Monday, September 26, 2011

The True Lesson Of Gym Class

In Germany gym is organized into different themes and then you pick one theme for each semester.  For example, this semester my options for gym were gymnastics, track and field, or dancing... yeah... For those of you that know me those options are very, very funny.  I chose the "best" out of the three: track and field.  I am one of three girls in this class, and it is a legit track and field course.  But you see, here in Germany students don't get an A for effort in gym class.  You don't get two points for dressing for class, and two points if you try really hard that day.  Here you get graded on talent.  I have to throw a certain distance or I fail.  I have to run a certain time or I fail.  You get the point.  Anyway, these numbers that I have to get to pass are all on a little chart in my gym teacher's notebook, and they are really old and really ridiculous numbers.  I have to run a 800 in less than 3:30 seconds to get an A.  Yeah...  So anyway, since these grades count in student's final grades for college, they work their way around the chart.  They take a 3Kg ball instead of 4Kg,  pulling the tape measure in, etc.  And all of a sudden, everyone in class is a star.  Cheating in its prime here.  Haha.  It is hilarious.  The only thing that everyone sucks at is running, and the teacher drops our lowest grade, so no one cares.

Call Me a Math Genius

 So far in math I haven't been able to understand most anything. This is because the lesson is in German and I have never done this type of math. Today, for some reason or another, I got it completely. Math class is very different here in the sense that there is a lot more individual work, you struggling to figure out the problem with the little you've been taught, and the teacher sees who can figure it out on their own. We were assigned 15, 16, and 17. I was done in 15 minutes. Everyone else was still on number 15, so I started working on college applications when my teacher walked over, ready to explain everything in English to me (since obviously I hadn't understood instead of finishing). I explained that I had finished and he just kind of looked at me. “Then do 18,” he said and turned to another student. At the end of the class he started to give them a hard time about the fact that I had finished my math and none of them had. Their first excuse was that I had already learned the math. My teacher asked me, and I said I hadn't. Then they said that I was actually really good at math in the USA, and that was why I could do math so well. I started to protest, but the looks I got around the room made me change my mind. I am now a supposed math genius. I don't know how well that will go when I can't understand math again, or when I fail the tests.... lol.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Jo, the United States of AMERICA is Canada, the US, and Texas, right?" .... What?!

That is by far the best question asked of me so far, and I'm sure the very independent state of Texas will appreciate the fact that some still believe it to be a lone star.  My host brother asked me this question at the dinner table the other night, completely serious, with the rest of my family looking at me expectantly (Tiffy, the one who spent five months in the USA, wasn't present).... like it was a perfectly normal question.  With a small smile, and a small smile is pretty good restraint considering how funny the question is, I answered, "No, North America is Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico."  I'd say I respected the question pretty well.  I am always trying to remember that I probably ask the same exact types of questions here, and that they (usually) don't laugh at me so why should I laugh at them?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The American Stalker Girl Who Doesn't Even Dress as Nice as a Boy!

Here this statement would probably be a fair description of me by my classmates..... I don;t mean to stalk people, it just happens.  We are going to the same place, but I don;t really know them, so I follow at a safe "no talking" distance.  Then all I get are glances backward like, "Why are you following me?!"  Since I only know one route to all the places I want to go, it's not like I can take another route to make everyone more comfortable.  I'll take being a quasi-stalker over being lost in a foreign country any day.  I am not good about asking/understanding directions in English, much less German.  You know you're getting somewhere though when you say something and they look at you, repeat what you said in a high pitched voice, giggle, and say to you, "so süß!" (which means "so cute!").

