Monday, November 10, 2014

this is what it feels like to be home again

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...not really caring about public embarrassment-- being too loud or too crazy or too strange-- ever again. because you speak the language and you understand the culture, and so nothing you do here can ever be more embarrassing than all the stupid things you did THERE. you are now immune to actual public humiliation.

this is what it feels like to be home again... probably cry a lot more than is normal. you can't watch movies whenever anyone says goodbye to anyone else. this is both somewhat comforting (everyone thinks you're just crying over the animated character) and embarrassing (because, well, everyone thinks you're just crying over an animated character).

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...being frustratingly unable to communicate your thoughts in a logical fashion. i'm trying, really i am, but i just can't english right now.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...looking at old pictures and wondering sometimes if the whole entire year was a very elaborate and interesting dream. it feels so far away and separate from your life here.
...putting on a pair of boots and realizing that they've walked streets in paris and rome and venice.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...sometimes, you don't know who you are. because you were so different on exchange, and you FEEL different now, but people want you to be the person they remember.
and sometimes you are, and sometimes you aren't.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...recognizing that while some people 
didn't really notice you were gone,
there are some other people who care about you. a lot.
and you don't really know why, 
or how, or exactly when that happened,
only that they do.
...and it makes life easier.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...leaving one life and then creating a new one.
...having little pieces of that life somehow everywhere, in a lovely and scary way.
...learning to appreciate every moment that you have.

Monday, October 20, 2014

questions i've been asked recently, part iii: what i say and what i mean

How was your trip?
what i say: "it was great!"
what i mean: "it was not a trip. it was home. it was my life for an entire year. it was not a trip. why are you saying it's a trip."
"oh wait, i'm probably overreacting to this."
"i'm sorry."
"well, anyway, it was fantastic."

Do you miss Switzerland?
what i say: "yes. so much."
(and then i laugh and change the subject.)
what i mean: "there are no words to describe it. there aren't. and i miss it and i don't want to miss it because it hurts so much and so i'm dealing with this by not talking about it so let's not talk about it."
"except i do. want to talk about it, i mean."
"i just, i'm not sure if you're okay with me melting into a puddle right here."

tell me something about your exchange year!
what i say: (laughing) "gosh, where to start... what do you want to know about?"
what i mean: "ahhhhh you are amazing."
"wait. do you actually want to hear all this?"
"are you sure?"
"are you really really sure?"
 "...and do you have seven hours to spend listening to me ramble?"

why didn't you respond to my emails/letters/texts?
what i say: "um."
what i mean: "gahhhhhh I AM SO SORRY. seriously, i am the worst long-distance communicator in the history of ever. this does not mean that you don't matter-- on the contrary, it means that you matter very much (because i'm talking to you now) and that once again i've proven my ability to lose contact with multiple people in a very short time. i'm really, really sorry and i love you very much. let's have a conversation right now."

I speak German too!
what i say: "that's awesome! where did you learn it?"
what i mean: "you are now my new favorite person. can we go talk in a corner? or actually can you just speak german to me for the next three days because i miss the sound of this language so much and i'm super afraid of losing it forever and i'm resorting to children's cartoons on youtube JUST so i can hear german again..."

::sighs:: ah, Switzerland. the most beautiful place in the world, isn't it?
what i say: "yes."
"yes it is."
what i mean: "yes."
"yes it is."

my first 100 days-- again

"and... i had two contrasting feelings. 
one was complete happiness, as if i was back in a comfortable place 
with people i knew and who knew me. 
the other feeling was complete and overwhelming homesickness. 
it was as if the two feelings were taking turns, 
and i was waiting to see which one would win." 
-- bloomability, sharon creech

my three-month theory about exchange -- the idea that after three months, you are exchanging "for real" and you are more than just a tourist-- isn't exactly a secret. that is, it's not anything particularly special or brilliant or life-changing. it's just a theory, a theory that happens to hold true for a lot of things; after 100 days (a little longer than three months), you have to change. 

and so i shouldn't have been surprised when, yesterday, i hit my one hundred days.
but i still was.

people laugh, sometimes, when i say that i'm homesick. they think i'm being funny on purpose. but the thing is-- i AM homesick. i'm homesick for places i've explored and languages i've heard and people that i've loved, because to me switzerland is home. 
i'm sorry if that sounds ridiculously stupid.
(actually, i'm not sorry.)
(go on exchange yourself and then come back and tell me it sounds stupid to call your host country home. I DARE YOU.)

at the same time, i love oregon. i never realized how much i HAD missed my life here until i came back... because here, as well, are places i've explored and languages i've heard and people that i love. even though i hated the US when I first got back, coming home forced me to recognize that portland, oregon, is home as well.
and i've missed it.

more than eleven months ago, i was sitting on my bed exulting in the fact that i was finally more than a tourist. more than a visitor in a foreign land. more than some random weird crazy girl who didn't belong.

and now here i sit, and i'm posting this because i'm finally, finally, FINALLY more than a tourist. more than a visitor in my own land.

because finally i am someone who feels, 
in her own random weird crazy way, 
that she belongs.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

update: changes, purpose, and other semi-boring things

hey guys!

i've planned a lot of changes to this blog in the past month, and today, they are finally beginning to come to fruition! hooray!

the main change today is the blog name... the banner above this post now reads "oh the bloomabilities" instead of "hannah goes adventuring". this was actually the original name of the blog (read why here) and now that i'm home from exchange, it's going to stay that way.

the blog itself will continue, just in a different form. as a rotary exchange student, we learn that there are three stages of exchange: outbound (leaving from your home country), inbound (being in your host country), and rebound (returning to your home country after your year abroad). so with that in mind, i'll still continue writing.... just in a slightly different capacity, as a return exchanger instead of as a current one.

"hannah goes adventuring" will also continue, but as my personal/normal blog -- and therefore using a different web address, focus, and timeline. hopefully that'll be up in the next month, so keep an eye out!

in the next month or so, i'll be entering school, applying for college, and doing all that senior-year-drama stuff, so i WILL be busy. but i mean hey, at least it's all in a language i speak and understand! ;) i will also be a part of rotary, and i'll attempt to keep updating with the process. once an exchange student, always an exchange student.

that's it for now!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

days > 365 -- blooming

advice for future exchange students #29:
take time to bloom.
seriously. do what makes you happy,
but most importantly,
do what makes you grow and learn and change.
that's what matters.

