Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Few Weeks!

As of today, I have now been back in Indiana for 3 weeks.  It has been the busiest 3 weeks ever!  I'll give a recap of what exactly I have been up to in no particular order.  

1. I attended Maggie's presentation on her year in Turkey at the Anthony Wayne Rotary Club in Fort Wayne.  Maggie did a fantastic job presenting and I also got to hang out with Orsi before she headed home to Hungary.
Me, Orsi, and Maggie
2. I survived my first trip to IKEA with my mom and sister.  I power shopped through the store because I found it VERY overwhelming.  I was able to find some awesome decor for my bedroom, which we are in the process of finishing.  I will post pictures soon! 
IKEA in Michigan
Lunch from Erie Bread and Company: Roast beef, sauerkraut, and dark bread
3. I met my niece Eden for the first time! She was born in February when I was on exchange, so it was exciting to finally meet her.  She has definitely stolen my heart!

4. I did a presentation on Australia for my Rotary club here in the US.  The Rotary student my club sponsored from Denmark 11 years ago and was also hosted by my Auntie came for a visit and attended my presentation.  We then said goodbye to her Monday evening.  She's headed back to Denmark and will start a new job in September for Lego as their marketing director of sorts.  
Louise and I at my Rotary Presentation
Goodbye Louise! Front row: My sister Delaney and brother Mason.  Back row: Me, my brother Gavin, Louise, my mom, and my dad
5. I got my license!!  It feels so great to be able to drive by myself safely on the right side of the road. 
I passed!
6. My family had the opportunity to meet and spend two days with my Swiss sister's family.  Her parents knew English, but her two younger brothers didn't know any.  With Estelle's younger brother's knowing no English, my brother Mason and sister Delaney communicated with Timo and Colin by using obscene hand gestures and charades.  Both my family and Estelle's family got many laughs.  We can't wait to see them again! 
Left to Right back: Estelle's mom and dad and my parents.  Left to Right on sofa: Delaney, Gavin, Colin, Estelle, Mason, Timo, and me
7. I hung my very special Australian flag on my bedroom door.  It makes my room seem a bit more 'homey' now.  

8. I registered for the SAT and ACT.  I've also started thinking about where I want to apply for University and what I would like to do.  Before exchange, I thought I wanted to be a Physical Therapist.  Now, I'm a bit undecided on what exactly I would like to do at University, which makes deciding where I want to apply really difficult.  Everything will all work out is what I keep telling myself! 

9. I registered for school and scheduled my classes for my Senior year, which starts Monday.  I will be only going for a semester as of now.  I'm not sure what second semester will consist of yet, since I will only need to take one science class to fulfill my diploma.  After seeing some kids from my school at a meeting to pick up laptops, I realised that I didn't have a lot in common with my peers anymore and that it will make my first month at school very difficult.  Everything will be okay and work out as I said before.  

10. My family has also decided to host a student from CHI (Cultural Homestay International) for 10 weeks as a rescue family.  If the student blends well with our family, we will keep the student for the whole 10 months.  If it isn't working, we will find another host family for the student.  

That's all for now.  I'll hopefully find the time to keep blogging.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

When home is in another hempisphere

Last Wednesday, I began my journey home to the USA.  I got up at 5am and got around to leave Australia.  At 6 am, Glenn (my second host dad) picked me up at my host family's house with all of my luggage.  I said goodbye to the Flack's and went with Glenn to pick up Terri.  Pretty soon we were Sydney bound.  

