Caroline Phillpot
2007-08 Outbound to Austria

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
School: Buchholz High School
Sponsor: Gainesville Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Eferding Rotary Club
         District 1920, Austria

Caroline's Bio

Hallo! I'm Caroline Phillpot. I'm 15 years old but I'll be 16 by the time I leave to spend a year in Austria!!

What's that? You want to know some more about me? Well since you asked...

I was born in a small town just outside of Chicago where I spent the first 12 and a half years of my life. Currently I live in Gainesville, Florida, but I'm not exactly sure where in Austria I'll be living next year.

I'm a sophomore at Buchholz High School where I'm very involved in the drama program as a tech. We just finished our run of Fame! the musical. I was also in the Medieval Faire that came to town recently. I spent six months training to be a part of the living chessboard and I had a blast doing it.

College is definitely in my future but I'm not sure where or what I'll be studying. I hope to be able to work in the music business when I "grow up" but not as a musician, more as the behind-the-scenes-named-in-the-thank-you-section-of-an-album person.

Hopefully this gave you some idea of who I am. Thank you for reading and thank you Rotary (yet again!) for making this possible!

Caroline



August 20 Journal

Wow is really all I can say at this point. Exactly two weeks ago (give or take a few hours) I had just said goodbye to my family and I was still in America. A few minutes later I was being patted down by one of the security guards because, silly me, I forgot to take my necklace off and it set off the alarm. Great start.

My first flight was pretty uneventful. I was the only Rotary student on the flight and it was only a few hours. I arrived in the Detroit airport on time at gate A 78. I then had to walk (because I didn't realize there was a tram I could take...another brilliant deduction) to gate A 26. So basically that was about a million miles give or take a few feet. I'm passing gate A 29 when suddenly I hear "ROTARY!" being screamed. Next thing I know I have arms flung around me and someone with blonde hair is telling me how excited she is to find another person in Rotary. I manage to catch that her name is Alexa and that the guy standing over there is Andrew and he was too lazy to come over to catch me as well. We sit together at gate A 29 as we wait for Alexa's plane to board. (She was leaving Detroit 2 hours before us but meeting up with us again in Amsterdam.) So she boards and Andrew and I head over to our gate where we run into Corrine, another Rotary student headed for Austria.

We all decide that we're hungry and don't trust airplane food so we walk to A 1 and the food court to get some pizza before we go. We spend who knows how long just eating and talking. When we finally start walking back, we all decide to make one last pit stop before the 8 hour flight to Amsterdam. It was while we were all in the bathroom that we hear "Last call passengers on the flight to Amsterdam." Super. So we end up sprinting back to our gate where we're told that the plane had been waiting 10 minutes for us. Oops.

The flight was long but uneventful. There was a little TV in the back of the seat in front of me so I spent my time watching a little indie movie I'd never heard of before and Shrek 3. (Which was quite funny.)

The three of us arrive in Amsterdam at 9:00am local time. Which was 3:00am my time. Needless to say I felt less than refreshed. It was here that we ran into Justin. He had been on the plane with us from Detroit but we hadn't seen him because we had been at the food court. We spent the next hour trying to A) Find a girls bathroom who's line wasn't more than 20 people long and B) Figure out where we were supposed to be. When we finally managed to get to our gate, we still had 2 hours before our flight. Alexa was already at the gate and thrilled to see us. This is where we also ran into Paige. Yet another Exchange Student.

Another uneventful flight. We all arrived in Vienna and this is where I said goodbye to the rest of them to take my final flight to Linz. This had to be my favorite flight because it was A) Only 45 minutes long and B) Business class!! (Which doesn't seem like it would make a huge difference but it really does.)

 I arrived at the tiny Linz airport right on time and it was just like something out of a movie. I was in a little jet so we just walked down the little stairs and onto the pavement. I noticed some people standing on the top of the building and waving and I wondered who they were waving at. I figured out that it was ME when they held up a giant hand drawn sign that said "Wilkommen in Österreich!" and had an Austrian and an American flag on it. It was my host family.

