Monday, August 12, 2013

update -- and pictures!

I woke up this morning to the sound of bells.

Outside my bedroom window I can see to the other side of my village. It's a small village, about the size of my entire neighborhood back home... of course, that would make sense considering that Switzerland is about 1/6th the area of Oregon. In fact, everything in Switzerland appears to be smaller than back home. The cars are smaller, the streets are smaller, and even the chairs and tables appear to be shorter. Which makes me very happy, because sitting at my desk here I can comfortably extend my feet to the floor. At least size-wise, I fit in here perfectly.

Of course, there are other ways that I feel distinctly different. I happen to be Asian, which isn't a big deal in the middle of hipster downtown Portlanders where there are much stranger things to be stared at. And I don't identify myself as a different race by default... I am Hannah, I am a girl, I am American.
But here I have seen absolutely no one who looks like me. I'm not sure how much I stand out, but I know for a fact that I do not look Swiss.

The language barrier is interesting. Most of my peers take English in school, and my host mom speaks fluent English. This is nice when I am trying to get my point across but not so nice when I'm trying to practice my language skills :P However, everyone has been super nice about helping me practice my German, and there's plenty of language immersion everywhere :)

In addition, the German that I've learned so far is High German, Hochdeutsch, while the German that's spoken here is Swiss German, Schweizerdeutsch/Schwyzerdüütsch. Swiss German is a very strong "dialect" of German that doesn't really exist in written form. Some people say that when you go to Switzerland you learn two languages--Swiss German and High German--and it's so true.

Where was I? Oh yes, my village. Every hour the church bells ring, and during dinner today we heard alphorns. Yes, real alphorns. Told you Magden was small :) but still, it's ridiculously adorable. There are flowers everywhere, the houses have little peaked tile roofs, all the windows have colored shutters (and window boxes with flowers in them). Sheep are grazing in the field behind the backyard, and I've even seen horses walking down the main street! The entire town is like a picture from a storybook.

Proof? Look at the pictures. I took these... unedited... in half an hour... walking around my village. There are more, but I figured I might overwhelm you so I've kept it to a minimum. I seriously can't stop taking pictures here-- there are so many things to see and love and be interested in! I'm obviously still in the "honeymoon" stage of my exchange :P
But honestly, Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life. There's so much history--Magden is 1200 years old, and Switzerland is full of lovely old castles and churches and fountains and bridges. It makes the Declaration of Independence seem practically new!

Also, today I started German language school, or Deutschschule. There are eight other exchange students in my class, all of us at varying levels of German. At the end of four weeks we take a test, and if all goes well I will start "real school" in Gymnasium Muttenz the week afterward.

Now the alphorns are finished and the bells are ringing again--22:00--so I'd better go to sleep. Gute Nacht, Schweiz.

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