I can't believe I'm already half way done with my exchange. Before I left, January seemed ages away and now it's HERE. This panics me, because I'm so happy with my life and my exchange here, I don't want to go home. The exchangers that arrived last January headed home two weeks ago, and seeing them leave really makes me appreciate everything that I have here and I'm ready to enjoy it before my time is over!
Here are a few of the things I've been up to...
After Christmas, my family took a trip to Disneyland with all my cousins and me. It was so fun, we stayed right in the park and we all had a great time. At Disneyland Paris, the castle is Sleeping Beauty's castle. My 9 year old cousin that went us LOVES Aurora, and had the best time watching all the Princesses. I had lots of fun riding the rides! We stayed for 3 days and did practically everything, we even went to a Buffalo Bill show that was "Cowboys vs. Indians" and there were 4 teams. Colorado, Montana, Texas, and Wyoming. I was on the Montana team, but I wish we could have been on Wyoming's team! Wyoming won, so it worked out in the end! Here are some photos!!
On January 6th, the oldies from New Zealand left. I went to Kayla's goodbye party and then her family, other exchange students, and I went to the airport to say goodbye. It was horrible. When I think back on the first part of my exchange, I think of everything Kayla and I did together. We were practically inseparable, and after having someone be there for you when you don't know the language, you don't know your family, and you have no friends, it's really hard to say goodbye to that someone. It was even worse watching her family say goodbye to her. Normally, with Rotary, you change families three times. Kayla stayed with her family the entire year, and they all got really close. When she hugged her family goodbye, and her dad and grandpa just started bawling, everyone watching started crying as well. When we say goodbye to our families before we go on exchange, we know that we will see them in a year. When exchange students say goodbye to the friends and family they made on exchange, it's an actual goodbye, because you don't know when you're going to see those people again. I also had to say goodbye to my really good friend Danielle, from South Africa that day. I've decided that I hate goodbyes. As if saying goodbye to the Kiwi's and Danielle wasn't bad enough, on January 13th more than half of the Australians left. Although I wasn't as close to the Aussies as I was to Kayla, they still managed to become some of my best friends. And it wasn't only us saying goodbye to them, it was them saying goodbye to each other. Australia is a huge country, and some of the people that became very best friends won't easily be able to see each other. After we said goodbye to the majority of Aussies, we decided to spend the night in the airport because the other Aussies were leaving the next day at 6 AM. We went into Brussels for a while and then came back to the airport on the last train. It was not the best night of sleep, but I learned that the Starbucks in Brussels International (one of only THREE in all of Belgium) stays open all night. I really, really miss Chai tea latte's. We then said goodbye to the other Aussies and left the airport completely drained. I managed to get home at 9:30 the next morning, but took the prettiest picture of my town on the way home.
I also changed families on January 7th!! I still live in Dinant, only about a 15 minutes walk away from my last house. I have three host sisters and one host brother, although I haven't met the brother and one of the sisters yet. I have a sister who is 19 and goes to school in Namur but comes home every weekend. She's hilarious, and we get along really well. Another sister is 22 and lives in Liege, and my oldest sister is 25 and lives near Brussels. My host mom is an accountant at my host dad's law firm, and they have a house in the South of France (with a vineyard)! They also have a house on the beach of the North Sea near Calais (can't really go swimming in the North Sea but I hear it's super pretty!) and then a condo in the French Pyrenees where they are taking me skiing for a week for Carnaval. They also have a dog and a cat here! The dog is blind and deaf but really sweet, and the cat is 22 years old and likes to sleep right next to my head each night. My middle sister also has a 2 year old dog who could play fetch for hours but also likes to snuggle at night. I love the animals :) My family also said they would take me to their house in the South of France for the summer vacation if I stayed long enough, so I think I might be coming home around mid-July. We have to pick our return dates soon, and I absolutely don't even want to think about returning. But before I go home, I still have several concerts to go to, a Spain trip, a Prague trip, and I hope a couple more weekends traveling!!
I also went to Antwerp with a friend and Bruges with Rotary, and both those cities are the most picturesque places I've ever been. My newies also arrived in Belgium, they remind me so much of me when I first got here. It's hard to believe how quickly you change, even if it's only been six months.
The exchange life is very, very good for me right now. I'm so happy, I can't even imagine my life without exchange.