27.7.13

Adjusting and Readjusting: My final post.

Well, I'm home. I've been home for 11 days. Sometimes it feels like more, sometimes less. That's pretty standard, I'd say. I adjusted really strangely back into this time zone. When I came back from Austria, it took me a solid week to feel fully adjusted. This time, I wasn't able to go to bed until 10pm EST (4am in Switzerland!) and then woke up with a start the next day at 7am EST (1pm in Switzerland) as if I'd overslept. The following night, I wasn't able to fall asleep until 2am EST (8am in Switzerland) and woke up again at 6am EST (12pm in Switzerland). After that, things pretty much went back to normal.

I miss Switzerland a lot, as expected, but the actual cultural adjustment hasn't been too rough. I was a little thrown off at a restaurant with a friend every time the waitress came back to ask how our food was tasting. I am still readjusting to strangers constantly greeting me and asking how I am.

But I think what most people are asking me are the following questions:

What do I miss about Switzerland (aside from the people, of course)? (in no specific order):

  1. Bread. The bread here all looks processed and not fresh. I miss the warm bread in Migros/Coop, especially Zopf and Tessinerbrot and Silserkranz. Yum.
  2. ÖV. (Public Transportation). Even if it took 30min to get anywhere and my bus only left every 30 minutes, I miss it! 
  3. Cheese. I found Gruyère cheese here, which I'm hoping doesn't taste any different, but it's so much more expensive there!
  4.  Fußgängerzonen. In all the European cities I've been to, there's a pedestrian zone in the downtown area, where most of the shopping and restaurants are. You can walk freely in the street and not have to worry about cars (mostly). Maybe bikes, but not cars.

    and, the surprising one...
  5. Swiss German. I miss speaking (Standard) German all the time, I really do. I'm even dreaming about it now. But what I didn't expect to miss, since I had so much grief with it at the beginning, was Swiss German. Last night, when I picked up my brother from work and had my iPod on shuffle, a Swiss German song came on and I got all nostalgic and homesick.
What have I enjoyed about being home (aside from the people, of course)? (in no specific order):


  1. TARGET. Oh my goodness, I missed everything about that store.
  2. Arizona Iced Tea for 99¢ instead of 2.50CHF. 
  3. Lower prices on EVERYTHING. My goodness, I've got something like reverse sticker shock! It's great...except not for my wallet... :-D
  4. Using my bank account/debit card! It's nice not to have to carry cash around ALL the time. Options ate good. 
  5. My car. Well, the idea of a car, since I've now got a new car. Which has been excellent and I love, btw. Meet Dieter:



So, I'm adjusting all right, but missing my other home a whole lot, of course. I am loving keeping in touch with everyone per Email and WhatsApp (if you want to communicate with me through WhatsApp or otherwise, send me your number! I lost all my contacts :-( )

The next chapter of this adventure I call life starts tomorrow, as I head down to South Carolina for orientation and move in approximately two weeks! And I've decided, in order to keep everyone in the loop on how that adventure is going, follow my new blog here...jessicateachesgerman.blogspot.com 

Danke für das Mitlesen! Thanks for reading!

14.7.13

Thank goodness for Waterproof Mascara.

As of right now I have one real day left in Switzerland, but two days until I leave. The past few days have been filled with goodbyes. It's been really hard, but with the help of waterproof mascara and lots of prayers (from near and far) and hugs, I've been able to manage. I've been doing fun things, like seeing fireworks in Zürich for part of Zürich fest and enjoying last dinners or coffees with friends. I've gotten really sweet and thoughtful presents, as well as blushed a lot from incredibly nice compliments from those I worked with. It all makes me reflect a lot on this year--what I brought to the SalZH school and what I've taken from this experience.