(yes, i'm skipping ahead about 100 days from my most recent countdown update. explanation below.)

the last 100 days of my exchange were amazing... and i decided to prioritize enjoying my exchange, making memories, spending time with the people i care about, etc. which means that i neglected my blog.
for those of you who keep track of me via this blog, i'm really sorry-- but i did have amazing and wonderful experiences and i WILL share them! only, not exactly in real time. ;)

the sharp pain of goodbyes IS a real thing, and reverse culture shock is ALSO totally a real thing, and secondhomesickness/hostsickness is also a VERY. REAL. THING. but i'm learning, and i'm changing, and i like to believe that this is helping me to grow up. to "bloom", if you want to be super cheesy.

so, here's what Hannah has been doing in the past no-longer-blogging-days: (not chronologically)

  • came home.
  • said a lot of tearful goodbyes. my class, my families, my friends... i'm awful at goodbyes and prolonging them over a few weeks was not the best way to go. also, i cried for one and a half hours in my first flight to the US.
  • saw The Fault In Our Stars in German. still have not seen it in english... hmmm...
  • dreamed and is dreaming in Swiss German. still. :/
  • went to summer camp.
  • celebrated my bestie's birthday.
  • went on a camping trip with my family (a very long one) and realized just how unused i am to road trips. TWO HOURS in the car?!? WHAT???
  • went on an extended-family vacation at the beach. Oregon Coast, i have missed you.
  • spoke Swiss German (hooray!) with the conference speaker at our beach vacation center. it blessed me so much and made me ridiculously happy. 
  • went to my first American Rotary meeting in a year. it was amazing to realize just how much people in this group have invested in me and my exchange, and to get a chance to thank them for that. Rotary has problems sometimes, yes, but overall, it basically rocks.
  • speaking of Rotary, our Rebound (returning exchange student) weekend finished today! I can't believe how much we've changed in the past year, and how much all of us have learned. it's probably one of the weirdest and yet most amazing shifts i've ever seen.
  • and this year no longer terrifies me or worries me as much as it used to. because i am realizing how much more i am capable of.
that's it for now!
love love love,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

how lucky i am

"how lucky i am to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard."
--winnie the pooh

whenever people tell you why you should study abroad, they tell you the good things.
they tell you that you'll learn about yourself, that you'll speak a new language and adjust to a new culture.

but what they don't tell you is that it hurts.

sure, it hurts to be away from home and to bite the dust in language and to constantly embarrass yourself in foreign etiquette. that's normal. but it's not that bad.

what hurts is the missing. the countdown of days. the awareness that you will be both returning home and leaving home at the same time, the feeling of constantly saying goodbye, the knowledge that your year is about to end.

it is unpredictable, because it creeps up on you at strange times -- in math class, or lying awake at night, or walking through a crowded city street --  and it makes you frustrated, because you don't understand. you don't see how in less than 12 months, one can fall in love... not with a person or a thing, but with an entire country... and you are upset at yourself for not seeing it earlier. for not, somehow, avoiding this ache.

and yet you ask yourself if you would give up this year, this crazy tangled beautiful mess of a year full of excitement and disappointment and learning about yourself and making stupid mistakes and overdramatizing and having heart-to-heart talks and traveling and making memories and dreaming bigger than you've ever dreamed in your entire life...
no, you wouldn't. not really.

and because your goodbyes hurt,
because the thought of leaving is painful,
because this is so hard,

you realize
how lucky you really are.

an open letter to the newbies

dear newbies:

congratulations on being the luckiest kids in the world. you are about to have what will probably be the most memorable year of your life so far.
do not underestimate the importance of spontaneity and simply enjoying your life here. but, in the event that you WOULD like advice, here are some things to remember...

us as newbies!
1. don't stress.
but seriously, don't. one, it isn't worth your time, and two, sometimes it's better to just enjoy the moment. the year will be over before you know it. prioritize, yes, and figure out what you're looking for in your exchange year, yes. but take a couple minutes every so often to breathe and laugh and realize the complete beauty and total ridiculousness of you being in another country.
i regret not figuring out that sometimes, i should just take life as it happened to me. (chill out, by the way, Past Hannah. you're stressing out too much to be healthy.) and that sometimes, your exchange will hold lovely surprises. the key isn't to prepare wildly, the key is to welcome them in and stop complaining.

which is another point...

2. if you have an issue, figure it out. make yourself heard.
you will be on your own for a lot of this year, and you will be required to deal with your own problems sometimes. if you can't, you need to communicate that you can't... clearly. your host parents are wonderful, but there are times when you just need to raise your voice and let them know that there IS a blocked bathtub turning the downstairs washroom into a swimming pool, and can they please help you with it NOW?

farewell weekend for OUR oldies
other times you will be required to take control of your own issues and solve them. if you are not already, you will probably become good at a) reading maps in foreign languages or b) navigating the transit system better than the locals do or c) getting lost in large cities and enjoying it. possibly all three!

but there are other times when the problem just can't be fixed. which means that,

3. sometimes, you need to shut up and deal with it.
this doesn't mean staying silent in the face of evil. this just means that sometimes, you will get so caught up in what's wrong with your exchange that you don't realize the obvious: you're on exchange, and that's wonderful! be grateful, duh.
also, the food is delicious. i don't care what you think of it now. it's delicious. and you WILL miss it when you get back to your home country, so make the most of your opportunities now. this applies to other things, not just food: language, culture, travel... stop complaining and work on enjoying life.

newbies and oldies-- exchange is a family
 4. invest in things that last.
make friendships. get to know people who come from different states and countries and continents. because you know what? you didn't come on exchange to be comfortable. anyone can stay home and be comfortable. you came to grow, and that takes guts.
so don't undermine that by staying inside your comfort zone.
 i have met some of the most brilliant and talented and fun people on exchange, and it blows my mind to think that i call them friends. so go. enjoy the world. there is life outside your front door, i promise.

