Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Until next time

Hey everybody! I'm so excited for tomorrow morning. And the sun is shining here and the grass is green. Very green... but still not ''glow in the dark'' green like it was last August.

Sunday, Easter, was fairly uneventful. I got most of my stuff unpacked from last week and I had a big breakfast. I even ate an easter egg (although everyone else had 5 or 6... I don't like eggs). My host mom is all happy that there is a reason to buy new types of cheese and things to try... so much so that today at the table we had over 10 types of cheese and 6 or so types of meat and wurst and caviars in tubes. Sunday night I talked with some friends on the phone and my whole family. I also saw most of Braveheart (in German, of course!).

Yesterday, Monday, I went to Neuharlingersiel (one of the the harbor/ports on the coast) and went to the Buddelschiff Museum (Bottled Ships). There were some really awsome models inside wine bottles. Some of the bottles themselves were impressive. Then we took a shopt stoll on the coast. I was surprised to see so much water. It was the first time I have see the sea at high tide... normally it is gone and only the mud-flats with big puddles are there. Then, I went for a bike ride and later watched the relatively new German version of the 7 Dwarves.

Today I have been scrambling about trying to get everything I need for my Europe Tour and things for cheese. In Bavaria I got a chance to make cheese and we got a recipe, so we are going to try and make cheese today. We had to go to the Apotheke (the drug store... but a little different) and get something called Lab, which is a microbe that you make cheese and jogourt with. We will see how that goes. It needs to sit for at least a week or two, so then we can try it when I get back!

Wish me luck on my trip!!! WHEEEEEEE!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter! Frohes Ostern!

I'm only just back from my week in the Franconian region of Bavaria (over 6 hour train ride) and still spinning from lack of sleep. Almost every night I got between one and a half hours and 4 hours of sleep. What a time!

I have got to say that it was really neat to see some of the things about Germany that are famous for Germany... huge beer mugs, rolling hills with towns jammed in the valleys, wonderful cheese and wurst, and a friendly and open people that laugh and sing. Not that the stereotypes were the best part of the week, but certainly fun.

There were over 35 of us between the age of 15-18 from 16 different countries. It was fun to learn a little of spanish, hungarian, finnish, portugues, and of course, lots more german (and the franconian dialect). We saw lots of castles, art, and different types of ''factories'' where we got chances to make cheese, see how candles were made, or how advertisements are printed (on plotters!). The cities of Nürnberg and Würzburg and absolutley beautiful as well as packed full of history (and souvenier shops!... with coocoo clocks, hümmel figures, and every other typical bavarian thing you can find). In Nürnberg we saw the parade grounds and other buildings were official gatherings of the Nazi party were held. In Würzburg we visted the world renowned city wine cellers were we had a wine taste testing. Even American presidents, the princess from Tailand, kings and queens from all over the world have been there, sitting at the same tables as we did. We learned a little bit about the wine from Würzburg, how to properly drink a white wine, and then try to walk straight after 4-5 glasses of 12% alcholic drink. What I found interesting is that each of the wines we tried are famous varieties. One, the Würtzburger Stein, was one that Goethe would have at his dinner table every night. I also understand and appreciate a little more about our own Finger lakes wine region and Reislings. On the last day we even visited a medieval town, still enclosed by the defensive walls. Not much has changed since then (it is perhaps one of the only exsiting towns preserved like this) and you can really ''connect the dots'' about all the different parts of old europe that survive only in pieces in modern times.

And what's more, the food in Franconian Bavaria is simply, AMAZING. Even better than northern kitchens. (WHAT AM I going to eat when I get back HOME!???) Wurst, cheese, bio-everything, bread, cakes and pastries, beer, sparkling apple juice, etc, etc. Lunch was always something to look forward to. And every night we did something special. One night we went 9 pin bowling (das Bayerisches Bier naturlisch dazu!), another night we had a traditional folkdance (with lederhosen and accordians... Bavarian folkdance are very similar to american folk dance....now I know where square dancing comes from!), a formal black-tie event in another castle, and visits with the rotary clubs. After that, we always partied in the Youth Hostel until 2, 3, even 5 in the morning.