In Matthew 5: 14-16, Jesus talks about being a blessing to others.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
It's hard to think of oneself as a blessing to others. Or at least, it's hard for me to think of myself that way. It feels like I'm bragging that I'm just so fantastic and everyone is lucky to know me/work with me, which is not what I want to say at all. And I'm pretty sure that's not what Jesus meant either. I think it means that we all have different talents and abilities, which God has blessed us with. And if we don't do something with those talents and abilities, we're not sharing the blessings of God. Many people this year have told me that I am gifted in languages. At first, I struggled with this compliment, because I can only speak two languages (which, in America may be impressive, but anywhere else is not so impressive). But, I think my language ability and understanding combined with my love of teaching/sharing with others has made it my blessing for the SalZH school.

I also feel extremely blessed to have been here for a year. I don't remember ever dreaming as a child of going abroad and exploring the world, but I remember always thinking world travelers had pretty cool lives. I am blessed to have gotten to know the fantastic people I have met here and to have learned more about different ways of life or traditions. And I feel like these measly words don't even come close to expressing my gratitude for this year. I am so thankful I've had this opportunity to be here, and although I'm sad to be going home, I'm excited to share everything I've learned here with my future students in South Carolina. I hope I can use this experience to be a blessing to my SC students.

I think this is my final post from Switzerland, as I don't have much time left and I plan to spend as much time OFF the computer and WITH Dorina tomorrow ;-) But I am planning on posting a reflection post once I'm home...so stay tuned :-)

See you on the other side of the Atlantic.

1.7.13

The Final Days

Today is July 1, and that means I have fifteen days left in Switzerland. It's quite hard to wrap my brain around. How did I get here so fast? How has it been nearly a year already? When I think back to what I was doing a year ago from today, I was working full-time at Stanley Steemer with also two weeks until I was done. I was mentally preparing to leave Grand Rapids and to say goodbye to my GR friends and the city I'd grown to love over the past five years. And now, I'm back to that state of mind. Back to the preparations of saying goodbye. Trying to squeeze in every last goodbye and fun thing possible before leaving. It's bittersweet; so very, very bittersweet.

I daydream often about the mini-summer I'll have, where I can see friends and family again before heading off to begin my new South Carolina Adventures. I mentally plan my classroom layout and rules, and how I want to start the first day of the year. But I also dread fifteen days from now. I don't want to leave and I'm not ready for it to end. I remember being extremely sad about leaving Grand Rapids, and had never really related to the whole my-life-is-a-book idea until that moment. My Grand Rapids chapter was coming to an end...and now, somehow, my Switzerland chapter is coming to an end. Maybe it's cliché to think of it that way, but it really does fit.

Anyway, it's strange to know that I was in the exact same emotional situation a year ago from now. At least I know I can survive it ;-)

So, how have I been filling my time? I spent a Sunday in Bern with Dorina and our own personal Tour Guide, Alexandra (with whom we shared a bungalow in Italy). I visited the largest annual street fest in Europe, Albanifest, which is to celebrate St. Alban. Dorina and I went to Romanshorn with Nina, one of the other interns here, to stay at her lake house, relax, and enjoy the view of Lake Constance.

And what's in store for the next two weeks? This coming Saturday is SalZH Fest, where everyone from the school comes together and celebrates all things SalZH. I don't know many details about it, but I'll update once it's over with. We're hoping to go to the Zürich City Fest next weekend, which only happens once every three or four years. And I have lots and lots of goodbyes to come.

It's going to be hard to say goodbye, but it's not over yet. Although I know my time is extremely limited now, I'm still going to enjoy my time here while I can. And I know I have a lot to look forward to in the next couple of months!

14.6.13

Twenty-four. Vierundzwanzig. Vingt-quatre. With my sister. Mit meiner Schwester. Avec ma sœur.

For my birthday, I got the best present ever--my sister visiting me! We haven't been together every single year on our birthday, but we've been able to celebrate with each other every year, just plus/minus a couple days. Last year, when I found out that Sara would be moving to California sooner than I had thought, I was in hysterics at the idea of not seeing her for over a year. My mom then confided in me that she was planning on sending Sara here for our birthday. Even though that was still nearly a year of not seeing each other, I had something to look forward to. And our lips were sealed until Christmas when Sara found out, too.

