Zhoe Solaun
2008-09 Outbound to Argentina
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
School: Buchholz High School, Gainesville, Florida
Sponsor: Gainesville Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Arrecifes Rotary Club, District 4820, Argentina

Zhoe's Bio

 Hola! J

My name is Zhoe Solaun, I am sixteen years old and I am a sophomore attending Buchholz High School. I am proud, thrilled, and grateful to have the opportunity during my junior year to be a candidate for the Rotary Youth Exchange Program! I am excited to go to Argentina to have the opportunity: to learn everything about it and to live there for a year!

My life has been an unexpected journey through changes of moving from one city to another, my parents getting divorced and new additions to my family. I was adopted from China at the age of two and a half years old. I moved to Gainesville, Florida three years ago, after living in Singapore, Canada, and Ponte Vedra Beach for eight years. Moving around brought along new changes; especially moving from the beach to a farm. I live on a 10-acre chestnut farm with cows, pigs, and chickens. I live with my mom and step dad, Sandra and Randy; older sister, Sierra who is 16; younger sister Havana who is 15, and Dakota, my two year old brother.

I am very well-rounded as I am open to different ideas; I have been lucky to have traveled to a lot of places (Japan, Malaysia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Mexico, and Costa Rica), which fueled my desire to see more countries. I have played competitive tennis for 5 years. The hobby I enjoy the most is making jewelry. I design macramé bracelets and also work with beads. I stay busy with school work, reading, doing chores, getting together with friends, listening to music and baking.

I thank the Rotary for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and thank all my family and friends for their support on my new adventure. I am going to miss everything about my life, but I am eager for what lays ahead as I will be able learn, build relationships, grow, create memories and understand more about the world from the journey that I am about to embark upon.

Chau!


August 9 Journal

 Soon To Be…

I came into this program with the vision of being an exchange student, knowing that I would I embrace a new culture and be fluent in a foreign language. I remember the stress of the application papers, which was the beginning of my independency. The stress of the interview rooms is incomparable to the mixed tides of nerves and excitement of minimal days left until my departure. I get chills when a plane flies overhead, but I feel the thrill of everything that I have learned and all the new things before me!

I have less than a week left and overwhelming emotions of excitement and nervousness are indescribable! Through the journals I have read, I am able to relate and am speechless; as it has already been said and every word is true! The stories are extraordinary of the impact this experience has made on people; as I have already grown as a person. The emotions that students have felt and are feeling of excitement, overwhelming and curiosity have all seeped into my emotions of being confused in how to express to others.

The reiterated idea that this experience would be a minimum of three years, but the growth and memories will last a lifetime, has already become reality to me. I have grown as a person as my seed has been sowed to become more open, independent and cultured throughout this year as it has soared by and through the journey I am about to embark upon.

I am fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity. “One can never be too thankful!” But my gratitude to the support and encouragement of Rotary, family, and friends is sent with love from a young girl; who will embark upon a journey of a lifetime to help make a difference!

A debt of gratitude is owed to Rotary forever and for always!

Thank you for: Making (my) dreams come true!

Muchas besos de una chica!

<3 Zhoe <3


September 25 Journal

 ¡Hola,

I remember just a year ago, I had dreams of living in a different country. Just this past year, I would visualize myself in the memories shared by Rotex. Reading the experiences of the outbound journals have been enlightening. Now it is my turn to share my experience! For me, it has been a month and a half in Argentina, which my dream has become a reality; thanks to Rotary!

Prior to my departure, I was able experience from a point a view of the culture shock an exchange student (Belen) that my family is hosting. I was jealous of my family having a new family member. I had created a friendship with her through the emails and my final days. I asked many questions about everything she was experiencing, that I would soon experience. My biggest worry was how I would be able to cope with the culture shock. Her sharing everything with me relieved much stress, but the difference was I had a language barrier.

August 15th the day of my departure! The packing situation that was thought to be impossible to pack a whole year’s luggage in two suitcases; had been completed the night before. The last days were complicated to describe as they were calm, but stressful in trying to get everything done prior to my departure. I had given my final goodbyes to my sisters prior to my departure date. The car ride to the Jacksonville Airport seemed eternal; as there were outbursts of my brother’s tantrums, music playing in the background and little conversation. My emotions were confused of how to act, as there were feelings of nervousness and excitement that were all so overwhelming.

