Paynesville Press - June 16, 2004

Community Perspective

Exchange student becomes 'Germarican'

By Mara Heide

Almost ten months ago I arrived in Minnesota. Unsure and nervous, I was also very excited. At that time, my return to Germany seemed so far in the future.

Shockingly, this return is now just a week away, and it is time for me to say goodbye and to think back on a year full of fun and great memories.

One unforgettable experience was my first day in school. Everyone asked me if I was the German girl, and some even asked if we had refrigerators and TVs in Germany. A smile flashed over my face as I encountered this surprisingly limited knowledge of Germany.

From that, I learned that there was a lot that had to be explained about Germany. However, I also had a lot to find out about America and the "American Way of Life."

I learned, for example, that the Minnesota State Muffin is the blueberry muffin. In addition, "smoking someone" doesn't mean setting someone on fire but, instead, defeating someone, and I cannot use the verb "to fetch" when I mean that someone is going to pick me up. I am sure I will drive my English teacher crazy with my American slang, because I am supposed to talk proper "Oxford English" in school in Germany.

All these things I will of course remember, but the most important lessons are those I learned while I was with my friends. During my stay, I took part in several school activities, the most memorable being the speech team and the JV softball team. I joined the speech team mainly because of my host sister, Melissa, who urged me to talk to Ms. Nevitt and become a member. Yes, Melissa, was right, it was absolutely great. My best memory is when I won second place at the Minnewaska meet; I am sure that I will be the only person in Ulm that has a speech medal.

Playing softball proved to be harder than it looked. Before I came to Paynesville, I had never heard of softball, but since I was determined to experience many new things during this year, I decided to play. It was very different and difficult, especially because I had to learn how to use my glove to catch the ball. After a few weeks of practice, though, it became a lot easier.

The Minnesota winter also deserves mentioning. As the snow began to fall and fall I realized that this winter would be exceptional. It was, being the first in which I "walked on water." I would never have thought that ice could get that thick and that there could be so much snow.

If we get about seven inches of snow in Germany, it is considered a lot, and the traffic in town is total chaos. My host family laughed at me when I was shocked by the amount of snow that was piling up outside.

This winter I also experienced the difference between "chilly" and "cold." When it was about ten degrees outside and I said that it was cold, I was told that it was only "chilly" outside. When the temperature dropped to negative ten degrees, and I described that as "freezing" and "way too cold to do anything but sit in front of the fireplace," my host family informed me that it was just "cold."

Then they took out the snow pants and winter coats to go ice fishing or snowmobile riding. So I forgot about my fears of freezing outside and went with them. At negative 30, they finally conceded to it being "really cold," and we cuddled into blankets in front of the flickering fireplace.

In this short article, I cannot do justice to all the remarkable events of the past year and to the people that made them so special. So right now, I would like to simply thank the whole community of Paynesville for being so friendly and for welcoming me so openly.

As that return to Germany draws near, I dread to saying goodbye, but I shall return, ya betcha. (Oh, and by the way, yes, we do have refrigerators and TVs in Germany.)

Mara Heide is a foreign exchange student from Germany who lived with the DuDonne & James Andrie family

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