Monday, September 12, 2016

So College and Stuff...

Hi All!

I've just begun my FOURTH week of classes! Whoo! How fast the time goes... It's definitely been stressful at times, but now that I'm much better at planning ahead and figuring out how to pace myself while completing assignments, it's gotten a lot easier. Before, my problem was anti-procrastination. I'd set too-high goals for myself in getting work done, inevitably fail, then beat myself up over it.

For example, I'd plan to complete a 300 word German essay, an entire, complicated section of a lab report, a discussion response for seminar, and half of my calculus homework in one night. In high school, this would have been impossible, but here, I'm done with all of my classes at noon every day except Tuesday. These goals are possible with my schedule, but only if I work literally non-stop without distraction from around 1:00 until dinner, take an hour or so break for dinner, then work until like, 10:00pm. I was making myself miserable trying to get ahead as soon as possible instead of using the whole time (usually a week) I'm given to complete assignments.

Since then, I've learned how to take my time, which has led to making fewer mistakes, which has led to less stress, which has made me happier overall. I've also figured out office hours for my professors and TA's, which has been great for review and questions. People don't exaggerate the wonderfulness of office hours.

My method for studying at college was learned as a trial by fire. Take it from me: Don't procrastinate, but don't kill yourself trying to be an overachiever like I did. Be aware of due dates and check your email frequently! Things are a lot more fluid and subject to change in college: I've had two assignments extended and one completely cancelled in the space of two weeks. Also, office hours are a thing for a reason. USE THEM!! Your professors/TA's have to be there. Go build a relationship with them (rec letters!!) and get questions answered. 

I've also been working hard on my model! The Cleveland model show is November 6th and the Columbus show is in February, and after an 8 hour mega-painting marathon over this past weekend, I'm definitely within striking distance of finishing by November. Visible progress is slow, but there are many, many subtle fine tweaks I've been working on that will add up to a huge difference.

Once both the phoenix's head and this guy's arm/axe are both painted and attached, we'll be really crack-a-lackin. I'm super excited to keep improving it!

I've also discovered new music that I've been addicted to and listening to constantly. If you get a chance, I'm currently listening to Marianas Trench, and I highly recommend them if you like Fall Out Boy or Panic! at the Disco. Their entire album Ever After is pretty cool, but the songs Haven't Had Enough, Fallout, Desperate Measures, and Stutter are absolutely incredible. Also, the songs Sing Sing and Masterpiece Theatre III from their album Masterpiece Theatre are becoming co-favorites with the others. Thanks to Kayla in my suite for introducing me!

Speaking of music, I'm unfortunately not playing in any band here. I auditioned for the bands in the School of Music here, but between the fact that the music majors are so much more talented and the fact I didn't have any time to prepare my audition because of my exchange, I didn't make it.  I was completely okay with playing in the auditionless band, figuring that I'd be happy to play anywhere as long as I got the chance.

However, due to schedule conflicts as well as a completely different band atmosphere than what I'm used to (read: disorganized and too easy music), the University Band just didn't work out. I'm just going to have to try to keep playing on my own and prepare an audition for a different ensemble completely separate from the School of Music bands next semester. 

I've also been going to the both of the German discussion hours: Stammtisch on Monday hosted in the Languages Department and Kaffeestunde on Friday hosted in the German House. They're both fun, informal opportunities to practice speaking German with other fun people without any of the stress of trying to say something intelligent in German at 8am in class. I even met somebody tonight who I'm going to meet on Friday and go to the Kaffeestunde with! Later this week, I'm planning on meeting with my German major advisor and getting to know her as well. 

Completely random, but I just ordered a new bathrobe featuring multicolored llamas wearing glasses as well as some stickers to decorate my laptop with! has a great selection.!
Next post, I'm planning on doing a dorm room tour, so stay tuned!

As always, questions are always welcome :-P
Beste Grüße,
deine Megan

Sunday, August 28, 2016

New Blog

Hello Everybody! Hope your summer went well!

Gone are the days in Germany and gone are the days with Lisa, who I miss every day like a sister. I never did get around to blogging about what she and I did together in the USA, but it's saved as a draft as I type this blog post. I know I promised before that I would blog for the last three weeks of our time together, but the sheer speed at which we saw the States and the fact that I was also packing for college the entire time made it extremely difficult to find time to think straight, let alone post.

