things to do as well as the workshop part. We got to go into Cologne and Bonn. I had already seen Cologne but I got to see some new parts this time. We got to go into a Mosque which was probably one of the most interesting parts of the week. The man gave us a tour of the whole Mosque and then taught us about Islam and walked us through one of their services. I learned a lot from that. Some cool things that I learned were

1.) You have to take off your shoes before you enter a Mosque (out of respect).
2.) You sit on the ground to pray.
3.) They have to sit a certain way during the prayer. We all tried to sit like that and I couldn't do it for more than 3 minutes. 
4.) Men and women sit on opposite sides of the Mosque to avoid distractions during the services.
5.) The inside of the Mosque is very nicely decorated and there are so many interesting parts of it. 

After the tour, he took us all into the meeting room and gave us all cookies and tea (I don't like tea so I drank Fanta). We got to meet the Imam at the end. If anyone from AFS is reading this, that is something you shouldn't change in the future.

For the rest of the day in Cologne, we took a tour around the city, visited an art museum and had free time to do whatever we wanted in the city. During free time, I walked to the American/British food store (Thanks Margaret!). I ended up buying a whole bunch of food (very little of it ended up getting home). I bought kettle cooked potato chips (can you believe that Germany doesn't have them?), Hawaiian Punch, Dr. Pepper (I don't even like Dr. Pepper but it makes a good item for trading), Jif peanut butter, Crisco, Poptarts (what kind of country doesn't have Poptarts, skittles and a can of American beer for my host dad to try.

The skittles were kind of disgusting. They were Germanified. Who has ever heard of currant flavored skittles? I bought starbursts and they were also all weird flavored. The starbursts were actually good though. A couple other exchange students bought a brick of cheddar cheese and ate the whole thing alone. They gave a little to one of the chaperons who was so happy to have cheddar cheese again. My host dad liked the Coors Light that I brought back for him so that was good too. As you probably imagined, this store was incredibly expensive. You know those medium sized cans of Kool-Aid, the ones that cost a buck fifty in the USA? It costed almost 12 dollars in that store. I tried to stay away from the incredibly expensive food but somethings were worth it. 

Bonn was cool because it used to be the capital of Germany. We took a tour around the city and got to see all the important things. Then we got free time and just got to hang out in the city. Other than that we just kind of hung out at the hotel and did workshops. We had a talent show. The people had some really cool talents. 

I almost forgot about what may potentially be the second best part of the week (the first was the American food store). We got real Chinese food. Germany just doesn't have good Chinese food like we do. We were all craving Chinese food but there were no Chinese places we could find. We found a Chinese grocery store and asked the man inside where the nearest restaurant is. We ended up at the "Wok In". Not only was it great food but extra points for the creative name.

It was nice to talk to other exchange students because they know exactly what it's like and they are basically going through the same thing that you are. It's also really fun to make fun of the little quirks that German people have. Perhaps one of the biggest quirks we made fun of was the fact that Germans are a tad temperature crazy. I don't know if my host family is the exception to this or if I am just used to it because my parents keep our house in eternal winter but apparently Germans love having their houses cold. Most Germans heat some of the rooms but leave some others and the hallways all without heat. They only heat the most important rooms. They also love opening the windows. Again, my host parents may be the exception but I have noticed it with other Germans. Even the chaperons always opened the windows for a little "frische Luft". Of course we talked about their tendency to eat (way) to much bread but I have explained that on here before. 

Today was almost perfect. German was canceled so I got to sleep in (which was great because I am exhausted from last week). Then English was also canceled so I just hung out with friends. The only class I had today was Gym. Unfortunately we played that violent excuse for Rugby again. This time some people left limping but to be completely honest, if you leave the field just limping, you should be counting your blessings. To make it even better, I came home to Maultaschen for lunch. They are my favorite food of all time.

I don't have much more to say but if anyone reading this knows where I can buy Doritos and Mountain Dew in Germany, please tell me. I need Doritos and Mountain Dew.

Monday, February 21, 2011

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Ok here we go with the next blog post.

If you haven't looked at the picture website lately, you may want to. There are some good pictures from Munich and Dachau. On Friday, we drove into Dachau. Dachau is a city about 20 minutes outside of Munich. Dachau is also home to the first Nazi concentration camp.

