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Freitag, 31. Mai 2013


This is a school day you love!

It starts out with a spare you can waste away, then you have a 'field trip' to walk to a street intersection to count cars (seriously--we have the hypothetical scenario of buying a food truck and we had to scout locations) and on the way back, Mr K bought us all Dairy Queen ice cream!

Now I only have Creative Writing--handed in both my projects already and have about 4-9 times as much as we needed: We had to hand in our edited first project (done) and 5-10 pages (double spaced) of new stuff (I have 48 pages double spaced... seriously. 10k words :))--and Math. Math is halfway interesting, because while we had done last lesson already in grade 7 or 8--factorials: 7!=7x6x5x4x3x2x1--today we're gonna do new stuff (I think). But we might have done that last year already, too, because he said that's the first step towards probability (with the tree diagrams) which we did last year for sure.

Anyway, Creative Writing! :D

Donnerstag, 30. Mai 2013



Without lying I can say that the number looms over me.
It induces both relief and dread—relief in that I will finally be able to go home, to return to where I feel most comfortable, where I can relax and not think, not keep myself in check at all times.
And dread, because my exchange year will definitely, finally over then, irretrievably and completely.

The exchange year… before I left, I would have said without hesitation that it’s the best decision anybody can make.

Now, almost nine months later, I can’t do that anymore.
I would still say it’s amongst the best decisions in my life, no doubt, but I have learnt, too:
Being ten months away from home isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and I cannot generalize.
Even with my own year, I can’t.

In parts, this year has indeed been the best of my life. I’ve had the chance to do things I couldn’t at home—try new foods, have a very different school system, take classes they don’t offer at home, and there are countless more examples—and I’ve taken advantage of a lot of them, travelled to Vancouver and San Francisco, took part in challenges and lived with a family different from my own.

There were however moments I would count amongst the worst of my life.

Sitting alone in my room during two months of long, lonely afternoons, being scared of my host mother, later missing my parents and friends and people who understand me seemingly effortlessly, to whom I don’t have to explain myself, who don’t bat an eyelash at some of my quirks and who answer my apparently endless barrage of questions—that was tough. That was hard.

Both have changed me, the good just as much as the bad, and that is startling.

It’s not that I didn’t think I would change. I didn’t know how, but I expected some sort of fundamental change, something blatant, obvious, a new person.

Instead of becoming somebody new, I feel like I have become more like myself. I feel different and yet the same—which seems to be a contradiction and yet is my feelings in a nutshell.

I am still the ‘old’ Julia—irritable at times, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, an eye for detail, and an inability to say ‘no’. I’m still eager to volunteer knowledge and don’t mind helping other people, explain things to them. I still enjoy solitude, as long as I’m not lonely, prefer reading books over crowds on most days.

The changes are more subtle than I anticipated, more subtle than the book worm undergoing metamorphosis into a ‘party animal’. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least it doesn’t work that way for me.

If I had to describe it, I would say the exchange year has chipped away some of my childishness, leaving ragged edges behind I will have to polish once I’m back home—a process that won’t be easy or short, but rather painful and full of setbacks and feeling misunderstood and angry.

But nobody said growing-up would be a cakewalk, and that’s the change I’ve undergone here. I’ve matured, faster than my friends back home, faster than my peers here.

I had to learn to make decisions, to handle my money, to organize my time. There is no mother who says, “Close your laptop and go to bed.” There are no parents peering over my shoulder to see how far I’ve come with my homework.

What it has taught me is that I am definitely not ready to live on my own. I make the wrong decisions; read books when I should go to bed, write my own stories when I should be doing homework or be learning.

I miss my stable schedule, the rationed time. It has taught me that if I have too much time at my disposal, I will waste it, by reading, writing, playing games.

But it has also taught me that even if I don’t pay attention in school, I will still get above average marks, that I should trust my mind not to let me down. It has taught me to relax and just let some things be, accept them as things I can’t change.

