Friday, July 13, 2012

Reflecting, but this time on American Soil.

So I told myself I'd keep this blog going for as long as I want to, or as long as I need to. In case you didn't know, I'm home now. Safe and sound in the United States. I can't lie in my blog and say everything's going well, but it's going as well as it could be. Everything around me is going well, and my parents are more than thrilled to see me. The relationship between my parents and I is going great, better than it has ever been and I'm very happy about that. But I miss it. I miss the Netherlands so much. I cried for a while on Sunday morning, what would be the first full day of being in the States.

I keep busy. That's one of the few things that's helping. When I'm sitting alone or just doing nothing that's when my brain starts to wander... It feels like a dream. The longest and best dream I've ever had. I can't wait to go back, and being here and noticing little things is just making me want to go back even more.

Let me tell you some of the things I've noticed since I've been back. First of all door handles are much lower. I have no idea why I noticed this, but every time I reach for a door I don't understand why I haven't hit the doorknob yet... oh wait there it is. But why is it near my hip?! The other thing I noticed is how people react to politeness. A few times in the grocery store, I've wished people a nice day. And they look at me very quizzically, and say thank you. But I don't understand this yet. Why were they so confused? Are Americans lacking so strongly in politeness that they don't wish everyone a nice day, regardless of their job? I'm sure I'll figure this one out. But in the mean time I now know that I have become much more polite over the year. Which is never a bad thing.

I'm still just so glad to have been able to do this year abroad and grow so much into this person I've now become. I'm happier with myself than I've ever been, and I just wish more kids could just experience what I did. That is one of the reasons I want to become a volunteer for AFS. The volunteers for AFS Nederland were so helpful and so important and really just made the differences at the camps we attended. I want to give that same feeling to future AFSers who are coming to America, and maybe one day volunteer for AFS Nederland if I go back to live there.

I start work on Monday, babysitting for my little Dutch girls, so I can start speaking Dutch again with their parents! And the girls too I think. I'm really excited! And I'm going to get my old job as a Hostess back, and start training to be a server. I'm going to start a scrapbook for myself too, so that way I have something from this year to work on to keep me busy.

It feels like a dream... I can't believe that I was in the Netherlands for so long, and now I'm back... Everything looks the same, but I don't feel the same.

Friday, July 6, 2012


I had to look up the google translate for that word.... Onrustig in Dutch. And that's how I woke up this morning feeling... Today is my last day, its 10 am here, and I've got something that feels like it's going to be a long day today... I've done everything I needed to do before I left paperwork wise, said goodbye to almost all of my friends, went to the AFS end camp which was wonderful, but I'm still not prepared to go....

At camp we focused on three things, what we had learned, moving forward and saying goodbye. It was a very emotional weekend... I can't explain to you what it's like to be in a room filled with kids from all over the world, all hugging each other and saying goodbye. Some crying, others not. But everyone feeling the same exact thing. This is it. This is goodbye. But not farewell, oh no no. This is goodbye until the next time.

What a long day I feel this is going to be... My brother Brian is having a party tonight, and I'm not sure yet if I'll end up crying a lot or if I'll be happy... It's just so hard to leave. It might be hard to imagine that I've built a new life here, I have a wonderful family and a wonderful group of friends. And the hardest thing is, I've built a life that I like more than my other one.... and that's where I'm struggling. Everyone keeps saying oh but you get to see your old friends again, and your family. Yes, my parents will be there for me, but how many people have actually read this blog, or contacted me during the year... not as many as you'd think to be honest. I'll be fine next year though, after the culture shock goes away of course... because I've made friends here that I know will keep in touch with me, and people I know will be glad to see me when I come back on vacation. And I have a friend who was an exchange student in Norway and is going to help me a lot, because she just got home a week before I will. And she's going to be at the University in my town, so I'll have her to go to also. She's been a great help for me, as I have for her.

