Abi-Potter: Voll der Mord

The Graduates

 

In Germany, the school system is quite different than in the US. One of the main differences is that not everyone completes the same amount of schooling. For example, some people stop at grade 9 and then begin technical school. While others, continue to grade 13 and then study at a university. This a very basic overview of the system, it’s a bit more complicated than that. If you would like to read more about the German education system, here’s an article.

I am at a Comprehensive School (Gesamtschule). At my school, students have the option of completing their Abitur, which is a requirement for studying at a university. These students complete 13 years of school and take strenuous tests. At the end of it all, they have a celebration: Abi-Ball. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend and experience it. I thought it would be just dance type event, however I was quite wrong.

It was basically graduation, talent show and prom all together in one evening. Everyone dressed up in cocktail attire, but the “graduates” were the most dressed up out of everyone. It was neat to see the students all snazzy in their evening attire. The theme of the evening was “Abi-Potter: Voll der Mord” so it was was a Harry Potter theme. I’m not quite sure the exact translation because the literal translation doesn’t make much sense, but I’m sure it has something to do with Harry Potter. The students did a wonderful job of decorating. Of course, I didn’t understand some of the references because I haven’t read the books. However, I have seen some of the movies. I know, I am way behind the times but it just never interested me much.

There were two parts of the evening: official and unofficial. To begin, all of the students walked in and sat in their seats. Next, there were several speeches from various people mixed with some musical pieces. At the end of the official part, all the graduates received their report cards, which is basically their diploma. We had an intermission to get food and drink. The crazy part was that alcohol was being served and even the graduates were drinking alcohol. However, this is quite normal because the drinking age is much younger here. Plus, most of the graduates are between 18-20 at this point. Oh, but I did forget to mention the location…inside the school! That’s the even crazier part!

For the unofficial program, there was a movie made by the students along with some skits. This was basically the talent show portion of the evening. By this time, it was already almost midnight. My ride was leaving, so I left too. However, the real party was just getting started aka the prom portion. In true European style, the party went on till early in the morning or so I heard. The whole experience was quite unbelievable for me because it was so long and alcohol was being served. However, it was still great to celebrate the accomplishments of the students.

One of my students singing.

One of my students singing.

The students receiving their report cards/diplomas. Sorry for the poor quality!

The students receiving their report cards/diplomas. Sorry for the poor quality!

Part of the festivities!

Part of the festivities!

December in Deutschland

December was filled with lots of Christmas markets, joy, numb fingers and toes. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend Christmas time in Germany. It was quite a magical time. If you have ever visited a real German Christmas market, you know what I’m talking about. It’s almost indescribable.

Almost every city and town has their own Christmas market. Each one is unique in its own way. Some are compact and on one square of the town. Others are more spread out along the streets. Some are small and some are quite large. Some have their own unique name. Overall,  I visited about 6 or 8 different Christmas markets. Visiting christmas markets usually involve Glühwein, shopping/browsing and sometimes Currywurst or Bratwurst. I collected mugs from the different Christmas markets I visited because they were all unique. I think it will be a good keepsake for me to have when I am back in the states. If you ever get an opportunity to travel to Germany during Christmas time, you should definelty take the opportunity!

Koblenz was one of my favorites, but I think it had to do with the fact that it had snowed. The snow added a whole new depth to the atmosphere of the Christmas market. In fact, snow makes the cold so much more bearable for me. Everything is just so magical when its covered in a white blanket. According to my roommate, Mainz experienced quite a bit of snow for December. I wasn’t complaining though! I felt like a little kid each time it was snowed. It was weird seeing the same snow the next day, because that never happens when it snows in Texas. I’m aslo getting used to the numb feeling due to the cold weather. I don’t even think about it anymore.

All of the Mainzer ETAs did a secret santa gift exchange to celebrate the holidays. Its nice to have such a great network of other ETAs in the area. We all gathered on a sunday afternoon to exchange the gifts before everyone left for the holidays. We had hot chocolate, coffee, tea and lots of yummy treats!  It was lovely to have everyone together in one place. In my opinion, everyone received the perfect gift. I think everyone was happy. I am truly blessed to have such a great support system in Germany.

