Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Rest of Christmas Break

     What did I do for the rest of my Christmas break? I did inventory at my host dad’s company, met some more of my host relatives, partied on New Years Eve, went Audi test-driving with my host parents, watched Elf (now my Christmastime is complete), and attempted to bake cookies with Astrid.
     The cookies were definitely more of a project than I had expected. If you ever want to bake Cowboy Cookies in Germany, you can expect the process to be something like this:
  1. Translate recipe and ingredients into German
  2. Convert cups and teaspoons to grams
  3. Discover that baking powder and baking soda are only sold as a mixture
  4. Go shopping for the ingredients that are not normally kept in your host mother’s kitchen: chocolate chips, oatmeal, vanilla extract, shortening, brown sugar
      5. Have the entire staff of the grocery store help you find shortening (don’t let them convince you that coconut oil or margarine is the same thing)
      6. Start baking: sift the flour (with a strainer because there isn’t a sifter) and maybe add some water to the brown sugar because it’s dry

      7. Finish making dough, place on trays in oven, and watch them turn all liquidy

     They turned out really thin because of the wrong chemical reaction with the flour and baking soda/powder or something… However, my family thought they were delicious and we ended up making another batch today.

     Oh yeah, almost forgot that I went to BERLIN! My host family (+ grandparents) took me last weekend. Although it was rainy and cold, I got to see the important parts of the city. We went to "The Story of Berlin" museum, the Brandenburg Gate, Hard Rock Cafe, Checkpoint Charlie, Imax, some souvenir shops, Dunkin' Donuts ("a must when visiting Berlin"), and visited my host grandpa's 95-year-old mother.

 I don't really have any good pictures from the trip, except from the famous currywurst stand. 

     This probably doesn't look very appetizing to someone who's never tried currywurst before.  I've eaten a few different ones, and the Curry 36 was definitely the best. The fries there are also pretty amazing.

     So that was the rest of 2011, plus a little bit from January. Six more weeks and I'll be back in America already.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Frohe Weihnachten!

In Germany, there are three official days of Christmas:

December 24th – Heiligabend
This is the big day. The 25th in America = the 24th in Germany.
We put up the tree during the day.

Luca and I tinseling

     In the afternoon, we went to church to watch the Christmas play and sing German Christmas songs.
In the evening, the grandparents and my host aunt, uncle, and cousin came to our house to celebrate.

 Lots of presents!

Waiting to open presents with my host uncle Mike, host mom, 
Chiara, host aunt Marina, and host cousin Cilia

In the process

Happiest kid ever with his new
 helicopter (nice work, Mom)

     After presents, we ate dinner: pork, red cabbage, and croquette. For dessert we had homemade chocolate mousse. Everything was delicious.

Playing our traditional game of Rummy

Opa & Oma dancing to Feliz Navidad

Vito's Christmas present: My sweater 
that was shrunken in the wash

December 25th – First Christmas Day

     During the day we hung out at home, and then my host grandparents came over again during the evening. My host dad cooked Italian food for us – shrimp scampi, and then rabbit, asparagus, and potatoes with gravy. Dessert was vanilla ice cream with hot cherries. Another delicious meal.

     We skyped with my family in America, which turned out to be a quadrilingual conversation – English, German, French, and Italian were all spoken at some point.

December 26th – Second Christmas Day

     We woke up and ate breakfast late, then went to a Christmas open house in the afternoon. The house was almost a mansion, and belongs to a friend of my host dad’s. We met a bunch of fancy people and ate fancy hors d'oeuvres like fruit on a stick, duck, and bacon-wrapped dates. The word got around quickly that I’m an American exchange student, so a bunch of people made the effort to say “hello” instead of “hallo” to me. The host told me that I had to help out with the “show act” later on. Turns out I just had to sing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Later on at home:
Chiara on the acoustic, me on the bass, and Luca on the African drums.

And that was the end of my German Christmastime.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Es sieht aus wie Weihnachten!

(It looks like Christmas!)

Christmas season in Germany is just as good as everyone claims it to be. Maybe even better. Hannover has several Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets) that opened a couple weeks ago. My favorite market is the one in the old part of the city, where the all the cool buildings and tiny brick streets are. They have booths that sell ornaments, and little Christmas things, but mostly food – potato pancakes, bratwurst, crepes, chocolate covered stuff, etc – and drinks. Glühwein is the traditional Weihnachtsmarkt drink, and is really delicious. It’s a hot drink made out of red wine, rum, sugar and spices. They also sell eggnog… Linda, Noah and I decided to get some but little did we know it was 90% rum. We couldn’t drink more than a few sips, so we got rid of it but got to keep the cups.

This picture was taken before the first taste.

The whole city is decorated with lights!

