Joy "Kenzie" H.
2005-06 Outbound to Slovakia

Hometown: Palm Coast, Florida
School: Flagler Palm Coast High School
Sponsor: Flagler Beach Rotary Club
Host: Bratislava Rotary Club, District 2240, Slovakia

October 5 Journal

Ahoj from Slovakia!!! Slovakia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I absolutely love it here! My host family is the best family I could have ever wished for. My host mom, Zuzana, is giving my real mom a run for the money! My host dad, Iwar (pronounced EEE-Var), is a great tour guide, he is a very smart man. My host brother, Rasto, is an interesting young chap, and he eats like no other, you'd think he had an extra stomach somewhere. My other host brother, Richard, is now in America on an exchange. The family dog, Armon, took some time becoming familiar with. At first I would have sworn he was out to kill me, but gradually he has become my friend.

School started on my 17th birthday. the first day, lasting only 15 minutes, was by far the best day of school ever! At school I am usually bored to death, but I am hoping that once my language skills improve I will be able to participate more with the class. Majority of the students are afraid to talk to me due to their English skills. but the select few that do actually come up and ask questions speak English quite well.

Writing this is really hard, my mind is racing with all kinds of things to tell about, but I'm trying to keep it all in order, so pardon if some of this makes no sense. : )

Even though I've only been here for a small amount of time, I can say that being here has already changed me in some ways. I have become more independent and less shy, and when I first came here I had absolutely no hatred against pigeons... but now I hate them, they pooped on my jacket and scarf!!!!!! The Slovak people are very kind, and they appreciate me trying to learn their language. They are always willing to help me and are patient when I am struggling to make sense of what I am trying to say.

Slovakia is a beautiful country. I love all the castles there are. it is always amazing to see one jutting out from a mountainside, whether it be in ruins or in perfect order. So far I have visited 4 of Slovakia's never ending supply of castles. Next weekend I will be visiting yet another!

I am so happy to be here and I appreciate everything Rotary has done for me.

October 20 Journal

IT'S COLD! When I first arrived in Slovakia it was nice and warm, but suddenly things have taken a turn, within just these past few weeks I've gone from wearing a light jacket to full blown anorak, gloves, scarf and boots. But I'm not complaining, I actually kinda like putting on all my layers and going outside into the cold, but I have a feeling that might change once the freezing rain everyone's been promising me comes.

School is still school... boring and long, but I survive. More and more people are starting to get more courageous and are actually coming up to me and asking questions. And this week somehow my mobile number got out and I've been receiving strange text messages from random people. But I don't mind, I find it very amusing and I'm glad they find me so interesting. Everyday I seem to meet someone new or find another one of the treasures Slovakia has to offer me. I am having such a wonderful time. I enjoy just going out and sitting on park benches and watching the Slovak people go about their busy lives, watching the children play and the dogs do their business (right on the side walk, and no, their owners DON'T clean up after them). I love all the friends I've made since I've been here. Everyone is so nice and willing to help me, or show me around. But out of all the friends I've made, I'd have to say that my most favorite is the one-eyed cat that greets me every morning on my walk to school. I love that cat! its the nicest cat I've ever met!!! Aside from it only having one eye, it's quite cute. I usually bring him a little snack and pet him before I get on the bus to school. I've even given him a name, "one eyed Jack" (I hope it is a boy...)

Tonight I am heading off to Prague in the Czech Republic, I cant wait to go! I've been excited all week about this trip. I'm all packed and ready to go! The only down part is that I have to get on the bus at 3:15 in the morning to go!!!!! But I'm sure it will all be worth it. I am so happy to get to see all the other exchange students again, I have really missed them. I love it when we all get together, we always have so much to talk about. I enjoy hearing and telling stories about host families and little adventures that we've been on. And it is so great to be with other people who are going through the same thing you are, its like we all understand each other perfectly even if we make no sense to everyone else.

I will be sure to post some pictures of Prague next journal entry. I'm sure I will have plenty to share!

