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.

1 comment:

  1. Lieber Michael,

    Sorry if this sounds a bit creepy, but I happened to stumble across your blog the other day, and after reading the whole thing, I came to the conclusion that this is one of the most amazing AFS blogs that's ever been published! So much insight and you always manage to "hit the nail on the head" without ever being repetitious or boring. I can relate to your experiences very well, as I am a former canadian AFSer who went to Germany back in 1991-92. After going back home to finish high school, I returned to Germany a few years later and have been here ever since. All the best for the next half of your stay and am looking forward to reading more about your observations in this "hammer geile" country!

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

    Michelle aus Boppard