Monday, June 3, 2013

My kids are famous! The world in the news!

Wow, what a fun day. I got to see several of my exchange students in the news today. Antonella from Ecuador and Vanessa from Germany are in this great piece in the Standard. Hannah in Heber created this great video about her exchange experience. and Laura from Spain won the year in exchange contest for her photo essay (link to be posted)

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Bucket List, by Charlotte from Germany

I would like to thank Charlotte for her heartfelt letter about her stay here so far. She had a rough bout with homesickness and thanks to her wonderful host family, neighbors at church, school friends and her own determination she has been able to stay here for the school year and have a full experience. Here is her story. My Bucket List accomplishment: Ice Fishing When I first came here, I had a rough time. That has nothing to do, with the people I get to know. All the new people, every single one of them has a place in my heart. My host sister, is not my host sister any more. She IS my sister, and she is giving me love whenever I need it. She can just look at me, and knows when I am doing good or bad. Sometimes I don’t realize how I feel until she hugs me and I break down in tears. I am so greatful for everyone here, my friends, they really trying to make this year unforgettable, my host family, my ward… I appreciate it so much. My first day was really sad, after that it was a long time really excited everything, the new school, new family, new activities. You don’t feel homesick, you are too busy. Then after a few months, for me around 3 or 4, I started to think a lot about my family, my friends and I had the time just sitting at home and do nothing. Because the play I was in, was long over and my normal day was: going to school, coming home, doing homework, eating. I tried to meet friends as often as I could, but they all are busy with their jobs or homework, often we just hang out on weekends. And after I realized my self-pity have to have an end. I was looking for solutions. My idea was to make my own bucket list with things I want to do before I leave America. So I took a paper and a pencil and start writing, I did not really care how realistic my ideas are, just things I was dreaming about, things I can’t do in Germany. I didn’t need long to fill the paper with all ideas. For example: Indoor skydiving, skiing, Grand Canyon, Paintball, hunting, ice fishing, hiking, indoor surfing, Disneyland…. I accomplished a few of them already. I was indoor skydiving with one of my best friends from Serbia. We had a ton of fun and it brought us even closer, to share something special like that, just between us two. When my host family heard my dream is it to visit the Grand Canyon, they really tried to fulfill my dream since my 9th grade of visiting the Grand Canyon. Our plans are to visit it in the Spring break. My dream about Disneyland was much harder to let it come true, also if my Coordinator said she will go there and could take me I knew it would cost a lot of money. I talked to my family in Germany, and I agreed that I make sacrifice for Christmas, and my birthday. I also gave a little bit money by myself, and now I have the opportunity to go. A lot of the other stuff is more a summer accomplishment but I will stay with them. Also if it maybe sounds like my whole bucket list is about having money and spend it, it is not. The idea behind it was to have goals I can work toward and to come closer to the people around me. I invented that whole thing, because it helped me to stay focused, to see America and nothing else, to see me and what I can accomplish when I work for it, against lonely times and homesickness. One thing on my bucket list which helped me a lot was, to give up an app on my phone where I could write to my family in Germany. Also if the organization said, don’t talk to your families that often, you have to realize that by yourself. Nobody else can make the decision for you. And I made it for me, and that helped me through the times I really wanted to go home. My last accomplishment was ice fishing, I planned that before Christmas but I did not have enough time for it, or nobody to go with. But a few weeks ago my friend, I got to know in our School Play, asked me to come with her and a few other friends ice fishing. I automatically said yes, when she told me she would pick me up around 6 in the morning I have to admit I was scared. That was really early, but I wanted it so bad, I took this fact as a sacrifice to fulfill also this dream. On the next day I was awake at 5:15, and talked to my host dad about what I would need there. He is every morning awake around 4:30, this was a bonus for me on this day. He helped me to decide if I rather wear the snow pants or not, the answer was positive. When my friend Ashley finally got to my house, I was waiting for her more than 10 min ready to go. But I was not mad, I was just too excited to go ice fishing. At around 7 we met her friends, and Jason drove us up with his truck in the East Canyon. We were 6 people, 3 boys and girls. We started talking, I told them about Germany, and they told me a few things I have to do before I go home. When we finally arrived, we met a family friend of Jason there, so when we would have a problem he could help us teenagers. We needed such a long time down to get from the street sown to the lake. I was so excited about fishing and the view I had, that I walked really slow, I took a LOT of pictures. I am a cameraholic, there is not a place I visit without my camera. And I take normally around 200 pictures from one event. But anyway, when we were all on the lake, Jason explained us what we had to do. He is fishing with his dad a lot, and has the most experience. And because I had none, I was greatful for his directions. He made our wholes with a huge drill, or at least it looked like a drill just bigger. We all had our chairs and were sitting around our own holes, because it was my first time fishing I shared my hole with Ashley. And first it was pretty boring, we had nothing to do and