After my first full day in Enkhuizen I become aware how grateful I am to be here. I am also realizing how much I admire Gert Jan and Marianne, my current host parents. They have let a complete stranger come into their home and become part of their daily lives. They are very sweet and loving people. I arrived yesterday around 8:15am local time. This happened to be around 2 o’clock in the morning for me. In the arrivals hall they greeted me with a sign made by their youngest daughter Marit. “Welkome Emilia” it read. As they took pictures of me while I walked to them.. Off course my luggage had to get stuck on the door. Great first impression! -__- I was also greeted by members of the Enkhuizen Rotary. We made our way to the car and headed to my new home.
While driving from Amsterdam to Enkhuizen many farms crossed my eyes. So I started making questions about farm life style; if they enjoyed it, or disliked it. Maybe for a second they thought I was a Weston farm girl. Good for them I wasn’t. That day I learned that Dutch mostly eat bread for lunch, where they place either sweet or salty things on top. We didn’t do much. My “aunt”, “uncle”, “cousins” “grandma” and “grandpa” came over for a drink. They very kindly greeted me with a gift; typical Dutch coffee mug and tulips, which brought a warm smile to my face. After they left, my host family and I went for a walk in the park with woody, their black lab. Everything is completely different from back home. I felt as if I was in a movie walking next to the lake. Soon after my host brother Derek and I went into town for some water bottles. I rode my own Dutch bicycle. It’s like my living a dream, a dream of a lifetime. Everything I see or touch feels unreal but instead it’s filled with life and culture.
Holland is a country that is 4 meters under sea level. The only way possible for that is because of so many canals. While Derek was at work, we went for a ride in our family YACHT, its wonderful long canoe J I saw the many of its breath taking flower gardens in the outside parts of Enkhuizen. I’m still recuperating from this awful jetlag so it’s my time to head to bed. Good bye for now.
So this is my second journal and so much has happened since I last wrote. In school I don’t feel so much like an “outsider”. Every day I blend in more and more. Learning the language as soon as I can but trying not to cram my brain in the process. Dutch is very difficult I have to admit. But as my water polo coach once said, “Can’t never did nothing” So during my classes I work on a packet I was given by Rotary. I come home some days wanting to take my brain out, because my head hurts a lot from trying to understand Dutch. I try to speak it when I can. Many kids offer me help; it is very nice of them. Also were many exchange students now, so I have people around me who know how I feel; the current frustration of not understanding. Every day I learn some Dutch. I always know more than I did the day before. So sooner or later I will speak Dutch. The exchange students who have been here since January speak fluent Dutch. I always tell myself that that will never be me. But one side of my brain says it will.
I have been playing volleyball with a team in my town, very nice group of girls. But it isn’t very challenging for me so sometimes it becomes quiet boring. I decided to try another sport that I like water polo. My host father accompanied me to the practice there were just adults with three or four girls. The girls happened to be moms because throughout the practice they kept talking about their children. I felt very awkward and out of place but it was quite an experience. I also got to miss a day from school because of a festival in my town called Harddraverij with some friends, yes I have FRIENDS J I know I’m also happy. I came home one day with a girls phone number and told my host parents I made a friend in school. It is the beginning of an endless friendship. I can just tell.
I get the question a lot in school. “Don’t you miss your family? Your friends?” The truth is I don’t enjoy talking to my parents a lot through Skype because it makes me miss them even more, so I try to avoid it most of the time. A lot of times I cry, I cry to let my feelings escape because I can’t let them bottled up inside. And I remind myself that it is very normal to cry. It’s just sometimes really hard to see my host mom cuddling with her youngest daughter and me having mine so far away.. But I knew this was coming and I thought I was prepared for it. But I’m not.. I have made a very special friend, Britt Beemster. I met her though Skype before I came to Holland and now I’m actually here. She is the one whom I smile for; she is going to be my host sister in my third family. And she is also my best friend.
Ok I don’t want this to be a depressing journal. So now about the fun stuff; every day I grow closer with my host family. They treat me as their own daughter. I had a soccer game and I wasn’t Emilia Duque anymore I became Emilia Tool. My host dad saw my game and emailed me some pictures Quoted,” from a proud father” it’s good to feel like part of the family. Today I had to do the dishes for the first time in a month, never knew dirty work could be so fun. In the beginning I felt like such an outsider. But slowly but surely I’m fitting in.