When it came time for the ultimate goodbyes to my parents, I held on to them as I recollected on the memories we had shared together. At that moment, I embraced them with gratitude and love for everything they had done for me and taught me. Sobs of tears streamed down without a single weep. They were tears that confused my emotions of how I felt. I was worried by the thoughts of change that I would experience and the person that I would become. (Was I ready for this?) I was excited and happy for everything that this year would offer, but overwhelmed as my heart pounded and there were thoughts of everything to worry about and countering memories of Rotex.

On the plane, I was exhausted from everything. I reflected on everything that I had already experienced from this program. (The curiosity I had when going into this program, the stress during the application and interview process, the time wanting to know my acceptance into the program, the year in preparation for the exchange of trying to learn everything about the language, culture and myself; and the excitement for my departure date.) I envisioned of things that I would experience, wiped away my continuous tears and eventually relaxed my emotions with music playing from my earphones.

When I arrived in Miami, it struck me that I was free; but alone. It was my turn to learn, be independent, differentiate the best decision to make and take responsibility for everything. I was able to meet up with Rolly who was departing for Ecuador. He had no worries about this experience, which relieved my worries of this experience. (Rolly, thank you for you insightful excitement!) On my flight, I joined with eleven other exchange students that were from the New England states, Hawaii and Canada. From reuniting with other exchange students that were in the same situation as I was; I was carefree!

All I heard was people speaking Spanish. It felt like I had forgotten all my Spanish as I did not understand anything that was being said. Passing through customs, security and immigration was a breeze. Taking my final steps down the hallway with my rolling suitcases, I saw my host parents with sign (Zohe) on the opposite side of the sliding glass doors at the arrival gate. I turned back to the exchange students, “This is it! Here I go!” I walked through the gates; they embraced me with a warming hugs and smiles. I was able to answer (in Spanish) as they asked me about my trip, but I was exhausted (6:30 a.m.) and did not say much on the two hour drive home. From the backseat window, I watched everything that we drove past and reflected on all the advice that I had been given. I was driven around the town to get familiar with everything and introduced to many people.

The beginning days of my arrival were uneventful. I went through the complications of my wallet being “lost”. My host sister Vicky commented, “Welcome to the jungle,” as she sympathized for the bad luck of my arrival to Argentina. The days were very stressful as I no longer had my wallet with all my documents, money and credit card. I had the emotions of disappointment and shame of my irresponsibility of what had occurred. (Was I responsible enough for this experience?) We filed a report of the stolen wallet, canceled the credit card, and looked into getting new travel documents. Through the stress and worries of having no money, I took from experience to be more aware of my surroundings and think more about decisions that I would make. Three weeks passed and an unexplainable, but fortunate event occurred; my wallet was found with everything that was missing in the glove department of my host father’s car. The situation has been unsolved and inevitable to understand on what happened. We came to the conclusion to put the situation behind us; as no one had an explanation to what had happened. Things settled from the fortune that I had experienced in Argentina.

Aside from the fortune, I was experiencing a new beginning in Argentina! Everything was new and exciting! Everything seemed different, but I was excited for this exchange. (Having a host brother (Rodrigo: 18), has made this adjustment easier). I was introduced to many of Rodrigo’s friends that were gathered in the streets (very common); who were all very welcoming and friendly! On the second day, a party was hosted for me to make friends and meet more people. I ate the authentic Argentine asado for the first that was different, but delicious (there would be many times to come). The night was long, as Argentineans thrive on the nightlife. I was able socialize with many people (in Spanish) and joined in singing renown songs of Bob Marley. The next day, I went to another asado to meet more people. Everyone was very open and social. Some would speak in broken English and others would talk slowly for me to understand their Spanish. An infinite amount of questions were asked of me and of things from the movies, which was my place to breakdown the stereotypes (I loved the attention!). Having met so many people my age within the first days that were all so friendly, made me excited for everything this year.