the rod didn’t move a bit. Then Jason told us to come over to his hole and watch a bit, so we did. He had a magic thing, a monitor where he could see when there was a fish around the top of his rod. My other friend Jordon told us, he thinks its cheating. But I thought it is really exciting to observe the screen, to see if there is swimming a fish around the rod. And also if you see a fish 5 out of 6 times, at least, you wouldn’t get him. But I understood catching a fish is not the whole point of fishing. This gather together is a great thing and it brought us closer together. I like fishing not because it is fun, but the whole atmosphere is amazing. You can sit all by yourself but you are still together, you don’t have to talk to share this moment. Because everyone thinks the same, so you don’t have to talk about as much as normal. We also had a tent, so when it started to get closer to lunchtime, Jason put the tent up and put a heater inside. When one of us got cold, he/she could get inside the tent and fish inside, because they were to wholes and you didn’t have to wear a thick coat inside. I could not leave the whole everyone had caught their own fish, but Ashley and me. Jason let me watch about his whole, and when the first fish was biding the rod I jumped up, happy and super excited. But I lost the first fish, because I rolled up to fast. I was patient and waiting for my second chance. And when it was there I mad it, and caught my first fish in my whole life. It was an amazing feeling, adrenalin inside my body and the congratulations from my friends. I didn’t want to let go of the fish, I was too happy! And after the first fish, 3 others fallowed. I can say I am really proud of myself it is an amazing feeling to learn something new. My friends were so happy for me, and I couldn’t thank enough for taking me. I can’t describe the feeling I had, it is hard. Its joy, pride, happiness, peace… We stayed there longer then the most people. The friend of Jason said Good bye to us and left. We mad hot Hot Dogs over the heater and ate them. And I started to think about what I am doing with the fish I caught, I decided to take this chance to make a dinner for my host family. A German fish dinner, that sounds great to me. But I am from Berlin, I never ever anatomize an fish before. Next to us, were still a family, so I went over with Emily first just to talk with them about the size of their fishes. But then I asked him, if he knew how to anatomize a fish. And of course he knew, he took a fish and a knife and started to show me where I have to cut, to do it right. He showed it me once, and he just needed 3 cuts and then he could just pull it out. It looked so easy, I was confident I can do that too. On the way back, we stopped at a Gas station to drink hot chocolate we all put our shoes in the trunk so we walked without shoes in the shop to get our chocolate. The way back was really fun, we all were a bit tired but that was ok. When Ashley dropped me off at home, I had 1 ½ hour before my friend Sarah was going to come to pick me up for a date. I was not really in the mood of a blind date, not enough sleep and too excited about my fish. My host mum called, and told my host dad I should anatomize the fish today. So I took a knife and cut the fish open in front of my host dad. He had no idea how to prepare a fresh fish, so it was my turn to show him. But it was harder then it looked at first. The man just needed three cuts. I instead needed 10-20 cuts the first time.I had the feeling I can’t do this, the fish was slippery, and I needed so much longer then the man did. I had 5 fishes, with Ashley’s fish, which I had to prepare and every time I was a little bit faster and more secure in what I am doing. Actually I thought before, I will feel miserable and that I can’t stand the smell or the blood, but to cut the fish didn’t bother me as I thought it might. I felt really good, because it was me who caught the fish and me who would prepare it. That gave me a strong feeling to be responsible for something like that, it may not sound big but it is, at least for me. I finished cleaning or at least to the point I needed to, the rest was for tomorrow. I had 40 min to make myself ready for the date, they were early so I was barely in fresh cloth when the doorbell shield. My friend expressed that she was sorry on her face, and I nod. I had the feeling I was still smelling like fish, I put a little bit make up on and then I was ready to go. The date was actually really fun, we went first eating pizza and after that to a game hall. This night I had a really deep sleep. On the next day, I started to prepare my fish around 1 o’clock. The recipe was not that hard, just to cut of the tale and the flipper. The name of the recipe was ‘Trout with Almond Butter’. This is the most complex recipe I tried to do, or more to do it with a fresh fish. Next to it, I prepared a German cucumber salad and cooked potatos. And because I was really hungry for my favorite cake, I put out a recipe for that too and made it. It is called: ‘Maulwurfkuchen’ which means in English ‘molecake’. The reason is, it is a chocolate cake, with bananas on the ground on the top whipped cream with chocolate in it, and on the top chocolate crumble. I didn’t leave the kitchen once until I finished the whole dinner. We ate around 6 pm. I stood around 5 hours in the kitchen. To prepare that meal for my family was not a burden it was joy. It was exhausting but I will never regret that I did it. On this weekend I learned a lot, never give up on your dreams. Never stop believing in you also if you think it is too hard for you, because I can be sure in one thing: I struggled in the start with fishing, then with anatomizing the fish (which was really hard), but in the end I had a great result. And to feel proud for yourself is something nobody can take away. It is absolutely not bad to have a few experience, you did by yourself . For me this dinner was one of the experiences I learned about, when I work hard I have a result I can be proud of.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Our trip to Spain with Javi and family

