Monday, December 30, 2013

days > 140 -- missing

 piece of advice for future exchange students #18:
most august exchange students say that 
the time between christmas and new year is the 
hardest time of the year after arrival.
work overtime to make sure that that's not true for you.
trust me.

so during the first few days of winter vacation... to be honest, i missed home. i still miss it, because at this time of year i'm so used to being with friends and family. i'm used to traditions and songs and parties and everything. and this time it is not there. and that was hard.
but then i ended up filling my days with stuff. it didn't have to be good or even deeply meaningful stuff as long as it was fun, non-dangerous, and made memories... and kept me from feeling homesick.
and guess what?
somewhere in the middle of all of that, i got my priorities straight.
YES, i am missing major holiday time.
YES, i am missing family and friends.
YES, i am missing traditions and events and parties.
but you know what? I am in SWITZERLAND. and it is amazing.
and i have been blessed beyond all reason, to have so much from home that i can miss. and furthermore, all these things i am missing will still exist when i come back.
so i should enjoy the moment now.

things i've done in the past 20ish days --

  • Christmas! Obviously...
  • multiple christmas dinners and parties and celebrations and gatherings. there was a dinner with my mom's side of the family and then with my dad's side of the family and then with multiple friends and then just a quiet celebration for
    us only.
  • Christmas market in Biel with my friend Faith! it was very cold.
  • Zurich with Sarah, who's currently on exchange there... we had tons of fun. it was also extremely cold. everywhere is cold.
  • Elsass (Alsace) Marche de Noel (which I didn't write correctly because I don't have French on my computer, but oh well). in other words, my host family took me to France!!!
  • I also learned that French people don't eat dinner until 7 or later. This means that for all the punctual Swiss people who wish to eat their dinner at 6 or 6:30, eating in a restaurant is practically impossible because the restaurants are not yet open at 6. The chefs are still at home.
  • I went sledding in the alps!!*
  • I spent time with my new counselor, who also happens to be a nice counselor with a family that reminds me of my own, haha. In a good way.
  • I went sledding in the alps AGAIN!!!
  • We have Christmas Ferien (vacation) which means no school. Consequently, I've had the opportunity to train hop to my little heart's content. Hooray for European rail passes!
  • watched a movie called "Schwarzen Brüder" in which the story is set in Tessin, Switzerland. all the movies I've seen in cinemas so far are always in German, which makes me proud of myself... :P
  • I wrote a record amount of blog posts in my twelve days of Christmas. even if, you know, they didn't exactly coincide with the  twelve days of Christmas.
  • I received mail! Yay!
  • And when I tried to reply to it, I realized to my chagrin that the post office is closed on weekends (well, on Sunday, and then only open in the mornings in Magden on Saturday) and also closed on all the days that I could actually get there because of Christmas and New Year's. lovely.
  • I skyped my family on Christmas!!! and I miss them.
  • in fact, I miss everyone.
  • but I will see them all again. And I am enjoying life here.
*this actually isn't as silly to celebrate as you might think it is. sledding here is hardcore... adults do it too!!
you go up with the gondolas and ride down the mountain on a course, rather like a ski course but on a smaller level. there are hills and jumps and hairpin turns and everything. it's very exciting. :))

bis später,

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

days > 130 -- celebrating

today i remember and celebrate:
the story that started at the beginning of time and lasts for eternity,
the gift that is completely undeserved and unreasonable, and yet given anyway,
the light that shines in the middle of darkness,
the love for a people who were so broken that they are incapable of truly loving,
the life that once gone, lives again and conquers death for all time,

the hope that is given to stay with us,
to be our light and our love and our life

wherever you are, whatever you call home, in whichever language you speak:
merry, merry christmas.

on the twelfth day of christmas

and a new look at bloomability

(and with this post, it draws to an end... )

one of the most important things i've learned here is to live in the present. life is so different when you know that you will only be spending a year somewhere-- relationships are built faster, people change quicker, adventures are made instantly because you know, you KNOW that this time does not last forever.

