Patricia "Trish" Smith
2005-06 Outbound to Austria

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: Paxon School for Advanced Studies
Sponsor: Jacksonville Oceanside Rotary
Host: Bruck an der Mur Rotary Club, District 1910, Austria

August 10 Journal

Ach Österreich!

Well guys I actually did it, I am in Austria. I must say that the hardest part has got to be leaving because that was nearly unbearable. My 1st home is nice, it's 2 stories and has tons of doors! I have a balcony in my bedroom! I am right in between mountains! It's beautiful. Everything is so nice and tidy and the town is like a mix between an old village and a new age city. it's cool. My baggage was lost in Amsterdam... I should get them back today

Wow, guys, all I can say is wow. So many little things are different here... like the bathrooms, the plugs, the keyboard, the doors, THE LANGUAGE!

Well Sonntag (Sunday) I go to a Deutsch (German) Language Camp for 2 weeks. I haven't met any other people my age yet but I know I will.

My next host family I go to on September 1st and leave them März something or other.

I was watching TV in German and the funny thing was the good shows they have are all American shows like ... Tool time, Hello Holly (or that show that has Amanda Bines in it), and Charmed. It's funny knowing I once watched it in English.

Everything's in Celsius here... which is only to be expected. So this morning it was 16° and yesterday I think it was 30°. Soooooooooooo much better than the sweltering heat in Florida... 'cept for the fact that you can only swim here on a hot day and tanning seems out of the question.

Things I can imagine missing in the future are the beach, swimming, and the carousel in St. Augustine - that's besides me obviously missing my loved ones ... other than those things I think Austria will fit me quite well!

Tschüs! Trish

August 28 Journal

I would love to keep everyone updated! But I cant send pictures until probably the 1st week of September because I am moving around until then and so that is when I will be able to sit down and load the pictures onto the computer.

But I will tell you all that I have never seen anything like this before. For the past two weeks I have been at an awesome German Language Camp where I have met so many wonderful people that I know are going to mean something to me for the rest of my life. I got to know the cities of Gmunden, Altmunster, and Hallstadt. I walked halfway up what I have deemed my favorite mountain in the world and drank water from a pristine waterfall straight from the mountain. I saw what they called "The bone house" (it is basically a room of bones that are decorated because the graveyard got full so they made more room and in order to not disrespect the dead they painted they skulls and put them all in a room to be revered for all time, it's in Hallstadt). I went to the famous mines of Hallstadt that have been in use for about 7,000 years and so much more.

Today on my way home from the German Language Camp my friend Nick's (the Canadian who happens to be the only other exchange student staying in the province of Styria along with me, which I find odd because it's the largest province of Austria by far) host parents took us sightseeing at a monastery! When I walked into it's actual church my jaw dropped and I had trouble keeping it closed because it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was of the Baroque age and so the architecture was phenomenal. Everything was painted or sculpted to a level I had never known. It was so detailed and most of it was actually GOLD. I wish I could remember the name of the place for you specifically but it seems to have slipped my mind.

Also in a day or two some of my Austrian friends are taking me to Vienna to show me Vienna from the eyes of an Austrian; I cannot wait. Not only that but my host father told me that I could end up taking piano classes throughout the year! I cant think of any better place to learn than Austria. Well I am done ranting about the wonderbar Österreich.

Joyfully,

Trish

October 4 Journal

Some friendly faces, some hesitant ones from the people still too nervous to try and break this communication barrier, but I manage. The teacher tells of the great history of the world from what was once the center of it, my beloved Austria. I am thirsting for the knowledge that is flowing from my Professor's lips, but I can do nothing but wish that I can catch onto the language as fast as possible (and by the way Austria has two types of language: High German and Dialect).

Austria is so wonderful to me. I know so many people already and I yearn to know them better. As familiar as everything is feeling already I am still so intrigued by its mysteries as to be entertained in my deeper investigations of Austrian life. One of the best feelings I have had lately is when I am walking down the street of a town in which I knew no one a month ago and getting warm greetings along the way. As much as everyone told me that I would grow and learn so much about myself this year I could never really fathom the extreme truth of what they said, but now it is becoming quite clear how much I will learn about myself this year. For those of you thinking about doing exchange, DON'T pass this up! There will never be anything else like this EVER!

Love,

The only Floridian Rotary Youth Exchange student in Austria)#

TRiSH >^..^<

November 5 Journal

Dear my lovely readers,

I find that I truly do love classical music; it affects me in a wondrous way. When I listen to Mozart in his own country in an Austrian music class I feel as though it takes on a whole new meaning and you can understand his melodies all the more.