The first week I spent with my host family was full of me simply appreciating the little things. Like how everyone (including the Grandparents!) sit down to breakfast together, or how we always have fresh bread from the bakery, or even that the population of my town is that of my Highschool in the states. Everyday there was something new to show me, whether it was the GIANT mall in Linz or the Children's day at the Red Cross.

After only getting to spend 5 days with my family it was off to language camp in Altmünster where I still am now. The other exchange students are so amazing. Who would ever believe that I would be able to say that I have a friend from a country where English isn't the native language? It's pretty surreal.

The school we're staying at is pretty awesome too. It even has a slide down one of the staircases!

Speaking of slides, yesterday we took a field trip to Hallstatt to visit the salt mines and the bone house. The weather was predicted to be cold and rainy, so all of us packed on the jackets. What's it like? Sunny and in the high 80's. At least it was nice and cool in the mines. The mines also had two very long slides that the miners actually use to get to work. We all got to slide down them and had our speed measured. (25.6km/h!)

Today one of the director's friends is coming to camp and is going to (attempt to) teach us how to waltz which should be very...um...interesting.

Sometimes I just can't believe I'm actually here. The mountains look like a movie backdrop and I keep expecting that I'm going to run into it soon enough and the glorious illusion will be shattered. But then something like dancing in the (freezing) rain with friends or taking a boat ride on the lake makes me realize that it's totally real, it's actually happening, and that it's happening TO ME!

I've only been here for two weeks and already I've fallen in love with the beautiful country of Austria. Unrestrained, unabashedly in love.

xo

Caroline



November 13 Journal

 Servus!

First of all, sorry for such a long gap between the last entry and this one! (*guilty face*) There's just been so much going on! So, deep breath, and let's dive in.

After language camp I had about two weeks just to hang out at home and get to know my family and new friends a bit more. My older host sister had just gotten home from Nicaragua, so our communication was less than stellar. (My German was still pretty minimal and her English had turned into Spanish).

SCHOOL

School started on September 10th. My first day was a bit awkward. I walk into the classroom where most of the kids are already and the boy who I was with, Martin, (he's my neighbor so they purposely put me in his class) just says "Das ist die Caroline. Sie ist die Austauschulerin. Sie spricht night gut Deutsch." Which means "This is Caroline. She's the Exchange Student. She doesn't speak German very well." So a few people got up and shook my hand and introduced themselves (I promptly forgot their names 3 seconds later) but most just waved and then went back to talking with their friends. But this class has been together for almost 7 years now so, it's really no wonder they're so tight-knit.

School has gotten much better now. I've integrated a bit more and had a chance to hang out with some of the others outside of school. I've also made some friends in the 6th class because whenever the 7th class has Latin or French, I go to the 6th class for extra history. Last Friday was the first Oberstufenparty. This is basically like a Homecoming dance type thing only less formal. I was on the set-up and clean-up team, so I was asked to draw the poster. It turned out okay but, eh. I'm always so picky. I also had to help roll out the fake wood floor, help tack photos to the wall, wash dishes, and clean up the next day. I spent the night at the school with the entire clean-up team so that we could get up early and clean MORE! The party ended at 2:30 and we finished the first batch of cleaning at 5:30. Then we went to bed, and got up at 8 to finish cleaning. I was pretty much exhausted when I got home.

I also recently had my first math test here. I got the 6th highest score in my class, but it's the equivalent of a C. But the teacher congratulated me in front of the class and so everyone clapped, which was a bit awkward. But I was still pretty happy about that. Apparently we're doing calculus now...(I didn't know that until I talked to my Dad on the phone and tried to explain it to him. Heh.)

FOOD

Yes I do have to talk about the food. It's delicious! At first I was really worried because everything tastes like "comfort-food" so I was afraid I was going to start gaining weight. WRONG! My host-mom is notorious for cooking extremely healthy (but still amazing) food. I've actually lost around 6 pounds. (Walking everywhere probably also has something to do with that...) I've also discovered my favorite food ever here. Eierschwammel in Raumsaus mit Semmelknödel. Basically it's like a giant ball of Thanksgiving turkey stuffing all mashed together then smothered a mushroom cream sauce. How appetizing does that sound?

