Monday, September 26, 2011

Rotex Weekend!

Hey everybody! I just came back from the Rotex weekend (Rotex are exchange students who have returned from their exchanges) and it was so much fun!

We started the say by meeting in the Bern trainstation. All the exchange students from the West side of Switzerland were there--over 60 teenagers. We then met our Rotex leaders, who brought us by bus to Bern's Ropetech. A Ropetech is a park where ropes and bridges are suspended from tree over 50 ft high for you to walk on. About half of the students and I got to go first. We go suited up in harnesses, and learned the basics, and then got to try it out. In Switzerland, it is a lot harder to sue someone than it is in America, which is part of the reason why we got to do this semi-dangerous thing without any superviosion, which was super nice.

It was so so so much fun! We walked on ropes (clipped in of course, so it we fell we wouldnt die) 50 ft in the air! Some of the obstacles were so scary, and I am proud I was brave of enought to do them. One of them was where you had to walk across a log path in the air. The logs were standing vertically, and were suspened each by one wire, so you had to walk on the tops of them as steps. It was really freaky because they tipped when ever you walked on them, and the girl in front of me fell, and was hanging in the air by her harness!

You can see a person here stating to make the climb up the steps (right in picutre) to the starting of the lowest platforms.

A lot of the course was also ziplines. My parents would not believe you if you told them what I did...haha. I climbed up a series of ladders until I was parallel with the top of the forest, and then went on a 50 meter long zipline. I didnt get any pictures of that one, but here is a picture of one of my friend's Emily going on a smaller one. You can see here standing on the platform.

Later, we all took a train to a log cabin in Langenthall, and stayed there for the night. Immagine 60+ teenagers (and exchange students for that matter, which I think are a breed of teenagers) alone in a cabin for a night, with the only superviosion being four 20 year olds. Yep, it was a very fun night. We were all up until 4:30 in the morning...haha. I bunked with some girls I havent met yet, and they were all so nice. We talked so loudly that some Spanish girls who went to sleep early had to kick us out in to the hallway.

In the morning, after a great breakfast of bread and Nutella, (Swiss people loooveee Nutella!) we played a relay race and other games (which my team SUCKED at...we got an A for effort though!). We also took some picutres.
Here are all the exchange students who happened to be outside when this was taken.

We also took some country pride pictures.....yeah, America was not impressive. Here are the Canadians:
And here are the Americans. Only country which had no flags at all! Goooo America!!! I think we were the least patriotic group, but hey, how can you compare to Canadians or Argentinians? Those exchange students are weirdly partriotic...when I said I didnt like hockey, I think Patick got angry at me.

Here are the South Americans plus dark skinned people. (As you can tell by the addition of three Americans...haha)

To end a great weekend, some of us hung out afterwards in Zurich and made plans to meet again during break in 2 weeks. My new friends Hailey (a and Kelsey (weirdly enough, from Portland!) and I are planning on tracing the outline of Switzerland by trains, so we can get postcards from 6 different countries in one day! Yeah, strangly enough, from Switzerland, you can visit Italy, France,Germany, Austria and Lichtenstein in one day! I'm so excited! And Emily, Kim might come with us (more Canadians...double boo) to Ticino during break too. Ticino is the Southern most Kanton of Zurich, and the speak Itlalian there. We hear the gilatto and pizza is super good!

 Most popular game of the night: Ninja! We are such mature people.

You probably wont hear from me for 2 weeks or so. Next week is work week, and my class is preforming  music in the streets of Basel. Then, its vacation (and all my fun trips!) but I wont have acess to a school computer, and my computer crashes on this website. So until next time! Thanks for reading :) I'll try to update my last post tomorrow, sorry I have been so delayed--its just hard finding time to do this, Im a busy girl!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Hey Everybody! I have been getting some questions about what are the main differences from my life now, to the one I had before, so I decided to devote an entire post to that. First, to catch up on everything that has happened since my last post.

Last weekend, we had our rotary innitiation. We met Rotarians, and I had my first Brotwust (as seen in the picture to the right). By the way, I am typing this during lunch because my laptop at home cant go on this website. So, if at some time I just randomly stop, its because the bell rang---but it will be updated 24 hours later! Haha...

Anyways, school is going well, and it is beginning to feel like a routine. Below, is a picture of me sitting with my exchange friends during lunch. We are all really close, and they make it so much easier to do this with. Last Wednesday we went on an hour or two long boat ride around the lake together (thanks Rotary!) and ate and talked. It was so much fun!
 Laura, Elle and Sienna and I also all took the train to Luzern this Saturday for another Rotary orrientation, and we got to check out the city, which was fun too.