and that is sad.
but because it doesn't,
it gives you all the more reason to make the most of the time you have.
i have to say that i rely on the "extra" time i have all the time when i'm at home. i say i'll do or make or see something when i'm older, or when i have more time, or when i have more money. and it is easy to say because i know that there is a possibility.
but when i am here, that possibility does not exist.
even when i grow up and if i come back, i will never have a year quite like this again.
it makes me laugh that i had to come all the way to Switzerland to realize this. and yet it's true. i shouldn't base everything on saving money, or on being successful, or on saving time. 
because yes, those are important. but often we place way too much value on them. 
more than they are really worth.

because memories, and relationships, and growth, are also worth a lot.

and so i've learned to live in the moment.
to make every effort i can.
to bloom.

on the eleventh day of christmas

on the eleventh day of christmas
my exchange gave to me
questions to answer more independence long christmas dinners swiss weihnachtsmärkte seven for a family six lovely months five languages four advent days three families two traditions and a new look at bloomability

so one thing that exchange has taught me is that i need to question things. i need to question the things that i have always taken for granted, that have always been a part of me. because other people see the world differently. and meeting those people causes me to get a new perspective on how our world works.
i come from a homeschooled-christian-rightwing sort of environment (although my family has always, always encouraged me to ask questions and challenge them), and so i've been taught ABOUT the world. but that doesn't mean at all that i am an expert on it.
the problem is, reading books about bikes and wind current and the structure of the wheel only gets you so far-- eventually you have to learn to ride the bike yourself, without help.
and it works the same way with the world.
i've met gays and mormons and atheists and catholics and liberals and conservatives now, and what's more i am friends with them. i am friends with them, and they are forcing me to ask questions. i believe in my faith, and i support it fully, but i have to ask myself what to do. how to respond when the world hits me.
and so far i haven't figured out that much that is black and white, exactly right or exactly wrong all the time.
but the one thing that i realize is that at the core,
we are all people.
and meeting these people gives me questions to ask,
and that is okay.

on the tenth day of christmas

on the tenth day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
new independence
long christmas dinners
swiss weihnachtsmärkte
seven for a family
six lovely months
five languages
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

so here we are. thank goodness this series is almost done, because i'm running out of things that fit into 5 syllables...
one of the main things that i've realized is that i am way, way more capable than i thought i was. in fact, i am way, way more capable than i think i am right now. living abroad has stretched and grown me in tons of ways that i would never have dreamed of at home. 
and before i know what i can do, or even if i think i already know, i can always try.

i remember people asking me last august if i felt ready to go on exchange. my answer then was no.
and you know what? i didn't feel ready. i didn't feel prepared to spend a year abroad, learning a new language. i didn't feel capable enough to live on my own and figure out culture and values and country differences by myself.
but i was.
because i tried.

and being on exchange has caused me to recognize that lots of times, i don't feel ready. i don't feel prepared. i don't feel capable.
but i am.
i just have to try.

on the ninth day of christmas

on the ninth day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
long christmas dinners
swiss weihnachtsmärkte
seven for a family
six lovely months
five languages
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

swiss dinners can go for an exceptionally long time. however, swiss christmas dinners are unbelievable... yesterday i left the house with my family at 4pm and got home at exactly 12. (of course, that's including the commute... altogether it wasn't THAT long, as european dinners go. It probably lasted only about 6 and a half hours for us, because my little host sister and I needed to go to bed.)

the entire process of a swiss dinner is too long to explain here, so i'll refrain from describing it in full. basically all you need to know is that europeans enjoy talking and food and drink and talking and chocolate and talking and gifts and talking and they could probably happily have dinner for the rest of the week if it were possible.

yet at the same time, i'm beginning to get used to the long mealtimes and the community atmosphere. because for swiss people, dinners are an opportunity to be together. to celebrate. to enjoy each others' company. and so for once, time does not matter.
and that is good.

on the eighth day of christmas

on the eighth day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
swiss weihnachtsmarkte
seven for a family
six lovely months
five languages
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

i'm eschewing the numbers now in favor of simply getting my posts out there...

