How to go abroad
Now it must be exactly one year ago, when I first thought about going on an exchange. I wrote lots of e-mails and letters to Waldorfschools, first to the more closer countries like England or Great Britain . But as soon as I got answer from these Waldorfschools I realised the situation: they had unimaginable prices, which I could never pay for. Trough that, my letters started travelling around the world to Canada, to the USA, South America, Africa and even Australia. Well I have never thought that once Australia would be the place where I would stay. Anyway, I had nearly an exchange, which I have got from the school organisation (Oberschulamt Stuttgart). It was in Minnesosta, in the United States of America. But then some problems came up and that didn't work either. The main reason was the eleventh of September. At that time I was a little bit depressed and disappointed. Even my parents couldn't imagine anymore that another exchange would come true, so I was searching in the Internet, writing mails and doing all that stuff by my own.
Down Under via Internet!
So that day when I got the e-mail from Emilia, I was so excited and just wanted to know everything about her and her country, which was Australia ! I mean why not travelling to the other side of the world to learn English, when there is nowhere else to go. And actually I was quite happy about going down there to see all these interesting things I ever heard and finally dreamt of. At that moment, the Internet was my (so called) "best friend", because every single minute I had, I was writing to Emilia to find out all kinds of news from her, I spent hours in front of wonderful pictures of Australia, which I had got from lots of different homepages, or tried to find out something about the culture, the climate and the contrastful surface.
Last days in at home
Probably nobody could imagine how I felt the last few days in Germany before I left, because the funny thing was that I wasn't sad at all, I know it must sound really weird but it is the truth. I just couldn't imagine that I will be away for four months. The longest time, I have been away without my parents or my friends was about two or tree weeks, not long at all. So it was hard for me to believe that I will be away for four months, and I first started believing the situation when I spent the first minutes together with my host family. Well now you know that I was very excited, which doesn't mean that I was afraid of it, I wasn't scared at all. No I liked the thought flying on a plane, even that it was my first flight, seeing kangaroos or travelling to this famous rock in the centre of Australia called Uluru. Probably a lot of people who had never been to Australia thought or dreamt about these things. But all these were just little parts of a huge vivid puzzle for me, like a taste I have got trough books, magazines, brochures, TV and the Internet.
Thursday the seventh of march, the day I was supposed to leave, finally came up. At midday after all my luggage were packed (25 kg with hand bag), my mum and I went out for dinner. At night around six a clock, it was time to say good bye. I hugged my grand mother, my cousins, my aunt, my uncle and my sisters for the last time and hopped in the back of our car. On the airport in Frankfurt my parents and I had still got a few minutes before the voice which was telling about my flight, appeared trough one of the micro phones and I could read yellow letters on a big table, which told me to go. I gave my parents a hug and a kiss and walked trough the airport control into my separate terminal. My excitement kept growing every minute but I still wasn't be able to believe the situation.
"Ulla Aydt", suddenly they called me out, that was because I traveled as an unaccompanied minor. My mum thought it would be the best for me though it was my first flight, and I wouldn't have any problems on the airport in Bangkok where my plane had a quick stop. Why not, I was led by a person from the air hostess right to the plane, from where I went to my seat, a window seat. The first thing I got to learn was how one could get help if something happens with the plane like a motor problem or if an aeroplane crashes into the sea, or what I could do if anybody on board gets unconscious. The whole air hostess team presented that in the rows between the seats in form of a show. At least we got to hear for the sevenths time that we should please fasten our seat belts. Then the plane took off and all I could see was Frankfurt by night with all it's lights from the streets and the buildings.
From winter to summer
I had left Germany and a new life would begin very soon. That sentence jumped trough my head nearly all the time. That was a kind of confirmation to get to believe the situation. About seventeen hours later, we arrived in Bangkok. The first thing I realised which had changed was the temperature, it must have had 30° degrees which seemed to me really extremely. (I left Germany in winter.) Well because there was nobody to look after me on the airport, (remember the unaccompanied minor ticket) I had to spent the whole time on the plane meanwhile Asian people cleaned it. I was annoyed because I knew that the other passengers could walk up and down the airport and were able to see a little bit more than the inside of the plane as I did. Though the Asian people were really nice and talked to me. When our plane had the next stop in Melbourne, I first stood on Australian ground. I caught another plane towards Adelaide, where we have got something to eat again. (One thing: You never have to worry about getting starved while flying with Qantas, the main Australian flight organisation.) Half an hour later after I had finished breakfast we arrived in Adelaide.
