July 23, 2017No Comments


This story begins three days before departure and ends with me happily sitting at Chipotle in Portland, Oregon eating a steak burrito with extra guac. Get ready to experience all the events in between.

So it turns out packing a years worth of stuff isn't easy. Who would have guessed because it's not like living in a different country for a year requires you to buy things and live your life. Sooo weird. What made it more challenging was the fact that I packed all of my things in two incredibly small suitcases. Most exchange students go home with two massive checked suitcases and a small one to take on the plane. I on the other hand had a normal sized checked suitcase and a small one with me on the plane. I had to fill it so full that I probably shouldn't have been allowed to take it on the plane but I like to bend the rules. *wink*

I bought my final gifts to bring home the afternoon before I flew home. Waiting until the last second usually isn't my thing but I just couldn't accept the fact that I was actually going home so it kinda snuck up on me. I was counting down the days and getting so excited but when the time actually came I was like "wait wut." I had said so many goodbyes to friends that when my time came it didn't feel any different. I was thinking "safe travels home, I wish you the best." Except that didn't make sense because I was the one leaving.

I did all my packing myself which I was really proud of because when I left for exchange I remember my dad sitting on my suitcase and then forcing the zipper shut while I stood by and watched. This time I sat on my own suitcase and forced the zippers together. Point for Kale. Just goes to prove how exchange made me even more independent. I do have to say I was a little scared a zipper was gonna pop off or some other packing disaster would occur but everything went smoothly. That is until I actually got onto my first plane but I'll get to that later. First we have to talk about Greek food and getting to the airport.

My host family wanted to take me to dinner for my last night in Germany so naturally we went and ate Greek food! That "naturally" was added in as irony because the fact that we chose Greek food of all things is completely random. I like Greek food, they like Greek food. It was just a win win situation and no one left disappointed. Maybe it's weird I didn't eat German food on my last night in Germany but I guess I felt like I needed to be unique and break the status quo. *Cue High School Musical music because Germans are obsessed with the movie and probably know the words to all the songs* The song I'm referring to says "stick to the status quo" so excuse me it doesn't fit perfectly but sometimes you've gotta add some High School Musical into your life to reach the full potential of your contentedness.

I slept surprisingly well my last night. I went to bed around 1 but that was because I was finishing up final details of leaving a country I'd lived in for a year. The next morning felt like any other morning. My host mom was up at the usual time as if she was getting ready for work and my host sister was out the door early for school. The only difference was I was loading my suitcases into the car and wearing a blazer that weighed 10 pounds from all the pins on it.

When I got out of the car at the airport I sounded like one of Santa's reindeer. I don't mean the snorting but the bells jingling around Prancer's neck. I was grinning from ear to ear so excited to be going home. I guess I should have been sad to be leaving but I just wasn't. It did feel super weird walking into the airport because I had done the same walk to say bye to so many friends but also my first day in Germany only backwards. I think we even parked in the same garage.

I checked my suitcase by myself and then spent an hour talking and hanging out with all the people who were at the airport for me. I had cried saying bye to all my friends when they left but when it was my turn I couldn't muster up a single tear. I'm going to blame it on a state of shock, like I had no idea what was going on.

You know how I mentioned I got both of my small suitcases closed? Well that's true but I did have some overflow. What I mean by this is that when I boarded the plane I had on two scarves and my Rotary blazer, a sweatshirt wrapped around each strap of my backpack which weighed I swear 1000 pounds, a jacket hung over my arm, and a wallet full of all my important documents in hand; which I had to get out what felt like 10 times trying to get onto that first plane. Pardon my French but this was hell.

I made it through boarding and all the way to my seat and then the real test began. How was I going to get my obviously overweight and oversize suitcase into the overhead compartment? I asked a man sitting nearby if he spoke English or German and if he could help me get my suitcase up. He attempted and it didn't fit in the compartment so we had to call a flight attendant over. As the flight attendant started moving bags around to make space in a special extra deep compartment I started explaining in German my reason for having such a huge suitcase. I laughed as I explained I had just done a year long exchange in Germany and was only able to bring two suitcases home so I was forced to stuff them to the ultimate level. As I finished my story the flight attendant attempted to lift my suitcase and immediately brought it back down to the ground. He swiveled around to face me and began chewing me out for being completely irresponsible and bringing such a huge suitcase onboard. This horrible onslaught was delivered to me all in English which led me to realize this dude was obviously not from Germany but from Atlanta which meant he had not understood a single word of my totally reasonable explanation for having such a huge suitcase. As I was receiving this lecture a man silently stood up, took my suitcase, and heaved it into the compartment for me, closed the door without so much as a word, and then sat back down in his seat. Now that the suitcase wasn't his problem the flight attendant got bored and left with a final eye roll and shake of his head. (Inner dialogue) "You are my savior sir but all I can manage is a quiet thank you because I'm sliding into my seat and putting my head down because I'm super embarrassed for the big scene I just caused and this really mean flight attendant just yelled at me and I didn't like that" I settled down after awhile but I still felt completely humiliated.