I have learnt that sometimes it is better to swallow down your own opinion, even though that definitely is something I still struggle with a lot of the time, that sometimes it is better to remain quiet. But I have also learnt that nothing will change if I don’t speak up, that my situation will remain unchanged unless I seize control and actively try to change it.

Instead of the radical change I expected, I got what I needed:
Insight into my own mind, into how I tick, how my body reacts.
I know now that my mind rebels at stagnation, it turns on itself, making me miserable and lethargic.
I need entertainment, constant action where my mind has to perform, where it is pushed to its limits.

I have also learnt that there is only so far I can push myself out of my comfort zone—but that that limit is a lot farther away than I assumed.
I have learnt I can accomplish almost anything as long as I try and don’t give up, as long as I believe in myself.

I may not have found the closest of friendships here, but that is not the way I work. I need a certain degree of freedom, and I am happy with the friends I have found.

The time I had here was amazing, the good definitely outweighing the bad, but I am ready to go home.

And I may not have made the most of my exchange year, but I have gained enough to be satisfied, to say, ‘Yes, for me it was worth it.’

There is no easy way to determine whether an exchange year is the right thing for you. All you can do is try, and be confident enough to admit it if it’s not working out.

There is no harder decision, no situation more complicated than deciding to go back home. I was too scared to call it a day and return after two months, and for me it has worked out. But I admire the people who can do that, who can ‘man up’ and admit that this is not their thing, because I can’t.

If I had the choice, I probably would do it again. But first, I have eighteen more days to enjoy.

Dienstag, 28. Mai 2013


Soooo, camping.
Have you seen my last post about Cancer Week?
It's just below, but I wanted it to stand alone.

So, camping.

Yes. I mean, camping last year was fun; driving with our camper through Germany and having vacation at different locations, but it was also being cramped into a small space with my parents and our dog, hanging on each other 24/7, and that's not so much to my liking.

So you can imagine that I was more resigned than enthusiastic when I realized camping with my family here would mean all five of us and the family that shared the double camping space with us, with four people, and no internet, no electricity nothing.

The internet part wasn't so bad--I loaded up my kindle, and that was it.
I also charged my iPod and phone, and I am proud to say I managed to keep both alive for all three days.

So we left on Friday afternoon after school, car packed with firewood, pillows and small bags, and Tanya's father had already set up his trailer. It was huge. My dad would probably have said: "It's bigger than our first apartment." It really was, especially once Tanya slid out the 'slides', two parts of the trailer where we sleep in that you just slide out so you have more space, and then we waited for the other family to arrive. I don't think we did a lot that day; we had burgers for dinner and s'mores at the campfire, and Oh My God, s'mores are so unbelievably delicious.

 The rest of the weekend, to summarize, was reading, hiking and eating. So. Much. Food. Unbelievable, I'm telling you!
But it was really, really nice!

So have a couple of pictures! :)

S'mores! :D

Freitag, 24. Mai 2013

Cancer Week!

Yes, I'm back!

Sorry it's taken me so long, but my wrists are perking up again, so I was trying to limit my writing (still to impatient, which is not conducive to healing, I know, I know)

This week was Cancer Week here at KSS, starting on Tuesday after the long weekend (Victoria Day; Queen Victoria's birthday) with a info meeting in the gym--the whole school was present, all ~1,600 Students, and we heard some emotional accounts from teachers with experience--through spouses or children--of cancer, and one student who has had cancer since she was five, and then they called upon us to shave our heads.

Mom said no, so I did what I could: I sponsored another International who shaved his head.
Wednesday, there was a drive-thru breakfast somewhere (I don't know where exactly) and something else yesterday, and today at lunch, there was (okay, they're still going) the head shavers.

It's a pretty big deal; some twenty or thirty students are shaving their heads and most of the school is outside watching people become bald... I was outside for a bit, before I decided squinting through the student mass just wasn't worth it.

But it's pretty amazing how it unites the whole school to raise money for cancer!

Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

I'm not crying...

**Warning for swearing under the cut--too tired to censor myself**

Montag, 13. Mai 2013

Still keyed up

... and not in a good way as yesterday.