My first day of school, which I was excited for (a rare occasion) was a Tuesday (Monday was a holiday- San Martin). The school was an agricultural school that would be a whole new experience for me. On my first day of school, I was presented in front of the class that I was exchange student from Florida. I sat in an empty seat (the desks were plastic that were designed for two) next to a boy named Juan Martin. As I sat down, everyone asked me about everything. Everyone introduced their names with a strong Argentinean accent, which I was only able to remember a select few. With the language barrier, I was only able to understand a few questions as they would ask at a rapid rate that I was unable to understand. I later went around the classroom, having the students retell their names and writing them down. Names were difficult to spell as the letters were pronounced differently and some were so hard to understand. I just have to say, I got some good laughs during this process. The class seemed out of control and off task. Everyone was talking, doing anything as they pleased, and no school work. When someone would have a question they would walk over to ask the question or holler over to the teacher to ask the question. It was a normal classroom behavior, but for specific teachers the class would listen and working attentively.

I have become accustomed to school. The school hours are very long (nine hours), so during and at the end of the day I am exhausted, which is when I take a siesta (naps are common). I don’t understand what the students are learning because of the language barrier and all the subjects are related with farming. The classes I enjoy the most are: (another rare occasion) math, chemistry, English, and gym; because the information is easy and I understand what is going on. For the ten other classes I don’t understand, I spend the long hours looking up words in my dictionary (my best friend); copying notes from a neighbor; and who knows what else (as the time passes very slowly). Something new to me are the protests. The governor of the province of Buenos Aires announces a day of no school, trying to promote a raise for the teacher’s salaries. Aside from the protests, when a teacher is missing (common for teachers to have another job) the students socialize and do not have that particular class that day. The school is very small as there a total of three hundred students in all the grades combined of the school. It has been an experience as we take trips to the school farms apart from the school and work in the farm at the school.

As I attend school everyday, I attend all the Rotary meetings every Tuesday. Roughly about twenty-five Rotarians meet for dinner in a Rotary house that is specifically designed for the Arrecifes Rotary Club. The event is very organized and there is much conversation for upcoming events. The first Rotary meeting and the reunion with the Governor were the two occasions that I have had to present a short speech in Spanish. Presenting my speeches were very nerve-wracking as I would hear my heart pounding, voice shaking, and forgetting how to say simple things in Spanish. (Time will come when I will remember everything and be able to say everything smoothly and confidently.) I have attended a Rotary reunion in Pergamino (with Kevin Murphy) to meet the other inbounds, outbounds, and Rotex from my district. The weekend was lots of fun as many activities, games and socializing time were organized.

The friends I have made are always inviting me to join them in whatever they are doing. I have been busy with learning how to dance as I don’t know how and everyone here knows how to dance well. The girls have been very patient and helpful as they have become my dance teachers. The nightlife is going to go dancing, which I have been able to experience. The three nights I have gone have been unbelievable and I look forward to every time I go dancing! Now, I just need to learn how to dance and learn the lyrics to the songs. Popular music is Cumbia and Reggaeton. The music I love, which is a mix of Hip-Hop and Latin music that is amazing!

Apart from everything said, Arrecifes is a very small town that I am able to walk anywhere, as everything is nearby. The town being very small, this means everyone knowing everyone. Argentina is known for its futbol and they are very passionate about the sport. Since I have been here, Argentina won the gold medal in Olympics. Everyone was ecstatic as there was much celebration and pride when winning the gold. It also just so happened, the son (Pablo Zabaleta) of a member from Rotary was on the Olympic team of Argentina. At a Rotary reunion, he presented the son’s jersey, game ball, cleat, and Olympic gold medal; which were incredible! I have been able to join a tennis clinic at nearby club, which has been very convenient. I had the opportunity to partake in a training session with a renowned tennis professional of Argentina (Fernando Agurriez). Hopefully, I will soon partake in some dance classes learning Tango (an important part of the culture of Argentina).

Argentina is known for its beef. I have eaten meat everyday (tasty), which I have started to become accustomed to. I do enjoy the asados and dulce de leche, which are genuine to Argentina. The meals and food are very different. Breakfast does not exist (I am an exception) and dinner usually finishes around at midnight. The people smoking everywhere, especially indoors is still taking some time for me to get accustomed to. With everything being so different, I have started to become accustomed to the beginnings of the culture shock of this exchange. The language barrier has not been too difficult for me, but I am looking into finding a Spanish teacher to help with me with the grammar and conjugation complications.