When I finally got the previous story to stop replaying over and over in my head it began to sink in that I was leaving Germany for real. It kept hitting me that this wasn't just a vacation home, I was leaving and not coming back. When my flight "meal" was given to me I snapped a pic and was reminded of the exact same flight I took to Düsseldorf where I took the same photo. Only now it was reversed. Rather than arriving in a foreign country and entering a foreign family I was arriving in my country and reentering into my family. There's no way to explain how weird that is. Only an exchange student will understand.

I landed in Atlanta 10 hours later. I had two and a half hours to catch my next flight which felt like a lot of time but I ended up spending all of it standing in line for customs and security. I arrived at my gate 10 minutes before boarding. Just enough time to find my phone charger and pretend that 5 minutes of charging made a difference. So much for a minute of relaxation. No time to soak in the fact I was back in the states.

On my second flight I sat next to a woman who was flying home from Austria with her 11 week old baby. Lady you're crazy but I respect you. Plus you totally look like the image of Oregon so I like you even more now. You live in Hood River and I had a really delicious blackberry milkshake there once so that level of respect just got boosted again. Basically I think you're cool and you've got a cute baby so we'll get along fine.

After watching the Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson who is absolutely flawless might I add the last two hours flew by and we were landing in Portland. It didn't feel real. Where was the German speaking? Why was I in a familiar airport? WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!?! The next second I was walking through the glass doors and my friends and family were standing there waiting for me. I was enveloped in hugs and everyone was so excited. We took tons of pictures and everyone seemed to be in a bit of a shock. Is this real? Did Kaeleigh even leave Portland? When is she going back to Germany? Eventually we got to a "what now" point and my family asked me what I wanted to do next. I thought about it and the first thing that popped into my head was Chipotle. I had pictured this moment of arriving in Portland and going to Chipotle as my first meal back home and I needed to make that dream come true.

We drove a short ways to Chipotle, my aunt and uncle and friends following in separate cars. I ordered my steak burrito with guacamole just like the good 'ol days and life was good. I was content and I was home, well one of my homes.

The girl with new perspectives on the entire world, Kaeleigh Ann James


June 28, 2017No Comments

I’m your biggest fan

You know that one person that calls themselves a huge fan, gets pumped up and prideful whenever "their" team's name is brought up, knows the names of maybe two players on the team and watches about two games out of the season? That is me for Borussia Mönchengladbach. I know if you're a real sports fan you will hate me for this but at least I'm being honest about it.

Last week I took a tour of the Borussia Mönchengladbach stadium and it was awesome. Sure I can't call myself a real, hardcore fan but that isn't to say I didn't absolutely love the tour and silently fangirl to myself the whole time. My love of soccer was enough to make me die for this insider look.

It was 90 minutes of walking through the locker rooms, up the bleachers, out in front of the field on the substitution bench, and into the VIP and radio/television rooms. I had my phone out the whole time furiously taking pictures and writing down facts I picked up as we walked. The tour was all in German so I had to concentrate extra hard to understand what the guide was saying but I got almost all of it. I guess those 10 months here really have payed off.

Now for all that info I'm so proud of gathering...

Our tour started off in the Presserraum (press room incase you don't trust your German skillz). The coaches sit behind the table seen below and await questions given by the press. Pretty self explanatory.

Our next stop was the Polizeigewahrsam which is where the police keep the people that go a little too crazy during the game. Whether they're drunk, decide to throw a few punches just for the heck of it, or cause a disruption of any kind this is where they go. There were three small box rooms with a simple table, desktop computer, and two chairs where the "disruptors" are taken for questioning. They are then taken to what I'd call mini jail. They're real cells, quite big actually with a bench, toilet, and plenty of room to pace. Anyone who is taken into police custody spends the remainder of the game there. Sucks for those diehard fans who live for the game.


There are two train stations near the stadium and both are monitored by police officers. If anything happens at either of the stations the police at the stadium are notified. A lot of Germans take public transport to the games because parking is almost nonexistent plus pricey and Germans like to drink before games. What a surprise, Germans drinking beer? Crazy.

The next place we went was the locker room for the away team. It was pretty average until we entered the connecting room which included a 28℃/82°F pool and a sauna. The pool is closed for just two weeks out of the year to be cleaned and costs €4000 a year to maintain. I guess you could say they take their pain relief seriously.


