Happy New Year

I just wanted to check in very quickly to wish everyone a Happy New Year let everyone know that I had a great Christmas here. I've been traveling a lot over the break, which explains the abscence of posts. I'll be out of town for a lot of the rest of the break, but afterwards I should have some great stuff to catch up on!



Before I came to Germany, a friend of mine who used to live in Germany told me that one really nice thing about Germany is the Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) that are open for most of December.

The Christmas markets, along with many other traditions and sweets, make Advent a really nice time of year in Germany, despite the not-so-fantastic weather. Old town centers and marketplaces decorated with bright lights host residents braving the cold December nights.

I've been to four Christmas markets so far, and each one has its own flair. The Adventskrämchen in Rheda is small and family-oriented.

I walked through the one in Gütersloh, the next town over, and it seemed alright.

The Christmas market in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, was pretty big, but it seemed to lack a certain atmosphere.

The best one I've been to is the one in Wiedenbrück, called the Christkindlmarkt. It's nestled between historic buildings and takes up the entire plaza in the town center.

All kinds of stands surround the beautiful tree in the center. Our neighbors have a stand in which they sell their copper and glass artwork, there's food stands, drink stands, arts and crafts stands, clothes stands, and, of course, Glühwein stands. Glühwein (literally: glowing wine) is the staple drink of a Weinachtsmarkt. Glühwein is wine combined with spices and served hot, often mixed with liquor. It is delicious and perfect for the aforementioned cold winter nights.

This stand has absolutely delicious baked potatoes. A potato smothered in butter and cheese always hits the spot at the Weinachtsmarkt.

Along with lots of opportunities to eat, drink, and shop, there's a small stage where various oompah bands, singing groups, or brass bands play mostly Christmas music.

They also somehow managed to squeeze a carousel through the small alleys leading to the town plaza. My host parents and I decided that I'm a little too old to ride it, but it really did look like fun...

Wiedenbrück just looks nice at night during this time of year.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful December. Dress warm, don't catch a cold, and feel free to leave a comment!

PS: Do we have anything like a Christmas market in America? I've never seen one but I'm not sure if there is one somewhere.
PPS: What do you think about the new layout? Anyone have suggestions for the appearance of the blog itself or features that I should add?


German is Easy

"German is easy." Definitely a bold statement. I don't think it's true, but there are definitely some elements of the language that make it easy for English learners:

1. Spelling
Spelling in German is straightforward. No student of German has ever had to learn a rule like "i before e except after c and in words that rhyme with..."

2. Pronunciation
I find pronunciation in German much easier than in English. Read a word just like it's written and you'll pronounce it correctly almost all of the time. The main exception to this is found in French words that have been imported into German, like Portemonnaie, a kind of wallet, or Kampagne, a campaign.

3. Vocabulary words
If you can speak English, you already know a bunch of very impressive-sounding German words.

Take any abstract term, scientific term, or political philosophy, spell it just a little bit differently, pronounce it differently, and you've got a German word, and you'll sound highly educated.

the agitation = die Agitation ah-gee-tah-zee-ohn (used mainly in a political sense)

the inflation = die Inflation in-flah-zee-ohn

anti-Americanism = Antiamerikanismus an-tee-ah-mehr-ee-kahn-ihs-moos

4. English is a Germanic language
English is very closely related to German. In addition to the above vocabulary words that have been brought back over to German, there are many similar words that stem from the common ancestor of the two languages. "Tür" and "door" and "Grab" and "grave" are just a couple of examples.

For you polyglots out there, what do you think? What makes German easy for English speakers? What makes German difficult for English speakers?

Stay tuned for the coming post "German is Hard, or "deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache".



In the time leading up to my arrival in Germany, I got more and more anxious about encountering a lot of anti-Americanism here. George W. Bush, the War in Iraq, and perceived unilateralism in general have led to fairly negative American sentiment throughout Europe, with Germany appearing to be a stronghold. In Germany, the number of people holding a favorable opinion of America has fallen from 78% in 2000 to 37% in 2006.