christmas markets are one of the things that we absolutely-do-not-have in America. We have Christmas bazaars, yes, which are sort of related, but the atmosphere of a Christmas market is (as I've found) quite different. most of the time they are in the heart of the city, with trees and lights and all sorts of food/drink/handcraft/ornaments that you can imagine.
I've visited tons of christmas markets in the past couple weeks, so many that it's become rather a joke to my host family (they're swiss, so they don't understand why christmas markets are such a big deal to me). but really, I don't go to buy stuff or to eat things or even just to do something. 

i go because for me, the markets somehow hold the memory of holidays.
because for me, the atmosphere somehow reminds me of home.

because, in the middle of people and stalls and noise and light and color, i can find a bit of christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

on the seventh day of christmas

on the seventh day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
seven for a family
six lovely months
five languages
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

so this is possibly one of the few things that has made my exchange what it is, and how amazing it is... it's a quick blog post and a long story.

you see, when i first met all these people, we were in a new country, learning a new language, meeting new families and friends. and to be honest, we aren't really that much alike. we clashed personality-wise and culture-wise and everything. i thought i would never, ever belong to this group, and i wasn't at all sure that i wanted to.
but you know what?
i was wrong. 
and i'm so glad that i was.

today, these seven people make up the rest of my exchanger family. we've gone through a lot, and it hasn't been all that easy, but we share a bond that not everyone is lucky enough to have. it's amazing to me, to realize that i've only known these people for a few months, and yet i have changed so much and they have changed so much, and i can't imagine never seeing them again.

and we are an exchange family.
we are a complicated,
beautiful family.

on the sixth day of christmas

on the sixth day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
six lovely months
five languages
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

so technically it hasn't yet been six months. and it's not going to be until february. buuuut I'm posting this because really, my exchange began as soon as school ended. my preparations and packing and things started way back when, and so did my blog (yay!). And I'm realizing that when you go on exchange, it does affect a lot of your life. i didn't do a lot of things i could have done last summer and last year, because i was preparing for rotary.
i remember being sort of upset about it, because i was missing birthday parties and summer camps and friends and family and all sorts of things in preparation for a year that i knew almost nothing about. and i remember getting really frustrated one night and telling myself that my exchange had better be worth it.
but you know what?
it is.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

on the fifth day of christmas

on the fifth day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
five languages
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

what you may not have known about Switzerland:
it has four official languages.

None of these languages are English. Instead, they are German, French, Italian, and Rato-Romansh. However, since English has become the "universal language", many things have translations in English as well. This, together with the fact that Switzerland is in the middle of Europe, means that when people sing Christmas songs, they tend to sing them in multiple different languages... my choir sang three songs in Italian, two in English, one in French, one in Finnish, two in Latin, and the rest in German. (Romansh songs are not popular, probably because only like 5% of the Swiss population actually speaks it...)

Every time I hear Christmas songs, then, I'm reminded that I am in another country. another continent.

but sometimes, that's nice to be reminded of.

Friday, December 20, 2013

on the fourth day of christmas

 on the fourth day of christmas
 my exchange gave to me
four advent days
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

so the reason i haven't been posting as much is because, well, life.
but seriously, christmastime is crazy. and yet for some reason, it doesn't feel "christmasy" to me... I'm not sure if it's the lack of christmas music, or the fact that lights aren't a big display here, or what. but there is something missing from christmas. hopefully i'll find it by the 25th.

anyway... advent...
people celebrate advent in the USA too, but i remember it being more of a religious thing and not very widely celebrated. it involves lighting a candle every sunday until Christmas, and looking forward to Christmas day, rather like a very long drawnout version of the countdown on TV right before they show the Super Bowl. like "hey, look, we all want to go ahead and celebrate Christmas but it's too early so I guess we'll settle for lighting this purple candle."

but here it is celebrated. my host family has the tradition of giving each child a small present every sunday. other families have daily advent calendars. other families read a prayer and light the candle in a small ceremony of celebratory-ness.
(what is that? not exactly celebration -- celebrationess? celebratorianism?)

and it is sweet, and quiet. that's the thing that defines advent for me, i suppose-- it is not exciting, like Christmas Eve, or loud, like New Year's, or bright, like Easter and Christmas. it is still. peaceful. 
it is not a festivity in and of itself as much as it is the celebration of what is to come.