For those who can't wait and just want the overview:
July 26: Flew to the United States
July 27: Mt. Washington and the Duquesne Incline
July 28: Hanging out
July 29: Downtown Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning, Nationality Rooms
July 30: Phipps Conservatory, Ikea, shopping at Robinson and dinner at Golden Corral (American Buffet)
July 31: Dinner at my dad's house with the best BBQ in the country
August 1: Hanging out
August 2: Shopping, packing for Niagara Falls
August 3: Niagara Falls
August 4: Packing for New Jersey
August 5: Pirates game (they won!!)
August 6: Drive to New Jersey
August 7: New York City
August 8: Touring suburban New Jersey
August 9: Philadelphia Art Museum, Independence Hall
August 10/11: Washington D.C.
August 12: Driving home from New Jersey
August 13/14: Hanging out
August 15: Packing for home and buying American goodies to take home
August 16: Lisa left :-(

Believe it or not, I've already survived my first week of college! More on both college and my experience with Lisa later, though. It's almost midnight. I just wanted to let all those people who follow me know that if you'd like to jump ship, now's the time :-) Because I don't know how often I'm going to be posting because, let's be honest, college schedules are like that, the "Megan show" will be an intermittent flow of fun updates and random observations, not the earth-shattering deep cultural connections like before. And unlike my Germany posts (which were days on end rambling, sorry >_<) I'm planning on posting more often but keeping it short and sweet.

I'm going to keep the address for now, but in a few weeks, I'll probably be changing the URL to That way, any bookmarks anybody has won't be suddenly disrupted. I believe anybody set to receive email updates will continue to receive them at the new URL.

Thanks again to everybody who followed me throughout my Germany trip. It really does mean a lot to have so many interested readers! I hope you'll join me on my next adventure in college :-)

Until next post,

Monday, July 25, 2016

Goodbye Germany :-(

Grüß Gott!

So tomorrow Lisa and I continue our adventure together in the United States. Hopefully, the majority of you reading this blog will get to meet her :-) I've already said that I'm definitely going to come back and that this is the best experience that's ever happened to me, so I don't need to repeat all that in my final post from Germany. I just keep reminding myself: it's not even over yet, and I'll be back! I'm extremely excited to show my new best friend America. To wrap up Germany, here's everything I did, in short. The time's gone so quickly, even I'm having trouble keeping track of everything!

July 5th: Left for Germany
6th: Arrived, Weisswurstfrühstück and sleeping
7th: Shopping in Memmingen and Biergarten
8th: Nina's Abiball
9th: Schloss Mindelburg
10th: Bauernhofmuseum 
11th: Bodensee
12th: Hanging out, running errands in Mindelheim, Spätzle making
13th: School and Schloss Babenhausen
14th: München and Deutsches Museum
15th: Making Schnitzel, Mindelheim as a tourist ;-), Kaufbeuren Medieval Festival
16th: Color Festival
17th: Leaving for Berlin and all that nonsense
18th: Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Victory Tower, Jewish Memorial, and Madame Tussaud's
19th: Berlin Wall Memorial, Spree River tour, DDR Museum, Checkpoint Charlie
20th: Fernsehtrum, the discovery of the only Campbell's soup and stuffing in Germany at KaDeWe
21st: Trip back from Berlin
22nd: Schloss Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, the most epic thunderstorm of my life, and Lexi's arrival!!
23rd: Back to Schloss Mindelburg with Lexi and cake at the cafe there.
24th: Lexi left :-(, hanging out

And today, I helped Lisa pack and calm her nerves :-) as well as made my Swiss Chicken Casserole, which was a real hit! Everybody loved it, and I even wrote down the recipe for Susi, who thinks she can make the soup from scratch and use smashed croutons to replace the stuffing mix. I'm so happy they liked it! I was a little worried that it would be too American: too much cheese, too much sauce, too much salt, too many pre-prepared ingredients, but they all loved it. Maybe I'll start a new trend for American cooking here!

Tomorrow, we leave at 8:15 for a nearby train station, where we will take a train directly to the airport to avoid rush hour traffic. Our flight leaves at 12:30pm Germany time, gets in at 3:30pm U.S. time, then our flight from Newark to Pittsburgh leaves at 7:10pm and should get in around 8:45pm.

