December 2015


Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Mom says I – Hannah – should take a few moments and write the Christmas letter this year since I have the most time. How untrue! There is so much going on in my life right now!

But let me start at the beginning. Instead of going skiing in Austria as usual, we spent our February break in Costa Rica. Some rain and a lot of greenness, wide rivers, poisonous frogs, cocoa trees, leaf-cutting ants, monkeys, crocodiles, birds of all shapes and colors…. The landscapes, the food, the houses, everything is so different. The Native Costa Ricans, also known as the Ticos, may have smaller wallets than the Swiss, but they seem much happier – enjoying “Pura vida”. It taught me a lot about values, and about family.

Paris, City of lights - and of love

Paris, City of lights – and of love

After long having dreamt about it, we spent a week in Paris. Marie and I had never been there, and it definitely met our expectations. Everything, from the lights on the Eiffel tower, over the painters’ square in Montmartre, to the baroque bridges, screams City of love. The bakeries are filled with macarons and fresh baguettes, and every morning starts with café au lait and pain au chocolat. It is a romantic dream…

Later that spring, I participated in the Christian musical Adonia camp, like I always do. This year’s show was “Peter the apostle”. Marie performed in her school play, which told of a future in which all fairy tales are banned and everyone has to take pills that prevent dreams…

In June, Marie’s string orchestra gave three fantastic concerts. This year’s guest soloist was 13-year-old extraordinarily gifted pianist Lou Hägi, who has been in Marie’s class in middle school for two years. Lou’s family has become very dear to ours.

With my new high-school friends I started a group called “Spread your kindness”. We put friendly sticky notes on bathroom mirrors at school and offered chocolate to strangers in town. The week after Valentine we wrote 150 colorful notes that read “You are loved” and overnight stuck them on every locker at our school.

As summer break grew closer, we decided to make a music video to match our motto. Now that I finally know what I want to do when I grow up – become a filmmaker – I am obsessed with practicing! Our video was nominated to the Zuger Filmfestival, even though we had just made it for fun and with no other equipment than mom’s camera. We didn’t win, but the joy and pride to get in was more than we had dreamed of.

Marie and I spent our first week of summer break in our beloved Camp Jolimont, a place where the music never ceases to play. Every room in the old villa at the top of the hill holds at least one piano. Cello cases are stacked in the corners, and the sound of violins resonates in the serene garden that flows into the forest.

Mas Suéjol, Anduze 2015

Mas Suéjol, Anduze 2015

We spent our family vacation in southern France – one last bit of normality before the Big Change (suspense, suspense…). We went from dusty, medieval Balazuc by the Ardèche river, to the endless hills of Anduze in the Cévennes, to the theater festival in Avignon. The heat enwrapped us like a thick blanket and our ears were constantly filled with the sound of cicadas.



Adonia, Junior-Camp, August 2015

Adonia, Junior-Camp, August 2015

And then, finally! While Marie attended her Adonia camp, I turned my bedroom upside down, stuffing everything essential into two suitcases. Presents, chocolate and other Swiss souvenirs made up half of it. I could not sit still, could not sleep for those last few days of summer break.



Zurich-Kloten, 11 août 2015

Zurich-Kloten, 11 août 2015

On August 11th at 9 am I stood at the airport gates, looking back at my mom, my sister and my friends, waving goodbye. And with a smile on my face and adventure in my heart I set off into my exchange year.

The trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico was the most chaotic one I’d ever taken – I had to sleep on a foldaway bed at the airport in Chicago, and I arrived an entire day later than planned.

But then I was welcomed by my dear friends Jy, Ever and Annie, and it was all forgotten.



I could not have wished for a better host family than the Prishkulniks. From the first week on I felt completely at home. My sisters Jy and Ever took me on crazy trips and we performed music in the streets a couple of times.

Toni loves Hannah

Bistro is madly in love with Hannah!

Their three dogs are now constant visitors in my room. I never thought I’d fall in love with dogs that look like a mixture of sausages, rats, and lint.

While I experienced the “New-Mexican way of life” – Homecoming dance, school lockdown, breakfast burritos, Halloween – my mom and Marie enjoyed the quiet Swiss life (as well as domestic peace!).

Their two highlights were a 7-day trip hiking and eating fantastic food in the Swiss mountains in Valais, and another successful and exciting tour of Marie’s youth string orchestra.


One major highlight for all three of us was that after a 33-month procedure, we were finally naturalized as Swiss citizens, in addition to our French citizenship.

Cheese Factory avec Ever et Elizabeth

Cheese Factory avec Ever et Elizabeth

Over Thanksgiving, my host family and I drove to Los Angeles to visit Jy, who now lives her dream there: becoming an actress. Her latest movie, Cents, came out this summer just before I arrived.

We spent an exciting week, dressing up as Ever’s favorite band members for her birthday, playing guitar and singing at Venice Beach, hiking the Runyon Canyon with the dogs, going to the amazing Cheesecake factory and more…

Now that tests are finally over, we are packed again to fly to Guatemala for the next two weeks. I can’t wait!

Mom and Marie will be spending five days in London between Christmas and New Year, watching musicals like Wicked and … but that’s a surprise for Marie!

Mom, Marie and I hope that you will find time to take a break and look back on 2015, gather new energy to create 2016, and be thankful for the time that has been given to you.

So we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and send you our love from all over the world!

Hannah, Marie and Michèle

PS: You sure will have a few minutes to look at some of our other favorite photos, won’t you? Click on the slideshow to enlarge it.

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