Shelby Denmeade 
Destination: Switzerland
Sponsor Club: Mandarin Rotary Club
School: Mandarin High School

September 6

On Saturday it will be 5 weeks. I can't believe it. It feels like I have been away from my family for 5 weeks but not like I have been in Switzerland for that long. Did that make any sense? Right now I am just wrapping up language school. I went for 3 weeks and it helped some. I know enough to get my point across. I can understand if someone talks to me in real simple sentences. Monday I will start regular school. I went for 2 weeks when I first got here, then 3 weeks in language school. Now I get to go back..

Since I am in class with my host brother it was a lot easier to make friends because they were all expecting me. I go out and do things with them on the weekend and stuff. I don't have Saturday school and I come home for lunch. Most days I have more than an hour for lunch. It takes me about 10 minutes to get to school. And guess what? I get to walk uphill to school both ways and in a couple months it will be in the snow.

Now food is another story. Most of it is great but it is definitely not American. I have eaten at Mickey D's 3 times since I have been here. I just got a box from my parents with peanut butter and mac and cheese, gum, rice crispy treats, cookies, crackers and all kinds of stuff. I have already eaten about half of the peanut butter and I just got it today. Right now I am watching the TV show 7th heaven. It is really funny because it is in German and the lips move and nothing comes out. I think that is great.

Philip (a Swiss boy who was an exchange student in the USA last year) called me about the 3rd day I was here and told me all about Switzerland and school and everything I needed. He found out that we went to the same school and found me (he said that it wasn't that hard, he just asked where the American girl was). Philip is real nice - he takes me out sometimes and introduces me to his friends and everything. He took me to see my first German movie which was even better then watching TV in German. I thought it was sooo funny I laughed the first 10 minutes. He is real cool and he treats me like a little sister. He pulls my hair and pushes me around and tells me to go back inside before I catch a cold. It is real funny to hear because people think we are siblings.

We just had our first Rotary weekend. They got together all of the exchange students and we stayed together all weekend. It was a lot of fun. We got to meet all of the others and make new friends and stuff. They took us to a cheese factory and taught us how to make cheese (fun fun). Then they took us to a school and had us eat and sleep in an auditorium . It was all wood floors and had a ton of chairs. They weren't like movie theater chairs. The chairs moved. But we all had a good time. We have another one on November 3 or 4thI think. I don't know where they are taking us. The one after that is in December and we are going to the Matterhorn and Zermont. They are taking us skiing for the weekend. I am sure it will be a lot of fun except for one thing. I don't know how to ski. Oops.

The family here is pretty good. We all get along and have a good time. There are the three kids. Georg (17), Anna (12), and Philipp (10).I get along really well with all of them. I can't talk to Philipp because I can't form sentences in German and he can't speak English. We spend a lot of time making faces at each other.

I think a month is enough time to have an idea of how the year might turn out. I have done pretty much everything to get started. I have been to school, language school, I have been out with all of the kids in my class so I know what the kids like to do.I have been with the other exchange students. And most importantly I know how to use the buses and trains. Ta-da!

October 21

So much has happened since the last time that I wrote. The topic of conversation at school for about 3 weeks was "I can't believe about the attacks in the U.S." I still kinda don't believe it. I saw it happen on the news at school. It was about 2:24 in the afternoon here when it all happened. Our teacher wasn't at school that day so we had a free period. (It is definitely not like in the states where if the teacher isn't there then you have a sub. Here you just don't have class.) My class was in the student lounge listening to the radio and heard about it 2 seconds after it started. We all ran to the library (where students can watch TV on their own little television) and watched it on TV. I went home and called my family and made sure everything was ok.

The next day at school a woman from the newspaper came and interviewed me. I was in the newspaper the 6th week I was here. How cool is that? Not the reason for being in the newspaper but just the fact that I was in the newspaper. I have also been on Swiss TV but I will tell about that later. But while all of this was going on everyone felt that they were obligated to talk to the "American Girl" and see how I was feeling about the whole situation. Everyone at school was really interested in the attacks, so I have told everyone in my school practically about my thoughts on this.