My favorite part about this time of year is the fact that for the first time in my life I will witness a REAL Autumn. Sometimes I just sit by my window and gaze at the brilliant colors the trees of the Alps are turning. From majestic golds to deep romantic reds, the whole country is slowly changing into a completely different world. Every corner I turn I am greeted by the falling leaves and none of my Austrian friends can quite understand why it fills me with such a genuine joy and why every now and then I just stop and stare at everything around me without so much as a word. It's clear to me why, of all the places chosen for this Florida girl, Austria was the victor.

Being an exchange student here is something special. Some people think that being a foreigner in a country might hinder one's ability to makes friends but I find it quite the opposite. They all are so interested in the fact that I came from another country (the USA and Florida no less), don't speak the language, and I came to the little city of Bruck an der Mur. Not only that but in Austria the exchange students are all very close. We get together at Rotary functions about once a month and sometimes in between. I now have friends from literally all over the world, places such as: Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Turkey, Brazil, and many more. The Rotary Youth Exchange organizational leaders here have met with all of us at Tauplitz and Vienna so far, bringing us together.

Speaking of Tauplitz, I actually saw a snake there! It was crazy because the night after I saw the snake it SNOWED! I saw my very first snow! It was glorious! I never realized how cold and wet it was! I guess I shouldn't have announced the fact that I was the only one who hadn't seen it before because everyone then on decided to get me very acquainted with it; like rolling me in it, making me eat it, throwing snowballs at me, and such.

On the subject of Vienna I must say it is a very lovely city. I go there very often actually because it is only two hours away. On my last trip to Vienna (which was with Rotary) we saw the musical Elisabeth, went to the Schönbrunn Zoo (probably the best zoo in the world), and toured all over. My favorite building is a building called the Hundertwasser haus. Hundertwasser is a very famous Austrian architect and artist who designs some crazy looking modern buildings, which I adore. The Hundertwasser haus is like an apartment building in Vienna that I found so attractive I have decided to live there one day (no matter how ugly the inside may be).

I am very glad to be in Austria, which is so centrally located in Europe that taking trips to other countries is barely any kind of a problem. In fact back in September I went with my host father on a trip to visit Ungarn or Hungary. It had a completely different smell to it and this year the mosquitoes were worse than Florida's mosquitoes. But I still had a great time seeing the country. I went swimming in a natural lake that gets its water from underground and is known for its healing powers because of its high quantity of sulfur. I went on a boat ride on a huge lake and visited tons of vineyards. The best part though was when I went horseback riding for two and a half hours across the Hungarian countryside. It was intense, I have never ridden so hard, so long, or so challengingly in my life.

My Rotary club went on a trip to Italy last week and actually brought Lani (an Australian exchange student) and I along with them! It was a great experience. We went to Trieste and Muggia and saw a ton of things. We went to castles, museums, and other historic landmarks. I got to go shopping in Italy, which is a wonderful experience! The food was delicious. Italy actually kind of reminded me of Florida because it was on the sea and when I saw the seagulls fly by me the first time I almost thought I was back home. There is a distinct difference between the water of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The Mediterranean is the most beautiful shade of blue green I have ever seen and still so clear you can see right to the bottom! My favorite site in Italy though was on the way home when we stopped at a random old church and just walked around the grounds. Around the church nature seemed to be at its height and there was a breathtaking trail that went along a stream.

I am so glad I have such cool friends here - otherwise my Halloween would have been a terrible time. Halloween is one of the biggest holidays of the year for me back home and I knew that if I didn't do something for Halloween this year a depression would surely seep in. Luckily my friends held a Halloween party and we even went trick or treating that night (although I don't think the neighbors liked it too much).

My typical schedule here is pretty good even on an "uneventful" week. On Mondays I go to a dance class where I learn everything from the waltz to the foxtrot and swing dancing. Tuesdays are my piano lessons, which are going along smoothly. I have even finished one song, and am now able to sing and play at the same time, it's very rewarding. On Wednesdays I travel to Leoben (a neighboring city) where I take German lessons. Thursdays I leave open in case I am invited to Rotary meetings with my host club (which happens about once a month). Of course other than all that I go to school and on the weekends I travel or hang out with my friends in Bruck.