I think the best way to describe how I was feeling on the way to the airport was very anxious, depressed, and nervous.  My stomach hurt so terribly bad that Glenn had to stop at a service station and buy me Mentos to settle my stomach.  On the way to the airport, we reminisced about my time here in Australia.  There were so many funny stories I had with the Gricks that we were laughing so hard at times our stomachs hurt.  At 10 o'clock, we were at the Sydney airport.  We grabbed a luggage trolley and loaded my polka dotted luggage and headed inside to check in.   The Qantas lady weighed my two large suitcases and they weighed in at 38 kilos together.  The luggage gods were smiling down on me as I was allowed 44 kilos in total!  Ms. Qantas lady also gave me my boarding passes and also told me that I had forgotten to pick my preferred seat on the flight, so she had to stick me in the middle.  My thinking was "oh crap" considering this flight was a whopping 16 hours.  Glenn, Terri, and I then went to find some lunch and met up with Jan and Paul (two Rotarians from my club) who were flying out to Ireland a couple hours after me.  Terri and I settled on a six-inch sub each from Subway.  We sat down and started eating.  At this point, I was barely able to stomach my sandwich because I knew that the terrible final goodbye was fast approaching.  I checked my time and realised it was nearly 11 so I said to everyone, "Lets get one last photo together."  Then I burst into tears.  Terri and Glenn gave me hugs and we got our photos.  Don't mind my red eyes.  
Jan, Me, and Paul.  I love them so much! 
See you later Australia, I will be back! 
Glenn, me, and Terri.  I'm so glad they took me to the airport as some of my best exchange moments were spent with them.  I can't wait for them to visit! 
I gave my hugs and said my goodbyes one last time.  I know I will be back again at some point in my life and will see them all again.  I'd love to live in Australia for a couple of years and work and travel.  I grabbed my carry-on and went through to the other side, but first looked back at Jan, Paul, Terri, and Glenn, and blew one last kiss.

I went through to the other side where I went through security.  I then went and bought a few things at duty free before boarding my flight that was Dallas bound.  When I boarded my plane, I was getting ready to sit down when the people I was supposed to sit next to asked me if I wanted to swap with a person they knew (sitting in the row in front) for that person's window seat.  I said of course!  The airplane seat gods were watching out for me as well. :)  Once I got situated at my window seat, I took my magic sleeping pills and conked out for most of the flight.

I arrived in Dallas on Wednesday at 1:30pm.  I had a five hour layover, so once I got through customs I went into the ladies bathroom and washed my hair in the sink.  I know you probably think that is disgusting, but after being on a plane for 16 hours, your hair looks and feels disgusting.  My plane left Dallas around 6:30pm and arrived in Chicago 2hrs 30mins later.  I had a 30 minute layover in Chicago and around 9:30 we boarded my flight and took off 15 minutes later Fort Wayne bound.

Around 11:50pm, I landed in Fort Wayne and walked through the exit to greet my Mum, Dad, sister Delaney, brother Mason, friend Maggie, and Dick a Rotarian.  They were all so happy to see me, but to be honest I was not.  I was happy to see them and be with them, but I was a mixture of sad and angry.  I was sad to be back home in boring, flat Indiana without my Australian families and friends.  I was angry that I had come back to a place where absolutely nothing had changed.  I told them this, which was probably not the nicest thing to say...

We went to get my luggage and come to find out it was all still in Chicago.  This included my carry-on as well since they had to put it below the plane in Dallas because it was too big.  This only added to my anger and frustration of being home.  We finally left the airport bound for home around 2am.  I was really tired, sad, angry, and struggling to comprehend the car being on the right side of the road.  The car pulled into my driveway at 3am where I took sleeping pills and went straight to my bed where I put my pjs on and then broke down crying.  I felt like my heart had literally broke apart.  Half of it was still in Australia and half of it was with me in this place that didn't feel like "home."  It was at this point that I realised how hard it was actually going to be to be back here in Indiana and that it was going to take a lot of time to settle back in to my unchanged old life.
Goodbye Australia!
Until we see each other again!
Thursday, I woke up at 3:30pm.  I freshened up and went and said hi to my neighbours.  I then packed for the Rotary conference I had to go to the next day and then just worked on settling in again.
On Friday, my parents, Orsi (exchange student from Hungary), and I left at 8:30am for Calvin College to go to my Rotary conference.  The conference helped me a bit in being able to talk with other exchange students who had the same feelings I did and I was also able to hang out with my exchange friends who I hadn't seen since last year.

