Sunday, November 27, 2005

everyone loves Platt

I had my second thanksgiving with all the Rotary exchange students saturday. I spend the night at Brian's house friday and then helped with cooking and things saturday morning before everyone arrived. Maria (I visited her in Bielefeld a few weeks back) came too and we all had a wonderful meal and then the two of us rode the train back here to Esens, in the middle of no where land. This morning I showed her around and then we biked to the coast (I think I almost lost a couple of toes from frostbite), had some typisch ostfriesisch tee and then biked back to my house so she could catch the train home.

since then, I have been on the computer reading the websites of all the local villages in an attempt to become better informed upon community happenings. I have discovered it is 30 minutes to the nearest town over 15,000, 45-60 minutes to the nearest town over 40,000 (depending on the mode of transportion), and an hour and a half for anything over 70,000. As well, any student that is smart enough to get through the german school system has left and most do not return, therefore leaving this funny phonomenon that no one between the age of 19-30 lives here.

The process also makes another impact upon the population, those who stay are not of the most intelligent quality and thus the populus is more inclined toward the physical pleasures of life... sports, farming, food, etc. More intellectual activities are few and far between, including busy spiritual churches, public music and art, dance, historical societies, and the like. There are actually many book shops and a library... but they have only modern authors and subjects. The schools are partly to blame because the students are taught mostly theory their entire education and given little chance to apply it (imagine a music class where everyone can read the music, tell you what key it is in, and compose a harmony, but can't find the c key on a piano or sing a note... or an art class that has anylized the artistic merits of every famous sculpture but doesn't know the difference between working in charcol or pencil).

For me, it is quite depressing to learn that there actually are theater groups here, but I can't watch or join them because they are in Platt, not german. ***Platt is a mixmashed language spoken only on the Frisian islands and in north, east, and west Frisia (I live in East Frisia, West Frisia is in the Netherlands, and North Frisia is near Denmark, but still German). This crazy little language that has a different dialect for every 10 miles is some sort of cross between english, german, and dutch.*** Other frustrations of mine with Platt include portions of the newspaper, shop signs, anything that is typical east frisian, and anytime I want to go into a store I need everything translated to me into real german.

To further disapoint me... there actually are a select few art exhibits in the area and music groups, however i have confirmed that there is a public transportation system that could rival the one found in the greater rochester region. translation: almost non-existant, if you exclude the single line railroad used to transport non-existant winter tourists to the ports so that they may be ferried to the islands. Therefore, unless I become tragically fascinated with the sport of tennis or take a sudden interest in drinking every weekend to the beat of bad american pop and rap songs, it's pretty much a hopeless case here. Anything else that I could possibly take interst in is impossible to do during winter, costs hundreds of dollers a month, or I will not be able to continue once I move to my new host family in January, 15 minutes further into the countryside.

I hate Germany.

*Correction... I love germany; I hate East Frisia*

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

hey everyone, Happy Thanksgiving! I'm trying to do my own celebrations here. My bio class decided to have a party, so I'm heading over to my bio teacher's house in an hour to start making a turkey. I've been organizing it for weeks. And finally here!

Meanwhile, I have been FREEZING! I realized yesterday while biking that even wearing 4 layers of clothes (including long underwear and sweatshirts) under my coat is not sufficent enough to keep me warm, even when I am exercizing and producing extra body heat as well! And the sad part is, is this cold will only get worse, as everyone has been telling me. What baffles me is how it can be so cold and there is no snow. cold = snow in my head. Not here. And its amazing that it can be so cold and not even be below freezing. I have now realized what my textbooks have told me all along about Russian winters and why the defeat of both Napoleon and Hitler were so complete... because this cold is not comparable to anything. Looking at a map tells me I'm at the same latitude as the Hudson bay and only about 10 degrees from the artic circle. And the wind currents come from the east, from none other than the renowned Siberian tundra. I can't imagine what it would be like any further north or east. God save their furnaces and fires from ever dying.

anyhow, happy turkey day!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Not much is new around here. I've been reading Harry Potter in an attempt to fill space, from the first book to the last (in english). Last week I went Martini-laufen, which has nothing to do with Martini's but infact St. Martin... not sure of the connection... but!... kids go around to all the houses with lanterns and collect candy after singing a little song. It is not at all unlike our Halloween traditions. The older kids get Schopps instead of candy sometimes. Jacob (australia) and some of the guys made a point to bring along their shot glasses!

Yesterday I started my first Rotary sponsored German lessons, the ones I was supposed to have 3 months ago... fancy that! I also finaly got a schedule for school. I have been going to all of my host sister's classes. I start next week. However, today in politic's class we had a ''Congresswoman'' from the Bundestag (the German Parliment... which is called the Reichstag... which is the building I toured on my Germany Tour) come and talk to us.