Actually tonight I am going to my first Matura ball. A Matura ball is like what we would consider our prom. There are significant differences though. Here they open it up with a big performance by the graduating class and they even do synchronized dances! Everyone attends these balls who knows anyone in the performance. Instead of just hip hop music and that kind of dancing, here they also do the waltz and other very classy kinds of dancing. I can't wait. At 5 I have to be at a friend's house to get ready, it's nice to be able to do such.

On another note: I know I make most everything here sound so wonderful and like there never is a sad moment; that is just not true. I mean yes the feelings of joy I have had here are so extreme and wonderful, but it's not all just so. Whatever goes up must come down. I have already experienced "culture-shock" and I am still having whiffs of it here and there. There are times I get extremely homesick, it's always initiated by something random. Sometimes just a word someone says, something I see, or something on the TV can just make me utterly homesick. At those times I write in my journal, play piano, or anything to get it off my mind. Most of the time the cure-all is just calling a friend and going to hang out with them. Sometimes there are feelings of such self doubt and a loss of control but I think reading the Exchange Student Survival Guide, where it tells you that random bouts of such sad emotions are only normal and will pass, really helps me put things back into perspective. I am not going to lie, being an exchange student if definitely not easy, but it's worth it all.

Mit Lieber,

That crazy Floridian girl called Trish

PS. I must say that the two best things about Austria are: 1. The Mountains 2. Manner Schnitten (the best sweet in the world, created in our very own Vienna, a perfect combination of Hazelnut crème and wafers!) :)

January 14 Journal

Dear Florida and those who flatter me by spending their time reading my journal,

I decided to resort to the most efficient way of updating when such a long time has elapsed and that's my recent agenda. Also I think this method pertains to some of the feelings I have had lately. This exchange year to Austria has finally made it clear to me that this is not a long vacation. Quite the contrary, I practically have a routine now and am feeling at home. Thus, I find something as familiar to all of us as a date-by-date record of what has been happening in someone's life expresses the fact that so much of Austria has become so familiar to me. Oh and if I leave out a day it's not because I forgot it or it got deleted somehow, it's just that I didn't write down anything on the day in my agenda and so nothing in particular happened.

>Nov 4th Friday:< I went to school and I really enjoy the sports classes here. Everyone participates and the boys and girls are split up so it's a much more reasonable way to play sports. Then I went home and sat around until Nadja and Yvonne called me to come with them to this thing called "street talk". It's where a small group of umm "interesting" people come together and hang out, it's an outlet for people who have no one they can really talk to about things, I enjoyed it. Then I went to Yvonne's house after walking Nadia home. Next we went to a café and played poker, then met with other friends.

>Nov 5th Saturday:< I slept in then when I woke up. I started preparing for the Matura ball later that night. I went to my friend Ruby's house for all of us girls to get ready and then we met up with some more people, then off to the ball! It was a fun time. There were synchronized dances and a midnight performance for everyone.

~Sundays seem to have become my sleep days, my one day of rest in the 7 day week and it works out nicely because in Austria on a Sunday barely anything is open. The only thing I know for sure that's open is the church!

>Nov 8th Tuesday:< I had school and piano, then I went to the city with some friends and on the way home I ran into another friend who I really needed to see and I went with her to her flat and got some stuff I had left at her house and sat there drinking tea and having an in depth conversation that lasted hours, all about life and religion and love and so much more.

~Lately I seem to be very tired. And always aware of the need to manage the money I have because there is so much to do here and so one has to be sure that they don't spend money when it is better spent on other things.

>Thursday the 10th:< I went to school and then after school my host mother and her friend Evelin took me to a spa! It was so sweet; they have a lot of this sort in Austria it appears. It's basically like massive hot swimming pools that every 15 minutes have bubbles like a hot tub... ok so it's like giant hot tub you can swim in. It feeeeels sooooo good. We spent hours and hours there. There was a sauna and a deep concentration music room and 4 different areas of swimming to choose, one it 32°C, one is like 36 or 39°, another is regular cold water to be used in the summer, and then one for kids but anyone can go in it (it has a slide and a whirlpool and it's sweet!). It's a great retreat from the cold that is settling in.

>Friday the 11th:< I had lunch with Martina and Evelin (Who is a close friend of Martina's and is to watch over me whenever my host parents are out of town for some reason unavailable). After lunch I went to the city with Sabrina and Steffy to see the MartiniMarkt (a once of year kind of small festival where tiny shops all line up along a certain street and sell weird things). Then I went with Peter to a church meeting! It was similar to the small youth groups back home and all who were there were Protestant, although not Baptist they were the closest you could find anywhere near here. After that I went home, then Marina called me and asked me to come out to the city, so I did. I had a great night, I love Marina, she's loads of fun and her friends all seem very nice.