The arcitecture and art we saw was splendid. A lot of it was baroque (with the emphasis on detail, gold, and complexity) which is very different (and more modern) than the romantic and gothic located in the north. South Germany has always been fairly well off, where as the northern kingdoms had their hay day between 1000-1600 ac. Therefore, southern kingdoms (such as Prussia, Bavaria, and the former Austrian empire for german language examples) were able to constantly rebuild, renew, and modernize to exemplify their glory. Some of the frescos, silk rugs, and porcelian simply take your breath away. But what tops it all off is when you step into a room covered in mirrors and laced in gold, all hand painted in every crack left available. Something that a picture not only can't capture, but can't possibly show the feeling of magnificance and awe.

It really was a wonderful week. I am really looking forward to seeing a little more of Bavaria when my grandparents come here. Coming home to Ostfriesland was hard but I gotta get some sleep and rest before heading out again Wednesday. 17 more days of friends, fun, art, castles, cities, great food, and little sleep.

My new host family has been really great. I am learning so much from them. We are right behind the dikes on the coast and so it is really easy to get to everything. Saturday night there was the ''Easter fires'' across all of Niedersachsen, huge bonfires all night. This morning was easter baskets, lots of eggs, and chocolate. Hopefully if we have time today, we will take a trip to the coast to see a museum full of model ships in bottles. One of the coolest things about this family is that they are very international. My host mom is from Hungary and my host dad is always in China (organizing what is called Choir Olympics... a singing version of the sports Olympics). My host mom's family was Jewish and lives in Budapest, so I have learned a few stories about communism, concentration camps, and everything that happened when Nazi Germany entered Hungary. We spend what seems every minute talking, laughing, and joking.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter with lots of good food, family, and friends!

Friday, April 07, 2006

it's like living out of a suitcase

It has been a busy and stressful week! I've been trying to pack and unpack all my stuff so that I can move to Laura's house. School is out this week so at least I had lots of time! Getting to know the family and talking everything is lots of work!

I have now moved back to Esens and it is only 5 minutes with the bike into the center of the ''city''. It takes about 15 minutes by bike to get to school (the school is on the other edge of town, right next to where I used to live by the Hedlefs and Hoyers)

Wednesday I spent the day at Björn's house... we made pancakes for brunch and then took a bike ride around Esens. Laura left for Hanover on Wednesday to visit her boyfriend.

Sunday I start my whirl-wind tour of Europe. Next week I am touring around to see the highlights of northern Bavaria. Then I will be home for Easter weekend before I start my Europa Tour on the 19th (the wednesday after Easter). I'll be finally home on the 6th of May (after almost 3 weeks), here in Esens for 2 weeks, then another 2 weeks in Baden-Württenburg and southern Bavaria bringing me up to the 6th of June (my birthday!). Wow!

My new address is..

c/o Familie xxx
Hartwarder Str. 34
26427 Esens

... and my telephone number is 011-49-4971-5515

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring time rain

Spring has finally come! And with it the rain. A little depressing, but the sping flowers here are georgeous... bold yellows, purples, blues, and whites.

Easter Break started for me today and goes until the 18th. A lot of things are coming up, so I'm getting excited. I've got Rotary trips (to Bavaria and a European Tour) and oportunities to see lots of old friends and make new ones!

Then, a really cool opportunity came up this week. My friend Laura (see previous blog) invited me to move in with her and her family. We get along really great and since her mom is ''Auslander'' (a foreigner) as well, they are really supportive and funny when it comes to living in a different country. They understand. Laura's mom thinks that it would be fun.

In a normal exchange year with Rotary, there is one finnal switch to a host family around Easter and since I don't have an official new host family (I was scheduled to stay with the Groppe's till July) Rotary decided that it would be ok. It looks like I will be moving anytime this week. YEAH!

I'm looking forward to a little peace this week. I'm going to try and visit some of my friends this week. Björn and I are going to meet and make pancakes and I might get to hang out at another friends house and learn how to milk the cows and muck the stalls. My baseball team is sorta stalled at the moment, but we plan on getting it back up on it's feet after break.

After 8 months here and so much struggle I feel that I have really started to fit in. Sometimes I even forget how to speak English or don't even realize I'm speaking German. It's really amazing and I have so much more coming up. Easter is soon and I'm traveling almost the whole time between now and my birthday (June 6th) and my grandparents are coming to visit me at the end of May! And then, I have two months and I come home. I'm flying home the 26th of July. I can't wait to see you all!

I'm on the home stretch here and it looks like nothing but fun (cross your fingers!).