Wow! So, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had time to write, but so much has happened. No worries though, I have been keeping a daily journal and you won’t miss a beat!
The last time I wrote a fantastic week was to come. During this one week, so much happened, so I’ll touch on just the super fun things! Monday began the week with a surprise birthday party for our friend, Danny. He turned 21 and his host mom organized a birthday dinner and get-together for a small group of friends. Before heading to his birthday, we totally didn’t know what to get him for his birthday. What do you buy a guy for his birthday anyways, let alone when you are in Luxembourg. Well Danny really likes cheese, so I bought him wine and cheese and my favorite candy, the Kinderegg! We completely surprised him and hopefully made his birthday a fun one. His host mom made lasagna and we had ice cream and laughed a lot!
Tuesday was quite the day. We had a terrible time trying to plan for Carnival and all of the trips coming up and it was really stressful. Right when I was super stressed out, I turned on my iPod and happened to flip to a playlist that Rachel had downloaded. The first song that popped up said, “In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed!” It really helped me to come back to earth and remember that it was just a little speed bump in the scheme of such a big road. Not only did this song pull me back down and comfort me, but it also reminded me of my wonderful sister and best friend. I can’t be thankful enough for the girl that she is and the amazing relationship that we have. No matter the distance that we are apart, God continues to remind me that we are always together.
My day continued to get so much better. For one of my Anthropology classes, we are required to work for 2 hours each week at this community center to get to know the community and help out. The place that I am working out is called the “Maison Relais” and is similar to a YMCA type of program. Kids come before and after school and there are activities and snack. So, later on this Tuesday, I headed off for my first experience with the Maison Relais. I got to the address and walked in and introduced myself. One of the “teachers” spoke some English and showed me where to put my coat and bag. From there, I was on my own trying to figure out how to interact with this classroom of 5-8 year-olds playing and doing homework. I love kids and usually don’t have a hard time trying to communicate with them. This was a whole new ballgame. None of these kids spoke any English, so I sat down at a table where some kids where playing and tried to speak with them, but it didn’t work. So, I just sat there thinking “how in the world will I pass 2 hours here a week”. Finally, I motioned to a little girl to play a hand clapping game, something universal to every child. It worked! Soon enough she was teaching me Luxembourgish hand clapping games and all of the kids were joining around to teach me one or help me practice.
From here, my time with the kids was golden. They helped me to learn a few words here and there and we communicated with pointing and charades. I told the teacher that I am a dancer and she told the kids. They all started singing Gangam style and doing the dance. The teacher quieted them and, after snack, she turned on the song and we all did the dance. It’s so amazing that dance and music are such international languages. This experience also reminded me how open and forgiving children are. They were so helpful and welcoming and gave me the biggest hugs. They are so full of love and such a refreshing group to be around. It reminds me that we all should be like children in some ways.
Wednesday was yet another full day and the night of our Student Faculty Council “Midnight in Paris” party at the local bar. We decided that all of our parties would revolve around a different European city. The bar works with us to make themed drinks and put up videos of the appropriate city. For this party, we all dressed up and it was such a success. The place was packed and bubbling with energy. Such a fun night and felt so good to help plan an event and see everyone really enjoying it.
The rest of the week came and went and finally it was Friday and time to head to the Swiss Alps! One of the students planned everything out and organized a bus and hostel for about 50 of us to go to the Alps together. We boarded the bus and got ready for a 6 hour bus ride. Everyone was so excited and it felt like a middle school field trip. On the ride there, we turned on music and everyone was dancing in the aisle way and having fun passing the time. Friday night we arrived late in Interlaken Switzerland, hung out for a bit, but went to bed to get ready for a busy day the next day.
Since I have never skied before, I planned to do a night sledding adventure and fondue dinner instead of trying to ski for the first time in the Swiss Alps. So, Saturday morning I found a group of people who also were not skiing and we headed out to explore Interlaken. It was snowing like crazy and the visibility was terrible. We walked around the city center to a few shops and were covered in globs of snow. We must have been 50 feet from the mountain and couldn’t see it at all. For a minute things cleared up and we all realized that there was a mountain right in front of us and stood there amazed. Because it was such a blustery day, we decided to take a ride up the mountain and find a ski lodge to hang out at. So, we got tickets and took a train up the mountain to one of the skiing mountains called Grindelwalden. We got there and walked past adorable little Swiss shops and restaurants, but couldn’t find a ski lodge. Later, we found out that there are really no ski lodges in the Swiss Alps. We walked around the little town, explored, took awesome pictures, and had the best snowball fight. I was such a relaxing day.