5. ignore this.
well, don't ignore it completely. but do realize that this is a very limited amount of advice coming from a still-more-limited source, and that every exchange is different. my counsel might be completely wrong for your exchange, and that's fine.
know yourself, and question yourself, and feel free to disregard things that aren't right for you. but mostly, remember that you're ON EXCHANGE, you're adventuring, you're free...

and honestly, isn't that the most wonderful feeling in the world?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

spring's lovely links

hey, look what i found in the deep dark archives of my blog!
i completely forgot that i have these...

thoughtcatalog's How You Know You've Found Where You Belong is a great piece. it's also written by a studyabroad-er, although he's in England and i'm in Switzerland.
another good article is this one about the friends you make while studying abroad. gotta love those exchangers from around the world.

my experiences in paris were, thankfully, all good (except for a brief episode of getting lost one day, haha) but this made me laugh so i'm going to share it anyway. travel writing at its best, folks.

one of my newbies has a blog and you should check it out. he's an aussie, his name is vincent and he takes amazing photos. look i'm in this post!

one of my fellow oldies (evan), meanwhile, posted something about happiness a while back. you should also look at that, because he is a talented writer and a pretty awesome person. (also he can play guitar, which is worth a bazillion points in my book.)

i will end with cailler's chocolate study from last year. look at all the awesomeness in this post, you guys.
(it's in german, though. so hit the translate button or something.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

days > 250 -- traveling

piece of advice for future exchange students #29:
explore even if you don't really know what you're looking for.
it'll be worth it, i promise.

aaand once again updates come super late on this blog. BUT that's a good thing! it means that i am enjoying my life here and am too busy to blog. as my return date gets closer, my exchange gets more packed and blogging drops to the bottom of my list of priorities... :P

things i've done in the 10ish days before i was supposed to post this update:

  • went to ticino with my new host family!!! it was beautiful.
  • also, it snowed. in april. fail. :/
  • but on the bright side we went to a market in italy and that was fun. also we celebrated easter and biked from bellinzona to locarno and spent a lot of time just chilling on the mountain. 
  • speaking of which: i have discovered that i really, really love biking in Europe. it's different from biking in the USA, and somehow lovelier, and i would honestly bike a lot more places if i didn't also love the public transportation system in Switzerland haha. sometimes i wonder why cars even exist... and then i remember how big the United States actually are, and my question is answered...
  • went to schaffhausen! which, by the way, is highly recommended. i've never been to niagara, but schaffhausen is pretty impressive as the swiss version.
  • went cantonhopping. i visited five in one day... no small feat. o.O
  • visited Konstanz (still have no idea what day that was) with Ryan. that was interesting. Also we bought flags. Except one was square and one was rectangular, which we didn't realize until we both got home... :P
  • saw the burning of the böög in zürich. it was basically like a very small very rainy very sad fasnacht. the highlight was the exploding snowman. how sad. BASEL FOR THE WIN, people. ;)
  • i am realizing that there is no place i would rather exchange than in switzerland. sure, the rest of europe is cheaper, and south america would be exciting, and asia would be wonderfully exotic. but i love switzerland, i love its size and its traditions and its culture and its mix of languages, and i wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

my life as a disney movie: or, why exchange is basically exactly the same thing as tangled

1. When you live in your home country, life is good. you're busy, you're productive, you're successful by most normal standards.

and yet somehow you've always, just vaguely, wanted to know what the world is like. what things are different on the other side of the globe. what lies beyond the world you've always known.

2. a lot of people tell you life outside is dangerous. scary. life-threatening, even. they tell you they care about you and they don't want to see you fail. they tell you you are safe here, there is no reason to leave.

it scares you.

3.  at the same time, you feel ridiculously cool and exciting whenever you tell someone your plans for the next year. (yay! finally! plans!) 
i mean, look at how independent you are.

...most of the time.

4. as soon as that airplane door closes, you realize that you are actually really truly doing this. it is a feeling of exhilaration and terrifiedness at the same time.
but mostly terrifiedness.

5. when you first enter your host country, everything is exactly like you dreamed! it's wonderful and amazing and beautiful and AHHHHHHH. you're in heaven.

6. then, somewhere along the way, you start realizing the consequences of your decisions. your attitude changes five times approximately every two seconds. it's very dramatic.

7. you meet the rotarians. they are scary.

then you get over it and realize they've all got dreams too. language is different and culture is different, but people are simply people, all over the world. 
(hooray for disney bonding time.)

8. you meet a lot of wonderful people.
you see a lot of wonderful things.

and you fall in love with this country.

9. you realize that you have been somehow preparing for this all your life -- that your study abroad has crept into all parts of your existence and permeated it with the love of the unknown, the need for adventure.

you belong where you are unsafe and uncomfortable and awkward. you have made friends and lived through disaster and grown up a little more here. you've found that you are more capable than you know.

and most importantly,
adventures still lie ahead.

a little note for context:
my host family and i were watching Tangled (in German, it's called simply "Rapunzel") one weekend, and I realized just how much it mirrored my life on exchange. enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

days > 240 -- growing

piece of advice for future exchange students #28:
invest in things that matter.

i've realized that when i leave, i probably won't remember parties. or clothing. i will not remember the various touristy souvenirs that i've bought or the sandwiches that we ate on the train.
i will remember people. i will remember families and friends and long conversations in hotel rooms during the rotary trips. i will remember crazy group selfies and running to catch our trains and getting lost in a city with friends.

and so i've decided to put my time into those things.

what i did in the 10ish days before I was SUPPOSED to post this:

  • Italy adventuring!!! it lasted for 6 days. and they were way too short.
  • we spent a boatload of time on the train. good thing we're in Switzerland and are used to hours of train time in Europe. also it's a good thing that train travel is my favorite way to travel. 
  • by the way-- I have no idea what the USA does or how we survive without trains. what are we supposed to do? drive? 
  • Venice: rode vaporettos along the Grand Canal, rode an elevator up the clock tower and saw Venice from above, ate the best gelato ever, got ridiculously lost every time we tried to go anywhere, bought masks, had pizza, took pictures, bonded over shopping and mangling of the german language.
  • Rome: got lost again, wandered through streets and ate panini sandwiches, tried not to get mobbed by other tourists, successfully found but did not successfully visit the catacombs, saw the vatican, was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Petersdom and the Sistine Chapel, celebrated Sarah's birthday, ate burgers, got closer to both old and new friends, learned the basic minimum amount of Italian required to get by, avoided a protest, simply enjoyed what used to be the cultural center of the world.
  • came to a new appreciation of Swiss trains, safety, food in general but specifically bread, and cleanliness. Italy is a lovely place to see. Switzerland is a lovely place to live. :)
  • tada, highlights. there is so much that i could write about, but i'll keep most of my stories to myself for now. this is an update, which means it should be relatively short :P
ciao for now,

days > 230 -- closing

piece of advice for future exchange students #27:
for me, a countdown to my return helps. for others, it doesn't.
that doesn't matter so much, though.
because in the end it isn't about counting the last days,
but about making the last days count.

as of right now (the 23rd of April, because I'm really really bad at posting updates regularly), my return date is still mostly a secret. what I will say is that i'm coming home in less than 100 days, and it is crazy for me to think about.