I'm definitely going to continue blogging about Lisa and I's adventures in America, but there's a twist. I can't promise you this, because it's hard enough for me to find time to write posts, but Lisa might also write a couple posts (in German)!

Here's the thing: I've explained now for three weeks all the fun stuff I've done here and all the differences I've experienced from a foreigner's point of view. Things as simple as the Rollladen (tough to describe, freaking awesome permanent blinds on steroids on the outside of the house) and Steckdosen (outlets) fascinate me.

I can't speak on the seemingly stupid and mundane, but intensely cool little things in America because I have no idea what they are! Reading my posts (which, rest assured, I WILL STILL BE POSTING despite their more mundane nature :-) will be reading descriptions of what we did with pictures, which is still good, but not quite as cool as the cultural aspect of our exchange, which I would be able to only marginally describe as Lisa's actually experiencing it.

I know there are German readers out there, so you might get your chance to experience America through a German perspective! However, it's going to be equally fascinating for everybody to see what Lisa thinks of the United States in her own words. Of course, she might not post anything, and I'm still going to post as well regardless of whether or not she does, but the added perspective will be awesome to say the least if it actually happens.

For those of you panicking: I CAN'T SPEAK GERMAN HOW DO I READ THESE AWESOME POSTS...(that may or may not be coming)

The beauty of the internet means that I'm either going to fiddle with the settings and try to set up a translate option within my blog, or let you do the the good old "copy-paste" into Google Translate, which works just as well. Anybody with any experience with Google Translate knows that it's crap and that it might not make very much sense sometimes, but we'll see how Google Translate mangles her German before we post, or I can attempt to write my own translation. We'll make it work somehow if we decide to do it.

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland :-( Ich komme bestimmt wieder zurrück!!
Until I see you again, Germany. I'm definitely coming back!!
Deine Megan

P.S: Fun fact...I have 40 page views from Finland, 26 in the last 24 hours alone?! That's more than you, America (24)! Also, one view from Latvia, of all places. Who are you, Latvia and Finland? I don't know anybody from either of these countries! Please leave a comment as to how you found my blog! I'm extremely curious :-) Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Berlin: Day 3, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, and Lexi!!

Hal-lo! (With a musical lilt :-)

Sei Bereit für ein langes Post! (Get ready for a long post!)

Berlin: Day 3 (July 20)

We didn't really do much today since we were all pretty exhausted, but we did manage to get to the Fernsehturm (TV Tower), which is the tallest tower in all of Europe at 1,207 feet. My ears actually popped on the elevator ride up!!

We also went to KaDeWe or Kaufhaus des Westens (Shopping Center of the West), which is so super huge, and also where I found this...

THE AMERICAN FOOD SECTION!!! All of our beloved favorites were represented...all the sugary cereals, Jello, boxed cake mix, Pop Tarts, marshmallow fluff, Reese's Cups, Coffee Mate, pancake mix, Jif, beef name it, it was probably there in some form or another. I also found this:

Remember from that earlier blog post that I was so fascinated by the fact that you can't find seemingly staple ingredients here in Germany? I found them here, and at an exorbitant price, but now I can make my Swiss Chicken Casserole!! These two together would cost, what, $3 or so in the US? 14€!! That's about $15. I was shocked, but I still bought them! Making a special American recipe for my host family, who has done so incredibly much for me, is worth whatever cost. 

Our ride home on the 21st was long as heck but uneventful. I listened to music the entire time, slept maybe only 45 minutes, and generally watched the countryside roll by. For the majority of the time, I actually brainstormed a bit for the novel I'm writing and had some really great ideas, so that's very exciting.

July 22: Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, und Lexi!

I've mentioned before that there are some incredibly beautiful things around here: the adorable, quaint, and colorful German villages (like the one I'm living in!) and the unending patchworks of idyllic farmland come quickly to mind. However, this region is also known for castles and mountains. Lots of castles all over creation and lots of mountains (the Alps) in the southernmost part of Bavaria. I've only seen a couple, but the few I have so far were fascinating and beautiful in their own right. These two, however, were magnificent. 