Elle and I on the boat

Language camp officially ended last Friday, which was a good thing, and a bad thing. On one hand, I'm glad to spend the whole day with my normal class, and I was getting a little bored to be honest in language camp. On the other hand, we all kind of decided that we should stop hanging out with eachother, and try to make Swiss friends. Although I sat with some girls from my class on Monday, this whole week I sat by myself or in the library reading Time during lunch. Ergh...Im such a loser!! That has been really hard for me, because the exchange students have kind of been a barrier to all the homesickness people feel on exchange, and let me tell you, eating by yourself will bring that on like no other. (Especially when you stupidly decide to eat at Starbucks, and there is a huge painting of Pike Place)

Now, on to the main subject of this, the differences! (The bell is about to ring, so I'll make this snappy)

SCHOOL: School is WAY different here. As I said before, you pick a major, and are in a class of students with the same major. Your rotate your entire day with this class. School usually starts at 7:30, 8:25 or 9:15 and goes until 3:00, 4:00 or 4:45. Although the late start is nice, not getting home until 5:30 two days a week kind of sucks. Lunch is always at least and hour and a half, and on Thursdays for me it is two hours and fifteen minutes. In that time, you can walk downtown and buy food at Migros (kind of like a Swiss Thriftway) or go to a restaurant (though most people dont do this) or go home. A lot of people eat in downtown, or at the lake. The Migros is located in the Metali, which is kind of like a mall, which reminds me of Westlake center. There is an outside fountain at the Metali which is the most popular place to eat.

(This is a picture Elle took of me during lunch)

Teachers also lecture A LOT more than in the states, and there is way less  homework! It is almost more like a college setting, because most of your grade is based on tests, so the teachers wont force you to just should. PLUS all colleges are almost free and you get accepted autimatically for passing high school. (Which by the way, they only accept the the top 20% of Middle School students. So getting in to high school says that you are really smart!) Ill add more to this catagory tomorrow after I have thought it over...Im kind getting a brain fart...haha

HOME: Ok, all homes are smalllll. And very clean. Housing is so expensive that it could cost a million dollars to have a house half the size of mine at home! Wowza.

Personally, I do not really care for Swiss homes, and it has actually been something that has made me homesick.Even Swiss people admit it; from the outside, there houses are not that attractive. They are kind of like grey boxes. I miss American architecture so much! Give me some white paint or some Victorian porches PLEASE. But dont get me wrong, it is a cultural difference, and I understand that. It is just not something they care a lot about, maybe it relates to being humble? Because a house that doesnt look that nice here usually is decked out in the inside. I reallly like my house, however. I think I posted some pictures, but it is on a cobblesotone road and is really sweet.

RANDOM OTHER DIFFERENT STUFF: (Warning--I will ramble)
  • The lights turn yellow before before they turn green to warn you that you will have to go soon
  • It is totally acceptable for a teenager to drink and smoke in public
  • Nudity is not an issue here--my Swiss friends acted like it was totally normal to have me go in their bathroom stall with them while they peed. (haha, I pretended to be suddenly very intrested in my phone the entire time. It was akward for me!)
oooppsies. Bell! I gotta go to Sports. Yucky...we playing soccer! (Last time, when the ball was kicked to me, I tried to catch it. oh my god.) At least I kick there booties at basketball! (You guys would think it was so funny watchint them try to dribble...) Ill finnish this tomorrow at lunch! Im sorry if it sounds like I am complainging to much, I really do love it here and am so thankful for this opportunity. I have had some of the best times of my life here, and some of the saddest. I gotta keep being postive! IM IN EUROPE!!!!

Until tomorrow ;)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beginning of School

Hello everyone! Switzerland is so much fun, and I am having the time of my life. Sorry I have taken so long to update, but as you can immagine, I hardly have time, and our internet goes out really easily. Actaully, I'm typing this at my school! Lots of stuff has happened since I last wrote, so this is going to be a lengthy post: you have been warned.

So many people have been asking me, "So, how is it?", and honestly, there is no way I can explain. Life is beginning to feel normal over here, and things dont feel as foreign as they used to. Immagine having to explain to someone exactly what life on Vashon is like; sure, you can give some funny annecdotes, but they will never truly know. It is so weird to think that my life over here is completly unknown to my friends and family at home. They have never had Margrit's cooking, talked to Elle or Sienna or gone to Migros to buy lunch.  hope these pictures and my stories will help you to understand whats happening here as best as I can!

Last week, Rotary took the exchange students and I took underground caves formed at the bast of a river. They were made by rain water dripping down rocks for hundreds of years! We had to hike through a forest to get to them, (one of the few forests I have seen so far) and it really reminded me of home. Being by the river looked just like it would if you were hiking near the Columbia back in the States. The caves were very intricate, and exciting to look through. It was really damp and cold too, and it reminded me of something you would see in Scooby-Doo.