We walked out of the locker room and down the hall to where the two opposing teams would meet before walking out onto the field side by side. We saw the hall where the home team has it's coaches offices, locker rooms for the normal and youth team, and medical rooms. We were told that the jersey's from famous players are hung up on the wall across from the gladbach youth locker room to inspire the kids to one day make it onto the wall. Unfortunately we weren't allowed down this hall but instead walked out onto the field. The tour guide made one of the gladbach cheers play over the speakers as we walked out. Coming out of that tunnel onto the field with the music behind was enough to make our mouths drop open. It was one of the indescribable moments where you literally can't comprehend how excited you are about it but it's happening to you and just wow, life is so amazing. Yeah like that. Jealous yet?

Our group sat on the substitution "benches" looking out over the field as the guide gave us some more info. I put benches in quotations because these were no benches. They were big, comfortable, leather chairs with heating. I mean come on. I found out that not only did the chairs have heating but also the field! The heating under the field is 27km wide and costs €1000 per day that it's on. Of course it's only on when really necessary, like when it snows.

As we walked towards the next sight to see we were told the grass was new and grown in Willich! It costed a mere €100,000...only the best for the big leagues right? Side note: can I use a baseball reference while talking about soccer?

Next, we walked up to the top rows of the stadium. Up there we saw placarded seats which belong to people who have bought season tickets for so long that they are automatically bought for them each year. True fans. There were pulley systems already set up for the fan clubs who rush into the stadium two hours early to get their seats and hang their banners. In the top rows there was also a section for local newspapers and radios to sit and comment on the game.

Our guide pointed out cameras hung around the stadium that calculate all the statistics during a game. For example tackles, how much a player has run, throw-ins and so on. He also told us about a special set of seven cameras placed specifically to calculate if the ball is completely over the line in the case of a confusing goal or no goal situation.

On our way up to the VIP rooms we passed the medical center which employs 35 people and is open to everyone. We walked through one of the VIP rooms and immediately felt what being rich was like. Each VIP room is sponsored by a different company which is advertised over the glass doors outside. A room costs €17,000 for 17 Bundesliga games plus more for international games. A single VIP ticket for one game costs €260. This room includes good views from inside, on the balcony, and also in the special extra cushioned VIP row seating. Plus you've got enough free food and drinks to last you through another Ice Age. If you ever want to see a Borussia Mönchengladbach game from a VIP room start becoming friends with German bankers because chances are they have an in.

This tour was 90 minutes long all of which I thoroughly enjoyed and would absolutely recommend to someone. Well that is if you didn't read this post because I covered a good part of it. As if I wasn't sure already, taking this tour made me realize how much I truly love this sport.

To many games to come, KAJ

May 3, 2017No Comments

Life’s a (beach) festival

Going to a Spanish music festival in a non-Spanish speaking country can now be checked off my bucket list because it was totally there the whole time. Obviously.

I heard about the Reggaeton beach festival in November and bought my tickets shortly after because por qué no? It was planned for the weekend after Europe tour which was a little concerning but you can never do too much right? In this case, right. The truth is it was impossible to turn down a day of listening to Spanish DJ's play music I've been listening to all year with my exchange friends. Now that it's over I can say I have absolutely no regrets. The festival was awesome.

I rode the train with a few exchange friends to Cologne and once we got there we met up with even more exchange kids before all walking to the festival together. Before entering I did face paint for a bunch of people because you can't go to a festival without face paint right?

The line to get in was a mile long and well, we weren't exactly on time.When we finally got in the music had been playing for two hours already. It was no problem though, we just started dancing as soon as we made it through the gates. These were our jams.

To those who are interested/confused/don't care but they have to read until the end, reggaeton is not to be confused with reggae music. It's a fairly new music style done in Spanish, occasionally with some English mixed in. It's influenced by hip-hop and Latin American and Caribbean music. Some popular artists include Nicky Jam, Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, and Zion y Lennox.

The festival was held on the Rhein river with a literal white sand beach and a big stage. The beach had recliner chairs and there were lots of stands to buy (overpriced) drinks. I sat for a little while on the "beach" but spent most of the time as close to the stage as possible without getting pummeled by the people more hardcore than me. Eight hours of dancing. What more could I ask for? How about no school the next day. Yup, I got that too. Thanks Germany.

Kale out

March 23, 2017No Comments

It’s Q&A time

Thank you to everyone who sent in questions!


Q1. What will I do without my exchange friends when I go home?

This question calls for a one word answer. Die.

Q2. Did you have any misconceptions of exchange?

