Monday, September 13, 2010

Ich bin eine Austaushulerin

The end of sommer was great. For my last weekend in Altmuenster I walked with another exchange student (from Canada) to the neighboring town, Gmuenden, where there was a pottery fair. All of the crafts were very unique and beautiful, and we were able to take many more pictures (despite the bad weather) of the lake/shore. We searched for a Mcdonalds but settled for a traditional snack of Wuerstel with Sauerkraut and Semmel from an Imbisstand (like a food stand you would see at the state fair). When it was time to turn around we got icecream to eat while enjoying the scenery and I chose the flavor smurph. I'm still not sure what it was supposed to taste like. But the next day I returned home on the train to Vienna and spent the week meeting up with some other exchange students that are also staying in Vienna or just exploring the town. However the night I got back my host mother brought me along to a dinner on the Danube. That night I also met my host brother for the first time and we have been pretty good siblings ever since. For my last summer trip I went to the Schoenbrunn Castle with another girl from France. To say the least it was amazing. We toured the gardens (and attempted a labyrinth1), which still have pristenely kept flowers and shrubs around historical walkways, fountains and statues. We were then able to tour inside with audio guides that told us a lot about the legendary Sisi who had ankle length hair, and Maria Teresa (mother of Marie Antoinette i believe). But nonetheless this castle is also where Marie Antoinette grew up, and countless other famous monarchs lives, including Naploean Bonaparte I. Walking through all of the rooms that they used to live in was definatly very surreal. We finished the day with pizza and a little walking around Steffansplatz.

Finally Monday came and for the first day of school my host mother rode the U-bahn with me and helped me find my teacher and class (6B). At first it was intimidating, but then I learned the phrase 'Ich bin eine Austaushulerin' and I was able to explain my presence and my slightly sloppy german. Plus it gets me a lot of help sometimes! But that phrase has really been the theme of the week. The friends/aquiantances that I have made so far enjoy asking me questions about the U.S. and how I like Vienna; and the teachers always begin by aksing how much German I know or where I come from. So everything is new but I am also settling in.

School here is a lot different. Most of the time the teachers change classrooms, not the students, and I have a lot more free time. So lots of times school ends and noon or one so I go with some other girls in my class to a place called Happy Noodles for delicious fried food. For the first  week I had no idea what some classes were, and whenever we play games it is really humorous because I generally have no idea what to do. Especially in gym class when everyone starts running and balls are flying and I just have to stop and watch for about five minutes to figure out whats going on. However I really do think my german is improving just from hearing and speaking it all day, everyday.

The Sunday after my first week of school my host family and I had (what I like to think of it as) a little celebration for a successful first week of school with Wiener-Schnitzel, potatoe salad (much different from the kind you find at Minnesotan potlucks and Lutheren gatherings!), salad with Kaerne-Oeil (pumpkins seed oil and regular mixed togeter, my host-brother makes it and its unbelievably good!), and finally Himbeer-Traum (direct translation Raspberry-Tree) which was Raspberries, whipped cream, and shortbread cookies soaked in Raspberry sauce, then all stacked togeter like a torte. Everything tasteed simply wonderful. And I got to help make it, so a little cultural experience thrown in there too!

And now I have entered week two of school, but this weekend I will be seeing all of the other exchange students again while we hike in the mountains! Better bring my guitar and clothes fashioned from curtains!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back from language camp, and summer is coming to a close

I got to language camp via another exchange student's host parents. It took about two hours to get there, and the whole way we were able to admire the beautiful scenery. Our destination was Altmuenster, a small village. However when we arrived nobody knew where the language camp was, but thankfully after a phone call and a very convienient sign left by rotary, we made it the the correct school that housed us.

When we entered the building we were immediatly told to put our luggage in our rooms and then we met in a common area where we were told to wait to be interviewed (in German) to determine our knowledge level of the language. Gradually all 63 students trickeled in and we began to ask each other the basic questions of 'where are you from', 'where are you living in Austria', and then the conversations spun off into airport tradgedies, horrors, and joys.

Before dinner we had a short orientation, then we had free time until our cerfew at ten. Most kids went into town to explore (I being one of them) and along the way we saw a fantastic castle (yes, an actual castle) that loomed over the hillside. Beyond this was a massive lake, called the Traunsee (the deepest lake in Austria), that had a beautiful mountain just behind it that screamed 'Maria!' and 'Lederhosen!'. The small town had public docks so we could swim and many cafes and backery's for us to hang out at after classes.

Class started at 8:00 and ended at 3:00, with ten minuten breaks every hour (during which I became an excellent fussball player) and lunch inbetween. I was placed in the advanced class (there were three levels, beginners, intermediate, and advanced) because of my three previous years of German in school.

 Almost everyday I took off for the lake with several other of the exchange students, even when it was rainy and overcast out. The water was, of course, freezing, but it only made it all the more fun to push someone off the doch whilst they were unawares.

The first day of camp was also my seventeenth birthday. In the morning all of the students from South America greeted me with a song (I assumed it was happy birthday) in their language (I'm really not sure which one it was) and then proceeded to give me several hugs and nutella. After classes that day I was invited by the three french students (whom I became very good friends with) and a girl from Chicago to a cafe in Altmuenster. We ordered ice cream and I saw one of the french girls leave the table and speak with the waiter. I asked what she had said but she told me it was nothing. However, when the ice cream was served mine arrived with a grapefruit, pleasantly cut and arranged in a wine-glass like bowl with a candle sticking out of it and a happy-birthday song to accompany it. Later that night my birthday was again acknowledged by the wonderful Ingrid Zeller (who works with rotary) who gave me a cake and a gift of memo-notes (they don't have post-it-notes here) with wallace-and-gromit looking characters on it. I also recieved another gift from the people that I went to Altmuenster with that day, which was two braclets. One red and yellow and the other green with beads that look like strawberries. I thought it was very sweet of everyone to celebrate my birthday with me, and my cake was simply delicious. It was similar to a chocolate moose with strawberries on top. But, of course, it was gone in a whirlwind of plates and forks.

The first week was slow, but during the weekend we hiked up and down a mountain (Saturday) with all of the students from Austria who had been on exchanges previous years. The scenery was of course gorgeous, as if it were straight out of a movie. On Sunday we went to another excursion to Hallstatt where we were able to tour an ancient salt mine. For thousands of years it was in use and now it is an archeological site where they find humans, animals, and other artifacts preserved in the salt. It was very hot and humid outsided that day but the mine was like an icebox, so we were required to where either a red, blue, or green suit (depending on size i think). We all walked far into the mine and waited in a room (groups rotated for the tour) where we listened to a brief history of the mine and the people who survived off of it. On the actual tour we had to wear yellow helmets with lights on top, so of course we broke out in 'Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work we go' from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. We even had to walk in a single-file line! We were able to enjoy some more scenery because we walked down the mountain (we took a lift up) and at the bottom there was a small town that we got to spend a few hours in.

The next week went much faster and on the last night we put on a talent show, in which Thriller was performed. My class presented a skit in German, based of off a fairytale called the Hexa Baba Yaga. We had an extended cerfew that night so we spent it out in Altmuenster at the few places that were open. The next morning was filed with goodbyes, but we will be seeing each other in about three weeks at the next rotary event. I took the train home with some other students and was back in Vienna around noon on the 29th. School starts on Monday, so I have just been at the apartment or out with the other students in Vienna. But I have just become to realize that I REALLY do live right downtown, and I am beginning to love the city more and more.