Susi, Lisa, and I first visited Hohenschwangau, built in the 1830's, which with its striking vibrant yellow color was quite a sight. These castles are both nestled in the mountains and within walking distance of each other, so you can see one from the other against the backdrop of the Alps. Simply amazing. 

 You can see the other castle behind me!!

The inside was also incredibly lavishly decorated, but we weren't allowed to take pictures and the ones from Google are meh after having seen them in person.

I honestly thought that there would be exponentially more tourists, but surprisingly enough, there were far, far fewer than we expected. Still, there was every language and country imaginable represented, one second Spanish, the next Russian, five minutes later Italian...but by-and-large Asian bus tour groups. Fun fact: two Chinese tourists went missing near these castles about a week or so ago and they still haven't been found. How one gets potentially fatally lost in the throngs of people around the castles and in the town underneath them without anybody noticing is a complete mystery.

The much better-known white one is Neuschwanstein, one of the most famous castles and symbols of Germany across the world. If I'm being perfectly honest, I actually liked the smaller and lesser-known Hohenschangau better. Because the royal family actually lived there, everything was completed, true-to-period, used, and extensively decorated. Neuschwanstein, in comparison, was never completed, so only a small fraction of the building is as lavish as our tour, or so we were told. Despite this, it was still unbelievable and crazy, crazy beautiful. You also couldn't take pictures inside :-(. 

 The view from out a window in the castle

Now, you're probably wondering why I don't have several hundred photos of this stunning castle's exterior up close when with every other highlight I have at least two or three. One reason is that the bridge overlooking the castle is closed for repairs, so all the best angles from afar were impossible to get to. The other reason...well, have I a story for you. I may or may not have lost my phone for about ten-ish minutes. And finding it did nothing to help with my pictures. 

(This photo contains a clue as to why I don't have any pictures... :-)

After our tour, Lisa, Susi, and I were all hungry, and on the way to the cafe in the castle, I stopped to take a bunch of beautiful pictures (Am I overusing the word beautiful? No, no, I'm not. It can never do this place justice :-) then joined Lisa and Susi in the cafe. We ordered some cake and chit-chatted and I showed them some of the photos I took. Both of their phones were dead, so I was the designated photographer. When it came time to leave, I hesitated and asked if we actually leave our dishes on the table or if there was a bin for dirty dishes and trash nearby. They said to just leave them.

We stopped in one restroom on the way out, then decided it was too busy. I had remembered that there was another restroom downstairs near the exit, and that one was much quieter. We finished and went to leave and Susi had her ticket in hand ready to scan-out and I called them over to take a couple more photos from an out-of-the-way window overlooking the mountains and Hohenschangau. When I went for my phone, I couldn't find it. I started to panic and think where I could have left it, but couldn't think straight I was so upset with myself.

Susi and I first looked in the second bathroom, while Lisa waited outside. A lady was waiting to use the restroom, and since I remembered very clearly which stall I had used, I wanted to make sure if it would be alright if I popped in and looked. I asked her in German if she spoke English, knowing that of all times, now is when my German would fail me, and she didn't seem to hear. I then asked in English, and I got a very confused no. Ooooookay, now what?

Susi tried to explain in German, which got us even more confused looks, then I tried to mime with a sprinkling of English what I needed. Finally, the stall I had used opened and she went inside, but I, still freaking out and praying that my phone was inside, ended up pushing the door open past her and looking, which got her kind of agitated. I would be if I were her! I tried my best to thank her profusely and apologize but it didn't seem to work and my phone wasn't there anyways, so we rushed back out. 

We then went to the other bathroom upstairs, the busy first one, and this time, it was nearly empty. I was almost certain I wouldn't have left it in here, but nevertheless I double-checked. By this point, I was thinking that the cafe was the most likely place I would have left it. I began to simultaneously fear the worst and hope for the best, as the cafe was very busy and the chances that somebody would have found it were high. The chances of said people turning in said phone? No idea.

Susi and I went back out on the balcony where I had taken the first beautiful photos and Lisa went into the cafe. I knew I had had my phone in the cafe, however, and I was ready to tear the place upside-down. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be seen anywhere near our table. Somebody found it. Getting shakier by the minute, Susi and I went back out into the hallway next to the cafe to look for Lisa, and she ran out with my phone! I hate to admit I nearly cried, but I nearly cried with relief. I jumped up and gave her a huge hug and literally kissed my phone.

