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.
This week has been a little hectic, and I'm sure you all back home can empathize.
In my last blog post, I expressed some nervousness about spending Christmas away from home. However, it was a needless emotion. This Christmas, I realized home was sitting right around me, in the beautiful Advent calendar my host parents made for me, and in the Bäumchen (little tree) that we decorated all together. It could be found in the food I baked with my host brother, in my laundry done by my host mom, and in the little German culture lessons taught by my host dad. I can't deny missing my little puppy and being one of five rowdy kids, but sometimes I have it even better here. Christmas was absolutely amazing in little Dallgow-Döberitz and I didn't suffer one pang ofHeimweh.
I went to 10:30 PM mass with my host mom, where I tried not to fall asleep between the Christmas carols. In the church, we watched documentaries on the original writers of 'Silent Night' (it is originally German) and cute little segments on what kids think Christmas is. It was a great mass, but I was glad to get home and fall asleep. On what we call Christmas in America, I sat in the car for five hours and ate Christmas lunch at McDonalds. Okay, it wasn't a lunch, more like a sundae, but it counts. Dairy has calcium, and that's nutritious.
After arriving to Offenbach, a city right outside of Frankfurt, I had Raclette with my host family and host cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers. It was really nice, and as always, delicious. The next day we celebrated my host uncle's birthday, and I introduced my mom to my extended host family through Skype. To her embarrassment and our amusement, she was still in her Christmas pajamas (it's okay, Mom, I love you. And they were really fun)!
The next day I boarded the IC (Inter-City) train at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, which in my humble opinion is the easiest main station to navigate. All the trains sit on one platform, and you just walk simple end to end to get to where you need to go. I arrived an hour later in Heidelberg, which is where I will be staying until January 6th, my last day of Christmas break.
It's been mostly catching up and taking walks since I've gotten here. I'll put up pictures later once I get back to my computer (I'm using the family's desktop). I went to the movies with some friends and watched football at a pub (not soccer- actual American football)! Provided, it was the Vikings vs. Packers, and I had to explain to one girl that no, Yankees are not football and that it's a different sport than baseball, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless.
On New Year's Eve, which is called Silvester in German, I celebrated with friends of my family friends at a house which as has amazing view of the old part of Heidelberg. In Germany, private displays of fireworks are legal. And in my opinion, extremely dangerous. I heard a few sirens and saw still-lit fireworks land next to houses. However, the show was spectacular. I actually missed the countdown because I was busy taking pictures outside. How sad.
However, this was the result: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR8mWMU_sEk If you skip to the end part, that's when the fireworks start getting really crazy. These photos and videos were taken from the window/balcony/front steps of the house, and the closest fireworks were set off by us.
I finally collapsed into bed early morning, and woke up at 10 AM to have breakfast at the house of my family friend's (this has got to be confusing, I know), with the 21 people who were at last night's celebration.
All in all, I'm very happy but utterly exhausted, and on the top of my New Year's Resolution List (I have more than a few) is to get more sleep.