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.



Hello, hello! Here I am with my second post from my host family here in Rheda. The last week (and a couple days) has been a whirlwind of activity while at the same time a tremendous experience so far.

Last last Saturday (the 11th) I took a train from Geisenheim (where we had the orientation camp) to Rheda, where my host family was waiting for me at the train station to pick me up. Once we got home we sat in their beautiful backyard garden, ate, relaxed, and got to know each other a little better.

About 36 hours after I first arrived here I got up for my first day of school. Somehow the day before a blood vessel in my eye popped at the local swimming pool. I was ecstatic to be going to school the first day with a slightly swollen, bright red eye. But I figured there wasn't much I could change about it (plus when I smile no one can see my eyes anyway) so I went on to school.

Fabian, my host brother who has awesome hair, and I on the first day of school. Note the apple and sandwich mama packed, and the cultural difference, like the picture with Alex in an earlier post, about when to smile in pictures.

As far as school goes, the kids are in general nice and very hospitable. I don't have any course requirements but I have tests and grades just like any other student there. I'm taking courses in philosophy, music, German, English, education, SoWi (kind of like psychology/economics), computer science, and a beginning Spanish course with the grade below me. I'm also helping teach a 10th grade English class two times a week which is turning out to be a lot of fun. My grade is going on a class trip to Barcelona at the end of September, and it's possible there will be space for me on the bus. The scholarship I'm here with allots a certain amount of money for class trips, but we'll have to see...

There's just so many topics here that I could post about, but that's about it for the overview. Feel free to comment, email, ICQ, facebook, or whatever. Just keep in mind with the comments that this is a very public blog. People of all ages on both sides of the Atlantic check in. Take it easy!


Max the Egg, part 2, and Move-in

So, for those of you who read the last post, you know that little Alex's dad turned out to be vice president of the Schloss Johanissberg winery (the winery that invented ice wines). Turns out he is also the head winemaker/Kellarmeister in their cellar. It also turns out he is one of the most hospitable people I have ever met. Wednesday night he took us on a tour of the two cellars of Schloss Johannisberg, one about 300 meters from the castle, one directly under the castle itself.

One of the most striking things about Germany is how the definition of "old" changes. The wine cellar directly under the castle is old any way you measure it. It was first constructed in the 12th century. Thanks to Drew for this picture. I'll edit this post a little bit later with more pictures.

My breath froze down there even though it was about 70 degrees outside because of the ridiculously high humidity. While we were down in the cellar we walked up to the locked up "wine library" there. The Kellarmeister explained how the wine was spared during both world wars because officers stayed in the castle and "guarded" the wine. We also saw a bottle from about 1748 or thereabouts, or, put in another way, older than our country. We also got to taste eight or nine wines. He did all of this out of the goodness of his heart after the wine store was closed with no expectation that we would buy anything. But he really did show us that the Riesling that comes from the Rheingau is some of the best wine in the world. His hopsitality was another tremendous welcome to Germany.

When I get a few more pictures I will edit this post. Other than that, all I have to say is that I moved into my host family on Saturday and started school today. I'll do an update on that sometime soon but for now it's safe to say that my host family is awesome and everyone at the school is very nice and accommodating.


Max the Egg

Max the Egg. Friday afternoon. The teachers and RAs would not tell us what this activity on our schedule even meant. We all met outside the school at two. We separated into groups of five and they explained our task. Each group got an egg with a face drawn on with a Sharpie. We had four hours to trade that egg for the most valuable and interesting items we could. My group went out to the local community soccer field and started by playing soccer with some younger kids there. Halfway through our little soccer game another group came by and they had already traded their egg for a 400€ pair of skis. My group decided there was no chance we could outdo that in terms of monetary value so we just decided to have fun with it. What we ended up with was easily my best day so far in Germany.

After explaining our contest to the kids at the soccer field, an eight-year-old (or, almost-nine-year-old, as he said) named Alex decided he would try to help us. What started with a simple game of soccer and a conversation turned into a whirlwind tour of Johannisberg (the nearby town) from the outgoing and cute Alex. As we were walking, he biked lazy circles around us on his bike and demonstrated some of his English skills ("onetwo...'leventwelvefourteenfiveteen...twentytwotwentyfour"...he seems to have a problem with threes). He took us to all of his friends' houses. I was amazed by how happy all of the Germans in Johannisberg were to let us in, make trades, and just talk to us. We even got a full tour of a house originally built in the 14th century with engravings and paintings on the wall from 1636. Realizing that this woman's house was about three times as old as our country was kind of a funny observation for me and my friends.

After four hours of running all around Johannisberg with Alex, we ended up with a giant cast iron rooster, three books about the area, a clock that also measured humidity and temperature, a hat from the World Cup 2006 (I'm wearing it in the picture), two bottles of wine (one from Alex's dad, who is vice president of the Johannisberg Castle Winery, as it turns out), four jars of home-made jelly from a sweet grandma who invited us all in, a private tour of the wine cellar at the Johannisberg Castle, and Alex, whom we brought back to the barbeque.

Leslie, Phoebe, Ben, me, Anna, with Alex in the front row. Germans don't seem to smile in pictures quite as much. Click for a bigger version.

It was just so awesome how friendly and welcoming everyone in Johannisberg was. It really made me look forward to moving in with my host family (which I do next Saturday, by the way) and really being immersed in German culture. The rest of the weekend remained awesome and we got to know and talk to lots of Germans all weekend in the restaurants and bars in the town. We've been keeping to ourselves less and less and we're becoming more and more outgoing and it's really worth it. Talking to Germans in German is very rewarding and I've already learned so much from everyone I've talked to. I hope they're learning something from me as well.

Hope everything is good by all of you. Feel free to send me an email anytime.