A Trip to Paris

This is more or less copied from my journal which I wrote on December 30th, while I was in France. For those of you reading this who don’t know, when I was in 7th and 8th grade, my family moved to a town just outside of Paris, and I went to a part French, part international school there.

Today I’m writing just to write. I’m in France, visiting the Bazins (former French teacher when I lived there) and other people who happen to be here (Krystyna and Tierney later on today) and I’m having a very nice time. It’s made me notice that the weather in Bad Kleinen is…not very good. Even though it’s grey and chilly here, there are still more hours of light than there are of darkness.
It’s sort of funny to be thrust back into this group of people, this culture. It’s so…cultivated. And interested in the continuation of cultivation. It seems to me that the people in Bad Kleinen (and surroundings) are more interested in living just to live, and are fairly happy with what they have, where as the people here are always looking for more. Not more materialistically necessarily, but more knowledge, more success on a global level rather than a local level. Almost everyone I talk to in Germany tells me how much they value their free time. Given, there’s not a WHOLE lot to do in a place the size of Bad Kleinen, but the contrast between Germany and France is interesting for me to see. Conversations here in France are about art, cooking, school, studying, etc. How to CULTIVATE yourself to become a well-rounded person who knows about a lot of different things, just for the sake of it. In Germany it’s a different story. Cultivation is important to a certain extent, but it seems to me that it comes second. Time with the family, time to yourself, and time to relax are all very important. Resting is a fairly new concept for me, so I’m glad to be forced to do it a bit, but I don’t think I can spend my whole life resting, either. A mix between cultivation and rest would be ideal. Cultivation without rest is no fun because you can’t enjoy the cultivation if you aren’t at least a little bit rested. And without cultivation, rest is, well…boring.

Katherine

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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

And that’s a good thing, although it means the usual business and excitement that comes with this time of year.

Why is it starting to feel like Christmas, you ask?

1) It’s dark outside. Like…really dark. Night time dark by four o’clock in the afternoon. It sort of makes you want to curl up on the couch with one of the cats and a big cup of tea or hot chocolate or something and watch a movie you haven’t seen before (easy to find one of those in my case…)

2) It’s cold. Not the dry kind of cold we get in Colorado. A wet, wintery kind of cold that inspires the same feeling described above. Also a kind of cold that inspired me to buy a nice warm scarf, a hat, and gloves. And I don’t consider myself to be a wearer of hats.

3) People are talking about Christmas markets all over Germany and when they start and who’s going where. Quite honestly, that’s what I’m most looking forward to about the Christmas season here. Gluhwein (warm, spiced wine), and a nice warm coat, my new scarf, gloves and hat, and a nice Christmas market. Or four. My weekends in December are already filled because my family has to show me all the good markets around here. You won’t hear any protests from me.

4) This weekend was a band practice weekend. AKA arrive on Friday, play until midnight, learn about typical German alcoholic beverages (namely Schwarze Sau, lit. translated to Black Sow, which is a mix of vodka and licorice something or other) until about 3 or 4 am, sleep until “8” (9 is when we actually got up…), practice until noon, eat lunch, practice again until 6, eat, practice until 10pm, and then learn some more about alcoholic beverages, get up again at 8, practice until noon, and then go home. My lip is less tired than one would think. What that has to to with Christmas is nothing, except for the songs we are playing. Jingle Bells. White Christmas. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Angels We Have Heard on High. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Katherine and Tenor Sax solo) Oh, and as a side note, I am also singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with fellow CBYXer Andrew Wang because we want to and we speak English, so why not. Also, to anyone who is interested, I’ve decided to get over my unreasonable fear of taking solos.

5) That was jazz band. In my other band we are also playing Christmas music, but it’s German christmas music, so I don’t know any of the songs at this point. I have a month or so to learn.

6) Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium is a big thing here. As in, I’m singing it in choir. I’d never heard it before getting here, but all the Germans know it and there are more people in the choir at this time of year just because they want to sing Weihnachtsoratorium. Who woulda thought? (P.S. ‘Weihnachten=Christmas in German)

7) Did I mention the fact that everyone is talking about Christmas? Everyone is just so excited, it’s impossible for me NOT to be. And I haven’t even experienced it yet.

Next weekend marks the beginning of the first advent. I’ll be busy doing Thanksgiving on Saturday, but as far as I can tell, something happens on every Advent. I’ll have to update on that later since I don’t know for sure at this point in time.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a very Merry Christmas 🙂

The Beginning of Fall

One impression I’ve gotten of Germany is that they like to celebrate when there’s something to celebrate. And when there’s not, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an excuse.

Last week was the beginning of Fall in a more or less official way. And, with the beginning of Fall comes a celebration called Laterne. Essentially it’s a little mini parade through the town with a brass band, the fire department, the police department and little kids with lanterns following behind. Then at the end is a bonfire and warm wine and bratwurst. If you’re in the band, you get to eat for free. If your host parents are helping out with the whole set up, you get to eat for free. I experienced both 🙂

Thursday is normally rehearsal for my brass band (the oompapa traditional German music that most Germans hate but I find fun to play anyway), but instead of rehearsal we went to a little town and played for their Laternelauf. Marching Band, German style. AKA walking in step without actually marching and with very approximately straight lines. And horn angles are not an issue. Neither is having your music memorized (good for me because I’m terrible at memorizing music as it is and Thursday was the second time I’d played it anyway).