So I have reached past my three months. Slowly everything is starting to feel a lot like home, when I look back at my memories I have memories here, I don’t think about my memories at home. It helps me a lot to “fit” in. I still find it quite hard to make Dutch friends, because of my language problem, but also because where I live it's flooded with exchange students. Not only from Rotary but also from different organizations. I can understand a lot of the conversations I hear, which brings a smile upon my face. But in school the lessons are taught in a higher level of Dutch, I suppose, so in school I am still having trouble understanding.
I look back and I can’t believe everything that has already happened. Time does fly, and life waits for no one, so you just have to cherish every moment possible. In a couple of weeks is a good bye party for the Inbounds who came in January. I can’t picture myself in their shoes, I don’t want to picture myself in their shoes. I don’t want to go home, and my exchange is still in the beginning stages.
With some exchange students, we decided to visit Amsterdam. It is such a beautiful city. Amsterdam is very touristic. With many people always walking around, never letting go of their luggage. Walking through the town, a huge group of Asians passed by us with their luggage, looked like they were getting ready to build something more in Amsterdam. Also, now that all the lights are up because its Christmas time, it makes it like a free Disney world. In Amsterdam all your dreams can also come true. I have been there a few times now. After getting lost a couple of times I can say I know my way around Amsterdam. We had lunch at a Sushi Bar in Amsterdam. Best sushi of my life! I don’t even think Japan has sushi as good as here! To finish the day, there was a Kermis in town. Went on this huge carnival ride, which was worth 6 Euros. Those were the best spent 6 Euros ever!
I had to baby sit my “cousins” one Friday night. My friend Jessica, exchange student from Canada, accompanied me. We spend a good amount of, bonding time; I would like to call it. It was very nice. Until she received a phone call and as the good baby sitters that we are, we took the phone call outside to not wake up the children. By the time I had closed the door, I realized there was no handle to get back inside! In other words, we were locked outside. We tried every door possible from the back yard to the front, but everything was locked. We stood outside for a good 10 minutes in the cold rain until we had the brilliant idea of climbing the fence. When we reached the front side of the house we ran the door bell, until one of the kids woke up to let us in the house. Who would of thought that the back porch door doesn’t have a handle from outside to inside. These things of things only happen when you let foreigners into your home. It was quite the adventure. I had myself a good laugh.
Everyone is always telling me how you should try to fit in with the clothing, the way they act, ect. But, I don’t like very much the way the “European” look is. It is a little too vintage for my taste. I want to fit in, but I don’t want to lose my personality. Keeping up with both of them is quite of a challenge. I now think in such a different way, it’s unexplainable. For example, who would thought that I would have had the idea of going to church. I saw the church opened one day went inside and light a candle, gave thanks for the opportunity I am experiencing, for the good will of the people here, and for the health of my family at home. I try to go to Rotary as much as I can, because I am very thankful for everything I have. Going to my Rotary dinner shows that I appreciate everything they do for me and gives me a warm feeling about myself.
It has been a couple days after Christmas and I do have to say I miss my family. Talking to them through Skype during Christmas was almost as hard as walking away from them at the airport to catch my plane to Holland. But yesterday I received an e-mail which comforted me a lot, and made me realize that this Christmas is going to be a Christmas I will remember for a very long time. It was my first white Christmas. After going through this rough time it feels like now I can conquer the world by myself. Through this experienced I’ve gained a lot of independence and found who I really am. Every time I’m confronted by a hard situation I know how to control it without freaking out. I’m no longer the little girl I saw myself to be. But I’ve slowly grown into this young adult. I thank my parents a lot for pushing me to participate in a year abroad. Its something you will never forget and will value until the day you die. I am very thankful for where I am and how I got here. I think here they don’t give Christmas the importunateness it deserves. But then again, I’m in a whole different world now. Where the people grew up a different way I did. I got to sit on Sinterklaas’s (Holland’s Santa) lap and feel like a kid again, got a poem read about me, just like someone from the family. For once I didn’t feel like the exchange student in the house, but more like family. But then I had to switch families.
I have been living now for two weeks in my new host family. Leaving my other family felt like a replay from whenever I left home. Packing my bags brought tears in my eyes, but then I reminded myself that my exchange isn’t fully over. It is just another step. Sometimes I think this whole thing about switching families isn’t a very good idea. Once you feel comfortable with a group of people, you have to leave. But it also has its upside of learning to do things in a different way, meeting new people, and everything is a completely new environment. All those little things help build who you are, and who you’ve become during this year.