Loneliness is officially the archenemy of the exchange student. We are all susceptible to the random depressive feelings that it stirs up in us. But we are also responsible for understanding it will pass.

>Nov 14th -17th:< I went to Evelin's house for the first time. Then I went to dance (where we learned the tango this week), had my fantastic piano lessons, and a German course that went well. I started going to volleyball training for the beginners on Thursdays (it's tough work but very fun).

>Nov 18th - 20th:< Reese spent the weekend with me. All day Friday I spent with Reese and two Australians (Penny and Elyce). This weekend was my closest oldie friends' Matura ball (Lani, Aussie). So they all came in for the weekend. Reese and I spent Friday watching movies and Saturday too until the Matura ball. It was nice and a bit crazy. The performance went very well. Reese and I nonetheless left early and went back home to make grilled cheese's with turkey dipped in ketchup (try It before you turn away from this post in disgust, they do it a lot in Austria) and watched more movies. Sunday Reese went home and I rested. The 7th day I like turning into a day of rest (keep the Sabbath holy!).

>Nov 21st-24th:< Monday was a pretty relaxing day. As soon as I was home I just read a book ALL day long (Looking for Alibrandi). Tuesday I went to school, had piano practice, and Sabrina came over. We watched The Sound Of Music and had a good time as usual. I really enjoy the random days Sabrina and I just sit around teaching each other everything from piano songs (of which I can now play The Pink Panther) and languages. Wednesday (23rd) I did the usual school and German course bit but then I left German Course early because Sabrina called me and invited me to see Harry Potter played in English at the cinema in Leoben (which is the city where I have my German Course), so of course I went! I had been dying to see it! Thursday was a lazy day (I just hung out with Elias, Tops, and Elias's Brother).

>Nov 25th Friday:< I went with Elias and his punk friends to a Punk Rock concert that was playing in Graz (a city 30 minutes south of here). I knew everyone in the band Tint fax personally! They all performed really well! It was a great concert for sure. We even caught a ride home and didn't have to ride the train.

>Saturday Nov 26th:< Today was my school's Matura ball, I went. I went home early though because I had been having a terribly homesick day and just needed to sleep.

Thanksgiving and the time around it in America so far has been my worst time. You'd think that Christmas would be the worst but for me it was Thanksgiving. Perhaps it was because they don't celebrate it here (understandably) or the fact it was the kick off for the holiday season. Regardless I just had to stick it out and eventually the festivities of the Austrian Christmas season wept me off my feet.

>Nov 27th:< I stayed home all day, slept, ate, and watched movies.

>Nov 28th to 1st of December:< Monday I stayed home feeling not too good so Evelin came over to try and help out (it was so sweet of her). At this point we have gotten pretty close. She teaches me German and I teach her English. We do little riddles that are in the newspaper together and have a nice time. She even told me to call her my 2nd Austrian mother! Tuesday was fairly normal. Piano school then Sabrina came over and we had our usual good time. Wednesday I finally got my Visa all straightened out so I can stay for while here in Austria. OK Thursday (1st) I for my Host family and Evelin to make up for all the cooking they had been doing for me. Then that night I went to Volleyball with Sabi (Sabrina).

>Dec 2nd to the 4th:< Friday after school and sport I just went home and spent time with my host family. (I was invited to my friend's concert but I just didn't have the energy and money). Saturday my host mother went with me gift shopping for Christmas in Bruck an der Mur and Kapfenburg. After shopping I stayed home the rest of the night (even though everyone else went out including my hosties), I just wanted to relax and start working on the letters and gifts. Sunday Siglinde and her Husband (my favorite local Rotarians) picked me up and took me to the "Rotary Christmas-Party". For this even the whole Rotary club of Bruck an der Mur (a bunch of older people and Lani) went to a church in St. Marein and there was some speeches and very nice music played by a group of four young people (one being my old temp. host brother on the viola). It was nice and the church was FREEZING. Then we went to a Gasthaus (restaurant) where we got a four-course meal and four different drinks (in my case water, cola, wine, and champagne). Then I went home and rested.