i do want to go back.

i don't want to leave.

things that happened in the 10ish days before I was SUPPOSED to post this update:
  • arranged a Glacier Express trip. a group of us exchangers basically rode a train through the mountains for 5 and a half hours together. it was fun.
  • I went away for the weekend with my second host family! we went to Splüger, in Graubünden (the eastish side of Switzerland). It was lovely.
  • my second host family is extremely traditional-Swiss in that they're organized and punctual and appreciate very Swiss things :) so it was a nice cultural-vacation too. We went sledding, visited two cheese factories (also a post to come about that, hopefully), hiked through the mountains, etc., etc. .
  • oh yes. I ate a lot of fresh cheese. if you've never had fresh cheese, I recommend it simply as an experience worth having. :)
  • watched Die Physiker, a show thing at my school. One of my classmates was in it. both he and the show were wonderful.
  • a couple months ago my art project was nominated for an international comics-festival in Luzern, so I went to that. it was exciting to see my comic with the top 20 out of more than 700 entries, haha.
  • art is a universal language.
  • it was nice to be reminded of that.

days > 220 -- following

piece of advice for future exchange students #26:
pay attention to the advice of those who have gone before you.
usually, they have important things to say.

In my second week of vacation, I stayed with a former exchange student (she went on exchange to Argentina two and a half years ago). It was 1) probably the best week of my life in Switzerland [except for Vienna which doesn't count because technically I wasn't IN Switzerland at the time] and 2) unexpectedly and wonderfully like a real family.
For me, since I'm used to being the oldest at home, having a big sister was awesome. I recommend the experience.

things I've done in the past 10ish days (not really. haha these updates are getting later and later...):
  • rode a sailboat across Lago Maggiore. to ITALY. I CAN RIDE A SAILBOAT TO ITALY YOU GUYS.
  • went to Fasnacht. hopefully a post will be written in depth about Fasnacht sometime later. If not... well, sorry guys, but I have a life. ;)
  • went to Germany and had brunch. for like 7 euros or less. probably the best brunch I've ever had. WHY CAN'T I LIVE IN GERMANY.
  • actually, i wouldn't particularly want to live in Germany. but it's a nice idea to have.
  • got stuffed with confetti at Basel Fasnacht. this basically means that people in colored masks run up behind you with about 5 kilos of colored paper and shove the whole lot down your shirt. hooray. (you will then proceed to shed confetti everywhere. two months later, you will still find small bits of colored paper in your bed, your shoes, your suitcase, and your sock drawer. don't even ask why. it is one of the lasting mysteries of Fasnacht.)
  • I was stuffed 12 times in a 10-hour period. I think I'm a talented person?
  • watched endless Fasnacht skits and songs and general traditional things. there is truly nothing like Swiss Fasnacht in the USA. I am still not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.
  • kidding. Fasnacht is wonderful.
  • met the newbies :) more newbies. newbies everywhere.
  • i'm super jealous. they have a whole year to spend here. and yet, I realize that even if I stayed... this period in my life is ending. it's ending for all of us. and I wish I could freeze this moment in time and stay in it forever.
  • but life goes on. and i have to accept that.
I would write more, but I honestly have no idea what I did during that period of time. I live in the now. ;)


Monday, March 17, 2014

i am in love

note: the following post was written about a month ago in the train, but i didn't actually get around to posting it until just now. 

it's very short and also unedited, so just consider it a snapshot of my feelings at the moment.

I'm in the Gotthard Tunnel on a very long train ride, and I'm riding alone so I have plenty to write in my journal and plenty of time to do it. it's the nice thing about trains, the ability to always write and to lose yourself in writing. it's different from a plane or a bus or a car or really anything else. 
and i just realized something-- I am in love with the trains. 
I am in love with German and Italian and French. I am in love with chocolate and cheese and traveling and multilingual greetings and watches and history and snow. I am in love with strong mountains, fields that never end, villages nestled deep in valleys and streams bluer than the sky in summer. 
it's just wonderful, beautiful, and I realize that what I am really in love with is Switzerland. 
I am in love with this country.
and a part of my heart will always be here,
because Switzerland has changed me. 
and I don't want my old life back.

days > 210 -- speaking

piece of advice for exchange students #25:
one day, you will wake up and find 
that you have gained more than simply the ability 
to communicate in another language.
you have gained the ability to make yourself heard.

a couple of instances (all right, more than a couple) in the past couple days have brought me to the realization that I am capable of much more than I think, communication-wise.
this doesn't mean that i am native-fluent-level in the language, as much as i wish :( but i am able to communicate my feelings and my thoughts and my ideas in German and in Swiss German. and while it is still an enormous challenge, i can do it. i can speak my own words in my own voice in another language. i can make myself heard.

things i've done in the past 10-ish days (the past meaning before 20 days... again, i'm still working on updating this blog in a timely fashion):
  • found out that my artwork (a school project) was one of a few nominated for an international comics festival contest. so that was exciting.
  • got published in my school's newspaper! i'm actually super happy about this, although it was rather embarrassing when the paper first came out. my piece was originally written in german literature class when my teacher had to find something for me to do... it describes my life at the beginning of my exchange and my feelings both before and after the first three months. and my german teacher wanted to print it in the paper!
  • went to Neuchatel (french part) and explored a castle with my friend James. also we played chess.
  • and it wasn't actually that bad!
  • survived the week before vacations. it involved a presentation and four tests. oh, and speaking of the presentation...
  • ... I mentioned this briefly in my last update, but I successfully made a presentation with my friend in music class. it involved a demonstration, a powerpoint, several printout sheets, and an oral part of about 10 minutes... not that big of a deal for me in English, but HUGE in German. I'm exceedingly proud of myself for writing it (although really, he did all the editing of my horrible German grammar, so he's the one who should feel truly proud haha.)
  • i also received the compliment of my life when he told me I should stop using the internet to translate because my German was better than Google's. day. made.
  • (okay, so I'm not absolutely sure if that's true or not. but it still made me happy.)
en fin :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

being an asian-american on exchange part II: assumptions, culture, and claiming myself

(the following pictures are from a chocolate factory
and have absolutely nothing to do with this post...)
since my last post, i've come to a realization.
i am dealing with nothing that i don't want, that i am unprepared for, or that i cannot handle.

i'm not.

yes, being asian american does cause problems for me that people don't think about. and yes, i've dealt with rudeness and ignorance and problems. and that sucks.

but guess what? every kid who comes on exchange needs to be prepared for that.

when I signed up for exchange, I didn't do so thinking it would be easy. In fact, I knew that it wouldn't be.
I knew that people would make assumptions about me and my life, simply because I did not belong in their country. I knew I would be answering thought-provoking, funny, and sometimes ignorant questions about how I lived, what I ate, who I was. I knew that I would be representing my culture alone in the middle of foreign life.