I think that when I go back I'll feel how much things haven't changed at home. Because I feel that I've changed a lot in this year, in ways I never thought I even would. There's been ups and downs, but through it all I've made it. This is the end of my year. And I've chosen to do something that many people never even dare to do. I think I Will keep blogging once I'm back in the states, because it makes me feel really good to write down everything I'm feeling. I've talked about how much I feel I have changed haven't I? The way that I look at things, or the way I talk to people... I feel I've changed so much. I couldn't believe it when I opened my letter up from the beginning of the year... the way I spoke to myself was mind boggling... I've gained a lot of self confidence in this year, and no one will ever be able to take what I've done away from me. And this, among other reasons is why it will be so hard to go home, because who even remembers what they were saying 11 months ago.

I'm going to miss the Netherlands. I hope I can come back here one day, and I'm going to keep speaking Dutch so I won't lose it. I'll miss biking to school... and biking with no hands, which took me a long time to learn. Or biking with someone sitting on the back of your bike, that I'll miss too... And of course I'll miss my family here, they've been such a big part in this year that you can't forget about someone like that. So this is it. I have to go finish the last few things I have to do today, and then well... just wait I suppose. And I have to keep telling myself:

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More Reflecting...

Today two of my friends at school started crying. Yesterday I cried. A lot. With my brother hugging me and comforting me. But as much as I think I'll cry this month, it's going to happen. I'm going to leave. I can't stop thinking about it. I love it here, so much. Like I said in the last blog, five years and I'm back here. I know I'm not the same person anymore. I've changed drastically, in a way that no one can ever take away from me. I have seen countries and places I have never been too, nor ever thought I would go to. I have (as AFS said) experienced more up and downs in one year than I ever thought possible. I've learned how to evaluate myself as a person, and actually reflect on myself and my life, all while living as another nationality.

Part of the hard part of going home, they say, is accepting that everything may or may not have changed back home. I don't know how my old friends have changed, or even the area I live, but it's a different year that has happened in America. Prom, homecoming, learning to drive, playing sports, going to school, taking SAT's, seeing your biological parents every day, and probably getting annoyed with them because you're a teenager. All things I haven't done this year. All things that seem well... opposite of my life.

That scares me to be honest. The idea of normality. Especially just with the language alone. Am I ready to go back to speaking English all day long, and dreaming and thinking once again in English rather than dutch?

But there are positives. I have finally made the step that at some point every teenager makes with his/her parents. That step that you realize they aren't out to get you and not let you have fun and all the things I used to think last year. I think it might be the culture here, but I just can talk to my parents so easily now. No sneaky, evasive actions. I don't mind saying this because it's true, I've finally gotten over that feeling with my parents. I guess leaving them for a whole year changes the idea you have of them. But I'm excited to start my new relationship off with my parents. A whole new beginning for me in the states, and a whole new relationship to begin with my parents.

So I decided to make a list of things I'm looking forward to as I am home. Because right now it's hard getting myself motivated to want to go home.
Driving- After riding a bike all year, and watching my brother get his license I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of my car.
IHOP- I know that's a weird one, but I'm really looking forward to eating American pancakes again, because Dutch pancakes are like crepes.
Working- I actually really have missed working, and I will be happy to start again and begin making money again.
College Visits- I haven't had the chance to see any colleges really, so I'm looking forward to doing that with my parents or going to visit friends already in College.
School- I have actually really missed actual school. School is far too overwhelming in a foreign language, and I am definitely looking forward to being able to do homework without first having to translate it to make sure you know what it's actually asking.... (finally I don't have to do that anymore with work, but in the beginning... whoa. haha)
MY CLOSET!!!- I have actually been thinking about this for a while, and the first thing I want to do is clean out my closet. I went a whole year with out all of that stuff, so I can't wait to remember what is in there, and then sell clothes.
Getting my hair cut- I have only gotten my hair cut once this year... so it's definitely time for a hair cut...

I'm sure that as the days go on, I'll think of more things I'm looking forward to. like seeing my dog or just being able to sleep in my old bed again. But I leave you with more wise AFS wisdom from old exchange students I believe. Because this describes it better than I could. So, enjoy.