LANGUAGE

It's still pretty difficult for me to speak German at this point, but I'm doing much better than when I arrived. I understand about 60% of what is said, even when it is in the Austrian Dialect. (I understand my math classes completely for instance.) Of course there have been days where I've felt the most frustrated I ever have in my life. Like when the bus driver doesn't understand me when I say "Eferding". And some days it doesn't feel like my German is getting any better, it just feels like my English is getting worse! But there are always the good days when I have an actual conversation with my host-mom over lunch and forget I'm speaking a different language until afterwards.

I've been learning German mostly by my friends thinking it's funny to try to get me to say difficult words, and watching SpongeBobSchwammKopf with my younger host-sister. Needless to say my vocabulary is highly sophisticated. But it's coming along.

PLACES I'VE SEEN

Here's a quick list of all the cities in Austria I've visited so far and what I've done there.

1. Hartkirchen - Uh...I live here.

2. Eferding - This is where my Rotary Club is based.

3. Dachsberg - School.

4. Altmünster - Language Camp.

5. Gmunden - Language Camp shopping trips.

6. Bad Ischl - My older host sister lives here during the week.

7. Bad Ausee - Small salt-mines/Hiking trip with my rotary club.

8. Tauplitz - Hiking with the exchange students AND with my school class two weeks later.

9. Hallstadt - Bigger salt mines.

10. Wels - Nearest train station. Also where 5 or 6 other exchange students live. I was also there with some classmates for running sushi.

11. Linz - Nearest Mall.

12. Salzburg - Rotary Counselor's meeting and shopping/touristy stuff with my host family.

13. Vienna - Shopping trip with friends, Exchange Student weekend, and in two weeks I'll be staying there for a week with my class from school.

OTHER ADVENTURES

This is turning into a very long entry so I'll just make a quick list of other things that have happened.

1. Discovering I do not like hiking. At all. (I ended up injuring my feet pretty badly. I won't go into detail because it was just gross.) The views are gorgeous, but it's really just not my thing.

2. Getting lost/stranded in the Wels Trainstation when my cell phone was dead, my host parent's didn't know when to pick me up, and I didn't know my home number by heart. It was the end of an exchange student weekend in Vienna and so I ended up walking around in the rain for an hour and a half while dragging my suitcase, trying to remember where my friend Amanda (she's an exchange student from Wisconsin.) lived. (I finally found her after asking directions to Mozart Straße a few times.)

3. Riding the U-bahn in Vienna for 30 minutes with some of the other students and then realizing we were going the wrong way! We got there eventually though.

4. Meeting the guitar player, Frank, from the band My Chemical Romance and getting a few autographs. (Which was totally totally amazingly awesome!)

5. Going to my host sister's Maturaball and seeing her class do "The Time Warp".

6. I've finally gotten used to the driving here. Which is very fast on very small roads. It's still pretty terrifying when you're in a charter bus going 80km/h trying to pass another charter bus going 80km/h on a road meant for only one bus at a time. But I don't clutch the door/seat backs anymore which is quite the improvement.

7. And, of course, I love just hanging out with my friends.

Okay, I'll leave you there for now.

Pfirt'di!

xo,

Caroline



January 5 Journal

 Hey! I guess since all the holidays are over, now would be a good time to write another journal entry, eh? (Oh gosh...I've been hanging out with the Canadians too much...) So let's dive right in.

About two weeks after my last journal entry, my entire grade went to Vienna for a week. It was really cool to get to spend some time with the other kids in my class. I hadn't really been all that close to them up until that point, but it's amazing how easy it is to bond over getting lost on the U-bahn (which I am now a master of) or slamming bumper cars into one another in the arcade. Of course, this was mostly during free time, which was about an hour a day. The rest of the day was full of going to see historic buildings like Schönbrunn (the second time for me) or Parliament. We also got a chance to see the building where the United Nations meet when they're in Austria. (Although technically it's not a part of Austria, it doesn't belong to any country.) And of course, two photos into it, my camera dies. Just my luck. But it was still really interesting. I was really proud of how much I understood when we were going on the tours. Sure there was stuff I didn't understand (it got pretty technical) but I still got more than the gist of everything. This was my fourth time in Vienna. Third time staying overnight.