Every aspect of my dream has magnified as it has become reality. This task indeed of describing everything with words has been a challenge, as this exchange is something that everyone needs to experience! I have already been rewarded with many memories and I am just a month into my exchange. To conclude this entry, Todos son bárbaro!

Until the next time I share my new memories of this experience!!!

Thank you Rotary, family, and friends for all support!

Suerte y muchas besos grandes!

Con cariño Zhoe! <3

P.S. Argentina is the best in the world at fútbol! Fútbol Champions!


October 27 Journal

 ¡Hola Che!

It has been two months!!!

I sit here in silence as my family takes their scheduled siesta. Picking up, where I left off… Short, sweet, and simple; at its best (But words are incomparable as to live & experiencing this venture!)!

The first day of spring: September 21st. Spring; bring on the sunshine and the warm weather! Spring in Argentina is chilly mornings & nights and noontime with its warmth & sunshine, and occasional cold winds & days that remain overcast. October 18, the time has leaped to be one more hour ahead. Spring is celebrated with festivals for three consecutive weekends. The warmer weather has brought out the bright colors everywhere! The nights are even more special… as the attire of bright colors (Purple!) flourish the crowded dance floors. On the disco floors, the flashings of white lights are changed to the flashing of colorful lights. The nights of dancing are even more gorgeous!

Aside from spring celebrations… It was a Wednesday; I wore the Argentinean flag and went for on a family trip for an experience held at San Pedro. It was gathering of farmers, which my family is very active with the rights of the farmers. Throughout the day, I had an adrenaline rush as I was surrounded; I was one of ten thousand people that gathered wanting representation. My heart just kept pounding as so many things seemed to be taking place! Flags of Argentina and signs were raised that represented one’s pride (Names of cities or mottos of the country). Chants derogatorily referred to the President, there were hollers against the government, and words of Argentina’s protest leaders were praised.

Consequently, I was able to visit the capital for the first time, as I stood before the Congreso (House of Congress) with twenty thousand other people that gathered! The people united in protest, but for various reasons opposing the government. My overwhelming emotions magnified as there were more people, more signs, more flags, more noise, more chanting, and more everything! We marched in the avenue as we surrounded & circled the building. Other than the fact of the twenty thousand strangers that were angry with the government and surrounded me, I took note of the beauty of the small area of the capital that I stood at. Aside from the graffiti and weariness of the building, it was beautiful! The design and architecture of the building was amazing! I was anxious and intrigued to discover much of other sites of Buenos Aires!

A trip to the capital with my family and with upbeat & cheery spirits. Buenos Aires is amazing as it resembles Chicago with its skyscrapers, but relates even to more magnificent Europe with its historical architecture! During the day, the European architecture is an aspect of Buenos Aires that is spectacular; as there is such detail of its articulate architecture! Aside from bright lights and shopping, parks are one’s escape for days of sunshine and a picnic. Elaborate statues and fountains are sprinkled all over the city! La Boca (The Mouth; home to the Boca Juniors), is incredible because of the many different colors and its Tango! The music and dancing was unbelievable as there was such passion being portrayed!

School field trip time (A first that I am not the only tourist!)! We were all were on an adventure to city of Lujan, which entailed a grand & historical basilica. The day was beautiful with sunshine and the Basílica Nacional Nuestra Señor de Luján was remarkable with such detail & beauty! The European architecture was amazing. Much of structure remained intact as it had been built late 1800s (undergone some restoration). The colors of the stained glass windows, the polished marble, the elegant tapestries, the Stations of the Cross, sophisticated statues and the enlightening Altar; were amazing as the aroma was holy and comforting. I had found my peace, as I captivated the moment in the serene atmosphere (I knelt at a pew & prayed.)! There was a lot going on in my head, but it was the first time in Argentina that I took the moment to reflect, think, and feel just (So) relaxed! I am so blessed to have this experience… Thank you Rotary for making my dreams come true! Thank you to my family & friends for their ongoing support!

Final destination, I felt like I was part of the movie cast of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; as we visited a famous national milk factory, La Serenísma! We gather at the entrance gate (Founders of the golden tickets), watched a presentation, joined by a guide who informed us about the regulations & facts about the factory, we stared with fascination of the process of the milk that it underwent to produce its signature products (Efficiently worked the tedious jobs at an accelerated rate), observed the workers all dressed in white & specialized uniforms (Oompas), and were given souvenirs of the products that it produced.