>Monday Dec 5th (Krampus Tag):< This is the day of the year where at 6:00 in the town centre tons of boys dressed up as "Krampus" (basically they dress as big monsters, anything big, hairy, and scary works) and whip the innocent people of the city on their thighs. It's kind of like the idea behind Halloween where we dress up to scare away the evil spirits for the harvest (not that that applies anymore), they are the evil spirits and they come and we survive them. I think if you don't act scared then you're ok and they wont hit you (unless the boy is just dumb and wants to hit you anyways). The Krampus are like demons and they punish you for being bad by hitting your legs, if you act scared or run or try to avoid the whip then they know that they should hit you. It's a nice festival to see but I am not particularly fond of it. You do get lots of chocolates and such for the holiday though. There are even St. Nicholas's running around and giving out candy.

>Dec 6th (St. Nicholas's Day):< On this day you get some more candy when you wake up if you have been good and coal if you haven't (here jolly old St. Nick is only a very good man, not Santa Claus). School, Lunch, piano. Then I went to my friend Kathi´s house for a movie day. A group of us just sat around having a good time and watching Bruce Almighty in German. Then I went home and spent time with my host mother, she even gave me a Shiatsu massage! After that some guests (Oswald and his wife, people I know) arrived and I practiced my piano and loved the fact (although I was surprisingly embarrassed) that randomly someone would walk in and listen and tell me how good I am at piano. O I forgot to tell you all that I am learningMad World by Gary Jules on the piano now, along with Silent Night (Stille Nacht), and Joy to the World. So I went to sleep. My letters and package to Florida are already sent out now. €20!!! Wow, and I am not done. Money is certainly tough here.

>Wednesday Dec 7th:< Well it was a long day at school and I did a lot of studying. Then I came home and cooked some food because today my hosties are out and about. I guess I will just practice some piano, some German, and then go to my Deutschkurs in Leoben. Tomorrow and the day after there is no school because tomorrow is a national holiday (Mariä Empfängnis). So I was invited to go to the town with Sabrina and I did. I had a good time chatting it up with all my lovely young little friends. Even being surrounded by so many people I know, somehow I met more people, yet again.

>Thursday Dec 8th:< Today I woke up and ate with my hosties. Then we went to this restaurant where the Cordon Bleu was like €2!! Then to a grocery store and then they surprised me and took me to a small little town with lots of snow. We watched snowboarders and skiers; it was nice (Eisenerz). Then we went to this Christmassy thing in Leoben where we walked around and had Kaffee and Punsch. I ran into Elias and Colby and went with them to a café. Then we came back to Bruck and went into Bayer (my favorite hang out place along with Life-style, it's a café-like place), I walked home after about an hour. It was really cold out but it was still a nice walk. I even jogged, some exercise made me feel really good.

I got my official return date around this time as well. It was definitely a shock to realize how finalizing it was. I gave myself about a week or so after school ended so that I can get the summer train ticket right after school and travel all over Austria getting in the last bits I really wanted to have before I left.

>Friday the 9th to Saturday the 10th:< Time with host parents. Driving around Styria on Friday and visiting some graves of deceased relatives (they visit the graves of their old loved ones often). A long walk and relaxing day Saturday. Trip to visit family in Vienna on Sunday as well as visiting the ChristkindleMarkt.

I've decided that when I come home I am continuing piano. You wouldn't believe the compliments I get from even very good piano players. I definitely seem to be connecting very well with it all. I have fallen in love with music all over again. Also, before I die I must see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska. Visit every country in the world (the UN states that there are only 192). Speak 4-7 languages. Play 3-5 instruments. Sing, write, paint, dance, and act. It's all so dear to my heart! When I come home I want to stay close to Jax for AT LEAST a year. When you leave your home you begin to realize just how special it was.

*Sometimes I just want to run away. Nature is the safest place.
Love is the only thing that can save us now. Love and understanding.
We're all so different yet so the same. People are always people.
Kiss me on both cheeks and say goodbye. We have a mission, the world and I.*
-Me

>Monday Dec 12th:< Today I went to school and got on the computers etc. Then I came home and slept and slept till dance class, which I left an hour early because now it's just becoming rather boring. We learned how to Polka today... I think that's the funniest dance I have ever known... to the funniest music. Nice to be in the know though. That was my last time at the dance class actually. I started picking up other things over the holidays so I not only had no time for it but my lack of interest in it anymore contributed. It's hard to continually dance with 14/15-year boys when all of them have two-left feet.