Must have been the 12 hours of sleep I got...
Tonight it's gonna be 7. Tops.
Which is not good. I'd love to sleep more; don't ask me why I don't...
Okay, tonight I was writing, and it felt good, but it keyed me up even more...

Mother's Day was nice; I skyped with my mom and the grandparents came over, so yeah.

That's like, literally all that's happened.

So, I guess I'm gonna try to go to bed tonight; I'll be back tomorrow with a riveting description of my day, I guess.

Yeah, so, Good night! :)

Samstag, 11. Mai 2013

Keyed up

I feel so keyed up, I can hardly describe it.

It's like there's energy thrumming under my skin--like I want to write something, but I just shot out almost 11k (10,988) words and I'm still waiting to hear back from my beta-readers (okay, I already heard back from the German one, but I'm still waiting for the native speaker; but she said she'd get it back to me by mid-week, as she's in Banff right now and can't edit on her phone), so I don't really know what to do with myself...

It's still so hot outside :(
I mean, actually that's a good thing, but I had to walk to Tai Chi today, and that was really, really hot.
Plus, I'm only wearing Flip Flops at the moment, and I've never before worn them as actual shoes, so I've got blisters on my feet (maybe wasn't the best to start out with 4km)...

Tomorrow is mother's day--or rather, it's already mother's day in Germany, so Mama:

I wish you a very happy day!
See, my present for you is I'm not bothering you!
I would love to stay up to skype with you, but I think I'm just gonna head off to bed--as I said, there's nothing to do, and it's 8 pm and I'm insanely tired... Been awake since 8.30 a.m, even though I could have slept till 9.30! I don't even know what woke me up!

So, there's a bit more than a month left here...
At least until my parents come over.

A bit less than two months till I come home... I can't even believe it!
Can you?
I've been here for more than eight months, for more than 250 days already, and it feels both very, very long and incredibly short.
It's a weird thing, let me tell you.

I'm gonna go and brush my teeth now!

Good night!

Freitag, 10. Mai 2013

San Francisco Pictures & Wrap-up

Okaaay, so here are the photos!
Shirt I bought in the Fisherman's Wharf Area
awesome view! My phone doesn't make the best pictures
and there was a lot of fog
but it was AMAZING!

Alcatraz Island

The ship that got us to Alcatraz

One of the cells
once of the cells from the outside

A hallway with cells

The abandoned/broken down guard house

View from Alcatraz

more view from Alcatraz

A tower--a lighthouse on Alcatraz

San Francisco as seen from Alcatraz--maybe my favourite picture
of the trip!
So that's what we did on day one.

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from the other side
looking towards Sausalito
The next day, we walked to the ferry station and took a ferry to Sausalito, where the Golden Gate Bridge is, and then the public bus (it was a horribly tight fit to get 50 students and 5 teachers onto the public transit, let me tell you) to the beginning of the Golden Gate Bridge, from where we walked across.

It was beautiful--the scenery is stunning and our group was stretched out so we were almost all by ourselves, and I took lots of pictures of the bridge.

The view of Sausalito from the Bridge

About half-way through, though, my throat started hurting; later on it turned out I had caught a cold from the air conditioning on the bus!

We then went to Amoeba Records, which is a CD and Vinyl store and was incredibly boring, but well, what can ya do? It was a Rock History Trip, too!

Half of our group proceeded to the Haight-Ashbury corner, a famous street intersection for Rock History fans (I don't know what happened there, I am sorry), while the rest of us went downtown San Francisco for shopping.

I am not a big shopping fan and my feet hurt terribly from the special soled I have in my shoes, but even shopping was more desirable than ambling around the streets--there were obvious drug addicts (one guy was rocking back and forth, trying to eat his own foot!) and strange people (one woman stopped me and my friend and wanted to sell us something, and we were both in shock until I touched her arm and said, pretty unconvincingly, "Hey, we gotta go and find our group, it's time already" and pulled her away.), so we spent our time actually looking at clothes in Forever 21.

I bought a shirt and some earrings:

I really like those!
Go Owls!