I thought I would have to do some winning of "hearts and minds" of my own.

But since I've arrived here I've encountered less anti-Americanism than I expected. I've been met with just about nothing but hospitality. From my first experience out in German society to my arrival here in Rheda to everyone who's helped a slightly confused American understand a schedule, a system, or a tradition, my experiences have generally been positive.

That said, politically, the Germans are, in general, very critical of America and the American government, I do get called "Ami" here, but I generally don't find it offensive at all. Germans do, as referred to in an earlier post, tend to have an image of America developed through media.

But I think what the Germans do understand is that there's a difference between a government and its citizens. Although they are almost all completely opposed to George Bush, they don't take it out on me. It really seems like it's a lot easier for people of different cultures to understand each other with just simple person-to-person contact. Maybe that's why this whole exchange this could be a good idea, after all.



Before I left I told many of you that I would be going to Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Germany. I've spoken about living in Rheda in many of my posts. What's the difference?

The little hyphen there between Rheda and Wiedenbrück is a lot more controversial than it might seem.

Up until recently, Rheda and Wiedenbrück were separate towns. In fact, Rheda-Wiedenbrück's history is dwarfed by that of Rheda and Wiedenbrück. Wiedenbrück was first a town in 758 AD, while Rheda first got its rights as a town in 952.

Wiedenbrück marketplace

That means that Wiedenbrück is more than 1000 years older than the US itself. This kind of perspective is hard to keep in mind walking through the cozy little marketplace or "old town" of either Stadtteil.

Throughout the long history, a sort of rivalry developed between Rheda and Wiedenbrück. The way I understand it is: people from Rheda were typically Protestant workers while people from Wiedenbrück were typically Catholic merchants.

Through the history of Germany, and all of Europe for that matter, there was always tension between Catholics and Protestants. Religious and cultural difference are hard to differentiate from each other, but in any case, the towns became even fiercer rivals.

Fast forward to 1970. German bureaucracy wants to reorganize the district and town lines. Rheda and Wiedenbrück, longtime rivals, are now one town. First there's controversy on what to call the new town: Rheda-Wiedenbrück? Wiedenbrück-Rheda? In which town should the town hall be?

Now everything has settled down, the city hall, unfortunately the ugliest building in the town, is in Rheda, and the heated rivalry has turned to a more friendly one. Still, if you want to start an argument in a pub, at a party, or in a classroom, all you have to do is shout "Rheda is better than Wiedenbrück!" and sit back and watch.

As for me, living in Rheda, I've got to defend my adopted home town. But really, both towns have advantages and disadvantages, both are nice towns, and there are nice people in Rheda and Wiedenbrück.

But, we've got the train station and the castle in Rheda. Take THAT, Wiedenbrückers!


At the Movies

So I've only actually been to the movies a few times since I got here, twice at the smaller local theatre that plays artsier films and one at the big chain theater right next to the train station. The first time I saw a German movie about a crazy piano player in a female prison, the second time I saw Rush Hour 3 in German, and the third time I saw a French movie about the Way of St. James, a recently popular pilgrimage in Europe.

Anyway, the most interesting trip to the movies from a cross-cultural point of view was going to watch Rush Hour 3, an American movie with Jackie Chan and Cris Tucker. It was kind of eye-opening to see how America often comes across in movies.

First of all, nothing translates perfectly. That said, the types of things Chris Tucker says in Rush Hour 3 translate absolutely terribly. His German voiceover had an ever higher-pitched voice than he does, and all of the slang translates terribly.
Jackie Chan's part wasn't all that great either. The combination of the two led to a ridiculous display of two main racial groups in America. But the biggest thing I noticed is just how ridiculously America comes through in movies (in any medium, for that matter--TV, music, and magazines, as well).

