Ahoj! I am Haley Long, I am 17, and I will soon be leaving my home, my family, and my friends to spend a year in Slovakia.
I am glad to have been chosen for Slovakia, and I like when people have almost no idea about the country. I like that everyone always asks me why I’m not going to a more prominently known European country, and I love how that has forced me to identify myself with Slovakia and has made me develop a sense of pride in my to-be host country already.
I’m so happy to be able to participate in this program and I can’t thank Rotary enough for giving me the opportunity to embark on this adventure, and for the chance to learn this new culture, its language and its people.
November 3 Journal
So I've been in Slovakia for almost 3 months already and this will be my first successful journal entry thus far. (Yes, there were previous attempts, but they were lost some how in the technicalities of the Internet. Beats me.) Anyways I figured I should get down to business and write something before Al tells me I have to come home early because I didn't do my journal entries on time.
To begin with, I'll start at the beginning, the beginning being the morning I left. I was surprisingly calm, as was my mother and my friends Kelsey and Richard while the 3 of them decided to go through my suitcases tossing aside shoes and tank tops and dresses they announced as being "ridiculous," considering the cold climate of Slovakia. When they were through, I kind of looked around my room significantly, and got the closest I would get to crying that day when I said goodbye to my dog.
We then dropped Richard off at work, got some breakfast there, and I said goodbye to him. The send off party was now down to 2- my best friend and my mother. When we got to the airport I couldn't find my passport and plane tickets, and thus had my first freak-out. But I found them, they were in my bag. Okay, good. I got all checked in and then Bill Learn showed up! "What's up Bill?" So we sat and talked while we waited for it to be time for me to go. (The next 36 hours would be a living hell of waiting.) So I went through security and they watched me of course, and waved until I was out of sight. I got to my terminal and waited for my plane, it got there and so I boarded the plane, then I flew on the plane. I would repeat said process a total of 4 times over 36 miserable hours filled with cranky air travel people, no sleep, and bad food. The worst part of my exchange thus far has definitely been the 12 hours I spent in the Prague airport with the most annoying exchange student I ever met - yeah it was terrible. I attempted to sleep on a completely uncomfortable lumpy metal bench-chair contraption while keeping a limb or two on my carry-on luggage so nobody would steal it. By the time I arrived at the Sliač airport and met my family there I felt like s***, there is no other way to explain it. Lucky for me the airport is only 10 minutes from my home in Banská Bystrica, and when we got home they fed me and we went over the super sweet first night questions (which I found to be surprisingly helpful), then I slept and when I woke up I thought, whoa, I'm in Europe.
The next month I spent waiting for school to begin, studying the Slovak language, going out to diskotekas and such with my sister, meeting new friends everywhere, traveling to various villages and cities in Poland and Slovakia for festivals, events, shopping, and stuff, and generally adapting to my life in Slovakia.
So about my absolutely lovely lovely Slovak family: I have a dad, a mom, a sister, and 2 brothers. My dad is super funny, works a lot, and is just a really great guy. His nickname for me is "opita opic," it means "drunk monkey." My mom, also, is fantastic, she is always cooking delicious food and helps me with everything I need. She has a strange obsession with witches, so our house looks like it's Halloween year round. My sister is my age and is my best friend here; if it wasn't for her I would be completely lost, and I might not have but one or two friends here and I would be completely depressed. My older brother is 20, he doesn't live at home but I still see him all the time because we are going out dancing together every weekend. He dresses like he is straight out of the movie The Fast and the Furious- no joke, it's great. My younger brother is 14, he is hilarious - he loves Slovak rap and hip hop (which in itself is hilarious), and although he's never so much as met a black person, he's pretty convinced that he is in fact black. So I love my family, they are great and I know I'm super lucky.
Okay, nobody knows anything about Slovakia, so if you're curious here it goes: Some things about Slovakia...
Yes, we have Internet, toilet-paper, malls, cars, and we even have a Sephora in the Bratislava mall.
It's perfectly conceivable and almost normal to go through an entire day and eat nothing but white food. No jokes.
You use public transportation to go everywhere. Almost everything is ridiculously inexpensive when comparing to American standards (excluding clothes, yikes - very expensive).
Everyone under 30 speaks at least a little English (almost). You can easily spend your whole life in Banska B. and not know more than a couple Slovak words (I know this is true, because I know people who are doing just that).
The boys are super pretty and many look as though they are harboring some very homosexual tendencies (usually they aren't).
Slovak women are gorgeous and thin as a rail. I hate that.
December 30 Journal
Dear Rotary, etc.
Things are quite good here right now. I turned 18 in November. That was fun. I received a total of three birthday cakes... -one from my Rotary club, -one from my parents, -and one from my sister and all of my friends. The best was third because it was presented to me at my favorite diskoteka in a nearby village that I go dancing at every weekend. And it was all a surprise, one great big surprise birthday party. I also got some gifts- and thus am slowly developing an impressive collection of "Slovensko" t-shirts, and stuffed animal ducks. Anyways, I had quite a lovely birthday.
During the last couple months this is what I've been doing/done...
I went to an obscure village situated on the side of a mountain to go to an open air art gallery showing Polish, Slovak, and Hungarian artists work.
I toured Bojnice castle, and helped pull three cars out of snow filled ditches on the side of the road on the way back to Banska Bystrica.
I spent eleven straight hours shopping in Bratislava.
I took up an aerobics class at a gym in the city.
I went to Poland, just to go shopping.
I saw Labutko, and cigansky ohen at dom kultura in B.B. and the Slovak version of 'of mice and men' in Bratislava.
I took a boat down a river that runs through a mountain range along the Poland/Slovakia border.
I moved to my second host family.
I spent one incredible weekend with some of my exchange student friends in Bratislava.
OK, so I moved to my second host family's home (as previously stated), but I didn't really move to a home... because I now live on the topmost floor of the tallest building and the nicest hotel in B.B. My family (or mom and dad- because I don't have brothers and sisters) own the hotel you see. I feel, like Paris Hilton, kind of. It's really different in this family than the first (obviously). I'm enjoying it, although I miss my host sisters and brothers, who don't introduce me as their exchange student anymore, but just as their "sister". At the hotel I eat every meal in the hotel restaurant (which is quite good), and the chef makes me my lunch for school everyday, always consisting of a variety of delicious fruits and a baguetta prepared in a new and creative way. I also have three rooms to myself- a bedroom, an office/living room type room, and a bathroom (but it counts as a room because it's freaking huge.) So now I have all this cool new stuff, but I really just miss my first family, because they love me... and I never felt like a guest in their house.
Also, I was told that I can never sit on a floor of any kind... because if I do I will never be able to get pregnant. So that's that.
And, I'm going to Florence, Venice, Rome, Barcelona, Athens, and the French Alps... some time later. (and quite possibly, Finland.)
Oh, and me and Pat are going to try to meet up soon... because why shouldn't we- he only lives in the next country over, and there's no more borders!