Monday, December 16, 2013

on the third day of christmas

on the third day of christmas
my exchange gave to me
three families
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

so this post isn't exactly correct because technically i've only got one family so far now... but i'm thinking in advance, okay?
one unique thing about rotary youth exchange is that the students change families every 4 (ish) months. there are multiple reasons for this rule, but it does mean two very important things: a) your families are temporary and b) you have about 3 (depending on the situation) different families throughout the year.
when i first came here, i honestly thought i would never get used to this. i am living in the house, eating the food, sharing the lives of people who i met less than 5 months ago... and what's more, this arrangement was made before i even met them.
and i know not all host family-kid relationships are good, so i suppose i got lucky. but honestly, my host family feels like a-- well, a family. i ask my parents for advice and i watch movies with my little sister and just basically i am no longer a guest. and as strange as it is, i am now living in a family that i met in august... and it is natural. it is normal. it is my life.
and i wouldn't change it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

on the second day of christmas

on the second day of christmas
my exchange gave to me
two traditions
and a new look at bloomability

one thing that I've never realized about Christmas is just how BIG of a deal it is for us in America. There are songs and the shopping and the lights and the carolers... they're all little things, things that seem really everyday at home. Normal, Christmasy things.
but then when they are no longer there, you end up wondering vaguely what's missing.
and so I have to say it: I miss Christmas. I miss American Christmas.

but the thing is...
at the same time I am yearning for the Christmas I know, the Christmas I have always known, I am learning to appreciate and love European Christmases, too. There are snowfilled villages and cookies and Christmas markets and songs in French and German and Italian. And that has also become a normal Christmas for me.

And it makes me wonder if I will always, after this, be missing both traditions. If I will always be remembering both types of Christmases. If I will always have a part of me that celebrates in both countries.
And if so,
what will that be like?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

on the first day of christmas

on the first day of christmas
my exchange gave to me
a new look at bloomability

one thing i've learned about exchange is that, well, it changes you. it changes you in a lot of ways.
most recently, i've been struck with the amount of things that my exchange has given me. yeah, it hasn't always been easy or fun, but it's blessed me with a lot already.
and what better time to realize and give thanks for your blessings than christmas time?
so in the next 12 days (countdown till christmas) i'm going to be sharing a picture and listing a short something that my exchange has given me and why. hope you enjoy it. :)

(note: so because my dad happens to be a professor at Multnomah, I guess I can't really get away without a short explanation... for all you church-history people, yes, technically the 12 days of christmas were between Christmas and Epiphany. This means that they were not before the 25th, but after it... 
that said, i don't want to blog through my christmas break, so i am doing it now and putting my own spin on the "12 days" song [which, really, wasn't necessarily that spiritual or church-history related to begin with anyway]. let christmas countdowns begin.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

days > 120 -- familiarizing

advice for future exchange students #17:
you will eventually get to the point where you feel that you belong,
that this is your normal life,
but that point comes mostly when you belong in your group of friends.

I came to a funny conclusion the other day.
I have a very strange collection of various acquaintances and friend groups.
There is my Swiss class friends, and my exchange student friends here, and my exchange student friends at home, and the elderly people who are in my choir, and my debate friends and my church friends and my youth group friends and my siblings and the people who have known me forever.
it's a rather surprising mix. in fact, if you think about it, a lot of my friends would not get along with each other very well.

but the more types of people i meet,
the more i realize that they are just that... people. 
and that we all look to connect with each other.