Walking through a concentration camp is one of those things that you can't really explain. Sure, you can explain the camp and what's still in it but you can't really explain the feeling you get when you walk through it (sorry if that sounded cliched).

Here's a little walk through of the Dachau concentration camp. When you first enter the camp, you walk through a big watch tower type gate. There is a metal gate that says "Arbeit macht Frei" (Work makes freedom). They put that slogan on the gates as some kind of sick humor. Then you walk into the main hall. They have turned the hall into a museum of the camp. There are old remnants of the camp and there are stories and information about the people who were imprisoned there. It talks about each ethnic group (Roma, Sinti, Poles, Communists, Jews) individually. One thing that I learned was that for the most part of the war, the Jews weren't the largest group imprisoned there. The larger groups were the Poles, the Russians and even a significant number of Catholic priests were imprisoned there. There are videos and memorials throughout the museum part of the camp. 

Next you can either walk into the courtyard (I think that's the right word) or into the prison house. The prison house is a long and narrow building with cells on each side of the hallway. Each cell is about 6 foot by 6 foot. Then they sometimes divided those cells into fours and the tiny cells were shared by 4 people. There was no heat and sometimes no light in the prison cells. Then we walked into the courtyard. It is a big empty yard where the prisoners had to stand for roll call. Then they showed the barracks. All the original barracks are torn down but they have a few exact replicas. They had wooden bunks and each bed (not even the size of a single bed) sometimes had to be shared by prisoners when it was overcrowded. Then you walk down the main road. On the sides of the road are the foundations from where the barracks used to be. At the end of the road are three memorial buildings. One of the buildings is for Jews, one is for Catholics and one is for Protestants. The Jewish memorial is a stone building that goes partly underground but has a hole in the top where the sun shines in. The Catholic memorial is a round cobblestone building with an open front. Inside there is an altar and on top is a crown of thorns. The Protestant memorial is basically an actual church. There are memorial candles, pews and an altar. There are even services there on Sundays. 

Now you can either go into the adjoining Cloister or onto the next part of the camp. The Cloister belongs to a group of nuns who established the cloister there after the Holocaust. The next part of the camp is the Crematorium and Gas Chamber. On the way you pass the fourth religious memorial. This one is for Russian Orthodox people. The Crematorium and Gas Chambers are in an old brick building. It's set up so that you can walk through it from start to end. You walk into the waiting room, then the changing room, then the gas chamber and then the Crematorium. In the changing room, they explained how they tricked the prisoners into getting into the gas chambers. Walking through the gas chamber was by far the hardest part. There's just a feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about what happened in the exact place you are standing. I learned at the end (while eavesdropping on someones private tour) that there are peep holes into the gas chambers so that the Nazis could watch what was going on inside. The Crematorium is at the far end of the building. It consists of maybe 5 ovens (and 2 in another building). The Crematorium is another thing that I really cant explain well. 

The way out of the camp is along the edge of it. The camp is surrounded by electric fence, barb wire and large guard towers. Another thing I learned at the concentration camp was that the guards would sometimes take the prisoner's hats, throw them over the fence and tell them to go get them. If the prisoner refused, he was shot for disobeying. If he went to get his hat, he was shot for "trying to escape" and the guard got a week of vacation for stopping him. It's things like that that really made me stop and think how anybody could be that cruel. 

Okay, on to the fun part of this blog post. Saturday was spent wandering through Munich. We watched the glockenspiel in the Munich City Hall and bought more parts of my lederhosen. There are pictures on shutterfly of me in the lederhosen.

On the way home we stopped at the American diner again. It is a chain restaurant in Germany and even though there are none near us, we go every time we take a trip. I tried a hamburger with a fried egg on top. It wasn't exactly typical American food but it was good none the less.

Tomorrow morning I am taking the train to Bad Honnef. The CBYX scholarship recipients are having a "mid-stay" camp there. It goes from Tuesday until Sunday. Bad Honnef is a town on the Rhine river and kind of near Bonn. I haven't been to Bonn yet but it's supposed to be a cool city. I'm not entirely sure what we are doing for almost a week but at least I am going to be with the other exchange students.

We had sixty degree weather for like 2 weeks straight. I walked outside in just a t-shirt and was enjoying the early signs of summer. Unfortunately, today it started snowing again. The temperature dropped and the sun is basically gone again. 

