With the assistance of Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary and the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, 2018 Lemon Bay High School graduate Lauren Maheu is living in Slovakia for approximately a year with a host family in the city of Kosiac. Through her timely updates, we get to learn about life in Slovakia.
Skiing, Swimming, Saunas & Salzburg – Month #6
I knew February was a shorter month, but I didn’t expect it to go by that quickly! It’s hard to believe that I have already spent six months here in Slovakia and that I only have four more months remaining of my exchange. With that in mind, it’s more important now than ever to make the most of my time.
This month has been full of dancing, skiing, traveling, and even swimming! At the start of February we had a Rotary ball–live music, long dresses, fancy hors d’oeuvres…From waltzing with Rotarians to tango dancing with Joaquin, and jumping around to Slovak rock with Finn, it was a great night. We got to meet one of Slovakia’s most famous singers, helped sell tickets for a raffle, and by 1AM, were three very tired exchange students. Each of our host families were there, so it was almost like a Rotary exchange family reunion!
It’s crazy how quickly relationships can form when on an exchange, whether with host families, classmates, or other exchange students. Since Joaquin, Finn, and I have overlapping host families, we are already like family. My former family is now Joaquin’s current one, Joaquin’s former family is now Finn’s current one, and my current family will be Finn’s future family–not confusing at all! But it definitely makes it a bit hard to talk about that one time we played badminton with Joaquin’s host brother, wait no, Finn’s! In just half a year, I have gained not only host families, but also a family of exchange students–in Košice and throughout the rest of the Czechoslovak district. After not having seen the Czech inbound exchange students for about five months, since our first orientation meeting in September, we all reunited in the High Tatras this month for our Rotary SkiWeek!
SkiWeek gave us the chance to embrace the Slovak winter on the slopes, socialize, and swim, too, despite the below freezing temperature! In Poprad we visited AquaCity, an aqua park with thermal pools, water slides, saunas, and jacuzzis! As excited as I was to ski for a week, it surprised me that after all was said and done, I think the swimming was my favorite part…maybe I’ve been away from the beach for too long? That short evening-break from skiing was definitely needed, considering that after I returned from skiing with Rotary I only had enough time to shower and repack my things before I was back on the road, heading to Austria for a family ski trip in the Alps!
It’s truly amazing the opportunities you get when you’re on exchange. A few years ago, I would have never imagined that I would ever be skiing down black slopes in some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe–partly because I had never skied before, but also because skiing in the Alps seems like something you only read about or see in movies. We went to a few different ski locations: Planai, Radstadt, and Obertauern, rode up all different types of lifts and gondolas, skied down all different types of slopes, and ate all different types of Austrian food! After all of that, relaxing after a long day of skiing was made easy with a sauna in the hotel we were staying at. There’s nothing like extreme heat and humidity to soothe your soreness and remind you of Florida!
Though there’s not much need for saunas back in Florida, something I am definitely bringing home is a game called “Hammerschlagen” that I learned at a ski bar. After watching a group of ski instructors move a tree trunk into the middle of the bar, I was immediately intrigued. By passing around a hammer and some nails, they would swing away with the wedge-end of the hammer, each attempting to align their swing properly in order to hit the nail into the stump. I can’t ski in Florida, but I sure can find a tree stump!
Our last day in Austria was a bit rainy so we decided to take a trip to Salzburg instead of ski. We went (window) shopping at Designer Outlets, walked through the quaint streets where Mozart grew up, and visited Kapitelplaz Square, seeing the Salzburg Cathedral, Sphaera sculpture, and Fortress Hohensalzburg up on the hill above us. It was definitely worth taking a day off of the slopes!
Now that the winter season is coming to an end, I believe that so is my skiing career…for now. I’m already planning a trip back to Slovakia with my family for winter, but in the short-term, some slopes back in the States will do! Until my next actual winter, I’ll have to adjust back to warm weather and settle for sand instead of snow! In Slovakia, spring is on its way and I am over the moon, or should I say sun? (Play “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles) I guess we’ll see what the sunshine brings to my last four months of exchange–maybe a tan?