First talk to my hostfamily
Then the moment came I have been waiting for so long: I stood next to Emilia, her sister Vanessa and their mum Karen. After we had got my luggage we drove to the Adelaide beach, where I first got the possibility to talk to Emilia in real life. We had to told us so much, which was really interesting. Emilia told me about the school, her class, the teachers, the lessons, her hobbies and the imaginable picture she had taken of me, before she got to see me on the airport. Though I had sent her photos of me but for some reason she couldn't get them. Then we had to go home, because it was Saturday on which day Emilia and Vanessa had to go to tap dancing. They offered me to come with them but I was just too tired.
My new life
Our house where about half a hour away from the city, (Adelaide) in a town called Mount Barker. It was a little house on one floor. (Most Australians doesn't have a second floor.) We had a living room attached to the kitchen, a bath room, a toilet, Karen's room, Vanessa's, Emilia's room and another little room for me. Before I came that room had being used for putting junk in there or for other things which were too big to be put somewhere else. For me they had changed it into a little cute room, where even the family piano had taken it's place, because they couldn't move it. But that was actually quite good, because I so got the chance to play more often piano as I usually did. Well I didn't play piano very often at all, just on my grandmothers' when I was bored. So when I sometimes sat in my room in front of the piano I practised my favourite song "Balade pour Elise" from Beethoven. And sometimes Emilia taught me a few lines from that song, so I once could play the whole song.
Also animals belong to my new family
Anyway, behind the house in the back yard, there were five chucks and one rooster. And more often in the house as in the garden there was Mogani, a little black cat. That was funny with her, right at the begin of my time I couldn't touch her because she was too scared and afraid of me, but one week later when I was sitting on the couch she suddenly climbed up to my knees and took place in my lap. That was really cute.
Meals are different
On that Saturday, when Emilia and Vanessa went to tap dancing I started packing the stuff out of my suitcase and tried to make my room more comfortable. After I had done that I first got the chance to have a conversation with Karen in the back yard by a cup of tea and a slice of Karen's house made cake. Well the thing with Karen was, that at the beginning she seemed to be very nice and friendly but after a while I realised that going on well with her was quite hard. She was really strict. We weren't allowed to listen to the music during the week, just on the weekend. As reason she told me that she didn't want that her children get divert from the music during school time. And she didn't buy her food in normal supermarkets, no, just in a shop called "All seasons", a shop which offered just healthy biological dynamic food. It didn't bother me, that she bought "that" food, though I'm eating actually very healthy as well, of cause not that strict, but because she bought all that healthy food, which was more expensive as other food, she couldn't buy so much fruit, which I specially liked. So sometimes after school I just caught the bus to the town and got fruit, in the supermarket ! Can you imagine, every morning I had to share a banana for my muesli with Karen and Emilia, it was quite lucky though that Vanessa didn't like bananas, because then we probably would have shared them trough four persons. And I have got never more than one apple per day. To drink we only got water, no juice at all. I hope you understand a little bit why I have talked like that about that kind of food. Another thing with Karen was, that Emilia and I had to go to bed at exactly half past nine and I can still hear Karen saying: "Clean your face, brush your teeth, wash your hands and off you go to bed girls !" Sometimes it was really hard to get on with her, though I tried to make the best out off it. The good thing was - and I'm really glad about this - that Emilia, her sister Vanessa and I got on very, very well with each other. So I could come and talk to them when ever I wanted. I think I have talked enough about Karen yet. (You don't want to know more.)
Straight after the weekend I had arrived I went to school with Emilia and Vanessa. The school was quite small because they didn't have double classes like our school does. Another reason why the school seemed to be small was, that for the students the school officially finishes after year twelve. (Everywhere in Australia school finishes after year twelve.) Though they had a big part of land which was used for the school garden or the oval for example. All together it looked really nice and familiar. They didn't have one or two big buildings like we do. They had little houses, where two ore three classes were accommodated. Other little houses were for Eurythmie (Karen was our Eurythmie teacher) and for the assembly every Monday morning, when the whole high school came together and someone out of year twelve hold a report. One was for music, one for wood work and one for metal work which was connected to a room called "the Space", where the school practised and previewed their plays. Another one for gardening surrounded by the school garden and last not least a little house for the school canteen. In physical education's (sport lessons) each class had to go by a school bus to the sport centre in Mount Barker or to a big oval near Mount Barker. The school started every morning at nine a clock and finished at half past three. In lunch time class nine and class ten were divided in different teams and played softball. I'm not quite sure if softball is an Australian sport or if it comes from America. Something really strange for me was that the teachers were called by their first names. Later I got to know that even in day by day life for example in stores or by the doctor people get called by their first names as well.