Homestretch of this entry (Random)! Riding on a machine that sows seeds fertilizes crops, was fun; but riding on a school tractor was even better (Pleasures of going to an agricultural school)! Argentineans love their meat; a traditional food is baked bread with bits of meat! We thought the end of school protest of the capital ended, but for the first time… there was a day that all the public schools (Nationwide) were closed in protest (Teachers wanting a raise in their salaries)! I have been brought into this family as if I was their own… as this has come to be, I do not (sad) want to have to change families (But it is always worthwhile in the end!)!

These past months… Have passed so rapidly and memorably. The venture & time has been a thrill as it has brought forth many new discoveries. I have only experienced a point of sadness when I think of how fast time is passing, but I counter the moment with making every aspect of this experience memorable! I have not felt much homesickness, but the swings pass by so rapid; as I have been able to keep myself active and the realization that I have one year of thrill & venture!

For Rotary! Thank you ever so much: Al Kalter, Brent Williams, Rotary Club of Gainesville, Rotary Club of Arrecifes, all Rotarians and Rotary!

P.S.: My understanding of this experience is to try new things… And in doing so I take pride in having tried the tongue and the small intestines of a cow (Part of Argentineans culture is to eat majority of the meat of a cow). Words to describe the taste…InTeRestIng, CheWy, CrunChy, & CriSpy!

Ciau for now… Teacher planning for me… I am to make a presentation (Minimum an hour) about the United States to my class (In Spanish)!!!

Hasta el proximo vez!

Muchasimas Gracias Rotary!

Mando muchas besos a todos!

<3 Zhoe <3


December 6 Journal

 ¡Hola!

It has been nearly two months since my last entry. Challengingly, I have spent many hours of much contemplation, writing, erasing and revising to describe this experience.

Just after my last entry, I put myself to work of much stress and contemplation that withheld a minor language barrier. The outcome of the task came to be a presentation of the United States history to my class. The presentation went well, but how I was able to make it endure for two hours remains unanswerable. The material did not interest my classmates much, but they remained intrigued and involved as they smiled with my pronunciations and corrected my grammar. The less eye contact towards the teacher, the prepared slideshow of pictures, and the assistance of the class made the spotlight more relaxing. The homemade cookies restored the energy into my classmates and secreted to a grand applause in the finale!

School overall has become part my routine, but with the energy of my classmates it is has been delightful to attend. I received a 10 on my first math test, which is a perfect score! I am told that I am very smart; as I am able to point to identify countries and explain events of history in geography, be a translator in English and do participate in the schoolwork. (I have got the brains! lol!) I have become an entertainer; as they ask for an encore of my singing (I like the people here, as I am told I such a great singer, lol!)! They laugh with me on my accent as I fail to roll my R’s and unable to open my mouth wide enough to pronounce the word correctly! With becoming more of a student and such energy of my classmates the school days have are a enjoyment (once I arrive). I have attended my first auction, which was a fundraiser put on by the school. I was quite calm compared to the movies (not everything is like the Hollywood). I have been able to talk and answer about my typical lifestyle & reality in the U.S. to my classmates; (the shattering the stereotypes with the exchange of the marvels & actuality of the U.S.) as not everything is like movies!

The end of the year celebration, un campamento! I have just recovered from camping overnight with my classmates at school. First things first, a friend and I had spent the afternoon baking chocolate cookies to bring to our camping classmates. We gathered in the afternoon on a Thursday, cookies were handed out and we were divided into three teams (red, yellow, & green) to participate in some games that include much running! I was on the green team; the first event was a scavenger hunt as we had to solve four hidden riddles. I was able to solve a riddle; as it was in English, and we placed second. As the sun had set, the final game was with the use of flashlights and the objective of the game was to get the signature of counselors that were imitating specific animal sounds. We placed first! As the games were finished, we gathered in around in all sorts of directions. A bonfire was lit, we dined on grilled burgers, small skits were put on by the students (mocking our teachers), there was music & dancing, stories were told, and a midnight stroll to give us a good scare! Sleep was a maximum of two hours; as we went we went to sleep early in the morning if the following day, we were freezing cold, one’s who never went to sleep and there were the early birds who had the pleasure in pranks! As for me & I don’t doubt for anyone else, we all had a wonderful & remarkable time!