I find this question somewhat hard to answer. My exchange process was an interesting one. What I remember was an interview in front of ten Rotarians, a phone call the next day telling me I was accepted, meeting some cool new inbounds/outbounds, finding out I was going to Germany, and then I was here. Everything kind of just happened. I went through the motions and suddenly I was living a new life and everything was good. What I'm trying to say is I didn't give myself time to think about my exchange and what it might be like which meant I didn't really develop any conceptions at all. I told myself that overthinking would cause nervousness so I decided to just jump in and I don't think that's a bad thing. Everything has turned out alright for me.

Q3. What do Germans think about the recent visit of Angela Merkel to the US and do they follow world politics much?

The only time German teens stop to talk to me about world politics is to ask "So what do you think about Trump?" German boys in particular seem to find Trump incredibly amusing. I've seen two school projects made with a Trump theme. They were projects for religion class... That isn't to say German youth are completely unaware about the world around them. I think a lot of them are from newspapers, tv, and the radio but I haven't discussed it with many of them.

German adults do take the time to discuss the topic with me; Rotarians when I attend meetings, my host families and their friends, and even random people I meet in restaurants or on the train. We've discussed how even Germans are scared for the future. Trump becoming president does not only affect the US it affects the entire world. Angela Merkel's visit to the US proved to the world how little interest Trump has in world affairs which goes to show how that fear is not misplaced.

US politics are being talked about everywhere. It's almost impossible to not know the latest news because it's all over our headlines too. In my first host family we watched the news every week and whatever was being discussed about the world we tried to talk about after. This discussion occurred partly because I didn't understand all of it but also because it's important to be knowledgable about world news.

Q4. What do you miss most from home?

I miss my people and the overall atmosphere of my beautiful hipster filled city. I miss flying down the highway blasting music and singing along. I miss Multnomah Village, Hillsdale, downtown, 23rd, Hawthorne, and basically every corner of Portland. I miss going on hikes. I miss my dog, my car, my room, my moms cooking, lunch at school with friends, sleepovers with my besties, going to the movie theater, track, driving, soccer, and laughing about inside jokes. I miss so many things and I can't wait to come back to them but at the same time it will be so hard to leave the people and this life I've made in Germany.

Q5. What is the first place you want to go to eat when you get back?

Chipotle, Pine State Biscuit, Nectar Frozen Yogurt, Por qué no, Original Pancake House, Jamba Juice, Boke Bowl, Little Big Burger, Bamboo Sushi, Salt & Straw, and Bunk Sandwiches. All. In. One. Day. Okay so maybe not all in one day but you know, eventually. Then begins the "lose all exchange weight" diet and workout plan. If you are interested in joining me in any/all of these magical restaurants or have never had the pleasure of going you know where to find me, come along:)

Q6. What is one thing you want to accomplish before you leave?

This is going to sound weird but I have this dream of going to a German bakery and working for a weekend or so to learn how to bake German bread. I talk so much about how Germans eat too much bread and how over it I am but I still want to bring it home for my Oregon peeps to try. Plus I just think getting to work in a bakery for a day would be cool. We'll see if my dream is attained.

Q7. How fluent in German will you be when you come home?

That is a good question. It's kind of hard to analyze your own speaking skills. I receive compliments about how my German is really good for only 7 months of learning so I guess that's something. I'm able to understand most of what people say and respond adequately. I still have lots of grammatical errors because German grammar is really really hard but I'm able to converse well. When I come home and someone says something to me in English I do plan on responding in rapid fire German just to throw them off. Be prepared.

Q8. What's your favorite new thing you've tried in Germany?

Is french fries as a side dish to every meal a valid answer?

Q9. What was the funniest/weirdest question you've been asked about the US?

Have you met Kylie Jenner?

Q10. What American item/food do you miss the most?

Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream, Kraft mac & cheese, and my bed.

Q11. What is your favorite place in Germany?

Since the question was place and not city I can easily say my favorite place in Germany is the stairs in Düsseldorf. These outdoor steps look out over the Rhein river and are never without an exchange student nearby. I have so many memories in this place and it will forever be in my heart.

Q12. What country do you want to visit next?

Since before exchange it has always been my dream to visit Greece and I still really want to go there one day but the next country on my list is undoubtedly Brazil. I have so many exchange friends from Brazil and they have inspired me to get there asap. I hear so much about Brazil it's almost like I've already been there but not quite because the craving to get there is so real I'm considering buying my plane ticket now and leaving tomorrow.


I really enjoyed answering these questions. It forced me to write down some of the things that cross my mind every day plus some new things I've never thought about.

