Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reisen veredelt den Geist und räumt mit allen anderen Vorurteilen auf.

Anyone who has ever tried to use Youtube outside of the United States knows exactly what I am going to complain about.

Because of copyright laws, what seems like a third of all videos with music on Youtube can't be viewed. Usually you can listen to music (by watching the music video) on Youtube but now it's a real job to find a video that is "available in my country". I just saw a facebook group about this. The group is called "Dieses Video ist in deinem Land nicht verfügbar" Alter, bin ich aus Narnia oder was? That means "This video is not available in your country" Dude, where I am from, Narnia? "dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar" .. alter, bin ich aus narnia oder was?

Mehr Sprüche auf
"dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar"

Mehr Sprüche auf
"dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar" .. alter, bin ich aus narnia oder was?

Mehr Sprüche auf
"dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar" .. alter, bin ich aus narnia oder was?

Mehr Sprüche auf
"dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar" .. alter, bin ich aus narnia oder was?

Mehr Sprüche auf
"dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar" .. alter, bin ich aus narnia oder was?

Mehr Sprüche auf "dieses video ist in deinem land nicht verfügbar" .. alter, bin ich aus narnia oder was?

Mehr Sprüche auf

The next thing that I found out is that I can see what countries the people who read this blog are from. It shows me on a map what countries view my blog.
All the countries with flags have people who read my blog there. I know it is kind of hard to read but if you click on it, it should make it bigger.

I found this next picture a while ago and never got around to putting it on here. The picture shows the pattern of homesickness so it's something good for all the outbounds to see.

So far, it has been pretty accurate. I'd say that the first month or two were the "Honeymoon Phase". Then the next two were the "Culture Shock/Homesickness Phase" followed by a solid four months of "Adaptation". The last two months are apparently split between being sad about leaving but also glad about going home.

The "Honeymoon Phase" is when you first get to your host country and everything is new and exciting. You don't miss home that much because you haven't been here that long and you are to busy experiencing new things to think about things back home. 

The next "phase" of the year is the absolute worst part. All the things that were new and exciting really aren't that new or exciting anymore. It's not that there are 2 months of straight homesickness but there are a lot of times in those two months where you feel homesick. 

The "adaptation phase" is a pretty good one. You have gotten used to being in a foreign country, you have a group of good friends, you're starting to feel at home in your host country and you've got a pretty good grasp on the language. All of that makes this part of your exchange feel like normal life. Yeah, you're still "alone" in a foreign country but it feels like normal life anyway. Homesickness doesn't occur anywhere near is much as it used to. 

I'll explain the rest of the "phases" as I get there. 

On Friday night, we went to a concert at school. My English teacher was playing a couple songs on his guitar and singing. I went with my host parents but ended up meeting some kids from my class there. The songs were in English so it was nice to hear a little bit of English again. He sang everything from "Hotel California" to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". 

Last night was the Jahresfeier in Altdorf. It's a big party put on by the soccer club in Altdorf. It was at the community center and basically we ate dinner and watched all the different teams put on shows. At the end of the Jahresfeier, they put on a play. The play was entirely in Swabian so I think it is safe to say that I understood about a third of what was going on. There was a raffle and I ended up winning a few things. I won a fancy beer opener, some knitted socks, an autographed jersey from one of the former VFB players and a couple cans of fancy SPAM. Other people won anything from alcohol to crystal cheese trays. 

 Even though my German is still not perfect, I have not only started thinking in German but also dreaming in German too. I don't always think in German but it has happened a couple of times lately. I have thought in German before but I had to try and think in German but lately it just comes naturally in German instead of English. I also dreamed in German a couple of times. The good news is that the whole dream was in German and I understood it. The bad news is that even in my dreams, I don't know which of the 16 forms of "the" to use. 

I think we are going to Frankfurt next weekend. I don't know if I will update again before then but we'll see.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

I have really been slacking when it comes to updating this blog lately but I'll try to do better for the next few months. 