We came back from the conference Sunday and I was able to say hello to some of my family members and go to the family cabin to see all the progress that had been made in renovations.  I also started to learn how to drive a manual truck and went mudding with my brother Mason in the new go-karts.

Today, I played with my little cousins, unpacked, and got some books from the library to read and books to help me prepare for my retakes of the SAT/ACT.

I'm slowly starting to feel comfortable back here in Indiana.  It will take heaps of patience and time from my family and from me to get back in the swing of things.

I will continue to blog about my transitioning back into life here and my new adventures with the Rotary Youth Exchange program in assisting the new exchange students and preparing the newbies for their year abroad.  It's only the beginning for my traveling and my life post-exchange.  I hope you will continue to read and comment on my blog!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My last day in Oz

I don't think I could have wished for a better last day in Australia than I have experienced today.  

In the morning, Magdalena came over to my house and helped me finish up my packing.  At 11:30, we walked down to the Wineglass to have lunch with Railene and Casey for the last time.  
My last beautiful hot chocolate in Mudgee
Lunch: Lamb burger with hot chips
 After lunch, we gave big hugs and took photos.  No tears were shed and we said we will see each other again.  I told Railene she will always be my mum and Casey that she will always be my sister.  I look forward to the day when I can give Casey, Railene, and Darren another big cuddle in person.  The three of them set the foundation for my exchange and they couldn't have done a better job!
Casey, Me, and Railene
 Magdalena and I then went to two stores to buy Australian foods!  We went a bit crazy to say the least...but had an awesome time.

Then we came back to my house where we put everything in my suitcases.  It was a tight fit!  I'm so lucky that Railene, Casey, and Darren went to the USA for a holiday and offered to take some of my clothes with them.  Otherwise, I'm not sure if everything would have fit.  Both suitcases have been weighed and are just under 20 kilos and I'm allowed 22.  Perfect!
My suitcases...
My suitcases...
 Then, we had a mini photo shoot in the backyard together.  I'm so lucky to have had Magdalena at school with me and in Australia in general.  She not only is my best friend, but is my big Polish sister as well.  I honestly wouldn't have wanted to share my Australian adventures with anyone else.  When I get home, I'm going to start saving to go and visit her because Sydney and Maggie adventures are only beginning!
Maggie, me, and the rabbit
Maggie and I
My best friend and sister no matter the distance <3
To finish off the day, we went inside and watched Disney's Mulan illegally on my laptop.  Watching Disney movies illegally is a tradition of ours.  We would do it at Railene's house, while doing homework.  Somehow the combination seemed to help us concentrate and get our work done.

As the movie finished, Magdalena had to leave.  We hugged goodbye and I of course started crying.  We must have hugged for ten minutes straight and then I finally said get on your merry way and gave her a gentle push.  She walked to her ride waving the entire way.

"It's been a long day, without you my friend, and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again." -From the song "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth


Sunday, July 5, 2015

"What a slut time is. She screws everyone." -John Green

I find it very surreal that I'm hopping on a plane to go back to my "old life" in two short days.  When you start your exchange year, you think that you have all the time in the world to accomplish everything you want to do.  By the time your departure date rolls around, you realise that you actually don't have all the time in the world and that your time is actually limited contrary to your belief.

Everyone says that your exchange year is the best year of your life.  I think that's an understatement.  Your exchange year is the best and worst year of your life.  It's the best year of your life in the fact that you meet amazing people, see breathtaking places most people will never see in the course of their life, and immerse yourself in another culture.  It's the worst year of the life in the fact that you have to leave all of the amazingness and go back to your old life where nothing has changed.  The same people will be living in the same houses with the same picket fence and no one will understand you as an individual because you have evolved as a human being in the course of a year and they have not.  They will ask "Oh how was your trip/vacation?"  and you will ever so kindly respond with "It wasn't a trip.  It was a year where I became a new person by living and learning about a new culture."  After a couple of weeks, they will tire of listening to "That time you saw the Opera House or that time you snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef."  You have to leave your new mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and family and it feels like your heart is being torn apart into a million pieces very very slowly.

