This week, we have the inaugural report from Bella Sinclair as she starts her Rotary Youth Exchange in Austria.
 
Grüß Gott,
 
I just want to start by saying THANK YOU because without your help I wouldn't be having the most amazing experience of my life! A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks but luckily I have been keeping a diary so I won't miss anything out. 
 
First of all, I now have a new favourite food. It’s called a Döner and let me just say I don't know how I ever lived without. My favourite words of the month are ‘fahrradfahren’ and ‘gesundheit’. Fahrradfahren means something like 2 wheel driving driver when directly translated but the English equivalent is a cyclist. Gesundheit is the Austrian version of bless you, which I’ve been saying a whole lot seeing as everyone’s been sick.
 
My journey started on the 12th of January when we left for LA. I had a rough start when the second bag I had booked wasn’t showing up in the system and as a result, I never got a proper goodbye. Everything was so rushed and I ended up having to walk through the gates by myself because it took so long to get sorted. The plane ride was good, I got some sleep and watched the second Maleficent movie.
 
When we arrived in LA we dropped our bags off at the hotel and went to the Santa Monica Pier. I was so excited because the pier is in the Hannah Montana movie. The Ferris wheel was a highlight for me. The second was spent at Disneyland and the third day was the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios. During our time Zoe and I got 2 matching iron on badges to put on our blazers, we got a route 66 one and an American flag one. In between, we went to an American high school for dinner one night and talked to the students from there and another night we had dinner with the Westchester Rotary Club. At the Rotary dinner, I presented my gift which was two New Zealand children's books and a kiwi stuffed toy. I also met some really interesting people, especially these two guys that I talked to for ages about basketball, American football, netball and rugby. This was my favourite part of the LA stopover for sure. After dinner was the cherry on the top of the cake for me when some friends and I got taken to ‘In N Out Burger’. I had been wanting to go the whole trip but never made it to one so I was ecstatic!! During the LA stopover I had so much fun but for me, this was the time I was most homesick. During the day I was kept busy but when we got back to the hotel at night I would get really sad. To combat this I went to sleep because everything feels better in the morning. 
 
On the flight to London, I wasn't able to get any sleep which was tough because my body clock was all messed up and I was shattered from the busy days in LA. On the plus side, Zoe and I got an iron-on English flag. I waited in Heathrow for ages and by this point, I hadn't slept in almost 2 days so I was exhausted. As a result, I slept a little on the plane ride to Zürich. Everything was going so fast with people catching flights left and right, it started to dawn on me what I was committing to for a whole year. My host dad picked me up from the airport and we started our drive to Bizau, Austria. On the way, I did the first-night questionnaire and when we arrived at my new home my host mum, brother and sister all greeted me. We ate some soup and talked for a bit before I had a shower and went to bed.
 
The next few days were the worst, I was always homesick and the jetlag wasn't helping because I kept waking up in the middle of the night. The first morning, called Laura and Mum for a pep talk. When I was ready to face my new life I went downstairs and hung out with my host mum, I even had a bit of German practice. I met my other sister Greta who is 5 and played Lego with her and I think I’m starting to understand more and more German when I interact with her. For example, we have also played a game called “Rikki” which is pretty much like Uno. Which meant that I got to learn some colours and we were able to play the game speaking simple German. Elizabeth (my host mum) and I have bonded over our love for natural things such as herbal and fruit teas, herbal remedies and yoga. I shared some of my New Zealand with her by introducing her to the “Forest Fruits” tea I bought with me and Marmite which I then later shared with the whole family - let’s just say I think I have a whole tub of Marmite to myself hahaha. Later on, when my brother Leander came home from school I shared some Whittaker’s chocolate with him and he shared Austrian chocolate with me. After I finished unpacking my things I felt a little better. I also got shown around the small town I’m now living in and it's gorgeous! Mia and I now watch How I Met Your Mother with each other as a bonding type thing and my host dad and are watching the Pirates of the Caribbean movies which by the way are amazing. We either watch it in German with English subtitles or vice versa which is awesome.
 
My first Rotary meeting was also good except I didn't understand anything and the jetlag made it hard to stay awake.
 
I have been shopping and got a coat, snow boots, skis and a new SIM card and then on the first Sunday I was here I went skiing. I also went to the local cheese shop and got some cheese as well as grocery shopping which was quite fun.
 
I do yoga to help combat my homesickness and I think I will continue to make it an everyday thing along with writing in my diary because I think that has been the most helpful thing when trying to get through everything, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
 
And Kenneth let me just tell you, the skiing is AMAZING!!! I have never skied in so much powder. I mean my skis literally disappeared in the snow it was so cool! I’m looking forward to lots more skiing!
 
After skiing, I played some indoor soccer with Leander and Greta which was fun and I also learned some words like “lauf” which means run.
 
I had a cold for the first couple of days which didn't help but it was gone in a couple of days. However, now I’m sick again but I’m sure it will pass soon. 
 
I have made sure to help wherever I can as well, such as making dinner or cleaning up after dinner etc. For example, I made dinner for us the other day and have helped with cutting veggies on other days etc. It's nice because it gives me and my host mum time to chat while making and cleaning up dinner.
 
One thing I love is the bread! It is so amazing and I have found that we usually have things like bread and cheese for dinner and then the main meal is lunch. This was a bit weird at first but it’s growing on me and we sometimes switch it up and do it the other way around.
 
I was worried about school but it turns out there was nothing to be worried about. Mr Dorner is my homeroom teacher and he is amazing! Everyone is so nice and welcoming. When I first walked into my class everyone stood and clapped for me and I instantly relaxed and felt welcome. I told them a bit about New Zealand and even did the haka for them when they asked (thank goodness I knew it hahaha). It was really easy to make friends because the guys in my class also love American Football so at lunch after I ate I went into the gym with them and played. My host sister Mia then told me that night that they told her I was better than all of them at throwing it hahaha. I’ve even done yoga with my class which was a bit of fun!
 
The girls in my class are also really nice and during our lunch break, we always go out to lunch together. One of them is also lending me a book at the moment and I am lending her one I bought over.
 
I was invited to Kitzbühel by my friends at school to watch the skiing equivalent to the super bowl and it was amazing! I had heaps of fun and an Austrian skier won for the first time in 6 years so that was the icing on the cake. I did experience a bit of culture shock when there was a huge celebratory party in Kitzbühel afterwards with German music that I didn't know but I still had fun! Also, after the prizegiving ceremony, there was a huge fireworks show.
 
I've gotten lost a couple of times on the way to school but I’ve always managed to find my way in the end. For example, one time I didn't know the way to school from the bus stop but trusty google maps helped me out. The second time was because I got confused with where I need to get on the bus for school and ended up missing the bus because I was facing the wrong way and then once I got on the second one I managed to miss my bus stop because I didn't know the area that well. I’m much better now so hopefully, that’s all in the past :)
 
It has been a very busy last couple of weeks for me and I think it will continue that way. For example, on the 3rd of February, some friends and I are getting together to watch the Super Bowl final which is exciting. I'll keep you updated!
 
Cheers,
Bella
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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