Like usual, now comes the part where I talk about some differences between Germany and the USA. 

The first thing I should probably talk about is music in Germany. To start off, Germans listen to exactly the same music we do. They listen to music in English. I know that they all speak English but I want to know if they actually understand all the songs. Of course there are also German bands but they're pretty rare. It's the same way with movies. They just dub ours into German. There are also a few true German movies but not many (Goodbye Lenin for example, every German has seen that movie). Another thing I don't entirely understand is why the German artists sing parts of their songs in English. 

This one is kind of random but Germans all write their 1's differently. It looks like 1 but the little dash-thing at the top goes all the way to the bottom. I can't find a picture of it though. Also a capital g looks just like a lower case g except bigger. There is no G like that one ------------------------------------------------------------>

I write my G's like that and they used to always ask me what that was. 

Another thing about Germany is that the deposit on a bottle is like 45 cents instead of 5. Also, the deposit is on all bottles. When you get almost 50 cents per bottle back, it's needless to say that everyone brings them back. Another thing is that in Germany people search through public garbage cans to find cans and bottles to return for money. In the USA, I guess people do this too but here it really is normal. You see grown men in business suits searching through trash bins to find a bottle. 

I don't know what it is about taking notes in Germany but no one uses lined paper. They all use graph paper instead. In German, English or French class; they still take notes on graph paper. I'm starting to catch on to this and now write mostly on graph paper too. Also, no one uses pencils. Seeing as their fountain pens are erasable, there is really no need for pencils. 

Germans tell time as 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,
18,19,20,21,22,23 o'clock. They also use the day/month/year setting when writing the date. This next one goes without saying but Germany is on the metric system.

Funny story in relation to the metric system. I was in NWT class and we were calculating something that had to do with speed. This was a Thursday and after 5 pm so needless to say after 8 hours of German education (including classes like physics, chemistry, government) I was out of it. I had had enough school for that day. Of course, he decided to call on me to convert some measurement. The first problem was that I probably wasn't paying as good of attention as I should of been and the second problem is that when it comes to the metric system; I am absolutely clueless. So I just kind of sat there awkwardly pretending to do math in my head and hoping he would take the hint and call on someone else. He didn't call on someone else, he just waited. Eventually someone whispered the answer to me and I just said it. 

Also on Thursday, we had German. This story kind of cancels out the fail in the last one. We are for some reason learning about the British Monarchy in German class. Not entirely sure why we're studying it but I actually know more about the British Monarchy than as the last few units. Well she asked who was the British Monarch who beheaded his wives. Nobody knew it and so I thought I'd give it a try (what did I have to lose anyway). I guess Henry the 8th and I was right. The teacher just kind of took a minute to register the fact that I answered it right and then corrected me in that in German, he is Heinrich the 8th. Then I answered some more right about Anne Boleyn and Mary Stewart. It's kind of fun to surprise people by answering questions.

The moral of those two stories is that the "boring and useless junk that they teach you in school" is actually useful. The metric system for example, we learned all about it. I just never thought I would use it and kind of played it off. I was wrong, I ended up needing it. The history of the British monarchy on the other hand was basically half a year's topic in AP European History last year. I remember thinking, why do I have know the difference between King Henry the 8th and King James the 1st? I ended up needing that too. 

Ok well as I said earlier, I am going to a CBYX camp tomorrow morning and I still haven't packed yet. I should probably do that now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth"

I've been putting off writing this post for a while now. I just haven't felt like writing one lately. Philipp warned me about this in the beginning though. He said that about halfway through you realize what a pain it is to update your blog. Now that I think about it, a couple of other people have also told me that. 

We had a field trip yesterday. We went to the place where all the newspapers are printed. It was pretty cool to see these 2 ton bundles of paper mass printed into newspapers. The best part was definitely that I understood everything that the tour guide said and everything in the presentation. The actual printer itself was the size of my house. It turns out newspapers in about a second. The whole process was actually really cool. 

Today I had a normal day of school and came home and relaxed again. Germany is making me very lazy. We did the whole valentines exchange today because we were away yesterday. I got one as a joke from a friend of mine but I got another one from Carina and Judith (also from my class). They wrote a legit message and I got some candy too. 

