On June 14th, my host parents allowed me to have my goodbye party (Abschiedsfeier) at our home. Goodbye is such a terrible word. However, if my year did not have an expiration date, I don't think I would have appreciated it as much.
It's very strange to wrap my head around the fact that my sister will be graduating in less than two days. I'm really proud of her and can't wait to have her so close again - three cheers for studying in Philadelphia!
For all of you who have been keeping up with my blog lately, you know how much trouble I am having dealing with the fact that I have to say goodbye to Berlin and everyone and everything I have learned to love here.
I have the window wide open and can hear the neighborhood children playing outside and fathers testing out their lawn mowers after the long winter. On one hand, I am so excited that the weather is as good as it is, but on the other hand .... not only does it mean I have to leave what I now call home in 8 short weeks, it also means that the bees will come (I have the most irrational fear of bees and flying insects, don't ask me why).
Remember how I told you all that there are a lot of vacations from school/work here? Well, there are these magical, amazing things here in Spain that they call ‘puentes’. It literally means bridge, but for kids of all ages it means LONG WEEKEND- and that my friends, is universal.
Normally, by this time in our exchange the long awaited “parent visit” has passed. Yes, it’s an amazing feeling seeing your family after such a long period of time and tears are shed, but (like almost everything in life) this visit has an ulterior motive. You can deny it all you want, but you and I both know that it’s all about showing off. Your language skills, your new independence - it’s all just a way to say “Hey! Mom! Dad! Look! I did it! I did it on my own!” or … in other words: without you!
It's been a while since I've written because it's been a while since I've been at home with the time to update my blog!
As I went on a run the other day, I literally stumbled upon a cobblestone, that turned out not to be a cobblestone after all. They were placed in the brick sidewalk, two bronze blocks lying next to another. On these stones read the names of a (presumbly) husband and wife, Iva and Hermann Zorn, stating that they had lived in the neighboring house. Underneath the names stood the respective birth dates, and then the phrase:
For those of you who don't know, my sister, aunt, and cousin are coming to visit today! I actually had a nightmare last night that I slept through my alarm and wasn't there to meet them at the airport.
This weekend I went to Greifswald for my third orientation weekend. It was a whole bunch of fun, but a little depressing... It made me realize my exchange year is almost over, and I am in no way ready!
What's so special about being American? What did we do to deserve all this recognition? Why does everyone want to be something American, yet hate Americans at the same time?
My week has been crawling along at a snail's pace, but that's probably because I am looking forward to the weekend. I have my third and last orientation weekend, this time in Greifswald, a university town near the Polish border. All of the exchange students from my district are going to be there, even the 'newbies'!
Hello! It's been a while since I've updated my blog, but I guess I've fallen into a bit of a routine and there isn't really too much new to report.
Today, when I went in to write my German homework in my agenda book, I didn't have any room. There was not one line free on the entire page. From reminders about my 50-verb Spanish test tomorrow to the Otto Von Bismarck presentation I have to have done by Thursday, everything is full.
All over the world people celebrated Carnaval last weekend. A weekend of parties, parades, and general craziness before the beginning of Lent. Of course, every country celebrates differently.
Exchange teaches you many things. One is that there are a lot of different types of people in the world. Another (and my opinion, more important) is that not of all of them are good.
Before I arrived in Germany, my host parents and I emailed a little back and forth. I was so excited, I must have been checking my email about five times a day! One of the emails they sent me included the question: 'Do you ski?'.
It's been a while! I got back from this trip almost a week ago and I'm just now writing about it! I blame it on the really bad sunburn I got yesterday at the beach…. or just my laziness.
As of three hours ago, I successfully completed the first semester of my exchange year. I rode my bike to school, given the dry weather, and hung out with everyone for half an hour while they received their report cards. Fortunately, I was not given official grades for the first semester, but I will be given them next semester. I’ve already got a few friends lined up for tutoring, I’m planning on paying them in English help.
Last Friday I found myself sitting in Terminal 2 of the Madrid airport, nervously awaiting the arrival of one of my favorite people in the world! Yes, that’s right- the wait was over and Marianne was coming to visit! Marianne is my Norwegian exchange sister. She was living in my house last year and, well you can ask any exchange student- host siblings become inseparable. So, as you could imagine the 7 months between the time she left the US and last Friday was far too long for us to be apart.
I'm very disappointed.
As I think I've mentioned, I'm on my summer vacations from school. And since Christmas my life has been a lot of eating, going to malls, and watching movies. For some people, this is really nice, but it has been driving me crazy not having a schedule! For a while my friend Maeve have been looking for a volunteer opportunity here in the city and today we finally started our service project!
Painted in big bold letters above my family’s kitchen cabinets is: ‘CARPE DIEM- SEIZE THE DAY’. From Day One, I think my mom has overused the phrase. That, and ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’
It might be a little late for a holiday entry over there, but here, the festivities just ended last week. Plus I have to fill you guys in on what has been keeping me so busy!
Lugging my duffel into school Friday, I felt like a total idiot. It contained exactly one pair of Pennington Tennis 2011 sweatpants, one Haddonfield Field Hockey t-shirt, two German romantic comedies, one copy of Forrest Gump, and two chocolate Santas left over from Christmas. Yet somehow, it felt so much heavier. Maybe because it carried with it an unsaid goodbye.
All my life I have suffered from bizarre skin problems. For some reason, my skin is terribly sensitive. So sensitive, that when I had a consultation with the doctor who gave me my vaccines to come to Ecuador, she decided that I should get a rabies vaccine after looking over my records. Hardly anyone gets vaccinated for Rabies, unless they're going to be working with animals. I've had chiggers, poison oak, years of eczema, 3 infected ear piercings, just to name a few.