The traditional one is a must-have!

We took a very ancient tram home, and then it had been planned to eat dinner at the hard rock cafe, but we decided to simply buy some shirts and then go to Subway (incredibly cheaper).

Facebook address
The next day started at 7 a.m., but I had spent half the night awake because my throat was sore, had written something on my phone and submitted it to tumblr, who simply ate my post--my one hour of writing gone and I can't remember what exactly I wrote, because I was pretty tired :(

Because I had only gotten 4 hours of sleep, though, I managed to forget both my wallet and my sunglasses in the hostel, but my teacher let me borrow some money off her.

We went to see facebook headquarters and took pictures in front of the sign (it's very unexciting) and then had a walk over Stanfort Univeristy campus, where I also bought a hoodie and a shirt, because the logo has German in it--Der Wind der Freiheit weht, or in English, the wind of freedom blows.

After that, we went to an outlet mall, but I a) didn't have any money and b) was feeling very sick and c) it was incredibly hot outside (my guess would be around 35 degrees Celsius; I wore sun screen with SPF 50 and still got slightly burnt!) so I just sat in the shadows (I also couldn't really talk that day, because my throat was very scratchy)

The AT&T Park

And the inside!
After that, we went to a baseball game, which was both cold and boring--baseball simply isn't my sport.

I had a real baseball hot dog, though, and the atmosphere was quite stunning--especially hilarious was the guy sitting on the empore next to us.

He was already tipsy when the game started, exuberant but surprisingly coherent, and it just got worse more hilarious as the game went on.

He kept starting chants, for example "Let's go Gi-ants" and our students body answered that chant with the same words, effectively drowning out the lone Dodger's fan next to that guy.

In the end, our students (some of them at least) went up to him and got photos with him!

I could neither shout (because of my throat) nor see a lot (it was very far away), so I was miserable and cold and bored and desperately wishing I had brought my kindle.

I did not break out my kindle until the airport! But everyone was tired and a tiny bit cranky there, so I thought it would be best to keep myself occupied.

The Giants won, 10-9 in (fortunately) the first extra-inning; it had been tied after nine innings, even though the Giants had been up 6-0 at one point.
And they even scored a home run!

Still, four and a half hours for that outcome felt almost like we'd been cheated. Baseball definitely is not my sport.

We arrived back at the hostel at 11:30 pm, and had to leave the hostel at 5 the next morning, so we put our alarm clocks on 4 am and packed up our luggage (It was a tight fit! I've never before bought so much clothes in one trip!).

I woke up the next morning to somebody saying, "Wake up, Julia, it's already 4:30"--we had all overslept!
Nobody had heard the alarms! (As in, multiple alarms)

We took the plane back home, and it was a nice trip--and I was even able to catch the first period of my team playing hockey, it was awesome!

So yeah, and that's it.

I hope you enjoyed my description and the photos!

Have a great night,



Gah, there I go to San Francisco, and what do I do?
Get sick.

I've been feeling all morning like I wanted to throw up (never mind that I haven't actually eaten anything I could throw up) and I've been coughing and sneezing all week.

It's the fault of the bus/train we took, because it was pretty chilly on there :(
Even though I was wearing a sweater! The A/C was just going too strong.

So, yeah. Not feeling good.

Another thing that's gotten worse are my grades:
I'm trying to find out, how much I have to do to get acceptable grades--my mom's suggestion, since I usually do way too much, and now I have the time and place to just try...
Well, and at the moment it looks like not doing the homework+not taking any notes=80%
And yeah, I'm pissed off at that grade:
I have 12/15 points, and 1.5 points I just THREW away--I know how to write the Domain and Range, but I made a mistake with the Domain: first I confused two numbers, but I caught that in my graph, but not in my Domain, and then I made an old mistake:

The thing was
y= Log3(x+4)-2
so the vertical translation is two units down and the horizontal translation 4 units to the left.
I placed the asymptote at x=-2, which is wrong--that's the vertical translation, and the asymptote is x, so it's horizontal.
I caught that, but I didn't change the Domain:
was what I wrote.
Correct would have been:
{x|x>-4, x € R} (And yeah, I know that's the Euro-sign, but it's the closest I can come to the 'is element of')

So, stupid.

