Oh man. Where to begin. It's been around a week since I last updated. I'd say a lot has happened, but I think the majority is all in my head. I'll start with the story of it all and talk some more in a sec. Ok - so the snow decided it'd be a fun idea to stick around, giving Dutch and South American exchange students alike a blissfully white mid-December. For the kid who grew up in Syracuse, New York and Cleveland, Ohio - blissful wouldn't be the term I'd use. Either way seeing as the Dutch were so illfully prepared for such weather I was essentially barricaded in the house (dramatization but whatever) for 3 whole days. Doing nothing. I sure know how to take advantage of foreign exchange don't I? Actually in those three days I left the house to go "sledding" for an hour. I put that in quotation marks because I feel bad for the Dutch when it comes to this activity. As a child blessed by Central New York winters, sledding was not just an activity - it was a way of life (sky top, anyone?). Either way I'm pretty positive what we used as an incline looked like my front yard in Shaker (that's not saying much in sledding terms). Guess it got me out of the house.
Wednesday I decided I had had enough of myself and went into Eindhoven where I decided I'd get on a train (seeing as someone at the Dutch rails decided to start doing their job and running timely trains) and hang out with Agustina in Breda. During a cold, brisk afternoon we wandered once again around the old streets of Breda, basically eating our way through town. Pizza for lunch, ollibollen for a snack, something else as a snack, a bottle of cheap apple-y champagne in the park, and chocolate milk and fries for dinner. It's a wonder I was able to hold myself up by the time I left. Either way it was a nice reprieve from what had turned into quite a dull winter vacation.
The next day was Christmas Eve. That was a rough one. I'm still up in the air about the emotions I was feeling on that day, whether they were holiday induced or in fact, how I feel here. See the thing is when you're away from home on a holiday like Christmas, it's like nothing you've ever experienced before. I can't even describe the longing for home I've been going through the past couple days and I'm far from afraid to admit that it's been taking a heavy toll on me. Luckily my host mother, Birgit, has been a major rock in this entire ordeal of my roller coaster emotions and I have found that I appreciate here enormously throughout this exchange. We had a really nice fondue dinner that evening and then on Christmas morning we left for Eric's parent's house. I found that it was somewhat comforting to be in a "grandparent's" home for Christmas, it's what I'm used to, and one of the things I was missing most. The food was great, his parents were super nice, and I just read a book all day so as not to get lost in my thoughts of what I was (what some may say "was not") missing.
To say this experience thus far has been a roller coaster is an understatement. I have not faced such large challenges in my life ever. The hardest part of this all is that I have grown to realize that the challenge is, in fact, myself. That is, to overcome the boundaries I have set up in my head and break into a world that isn't as forgiving as the one I come from. By that I don't wish to infer anything about the Dutch people, I simply am trying to say that when you're on exchange, living with essentially new people...there isn't as much room run away with good excuse. Going upstairs to do homework and leaving the house don't exactly equate to the same thing here for me. When they are used as excuses here, in reality, it's me that's pulling back into my own world, and not going off to take care of the aforementioned chore. Get it? Maybe.
This past week time has slowed for me infinitesimally. As I approach what very well be my half way point of exchange (I won't go into details, but I may end the program in June instead of July for, like I said, reasons I'll explain if I do take this measure) I see things in such a different light. The students from the Southern Hemisphere are leaving. We are the old group now. In 2 months more students will come, even fresher and newer than us although I still feel so green and unskilled at surviving in this country. I don't want to mince words with the future me that reads this blog or whoever else decides I'm interesting: I think about going home all the time. But I think the main thing that speaks to me personally as reason to stay (although I could list off all the reasons I feel that I don't fit) is that I haven't gone yet. There's something in me that won't give up this bizarre, altered stretch of time I have here, even though some days I have great doubts in myself.
I hope these worries fade as more time passes because like I said, I'm almost half-way done. And doesn't that attest to something? I titled this entry so because I have discussed how I feel here with so many people, and none have made it click and seem the way it did other than Simone. The frank part of it is, people give me encouragement, tell me I can stick it out and all, but it's so different for me to here it all plus some from someone who is going through this experience on the opposite side of the world. Someone I consider to be smart and (usually) rational making you realize you have done something helps. At this point I'm rambling because I barely am sure if all these makes completely sense but thank you Simone Duval for saying some of the best stuff I've heard all year. And my American parents and host parents for watching me be a spaz and sticking by my side through it. Wanna hear the good news? You've got 5 more months of it!