Here are few pictures of December in Deutschland:

Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt Glühwein Stand

Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt Glühwein Stand

At least I got a good picture of the Mainz mug!

At least I got a good picture of the Mainz mug!

Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt is much pretty at night because of all the lights!

Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt is much pretty at night because of all the lights!

One of the teachers gave me an Advent Calendar as well as an Advent Wreath. It was very nice of her!

One of the teachers gave me an Advent Calendar as well as an Advent Wreath. It was very nice of her!

First day of snow!!!!

First day of snow!!!!

Making American Chocolate Chip Cookies for my students/teachers!

Making American Chocolate Chip Cookies for my students/teachers!

The Nativity at the Mainz Christmas Market

The Nativity at the Mainz Christmas Market

Another view of the Mainz Christmas Market

Another view of the Mainz Christmas Market

Koblenz Christmas Market with Katherine and Austin

Koblenz Christmas Market with Katherine and Austin

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Such a fun picture!!

Such a fun picture!!

We had snowball fight in the  middle of the Christmas market! Such a blast!

We had snowball fight in the middle of the Christmas market! Such a blast!

Walking along the Rhein at night!

Walking along the Rhein at night!

One last picture from Koblenz Christmas Market with Austin and Katherine

One last picture from Koblenz Christmas Market with Austin and Katherine

Berlin Hall Reunion! I was able to meet up with 4 of my old residents in Koblenz (got to go twice!)

Berlin Hall Reunion! I was able to meet up with 4 of my old residents in Koblenz (got to go twice!)

Adventure to Limburg with Austin

Adventure to Limburg with Austin

Limburg Cathedral

Limburg Cathedral

Stuttgart Christmas Market had a really cool nutcracker!!

Stuttgart Christmas Market had a really cool nutcracker!!

Stuttgart Christmas Market with city hall at night

Stuttgart Christmas Market with city hall at night

Mainzer ETA Christmas Party

Mainzer ETA Christmas Party

Our little Christmas Tree

Our little Christmas Tree

Mainzer ETA Thanksgiving

With all the bustle of the holidays, I was horrible with updating this thing. Anyways, I’ve decided to at least talk about my second Thanksgiving celebration and then I will sum up my December in some way.

Enough of that, so I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving TWICE! I got to celebrate with my Mainzer Fulbright Family plus some Germans. It was truly a wonderful experience! It was a potluck, so every American was required to provide something. Maelia, one of the ETAs, was nice enough to host the event for us. Her apartment was the perfect place for our celebration! The evening was filled with lots of laughter, good food, wine and good times! I’m really thankful for the “family” I have here in the Mainz area. Also, everyone made sure I chewed my food well and didn’t have a repeat event!

Here are some pictures of the event:

Preparations for the Dinner!

Preparations for the Dinner!

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Making bread stuffing for the first time!!

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Our lovely dinner table!! so many yummy treats!!

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Heidi and Me!

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Playing charades!!

Thanksgiving Celebration #1

First, I would like to apologize about maintaining this blog. I thought I would be much better at this. Frankly, I don’t really have any excuses either. I have plenty of time to write, but sometimes I just can’t seem to find the words. Anyways, I’m attempting to catch up on everything that happened post-hospital stay, but it will be several posts!

When I first arrived in Germany, I didn’t think I would have the opporutnity to celebrate Thanksgiving. However, I was able to celebrate twice with wonderful people! Several weeks ago, I received an email asking me if I would be interested in speaking at the Soropotmist Club Thanksgiving Event in Bad Sobernheim. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share American culture with some Germans, plus it would give me something to do and not focus on not being with my family in Texas because it would be on actual Thanksgiving. Ilse, who had previously worked with Fulbright, found me through the German Fulbright Commission and they thought I would be a good fit since I studied Communication. I was so glad that Ilse contacted me about the event.  The speech would be in German, but didn’t need to be longer than 10 minutes. I was a bit nervous about giving a speech in German.