>Tuesday Dec 13th:< I went to school then home for a bit then off to my piano class. After piano class I went home to eat with my hosties then off to see my Host brother from my next family (Stefan)´s Bass recital. I met up with Thomas the half British boy (Stefan's best friend) before and then we found Stefan in the musikschule. Stefan is so funny and his mom seems really nice so I think when I switch host families in March it won't be so bad. He also said when I move in with him he is going to be my new bass guitar teacher, which is wonderful because in Florida I play the bass guitar and I will be able to brush up on everything. Then I went home and spent a long time reading the book `Body of Evidence´ by Patricia Cornwell.

>Wednesday Dec 14th:< I had the usual school and my German course in Leoben (I think it's been helping out a lot with the language). ; Dec 15th: school, I had another Rotary dinner to attend, it was Lani´s last Rotary meeting so she had a speech and everything to do. It finally hit me then that our oldies (oldies are the January to January exchange group predominantly made up of Australians that ends up mingling with the group that arrives in August) were really leaving, my oldie was leaving. The girl who took care of me when I was really down and listened to my problems no matter how much it might have not been exactly what she wanted to do, she was there when I needed her. Thank you Lani.

>Friday Dec 16th- Sunday the 18th:< Rotary weekend in Salzburg. It was the last official meeting for all the oldies and newbies (my last time seeing so many people for probably the rest of my life and that, my friends, is a terrifying feeling). It was an awesome last Hurrah with us all together. I learn more about myself every time we all get together and as it all came to a close I cried as I said goodbye to so many people. I got closer with certain learning things about both of them that I think no one else knew or could understand. I will always remember and appreciate my own lonely departure as I walked away from the youth hostel in tears so I could catch up with all the others taking my train home and the Aussies & co. sang out behind me "What do we think of Trish?" "She's all right yah, she's all right yah, she's all right yah" and then all sounds began to fade as it took me hours to really regain composure. I was quiet for sometime on the bus and train ride home.

> Monday Dec 19th- Friday the 23rd:< A pretty normal week all-leading up to Christmas. I went to school, piano lessons, and my German lesson but other than that I couldn't recall too much more happening in the week. Friday I went out on the town again and had a great time, also my host grandma on my host mother's side came to visit. I didn't get to know her well considering I was in and out but I do know that she brought me a bag full of candy for Xmas.

> Saturday Dec 24th (Heiliger Abend):< Christmas Eve here is really their Christmas, all the celebration is done on this day. I woke up late and Tante Hilda came over (the lovely woman!). We have a wonderful Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from places all over the world! When the holy evening (Heiliger Abend) approached we lit candles all over the tree and even put sparklers on it! The fire alarm went off but they assured me that we don't actually have to worry about a fire occurring! I got so many gifts it was unreal! I truly had a great Christmas. My host mother even made Schnitzel and tomato soup as our meal because it's some of my favorite foods. My hosties did their best to make me feel comfortable and even though there was a slight family drama and Tante Hilda got sick. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas here. I almost was led to tears.

I am no longer dreaming of a white Christmas! This year was a special year here over in Europe. There was an incredibly surprising amount of snow fall before Christmas. Normally in Bruck an der Mur they don't have snow on Christmas day because a little bit of snow falls in December but not enough to stick throughout Christmas. I was a very lucky girl to witness the overwhelming amounts of snow! Even today it hasn't snowed for a long time and we still have leftovers to deal with from the large amount of snow we received before.

> Sunday December 25th:< Christmas day here is mostly a laid back day. This is when I think the best TV shows and movies are on the television! Due to the fact they celebrate most everything on the 24th today is a winding down time. A TV time mainly

> Tuesday the 27th:< I spent the day with Yvonne shopping and going to the movies it was real nice. She has become a very good friend. It feels good to get out and do things that were so normal to do in Florida.

>Wednesday the 28th:< We went to visit more family down in Corinthia/Kärten. I had a great time. I got closer with their relatives especially Martina's mother while playing poker and setting up the dinner table. And all the older ladies were saying how "chic" I look, which is like sheik or something. Which to them is very stylish! I had bought this new hot pink hat that makes anything I wear look stylish! We all also went ice-skating for a while and it turns out I am not too bad (although I am no medalist either!).