January 2 Journal

So much has happened lately. My life has just been a huge whirl of changes and gaining knowledge. The holidays were great, even though I did get sick on Christmas.

My Christmas in Slovakia was my first real ''white Christmas''. It snowed almost 2 feet in one night. I've really enjoyed the snow...when I'm not outside! Christmas here wasn't too drastically different than Christmas back in the US except, Santa looks like the pope and he has a little devil as his sidekick. The devil is supposed to scare the bad kids while Santa gives gifts to the good kids. The traditional Christmas dinner is mainly cabbage soup and fish with other various side dishes. I really had a good time with my family at Christmas dinner, it was very comical. My host brother and host dad decided to pretend to be British English during the dinner so there were lots of (in British accent) "excuse me Zuzana, may I have another rrrroooolllll" and "oh, this dinner is lovely!" And at one point in the dinner Rastislav (host brother) decided to change his name to "Partyslav". Host Grandmother wasn't allowed to eat a lot of the food we were having due to her bowel condition but she fought with my host dad over the matter and he finally gave in and let her have some cabbage soup.

After the dinner we went upstairs and opened gifts. The Christmas tree was somewhat.... strange looking, but it was mainly due to the fact that it had been done by "Partyslav" and apparently he's not too talented in that department. It ended up falling down 3 times during the evening.

After Christmas I felt better and took a train ride to visit my friend Mary from New York in the town of Zvolen in central Slovakia. I had a really good time in Zvolen, I even skied for the first time, but I wouldn't consider it ''skiing'' ... It was more like falling a lot and then drinking hot beverages.

New Years was fun. There was an amazing fireworks show done from the river on two ships. And when the new year hit 2006 white balloons with glowsticks tied to them were released, it was beautiful to see all the glowsticks floating up into the black night sky.

Overall my holidays in Slovakia were amazing and I will never forget them.

May 21 Journal

So, I haven't written a journal in a long time! Sorry!, things are hectic here with the year almost over and everyone leaving!

I guess I should start with Easter in Slovakia. It was, how should I put it... interesting? I found the Easter traditions here quite shocking... Basically, on the Monday after Easter, all the women and girls are awoken early and doused in VERY cold water by the men (who dress in the traditional Slovak costume). Then, the men proceed to beat the women with whips that are hand made from vines and ribbon. Afterwards, the women are expected to give the men food, treats and money. While being beaten and given a cold shower I couldn't help but think to myself, "in America, isn't this considered domestic violence?" But nonetheless, Easter was enjoyable (for the boys, that is!)

I've also recently gone to a ski week hosted by one of the Rotary clubs in my district. I am in no way close to being an Olympic skier yet, but I still had a good time. I got to meet all the Czech Republic students and we all got along very well. Last weekend all the students in my district went to a small town near the German border in the Czech Republic. It was an amazing town! It looked like it had come straight out of a fairy tale book! There was a huge castle that circled the whole village and around the castle was a moat, but instead of water in the moat they had bears! Huge brown bears that protected the castle! It was so awesome! We only spent two days in that town and I was sad to leave, because it was my last time to see the Czech students, so as the bus full of Slovak students was gearing up to make its departure there were many people crying and lots of hugs going around, but I know that we will all always be friends.

So, what's new at school... My normal class at school is at the moment taking their graduation exams, so I've been moved to a younger class. It's fun being with 14 and 15 year olds, but at the same time, it's strange. But I am enjoying it. I like being with them because they don't have to study as much as the older students so they are always free to hang out around the town after school and on the weekends.

I found a group of other exchange students in Bratislava recently, they are with a program called AFS. Most of them are from Germany, but there is one student from New Zealand, it's nice to have some fresh faces. I really enjoy being with them and we've had some really great times!

I will be sad to say good bye to all the friends I've made this year, but I am glad to be going home. But at the same time, I will miss this country and I will always have so much pride in it! I almost feel Slovak now. Sometimes I forget that I am American and not just another normal Slovak kid living in Slovakia. I hope to one day return here and to see everyone and everything again.