Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friendship

Earlier this winter with Moritz, Janna and Inge I saw the blockbuster movie Avatar in theaters - I must say this worldwide sensation is talked about so much in Germany that I feel it has been a factor in me garnering even more extensive vocabulary by having so many conversations about it. The 3-D was exciting - as well as me hearing one more foreign language beyond just Na'vi - the film was in German.

There was another opportunity that I went to the theaters the other week with Inge and Andreas, and we went together to see the new comedy here in Germany - Friendship. The film takes place right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and two young Eastern Germans utilize the opportunity to visit the incredible dream-like free land that is America, mainly, San Francisco.


The synopsis was bound to be funny to all of us and provide quite a few laughs for all of us based off of the East German stereotypes as well as the obnoxious, but equally humorous depictions of the various Americans the Germans meet on their road-trip through continental America. Another aspect about the film, that I didn't realize until later, was that since it was a German film, it really makes a difference in terms of how the language flows when it isn't voiced over, like so many other films I see here in Germany.


I wanted to post about the movie, just because it was a fun film to see, especially with its mix of German and American scenarios, connection to the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall which was this past year, and another small milestone that I might just be starting to pick up on understanding the jokes in German comedies without even realizing it - I was laughing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Der Kölner Dom, Kölnisch Wasser, Karneval pt.2

[ The Cologne Cathedral, Eau de Cologne and Carneval pt.2 ]

As the infused scents of sweet citrus balanced by a bit of lavender floral accents wafted towards our senses, we had just sampled possibly one of the most well known perfumes in the world. Eau de Cologne, the first mass produced perfume of its kind, [ France and other European communities had a long tradition of personalized perfumes to cover up - well, their distinct personal fragrance due to fearing water and therefore only bathing twice a year ] is now seen at almost every corner in Cologne, from tourist shops, to luxury gift boxes at department stores. I must admit, that aside from hearing this term "Eau de Cologne" my whole life, I didn't make the connection before I was traveling to Cologne for my mid year seminar that this creation is what penned the name in our vocabularies.


On our tour, we witnessed important roman style remains from the initial Cologne civilizations, to government buildings that have partly survived the war and now bear example to a mixture of old and new, even Früh - the second largest Brauhaus restaraunt/brewery in Germany [after the Hofbräuhaus in Munich that I was very lucky to visit with Ciocia Zosia during the packed Oktoberfest season]. On one rather quiet corner, nestled across the street from an equally intricate, yet, modest art museum, was the perfume shop that started it all Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz - Literally, Johann Maria Farina opposite from Juelich's square. This little shop had the original Eau de Cologne fragrance - the others around town were mimics [dare I say that I enjoyed the more citrus scent of the "fake" better than the overwhelmingly floral fragrance of Farina gegenüber ... ]. Even so, the shop was, literally, a cornerstone in commercial history in Europe and was very interesting to witness.




Observing the other cobblestone streets, it is impossible to not notice large pillars with striped red and white ribbons, often with clowns adorning them as decoration. These are large - sometimes gaudy - decorations for the upcoming Karneval season in Cologne. Being in one of the Catholic regions of Germany, the festivities of Carneval [celebrated as Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras in other parts of the world] is one of the biggest celebrations in all of Europe, taking place in Cologne and surrounding cities. The huge festival contains big, raucous parties, lots of very elaborate costumes, and some traditions that go back many, many years [ the princess of Karneval... is a man?] Maybe it is something that I will be able to come back and visit with friends, but for the time being on the tour, it was neat to imagine what the streets would be like with over 2 million clustering for the famous Rose Monday events.



The seminar week in Cologne was filled with many interesting cultural events in Cologne, but also many opportunities to evaluate our year thus far in the CBYX program, preparing for our internship phase coming up in just mere weeks, as well as many discussions delving deeper into the meanings of German culture, political thought, and most importantly the people. There was definitely a lack of sleep - something that crept up on me during my week long event of cramming final Uni papers [ somethings might never change, even on the other side of the world...] - but the seminar week was very informational, and a bit of a break to speak some English in between seminars in German [ making me surprise myself a little, that after almost 6 months, and a semester in German university, I can follow with acceptable understanding pretty in depth lectures and discussions all in German ].