Anyway, back to happier thoughts. When I went back to school there was only 2 more weeks, then we had autumn vacation. School was pretty good because mostly in every class we were discussing America. In my History class we are studying American history, in English class it is American Literature. Not to mention that my history class and my math class are taught in English. It is so the students can learn English better. So I go to these classes and understand everything. The teachers always have me read aloud because they want the kids to hear "real English". I do very well in these classes. The rest of my classes I just sit and look like I am following the lecture. These classes consist of pretty much all of them. Chemistry, Biology, Geography, French, Physics, and anything else that I left out. I still don't know all of the classes that I take because I have so many. I have p.e. class. I taught them how to play "Sting". They liked it a lot. Then I went on 4 weeks vacation and yesterday I went back to school. I think Switzerland needs to adopt the holiday of Thanksgiving because we have 9 weeks until we get out of school for Christmas vacation. I think they should have a holiday in the middle.

All of the pictures from the bottom are of my 4 week vacation. I spent the 4 weeks with 2 different families. One family had 2 little kids. Two boys. One was 3 and the other 1. They were real cute. This family took me to Germany and I saw the volcanoes. There are 3 pictures from there. One is of a volcano, one is of a castle on a volcano and the other is of the city right at the bottom of all of the volcanoes. The city is called Singen. Then the took me to Luzerne. There are 2 pictures from there. One is of the lake, and the other is from my hotel room of part of the city. It is a very pretty city with a lot of history.

While we were there we went to a museum. It is called the chaos house. (but in German of course) It is about all of the different modes of transportation. It was really cool. Then I moved to another family. They have 2 kids also. One boy and one girl. The girl is 9 and the boy 7. With this family they took me to their house in the mountains. There are 7 pictures from there. Some are of me in the snow for the first time that I can remember. If you look real hard at the one of me crouching there is a little snow man. My first. The rest are just of the surrounding mountains. 2 of the pictures with me in them with the scenic background were taken while we were hiking. I had a lot of fun while we were there. We stayed for a week and then we went back to the regular house. There I played with the kids a lot and we went and did things. We went ice skating and to the pool. (Indoor pool, thank God)

Two days while I was with them I went out with some of my friends that are also exchange students. Brooke is from New York, (the state, nichts da city) and Abbie is from Texas. Once we went to Basel. We went shopping and sight seeing. We all had a good time. The another time Brooke and I went to St. Gallen. We went to a Swiss fair. It is called the "Olma". It is supposedly the most well known fair in Switzerland. We also went shopping. We do a lot of that. While I was shopping in Basel in bought a "handy". For you Americans that don't know what a handy is, it is a cell phone. It took me a while what everyone was talking about when they asked me ifI had a handy. I would say, "Well I have 2 handies. And I would hold up my hands and shake them" Then they explained to me what it was and I felt real stupid and said no I didn't have one.

The biggest and most exciting trip of all was going to Wal-mart. Yes Wal-mart. Me and one of my friends Brooke have been wanting to go to Wal-mart so bad. Everything here closes at 6:30 at night. We want something that is open 24 hours a day. No such thing in Switzerland. Well I was talking to one of the families that I stayed with and she said that she shops at a place called Wal-mart. I just about cried I was so happy. The next day I told Brooke about it. She was so excited. She came back to the house with me and spent the night. The following day guess where we went. WAL-MART!!!!! Wal-mart is in Germany (which is 5 minutes from where I live) so we went and it was wonderful. There was Herbal Essences (which I bought) and Brooke bought marshmallows and goldfish. We had so much fun. We even took a picture of us in front of the Wal-mart. Definitely the highlight of my vacation!