December 14th through 16th I spent in Salzburg for an Exchange Student weekend. This was my third time in Salzburg, but my first being there for more than a few hours. We saw a lot of historic things like the house where Mozart was born and another castle at the top of a mountain. (Which I had also seen before, but it was more fun with all the others there.) The last night we had our own little Christmas party which involved singing Silent Night in every language at the same time, watching the "oldies" give out awards, and saying hello and goodbye to the Short Term Exchange Students from South Africa.

Now on to Christmas. In Austria, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, not the 25th. As in, NOTHING happens on the 25th. But on the 24th, my family woke up around 10am and started setting up the Christmas Tree. They all thought it was quite hilarious when I was shocked that they put real candles on it. Then, around 2pm, we all had lunch together. Lunch consisted of cold cuts wrapped around Topfen (I don't really know what this is in English. Something kinda like cottage cheese I guess.) bread, pumpkin soup, and pasta salad. It was pretty good, but honestly I like the regular everyday food better. After lunch, I had a chance to call my parents. I had some trouble getting through to them because they gave me the number for my Aunt's house which had been disconnected, but eventually I got through on one of the cell phones. The rest of the evening/afternoon was spent singing typical Austrian Christmas Carols together, me trying to translate "The Florida Night Before Christmas" into German, and waiting for the Krist Kind to come. The Krist Kind is the "Christ Child" and he comes the evening of the 24th. The room with the Christmas tree is closed off, and when he comes, he rings a little bell and then all the kids can go inside the room and get their presents. Santa Claus is being gradually added to the culture here, but he is known as Weihnachtsman which literally translates to "Christmas Man" (Which sounds like some sort of strange superhero if you ask me). My host family loved the presents I gave them and the ones that my parents sent from America. I got a lot of cool stuff from them as well including socks knitted by my host Oma, Charcoal and canvas from my host sisters so I can work on my art a bit more, a book in English, and some chocolates.

Now let's jump ahead to New Years. Aka Silvester. I spent my Silvester in Vienna. 75% of the Exchange Students were there. We all met up at about 11pm in Rhathausplatz and attempted to waltz with one another to Hungarian Opera music and ate Leberkäsesemmel while we waited for the new year to officially start. At 12, all hell broke loose. Fireworks were going off in every direction, people were spraying everyone with champagne, and general chaos ensued. All the Exchange Students basically clumped together in one giant group hug and yelled Happy New Year in as many languages as we could think of. After about an hour of trying to make sure you've given everyone you know a hug, we all went our separate ways. Amanda, Majo, Karina and I had made arrangements to stay at Amanda's host brothers' flat for the night, so all of that ran pretty smoothly.

The next day, Majo and Karina (both from Ecuador) had to go home, but Amanda and I decided to stay another night. So the four of us (Amanda's host brothers, me, and Amanda) all went out to lunch together, and then I went to the MuMoK (Museum Moderner Kunst aka The Museum of Modern Art) for three hours while they went to see a movie, that I had already seen, next door.

That night was pretty cool as well. The four of us were watching TV and channel surfing, and then I saw something with lots of blue and orange flash across the screen. So I asked Fabian (one of the host brothers) to flip back really quickly, and what is it but the second half of the Gators Game!!! Now, normally I am not that much of a football fan, but to see my team on TV while halfway around the world, that was pretty awesome. Even if we did lose by 6 points.

Last night was my school's Maturaball. This is basically a huge party, in the school, for the graduating class and anyone they've happened to talk to in the past year or so. Basically, it was completely packed. All the girls were in Prom-type dresses and MOST of the guys were in a suit. (Of course my friend Ingo shows up in a button up shirt, black pants, and vans. But he's a little...spastic.) All around it was great fun.