One of the exciting parts of the week for me was visiting the InWEnt offices in Bonn. There we met the program leaders that advise us through this year, and we also had a talk from an actual United Nations representative from the Millennium project to discuss the goals of eliminated poverty in third world countries by 2020. This was the perfect segway to an entire hour dedicated to the 5 of us PPPler that spent a week in Bonn participating in the Bonn International United Nations Conference. There was so much to share, from my views and experiences representing Germany, to the complex issues of creating fair resolutions, but regardless, it was exciting to present in front of my peers and share some of the unique opportunities that I have also had this year.

[ Another very unique tradition in Cologne. The bridge over the Rhein, that gives a fantastic view to the illuminated Dom at night, is lined with thousands of padlocks, often engraved with initials, of lovers or married couples that lock their love forever and throw the key into the river below ]



Cologne was a very beautiful city - the images of the Dom and the scent of the Eau de Cologne will resonate with me for quite a while - but for now, I am back in Göttingen, anxiously trying to complete papers, preparation for upcoming tests, as well as many ideas I have for the blog that I have backlogging on me. That is to say that I want to complete all of this before my own Praktikum job starts as well in just days now ticking down!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Der Kölner Dom, Kölnisch Wasser, Karneval pt.1

[ The Cologne Cathedral, Eau de Cologne, Carneval pt.1 ]

Returning from Cologne and trudging my way back home from the mitfahrgelegenheit drop-off spot [ with Germany now having frigid below 0 Celsius temperatures ... I haven't checked what it is in Fahrenheit, but it is cold ], there was little time to really unwind before my very busy week ahead of me with papers, tests and other important things to take care of after missing a week of University. Even so, there were some excellent sights to see in Cologne and some great cultural points that sparked my enthusiasm about my experiences learning some more about Germany that have been crossing my mind this past week.


During the week-long CBYX midyear seminar, we had many speakers and presentations that introduced us into deeper topics of the German work world and political, education, and environmental policies. I was able to tour a few major headquarters in Cologne and Bonn and view another perspective at the institutions that make up modern German government and businesses.


Between our busy schedule of seminars, we had a few opportunities for some cultural excursions, including a tour through the very scenic city of Cologne. Cologne is part of the Bundesland Nord-Rhein Westfallen and that is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in all of Europe, with Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf and many other nearby cities that makes the western border of Germany a very exciting place to explore.



Cologne especially, has a beautiful riverside skyline that has one very distinct feature that I have learned is truly the center of pride for all citizens calling Cologne home - Der Kölner Dom - The Cologne Cathedral. This huge Cathedral, with two prominent spires is the largest completely Gothic cathedral in the World and the largest Cathedral in Germany. As I had mentioned from my first impression from Cologne, the Cathedral surprised me at first from an unsuspecting turn through the city. From that point on, the Dom seems to loom over every vantage point in the city and seems to be visible from just about everywhere.




I couldn't quite pick out my favorite side, since the Dom displays incredible intricacy on all of its surfaces, but one could definitely pause for quite a while to just stare at the great building. At one point in history, as we learned in the tour, the Dom was the largest man made structure in the world, and Cologne was also a very important center for Catholicism. The inside of the Dom was equally impressive with many sacristies as well as some of the Dom's most precious relics - including a golden vault that supposedly contains the skulls of the three wise men.


One of the most interesting details of the Dom was the newest stained glass window that was added later following damages after the war. The very modern "pixilated" stained glass window may seem like an unsuitable art piece for a Cathedral, but on a sunny day [ one that I had to venture later in the week for - they are kind of rare in a German winter ] the vibrant squares splash the grey walls of the Cathedral with incredible paintbrush-strokes of light that is something that must be seen in person.



As our tour continued, we were informed that we would learn two more very important things about Cologne - about Carneval, and... he let us guess.

Someone asked if it was Kölsch... the local brew of Cologne beer served in famous flouted glasses...

No - maybe Eau de Cologne rings a bell...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Köln

[ Cologne ]

I have now returned from my short hiatus from my blog writing - this past week was the mid-year seminar for the PPPler in the CBYX program and we all met together in Cologne, Germany. I was pretty excited to see the historic and well known city of Cologne - just a bit north from Bonn, where I had another week long seminar experience not too long ago.