I also emailed with another club member, Aleta, who is an American that has been living in Germany for 30 years, picked me up from the train station. About 10 years ago, she started the Thanksgiving event because the club met on the 4th Thursday of every month anyways. She thought it would be a great event to raise money and share the American culture. She was an amazing woman because she actually did a similar program as me, fell in love and then just stayed here.  Aleta works hard to get the meal to be just right by giving recipes to the hotel restaurant. She even manages to get real Butterball Turkeys from the American base nearby.

On Thursday, I traveled to Bad Sobernheim with the train. Aleta picked me up from the train station. It was a bit odd because we spoke in English at first, but switched to German We drove to the venue, the BollAnt’s im Park Hotel, and it was gorgeous. Even though it was already dark, I could still see the beauty of the place. Actually, three sisters owned the hotel and were actually members of the club. The event hall was gorgeous as well. Everything was just perfect.The hotel restaurant has really high rankings, so I was excited about the meal.  Everyone was very welcoming and excited to hear from me about my Thanksgiving traditions.

After some mingling and champagne, we sat down for the official welcome from the Club President. She previewed the evening and introduced all the special guests. There was still some extra time, so my speech got moved forward, which I was glad it did. I managed to give the speech in German about my impressions of Germany so far and what Thanksgiving means to me. I didn’t think it was a very eloquent speech, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. I was relieved that it was done and I could enjoy the rest of the evening.

For the appetizer, we had a delicious spinach dip, cornbread and a yummy pumpkin soup. It was all very delicious, but the cornbread didn’t quite live up to my dad’s cornbread. The main meal was a very typical Thanksgiving meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, stuffing, cranberries and corn casserole. It was all very yummy and surprisingly quite authentic! I was so thankful for the opportunity to be part of the event and able to enjoy such a delicious meal with some amazing people.

After the meal, there was a live auction to raise money for their selected charity. It was a type of auction that I had never seen before, but it was lots of fun. There was an auctioneer and then two ladies with buckets. When the auctioneer would say start, any one could put 5 euros into the bucket. There would be someone else that is timing the whole thing for an unknown amount of time. The last person to place 5 euros in the bucket would be the winner of the prize. The prizes for the evening included: 1950s American style Christmas ornaments, a sculpture, and a gift card to the hotel spa. It was lots of fun to watch. After the auction, there was magician who provided some entertainment.

Overall, the evening was enjoyable and went late into the night. I am so happy I was able to be part of such a cool event. I met some amazing women and hope to meet them again in the future. Several of them invited me to their homes, so I hope I can take them up on that!  I couldn’t have imagined spending Thanksgiving in Germany any other way! Enjoy some pictures from the evening:

The reception hall the event took place!

The reception hall the event took place!

The table decorations

The table decorations

The un-carved turkey!!

The un-carved turkey!!

My delicious plate!

My delicious plate!

The Auctioneer!

The Auctioneer!

The buckets being filled with 5 Euros!

The buckets being filled with 5 Euros!

 

The magician!

The magician!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of me during the speech or with any of the women I met!

 

Experience with the German Healthcare System

First things first, I am okay! No need to worry about anything! I was well taken care of at the hospital! So here’s the story:

On Friday November 16th, some friends and I cooked dinner together. However, I wasn’t able to actually enjoy the dinner because something got stuck in my esophagus. It didn’t effect my breathing only my ability to swallow. Now, this had happened to me before and it only took a matter of hours before the piece of stuck meat would go away. So, I just went home and relaxed all day on Saturday. However, by saturday night it still wasn’t gone and I was starting to be concerned. I didn’t want to go the doctor. For some reason, it really scared me to deal with it all in German. My mom suddenly wanted to Skype with me and I told her what was going on and then of course I was more concerned and she made me promise to go to the doctor. So through my mentor teacher and my roommate, I figured out the place to go on Sunday morning. I also did some homework on how to say certain things. I even wrote some of them down for reference.