"A year has passed and now we stand on the brink, of returning to a world where we are surrounded by the paradox of everything and yet nothing being the same.
In a couple of weeks we will reluctantly give our hugs and, fighting the tears,we will say goodbye to people who were once just names on a sheet of paper to return to people that we hugged and fought tears to say goodbye to before we ever left.
We will leave our best friends to return to our best friends.
We will go back to the places we came from, and go back to the same things we did last summer and every summer before.
We will come into town on that same familiar road, and even though it has been months, it will seem like only yesterday.
As you walk into your old bedroom, every emotion will pass through you as you reflect on the way your life has changed and the person you have become.
You suddenly realize that the things that were most important to you a year ago don't seem to matter so much anymore, and the things you hold highest now, no one at home will completely understand.
Who will you call first?
What will you do your first weekend home with your friends?
Where are you going to work?
Who will be at the party Saturday night?
What has everyone been up to in the past few months?
Who from school will you keep in touch with?
How long before you actually start missing people barging in without calling or knocking?
Then you start to realize how much things have changed, and you realize the hardest part of being an exchange student is balancing the two completely different worlds you now live in, trying desperately to hold on to everything all the while trying to figure out what you have to leave behind.
We now know the meaning of true friendship.
We know who we have kept in touch with over the past year and who we hold dearest to our hearts.
We've left our worlds to deal with the real world.
We've had our hearts broken, we've fallen in love, we've helped our best friends overcome eating disorders, depression, stress, and death. We've lit candles at the grotto and we've stayed up all night on the phone just to talk to a friend in need.
There have been times when we've felt so helpless being hours away from home when we know our families or friends needed us the most, and there are times when we know we have made a difference.
Just weeks from now we will leave.
Just weeks from now we take down our pictures, and pack up our clothes.
No more going next door to do nothing for hours on end. We will leave our friends whose random e-mails and phone calls will bring us to laughter and tears this summer, and hopefully years to come.
We will take our memories and dreams and put them away for now, saving them for our return to this world.
Just weeks from now we will arrive.
Just weeks from now we will unpack our bags and have dinner with our families. We will drive over to our best friend's house and do nothing for hours on end.
We will return to the same friends whose random emails and phone calls have brought us to laughter and tears over the year.
We will unpack old dreams and memories that have been put away for the past year.
In just weeks we will dig deep inside to find the strength and conviction to adjust to change and still keep each other close.
And somehow, in some way, we will find our place between these two worlds.
In just weeks.
Are you ready?"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reflections I suppose are in order

So my year is almost done. I'm four days away from my one month mark, and then I'll be flying back to my other home... It's a weird feeling I must say. You start a life for yourself, and then all of the sudden you are forced to leave...

My english vocabulary and grammar has severely diminished, and I'll tell you how I know that. My friend Kathyrn is visiting right now. She is an exchange student with AFS ( hence how I met her) but she is in Norway. She came for the weekend to visit. And talking to each other is just the funniest thing. We catch each other's mistakes, because sometimes they are just so bad. In Dutch the sentence structure is completely opposite of English, so it just doesn't make any sense when your brain thinks in Dutch. Forgetting words is always funny too. If someone else was to say it you'd understand, but you can only think of the word in your foreign language... haha

But I'm leaving. and thats hard to come to terms with. Its the same feeling as before I left. I don't believe that I'm actually going to have to get all of this STUFF out of what has become my house, and leave an empty room behind, and a family that I've grown to love very deeply. I want to come back. Five years. I'm back, that's what I want now. I love the people, the culture and the ways of life here. I will miss my bike ride to and from school, riding on the back of boys bikes, or now having girls also on the back of mine. Going out on the weekends. People complementing you on your Dutch after they find out you're not in University, you're just a foreigner learning the language and culture. Repeating the same story to answer a question a million times and knowing how to say it perfectly, grammar and everything. That feeling of, the look on someone's face after hearing you've learned Dutch, one of the most difficult languages in the world to master, after only ten months. Which for some strange reason the internet seems to think it's not a difficult language at all, but that's just not true at all. It is not even close to English grammar wise or spelling wise. Maybe since there are no added letters it's not considered difficult but I beg to differ. But anyways I did it. I gave a project for 40 minutes or so, with two other girls from my class last thursday. Completely in Dutch. The teacher said it was good, and so did all of the kids in class, even though I was so nervous. But they understood my dutch, no problem at all. Learn Dutch, goal completed.