So, what does one do with her sister when she comes to visit? After just about every single thing I've done in Switzerland, I've thought, "Oh, I have to do this with Sara too!" But it's impossible to fit a year into ten days, no matter how early we wake up. I debated (with myself) about showing her different cities in Switzerland or taking her to a city/country she'd never been to before, and I changed my mind probably every day.

Eventually, after much deciding and re-deciding, I/we decided on Paris. I was graciously given two days off from the school, so we left on Friday, June 7 (our birthday) and came back on Monday, June 10.

On Friday, we got up and opened the cards from family (THANK YOU, family!) and got ready for our four-hour train ride. There's one specific train that goes from Zurich to Paris in only four hours, so that was extra nice. Once we arrived in Paris, we stared around the huge train station and tried to figure out where to go. Sara bravely asked someone at information for help and found how to get to our rented apartment (wimdu.com is amazing!) and then I asked someone who barely spoke English how to find the subway. Once we found that, we thought it'd be easy to get to our apartment. We could settle in and then maybe go out for food or drinks somewhere. Apparently Parisians don't like elevators or escalators--that's our interpretation anyway. We lugged our suitcase (luckily we had one suitcase packed together) up way too many flights of stairs and maneuvered the subway system. By the time we got into the apartment, we were exhausted! So, we managed to go buy food for dinner/breakfast from a grocery store and then ended up watching a movie and drinking wine together. Although we were not "out experiencing Paris" at this point, it was still a nice birthday evening together.



We had made a list of places we wanted to visit (with help from Dorina!) and organized what we wanted to see when. And although we were only there for three and a half days, we managed to fit in a whole lot!

On Saturday, we walked around a lot and and window-shopped down the famously expensive Champs-Elysées street (so many designer stores). We visited the Arc de Triomphe, which offers a fantastic view of Paris--and an insane view of a very disorganized traffic circle around the Arc. Boy am I glad we didn't have to drive there.

Arc de Triomphe

View of the city
video

After that, we went to the Eiffel Tower to watch it light up at night. Sitting on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower was really cool, although we felt like we were back in the US because there were SO many Americans there. So strange. But the Tower was beautiful nonetheless. We left before it got completely dark, because it started to sprinkle and we didn't have our umbrella with us (and didn't want to sit in the wet grass just to watch the Eiffel Tower light up).


On Sunday, we knew it was supposed to be cooler and rainy during the day, so we decided to go to the Louvre museum, since it's so huge and obviously all indoors. The museum was crowded in some areas (probably everyone had the same idea we had) but we were still able to enjoy it. We saw some really famous pieces, including the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa was hard to see because it's not that big, but there are crowds of people shoving around the museum ropes blocking it off, all trying to get to the front to get a picture of it. Insanity.

The Last Supper
Venus de Milo
Winged Victory of Samothrace
The Mona Lisa
The Louvre is so big, you could spend probably a whole weekend--or maybe even a week--in there without repeating exhibits. After the Louvre, we ate dinner in a restaurant and went back to our apartment. 

On Monday, our train didn't leave until 6:30pm, so we had a full day still to finish our sight-seeing. After packing all our things on Sunday night and storing our suitcase in the lockers in the train station, we headed to the Eiffel Tower to go up it, instead of just gazing at it from the ground. I read somewhere that going up the Eiffel Tower is not that impressive because you can't see the tower then in the view, but we still found it pretty cool. Unfortunately, we couldn't go all the way up because of fog, but we could still see enough.


We also managed to get a picture of the two of us in front of the Eiffel Tower.
One of my favorite pictures :-)
Then, we went to the Galeries Lafayette, which is a famous shopping store with multiple stories, FILLED with expensive, designer brands. Needless to say, Sara and I merely window-shopped. I did end up buying a pair of Parisian black flats and Sara bought some Parisian perfume (thanks, Grandma Black!), but not from the Galeries Lafayette.

And, our final destination before the train station was the Notre Dame. (Sadly, no Disney Quasimodo or Esmerelda sightings ;-D) The church was beautiful, and we even got to hear an orchestra and singer practicing for some event that was to take place the next night.
Outside of the Notre Dame



Beautiful windows!