One of the other ETAs in Mainz, Katherine, came with me to the hospital. I was relieved to have someone with me. At this point, it was really uncomfortable and I was rather dehydrated. After finally finding the right building, we had to wait a little under 2 hours till we saw a doctor. Finally, I was able to see the doctor and I managed to describe all my symptoms in German. Actually, it surprised me that the whole appointment was completed in German, not once did the staff switch to English. Anyways, I ended up having to show the doctor what happened when I swallowed water and then he understood. He tried looking through this thing that went through my nose and down my throat but it wasn’t long enough. So, he hooked me up to an IV and then talked about the options. He said it looked like I need to have surgery to get it removed.

With my IV and all, we walked upstairs to a hospital room. They gave me some  medicine to try help relax my muscles. Then, another doctor came and said he wanted to try using this other method that wouldn’t require surgery. So we tried it, but it required sticking a thick tube up my nose and down my throat. My gag reflex kicked in and they weren’t able to do it. Within 15 mins, I was being wheeled into surgery. It was a bit crazy how fast it all happened. The last thing I remember thinking: “I can’t wait for a big glass of water!”

The first thing I saw when I woke up was a sign that said: “JA! Ich lebe noch!” (in English: “Yes! I am alive!”). It was a bit funny to read that right when you wake up from surgery. In the recovery area, I was pretty much by myself for about 30 mins while they made sure everything went well. I drifted between sleep and consciousness for a while. The nurse showed me a little container with the pieces of chicken they took out.  Finally, the nurses came to get me and wheeled me back to my room. Katherine and another ETA, Austin were there waiting for me. It was so great to see their smiling faces!

The doctors kept me overnight to make sure nothing went wrong with the surgery. Katherine was amazing and she went to my apartment to get me pajamas, toiletries and other necessities. She even attempted to contact my mom to update her on the situation. I was able to drink some hot tea and water, but they wanted to wait for a while till I ate anything. However, I finally was able to eat some vanilla pudding! It felt so great to be able to drink and eat without any problem! The doctors came to check on me and said that the chicken was far down my esophagus, almost to my stomach. Other than that, he said everything went really well!

Finally, I was able to eat dinner which consisted of yogurt and bread. It was probably best to eat soft things. After dinner, we watched “She’s the Man”, one of my favorite movies!! Austin had never seen it, so we forced him to watch it! haha Around 10 pm, Katherine and Austin left. I watched a little bit of TV and then fell asleep. Surprisingly, I wasn’t disturbed too much during the night.

In the morning, the doctor came to visit to release me. Since everything went well, he said I was able to go home. I just had to take care of some paperwork things and then I was able to go home. After being super confused for a while, I finally figured out where to go. Luckily, the lady was able to speak English and she told me everything I needed to do. I didn’t have to pay anything up front and the insurance should cover all of it. Once I was done with all the admin stuff, Katherine arrived to go home with me. We went back to my place and just relaxed all day…Austin joined us later too.

The whole experience taught me a couple of things:

  • Eat slower and chew my food carefully
  • My German isn’t as bad as I think
  • I have some amazing friends and support here
  • I’m lucky to be in a place with excellent health care

All in all, I was thankful for this experience. It was a bit tough not having my family by my side, but I still was surrounded by love and support. I’m forever grateful for Austin and Katherine. They’re my little angels in Mainz! 🙂

Its been a week and I’m feeling much better! Everything has gone well and I’m now the slowest eater! Please just keep me in your prayers that this doesn’t happen again!

Here are a few pictures from the experience:

My lovely hospital room!
Photo Credit: Austin

The chicken pieces that were in esophagus

 

My view in the morning!

 

Mainzer Oktoberfest

Once the other ETAs in Mainz learned that there would be an Oktoberfest in Mainz, we all decided that we would have to take part in the festivities. Mainz isn’t known for the greatest or biggest Oktoberfest in all of Germany, however we still thought it would be fun to check it out! Overall, it was a blast! Not nearly as big or crowded as the Oktoberfest in Munich. It still had some of its own charm! I danced a lot more at this one and sang a lot more too! There was only one tent for the whole event! I think the most surprising part was the dancing of the YMCA….so entertaining to watch Germans dance to the YMCA! Anyways, this will be a rather short post because I think pictures can tell a better story:

First beer of the day!

