Saturday, June 23, 2012

Host Family and Explicit Joy

That's right, ladies and gents, boys and girls, AFS has given me a host family. Oh, the satisfaction! Oh, the bliss!

I was first alerted that I did, indeed, have a family while in Spain. We were in a wonderful beach house that overlooked the clear Medetterianian Sea and white sandy beaches. The house, however, had one flaw (besides a rather horrible ant infestation): it lacked Internet connection. Some say that it is a sad thing, that my generation and the majority of the adult world has become so dependent on the Internet and technology. And you know what? I agree... most of the time. Not, however, when you have been given information that would form the foundation of the next eleven months of your life, and the Internet is the only means by which to access this valuable information.

(For any of you are wondering how I found out that I had a family though I didn't have Internet, it was because my mum was able to receive emails occasionally on her phone, but didn't often because the data plan was too expensive in a different country so.. yeah).

I know you may be asking "oh Niamh, how possibly could you have survived for the next hour without this prized information?" Well, concerned reader, I shall tell you. 

My mother's voice drifted upstairs to where I was reading a fantastic book about the psychology behind love and affection (it's called Love at Goon Park - it's quite entertaining, I suggest you all check it out). My mother was obviously in a very conflicted position. To tell me that I had a host family would simply put me into a state of panic and definite yearning. My father was out, and we would have to hunt for at least twenty minutes to find an Internet cafe. But, being the wonderful person she is, mum told me all the same.

I was immediately thrown into a crazed state of utter hysteria. I paced the floor, lay on the ground and then jumped back up again, bashed pillows against my head. To pass the time until my dad got home, my mother and I took turns guessing at how many siblings I had, where I would be located... etc. 

At last my dad arrived, knowing nothing of the madness that had taken place in his absence. Upon hearing him walk through the door, I grabbed my computer, took hold of my mothers hand, and charged with the force and determination of a girl on a mission.

we found an Internet cafe, in the end. There was a kerfuffle over the wifi password and a short pause in which I ordered a lamb-burger, but I was finally able to see where and who my family was!

Okay, I'm done wasting your time. 

I will be living in the small (<900 person) town of Bellignies. I will have 2 parents named Edith and Pascal, two host brothers named Simon and Remy (who are both in their twenties, so I probably wont see them too often), and I will have a host sister named Lucie, and she's only a year younger than me! I'm ecstatic. My town is way WAY up north (hello, winter?) and it's right on the boarder between France and Belgium. 

This is Bellignies on a map! It's such a small town that I could only find one or two maps on the Internet... but you can see that it's quite close to Belgium. It also happens to be about 2 hours away from Paris driving, which would be much faster on the TGV, I hope? It's also quite close to a big city called Reims, which, apparently, has a nice music festival. Needless to say, I'm excited to a point of near-combustion. 

That night, when I got back to the Internet-less apartment, I watched fireworks from my window, as the Spanish celebrated summer solstice. It felt though, at that moment, like the next year of my life was finally opening up, like I was finally gaining insight into the voyage that I would soon undertake. The Spanish were simply sending me off with those fireworks, painting the sky with warm colors that concretely contrasted with the deep, foreboding darkness of the night, wishing me good luck. 

I'm ready.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Updates and Such

Soooo.... it has been about four weeks since I've updated this blog. And oh, so much has happened. Well, not that much. But something all the same.

If you please think back to two weeks ago, on a Saturday. It was a nice Saturday in my part of the Bay Area: the inklings of summer already starting to ebb through the warm haze of late Spring. San Francisco, on the other hand, had other plans for the weather. The wind whipped viciously, and the fog was thick and all-encompassing. Yet even this typical San Francisco weather couldn't deter the sheer excitement that was bubbling in my stomach. Yes, ladies and gentlemen (or whoever reads my blog), last Saturday was my pre-departure orientation. Woohoo!

The orientation was everything that I expected. We played some games, talked about some stuff, met some people. We didn't really talk about anything that I hadn't heard before (except for a really detailed tutorial on how to use a bidet), but it just rocked to be there, to feel like I was actually getting closer to the colossal question mark that is my year in France. I met so many ridiculously awesome people - the entire experience made me so grateful and happy to be part of such a great program.

One particular exorcise that I found most jarring was one to simulate the frustration that we'll encounter while struggling with a different language. We were given pen and paper, and then told to write our names with our non-dominant hand (my right, if anyone was wondering). Then, a bit faster, we were told to write the word psychiatrist. Without any time to write this, we were instructed to write the sentence "I am writing this sentence with my non-dominant hand" and then promptly draw a tree. As one might expect, our papers were full of incomprehensible scribbles. Though I knew that communicating through a near-tangible language barrier will be frustrating and difficult, this exorcise gave me a taste of just how trying it will be. But that's all good, it's all part of the experience, right?

A week later, school ended! This was a bittersweet experience. I don't feel sad about leaving my school - I mean, as long as my high school doesn't spontaneously decide to relocate or completely reconstruct itself, I don't think it will change while I'm gone. But it was strange seeing my brother and one of my very best friends (who's going to Thailand for a gap year, click here for her blog) graduate. I love both of them to death, and it's strange thinking that, when I get back, life with them won't be the same as it is now. But hey, everybody's constantly moving and changing, gravitating towards independence and "the bigger picture" of life. More than I am sad to see them leave, I'm excited to see the truly fantastic things that they'll achieve at Tufts University, in my brothers case, or in Thailand, in Carly's case.

I'm pretty busy for the remainder of the summer. Tomorrow, I'm leaving for a family trip to Europe, which will be fun. We're going to stay in Spain, France (haha...), and England. Throughout all of this, however, I am forced to take online classes to make up for the credits that won't transfer for next year. Honestly, there is literally nothing in this world that I despise more than online classes. Algebra 2B and English 10A might literally be the death of me.

Will Niamh make it to France, or will online classes crush her in a fiery pit of cyber-education? Stay tuned to find out.