Friday, February 24, 2012

Sour Patch Kids: The Foundation of Friendship

They should have let us exchange students know that candy belonging to your home country is a certain form of invasive species.  The only difference between the two is the fact that the candy itself doesn't grow and spread: the rumor of its goodness and the rumor that you are the only person to get it from spreads.  I made the mistake of wanting to show Germans what real sour gummies taste like.  Back in October (yes, October) when I went to London I brought my first bag.  Like I thought, they were a HUGE hit.  Unfortunately, I did not realize that Sour Patch Kids are only available in the USA.  Not only did my friends search high and low in Germany, but also in London. They felt cheated.  I had exposed them to this new thing that they could never have again.  So, I thought, problem solved: Christmas would be a Sour Patch Kids event.  That only made the demand greater.  One friend in particular  - Julia - LOVES them, so I asked my mom to send me another package just for her.  I gave them to her Wednesday.  So far she has screamed, hugged me, told me she loved me, offered to pay me for them, wrote on my Facebook Wall how "wundervoll" I am, etc.  I am glad to make someone so happy, but today I had three people beg me to get them a bag as well.  All offered to pay me. Hmmm.... smuggling candy, eh?  Haha.

Other than my candy dealings not much else has been going on this week.  I got very sick after my Rotary weekend in Hundisburg.  Hundiburg was very interesting because it is in the old East Germany.  For those who don't know, after World War II Germany was separated by the allies into four sectors: the Soviet Union sector, the British sector, the American sector, and the French sector.  Berlin, because it was the capital, and because it was located in the Soviet Union sector, was also sectored between the allies.  The Eastern half or so of Germany was given to the Soviet Union, and, because so many people began fleeing to the Western side, which was much more developed, they built a wall between East and West Germany.  This wall was just suddenly built, both along the border in Germany and in Berlin.  It was so sudden, in fact, that some people left their houses in West Berlin to do some grocery shopping in East Berlin, and couldn't get back to their homes and families when they were finished.  Many families were separated by the wall without warning.  If that wasn't hard enough, the wall was also closely monitored by guards, who had the order to shoot any person who attempted climbing over the wall.  From what I learned that day, being shot by the guards was the best option. There were also electric fences, glass shrapnel, and dogs.  I can't imagine losing part of my family and being so oppressed.  It must have been so hard.   Here are some pictures of the preserved part of the wall and the guard tower that we saw.  You'll notice that the guard tower is located at the highest point so that they could see everything.  The east side of the wall is the one with the mud "pit" and the black things that make the 10 ft wall harder to get over (10 ft is an estimate, it was just tall).  There is also a barbed wire "pre-wall" wall on the other side of the picture that you can't see.  This wall would have a silent electric alarm that would alert the guards.  The other side is the supposed "west" side, but the other thing that the Soviets did was build the wall significantly into their sector so that, if, and I mean if, someone made it over the wall, they thought they were safe, but really they had to run 500-600 ft or to be safe, and they would get snatched right up again.  I can't even imagine.

I also have here a picture of my tour for the Europa-Tour :D More on that to come later.  Miss you all!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

You Know You're Considered a Native When....

Today I had a couple of moments that made me feel officially accepted as a native in my little town.

This morning when I got on the bus to go to school, I did the usual: I waved my school pass with my ID and ticket by the driver's face and turned to get in.  He stopped me and took my card.  He said, "Hmmmm...... Hmmmmm," and kept flipping it over.  I asked him if something was wrong and he told me that, although it didn't show it on my card, that my ticket was expired.  Now that got me truly confused, because I buy monthly tickets, so there was no way.  I told him so, inwardly freaking out that I was somehow going to have to come up with the money for a new ticket.  He just stared at me for what felt like 10 minutes and then burst out laughing.  "Just kidding, just kidding," he said.  This entire conversation was carried out in German, by the way, and so the fact that he didn't treat me like a foreigner made me laugh too.