The Whole Tent at Oktoberfest

Myself, Austin and Katherine

Germans dancing to the YMCA

Mainzer Bier!

Dancing the night away!

 

Carrying so many beers!

 

You Never Know Who You’ll Meet in the City

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been doing lots of sleeping. The jet lag seemed to really kick my butt. I think part of that had to do with my lack of sleep. I only slept like a total of 10 hours in the last days that I was in the US, so I think that really screwed up my body. I’m just glad that I have the time to catch up and be rested before my orientation starts on Monday.

Anyways, as for my adventures in the city today: I had a lot of fun exploring. I just decided to start walking and see where I ended up. I could’ve easily planned out my adventure, but I think its much more fun to just go out and explore. Plus I’m pretty good with direction, so I wasn’t worried about getting lost. I also took a map with me just in case, but was only going to use it if I got desperate.

I love just walking and soaking up my surroundings. There are just so many different things to explore and what not. These first few days, I’m mostly just exploring to see whats out there and maybe soon I will actually go to places and what not.

As I was exploring I came upon a little square with a lovely fountain. There were lots of benches so I decided it would be a good place to sit and people watch for a while. I think this might easily become one of my spots to go and think. Its a great place for people watching too!!

A view of the square and the fountain

I decided to move so I could get a better picture of the fountain. As i finished taking pictures, this nice woman asked me to take a picture for her and her group. I kindly responded in English and she seemed happy to hear an American accent. Well of course, we started talking and come to find out she was from Fort Worth, TX. What a small world, uh?  She was with a nice couple who spoke very little English and were excited to learn that I spoke German. I later learned that this couple simply decided to buy them the special wine of the region and take them on a tour of the city. I gave them my email and I hope they email me! They seemed really sweet!

Well the couple had to leave and the two lovely ladies, Bobette and Judy,  invited me to have dinner with them in a street cafe. I thought, why not? I don’t have any other plans. It ended up being quite a lovely evening. They were interesting ladies just beginning a tour of Germany and Austria. Of course, I told them my story too and they loved the idea of Rotary Youth Exchange. I always love to promote that. Judy has a granddaughter that would love the program, or so she said. They were even gracious enough to pay for my pizza and iced tea! Thank you ladies! 🙂

Well today was a good day!! I realize I need to take some more pictures. I will finish unpacking and gathering up my stuff tonight, so tomorrow I will take some pictures of the apt and post them!

For now, I will leave you with a few other pictures from today (sadly, I didn’t get a picture with the Bobette and Judy):

Not sure what this is exactly…but its a really cool building.

One of the many churches. I didn’t go inside today, but I will!!

Found this lovely fountain as I walked home

I promise to post more pictures tomorrow! 🙂

Travel Fun

Overall, my flight to Atlanta wasn’t bad. The guy sitting next to me was nice. He was from Bandera, so we talked about some familar places and faces. He currently works for an environmental company, based out of Houston but currently on a job in Wichita, Kansas.Although, he doesn’t like traveling and has never been outside the US and has no desire to really travel.  My layover in Atlanta was short-lived…thankfully! I had just enough time to make my way to the International Terminal, grab some fruit and a Starbucks drink. I found my gate and sat down with enough time to call my mom and my dad. Then it was time to head to Frankfurt.

This flight wasn’t that bad either. I ended up sitting next to a really nice German teacher from somewhere in the South. I can’t remember where he said he was fron. He was getting back from a trip to Brazil where he was visiting his boyfriend and his family. It was nice to have someone to talk with in German. I could write about all the boring details of the flight but I think I will just bullet point the important stuff:

  • chose the pasta option for dinner, probably the safest choice. overall, it wasn’t too bad.
  • watched about half of Five Year Engagement, fell asleep.
  • Slept for about 5 hours of the flight
  • Watched an interesting TED Talk about Alone Together  I didn’t have time to start a movie.

