Penny updates us on her latest experiences with goats, castles and wine tasting on while on Rotary Youth Exchange.
Here are some photos from the last few weeks;
Forteresse de Salses in France
One of the beaches we visited in a town called Canet-en-Roussillon, it was about 7pm in the evening and surprisingly empty
What most of the towns and villages in the area looked like.
The walk up the top of Mt Pilatus 
The track on Mt Pilatus along with the friendly-ish goat.
This photo’s taken from Germany but the trees over there are Switzerland.
My walk to school after my bus ride.
Hi all,

The weather today in Switzerland was very un-summery, 12 degrees, windy and rainy. So, since there’s nothing to do outside, I decided I would write another email.
On Wednesday two weeks ago I came back from France in time to start the new school year. I had the best time there, despite the unrelenting hotness (Usually 33ish degrees until 10pm and then it cools down to about 20 overnight) and return of Covid-19 in the area. One of my highlights was probably visiting Forteresse de Salses, it's a military fortress built by the Spanish between 1497 and 1504 to stop French access to the area. It changed hands lots of times until there was a treaty in the 1600’s which meant the French owned it. I found it super impressive and could not even imagine how it was built back then or how opposition soldiers ever managed to capture it. It was still in good condition and believe it or not, it is the first castle that I have ever visited, despite living in Europe for more than 7 months already. We also went to the beach a couple of times and visited a small medieval town called Villefranche-de-Conflent. I can also now say “bonjour”, “bonsoir”, “bonne nuit” and about 5 other words in French. I was also lucky enough to have my friend Yannick come visit for 10 days, he’s from Waimate but also on a Rotary Exchange in Switzerland. He can already speak French and I think he definitely got a lot of practise in, as my family spoke French for about 90% of the entire summer. While we were there, some family friends of my host-family took Yannick and I wine tasting. It was quite fun but I can’t say that I have a refined palate and can actually tell when wine is normal or super expensive. 
I then came back and changed host families. My new host family have two kids who are 22 and 19. Sadly, Dani and Melanie (the kids) are both heading to Basel in a couple of weeks for uni and won’t be at home during the week. But I really like it here, they live completely on the other side of the canton from my previous host families so its a bit of a change in scenery. Now I catch the bus to school every morning and it's a 9 minute bus ride and then a 6 minute walk through a farm to get to school. The short walk to school was nice last week but I can imagine that as it gets colder it will be very, very, very icy (its a steep downhill path). 

I am in the same class with the same teachers but I have a new timetable. I enjoyed the first week but I was so tired every single evening from having to concentrate on what people are saying the whole time and trying to understand them. Now my friends talk to me in Swiss German, its cool as I’ll start learning it a lot better but its also hard because its a completely different language to high German and I have to concentrate a lot more. 
I enjoy a lot of my classes and now the only two classes that I can’t really understand are history and economics. The problem is that they have so many long words, like the sentence “Regierungen von finanzstarken Ländern versuchen durch Aufkaufen von Ackerland unabhängig von den schwankenden Weltmarktpreisen zu machen.” - that was taken from a random page from our economics reading. And when my teacher says that in the middle of a long explanation full of other similar sentences, I cannot keep up. When we get to read information its better because I can go slower and read it through a couple of times. And then in English the other day, the teacher asked me to explain to the class the differences between the words “prejudiced” and “biased” and what type of sentences I would use either word in. I (not surprisingly) wasn’t able to offer a very good explanation, but at least I knew what both words meant and didn’t embarrass myself even further by having to ask. I would say that every single kid in my class in fluent in English, and about 4 or 5 are as fluent as me and have British or American accents - but no ones parents are English and they all just got the accents from TV or the internet or an exchange.
At school we have to wear masks the entire day, including sitting down in the classroom. We are only allowed to have them off if we are outside or eating at lunchtime. The single advantage of this is that sometimes we get to have our classes outside but usually it's just very hot from having to wear them inside during the summertime. This year is also the first year of BYOD (bring your own device) for my year group so now every subject is completely online. I think they’ve implemented it much better than schools in NZ; they all have hybrid type laptops where they're touchscreen and you can write on the screen with a stylus directly onto the worksheet. For me in NZ, I found that they said it was BYOD but really we still were doing the majority of learning through paper. Here it is completely 100% on your laptop for every single subject. 
The other day I went up Mt Pilatus, it was clear weather which apparently doesn’t happen all the time. Up the top there is a 360 degree view of central Switzerland, one half of the view is very flat and the other half is more typical Swiss mountains. I hopped up at 6am so that I could be up the top by 8am, it was a bit annoying at the time, but at about 10am it started getting really busy and it was definitely better to go early. Up the top I went on a really pretty walk and along the walk there were these goats that weren’t scared of you at all and just went on with their eating. Mt Pilatus is probably one of my favourite places in Switzerland so far. On the way down I went down a train that uses cogs because it's so steep. I actually think it's the steepest in the world and it was at a 48% slope at one point. When I was at the bottom I took the ship back to Lucerne which was a cool experience. I have a “GA" from my Rotary club here which is year-long public transport ticket for all of Switzerland which meant that the ship was completely free and the touristy cogwheel train was less than half price.
I definitely think that getting a GA is one of the best things, as I can take every single normal train, bus, boat, tram or gondola in Switzerland for free. The ones that aren’t free are the tourist attractions and always way, way under full price. 
Last Saturday I visited a lady in Germany who was a sort-of exchange student on our farm 10 years ago. She lived with us for 3 months and I can’t imagine what it would have been like for her living with three psycho little girls and an even crazier puppy. Now they live at the very bottom of Germany and have a contracting business for earthmoving type stuff. It was cool catching up with her and we did a little bit of sight-seeing -which looked the exact same as Switzerland. I always found it weird that on the other side of a river or mountains there would be a completely new country like it is in Europe, but we went for a walk along the Rhein (a river) which borders Germany and Switzerland and I really cannot imagine how the Romans and other people hundreds or thousands of years ago ever got whole armies across. While I was there, the ONLY thing that the radio talked about was football and I wasn’t listening very much so I left Germany thinking that they really were super, super football obsessed. I realised that evening that the next day was the Champions League final with FC Bayern in it which explained it. 
From Penny