I am from Down Under, but this year I am on an exchange, and my host sister Nora took me for New Years to the best country in the world – Switzerland. We came to meet with the other Pangaea members and go on an adventure, eventually reaching to the top of a 2000m mountain!
This was an experience full of firsts for me. My first time in Switzerland, the first time to see snow, and the first time to climb the Alps. I met all of Nora’s wonderful Pangaea friends, all who proved to be so helpful on the first day as I struggled to trudge up the seemingly large mountain. But due to their encouragements and help, over the next two days, I improved greatly and managed to reach the top of a 2000m mountain! (Normal for them, but extraordinary for me) As we sat on the first night together for dinner, I looked around and saw community and friendship. The people who I spent New Year’s with- although I didn’t know anyone until two days before- were people whose company was thoroughly enjoyed, and who I am so pleased to have met.
The New Year’s celebration of 2013/14 with the Pangaea members was the best I have ever had.
The first day just a small group of us climbed the mountain right outside one of the group members’ house. Being my first time up a snowy mountain, this was a wonderful adventure, where I witnessed beauty as far as the eye can see. In this climb, I also got to know the wonderful people who helped me, even when I was unbelievably slow.
The last day of 2013 I spent surrounded by the beautiful snow covered mountains, and enjoyed my last, but most beautiful, view of the year. My favourite memory of Switzerland, is- by far- when I arrived at the peak and looked out over the entire trail I had covered. I forgot about my aching back, I forgot about the fact I hadn’t showered in days, I forgot about my wet feet, I forgot about everything else but the unfathomable beauty that engulfed me. I was awestruck, and the photos I took will never live up to what I really saw that day, nothing will.
That night, as the celebrations were warming up, I enjoyed card games and conversations with the others. Finally, at 11:59, we went outside (with only 15 seconds to go) and counted down to the start of a New Year. At the strike of 12:00, our screams and celebrations could be heard over all of the mountains in Switzerland, I’m sure. For the next hour, we sat together in a circle and contemplated on last year and the year ahead, reflecting on our time together and dreaming of our 2014.
As people went inside to sleep off the last year, I stayed outside with Nora and a few others, where we had a snowball fight and just enjoyed the freedom of being away. I am so happy that I spent the first few hours of the New Year in this wonderful country with these wonderful people. This time spent, the unbelievable beauty that surrounded me- with the smooth snow beneath my feet and the great mountains around me, breathing in the clean Alp air and seeing all the stars above- was absolutely the best experience of my life.
As I said my goodbyes and headed back down the mountain, I carried a 10 kg rucksack, but also the memories that will last a lifetime.