Decorating Christmas cookies with Oma



In Germany, Advent calendars are taken to another whole level. They have the ones with chocolate here, but more than just two choices to choose from. A whole section of the department store is dedicated to advent calendars. Some are huge and have toys or makeup instead of chocolate inside.
Instead of chocolate advent calendars, my family has little individual presents for each day. We hung them up on the ceiling of the kitchen, all 72 of them. So far, I’ve gotten gum, warm socks, nail polish, and little chocolate sticks.

Opa and the presents after we finished hanging them all

Other than Christmas stuff, everything has been normal. On Friday, I went to my first night club with a couple AFS friends in Hameln. Ask me if you wanna know more about that night.
Lastly, my latest great accomplishment. In Germany, 10th graders have to do an internship for two weeks at some place similar to where they might be interested in having a career in. Since I’m in 10th grade here, I have to do this too. In the beginning of October I started sending out applications to marketing companies. My host mom and opa helped me write it and make it look really professional. Since then, I’ve sent out 15 applications and finally got a response from a company inviting me in for an interview. I left school early on Thursday and my host mom took me to the company. The idea of being interviewed in German kinda freaked me out, but it went really well. The guy asked me a few questions like why I want to work in marketing, how long I’m staying here, and what I would like to do for my internship. After about five minutes he said we were done and that I got the job! He showed me around the place, introduced me to some people, and that was it. So for two weeks in February, I’ll go to this place instead of going to school.

That's all for this update. The next one will probably come sometime after Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

AFS Camp & More

I realize I haven’t posted in a few weeks, but I blame it on the fact that German life is always jam packed with stuff to do. Most recently, I attended the AFS Midstay Camp. It was held this past weekend in Wennigsen, a small town about a half hour away from Hannover.
The camp was pretty similar to the last one, except there were more people – 44 all together. A few have already been living in Germany for 8 months, and some have just arrived one month ago. I got to meet new exchange students from Brazil, Switzerland, New Zealand, Russia, Malaysia, and China. It was also good to reunite with the ones I already knew.
Throughout the weekend, we split into our three groups (Late Orientation, Mid-stay, and End of Stay) and had a few workshops. In my group, we talked about what we now perceive Germany as, and what we want to do while we’re still here. One thing we all have in common is that we all want to go to Berlin. We made a poster and filled it with pictures of disco balls, chocolate, “Ich verstehe nichts” (I understand nothing), and some other German stuff. We also talked about our problems, like how none of us can participate in school besides English class, and how we all want friends – the leaders explained to us the process of how Germans make friends, and how the hardest part is progressing from acquaintances to friends. They said it takes a while, but it was good to know that everyone’s in the same situation as I am.
On Saturday, we walked into town to do a scavenger hunt. Astrid (Norway), Tina (Switzerland), Amy (New Zealand) and I spent about an hour walking around, trying to find certain places and information. We had to stop random people on the street to ask for directions. Unfortunately, there were very few people on the street, and most of the ones we stopped replied saying they’re not from the town. In the end, we found everything and got the most points!
The rest of the time we were there we spent hanging out: singing/playing guitar, playing cards, doing “magic”, and eating a lot. Sadly, this was my last AFS camp since I’m leaving Germany earlier than most of everyone else.
On the way into town

Getting directions from a nice German lady who
helped us with about half of our tasks

Most of the group :)

I experienced another interesting thing unexpectedly last Thursday. I left school during the middle of the day (half of our classes were canceled) and went to the city with my host sister and a few people from our class. Before I knew it, I was marching the streets with a few hundred others, protesting the school system. Someone explained it to me, and basically they don’t want to have to pay for schoolbooks or for college. They also want their high school to go through grade 13 instead of stopping at 12. It was really cool because it was all young people. Music blared from a truck that we followed all around Hannover. The only chant I could follow was “Wir sind hier! Wir sind laut! Weil man uns die Bildung klaut!” (We are here! We are loud! Because our education is being stolen!) People stopped to watch and take pictures of us as we passed by, and that night it was on the news.

One more thing – today, I went on a field trip with my class to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp. We walked around the whole place and through the woods where we saw where the barracks used to be.

Here’s one of the gravestones where 2,500 bodies were buried

This was part of the memorial. It was shocking to read that thirty thousand
Jews were killed in just this one concentration camp.

Bergen-Belsen is the camp where Anne Frank and her sister died. There was a lot of information on her story in the museum, which was really interesting. Much of what I saw today was unbelievable.

