What is Foreign Exchange to Me?

"A year of of my life. My life in a year."

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Friday, April 27, 2012

German, English, and the Letter “Y”

“German is more a throat condition than a language.”

First and foremost, the letter “y” is a very confused letter. In English,image it’s pronounced “why,” in German it’s pronounced “upsilon” and in Spanish it’s pronounced “igriega” (ee-gree-ay-guh). Most of the other letters are at least reasonably similar… but not “y.” No, “y” is very confused.

Now, this isn’t only German’s fault, but has anyone who has tried to learn a second language ever noticed, only the verbs you regularly need are irregular? For example:

TO BE (or not to be!):

English (to be) German (sein) Spanish (ser)
I am Ich bin Yo soy
You are Du bist Tu eres
He/She/It is Er/Sie/Es ist El/Ella/Usted es
We are Wir sind Nosotros somos
You are Ihr seid Vosotros sois
They are Sie sind Ellos/Ustedes son

“I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”

I remember eight months ago I thought even if the world depended on it, there’s no chance I’m ever going to learn German… and now I speak it fluently. I’ve even lost my “American accent.” My Rotary Youth Exchange imageOfficer came up to me one day all proud and told me it no longer sounds like I’m speaking with a potato in my mouth. Silly Americans, all speaking with potatoes in our mouths. I’m seriously tempted to put a potato in my mouth and start speaking, just to see if I can get my old accent back.

“English and German both belong to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Because they are so closely related, they share many features.”

IndoWhile that may be true, it doesn’t necessarily make German any easier to learn, and don’t even get me started about spelling. Just last week I was asking one of my friends if he went to his ‘ziminafa’ (basically the equivalent to an U.S. high school ‘homeroom’) to which he laughed and told me it’s spelled ‘seminarfach.’ But to be fair, this is the same friend that spelled ‘headache’ like ‘head dick.’

I think the most annoying aspect of German to me (now that I’ve gotten used to piling verbs on top of each other at the end of sentences) is the dreaded “Sie.” Not only can “Sie” mean, she and them, but it’s also the “formal” form of speaking (think the “Usted” form of Spanish)… but what really bothers me about it is you can be talking to one person or five hundred strangers, but it still translates to “Are they…” It frustrates me so much! I can’t help but think, “Please stop addressing me in the third person plural even if that’s normal in your language!” 

“In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language.”

I may give German a hard time, but for some strange reason (despite how much I criticize it), I love it.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Weeks Go By To Fast

P4261928Most things are different, but German microwaves are just plain weird. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m used to the ‘super-high-tech’ U.S. version that has nothing to do with grams and has actual words as compared to oddly drawn pictures… but that doesn’t change the fact that I have difficulty using it every time. I still find it funny whenP4201813 baking with my friends and they hold something up and say, “Does this look like 300 grams to you?” “United States customary units” may be completely out of whack, but it’s what we learn in the U.S. and what I know how to measure in… though I have finally adapted the Celsius temperature scale if nothing else!

P4211861Exchange students are generally loud people, therefore when gathering 140 of us together for a weekend, we generally have to be secluded from the public because we draw too much attention to ourselves which is exactly what happened this past weekend. All the inbounds and next years outbounds met up in Celle for the P4211873weekend where we had a we wandered though Celle scavenger hunt style, toured (yet another) castle, got POURED on, and had a Pirate party and were simply louder than imaginable, but I guess that’s to be expected when 140 crazy teenagers gather together. Honestly, if your willing to leave behind everything you’ve ever known for a year and go alone to a country where you don’t speak a word of the language… I’m pretty sure you can be P4211839deemed ‘crazy.’ I felt very helpful, while I was switching trains in Hannover, a British man came up to me and asked me in broken German if I speak English. Of all the people he could have chose to ask, he happened to pick the exchange student from California. I helped him find his train to the airport and then we chatted for a bit, and I think it’s the first time I’ve made ‘small-talk’ in months. Germans don’t do small talk. Turtle

Andres: “I’m Angie, and I’m angry with the life.”

And sometimes when it simply gets too loud, I like to hide in a corner (with my friends of course) and read. Of course, this brings my Mexican friend Andres to think that I’m “angry with the life.” Smile

P4231924Saturday night, I was actually quite disappointed when we had a glorious feast… I was in the mood for pizza, which lead me to texting my best German friend, telling him we’re making pizza Monday, which is exactly what we did...two of the most delicious (olive infested! Open-mouthed smile ) pizzas IP4231927 have ever tasted at that. He also decided to try a new fashion statement… shorts, long socks and low-cut shoes. I hope he’s learned his lesson about letting me take pictures of him now. 