But it kind of makes sense. Even within America you can get very false impressions about the way things are. I think even Americans have a false impression of Southern California or New York or the South or whatever area just based on movies. Movies essentially show exaggerated versions of stories, of stereotypes, of people, because the average isn't interesting enough.

But don't even get me started on what people see in MTV. One of my classmates always teases me with ridiculous generalizations about what he saw on MTV because he knows he can get me worked up.

It's just a little disappointing in general that some of my least favorite parts of America (bad music, fast food, and superficial pop culture) are the parts that make it over the Atlantic.


Bremen und Bremerhaven

I'm here with the promised update about my weekend. Last weekend was a 4-day weekend here and my host family and I spent a couple days on the north coast of Germany in Bremen and Bremerhaven. We visited one of my host sisters, who goes to college in Bremen.

Last weekend was the closing weekend of the Freimarkt (literally: free market) in Bremen, one of the biggest and oldest festivals in Germany. First celebrated in 1035, the Freimarkt now attracts over 4 million visitors a year. The scale of this festival is absolutely incredible. What started off as a time of year where merchants could sell their goods with fewer restrictions has turned into what is literally called a "5th season" in Bremen.

Roller coasters, a giant ferris wheel, hundreds of brilliantly-lit stands, and giant party tents light up the giant plaza next to Bremen's Central Station.

Bright lights and spinning bodies at the Freimarkt.

Ridiculously high swings. I mean, ridiculous.

The biggest portable Ferris wheel in the world.

The next day we went to the Deutsches Auswanderer Haus (German Emigrant House) in Bremerhaven. The museum portrayed the journey of European emigrants to a better life in past centuries. It was an excellent museum, so good that it won the European Museum of the Year Award this year. They recreated the port, the insides of various ships that brought emigrants to America throughout history, and the scene upon arrival in the immigration office.

They had some of the questions from the immigration test. Luckily, I passed. Hopefully America will take me back next year.

After we "made it" into the country, there were some interesting maps and figures about the two countries. Looking at a map of German settlement of the United States, it's amazing to see what an effect German immigrants have had on America. German remains the largest ancestry group in the United States, with most of German immigrants having settled in the Midwest or Northeast regions of the United States.

Overall the experience was especially powerful when I thought of my ancestors who could have been in conditions just as cramped with an outlook just as bleak just trying to make their way to a better life.


Halloween and Allerheiligen

Happy belated Halloween! I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween and a great weekend. Halloween is certainly an interesting holiday here, and is the center of a small culture clash between generations. Halloween has just come about as a holiday here (exported from the good ol' US of A) in the last decade or so. Of course the little kids have a great time dressing up and going trick-or-treating (Süßes oder Saures!), and the German youth love another reason to have a party, but many find the idea of getting candy from strangers very strange.

The day after is Allerheiligen, or All Saints' Day, which is very interesting here. Where I live, families usually take a walk to the graveyard in which their relatives are buried and place a candle on each grave of a dead relative. Everyone is out and about, and you run into a lot of people you know. It's an interesting community experience and a great way to remember the dead.

In the next several days I'll post a more detailed update of my weekend with pictures. Until then...



Last weekend (20th and 21st) I went to nearby Paderborn. I was there to help out with the interviews with the students who are applying for the Congress-Bundestag Scholarship to participate in an exchange to the United States.

I definitely got a lot out of the weekend. One of the strangest feelings was knowing that not too long ago I was on the other side of those interviews, that I had those same questions, that I wanted to be an exchange student.

I was basically there to answer any and every question the students had about life in America or being an exchange student. Talking about the best parts of an exchange, such as all of the funny little cultural differences, the new people, the challenges, and the rest of those general-and-cheesey-sounding-but-completely-true things really reaffirmed my confidence in my decision to do this exchange year.

It was also interesting to see the objects that they had to bring to represent their hometown. It's charming how each little German town has so much pride in whatever speciality or festival it's famous for. You can add that to the list of charming things about Germany: train rides, Sunday afternoon coffee and cake, the cobblestone pedestrian zones in the middle of cities, and hearing Germans try to pronounce the word "squirrel".