In the end of November, I got a letter from AFS that said I had to write a three page essay about my experience IN GERMAN. They gave us certain things that we had to write about so I couldn't just write all the easy stuff I knew. I tried to write the essay back in November but that turned out horribly. I look back on the part of it that I wrote and even I can't understand what I was talking about. Well the essay was due in January but I forgot about it. So then AFS reminds me again that I have to write this essay. This time the essay was not a problem. It took me about the same amount of time that it would of taken me to write an English essay. 
I was also surprised by how few mistakes I made in the essay. My host mom corrected it but she basically only had to change der, die and das. I still hate the German articles but I am finally getting the hang of how to use the articles. 

I am going to put the essay below but if you don't speak German, you are going to have to use the google translate bar at the top of my blog. There should be a little white box right beneath the banner at the top of my blog that says "choose language". English should be the first option and you just have to click it. It may take a few minutes to translate but then my essay will be in English. The translator isn't perfect so there might be some mistakes but you should still be able to understand it.

            Ich bin schon sieben Monate in Deutschland. Seit ich in Deutschland bin, habe ich ganz viel gelernt  und auch ganz viel gesehen. Ich habe viele Städten von Deutschland gesehen. Wir reisten durch ganz Deutschland. Ich lernte auch viel in der Schule. Ich traf die meisten meiner Freunde in der Schule. Ich habe viel über die deutsche Geschichte in der Schule gelernt. Ich finde es sehr interessant. AFS hat viel mit uns gemacht. Mein Komitee trifft sich einmal im Monat. Dieses Jahr hat mir wirklich neue Dinge gezeigt.
            Ich habe ganz viel mit meiner Gastfamilie erlebt. Sie haben mir fast ganz Deutschland gezeigt. Wir waren in München zum Oktoberfest und in Nürnberg auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt. Wir sind in Sölden, Österreich Ski gefahren. Wir haben auch Silvester in Köln gefeiert. In Juni werden wir nach Berlin und Wallmow fahren. Meine Vorfahren kamen aus Wallmow. Wir fahren oft nach Stuttgart und die anderen Städten in der Nähe. Wir gingen zum Ritter Sport  Werk. Meine Gastfamilie macht viel zusammen. Wir sehen fern und machen Gesellschaftsspiele  zusammen. Wir haben die Kleine Tierschau in Stuttgart gesehen.  Es war ein bisschen schwer zu verstehen aber es war trotzdem lustig.
            In den USA, gehe ich in eine Privatschule. Es gibt nur Jungs in meiner Schule. Wir müssen Uniformen tragen und jeden Tag Religion lernen. Dieses Jahr war das erste Mal in meinem Leben, dass ich zur Schule tragen kann, was ich möchte. Ich mag, dass wir nicht in der Mensa essen müssen. Wir können ins Dorf spazieren und besseres Essen finden. Ich finde es auch besser in Deutschland dass wir nicht jeden Tag den gleichen Unterricht haben. Es ist wirklich cool, Englisch als Fremdsprache zu lernen. Am Anfang konnte ich nur Englisch und ein bisschen Religion mit machen aber jetzt kann ich auch Biologie, Gesichte, Gemeinschaftskunde, Musik und Deutsch verstehen, aber Chemie, Physik und Mathematik sind immer noch schwer.
            Ich habe meine Freunde in der Schule kennen gelernt. Meine Klassenkameraden und ich sind gute Freunde geworden. Ich mache nicht so viel mit den anderen Austauschschülern. Manchmal fahren wir nach Stuttgart oder Reutlingen und machen da etwas aber das ist nicht so oft, vielleicht einmal pro Monat. Ich habe auch Freunde in der Sprachschule kennen gelernt. Sie kommen aus den ganzen Welt. Wir treffen uns auch nicht so oft aber wir reden jede Woche miteinander. Ich war mit meinen Freunden auf den Fasnet. Wir fahren oft nach Reutlingen oder Nürtingen und gehen ins Kino, einkaufen, essen und vieles mehr. Sie helfen mir mit meinem Deutsch und auch mit den Schularbeiten. Im Juni machen wir ein Klassenfahrt nach Berlin.
