December 2016

(Michèle) The three of us are finally back together again. During Hannah’s exchange year in Santa Fe, Marie and I enjoyed living tête a tête, which was even more interesting and pleasant than I had hoped for. But still, our vacation and our projects are always the most fun when all three of us are experiencing them. So that is why all of us are helping out with writing this Christmas letter.

New world

(Hannah) I can’t tell you for sure where exactly I was at New Year’s Eve last year. Maybe it was Guatemala, where my host family and I attended their friend’s wedding. Maybe I was in a plane above the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe I was already back in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I would spend the remaining five months of my exchange year.

2016 was a year of unexpected changes for me. I attended classes at the Santa Fe Community College, where my love of filming grew even bigger. As an intern I spent as much time as possible there to expand my knowledge about lighting, the different cameras and a lot of other things regarding film.

Getaway in London

At Madame Tussaud's

At Madame Tussaud’s

(Marie) Late December, Mom and I spent five days packed with city sightseeing in London – of course onboard of a double-decker, but also by boat on a warm and sunny day. And since Great Britain is the land of Harry Potter, we visited several filming locations with a city guide specialized in movie-themed tours. We admired the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London and in the evening we strolled over Tower Bridge on our way back to our hotel. As a Christmas present, Mom surprised me with tickets fro two musicals: Wicked and Les Misérables. This was my absolute highlight during this awesome trip!



School theater

(Marie) I was part of my school’s drama Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 12.03.39club again this year and our play was about Heaven and life after death. I played a shy student who, together with six other teenagers from her class, dies in a car accident and has to get used to “life” in heaven. However, two other students try (and succeed) in getting back to earth. The performances, which took place in the week of my thirteenth birthday, worked out great.

May in Barcelona

(Michèle) As I continued taking Spanish lessons this year, I found that I needed a motivational trip to Spain during spring break … But Marie rightly pointed out that it wouldn’t feel safe to go hiking in Sierra Nevada on our own since. An extended weekend in Barcelona was the perfect alternative, with great food and beautiful, photogenic tourist attractions. Especially the Sagrada Familia and Gaudis Casa Batlló really surpassed my expectations. And the tapas restaurants were so good that you could barely stop Marie. But one of the best things about this trip was that Marie actually enjoyed herself too. Dragging a sulking teenager would definitely not have been a dream vacation!

IMG_7997Disney World

(Hannah) The last few weeks before my return to Switzerland passed by in a flash. With a film crew from college I shot and directed my first short. My host family and I flew to Disney World in Florida for a week just a couple of days later. For them it’s almost like a tradition and I really enjoyed visiting Hogwarts, Splash Mountain and other wonderful places with them.

Broken leg and music camp

(Marie) While Hannah was busy settling back in, I still had to worry about school. But just two weeks before summer vacation started, I had a bike accident and broke my right elbow. As a result, I missed the first concert of my orchestra, which took place just a few hours after the incident, as well as the other two performances. Luckily we had taken the last school exam just the day before, so I didn’t have to worry about any tests.

Sadly I was also not able to take part in the music camp “Jolimont” like every summer. Hannah thus had to go without me, and at least I got to see my friends during the final concert.

New horizons in Switzerland

(Hannah) When I got home from my exchange year early June I first spent several days doing nothing even though I had had a perfect plan: work on my final high-school (“Matura”) project, catch up on school work and maybe start a new film project. After two weeks relaxing I finally got myself together and decided to take a completely new step. On a Tuesday evening I walked to the weekly refugee meeting point in our town. I got the idea from the “Matura” project, which I am working on with a friend – but you’ll hear more of that next year.

I had expected to be standing in a corner all evening, since I am not very good at starting conversations with strangers. This expectation was way off. Soon, I was fighting a difficult table soccer match with a little boy from Irak and his sister, while a 20-year-old Afghan showed me pictures of his Swiss soccer team.

Back to the US

(Marie) After she came back from Jolimont, Hannah had just enough time to repack her bags before the three of us left for America. First we spent eleven days in an old, artsy holiday rental. For me this was a really relaxing time. We didn’t have a list of things we wanted to see or do, so it felt less like a vacation and more like finally coming home after having been gone for three years. Of course it was completely different for Hannah, since she had spent the last year there. After our (way too short) stay in Santa Fe, we three Dobbertins and Hannah’s two former host sisters went on a road trip. First stop – Grand Canyon for a quick picnic and then Las Vegas! We slept in the Casino MGM Grand, but in the evening Mom surprised us with an amazing performance of the Cirque du Soleil. The show was really amazing. Its theme, the Beatles, really influenced the rest of trip, because afterwards we spent a lot of the long drives listening to their music. To this day I can still remember most of the lyrics of the songs we played in the car.

After that we stayed in Mammoth Lakes for three days, in a gorgeous cabin at the edge of a flower meadow with a little stream. We then spent another two days hiking in Wawona, in the western part of Yosemite National Park. While I was waiting for the others during one of our hikes, I suddenly heard a rustling in the bushes, just a few yards away from me. At first I thought it was a young mule deer and started filming with my phone to get a better look. Very soon I realized that those round ears couldn’t possibly belong to a deer, but to… a young black bear!

IMG_1977And just like that our trip was almost over! We spent our last few days relaxing in Bodega Bay, in the same cozy cottage with ocean view in which we had stayed in 2013. From there Napa Valley (Coppola’s Winery!) and great hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore are only an hour away. And then we came to our last stop. San Francisco. I love this city and I was quite sad that we could only spend one day there, before leaving at 4 AM the next morning. I loved this trip and I hope to one day be able to travel back to the US, be it with my family or with friends once I’m older.

Nostalgia and coziness in the Swiss mountains

(Michèle) The eleven days we spent in Santa Fe last summer had been pure nostalgia: like Marie wrote, it felt as if we had come home. I was at the right place and could start putting my life in perspective. In October our trip to the sunny town Vercorin in Valais sparked a similar feeling (watch Hannah’s video). In 1987 I had spent a wonderful summer with my then best friend. How I miss the mountains!

For Marie, Hannah and me this was the perfect break: A lot of hiking, photography, reading, talking, sleeping in late, cuddling up in front of the wood stove and watching movies despite heavy eye lids.

Friendship, peace and hope 

(Hannah) Now I help at the refugee meeting point in Muri every Tuesday. The Afghan who had shown me the pictures of his soccer team last summer now teaches German with me on Thursdays. I am proud to call him my brother and have already worked on several film projects with him. Unfortunately the story of the little Iraqi is not so cheerful – after summer break I started visiting them more and more after school, and he and his two younger sisters took straight to my heart. They had to leave Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, but I made a short film with little Sajjad before that.

Early December I went baking at the refugee home where Sajjad and his family used to live. To make cookies with refugees, no matter of what religion or culture, just seemed like the right thing with the Spirit of Christmas at our doors.

It is in this same spirit that Mom, Marie and I wish you a merry Christmas, and a peaceful Happy New Year for you and the world.

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