Tomorrow is some sort of sport and culture day. We had the option of going skiing, skating, to a movie or something I don't remember. We are all going to the movie theatre. We are seeing Gulliver's Reisen. I don't know the title in English but it translates as Gulliver's travels if that helps. After that we are going out to get Döner. 

I thought of another thing I miss about the USA today. Unfortunately my parents can't put this in a box and send it to me. A big difference between Germany and the USA is patriotism. Germans just don't seem to be as patriotic as we are. They don't have all of the patriotic songs like we do. I'm not just talking about the legit ones either. We have songs that you hear on the radio talking about the USA but Germany just doesn't have that. Only a few houses fly their flag here. In the USA, most of the houses fly our flag somewhere. Most of the kids in my class that I have talked to don't know the full anthem. 

One thing about Germany that I really like is that Germans don't criticize their country. Of course they point out what they think is wrong but it's just different. I can't really explain it, I think Germans have a much more quite pride in their country. We are very loud and open with our American pride but we also criticize the country much more openly then they do. I hope you guys understand what I mean here. 

Another big topic is how the language is coming. I get asked that pretty often now. My German is in no way, shape or form perfect. I am at that point where I understand 95% of normal German. By normal German I mean with the exception of complicated school subjects (Chemistry, Physics, NWT, etc), medical lingo and all that complicated stuff. I can understand a lot in some classes like Biology, GWG, GMK and even somewhat in German class. I still don't understand Math, Physics and Chemistry. Chemistry is tough because I don't understand the words needed to be able to do Chemistry. Physics is bad because I literally have no idea what's going on and don't understand the words needed to clarify it. Math is just math and it doesn't matter what country I am in; I can't do math to save my life. 

I can pretty much say whatever I need to in German. I just can't do it grammatically correct. I have no problem with vocab. I don't ask for a word nearly as often as I did before. I still have problems with the adjective endings, word order and the forms of "the".  

I actually prefer talking rather than writing. You can kind of mumble/slur the forms of "the" so you don't have to really pick one of the 7 forms. I'm not sure if I ever explained that though. 

The three main articles are Der, Die and Das. Der is the article for masculine nouns. Die is for feminine nouns and Das is for neuter nouns. In English, we just have the and the articles don't change based on gender. In Spanish, the words that describe women/end in A are are feminine and take the article la. The words that describe men or end in another letter are masculine and use the article el. 

That is much easier. You see Mujer and know it means woman. Ok so it is a feminine word and therefor takes la. You see Hombre and know it means man. It is masculine and there for takes the article el. That's that and its done.

German, unfortunately is not so easy. You kind of have to memorize what form of the goes with which noun. 

It could be das Mädchen. That means girl. The word is girl so why isn't it a feminine noun? You just have to know which nouns go with which form. There are a few rules to remember but there are enough exceptions to make them absolutely useless. So okay you spend hours memorizing nouns and article forms. You finally know what words go with der, die and das. They have a few more tricks up their sleeve now.

Now comes the point where you actually have to speak full sentences. Of course, you don't use der, die and das (at least not all the time). There are 4 sentence types; akkusative, dativ, nominativ and genitiv. Don't ask me how to differentiate them though. 

 Here is a nice chart to show you the different articles.

der Hund
das Licht
die Katze
die Lichter
den Hund
das Licht
die Katze
die Lichter
dem Hund
dem Licht
der Katze
den Lichteren
des Hundes
des Lichtes
der Katze
der Lichter

The hardest part of German is trying to find out the word "the". Not usually a hard thing to do. I'm not going to go into it now but the word for "a" and the negative article are also like that. 

Here is the graph for the "a" declension.

ein Hund
ein Licht
eine Katze

einen Hund
ein Licht
eine Katze
einem Hund
einem Licht
einer Katze
eines Hundes
eines Lichtes
einer Katze

OK you are probably all sick of listening to me whine about German. 

I finally put more photos on my shutterfly. Nothing really that interesting but for the first time in a while, there are new photos. 

I think that is all for this blog post.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"What I never did is done, all that's left is what I can still do."

This would be one of those few times that the quote at the top of the page actually has something to do this post. Monday was the halfway point for my year in Germany. 150 days in Germany and 150 days left. Before I talk about the whole halfway thing, let me tell you guys about the week I have been having.