Seit ich in Deutschland bin, habe ich viele neue Hobbys ausprobiert. Mein Gastbruder jongliert gerne und kann andere Zirkus Tricks machen. Er hat mich gelehrt, wie man Teller auf einem Stock drehen kann. Ich habe auch sticken von meiner Gastmutter gelernt.  Im Sportunterricht habe ich Volleyball, Handball and Rugby gespielt. Ich habe die Spiele vorher niemals gespielt. Ich mag Volleyball und Handball. Ich habe auch Fußball mit meinen Freunden gespielt.  Wenn ich zu Hause bin und ein bisschen Freizeit haben, dann lese ich gerne und schaue Filme an. Wenn ich die Freizeit mit meinen Freunden verbringe dann gehen wir aus und machen etwas. Wir waren im Kino, beim Bowling, haben Fußball gespielt oder nur einfach gechillt.
            Ich war mit meinem AFS Komitee im Oktober im Schwimmbad. Es war ein Bad mit heißen Quellen. Solche Schwimmbäder haben wir nicht. Wir waren alle zusammen bei einem “Late Orientation Camp”. Da haben wir einander richtig kennen gelernt. Es war sehr hilfreich. Wir haben die anderen kennen gelernt und wir haben über Deutschland/Austausch geredet. Da haben wir Unterschiede zwischen Deutschland und den USA gelernt. Wir haben auch eine Talent Show gemacht. Jede Person hat etwas aus seiner Heimat gezeigt. Das AFS PPP-Halbzeit Camp war ganz toll. Es war sehr gut, die anderen alle zu sehen.  Es war auch interessant wie viel deutsch wir alle können. Das Halbzeit Camp war wichtig. AFS hat uns daran erinnert, dass wir nur noch 5 Monate haben und wir diese genießen müssen. Ich finde es gut dass AFS diese Camps macht weil die so hilfreich und wichtig sind.
            Ich mag Geschichte und die deutsche Geschichte interessiert mich sehr. Im Februar fuhren wir nach Dachau. Dachau war so interessant und da habe ich so viel gelernt. Wir sahen das ganze Konzentrationslager. Wir haben auch einige Schlösser gesehen. Die Schlösser gefallen mir weil es solche Schlösser in den USA nicht gibt. Ich habe viel über die Teilung von Ost und West Deutschland gelernt. Ich freue mich auf unsere Reise nach Berlin weil ich da mehr über Ost und West Berlin lernen kann. Als ich gekommen bin, habe ich nicht so viel von der deutchen Politik gewusst. In diesem Jahr lernte ich viel über die Politik. Ich hörte viel von der nationalen Regierung aber auch viel von der Regierung in Baden-Württemberg. Die Politik für Stuttgart 21 interessiert mich und darüber lerne ich gerne.
            Ich würde sagen der größte Unterschied zwischen Deutschland und den USA sind die Leute. Die Menschen haben völlig unterschiedliche Haltungen. Die Eltern vertrauen ihren Kindern viel mehr. Die deutschen Kinder haben mehr Freiheiten. Sie können einfach mit einen Bus oder Zug fahren.  Es gibt keine Busse und Züge in den USA. Unsere Eltern müssen uns überall hinfahren.  Also, die Kinder dürfen länger draußen bleiben. Ich werde viel von Deutschland vermissen. Ich werde das Essen hauptsächlich vermissen. Ich mag Döner, Spätzle und Maultaschen aber es gibt keine in den USA. Ich werde auch Deutsch vermissen. Mein Deutsch ist immer noch nicht perfekt aber ich mag Deutsch zu reden.
            Ich freue mich, meine Familie und Freunde wieder zu sehen. Ich bin froh das ich sie bald sehen werde aber auch ganz traurig, das ich Deutschland verlassen muss. Ich freue mich wieder in eine Schule zu gehen, wo ich alle und alles verstehen kann. Ich freue mich auch darauf, in Lockport in einem Restaurant Chicken Wings zu essen. Auch freue ich mich wieder ein Hockey Spiel zu sehen.  Meine Gastmutter und Gastschwester kommen im August zu Besuch. Ich kann nicht warten, ihnen meine Stadt zu zeigen. Wir haben viel geplant und ich freue mich darauf.
            Dieses Jahr ist nicht wie ich gedacht habe aber viel besser. Ich bin so froh das ich nach Deutschland kam. Ich möchte auch AFS, Congress und dem Bundestag danken, dass die mir diese Chance gegeben haben.  Dieses Jahr hat mir nicht nur neue Dinge gezeigt, es hat mich auch verändert.

