Saturday, January 24, 2015

days > 500 -- living

advice for future exchange students #30:
moving on is hard.
in more ways than one.
some of them you will handle well,
and others you will handle not-so-well,
but i guess that's life.

over the past six months, i have learned something important about myself. 
i am the type of person who lives in the present.

this is not always a good thing.

i am great at caring for people with immediate needs, i am constantly thinking "oh i wonder how i can make this better, i wonder if i can help with that, i wonder if this could be organized", i am good at focusing on one thing and throwing myself completely into it.


i am awful at keeping in touch with people, i am constantly thinking "oh, i should talk to them, but maybe they've forgotten me, oh i'd better not", i am bad at doing the basic little things that long-distance (or any distance, really) friendships require.

and i am not proud of that.

i think, for any exchanger to actually continue life after exchange, you have to be able to balance your past, your present and your future. which sounds half-mystic and half-disney, but it's true.

i am not good at balancing my past. :/
and i'm working on it.

so, with that in mind, here's what has happened in the past, present, and future:

  • i was in a production of Robin Hood, which turned out to be a majorly growing experience in my life. it was exhausting and draining and nervewracking and wonderful. 
  • also, my sister and i went to Nicaragua to study Spanish. that was exciting. you can read about it on our (half-finished) blog here.
  • New Year week was a crazy mix of being sick, of snorkeling and Hawaiian pastries, of essays and college applications, of auditions and journaling and late-night conversations.
  • taking classes at community college to finish out my year
  • doing theater, which is fantastic
  • realizing that people here mean a TON to me, and wondering how i could ever leave
  • but at the same time, wondering what life outside my own little corner is like
  • which is confusing

  • college? travel? life? EVERYTHING IS A GIANT QUESTION MARK HELP.
  • i am finding out that while exchange made me much more sure of who i am as a person...
  • made me much less sure of what i want to do.

anyway. that's your (long overdue) update for anyone who still reads this little blog.
love love love,

Monday, November 10, 2014

this is what it feels like to be home again

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...not really caring about public embarrassment-- being too loud or too crazy or too strange-- ever again. because you speak the language and you understand the culture, and so nothing you do here can ever be more embarrassing than all the stupid things you did THERE. you are now immune to actual public humiliation.

this is what it feels like to be home again... probably cry a lot more than is normal. you can't watch movies whenever anyone says goodbye to anyone else. this is both somewhat comforting (everyone thinks you're just crying over the animated character) and embarrassing (because, well, everyone thinks you're just crying over an animated character).

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...being frustratingly unable to communicate your thoughts in a logical fashion. i'm trying, really i am, but i just can't english right now.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...looking at old pictures and wondering sometimes if the whole entire year was a very elaborate and interesting dream. it feels so far away and separate from your life here.
...putting on a pair of boots and realizing that they've walked streets in paris and rome and venice.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...sometimes, you don't know who you are. because you were so different on exchange, and you FEEL different now, but people want you to be the person they remember.
and sometimes you are, and sometimes you aren't.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...recognizing that while some people 
didn't really notice you were gone,
there are some other people who care about you. a lot.
and you don't really know why, 
or how, or exactly when that happened,
only that they do.
...and it makes life easier.

this is what it feels like to be home again...
...leaving one life and then creating a new one.
...having little pieces of that life somehow everywhere, in a lovely and scary way.
...learning to appreciate every moment that you have.

Monday, October 20, 2014

questions i've been asked recently, part iii: what i say and what i mean

How was your trip?
what i say: "it was great!"
what i mean: "it was not a trip. it was home. it was my life for an entire year. it was not a trip. why are you saying it's a trip."
"oh wait, i'm probably overreacting to this."
"i'm sorry."
"well, anyway, it was fantastic."

Do you miss Switzerland?
what i say: "yes. so much."
(and then i laugh and change the subject.)
what i mean: "there are no words to describe it. there aren't. and i miss it and i don't want to miss it because it hurts so much and so i'm dealing with this by not talking about it so let's not talk about it."
"except i do. want to talk about it, i mean."
"i just, i'm not sure if you're okay with me melting into a puddle right here."

tell me something about your exchange year!
what i say: (laughing) "gosh, where to start... what do you want to know about?"
what i mean: "ahhhhh you are amazing."
"wait. do you actually want to hear all this?"
"are you sure?"
"are you really really sure?"
 "...and do you have seven hours to spend listening to me ramble?"

why didn't you respond to my emails/letters/texts?
what i say: "um."
what i mean: "gahhhhhh I AM SO SORRY. seriously, i am the worst long-distance communicator in the history of ever. this does not mean that you don't matter-- on the contrary, it means that you matter very much (because i'm talking to you now) and that once again i've proven my ability to lose contact with multiple people in a very short time. i'm really, really sorry and i love you very much. let's have a conversation right now."

I speak German too!
what i say: "that's awesome! where did you learn it?"
what i mean: "you are now my new favorite person. can we go talk in a corner? or actually can you just speak german to me for the next three days because i miss the sound of this language so much and i'm super afraid of losing it forever and i'm resorting to children's cartoons on youtube JUST so i can hear german again..."

::sighs:: ah, Switzerland. the most beautiful place in the world, isn't it?
what i say: "yes."
"yes it is."
what i mean: "yes."
"yes it is."

my first 100 days-- again

"and... i had two contrasting feelings. 
one was complete happiness, as if i was back in a comfortable place 
with people i knew and who knew me. 
the other feeling was complete and overwhelming homesickness. 
it was as if the two feelings were taking turns, 
and i was waiting to see which one would win." 
-- bloomability, sharon creech

my three-month theory about exchange -- the idea that after three months, you are exchanging "for real" and you are more than just a tourist-- isn't exactly a secret. that is, it's not anything particularly special or brilliant or life-changing. it's just a theory, a theory that happens to hold true for a lot of things; after 100 days (a little longer than three months), you have to change. 

and so i shouldn't have been surprised when, yesterday, i hit my one hundred days.
but i still was.

people laugh, sometimes, when i say that i'm homesick. they think i'm being funny on purpose. but the thing is-- i AM homesick. i'm homesick for places i've explored and languages i've heard and people that i've loved, because to me switzerland is home. 
i'm sorry if that sounds ridiculously stupid.
(actually, i'm not sorry.)
(go on exchange yourself and then come back and tell me it sounds stupid to call your host country home. I DARE YOU.)

at the same time, i love oregon. i never realized how much i HAD missed my life here until i came back... because here, as well, are places i've explored and languages i've heard and people that i love. even though i hated the US when I first got back, coming home forced me to recognize that portland, oregon, is home as well.
and i've missed it.

more than eleven months ago, i was sitting on my bed exulting in the fact that i was finally more than a tourist. more than a visitor in a foreign land. more than some random weird crazy girl who didn't belong.

and now here i sit, and i'm posting this because i'm finally, finally, FINALLY more than a tourist. more than a visitor in my own land.

because finally i am someone who feels, 
in her own random weird crazy way, 
that she belongs.