Rehearsal :-)

After visiting the church, we made our way back to the train station and settled in for our 4-hour trip back home.

I think I'd have to say that this was my favorite birthday yet. We felt very blessed.

24.5.13

Der (offensichtlich) unkomplizierte Weg zu einem Job!

I don't normally post two posts so close together, but here are some fun facts that I really want to share with you. 
  1. The state dance of South Carolina is the Shag! Learn it here! ;-)
  2. South Carolina is the nation's leading peach producer and shipper, east of the Mississippi River. 
  3. Duncan Park Baseball Stadium in Spartanburg, SC, is the oldest minor league stadium in the nation. 
  4. Fountain Inn is proud of the town's most famous native son. Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates lost his leg in a cotton gin accident at the age of 12; he overcame his tragedy to become a famous dancer. His signature step was the "Imitation American Jet Plane," in which he would jump in the air and land on his peg leg, with his good leg sticking out straight behind him. During his career, Bates performed more than 20 different times on the Ed Sullivan television show more than any other artist. 
  5. Beginning Labor Day and running through the following weekend, the South Carolina Apple Festival celebrates the beginning of apple harvest season in Oconee County, the largest apple-producing area in the state. 
  6. The SC state motto is Dum Spiro Spero (While I Breathe, I Hope).
  7. Richland, which is just east of the capital (Columbia), is the geographic center of South Carolina.



Why am I sharing these random fun facts? Can anyone guess what this post is about? South Carolina...Jessica...hmmm.





I GOT A JOB TEACHING GERMAN IN SOUTH CAROLINA!! In Richland One school district to be exact (see fun fact #7), at the A. C. Flora High School, as the SECOND German teacher--which means, yes, the program is strong and growing.

I interviewed via Skype a couple of weeks ago (while I was in Vienna, actually--shoutout to Keri for graciously letting me Skype in her bedroom and not making me feel like an inconvenience--not once, but twice!) In the first Skype interview, they told me that they really liked me and thought I'd be an excellent candidate and told me how to fill out the online application to get into HR (since HR is the one to officially offer jobs) and had me call back the next day to answer the standard District questions for applicants. I received the email tonight for the job offer a couple of hours ago and have just responded via email accepting the position! Have I mentioned how much I love and am grateful for modern technology??

I am beyond, over-the-moon, happy-dance excited. I start August 12th and school starts August 19th. Less than a month from when I get back to the States!

Also...Los geht's! :-D

22.5.13

Living in the Mountains

Phew. The past few weeks have been full of traveling, which has been absolutely lovely and exactly what I want(ed), but it is nice to be home--to sleep in my own bed and not be living out of a suitcase.

After Italy, we had just three days of school and then a mini-vacation again. Over here, most of the Christian holidays are national holidays, which means we have the day(s) off. On Thursday of the week after my Italy trip was Auffahrt (*Himmelfahrt in Hochdeutsch--I was told today that Auffahrt in Hochdeutsch means "driveway" Ha!). Auffahrt (*Himmelfahrt) translates to Ascension Day. During my stay in Italy, I realized that the free days for Auffahrt would be my last chance to go to Vienna, since it isn't worth it to go for a weekend with the journey lasting about 8.5hrs each way. So, I spontaneously asked my friend Keri if I could stay with her and visit from Wednesday, May 8-Sunday, May 12. It was a lot of fun, catching up with old friends and meeting Keri's friends and seeing the city after being away for two years. I had forgotten a lot, but also remembered a lot more than I thought I would have. And man, was it nice to see the U-Bahn (subway) again. I'm pretty sure Vienna has one of the best public transportation systems--certainly the best I've encountered.