> Thursday Dec 29th & Friday the 30th:< Thursday was my first day sledding ever in my life and it would be an understatement to simply say I didn't know what I was getting into. First we all (Sabi, Marlene, Nadine, and many more) met at the Kalte Quelle (the bottom of some mountain) and then we had to walk up a mountain in the cold snow. walk up a freaking mountain. I have no idea how long it took to get up there it could have been between one and two hours or more - all I know is I seem to have lost consciousness after the first 45 minutes and I just trudged on without so much as a word coming out of my mouth except maybe the occasionally "I have never walked so long on such a steep incline in my whole life" or " I cant believe I am doing this" or "we don't even really have hills in Florida". I will always remember the intense joy when we finally reached the top and there was a little inn just waiting for me to run in and get a nice big glass of water! I made it! By then it was dark and I teamed up with a girl to sled down the mountain together. it was awesome! So exciting to be alone in the woods in the dark, sliding down a mountain, and because we were in front we had no idea where we were going. It was a great day. Afterwards I came home then went out into the city with the girls. It wasn't too bad a night I stayed out till about 3 or so. ; Friday I went out into the city again but I didn't stay out late.

> Saturday Dec 31st and January 1st:< I woke up late as usual then we had dinner with another family and talked and talked and talked, although I was for some reason incredibly tired and I had to go take a 2 hour nap before I was going to go to Stefan's (my 16 year old next host family brother) party. In Austria New years is called Sylvester and is just as big as in the states. At 12 midnight traditionally Austrians watch the Stefansdom in Vienna and hear it ring out the New Year followed by dancing the Vienna Waltz or at least watching it, also they give out tokens of good luck which include pigs (something about how pigs are always moving forward by sniffing with their snout and so a pig is good for moving on into the new year), 4-leaf clovers, peanuts, lady bugs, and what ever else you just happen to like (for instance I got cat stuff as well). There weren't too many people at Stefan's house but I liked them all. There was Thomas, Kathi, Lisa, Steffy, Rafeal and a few others. The girls all had our bonding time as I gave them advice on current issues that phase 15/16-year-old girls based on my past experiences. Spoke with my family a bit and Stephen too. We all went outside at midnight and watched the fireworks going and so much more. I even got to drink champagne with real gold in it.; The first day of the New Year: They say that what you do today decides what you will be like the rest of the year so instead of sleeping the day away I took my Bible and went for a long walk through the wilderness ending at a creek where the water was so low I could walk to the middle and sit down on the exposed rocks to read. So I spent most of my day in religious contemplation. On top of that, Tante Hilda came by to visit again.

> Monday Jan 2nd and Tuesday the 3rd:< Gareth (my best guy friend in Austria who is an exchange student from South Africa) came early in the morning to meet with because he was going to stay the night at my house so we could see each other one last time before he has to depart back to the jungle he came from (hehe). We had a nice time sitting at the café, then meeting with Lani and having a few drinks in the city. Afterwards Gareth and I stayed up watching ´The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants´, which is one of the gifts I had just received from Kaitlyn and Rochelle (it meant so much to me); Jan 3rd: Gareth and I went ice-skating (he had never done it before and wasn't too bad!). He left and I went for another long walk out in Nature. After my walk I came home to have dinner with my host family and my next family who I know I am really going to enjoy living with (except I don't think I will like the fact they live so far from the city). I went to sleep early.

> Wednesday Jan 4th - Friday the 6th :< I tried snowboarding for my first time with Herr Professor Kramer (or just Rafael haha) as my teacher. It's a lot harder than it looks, I learned it's going to take more than one day to get the hang of it and I don't like rum with hot chocolate. ; Jan 5th: My host parents surprised me and took me to the Lipizzaner stables! It was awesome! I got to see the place where the famous Spanish Lipizzaner horses were when they were young, old, not as well trained as the ones in Vienna, or female. If you didn't know they are the white horses that are very famous especially in Vienna where they have a Spanish Lipizzaner performance house. These horses are incredibly smart and they are born black or brown! I made friends with a couple of them. Then we went to a city where there is a church designed by the infinitely talented Hundertwasser. It's much better from the outside though I must say. He normally designs things that at first appear to be a chaotic arrangement of colors and such but after close inspection it all makes sense. After that we went to a spa and swam around in the warm waters for while. I was exhausted. ; Jan 6th: My host parents took me to Semmering so I could see a really harsh Austrian winter (it's a famous skiing area here). There was SO much snow it was unreal. Then we went to Mürzschlag (forgive my spelling errors) and went into the Winter Sports museum that was very interesting.

