FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 17, 2012 –
Editor’s note: Fabi Perez of West Sacramento is in Austria as a Rotary Youth exchange student. He’s sponsored by West Sacramento Centennial Rotary Club Centennial and Pocket Greenhaven Rotary Club. Here’s a report he has sent of the first month of his visit:
By Fabi Perez
So far I have had an amazing time. I arrived on August 8 at around 3 p.m. in Munich, Germany. My flight was smooth from San Francisco to London at about 9 hours. From London I flew to Munich in about 1.5 hours. I can now say that I have been to three European countries in a single day. That thought makes me ecstatic, to say the least.
When I arrived in Munich, my host dad, Christian, was there to greet me. Funny story: I forgot to tell them which airline I was taking, so my host brother, Jakob, was waiting in the other terminal. After that mix-up, we drove to Riedau, Austria, which was about a two- hour drive. On the way there we were exchanging many questions, and getting familiar with one another.
It was an entertaining drive because we drove on the Autobahn (somewhere I had always wanted to go). Once I arrived to my host family my host mother, Elisabeth, greeted me with a tremendous Austrian hug – ha ha. She was extremely excited to meet me and it was a glorious moment. Soon after I put my luggage in my room, my host dad started up his grill and we had a barbeque (here it’s called Grillen. We had Kotelett, Spiess, and Wurst for dinner. It was incredibly good.
I managed to adjust to the time after one day which was good. The next day, I woke up and went on a bike ride with my host parents to get to know the neighborhood. On the way I met one of my host mother’s sisters, Elcha. There I was introduced and we chit-chatted, and we also had Schaumrolle made by her. They are tasty, crispy rolls filled with a sweet cream. Riedau is a small town and it’s quaint. It’s exactly how I like things. The days don’t go too fast; they go at the pace that I like. It’s a wonderful sensation.
Later that day, I met my Host Mother’s other sister, Kirsten. There, I had the pleasure of tasting Austrian pizza. It was tasty. My host parents and their family also asked me if I eat chili and said yes. They told me they had some incredibly spicy chili and then asked me if I wanted to try it. Naturally I did, and they were surprised that I put a lot on it because for them it’s incredibly spicy and for me it was like strong pepper. They were surprised.
The next day I managed to organize some of my belongings because I was going to go to language camp in two days for two weeks. After, I did that I went shopping at the local grocery store, Uni-Markt, with my host mother and younger host brother, Niklas. The store was small, but it was packed with a lot of local merchandise. After that I helped my host mother sort all of the merchandise.
I was lucky that I brought my hand-held video game system because my younger host brother likes to play games. We played some Mario Kart for about an hour which was fun, because my other two host brothers also joined in. The next day my host mother asked me if I wanted to go a wedding. I said I wanted to go, and so we went. The wedding was in Willibald.
It was a wonderful wedding because it was the first European church I had been to. The architecture in it was amazing because it was built in the Gothic period. Later in the day, my host parents and I went to Schärding to meet my host counselor, Klaus. He’s the manager at a sports clothing store. He’s a very nice man, and we discussed with my host parents all the Rotary information.
After these few days of getting to know my host family I was ready to head off for two weeks to language camp. Before be we left to Altmünster, my host father made Weiner Schnitzel. I saw the process to make it and it was fun to learn. After we had the Weiner Schnitzel we headed off to camp. The drive was two hours long and I took a small snooze 30 minutes before we arrived.
At the camp exchange students trickled in, I was one of the first ones to arrive. There were people from all over the globe. I met students from different parts of the United States: Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Taiwan. We were a big group of exchange students – 70 altogether. We outnumbered the group that was already there by 50.
I also met two exchange students from California. One of them is Carley Barrett from Benicia the other one is Mark Heisinger from Lake Tahoe. We got along pretty well. Throughout the two weeks I shared a room with three other boys: Juan from Ecuador, Giovanni and Juarez from Brazil.
I also managed to befriend all the other exchange students with great success. The next day we started German lessons. There were six classes: four beginner, one intermediate, and one advanced. I was in the beginner class. Class started off slow because our teachers had to assess at what level we all were so during the first few days kids were floating in and out of class. I was able to switch out to intermediate, but I decided to stay in my class because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself.
In the end my class was the Beginner+/Intermediate class, which was a good thing.
Also, the lake in Altmünster was gorgeous. I swam in it a few times, hiked the area most of the times and also explored Gmunden, the next town over. Later in the week the group of students went on a hike to see Altmünster from the top of a hill. In short it was one of the most beautiful vistas I have seen.
The exchange students also went to the Rotary Club of Gmunden to meet the president and club. The club put on a special presentation of a special military unit for ceremonies, the club president had a Napoleonic-era cannon to be shot into the lake. It was an awesome sight.
On August 19th we were taken to the oldest salt mines in the world in Halstatt. I was one of the most excited students there because I’m an avid fan of geological terrain. It was an amazing experience to be in those mines and it was at a cool temperature. I was disappointed because there was no place where I could go and extract minerals, but I still managed to buy some Rose Salt at the gift shop, though.
Once we were done in the mines we hike town to the town in Halstatt which is a nice tourist town. There I played giant chess with one of my friends Joel. I found out that China loves Halstatt so much that they made an exact replica of it in China. On the last Saturday at camp we were treated to a special concert by an amazing choir in a church. I think I can say that I will never hear something that angelic again. Before the concert the students were told that we had to organize a talent show and I participated which was nerve wracking, and all the students got to see the cool talents all the others have which was nice.
After leaving language camp and saying goodbye to the others it was time to head back home. Once, home I managed to finally get fully acquainted with my host family. By this time one of my host brother’s, Jakob, had left a few days prior to start his exchange in Mexia, Texas. The past few days have been fun, I have already biked to many places on my own so I can memorize the area. It’s a wonderful place where I’m at because it’s one big back road. That’s what I love. I have also, driven with my host parents everywhere they have gone and I have recently gone to Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. Then on the first of September my town had its annual Trachtenball which enabled me to wear my first Leder Hosen. They are quite comfortable. All in all I am content in Austria. It’s completely different and I love it. I have pictures posted on my blog for viewing at:
I’m extremely grateful of having had this opportunity granted to me. This has been one of my goals since I was little to be living in a different country and I wasn’t thinking of even doing this after high school, but I’m glad that I did. Thank you all for reading.
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