Well, that's all for now. I don't want to take up your entire day now do I?

Liebe Gruße,

xo Caroline



February 6 Journal

 So. Another month, another Journal update.

What's been happening? Honestly, not all that much.

The past month or so has been mainly winding down from New Years, and gearing up for those final tests until the end of the Semester in a few weeks. But yesterday was Faschings Dienstag, or Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Carnivale, or whatever you want to call it. Basically it involved going into the slightly larger neighboring town of Eferding and watching the parade with friends and getting confetti rained down on top of you. To give you a better idea of what it looks like, I was convinced I was at a giant Village People reunion, only with about 1000 extra people. Everyone dresses up in some sort of crazy way. This year there were a lot of Cowboys and Indians, and a lot of Soccer players. (The Austrian team is playing Germany tonight but the enthusiasm is mostly National Pride and optimism. We don't really have much of a chance.)

Also, the "Newbies" have arrived! It's so surreal when I think that I've been here almost exactly 6 months! (Exactly 6 months tomorrow in fact!) My friend Ashley and I ran into them in Gmuden, where they currently are for their language camp, while we were visiting her Host Grandad for his birthday. It was absolutely hilarious. They were all standing in one giant group and you could hear English and most of them looked totally lost. It was so strange to think that 6 months ago that was me! So talked to them for a little while (and when I say talk I mean they bombarded us with questions) and walked them back to their hotel. Unfortunately, I don't have any newbies in my host club. There just aren't enough people and they had enough trouble trying to find me a second host family that had kids that weren't either grown and out of the house or babies.

Speaking of host families, I will be moving on the 29th of February or the 1st of March. It's a bitter sweet occasion. I'm looking forward to being around new people and their house is amazing. It looks like a castle and I'm on the 3rd floor in one of the "towers" with what is essentially an entire flat, minus the kitchen, to myself. But it is also even more out in the country. As in, there aren't any buses that go there and the "town" doesn't even have a name. It's basically 10 houses on a road and that's it. I'll have to be driven, or possibly ride my bike, into Eferding everyday to catch the bus to school. But the family seem really nice and I'll have two older sisters. However, I really am going to miss the family I'm with now. They're wonderful people and I've been very happy here. We've never had any sort of problems or arguments, just the occasional "I wish your room was a little bit neater" or disagreement over whether to watch Spongebob or CSI. (We finally decided on Doctor Who. Haha.)

My German is still improving, but it's still not quite where I want it to be. I'm understood when I speak, but my grammar is somewhat atrocious. I've really been trying hard to learn on my own, but it's difficult to stay motivated sometimes. Most of the other "oldies" are finishing up their German courses right now. I didn't have one because I'm too far out and the only exchange student around. So I've been learning purely through listening and speaking. (And a little help from a Grammar book my Hostmom managed to find.) However, I am proud to say that Amanda's host brothers have said that my German is better than hers, and she took it in school for 3 years! So I can't be doing too badly. So long as I understand and am understood, I'm happy.

One of my friends recently asked me if going on exchange was "worth it". All I could say was "It's the best way you could possibly spend a year of your life". So thank you again Rotary for making this life changing experience possible. I'll never be the same again. (In a good way of course!)

Bis Später!

xo Caroline



March 25 Journal

 Servus!

Time for another update in "THE EXCITING LIFE OF CAROLINE" I suppose.

To start out, at the beginning of March I switched to my second host family. It turns out that they're a lot like me personality wise, which is both good and bad. It means I eat breakfast with my host parents every morning (at 5:30 am. Ugh.) and lunch with my host sisters in the afternoon, but this is about all I see of my family. Both my host parents work during the day, so at night they like to relax in front of the TV or read a book. My host sisters, same deal. So after school we all go to our own rooms and find ways to amuse ourselves until it's time to go to bed. A lot of the time, this is exactly what I'd like because I am EXHAUSTED after school, but other days I just wish we could talk a little more. Aside from that, however, they have been great. If I need to get out of the house and visit a friend, they have no problem driving me (which is saving me about 20€ a month not having to buy bus tickets every weekend) and they've been very flexible overall.

