I originally planned on doing a post about winter and another about Christmas, but knowing me, that means the Christmas post won't be up until February. So instead, I am writing a super-mega-supreme post of December and January. This might be a little long, so sorry in advance.
December saw many improvements since dreary November. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit, or maybe it is that I reached the hardes point of my exchange, and now, it is all just uphill.
Zug was starting to look like a winter wonderland, with the lights the town hangs on the streets. I took this in Alt-Stadt (old town) walking home one day in the rain, doesn't it just look like a post-card? But don't let Zug's Alt-Stadt deceive you--there is a very modern part to Zug too, but it usually isn't in the postcards. Zug's Bahnhof (Train Station in English, but for some reason, I can only call it the Bahnhof) had a huge 30ft crystal tree hanging from the ceiling! And the Metalli has a Christmas tree too. I love Switzerland in the Christmas season so much! And to make my December even better, I woke up to a surprise one Saturday morning: the first snow!
My host mom took me for a walk in the snow, and I stupidly decided to go in my leather boots. What choice did I have? It was either that, or ballet flats. I probably slid half-way through the walk. At one point, I skated by mistake and she had to run and catch me. Very lucky for me, she bought me some new snow boots afterwards, and I have had to learn how to deal with all this snow.
Also in December were the all the Kantis' Christmas Balls. There are 2 Kantis in Zug, one in Zug and one in Menzingen. For the Menzingen Ball, Winnie and Elle came to my house and spent the night. It was probably the worst dance I have been to in my entire life. I guess Swiss people aren't that dancing inclined, because the whole time, most of the people awkwardly stood around like in Middle School. So, we had to find our own ways to have fun, like taking pictures in the bathroom stalls!
Although the dance itself wasn't that fun, it was definitely a great night hanging out with my friends. Our other Swiss friends met up with us at the dance, and we all had a fun time hanging out and talking. We eventually went outside to avoid the awkwardness, and ended up getting locked out. And of course, it started to snow. We all had to run under the stairs of the school to hide in warmth, which is when the picture above was taken. Me and Elle and Winnie walked home at around 1, and fell asleep in my room to Friends re-runs in my nice cozy bed.
We also had the Zug christmas ball a week later. Our Kanti has 1700 kids, so it was a lot bigger than the one in Menzingen. It was a super fun night, and I enjoyed every minute. Only bad news was that I had to leave at 1 to catch the last bus to Menzingen, and ended up forgetting my bag at the coat-check (full with my hair straigtner, cell phone and clothes) and it was stolen. Ah, well. Still a great night though!
This picture is of the Zug girls, an AFS exchange student from Indonesia, and James and Dominic.
And the picture below it is of course, the Zug Girls. I love them so much!
Before the Holidays, we were all itching for school to end. It goes until the 21st here, which is far to late in my opinion. For the holiday season, Sienna and I went to a Gospel concert in Zug and my friends and I went Christmas shopping in the Zurich Christmas market. The market is huge, and wonderful, and we all spent all our money buying presents. So, as typical exchange students, we ended up sitting in the Bahnhof eating $1 bread to stay warm.
My other early Christmas present of the year was that we got to watch Charlie Brown in English class! I had been begging my English teacher for weeks to watch Charlie Brown, and she always said no. To my surprise, I walked into my last English class of 2011, and was greeted with the Charlie Brown theme song! It was such a great Christmas gift!
Christmas was wonderful in every way I can immagine. For Christmas Eve, my family surprised me by taking the whole family to an English Christmas service in Zug. Since Zug has so many internationalpeople living in it, there is an English church which has about 100 people who go to it. The church turned out to be a typical American Mid-West church. This has never been my family's church of choice, largely because I think my Dad and sister would have a hard time with the hand-waving and crying, since Hennesseys "dont show emotions unless it is required". I think having to sit through that church service was totally worth it too seeing my host brother dying a little inside during every gospel song. This proves yet again, that I think my host brother and Lilly should get married. Anyways, it was a nice service, and I was very thankful my family thought of me.
