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 1, 2017No Comments

Hello, Frankfurt

Last week I had two days off from school which gave me a four day weekend. What did I do with that time? I took my best exchange friend and hopped on a bus to Frankfurt to visit my sister.

Wait, wait, wait. Back up a bit...sister in Frankfurt??? To be precise I'm talking about my host sister, Lena. She lived with me in the US for three months and now that I'm in her home country we've visited each other a few times.

She picked up Taylor and I in central Frankfurt at 8:05 with cold Chipotle and melted Frappuccinos in hand. Our bus was (only) two hours late. So that'sss why taking a bus is so much cheaper than a train...thank you traffic. Taylor and I didn't even notice the sad state of our food and drinks because we were too excited to see Lena and finally be there. We took a train back to her house, ate our Chipotle with homemade guacamole because *fun fact* it's super expensive to get extra guac in Germany too, and then watched a movie before falling asleep.


Lena lives in a small city just outside of Frankfurt called Oberursel. Thursday afternoon we took a bike tour of Oberursel and stopped for ice cream and thai food along the way. Oh how I have missed thai food. Portland people, do you know the restaurant Khao San? Unlimited thai iced tea. Need I say more? Get in there man. Do they have to pay me for advertising their restaurant? Or do I have to pay them to use their name? Am I going to get sued? All of the Suits I've watched hasn't payed off apparently. Where's Harvey Specter when I need him? *see note at the bottom of the page*

The bike tour was fun especially because of how nice the weather was. It was hot. Shorts weather is here! But not only was the sun shining but the pollen blowing. I had no Claritin to save the day (man I've got to stop using company names) so I basically died. I think I sneezed 100 times that day. I've got medicine now but I still think the German pollen wants me dead.


IMG_3831That evening we dressed up and took the train to Frankfurt to partyyy (cautiously and responsibly of course). The three of us had a blast. If there had been a dance competition we would have taken gold no questions asked. If Despacito and Rolex start playing it's best to step back and let us do our thing.


Post party slump

We slept in late the next morning and then took a train back to Frankfurt. We did some shopping and walking around and then stopped for an early dinner before going to Birdy's concert. We got there pretty early because we had floor tickets and wanted to get as close to the front as possible. Oh how our dreams came true. We were front and center, pressed against the gate in front of the stage. Beautiful Birdy was a mere 10 feet away. I could have died happy right then and there. But luckily I survived because now I can tell you about my fantastical experience seeing Birdy perform live in the old opera house in Frankfurt.

Paradisia opened for her. I had never heard of them but I wasn't disappointed. They were really cute and I enjoyed their music. Plus they had a vintage look going on which made me feel some Portland pride. You know Birdy has a song called What About Angels? Well she was the angel in that moment. I posted pictures and videos on Facebook from the concert. Take a look!



Birdy in a bomba$$ studded emerald jump suit #goals





After the concert we went up a skyscraper to the viewpoint and got to see the city from above. We missed most of the sunset but got to see the end which was still beautiful.


On Saturday we woke up a bit earlier so we could get more done. We went to a shopping center and bought sunglasses and matching shirts while judging all the girls walking around in matching shirts (it's a girl thing). We ate lunch there and then went to a swimming pool in Oberursel to get some tanning in. Germany may have weak sun but I'm still getting tan. Summer here I come.

That night we went to a friend of Lena's house and hung out for a few hours before going home and passinggg out. It had been a long and tiring weekend. We woke up the next morning, ate breakfast and drank cappuccinos before going back to Frankfurt so Taylor and I could catch our bus home.

I love getting to spend time with some of my closest friends. If only they lived closer to me. *insert sigh*


Sista sista

Ta ta for now, kales


*in the case that I am sued for the use of any names in this post feel free to donate to my sue money fund at this address: kaeleighhasbeensuedhelpagirlout.com*

**the link located above is having technical difficulties, please send the money directly to Kaeleigh's home address, thank you**

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

April 27, 2017No Comments

This is it – Week 3

This is it people. The final week of the best trip of my life. Am I crying as I type? Well no but I might as well be.

The third week was mainly France with a quick stop in Geneva, Switzerland and Monaco. In France we went to Nice, Avignon, and finally Paris. The week went by fast which is never good when you want something to last forever and ever. But alas, you can't always get what you want.

We started week three in Nice which was my second favorite city of tour. Nice is on the coast of France which meant beach. It was the city I was most looking forward to before tour because well, I like the beach. It was rocky rather than sandy but I wasn't disappointed.

My favorite memory from Nice was buying a subway sandwich and slice of cheesecake from a local bagel shop and having a makeshift picnic on the beach with my best friend. We sat right along the water and just hung out for awhile. Also the cheesecake was amazing so that was a huge plus.

My other favorite memory was running into the freezing Mediterranean Sea hurting my feet all the way on the horrible rocks. I was so cold and my friend forced me to dunk completely under with her. I screamed but did it. Being in the Mediterranean even for that short time was so worth it. Everyone was yelling and laughing and we were all so proud because Rotex was sure we would chicken out and go in for only a second. We refused to leave until we absolutely had to just to prove them wrong and when we got out we tried to hug everyone who was still dry which they definitely didn't appreciate. We were all smiles that day, and every day of tour. *Nostalgia hits yet again*

Not only was the coast beautiful but the city streets as well. All the buildings were different colors of a sunset which I loved. Check out the pictures to see what I mean. Nice was, if you don't mind me saying, quite...nice. Come on, you had to have seen that one coming.

On our second day in Nice we took a day trip to Monaco. What is one thing Monaco is not lacking? Money and yachts. I discovered I would never want to live there but it sure was pretty...from a distance.

In Monaco's defense I took some of my best photos of tour there. I'm just saying the fancy yacht lifestyle isn't for me, but it sure was fun to pretend it was just for a day.

Anddd next on the list we have Avignon. What do I remember from this city? McDonald's and a relaxing tanning session.

Why McDonald's? Plans don't always work out because you know, life. So sometimes you have to made do. For us that "plan" that didn't work out was eating our two nights in Avignon at the hostel. We had to look elsewhere and the only place that could accommodate 61 people on short notice for not that much money was McDonald's. We're teenagers, we didn't care, we got free chicken nuggets and fries out of the deal.

The tanning occurred at the Pont du Gard along the Gardon River. The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct built in the first century AD to carry water from a spring to Nemausus (a Roman colony). The aqueduct also functioned as a three tiered bridge. The aqueduct fell into disuse between the 4th and 6th centuries but continued to be used as a toll bridge for much longer. It became a tourist attraction during the 18th century.

The last significant thing that happened in Avignon was our district talent show and man are we talented. That actually wasn't sarcasm because a lot of people had real talents they shared, mainly musical with singing and dancing because that's almost all we exchange students ever do. Taylor and I rolled around on the floor to some awesome Crazy Frog music because that's real talent. Okay that time I was using sarcasm. But that's a true story we really did that and I have zero shame.

Next stop, Geneva.

We drove five hours to Geneva from Avignon and ended up seeing the city for a solid two hours. From what I saw it was beautiful. From what I learned it was expensive. The next day we drove to Paris and that's when the real fun began.

Final city, Paris. Man was it a good end to an out of this world awesome three weeks. We saw quite a bit in Paris so I'm skipping some words and sticking mostly with pictures. Two significant touristy things we did in Paris were go up the Eiffel tower (yes it was as awesome as it sounds) and take a tour of the city by boat.

We saw the Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the Eiffel tower, city hall, clock tower, the Louvre (I did more than see it, I went in.), the first American church ever built outside of the US, and many but not all of the 37 bridges in Paris.

Did I mention I took lots of pictures? Did I mention I had a photo shoot of me holding up my macarons in front of the Eiffel tower to show how "French" I was? Well either way it happened. Here's your proof.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it doesn't matter where you are but who you are with. We could have visited the dumpsters of Paris and if I had my group of exchange students I would've been happy. Tour coming to an end was only depressing because it meant I wouldn't get to see those 52 faces every day. This was the last time we'd all be together and that hurt but I can say it was one of the best experiences of my life. So thanks to Rotary and Rotex and my Rotary family for making this tour more than incredible. It's something I'll never forget. Part of me is scared to ever come back to the places we've visited because it will never be the same as doing it with all of you.

My final goodbye to Europe tour -KAJ

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One last photo, this is (about) the route we took throughout the whole tour

April 26, 2017No Comments

This is Italy – Week 2

Padua, Venice, Rome, Florence, and Pisa. That was Italy. That was warm weather and sun, being surrounded by your favorite people on this earth, and seeing incredible things you never expected to see in such incredible circumstances. Did I enjoy my week in Italy? I most certainly did.

We arrived at the hostel in Padua, dropped our bags off, and headed into the city. The sun was just starting to set which made the perfect lighting for pictures. Plus the city center was beautiful so that helped a bit too;) We took a short tour and then broke off for dinner. I tried my first real Italian calzone (Ben Wyatt would be proud) and pizza that night. I wasn't disappointed. We ended the night with our music and typical dance circle in the open for all the Italians to see. My favorite way to end an evening.


"Keep calm and kiss an exchange student"


Casually walking down the street when I stumbled upon a Banksy piece #casual


The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and Galileo Galilei was a lecturer there



District 1870, you have my heart


Canadian bestie & I

The next day we drove to Venice which I would come to decide was my favorite city of tour. It might have just been my mentality that day but Venice was peaceful. Sure there were tons of people bustling around but I was in my own bubble seeing everything from my own perspective. I think half my photos from tour (2100 of them) were from Venice alone.

In Venice I bought pizza on focaccia bread (essential details here people) and ate it sitting with my friends on a dock with our legs dangling over the water watching the boats pass. After the pizza we bought gelato and I stumbled across a friend of mine from my district in the US who was also on a Europe tour. Kailey, my name twin, if you ever read this yesterday was your birthday so I'm wishing you a happy 17th and I'm glad we got to see each other in Venice. And yes the odds that I found someone I know who is also doing an exchange in Germany all the way in Venice is crazy but exchange students always have a way of finding each other <3 (This is bold because it's really relevant to my life and will forever make me nostalgic of my exchange year and the friendships I've made).

Anyways, back to Venice; pizza and gelato. Let's add beautiful architecture, streets, markets, and finally a gondola ride through the canals. It doesn't get much better. Take me back to Venice.

We only took a day trip to Venice because well you know it's a set of islands which are expensive to live on especially when you are 61 people. We drove back to Padua where our hostel was and the next day we were off to Rome. Before leaving Padua a couple friends and I bought strawberries from a day market plus cheese and a baguette and ate like fancy Europeans on our way to Rome. We live the high lifestyle.

We stayed in Rome for three days and walked approximately 20 kilometers (approx. 12 miles) per day. The walking was well worth the sights. I mean come on, I got to go inside the Roman Colosseum and for free might I add (perks of being under 18). I also went to mass...in the Vatican City...with the Pope. Like the Pope. The service was about three hours long and all in Italian but still an incredible experience. The music was my favorite part. You have to go to really experience it, videos don't do it justice.

Another important thing you need to know about Rome is that it's the city where I had the best gelato of my entire life. This wasn't just any gelato it was Italian gelato probably blessed by the Pope himself. It was three scoops (which were in total probably about the size of my head) of pure heaven. So thank you Rome, I can say I experienced some pretty crazy awesome things visiting you.

Bye Rome and hello Florence. I honestly can't say we did much in Florence. It was kind of a rest city. That's not to say it wasn't pretty or worth the while. My best friend (from Canada) Taylor and I found a Brandy Melville store in Florence and let's just say we took advantage of it. It was a funny experience to be back in something so American and even more funny because I walked out with a new shirt that I will continue to call my "typical German girl shirt" because I'm pretty sure every German girl owns one. Ask me about it sometime and maybe I'll pull it out of my closet for you.

Our two evenings and mornings in Florence we ate at a small mom & pop restaurant down the street from our hostel. This is Italy, all the food is supposed to be delicious right? Wrong. You know what spaghettios are right? Well imagine the "soup" of spaghettios as marinara sauce on your pasta. Yum yum. In the mornings we had the delicacy of American cheese. Who knew the Italians knew the magic of American cheese? Even though no one really liked the food at the restaurant we did a good job of hiding our dislike because the owner never found out and we were all best friends by the end of the second day. The owner was a weird guy. At one point during dinner he pretended to knock on my head with sound effects and then walked away laughing. Why? I could never tell you. I will forever have odd memories of Florence because of this experience. What a city, what a city.

From Florence we drove to Pisa for a short trip to see the tower. Our bus driver didn't know where he should park our bus so we spent quite a bit of extra time doing circles through Pisa. We hardly noticed because of the loud music and singing occurring throughout the bus. When we finally made it to the tower we had an hour to stage our cringy photos like the typical tourists that we are. But when in Pisa right? Or is it Rome?



I promised cringy pics


So this was Italy. Next stop, France. Third and final installment coming soon.

*Roll the credits*

April 24, 2017No Comments

Europa Tour – Week 1

This isn't an easy post to write. First off because it was a three week long adventure which is a lot to cover and second because since it only ended two days ago, it hurts to remember it's over.

This was my second and last tour on exchange. My first was in October. Two weeks traveling by bus around Germany with my oldies. My second was three weeks on a bus with my newbies. And now, no more. I still have one more weekend to see everyone all together but then us oldies go home. 80 days people, 80 days and I'll be flying home.

Now onto that tour, it started in Duisburg at 11pm. I pulled up with my suitcase which I promptly dropped unceremoniously on the ground and started showering everyone who was already there with hugs of excitement.  I've always had this sort of happy energy that I get randomly when I'm in a good mood but on tour this energy went on basically the whole time probably making everyone think I'm psychotic in real life (I am).

Anyways, people kept showing up and I kept making a show of being really excited to see them. The bus finally showed up, late I might add which would continue to be a trend throughout the entire tour. Everyone got on as quick as possible, me in my excitement totally forgetting to tell my drivers goodbye...oops and we were on our way.


Fact: Prague is the capitol of the Czech Republic and home to approximately 1.2 million people.

