On the longest day of the year, our group took to the trees and conquered a local high ropes course, called here Kletterwald (literally: climbing forest). Our German friends accompanied us too, so we were an even stronger group. After getting the hang of the equipment and various obstacles, we went up high and had a great time. It was a wonderful way for students to start their free weekend with their host families!
We met our tour guide at the front of Museumsdorf in Cloppenburg, a museum of 17th and 18th century style farms. We began walking along a path until we reached the first building we would explore. It was a medium sized farm and inside was where the animals and humans would live. We learned about the daily life and hardships the people of this time went through and how they kept everything running smoothly. Next we visited a smaller farm, which was similar to the previous one, then visited a church, school, big sized farm, and windmill. They all served an important purpose for the town. As we were walking we also ran into some wildlife including geese and sheep which were very cute. After the tour we went to the playground and had a blast sliding down the slide and playing on the see-saw with some German friends we made! Lastly, we went to the bakery for some freshly baked bread… it was delicious!
After our action-packed day trip to Bremen and Bremerhaven yesterday, today we stayed home in Löningen. But home doesn’t mean ho-hum! We spent the school day attending classes, and then met at the kinotechnik museum, home to a massive collection of old movie cameras and projectors acquired by a late native of Löningen. A giant thunderstorm on the way couldn’t stop our intrepid travelers, who sheltered under a bridge troll-style until a kindly German host mom picked them up and drove them the final mile into town. Once we’d all arrived safely, our tour guide, Michael, who came all the way from Essen just for our tour, taught us about the machines and the history of motion pictures. Favorite tidbits: the German word for a flip book (the first “motion picture”) is daumenkino, which translates as “thumb cinema,” and the premiere of the 1988 blockbuster Who FramedRoger Rabbit was held in a living room in Löningen. It may be a little town, but it’s a big deal. After the Kinomuseum, the American students had fun hanging out with their German hosts for the evening. And the American teachers also had fun hanging out with their German hosts, at a very German event: spargelbuffet! It’s all asparagus everything and it was delicious. Herr Mogen sagt, “Spargel ist lecker!”
Today we went to the city of Bremen and Bremerhaven. In Bremen, we went to the market square and took a walking tour around the city. Throughout the tour, we talked through small alleyways which were truly magical; Kedar described it being transported to the magical land of Harry Potter. The soap store that my group went to was really interesting because there was a green tea scented soap bar but it also had a flowery smell that neither Katherine, Kedar, or I could identify the scent of. The moment we walked into the cathedral we visited next, I was awestruck at the sheer size and aura that the church gave off. Since it was my first time being in something like that, I was quite surprised by the holy air around it. It was a great place for internal reflection even though I didn’t do any. In Bremerhaven, the group went to a museum that detailed the lives of immigrants and emigrants. The models and way the museum was structured was incredibly detailed with life-like models and coherent story telling. I would often walk into a room and get spooked because of the hyper realistic mannequins that were in the rooms. It was actually really interesting to follow the path that immigrants and emigrants took because I would assume it was very similar to what my parents did when they immigrated to America.
On today’s trip, we went to Potsdam, a city right outside of Berlin. In Potsdam, we explored the palace of Frederick the Great with our tour guide. We learned of Frederick’s upbringing in Prussia with his abusive father who did not tolerate Frederick’s interest in music, because he wanted his son to be a warrior. However, once his father died and he took the throne, he became a great general and took over much of Germany and Poland. When he reached Germany, he built his castle right outside of Berlin, because he did not like the place already in Berlin. His palace in Potsdam is ornately decorated with busts and gold leaf in the rococo art style, and it has an immense garden behind it. In the courtyard we took many pictures with all the statues, and found Frederick’s grave. He chose to be buried right next to his dog. Sadly, we could not stay at the palace for longer, because we needed to drive back to Löningen to see our friends again.
The first morning in Berlin was a fast paced one. First, we took a bus tour of the city. We stopped at the East Side Gallery and saw some fascinating graffiti, most of which had a political message behind it, a tower where the wall used to be, and at the Alexanderplatz. After our tour, which some people fell asleep on because of lack of proper sleep the night before, we grabbed lunch and then had a scavenger hunt. I was teamed up with Rachael, Andi, and Colin. I took over as navigator since I can read a map and with that our group headed off. The hot sun beat down, and the compelling objective to be first for some ice dream kept us driven. Admittedly, I learned more about the city from that scavenger hunt than I did riding on the bus. We had two hours to complete all the goals, some of which were buy an ice cream and take a picture, or ask a German what they like about Berlin, and even find this landmark and take a picture and explain why it’s called what it is. My group managed to complete most of the tasks, resulting in us winning. After we took a break after the scavenger hunt, we went to one of the biggest department stores in Europe, the KaDeWe. It was huge! They had everything! Some people bought things, or bought stuff from the stores surrounding the mall. We had free time to get dinner, so a group of friends and I went to get pizza and salad. Rio and I then went shopping together and got some things. It was a full day of walking, and then we took the subway to get back to our hotel. Everyone’s feet were dying, their clothes drenched in sweat from the dry heat of Berlin, and yet there were still smiles on faces from passing jokes and enjoying each other’s company. Our full day in Berlin truly was an exhausting one, but one I think all of us will remember.
After a long trip from the town of Löningen, our group arrived in the city of Berlin. Germany’s capital is full of history and culture, and our bus ride to our hotel room would give us a taste of things to come. After leaving our luggage at our hotel room, our group set off for a brief walk through the city. We visited the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburger Tor, and finally the Reichstag building. After exploring the beautiful glass dome atop the Reichstag building, our group returned to our hotel room, where some found that the rustle and bustle of the city made it difficult to sleep. So ein schöner tag!
On our first day, we entered the school excited and nervous. As soon as we entered, we were welcomed by our german exchange friends. Then we introduced ourselves in front of the whole school during their version of chapel at NA. We presented what we have practiced since day one of learning german: name, age, and where you are from. Simple as that, but regardless we were all still nervous! After our introductions we toured the school and met the headmaster as well. Then we chose our classes for all of the days that we would be attending class. We then headed off to our own classes and headed home.
Thursday was the day of the bike tour! After finishing up with a regular school day, we headed off to our own homes to prepare for the bike tour. Many of us were nervous, but the Germans were even more nervous after seeing our mediocre biking skills. After the teachers assigned leader bike riders and cabooses, we set off on our journey. Not even a quarter of a mile into our trip, one student’s bike malfunctioned. However, we kept on moving. All was well until the same bike broke down again, and Herr Mogen sped back to the rescue. Then not one, but two students wiped out on the bike trail. One fell while another wiped out into a ditch. Lovely. After we barely survived, we took a break in a shaded area while we waited for another “problem” to be resolved. About twenty minutes later, it started pouring. By pouring, I mean the rain where you can barely open your eyes. We powered through the rain and eventually made it to our destination. We were rewarded with a delicious barbecue party and played games until the sun began to set.
June 9, 2019
I arrived at the airport at 10 AM on Sunday morning, greeted by the excited faces of my classmates and teachers. We said goodbye to our families and proceeded through the airport. This was the start to a very long day with very little sleep. We got on the plane to go to Charlotte, NC, expecting to leave around 12:20. However, we ended up getting delayed until about 3:00. As a result, our three hour layover turned into a sprint through the airport to make it to our next flight. The next plane ride was about 8 hours long and took us all the way to Frankfurt, Germany. We then had a 5 hour drive to Löningen, the small town where we will be attending school for the next 2 weeks. At the end of this long journey, we were happily welcomed by our exchange students who we had not seen since April!