Saturday, February 18, 2012

Late Saturday Night Update:

I just uploaded the pictures I have taken over the last 2 days to facebook, and you can look at them by clicking HERE (you don't need a facebook to see them). I will keep putting more pictures on there during the rest of Fassnacht, and will write a post about Fassnacht when it is over sometime next week.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter break

Grüezi Mitenand!

I can't believe mid-winter break is fast fertig! These have definitely been the quickest two weeks of my exchange. Where do I even start? 

I went to Zurich a couple of days with the Zug girls, and my host family took me to Luzern. I also made a trek out to Basel (which is basically the most out of my way I can go) to meet my friends Madi and Caroline. We ended up getting lost in the ghettos of Basel (I'm not even kidding--definitely the sketchiest area I have been in yet) and ended up going to an IKEA. Is it bad that the IKEA was one of the highlights of my week? 

We got lost looking around and eating $1 hot dogs, and had a surprisingly great time. Then I had to ride the train back to Zug alone, and I ended up sitting next to the most interesting character. He kept trying to talk to me for the entire 2 hour ride, which I first thought was weird, but then his silliness just started making me laugh. He watched Gossip Girl on his IPad! And he was a 50 year old man! I still had a fun ride to Basel and back though, because it was my first time riding a French train. If I would have stayed on, and not gotten off in Basel, look where it would have taken me. I was so tempted to pretend I just fell asleep.

 I also went to a party with Elle in Cham, and somehow she ended up on the top of the bustop on the way home. Don't worry Mom, not me on top of the bus stop, I was safe on the ground taking this awesome picture. I just really like it, since it is such a classic exchange student moment.

My friend Kelsey from Portland also came to Zug during break. I showed her around, and took her to 
 the American food store. I think we both had mini-heart attacks when we walked into that heavenly place. The store had everything we missed from home! There were pop tarts, brown sugar (they dont have it here, which sucks for baking), root beer, cheeseburgers, bagels and cream cheese! We both ordered some Root Beer, and I took some home to make Root Beer Floats for my family. I think my host parents were being polite while drinking theres, because Micca and Andrina seemed to hate it. And they all thought Root Beer had alcohol in it! I think you have to be an American to taste the true beauty of a Root Beer. Whenever I drink it, it just tastes like summer, walking down to Sandy's with my Dad and him buying us all ice cream.
When I was sick on Wednesday though, my host mom surprised me by waking me up to my first root beer in months. At the time, I didn't even know where she found it, since they aren't available here. She is the one who told me about the American store, and I realized once I got there how much food she had been buying there for me to make me not feel homesick. How awesome is my host family?

SECOND WEEK- On one of the days of break, Caroline organized another trip to IKEA to play hide-and-seek with some other exchange students. I think that is the perfect example of the exchange student mindset--10 teenagers show up to IKEA to play hide-and-seek, and are not embarrassed at all. I showed Zug's "newbie" Phoebe around, since she arrived in Switzerland just a month ago. I also bought her her first Luxerberglies, which are beautiful macaroon sandwiches, only available in Zurich. Once you eat them, you know you are slowly becoming Swiss!

I also went skiing for the second time in my life this week. My Rotary counselor Rolf took me to a mountain in Einsedlen, which is about 30 minutes away. The only other time I have been skiing was last year with my friends Hannah and Megan. Somehow, I though my skiing abilities would magically be at the same point they were last time, but boy, was I wrong. I could barely stand! After a lot of patient helping from Rolf, I was able to ski down a small slope and make a turn. It was pretty pathetic. And I threw up! But he was really nice for helping me, which I can only immagine must have been exhausting. He also took me to a frozen lake in Zurich to walk on.

Then, my host mom took me skiing again today. It was very difficult at first, since she took me right away on a big slope. I fell about every 15 seconds, but she was also so amazing, and helped me every time. After a lot of falling and practicing, I was able to go down the slope without falling! It was so frustrating at first, never being able to go without tripping and embarrassing myself, but it was all worth it for those few seconds where I would could go and feel like I would never stop. It felt like I was flying! I'm sure with some more practice, I will be able to do harder routes too. Skiing is so different here than the USA! For one thing, the ski lift was just a bar that would go behind your thigh and push you as you basically skiied up the hill. And skiing only costed $10 for my ticket! Everyone already owns ski clothes, so all they have to pay is just $10 for the lift. And my sister was complaining about how expensive that is!