Here is a little advice for everyone who plans on being an exchange student; save all the things that you write. It doesn't have to be essays or things like that but even just school work is good to save. There are going to be days when you feel like you haven't made a lot of progress in the language. It's always good to look through papers from the beginning and see how much your language has improved.

Seeing as we are on the topic of language, it might be worth mentioning that tomorrow I am starting French at school. The school said that I didn't have to go because they are on like year 5 of French and my French is well, pas très bon. I know the basics but I'm guessing it's not going to be very helpful for level 5 French. I have a feeling that this is going to turn into another class like Physics but I don't really care. Speaking of physics, I haven't had that class since the beginning of February. I don't know why I haven't had physics in so long but I'm not complaining. 

Yesterday we went to an all you can eat schnitzel buffet. It was at a restaurant in Stuttgart. I got the Schwaben Schnitzel which is a normal schnitzel with Spätzle und Soße. The first round comes with 2 schnitzels. I could only eat one because they have a diameter of like a foot. They have have one type of schnitzel that is over 2 pounds of meat. Only Kevin finished his and went on to round two. Everyone else is eating leftovers today. 

 Round 1 of Schnitzeltag.

I also got another package from home yesterday. It was chock full of American junk food. I never thought to make rice krispie treats for the people here because I figured that they existed everywhere. For the record, they don´t exist in Germany and they are one of the two things needed to make German friends immediately. Usually it takes a while to make friends here but if you bring them rice krispie treats or Trident Layers then they will be your friend from day 1. All of you future exchange students should remember that. 

Ok that´s all I got for this post. I´ll try to go back to updating this once a week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I demolish my bridges behind me. Then there is no choice but to go forward.

Sorry that this post took so long but I just haven't been in the mood to write one of these lately. I haven't had school this week so I have just been hanging out and relaxing. 

Let's see what I have been up to this week. 

Last Friday was the Dolfenger Fasnet. It's basically a huge party for Fasching. The witches (it's some sort of witch group thing) put it on every year. You're supposed to dress up in costumes but I didn't. The Fasnet was in a big hall and the theme was "above the clouds". The hall was decorated with planes and hot air balloons. There was a band type thing but also stereo music.

Saturday I went out with some friends from school. We bought Döner which made me think what I am going to do when I am back in the US and there aren't any. I eat like 2 Döner a week but in less than 4 months, I won't be able to eat them anymore. 

Monday I went to the movies with friends. We saw the movie Kokowääh. It was definitely in the top 5 best movies I have ever seen. The trailor for the movie is below. It is in German but has English subtitles.

Another good German movie is Goodbye Lenin. The trailor is also in German but with English subtitles. 

 We went to a couple of Fasching parades. We went to one on Tuesday and one on Saturday. The one on Tuesday was in Stuttgart and the other was in Neuhausen. I'll explain the parades in a minute.

I just kind of relaxed for the rest of the week. I didn't know I could be that lazy but on average I got out of bed for like 2 hours a day.  It's going to be hard to resume normal life when school starts on Monday. I probably shouldn't be complaining though because it's nothing compared to when my life in the US resumes. 