I'm not sure this week could get much better. With the exception of a pointless, time consuming German project and a few awkward conversations, this week has been one of the best ones yet. Sunday, as I'm assuming most of you know, was Super Bowl Sunday. Unfortunately Germans don't turn it into a holiday like we do. Actually, let me rephrase that, Germans don't really even care about the Super Bowl. Here in Germany, the Super Bowl starts at midnight and goes until about 4:30 in the morning. I was on skype with my family from about 10 at night until 2 in the morning. I know that's probably breaking all sorts of AFS rules but oh well. I only stayed up until halftime because I had school Monday but it was still good. Unfortunately we didn't have all the typical game day foods but we had Cabbage and Noodles and hey, that's a close second, right?

Monday was not really all that special. I spent most of it doing it that German project. 

Tuesday was also not that exciting. I got to sleep in an extra two hours and got out of school and hour early though. That counts for something though. Unfortunately I spent most of yesterday doing that German project too. Yesterday my host mom helped me with that project for like 6 hours straight. We sat down for dinner at 9 and my host mom was like "it's already nine, last time I looked at the clock it was 7".  We finished it though. Maybe I should explain this project. We are learning about the style that Newspapers are written in (can't think of how that sentence should be written). We each got a different topic and for 3 weeks we had to cut out all the articles about our topics and write an analysis for them. I didn't even get to pick my topic. I got assigned to do the whole USA as a topic. I got to work with a partner though. Everyone ended with about 5 or 6 articles. I ended up with 51. I even had a full page article on whether or not President Obama dies his hair. It was a horrible assignment. 

Today was also good. They had a meeting about taking French in school next year. They got to miss class for it and about half of them were going so I tagged along too. Everyone was like "Michael, you don't take French and you are not going to be here next year. Why are you coming?" I could be sit in class or go and take a break. I may be foreign but I'm still a lazy teenager. I have a question for you guys. I debated this with my English teacher today. Can you use the word payback as a noun? He said it was only a verb but I'm not sure. Also can you say "to get punished" or is it just "to be punished". We didn't debate the second one. I just said "to get punished" and then wasn't sure if it was right. I made it so anyone can leave comments on here and you can leave from as "anonymous" so leave your answer as a comment.

Tomorrow is the real reason that this week is so good. Tomorrow, I usually stay at school until 5 and have 2 hours of physics and then 2 more of chemistry. Tomorrow I only have to stay until about 1, and I have no physics or chemistry. I hate physics and am not that fond of chemie either, so this is a pretty good day. 

This weekend would be a close second though. I am going to another city a couple hours away for a party at another exchange students house. It's her 18th birthday so it should be a good party. I was looking forward to having a nice English weekend but she invited all her German friends so I guess that won't be happening. 

That awkward conservation I was talking about today occurred today in Religion class. Someone brought up the whole "God Hates Fags" protest. Luckily, the teacher was too busy going on about the prodigal son to notice this conversation but it was still awkward. I then had to explain the word "fag" to them. Of course, the teacher listened to that part of the conversation. Personally, I am much more in favor of this protest I gotta say, that's pretty creative. Here's a news article about it. 

For the record, this is what shows up in the media and I'm not talking about the good protest either. Think of what the media says about other countries. How often do you hear about good things happening in the Middle East or the wealthy areas of Africa? Of course good things happen in the Middle East and there are wealthy areas in Africa but we rarely hear about them. I think it really does affect how we perceive other countries. If this is what shows up in the media about the USA, how do you think the other countries perceive us? 

Alright, I'll get back on topic now.

Next weekend we are going back into Munich and going to see Dachau. Dachau is a Concentration Camp right outside of Munich. That should be interesting to see as well. 

Sometime in the near future is an AFS camp on the Rhine. It's almost a week long (and I get to miss school for it!) but unfortunately there is another talent show. I honestly don't know what it is with AFS and these stupid talent shows. The one at the first camp was understandable because we had to perform something traditional from our native country and was kind of an ice breaker. This one on the other hand is pointless, we are all from the USA and we all know each other. At the first one, a few people got off with making traditional foods. That might a good cop-out for this camp. 

OK on to the main topic of this post. Other than being constantly reminded by my over-excited family members that there are fewer days left than days I have been gone, not much has really changed. You may be wondering what my quote at the top has to do with this post. Now that my year is half over, it's like the quote says. I can't go back and change things so I have to focus on the next 5 months. I can't say I regret anything about 'the past five months so I hope it doesn't sound like that. I just like the quote.

