About My Blog

I Spent six weeks in Egypt before spending a year in Germany. This blog covers the best summer of my life. If you are looking for my posts while I was in Germany ask me, and I'll be happy to share them but I have been asked not to share them publicly. Feel free to visit my brothers blog of his year in Germany or my new blog

Monday, September 27, 2010


By the Way:

I've finalized my college list.

Applied to:

University of Minnesota

Applying to:

University of Oregon
Penn State 
University of Toronto

Sunday, September 19, 2010

24 Hours until Germany

In a little less than 24 hours i will be landing in Hamburg, Germany. My grandmother will be picking me up at the airport and we will go back to her house where hopefully i will be able to catch up on some sleep before meeting up with jonah. Who knows maybe he will even take a picture of me for his blog! You may be asking yourself, just as i am, why i am up at 3:51 AM the morning of my flight. Well there are a few reasons not all of which are reasonable or well thought out but others, i think, are perfect.

I think i have jet lag figured out. If i set myself to the new time zone before i arrive there, i shouldnt feel the effects of jet lag as much right? So i stay up all night and then tomorrow around 4 or 5 when i board my plane from newark to hamburg hopefully i will be falling asleep. The local time will be 5 but the german time will be 10 or eleven, the perfect bed time. I wont get great sleep on the plane, so a small nap will be in order but i should be good for the rest of the day. Insha'allah!

Since my last post i have managed to pack and my bag weighs about 50 pounds. This is the heaviest suitcase i have ever packed but its for a whole year. Seeing as somebody brought two 50 pound bags for a month in egypt i think that my extremely large bag is okay.

Im not nervous about leaving or living there but this is the first time that i can ever remember trying to visualize germany before i actually arrive. I can see the streets of hamburg and berlin in my mind, with the fernsehturm, the michael, and the other churches sprawled across the hamburg skyline as well as the lines in the berlin roads marking the path of the wall. I think that this mental preparation or visualisation is a comfort thing. In the past i have gone but only for a month, and i had control of exactly what i saw and did (unless my mom drags us to some famous monument). This time though everything will be new to me and i wont be in control. The visualisation is weird because im picturing the parts of germany that are familiar to me, im not trying to imagine the place i will be staying. My thoughts and concentration on the scene of germany is almost stressful as i strain to remember tiny details and feelings about various locations. The other strange thing is that even though it is still late summer/early fall i can only visualize a cold fall afternoon bundled up in a jacket wearing a hat and a scarf as i walk down the hamburg streets. This image or feeling is so real that im even wearing my jacket on the plane later. I would probably only take a sweater otherwise. The past 4 years i have visited Germany purely as a tourist and a visitor, this time im going to live there. Ive done this before in the seventh grade when i lived there for half a year but never for this long. The length of time seems extremely long but it seems even longer when i think about how much i love Germany and how real the possibility is that i will stay there or be back for another long stay. Its weird to go back to live there for a second time because i never even thought i would go there once to live. Its even more weird to think that i could actually be more german than i think or feel that i am.

My mom keeps telling me that im going to come back even more german than i already am. The same was true last time i went. I dont remember how "american" i was going into that trip but i remember feeling very german coming back out of it. Since that trip i have been reformatted as an american by the social scene of highschool, sports, television, work etc. I know that I am very American but in the last few weeks i have also felt more german than ever before. Not in my behavior, or style, or culture but just my feelings. I am german, and i always will be. Even leaving this country i will be an american (even with my american passport) but once im on the plane from newark i can put away that passport and that life until i come back to the states sometime next summer. English will be around me, but it wont be me. American culture will be around me, but german culture will dominate. I will hear about american politics, but for a change i wont have to discuss politics with anyone. While im there i want to be german, as authentic as i can without putting on lederhosen or a dirndl, but what abut when i come back? I know that its too soon to think about that but still, have to. My biggest pet peeve about exchange students is when they come to america and refuse to adapt to our culture. They still wear their tight jeans, leather jackets, their hair long, and way too much gel. I know ill be going to germany with lots of american clothes but i want to be looking, feeling, and acting german quickly. Coming back though, i will have to read up on the latest in politics, download the top 10 songs on iTunes, and maybe look at a magazine to see what is "in" in america. Or i could come back with my lederhosen listening to a new Philip Poisel album and wearing a HSV scarf. Not to sound like some deep thinking person but what it all boils down to is conformity. I will go there, and i will conform. I will come back, and i will conform. Anybody does anything to fit in and they are conforming. I guess conforming is the least i can do because already by not going to college and going to germany instead i guess you could say im nonconforming.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ich bin bald da.