Ich bin wieder da! (I'm back!)
I am writing this post six hours away from my normal kitchen table in Dallgow-Döberitz, in a small little city called Heidelberg. Some of you may know the town because of the University, where Mark Twain famously studied. There is also a beautiful ruin of a castle here, but not as famous. This is the third time I have been to the picture-perfect city. About five years ago (I can't believe it's been so long!) I spent Christmas here with my family, visiting very close family friends of ours, and also later visited on my own during the summer, spending a few days at a Gymnasium (high school) and sightseeing with the mentioned family. I am here to pay them another visit (but this time we are speaking German)! I'd just like to thank them, as without this family, I would have never chosen German as a possibility, and without my interest in the language I would never have considered an exchange year.
New Years Eve comes with a lot of hype. Everyone is planning and talking about it, looking forward to it for months, and when it comes down to it, it usually goes by just like most other nights. This year was a New Years that I will never forget, obviously, because I'm an exchange student…. but also because of the uniquely spectacular Ecuadorian New Year tradition.
I still haven't accepted the fact that Christmas is tomorrow. Christmas in Germany is celebrated on our Christmas Eve, which they call Heiligabend- literally: Holy Evening.
For the past month or so, I have known that my host sister who was an exchange student in France, was coming home.
For the past couple of weeks, I've been in a bit of a rut. I wasn't doing anything, I felt like I wasn't improving much in Spanish, and I was dreading my next three months without school. But if anything could make me feel like I was where I was supposed to be, it was my trip to the Amazon rainforest with Rotary.
I am so sorry this post is so late! The Christmas season is turning out to be just as busy 4,000 miles away.
Last week I got my first look into the real “Crisis” of Spain. Before that I was just enjoying the days off of school because of strikes or watching it on the news. To me, The Crisis had just been the explanation to any, and every, bad thing that had happened … crowded subway… “¡La Crisis!” … expensive groceries … “¡La Crisis!” … it rains … “¡La Crisis!”
Quite the opposite of what most people expect for a Thanksgiving away from home, I had an amazing day and hardly missed my family at all. Thanksgiving here was all about embracing that it would be very different, and shared with very different people, and trying to enjoy what was really happening rather than compare it to what was going on at the same time at home.
I am a woman of routine. I enjoy routine, I need routine. It doesn't do much for the spontaneity in my life, but at least I know what comes next.
So. I've been here for two months. And it's really, really hard to believe. The time has flown by. I feel like I just got here yesterday, and at the same time I feel like I've been here for years. I'm 1/5th of the way done with my exchange. Which seems like I have so little time left, but really there is still so much more to come!
Waking up this morning with noodle legs and a camera full of memories, I can’t help but smile back (with a bit of nostalgia) on the adventures of yesterday . . .
On Saturday nights in Spain you are expected to go out. It doesn't matter if you are an exchange student from America that can still barely speak Spanish and has a hard time making friends in this country - you are expected to go out and have a social life.
Since I’ve been here I’ve noticed one pattern for sure: Soccer here is everything. Across the coast of Ecuador, no matter how far away you stray from the cities, out into the open desert like land scattered with tiny towns and shacks made from palm, you will always find fans crazy for their favorite coastal football team. On the coast there are two major teams, Emelec and Barcelona, and your answer to the question, “Blue or yellow?” can make or break your first impression with people.
The city of lights, love and high fashion cannot be properly toured in three days. When I was in Bonn, the brother of my host mother told me a joke, which goes as follows:
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to get out of the heat and smog of Guayaquil and into the Sierra region of Ecuador to a city called Baños. For those of you who know me well, it will be completely obvious to you after reading this as to why I have fallen madly in love with this city.
As a Rotary Youth Exchange Student … the pins are important. Every student brings pins from their host countries to trade with the other students they meet. Everyone puts the pins they collect onto their blazer which we wear to all Rotary events … the result being that at the end of the year you come home with a blazer full of pins from all over the world to remind you of all of the interesting people you met during your year abroad.
I was stressed about my math exam (Mathe Klausur) for nothing, because on Thursday, about five minutes before my first block ended, we all found out it was postponed until Tuesday. All the other math classes had to write their tests, but my class had a surprise free block! I enjoyed it while it lasted, and tried not to think about the next week, where three exams loom ahead of me. It gives me extra time to prep, but no room to breathe.
J&J Books and Coffee
I'm sitting here in the car and am trying to recount the past week of vacation, but I can't even begin! I've done so much that, as my host mom says, "mein Kopf raucht" - my head is smoking. Looking forward to the weeks ahead, there's still no break in sight. I cannot emphasize this enough: Exchange students never have time to sleep.
I know you’re sick and tired of my love-hate relationship with the city. But this entry is full of pure love ... for the mountains. Last weekend, my host family and I were invited to my Rotary counselor’s home outside of Madrid. We went to spend the weekend, with my counselor, her husband - who happens to be the counselor of another exchange student from Minnesota - and Mariah (the Minnesotan).
Since I've arrived, it has been terribly difficult to adjust to my new life. I've felt so flustered, and a bit like a visitor here rather than a resident. But every day, I get a bit more comfortable and settled in.
Since I've settled into a new school and made friends, some anxiety has been lifted off my shoulders. My Spanish is still nothing near fluent or even proficient, but I rejoice in small victories such as recognizing new words or formulating a verb without struggling over the conjugation.