This weekend me, Brooke, and Abbie are all throwing a Halloween party for all of the exchange students that are missing them back home. We are all going to take a friend from school with us so we can show them how Halloween is supposed to be. Next weekend I have a Rotary weekend. It is a weekend where all the exchange students get together. We are going to Geneva and somewhere else, I just don't remember where. The weekend after that I am going to see the play Grease. Yes it will be in German but I have seen it so many times that it won't matter. I will be sure to write again soon and let you know how everything went and tell you everything new that has happened. Talk to you later.

February 5

Wow! I can not believe things have gone by so fast. It is already the beginning of Feb. and I haven't written since October. Sorry. Yes, we did throw a Halloween party. We all had a good time. Some exchange students and some Swiss were there. Everyone had a good time. Or so I think.

The following weekend after the Halloween party, was supposed to be a Rotary weekend. All of the exchange students get together and go places. We were supposed to go to Geneve. Guess who got the flu and couldn't go. That's right. Me. Let me tell you that the flu is not something you want to get when you are in a different country. When you want Advil or something similar, you can't have it, because they don't have those things here. Just pray that your host mom knows what she is doing. Because of the flu I didn't get to go to Geneve with the rest of the exchange students. Instead I spent the whole weekend in bed. Sounds like fun huh.

The following weekend I changed host families. It was an early but welcomed change. I love my new host family. Love, love ,love them. My host mom is wonderful. She is from Italy so she speaks Italian. Not only does she speak Italian but she also speaks French and Spanish. What is probably the only language she doesn't speak. Exactly. English. It is a good thing though right? It makes me learn German. She stays at home . My host dad works for a bank. I think it is some thing to do with stocks. I also have a 23 year old host sister. She still lives at home. We get along great. She also works for a bank. Also in the family are 2 dogs, 2 cats, 3 rabbits, and 5 or 6 guinea pigs. The house is a zoo. Literally. The rabbits run around the house free. No cage. I have my own room. It is pretty big, but the highlight of my room is the sink. I have a sink in my room. I thought it was weird at first but everything is a lot easier in the morning.

When I changed host families I also changed schools. I also love my new school everyone there is really nice. One set back though is that there are only girls at my school. Yes you can read, ONLY GIRLS. It is not as bad as it sounds. We all still see plenty of boys. My new schedule makes it so I don't have school on Wednesday afternoon. It is so nice . We go until 12 and then we are out for the day. We don't have school on Saturday which is a relief.

Thanksgiving was OK. We had chicken for dinner. I had my traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I made cheese and salsa. It was so good. We didn't get out for Christmas until the Friday before. And the tree didn't go up until the Sunday before. On Christmas eve the family came over and we all had dinner together. Then we opened our presents. It was like a free for all. Everyone just ran up to the tree and grabbed a present and opened it. There was no organization what so ever. I was shocked.

In December we had another Rotary weekend. It was held in Zermatt at the Matterhorn. For those of you who don't know what the Matterhorn is, if you have ever seen a Paramount movie, it is the mountain at the beginning that has the stars go around it. Yea, I have been there. We all attempted what should have looked like skiing or snowboarding. Half way down I took off my snowboard and sat on it like a sled and went down.

For New Year's Eve I went to Abbey's house. We were planning to go to Zurich to watch fireworks, but we missed the train. So we took the next one and spent New Year's on the train. It was so funny though that we didn't mind.

We went back to school the first Thursday in January. The following Monday I didn't go to school. My cousin came to visit me. It was so nice to see someone I know. He is going to school in Italy and stopped on his way there to see me. Once he got here I took him all over Switzerland. We went to Zurich, Bern (the capital of Switzerland), Lausanne, Geneve, Bellinzona, Locarno, and to a mountain range called the Säntis. I am pretty sure he had a good time. He left on that Friday. On Sunday I went ice skating on a lake. I have never been on a lake before when it is completely frozen. It was so cool. On the day I went there were 40,000 people there. It is a really big lake. Last time the lake was frozen was was about 15 years ago. I went back to school on Monday and only had to go for 2 more weeks. Then we had vacation. Guess why they had it. For skiing. The name of the vacation is skiing vacation. I think it sounds a little crazy, but if it gets me out of school all the better. I think Florida should start a beach vacation.

