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.

1 comment: