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Life in the Black Forest
Photo supplied Joe Huber, pictured in the center, is shown flanked by host father and mother along with family friends while skiing in Switzerland.

Letter from Joe

Editor's Note: The following was written and emailed by Huber earlier this winter.

Well, a half of the year has already come and gone. The 2 months in Bonn was a good experience and was fun to hang out with all the people in the program.

Since September I have been with my permanent host family in a small town just south of Freiburg in the Black Forest. My host family consists of Klaus and Veronica (host parents), and 15 year old host brother Rafael. My host family is amazing and I would say we get along really well.

For the first two months I attended Faust Gymnasium, basically like a high school, to further learn more German and start to meet some kids my own age. While attending school, I worked at the local vineyard picking grapes for about while everything was ripe. I also got the chance to work with moving juices and from tanks to tanks and cleaning out the tanks.

At the beginning of November, I was finished with school and working with the grapes, and started my long term internship with the Forstamt in Staufen. Basically it's the head forestry center in this area. I work in the woods with the foresters and forest workers. Some things I have done include: planting five thousand oak trees with three other guys in a week and a half by hand, marking trees that need to be cut down and learning why these trees need to be cut down, going hunting with the hunters and foresters to control the population of wild boars and deer, just recently attended a two day safety course to be able to operate a chainsaw in Germany and cut down my first tree on the 14th of January, and tons more. I have to say that working in the Black Forest is amazing and I'm really learning a lot.

So what do I do in my free time? Well normally my host brother and I hang out on the weekend with friends, go to the youth center, lots of skiing, I also play football for a team in Freiburg twice a week, and hanging out with my host family.

MONROE - Joe Huber, a 2008 Monroe High School graduate, is enjoying his year in Germany.

Huber left last summer for a year-long vocational internship exchange program sponsored jointly by the United States Congress and the Bundestag, the German national parliament. Only 25 American students are selected for the program each year. Huber, the son of Robert and Nancy Huber, had to pass a rigourous selection process to earn a place in the program.

Before he left, Huber hoped he would be placed in an internship that would be in keeping with his farm background or his career goal of becoming a game warden. He got lucky: Huber is working in forestry in the Black Forest.

He said he's enjoyed the work. He helped plant 5,000 oak trees, helped in selective harvesting of trees and trimmed Douglas firs more than 30 feet in the air.

The German he learned under teacher Karen Fowdy at MHS has come in handy. Fowdy said she has spoken to Huber on the phone and reports he's fluent in German.

Huber said the difficulty has been growing accustomed to the regional dialects of Germany. The people living near the Black Forest have their own dialect, which at first was difficult for Huber to understand. "I'm getting used to it now," he said.

Huber also has had a chance to visit German cities. He spent his first two weeks in Bonn. It was OK, but Huber admitted he was homesick after those two weeks. "I'm not much of a city person," he said.

He nourished his need for country life by spending a week on a farm. "After that, I was fine," he said. He also spent a few weeks in Berlin, but found "not much was going on."

But he's particularly enjoyed working with the foresters in the Black Forest and hunting for deer, which he said are much smaller than Wisconsin whitetail, and boar, which are plentiful.

He's also enjoying his host family and has formed a close bond with his teen-age host brother. Huber said his host mother, with whom he only speaks German, has been surprised at how quickly the American teen has "blended in."

His host brother is considering visiting to Monroe, a prospect Huber looks forward to.

"I'll show him how it's done in Monroe," he said.