On top of all that, I got to see another nice city in Germany.

The cathedral in Paderborn, one of the most Catholic cities in Germany.

A fountain in the Füßgängerzone (pedestrian zone). I think it's funny that Germans who have been to America find the malls the coolest places to shop and Americans who go to Germany find the outdoor version awesome.


American Teatime

Hello and sorry for the two-week abscence (the dates in this blog are international, so the 9.10.2007 you see below isn't from September 10th). Everything is still going along just fine over here, I'm still alive, still learning, and still sharing what I can from the good ol' US of A.

A week ago Sunday two of my American friends (who are also exchange students from the same program) came over to my house for some German-style Sunday afternoon cake and tea. Many German families do this every Sunday at home or go over to a friend's house for an afternoon of tea, coffee, cake, and pleasant conversation. I think it's really charming. We added an American twist to our Kaffee and made pancakes (albeit German pancakes) and ate some of the delicious cookies from our care package.

Pouring tea and such.

Our midafternoon feast. One of the pancakes turned into a crêpe. Other than that I am beast at flipping those enormous, thin German pancakes.

Anna and Jes sipping herbal tea.

Anna looking pleased and satiated after teatime.

After that we took a walk through the city and shared our experiences so far. It's crazy to think that as of today I've been in Germany for three months. I've also got some pictures and things to say from this weekend, but I'll catch up on that a little bit later.


Keepin' on keepin' on

Just a little general update on my experience abroad:

Yesterday my Betreuer (the volunteer from the exchange program who lives in my area, each student has one) came over to check up on everything here and do an interview to make sure everything is ok. Everything is great. My host family and I get along very well and there's very good communication between us.

Today, after a pretty cold bike ride to school (looking at the weather report for Virginia is a little sad), I took a philosophy exam. Understanding and writing about Immanuel Kant and his philosophy in German is definitely a challenge, but the teacher is nice and will probably cut me a break.

I also stopped by an English class in my grade and talked about segregation, civil rights, and the current racial situation in America. It's pretty difficult to answer a question like: "Is there equality in America?"

Later in my social science/econ class, we were talking about inequality, how to measure it, and the causes of it. During the course of the class, the teacher asked who was responsible for correcting inequality when they see it. Immediately just one other student and I responded "society" while the rest of the students who responded said "the government."

I got to thinking: would "the government" have been the typical answer in America? Maybe the Germans have on average more trust in the ability of the government to fix problems. What would you (Americans, Germans, or any others) have said in this situation? Please sign your comments so that I can see who wrote them (I still don't know who wrote a comment on the Spain post (jagdgeselle?) and a comment on the Brussels/Aachen post (anonymous), so if you know, let me know).

As always, comment, email, and take it easy.


Brussels, Aachen, and more Fall Break

I've been on the road a little bit since the last entry. Mainly I didn't update at the beginning of the week because I was kind of busy being in Brussels. The trip was great, even though the weather didn't quite cooperate all the time. We took a road trip from home base in Rheda through Germany into the Netherlands and then down into Belgium all the way to Brussels. The great thing about Europe is that another country is rarely more than a car trip away.

We stayed in my host cousin Sven's apartment in Brussels. He used to work for the European Union Parliament and now he works for the EU Commision. He's also fluent in German, English, French, and Polish. He was nice enough to take us in for a few days and show us around.

First we took the typical touristy path through Brussels, bringing us to all of the most important sights in Brussels, mainly...

...a tiny statue of a peeing man, the origin and meaning of which is contested. There's apparently several legends explaining this one, but for some reason, it's a ridiculously popular landmark.

After that we went to the Atomium (picture here from Wikipedia, I couldn't get a good one myself), which was constructed for the 1958 World Fair and stayed simply because it's awesome. For you TJ kids out there, its shape is that of an iron crystal. The thing is as tall as a football field, and the shafts are filled with escalators and elevators, while the spheres are filled with displays, pictures, and a restaurant.