A lot of the exchange students from the group of January have already left. It’s unbelievable for them and also for others that their time has come to leave. Some don’t know if to be happy their leaving or if to be sad. I wouldn’t know the feeling myself because my time to leave has not yet came. Many of them had created a scrap book filled of memories I know they will treasure forever. I will soon start one myself.
During these winter vacations I have done things a couple months ago I would have never thought I would be able to do. I skated on real ice. The canals through my town have frozen and now people skate on them. Two months ago I went through these exact canals on a boat and now I’m skating on them! Unbelievable, but believe it cause it’s true. Skating on that ice makes you feel like you’re flying, like you’re on top of the world.
My language has improved a lot. I only speak in Dutch now with the family I’m with. But my language still needs a lot of work. When I try and same something but doesn’t come out how I thought about it in my head, I get embarrassed and laughed at. But I just laugh it out, and continue trying. I would have never thought I would be able to speak 3 words of Dutch and look at me now! Being able to speak more has helped a lot with the friend making process. I have made very special friends here, now it’s time to add some unforgettable memories with them.
Doeiii :) Tot the volgende keer!
Today, I packed my bags to move to my last family. Everything is happening so fast. You look back to everything you did in so little time, or at least it feels that way. I always try to thank people that do things for me and especially my host family by giving them presents and stuff, but sometimes I feel like everything they do for you can´t be given back as a present. They gave you so much, their love, their home, etc. and you give them back a present? Sounds funny. Right?
So Right before Christmas I moved into my second family, they celebrate 2 Christmas days here in Holland. So I decided to spend one Christmas day with my first host family and the next one with my second family. It was really nice. It was a really hard time, being without your actual family on so special as Christmas. But, life goes on. For new years I went to a club in my town with friends from school and I started my year right J it was an unforgettable night, fireworks started in the morning and went on until the next day. It was weird having to start everything from the beginning, you could be a completely different person if you wanted, but once you have your personally you usually don´t change a lot. I always find it really difficult getting all my thoughts on paper, But after hours of thinking, I think I got some words to say. I am looking forward to moving in with my next family. I have slept a couple of times at their house already because their daughter is my bestfriend ! I can´t imagine how fun it will be living with them. They remind me a lot of my own family back home.
An exchange student friend helped me cook some sushi for my host family as a nice thing before I moved. I really appreciate everything they did for me. I got to go skiing in Austria, something that a couple of months ago, would of never crossed my mind. Getting up and going to school on my bike is really normal now. I speak Dutch with everyone. My English has been worsening and worsening. If it wasn´t for the spelling check on this word program I would have miss spelled 50 words, and some being so simple as writing because. I don’t even want to talk about how hard it is to speak Spanish. I have learned Dutch from English, so my second language Spanish, is somewhere in the back of my head. I have to dig it from my brain when I speak to my parents at home. They are coming to visit me in July, which is in 4 months ! I can´t believe how fast time went by. When I got here, I already wanted to go home, and now that I’m here I don’t want to leave.
I like walking through school seeing familiar faces and people that are your friends and you hang out with. I also like not being the `weird exchange student` anymore. Everyone knows who you are, and instead of them being people at school, they have become your friends. These are friendships that you will keep forever. Maybe sometime in the near future these people could be your coworkers or business partners. I´m scared of going home. I have no idea how everything is going to be. It obviously won´t be the same as I left it. So many things have changed already, that part of me considers her life here, in Holland. I can´t imagine home hard it will be going home. “Back to reality” as my mother would say. I don’t want to go back to reality, I like living in this endless dream. Everything here since the start has felt so unreal part of me still doesn’t accept the fact that I am in Holland and it has been 7 months ! I have taken the opportunity to stay here as long as I was able to which is a few days always from a complete year. I came in Aug 15th 2010 and am leaving Aug 2nd 2011.
One thing that I find very difficult to do. Is do the same for people as they have done for you. People here have done such incredible things for me. I would like to do the same for them. It is so hard to, being an exchange student, not being able to work, so you’re a little short on money. I thank everyone, all the time. And give them little things, but sometimes I feel like it is not enough. Will it ever be enough. How can you thank someone for letting you live with them in their own home? I way I thank rotary for all they have done for me is by also being a host family for someone who would like to live in Florida. That is what my family and I have done. When I get back we will be hosting an exchange student from Hungry. I will personally make sure her year, is one to remember just like the people here have made mine completely unforgettable.