I just didn't realize that because of who I am, I would be representing two cultures and not one.

because I am American, people expect me to be American... but they also expect me to be Chinese. They want to ask what I know about America, but they also expect me to know about China and Asia in general and the culture and traditions and current events there.
I have always, always considered myself American and fully American. and I still do think of myself that way. but I've learned some surprising things about myself in the past couple months.

I've learned that I'm painfully un-American when it comes to popular culture, because I fail to recognize all but the most important names and faces. it's rather odd to see that my Swiss friend, who has never been to the USA in her entire life, is familiar with more American television and American movies and American pop stars than I am.
I've also learned that I'm much more Asian than I thought I was. I eat foods that my other American friends don't eat, I've grown up with both New Year celebrations, I even value slightly different things than they do.

I live my life in that strange place between cultures, 
too American to be typically Asian and too Asian to be typically American.

but I am from the USA, and culture mixing is normal.
I am normal. and it is ridiculous for me to be frustrated or upset or apologetic about it, because it is simply who I am and how I have grown up.

So what have I learned?

I have learned to assume the best from people. I have learned to let some things go. I have learned that uneducated people live all over the world, and I have learned not to take them all personally. I have learned that there is a difference between assumptions and genuine curiosity. I have learned to answer graciously. I have learned that laughter builds relationships faster than being offended does.

and all of this has made my exchange richer, it's made me adapt to my host country and my home
country, it's helped me gain a totally different perspective.

in fact, i wouldn't change it for the world.

Friday, March 7, 2014

being an asian-american on exchange: frustration, barriers, and defining me

As a US-American on exchange, I've had the opportunity to challenge a lot of common beliefs about my home country. I don't have a Southern accent, I'm not a cheerleader, I'm (relatively) intelligent. Most importantly, I'm Asian. As in Not White.

This has been really great in a lot of ways. Since Europeans know a lot about American culture but very little about Asian culture, it makes me feel foreign and interesting to explain Chinese New Year or to describe lion dancing. It's an extra bonus to be able to pretend I don't speak English, just so that the street vendors will go away and stop bothering me.

At the same time, though, I've gotten the most racist and ignorant questions and assumptions ever. Most of them make me laugh. Some of them make me sad. A few make me angry.

It was funny at the beginning to see people double-take at the news that I'm an American, and funnier still if they ended up complimenting my English. It was funny to explain that I don't speak fluent Chinese, neither do my parents, and yes, I am indeed an American citizen. It was funny to get questions about whether I was adopted or whether I'd be allowed to marry someone who wasn't Chinese.

But to be honest? Right now, I'm sick of it.

I'm sorry to put that out there, but it's true. I am sick of people constantly assuming I am from Japan or China or Korea (by the way, people, there ARE other Asian countries). I am sick of people insisting I tell them where I'm REALLY from. I'm sick of people who ask me if I want to go "back" to China, who ask me if I can see out of my eyes or if I can read Japanese and Korean and Thai or how I can tell Asians apart.

I just want to be treated like a real person.
Is that too much to ask?

And it bothers me, that I cannot simply float into Europe and fit in. That whenever I walk into a room, people immediately know that I am not originally Swiss, or German, or Italian, or French. That I have to try doubly hard to adapt and to fit in. That simply by right of birth, I have more cultural barriers to climb than most of the other American exchangers do.

But at the same time, I'm realizing how much I am defined by my heritage. My heritage, both Chinese and American.

The way I look tells people that I am Chinese. The way I speak tells people that I am American.
And I wish that people could see that it's not mutually exclusive. It is not that my family is Chinese and I am American, it is not that my language is English and my heritage Chinese, it is not that I am a twinkie or an egg or anything divided by color or race or country.

it is that I am Asian AND American, and I am still a person.

It is simply that I am who I am. 
and I wish that people could see that.

days > 200 -- comparing

piece of advice for future exchange students #24:
you'll come at some point to the realization
that your host country is not perfect.
in fact, it's pretty flawed.
but guess what?
that's okay.

so another of the things that i've been realizing in the past two months:
swiss culture can really bother me.

american culture can really bother me, too.

and you know what?
that's fine.

there are things that i can appreciate about both cultures, and there are things that i don't. and being open-minded does not mean i have to agree with everyone... it simply means that i can learn to learn from both.

things i've done in the past 10 days:

  • took a french test and got a 2,9 (basically the equivalent of a D?) on it. i am ridiculously proud of myself haha.*
  • went to the Cailler chocolate factory. Yay for chocolate. And friends. And Sarah's mom (okay, sorry, that was a really random inside joke). But definitely for chocolate.
  • successfully wrote a presentation in GERMAN about the European crossflute. It was less of a flop than I thought it would be (probably due to the helpful editing of my project partner...) and I was extremely surprised to find that I can write a lot more in German than I thought I could.
  • took a german literature test with my class and scored above a C ... better than the average! i'm actually super proud of this too. (and yes, my standards may have slipped a bit... but it's in GERMAN okay?)
  • found that my swiss mum has more rules than i am used to. they're not bad, they're just different, and it's taken me a while to get used to the swiss cultural part of this.
  • ignored about a dozen people who keep asking me where i'm from, no matter how many times i say the USA. YESIKNOWILOOKASIANBUTIAMALSOAMERICANNOWLEAVEMEALONEPLEASE.
  • Luzerner Fasnacht! It's known for having parades and being louder and less organized than Basler Fasnacht, plus it's pretty fun.
  • came to the realization that my chocolate tolerance is extremely high. i'm not going to tell you how much chocolate i bought and ate in a period of six hours, but i will say that it's probably not extremely healthy. ooops.
  • spent some time getting to know the people on exchange who I DON'T hang out with very often. I'd love to talk to them more, it's just that we don't see each other very much. but I crashed at Evan's house in Luzern, and I had some fun/deep talks, and it was just pleasant to be free for a bit.
  • saw Fribourg with Ryan. it was my first time ever in Fribourg and it was beautiful.
  • went to a Heimatabend [traditional celebration in middleswitzerland, with singing and dancing and a play in Swiss German] and spent the night at my friend Maddie's house. that was also lovely :)
the end!

