Thursday, November 14, 2013

I knew Switzerland would be cold, but I didn't exactly prepare myself well for just how cold it will be. The temperature right now is colder than my American winter, and it will get even colder! On Wednesday, I was walking to the train station from my house in the morning to go to school, and it was -2 degrees Celsius. I couldn't feel my legs or my cheeks... It's the same when I walk home from school too, and I almost want to break out into a full on sprint so I get to the house, aka warmth, quicker. Hopefully, I'll get used to this cold weather. Otherwise, I don't know how I'll survive this winter!! I am so excited for when it starts snowing. My host sisters and my school friends can't believe me when I say that. They say I'll understand why after the long winter... The only place I'm ever warm is at home. At school, the teachers sometimes open the windows for fresh air. I ask myself, "do they even feel cold?" Today, I even resorted to wearing my winter coat in class.

This past week has been really wonderful. I cannot speak more positively or enthusiastically about studying abroad. I think it might be one of the best decisions I've made in my lifetime. Last Saturday, I started another German course with the exchange students in preparation for the B1 German Test; however, I would like to do the B2 Test at the end of my year. The teacher of our course said that she could help me with additional material to help me pass the B2 Test. If I pass this test, I will get a certificate proving that I am fluent in German. The highest test is C2, and with C1, one can teach German. I feel that the courses I have, the one with Rotary and my one in school will help me a lot with perfecting grammar, building vocabulary and so. I really want to achieve almost perfect German during my exchange-and of course, keep it.

After the course, I went to Bern with my counselor, Silvia, and her two sons Nick(16) and Remy(14). Once we were in Bern, we walked around and saw some of the city. I have to go again though because Bern is a very pretty city. We then had dinner in a restaurant, and then went to the Bundesplatz for the second annual light show. There were a ton of people in this giant courtyard out front of the capital building, and behind the people was a massive projector that displayed the lights. This show happens every night for about a month, until the end of November. The show was the history of Switzerland in fairytale version. I didn't understand anything because the script was Swiss German, but I did see the light show and that was very cool! I had a lovely time with Silvia and her family too.

Sunday, I went to Olten with Leandra for the Country Fair. That was a lot of fun! A lot of exchange students and returns came to represent their home/host country. In a ballroom, booths were set up all around the perimeter and each country decorated it with culture items from this place. There was even food involved... YUM. The atmosphere was incredible. All the kids from the different places were mingling among each other, some of the boys from Canada, Australia and New Zealand were tossing around a rugby ball, all the Latinos were dancing (no surprise there), and so on. This image from my exchange is one of my favorites. We exchange students have come from all over the world, met in Switzerland and it feels like we have known each other our entire lives.

School is always better, but not exactly making As in the classes... On the upside, I've noticed that the questions I had time to answer on the test, I answered correctly. This is good news because I'm starting to understand German better!!

Yesterday, I skyped with my mom at home and my host family together. That was great, and I had the best time translating-I do think I'll be fluent by Christmas. It put me in the best mood speaking with both of my mommies!

Sometimes my real mom tells me that I don't have to write always so happily in my blog, that I should be truthful if there are hard parts in my exchange. Of course I'd be honest if it came to that, but I'm truly happy. Always tired, but happy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

I have been the worst blogger ever. A post is in progress over my three week long Herbst Ferein, but I am going to update on my past weekend. Thursday was Halloween, which was a little weird. I remember thinking, "Oh wait, it's Halloween." So many people are interested about it and would ask me about it. Halloween is gaining popularity in Switzerland more and more every year. A few kids  were even trick or treating in the evening! At school, there was a boy that shaved his head and covered his entire body with paint (he was a skeleton). I really appreciated the measures he took to celebrate the American holiday! To other countries, Halloween is a scary holiday. They think the Americans go all out as the scariest creatures, but really all my friends dress up as cute things, like cats, tourists, fairies, celebrities, etc. On Thursday night, my host sister and I watched movies. It was a very nice family evening. The next day I got up early and went for a run. Then, one of my best exchange friends, Ana from Mexico, came over to my house. We helped my mom bake cakes for a party that my host parents were having for Bruno's family. They were having a Heisse Marroni (chestnuts) party. Ana and I were not present because Kira, an exchange student from the US, was having a Halloween costume/dance party. That was a lot of fun! It was great to see all my friends!
There were a lot of cats here