She told me she had asked the cashier if anybody had found a phone and sure enough, there it was. Simple as that. I had left it on the table when I had hesitated to ask if we should leave the plates or find a bin for them. I'm still mad at myself, but it all could have ended much, much worse. We returned to the out-of-the-way window and I took the pictures I had wanted: ones with the rain in the distance and clouds and Hohenschwangau underneath. These pictures:

If I hadn't spotted the window and wanted to take pictures, there's no telling when I would have realized that I had lost my phone. We could have already left the ticket area with no way of getting back inside, and then what? *Shudder* I was so close to being royally screwed. 

We went outside and I wanted to take a bunch of really pretty pictures of the outside of castle Neuschwanstein. However, at that moment, the sky fell. Back to this picture...

You see that behind the left-most tower? That, my friends, is a literal wall of rain, approximately 30-45 seconds before the storm hit us.

It started pouring like nothing else I had ever experienced, practically hailing, and everybody screamed and ran for cover: the exit tunnel. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room, we we were left out in the rain. We debated what to do, and since we were already soaked, we decided to make a run for it. Now, normally, one would expect a minute or two walk to the car. Not here.

The castle sits at the top of an extremely long, steep road that takes about 15-20 minutes to walk up at a slow-medium pace. We'd have to get all the way down it, probably about 10 minutes down, then about 5ish more minutes to the car. It was raining so hard the overflowed drainage began creating raging torrents on the side of the path and we could barely see. My glasses were all but useless and the rain stung as it hit, but we were giggling like fools the entire time. I could barely see Susi behind me and Lisa in front of me, and we were practically swimming instead of running. The thunder echoed off the mountains, making it even louder and scarier, and lightning would strike nearby every couple minutes, making it more and more dangerous.

We finally reached the car, and were so wet everything squished. We only had two blankets and a few neon orange emergency/safety vests from the emergency kit in the back, so we basically stripped, donned the safety vests as shirts, sat on the blankets to try to protect the seats, and cranked the heat on the highest setting to try to get dry-ish and warmer faster. 

It was about an hour-and-a-half ride home, and we were laughing almost the entire time at the fact that we're wearing safety vests as shirts and just ran down a mountain in a blinding thunderstorm. We were the only ones who ran, probably because we were crazy to have done so. When we finally entered their neighborhood, we were planning on just wrapping ourselves with the blankets and running inside and right upstairs to change. When we pulled around the corner onto their street, however, Nina's boyfriend was over! I'm not sure who yelled "OH SHIT!!" first, Susi or Lisa :-) 

Luckily, he wasn't around, and we all ran inside giggling like fools. Thomas, who was only aware that we had been held up by rain, had no idea we had even left the castle, let alone run for it, because both Lisa and Susi's phones were dead and there was no WiFi for me to message him. Needless to say, he was a little surprised when we all ran out in safety vests and blankets soaking wet. There were a lot of jokes made about this being a "new fashion" and all in all, it was an interesting experience to say the least.

After all this excitement, there was still more to come! I finished taking a shower and changing, and then Thomas and I went to go pick up Lexi from the train station. I had to wear another pair of Susi's shoes because mine were literally wring-able they were so wet. It was still raining, so Thomas stayed under an overhang and I waited for the train on the platform clutching an umbrella and shaking with excitement.

Finally, the train came, and I couldn't find Lexi at first, but when we saw each other, we almost ran towards each other and hugged. It was absolutely fantastic. We drove back home, had dinner, watched a movie, and talked a ton. We've been speaking through email and Skype for three years and four months, and this the the first time we've ever met in person! I already couldn't be more grateful to my host family, but inviting Lexi to stay for two nights is well above and beyond anybody's expectations. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

July 23: More Lexi :-)

We slept late the next day and had the whole day together to chat and enjoy each other's company. Thomas, Susi, Lisa, Lexi and I also revisited the Mindelburg, Mindelheim's own super cool castle, with Lexi .