During the first week of vacation I went to visit my cousin in Italy. I took the train to Florence. It took about 8 hours. I would not suggest that you go by yourself for that long a period of time. Once I got there we never stopped doing things. I met all of his roommates. They are all very nice. He lives with 4 others. The first day we went to Siena. We saw the Plazzo Pubblico (a very big plaza), Il Duomo ( a huge church, very elaborately decorated), S. Domenico (a church with a beautiful view across a valley), and Torre Del Mangia (a big tower). Siena is a gorgeous city. We spent the entire day just walking around looking at things. The next day we stayed in Florence and went to Fiesole. In Florence I saw S. Maria Del Fiore (it is a huge church with a very big dome on it. it is the major attraction in Florence), S. Croce (a cathedral), Ponte Veecchio (a bridge, but when you stand on you don't know you are on a bridge - it has houses on it), Fortezza Da Basso (a fortress), S. Lorenzo (another church with an unfinished façade), Piazzale Michelangelo (it is on a hill top with a panoramic view of Florence). In Fiesole we was old Roman ruins. There was an old theater and baths.

The third day I was there we went to the Rome vs. Florence soccer game. It was crazy. The Rome fans were in their own section of the stadium. The area that marked the end of their section were marked with hundreds of police officers. They all had their riot gear and everything. Along with the police officers were firemen. They were all in their fire gear and had the hoses and everything. There were even fire hydrants on the field. The final precaution was glass walls between the Rome fans and the Florence ones. You might think this is a little extreme but when the Rome fans started lighting fires and throwing them on the field it is useful to have the police, firemen, and the walls separating them and me. It was a really good game. They tied which I think was a good thing because I don't know what would have happened had Rome won or lost. Either way I think the stadium would have been burned down.

When I was 2 and 3 I lived in Italy. Me and my sister were the only people in Italy with blonde hair. Not to mention that I had the biggest cheeks known to man. All of the old women loved to pinch my cheeks. I am proud to say I haven't lost my touch. 13 years later I still get my cheeks pinched. There is a shoemaker that lives under my cousin and when I met him he pinched my cheeks and called me his little beauty. I was so shocked that he pinched my cheeks. Considering they aren't as big as they used to be. I have lost all of the baby fat.

If you are a blonde girl I suggest that when you are in Italy you take a very big guy with you. Everyone stares and points and guys are not afraid to say what they think. It was really funny but a little scary at the same time. All in all Italy was a blast. I am glad that I got a chance to go. I will be going again in a few months. But I am not ashamed to say that I was a little happy to come back to Switzerland and all of its cleanliness. Italy is not the cleanest country in the world and Switzerland is spotless. When I took the train I could tell exactly when I left Switzerland and crossed the border into Italy.

The traveling isn't over for me just yet. I should be going to school next week but I am leaving on Friday to take another trip. Me, Abbey, and Brooke are all going to Sweden. I am so excited. We are staying for a week in Stockholm. It is going to be a blast. I will write as soon as I get back to tell you all about it. I don't have any of my pictures yet, but as soon as I get them I will be sure to send them.  

June 10

It has been such a long time since the last time I have written.  The time has gone by so fast and it is almost over.  Since the last one I have done so much.  I went to Stockholm Sweden.  Brooke, Abbey, and I went for one week.  We had a blast.  We flew up there and as soon as we got there we were doing things.  We saw the entire city.  Just walking around and using the subway.  We saw where they do the Nobel prize for literature. We of course saw the night life.  For three days a Rotarian from the club took us around to all of the museums. We saw everything there is to see in a museum.  We saw the Vasa, which is a ship that sunk in the harbor before it even left.  It was too heavy on top so it just went over.  He also took us on a boat ride through the archipelago near Stockholm.  We got off and explored one of the islands.  It was soo pretty.  He also took us the the opera.  I had never been before and it was great.  We saw Carmen.  It was in French and translated to Swedish.  A lot of good that did me.  It was good just the same.  We  saw everything there was to see in Sweden.  

