Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"That shook me. You just don’t expect the place you’ve lived in for sixteen years to vanish like that."

I have been putting off actually updating this thing for a while now. I'm waiting for the washing machine to finish so I thought I'd update it now. Even though it has been about a month since I last updated, I don't have that much to blog about. The main topic of this blog post is going to be about going to Berlin with AFS.

Before I talk about Berlin, let me remind everyone that it is now June. June is a good month for a couple of reasons. I have a couple of trips planned and my host sister is coming home from her year in America. June is also a not so good month because it is my last one in Germany. It didn't really hit me until we were waiting for our trains in Berlin. One of the other AFSers was like "wait a minute guys, our End Of Stay Camp just ended". That really put things in perspective and made me realize that I only have 35 days left in Germany.

This past week was our End of Stay Camp with AFS in Berlin. All of the 50 AFS scholarship students in Germany meet up in Berlin for 5 days. We got to see the city, meet the German government and (of course) do a bunch of AFS workshops. 

We'll start with the train ride from Stuttgart to Berlin. It is about a 6 1/2 hour journey and it started at about 8. I sat with 2 other AFSers going to Berlin. I got lucky enough to get one of the seats that faces backwards so I rode almost 7 hours facing back. We spent most of the train ride listening to music and talking about this year. About halfway through the train ride, I started to get a little motion sick so I took out some Dramamine. The little container said I had to rip it open on the marked line. I tried for about 10 minutes to open this little packet. I tried ripping it, slicing it, ripping it with my teeth, I tried everything to rip it open. Finally I gave up and let the others try to open. They got about as far as I did with the packet. We were sitting with a German who was giving us condescending looks and laughing at these 3 unfortunate foreigners trying to open the Dramamine. After a while he just said "you know you just have to push right?". The box said to tear along the line so I never even thought about having to push it out but sure enough, he was right and it opened right up. It was funny but also another one of those embarrassing moments. 

We finally arrived at the Berlin Train Station at about 3. For those of you who live in Buffalo, the train station was about twice the size of the Galleria and had about twice as many stores in it (plus all the train platforms). We met up with the people from AFS and went back to the hostel. The hostel was just down the street from the train station so that was nice. One of the nice things about this camp was the fact that all 50 of us were there. I hadn't seen some of the people since September. 

Wednesday night was free time in the city. AFS let us all split up into groups and do whatever we wanted in the city. We just walked around and explored Berlin. We walked along random streets and saw downtown Berlin. We had to be back at 12 so we had a lot of time to explore the city. 

Thursday morning was a bus tour to all the major parts of Berlin. We went to a building that contained a bunch of 3D maps of Berlin. It showed which parts belonged to the DDR and which parts belonged to the BRD. It also showed which parts were new and which ones were rebuilt after the war. After that we went across the street to a park. The park had a few pieces of the Berlin Wall left on display. We then got back into the bus and drove to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Then we went to the Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous things in Germany. It is definitely worth seeing. 

After the tour we had a couple more hours of free time to go into the city. A group of us went to find Döner (we really are becoming German) for lunch. Then we came back and did a couple of AFS workshops. AFS workshops are where we get separated into groups and discuss things like "what do you still want to do in the next 5 weeks?" and "how can you do everything you want to before you leave?". After that we all split up into three different museums. I ended up going to a museum of ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artifacts. We ended up getting thrown out of the museum because we didn't have tickets with us. We went in as a group so they gave us a group ticket but when we split up in the museum we couldn't all have a ticket so we didn't have one when they asked to see our tickets. We ended up just going outside and going to see the Berlin Cathedral and sit along the river. 

Friday was our big day in Berlin. All 50 of us had to get dressed up and walk over to the Reichstag. That is the building where the German parliament (Bundestag) meets when in session. There we met up with 200 other exchange students from different organizations. We got to listen to the President speak and then listen to the members of Parliament debate reforms in the military.

We listened to the meeting for a little while then all 250 of us went into another room to meet with a couple other members of Parliament. We asked them questions about German politics and things that had to do with the German government.

Then we left and went to the American Embassy in Berlin. We basically had a big party at the embassy. There were people rapping, food, speeches and of course there was Lydia awkward salmoning complete strangers (AFS people will know what I am talking about here). We spent a couple of hours there just hanging out. Then we went out to dinner and had more free time in the city. 

Saturday morning was filled with AFS workshops and other AFS things. Then we had the rest of the day to enjoy Berlin. We ended up getting on the train and doing the rest of the big touristy things. 

Sunday morning we just went back to the train station and caught our trains home. 

Other than that, not much has really happened this week. This blog post wasn't a very good one because I leave for Berlin at 5 o'clock tomorrow morning. I am trying to pack, do laundry, buy snacks and write this at the same time. I'll write again sometime next week and it'll be better next time.

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