I leave in two days. So far I have:

1.Not packed
2.Had my last day of work
3.Failed my drivers license test
4.Gotten my laptop

Today im going to go to one last Schenley Soccer practice before I leave. Tonight, after practice im going to establish a packing list and if i have time go shopping to get the things that I still need. Im starting to get really excited but certain aspects of the last few days have been very sad (no, not failing my drivers test). My last day of work was fun but it felt weird that my 6 o'clock mornings and 10 hour work days were coming to an end and all of the familiar faces would soon be memories. I hope to go back to work when I come back and jokes are already spreading around the cafe how I will spend my life travelling but will always dedicate a few weeks or months a year to the Square Cafe. The square cafe has been great to me and I hope that they have enjoyed me as well. I spent two years working varying amounts of time per week or month but in the past month i have worked more than ever before there. Through this i have come to actually know the people i work with beyond their names and faces. The character of the cafe is fantastic and apparent to every customer, but as an employee it is even better. The peach cobbler and "for he's a jolly good fellow" sendoff were a bit embarrassing but still sweet.

Failing my drivers test was frustrating but im not overly upset. I have only been driving for a month and only tried parking 5-10 times before attempting to get my license. I parked perfectly when the instructor told me to back up a bit so that i could pull out forward more easily. When i did this a car drove by me so i checked my mirrors and turned on my blinkers, i pushed on the gas and VROOOOOM!!!! i went straight backwards. I had forgotten to shift into drive after she told me to back up. I tapped the gas only lightly and then hit the brakes, I didnt hit anything but the instructor was just as shocked as i was. "Always make sure you check what gear you are in!" she said, "I always tell my students to check the gear before they pull out or in" . Well lady! YOU DIDNT TELL ME TO CHECK! AND ITS YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT FOR MAKING ME BACK UP! And she continued: "If that had been a car and not cones it could have been very dangerous!" WELL LADY! IT WASNT A CAR! AND!!!!!!!!! I HIT THE BRAKES BEFORE I EVEN HIT THE CONES!!!!!! well, apparently that wasn't bad enough to fail because she let me do the rest of the test. We drove for 5 minutes but near the end she asked me to merge to the left. This is an easy maneuver for me, and one that I am used to making comfortably. I checked my mirrors for ten seconds to make sure no cars were coming up behind me. I blinked and merged left, and then came that nagging voice again "You didnt check your blind spot!" and then her incessant scribbling began. OOOOOOPS! I drove well and i made two mistakes that i have never made before and it happened to be with the woman who decided my fate as a driver in the car.

Tonight and tomorrow will be spent preparing and packing before my flight Sunday afternoon. Once in germany i will spend a day and a half with my grandmother and hopefully see my brother as well before heading to the family with whom i will be staying. Im looking forward to meeting them after a few weeks of emailing back and forth. My mother and brothers have already met them and they say that the family is wonderful. It will be a new experience for me for sure. I have always lived in a city both in the United Sates as well as in Germany and everywhere else. The house where i will be staying is 10 minutes from the nearest town which is 10 minutes from the nearest city which is one of the smaller cities in Germany. The family owns a farm with two horses and 20 sheep as well as some land but the land isn't used for farming as far as i know.

Also I will be adding my address as soon as i have it but if you want to email me or email me your address i will write back to you either in letter or email format, whichever you prefer. my email is: raether.jan@gmail.com

Sunday, September 12, 2010


As happens every year around this time, the exchange students from my moms program start to arrive. For the past two years we have hosted students, Di Xie from China, and Matas Ignativicius (i dont know how you spell it exactly). This year my brother decided he didnt want to have one. The decision was his because he will be the only kid at home. He would rather spend his time being an only child with a house to himself and all the space in world. I dont blame him, i would have taken the same opportunity as well. Despite not hosting for the whole year we have had a few exchange students spend between a few days and a week with us. I wish they had programs where you could do this for a whole year on a rotating basis and have a new kid every few weeks or months. The students who have stayed with us have all been amazing and have taught me a lot. Jonas from the Czech Republic was my age and he, tobias and I spent our week watching lost, playing video games, comparing music, and just hanging out. Before him Alina and Jovana spent time with us. Alina has been preparing me for Germany more than anybody else but i feel bad because it comes at the expense of her preparation for the US. Alina is from Germany and we only speak German so my german has improved drastically but it doesnt do much for her. I spoke German well before i met her but already i notice my grammar improving. In Germany I will be living with a family with younger kids than me so its nice to get the perspective of Germany from someone my own age. The best contribution from her has been the music she has told me about. I havent spent enough time in Germany to really get into German music or hear too much of it but Alina introduced me to her favorite artists and groups and im beginning to really enjoy it. I spend my bike rides, and walks to and from work listening to German Artists and the language I hear there is even more useful than the conversational language I use. More importantly, I feel a bit more german listening to it and i must say i almost like it more than american music. Hopefully the music also gives me something to talk about with the kids or other people my age while i am there.