Right at the beginning of my time in Australia, my class had planed a bush walk for two days. I couldn't imagine what it was like at all. I just knew that it must be much different from that what we were used to in Germany when we went for walking in the nature. So on that particular Saturday, the whole class met together by the bus stop in front of our school. The stuff what everybody had to carry over these two days in the rucksacks were: six litres of water, one breakfast, two lunches, one dinner, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat, a torch, toilet paper, shovel and a small first aid kit. Then we all put our rucksacks on the trailer of Dennis' car. (He was our maths teacher, and came with us.) After one and a half hours driving through beautiful countries, we got to the closest outback a few kilometres behind the Adelaide hills, settled down in groups on three different places from where we started walking. My group consisted out of five persons including me. The way we had to walk was quite easy to find. We went over bare hills and trough dry spiky grass, therefore our legs got lots of scratches which really soared. While we were walking down that hill we suddenly saw that kangaroo wallaby with it's injured leg. It couldn't jump very well, so it started falling down the cliffs on the other side of the hill. Because we didn't know what to do, we just walked past. Together with another group we arrived in the midday at the place were we suggested supposed to be and of which we thought of to spend the night there. It was really hot, and while we had been walking it had about 35° degrees. Then we told the other group from that injured kangaroo and a few boys walked back to that place where the kangaroo had fallen down the cliffs. They killed it, so it didn't have pains anymore. But the way how they had killed it didn't sound very nice to me. They had taken a stone and smashed it on the kangaroo's head and put a knife into it's back till it died. I couldn't have done that but it was probably the best thing they could do. While we had been waiting for the last group, I was resting up in a gum tree, when I suddenly saw a spider web underneath my leg, which just lied on a brunch. I got closer and realised that a red, big, horrible spider had taken it's place there. With a loud cry I quickly jumped down the tree. A boy from my class seemed to like spiders, because he just took the spider web which was attached to the spider with his hands and put it down to the ground with a big smile on his face. I don't really know if it was a dangerous spider or not. Anyway, late in the afternoon the last group had finally arrived and the faces we then looked into were overdrawn with tiredness and sweat. They must have had such a hard way to go to we thought. And as soon as they put their rucksacks down on the ground they confirmed our thought. For that night, Peter, our physics and surveying teacher who had come with us as well, told us a story while we were sitting or laying around the fire, where everybody had cooked it's dinner before. After that, we just got our sleeping mats and our sleeping bags out of the rucksacks, put them on the ground and made ourselves comfortable. I looked right up in the sky before I fell asleep. It was so amazing and wonderful. Serious it was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. And when you waited a while, you got the chance to see a few shooting stars which drew right cross the sky. These moments were something really special for me.
Milk powder and Muesli
Early on the next day we got up and prepared our breakfast. I have never thought that milk powder which I needed for my muesli would taste so nice. After that we packed our stuff back in these big rucksacks, but this time it was more easier for us to carry them. On that day my group got the terrible news, that we had to go the hard way, which the other group had to go the day before. And I also remembered all these stuff they had told us when they had arrived at the camp. Well we couldn't change it. So we started walking. After a few minutes we met the group which had arrived together with us at the same time by the camp the day before and we decided to do the hard walk together. Because we were more people than before, we had to make lots of rests. Soon we realised that we had a problem with the water, because some people didn't have enough anymore. That was often a reasons why people got a headache. And even I got a bad headache at the end of the walk because I didn't have enough water as well. So we started sharing the water and the food we had, so that everybody had something to drink and to eat. A few hours later, when we had left the last hill behind us and were walking trough a valley, we could see the street where our bus had been parked the day before. Of cause we were the last group. When the other group saw us, two groups walking together, they just laughed. First of all, we took a swim in a water hole, which was so nice and fresh. Then we drove home. That was my first experience in the Australian bush, which was exciting, funny, hot and fabulous.
My first Kangaroo
One week later we had Easter holidays, actually you couldn't really say "holidays" because it was just for four days. Karen, Vanessa, Emilia and I drove for biking and camping together with two other families from the school into the "Innes National Rark" in Yorke Peninsula. At that time I got to see my first kangaroo sign. Another two weeks later we got two weeks holiday, I think that were autumn holidays. That time we drove to Victoria in the Grampians and drove home along the famous Great Ocean Road where we could see the so called "twelve apostles" and the now broken "London bridge" which are all rocks reaching out of the sea. After the holidays my class had "surveying camp" for ten days connected with a four days bush walk in the Flinders Ranges. The surveying camp was really hard working but much fun. We had to spend the whole days from nine a clock in the morning till seven a clock at night in the outback for measuring. For the night we had a shelter. In the area we worked and lived was nobody else, just a few farmers here and there. Later I will show you the map I have drawn. For the four days bush walk we had three groups on different levels. The easy one, the medium one and the hard one. And there was one group for the teachers and Rosy. Rosy was Peters' wife who had cooked for us the best food during the camp. I decided to choose the hard group and walked together with nine boys. Each group had to get to a special place, the camp by their own, only with the help of a map and compass.