But now I'm going to have to go through reverse culture shock... that sounds like a picnic, because culture shock is not as fun as it's made out to be. I read a blog recently called Can you Survive Reverse Culture Shock? And now I am going to tell you about this blog and what it said in reverse form, by asking you: Will you Help me Survive Reverse Culture Shock?!

1. Will you care about my travels?
Until you ask me, I will keep my travels and life changing experiences to my self. Because I will be surprised to see that many people will not show the slightest interest in what I have just done, or don't want to hear about it.

2. How will you stop normality from hitting hard?
Apparently after I've done all of the things I've missed, and gone to all of the places I wanted to eat in America, I will be upset at how normal life seems to be. I might be bored, and uninterested in every day life. And more importantly, I will feel how tedious it will be to hear every day conversations in English again. Because hearing people discuss the weather or things is much more interesting in a foreign language.

3. Will you understand me?
Apparently it is very common for people like me to come back with new open-mindedness, interest in other cultures and new opinions. Maybe you will fail to share my interests and that might leave you feeling confused or maybe just not care at all.

4. Will you be jealous?
This one is self explanatory, although I will try not to talk about this year abroad constantly, it could very well happen and that could lead to some jealousy issues.

5. How will you help me not feel stuck in my life?
The biggest problem is apparently that one can feel stuck, especially in Locust Grove, and can make one feel very isolated and alone.

So, will you help me survive reverse culture shock?

I wrote that mostly as a joke, because I found the article just so interesting. It's not me trying to brag or anything like that, but that's how the author wrote the article, I just wrote it in a different way but the same information. I don't know how I will feel when I go home. I know I will be very very busy, college applications, trying to make money as well... haha So I guess we will find out. Nothing to do but wait.... I am really sad to leave though... it's slowly starting to hit me that I do have to leave soon... very soon. And I don't like the thought of that. :(

Food, food, food!

This blog has existed for far too long. I've had this blog saved in my drafts for a very long time with only the first paragraph... So It's probably about time I finish it. I don't know if I've really talked that much about food here, but I've been thinking about food a lot lately and what I really like about Dutch food, and the few little food items that I miss back home.

So first the yummy things. Desserts and pastries. There are pannenkoeken, which are thin pancakes with a thicker, and richer dark Dutch syrup. They usually use this and powdered sugar on it, and it's very good. But you can really put anything you want on it... Like Nutella or jam. Then there are Appelflappen, which are basically an apple pie in a puff pastry with sugar on top. Its a triangle shape but it's good cold or warm. Oliebollen is a new thing I have only had once, and its a fried sort of bread thing with or without raisins that you put powdered sugar on. It's only around until New Years though, so we eat it during the holidays. Then there are stroopwafels, which is basically the best thing in the entire world. It's two waffle like things with some syrup inside, but they're thin and they're just the best thing ever. I think for all of the exchange students they are more addicting than for Dutch people. Because if you give exchange students a package of stroopwafels it will be gone in like ten minutes. Vla is a type of pudding, that I think is a bit thinner than our pudding, but it is a lot better tasting than ours is. You can put hagelslag on this, which is the chocolate sprinkles that I think I've talked about...( you put this on bread, and it tastes exactly like chocolate but in sprinkles form. You have many types of flavors of this, and also in a few shapes)

What else... there's the fried food. Frikandel, Kroket, and kaas-souffle. Also bitterballen! those are really good too. Frikandel is kind of a sausage sort thing. There's a joke that no one knows what its made of, so they say its made of horse. haha. A Kroket is like a croquet, but its also sort of a thick sausage shape, about 4 inches long, with different soft fillings in side. And a kaas-souffle is a cheese souffle. bitterballen are like, mini krokets i guess you could say.