To get to Cologne, I utilized mitfahrgelegenheit once again. This time utilizing the internet-based carpooling system went much smoother than my first experiences traveling to Munich in the fall. My German is better [ and whereas I don't think I will be able to mask the sound of being a foreigner on the phone any time soon, at least I can organize a carpool for myself without desperately butchering German grammar and having the listener on the line add me to their passengers list just out of sympathy].

This trip, from the start, was better - I had my spot reserved, everything was organized and confirmed and I was on-time at the meeting spot to drive a few hours south-west of Göttingen to the Bundesland of Nord-Rhein Westfalen. I think with any trip however, as unconventional and spontaneous Mitfahrgelegenheit is - trusting strangers to get you from point A to point B - there are bumps along the road. My carpool was all at least a complete generation older than me, all businessmen probably off to different jobs in Cologne.


Where we got dropped off at... well... it was Cologne - to put it lightly, I was pointed the direction where the bus stop would be [ am I south... north... 5 minutes away... half hour?]. Fortunately I allotted myself many hours before the beginning of my seminar to get around in the city. I did find the Bahn and was only a couple stops away from the reasonable center of the city - yet, still had to find the Jugendherberger - youth hostel - to officially complete my journey.


I took the scenic rout - and I can humbly admit that it was a lucky mistake of being lost rather than a decision to take the scenic rout - yet, I was able to see some incredible sights of Cologne on my own within my first hours of being there. The city is known for its shopping and the streets were filled with many shops - clothes, book stores, perfume shopes [ does Eau de Cologne ring any bells?].

Then, through my zig-zagging through the city, on one unsuspecting turn ...


my eyes panned up the fortress - der Kölner Dom - The Cologne Cathedral - was standing right there before me, nestled very surprisingly right in the midst of normal life and commercial streets. From the rest of the scenery, with the Rhein river, and other impressive architecture to lure me in different directions, the rest of the journey [ somehow I got to the hostel... my hand drawn map was a failure ] was enjoyable to say the least.


I was able to see many Americans from my language school for the first time in months as well as many others from the program I haven't seen since Washington D.C. in the summer, and I realized that this was really the first time since moving to Göttingen [ the democrats abroad asside... were they Americans?] that I was surrounded by Americans and speaking American English - there is a difference when you have the freedom to ramble on without restraint of being clear and concise to foreign ears. The week was going to be filled with a lot of reflections and new insights on our lives and experiences in Germany, as well as more connections to our roles as young representatives of the states, and the opportunities we can learn from in Germany as our Praktikum-phase is coming up just around the corner.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zum Geburtstag viel Glück

[ Wishes of luck for your birthday! ]

The past few days have been a bit of a challenge to get back into the mode of studying, homework, going to classes and being mentally prepared to sit through a lecture in German. The blog posts have been coming slowly, but there has been plenty going on - great experiences returning home to Göttingen and hearing how the holidays were for many friends, capturing some of the differences that I have noticed as the University environment has become a bit more stressful with tests and final projects around the corner, as well as other surprises that I still find everyday unsuspecting because "Germany just doesn't feel THAT foreign anymore", until something catches me off guard.

Amongst the regimented days where I have gotten back into the flow of school life, it now feels like weeks have passed since the holidays and my birthday. The other day I got a text message for some regular plans to go out with friends for the Friday evening - meet up before at the student dorms and then later to a club or other get together.

I arrived and met a few of my friends, some I hadn't seen yet since the new year and greeted them accordingly [ It has been a joke in Germany, since everyone says "Frohes Neues Jahr" upon the first meeting of the new year - the question from the Germans is, when do we stop? It is almost 3 weeks into January now...] From there we waited since four of our friends [note that they all come from Spain ]were running late... first, not pünktlich German, next, not American fashionably late... after a while, it wasn't even "Typically Spanish". 45 minutes was just late... so we were laughing about the fact that our friends were consistent with their stereotypes in that aspect so we decided to walk to the floor kitchen and wait there -

Walk through the door


Zum Geburtstag viel Glück! Zum Geburtstag viel Glück! ...
[to the tune of Happy Birthday ]




There was a whole table of appetizers, sparklers going off, and fresh tortellini and sauce [brought by Alessio from Italy!] heating up on the stove. I was honestly really surprised. Remember 'Uberraschung Chris'? The set up was for Brandan and myself since we shared January birthdays, and my friends completed the evening with a gift from everyone, a personalized music mix playing in the background, candles, more singing in German, and cake. It was really great!




