The Soul Borrower

A Blog of Photography and my Lifeography

Christmas Wishes

Last time I posted about Germany, a couple of you said that you would enjoy hearing more. Tonight, I plan to do just that. This will probably be an extremely long post.

There are not many people anywhere who know much about exactly what I did while I was in Germany. There are also not many people that know that I returned prematurely. I was intended to stay until July of 08, when in reality, I returned January of 08. That part I haven’t been telling people, simply because of what they think.

First I have to remind/tell you that I had two host families: one for one month, whom I absolutely loved, and another which was intended to be my ‘year’ family. The following events pertain to the latter.

My host family and I never did get along. Ever since the day I got off the train in Berlin and shook their hands, I knew that it wasn’t meant to be. They had two little kids, ages 3 and 4…and it just so happens, I hate kids. We got along well for the first couple of months. But it wasn’t long until we really started getting on each others nerves. They were both extremely clean, organized and obsessive about their daily routine. They hated my lack of routine, my lack of caring about style, and generally everything I did.

Eventually we came to our three month interval. I was off to Berlin for the weekend to an exchange student ‘retreat’ and all the parents would join us at the end of the day on Sunday. During our time there we were in small groups where we discussed how the time had been going. My 3 months had by far been the worst among everybody’s. Lucky me, eh?

When we got home, we had a big ‘talk’ about why I hated it so much there. I didn’t hate them, I loathed them. They refused to adapt to any of my habits or ideals. During our orientation we said that we could expected to change 75% of our habits and ways of doing things, and the family would do the other 25%. The problem, here, is that they fully expected me to adapt to their family, without them losing a step in their daily life.

I told them this, and they seemed to understand. I also told them that I hated that we didn’t go anywhere or do anything outside the daily routine with their kids. We didn’t travel anywhere, we didn’t do any activities, and it was just really very boring. Things got slightly better, but not enough to make a difference.

I liked their family and friends a lot better than I liked them. Every Friday afternoon we would go to Oma und Opa’s for coffee and cake. We would talk about everything- the weather, the news, our week, the coming weekend. I must say that they were really cool people. They accepted me for who I was more than my host mother and father ever did. Friday afternoons were really the most favourite part of my weeks in Germany – that and because school was finally over for the week.

The rest of their family was cool too. There were two other brothers, one with a family of his own, and two older kids and one who was still a bachelor. I liked them all, as they were just really cool people

Their Friends were pretty cool to. I actually hung out with them outside the house much more. We went to a couple movies and other places. They were very nice and again, much more open to me than my host mother or father.

So the Jist of what I’m trying to get at here is that I got along with everyone except the people that mattered most: my host parents.

By the time Christmas had arrived, we had hit rock bottom. I decided that I was going to go somewhere. Anywhere. My mom had given me 500$ to do anything I wanted and I chose to go to Cologne. I just had to figure out when I wanted to go. First I had to get through the Christmas season – which in Germany (atleast the area I was), seemed to be hell.

Now that I think about it, I don’t remember the exact days, but Christmas eve I think was at one side of the family’s house, christmas day was at the other side, and the day after christmas was back at the other sides house. Got That? The specific event that I want to share is probably the most spectacular moment of my life. We had eaten dinner with everyone around the kitchen table, probably about12 people. (I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about this). We had already started the Feuerzangebowle, which I talked about in this post. Then we got to talking about relatives they knew back in the US and how they received a letter from them a few years ago, but never contacted them.

Opa (My host Grandfather) kind of suggested/asked (I trust you know what I mean) that we give them a call and that I could translate. It took a bit of convincing, but after awhile I agreed. I went upstairs, got their phone number off the internet (Newfangled internet!) and extremely nervously gave them a call. We had gotten the right number, but not the right person. It turned out that it was a relative of the person we were trying to reach, but we spent an hour on the phone anyway. Translating was absolutely phenomenal. Both parties told me that I did a very good job at translating, and I think I did. It was actually pretty easy to do.

I had reunited family from two different countries, with a simple phone call. For the grandparents, I think it was the best christmas gift that they could have ever expected to receive. Just thinking about it still gives me goosebumps.

So after the holidays and after new years I was headed off to Cologne, ready to get out of the hell that was my host family’s house. By this time I was so pissed off and spent that I was ready to just get out of their house. We had already had a meeting with the local “Betreuer” (coordinator) and decided that it just wasn’t working out. By the time I would return I would be somewhere else. I had been expecting a call from a certain Thomas out of Hamburg. I didn’t answer his first call. I was too nervous about what he would say. He left me a voice mail and I called him back a while later.

We talked for about an hour. I can’t even begin to say how much I admired him. He was the person who I now want to be. He just talked with me about what I was thinking and where I wante to go next. Eventually I had decided that I wanted to go back home. I had had enough of being in Germany and I didn’t think I could get any more from it. At the time I felt as if there was nothing more Germany could offer me.

So I came back. I made this decision in Cologne on January 7th, returned to my host family on January 8th, left January 9th (for a 40 some odd hour travel home) and got home on January 11th at about 11pm.

I finished High school, and started college.

Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if I did the right thing. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder how things would have been different if I hadn’t left. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my host families, especially the one I liked.

Telling other people seems to help, but still won’t bring me any answers.


March 1, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. If I may ask, what where those “habits and ideals” your host family refused to adapt to?

    Comment by Anonymous | March 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. I can't help you find the answers either, because I don't have any similar experiences. I do know one other boy who went abroad like you did, for a year, but he lived in Denmark. He loved his host family and they loved him. For all intents and purposes the families have become nearly united, they've exchanged yearly visits and everything else. He did his exchange throught the Rotary International, and I have a feeling they might do a better job of matching young people up with families. His family hosted a Swiss girl, and it's the same story there. The families like each other too.

    I've been to Berlin. I think I could spend a year there and never get bored, and my German is probably nowhere near as good as yours.

    We stayed with a doctor and his family in Dahlem and Berlin has such a great transit system you can be anywhere in minutes. Hell, Lowell and I spent a whole day in the Gemäldegalerie.

    Comment by Josh | March 1, 2009 | Reply

  3. Jake

    It is ok to wonder and what if but the truth is you already made the decision and you are moving forward. But you cannot stay any where you are not wanted IMO.

    When you graduate, germany and the rest of europe will still be for you to go back to and aren’t there college exchange programs available for a semester?

    take care and be safe


    Comment by cvn70 | March 1, 2009 | Reply

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