things that have happened in the past 10-ish days:
  • the upperlevel classes of Gymnasium are taking Matura this week, so all of our classes looked slightly different. This means that we ended up watching Pitch Perfect and Les Mis in class. It was cool.
  • Also I ate "Asian food" in Basel, Switzerland.
  • It was pretty awful, unfortunately. someone please send me the Portland foodcarts? I will love you forever and ever if you do.
  • The days come and I'm realizing that our newbies are coming soon. Which also makes me realize that I have a little over half my exchange left. I'm still not exactly sure where the rest of it went.
  • Rotary Christmas Dinner was lovely! I heard a blind singer and a lot of very classical music... but it wasn't bad, and it was nice to meet all the Rotarians :) Plus I have a new counselor who I happened to meet as well.
  • I've gotten the opportunity to read some German books from my library... and guess what, I can understand them! But really, books exercise a completely different sort of vocabulary than speaking in normal conversation, so it's been good for me to read.
  • I am writing in German. As you can see here. It's far from perfect, but it's a huge jump from what I could do three or four months ago (read: nothing). Also, ich bin stolz auf mich :)
and that's all for right now...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

my life in switzerland -- a german post!

So I wrote something in german while the rest of my class was writing essays...
I'd say that this is a pretty good indicator of my somewhat lacking German skills. (German speaking friends, please feel free to edit this.)
Anyway. Here you go. (And yes, I'll be posting the translation sometime afterwards... but I wrote this in German and so I have to rewrite it in English to post a translation.)
Als ich erst hier gekommen war, habe ich mich sechsmal in zwei Wochen im Bad eingeschlossen.
Alles war fremd... alles, von die Supermärkte zu die Kirchen zu die Fahrpläne, war anders als in Amerika. Ich fühlte mich, als ob alles waren speziell gemacht, um Ausländer zu verwirren. Und vielleicht das stimmt.

Das erste Ding war die Sprache.
Viele Leute haben gesagt, dass Deutsch eine einfache Sprache zu lernen ist. Leider, viele von diese Leute haben Deutsch nie gesprochen. Deutsch hat Aussprache, wer English-sprechende Leute brauchen nicht, und umgekehrt. Die Grammatik ist anders. Und die Artikeln. Und die Präpositionen. Und die Wörter.
Am Anfang habe ich viel gelernt. Ich habe immer Sprachen gern gehabt... aber Deutsch ist nicht wie Spanisch, oder Chinesisch, oder Lateinisch. Und nach den ersten Wochen, habe ich nicht so viel gelernt, weil es war schwieriger.

Es ist immer noch schwierig, und ich muss es jeden Tag schreiben und lesen und sprechen. Jetzt denke ich in Deutsch, aber es immer besser in meinem Gehirn ist, als wenn ich sprechen oder schreiben will.

Das zweite Ding war die Kultur.
Ob man möchtest, extrem peinlich zu sein, 24/7, für die nächste Jahr von sein Leben... er soll ein Austauschjahr machen. Eben, die einfachste Aufgaben waren schwierig zu verstehen, schwieriger zu erklären, und noch schwieriger zu machen. Ich habe immer das Gefühl gehabt, dass all die andere Leute lachen wurden, bei der Amerikanerin, wer nicht wusste, wie man die Bus-Tür öffnet.
Zum Beispiel, Schweizerzeit ist anders als Amerikanerzeit. Der Bus wartet nur eine Minute für eine Haltestelle. Die Züge kommen immer pünktlich (oder wenn nicht, sie sagen das an der Fahrplanschild).
Und noch mehr: Man sagt immer „En Guete“ vor essen. Wenn man zu einer Party kommt, er muss immer alle Leute grüßen. Man liest, schreibt, und spricht Hochdeutsch in der Schule und in formal Beruf, aber spricht Schweizerdeutsch mit Freunden, Familie, und in den Supermärkte.

