Hello Dave and the Courtenay Rotary Club!
This is Alison Walker calling from Heidenheim, Germany!
I have been ever so busy here in Germany having the time of my life. It is such a blast and it is definitely an experience of a life time.
I really have to thank you for this opportunity! It wouldn't have happened without your help towards the amazing program.   I have a website with pictures of my exchange and it is a work in progress. I have taken so many pictures, even I can't believe. There are tons of things to see on there though.
I will be constantly adding new photos and I have write-ups on each page about my trip, event or different foods I have tried!
Well, on to the exchange! It is so much fun, and I have seen so many things that I will never forget. I sometimes don't realize just how cool it is to be doing what I am doing, and I think how jealous someone at home would be just to be sitting in an ice cafe in Germany, or taking a train to school, or eating different foods... It is almost part of my everyday life here now.
Well, I arrived here, and I wasn't very scared but more so just shocked! Everything at first honestly didn't seem that different, because I knew it would be different. Right away off the plane I was trying to see what was opposite from home, but it took quite a while to really see the changes. The meals didn't seem different from home until after about 1 and a half months of eating here with my host family. The houses weren't such a shock until after time I realized I wanted to run in the yard, but I couldn't, and then I would notice how close together they are. It is weird that it took me such a long time to notice the changes.
In my first month, with my host family, we travelled a lot and they took me all over the city and surrounding cities to give me an idea of what Germany is like. It was amazing. I saw so many nice buildings and castles, and tried all sorts of neat foods. My first family was very good about teaching me the language. It was weird at first trying to understand, and ears wide open, but nothing really going in. I cought on quite quickly with the language, and now it is no problem to talk among people, buy something from the local store, or participate in school in German!
In the second month, I went to Krems, Austria with my Rotary Club for a weekend of wine tasting events and sight seeing. It was absolutely breathtaking. There were miles and miles of vinyards on the rollings hills, overlooking the Danube River, and the weather was spectacular. I even tried some interesting foods, such as fried cows tongue! It actuallly tasted quite good!
Christmas was quite different than at home, that's for sure. They start Christmas by doing an Advent the four Sundays before Christmas, where they eat lots of sweets and have a big meal. On December 6th it is St. Nikolaus Tag (St. Nicholas Day), and on the night of the 5th, you put a boot beside the front door, and over night he comes and fills up your boot with chocolate and goodies. That is their idea of the traditional stocking at home. On Christmas eve, we had a big dinner, with the families over, and had roasted goose! Wow, was it ever good. The gifts are opened on Christmas Eve, and that was quite a shock for me to wake up Christmas morning without presents. My mom sent me a stocking in the mail, and I saved that for the morning, so it felt a bit like home.
The next big thing I have coming up is my Europe Tour! I will be travelling with 50 Exchange students around 7 countries in Europe for 3 weeks in a bus. It will be quite the experience. I will visit The Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Monaco, France and Belgium. I cannot wait at all. That is coming up pretty quick so I am getting ready for that.
Everything is well here, and I hope the Comox Valley brings sunshine!
Greetings from abroad!
Alison Walker