My name is Kevin Turnquest and I’m from Freeport, Grand Bahama. I am 15 and currently a senior at Sunland Baptist Academy and I have been chosen to be a part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program this year.
I have a lot of hobbies such as bike riding and playing baseball but my favorite one is American Football. A league was recently started in GB and my team is the Freeport Fire and this past season we had a record of 0-6. Football is my favorite hobby because it requires a strategic mind and sharp reflexes and it's really really fun.
When I have free time, I like to read a book, use the computer, hang out with my friends, and do pretty much everything a normal teenager likes to do.
September 23 Journal
Well I’ve been here for 3 weeks now and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it! Thanks again Rotary!
I arrived on September 1st, having traveled for the last 18 hours by myself non-stop, I was in Italia (insert carefree Whoo-hoo here), armed only with my suitcases, Rotary blazer (which doesn’t help as people here don’t know what Rotary is), my English – Italian dictionaries and my minimal (and boy do I mean minimal) knowledge of the Italian language. The minute I stepped off of the plane in Genoa, my heart began to pound and a million questions zoomed around in my head. “Wow I'm really here, Wonder what it’s like?”, “Will my host family like me?”, “Will they even recognize me?”, “Uh-Oh, what do they look like!” just to name a few. I was scared out of my mind! As I got out of the baggage claim area I didn’t see anyone and my heart immediately dropped as I started to think they forgot about me. Then as soon as I rounded the corner I saw them and I knew immediately it was them. Although their jumping up and down and screaming my name probably helped J.
I joined them and immediately felt at home. On the drive home we talked about the rules and our upcoming vacation to France and Spain only THREE days after I arrived. Right then and there I knew this was going to be a very fun year.
So three days later and me still a bit jet-lagged, we took off on a ferry to Barcelona, Spain. My first thought as my host dad Roberto drove the car off of the boat was, “Whoa, I can’t believe I'm in Spain!”, little did I know this same phrase would cross my mind after we crossed the French border. While in Barcelona we did a lot of sightseeing and visited a lot of old churches and continued closer and closer to France with each day. Unfortunately our trip got cut short because I got a splitting migraine and after a consultation with a Spanish emergency room (Spanish hospitals are really nice by the way), my host parents decided the best thing to do would be to head straight home.
After cena (dinner) and a sunset stroll along the beach in Nice (yes, I still got to stop in France for a few hours), we continued on our way to home sweet home.
Fast forward 2 weeks to my first day of school!! As exciting as this statement may sound I was the exact opposite. I was a bit…unhappy that I had to go to school after I already swore on graduation day that I was never going back to high school. And on top of that I'm a ninth grader! So as you can see it’s nearly impossible to explain to my teachers why I'm not the most focused student in the class because I graduated (graduation age here = 19, my graduation age = 15, result = big confusion) but somehow I’ve managed to make my point relatively clear through sign language and some help (OK a lot of help) from my classmates. By the way, apparently in Genova, being from the Bahamas automatically elevates you to the status of BMOC (Big Man On Campus). In the words of the immortal Bugs Bunny, “Who wuddah thunk it?”.
So I think I’ve rambled on enough for now (I’ve got to write these things more often) so just one more point: Grazie a mille Rotary for making this possible!!
P.S. Can’t figure it out? Then find an online dictionary J.
March 6 Journal
Wowwww it’s been a long time!
I realize I haven't exactly been regular with my reports and probably should give some long excuse but there really is none (the dog ate my homework doesn’t exactly fit this context), so, Rotary, I really am deeply and truly sorry and I promise to try to be a bit more regular with my reports.
Ok, so it’s been a while and I’m not sure if I can remember everything but I’ll try to summarize although it hasn’t exactly been action packed over here.
October was…..interesting. I had my first (& only) Rotary meeting on the 13th. That night Jeanette (the only other student in my city) and I went to a little “bar” type deal called a trattoria and waited to meet our district chairman Dante Salme. After all of the pleasantries and the typical half hour spent stuffing ourselves with meat and cheese, we headed on our way. I was so excited! Now back home my dad is a Rotarian so I'm usually at Rotary meetings and events fairly often so I had an idea of what to expect. Two words. COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Here Rotary is a bit more uptight. Okay a lot more uptight. They wanted everything done as close to the rules as possible including eating which got a bit awkward when I used the wrong fork :-S. But at least the food was good! =D
Fast forward to my birthday. Usually this is a time when I'm excited, I mean come on!! How many times do you turn 16?! That’s driving age!! (if I lived in the States that is.) But sadly I wasn’t. Not because I missed my family or anything like that but I simply just wasn’t feeling the whole birthday/party scene. Of course no one listened so I ended up being pleasantly surprised by a group of random people with food and music. Guess I was having a parrrrrr-tayyy!! We sat around and ate a bunch of junk food and later went out to a movie. Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad actually.
