Literally, "hands to the work." I'm writing this fresh off a Monday breakdown where I seriously weighed my situation and what I need to do to make myself successful here. It has been anything but easy thus far but I know that persevering will pay off. The people who jokingly tell me to come home don't realize how it negatively affects my mindset but also exactly what I am doing here. I have been told many, many times that I am doing something especially "unique" and have heard more than once that this is an "amazing opportunity to do what you love." For me it has taken me hitting my ump-teenth bump in the road, this bump dragging me way down, to make me realize, screw it. It is only a year. Yeah I may never love the Dutch language, but hell, I'll try my best. I am going to use the motivation I've recently found to do something. Find volunteer work in Eindhoven? Pick the violin back up? The Hague Model United Nations? All of those sound like me (Ok - maybe not the violin part, but you don't understand my dire straits).
Another thing I've come to realize is something about the family I'm with. Yeah, there are tons of things about them that annoy me. Yeah, they tell me unfathomably unnecessary things (i.e. comparing me to a black hole which drags all sound towards me where it disappears). But hey, they've dealt with my shit for three months already, and that's more than I'm sure some people would do. Therefore I can deal too (I may never adjust to the 1993 Ace of Base album they play every night at dinner...but nothing's perfect).
Lately though, in between crises, I have been having some fun! In my previous entry I mentioned I'd be going to Amsterdam/Alkmaar that weekend - it was superb! Ivy and I went to Amsterdam Thursday morning with the intent to find a hostel first. I had written some down (Thanks, Ivy) so we went searching for the one that looked the best. First we went to Bob's Youth Hostel (Peggy - this is where we were gonna go. I'm happy I saw it before we ever had to stay there) but that wasn't really...yeah no. So then we got this crazy idea to just wander till we found the next one. Well, let me tell you, I walked me ass off ("Jeff, Jeff, where's Jeff?").
Ivy and I arrived at the Flying Pig Backpacker's Hostel dying of foot pain. It's ok, or it must've been because then we left to walk some more. We did some light shopping, walked back into the center, had a really good dinner at some Argentinian steak house, then went uptown again to hang out for the evening. Ivy wasn't really feeling up to, well, doing anything functional after the day we'd had - so we were asleep by 12. Lame, huh? I thought it was funny that we didn't even try to go out in Amsterdam, I guess it holds less importance to us since it's a 90 minute train ride away. Whereas most of the other people in the hostel were actually vacationing (vacationing in Amsterdam in mid-November?! gross. Weather was horrible).
Friday we woke up rather refreshed, bought ourselves some museum cards (22€ for free admission to all Dutch museums, while the Van Gogh museum would've cost 12€! Well that's only because the freaking lady behind the glass ID'ed me to get into the museum as a 17 year old! Jesus.) Then we went to the Rijksmuseum, which is like, the oldest museum or some big fart or whatever. Then we got bored and left for Alkmaar. I had a really good weekend celebrating birthdays and all that nonsense (Dorene, Francesco's host mom, made hats and aprons embroidered for Francesco, Rafael, PP (his host dad) and me! I was so pumped). The week that followed had a couple catastrophes on the home front, but it's ok, problems mostly solved (or at least being worked on, I won't divulge).
This past weekend was the AFS sinterklaas camp at my liason Rieky's house (or should I say her guest house. She put up 20+ exchange students in the house behind the bigger house!). It was as well tons of fun. I mean it's the AFSers. If you're ready this and have never come into contact with a large group of AFSers (which would be far and few in between I'd like to assume on this sort of blog), you are missing out. The kids you meet and the personalities you run into are unforgettable. For the first time I've been in this country I laughed so hard I cried last weekend (because let me just say, do not try and get between a crazed group of south american chicas and sinterklaas, you might come out missing limbs).
The past couple days I have still been struggling with the reasons why I've come here. I've listened to those I consider closest to me and those that I frankly don't. I've still come to one conclusion. As much advice as I get from the people not going through this experience. And as much advice as I get from people going through this with me or having done it themselves, this year is for me. I need to make a decision and I can't rely off the advice of others to do what will make me happier and more successful here during my hiatus. I'm not used to being in the type of position where I actually need to make myself happy - long term. In high school happiness was fleeting, a night at the D-Spot or the best dance party that year, but the long term happiness was my friends. They were always there right when I needed them. Well guess what world (which happens to include Patrick Matthews)? Those moments were fleeting too, we just barely stopped to notice them. So now I sit here, and I have to do what makes me happy. Waking up every morning and not looking forward to something is not something I do well, but in fact it's what I've been subjecting myself to for weeks now (did you know that this past weekend was 3 months? Still pretty impressive, right?). Thus, it begins here. From here on out I plaster on a go-for-it attitude and do it. What does that even mean? I have no clue, but I was serious about picking up the violin!
ps. my french teacher thinks elephant poop smells amazing, pass it on.