I'm gonna quote Margaret on this one. 

Her blog is

"I’m pretty sure that there were many times there were in the previous five months when, if someone had said, “Hey, you have five months left in Germany,” I would have been sorely tempted to say “…Okay. That’s enough.” But today? Guys, I’m just getting started!"

I don't really have much more to say. I'll update again after this weekend.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”

About 30 minutes after I wrote the last blog, I thought of a bunch of more things I wanted to write about. I smartened up and decided to write them down this time. Ok, los!

As always, let's start with what happened this week. Yesterday, I had religion class. We all gathered into a circle to read a bible verse. I took a look at my sheet of paper and it was all in English. Not gonna lie, I was actually pretty excited about that. I was like "oh, danke!" and the teacher was like "you're welcome but don't get too excited, everyone's is in English". I was a little confused because why would she give the rest of them verses in English too? She then asked if I would be so kind as to read the story (who didn't see that coming?). Of course, it's that old English that sounds like this "For I sayeth unto thee, the Lord hath rained pestilence down upon man." or "Doth, he hath said unto the hired, bringeth me the fatted calf and calleth forth a grand feast". First of all, there is a whole shelf of German bibles in the back of the class, why in the Name of all that is Holy are we reading an English Bible? Second of all, I'm pretty sure that people stopped writing like that when Shakespeare died. Keep in mind, this is the first time I read anything in English out loud in about 6 months. I was tripping over all of the strange words. I'm not kidding when I say that I probably could have read the German text better than that. Other than that though, not much has happened this week. 

I'm not sure if I have talked about Altdorf before but I am pretty sure I live in the smallest village I have ever seen. I always said Lockport was too small. Altdorf has between 500 and 1000 people. We have no high school, one butcher, a baker and the German version of Rite Aid. We have a bar, a "community center" and maybe one other store. It takes about 7 minutes to walk from one side of the dorf to the other. Even though it's tiny and everyone makes fun of it because there is practically nothing here; I kind of like living in such a small dorf. Literally, everyone knows each other. It's rude to not say hi to someone, even if you have no idea who they are. It's nice because it sits right on top of a huge hill so you can look around and see all the other villages. 

I am pretty sure that when I m actually old enough to get a real job, I am moving back here. Everything about working here is way better. First of all, the salaries are way higher, second of all, they have the best working hours I have ever seen. Lastly, you can usually walk or take cheap public transportation to your job. Back to the working hours thing. Everything in the little villages is closed on Wednesdays. I have no idea why but they are. About half of the things are closed on Mondays, they either close early or don't open at all on Saturdays and then are not allowed to open at all on Sundays. Did I mention that there is a random 3 hour break in the middle of EVERY day when nothing is open? Let's recap, double the pay and half the working hours. 

On of the best parts of living in a little dorf in the Ländle is all of the Swabian people. If anyone ever get's placed in the Alb, you are going to want to follow these rules to blend in with the Swabs.