Until the next time blogosphere, kaj

March 21, 2017No Comments

That’s okay we’ll crack a window anyway

An analysis of the differences between German and American life.

What are some things Germany has that the US doesn't?

  • Nine border countries; it's really weird coming from the US where it would take me 6 hours to get to Canada and 18 to Mexico while here it would take me 3 hours to Amsterdam, 7 to Prague, and 5 hours to Paris.
  • Incredible public transportation; yes trimet is okay but I visit cities all over Nordrhein Westfalen (my state) and it takes me at most three hours. I could go all the way across Germany to Berlin in 5 hours by train. The same can not be said about American buses and trains.
  • Football culture; Portland is one of the more progressive cities when it comes to soccer culture but the rest of the US is still more interested in other sports (such as our version of football perhaps). When it's game day in Germany you know. Pubs are full, scarves and jerseys are on, and the police are everywhere. Fans often take trains together to the station nearest the stadium. When the groups of opposing fans meet brawls do occur which is why there are always lots of police in big public areas waiting for the first punch to be thrown. Once in the stadium everyone is loud, standing, singing, sloshing beer, and having fun. It's an experience not to be missed.
  • Bread; I've said it before and I'll say it again, Germans do know how to make some good bread but man do you really want to eat it that much?
  • Frische Luft; Germans really like their fresh air. Is it below freezing outside? That's okay we'll crack a window anyway! Yes I am making fun of this but I have learned to appreciate it. America prepare to have your windows opened, Kaeleigh is coming home!
  • People who like to stare; yes I know I'm speaking English and being loud and annoying with my friends but do you need to keep watching?! I've gotten over this one by now because at this point it's a daily part of my life.
  • Döner; need I say more?
  • Karneval; I think my last post adequately showed what the US is missing out on.
  • Grocery stores in the mall; you never realized it was smart until you had it
  • DM; you need it? They've got it. I guess we could call it Target of Germany.
  • More history;  Germany is much older than the US therefore Germans have a lot more to talk about and show
  • (Almost) free college
  • Abitur; American teens, your senior year is a cake walk compared to the German's.
  • Traffic lights that go green, yellow, red, yellow, green; wait what? Think about it Americans, rather than coming to a complete stop at a red you decelerate and hope it turns yellow before you've completely stopped. Yeah my mind was blown too.
  • Driving age of 18/drinking age of 16 (hard alcohol 18)

What are some things the US has that Germany doesn't?

Note: this list is mainly going to be things I miss from home so for that I apologize.

  • Mexican food; they don't understand what they're missing out on
  • Stores like Nordstrom, Macy's, Urban Outfitter, Target, Fred Meyer, Safeway, 7/11, VS, Baskin Robins, DQ, etc.
  • Two oceans
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Free condiments at fast food restaurants; do you want to pay extra for your ketchup? Yeah neither do I.
  • Cheap gas and car insurance; compared to Germany yes the US is cheaper but we also use up more resources and are quickly destroying the planet that we live on so who's really losing here?
  • Trump; the winner is pretty obvious in this one. Angie I love you.
  • Hollywood; as an American this doesn't seem that cool because you've grown up with it but as a non-American all things America/Hollywood related are fantastical
  • Silicon Valley; a lottt of tech/media comes from the US
  • High School prom; basically the high school experience in general is missing. There is too much intense studying, Netflix, and sports happening here in the land of the Deutsche. Where are the school sports, spirit days, and dances???
  • SAT/ACT; yes Germany doesn't have these but they have just about the equivalent (Abitur, mentioned above)
  • More personal space; this one was odd to me. Germans are often more distant and formal than Americans but when they're trying to get somewhere they will not hesitate from pushing you and throwing a dirty look behind to make sure you got the message you were in the way.
  • Speed limits; yes it's true Germans like to drive without limits and they can on some autobahns but not all
  • (Big) automatic cars; sad truth is even if I was allowed to drive here in Germany I couldn't because all the different gears just don't make sense

There are lots of similarities and differences between Germany and the US but at the end of the day they're just life. My life.

March 1, 2017No Comments

Karneval yo

Did you know that Germany has five seasons rather than four? There's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and finally KARNEVAL.

Karneval begins on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and ends February 28th, Faschingsdienstag. In Germany it is celebrated mainly in the Rhineland- Mainz, Bonn, Düsseldorf and Cologne. There are celebrations in other parts of Germany but since I'm in the Rhineland (northwestern Germany) I'm going to focus on Karneval there.

To begin I think I should fill you in on what Karneval is actually celebrating. For someone watching the festivities unfold it looks like a week of getting beyond drunk every day while wearing funny costumes. To the more religious person, this is not entirely the case.