We got to go up in the tower this time, and I got some awesome pictures. We also got some cake at the restaurant nearby and it was all a lot of fun. Later that evening, made dinner,  chatted more, and Paulina and Sophie also came and slept over. Also fun, Lisa's grandmother had somehow found some incredibly awesome flavors of chips, so we got to try all of them while watching a funny German dating show called Take Me Out. I discovered that I absolutely LOVE Roasted Chicken Lays :-) and after sampling the rest (Sweet Thai Chili, Spice, and BBQ, which I had no interest in), I ended up being the only one eating chicken chips! 

July 24: Lexi left >_<

Too soon, Lexi had to leave. I'm already sure that I'm coming back to Germany, and she's sure that she wants to visit me in America, so hopefully, we'll see each other in whichever country again soon! Until then, we'll continue emailing and Skyping, and that'll have to do for now. 

It's sad to think that my adventure in Germany is already almost over, that tomorrow's my last full day, and that soon, emails and the occasional Skype with my host family will have to suffice. Just when I'm really becoming immersed in the language, getting to know my way around their kitchen, town, and German culture, and finally starting to get Thomas' witty jokes without translation or explanation, I feel like the rug is being ripped out from under me. 

Nevertheless, my whole life has changed as of July 5 when I left. Spending this time in Germany has only strengthened my interest in the German language and culture, and I'm absolutely without question certain that whatever I do in the future, it must require speaking/understanding German! The thought of losing this language after all the effort I've put into it is nigh unbearable.

There's nothing like the feeling of not having to think about speaking in another language. There's a certain magic in having such an important, interesting, intangible skill that nobody would ever guess at unless I told them or surprised them by playing a German song and singing along :-) It's unbelievable to me that I've spoken almost completely auf Detusch for 18 days now, and now it comes almost easily. I still, however, have a long way to go.

I'm constantly aware I'm making mistakes, but now they're easier to spot and correct. It's easier to guess at which preposition is correct and navigate the wonderful world of German compound words (with which the number of words in this language is virtually unlimited). I'm retaining more new words easier and easier every day, whereas before I needed to really think about memorizing them. I still need to improve my grammar and remember all the genders of all the nouns a bit better, but 98% of the time it doesn't seem like my mistakes do anything to impede understanding. Even this, my biggest challenge in German, is improving with listening to my host family speak and my asking how to say things properly.

It'll be weird and actually kind of upsetting to go back to speaking only English all the time. I'd rather continue to struggle a bit in German, keep making countless mistakes, and improve like crazy than return to the security of my mother tongue, especially now when it seems like such a shame to disrupt the amazing progress I'm making.

Today, for instance, Lisa and I visited her Aunt Sabine and her friend Megan (!), who both live in London. Sabine moved to the UK about 25 years ago and speaks both English and German, but Megan only speaks English. So, I spoke only a little German to Sabine because she wanted to hear how it was going, and to Lisa when she didn't know how to explain in English, and almost entirely English otherwise. Granted, we did talk for a long time, but I usually talk a lot, and my jaw doesn't normally ache! 

After so long with 90% German (in Berlin, for instance), suddenly a long conversation all in English made me realize just how differently the muscles in my mouth and face have to move to produce the sounds in German. I finally experienced for myself the difference between the German trilling "r" sound (yes, German has a trilling "r" sound, even I didn't know that before this trip :-) and the American hard "errrrr" sound and how much that affects the way words are pronounced. I realized how much tighter everything has to be spoken in English and just what big of a difference in Sprachmelodie (intonation, but literally language melody, the rhythm and meter of a language when spoken at a normal pace) there is between the two. My jaw still hurts now at 9:20pm, and that was maybe 1:00!

Despite all this, I'm sure I'll be able to maintain my German and continue to reinforce all that I've learned here at home by actually paying more attention to the gender of words by writing them down after looking them up, practicing with grammar by writing sentences with some of the new words I've learned, and other random things like reading the news in German. I move into Ohio State only three days after Lisa leaves and class begins two days later, so it's not like I'll have to wait long to be able to use my German in class either. 

That's the crazy, life-changing part I mentioned earlier. This trip and bringing Lisa back to the States with me is life-changing alone, but I realized as I was packing and cleaning my room before I left for Germany that my life will never be the "normal" it was for me ever again. I wouldn't sleep in my own bed for the next six weeks, then only three days, then not for possibly months. Three days after Lisa leaves, my whole world changes all over again with going to college. 

