Days 1 and 2: Pretzels and Waltzes or, Vibrant German Personalities (By Teodora)

What began as a long and grueling plane ride only continued into a equally strenuous first day. Whether it was trying to find that perfect sleeping position or attempting to identify what food was being served, it was safe to say that all of us were excited to be greeted by waving American flags and goodie bags at 3 AM ET. Well, maybe in theory. After months of communication over text and social media, the Pingry students were finally reunited with their German partners, and although it was difficult to show our excitement (we were tired), we were all ecstatic to experience their daily lives. We were quickly introduced to the German bussing and transportation system, which will absolutely not wait for you to even grab onto something to hold. We also discovered that speed limits are up for interpretation in Germany.

A partial day of school awaited us upon our arrival, beginning with a warm welcome from the headmaster of the Karl-Rehbein Schule and an interactive scavenger hunt to be completed in groups. It was the perfect opportunity to parade the town and discover many of its popular spots. An open market, the statue of the Brothers Grimm, and even a small yet sentimental coffee shop all make Hanau the quaint yet vibrant city it was described as. We then went to the homes of our host families and began the first challenge of immersing into the German culture: attempting to speak German with the host parents. It was no easy feat, but I imagine every student was able to articulate at least basic information. Even Ms. Decatur, who´s knowledge of German extends to Duolingo Level 2, has been making an applaudable effort at trying to speaking German and never shying away from a challenge. It’s a good thing we were all very eager to fall asleep that night, since a day full of adventures awaited us.

On Day 2, we all spent the first class with our host buddies – whether it was Zara and I struggling with ultimate frisbee or Hardy showing off his proficient skills in English, even the first part of the day was filled with action. Most of us parted from our German partners by 9:30 AM as we headed to a nearby vocational school that specialized with baking, butchering, and other craftsman professions. Unlike schools in America, students are divided into high schools that support the professions they would like to go into, rather than everyone having to fulfill the same nationwide school requirements. We were instructed on how to bake Brezeln (traditional German pretzels originating out of Bavaria) and chocolate buns. It was messy, but very worth it. Not to mention, our charismatic baking instructor and his less than appropriate jokes made it a very comedic experience for us all. We parted from German “Homer Simpson” with a basket of freshly baked bread and many memories. He may have taught us how to bake, but we taught him how to pronounce “flour” – a mutually beneficial relationship.

We had a bit of free time with our buddies until 3 PM, when we attended a dance class with a very energetic dancing instructor. By now, all of us have experienced the vibrant personalities of the German people. We began with a simple disco dance, leading into a line dance and then a few traditional waltzes. Not only did she teach us how to dance, but also gave the guys a crash course on how to properly court a woman. She was a woman of many talents, safe to say. Although her last exchange group was very hesitant to dance with the other gender, our group did far better on that note – for the most part. A huge lesson to take from this experience – some of us are rhythmically challenged. Also, sweaty hands become infinitely more off putting during a dance. But no matter what happens, always clap after a dance and NEVER reveal how good or bad your partner was. Common dance courtesy.

(Written by Teodora K.)

Baking Class in Hanau

Baking Class in Hanau

Baking Class in Hanau

Dance Class @ Berné, Hanau

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