I have heard from some people that in Germany, it is very common to host your own party, or buy your own cake, and I was actually planning to do something later in the month when everyone was back in town and had a free weekend evening, but my friends beat me too it, and the surprise was excellent.



It was the perfect kick off to the weekend and a fun evening out. Germany has become very cold recently, but having friends to look forward to seeing makes the walks bundled in gloves and scarves through the city completely worth it. The rest of the weekend was filled with other visits here and there, with some studying in between. I don't have too much time now, since this week I will be traveling to Cologne for the InWEnt mid-year seminar. I am looking forward to seeing another new city and we will see how the internet access is at the hostel - if it doesn't work too well, the posts will be written and be posted next weekend!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

die „Göttinger Tafel“

[ The Göttingen Soup Kitchen ]

As a Parlamentarisches Patenschafts Programm Teilnehmer I have a responsibility of not only representing the States as I am living abroad in Germany, but also utilizing the very generous experience provided to me by the German and US governments to give back to the communities I am living in. As PPP representatives, we are required to take part in volunteer work -freiwiliger Arbeit - and seek opportunities in our community to assist with service projects.

For me, this is something that I have a long history of doing and I definitely participate in as something I enjoy. I have helped through a variety of volunteer projects in high school and college already, as well as through my internship experience in Detroit, and searching for a similar project to take part in while in Germany was something I was very interested in doing.

I must comment that in Germany, being a much more social country with high taxes utilized for social projects, it is very difficult to find volunteer work with relative ease - it definitely exists, but in comparison to America, well known for its volunteerism and value for social service, it is not something I found to be available virtually everywhere. This surprised me a lot, since I am in one of the largest University towns in Germany, and I figured I could walk up to one of the many clustered bulletin boards and find something [like one could do for certain in Ann Arbor to find a project, club, job ect.], but that didn't turn out to be the case. I actually had to start sending out e-mails to local government offices and churches asking for advice. [ Just as heresy, I have heard quite often in Germany that, opposite from the States, it is sometimes easier to land an internship than find freiwiliger Arbeit. This very well could be true based on my experiences of searching for both.]


After a few weeks of searching - a task I thought would only take minutes to track down a fitting volunteer project to help over the next few months - I was directed to the Göttinger Tafel - which serves as a food distribution site in the middle of Göttingen for those in need of basic daily foodstuffs. I translated the Tafel as a soup kitchen, however, the food distributed is all from donations from local businesses and not given out as prepared meals - it is more of a center for basic groceries, from produce, breads, and other necessities.

[ A huge mountain of gifts we collected and stacked in December at the Tafel to be distributed to children throughout the Christmas season ]

Going in for the first day at the Tafel was a little nerve-wracking for me. I was not sure what my jobs were going to be, let alone how I was just going to jump right into work in the German speaking environment, yet, walking into the office there were smiling faces young and old - all volunteers as well as students completing their social work [which is an option other than Army participation after high school in Germany] - and all were very happy to have me join to help for the morning.

I have worked at the Tafel quite a few mornings already over the past few weeks when I had the chance around my University schedule and I have found the work to be very rewarding. My jobs have included sorting the foodstuffs as they are delivered to the center, driving around in the vans to local markets and stores to pick up donations, as well as working in the Laden and distributing the food.


The job has definitely tested my German - when taking directions, or even more challenging, taking orders from incomers for their grocery bags, I have to definitely keep a keen ear. Under many situations, the incomers come from foreign lands and either speak German with very strong Slavic and Turkish accents, or they have German skills that are equal to my own. The job gives me the same satisfaction that I had working at the food centers of Focus:HOPE back in Detroit, and learning some great life lessons and advice from co-founder Eleanor Josaitis. There are always some laughs, especially when the name of some vegetable completely defies my wordbank for the day, as well as the person anxiously pointing at the brussel sprouts since they don't know what to call them auf Deutsch either - der Rosenkohl - always a learning experience.

