I am sorry that this update is so late. Everything is so busy here, and time is just flying! I have been here for over 2 months now; I got here on August 3. I can’t believe how fast time goes. Here is my updated Rotary jacket:
School consumes a large amount of my time. I have finally memorized my schedule and room numbers, and after many changes, I think I am finally satisfied with my timetable. Originally, I had chosen Math and Art as my two “majoring” subjects. But after being completely lost in Math, I switched to English as my major, and I take Math as just a regular class. English is actually a good class for me to take, because as they learn the new words in English, I learn what the Deutsch word is. A translation goes both ways. We are studying Shakespeare in English, and I am enjoying reading the plays and sonnets. Also, I quite enjoy Art class, partly because it is something I am able to do without understanding a huge amount of German, and also because Art is actually very fun. It’s been a few years since I took Art.
I have been taking German lessons at Die Insel. My lessons run twice a week. The classes are taught entirely in German, as all the people in the lessons speak different languages. There are no other English speakers in the group, but there are people from: Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Poland, The Congo, and Kazakhstan. When someone doesn’t understand something in the lesson (which is quite often), everyone teams together to give examples in simpler German. We communicate through a lot of synonyms and hand gestures. All the other members of the group are adults; no other exchange students like myself. No surprise there, as I am the only exchange student in my city and in my school.
So far we have had two orientations with the other exchange students in my district. Everyone lives within about a two-hour radius of here. There are 3 others from Canada! The whole group is filled with really amazing people from all the corners of the world :)
On the weekends I do various things. I have seen a lot of the area around here; and I have seen two castles and many fests. I have been to an open market and a ceremony to commemorate Germany’s reunification anniversary. A few weeks ago I went to Münster, and got to see a bit of the downtown area. I went to the Cino (movie theater) this week and watched “Eat, Pray, Love” in German. Although I didn’t understand any of the jokes, I did understand the main idea and I did enjoy the film. If only they spoke at about half the speed I think I could understand so much more!
As always, my German has improved. I think it gets better every day, but there is still so much I do not understand. If I focus very hard and the speaker speaks slowly, there is a good chance I will understand most of what they say, as long as they are using common language. (An example I like to give is that I can have a legitimate conversation about the weekend, but I cannot have a conversation about the biology experiment.) Some of the things I am doing to speed along the language learning process are: Deutsch lessons at Die Insel, keeping little sticky notes of common phrases all over my desk, keeping a notebook of common words I forget, conjugating verbs in the back pages of my sketch book, and working out of a nice new learning-German textbook.
Here, the meals are quite different than in Canada. For breakfast, it is typical to have brütchen (bread rolls) with spreads such as jam, or Nutella :) or with cheese (and there is not cheddar cheese here; it is all REAL cheese) and meats (such as salami!). The main meal of the day is served around 2, when Linda and I arrive home from school. This is the warm meal, and many meals are similar to what we eat in Canada. However, potatoes are served more often in Germany than in Canada. Also, often meals are different types of stews/casseroles; many different foods mixed together. The dinnertime meal is the same as the breakfast meal; but often with more types of meats and cheeses. Also, there are so many different kinds of cakes here. It is common for people to get together with friends or relatives for an afternoon of coffee and cakes. I have sampled many different types of cakes and desserts. Delicious. All in all, I really enjoy the foods here.
Here is a picture from my neighborhood: I have gotten very used to the biking; I can now bike to school in about half the time as it took me the first time, and I know my way around the city: to the bus station, the mall, the bank, my school, the supermarket, etc. For those of you who know me well, you know that is quite the feat :) Public transport is very handy here too. Buses run to several of the nearby cities, and with the train I can get almost anywhere within a few hour radius. The train leaves every hour out of Marl, so it will be very convenient if I want to go visit other towns.
On Saturday I am leaving for a two-week tour of Germany with the other exchange students of my district. I am so excited to see so much of the country! I will definitely blog a post about my trip when I return, so check back!
Well that’s all I have time for folks! If you want to know something specific about my life here in Germany, send me an e-mail or a facebook message! And if you want a postcard, send me your address!
Lots of love,