The next day, I went to Rapperswil with Leandra. It was a beautiful, small city. If my host mom hadn't suggested that we should go there, then I probably would never have gone! The weather was perfect. It was a sunny, fall day. I felt like I was in a movie because the leaves were falling all around, but not in a depressing dark way. In a happy, light floating way with warmth--I am not entirely positive that I'm able to articulate things in English as well as before in the States... About two hours after sightseeing, we ran out of things to see, so we decided to head home since we both had plans in the evening.

yes, this is a castle

After Rapperswil, I went to my Swiss friend's, Ellen's, house for a movie night with the girls. I was very tired, because well I'm very busy (this is of course a good thing). But, I met Ellen's family, and the parents are from Germany, so it was nice speaking High German with them! We drank tea and chatted for a while. Then, we watched two movies in the "Keller." This room had a giant couch pull out thing for us to all get comfortable on, and enough blankets for all. I brought popcorn and m&ms with me. When I have movie nights with friends at home, there is always m&ms mixed with popcorn and cookie dough. I introduced them to the dynamic duo of chocolate and popcorn-it was a hit and success!! They were crazy about it which made me feel good! Unfortunately, the movies didn't come with subtitles (films made in Germany), but it was fun and I understood enough. Afterwards, her dad drove us all home which is really nice since we could've hopped on a train. I am really lucky to have formed such amazing friendships, not only with the exchange students, but also with the Swiss people. On Sunday, I had a relaxing rainy day. I worked through paperwork and reports for Rotary-making sure I'm staying on top of everything. I also had a wonderful treat and got to Skype with a friend from home!!

I can't believe it's almost been three months... 4 days until the first three months! Time is flying and I couldn't be happier. I don't understand why not more people do something like this. I am so blessed to have this experience of a lifetime and to have met some of the most amazing people from all over the world. I'm going to try to update more often, but keep it shorter and then keep a more personal handwritten journal.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I have not updated my blog in a while. That is both good and bad. Good because I'm very busy. Bad because now it's a pain to recap 3 weeks and all my observations... I have so much I want to share and now I don't know where to begin... Well, a long, long time ago on Sunday the 8th, I went with my family to a Schwingfest and hiking. Schwingen is Swiss wrestling, and the national sport. It is very funny and I feel like I got a lot of Swiss culture from it. I finally got to bust out the hiking boots! I felt so Swiss. It was rainy, a little chilly, but still picture perfect scenery!


Typical Appenzell dress!

Yodeling-this is not joke!

Cheese factory

This cheese by the way is very very good, and so is Nidel-Zeltli. Nidel-Zeltli is a kind of caramel that is also made in the Cheese Factory in the pictures above. These little things are deadly-so sweet, and you could catch yourself eating the whole bag... It started to rain, and was pretty cold so we went for a coffee, or a hot shoggy (chocolate in Swiss German). This day was so much fun, and I loved how family oriented it was! The following week was my hardest week yet because I wasn't new anymore, and I realized how hard the language barrier is. I started to run out of questions to ask the Swiss people. I'm not used to not participating in class and not being able to really laugh at something I think is hilarious ( because I don't understand all the jokes). I really missed my friends the week following the 8th. I remember being really tired and not really wanting to hangout with anyone from my class because it required a lot of work from me. The weekend of the 14th and 15th couldn't have come at a better time-a weekend in Thun and Gstaad with all the exchange students. I was reunited with people that spoke English, and they understand my situation! I baked M&M cookies, since we had to bring a dessert from our home country. We hiked around, ate food, had a dance party, saw more of beautiful Switzerland-it was a lot of fun!! I always have so much fun with the exchange students. It feels like I have known them all my life, but really only a month!!