FASSNACHT- Oh, lordy. How do I even begin to explain Fassnacht? I am going to devote an entire post to it, which I will put up once it finishes on Tuesday. 

Fassnacht goes by many names--Carnival or Mardis Gras--but it is basically just a celebration before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. In Switzerland, that means parades and feasts and costumes and tons of loud music. People go crazy here for Fassnacht! And it just so happens that one of the most famous Fassnacht's in the country is in Luzern, only 20 minutes away! So of course, me and the other Zug girls had to go.

Laura, Ella and our "newbie" Pheobe all slept over at Elle's house the night before it started.
Fassnacht starts at 4 am on Thursday, which means our alarms went off bright and early at 2 am. We all got dressed up in  our costumes together, and walked to the special Fassnacht early train at 3:50. We then met some friends, and went to Luzern to see all the craziness begin. I am not going to even try explaining Fassnacht, seeing as this post is already pretty long, and so much happened. All I can say is that it was one of the craziest nights of my life, and I came home with a buckets load of confetti in my hair. I made a quick video of some of the moments of Thursday night, to give a look into the craziness that happened. And Fassnacht is not even over until Tuesday! If this is all that happened in just ONE night, I can not even comprehend how many more amazing times are going to happen in the next 4 days. There is a reason why more people go to work on Christmas than they do on Fassnacht!

And PS: I don't know if I have written this yet, but I finally got my ears pierced! These are my first pair of ear rings, and they are from Sienna!

Tschüss Mitenand, and I will talk to you again soon once Fassnacht is over this Tuesday! I am so excited! And to celebrate, my host family made reservations at the "Blind Cow", which is a restaurant where you have to eat in the dark! How cool is that? Can life get any better than this?

Friday, February 10, 2012


I decided to write a post about one of the most interesting, different and delicious parts of my exchange (and as my host dad would say, the most important part too..) food, or in German, essen!

BREAKFAST-In Switzerland, breakfast is far less important than it is in America. People usually just have some yogurt, or maybe some müesli (like a cereal) every morning. My host parents chop up a bunch of different fruits every night, and mix them in a bowl with some lemon juice and leave it outside to cool. Then in the morning, every person in the family just scoops up a little in a bowl, and then heads out. The only time breakfast is big is on Sundays, when families gather together to have brunch.

BRUNCH- Brunch, or something like it, is usual for most families in Switzerland. They all gather together and cover the table with bunches of different foods. Some typical foods are yogurts, cheeses, dried meats, olives, gipfelis (croissants) and zopf bread. My host mom makes a zopf bread ever Saturday night for the family, and we all eat it together Sunday morning.

LUNCH-Lunch is also very different in Switzerland. It is always served hot, and people reserve at least 20-30 minutes for eating. PB&J sandwiches are unheard of, and sack lunches are never used. Instead, most kids go home to eat some pasta and salad with their family for lunch. During school, younger children will walk home, and older teens will go to buy hot sandwiches or kebabs (what can I say? Swiss people love their Turkish food) in town. During weekends, lunch is always eaten as a family. I really like this, since it is something my family never did. We always just had to find our own food, so it is really relaxing just having your parents prepare a hot meal for you. I also appreciate how my host parents cook together every single meal. I like how it is not expected that the mom should have to cook, and that my host dad is a very good cook as well.

DINNER-Dinner is the meal most similar in both countries. Although there are foods that are more common here (my host family eats beets all the time), dinner is basically the same meal. Some of my favorite dinners we have had recently are: thin crust italian pizza, this weird plum quiche thing, garlic lasagna and trout.


This is one of my favorite Swiss foods. I have kind of an obsession with it, I'll admit it. I have been known to buy myself some birchermüsli for lunch after just having eaten it for breakfast. I can not describe the goodness of this food! It never looks appetizing, but somehow manages to amaze me every time I eat some. I guess the best way to describe it is a fruit salad. There is cream and vanilla and fruit all mixed together, but it tastes so much better than a fruit salad. I guess I will have to make some for my family when I get home.