Opinion: I found the architecture to be somewhat similar to Bruges which was a city I visited in Belgium and really loved.

Historical landmarks: Prague Castle, astronomical clock, Jewish Quarter, Old Town Square - all of which I visited in my two days there.

Short History Lesson: the Prague astronomical clock was first installed in 1410. It is the third oldest in the world but the oldest still in use. It has three components; the astronomical dial, "The Walk of the Apostles," and a calendar dial. The astronomical dial represents the position of the sun and moon. "The Walk of the Apostles" is an hourly clock which shows the Apostles and other moving sculptures striking the time every hour. The calendar dial represents the months passing.



Old Town Square






Astronomical Clock


My friends getting ready to try our traditional Prague dessert


Dessert from Prague called Trdelník - cooked and rolled cinnamon dough with ice cream


me eating the dessert lookin cute, okay maybe not


View of Prague from the Prague Castle


John Lennon Wall



Fact: Budapest is among the top 100 GDP performing cities in the world and attracts 4.4 million international tourists per year making it the 25th most popular city in the world and 6th in Europe.

Opinion: it was so much bigger than I anticipated. In most cities we leave the hostel and walk around the city doing our tours and occasionally using public transport. In Budapest we spent a long time on the bus just trying to get to the place to start our tour. I think we crossed over about 6 different bridges each at least two times in the span of three days. Part of this could have been the bus driver being lost, it's kind of hard to tell from the back row.

Historical landmarks: St. Stephen's Basilica, Chain Bridge, Parliament, Fisherman's Bastion, and the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath

Short History Lesson: the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest of its kind in Europe. Its water comes from two thermal springs of 74C (165F). The water contains sulphate, calcium, magnesium, biocarbonate, and fluoride/metaboric acid. The baths are thought to help degenerative joint illnesses, chronic and sub-acute joint inflammations, and orthopaedic and traumatological post-treatments.






Thanks to whoever threw the Lipton tea bottle into my photo, it's artistic flair I swear



Chain Bridge


St. Stephen's Basilica


View from St. Stephen's


View pt2


Széchenyi Medicinal Bath



The ladies




Fact: Vienna is the capitol of Austria and has a population of about 1.8 million. It also has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin.

Opinion: I found Vienna to be a very beautiful city and not all that similar to Germany. I for some reason had the impression that because the two countries share a language they'd be similar but listening to the difference between Austrian German and German German should be enough to tell you they're not very similar at all.

Historical landmarks: Hotel Sacher, Pestsäule, Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera House, Austrian Parliament Building, Karlskirche, and the Hundertwasserhaus

Short History Lesson: Vienna was greatly impaired by the Great Plague of Vienna in 1679 with a loss of 76,000 people. It was a major trading city because of its location on the Danube River so Vienna frequently suffered outbreaks of the plague. The Pestsäule is a Holy Trinity column (sometimes also referred to as a mercy column) that was put in place after the plague to celebrate the end of the plague and commemorate the lives lost. The column was put in place in 1693 and depicts the triumph of faith over disease.



Schönbrunn Palace







Vienna city center


The Pestsäule





Hotel Sacher




St. Stephen's Cathedral, under construction like every church in Europe it seems


Meeting exchange friends from back home in Vienna!

This here concludes week one of my tour through Europe. Look for week two soon...


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 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

Spontaneous snow day

I had been moving about the house for almost an hour Saturday morning before I finally looked outside and saw the snow. And it was REAL snow. Not a light dusting but the stuff you could build a snowman with. Which is exactly what I did.

After breakfast Leanne (my nine year old host sister) began almost literally bouncing on the walls waiting for Lukas (host brother), Nora (host mom), and I to get ready for our snow walk. She had already been out once earlier and didn't want to lose her opportunity to attack us with snowballs before everything melted.

When we got outside the weather was perfect. Brisk air and sun. I was able to enjoy it for about five seconds before I was nailed with my first aforementioned snowball. We walked/ran through the snow covered streets trying to avoid the thrown snow until we came to the fields where there were less cars. The four of us worked together to build a snowman while simultaneously shoving snow down each others backs.

It's not everyday that someone finds themself with the opportunity to build up an arsenal of snowballs and begin launching but if someone is going to force feed you snow you know I'm going to fight back. Problem is that the "force feeder" was a foot taller than me with incredibly long arms and I was no match. I can now say I know how it feels to have an older brother. Thanks Lukas.

Somehow a snowman did come out of our battle. It was big and quite impressive if not a little dirty. I super loved this day. It was a bonding moment for me and my new host family and we all had a ton of fun. Nailing each other in the face with snow changes a relationship and in this case for the better. I'm super happy in this family and can't wait to spend the next five months with them.







The next day the snow had disappeared and it was sunny and 10 degrees (50F). It felt warm. Spring is that you? I guess we'll have to wait and see.


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



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