The second thing that happened was that Fabian, a boy in my class, brought his new exchange student to school today.  Matthew is from London, and he is staying with Fabian for a couple of weeks.  I'm not the newbie anymore :)  I'm not the one with the wide-eyed stare, pretending to understand what everyone is saying. I know, I know, it's mean to make fun of him since he is what I once was, but I was nice.  I came over and spoke to him initially in German, because I always was insulted when people spoke English to me without giving me a chance to show I could speak German, and asked him where he was from.  It scared him so badly that he quickly said London and waled away before I could be like, "Cool, I'm from the USA." Oh well.

Anyway, I'm a native because the bus driver says so and because I am old news, not new. :D  Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

First Hockey Game Down, Many More to Go (and other miscellaneous things going on in my life)

Listening to "Shake It Out," by Florence + the Machine as I write this.  She is an awesome artist.  Anyway, My first hockey game last Friday was amazing!  It was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.... Yeah that part wasn't a highlight for me, but hockey is one of the most exhilarating sports to watch.  There are so many things happening so fast, and the fact that everything the players do they are doing on skates just adds more to the excitement.  I also got my wish about 10 minutes into the second period: a fight.  Helmets, gloves, and sticks came flying off, and boy was that an interesting 2 minutes.  Think about this: it took three referees to stop a fight between two hockey players.  One for each player and one to go in between. I can only imagine how hard it would be to stop a fight between more players.  The game was also exciting because fouling placed the team I was rooting for 2 players down against the other team in the last few minutes of the game, but they played amazing defense and managed to win the game.  That was also because the goalie for my team was freaking awesome and the other goalie... well, he wasn't.  I am going to another game this Friday too. :)

Other things going on in my life.... Hmmm...... Well I am starting to please myself with my level of German.  I still convert English to German and German to English, but in a very different way.  I also can keep up with any speed of German as long as I've heard the person's voice before.  I don't really know why that matters, but when strangers talk to me sometimes I don't get anything at all.  Maybe that is also because I also rely on understanding and interpreting people to understand the German, and therefore when I don't know the person or what they would want from me I get too nervous to rely solely on my German.

February marks the sixth month in my 10-11 month journey. Wow.  I would say that it has been going by fast, but that is way too simple of a statement for the way this experience has gone.  As I recently wrote in a report to my contact from Rotary in the USA, this experience has been an amazing - at times, hard - at times, and always eye-opening experience.  I have had some of the hardest times and some of the best times of my life on this trip, and I think that the hard times have almost been more important that the best times because they have taught me to rely on myself and have helped me to understand myself better.  There have been times where I thought that the exchange would never end, and there are times where it couldn't be flying by faster. 

Well, that's about good for the night I think, hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful day :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter Blues

FREEZING.  That is what I am right now.  Europe is going through this cold wave - over 120 people have died in the cold.  One thing that I hate is cold.  It's pretty hard to imagine that winter gets on my nerves then, right?  No I didn't think so haha.

What's hard about winter is that it is the season of waiting.  Everything is in hibernation, waiting for spring.  Soccer had been reduced to once a week indoor practice, there are no more hikes in the woods, no outdoor breaks during school, etc.  I get restless. 

Fortunately, I have a busy weekend to get me on my feet, even if it is in the cold.  Tomorrow night I am going to my first ever live hockey game :)  I am really excited because not only does this sport sound awesome, but I also get to big out on German "junk food" like bratwurst and currywurst.  I am going to this game with my host father and a woman named Manja.  Manja is my BFF in the house, and she is the "maid" so to speak.  She cleans everything, cooks everything, does all the shopping, etc.  She even semi-raised Lynn and Gesa, my host sisters.  She's practically part of the family though.  Her favorite thing is Ice Hockey, and I am so glad that I finally get to experience it with her.  I also am traveling to a nearby town called Göttingen on Saturday with my friend named Anna.  We're just going to window shop and get something yummy to eat.  Then, when I get back, I am going to my good friend Vivien's 18th birthday party.  18 is a big deal in Germany, because then you become an adult.  I don't mean you "become and adult but not really," like in the USA, it's legit here.  You can drink, smoke, enlist in the army, sign your own forms at school, everything. Parents respect it too.  You can do whatever you want when you are 18 ;). Wait, how old am I?  Haha, just kidding Mom and Dad........

Anyway, hopefully people still read this since I am a horrible blogger, and more to come soon!