Und das letzte Ding waren die Menschen.
Meine Klasse ist die beste Klasse der ganze FMS, und der ganze Welt. Aber am Anfang... Sie waren freundlich und nett, klar, aber ich habe immer das Gefühl, dass ich nicht wirklich ein Teil von der Klasse war. Dass ich „die Austauschschülerin“ war. Anders.
Aber wirklich, es war hart. Normalerweise bin ich die erste in meiner Klasse und immer in die Mitte meinen Freunden und Freundinnen. Hier... nicht.
Eine Nebeneffekt, der als peinlich, allein am meisten von der Zeit zu sein. Und so war es, so war es für ein oder zwei Monate oder so.
Und dann etwas ist geändert.
Ich weiß nicht was. Vielleicht es war Deutsch, oder Schweizerdeutsch, oder einfach Zeit. Aber jetzt fühle ich mich wie ein Mädchen wer in der Schule geht, ein Mädchen wer in die Schweiz ist, ein Mädchen wer gehört in meiner Klasse. Denke ich, vielleicht jetzt ich beginne zu gehören.J

Und vielleicht beginne ich zu gehören. Hier.

Und raten Sie was?

Ich habe mich nie mehr im Bad eingeschlossen.


Friday, December 6, 2013

samichlaus is coming to town

"he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake... he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!"
(^side note: is that not the creepiest holiday song you've ever heard in your life? I mean, think about it...)

Guess This Mystery Person:

He wears a red suit, a pointy hat, and big black boots. He has long white hair and a beard. He is frequently accompanied by a small mysterious somewhat magical creature. He shows up around December, and he gives good children presents.
Think you've got it?
Guess again, because if you're thinking "Santa" you're wrong. This is not the American Santa. Trust me, despite the similarities, they are very different people.

Meet my new acquaintance:

Unlike American versions, Swiss Santa does not bring the presents on Christmas Eve. Instead, he comes every December 6th for Samichlaustag.
Like American Santa, he's supposed to ask the Swiss children if they have been good or bad. the good ones get a present (normally chocolate, nuts, and oranges.)
The bad children are punished...
...and that's when it starts to get interesting.

See, American Santa gives them coal. Or sticks. Or something, to show that they've been bad and that they don't deserve a real present. (Also, the American Santa gives fancier presents to the children, not just snacks, but whatever. Maybe Swiss Santa has a lower budget.)
But Swiss Santa? Swiss Santa is a little more proactive here. He has an elf... not just any elf. This one is called Schmutzli, or "little dirty one", and he puts bad children in his sack and on Santa's donkey. (oh yes, Samichlaus does not have 9 reindeer. Instead he has a donkey. More proof that Swiss people have a lower budget for Santa.) Then, after loading the children all up, he carries them off in the sack and leaves them in the dark wood.

That's right.

Swiss Santa doesn't give coal and sticks to bad children. He simply abducts them and abandons them in the wilderness.

And people WONDER why little kids are afraid to sit on Santa's lap.

However, there are perks to the Swiss version of Santa Claus. The first is (obviously) the food. Swiss children receive gifts at Christmas too, but those come from a different magical person who does not look like a fat guy in a red suit. So really, Samichlaustag is just an extra bonus day for children to eat oranges and chocolate during the holidays. Sounds good to me.

The second is that Samichlaus comes in a much quieter manner than Santa. I've always wondered why parents think their children will believe reindeer can fly, Santa Claus can travel across the whole United States in one night, and somehow he'll deliver presents to all the children. Very large, sometimes expensive presents. I mean, that's got to be stressful.

Which leads me to the last benefit. I pointed out earlier that Swiss Santa Claus doesn't have so many expenses as American Santa Claus... he gives oranges and chocolate instead of big presents, he only employs one elf, and he eschews the reindeer in favor of a little donkey. In other words, Swiss Santa is way cheaper to employ.

So the next time we're worrying about a debt crisis, there's a simple answer: Let's just stop paying Santa so much.

Who needs reindeer, anyway, when you can have a little dark elf to abduct your children?