The parade in Neuhausen was smaller than the one in Stuttgart but was still over an hour. It was basically all the people of different groups/clubs dressed up in costumes and marching through the streets. The people all threw candy and tormented the people watching. Tormenting the spectators is a pastime of the Hexe (witches). They usually pull people (usually teenagers and usually girls) into the street and pin them down. Once you are pinned down, they take your things. Usually they take your shoelaces or hair scrunchies. Once they they take them, you don't get them back. They wear them as souvenirs. Sometimes they just pick you up, throw you over there shoulder and then walk away with you. Then they put you down and you have to find your way back by yourself. 

The parade in Stuttgart was like the one Neuhausen except it was bigger and instead of groups of people marching, most of the people rode on floats. Another difference was that they didn't throw just candy. A lot of floats threw those travel packs of tissues (it's a German thing). Germans don't use the normal boxes of tissues, instead they buy like a 100 of those little travel packs and stash them throughout the house and car. One of the floats even threw bananas. The lady next to us had 3 kids. Of course the witches came and took one of them. They just carried her off. They carried her as far as I could see but the mom didn't seem to care. I'm looking at her like "a random stranger dressed as a witch just stole your seven year old and carried her off like 500 feet. You should probably be concerned about that." It was like Times Square on New Year's Eve. We were packed like a can of sardines. 

I think I mentioned in the last post that I found Doritos in Germany. Well I found Mountain Dew this week. The search is over. I tried to find it on the American Military Base in Stuttgart but apparently you have be a military family to buy groceries on Base. They have huge stores full of all the American foods that I miss but I am not allowed to buy any of it. I actually found the Mountain Dew in the train station. I probably should of thought to buy it there before. I bought like 5 bottles of it and had to carry back on the train. I wish I could explain the looks that people gave me. Keep in mind that Mountain Dew is pretty unknown in Germany so the people on the train didn't know what it was. The looks were kind of like "what is that foreign kid doing with all those bottles of that sketchy fluorescent liquid". I really didn't care though, I was just happy to have Mountain Dew. I have found both Mountain Dew and Doritos so I think I will just stay in Germany now. 

The other day I made Sloppy Joes for my host family. Sloppy Joes don't exist in Germany either. My host mom came in and looked at the meat and said "and that's supposed to go on the bun?!". Then when I served them she asked "and you can eat these without a problem?". I was like "well no, that's why they are called Sloppy Joes". It was funny and they liked the sloppy joes. 

I found a video that I thought was funny but if you don't speak German/Swabian then you don't need to watch it. It talks about Swabian (the local dialect). It won't let me put the video in the post but here's the URL.

I want to explain how going to the movies works in Germany. After that I'll wrap it up.
Well first of all, you get an assigned seat in the theatre. They give you a ticket and you have to sit where the ticket says. Also German movie theatres serve sweet popcorn instead of salty popcorn. It's not kettle corn just really sweet and sugary popcorn. Usually you can ask for salty popcorn but they will give you the sweet corn by default. I forgot this rule when I went to the movie theatre on Monday and ended up with the sweet popcorn (which is kind of gross). One of the good things about the theatres is that there are very few commercials before the film. Of course this is Germany, so the theatres sell beer at the concession stand. The movie theatre at home costs about 10 dollars for a ticket but the theatre here was just 6. One of the very few things that is cheaper in Germany than in the USA. 

OK, I guess that is all for this post.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about."

There are 3 important things that I want to start this blog with. 

Number 1 (and arguably the most important) is that my host mom found Doritos. The crisis is over, we now have Doritos. If we end up finding Mountain Dew, there is a good chance that I will just stay here in Germany. The "Cool Ranch" flavor of Doritos are called "Cool American" here. That made me laugh for a little bit. 

Number 2 is the video that my friend Margaret made at the Mid-stay Camp last week. A lot of the students talk about Germany and how important the scholarship is. If you watch the part about bread carefully, you might see me.

Number 3 is that it is finally March and that means we have hit month 6 of this "Deutsches Abenteuer". 

