Tuesday, July 30, 2013

days < 10 -- farewelling

piece of advice for future exchange students #6:
say goodbye to people you know whenever you see them. because you never know when you might be leaving, and you will not be coming home for a year.

note: for those of you who may have missed it, I now have a new countdown timer (note that this one counts down to when I will be in Switzerland, not when I will depart the US).
this past weekend, I said goodbye to a group of my friends. It was fun, and encouraging, and delicious (nutella for the win :P) and for the first half of the party I just enjoyed seeing everyone and talking and laughing.
and then about halfway through, I realized that this was possibly the last time I'd be seeing most of them... at least for a year.
that after I left, life would continue. 
that when I come back, people would be different. 
that they would have seen things and made memories and grown up a little bit more. 
and I knew all that, in the back of my mind, but somehow the party triggered my realization of it. 
which made saying goodbye harder.

but you know what?
when I finally leave, life will continue.
after I come back, I will be different.
I will have seen things and made memories and grown up a little bit more.
and that is the reason that I am leaving, and that is the reason I am saying goodbye, and I knew all that in the back of my mind but somehow the goodbyes triggered my realization of it.
which made saying goodbye--easier. for some reason.

things that have happened in the past 10 days:
  • the advantage of having a party is that you get to see all your friends. so I saw my friends and said goodbye and it was bittersweet.
  • and yet good.
  • I'm packed! (well, mostly.) hooray!
  • in the past couple weeks, I've gotten to know this amazing girl named Sarah who's also an outbound to Switzerland. our conversations make me more excited to go :)
  • I'm really too tired to list anything else. 
  • goodnight.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

dreams, doubt, and saying goodbye

just because something is a bloomability does not mean that it comes without its fair share of doubt.

when you sign up for exchange, they tell you about the best things. all the places you'll go. all the sights you'll see. all the friends you'll make. and i think that's true, every word of it, because exchange sounds amazing.

but they never mention what you'll be missing.

because when you sign up for a year, you may not exactly realize that you're going to be gone for, well, a year. there's a lot that can happen in a year, you know. people change, and places change, and friendships change. you gain a lot on your exchange year, but you will also be giving up quite a bit.
the more time i spend with my friends, the more i realize that this is a place where i belong. and that i will be leaving it behind once i leave. and that i will never quite be in this same spot again.

it's odd to think that high school goes so fast. i thought it lasted forever, and here i am, halfway through, doing something i would never have seen myself doing two years ago. it makes me feel very old and very young at the same time.

a few months ago i said goodbye to my normal school friends and classes and activities. there was the usual hugging and exchanging of email addresses and promises to stay in touch.
but it was different this time.
because every time someone said "will i see you next year" the answer wasn't "yes" or "maybe".
the answer was "no".
"no" because i am going on exchange. and at the end of the summer when you are buying notebooks and pencils and folders and stepping onto the bus for school, i will be buying my ticket and stepping onto a plane for another country.

and every time i look at a calendar, i remember:
in less than 10 days, i will be separated from my friends and family and everything that is safe and comfortable.
in less than 10 days i will be flying across the ocean toward my new country, toward my new family, toward my new home.
in less than 10 days, i will be gone.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

questions I've been asked recently--part II

So, Sweden? That's cool.
I'm glad you think so! But I'm going to Switzerland.
Swaziland? Wow, exotic!!!
hahaha, no. I'm going to Switzerland.
Ohhhhh... Sound of Music, huh?
errr, that's Austria. Switzerland is next to it, bordered by France, Germany, Italy... oh, never mind. I'm going to Europe.
Great! Europe is wonderful. You're going to love it.
thanks. :)

You leave in less than 20 days. are you ready?


what, you were expecting a different answer? *

I can't believe you're leaving! Will you Skype/call me every day?
um. no?
WHY NOT?!?!?
because I would love to talk to you! but I really am on exchange to learn about a culture, language, country, and people different from my own... which means that being online or on the phone constantly would undermine that :P
there is, also, the small matter of the 90-day rule.
The 90 day what?
the 90 day rule. it's a rule set up by Rotary for exchange students. basically, it states that you cannot Skype or call anyone from your home country (with the exception of your parents, when you get there) for the first 90 days.
so, if you'd like to talk to me on exchange, I'd love to talk to you too! shoot me an email, though. or send me a letter. I love letters. and I promise to reply if you send me one.
But I'm no good at writing letters.
great! now is the perfect time to learn. 