For most college freshmen, their lives change on move-in day. My life at home as I have known it ended the morning of July 5. Sure, I'll be living at home, but I'll be in another room and with all my stuff displaced or prepped for college, and with Lisa there, all sense of routine will be kind of different. I'm excited, though. I think being away from everything I've ever known here has prepared me for facing a completely new way of life in college, which now, doesn't seem all that far off or quite so scary.

I can honestly say that this whole experience has been the best thing that's ever happened to me. 

Liebe Grüße,
Deine Megan

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Terrible Shooting in Munich

Hello All:

It is absolutely heartbreaking that I even have to write this. I'm sure the majority of you have seen the news yesterday that a lone 18 year-old gunman opened fire at a mall in Munich. There are currently 9 dead, including children. I wanted to reassure everybody that I am safe, my host family is safe, and we were nowhere near Munich yesterday. We live about an hour away and were not affected by any of the warnings or closures affecting the city proper.

My host family is shocked and saddened that their home state of Bavaria has been the site of now two deadly attacks in the past week-and-a-half. Nothing like this has ever happened here before, and this area has been considered peaceful and safe for as long as anybody can remember. It's especially saddening considering that terrorism (or at least the threat of it) continues to find new ways to disrupt people's lives, even if they're not the ones directly affected.

The thing to remember is that though these horrible events seem to be spiraling out of control, the fact remains that the chances of my being threatened are slim to none. Statistically speaking, I'm more threatened by riding in a car. Granted, Lisa and I will be flying in a few days, but there are many security measures in place, perhaps more than typical considering the recent events. I put my full trust in the German police and government to keep myself as well as everybody I know here in Germany safe.

I was in the process of preparing a much more fun, upbeat post, but this needed to take precedence. Hopefully I'll have that fun post up later tonight.

Until then, keep all those affected and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Color Festival and Berlin: Days 1&2

Grias di! (Bavarian for hello!)

July 16th:

We left early for the Color Festival with a bunch of Lisa's friends, and Paulina, Lisa's friend Sophie's Mexican exchange student. It was a little awkward starting the dancing, and once it started, I couldn't really get that into it because I felt horribly squished the entire time. Then, I got hit square in one eye with the powder and it hurt LIKE HELL. Never again. NEVER AGAIN. The idea is whimsical and fun in theory, but in practice it just leads to horrible things (like multicolored snot, horrible eye pain, skin and hair moisture-sucking-super-damaging dryness, and lots of coughing). I do have some cool photos, though!

On Sunday the 17th, Lisa, Sophie, Paulina and I set off for Berlin. We took a bus to Munich, then another (double-decker!) bus to Berlin. The ride there was uneventful, but what was fascinating was that in just that 7.5 hour journey, I saw more solar panels and more wind turbines than in my entire life up to this point. Really cool! But that's where the cool part ends.

When we got to the bus station, we couldn't figure out how to get to the U-Bahn. When we got the the U-Bahn, we couldn't figure out which tickets. When we figured out the tickets, we couldn't find the right train. When we figured out the right train, we realized we had purchased the wrong tickets :-( That was just the beginning.

We finally got off the train at Nollendorfplatz and immediately encountered the street festival the hotel had warned us about. What we weren't warned about, however, was that it was a gay pride festival that took over the entire neighborhood. Here we are, four teenage girls carrying all sorts of luggage, clearly lost in what I would later discover is Berlin's most prominent almost 10 o'clock at night.

Nobody we asked had any clue where our hotel was, nobody had internet on their phones, and with only the streetlights and the ambient light from the festival, we couldn't read house numbers or street signs too well, so we were left with a not-too-detailed map and only a vague direction as to where we were going. What didn't help at all was that there were some *ahem* "interesting" stores that cater to the gay community here (I'll leave you to fill in the blanks), which only made the whole situation even more uncomfortable and odd.

I never felt unsafe necessarily (there were so many people around, even a few police in the area, and it's not as though we were wandering dark back alleys) but the thought of "what do I do should some strange drunk guy come up to our group" or some such other similar situation was definitely something that I found myself preparing for.