*that's because my french class is 5th-7th year french, plus is being taught in french, and i've had absolutely no french whatsoever before coming here. so it makes me proud :P

Monday, March 3, 2014

days > 190 -- enjoying

piece of advice for future exchange students #23:
sometimes, life turns out to be pretty amazing.
love it to the utmost.

(also, sleeping is mostly optional.)

things that i've done in the last 10ish days:
  • oh, okay. Tessin/Ticino is the Italian part of Switzerland. it is the most beautiful part ever. and my friend Sarah's host family has a vacation house there and they invited me to stay with them for three days!!! and basically it was wonderful and beautiful and I am in love with Italian.
  • deep talks till 2am = happiness. (yes. that is indeed what we did every night. it was good.)
  • met all the newbies at Engelberg weekend! that was fun. I love aussies. and kiwis. and our newbie latinos. 
  • Engelberg weekend. smiles for days. 
  • ...and probably one of the best weekends I've had this far, simply because by this time we're all friends. No, by this time we're basically family. a sometimes-difficult, sometimes-confusing, full-of-differences family... but a family nonetheless.

Monday, February 24, 2014

days > 180 -- seeking

piece of advice for future exchange students #22:
sometimes if you really want something,
all you have to do is ask.

yes, i know i haven't posted in a while.
but unfortunately exchange means that you sort of have a life beyond blog posting... ;)

one thing i've learned here is how to be way more upfront about what i want and how i want to do it. swiss people (well, at least the ones currently in my life) tend to have LOTS of rules and LOTS of ideas and LOTS of opinions on the way you should do things. which, seeing as i'm used to more laid-back Americans, means that all too often i don't know exactly what i want and so i get slightly run over.

guess what?
i don't really like getting run over.

so i've learned to decide what i want quickly and to communicate it right away, which is something i never really had to do in the USA. if i have an opinion here and i want to be heard, i have to MAKE myself heard. and while that sounds sort of rude, it's just what i have to do to keep myself as a person.

things i've done in the past 10ish days (well, 20 days ago... it's been a while, sorry)

  • went to a chamber music concert with some artists from Prague. we sat in the FRONT ROW and it was amazing... also, the cello player's instrument was older than the United States of America. I know that's not super impressive in Europe, but for some reason I couldn't get over the fact that this cello, older than the Declaration of Independence, was being played in a concert hall right in front of me. Oh, Europe. :)
  • Charivari (a pre-carnival show) with my friend Faith! they spoke REALLY strong Basel dialect, which was super difficult to understand, but the show was good anyway. they played flutes and horns and drums and sang songs and acted out skits and it was fun.
  • I saw my first host mum again! we went to a "Nacht der Musicals" because my first host family bought me tickets for Christmas... they know me well ;)
  • snow day with my class in Gymnasium Muttenz. The whole school reserved a train and went to the ski resort and spent the day skiing/snowboarding/hiking/walking/snowshoeing/sledding. (I went sledding.) why do American high schools not do this.
  • met our newbies in Basel-- Vinny, Demi, and Barbara. it feels like such a short time since we were newbies, and now all of a sudden we're oldies with language skills and travel experience and I FEEL SO OLD NOW WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY EXCHANGE. :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

einwanderungsinitiative: what an apple tree means to me as ausländerin

in the past couple of months, i've seen a ton of political posters.

this isn't unusual, because Switzerland is a country of "half-direct democracy". As such, it provides the opportunity for a person or political party to propose a change to the Bundesverfassung (Swiss Federal Constitution). After the proposal, they have 18 months to collect 100,000 Swiss signatures-- no small feat when you consider that Switzerland only consists of 8,112,000 citizens, meaning a significant percentage of them have to agree and sign the petition.
If they collect enough, the proposal goes federal and becomes a "popular initiative", which can officially be voted on by all Swiss citizens. These votes are counted by canton (much like USAmerican votes are counted by state) and the majority wins.

This also means that it's in each party's best interest to keep the people informed about the initiatives and to convince them to vote a certain way. Political posters are everywhere-- in gardens, on fences, by the bus stop, in the train station-- normally featuring the name or symbol of the initiative and a big "JA" or "NEIN" telling you what to vote. After a while, you get used to it and sort of stop paying attention.

Which means that I didn't realize how relevant this particular poster was until I'd seen it for the twentieth time.

What the Swiss people are now voting about is whether or not to set a limit on Masseneinwanderung. Translation: limiting Immigration with a capital I. limiting those people working, learning, starting businesses, getting jobs in Switzerland.
people who are not Swiss.

 As a nation, Switzerland is a sort of island in the middle of Europe. It's not part of the EU, it stubbornly sticks to its own governmental system and its own shops and its own currency and its own schools and its own variation of language and millions of things more. The Swiss are incredibly patriotic, with dozens of traditions that vary by canton, city, and village.

But. There are foreigners.
Foreigners basically means "anyone who is not Swiss and/or hasn't got a family tree with at least two generations living in Switzerland and/or cannot speak perfect Swiss German". Foreigner means someone who somehow does not belong.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've gotten some wonderful people who like the USA and are interested in it, or better yet, people who like me as a person and are interested in me, not my country. The people here are welcoming, especially if you make an effort to speak German or Swiss German, and friendly. Most of them are happy that a little American girl is trying to learn their language and adapt to their culture. But every so often, I am forced to remember that I am not Swiss.

You see, Swiss like to organize things. Everything, from buses to chocolates to schoolwork, is carefully ordered and put in place. But the problem is that here, there are often only two categories of people: Swiss and Non-Swiss. Swiss people get the chance to vote, to sign petitions, to launch initiatives and referendums. Non-Swiss people do not. Whenever someone who is Swiss gets into trouble and makes the newspapers, he is just a person. Whenever someone who is Non-Swiss gets into trouble and makes the newspapers, he is one of those Non-Swiss People. The People's Party noted that “Switzerland has serious problems with immigration… Almost half of the crimes committed in Switzerland are carried out by foreigners.” (Um. and what about the other half?) Some Swiss people appear to live in the fear that one day they will wake up to find that Switzerland is no longer Swiss.

And really, that's what makes me unhappy. living in Switzerland as an exchange student, I don't care about bilateral strategy or economic decline. I don't care about the job market or about Swiss vs. EU passports. And maybe that makes me ignorant, or inexperienced, or simply just naive.
Because what I care about is my, and others', rights to be acknowledged. As more than categories, as more than stereotypes, and as more than Swiss/Non-Swiss.