At this point, school year has pretty much come to an end & summer break is here! With such great friends I have made, I am a little sad for the end! But looking forward to summer is making me confused on how to feel. I will miss my farm school; as I will be changing schools for a broader experience!

Graduation for my brother! The night was spectacular. All the money raised went towards service projects held by service organization, Club Leones (similar to Rotary)! For the beauty of the night, all the graduates from all the high schools were dressed formally with suits and dresses. It was held under the stars on a patio that was away from city noises. Families and friends gathered at tables as they took pride in their child’s graduation. Couples would model down the runway on stage and pose for the camera flashes. In the finale, fireworks were set off, the music volume was raised and everyone gathered to dance.

As for now, the language is coming along; as the key is to think and translate before speaking. My mind is confused, as there are times where I have a hard time thinking of the words in English, times where my grammar diminished at that instance, and times where I have a foreign accent. Lol.

I have my moments where I forget to think… One morning, I was to wake up my sister. In such a hurry as it was late, I gave her a slight shake and said, “It is time to get up no,” she responded with, “¿Que?” We had a good laugh, as she told me she told me she thought she was dreaming.

I found that I could cook for my family, in a way of giving back. I have not had much history in cooking, but with the recipes and the ingredients at hand, and the hours in the kitchen results to edible meals. The second time round was a beef dish, “Liver and onions is it?” I was teased at the sight of my prepared meal, which did end up being tasty. Overall, I am not too bad of a chef as they continue to use my recipes, lol!

This past month, I realized how much I have bonded with my family. There has been a mood swing of sadness that has overpowered the emotions of excitement for the change to move. Within, I was in rebellion of moving, I had truly bonded with my family, I became their youngest daughter and been truly accustomed. I held back the tears with a strong force of restraint of my final goodbyes to my family. I embraced them and thanked them dearly for everything! I miss my family, the home and my routine that kept me occupied and comfortable! My family was incredible; as they took me in as I was a complete stranger, opened their hearts, home & family as I became their daughter and touched, inspired, comforted, influenced & taught me; as they are forever placed in my heart! But don’t get me wrong, my new family is great as they are very open and welcoming! It is just not the same, but time will take its place (as always)!

The move had me thinking about my family a lot also. I began to miss the comfort of my family and the simple things about my life as my lifestyle has changed! (But I felt that it was just a normal phase of this exchange.) As I missed celebrating Thanksgiving, it was nice to hear and socialize with my family on Thanksgiving! As they have been such a great support and comfort through everything!

A few weekends past, a Rotary reunion was held and it was just as amazing as the last. It is always nice to spend time with other exchange students and talk about our experience as we are all in the same boat and to talk about each other’s cultures! It was a group of four other exchange students (a newcomer from Washington State), which they were all really social & nice. Hopefully, there will be a reunion to meet all the exchange students in Argentina, but I will have to just wait and see!

Thank You Rotary… For your support, service, and this dream come true!

For now, I am looking forward to another graduation celebration of my school! As well as, spending my summer break; who knows what I will do?!

P.S. Don’t be left out in the dark or embarrass yourself; make sure you know who Robbie Williams is!

I miss everyone & the simple things! I send my love to everyone! (But I have never had the urge to return nor have the urge to return; as I want to fulfill this experience with the possibilities of everything! Nonetheless, I still have much work with my Spanish. I am yet to dream in Spanish!)

Besos Grandes! Te amo! Te Extrano! Te Keiro! Con Carino!

Zhoe!


January 13 Journal

 Time is flying! Another year is gone & another year has begun!

As of now, I have attended a high school graduation. In particular, the graduation for my brother Rodrigo (from the Agrope of Arrecifes)! The night was gorgeous and the celebration was distinct of a short ceremony and formal dinner. Instead of caps and gowns, there were suits and dresses! Individually on center stage, diplomas were received as family pictures taken. Words of gratitude, encouragement and reminiscences were expressed to the graduates. In return, the graduates presented their observations and appreciation of teachers by friendly mocking them (quite entertaining). Indoors in formal scenery… we dined, watched a film in recognition of the alumnus, and ended the night on the dance floor!