Last night I got home from hanging out with my friends around 9 p.m., just in time to catch the beginning of the Bayern München (Munich)– Real Madrid (the team Hannover 96 lost to a few weeks back)‘half-final’ soccer game, and of course I had to stay and watch the entire game, the over time, and the penalty kicks with my host-dad. (I find it funny how penalty kicks are called ‘the 11 meter’ in German. It just doesn’t sound nearly as intimidating.) He almost had countless heart attacks from getting so excitedl; it made me think of my dad when watching the Superbowl back in California. Not only did both Spain and Germany play a great game, BUT THE GERMAN TEAM WON which means they’ll be playing in the final in Munich on May 19th! Even if you don’t care about soccer, be sure to catch the ‘11 meters’ here. It really was amazing!

Penalty Kicks – Spain vs. Germany

imageI’d like to wish my best friend in California a happy birthday (well, it was yesterday, but this still counts!). To quote my 7th grade science teacher, “Some things just never change.” and that applies to Rita and me. This morning I got up EXTRA early for her to talk to her before going to school because it was still her birthday in her time zone and this was the first year since we’ve been best friends (coming up on seven years) that I wasn’t there for her birthday, and to use the German expression, “That just doesn’t go.” She had me laughing to the point of crying this morning for a P7190419majority of the conversation, and I was even late to Biology, but I don’t think my teacher minded.

Birthday cake Happy 18th Birthday Rita! Gift with a bow

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Nutella Time!!!

Before I became an exchange student, I P4111738was always impressed with the other exchange student’s vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong, learning a second (or third, or fourth or fifth) language isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but now that I’m an exchange student and have been for 8+ months, I understand why my old exchange student friends knew random words and phrases like “cannibalism,” “facetious,” or “I made it by the skin of my teeth.” After living in Germany for eight months and especially after talking to friends (as compared to simply random people who just ask you the basic, “What’s your name? Where are you from?”), it’s hard to think of a word I don’t know, or at least a word that I couldn’t act out either with hand motions or with other words.

Sunday I went with my host parents to P4151762the Steinhunder Meer (a little lake)near Hannover and it made me think of a wannabe less touristy, smaller San Francisco simply because they had peers with people selling foods and lots and lots of sail boats! Back in California I was part of a sailing crew, so being at places with lots of sail boats that remind me of San Francisco make me more homesick than anything elseP4151768 (in that since I’m glad to live in the middle of Germany instead of say, Hamburg), but it was still great to eat an (odd tasting, but FRESH!) shrimp sandwich and to see the water again!

*English Class, talking to the teacher*

Leo: “Oh you bad boy. If you promise to learn tonight, I won’t tell your mommy!”

I figure an explanation is in order. This past week we have started doing improvisation in English, so to start out the session, my best friend Leo and our English teacher were in the circle and Herr Franke was pretending to be a little boy who had failed his Latin test where Leo was the dad. I don’t think he realized the sexual connotation behind what he said to our teacher, but he made me laugh to the point of crying, and the fact that it was my best friend who said it made it that much funnier to me. At the end of English on Monday, I had a pain in my gut from laughing to hard at all the different scenarios.

Wednesday I spent the morning touring a textile factory, which is A LOT more interesting than that sounds. A man in my Snapshot_20120419_1Rotary club runs the factory, so I spent three hours with him, as well as three other people learning about how all the rugs and towels are made, and I even got an awesome rug at the end of the tour in my favorite color! Open-mouthed smile 

Earlier this week, Leo and I made the most delicious nutella cinnamon rolls to ever exist on the planet. I soP4140029mehow stumbled across a recipe for them, called and asked him to come help me, and ‘wala!’ Our cinnamon rolls were born! They were so delicious looking that I posted a picture on my Facebook, which then turned into a girl in my history class asking me to bake more and bring them in because they looked so delicious. Mmm nutella cinnamon rolls! And on the note of food, my host-mom randomly bought me a jar of Snapshot_20120419peanut butter. Sadly we didn’t have any ‘peanut-butter-worthy-bread’ though, so I just ate it with a spoon. It was one of those, “I’ve waited 8.5 months, I don’t want to wait a second longer” moments. 

It probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up in the U.S. (ever notice how Americans are obsessed with the American flag… how there are so many rules regarding it and the intricate ‘stars and stripes’ as compared to solid lines?), but I love seeing the German flag flying. For one reason or another (and I’m sure there are a lot of different reasons), it’s simply not very common to see the German flag flying, so whenever I do I simply have to take a picture of it and sadly I don’t have nearly as many random pictures of German flags as I would like to.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Easter, Berlin!

P4051549Where, oh where to begin? It’s been quite a week. Well first off, last Thursday I learned it really does not matter what country you’re in; girls will be girls and take seemingly forever in public restrooms making the line go for literally ‘kilometers’ out the door. I’m quite unhappy with my gender about this, if only they could… I don’t know, if only they could pee faster or something.

