Authored by:
Asha R.

What month is it? October? I'm confused because stores started putting out Christmas displays in late September. Yes, you read right. September. I think the reason for this is that Germany doesn't have any major commercial holidays that they decorate for between summer and Christmas, like the US has Halloween and Thanksgiving. Tag der Deutschen Einheit (the German day of reunification after the Berlin Wall was tore down and Germany was reunited) is a German holiday observed on October 3rd, but people don't do anything special or decorate for it. For this reason, stores think it's acceptable to start ushering in Christmas in late September. 

What I will be seeing in every store from now until 2017. 

Learning new games in German is a challenge. Luckily I'd already played Clue in English, so it didn't take me nearly as long to learn how to play Cluedo. So far I've played Quixx, 6 Nimmt, Mau Mau, and Cluedo. As you can see, Harry Potter has helped bridge the cultural gap between my host sisters and me.

My host sister, host father, and me took a convertible ride to Jülich for ice cream. It's never to cold for ice cream!

Ein Kugel Himbeereis (scoop of raspberry ice cream). 

I took advantage of the last few nice days of weather to go on bike rides. I've biked to Bedburg and to Kirchherten, the next village over. Both are about 4 km away. Luckily there's a bike path so I don't have to be worried about traffic, even though Germans are so much more respectful of bike lanes than Americans.

Mein Fahrrad! 

To start off the Herbst Ferien (the fall school vacation), my host family took a trip to Oberhausen to see an exhibit called "Wunder der Natur" (Wonder of Nature). Although most of the visitors were native German speakers, the information boards were written in both English and German. This made my experience a lot more enjoyable, because I could fully understand the stories behind the photos. The exhibit was set up in a super tall (118 m), circular building called the Gasometer. In the early 1900's, the Gasometer was used to store excess gas. The industrial interior definitely fit with the exhibit images. The contrast between the man-made steel beams and the pictures of various forms of nature, from animals to plants to the earth itself, really captured my attention. In my opinion, repurposing this old building to use for exhibits was an excellent idea.

Eintrittskart (ticket).

Two floors of pictures, one huge arena with a huge projection of the earth, and a rooftop visit. This exhibit really opened my eyes to the interesting life cycles and habits of plants and animals. Here are just a few of my favorite images from the exhibit.

This part was so cool. We climbed the stairs into an open area and were greeted with a 3D projection of the Earth spinning around and around. There were steps where you could lay down and watch it spin for ten minutes until it started all over again. I thought it was a pretty unique experience.

The huge area where the Earth was projected. 

After watching the Earth for about 15 minutes, we got in a super long line to take an elevator 100 m to the rooftop. On the roof, we could see all the towns lined up right next to each other: Oberhausen, Essen, Duisberg, etc.

Day two of fall vacation. Movie Park Germany! My first experience in a German amusement park. Exchange is all about leaving your comfort zone and trying new things, and I certainly did both of those at Movie Park. In the past I have never been an adamant fan of rides that go upside down multiple times or take you off the ground 60 meters and drop you in the blink of an eye. Well I rode both of those rides at Movie Park. In between the ascent on "The High Fall" and the drop, I got to see an amazing view of the land around the park. My challenge to exchange students is do something new that scares you. You never know when you'll get the opportunity to do something new in a foreign country again. 

We have yet to master the group photo. Getting a picture of all six of us with everyone looking the right way with both eyes open is impossible! The fact that this picture was taken after we got done riding a water ride doesn't help either. 

I had the privilege of spending 1/4 of October in Borkum on fall holiday. For a more detailed account of my fall vacation, check out this post. 

The new lighthouse.

Borkum's north beach.

Early (6:00 AM) on the morning of October 28th, my host family packed into the car to make the hour and a half journey to Lüdenscheid. This day, October 28th, is especially important, because 50 years ago my host grandparents were married. 50 years! The main event was the church mass, which I understood little of because American public school curriculum sadly doesn't include Catholic church vocabulary. The chapel was gorgeous with stained glass windows and a painted ceiling. 

The chapel where Mass was held.

As a gift, someone made this cute little candle. Catholics seem to have a thing for candles, we have some like this at our house too. 

Uli and Günther holding their cake. 

After the service we went back to Oma and Opa's house for coffee and cake. We joked that everyone got their own cake because we had so many!

Afternoon snack.

My host sisters worked on this cake for six hours the night before the Goldhochzeit (50th wedding anniversary). I don't know about you, but I know I could never make a cake that looked and tasted as good as this one did. 

The delicious cake my host sisters made.

The following day, Saturday, we met up with the girl's cousin to walk around the city and do some shopping. Finding a photo booth in the mall, we decided that piling five girls into a place meant for two people, three at most, would be fun. For only €1, we each got 3 tiny photos. 

Our over-capacity photo booth image. 

There are a lot of things that I would rather not be doing after dark on Halloween night. Taking the wrong train and ending up in a train station even further away from the one I left from where drunk people are running around with scary masks and Halloween face paint on is definitely near the top of that list. Alas, that's exactly what I ended up doing. Somehow, even though I bought the right ticket and was at the right platform, I got on a train that ended at Mönchengladbach Hauptbahnhof. After a few minutes of panicking, my host family texted me back saying that they would come pick me up. Thankfully, this meant that I wouldn't have to figure out how to get home by riding more trains. Although this wasn't the most ideal way to end my second month in Germany, at least I've got an interesting story about my first time alone on a train to tell people!

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