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Today is January 3rd, 2017. Right now I’m on the bus going back to my new host family’s house in a village on the complete opposite side of the city that I used to live. Most of the students here in Wrocław changed on the first, which definitely wasn’t easy, but I suppose it fits well with the “new year, new me” idea. I’m already really happy with my new family. I live with my host mother Jola, host father Tomek, my new grandmother, a dog, and a cat. They like jazz music and make great food and watch interesting shows, and they’ve been really kind to me already. I felt surprisingly comfortable by the first night. It wasn’t easy to leave my last family, though. I really grew to like Morena and Zbyszek and I’m so thankful for them taking me into their home and treating me like their own for those four and a half months. It was nice to spend the holidays with them during my final time living there in Miłoszyce.
That’s not to say that the holidays were particularly easy. At all. Back in Florida at the training orientations they told all of us students that the holidays would be pretty difficult and that we’d begin to feel really homesick. If any future or potential outbound is reading this now, firstly; hey! I hope your exchange is fantastic and I’m so proud of you for doing this. Secondly; everyone is right, the holidays are, honestly, pretty depressing. Obviously everyone has a different experience, and I’m sure plenty of students had amazing holidays, and I don’t want this to scare you about exchange. (Seriously, it’s the best thing that will happen to you in your young life.) But don’t let that hold you back from fully experiencing your new country’s holidays. There’s so much beautiful culture and tradition to explore during these times, and I’m already looking back and appreciating all of it, even the more difficult moments. The point is, remember why you’re in your new country and live in the moment. You won’t regret it.
I had a pretty traditional Wigilia (Christmas Eve) with my last family at my host grandparents’ house. I hadn’t spent much time with the relatives, and it was really nice to get to know them better. On my last day with them, we went to my host grandparents’ again and Morena’s father gave me a pin from the tank squad he was in many years ago as. He had previously shown me lots of beautiful pictures from this time, so it felt really special. He has invited me back in the future, but until then I will miss him.
Being with my new family is giving me a new perspective, literally and figuratively. I get to see a new side of the city, but I also get to experience life with different people
I’m continuing this on January 14th, 2017. Right now I’m watching the third Harry Potter in Polish at my host grandfather’s home. I’m actually understanding a lot of the movie, but it’s possible that that’s because I’ve seen this, without exaggeration, more than 20 times. The girls I’m watching with are 8 and 9. I can communicate with them well enough, but it still feels really funny to grasp much less of a language than someone less than half your age. But I’m getting there.
The house is about a 200 year old farm home. In the attic my host grandfather has a collection of beautiful old furniture that he’s been refurbishing for 15 years. There are plenty of people in the house as well, so there’s quite a lot of information to take in. A lot of times here in Poland I feel like a toddler, trying to soak in everything I see and process it all in a new way, a new language, a new perspective. It’s really teaching me how to reconsider everything.
I was planning on posting this update at the beginning of the week, but that was just before I fell very ill for about 4 or 5 days. It turns out, surprisingly enough, that extreme cold is not normal for a Floridian body.
One week ago I went with Carlos and his host family (my next family) to this town called Karpacz up in the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful, there was about a foot of snow on the ground and not one thing wasn’t caked in white powder. The problem was, it was about 1 degree Fahrenheit. (I know I said earlier that it was “extreme cold,” which may not be true for you, but it definitely was for my Floridian skin.)
When we first got there, Carlos and I were having a bit of trouble breathing, both of us being from places barely any higher than sea level. But after a while we got used to it and ended up really enjoying our time. The whole town was full of natives and visitors walking the streets, stopping in coffee shops, and just enjoying the bright winter day. Later on Carlos, his host brother, and I went sledding and tubing. It was a load of fun, but Carlos made us walk up the big hill over and over for about an hour until we figured out ways to go so fast that we started to run into things at the bottom. It was a beautiful day well spent that I won’t forget.
However, by the time we got home we were both feeling a bit under the weather. Looking back, a few days of being sick was definitely worth the day with friends and new family in the mountains.
It wouldn’t be honest to say that I don’t miss the sun or the warm weather or having a cold Mucho Mango on a hot day. I’m really starting to appreciate the slow, hot Florida life. But I’m also learning the value of experiences like this. That day in the mountains is something I would have never had if I’d stayed in Florida. I really can’t imagine what I would be doing if I hadn’t come here. Everyone I’ve met here, all the exchange students and all the natives, are so important to me and I can’t picture life without them. I’m beginning to understand that there are many different types of family, and I’m blessed to have each one.
I hope all is well with you.