Potatoes. The Dutch love their potatoes. Fried, boiled or steamed, we eat potatoes almost every meal, unless we're eating pasta. Typical Dutch food is a portion of potatoes, some sort of meat, and another vegetable. Usually the other vegetable and the potatoes are mashed together to make sort of a potato bowl, which my Dad and brother put gravy inside.

Vegetables. A typical Dutch meal consists of potatoes, another vegetable and meat. These vegetables are often combined with the potatoes, making a sort of... mush I guess you could say? And that's pretty much typical Dutch food. Sometimes you can mash the vegetables and things, and that is a specific type of meal. The dutch also eat a lot of foreign food, like Italian, and Greek for example.

Okay I really don't think I am going to write anymore about this, because that's basically it in a nut shell. the moral of the story is that dutch have very good sweet food, and their dinner time meals are kind of blah, but my host mom makes them soo tasty. She is a very good cook.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Parents Visit

So I haven't done this yet, but I figure this is most worthy of a blog post. Two weeks ago, my parents were here!! They stayed with us at home while we had a week of vacation. We traveled a lot around the Netherlands, to lots of little towns. My dutch parents said that they have seen more of the Netherlands in one week then they have in their whole lives! But sometimes that is very true of your own country, you are more
likely to go other places than to explore your own country. The first picture is my american dad, (me) and my Dutch Mom, dad and little brother. We did a few typical touristy things like De Keukenhof, which is a huge garden, the Cheesemarket in Alkmaar, and Kinderdijk, which is a whole lot of windmills all together. 19 of them, which used to be 20. Then as for the towns, we saw Middleberg, Domburg, Willemstad, Zierikzee,
Delft, Antwerp, Brussels, and of course Steenbergen, and Bergen Op Zoom, the city where my school is. The top picture is in Kinderdijk, the place with the windmills, and this one is us in the Keukenhof, the flower garden. They also happened to be here for a Dutch Holiday, called Queen's Day, which is kind of like one big party. It's the only time of the year (excluding the European Championships with Soccer) that the dutch people are nationalistic. So you see everyone dressed in Orange partying. We went to Amsterdam and walked around there, and it looked so cool to see all the people partying on their boats. We stayed over night there and then walked around Amsterdam as it was less crowded, and saw the Rijksmuseum and those sort of things. So that about sums it up. It was really nice to see my
parents after so long, and it was also really nice to see both of my sets of parents interact with each other in person for the first time. I'm sure we will all keep in contact :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Blogger

So, I didn't actually plan on writing a post today, but it just kind of has happened now. Blogger has a 'new look' even though my blog looks the same though. It's the dashboard that is different. But, on said dashboard, you can see all the people who have looked at your blog, among other less interesting things. HOW COOL! Let me tell you my stats, because I am honestly surprised.
Page views in all time History: 2,469
Page Views by country:
United States: 1,293
Netherlands: 791(i'm sure some of these have to be from me, but I just took off the setting that tracks my views too, so we shall see)
Russia: 47
Australia: 42
Germany: 41
Mexico: 39
United Kingdom: 25
Brazil: 13
France: 13
: 11

I can't say that this does not surprise me! I am very surprised at this. I had no idea how many people were looking at my blog in the states!! Haha. But also that people all over the world are looking at my blog! I think that is partly because my blog is on the AFS Netherlands page, under the blogs among all the other students, and mine just happens to be the first one on the that could very well explain it. But hiii! to all of you out there reading my blog!! I'm glad you're choosing to read my blog! That makes me very happy! haha. And hi to Isabel if you're reading this because I've been emailing you recently :P
Okay, that's it for this post. MY PARENTS ARE COMING FRIDAY!!!!