Now that we’ve gotten the introduction P4051547out of the way, let’s see! Last Thursday I went to a soccer game for Hannover 96 with my Rotary Club. I can’t help but imagine what the bus must have looked like to outsiders because there were 40 well dressed older men, and one casually dressed 18 year P4051563old girl. I got the pleasure of sitting next to the club president and explaining the game to him because he’s not the biggest soccer fan in the world, and sadly Hannover 96 lost to Madrid, which means they’re out of the European playing field this season, but they still have a chance in the German league. The 49,000 person stadium was filled to the brink without an emptyimage seat in sight, and I must say, Hannover 96 played a horrible game, they could have done much better. Nonetheless, it was a blast (Thanks Rotary Club Hameln!).

imageI spent Easter weekend hanging out with my friends, and while I sadly did not get to decorate any eggs, I did have a lovely time watching my friend Marn create a basket of them. She offered me her pen, P4071585but I am simply not nearly as creative with a marker. We played a lot of Foosball (despite my inability to play Foosball, as everyone learned), and Easter morning I went to brunch with my best friend’s family and spent a majority of the day with them. Along with Easter bunnies, a German Easter tradition is going to the “Osternfeuer” or Easimageter Fire which is where they collect and burn all the Christmas trees from a few months ago, so we stopped by to see it on the river side.

Now here we are, the ‘star of the showP4101671 so to speak. I spent all of Tuesday and most of Wednesday in Berlin with my host-dad/sister where we became tourists for the day(s). Berlin. Is. Indescribable. If I didn’t already want to live in Europe again after my exchange year, it defiantly set that thought in stone. We took a tour with a British tour guide and saw allP4101704 the hotspots of East Berlin, as well as an art museum, the Parliament building, and we saw a movie. There was a strike going on right outside the theater (typical Europe) so a lot of the films were no longer playing, but luckily ours still was. The weather was perfect, and for a city of P4101707almost 3.5 million people, parking is unbelievably easy to find… but maybe I’m only saying that because I’m from the San Francisco area and finding parking for under $20 an hour really is a miracle. Touring Berlin made me thankful to have P4101665taken Honors World History in 10th grade though, because I had a great teacher for the advanced class and actually put the history I learned “in it’s rightful place.” (For example, click on the picture to the left of cement blocks to discover how powerful it really is.)

Host-sister: “What’s this band called again?”

Me: “I don’t remember… something weird…”

Host-dad: “Lady Gaga!? Open-mouthed smile"

On the three hour drive home from Berlin my host-dad and I had a sing-along session the whole ride. I find it P4111761hilarious how he knows more of the lyrics to the Backstreet Boys than I do, and he was very impressed with all the Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Rolling Stones (thanks Dad!) that I know.

While I’m here, I might as do a closing noP4061577te on food. Everyone is always asking me my opinion of German food and here it is: German food almost always looks absolutely disgusting, but tastes delicious (and yes, that even goes for the sauerkraut).

Hopefully your week is as magical as mine was! Red heart


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Where Would I Be Without You, Germany?

My fears have been confirmed. At first P3281527it was a bit of a joke, that I speak German like a teenage boy, something logical to say, but still just a joke, but after going out for coffee with a female friend last Friday morning, I could tell by our speech patterns and the expressions I would use that my German has in fact been “teenage P3311535boy-afied.” This is of course very logical seeing as most of my friends are guys, and I had one brother living at home in my second family who I regularly talk to, as well as three brothers in my current family, but still. I should start in search of a new source of estrogen.

It’s still Ferien until next Thursday which means I have another full week off of school to roam around as I pleP3311538ase and enjoy the time off. Saturday was my host-brother’s (from my second family) birthday, so I stayed there for the weekend and helped out at his party. I love my current host-family but it was great to be back, my second family will always feel like blood relatives to me. We even look relatively alike!

*talking to my friends*

Me: Do you want a real kiss?

Let me explain. I’m not sure if it’s a “new language thing,” or simply an “Angie thing” because I make quite a lot of unintentional innuendo in English as well, but in German the word for pillow is “Kissen” and the word for kissing is “küssen,” so naturally asking someone if they want a “kissen” sounds strange to my “English ears.”

My friends and I have been getting together almost every day of Ferien because this is our last major break before I fly back to California, and I must say, I have trained these guys well. Smile with tongue out A lot of P4041542the English speaking exchange students have problems with everyone wanting to practice their English with them, so it’s more difficult to learn the host-language, but I made it very clear to my friends that I want to only speak German with them. Last night as we we’re all together, one was quoting an English phrase in context as another walked up mid-conversation. Because he only heard the English part, he just started yelling, “ONLY SPEAK GERMAN WITH HER!” (in German of course). He finished quoting in English and then continued in German and afterword I realized I really had to concentrate to understand when he spoke English, but once he switched back to German everything was easy again.


And while I’m here, all you native English speakers out there, be grateful English is your “mother tongue!” Not only is it helpful around the world, but you can say the “th.” It’s a bit of a joke around here! Have a great week!


Days in Germany