I finally arrived at the Frankfurt Airport at about 7:45am German time. It had almost been 24 hours of traveling and it wasn’t quite done yet. I went through immigration which was easy, no questions asked. Next, I picked up my baggage, which I was dreading. I knew it was going to be miserable to carry two large suitcases plus my backpack plus my big purse all by myself. My luggage was already on the belt and they were together. I didn’t have to wait long at all. I accessed free wi-fi to let my family and friends know that I’m safe, etc.

I think every person in that airport stared at me. I was quite the spectacle though. I was wearing a dress with cowboy boots and I had a ton of luggage. I knew wearing the boots would probably result in this, but I couldn’t imagine not having my boots. Come on, Texas Forever y’all! Really though I survived, plus I think people pitied me and helped me with my luggage when getting on and off the train.

When I arrived in Mainz train station, my roommate’s friend met me to take me to the apartment. It was wonderful! She brought her friend. It was great to have the extra help with the luggage. Luckily, my apt is on the first floor. So far, i love it! its on the smaller side, but it will be perfect for me. I can’t wait to meet my roommate, she won’t be here for about 7 weeks because of internship.

Yesterday and today have been full of sleeping and figuring out the stupid internet. I’ve done a little bit of exploring and plan to do some more tomorrow! can’t wait! thats all for now!

sending lots of love to my family and friends!

The Waiting Game

Hitting the submit button on the application marked the beginning of a very long waiting game. I was happy to have finally finished one of the most difficult applications i’ve ever had to complete. The whole process helped me think about my life goals and my ultimate career choice. I also began thinking about other options…I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life if Fulbright didn’t work out. I didn’t want to apply for anything because that would mean lots of work and I really wanted the Fulbright. I thought about several options, but never acted upon anything. For the most part, I like to live my life on a day to day basis. I figured I would deal with my back up plans if it came to it. There were moments that this philosophy scared me greatly! I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, but life got busy and thats that.

During the first week of the spring semester, I received one of the greatest emails….I found out that I made it passed the first round aka the Americans liked me. I was absolutely thrilled at the news. I received two emails that day…one from the on-campus sponsor and the other from the German Fulbright Commission. I was so excited abou the opportunity. I read the email and saw that I had more paperwork to do. However, the excitement kept me from reading all the important details abou the paperwork. I saw the links for the forms and the due date, then went about my crazy schedule.

Luckily, I set a deadline for myself about a week before the forms needed to be postmarked. I was working on the forms, which by the way all the instructions were in German as well as the forms. I understand German fairly well, but it was intimidating to make sure I understood fully everything on the application. I thought I had finished everything on the application…..until the Friday morning  before the due date when I realized I needed a cover letter in German. I started to have a minor freak out. Luckily, I was able to rely on my professor as well as one of my German friends to help edit the essay. On Sunday night, I was meeting with my friend and asked him to look over the instructions to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Of course my luck would be that I missed yet another thing. I needed to have a resume in the form of an essay. Finally, it dawned on me that this was the moment the Director of Fellowships was talking about  when she told me I would have to translate my application. It was quite unfortunate that I didn’t realize this till the night before I needed to mail it. Luckily, my helped me translate my personal statement to make sure it was great. I’m so thankful for my friends help.

I gathered all the papers that needed to be mailed and addressed the manilla envelope. I remember thinking how crazy it felt to have my entire life in my hands. Once it was off in the mail, a second waiting game began. This one was much more terrifying for me. People kept asking me about my post grad plans and I didn’t quite have an answer. The people close to me kept telling me I would get it, but I had to block all of that out. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’m not saying that to brag, it just amazes me how much faith people had in me that I barely had in myself. I say it again, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for all the love and support of my family and friends.

-Amarette

PS sorry these posts are a tad long. i’m just trying to get all my thoughts and reflections written down! i won’t be offended if no one reads this part.