What I care about is my right to be seen, as a person.
not just as an Ausländerin.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

5 languages I'd love to learn in the next 5 years

You can survive in Switzerland without German.

It's true. If you speak English, you will almost always be sufficiently equipped for casual and tourist and even some school situations. Knowing the language is not necessary.
But it enriches life. I can't explain how happy I am that I'm learning German, simply because it gives me so many more opportunities. I don't just learn about the language, but about the people and the values and the culture of my host country.
And the more that I practice my German and Swiss German, the more I want to learn. Not only more about the German language or the English language (that too), but about new languages, new cultures. In only 6 months, I've reached conversational fluency* in two languages... and with work and practice, absolutely anyone can do the same thing! Isn't that amazing?

So with that in mind, here are the top 5 languages I'd like to learn in the next 5 years:
  1. French. because it is lovely. also because I just want to be able to speak fluent French. in the next 5 years, I PROMISE myself that I will get to conversational fluency in French. 
  2. Mandarin Chinese. because I want to be able to speak the language of my country of origin, and also because apparently it’s one of the hardest languages for English speakers and I might as well take the opportunity given to me by birth.
  3. Portuguese. because it is quite possibly the most beautiful language ever.
  4. Spanish. technically I’ve already worked to learn this one but I want to be fluent, or at least conversationally so. also it is one of the most useful languages to have in the US.
  5. Romanian. because while I’d like to learn Latin, it really doesn’t help that much (no one speaks full Latin) and people do speak Romanian which is 80% Latin anyhow.

(and some languages that almost made the list)

  • Italian. because who doesn’t dream of speaking fluent Italian, I mean really. it’s like almost more like singing instead of talking, plus you get to wave your arms around and shout at people and no one takes it personally or gets offended. 
  • Afrikaans. because why not. it's one of the newest languages in the world and yet the fourth most spoken Germanic language (after English, German, and Dutch). Also, it's said to be one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. "Easiest", of course, relatively speaking...
  • Icelandic. just because secretly I've always wanted to be an Inkling (or a Coalbiter).
*note: conversational fluency to me means three things: a) i can successfully get my point across without translating every word in my head first and b) i can understand basically everything the other person says in a normal conversation, and they can understand me and c) the language becomes a default for me (i.e. I exclaim spontaneous things in german and swiss german, often without thinking). I believe I'm past this point, but I'm not very close to native fluency :(

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

one last thought on swiss school: a story

note: at the end of the semester, i saw something that made me think about the exact impact of swiss high school on my friends. hopefully it'll make you think about it too.
one girl in my class has worked ridiculously hard to stay in school. she's studied french and english and even italian as a free subject. it meant so much to her to be in our class, and yet her grades were teetering on the edge. we'd done the math, and so as we all walked into english class and the teacher started announcing the scores, we also knew that this grade was the one that mattered. this grade was the one that would tip the balance.

it sounds funny, even a little ridiculous that so much drama should be attached to one small grade. but it wasn't just a grade-- if her grade was insufficient, she'd have to leave school. she couldn't come back in january, and she'd have to wait till summer and repeat the whole year.

there was complete silence when our teacher got to her name. a group of students gathered around her chair, waiting and hoping and dreading at the same time.

and then our teacher announced the grade, and it was enough. the girl was staying.
she'd made it.

there was a brief pause and then everyone started screaming and hugging her and screaming again and jumping up and down and shouting congratulations. it was crazy, all seventeen of us freaking out over a tiny number on a piece of paper.

so then i looked over at the girl. she was completely silent, speechless, sitting in her chair.
she had the biggest smile i've ever seen,

and tears were running down her face.

thoughts on american, european, and home school

so recently i've been getting a rather frustrating amount of college-related emails. while it's nice to know that they're interested in me (nothing like being wanted) it's a bit overwhelming to realize that i will have to be going home and making school-related decisions AGAIN in about 6 months.

with that in mind, i thought i'd give you a quick glimpse into the three types of school systems i've now gotten the change to see... homeschool, american public school, and swiss school. 
WARNING. THIS IS A LONG AND NERDY POST. (punctuated by random pictures of a french castle. you know, just for variation.)

a lot of you reading my blog know this already, but i've been homeschooled for most of my life. contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that i have no social life or that i am only at home with my parents and siblings all day. in general, i take multiple different classes (spanish, art, literature, writing, debate, science, etc.) outside of the house... there are two or three hours of teaching or lectures weekly and then a lot of homework that's assigned over the rest of the week. so yes, i'm homeschooled, but yes, i have friends. :)
the benefits of homeschooling for me were multiple. 
firstly, i've gotten to "squish" my education around in a way that other kids normally don't-- freshman year of high school i wrote, printed, and sold an advice book, sophomore year i participated in debate club and applied to rotary exchange, and this year i'm spending in switzerland. all in all, not a bad combination.
more importantly, i've become fairly independent. while i may not be an adult yet, i'm pretty self-motivated when it comes to schoolwork and projects and learning things, plus i've learned to be annoyingly persistent. this means that school in general isn't a huge struggle for me... i know what to expect from myself and how hard i need to work in order to get results.
that said, i do wish i'd been more prepared for the world around me. my parents have always encouraged me to ask questions, but unfortunately i can't say that for the homeschooling sphere in general. we might not like to admit it, but homeschoolers (and the conservative church, which is pretty related where i'm from) can be judgmental, closed-minded, and shockingly unwilling to challenge their own beliefs. this was really frustrating for me at the beginning of my year.

most of the kids from the usa that are here were enrolled in american high school. contrary to homeschooler belief, this is not the root of all evils. i promise. 
in my opinion, there are benefits (schedule and structure, more people, school clubs and teams and extracurriculars) that i definitely missed out on. as a homeschooler, i think i've been sheltered to a lot of the world, and so my first few months here were partly spent being surprised haha.
at the same time, there are other factors that i gladly skipped. peer pressure, a bazillion people per classroom, drama, etc., etc., etc. i'm not going to pass judgement on something i don't have personal experience with, but i know people who've gone and stated they were unhappy with the American high school system in general.

swiss high school, at first glance, seems like the solution to everything. when i first got here, i was amazed at the differences... at 16, you have the option of either working as an apprentice or continuing with school. every kid has to make a certain grade point average to stay in the class, and so consequently everyone who's there actually wants to be there. kids study and worry about grades and pay attention in class, simply because that is the way the system works. if you don't want to go, you drop out and start working. it's simple as that, and the benefits are obvious.
what i didn't realize then was that sometimes, school causes problems. there are some kids in my class who are naturally smart and almost never show up in class, and then magically have good grades. there are others who have to work extremely hard and yet still have bad grades. and that isn't fair, that isn't right, and it makes me upset. yet it's the only thing that my classmates have known.