Now on to Ski Week.

Ski Week was the second week in March, the chance for all of the Oldies to meet the Newbies for the first time, and a chance for most of us to make complete fools of ourselves trying to ski or snowboard. I chose to take snowboarding which is, of course, harder. Now, me lacking coordination like I do, this probably wasn't the wisest decision. To start off with, I could not go down forwards. See, you have to get from sitting on your butt to standing up with your board on, while putting all your weight on your heels. Yeah...no. Not gonna happen. So, do I give up? Of course not! I learn to go down backwards. This worked fairly well for the first three days until our instructor decided that he wanted to move us up to some steeper slopes. Uh oh. I managed to fall on my head twice in a row and was sent back to the hotel to make sure I would be OK. I ended up being driven to the hospital (the first of 6 kids that week!), had X-rays taken of my head, and was diagnosed with a mild concussion. But I was totally fine.

But then it got worse.

The next day, I wasn't allowed to go for our snowboarding lesson in the morning, but in the afternoon all the students were supposed to go tobogganing together, so I managed to convince our supervisor, Doris, that I was well enough to go. So as my friend and I are speeding down the hill together on our sled, we manage to overshoot a turn. By a mile. Since she was in front, she managed to throw herself off into a snow bank. I, however, wasn't so lucky. The sled crashed and I was thrown head first over an 8 foot fence. My head hit a tree and next thing I know the exchange student from California is asking me how many fingers he is holding up and I have a branch as big around as my arm laying across my knees.

I was able to tell him that he was holding up two fingers and then I rattled off my name and the date for good measure. I hear someone laughing behind me and turn around to see Doris on the other side of the fence, hands on her knees laughing with, what I hope was, relief. She told me that I "have more lives than a cat" because as I soon saw, I missed going over the side of a cliff by about 6ft. I managed to walk around the fence emerging with a lot of pine needles in my hair and a few nasty bruises but, fortunately, nothing worse. I have since been dubbed "The Exchange Student Who Lived".

I had the week after Ski Camp off because of Easter, so I spent the time nursing my sore muscles and bruises and watching half of my host sister's DVD collection.

Easter with my host family was really sweet. Easter Sunday my host sisters and I went out for Thai food with their Oma and then we all watched a movie together. My host parents were on a trip to Venice and didn't get home until late that night, so we celebrated as a unit on Monday. I was woken up at 8am by my host sister telling me that her dad had finished hiding the eggs outside and that we had to go find them. For the first time ever (according to them) we found them all. I received a basket full of chocolate from both of my host families and then my current family and I went out for a (very expensive!) exquisite lunch.

My German has continued to get even better. I've started to not only dream in German, but to think in German! I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't my native language! I now talk to my friends almost exclusively in German. Also, I talked to my real parents the other day, and they said that I've started to speak English like a foreigner! My grammar has definitely suffered and apparently I pronounce everything very deliberately. I have also been told by several people, that I don't speak German like I'm from America, I speak it like I'm from Czech! I'm not sure whether this is a compliment or not, but I'll just assume it is.

Well, I best be off to bed now. It's 9:45pm here at the moment and I start school again tomorrow.

Tchüssi!

xo Caroline



May 20 Journal

 Servus!

I can't believe how fast time has been flying by. Eurotour starts on Thursday and goes until June 10th. Then I have one and a half weeks of school before I go to Rome with my class for a week. Then it's the last day of school and I have ten days to say goodbye to the country that has been my home for the past 9 months.

But I'm trying not to think about that right now, so here's what's happened since my last entry:

I moved back to my first host family at the beginning of May because my second host family has a very busy work schedule during the spring/summer and wouldn't be home hardly at all. I must say, I am very happy to be back. Both of my families have been great, but my first one actually feels like my family. Not to mention that I'm closer to my friends so I've been able to spend more time with them again, something that really hit me hard when I changed the first time.