Although your heart will break, it will repair over time.  The reverse culture shock and jet-lag will suck, but you still have that small sliver of hope that you will see all the lovely people you left behind again when you return to your new home for a visit.

The future is uncertain, but your exchange year has opened your eyes to new possibilities and opportunities.

"What a slut time is.  She screws everyone." -John Green from The Fault in Our Stars

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Farewell Mudgee Rotary

Last night was my final Rotary meeting with the Mudgee Rotary Club!  They have been so caring, funny, and compassionate towards me ever since my very first Rotary meeting back in August.  They all have went out of their way to make my exchange year great and I will be forever indebted to them.  
To say 'thank you' for all they have done for me, I baked a pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin snickerdoodles.  Both of these things I had made for my club previously and were the most American desserts I could think of, as America is the only country that bakes desserts with pumpkin.  Clara, an exchange student from Germany, happened to be in Mudgee for a few hours so she came over to my house to help me bake my goodies.  She was a great help especially since I came down with a cold and had a pounding headache.  

At six o'clock, Cathy, Danielle (host sister from Colley), and I headed to the golf club for my last EVER Mudgee Rotary dinner.  It was very low key and everyone just chit-chatted with one another over dinner and dessert.  At the beginning of the meeting, Mal (a Rotarian), gave me his Akubra to wear for the evening so I looked 'more Aussie.'  *Side Note: an Akubra is a brand of hat that is VERY expensive in Australia and is also very popular.*  When everyone had finished dinner and dessert, Magdalena and I were presented with banners from my club and a badge for our Blazers as well.  I was also given a gift from my Rotary club.  They gave me three more Australia Pandora charms for my bracelet, Aussie flag earrings, and a galah (type of native bird in Australia) badge for my jacket.  That wasn't all though!  Robyn, another Rotarian, gave me a CD with songs from famous Aussie singers.  At the end of the dinner, I was giving everyone hugs for the last time and I went to give Mal back his Akubra and you know what he told me?  Keep it!  I couldn't believe it!!!  It will be a gift I will treasure forever, especially since it has a 2000 Sydney Olympic Games badge on it as well.  :)   
My Rotary Club!  Not every member was there for my farewell and some of the people pictured are spouses of Rotarians that I've become close with through other meetings and dinners.  Three members of Mudgee Sunrise (Magdalena's Rotary club) came as well!
The three Pandora charms on the right are my new ones!  The Opera house, a bead with a Kangaroo and the Southern cross (star formation on Aussie flag), and a bead that's a camera since I am always taking photos. 
My Akubra from Mal with the Sydney Olympic Games pin on it!
The Mudgee Rotary Club banner (left) and the Mudgee Sunrise banner (right)
My CD from Robyn
My earrings and new badges for my jacket!
After seeing all the wonderful gifts I got, I think it is safe to say that I'm definitely spoiled!

I hope the Mudgee Rotary club enjoyed having me (I think they did) as their exchange student for the 2014-2015 year.  I feel privileged to have been a part of their club and have enjoyed getting to know them over the course of this year.  I will definitely miss going to the meetings every Tuesday for dinner, talking with them, and listening to their funny jokes.  I will never forget them and their generosity and hope to keep in contact with them for a very long time.

Feeling thankful!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend trip to Armatree

This weekend I went with Jan and Paul to Armatree to meet their daughter's family after I got back from my farewell lunch.  Her daughter Lib and her husband Ash own the pub in Armatree, which has a population of around 50 people.  We drove around two hours to get to Armatree and we stopped at the pub first to say hello to Lib and Ash before heading to their house.  There, I met their two daughters: Anna and Neve and their English nanny Katie.  We chilled for the night and I got acquainted with everyone.  