My host mother, father, and brother in the escalator.

Then it was on to lunch and a tour of the EU complex. It's so huge and has so many different parts for all of the different departments you can't really take a picture of it. This is a picture of just one wing of the EU building. Afterwards we went to some semblance of a "gift shop" where you could really just grab all kinds of EU pamphlets, maps, posters, etc. for free. I have a booklet smaller than my thumb that tells me (in German) what all of my human rights in the EU are.

Me in front of the Royal Palace of Belgium.

After a whirl through the King's Park, we stopped in this cozy little shop for coffee, tee, and chocolate.

The son of the mom-and-pop owners fixes up a box of chocolates wearing a white silk glove.

On the way home we stopped for an afternoon in Aachen, home to fountains, natural spas, and a beautiful cathedral, in which the remains of Charlemagne (Karl der Große, in German) lie.

The tallest stained glass windows in Germany or Europe or maybe the world. I forget. In any case, it was beautiful.

After the tour of the cathedral we went to the Schatzkammer (treasury of the cathedral). Here's me next to the bust of Charlemagne, shortly before being scolded through a loudspeaker for taking a picture. Among other things, there were body parts of saints, relics of Jesus' time (including Jesus' belt), gold chalices, paintings, sketches, and gold everything.

Outside the cathedral on the plaza...

So that's it for my slideshow-like blog posts from fall break. Life goes back to normal next Monday when I start school again. I hope all is well by all of you. As always, comments, emails, love notes, phone calls, and everything are welcome. Take it easy.


Spain, Birthday, Ferien

So quite a lot has gone on in a relatively short time since I last wrote. Where to start, where to start...

Last Saturday started with another visit to the soccer stadium in Bielefeld, this time with 14 other American exchange students. The experience in the fan block of a Bundesliga game once again did not fail to deliver. Honestly, if any of you are ever in a country that loves soccer (all of Europe and Latin America...) , I cannot recommend strongly enough picking up some cheap standing room-only tickets in the fan section of the local team and just expereriencing (and taking part in) the atmosphere and enthusiam.

After the game I had to hustle back to Gütersloh to meet up with the rest of the students from my grade level to begin our wonderful 20+ hour bus ride to Tossa de Mar, a town on the coast of Spain near Barcelona.

We arrived, got out of the bus, and were amazed by the tremendous weather. It is just beautiful there. After spending the rest of Sunday exploring the town and getting settled in, we spent Monday lounging on the beach.

Tuesday we hopped back in the bus and went to...

...Figueres, where I saw this graffiti (in English?). Catalonia, the region in which we spent the entire week, is an "autonomous community" of Spain. They speak a different language, called Catalan, that is similar to Spanish. The capital and heart of Catalonia is Barcelona. As you can see from this picture, there's always rumblings about Catalonian independence. (First someone wrote "Catalonia is Spain!", then another person added a "not", then someone painted over the "not"...and so on) In Figueres we visited the Salvador Dali museum. The man seems sometimes brilliant sometimes just plain weird, and more of the latter.

After that, we bussed over to Girona, the capital, where we wanted to visit this cathedral...

...until we found out that the entrance would cost 5 euros. No thanks!

So we walked along the outer walls of the city. This picture is taken from one of the guard towers, and the people down below are my classmates.

On Wednesday we traveled to Barcelona to sightsee, shop, and hear constant warnings from our teachers and bus driver about pickpockets, although no one came close to being robbed.

First we stopped by La Sagrada Família, a basilica which, like much of what we saw in Spain, is under construction.

We spent the next while strolling down La Rambla, a 1.2 kilometer long strip of shops, street performers, restaurants, booths, and stores. I think this street performer could juggle better than anyone in America.

The Christopher Columbus memorial. I don't think this picture accurately shows how tall this thing was...

In any case, it's pointing to America, and so am I. Hi guys!