November was pretty boring. I just went to school every day for what seems like forever. School days start at 7:45 and school ends at about 13:45 although it always feels soooooooooooooo much longer. Every day I have extra Italian classes after school on the other side of town which is like an hour away so I usually get home around 7.30/8. In day school (it’s how I differentiate [Yes the dictionary was brought out for that one]), the students don’t change rooms for every class, the teachers do. Most of the students here have been in the same class for years upon years so they are all extremely close to each other and on top of that they spend all day every day studying. This makes it a little harder to fit in, but they all so try to help me with any problem with Italian or anything which is GREATLY appreciated. November in a nutshell.
By far the best month I’ve had in Italy. This probably had a lot to do with my first dream in ITALIAN!! Okay so I didn’t understand most of it. Or realize it was Italian until after I woke up but I still had one!! xD. December was actually my most hectic month here. My host family was going to visit their son also on exchange in California for Christmas which meant I had to find a place to stay for Christmas and New Years. Oddio!!
After a long time of searching I had what I believe was my first “EUREKA!!!” moment since I’ve been in Italy. I remembered that Anna from Italy was staying with my family back home so I asked her to ask her family if it was okay if I could stay there for X-Mas and they said....Wait for it....YES!!! I was so excited that I didn’t have to spend my Christmas on a park bench across the street (I mean the hobos are cool and all but they give me dirty looks...) and that I got to go to a different city, not to mention an island!!
First thought off the plain: “Great Scott Batman!! (Ok not really but the real one isn’t too nice) I smell salt-flavored air!!” Then the 50 degree weather (it was about 30 in Genova when I left but with the combination of my beloved sea-breeze this felt wayyyyyy colder) hit me like a slap in the face. Back home I rarely went to the beach even though it was only across the street but as any Bahamian will tell you, being landlocked sucks!! By this time my salt-air savorating (pretty sure not a word but I think you can get the picture) was being interrupted by the line of passengers waiting to get off the plane. Oops! I hurried off to get my bags and meet my new host family for 2 weeks.
From the minute I saw them I got a strange feeling and for what felt the first time since I’ve been in Italy, I actually felt completely at ease like I was really truly home. We headed home for dinner and for once I actually ate pasta with vigor! (Never been big on Italian food) Weird huh?
Christmas eve we ate a giant meal with family and there was a mad dash to the tree which kinda tipped me off to what time it was. Presents!!! Naturally I meandered over to the tree thinking that there were no presents for me (I was just happy enough to be there), when I got a bulge of brightly colored wrapping paper to the face. Guess I was wrong! :-D Altogether I got 2 shirts, a scarf, and some cologne. Not half bad for someone who expected nothing! After the present opening (1 am) we went to bed because the next day we were leaving to go spend a few days in the mountains! Sadly I didn’t have any visions of sugarplum fairies dancing in my head that night :-(.
For New Years there was another humongous dinner at a family friend’s house. At first when they told me I knew a member of the family from before I came to Italy, I racked my brain trying to figure out who it could be. Then it hit me. Daniele! Danny was a student in district 6990 last year and he was a pretty cool guy so I figured I wouldn’t be too bored after the eating. Plus it would be nice to hear from someone who knew pretty good English. So we get there and sit down to eat only to find out the Danny was in a different city over New Years. I was a bit disappointed but I didn’t let that stop me from stuffing myself until I could barely walk.
After dinner the adults got up to go for a walk to a nearby piazza but as I stated early, both myself and the other (permanent) exchange student living with Carlo and Angela could barely get up from our seats at the dinner table so we just sat and watched TV while the adults went on their little giro (Tour..Also turn, rotate, spin and a whole lot of other things). By the time we were able to breathe properly again the adults were back and ready to go home so we went downstairs (albeit at a much slower and slightly more painful pace than before) and headed home. The next thing I remember is waking up the next day around 4 with major hunger pains despite having eaten enough for two the night before. Oh the irony.
Happy New Year!!! This held both good and bad for me. Good because I got to see a New Year! Bad because I didn’t want to leave Cagliari in just 2 days!! I had only been there for 2 weeks but I fit right in almost like I’d been there all of my life! Not to mention I was on an island! The beach (as murky as it may have been) was in the air!! But sadly all good things must come to an end so on the 3rd after a rather tearful goodbye (not from me), I left Cagliari for Genova. As my plane pulled out of the gate a sudden realization dawned on me. This holiday season I was prepared for homesickness to to rear its ugly and beat me silly with it’s bat of sadness but strangely I wasn’t homesick. I was...content.
When I got off the train from Milano (had to make a connection) I was struck again by an extremely unexpected feeling of coming home. I’ve always thought that while I’ve enjoyed my time in Italia for the most part I probably wouldn’t miss it but this trip showed me that maybe, JUST maybe, Italy’s starting to grow on me.
Grazie a Rotary, non solamente RYE-Florida, ma anche Il Rotary Club of Lucaya per questa esperienza. Vi Ringrazio troppissimo.
Thanks Rotary, not only RYE-Florida, but also the Rotary Club of Lucaya for this experience. Thank you soooo much.