The next topic is something I think every exchange student will attest to. Signing up to be an exchange student is basically volunteering yourself to be thrown into a plethora of awkward situations. Before I talk about all the embarrassing moments that happened this week alone, let me just say something first. Before I came to Germany, I would do something embarrassing and I would think about it and be embarrassed about it for weeks after the fact. Now that I am in Germany, and embarrassing moments come by the hundreds, I stop caring about embarrassing things about 5 minutes after they happen. I guess I just have gotten used to the fact that I make a fool out of myself on a regular basis and no one really cares. 

Now onto the comedic part of this blog post. The other day I had to go to the butcher and pick up some ground beef. The butcher is one of the 3 things that are actually in Altdorf so I decided to just take the bike. Let me just say, I have ridden a bike once in the past 6 months (more on that in a minute) and then not for a while before that. So I get on my bike, move about a foot and a half and fall flat on my face. Of course there were people watching. Everyone is like "oh my God, is he ok" but with the exception of my dignity, I was fine. You know how there is always that group of people who you aren't really friends with but you kind of know them? That group you try to act cool around? Of course, that group of people in my life were watching this fail of a bike ride. After that, I decided it would be better if I walked. 

The other time I rode a bike in Germany was the time we took a family bike ride to Metzingen. Well, I swerved into the curb, my chain came off and I went flying off of my bike. I daresay, I think I have forgotten how to ride a bike. I posted this on facebook and my friend Margaret said "this better not be true or decades worth of analogies were just ripped to shreds". Sorry to everyone who thought otherwise but it is possible to forget how to ride a bike.

The next of these embarrassing moments happened today actually. We were in NWT which is a science about energy, conservation and what not. We had to do this project about how much energy the school uses. We had to count all the lights in the school and calculate how much energy our school uses and what it costs per day. We did all the work and it came time to present. He comes to our group and says "actually, I want Michael to present it". You can all imagine what is going through my head at this moment. That was a horrible presentation. If you thought that I just had to say somethings and return to my seat, you were sadly mistaken. Then comes the questions. By questions I mean the ones that the teacher asks, I look around like an idiot trying to find an answer to and then eventually someone whispers it to me. 

The really embarrassing part of this story was when he asked me to calculate how much energy our school uses per day and what it costs. I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to calculate this because of three reasons. The first reason is that I really didn't understand what I was supposed to do. The second was because I was so nervous for presenting this in German and the last reason is because I can't do simple math to save my life. 

Had he asked me to label all the countries of Europe on a map, I could of done it. Had he asked me to describe the history of the British Monarchy, I could of done it. Had he asked me to carry on a 20 minute conversation in German, Dutch, Spanish, Hebrew or Arabic, I could of done it. But of course, he asked me to do Algebra and I made a fool of myself.

After I mysteriously answered all of his questions right, he said "wow Mike, you must really be learning a lot in this class". I'm not sure if he actually thought I knew the answered and was genuinely amazed or if he knew that people whispered the answers and was just being sarcastic.

For those of you who are not acquainted with German holidays; next week starts Fasching/Karneval. Fasching (as we say in the south) is a mix of Halloween, Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest. Fasching is a big party that celebrates the last days of partying before Lent (the Mardi Gras part). Everyone dresses up in costumes and disguises (the Halloween part). The actually Fasching party is like another Oktoberfest. We even get all of next week off to celebrate Fasching.

The nice part about exchange is that it honestly gets better every month. I always think about how great I thought the last few months and then how they get better and better every time. There's not a concrete reason why they are better though. I just feel more and more at home and closer with the people here with each passing month. Not to mention I haven't had physics class for almost month. That probably makes a huge difference in my attitude.

I will probably blog a couple times next week. We are painting the kitchen but other than that I don't have any real plans. Tomorrow night I am going to the big Fasching party in the next town over. I am going with friends from school. I think I'm supposed to dress up but I was a procrastinator and didn't find a costume. My friends told me to go as an American and I guess I am now.