The busy harbor in Barcelona, Spain. Some guys got together 5 Euros to get Jörn to jump in, and he did. It's not such a big deal for him though, because he just so happens to swim in such water every time he participates in a triathlon.

My 18th birthday started at midnight the next day on the beach (shortly after our class was thrown out of the room and dance floor we had rented in a nearby hotel for a dance party...we were too loud) celebrating with all the kids from my grade and continued with a whirlwind tour through Spain and France to crossing the border to Germany shortly before midnight.

After getting home at 7 the next morning and sleeping just a bit more, I had my birthday party Saturday night outside at my house here. It was beautiful outside and it was a fun evening. After cleaning up the next day, my host grandparents came over for Kaffee, the German equivalent of tea time.

We ate delicious cake, drank tea and coffee, and conversed for several hours. After that we grilled bratwurst, ate, and talked more. At the end I drank Jägermeister (German liquor) with my host grandpa, my host grandma, and my host dad as a toast to my birthday.

And now up to the present: today begins my two week fall break. This week I'm planning on relaxing and spending time with my little host cousins (the ones from a previous post) and next week I'm going to Brussels with a stop in Aachen on the way. As always, comments, questions, and discussion are welcome!


Janusz-Korczak Gesamtschule

Hello all and I'm writing today with good news! I'm leaving later today for the class trip to Barcelona, Spain. They found space for me, so I'll be able to celebrate my 18th birthday next Friday in Barcelona. Not to mention that the scholarship picks up the tab for a class trip. But before that, I'm going to Bielefeld this afternoon for another Arminia Bielefeld game. There's just such atmosphere in the stadium, I can't get enough of it. I'm also looking to go to the stadiums in Dortmund and Munich sometime this year.

Speaking of my class trip, school, and a smooth segue, I took some pictures of my school.

"Janusz-Korczak Gesamtschule : Ohne Kinder wäre Nacht"
(Janusz Korczak was a children's author, teacher, and ran an orphanage during WW2. "Ohne Kinder wäre Nacht" translates directly to "Without children would be night")

Instead of a big parking lot (or a not big enough parking lot, as the case was at my school in America), they have lots of bike racks. A bike is a lot more a means of transportation and a lot less a hobby here.

You may have noticed the word "Gesamtschule" at the end of the name of the school. I'll explain this, but first a step back with a more general look at the German secondary education system, or at least what I understand of it at this point. Those of you who know more than I do about this, please let me know if I'm mistaken.

In Germany, the secondary school system is stratified after kindergarten and four to six years (depending on the state) of elementary school. The students are then divided based on the recommendation of the teacher and move on to Gymnasium (8-9 years), for the strongest students who will complete the Abitur (end of high school test) and go on to study at a university, Realschule (6 years), for intermediate students, or Hauptschule (6 years), for students who will pursue vocational education.

A Gesamtschule is a combination of all three. Some students leave after the Abschluss in 10th grade, which is the end of mandatory education. They then pursue vocational training, internships, or work. Other students continue and work towards their Abitur and continue their studies at a university.

It's hard to describe in text and it still looks convulted in a picture. What do you think? Is it better to have specific schools to prepare students for specific paths? Or is it unfair to judge a student after elementary school? Which system do you think serves the students better?


Altstadtfest und Bevölkerungsdichte

Hello to all of you on a nice, relaxing Sunday here. This weekend was the Altstadtfest (old city festival) in Rheda, which is a lot like a county fair in America, except there's more music (modern music and oompah bands), more beer, and less flashy lights. Unfortunately, because of the moody weather in Germany, the festival wasn't as well-attended as it could have been, but it was still fun, especially by one of the live music stages.

Today I went for a bike ride to see if I could find my way to school on my own (the bike routes to school are way different than the streets). I found a good example of the difference between the population density (Bevölkerungsdichte, like in the title of the post) in Germany and America.

In Germany the landscape can go from something like...

...cows in a meadow...

...or crops in field...