what do you think?

days > 170 -- stalling

piece of advice for exchange students #21:
work with what you've got. ;)

the change of families and villages has practically given me a different life now... i spend my time way differently. one rule that my mum has is that i can't travel outside of the Basel region during the week. Which, considering that i'm used to traveling as much as possible, was (and is) a bit of a struggle for me.

but at the same time, there are multiple things i've learned:
a) if you aren't picky, there's a surprisingly large amount of things you can do to keep yourself occupied in one city.
b) also, sometimes friends are wonderful and upon hearing that you can't go visit them, they will come and visit you. it's a nice feeling to have someone take an hour-long train ride just to come hang out.
c) when your travel days are limited to weekends (and only one day per weekend) and you plan extremely carefully, there's a surprising amount of things that fit into one day.
d) make the most of your days.
because really, they all count. and who knows what the next city or family or life change will look like

things i've done in the past 10ish days:

  • basel has all these little skits/shows/performances that go before their carnival (fasnacht... look it up!) it was surprisingly fun and i was thrilled to find that i understood a lot of it... especially considering that it was all in the strongest baseldeutsch i've ever heard. ever.
  • i went to a snow white ballet. that was lovely.
  • also thank goodness that ballets don't have words because i think i would have trouble understanding a baseldeutsch ballet
  • i went and saw the international balloon festival in the french part of switzerland! it was gorgeous and we ended up accidentally meeting about 30 different exchange students i'd never seen before. that was fun.
  • I saw Frozen with my (old host family) little sister, and I also got to see my old host family again. i miss them a lot, more than i'd thought i would. it was nice!
  • Frozen is, by the way, pretty awesome.
  • also the newbies came.
  • ahhh newbies i'm so excited :)
that's all for now... i did some other things last week, but they'll come in the next update because technically i did them in the 170+ days of my exchange :P

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

days > 160 -- continuing

piece of advice for future exchange students #20:
sometimes your life will change.
a lot.
deal with it.

as you read in the last update, I recently changed host families. for various different reasons, it hasn't been a very easy switch... add that to the fact that school started two days after i moved and the fact that semester is ending AND the fact that i need to pay for trips and book my flight back and coordinate with my other host families, and you get one extremely stressed-out Hannah.
so the past couple days have been a lot of "Hannah pull yourself together and get on with your life" and part of that includes getting on with my overdue blogging. 
here goes...

things i've done in the past 10ish days:
  • finished my first two weeks with my new host family!
  • successfully lived vegetarian
  • (okay, i guess i should explain that last part.) for those of you who know me, you probably know that i like eating meat. and that i am not really a vegetarian type of person. BUT my new host mom is vegetarian and so I haven't eaten chicken or steak or ribs or any sort of meat besides lunch meat in the past one and a half weeks. yes, i know that's not super long. but it surprised me (in a good way).
  • celebrated one of my friend's (Faith's) birthdays. All of us went to her house and had a sleepover. It was fun.
  • said goodbye to the oldies. i miss them already. :(
  • didn't do any traveling for a first time in a while... this was really really weird for me, actually. Normally I spend at least one day a week traveling through Switzerland, but my new host mom isn't super happy about that so I guess I'll be keeping my travel to a minimum here. :/
  • met up with some exchange students and explored Basel. so that was fun.
  • went to a Rotary meeting and met some more people. Every time I go, everyone continues to praise my German and say I'm so talented... while this might not exactly be true, it's nice for my self esteem haha.
  • got our newbies!! ahhhh! we are now all oldie exchangers. 
  • watched Frozen with my little sister (from my first family).
  • actually, that was probably the best part of my entire 10 days.
  • also, i hung out with my old family. who i miss. a lot. <3

Thursday, January 16, 2014

days > 150 -- understanding

piece of advice for future exchange students #19:
open your eyes to the world around you,
the culture around you,
the people around you.

so lately i've been realizing just how much my worldview has expanded in the past 5 months.

you see, when i left i thought i had a pretty good window on the world. i challenged my own beliefs and i asked questions and i pushed myself to find out more. but what i didn't quite realize was just HOW small my world really was. 

being on my own here has caused me to rethink the things that i was taught about groups of people, and to realize that stereotypes do have a beginning, and lots of people fit them -- but stereotypes are not the same as labels. stereotypes are only supposed to be a base, a sort of "general idea" of what a person is like. but labels are like sorting individuals into a box and only picking the boxes you like.

the thing is,
people aren't boxes.

things i've done in the past 10ish days:

  • moved host families! now I live in Bottmingen.
  • i also managed to pack my entire life into several suitcases and fit them all into the back of my host family's car. i am very proud of myself, considering that i've accumulated an astonishing amount of stuff in the past 5 months. i am trying not to think about packing to go home...
  • i miss my old family.
  • the outbound candidates from my sponsoring district (5100) had their first orientation! while this doesn't count as "things i've done" exaactlyyy, i have to say that this brought back memories galore. i can't believe that only a year ago, my country choices were undecided and i didn't even know if i would get to go on exchange. how crazy is life?
  • started school. yay?
  • celebrated new year's in Europapark with my first host family!! it was wonderful.
  • also I discovered that my tolerance for highspeed, highscarelevel rides is a lot better than I expected. Which means that my next destination when I get home is Disneyland. anyone want to come? ;)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

new beginnings

"for last year's words 
belong to last year's language
and next year's words
await another voice"
-- ts eliot

“write it on your heart 
that every day 
is the best day in the year.”
 -- ralph waldo emerson

i've spent almost five months in switzerland today. 

the oldies are leaving in less than a week.

the newbies are arriving just after that.

it's crazy, unbelievably crazy, and it makes my head spin to think that so much can happen in just five months.

you can learn a language,
and adopt a family,
and adapt to a culture,
and learn to LIVE in a country that is not your own.

in just five months.

and every day i realize again just how much i have learned, just how much i have left to learn, and just how many days i have left to do it.

there are plenty of resolutions to improve upon... study german, read more, stop eating so much chocolate, send more letters home... and yes, those things are important. 
but to me, the new year isn't so much about improving as beginning anew.

so here is my resolution for the new year:
seize the moment.
seize the day.
seize every little amount of time that's been given to me, every opportunity that lies in my path, every blessing that comes into my life.
every new beginning.
because in the end, we don't have that much time.

so i want to make the most of it.