EVERYONE dresses nice here.  Every morning I look in my meager exchange student closet, trying to figure out what I have already worn this week and what I haven't.  I painstakingly pick out an outfit - some combination of a shirt and pants - hoping that wearing this shirt with those pants will somehow make them look newer.  Once I get to school and look around though, I know it was a lost cause.  Here I am, in a pants, t-shirt, and sneakers.  I wish I could even say that the boys were dressed the same, but I can't.  How were they dressed?  Nice pants or slim jeans, a button-down shirt or a v-neck t-shirt and trendy sweater, and loafers, boots, or sweet sneakers.  Their hair is also perfectly styled.  Some boys even straighten their hair here.  I am not lying, I've seen it with my own two eyes!  I'm lucky if I remember to brush my hair, and the only thing I know how to do with it is put it in a ponytail.  American men, are you feeling a little underdressed and "understyled" right now? Cause I am.  The inbound boys from America are even more uncomfortable than I am.  One of them told me that the girls at his school told him that they would take him shopping soon to help him out.  Looks like I'm in need of a makeover as well.

The two statements above are from yesterday.  Today, however, I am more of a success story.  I got up early this morning, determined to define my gender as "girl" with my clothes.  I pulled out all the stops on the makeup, threw on my black skinny jeans, and a brown suede tunic-top thingy that I bought for parties and stuff.  I considered the grey leather booties that I bought, but I had to walk a mile downhill to the bus stop and well, let's face reality.  So the sneakers stayed, and I was off to school.  I have never had so many double takes in my life. I really think they hadn't realized I was a girl.  Three girls told me I looked really pretty today, and tons more asked me where I got such a cute top.  I wish I could flip my hair and say, "The States," but I couldn't.  I got it here in H&M, with the help of my host mom and Tiffy, but it's a start.  Too bad it's the only top I have like that and I have one more day of school this week.  Might need to get up even earlier tomorrow to figure that one out.  Bis später!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Tales of a Pale American Girl...

Olivia, I think you can relate to this. So far, I have been asked the same exact question five times: Why are you so pale when you live in such a sunny place (aka, the USA)? I then lift up my shirt , showing my paper white stomach, to explain that this IS me tan and that I spent a whole week tanning on the beach before I came. That just increases that shocked factor.  I hope you can see my "tan" in the picture I posted.  It's something, right?  My host sister says that they just have to paint me. My other relatives asked me if I go outside in the USA. Gotta love my life.

An Unexpected Visitor (September 10th, 2011)

In Germany, air conditioning = the windows in your room. Not even fans. Every morning when I wake up I open my windows all the way so that I can get as much air in as possible before I have to close everything up and be on my way for the day. Nothing was different about this particular Saturday. I had finished getting ready for my day of tennis and shopping, was downstairs eating breakfast, when I realized that I had forgotten my key and to close the windows. I ran upstairs, opened my door, and all I saw was flapping wings and all I heard was squawking. I slammed my door shut and ran downstairs as fast as possible. My fright showed all over my face, and my host sister Tiffy looked at me like, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I told her that there was a bird in my room. Once again I was not believed. She came upstairs, opened my door, and was greeted by the same flapping and squawking. She slammed the door faster than me (ha) and then opened it very slowly. The bird then flew out the window on its own. Smarty pants. Nevertheless, I do not open my windows quite as wide anymore.

Cow Tits and Other Fascinating School Adventures

Ok so because I do not have the internet everyday I write my blogs in word and then copy and paste them when I can.  That is why there are three posts with "September 13th" as the date.  They are all from this past week.  

 (Sept. 12th) Yes, “cow tits” will be explained in an appropriate manner. Because of the language barrier, many of my conversations with my classmates are a mix of horrible German and garbled English (at least we try :P) Many times either I or they cannot find the word we need in our less perfected language, and thus we have to use other means to get our point across. In this case, the word “udder” was the unknown. Therefore, cow tits was the most suitable substitute :D OBVIOUSLY. Not to mention our entire group spent the next 15 minutes laughing, saying “cow tits,” and then laughing more.  Oh, and this story also explains the reason that Vivi posted those picture to my wall.  Ok onward and upward.