First disclaimer...I don't know how to space the many photos with the words so sometimes they run onto the next photo. My apologies. I need a blogger teacher. haha. I hope that dear Maria will forgive me for this. We always laugh that the exchange students think our bathrooms are strange and we hear from a lot of them that they miss the "water" which we didn't understand until a dear Thai girl explained it and we realized they meant a bidet. Therefore we were a bit fascinated with the facilities in Spain. While neither of us dared to use the water, we did enjoy taking a picture. We enjoyed delicious home cooked food in our host home. It's interesting how something as basic as meat can have so many different international flavors. The jamon and lomo were very unique from what we are used to. It made me laugh because my european students say they love ham but then don't love our ham. NOW we understand why. They are completely different tastes. A little downtown flavor thanks to our guide Javi. The churros were divine and they were dipped in the thickest hot chocolate I've ever tasted. I think it was like pudding. Yes, I admit to singing songs from the musical DonQuixote in front of this statue of him. Some foods are different, Jamon museum and much seafood that I've never "sean" and even McDonald's served very different European food. A gigantic leaf, they were all over, and some squeeze cheese from America. Guillermo said it tasted like butter. We spent a whole day at the art museum and saw beautiful classics such as Goya's works. The yogurt (in glass) was divine! Maria made us delicious pastry with tuna inside at home and we had lovely marzipan for dessert. The picture with the hot chocolate and croissant and little cookie was in McDonald's, complete with a marble staircase. The rain in spain falls mainly on the plain...I mean street We went to Carrefour, or Spanish walmart as Javi called it, and found the scariest looking fish I've ever seen. Also, they had two shelves of American foods so we bought some marshmallows and made microwaved smores on breakfast fiber biscuits. Went to the mall and had yummy tiny sandwiches that came in a vast assortment, Javi is demonstrating the exit sign. Also, I didn't get a picture but the crosswalks have a little walking man on them but instead of a hand to say stop, as it gets closer to stopping time the little man starts running faster and faster. What a clever idea and it makes much more sense but I wanted to stop halfway through each time just to see him. Guillermo eating our version of smores. What a cutie! I hope he is able to come exchange when he is older. And, lastly, our churros fried in olive oil with our chocolate pudding hot chocolate. Javi's father took us here on the way to the airport very early in the morning. It was all divine and made me laugh remembering the first time Alda had hot chocolate here and she thought it was so strange that there was no milk or anything. No wonder. It must have tasted like water comparatively. The food was awesome, the house was so cute and well thought out, everything you could ever need is in a tiny space and it was very welcoming and warm. Thanks to Guillermo for bunking with Javi so we could take over your room. We thank our gracious hosts for this amazing trip. Editing to add that the little unicorn in the pictures was from Ana. She was so sad that she couldn't come to see Javi. She had really attached to him at our Disneyland trip. So, she handed me her little unicorn that she slept with at night and asked if it could come instead. We tried to take many pictures with the little toy so she could see it.

Photos of the 2012-2013 Exchange student year

Yes I admit it, I lost my password. :) I'm updating again with a few favorite photos of the year. I thank all of my amazingly wonderful host families. What a blessing you've provided to these students. Teens are teens and yeah, sometimes it's a challenge! Even with the very best of kids. We've loved all three of our exchange students like they were our own and especially appreciate the LeClezios for inviting Alyssa to France for the summer and Javi's family for inviting Russ and I to stay with them in Spain. We feel that we have family and friends all over the world. This year has been crazy for our family with selling our home acre and moving but we're slowly settling in and looking forward to the new batch of students for the 2013-2014 year. We're currently interviewing host families for the kids who will arrive in August. CIEE is a nonprofit agency and students will all come with spending money and insurance of their own. Host families provide meals and a loving home. The students will go to your regular neighborhood high school and participate with your family in your normal activities. For more info feel free to call me at 801-200-8922 or email Now here are some fun pics of this year. :)