I took the train back to Winterthur, quickly washed all my clothes, unpacked my suitcase and repacked my suitcase again. On Monday at 7:00am, I set off with the 1. Oberstufe (7th grade) and their class teacher, Stefan, on their weeklong camp trip. We stayed in a house (Bärghus Metjen) in Eischoll, Wallis, which is in the southern part of Switzerland.
The red outlined part is canton Wallis (Valais in English) and the orange "A" is where we were--Eischoll.
The train ride was pretty good, even though there were 23 energy-filled (natural energy and energy-drink energy) students surrounding Stefan and I, and we even stopped outside of Bern to get a tour of the Lötschberg Tunnel, which is a really long tunnel for trains that goes through a mountain, so that we don't have to go all the way around the mountain. We took buses into an unfinished part of the tunnel and were given a tour, which included seeing a train go by at 200km/h in the other side of the tunnel (we were separated by thick glass).
Unfinished tunnel

There was a part of the unfinished tunnel that was set up as a museum
We all wore bright vests and hard hats--so fashionable ;-)

Then we continued on our way. We took the train to Brig and picked up our luggage there (luckily I was able to send mine with the other teacher, Rita, that came along, because she drove her car there), and then continued on to Raron. In Raron, we walked a short ways to a Luftseilbahn (cable car), where we went up in small groups with our suitcases.

It might look scary, but it absolutely was not. I was too distracted by the beauty of the mountains to be scared. I took about a zillion pictures, half of which all look the same, but was just so mesmerizing!

Our house was on the side of the mountain, which was so cool. On one day we went on a "Spaziergang" (walk) as a class, which the teacher later admitted to being a "kleine Wanderung" (small hike), but to my American eyes/legs, it was more of a regular-sized hike. We hiked up some very steep parts of the mountain and through the woods. After that stretch, the kids found a playground with a giant trampoline and the boys practiced doing tons of flips, and then we hiked back home.
The view from after a large part of the steep hike


He then tried to convince me to do some flips. Ha.
This kid has a trainer for this, so he actually knows what he's doing!

Group picture!
The rest of the week was super relaxing and fun. The students prepared, cooked, and cleaned up after all of the meals. Their projects for the week were to make a short movie (any topic, but self-written, acted and directed) and print t-shirts. I even got to join on the t-shirt making:
Swiss Flag in the shape of a heart on the front...

and "Frau Tucker" printed on the back :-)
On Wednesday, Rita (the other teacher) and her son, Andre, and I went to Leukerbad to walk around and see the mountains a little more. It was cold and a little rainy, so it wasn't the best day to do that, but it was still a lot of fun. We ate lunch in a typical Swiss restaurant and ate Raclette (boiled potatoes with melted cheese and other toppings), which is a typical Swiss meal, so that was a really cool experience!



The potatoes are kept warm in this cloth bag

These are the toppings we had--Raclette spices, pickles, pearl onions,
and a creamy onion mix.But you can eat anything you like with Raclette!

You are given a plate with melted cheese and then you eat it
with potatoes and whatever toppings you want. When one plate of
cheese is gone, you can get another one.
Andre LOVES Raclette :-)



On Friday, we took off around 10am, and this time I went back in the car with the other teacher and her son. I went back by car because she wanted to show me some cool things in Switzerland. First, I got to experience a car-train, where you drive into a specific compartment for cars and get pulled through a tunnel that goes through a mountain (like the Lötschberg Tunnel). 
Heading into the tunnel
Then, we stopped at the historic Teufelsbrücke (devil's bridge) and Tellsplatte (William Tell tribute)
Teufelsbrücke

A painting at the Tellsplatte

The Tellsplatte is right on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne), which although it was cloudy, it was really pretty.
And now I'm home. We even had Monday off of school for Pfingsten (Pentecost--another religious holiday), so I had a few days to enjoy being at home and not traveling--even though all this traveling has been absolutely a dream come true!

6.5.13

Ciao Italia!

Yesterday I started a blog post about Italy, in which I started to list off everything we did every day. I didn't finish it because I was getting tired of typing it, which is probably a good sign that it wouldn't have been that interesting to read. The thing is, I had a fantastic time in Italy and I want to tell you all about it, but that would be a rather long blog post, because I was gone for one week and each day was pretty filled with a lot of pretty excellent things. So I'll try to keep this concise.

