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Letter From Slovakia

A Short  And Busy Month 

SLOVAKIA -- Well so far February felt like it has gone by the fastest, partially because it has less days but mostly due to the fact that I had a pretty busy month, I went skiing for a week! I have been having a great time and adapting to my new family and home was harder than I thought, but everything is going well!

So I’ll start with my new family! The Urban family. I now live with my 2 host parents who teach at my school so I get to see them there. I also have 2 younger host brothers. The older is Matus who is 14 and also goes to my school in an 8 year program in his 4th year, that’s a really long time to go to one school 0.0 The younger is Jakub, he is 5 years old and has a TON of energy! I really like to play with him. He is always talking and doesn’t stop until he falls asleep. It fun for me to talk to him because I understand him better because I am closer to his level of Slovak than regular people. But together we live in a 4 room apartment with a kitchen. We have people living on 4 sides of the 6 so sometimes I can hear people talking, music playing, and one time a party. But the people were quiet so I could sleep, very considerate of them. But this was a big change for me living in a big house before in the States and then a house with my first family. I am a quiet person but it was a change to really have to be quiet for a reason and trying to explain to Jakubko that he can’t yell at night either because people are trying to sleep too! That was funny to try to explain that in Slovak. Thankfully Ondrejka came and explained it to him better. But the space is another thing. I have my room to myself, I think it was the room of oldest son who is now in Canada and will come back and we will have 6 people living here for about a half month. That will be interesting! But they are a very nice family, more quiet than my last family, naturally, and I think it might also because of Jakub and they have to give him a lot of attention and when he finally sleeps they need that time to breathe too :P  But they are a great family and I am happy to be staying with them.

Now I’m going to get into some of the trips I took in March! I went to a few cool places and as before I said I went skiing! But I’ll stick to chronological order. So in the beginning of the month I went to Nitra! There also went the 3 other students from my town and that was awesome! In total there was about 10 of us there and it was a great time to be with the other students and see a new town! We walked around the beautiful town which had a castle and I think that the first king of Slovakia is from Nitra, so it was cool to hear little facts about that! Nitra is the 4th largest city in Slovakia with about 85 thousand people! The view from the castle was wonderful, even though there were clouds and it was a little cold it was still a great time with the other students. Then a few days later with my school I went to Bratislava to see a play in English! We didn’t have a lot of free time because the bus couldn’t go normal speed with the snowy weather. But we ended up having about 30mintues to wander around a mall and find some food and McDonalds. That is one thing that I don’t really miss. I noticed something… It is hard to describe because here the essence of McDonalds is different in that when people go it’s kind of a bigger event because it’s famous whereas in the states it’s like the place to go when we can’t decide, so pretty much always. The people we are with make it kind of like a bigger deal and to me its just a McDonalds. A little observation I made… a cultural difference! But the play we saw was Oliver Twist and that was really cool to see because it’s a classic and I read the book for the first time a few weeks earlier. The play was put on by British group and they were wonderful. Then the rest of the week went by incredibly slowly because on Sunday I went for Rotary Ski Week! Which was amazing! So about 70 exchange students went to Jasna Ski Resort in the Small Tatras, Slovakia. This is supposedly the best resort in Slovakia. I can say that it is a wonderful resort with lots of runs to ski or snowboard, but there are a lot of people that go. I actually have been skiing this year (I usually snowboard) and it has been a blast and I was in the best group of skiers! I really think from the skiing aspect of the trip we got the most out of the week because we went all around the mountain and we didn’t have to wait for slower people or just because there were only 6 of us in the group J We skied for 5 days Monday to Friday. On Tuesday we had a Brazilian Carnival dance party in the hotel and that was so fun to dance with everyone and wearing my costume but then getting glitter all over everything was kind of a setback but it was still fun because we all every doing and a shower got it all off so no big deal J Moving on for 4 out of the 5 days there were clouds that we couldn’t see the sun but on Thursday we had amazing, clear and sunny, weather and we took hundreds of pictures to add to our collections from this year. I will of course add some below and I hope they do a good job of portraying the beauty there! On this day I asked if we could go to the highest point on the top of the mountain, to the Chopok (pronounced Ho-pok) and there the view was amazing. We could see the High Tatras and everything was amazing there. Being above the clouds is always a beautiful experience. The shared experiences of being in Slovakia has really brought the exchange students together. This week was the longest time we exchange students were together and it was the best and we can’t wait for our next trip together, EuroTour which will be for 14 days! These other students are some of my best friends here and probably some of the best I will have in my life. The experiences I am having here are once in a lifetime and I am so thankful that I have this opportunity. After this week I was really tired and actually a little sick so I stayed home and relaxed and slept a lot and enjoyed the Olympics! Then A few days later I played in a basketball tournament for my school where we played 2 for 4 and that was fun to represent my school again. I also went to a basketball game for the Piestansky Cajky (Piestany Seagulls) and there were lots of people and the atmosphere was great! I saw a lot of people from my school there and there were a lot of people in general at the game but the Cajky lost L But these were kind of the main events of my month and it went by so fast I have no idea how the next months will go because I have even more events and soon enough I will be back in the US.

But when I can I am still playing hockey 3 times a week and I started playing basketball on Sundays and I also started playing soccer with one of my classmates with other gentlemen who play soccer very well, opposite of me where I can run way longer than them but they can always get the ball from me or I can’t ever get the ball from them :P But its all for fun and I really enjoy playing and learning a new sport. Overall everything is great and I would totally recommend this program to anyone who is interested in doing an exchange program. There are so many opportunities from Rotary  and meeting all of these amazing people has for sure change my life already. Also you can learn a new language, or get better at one you’ve learned. Anyways that’s all for this month! I hope you all are doing well too, Dovidenia! Goodbye!

James Williams is a 2017 graduate of Geneva High School. He is spending a gap year in Slovakia as part of a Rotary International program sponsored by the Rotary Club of Geneva.

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