(the end.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

my blog rule-- and why i am now breaking it

gondola ride up the matterhorn
when i first started this blog, i decided to avoid talking about two things:
politics and religion.

the reasons were simple. while politics and religion do interest me (i'm one of those weird people who like to know how other governments and belief systems work) these seem to be the most "offending" things that are presented nowadays. i figured that i'd keep the potentially offensive things to myself, in the interest of keeping my blog relatable.
you see, my blog was originally started to a) update people on my life so they don't have to ask my poor family at home all the time and b) describe the Rotary exchange process personally, to an extent that it'd be helpful to future exchangers and c) generally be a place for me to describe my life and the thoughts and changes i'm experiencing.

politics and religion didn't come into that because they didn't affect my exchange.

but the thing is...
politics and belief systems are a HUGE part of a country. they reflect so much about the culture and people and the values and interests and ideals of that culture. coming here, i've been asking myself a lot of questions about why, exactly, US-Americans do the things they do. i've learned that sometimes we're right, and a lot of times we aren't.

and consequently, they have indeed affected my exchange.
and forgoing all mention of them on my blog caused me to leave out significant parts of who i am and the things that i'm realizing here.

this does NOT MEAN that i am going to suddenly go all "crazy-political-American" on you, not at all. (in fact, going on exchange has caused me to question a ton of my beliefs, in a very good way.)
i still do think that insult throwing and misinformed arguing over politics and belief systems is completely and utterly pointless. not to mention that it makes a lot of enemies very fast.

however, as a representative and ambassador of my country, i am going to share some things on my blog that have caused me to rethink how Americans live. and that includes whatever small political or religious culture shifts i think are worth noting.

i am not encouraging comment wars. i am not changing my blog.

i am simply representing myself and what my exchange is teaching me, and realizing that it has caused me to think about a lot of different things.

and i hope it causes you to think too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

days < 110 -- comparing

advice for future exchangers #16:
you only really recognize your own culture
when you've been dropped headfirst into a different one.

So with the recent holidays and so, I'm realizing just how American and Chinese American and culturally different I am. They aren't bad culture differences... it's just that I never really thought of myself as being distinctly AMERICAN. I don't know if that makes sense or not.
Oh well.

  • Zermatt was amazing! I went with a bunch (read: basically all) of the other exchange students from Switzerland, both newbies (August inbounds) and oldies (January inbounds). And it was wonderful. And the other Swiss Rotary exchange students here are basically some of the awesomest people in the entire world.
  • Aaaand we saw the Matterhorn. Which was lovely.
  • And Advent began! My family has Advent calendars and gifts every Sunday for me and my little sister and decorations and stars and everything. So our house is beautiful now. :)))
  • I went to Zurich with one of my friends and we explored the Christmas markets. Of which there are many. And they are all very pretty. Actually, Switzerland Christmases in general are just very pretty.
  • Basel has a Christmas market too. I went there as well. Because I like Christmas markets.
  • And I gave a presentation to my class about my life at home. My class teacher was especially interested in homeschooling and asked me a LOT of questions about how it worked, what it was like, if I had tests, what American high school was normally like, etc. So that was interesting... :P
  • Bern Bundeshaus lights!!!! I posted a video link to them in my november/october lovely links, if you'd like to see them... they are gorgeous. My goodness.
there was more that happened, i'm sure, but I am too tired to write it down. 
guete nacht!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

october and november's lovely links

yay. i'm so proud of my country. Look how informed we are.
but i guess that the British people are pretty bad at this too. ta da.

my friends and i went to go see this at the Bern Bundeshaus the other day... it was a giant projector on the BUILDING, and it's even cooler in person than it looks. If you ever go to Switzerland while the Bern Bundeshaus Lichter are on display, they are something you NEED to see. (The video is about 25 minutes long... but warning, it's all in Swiss German and the story is very strange. the light effects are lovely, though.)

I'm not sure if this is true, but it's interesting: Choose the Best Airplane Seat.

and this. this is rather scary. maybe when i get home i'll just ban myself from eating... because here are 10 foods eaten in the USA that are banned in other countries...

Okay, these maps are just cool. (note: there are two that are sort of strange and in my opinion unnecessary. so maybe check before you show this to your little sister or something.)


how to pronounce the cantons in one easy map. (except not exactly right if you ask me. but oh well.)

that's all for now! ciao!