...to inner city in a couple of kilometers (don't the buildings in Germany look so quaint?). Here there's not as much suburban sprawl as there is in America, at least from what I've seen. So, in Germany, it's more likely to be a densely populated city, a village, or farmland, whereas in America, there's a lot more suburban area. Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to bike to school. We'll see how that goes. Until next time...


At a Glance Comparisons: America and Germany

Hey everyone! I was just preparing something for the cultural studies class I teach and I thought it might be of interest. As always, please don't strain your eyes. Click anywhere on the picture for a bigger version.

Some of the most interesting numbers to note are the differences in size (America is 27.5 times as big as Germany) and population density (Germany is about 7.5 times as densely populated as America).

This map here compares GDPs of American states to GDPs of countries around the world. Instead of printing state names on the map, whoever made the map put names of countries with similar GDPs. Interesting for a little bit of perspective.



Hello hello! I just thought I'd stop by with another wonderful update. Recently for me it's been a lot of soccer, school, and socialization. I'm training with FSC Rheda, the local team here. The training in Germany is a little bit different and a little bit more strenuous than it is in America. I didn't have a huge soccer vocabulary when I got here but it's all coming along. At the very least I get to play good soccer with cool kids three times a week.

I was talking with one of the kids from the team about the money here, and he was telling me how hard it was when the Euro, the currency for 13 of the 27 countries in the European Union, was first introduced in 2002. Apparently you could exchange two Deutschmark for a Euro, but the prices stayed about the same. It was really hard on lots of people in the area.

Now the Euro a very strong currency, which is bad for exchange students like me. The going rate is 1 Euro to 1.36 US dollars. It's deceiving when you see a price somewhere and think it's a great deal, until you do a little bit of mental math. On top of that, Euro bills look like Monolopy money and Euro coins are really valuable, both of which I'm not used to. I think this makes me subconsciously undervalue money here. I've got to be careful...

That one little coin is worth just as much as the whole stack of coins back home.

That Monopoly money there is worth more than you think...

The only good news with money is that it's really easy to withdraw money here through Bank of America. With an account there I can withdraw Euros at any Deutsche Bank without fees. It also works with various banks in France, the UK, Mexico, Canada, etc. Really cool.

I could use a little bit of help with this last thing. I want to teach my English class some cool and funny slang phrases and words in English. I want to at least teach them some things they won't find in a textbook or a newspaper. Any ideas? School appropriate, please. Leave me a comment as soon as you've got an idea!


Settling in

So I'm settling in here more and more in Rheda. School is slowing down to a regular pace and it's becoming less and less of a strain to understand everything going on in class. I can understand more and more of songs in German that I've listened to for months. Immersing myself in the language is really helping my comprehension.

I'm now teaching three times a week at school and it's turning out to be a lot of fun. Two times a week I have an English class and once a week I teach a cultural studies class. The students seem to enjoy it and it's rewarding for me. It's also good to be able to present my view of America and the world to students who usually only experience it filtered through mass media.

Now for some pictures...

Some of Friday afternoon and Saturday morning was spent with the host cousins. They are really cute, very energetic, and a lot of fun. We played the Swedish lawn game Kubb, which is actually really popular here in Germany (shout out to Bojö).

I spent Saturday afternoon and night in Bielefeld with my host sisters and my host brother. First we went to see a Bundesliga (German professional football [soccer] league) match between Hertha Berlin and my new favorite DSC Arminia Bielefeld.

Before kickoff, everyone singing.

Bielefeld scores! 1:0. DSC Arminia Bielefeld ended up winning 2:0 and was in 2nd place at the end of the day. I hope all of us Bielefeld fans took pictures, because that won't last too long, the 30-plus game season is only just underway.

Just a map with Rheda-Wiedenbrück marked. The dark points are larger cities. Just southwest of me you can see the Ruhrgebiet, a highly industrialized area of Germany.

That's about it. As always, feel free to comment, and keep in touch.