After probably 20-30 minutes of being what felt like hopelessly lost, we finally found our hotel. A man came to the door only after an agonizing minute-and-a-half where we were a little freaked out that nobody was coming, and he led us inside. My German still isn't good enough to understand everything, especially not when people mumble or speak quickly, but what little I got from the man was...I can't really put my finger on it...offputting. And not in any specific way. All I understood was the fact that THE KITCHEN ABSOLUTELY MUST REMAIN CLEAN. Okay? :-0

Now, I stress here that the man never in any way did anything wrong or untowards towards us (other than being kind of rude, as Lisa and Sophie explained later) or even gave the impression of anything sinister. However, we are taught as women to pay attention to our surroundings and be sensitive as to when something doesn't feel right, much more so than men. And a strange, gruff man leading a group of four teenage girls into a darkened hotel courtyard, then into a darkened hotel room (directly from the courtyard) and locking the secondary entrance door behind us (we couldn't feasibly get our bags up the long, steep main entrance stairs) was unsettling to say the least.

The man showed us (more so Lisa and Sophie, the only ones who could understand him) the room, then Sophie and Lisa left with him, telling me and Paulina to stay here in the room with our stuff. We didn't have our keys yet, so just leaving it unattended, even in our hotel room, wasn't really a good idea, and the building is old enough we received legit metal manual keys, meaning that the doors don't lock behind you like any other more modern hotel. I didn't understand where they were going, but I figured there was at least two of them. Nobody goes alone, right? And my fears weren't actually founded in any kind of positive action on the part of the man...but still. Creepy. If it had been daytime, I don't think I would have had any problem.

Nevertheless, I did what any easily flustered worrywort would do: I checked the rest of the room for an escape plan :-) We're on the ground floor, so the option to climb out a window into the adjacent courtyard to scream and get to the street or climbing the fence out of our own private garden into an parking lot next door could work. And, coming back to the whole prominent gayborhood part, there are plenty of open "businesses" nearby that would be open at any time of night (if you catch my drift)  in a true emergency *shudderlaugh*.

Our room secured and my emergency plan in place, I began to worry about Lisa and Sophie, who still hadn't returned. I figured if there was no screaming (the hotel is small enough that it would be hard not to hear anything) everything, everything was probably fine, but still. Our room is the last one, a complete dead end, so Paulina waited at the door and watched me as I went down the hallway towards the check-in and, once satisfied, returned when I heard their voices.

Despite the rough start, everything else has been good. It's a little hard navigating Berlin's maze of S- and U-Bahns (Street- and Underground-trains)...

But we've gotten better. Yesterday we were constantly crossing our fingers hoping that we were on the right train but today we got everywhere we wanted to go without much problem. On the 18th, we went to some of the highlights:

 Brandenburger Tor, built in 1791 as a symbol of peace by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a tribute to peace, became iconic as a symbol of Berlin, important for the role it played as central rallying point for the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

 Siegesäule (Victory Column)- built 1864. I have another spectacular photo of my favorite traveling buddies and I, probably the best single photo the entire Berlin trip so far, and I'm not allowed to post it because they're all too self-conscious about their appearances despite there being absolutely no reason  >_< They've promised me that we could take "better" photo that they all like, but knowing them, no photo will ever be good'll see :-)

Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)

 Reichstag (German Captiol Building)

Madame Tussaud's

And on the 19th we went to...

 Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial)

On a boat tour of Berlin on the River Spree...
 Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
Bundeskanzleramt (German Chancellery, essentially the equivalent "German White House", but apparently it's 10x bigger than the White House. And Angela Merkel doesn't actually live there, but she could if she wanted to :-) Thanks Wikipedia!

 DDR (GDR) Museum

Checkpoint Charlie! (And yes, that is the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie)

Tomrrow we're planning on going souvenir shopping and to the Fernsehturm (TV Tower, a really tall cool tower). It might be hard to post tomorrow, and Thursday is just traveling back to Mindelheim most of the day, hopefully nothing to write home about. I'll definitely post Friday, though! We're going to go to Schloss Neuschwanstein (A crazy beautiful big castle that inspired the one in Disney) and my penpal, Lexi, is coming from her tiny town of Stadtroda four hours away from Mindelheim to visit for a couple days! I'll let you know how it goes ;-)

Liebe Grüße (Lovely greetings,)
Deine Megan