It was my last Tuesday in Germany, and the time for my going away party in school had finally come. I was so excited to finally bake some vegan cake/pie for my entire class, that my friend from Japan and I had gone as far as to make a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake) and an apple crumble pie. The morning of our party came, and as the two of us were leaving for school (a bit late) I realized that neither dessert would fit into the basket of my bicycle. I had imagined this idyllic situation with both goods perfectly situated in the basket, but instead, we had to place the apple pie on an angle, and I carried the Torte on my left hand.
For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to listen to music and carry my friend's bicycle lock in addition to what I was already transporting. As you can imagine, this didn't end well for anyone. About half way to school, I tried to switch the song I was listening to and in doing so, I momentarily had no hands on the handle bars. In this moment, the cake threw off my balance a bit, and I swerved into a brick wall next to me. I flew over the handlebars along with the cake and pie with everything ending up smashed onto someone's lawn.
The pie was completely in pieces, and I will always remember how my friend futilely tried to pick up all of the crumbled pieces and reassemble it in the pan. Thankfully, the carrying case for the cake held it together, even though it got completely smashed to one side.
Not only was it smashed, but we realized that someone had somehow added 2 cups of vinegar instead of one tablespoon to the cake batter, so it didn't even taste as delicious as I had hoped.
This apple pie recipe comes from the neighbors of my friend in Bern, Switzerland. Vielen dank nochmal, es ist immer noch ein mega Hit :)
Prep time: 15 min.
As you read this, I have just said goodbye to my host family, and an entire life of mine, and gotten into the ICE Train 579 to Frankfurt. This train will bring me away from all my new friends, and back to a series of plane and car connections resulting in a return journey to Pittsburgh.
I am happy to have the chance to see my fellow exchange students again, but on the other hand I just want to go straight home. I feel so at home here in Hamburg and it will be hard enough to leave, and then seeing and saying goodbye to even more people will just make things harder.
Thankfully though, I have gotten to say these goodbyes in German. That means instead of saying goodbye, I've said auf wiedersehen, which literally translates as until we see each other again. Thus, I haven't really said farewell, but rather see you soon.
On the upside, these moments provide lots of opportunities for testing out the limits of positivity. I am usually described as a positive person, but I do also somehow enjoy or at least feel it's acceptable to be sad when the situation warrants the emotion. There are however, some people who would say that you have complete control over your emotions, and that the only thing making me sad is myself. This is an interesting theory, and I am testing is as much as I can. I think however that there is a thin line and it is important to realize the significance of crying. I am not by any means against crying, or being sad I just think there are some times it is a fitting reaction, such as when saying goodbye, and some times where it is not worth getting worked up over, like when you are stuck in traffic. I still am not exactly sure how to word this correctly, so if you are interested in the topic, check out tynan's blog as he has wrote a lot to the topic recently.
This last week was definitely one of if not the absolute best week of my exchange. I was on a school trip the whole week in Schloss Noer on the Baltic Sea. It was a band trip, so the 95 students from my school (from Grades 5-11) were split into bands, and spent the entire week playing music instead of normal school classes. This led to us preparing two songs to play on Saturday at a concert in the School's Cafeteria/Auditorium.
The most special part of the trip however, was having the opportunity to spend a week living in a youth hostel with some of my best friends. Ever since reading about a French Class Ski Trip in the Aps back in 4th grade, I have wanted to go on a school trip, and I finally got the chance.
While some educators might try to write off such a trip as being a waste of precious school time, I don't think the educational value of such a trip could ever be matched in a classroom setting. First of all, the intensity is much higher, and thus, one can accomplish much more in a shorter time span. Secondly, the social time with friends which lead to good memories later on in life can help to inspire a lifelong love of music and the arts, or more importantly, learning in general. An everlasting passion for such things is invaluable and one of if not the single most significant contribution to an education.
Even after being here for almost 10 months now, I got to know so many new students from my school and made, or solidified some of my closest friendships of the year. This just goes to show how much a single shared interest can breed a friendship.
One of the most common questions I receive is "What is school like in Germany?". This post will attempt to answer that question in as much detail as possible. Because this will be a longer post, here is a table of contents so you can find the section that most interests you first:
1. First, let's start with my schedule:
To understand the schedule, it is helpful to know that in between two periods there is a five minute break, and after two periods, a twenty minute break. On days when we have lunch, I have an hour break. The second name in a block is always the German name.
Nathan Vislosky, one of my oldest and closest friends earned the honorable opportunity to play in the Federation International Roller Sports (FIRS) Inline World Championships, or Junior Olympics. He flew to Italy and played all last week. I joined him yesterday to celebrate by spending some time vacationing throughout Northern Italy.
I figured he could explain what went on at this multicultural sporting event much better than I could, so we sat down and had a short interview.
Noah: How did you qualify to play on Team USA?
Nathan: I qualified through the tryout process of being scouted out and then sending in video of my play for the coaching staff and Olympic Committee to review.
As my time in Germany sadly comes to an end, I thought it might be interesting to talk about some aspects of German Culture different from those of US Culture.
One aspect that I found intriguing was the perspective on sports, and staying active. Before you can understand this topic, it is important to know that in Germany, Sports and other Extracurricular Activities are not parts of school, but instead clubs that take place completely separate from Gymnasium.
Now, the main difference in Sports has to do with practices. In the US, most sports have practice five to six times a week, and if you miss a practice, your coach usually wants to know why you weren't there if he even allows you to miss in the first place. In Germany, it is a bit more relaxed, with most sports having practice only two times a week, and a majority of the coaches are lot less strict on missing practices.
At the beginning of the year, I wondered how anyone could possibly improve at a reasonable rate with so few practices. In the US, I run cross-country and it is absolutely critical that we get in our daily run if we wish to be competitive.
For the past 6 months I have been taking dance lessons. Dance Class for most men in the US is often viewed as anywhere from ridiculous, to subtly acceptable as wedding preparation. Here in Hamburg however, it is not only widely accepted, but seen as a right of passage for both boys and girls.
As such, I have class once a week with my host sister, our friend/her dance partner, and my dance partner where we learn (starting with the basics) a multitude of dance types from discofox to Viennese Waltz and even some Salsa moves. This weekend, we missed dance class so my friend and I tried to go to the Monday class. Our dance partners were both busy, so we went hoping there would be a few more girls than guys, as often occurs.
To our bad luck, we got there a few minutes late and everyone was already dancing with a partner. Usually, we would just wait and switch in, but there were already two other boys waiting and we decided to spend our time elsewhere.
At first, I was a bit sad, as I was very much looking forward to one of my last dance lessons, but then my friend suggested we play tennis instead. Not going to lie, my tennis skills (if you can even call them that) leave much to be desired, but I hadn't played in a year and was really excited to get back on a court.
Letzte Woche, habe ich die Gelegenheit gehabt, ein Praktikum bei meinem Bundestagsabgeordneter im Büro zu machen. Während dieser Woche, habe ich den folgenden Bericht geschrieben, um ihn mit allen in Altona zu teilen:
„Nichts hat mich so verändert wie mein Austauschjahr in Altona“
In den letzten Jahren hat mich keine Sache so verändert wie mein Austauschjahr mit einem Stipendium des Parlamentarisches Patenschafts-Programm (PPP). Als ich erst in Deutschland ankam, dachte ich, dass ich dieses Land schon kannte. Aber was man im Urlaub erfährt, ist etwas ganz anderes, als die Erlebnisse, die man während eines Auslandsjahres erfährt.