Karneval is a Western Christian holiday. It is a week of celebration before Lent, the 40 day fasting period leading up to Easter. The holiday typically involves a public celebration and/or parade. People wear masks and costumes to lose their everyday individuality and gain a heightened sense of social unity. Excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods given up during the fasting period is common during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. In a broader sense the celebration is a time where all everyday rules and norms are reversed or forgotten.

Though not supported by sufficient facts the name Carnaval possibly came from the Italian carne levare which means "to remove meat." This would make sense because meat was prohibited during Lent.

Though Karneval technically starts in November the real festivities do not begin until the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. The official name for this Thursday is Weiberfastnacht. The history of this day began in Bonn, Germany in 1824. During this time, men dominated the Karneval celebration. The women of Bonn refused to remain standing off to the side during the festivities so they formed the Alte Damenkomitee (Old Ladies Committee) to fight for participation in Karneval. Today Weiberfastnacht is celebrated by the symbolic storming of the Rathaus (city hall).

I didn't participate in the taking of city hall in Düsseldorf. Instead I was at a school party in my city. As I may have mentioned once or twice not much happens in Willich but there was a Karneval party happening and I wasn't going to miss that opportunity. I  went. And it was awesome. It was the first time I felt like I had really interacted with people from my class and it was very gratifying. I hope to have more opportunities to spend time with people from my city outside of school before I go home in July. Speaking of going home, that exciting/somewhat dreaded day is officially set as July 13th. Book your calendars people, Kale is comin home.




The next day (Friday) I went to a Karneval event with my Rotary club in Köln. It's a very special party held every year to give the typical "Kölner Karneval" experience. The event went from 7pm to 2am. To say I was burnt out by the end is an incredible understatement. I did really enjoy it though. It was a  more "typical" German experience than even Oktoberfest in my opinion. There were lots of traditional outfits- people dressed like royalty with tights and hats with feathers five feet long, dancers, bands playing German Karneval music, and comedians. It was a very entertaining evening. Check out my Karneval folder on Facebook to see more photos and videos so you can really see what I'm talking about.


Team Willich dressed and ready to go



Eva (Taiwan) looking a little confused as the night got underway, definitely a good example of culture shock 


Of course Kölsch, the beer from Cologne was a part of our evening


The dancers were by far my favorite part 

I slept in after that long night but before long was again on the road and off to my Rotary Karneval Wochenende in Düsseldorf. I was reunited for three days with my favorite people in the world, exchange familyyy.

Saturday we had to sit through an exchange orientation again because it was our newbies first weekend hosted by Rotary (incase you forgot what newbies are: exchange students that have just started their exchange, I'm an oldie now whattttt). After the orientation we ate dinner and spent the rest of the night hanging out.

Sunday we got up, ate breakfast, and put on our costumes. We were given two hours in the Altstadt (old city) of Düsseldorf to experience Karneval. We took our music and headed for the stairs. The stairs are one of the most important locations of my entire exchange. They aren't just any stairs, they look out over the entire Rhine river and it is the official meeting place of all exchange students in or around Düsseldorf. There were big crowds there but that didn't stop us from blasting our Latino/Portuguese music and making a dancing circle of 60 people. Many people stopped to watch us laugh and dance and even joined in or tried to make us sing Düsseldorf Karneval songs. This was one of the best moments of my exchange so far. Something about being a part of something so big that people stop and watch and smile or even look at us as if we're completely insane makes me feel great. That is what I love the most about Rotary Youth Exchange.

These people make me happier than anything else...

Rosenmontag (Monday) we watched the Karneval Parade through Düsseldorf. There were quite a few political floats so you can imagine Trump was found a few times, sometimes not in the most flatterring ways...





Blond is the new brown




Okay so none of the floats portrayed Trump in a flattering way but all of their messages were accurate (in my personal opinion) even if they were shown in a somewhat vulgar way.

After the parade we all went home and immediately fell asleep. Three days of Rotary raging are tiring so just wait for that three week Europe tour that's coming up. Ahhhh I'm counting down the hours.

You might've thought this was the last of my Karneval adventures. You would be wrong. It was Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the end of Karneval. I went to Köln to watch another parade. We watched from an apartment window where candy was thrown with too much force at our faces, minor injuries did occur. A few days before I had discovered that someone I vaguely knew from Portland had been living in Cologne for the past five months. I contacted him and we met to watch the parade together. It was fun to be with someone from home all the way in Germany. This parade was much smaller than the one held on Rosenmontag but it was still a good way to end my Karneval experience.


Portland People!