After our Christianity ordeal, we all came back to an amazing fondue dinner. We talked and laughed and made jokes about the dog farting, and it was wonderful. Afterwords, we opened presents. I received only four presents for Christmas this year, but they are by far the most meaningful presents I have ever had. First, my host brother got me a box of chocolate. This wouldn't be meaningful, if you didn't know my host brother. He and I have said probably 5 words to eachother in the last 2 months. He is a nice kid, but just very shy. I was so surprised he got me something! Second, my host sister got me Its a Wonderful Life on DVD. This was so meaningful, because I watch it every year, and was so sad I couldnt this year. I searched all over Zug, but couldnt find it. When I opened it, I almost started to cry that she remembered! My third gift was from my host parents, and was the best one. My host dad had been hinting for weeks about it, and he was just giddy when it was time for me to open it. They blindfolded me and put me on the couch, and brought over my gift. I could tell my host mom was smiling, and she said "Feel it! Guess what it is!" After a couple of seconds I realized, my host family had rented me a guitar! I was so happy! I have missed playing guitar so much here, and taking off my blindfold and seeing all there faces made me realize how truly lucky I am. It was one of the best Christmas' I have ever had.
In the beginning of break, all the Zug girls met up to exchange gifts before they all left me to go skiing. We all got each other the perfect gifts. It just proves how well we know each other. Sienna got Elle a book full of tons of stories and pictures from her friends about the last 5 months, and Winnie got a scarf that she had been wanting for ages. We all started crying half-way though because of how much we truly know each other, and the fact that Winnie was leaving in 2 weeks. I ended up getting these beautiful feather ear-rings from Sienna, and had to tell her I don't have my ears pierced. So of course, the four of them physically force me to get them pierced that day. I will admit, I was actually a little scared, but I am so glad I finally did it. And to commemorate the experience, Winnie and Sienna got a second one too. Elle, being the crazy person she is, spontaneously decided to pierce hers herself while we were all sitting in Sienna's room.
To end a perfect break, when all the girls were back from skiing with their host families, we all met up in Luzern for one last goodbye to Winnie. Everything was closed, so we just stayed in Starbucks talking and ended up going to McDonalds for some good ol burgers. Pretty American of us, huh? But alas, McDonalds burgers are $11 in Switzerland for some strange reason, so we all had to share two burgers.
Its good to be back in school, and be working (Ok, by exchange student standards) again. I learned my class is putting on a concert in a couple of months, and were going to Berlin for a week in May. I also got the most Math questions right on a test! But I didnt get the highest score, because I didn't "explain my work", in German! I also made a 15 minute long Rotary presenation last night for my club, about Vashon and my last 5 months here. It was all in German, and I was a little scared, but my host Dad said it went great! In the least self conceited way possible, I think all the Rotarians love me. They are all the sweetest old Swiss men, and each one wished me luck before or winked or something. And during dinner, I had a fluent conversation with four of the Rotarians for about an hour! Rolf (my Counselor) looked very proud and so did my host dad. I felt very proud too.
Today, I didn't go to school and instead went to the Zurich airport to see all the Aussie's off. There were about 20 of them leaving today, so a ton of exchange students skipped school to say goodbye. It was so emotional and sad seeing everyone! All the exchange students were hugging and crying and signing Swiss flags. Of course, the hardest part for me was seeing Winnie leave. She was excited to go home since she has had a tough exchange year, but we all will miss her so much! We all got one last group hug before she boarded, and Elle was sobbing. I started to cry when I saw her walk through the gate, and knowing that I'll very likely never see her again.
It was a very emotional day to say the least. When we all walked away from the airport together, someone turned and said, "you realize we are the Oldies now?" which is true! Our oldies have officially left, so we are now half way through our year. Thinking that the next time I come here, I will be going home to America was so weird to think. Switzerland is my home now, and these other 30 exchange students my family. These have been the most amazing 5 months of my life, and to immagine I will be leaving soon is astounding. Every difficulty I have had has been counter-balanced with three more life changing high points. I dont know if Switzerland has changed my outlook, or if have just grown, but I am a completly different person than the frighten 16 year old that boarded that airplane in August. I have loved every minute here, and grown so much. Everyone says that if you can make it to January, the second half of the year will go by in a flash. I want to strive to live every minute to its fullest here, and make the most of the rest of my amazing 6 months.
Ich liebe der Schweiz, Ich liebe meine leben und Ich bin dankbar für diese toll Gelegenheit!