I'm really sorry that it's taking me so long to blog. These past two months have been full of ups and downs and it has often been stressful and exhausting. Even though it's hard, I really love it here.
I have a really awesome host family who are very kind and patient with me. I have a small pale yellow room on the first floor with a view of the garden and the windmills in the distance (in the morning the sun rises over them and it's really beautiful). We have a lot of family who live nearby and we visit them often. I particularly enjoy this because I don't see my relatives at home very often. I especially like visits with Oma and Opa because that means super yummy Kuchen (cakes), or even better Oma's specialty sweet dumplings with a cherry sauce, and I really enjoy their company. With Oma we always play Rummy, her favorite card game, and when she comes to visit us while Mama is working, we play Ping-Pong in the Greenhouse. Opa enjoys talking to me about various things and telling me about his favorite hobby- hang-gliding. Opa wants to make his English better so he speaks in English to me, while I respond in German. Normally I'm very obstinate about everyone always or at least almost always speaking German to me, but I decided it was okay for Opa to speak English with me because he seems to really enjoy it.
Right now everyone is getting ready for Christmas and we had our first snow a couple of days ago. Life here has only just begun to feel totally normal and natural. Always hearing and speaking German also feels totally normal, except, that is, when there is an English speaker being interviewed on the News or when the news shows Obama speaking, and dub it over. For some reason I'm always confused at first when they do this- why would the news station dub over something I understand?! But then I realize who yeah- that's english and I'm in Germany where they don't speak English... Once I realize that and get over the fact that they are dubbing something I can perfectly understand, then I'm actually able to understand the dubbed voice, which is pretty cool. I've made lot's of progress with learning German. I've now been journaling almost entirely in German and earlier this week I finished my first book in German. It's technically a Manga- so it's not very hard to read, but hey it's progress! I had bought the book in Celle because I had read some earlier books in the series (the series is called Fruits Basket in case anyone's wondering) and I thought it would be helpful to read a book with a lot of visual aid :) . It was really cool because when I first began the book I was living in Habighorst, and it was really slow reading because I would have to look up pretty much every other word, so I stopped reading it until a few weeks after arriving in Papendorf. I then discovered that my German had become good enough to be able to read up to five pages and understand enough that I didn't need to look up any words! I've now begun to read Coraline, which is quite a bit harder (12 and up) and so far that's going well. I'm also very proud to say that I can understand a lot in movies and without subtitles!!
I go to a cool school where everyone walks around in socks and it often reminds me of Casco Bay. The teachers are nice and even though I don't understand a lot of what the teacher says to the class, with some explaining I'm usually able to do the classwork and home-work. My classes include History, English, French, Philosophy, Gym, Music, German, Calculas, Physics, and a free block everyday, which I use for reading and doing homework. I find the concentration and effort that is required to pay attention and try to understand in school, often difficult to mantain- it's exhausting to have to focus so much! I've also had difficulty in making friends because right now, it's hard for me to participate in conversations. I understand about half of the conversations I hear, but even when I understand, I often can't think of anything to say. Even though I don't have anyone I consider to be real friends, I do have people that I hang out with at school and I'm going to see the new Harry Potter movie with a group of them. I know I will have friends- it just takes time to build real relationships and it takes time to learn a new language and understand a new culture. Right now is the hardest part of the exchange- I have to put effort into every aspect of my life- making friends, building relationships, learning the language, and often just trying to understand. I am often sad, confused, discouraged, but I am also often truly happy and content. So, we'll see where it all goes and I'm going to keep putting everything I have into this because I want to make the most out of being here.