Alpabzug-when the cows come down from the mountain for the winter


Alp Horn!


The next week was a lot better, still hard, but better. It was our last week of school before having our BU Project Week. That meant a lot of tests for the Swiss students, but because a lot of the material was learned before I came- that means a lot of free time for me. I studied German, worked out in the fitness center, went home, etc. The 9th and 16th I attended Rotary meetings. On Friday, it was my real mom's and my host brother's birthday. I had a really great phone call with my mom!! My host family sent her flowers-they are the best!! I miss my family at home, but I haven't been homesick at all (besides my friends) because I really was lucky with my host family. My host family had a little get together for Manuel's 16th. Leandra, my host mom and I all cooked. The drinking age in Switzerland is 16, so he drank a beer with dinner. His right of passage! On Saturday, D2000 Rotary students had a follow up meeting in St. Gallen. We had a delicious lunch of spaghetti (one of my faves), went over the rules.....for the millionth time and talked about how we were adjusting. Always a great time with the exchange students!! After the meeting, we went into the city and showed the other exchange students who aren't familiar with St. Gallen the city. It was a lot of fun!! I was exhausted afterward, but you're always going or I am as an exchange student.

After my quality time with the exchange students, I met my host family and we went to Rebecca's gymnastics Globi themed show. It was really fun and cute. There were toddlers til 20 year olds participating. Globi is a Swiss children character. Very popular in Switzerland!
A lot of people came-and of all ages!-the atmosphere was great. I was so tired!! On Sunday, I went hiking in EbenAlp with my host parents and Leandra. It was gorgeous and a great day!!

This cave housed cave bears- much larger than our grizzly bear

Traditional picture with the exchange student!

Chapel in a cave

Alp restaurant

I know I'm in the Alps when this is the toilet. Not a pretty smell might I add...

I will be making this for my family in America
This past week was a blast! It didn't come with the same pressure (for the Swiss students) as the real school days. The first day, Monday, we had film analysis, and then went to FM1 in St. Gallen to see the radio and TV studios. I didn't understand much because they spoke Swiss German. On Tuesday, we had more film analysis. On Wednesday, we went to the Vekehrhaus in Luzern. It's a really cool museum and amusement park. We saw a 3D film on the coral reef in the IMAX. Of course, I was exhausted afterward... On Thursday, we had a question and answer session with a director, and then in the afternoon-theater makeup!! That was so much fun! I ended up making up a boy and he me... That was quite the risk I took... I had to do some of it and the teachers had to help it because well "he is a boy, and he doesn't understand"-his words (in German). On Friday, we had a half day and went to the movie theater. We got a tour, and then saw Wir Sind die Millers, it was hilarious. It was in High German, and I actually understood it enough to laugh!!! Not at everything though... This past week has really been a break through week. I've really started to solidify my friendships with this group of Swiss girls in my class, which is basically all of them since the other half are boys. I've been getting more and more invitations to do things, it's easier to talk-not always having to ask so many questions!, and I've even started to understand jokes and funny stories!! I was so worried it would take me forever to find Swiss friends- yes, it takes work- but I'm so lucky it has only been a month! Speaking of, next week it will be two months!! Can't believe how time flies... Anyway, after the movie, I went with a couple girls from my class to lunch and shop a little. Then, we went into H&M combined "not-so-cute" outfits, and made each other try them on. It was very funny-and something I do with my friends at home!! Then, I went home and made pralines for my host family. They are absolutely delicious (and easy), and I think my family likes it!! Then, I went out with some of my Swiss friends to Herbstfest in a nearby city, and that was jam packed! Lots of fun with live music, and good times! Oktoberfest has arrived!!



The language: Every day German gets easier and easier! I love that the people in my class don't speak amazing English-I'm forced to speak German. I find myself, as I'm writing this, begin to write some things in German...
Tomorrow I am leaving in the morning to go for a week to Ticino (the southern-Italian part of Switzerland) and northern Italy! Would not give anything for my exchange-loving every second!!