(Sept. 9th) The other day I was asked a question by Sina, my guide/lifeline at school, in a very serious manner. “Do you really have yellow buses for school in the USA?” I said yes and proceeded to explain the “school bus” concept. You know, a bus only for students, the stop signs, flashing lights, stupid bus drills, etc. I don't think she quite believed me. Here we ride the public buses and trains to get to school, which means that you have to watch out for yourself. No stop sign and no guaranteed stop at your stop (you have to remember to push the red button, which signals the driver that you need to get off). When she asked, “But what about the public transportation?” I explained that we practically have no public transportation. That answer solidified her disbelief in my story.

( September 6th) Most of you that are reading this know me very well, and know that I'm not much of a comedian. However, here they do not know me well, and seem to find me very funny. I bet that is my pronunciation, my overall confused look, my misunderstanding of their everyday culture, and my stomach growling. Yes, I just said stomach growling.... I was REALLY hungry, okay! I had slept through my alarm and didn't have time for breakfast. Here you can't just pull a snack out in class if you're hungry. Instead, we have designated breaks throughout the day when we can eat. My stomach didn't make it to the break. Yeah, everyone liked that one.

Today (Sept. 13th) we had our fire drill. Apparently we only have one a year, and that was it. It was announced over the intercom, and initially the person announced it to be the lock-in drill of the year, but in mid announcement she decided to make it the fire drill. So once everyone was all locked in with the windows closed and the lights off, we had to turn the lights on, unlock the door, and run outside. Yes, in Germany, they run. And they talk. And they bring their things so that they can listen to music and text. Yep, Germany fire drills are way more awesome and way less safe than American fire drills. I think I prefer the safer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I know it's a little bit late... but here I am! :)

So I have actually decided to not only design a blog, but to also write in it! What an idea, right?  You know what convinced me?  Olivia's blog.  It's so funny and perfect and I decided I wanted one just like it.  Well see if I can compare to a 5'8'' red head in Japan, since I'm a 5'7'' light-skinned blonde in... Germany... Yeah I pretty much blend in.

To begin, I will explain what my life is like here.  Then I will proceed on to all the stupid/funny things that have happened to me so far.

I live in Bad Lauterberg, Germany.  I have a mom (Kathrin), a dad (Erik), two sisters (Charly, 19, and Tiffy, 17) and a brother (Maurice, 15).  They are awesome.  I go to school in the town next to Bad Lauterberg, it's called Herzberg.  I am in 12th grade and, depending on the class, understand absolutely nothing.  People say that my German is good but I know that they're being nice, smiling, and nodding even though they can;t understand a word I'm saying.  I know because I do the same thing to them.

Ok, I'm done with the basics.  Here are some things that have happened to me so far:
          - Germans bring breakfast to school, not lunch.  Ok so this one isn't really my fault, just my ignorance.  How am I supposed to know that a sandwich, and apple, and a chocolate bar is breakfast when I eat a bowl of cereal at home before school?  Well anyway, when I got home and they asked me if I ate lunch, I said yes.  When they asked me what I ate, I got a little confused.  I answered, "what you packed for me."  My host mother then had a horrified look on her face, and Tiffy quickly explained.  Now they think I don't eat.  My host father checks the dish washer to make sure I've put dishes in it, and my host mother always begs me to eat a little bit more.  lol.
          - It's ok to touch, and it's ok to shove.  I found out both of these things the hard way.  Well, not hard, just funny.  My first experience with the whole touching thing was in Religion, when my religion teacher, Frau Apel, was explaining that Jesus is "flesh and blood." As she said the words, flesh and blood, she ran her hand up and down my arm.... yes, a total look of surprise and confusion was on my face, which caused my class to roar with laughter.  Since then there have been hugs, hand shakes, pats on the back, etc from people I barely know.  Cultural differences and all.  Shoving has to do with the bus.  Yes, you begin in the normal, civilized line as you wait at the bus stop, but the moment that the bus arrives the shoving begins.  I always start at the front and end at the back.  It makes me furious, you know? lol.

This is already way to long, so I'll end it here.  Keep looking though, who knows when I'll post next. :)