The next day (Sunday) I played with Neve and Anna.  We built a fort and pretended we were bears, played with balloons, etc.  Then we all went outside.  The girls went and rode their bikes, while we adults sat in the sun chit-chatting.  Around 12, Jan and Paul's four other grandchildren arrived, whom I had previously spent the day with at Dunn's Swamp.  The kids played together, while the adults just chilled in the sun.  It was so relaxing and a great day!  Later in the afternoon, Jan's four grandchildren brought out an Australia bag for me as a goodbye and thank you gift as I had given all the kids USA T-shirts as gifts.  Inside the bag was a Sydney, Australia, Tshirt, pictures they had drawn, and a book about all the big attractions that you can see in Australia since I'm a bit obsessed i.e. the Big Merino.  Let's just say I'm going to have to come back to Australia and go around the country to see the rest of the big things.  Before the four grandchildren left, we got a group picture.  :)

Behind the sofa: Jan and Paul.  Left to Right: Pat, Claire, Neve, Hannah, Sophie, me, and Anna
 On Monday morning, we went on a drive around Armatree (took only 10 minutes) before we headed to the Warrumbungles.  The Warrumbungles are a rock formation that was created by volcanic activity millions of years ago when the earth was formed.  It's a pretty miraculous rock formation because it is in the middle of massive flat area of Australia.  It was extremely beautiful!!!  I'm so lucky Jan and Paul took me along to see this amazing sight.  When we finished our drive through the Warrumbungles, we stopped for lunch at a Vegetarian cafe.  I had a burger that was made of potato and feta.  It was really delicious!  After lunch, we headed back to Mudgee.  
The Hotel and Pub Lib and Ash own
The Warrumbungles!
The Warrumbungles!
Some fungi on a log
Some more fungi
The observatory at the national park 
The Warrumbungles!
Vegetarian lunch: potato and feta burger.  Yummo!

Farewell my Mates

On Saturday, I had a 'Farewell Sydney Lunch' with my friends at a restaurant in town called The Wineglass.  At 8:30 am though, my first friend I ever made at Mudgee High, Rachael, was picking me up for a surprise.  When she picked me up, she dropped me off at a hair salon to get my hair styled for the lunch and also to get my nails done following the hair appointment!  Rachael came up with the whole idea and four of my other great friends chipped in on the whole surprise as well: Zoe, Michaela, Cassi, and Sam.  I was so surprised and taken aback by their generosity as no one had ever done this sort of thing for me before!  

The lunch went off without a hitch and we had a great time!  I was a bit worried that not everyone would mesh together well, as I was friends with so many people from so many different cliques at school, but everyone got along great!  I had bought an Aussie flag and all my friends wrote messages on it so it will be a great keepsake for when I head back home.  I also gave each and everyone of them one of my American flag badges and as soon as they got them they pinned them to their shirts. :) My friend Joanna also got me a Mudgee NSW iron on patch for my Rotary jacket! I can't wait to iron it on! 
My friends!
Cassi, me, and Sam
My Mates! Left to Right: Brooke, Tianna, Rachael, Sam, Brad, Michaela, Zoe, Maddy, Cameron, and Joanna with Magdalena and I in the front

Cameron's brilliant idea of everyone holding us :) It made for a great photo
My Polish sister <3
My first ever friends at Mudgee High: Zoe and Rachael
My hospitality buddies!  Maddy, me, and Cameron
Love her to pieces 
Brooke, me, Magdalena, and Tianna
Rachael also bought me a beautiful bracelet with a dainty heart on it.  I will treasure it forever as well as her friendship.  She ended up driving me home and we shed a few tears while saying goodbye to each other in my driveway.  I had my farewell party so early because Rachael was leaving for Fiji for a holiday the next day and I wouldn't see her again.  I felt it was only right that she be there since she has done so much for me.  Most of my friends I will say a final goodbye at Magdalena's farewell next Monday.

It took me a while to find friends at school, but it led me to find the ones that have hearts of gold.
I feel so thankful and blessed to have met these beautiful people.  I shall never ever forget them and they will always be welcome in my home in the USA!