> Jan 7th & 8th:< I spent most of the day at home and spoke with my sister. She told me our dog Gunther was dying and I had a very hard time with it all so I just went back out into the wilderness and tried to run the pain away. ; Jan 8th: I decided it would be better to get out and talk to someone so I met with Yvonne. She even had a present for me since I had told her the day before about the bad news. she got me a card saying she would always be there and a little wooden tiger to let me know I still have Tiger. Her thoughtfulness is abounding. We went to a café for a while too and I got a drink called the Florida, which is a tropical tasting alcohol-free cocktail (it tastes great). When I got home I was terrified of the call I was going to receive from my parents because I knew what was coming (they had tried to reach me all day). Then they called and told me that it was for sure and Gunther had in fact passed away. It was a terrible night. I couldn't sleep and I think my angst over Gunther about to pass away was the reason I kept having serious chest problems since I heard he was sick the day before. But that's all gone. done with, quickly becoming more and more a part of the past. He was such a loving dog. It's too much. So I spent a long time on the phone with Ali (my best friend) trying to get over it all and playing my heart out on the piano.

The piano has become such a relieving outlet for me. As well as singing show tunes (songs from the Broadway musical Cats in particular). I always have to keep in mind that 'when God closes a door He opens a window'.

> Monday Jan 9th:< It had seemed I was going to be better. School was good and I got a lot of support from friends. In my 7th grade German class all the little kids even held a big interview of my holidays and me in German! I was proud of myself and the things that I had understood. Then I spent the whole day sleeping the last of my sorrows away.

> Tuesday Jan 10th:< School, piano, and the fitness studio with Yvonne which turned out to be not so bad. Today I felt like I am officially a member of the family. As difficult as the situation was it's the bad times that can bring people so much closer.

Exchange students may want to be the super perfect exchange student sometimes, but we must understand that we are still human and therefore we do made mistakes and must move on. We have to learn to forgive ourselves and to just keep trying.

> Wednesday Jan 11th:< At school I had a speech about Jacksonville, Florida and its history (in English class). It was great! So after lunch with my host family I went to the fitness studio and practically killed my legs on the hydro cycling machine (it's a weird machine that really wears you out) and then doing my rounds with my upper body work out followed by a trip to the kebab store to get a nice big juicy kebab to eat! Next I took off to my German course, which went well as usual and afterward I met with Lani for her last night in Bruck an der Mur and Austria altogether. She's really been a great oldie and I will miss her a lot. Neither one of us was too sad though because I know we both felt like this wasn't the last time we would see each other, I have an open invitation to Sydney Australia! One day I will make it out to Australia and see her again, I just know it (perhaps she'll visit Florida one day as well).

> Thursday Jan 12th:< I went to school but had a lot of free time as well. Many people in the school seem really down lately and I don't know if it's the weather. It is so tiring trying to get a smile out of everyone lately. After school I went home, ate and then went to volleyball practice and home. I am so worn out now. My body can't handle any more exercise for a while.

Winter depression hits people living in cold regions for many reasons. If you think about it, it's too cold to do most outdoor things anyways. You have to wear layers and layers of clothing to even step outside and so often times people just revert to staying in or around the house. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer, making even less time to really spend outside. We hadn't had too much sun lately either, but it breaks through every couple of days. it's as if you not only see the seasons change but you change with them.

>Friday Jan 13th:< Look at that, Friday the 13th! Hmm I hope something interesting happens! Today I got to watch my favorite show The Pink Panther/Die Rosarota Panther again, always in German of course. I have developed a true love for the cartoon Pink Panther. I am obsessed! The Pink Panther is hilarious and so witty and funny and pink! Ok and so after that I went for another long bus ride and had a Latte Macchiato while reading my latest book ´Men are from Mars Women are from Venus´. Ok, so the book does state that in some cases there's a role reversal and so I guess I am that exception. Anyways so I spent the whole day laying around at home waiting a ride to another Matura ball but I never heard from them so I just went to Yvonne's along with Nadja and we had a girls night.

This is the poem I made using the sticky letters people have on their fridges (which may I add don't give you much of a selection). It pertains to the low and high points of the exchange year, my personal mission as an exchange student, and the reason to keep on going.

Bruised Avenue

When this secret evening
is as dark sounding
as cracking glass
it is only consumed
with a loving song
or by the immense
Smell of a morning bouquet.
So stagger out through
to the lacy wild,
for you can win over
your people.

I am still reading the Bible steadily, at times I thought it would be hard to hold on to my beliefs in a culture where they can be so different (trust me Catholicism here and the beliefs of my little beachy Baptist church can be completely different at times), but it just takes effort and understanding for everyone.

Well I hope this has been a thoroughly enjoyable entry for everyone even though it was painstakingly long.

Liebe Grüße,
Patricia Leigh Smith
Aka TRiSH >^..^< or Sha