Sonntag, 7. Dezember 2008

dear diary

yesterday was sort of my three month anniversary of being germany. i'm going to start this post with a preface-- it's been an experience. there are fabulous days and good days and bad days and mediocre days and days that are so mortifying that i'm ready to say "germany has been great, but I'm ready to head for home."

Since my very first AFS conference, I've been hearing that "three months is your turning point" and, honestly, I'm feeling a little bit like a failure, because I'm definitely still pretty not... turned. I'm probably not having the time of my life yet, but I'm trying to remember that I've only been speaking German for three months and the fact that I manage to make my way to school everyday is almost a miracle. It's really hard to forget the fact that three months is supposed to be huge and I'm still mostly lost and very confused and sort of homesick.

I've decided to put this in sort-of list form, since I can't make my points flow cohesively. Also, no numbers since I feel like this is some sort of order in my mind which makes public transportation more pressing than my ability to speak german or something.

Public Transportation i am still pretty thrilled with the public transport in my area. riding in a car is becoming pretty novel and i seem to be developing some sort of motion-sickness from being in a car, what with the gear changes and all. the train is nice. i talk to strangers on the bus, sometimes. there are two pleasing stories from this week to tell:
  • first, on thursday: i was riding to my language class on the strassenbahn and there was an old man that pressed the stop button for every stop, pressed the door open button (which you're not meant to do when the strassenbahn is in motion, since it clings annoyingly up front and distracts the driver) and then grinned maliciously at me.
  • second, yesterday: i was waiting in the bus while the bus driver talked to the other bus driver (apparently we take random breaks so that the driver can have a smoke, talk about his/her feelings, etc.). a boy with a mohawk who was decidedly anti-nazi got on (written on his trousers and everything!) and started drinking from his bottle of vodka. I looked over (in confusion/mild distaste-- I still find it really weird that people are so... blatant about alcohol poisoning) and he thrust the bottle towards me and offered some.
School is still largely frustrating. I can't understand most of being said, although I optimistically rate my understanding at about... 25%. In all of my subjects except math and politiks, chemistry, biology (when it isn't written on the board), I can understand generally what is going on. I have decided to drop French and have asked to be put in a lower-level German class so that I may learn a bit more grammar. I still can't do most of (re: almost all of) my work, and when I try to do homework, it is mostly translating and then getting frustrated and confused. I can't read most of what the teachers write on the board, so I rely on the kindness of my neighbors to copy down out of their notebooks. thankfully, i have a girl who lets me copy her notes and a lovely dictionary.

Language I feel as if I have hit a bit of stumbling block with German. I am still learning, making my index-card with my ten words of day and working in my book (i have the best grammar book ever), but I feel a bit as if I've flatlined. My language skills allow for one-on-one conversations within in my vocabulary and a pretty decent grasp on what my host parents say, but stick me in a circle or in a classroom and I'm lost. Everyday it gets a little bit better, and I understand more-- past conversations 'click' with alarming regularity. And I've started to do things like count my knitting in German. Which is weird. And then I realize I'm doing it and get excited and lose count. Nerd.

I do feel as if I'm one the cusp of some great wave of understanding-- that I will wake up one morning and understand more than I don't. It's inevitable, I suppose. I've started reading in German, which is really helping. I've also found the right level of books that I can puzzle out without the constant aid of a dictionary, which is helpful. I still am a big, fat cheater on german-- i read in english (okay, so i'm rereading books as this point, but I'd love more) and listen to music in English (although it's not my normal taste-- I've barely played a certain-celebate flower and his band since I got here) and write in English because there's no way I can explain my feelings at this stage of the game in German. I try to write a little bit in German everyday, but it comes out a lot like

"today was good. i ate bread for breakfast. i don't understand school. that is not so good..." etc.

on the plus side, my spoken english is starting to well and truly suck. i sound a little bit more like a brit everyday (side effect of the fact that almost all of the english i speak is with my teachers who were trained in the uk) and am incapable of forming long complicated sentences or following my point. The garbled English of my classmates and geography teacher is actually starting to make sense. Losing youer mother-tongue (or bits of it, at least), is a scary process. Also, when I'm not focusing, I write sentences like:

"it is frustrating both, because of i can not understand and because i am trying very hard."

Family Everyday I get a little closer to my family, and they seem to get a little bit more annoying (which is good, because they're sort of like my real family?). I'm having troubles with my host sister and I find that, occassionally, my host parents are incredibly strict. I'm sure that has something to do with the fact that I could probably not get myself out of a desperate strait (if one should arise) in German. Plus, I'm sort of on-loan, so I think they feel the pressure to send me back in one piece.

I think my host-mum is trying to break me of vegetarianism, and if that should progress, we're going to have Words. They will be funny instead of serious because I fail at German, but they will be Words anyway. My host sister is being especially nice as of late, which might be because it is almost christmas and might be because head-trauma suits her. We'll see if it continues.

Friends I'm still working on friends. I have casual German acquaintances and everyone in my class is very nice, but it's not quite the same as having a group of folks that think it's perfectly acceptable to spend a friday night watching david bowie in his various incarnations parade around in tights.

I'm getting close to another exchange student from the US, so hopefully that friendship will continue to blossom. I'm also hoping that my chums from school and I get closer-- I'm still sort of novel (and an asset in English classes), but it's mostly because I fail at speaking German and they think it's cute, not because we're friends. I think.

Drinking I think at some point I may have to accept the fact that I am not made to be a drinker. I do not like beer. I think wine tastes largely like paint stripper, although it is redeemed by the fact that if I can manage to drink enough of it (about half a glass, if anyone is wondering), the world gets all pleasing and warm. I do enjoy champagne, but that is largely because of the bubbles and only partly because it is acceptable to drink it in a tumbler as one would scotch. It tastes disgusting and makes me giggle because of the bubbles and man does it burn coming out of your nose. Again, though, if I can get enough of it down, the world is a bit lovelier looking around the edges.

Home I still miss the folks at home. I'm not in contact as much, but it's still hard, especially with the upcoming holidays. Being sick without my mother was terrifying, even though my host mum was a sweetheart. I have faith that this will get better.

An Impassioned Rant about the American Dream is forthcoming. At this stage it's a bit too impassioned, so I need to calm it down a bit.

Pre-emptive PS: "Margot", I swear to God that I've been working on this post for a few days. It's not really a direct copy of yours.

Also, more later about Christmas and Nikolaus.


1 Kommentar:

Lizzie hat gesagt…

hey hon, i was an exchange student to germany a few years ago and just wanted to say it's completely normal to feel all this!

everything you wrote - i completely identify with. and that's coming from a person who had already lived in a bunch of different countries and felt exactly like you do now, so considering you'd never lived overseas and hadn't learned german, you're doing even better than I did! when i read it i wanted to give you a hug and say congrats, cos you're doing really well.

the 3 month thing... i think this is the point where things pick up, it became more like a roller coaster ride for me, the highs were thrilling, the lows were worse than i expected, there were problems and fantastic times, your language skills are gonna take flight, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time, you're gonna look back and marvel at it all afterwards. enjoy