First things first: Where was I and why? I was in Italy for one week on the SalZH vacation, which is where teachers and their families and students and their families are all invited to spend a week together at a camping resort in Italy. It's a pretty unique thing I'd say, and I was apprehensive about spending a week 24/7 with some of the students and being on a more "friend" level with them than "teacher." Would I lose authority and respect when we got back to school? What really worried me, was that the students were allowed to call me by my first name and allowed to use the informal word for you (du) instead of the formal word for you (Sie) that they usually have to use. The students were extremely excited to call me Jessica and use du with me, and it actually ended up being pretty great. Being back in school today, the students have had no problem switching back to Sie (except for sharing with their friends that they could call me Jessica/du in the break), aside from one student who gets to call me and two other teachers by our first names and use du for the next two weeks as a reward for planning an event successfully. (And yes, he is using my first name at every chance he gets. I think he's said "hello, Jessica" about seven times to me this morning, and I haven't even been in any of his classes!)

Technically, this was my "work week" because as an intern, we always have to work for one of the two weeks in vacations (except Christmas), but I'd say it's the best work week I could have asked for. Sun, beach, laughter, and relaxation, mixed with some work--not bad at all!

Our journey started out on Saturday morning, bright and early, at six am. I drove to Italy with one student and her mother, and was able to see a whole lot of Switzerland (so many mountains and beautiful sceneries) and Italy (which was surprisingly flat and semi-uninteresting, except for when I found out that we drove through the town where George Clooney lives and the town where Romeo & Juliet takes place). After a seven hour drive, we arrived at Garden Paradiso, near Venice, Italy.


Every day of the break, we had a meeting with all of the families (it wasn't required for everyone to come, but all were invited). The theme of the trip was "Strong families", because of our school's motto of the year, "Zäme simmer starch", which translates to "Together we are strong". Each evening, different parents would present something about different parts of having a strong family and everyone exchanged tips with one another.

One highlight of the week was a treasure hunt with the younger kids, where Raphael (another teacher), Dorina, and I dressed up like pirates and led the kids on a treasure hunt. They had to complete different tasks, like learn to save their sinking boat by running water from one bucket to another--but with a plastic cup with holes in it--and unscramble letters to find the next pirate with a hint. In the end, the kids uncovered a treasure chest filled with 40 pieces of Gold (40 Euros) and we all got ice cream as a treat.
We dressed like pirates

And tried to read the treasure map

Learning to save our sinking boats

And discovering new clues

Treasure found!

We pirates have some pretty big muscles--Arrr, matey!

Pirates love ice cream, of course.

A lot!

Happy pirates we arrrrr! ;-)

Another highlight was going to Burano with the older kids for the day. Burano is an island near Italy and is known not only for its narrow streets and canals, but also for its colorful houses. Each house is painted a different color and different shade than the others. It might sound weird to have a forest green house or a bubblegum pink house, but here, it fits perfectly together. The kids were busy with a scavenger hunt type activity we planned for them--they had to accomplish silly tasks, like filming themselves falling in love with a street lantern or crawling through a street acting like a seal for fifteen seconds. Dorina and Raphael and I wandered the streets, ate real Italian pizzas, and sat on a bench to enjoy the sun and scenery. It was truly a beautiful island.




The final highlight, for me, was going to Venice on Thursday with Dorina and Alexandra (a private nanny-like intern for a family with five kids). It was sunny in the morning/early afternoon and rainy after that, but with the narrow allies and endless number of people pushing through with umbrellas, we didn't really get that wet, so it was definitely still enjoyable. We took a gondola ride through the canals in the beginning, which was perfect because it rained later, and we ate pizza before wandering the streets and doing some shopping. I didn't take nearly enough pictures (let's blame wanting to protect my camera from the rain...), but it was really beautiful. Not as colorful as Burano, but still beautiful.

Dorina on the gondola

Alexandra and I on the gondola




There were bridges over all the canals, connecting the streets together

All in all, it was a spectacular week, and I would love love love to go back again.

Ciao!