Saturday, May 18, 2013

1001 Nights : The First Part

Since this is my 1001st post, and Tracy asked about me living overseas, I thought I would write about the approximately 1001 Nights (give or take) I have spent living overseas. (And now I am done counting my posts. At least until I get to another significant number like 2000!)

The high school I attended had a German Exchange Program for kids, who had studied German and were in Grade 11 in our city. I remember talking about my interest in it with my dad while we were driving around one day when I was in Grade 9. I realized, if I got to do this, I would be spending my birthday in Germany. And Dad went into this whole German conversation about what people would say to me on my birthday in German. At the time, it felt like a really big deal.
 Me, Laura, Ang and Kayla in my backyard in Germany.

I was super-excited when I got accepted to the program. My exchange partner, Sabine, came to live with us for three months, from September-November 1988. We had fun times. From December to March we frantically worked to finish all our schoolwork for the year, before we left. Since Ang, Kayla, Laura and I all had the same classes (we were all in an academically advanced class) our teachers gave us all big projects to work on together. We spent lots of class time in the library and it was great! And then from April-June 1989 I went to live in Puttlingen, Germany, which was an incredibly small town near the French border. Ang and Kayla lived near me, in the same province and Laura was up near Hamburg and came to visit us once.
These are my host parents, a friend, my exchange partner beside me, and me in the awesome blue-framed glasses and looking A LOT younger. Yerps :()
Germany was my first experience of Europe (and hey, travel outside Canada and The US) and the day after I arrived, my host family took me on a tour of France, Switzerland, Southern Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. It was both amazing and a little overwhelming. I went to high school and my favourite subject was Latin. I also got to go on some amazing school trips and spent a week in Rome with one class and a week in Avignon with another class. And then all the Canadian German exchange students got to spend a week in Berlin. And this was about four months before the Berlin Wall fell so it was totally different from anything I had ever experienced. I remember soldiers with guns searching underneath our train before we were allowed to leave East Germany. They were looking for escapees and it was very surreal.
 Me standing beside a soldier in East Berlin.
Can you tell I was a little nervous?!?!

Germany was the first place I'd ever lived where milk wasn't kept in the fridge, my host grandma ironed my jeans AND my underwear and I lived across from a Catholic church with bells which rang All. The. Time. And one time, when I didn't get any mail for seventeen days (remember, this was before e-mail), my host grandma would greet me at the door with my favourite bakery pretzel as a consolation prize. Also there is no drinking age in Germany so I got my first experience of "cola bier" which made the beer part tolerable!

My second lengthy overseas experience was when I joined a work-exchange program to The Netherlands. It was run through my denomination and allowed young people to spend a year in Europe. I did this right after I graduated university from August 1994-August 1995.
My first placement was living with a family in De Rijp, The Netherlands and working in the kitchen of a nursing home 10 kilometres away, mostly washing dishes. It was super-boring. And hard, because my form of transportation to work was biking. Yep, 20 kilometres a day. I was in awesome shape by the end of it. Thankfully this placement was only about 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam so I had lots of opportunities to explore! My second placement was working in a conference centre in Elspeet, The Netherlands, doing housekeeping. I also got to help out in the bar sometimes which was really fun! I lived at the conference centre so my commute was a thirty second walk downstairs. It was great! I also worked with another "trainee," as we were called. You can see us below in our awesome housekeeping uniforms. Ha ha ha! Elspeet was about two hours east of Amsterdam.
I got to do a lot of traveling the year I lived in The Netherlands. I got to spend Christmas skiing in Switzerland, I got to go hiking in Spain with a couple of other trainees, I got to visit one of my best friends who was doing a semester in England, I went to Scandinavia for a few weeks and I got to visit my great-aunts and grandparents in Germany. My parents came to visit me for a couple of weeks as did a few other good friends.

And now that I have written all this, I have decided that my third experience of living overseas is going to be pretty long to explain so that will come in another post, likely next week sometime, since tomorrow I want to tell you all about the fun I will be having today!

And if you have any questions about anything don't hesitate to ask them in the comments.


  1. You certainly are well-traveled! My sister and I studied abroad in Spain for a summer, but that was long enough for us to be out of the country and away from family... guess I'm too much of a home body to stay anywhere that far away for long :) Props to you for giving yourself those experiences!

  2. Thanks for answering! You are so brave! Oh and the picture of you in the tulips is just stunning!

    1. You're welcome and thank you :) I didn't really think of myself as brave. I just wanted adventure!

  3. Wow, you are very well-traveled! I guess I kind of new that, but it is great to read about. Reading about your time in Germany and what year that would have been kind of feels strange to me. I don't think of us being that far apart in age, but I was only about 9 at the time so you experienced a lot of life before I graduated from high school. I really think this is awesome, and I wish I had taken opportunities to travel abroad while in school. :-)


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