And great news... the package that my dad sent me, over a month ago, has finnaly cleared customs. WHOOOO! I'll actually get some mail! Actually, I got my first christmas card in the mail today, from Grandma Straw (my step great grandmother!) It's the little things that brighten your day here. It also made me remember that I am to poor to send everyone christmas cards from abroad. So I will try and do something special on my blog.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Germany Tour Pictures

After an hour and a half I have managed 5 pictures. These hopefully represent the first half of my Germany Tour. I took film picutres in Berlin, so I can't get them up here. I brief explaination... the first picture is of me, Brian (Ohio), and Sharanya (Malaysia) on our boat ride through the Spreewald. The picture with all the umbrella's and the boat was one of the boats we took in the Spreewald. It was raining a little and we found umbrella's under our seats. The picture with the tower... that is at the boarder crossing between East and West Germany (not to be confused with the one in Berlin, that is something competely different). There was a little outdoor museum we visited. The window picture is from the Wartburg in Eisenach. That is where Martin Luther translated the first bible into German, basically inventing the German we (or I, lol) speak today. The 4 people in the last picture are Steve (Texas), Annali (Canada), Lachy (Australia), and Sharanya (Malasia). Unfortuantely I don't have a good picture of Diana. And I can only upload 5 pictures in one post. Maybe I can get some up of Turkey in my next one!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Sorry for my bad grammar and spelling. It is getting difficult to think in two different languages. I've gone though and edited, but there still might be a couple of problems...

hey y'all!... I've been traveling around quite a bit the past few days. I've learned some interesting things and seen even more things that interest me. Saturday I took a little (4 hour) train ride to Bielefeld, Germany to visit Maria, another fortunate Rotary exchange student from Upstate New York. On my way down I met up with Marie, a french girl who also on exchange in Germany. She lives in Osnabrück, about the southernmost city in my district. We had a wonderful time walking around the market and then grabing a bite to eat at a Cafe. Once in Bielefeld, I learned a lot about public transportation, and of course the city. It is a good sized city, big enough that it would take 40 min. or so with the street cars to get from one side of it to the other. We met up with some other exchange students (all spanish speakers... Mexicans are so cooooooool!!!!), I learned a little spanish, visited the almost non-existant old city (it was bombed out completely), saw a small castle on a hill (visited it too), ate Pizza Hut (YEA!), and watched some rather unterrifying horror movies. As well, I also laughed hystarically at the fact that when one lives in the city.. one gets to know the homeless by name... yea... ''the russian lady lives on so and so corner'', etc. What surprised me was the number of hadicaped people in the city. Now coming from a background where many hadicapped people have graced my presence, even this was a bit unsettling.... and they all come from a hospital in the area, the largest hospital in Germany for the handicapped.

Bearly making it home due to late trains and stupid time schedules, less than 12 hours later I was back on the train in the direction of Bremen with the 11th grade class. I met a lot of new people and had lots of fun. We first went to a museum about Monet and his work as a portrait painter. There were tons of originals from Monet with a few from Degas, Renoir, and Manet for comparisons of the era. Later we went shopping and I even found the statue of the 4 traveling musicians from the Grimms Brother's fairy tale that I watched almost every day on video as a child.

Today, as tired as I was a year ago (especially after throughly not recovering from my two weeks of vacation), I traveled again, only this time with my history class, to Bremerhaven, the port city of Bremen. There we visited a museum about German Emigration. I found it very fascinating to trace the time periods and events that happened at the same time my german Volzer ancestors left Germany. Besides being very happy that everything was in German AND English, I was in for a big surprise when I found a database on the internet. The Museum had kiosks with full membership privalages and I found out information about the Volzers, including ship names, port towns, and current locations for Volzers across the Western world (from Russia to France, to Texas and to Colorado). Wow, what a cool find! I then met up with another exchange student in the lobby (we had talked before hand about meeting) and we hung out for a half an hour before I had to go. That was definately cool.

Yea, so I'm really tired and I have tons to think about. I found a copy of The Jungle, a famous mudraking book in America in the late 1800's in my hostsister's room (in english) and so that kept me occupied during most of my traveling time, almost 20 hours since Satuday! I've had a headache from sore muscles most of the time as well, and it is really cold here, so I am off to snuggle by the fire and watch Nirgendwo in Afrika with my host mom. Tchüss!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Back to school

hey everyone... I have been writing a lot of emails lately, so I haven't really updated. I'm not quite overdue anyway. at least once a week is my goal! I'm back to school and things are going MUCH better. My german improved a lot over break because all we did in Turkey was talk... talk over meals, talk at the beach, talk in the sauna and baths, etc. I'm feeling really good about that.

Things have been a little strange in the family this week. My host grandfather died, the father of my hostmother, so i've have been shuffling around to friends houses for meals. tonight I am sleeping at my first host family's house because my current host family is down near Dortmund, near where my dad's cousin Bobby lives.

anyway... I updated some pictures on Ringo. It is a lot faster with Ringo than with my blog here. I'll try and get one of two up soon here. But, in the mean time, check out my pictures on ringo. There are a lot more to come... I only got up one new folder so far. All the new folders will be titled Germany Tour-''subject''. If you want to see them and you are not already signed up, all you gotta do is go to and create an account and then add my email address so that I can become your new ''Ringo Friend''! my email is

So... Im off in the rain on my bike to the Hedlefs. Thank god for big raincoats.