Anyway, we did a couple of Creative Writing projects--'A moment in time" which are short scenes pasted into a book (mine will be printed in Censor This!), a monologue, and we got our next big assignment: I'm gonna write up San Francisco for my first project.
And that's... it.

You'll get the rest of the San Francisco Trip, don't worry, and I don't think it'll take long!

Donnerstag, 2. Mai 2013

San Francisco Travel and Day 1

Just a short checkin, as a) I am on my phone, b) I'm trying posting via email for the first time, and c) after thirty hours on bus and train and bus again (okay, more like 34 hours) I'm really tired and exhausted and looking forward to a real bed.

Sleeping twisted like a pretzel is surprisingly not fun.

We took off from KSS Tuesday evening pretty much on time at 11 p.m. and arrived in Vancouver at 3 a.m., where we had breakfast at a McDonald's.

Since breakfast starts to get served at 4 a.m. at the earliest, we all had normal stuff like wraps or cheeseburgers and coffee and smoothies. All in all, it was a fun experience.

Our Amtrak bus that brought us from Vancouver to Seattle showed up at 5.30 a.m. and my seatmate from before and I grabber about the same seats again, and I even managed to sleep a couple of minutes.

Seattle is an awesome city, and we boarded the Amtrak train there at around 9 a.m..

Sleeping on the train was difficult. Jenny (my seatmate) and I spent the time talking and reading and sleeping in bursts of about 40 minutes no matter the time, and I finally managed to sleep for about an hour at around ten p.m. and again from about two to six o'clock--take all these numbers with a grain of salt, as my sense of time was completely wrecked by the bus and train ride.

The 30 hours seem in retrospect both unbelievably long and shorter than expected; when the train pulled to a stop in Emeryville, California and we got off, it was almost a surprise that we were actually there already.
I was clad in just a pair of sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt, as the ac on the train was simply vicious, and within seconds I, as most others, was sweating badly.

It wasn't even nine a.m. yet and yet the sun was already super hot!

The bus ride to San Francisco was spent gawking out of the window, and never before has a one hour bus ride felt quite so short.

California and San Francisco simply are beautiful, and very interesting--the twelve lanes (six in our direction, six in the other) were only one amazing thing.

We dropped half of the students and four of our five chaperones at the Alcatraz landing off and went on to the hostel, where we unloaded the bags, freshened up and went to explore the area.

Jenny and I stuck close together, and we bought post cards and a couple of souvenirs. I also started assembling the two birthday presents I still owe two of my best friends!

Since it was so unbelievably warm, we went up to our ankles into the pleasingly cool water, before we grabbed lunch at subway ($3 for a six-inch Roasted Chicken Breast as the May special... how could I resist?) and met up with the rest of our group in front of Hard Rock Café (the only condition for exploring the area had been 'at least two people per group').

We then went on to Alcatraz ourselves--to meet the official student-teacher ratio(7-1), three of our teachers had to go again, but they said later on it was more blessing than curse.
The guided audio tour we had was awesome and super interesting, and after catching the 5.15 ferry back to SF, we checked i to the hostel (it's a 30 min walk away from the Fisher Man's Wharf area, stowed our belongings away and then Jenn and I went back to the wharf area, while others finally had their shower.
Jenn grabbed some Fish n Chips and I another Sub, and we wrote postcards/journals for a bit, before the sun set and we had to leave to be able to walk back while it was still light outside.

Once we were back, we took a shower--most everybody else was still out, so we had the room and the washroom mostly to ourselves, and then there was another meeting to let us know the plans for tomorrow.
I have already taken over 200 pictures and will probably get Jenn's, Aislinn's and (hopefully) Brienne's pictures, as they have far superior cameras.
And since my night will be over in roughly 8 hours, I'm signing off with this. Just let me tell you, California really is super sunny and warm and AWESOME!!
Julia ♡♥♡♥