How's your German coming along?
oh no, not this question again.
My German is... passable. hopefully. I can understand the written emails my host mom sends me, and I can respond (with Google Translate as my editor, haha) in simple sentences. that said, I can't understand German spoken at full speed unless it's repeated, and I'm fairly sure my pronunciation is atrocious. thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to practice in the next few months!

take pictures!!!
I will do that! (I also intend to sketch madly in the next couple of months, so expect to see plenty of awkward doodling on this blog soon.) Switzerland is beautiful and I can't wait to see it in person!

*see this post.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

days < 20 -- preparing

piece of advice for future outbounds #5:
start saying goodbye to everyone you know way before you leave. it goes fast, and you don't know if or when you'll see them again.

everything is starting to become more real. I have my flight date, my departure time (see this updated countdown timer if you'd like to know when that is) and a list of things to do in the next two weeks.

my reaction? "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"


things that have happened in the last 10 days:
  • spending possibly my last days on the Pacific beach (and possibly any beach?) for the next year. Switzerland is landlocked, so I will probably miss the ocean.
  • also. in case I haven't mentioned it, I now have my itinerary. I will receive my visa and passport back soon, and then I'll basically have everything I need to leave!
  • going on one last family vacation before we leave. 
  • attempting to finish the Rosetta Stone level 2 in German... so close. Unfortunately, my microphone appears to have gone weird on me. Hopefully it will revive itself enough that I can finish!
  • other than that? not much. random philosophical discussions, Rotary meetings, etc., plus business with the last-minute complications of traveling.
that's it for now!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

rivers, rapids, and what I learned about exchange while rafting

i ride the rapids for a reason.

well, that was rather cryptic. let me explain.

about a month ago, i went rafting with a youth group. the guide on our raft asked us to think about the river and what we could learn from it. at first i thought that was weird and a little too pocahontas-y--you know, "colors of the riverbend" or however that song goes--but because i enjoy thinking, i thought about it anyway.

and i realized that i am approaching a rapid very quickly--i am going to switzerland--and that scares me as if it WERE a rapid. and it frightens me, because people tell me stories about europe and horror stories about exchange and ask me why on earth i would want to go until i'm not even sure myself anymore. until i'm asking why. until i'm doubting ever riding the rapid in the first place.
but there, on the river, i realized why i want to go. it's for the same reason i want to ride the rapids. they are scary, yes, and they are mostly optional, yes, and in some ways they also carry danger. but at the same time, there are things you learn from the rapids that you never find on the smooth water. there's a joy and courage and strength and exhilaration that comes from riding the rapids--that feeling of victory and the thrill of being a part of what you really want to do. and if this is my rapid, my adventure, then i need to pursue it.

to put it another way: have you ever felt like maybe everything was too easy? not too easy in the way that nothing is hard enough... more too easy in the way that it's hard at the beginning, but after a couple days/weeks/months it becomes easier. commonplace. and not hard anymore.

and haven't you ever longed for something that would present a constant challenge? that would become your life, that would be something you live day in and day out? something that wouldn't become easier, but that would challenge you physically and mentally and socially all the time?

because i want something like that. i want to know that i am being challenged and that i have a story worth telling. and for me, that is the one thing that holds me to exchange--the fact that it is a growing experience like nothing i've ever seen before.

days < 30 -- repacking

piece of advice for future outbound students #4:
be prepared to leave at any time. you never know what might happen.

i'm still not absolutely sure when i'm leaving. it could be anywhere from the first to the ninth of August, because my travel agency hasn't given me a schedule yet.