Sometimes the people catch on to the fact that I am definitely not a native German speaker and upon asking my origin, like to throw in what they know from English. Just the other day, one man gave me his best, "I can English a little bittle" and that little bit meant a lot to me.

The Tafel has been more than just a volunteer job for me. It has been another great perspective from my home town in Germany and learn some new systems for volunteer work in another country - it may be different, but the bottom line is that it still feels great anywhere to help out in a community project.

Alles gut zum Geburtstag

[ Happy Birthday to you! ]

Back in Göttingen just before school started gave me a bit of a chance to collect myself after a very exciting and busy few weeks of holiday celebrations and traveling. I knew that Göttingen was going to be a bit quiet when I returned - no friends really back until the weekend - and that my birthday would pass by a little low key, yet after having so many great experiences that was completely fine to me.

I think it was this state of mind that made the surprises for me turning 20 that much more unexpected and really wonderful. Coming into the kitchen on the morning of the 5th, Inge was there to give me a huge hug - she had already very excitedly greeted me the evening before for my return home, and we sat together to talk about the new years celebrations we had - but this hug for my birthday was huge - Zwanzig Jahre Alt! - 20 years old!

Wow... I am 20 - no longer a teenager. The number didn't really strike me right away, but this year really is one of great transitions for me. When Andreas returned home mid day for lunch, I also received a very warm greeting from him and a long list of wishes for me for the upcoming year.

With Janna and Moritz on their own travels, and life at the Sebode house returning to the norm of Inge, Andreas and myself together, it really meant so much to me that my host parents were so excited to celebrate my birthday and have many surprises waiting for me. For lunch, as a centerpiece on the table was a German good luck charm for birthdays - complete with a silver champagne bucket signifying the good champagne for the year, a bouquet of 4-leaf clovers, and a little Kaminkehrer - a chimney sweeper - that also denotes good luck in Germany. Inge made a great lunch, and before we ate, a toast with Champagne and another new tradition for me - an entirely new song in German sung for Birthdays [and one with many verses too, I should add, really testing Inge and Andreas' endurance].


Heute kann es regnen,
stürmen oder schnei'n,
denn du strahlst ja selber
wie der Sonnenschein.
Heut ist dein Geburtstag,
darum feiern wir,
alle deine Freunde,
freuen sich mit dir.

Refrain:
Wie schön, dass du geboren bist,
wir hätten dich sonst sehr vermisst.
wie schön, dass wir beisammen sind,
wir gratulieren dir, Geburtstagskind!

[Today it can rain,
storm or snow,
because you yourself are beaming
like sunshine.
Today is your birthday,
that's why we're celebrating.
All your friends,
are happy for you.

Refrain:
How nice that you were born,
we would have really missed you otherwise.
how nice that we're all together;
we congratulate you, birthday child! ]

Everything was perfect - I really felt so loved on my birthday at home, and there were already some great German traditions that I learned that will now be great memories. Everything so far was already so appreciated, but Inge and Andres also had a few other gifts for me - They really went above and beyond for me - a new book to read as well as some Göttingen attire to proudly wear my University on my chest. Later in the evening I received a surprise phone call from Moritz all the way from Mexico to wish me a Happy Birthday. I am really so lucky to have received so much generosity on my Birthday, and it will definitely be one that I will always remember.

Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch,
das ist ganz egal,
dein Geburtstag kommt im Jahr
doch nur einmal.
Darum lass uns feiern,
dass die Schwarte kracht,
Heute wird getanzt,
gesungen und gelacht.

Refrain:
Wie schön, dass du geboren bist,
wir hätten dich...

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
that doesn't really matter,
but your birthday comes only
once a year.
So let us celebrate,
until we're exhausted,*
Today there's dancing,
singing and laughter.

Refrain:
How nice that you were born,
we would have...