This is a close up of the weird rock formations--they're kind of gross, aren't they?

Then after that, I met my host mom Margrit to go on a boat to celebrate the 125th anniversay of their family's company. I took the bus and walked there, and snapped some prettz pictures of Zug on the way to the marina.

The boat was super nice, and was decked out (haha, no pun intended!) with tables with white table clothes and fancy wine glasses.It was almost more like a yacht, and I really enjoyed it.

Only down side was that everyone was smoking on the deck. I mean, EVERYONE smokes here...even teenagers at school, because it is legal when you are 16. Sorry to go on a mini-rant there, but that has been one of the biggest things that has been bugging me, it is really hard for me to watch kids my age smoke, when the probably don't know the after effects of it.

It was still a beautiful night, and we went swimming in the lake and watched the sun set, and ate a LOT of food. I tried my first cherry kirsch, which Zug is famous for. I had no idea that it was alcoholic, so when I took a bite, it surprised me and I spit it out on the plate. All the adults were laughing, but I was reallz embaressed. Well, at least I know now that even cakes can be spiked!

That weekend, I also went with my host mom to a farmtown in Bern, her hometown, to see her family. It was VERY rural out there! We took a hike (have you noticed a trend in my weekends? Hiking basically every one? So Swiss.) and at a great brunch on top of a mountain; cheese, bread, yogurt and hash browns. That is a typical Swiss breakfast, lots of lights appetizers like cheese and bread, because lunch is there most important meal of the day. There were even yodelers there! And we went to here sister's house to celebrate her birthday.

The next week, Rotary took us to hike the Wildspitz. Very very hard hike for us Americans! Well, except Laura who was booking it up with the Swiss people...haha. It wasn't that hard I guess, but our guides were going really quickly, so it was hard to keep up with them. It wasn't that bad at the end, and the view was great! We had a 4 course meal afterwards (consuming twice the calories we burned I'd assume) and met a lot of Rotarians, who were all so kind and nice. Fun night!

Me and my friend Sienna have an ongoing rivalry about whether Hilo or Seattle is better, so I was very happy when one of the Rotarians said they knew what the space needle was! First one! My exchange friends always jokingly say that all we have is vampires. Pshh.  Sienna just though it was funny that I had only met one person who had heard of it, when everyone here drinks Starbucks.

This weekend, I went to Einsedeln with my host family. It is a beautiful BEAUTIFUL monistary (how do you spell that? Spell check wont work in English grrrr) in Schwyz. I couldn't take pictures, but found some on Google!

It is probably the most beautiful thing I have seen in my whole life. No joke. The building itself if gorgeous, but inside is even more spectacular. Just for reference, those benches in the picture below are about up to my shoulder in height. This picture doesnt even do the buidling justice.

The ceilings are huge, and covered with a painting worthy of Michaelangelo (again, how do you spell that?!?) of angels and clouds, and Jesus and humans and EVERYTHING. It looked like something from Anastazia or the Davinci Code. There was even a secret morgue underneath for monks who have died! Definitely Davinci Code worthy.

I could have stared at the ceiling for days. I kept hearing Viva la Vida in my head, because the giant picture of people and angles jumping to the sky seemed like a mural of all human existance, sorry if that sounds to corny. It in all seriousness was...for no better word...EPIC.

Some other things I have been up to but havent gotten pictures of are going to Lucerne and eating on the lake, going to an art museum in Zurich with my class and going to musical theater rehearsals for Aida. Life is so much fun over here, and so relaxed. When I was late to class yesterday, my teacher just told me it was fine, and to go outside and read! I love being an exchange student. Every night I go somewhere else, and every day is a new adventure of trying new foods, taking trains, and visiting some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Its not all fun and games, however. It is hard never being in your old home, where you could not worry about dressing up for dinner or where everything goes, or even being able to fight with your parents when you have a bad day (is that weird I miss that mom? It was a good stress releiever!) and to top that all off, you are in a constant state of confusion, because you never know whats happening, and it is hard never knowing what people are talking about. I used to be good at speaking, and now I have the skill level of a 4 year old.

I havent gotten to homesick (yet). I will get pangs of it when I see something and think "Oh! Anna Rose would love this!" or something only someone from Vashon would understnad.And as I said before, it is so hard for me feeling stupid all the time, especially in school. Its ironic how Switzerland is the land of mountains, because here I have had some of my highest highs, and some dropping lows.

I still love it though, and do not regret coming one bit. Until next time!