Karneval is something we don't celebrate in the US which made me love the experience even more. Until a new year Karneval, Kaeleigh


February 15, 2017No Comments

A little trip to the zoo

Last week a friend of my host moms came to visit. Since it was a special occasion and there isn't much to do in Willich (sorry friends who live in Willich but you know it's true) we decided to go to the Krefeld zoo. Wait side note, what is someone who lives in Willich called? A Willich-er? Willich-ian? Willich-ite? Adding those endings might just be an English thing so I'm just going to make up a name myself. I think Willian is cool because in German the W is pronounced like a V so it's like villain just with the a and i switched. My name is Kaeleigh James and I am a Willian. I will rob you in my super stealthy house shoes. Did I take it too far?

Now back to the point, Krefeld zoo. Just my host sister, host mom, her friend, and I went. The weather was cold but sunny so I wasn't complaining. The first animals we saw were two camels...and they weren't fenced in. The only thing separating you from them was a one foot wide and deep trench. My first thought was this is Thailand all over again. The animals are going to be within reaching distance, I can put my hand in a hippos mouth again, maybe I'll get to feed a tiger a raw slab of meat from a stick. Those are all things that I actually witnessed in the Chang Mai zoo just a few years ago. But unfortunately my tiger fantasy did not come true. On the plus side, I did get to see monkeys and penguins up close. I'll post a video of the monkeys on Facebook.


The zoo was small but we still saw a lot.




an orangutan with her three week old baby

All the signs in the zoo were written in german as well as english. This somewhat surprised me because it's not a very big zoo but it was interesting to see the difference in english to german names. The funniest name I saw was for the pygmy hippo. In german it is called a Zwergflusspferd which literally means dwarf river horse.


As you can see above I took a picture inside a tortoise shell. I was actually forced into taking this picture and then was laughed at as I attempted to remove myself from it. A video exists of this event but you will never have the pleasure of watching it for the sole reason that it is horribly embarrassing.


It was a short adventure but still a fun one.

official zoo explorer, kale



November 14, 2016No Comments

Drink tea, make curry, and explore coal mills?

Hello world,

Ever heard of Teekanne? No? Well neither had I. Turns out it is a tea company that originated in Düsseldorf, Germany. They have made premium tea products since 1882. On Wednesday I visited one of their factories and took a tour there. We got to see how the tea was packaged into the bags and then boxed. It's crazy how fast the process is. I also got to sample some of their teas which was an obvious plus. They come up with 5-6 new tea flavors per year. Some of their newest are strawberry cheesecake and blueberry pie??? I think maybe they've run out of ideas...

On Friday I made Indian food! The first exchange student that ever came to Willich (6 years ago) is back in Germany for work. His company gave him the opportunity to spend three months working in Düsseldorf because he speaks German! It really shows how beneficial having a second language can be. Anyways, he is from India and we had heard the stories of his curry cooking experiences six years previously so we decided to do it again. We made chicken, curry, potatoes, rice, and papadum. It was probably one of the best meals of my exchange. I have missed my diverse food from home so it was nice to have something no offense but not German.

Now onto the coal mills. Sunday I went to the Ruhr Museum with my Rotary club and we took a tour of the Zollverein coal mill. The museum was built in the coal mill which I thought was really cool. What better way to use a giant abandoned space than a museum?

The mill was in use between 1851 and December 23rd, 1986. The mill employed 8,000 people. That would have been 8,000 people without jobs right before Christmas, doesn't really seem like the Christmas spirit to me. Though it was devastating for the people employed there it might've been for the best that it closed. Working conditions in a coal mine aren't great if you can believe it.

90% of the men employed there worked underground in the mines. You could start working above ground at age 14 and in the mines at age 16. Only the lowerclass people worked there because they couldn't find work elsewhere or afford further schooling. The pay was good but it was really bad for your health. Coal was so heavy sometimes that rather than picking it up they had to roll it off of the conveyor belts. Their hands obtained so many injuries that they turned permanently black and blue. You also lost most of your hearing after two years working in the mines. Plus lung diseases from the coal dust were also a major problem.

If not healthy the coal mill was efficient. It was in operation 24 hours a day with three eight hour shifts per day. 12 carts moved up the elevator from the mine to above ground every 54 seconds. The carts took only 30 seconds to fill. 1000 cars were loaded and emptied per hour. As mentioned before the mill closed in December 1986 due to insufficient output (the previously mentioned statistics don't sound very insufficient to me but I'm just writing the facts). The Zollverein mill was the last one to be closed in Essen. After its closing air quality improved in the city which is an obvious plus. And now there is an awesome museum you can visit so double plus!