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Die andere Hälfte der Geschichte: der Austausch nach Amerika

[ The other half of the story: The exchange to America ]

For those that might remember from a few months ago, as I lived in Saarbrücken I had the chance to visit a German-French speaking high school and meet quite a few students near my age and later hangout together around the city. Back at the time, I was still struggling through the first month and a half of my German crash-course curriculum and the "quirky and odd German customs" hadn't yet become the norm for me and were still conversation centerpieces amongst my American classmates. As I met some of the Deutsch Französisches Gymnasium students for an evening of hookah and in depth conversation, many of the students were anxiously preparing and counting down the days for their class trip to the United States complete with tours of some major cities and a homestay experience with host families.

A few month later during my return to Saarbrücken, I told Adil, one of the students from the class whom I was in touch with since leaving, that I was in town and we planned to meet together for an evening. It was great, first of all, to see him and enjoy the fact that I made some nice connections when I lived in Saarbrücken. The other interesting aspect for me was hearing the variety of stories from Adil that he brought back from his very eventful experience in the US.


Trying to keep some timeline to the stories - since, as I well know, trying to capture any detailed event such as living abroad is filled with many side details and intersecting thoughts - we started talking about Washington D.C. . Now, I must mention that a few months ago, Adil asked me questions about racism in the US and how he might be treated as an Arab-German student studying abroad. I gave him the truth as I saw most realistic and told him that in school and the host city, I doubt it would be any problem - maybe a few strange questions from inquisitive Americans. The only place that I thought he would have trouble would be the US customs at the Airport, unfortunately, just because of his looks from national origin.

Sure enough, as declared by Adil - in a way that confirmed and somehow showed appreciation for my frank forewarning - he was momentarily separated from his classmates by an escort at the Airport and questioned because of his passport's stamps showing many visits to Morocco [to visit family]. Adil said the questions were brief, but he was asked why he visited Morocco so often, and also if he "had any connections or communication with known terrorist groups." Very direct, and a bit eyebrow-furrowing to be asked to a minor, but I think the situation opens many realistic views on the issue of Airport security and how this is handled in America - just or unjust, the good news is that Adil passed through fine and continued a very exciting trip with his class mates.

The students all visited Washington DC [ "I loved that city - maybe if there weren't so many people there, I could live there!" ] and saw some museums, the exciting historical streets, and - Woah! The White House! - everything that I was very happy to hear since DC is one of my favorite places as well.

The next experience of the 3 week exchange was the school/host family experience which took place in Allentown, PA. I didn't know anything about the city when talking to the students, but from hearing from Adil, the school was "extremely diverse - as if white people were a minority". A unique answer, but understandable coming from schools in Germany were a student like Adil is normally one in a large handful. If anything, I knew that the diverse - and from what I heard, huge - school would provide the German students with many interesting learning experiences.

After the small details - like students having lockers, switching classes [The hallways were SO full ], to WOW! I actually saw a yellow schoolbus! - I began to hear more about America under the surface.

Now, the students were only there for a little over 2 weeks with their families - a period to still be in a honeymoon phase in the States, but also enough to really become close to family members and meet some good friends. Adil shared with me the great long talks, and bonding experience he had with his family - "It was great, we talked all the time. They were a conservative family, but I was surprised how sensible and nice they were". [ Something I always find amusing, since "the conservative American" in many conversations in Germany is most definitely viewed as a crazy, ignorant person unless the German has actually met someone in the states. ]

[ Dare I post this photo?!... I pulled this one up from a few years ago from my first experience meeting many German exchange students that did a similar exchange like Adil's class and visited Troy Athens High School for a few weeks. It brought full circle my first experiences wanting to experience Germany, as well as understanding the rapid experience Adil had in the states going to high school and living with a host family. Note in the photo - the Germans are just the ones that happen to be taller than the rest of us. ]

Not quite sure from my point of view if it is good or bad, but Adil raved about the enjoyable get-together's the host families had with all the students together - they love to have parties, order some pizza's, watch sports, and eat off paper plates... From the sounds of it, the host families were just as generous and caring as the families in Troy were when I first met a similar large group of German students a few years ago in high school. Adil commented on the different English at school - poking a bit of fun at the seemingly comical usage of "like" and "eww" to convey a large array of personal thoughts amongst the girls in the high school, as well as the "school uniform" of American Eagle and Abercrombie clothes - but some of these real life stereotypes made me laugh, because, lets face it, they are true - and some I knew that, if the German students spent a few more weeks in America and soaked up an even more in depth experience, I would hear more polarizing views on the "culture" - something that I am learning myself about my country living abroad.

