I am so sorry this post is so late! The Christmas season is turning out to be just as busy 4,000 miles away.
If you were curious, shoe shopping was a success, and not a moment too soon! Snow started to fall right after I got them, until this Thursday. There was about 10 inches of snow lying on the ground until yesterday, when the temperature rose above freezing. I can see green now! It's also been really cold, ranging from 1 degrees Celsius to -10 degrees Celsius (until today, which is a weird 4 degrees Celsius). I don't know what it is in Fahrenheit, but it's cold, let me assure you.
Last Thursday I had an English test, in which we had to write about the environment, global warming, overpopulation, etc. The theme of this year's course is changing the world, with chapters relating to volunteer work, gap years and social activism. One of the test sections was converting verbs into noun forms. For example:
Inspire ---- Inspiration
Interpret ---- Interpretation
Converse ---- Conversation
Compare ---- Comparation
Just kidding. I know Compare ---- Comparison. I just got so accustomed to writing the -tion endings, I wrote comparation on the test. I think sometimes I've been away for far too long.
Thursday was also Sankt Nikolaus Tag, which I totally forgot about. In Germany, it's a tradition on Dec. 5 to leave your shoes outside your bedroom door, so on Dec. 6 St. Nicholas can deposit delicious German chocolates when he comes. I didn't leave my shoes outside my door, though my host mom is such an angel she put chocolate in my boots anyway! She's actually the best!
Last Friday, I had my first German language course. It's in Potsdam, which takes forever and a day to get to via public transportation. Also, I think it's a little late to start now - I've been here almost five months now. However, it covers the basics I ignored during German class back home (stupidly, as it turns out the word genders and the future form of "to be" are important things to know).
After I got home Friday, I baked brownies to sell at the Christmas Market that I signed up to work at through Rotary. My host club had a booth in the Potsdam Holland Quarter reserved for Dec. 8 and 9, in which they sold baked goods, Glühwein, wild boar stew and coffee to raise money for Potsdam's crisis hotline. It was really nice and a cool experience, although freezing. It was -8 degrees Celsius, which according to Google's conversion software is about 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, not even my new winter boots could handle that. Afterward, I took the train back into Berlin and hung out with my Australian friend.
Sunday was very snowy, and so after going to church with my neighbors, I stayed inside and baked myself a birthday cake. It looked yummy, but turned out way too sugary. I'm a little disappointed in myself, I can usually bake pretty well. It's great living here, because although I have experience baking with my American mom, my host mom is also a wonder in the kitchen, and so I've learned a lot more here!
I also was able to call my mom and my grandmother, and Skype with my best friends back home, which made being away from home on my birthday much more bearable. It was so nice to hear their voices/see their faces after five months. Going from seeing someone every day at lunch to nothing at all is a pretty hard transition to make!
This Monday I went out shopping with my Australian friend after school, where I completed some Christmas shopping. It's a process, though. I think I've gone out with the intention of Christmas shopping at least four or five times, but I never get anything done and end up just wandering around Berlin with my friend.
On Tuesday, I had another language course, which took another eon to get to. The Deutsche Bahn (German Rail, but handles the entire public transportation system in Germany) changed its schedule the day before, so it proved a little bit more complicated to get there and back as I expected. We think Germans are punctual, but apparently there's an exception for the DB in winter.
Wednesday was 12.12.12, and that's a cool date in and of itself. However, what made it even more special was that it was my birthday! I woke up at 5:30 to a table set with candles, gifts and birthday well-wishes. My host parents even gave me a beautiful Pandora bracelet with a teddy bear charm, for the Berliner Bär! I am so blessed to be able to spend my birthday in Berlin with a German family whom I treasure just as much as my American family.
That evening, my host Rotary club scheduled a Christmas party in Potsdam. The first portion was a service held in a castle's church, starting at 6:30. I arrived at 6:35 because I had no idea where I was going, and I arrived to closed doors. I was shocked it was so punctual, yet I tried to open the doors. Which wouldn't budge. I heard music from the inside and a pastor reciting prayers, yet I couldn't find my way in! I spent literally the next 20 minutes in the freezing cold and snow looking for another door, yet I couldn't seem to find one. When I circled back around the church, I found another Rotarian ... who walked through the doors with ease. I couldn't feel my face, hands or feet, I was grumpy because it wasn't how I wanted to spend my birthday, and here comes this man who just walked right in. You can probably imagine how frustrated I was. How in the world did he manage that?
Of course, the doors were push, not pull.
Afterward, we went to a restaurant for a Christmas buffet, where the Rotarians all got up and sang, "Happy Birthday" to me, which was incredibly sweet and a little embarrassing.
On Thursday, I had German again. Which meant although I had originally planned to make brownies for my English presentation on Friday, I didn't end up having time.
For my English presentation Friday, I went over the typical day-to-day life of an American high schooler, and how much time we don't have. It was half English, half German, and I got a 100 percent! After school I headed to KaDeWe, a mall in Berlin. KaDeWe stands for Kaufhaus des Westens which means Shopping Mall of the West, which is Berlin's form of a Saks Fifth Avenue. The first floor starts off with Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton. On the sixth floor is international cuisine, which meant there was an entire aisle dedicated to Jif Peanut Butter, Pop Tarts and Smucker's grape jelly. I even found Mac'n'Cheese and Betty Crocker cookie mix! I then bought some food to make for my little birthday party for the next day, including popcorn and pancakes.
On Saturday, as I mentioned, I had a little get-together, with my German and exchange friends. We ate a dinner typical of my littlest brother (broccoli, hot dogs and Mac'n'Cheese), watched some movies and went to bed way too late. We woke up around noon today, had pancakes for breakfast, and then they caught the train home. I know, I lead such an exciting life.
And so, here I am. I have a biology project lying in front of me which I still have to get done, a whole list of emails waiting on responses, three phone calls I still need to return and a pile of letters that still need writing. Don't even mention Christmas wrapping.