Afternoon passed and we went back to the hostel to gear up for our night sledding adventure. It was still snowing like crazy. We got in a big van with this guy from New Zealand playing reggae and headed toward the mountain. It was the funniest thing: listening to reggae while flurries pass you by. It was great. The van was curving up this mountain on a one way street with the other vans following behind. The road was icy and bad. Halfway up the mountain, we stopped to put chains on and continued the trudge up the mountain. From there, we took a hike up the mountain to a gondola to another hike before we learned the sledding technique.
This is when we all learned that Swiss sledding is no joke. It’s not like American sledding where you find a big hill, grab a sled, walk up, and sled right down. No, the Swiss find the biggest mountain in the world, take you to the top, and teach you to steer in 2 minutes down the mountain. They aren’t messing around when it comes to thrill-seeking! There aren’t even any lights. The person in front of you has a glowstick on his/her back so you don’t run into them.
So, we got a lesson on how to steer and were told “if its black and looks like a rock or tree, don’t run into it” and “if you are going to run into it, abandon your sled”. Oh good… ok, I’m ready for this. Seriously one of the most fun things I’ve down. At the end, a friend and I decided to move to the front of the group so we didn’t have to keep going around people that crashed and I was the first person going down a steep, twisted hill. I couldn’t see a thing and was so thrilled, I couldn’t even scream! A fondue dinner in a cabin at the middle of the mountain finished off the night perfectly!
But wait, there’s more… Interlaken holds a lot more. On Sunday, a group decided to set out for a Swiss castle. We were told it was a day walking trip and about 3 miles there and 3 miles back. We started off and made our way through town, out into a rural area, and finally to a path along a river. Everything was white and so pristine. It was refreshing and such a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Directions were hard to follow, but after a long morning, we came across an abandoned castle. It was not a big castle at all and not marked. Just a castle ruins in the middle of the Swiss forest along the river. We continued absolutely starved to what we thought was the next village over. We passed a gorgeous lake and after a while, reached town. However, it was a fishing town and everything was closed for the summer. Thank goodness, we found a bus stop nearby that would take us back to the walk-able area of Interlaken for some food.
By 2 we got back to Interlaken and were famished! Everything in Switzerland is extremely expensive and our wallets were starting to feel the pain. An average “cheap” meal cost you 15-20 US dollars! Further, we were in a European city on a Sunday, so that means that almost nothing is open. We looked a few restaurants, but everything was way expensive. Suddenly, a McDonald’s was within sight and we thought, “Are we really going to eat at a McDonald’s while we are in Switzerland?” And, yes, of course, the answer was “Why yes, where else!?” A McDonald’s hamburger and fries never tasted so amazing! After lunch, we stocked up on Swiss chocolate and headed back to the hostel to pack up before the bus left.
This is when the final story of the trip begins… We have a big group. Let’s just start there. So, the bus was supposed to leave at 4 so we could get home by around 11 and get our buses and trains to our houses. Well, 4 o’clock comes and we find out that not everyone is there. A small group of guys decided to ski on Sunday and didn’t realize that there is one bus that goes up the mountain in the morning and one that comes down at 5. So, earlier in the morning, we called to let them know so they could figure out how to get down in time to catch the bus. Around 1:30 they left and got so lost. They took a train to a remote Swiss mountain and then took another train that went all the way up to the top of the mountain and back. This whole time, we are sitting on the bus hearing that they aren’t going to be down for a while. Everyone on the bus voted to leave without the 6 guys because we had originally been told that they had just decided to ski longer and weren’t coming down the mountain. However, that wasn’t the real story, so we waited and waited.
Now, we are pretty patient people, but the public transportation in Luxembourg doesn’t run past midnight. So, once they were an hour late, nobody knew how we would get home from the bus dropping us off at our school. It would be a 2-3 or even longer walk. And, there aren’t taxis buzzing around to take you home. The bus ended up stopping at the 4 main cities and we had to walk from there with our giant hiking backpacks. That night, we got back around 2:45 am and got to bed by 3:30. Ready for another week… not! Monday was rough, but well worth an amazing weekend in Switzerland!