that said, they also haven't given me my visa yet...
and they have yet to send my passport back...
...so i may not be leaving on time after all...

i'm hoping everything goes well, and i trust the travel agency. so we'll see!

things that have happened in the past 10 days:
  • finally, i got to visit the rotary club of tillamook! in a rather roundabout way, they helped to make my exchange possible. I was an alternate (see this post to know what that means), and by sponsoring an inbound they provided an extra outbound slot. so it was wonderful to meet the rotarians there, and they were all super nice :)
  • family retreat which involved murky ponds, ridiculously fast slides, bananagrams, and sandblasting. it was fun to make memories, and somehow everything was different because i know that i'm leaving. i'm not sure if that makes sense or not.
  • still attempting to read books in german (see this post).
  • also still attempting to stuff all my shoes in one suitcase. i never realized how many pairs of shoes i own until i tried to pack them. 
  • shoes are hard to pack. did you know that?
the end.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

i'm not ready

the most common question i get now:
"are you ready?"

and normally i smile and say yes, sure, absolutely, thrilled, etc.
but i thought about it and i realized that no, i'm not.

it freaks me out to think that i will be getting on a plane and living without my family and friends here for a year. i feel too young and too inexperienced and too whatever to possibly be ready.

but every time i've ever felt scared and worried and stressed about something that i know i want to do, i've felt unready. and somehow by the time i am doing it, i am ready. i'm not sure what happens inside when i become ready... there's only the fact  that when the moment of truth comes, i am. and i trust myself to know when i will be.

so no, i'm not ready.

but you know what?

i will be.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

june's lovely links

note: again, I've been gone for a couple weeks so some of these posts are severely overdue. sorry about that... anyway, I am doing my best to catch up and post (relatively) on time. :)

random things I've been reading that are somewhat travel related:

Fluent In 3 Months encourages you to make mistakes while learning languages... i have to admit that this is one of the hardest things for me to do, although i'm sure i'll make plenty of mistakes in Switzerland.
on another note, they also happen to have funny random posts about travel and habits picked up in other countries. some of the habits are hilarious.

this post from The Great Affair lists 27 things travel has taught Candace in 27 years. it's a short list, but worth the read.

this distance calculator tells you just how far away i'll be from your house. oh, although i'm sure you could use it for other things too. ;)

in case you wish you could travel now but the obstacles seem insurmountable--Young Adventuress lists some common travel excuses and reasons why they shouldn't actually keep you from traveling (although there is some language used on this blog that I personally wouldn't use. just a heads up.)

this writer talks about his reasons for traveling young. To be honest, though, i think most of his reasons could apply to anyone, no matter their age.

food for thought: one rotary student's experience and thoughts on Eurotour.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

days < 40 -- summering

piece of advice for future outbounds #3:
don't forget that your life here has its rewards too. enjoy the moment.

the reason that this post is so severely overdue is that i have been making the most of my summer. summer camps and parties and sunshine are beautiful things.
unfortunately, that also means that i have been forgetting to post as often as i should. sorry about that.

things to celebrate in the past 10 (ish) days:
  • i can now solve a rubik's cube. ridiculously proud of myself.
  • summer bucket list:  going to summer camp? check. rafting through rapids? check. rafting through rapids, except without a raft? check. i'm doing well on this, you guys. now if i can only find someone to go cliffjumping with me...*
  • i can read a book in german! sort of. if reading means that you have the general idea of what happened.  and that it's a book you've already read. and that you have google translate nearby just in case. but still.
  • i can now say that i've watched star wars. this is a cultural milestone.
  • worked at VBS... helping with little kids is so, so rewarding. there were definitely some difficulties, but on the whole i'm glad i had the opportunity to help.

*just kidding. cliffjumping isn't actually on my list. neither is stormchasing or paragliding, in case you were wondering. **

**although now that I think about it, those do sound really fun. ***

***but they can wait. i'd rather be alive during my exchange year. ;)