Then Friday was the Laternelauf for Bad Kleinen. I must say, I quite enjoyed it. When we arrived at the end point, I received a Bratwurst (always delicious), and I also discovered a new German camping food (or something like that). I was handed a stick with dough wrapped around the end of it and told to go toast it over the fire, essentially like a marshmallow. I paid dearly for it with smoke in my eyes to the point that my nose was running uncontrollably and my eyes were watery, but it was delicious and worth it. Then I stood next to the bonfire for…a really long time. I don’t know exactly how long it was, but it was so warm, and…a bonfire. Colorado is much too dry for any sort of bonfire, so it was the first one I’ve really seen.  I must have been there just standing by myself for about an hour, lost in my own thoughts and feeling happy and lucky to be living in Germany for a year.

On a different topic, yesterday was a competition for the other band that I joined (namely the jazz band). I went to two rehearsals and when I asked if I could play in the competition, the director’s response was ‘Of course!!’. So I did. The music is really easy (Jazz C level or easier for those of you who know what that means), but it’s fun to play jazz again. And music is always a good way to meet people. I don’t completely understand what the deal was yesterday with the competition because somehow my band was too old to qualify for the prize, but we went and participated anyway.

A Weekend of New

Well. I am certainly no longer in Munich. My new town is called Bad Kleinen, and it’s on the Baltic Sea (or about 20 minutes from it in a car). The whole town has the same number of people in it as Cherry Creek High School, but so far I really like it.

I arrived on Saturday, which happened to be my birthday. The train ride consisted mostly of me sleeping due to the necessary pre-departure from Munich partying until 6am. I had no trouble finding my family due to the very large number of suitcases I was carrying, and we went directly home. Home is really lovely. My bedroom is bigger than the one I have in the US and the bed is VERY comfortable (although that might just be because I’ve been really tired the past couple days…)The house is right next to the forest which means there’s bad internet connection but deer come into the yard randomly. Good and bad. There are three cats which I’m happy about and some guinea pigs and a hare too. 🙂

Once I had settled in a little, I was tricked into thinking we were going out to dinner, but when we arrived at the dinner place there was a big sheet that said Happy Birthday and Welcome. So there was a party of sorts for me. There’s another girl going to the US for 10 months with YFU on September 8th so it was a co hello goodbye party for us. Lots of names but everyone was really nice and I had a really good time.

Sunday morning is pancake morning. This is a tradition I think I’ll be able to get used to. Since not much is open in the way of shops, Sunday is a long breakfast day and then a rest day. I think that’s good for my style of life. This weekend was a little different because in Wismar (the city nearest me), there was a Schwedenfest going on to celebrate (or at least recognize) the fact that the Swedes used to live here. That was a few hours of the afternoon and then back home to eat and unpack and go back to bed.

Today was my first day of school. Everyone was nicer to me than I was expecting, which is good because I wasn’t expecting them to be mean. People came with me to find the principal or dean person so I could figure out what my schedule looks like and they weren’t clicky which was really good. Today started with English class where we read an exceprt from Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, which I thought was an interesting assignment. The German teacher is in the US right now so that was two hours break where I could talk to people. Then came four hours of science. Two biology and two chemistry. Oh my goodness. I’ve never done biology in my life as it is, so today was a little…difficult. Partly because it’s in German and partly because I don’t know what a membrane is. Chemistry was a little better, but my fatigue level at the moment is quite high. Tomorrow I will be brining a dictionary with me. Random other thought that belongs in this paragraph-I’m going to Gymnasium until Christmas, so I’ll have time to get to know some people.

Perhaps a little about my family. I don’t know how the whole selection process for this Congress Bundestag Vocational Program thing works, but this family is great for me. The two oldest brothers have moved out already, but I met both of them this weekend and both seem really nice. Madita is my host sister. She’s 14 and in 9th grade. We get along really well so far. She goes to the same school as me so she showed me around today and helped me with the bus etc which was wonderful because it’s always difficult at first. Meike is my host mom. She works in a store of some sort (where I’m currently using the internet) that sells yarn and also seems to serve as a post office of sorts. It’s a good place to be if you’re me. I think I’ll probably end up helping out here after school sometimes. Robert is my dad, and I really like him as well. I’m still working on figuring out exactly what his job is but it has something to do with weapon disposal. He’s very friendly and just a nice guy. I think what I like best about my situation at the moment is that it’s fairly low stress. I’m here, but I feel like I just fit in without really needing to try. It’s really lovely. And, in case you were wondering, everyone is REALLY tall. I feel incredibly short. But that’s just if you were wondering 🙂

All in all, I’m happy. Good luck to everyone who’s just starting college! Have a good time 🙂