The holidays were blissful with a summer heat, my home of such hospitality, my family of sincerity, and holiday spirit of tranquility!

Feliz Navidad! The celebration of Navidad entails the coming of Papá Noel. There was the persistence of the joyful anticipation for 25th to arrive; as there was the traditional gathering of family and exchanging of gifts! The enthusiasms of the holidays were not expressed much from decorations nor sounds of holiday carols, but from one’s emotions that they portrayed. Navidad was very rewarding to me; as I was able to meet new people, travel, discover and experience! I spent Noche Buena and the Navidad in nearby city, Rosario; Santa Fe. The city was gorgeous; as it was as grand as the Capital, but much more tranquil! The family had opened up to me with such emotion and kindness! There was so much energy of such warmth and enthusiasm as it seemed quite overwhelming (too overwhelming, as I had no idea what to say)! The eighteen of us dined at a lengthily decorated table an hour before midnight. All the food was served cold, which was sandwiches, potato salad, and a variety of meat. Everything was overwhelming; as there were conversations of all sorts of directions and all sorts of topics. There was a plentiful amount of food leftover (later for Christmas brunch); as the clock struck midnight we proposed a toast for the special celebration. As it was tradition, we gathered on the rooftop to watch the fireworks glitter the sky! Sparks surrounded us, as the sky was dazzled of colorful sparkles! Bits of chocolate and sweets were served for dessert. Gifts were swapped and unwrapped with much excitement and gratitude! The night was stunning; as everyone reunited and reminisced! It was quite exciting and exhausting as the time passed quickly and the night ended past sunrise!

Prospero Feliz Año Nuevo! Every year seems to be even better, but pass by even faster! The celebration of the New Year was spectacular! It was a celebration of the past year & the start of a new year. In addition, it was the day of my host mother’s birthday! We stayed within the pueblo for celebrative day; but it was divine, quaint and peaceful! We feasted on Asado for the New Year and there was dessert of a birthday cake! We toasted towards the New Year! Not too many fireworks were seen when the clock passed midnight! Reuniting with my friends made the night even more spectacular! We gathered on the patio where their party was set up. A guest singer was presented, the band of my friends entertained and we socialized & reminisced! Argentines are such friendly people who never miss a time to be with friends, times to party nor a night out dancing! The times I spend with my friends are some of the most enjoyable times! They are friends that I will never forget; as we always watch out for one another and have a great time with each other! Dos Mil Nueve!!! Nuestra tiempo disfrutar nuestra adolescentes!

Recently, I was able to go on family camping trip and with some friends to accompany us! There were eleven of us, for one night, but our luggage resembled a week’s worth. The whole experience was enjoyable and laid back. We traveled fifty kilometers to San Pedro, which was a bigger city with a river beach. We camped on the riverside on camping grounds, which was a popular summer location. Despite the summer heat and mosquitoes, we were able to explore, socialize, play cards, play games, cook, relax and have a great time together!

As for me, the school year has ended. Summer has started! I have been spending lots time with my friends; especially swimming! Things are quite relaxed and tranquil. As we just live laid-back and do things when the moment comes! What is taking place in the present, the 10-day Fiesta de Doma y Folkloric in Jesus Maria, Cordoba. It is a festival that portrays the gauchos, folk music and the rodeo (on horses) competitions of Argentina’s culture! Recently, Boca Juniors have won the Opening Champion Tournament of Argentine Soccer (Campeón Torneo Apertura 2008 del Fútbol Argentino), which was as grand (or grander) of a victory of Florida’s Gators NCAA football title (Go Gators!)! I have been able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my Rotary Club! Also through Rotary, I have been a part of the pueblo’s Interact Club. Through Interact, we were able to organize a reunion with Club Leones International (international service program) and put together a Rock Music Concert to raise funds for the community! Everything has gone swell! To mention, how fast time has gone by! I have been here for about five months now and I am just about ready to move to my third family! The adjustment was hard when I moved for the first time, but I am excited for the broader experience!