Today’s Thanksgiving and I will not be eating any turkey or pumpkin pie :( But I have very much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Our trip started at 4:00 am on Thursday the 20th. There were eight of us all together – my family plus Andreas, Kirsten, and their son, Yannick – so we drove together in a big van (I think it was called the Euro-Mobile). Somehow I managed to sleep most of the way, so the six-hour drive went quickly for me. When we arrived in Munich, we went to our hotel first, which was a tiny old place in between the Phung Phu Chinese restaurant and a billiard hall. Right after we unpacked our stuff, we went off to see the city.
First, we went to Marienplatz, where we waited for the Glockenspiel to play. The whole place was filled with people by the time the bells started. The Glockenspiel was really cool and old, and seemed just like I had learned about in German class.

For the rest of the day, we walked all around the city. Here are the places we went:

Hard Rock Cafe. We didn’t eat there, we just went inside to look and get t-shirts of course.

Right across from the Hard Rock Cafe was the Hofbräuhaus! We stayed there for a few beers and some food. The atmosphere there was really lively and happy partly because of the German band and partly because it was all tourists on vacation. We ended up going to the Hofbräuhaus again for dinner that evening. We all had haxen (pig knuckles?) because apparently it’s a traditional Bavarian food. Although it was slightly difficult to eat, it was pretty tasty.

The Viktualienmarkt – a big food market in the center of the city. Most of the shops sold all different types of wurst, fruits, and cheeses. The market is known for its high prices so we didn’t buy anything there.

Frauenkirche. One of the tower things was under construction so that’s why the picture looks like it does. The inside was really cool and huge but kind of creepy…In the entryway, there’s a footprint that was made by the devil, according to the legend. Apparently he laughed and stamped his foot when he saw that there were no windows, because “a dark building has no purpose”. The devil went further into the church and saw that there actually were windows, and then I don’t know what happened after that.

On Friday, we went to the Bavaria Film Studios, which was like a small, German version of Universal Studios. We watched 3D movies, and had a tour through studios for all these different German movies that I’ve never seen. After the tour, we went to the other section of the place, called Bullyversum. The whole place was all about the life and movies of a German actor nicknamed “Bully”. It was a little bit like a museum, but there were some interactive things too. Luca (in purple) and Yannick (in orange) volunteered to be part of a movie with two other people. They filmed a whole bunch of scenes that didn’t make sense, and at the end they were all put together with scenes from a real movie, which ended up being really funny.

For lunch, we went to another market. I don’t remember the name of it, but it’s only open three times a year, for one week at a time. We sat down at a table in a tent where we had beer. The place was really full so we had to share the table with an older couple. When they found out that I’m from America, they started talking to me in English and telling me about how at Oktoberfest, the people dance on the tables and take their clothes off (?). I just nodded and smiled because I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. Everybody left to go to the bathroom, except Chiara, the lady and me. Within the five minutes we were left there, we learned the lady’s whole life story, and all about the three men she’s been with. She spoke in English the whole time, so Chiara and I could both understand her. We left as soon as our parents came back.

That evening, we went to an Italian restaurant for pizza. It was absolutely delicious since it was the first pizza I’ve had in Germany. Here are my host parents representing Wisconsin :)

On Saturday, we took the city tour bus (the awesome double-decker kind) all around the city. Here are the pictures from that, which are not very good because they were taken from inside a moving bus.
Michael Jackson Memorial

We got off the bus at Olympiapark, where the Olympic games were held. The park was really pretty with the hills and little lake. We took the elevator to the top of the tower, which is almost 600 feet tall. The view was amazing, and here you can see the Olympic stadium.

After visiting Munich, I feel like I’ve really been in Germany. At all the restaurants, the waitresses wear dirndls, and the waiters wear lederhosen. The foods I ate that I thought were just German, but are actually Bavarian include pretzels, schnitzel, krautsalat, and leberkäse (translates to liver cheese, but it was just a thick piece of meat on a roll). By the end of our trip, my family said they couldn’t eat any more Bavarian food.

It’s been a couple weeks since we got back from Munich so I’ll add a quick update on what’s been going on.
Monday: Went to Ikea with my host mom, sister, and brother, visited my host dad’s company, and went to Chiara’s friend’s house for a movie night.
Tuesday: Went to a stone place/hiking park with my host family and grandparents, and met my AFS friends Astrid and Linda in the city.
Wednesday: Not much happened that day. Hung out at home during the day, and watched the 96 game (soccer) and Desperate Housewives in the evening.
Thursday: Went to my host mom’s friend’s place to see the new house and horse.
Friday: Went to the city with Chiara and three friends to go shopping, had dinner with my host grandparents, host aunt and host cousin
Saturday: Went to the river to go boating, and carved pumpkins while we were there
Dumping the seeds in the river

Sunday: Went to Infa, a big fair, similar to the expo center at the state fair, except there were about five buildings and it was cooler and more than just infomercial type stuff.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: School.