The conversation with Adil went quite long into the evening - we talked more about his host family, the sports [ There is ALWAYS football - friday, highschool, saturday, college, Sunday and Monday Pro... and the other days have baseball, basketball....] and the final trip to New York to wrap up the experience [ I didn't like it - too big. Way too big. I could never live there ]. Of course it was just one coversation, and I always enjoy hearing varied stories of Germans visiting America - they are always so different, but a few similarities always arise. I am very glad Adil and his classmates had "the time of their lives" and truly enjoyed the experience. For now, they are finishing up the school year, and later in the year, about 20 Americans from Allentown will come visit Saarbrücken, which should also be a very cool experience for the Germans to pull together about two weeks to showcase their city and summarize their culture for their foreign guests. A task that is always interesting to take part in. It was great to see Adil, and I hope to catch up again with him soon if I get back to Saarbrücken later this year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gute rutsch ins neue jahr!

[ "Wishing you a good slide into the new year " ]



New Years day started quite late after an enjoyable evening the night before. Eva and Adriane actually had a very cool idea planned out for the entire family to come together for a big brunch despite everyone still being groggy at 12 noon on new years day.



Reminiscent of the Oktoberfest party held at the Weber house just a few months prior, Adriane and Eva had their Dirndl back on and a complete spread of Bavarian favorites on the table, from Brezeln to Weiβwurstchen und Süβer Senf. It was a very fun idea, and it was great to enjoy the morning with some comical - and stereotypical - German folk costumes and essen. [Which I must add is definitely not typical in Saarbrücken! ]



The food was very good, and the rest of New Years turned into a day for everyone to quietly relax the rest of the day away. Like other countries, all the shops in town were closed, so I think it was a day that everyone in Saarbrücken was passing by with a good book curled up on the couch.


----


With a few more days to enjoy with the Weber family I enjoyed the simple aspects I looked forward to during my language-school phase living there in the Fall. We went shopping, cooked together, watched movies and played Wii - it was all very nice.

I brought together a selection of gifts for the Webers hoping to find things that would match their personalities and hobbies, but reflect a little bit of me. I guess I did some reflecting going back through my photos and seeing what things were some of my favorite memories out of the many.



Before departing from Saarbrücken - helping Angelika take down Christmas decorations just minutes before walking out the door with my suitcase; I enjoyed how normal everything felt - I recieved many invitations back for different times in the year, and also some times that Addi, Eva, Lutz and Olli might come up to Niedersachsen and visit up north and I could meet up with them then.


Until then, it was back to Göttingen for me - after the very busy and exciting Christmas holiday, and then enjoyable New Year's visit to Saarbrücken - it felt like I was heading back home and finally sliding back into normal life's routine.

Frohes Neues Jahr von Deutschland! 2010!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Silvester

[ New Years Eve ]

The table was set, the food cooked, and everyone was getting ready for a nice evening together to bring in 2010. There were actually a few more surprises with some new hairstyles and a few feather boas thrown into the mix as well.





After enjoying the great food we all made together, we had some time before midnight and we played some games including charades and putting names of celebrities on our foreheads and guessing who we are - Klara hilariously portraying her interpretation of Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Just minutes before midnight we all went outside and some neighbors were lighting Fireworks. Fireworks, I came to learn, is a very big deal in Germany for Silvester - the name for the festivities of New Years Eve. When the clock officially struck twelve, from the impressive view down into the heart of Saarbrücken from Am. Triller, the entire city erupted into fireworks - flashes of whites, reds, greens, blues all over the city - and the overcast skies just briefly lit up like a thunderstorm as several minutes of booming fireworks in celebration of New Years took place.




Overlooking the city from the hills where the Weber Family lives was very exciting, and from the Balcony of the house, the views into the city were incredible and a very exciting way to experience the love for fireworks in Germany for Silvester.