The levels were depended on different ways we had to go. The easy group for example had to go on a real way for reaching their destination meanwhile my group didn't have any ways to walk on - we just used dessert creeks, dense forests, valleys, damaged fences, rocks and stony hills. Our way was really hard. Finally we had arrived at the place we supposed to be right. But there was nobody else. So after a while we were so happy, because we thought we were lost so that we had to find our own way to the next town or village, we thought that would be really interesting. But around seven a clock the teachers group arrived and we had to believe that we couldn't be lost anymore. Butt here was still a problem, because the two other groups weren't there. And we couldn't hear or find a sign of them so that we decided to go looking for them on the next day, because it was already dark. Early in the morning we started walking. Rosy and a few people waited by the camp in case they would come. Other people walked the way from the easy group back and another small group the way from the medium one. That day my group had to walk so long and it seemed to us so much harder than the day before because we were walking really quick and all that by such a high temperature of about 35° or 36° degrees. When we arrived at the camp - it was seven a clock or something, I can't really remember - everybody was there. Both lost groups had arrived at the camp around twelve a clock in the midday. That was such a pity, we had been walking twenty-five km for nothing. Therefore on the next day, we had such a cool program. In the morning we packed our stuff and walked to these huge clear water pools where one had that beautiful waterfall. That was just so nice. In the evening we went on to the place where we spent our last night. On the next morning we had to walk half an hour till we got to our bus. Everybody was so glad and happy. And we all were looking forward to a shower, normal food - not that food we had to bring for camping for these four days bush walk - and last not least our own beds !!
Two days later school life followed as usual. During my stay in Australia I made a work experience because I missed the four week agriculture practice in Germany. So I went for a week to "Cleeland", a wildlife park in the Adelaide hills. I had to do there stuff like cleaning the koala cages with a rake and a sprinkler, giving new eucalyptus leaves to the koalas, preparing the food for the other animals, which were for example: fruit, vegetables, frozen chicken and mice which where still alive. Other tasks I had to do were gum cutting, going on the feed run, cleaning up the dirty dishes, trying to catch special birds which weren't supposed to be on a certain place and cleaning out about twenty cages "filled up" with rats and mice. The wildlife park had quite a big area and was really popular, so not even on hot days it has got lots of public. Often school classes came for visit. Everybody who liked got the chance to hug a koala while someone has taken a photo.. And because I worked there, I got the photo with a koala in my arms for free. I will show it to you later. That work experience turned into something really special, though I got to see all these Australian animals like koalas, kangaroos, dingos, bilbys, wombats and possums.
Almost every weekend I have been on a friends' house or tried to do something with Emilia and Vanessa alone, which was very hard, you know why. One day when I visited very good friends of mine, and went together with them to the Adelaide cup, a very important horse race. By all these races I have betted a small amount, which was all together $14 and finally I won $6. Well it was good fun so it didn't matter that I haven't won that much and I really enjoyed watching the horses with a pinochle. Another time I have seen my first football game, and it was just so cool. But for lots of Australians football is really boring. So on the next day when I came to school and told everybody that I have been to a football game they just couldn't believe why I was so impressed.
Sweet Sixteen and back home
During my time in Australia I turned sixteen and my class had prepared a big "seventies" birthday party in a shed from a girl in my class who just lived next doors. It was funny to see everybody dressed up in clothes of the year nineteen-seventy. My time in Australia was nearly over and the holidays were coming up. Emilia, Vanessa and I went to Sydney in New South Wales. So I got to know their dad before I flew home. I have been there for three days. And life there by their dad was so totally different than life by Karen was. Their dad was just the opposite of their mum. He lived together with his Italian parents in that big house. In his lounge room he's got a dead lion fir and heaps of other stuff. He bought supermarket food, juice and lots of fruit. He had a big TV screen, stereos which could be used by us all the time when ever we wanted to. To realise how different Emilia's and Vanessas' parents were was really funny. Sydney was just great. In these three days Emilia and Vanessa showed me all these famous things like the Opera house, harbour bridge, centre point, Darling harbour, The Hard Rock Café, Paddies market, Manly beach, Bondi beach and the Olympic park. I specially like Sydney very much, it is such a beautiful city with all its little Islands, harbours, hills and beaches. I mean, I liked Adelaide as well, but compared to Sydney it is much more conservative, which depends on the people who once settled down in South Australia, the so called "pietistic people". On the second of July I sat on the plane back to Germany with that weird feeling I couldn't get rid of it. In these four months I have built up another life and when I was there on the plane back I felt so empty. I know it sounds weird, but it was like that, because I haven't been to my life in Germany for a long while and I have just left my life in Australia. I hope you understand what I mean. Anyway, although it was sometimes really hard I could get trough it - often with the help of my friends, with whom I'm still in contact. I will always remember that time as the best experience I have ever had.Back