The following weekend we had a Rotary weekend.  All the exchange students went to Engelberg.  It is a mountain.  We all went skiing.  Well, most of us went.  Me and a few others went ice skating.  The weekend was so much fun.  We went out in the town at night and there was a skI jump party going on.  This was right after Simone (dude from Switzerland) had just won 2 gold medals for jumping at the Olympics.  After the weekend was over we all went to a Rotex's house and stayed there.  The next morning at 3 o'clock, we all left the house to go to a carnival/parade.  I don't know how to explain it.  People get dressed up and there is music and stuff. It was a lot of fun.  After that I went home and slept for about 36 hours.

Then a few weeks later I went to my host family's house in the mountains to go skiing.  We didn't get to far because we got snowed-in. There was so much snow and it was snowing so hard there was no way we could go outside.  So we had to stay in the entire weekend.  

Then in March, my parents came.  It was really good to see my parents.  My friend, Brooke came with me to get them.  The first day they were here, I took them to the city where I live.  The following day we went skiing.  Well, my dad and I skied, my mom watched, and my sister flew down the mountain.  Then for a few day I took them to Zürich, Basel, Bern, and Luzern.  Another day we went to Jungfraujoch.  It is the highest point in Europe.  The train ride up took us so long.  But once we were up, it was beautiful.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was great.  We spent the day and then went home.  My parents only stayed for a week so it was time to go home.  I took them to the airport and said good-bye.  Not that long of a good-bye.  I know I will see them in a few months again.

I saw my first Swiss circus.  Not only was it my first Swiss circus but it was my first circus at all.  I had never been to one before, and this was a good one to start with.  I had a great time.  There was what I suppose is the normal circus stuff.  Animals and clowns and tight rope and all that.  It was a lot of fun.  Then, at the middle of March, there was a big festival.  It was in Zurich and they have it every year.  It is to signify the beginning of summer.  They have parades all day and then at 6 in the afternoon they light a stack of wood on fire.  On top of the wood is a snowman (fake of course) and inside his head, is full of explosives.  The faster he explodes, the better the summer.  The festival is called Sechse Laüten.  It means six rings.  Which is why it starts at 6, because that is when the bells ring 6 times.  It was a lot of fun to watch.  The snowman burned in about 15 minutes which is said to be very fast.

At the end of March, the exchange students started a Jodeling class. It was so much fun. You think Jodeling is easy, but it is anything but easy. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. We had 2 classes in 2 weeks. We got together on Saturdays for about 5 hours and jodel'd. By the time we were done, none of us had any voice what so ever left. It didn't matter though, because we had so much fun.

In the middle of April, my aunt and uncle came to Switzerland. They came on a Saturday and I couldn't pick them up from the airport, because I had a rotary weekend that weekend. My cousin had come up from Italy so he picked them up. For the Rotary weekend we went to Germany. We went to a museum and got to explore the city on our own. We also took a boat ride to another city. I left the weekend Saturday night so I could go and see my aunt and uncle. It was nice to see them because they live in Ohio and I only get to see them once a year. I took them to Schaffhausen and to Stein am Rhein. After they saw me, they left on Monday. They went to tour around Italy.

Then I had 2 weeks of vacation from school. I think it was spring vacation but I am not sure since they have vacation for anything here. I didn't do much. Just relaxed and did my thing. I did go to Locarno for a few days with Brooke and Matthew (friends of mine) and we went camping. Locarno is in the Italian part of Switzerland. It was so nice and hot. We had a great time just bumming around. Then that following weekend we started our Euro-tour!!!

I have no more time to write so I will finish some time soon. I have to go back to class.

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