Thank you Rotary, family, friends and everyone who have supported me! This experience that is actually a reality that I witness has been… overwhelming, thrilling, a blessing, a dream come true, more than one could ever ask for, unforgettable, even greater than I expected, and beyond indescribable & imaginable! An age I do not want to grow older from. A place where I do not want to have to leave! But I will never forget nor leave behind everything that I have experienced!

Te Querio Mucho! Con Cariño! Besos! Deseo Lo Mejor! Espero Que Todo Te Vaya BARBARO!

xoxoxoxox Zhoe xoxoxox  


 May 10 Journal

 One can never be too grateful! Thank you to my dearest family, to overachieving Rotary, and all those thinking of me!

The second family took some time to getting used to. I feel that on both halves: as I the student and for my host family; we had influenced each other for the better. When it became time to change, the realization of such hospitality and warmth I had been given made it difficult to move. Through the mother, the emotions were expressed as the tears came. For me, it was an adjustment that made me realize to always appreciate what you have and one’s attitude matters!

New School. Private Catholic School. I truly do enjoy the school… uniforms, classes, school hours and most of all… MY CLASSMATES! The class is quite entertaining and quite rowdy! WE ARE THE SENIOR CLASS, making it the most memorable and pleasurable and ultimate high school year!

The sound of the whistle blew. It was a penalty call on me. Always learning something new! HAND BALL. Could you imagine someone playing without knowing neither the game nor the rules (there was the thought there is not too much to be explained)? I was in that position, but feeling confident of understanding the game… I learnt from a simple mistake. I was left out on the rule of not being able to enter the white outlined box. The whistle blew, without knowing why I was called on and a sentiment of feeling bad for violating a rule. At that moment I was just guilty but clueless… it was from then on where I truly understand rules of the game!

Celebrate Good Times! The celebration of my birthday will be unforgettable. I was able to realize how much I fitted in and how many memories I have shared. We were a small group celebrating a new year of growth. It was memorable as we reflected on the memories when I was just someone they knew through now; which I have become one of them… LAS CHICHIS!!! I was heartfelt, when I was actually mentioned and told that I had truly become a CHICHI!!!

An evening quite memorable was the visit to Pergamino (Kevin Murphy’s city) with three friends. In size, the city is quite big for Argentina, but quite small for the US. (Similar to the TITLE CITY... Gainesville!). We were let loose to do some shopping, which ended up being window shopping. Next stop... the Bowling Alley! For me, it had been a long time since I had bowled, for one it had been her second time round and for the others it had been their first! We had a some good laughs; as the ball seemed to be quite heavy to give a good toss and there was the continual throws of gutter balls. Final destination... Loco Por Pizza! PIZZA Y PASTA LIBRE, where you are served all the pizza and pasta that you can handle! Never have I consumed so much food. I came in last with a appetizer of Raviolis and four slices of pizza. Pizza was continued to be served to me, as I would give it away. Two friends had a draw with two bowls of raviolis and seven portions of pizza. The champion ended up with two bowls of raviolis and ten portions of pizza! It was intense and memorably quoted, “Argentineans don’t eat to live... they live to eat!”

Third time is the charm! Another time round, where I have become a daughter and sister to a welcoming family and home of such hospitality, which has made this move the hardest!!! Nevertheless, I have found the family, which has become my favorite; one that I truly do not want to have to let go! It has been a full experience with two brothers whose relationships is sweet & sour and a sister who has truly become my best friend (a friendship that is priceless)! I have the parents of a Rotarian who is the owner of CHACRAS DE VINA and a mother, who’s a blood doctor of three hospitals. Adjusting to such a crazy schedule, I have truly enjoyed being part of the family!

Easter Weekend, which meant a break from school! The cabins were fully reserved, which became a stressful time for my father (good for the business). The weekend was quite relaxing and enjoyable as there was the reunion with family.

This exchange year has been memorable as I have had a summer vacation and I have been able to live where people come to vacation! Chacras de Vina (www.chacrasdevinia.com). A lodging area, for those who seek peaceful cabins, fresh air, nature, a spa (under construction) and peaceful pueblo (that is no more than 300 people). One may just have the idea, why one may just not want to move. I have come to enjoy the nature and simple pleasure of the country’s quietness. It is the fresh air and peacefulness that I have taken for granted and will truly miss!

Thank you for granting me this blessed dream come true!

Lots of Love!

Zhoe!