1) Drop the -st ending when conjugating verbs in the du form and replace it with -sch. For example "kommst" becomes "kommsch", "rufst" becomes "rufsch" and so on. Once you get the hang of it, it is way quicker/easier than the normal verb endings.
2.) Egal what the word is, add -le to the end of it. "Haus" becomes "Häusle", "Land" becomes Ländle and so on.
3) This one I don't entirely understand but you just gotta go along with it. Throw your voice to sound like an angry old man. It's not like the people here just all talk like angry old men because I have heard their normal voices when they speak Hochdeutsch. I think Swabian just sounds like that. 
4) When discussing what the greatest things ever created by mankind are, the answer is Maultaschen or Spätzle. Don't argue with it, even if you don't really like them. The exception is when Stuttgarter Hofbrau is also part of the competition. Then, obviously Stuttgarter Hofbrau takes the prize.
5) VFB, Stuttgart's Soccer team, isn't exactly the best soccer team in the world but that doesn't matter, you still have to have superfluous pride in that team. It's kind of like the Buffalo Bills. We all know they are gonna lose and yet we all watch and then get upset as if we actually thought they might win. 
6) Being from the Ländle means you are a pretty easy going person. Not much can get your goat. There is one thing that really ruffles your feathers though. It doesn't matter if you are for Stuttgart 21 or against it, it's never just a train station. It is either a colossal waste of money or the coolest thing ever. There are very few people who take the "who cares?" approach.
7) This next one might just come from living in such a small village but I am adding it to the list anyway. For some reason, everyone has some type of farm equipment. Even the people who aren't even farmers have something or another. You have no idea how many tractors I see driving through the streets here. 
8) One of the downsides of living on the Ländle is that everyone speaks a dialect that you don't understand. Also, when you ask if they could maybe speak Hochdeutsch, you get this confused/offended look followed by "but I am speaking Hochdeutsch?". Actually no sir, you're speaking in dialect. That also goes for when you say you don't understand them. They say "oh he doesn't speak German". Actually if you were speaking Hochdeutsch, I would understand you just fine but you're not.
9) Obviously you will have to know about the pride and joy of the Alb; the pretzel. Apparently (I haven't actually checked the facts on this but I have heard it enough to believe it) the pretzel was first made in the middle ages by a baker from this region. He was in prison/about to be executed but then the person in charge said that if you make a type of bread-thing where the sun shines through in 3 places, I will let you go free. Thus, the pretzel was born. They take that story very seriously.
10) Perhaps one of the most important ones right here. It doesn't matter what you are comparing but whatever it is, Baden-Württemberg clearly does it better than Bayern (Bavaria). They have this inexplicable rivalry between the two states. There are 2 things that Bayern has over us. One is their soccer team and the other is the real Oktoberfest. 

Just follow those rules and you should blend in quite well.

Tuesday night, we had my German Congressman over for dinner. Every exchange student with the scholarship I have gets their own member of the Bundestag sort of as a sponsor. My Bundestag sponsor is Herr Rainer Arnold. He came over for dinner on Tuesday and we had the German variation of pizza. Let's just say, I am pretty sure I didn't come off as the sharpest tool in the shed. I either took awkward 30 second pauses to think when he asked me a question (I wanted to make sure I had the right grammar) or spoke terrible German when I didn't think. Have you ever tried really hard at something but in the end, you think you would have done better if you had just done it normally? I'm pretty sure that's how my German was. He was still pretty cool. He brought a nice book about the Bundestag and told us to stop by in Berlin sometime (roadtrip!). 

February 7th is one of the most important days in the exchange year. It is my halfway point. When I think about it in terms of days, it feels like I have been here for years already but in terms of months, I can't believe that I have already been in Germany for 5 months. It's not like "oh I am halfway done, that much closer to going home, thank God!" but it's not like "what halfway already?! no no no, I need to stay way longer" it's just kind of like "ok February 7th, just a normal day". Which feels weird because all of the other exchange students are freaking out that the year is already half over. Hopefully that will change and I will talk more about being halfway in the next post.

Something that no one ever explained and they really should of was how to write these blogs. In case any prospective exchange students are reading this, I thought it might be a good thing to explain. My first piece of advice is to put a sheet of paper on your desk or in your backpack because you are always thinking of things you want to write about. Write them down when they come to you because trust me, it's really easy to forget them (plus you have an outline when you actually do write the blog). Then before you actually do write the blog, take 10 minutes and write a few ideas of for each idea. It makes it so much easier when you already know what you want to say. Obviously try to make it funny and try to not only talk about what you are doing but also about the differences between your home country and your exchange country. It's also usually a good idea to add pictures or videos. I'm sure some of that was common sense but I hope it was still useful. 

As an exchange student with a blog, I am pretty sure that I have been neglecting a big duty of mine; advertising. You guys should consider hosting an exchange student. I can't say what it's like because unfortunately we have never hosted one (hopefully we will though!) but it seems like fun. You get to see a whole new culture without leaving your living room. Towards the end most of the people end up considering their host families as real families and exchange students as real kids (like my host parents for example, when someone asks how many kids they have, they automatically say 3 now). Two more selling points and then I'll quit advertising. One, you don't have to pay for them, they have their own money, you just have to pay for normal family things. Two, in all seriousness, we're kind of the bomb. Also, the government doesn't let them enter the US unless they have a family all set up and ready. Even if you can't be a full host family, you should consider being a welcome family. A welcome family is a host family for the first month until they find a full host family for the student. Ok, end rant.

OK that's all for this one. Dinner is ready and we are having hamburgers and fries. I think everyone who knows me knows I am never late for dinner, especially when it's hamburgers and fries.