Tommorow afternoon, my brother jonahs' host brother arrives, he is a few years younger than me but will also give me a chance to speak German with someone else before I go. I dont know how prepared I am for spending a year in germany but from a language standpoint i feel extremely comfortable. Its just too bad that that was one of my smallest worries. I have five more days of work, three dyas to pack, a few essays, a new laptop, and a drivers test between me and the flight to germany. Once im there ill spend a day and a half with my grandmother and hopefully my brother as wll and then i join the family with whom i'll be staying. The past few nights have been sleepless and restless because of excitement. I wish the day of my flight would arrive already.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a new post

Its been a long time since i have last posted but its not because i have nothing to write about. The past few weeks have been really busy (go ahead mom laugh) so i havent been writing much. In the past 4 weeks i have been working 4 or 5 days a week as a cook at the square cafe and am averaging 9 hour work days. When i get home i do nothing but watch Lost, which sounds really really lame (it is). Recently though i have been trying to make better use of my time and part of that is also posting a new blog post. In the past few days and in the next week i hope to finalize the colleges i will be applying to, pack for germanym, say goodbye to the friends who are still in town, and help the schenley soccer team when and where i can.

I want to pause and talk about schenley soccer for a few minutes because the past few days i have been hanging out around my old team. For four years i played on the team and for three of those i rode the bench and played JV primarily. Im not a great player or goalie but watching the past two games makes me wish i still played. Each of my four years at schenley i feel that our talent level dropped. We always have had talented players but each year we had more and more players who wouldnt not have started in previous years. Admittedly i was one of those players, there are better goalies and there have been more talented players on our teams in years past. Once again this year i feel that the talent level has dropped off but there is something about schenley soccer that keeps it going and playing at a high level. Last year we strung together our best three games at the very end. Semi final win against Brashear, championship win against allderdice, and a playoff loss to Upper St. Clair. When we won champs i felt prouder of myself and prouder to be part of any other team. I dont want to detract from swimming or volleyball but swimming is too independent and in volleyball we are expected to win. The schenley dice soccer rivalry is by far the best i know. Our tiny cupples stadium with 200 fans for the championship match is the perfectplace in early november in freezing rain to play under the lights. For three years that night was frustrating, sitting on the bench in the coldd rain, being so close....and then losing. My last year i played in that game and it all changed for me. To play and to have in my control the feelings i would have at the end of the game was amazing. I want to say i played for myslef, i couldnt let four years of soccer end without winning but i was also playing for the freshman sophomores and juniors on the bench. I know what its like to sit on the bench and lose, to go three years and wonder if you will ever win a championship. None of those players have to worry about it anymore, they have their championship, they will hopefully win more, but they dont have to worry about leaving without one the way me and my fellow seniors did. Anyway after champs i knew i had another game but i knew it wouldnt be the same as dice. I almost wished we had ended with that win, the perfect storybook ending for the seniors but we had to play a playoff game. Having nothing to lose in that game made us play the best soccer of our lives for 70 minutes before they scoresd three goals in 10 minutes. That game is almost more memorable, how the smaller but still energetic crowd gave us a standing ovation at halftime for being TIED with one if the better teams in the state. We lost and the seniors left the game early to give the young kids their shot at playoffs and it was nice to walk off that way but that night in the lockerroom was when it hit me. I had played my last organised soccer game and we played magnificently. I forgot that feeling until tuesday when i saw schenley play. It was wierd to not be part of the team, and only a spectator. I'll always be a part of the schenley teams but not in the same way and its wierd and sad. But whats almost more sad is that ill never play organise soccer again, i dont have any misconceptions that im good enough to play in college but i wish i did. To go through the work leading up to a game and not just getting together some friends is kindof disappointing.

Anyway thats a long story dragged on but its been on my mind since tuesday. back on to my preparations. I work for a few more days which is going to be hard but worth it and nice to be with my coworkers who are all amazing. I have to decide on my colleges, begin the applications and write my college essays. I know it sounds early but i didnt everything rushed last year and i want to do better this year. Ill have time in germany but i want to have an idea before i go. I know ill be comfortable there but something about being there for so long makes me uneasy especially with the college process. Mail will take longer and has a higher chance of getting lost etc. Other than that i couldnt be happier to be going. I love pittsburgh but there isnt much here for me right now, my friends are who knows where, and all i do is work and sleep and think and im ready for change. Ill post hopefully once more before i leave but dont hold me to it. Ill be more regular once i get there...promise. Until then.