A few days after I changed back, a phone call from one of my other Exchange Student friends, Carl, woke me up. He's from New York but is currently living in Vienna. So I get a phone call from him and he's freaking out because he and my other friend Corinne are in Linz and their train has been delayed and they have to wait 5 hours and they don't know anyone there. So, after pointing out the fact that, I don't live in Linz and I don't know the city well, his pleas finally get the best of me so I tell him I'll run down and ask my Hosties if I can take the bus over there really quickly. As I'm running out the door I manage to peek a look at the clock. Furiously I call Carl back and ask him what possessed him to call me at 6:30 AM?! After a few muttered apologies on his end, I figure the least I can do would be to run to the bus stop and check to see when the buses go so I can ask my host parents when they finally wake up.

I get dressed and run downstairs. I open the front door, and my host mom scares the life out of me by opening the door to her bedroom behind me and coming out into the hall. Her first question: "Did you just get home?" After assuring her that no, I did not just get home, I ask her if I could go to Linz later to meet some friends. She looks at the clock (7:10) and tells me that a bus leaves in 10 minutes and if I run I can catch it. So, next thing I know, it's 8:15 am and I've arrived in the Linz train station to a VERY relieved Carl and Corinne.

After about an hour of pointless wandering we finally manage to find the Hauptplatz and an all you can eat Chinese buffet that opens in 2 hours. Considering that the two hadn't eaten a proper meal for the past 48 hours due to touring Oberösterreich over the long weekend, they decided that we would wait outside on the curb until it opened. To pass the time, we played cards, relived some of the funnier moments of the past Rotary trips, and cut Carl's hair with my Swiss Army Knife. (He had been complaining that it was too long, and I must compliment Corinne on her skill with the scissors. It didn't look half bad in the end.)

We ate, walked back to the train station, and then parted ways. I arrived home at around 3pm, just in time to run to a Photography exhibit with my two best friends.

Just one of many adventures in the life of an exchange student.

My birthday was on Sunday, but I did the majority of celebrating on Saturday. I think I must be the only person alive that is able to come late to her own Surprise Party. I had been in Innsbruck overnight for the District 1920 Conference and had been planning to take the 1:30 train and be home by 5:30. Things didn't quite go as planned. There were 22 of us all going the same direction, so we figured we'd buy a group card to save ourselves a couple euros. Just our luck, the ticket machine malfunctions and eats half of our money. Lucky for us, the people at the station managed to sort everything out, but there were a few scary minutes where we were worried that we were going to have to earn our money back by playing guitar in the lobby. (A few of the exchangies from Mexico and I actually started doing this. We earned 10 euros and 47 cents.)

We had to take a later train so I finally got home at around 7:30. At 8 a few of my friends turned up and we all went to a little rock festival that was going on not far away. (A few of my other friends were playing in two of the bands so it was really cool to see them play.) By the end of the night pretty much everyone knew that it was my birthday and I was being congratulated by people I had never even spoken to.

Sunday, the day of my actual birthday, was also pretty hectic, but for a different reason. It was my host sister's Confirmation so everyone was up at 7:30 to go to church and all that jazz. I may not be the most religious person in the world, but it was a really nice ceremony. I got a few more "Happy Birthday"'s but the majority of the day revolved around my sister, which is the way it should be. I mean, you have a birthday every year but you only get confirmed once!

And of course, today, just as I'm starting to realize that, yeah, I'm 17 and, yeah, I feel a bit older, I get a reality check. The bus driver gives me an under 14 ticket. Sure, it saves me 80 cents, but I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be offended. I mean, normally I have the other problem! It took pulling out my driver's license to convince my class that I wasn't turning 19 on my birthday and yet I couldn't convince this man that I was 15 let alone 17!! Oh well. It was pretty funny after I got over the initial shock of it.

So, I better not start on any more stories now or this will end up being a hundred pages long! Plus I'm sure I'll have some even better ones after I get back from Eurotour!

Bis Dann!

xo Caroline