Zopf- Oh, Zopf. This is definitely my second favorite Swiss food. It is a traditional Swiss bread that is made my braiding dough in a difficult pattern. The only difference with this and regular bread is that cream and butter are used in the dough, which gives it it's melt-in-your-mouth taste. I would compare Zopf to a crossiant, or one of those Pillsbury dough-boy buns. As I said before, it is almost always eaten on Sundays. You can eat it with butter, jam or honey. I always make sure to grab a piece or two during Sunday brunch!

 (and yes, I have made my own Zopf before--twice!)

GIPFELI- I am slowly realizing all of my favorite foods are breakfast foods. Ah, well. Third on my list are Gipfelis! Yes, I know we have croissants in America, but they are a hundred times better here. They come in all different kinds, and are always home baked. Kids buy them at school during break for a snack, or for lunch, or eat them during Sunday brunch. At every Migros or Coop (the Safeway and Thriftway of Switzerland) there is always a section where you can take some Gipfelis or rolls to go, and they are always around 1 franc. My favorite is the chocolate one...yummy!

RACLETTE AND FONDUE- And of course, you can not make a list of Swiss foods without including the famous dishes of Raclette and Fondue. Swiss fondue is to die for. One important difference between it, and the fondue I have had before, is that it always has a wine base in it. Sometimes that wine really has a punch in it. Also, it is almost always served during winter, and only for special occasions. And chocolate fondue is unheard of. Raclette is almost equally as famous as Swiss fondue, but it is not as common in America. For raclette, a large oven is placed in the middle of the table, where each family member can melt his own cheese in the little bowl-like thing you see in the picture. Then, you pour your melted cheese over meets and vegetables. You can also sprinkle paprika and pepper, or some onions in your cheesey creation. It is delicious too, and also almost exclusively eaten around Christmas time.

DRINKS- Rivella is by far the most Swiss-ified drink of them all. It is only available in Switzerland, and is the country's national drink! Does America even have a national drink? And as not to defy any stereotypes, Rivella is the only carbonated drink in the world made from COW'S MILK. Oh, Switzerland. I got to say, I have tried Rivella, and it is not really my thing. I just can't say that infront of Swiss people, or else my life might be in danger.

Some other differences between Swiss and American drinks are that Swiss people almost always drink carbonated water. That is what is served at restaurants, and you have to specify if you want just normal water. Teenagers drink ice tea all the time here too, which is different from America. Coffee is also offered after desert, and it is usually an espresso. I really like having a coffe to end a meal, and I love the way it tastes with a cake or something. I am also super jealous of the cafe machines people have here. Almost every house I have been to has an espresso machine, which allows you to have lattes available 24/7! My family just got one, and I use it all the time now. Also a note on coffee in Switzerland--if you are looking for a cheap cup of joe, don't go to Starbucks, where drinks are meant for being drinken there and usually cost around $8.

All in all, Swiss food is DELICIOUS and there is far much more than just chocolate and cheese (I avoided chocolate on my list for that reason, but yes, it is amazing here too, and eaten so frequently!). I know Switzerland isn't the culinary capital of Europe like Italy or France, but that is because there food is a blend of French, Italian and German cuisines. It is so interesting how Swiss food has aspects of all these different cultures in it, while still maintaining to have it's own Swiss identity as well.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Frozen Alive

I can not explain in words how cold it is right now.

Zug is reporting at 12 degrees farenheit at the moment, and it is expected to drop down to 10 degrees tonight. Yeah, thats right. Menzingen is going to be colder than the summit of Mt. Rainier this evening.

When I take the 30 second walk to the bus stop in the morning, if my hair is a little bit damp from the shower, it will have frozen by the time I get to my bus.

I dont think I have ever been this cold before in my life (feel free to correct me if I am wrong Dad). This is totally normal for all the Swiss people, while the exchange students and I are all slowly dying. Well, I'll change that. Just me and Sienna, who is from Hawaii. Ella and Laura are from New York and Colorado, and they said this is typical January weather. Which leads me to the question so many people have asked me, but I don't have the answer to: why isn't Seattle this cold if it is so close to Canada?

I have never really realized how truly WARM Seattle is! I still don't really understand why it is so warm, when our latitude is higher than where Laura lives in New York and in Zug. Even if we are close to the ocean, states in New England are close to the Atlantic too.

Ah, well. I guess it is just one of the many mysteries of the Pacific Northwest.

Lets not forget that -5 degrees is predicted here for Sunday.

And that is in farenheit.