Last fun fact about the mill, when the museum was built a Dutch architect made bright orange escalators up to the entrance. The reason for the color was that he wanted the distinction between what was new and what was historical to be very obvious. So he showed this with color. Speaking of the Dutch, we visited this museum with our partner club which is located in Holland. It sounds like I will be taking a trip there soon to visit them! Stay tuned.

-kale salad

November 10, 2016No Comments

November 8th, 2016

I will admit to not being a close follower of politics. What I know about global news and  my own country's internal turmoil is what people tell me. Maybe that makes me a bad, uninformed American but I'm admitting to that now before going further.

It is now November 10th and Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America. How do I feel about this? I feel a lot of things but what I feel the most is disappointment and even shame. I am only 17 years old which means that I couldn't contribute to the voting that occurred a few days ago. Sure I could go to the rallies and encourage people to send in their votes but when it comes down to it I could not contribute to the final outcome. Through this election process I stood on the sidelines observing all of the insanity that was occurring and hoped that who I thought would win...wouldn't.

But there I was on November 9th walking through the doors of building four in St. Bernhard Gymnasium. The one American girl. The girls who's country now had no respect. The voting wasn't official yet. I sat in German class checking my phone every five minutes for that final outcome while my classmates took turns staring at me. He needs four more votes, she needs over 50...What are you going to do if he wins? It's not even a matter of if anymore, only when. Kaeleigh. It's over. He won. Everyone goes back to their staring. It's time to burst this awkwardness bubble. "Yeah sorry guys, America screwed up." Everyone chuckles and looks away. I melt into my seat until the end of class.

At home, "Kaeleigh did you hear the news?" From a friend, "Bad outcome huh?" From a stranger in a restaurant, "Are you from the US? What do you think about the election?" From another friend, "Maybe he won't be so bad..." Every time someone asked me or even looked at me there was a look of pity. A look that said "I don't know how you let this happen."

Being on exchange I am representing the US. This has become much harder this week. The US has granted itself a new image internationally. Saying that I'm an American is harder and I hate that. The US is such a prideful country! I want to be prideful of being an American but currently saying that is like saying "I support Donald Trump and everything that he stands for." But it shouldn't be that way. Yes Trump is the new president of the United States but no he is not the United States. Over 300 million people live in the US and we have the ability to influence the changes made in our country. Donald Trump does not define me as an American and I don't want anyone to think that.

So yes I am still prideful to be an American and no I will not stop waving my flag through Germany for the next nine months I am here just because a provocative and possibly unqualified person has been elected as my president. I am an American and I will continue to act out the positive pieces of my country no matter who is leading it.

Thank you for reading and please don't lose hope in the United States. There is still hope for us no matter what. I can see that all the way from here.



November 4, 2016No Comments

St. Martin’s Day

Happy November!

I hope everyone had a spectacular Halloween and back home you're all enjoying your "No-school-vember." *Glares because we don't have this in Germany.*

I'm just going to be blunt here...Germans don't know how to celebrate Halloween. Back in the US we have Halloween movies, costumes, pumpkin carving, and trick or treating. Halloween here in Germany is just an excuse to throw a party and egg someones house. I'm not really upset about this fact because Germans have other holidays. I definitely missed my normal traditions but today I learned about a new holiday that is much more important here in Germany. St. Martin's Day!

The official St. Martin's Day is on November 11th but for some reason we're celebrating it now here in Schiefbahn. This religious holiday originated from a story about you guessed it, Saint Martin. The legend goes that Saint Martin was going on horseback through a snowstorm when he came upon a beggar. He cut his cloak in half to share it with the beggar so he wouldn't die from the cold. That night he dreamt that Jesus was wearing the half cloak and had blessed him for his generosity.

Historically St. Martin's Day was a day of feasting. It celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of harvesting. In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all week days from Saint Martin's Day to Epiphany (the feast of baptism on January 6th). This period of time was similar to the fast of Lent and was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin's Lent). This long period of fasting was later shortened and renamed "Advent" by the church.

Today, St. Martin's Day is celebrated in a different way. A bonfire is lit on the night of the holiday to symbolize the light that holiness brings to the darkness just as St. Martin brought hope to the beggar that night in the snowstorm. Children walk in processions carrying lanterns which also symbolize that light. The children walk usually from church to the public square and a man on horseback dressed like St. Martin accompanies them. Here in Schiefbahn the children walk house to house and sing Martin songs and often get candy in return (similar to Halloween). After the procession everyone meets in the city center for the bonfire and eats Weckmänner (a sweet bread shaped like St. Martin).

I enjoyed researching the history of this holiday and of course experiencing it as well. Discovering these little differences is one of my favorite parts of exchange. The United States has Halloween and Germany has St. Martin's Day and that's just fine.

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