Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh, Spain...

Today is a day that I miss Spain. Perhaps not Spain, but Spanish. Or, perhaps, my Spanish friends. Or even just the experience of being overseas. There are so many aspects of exchange that no one ever really explains to you, or that you truly don't understand until you are in that particular moment. Exchange was so much more than just going to another country and going to school. It was and still is a life changing experience, that has taught me so much about myself, life, God, and the world that he created.

I can't believe that it's been so long since I left Spain. I had coffee with one of my friends today, and we were talking about coffee, and I started remembering a cafe that I used to go to, that would give you a free croissant with every coffee... It was such a fond memory, and I just started crying. There are moments where I just forget how much I love Spain. It truly was the small moments that made Spain the Spain that I love.

I was at work the other day, when I served a customer who was planning a trip to Spain. It got me so excited, and we were able to talk about where she was going to go, what she was going to visit, and her expectations for her trip. It got me thinking of my Spain, of my memories of the country that has gently shaped and molded who I am. I have forgotten so much of Spain. So many little things, that used to be so normal, I have to think hard to remember. Driving home today I remembered that in Spain there are no 40 km/h School Zones. When I was in Spain, that was completely normal. Today I found it unusual. I can't believe that I have reached a point where I am beginning to forget aspects of Spain, where the Spanish way is beginning to feel foreign, when, a year ago, I felt like a Spaniard. I miss it. I honestly miss it. I had the most challenging year when I was in Spain. I had a challenging host-family situation, that made me grow up in many aspects, and meant that I had to learn how to be my own best friend. Exchange wasn't an easy thing. I was looking at my diary, from it's entry a year ago today, and it said (translated to English):

"I want to say, 'Enough. Enough already.. I'm going now." Sometimes, I want to go to Di's house, or go to Jordan and stay there till February. But, as I say this, I know that I'm not going to leave. I'm not going to give up. I hope that by the time I come back to Australia, I'll look at who I am and be content with that. When I think of all the things to do, my body sits up a little straighter, I feel a little lighter... Sometimes life throws things into our lives - somethings by our own consequence, some things that we didn't plan at all. But I so pray that I will be able to take the life God has given me, and do something worthwhile with it."

Although it was difficult, it was unbelievably fantastic. I was able to see and experience so much. I got to spend an hour today talking about all of the things that I loved about Spain. About walking to school and seeing Moncayo, the snow capped mountain in the distance. Driving to France through the Pyrenees Mountains, covered in snow. Traveling to Burgos, Leon, Santiago de Compostela, hearing the different languages, experiencing the Basque culture. All of the coffees, my friendship with the owner of one of the cafes. Ordering a cappuccino and instead getting a shot of coffee and whipped cream. Walking the winter streets, smelling the roasted chestnuts being sold on ever street corner. The timed pedestrian lights. Walking everywhere, everyday. Watching the flamenco. Speaking Spanish. Eating Spanish food. Having Spanish friends. Walking to the Jesus statue in Tudela, and being able to see the whole town, beautiful in its architecture and culture. The funny bins. The bread, oh, the bread. Buying Javier little presents. The pipas. The lolly stores. The cobble-stoned streets. That I lived in a town over a thousand years old. The bridge crossing Tudela, and the history it held. Seeing original Goya artworks everywhere, and finding it normal. Traveling around Europe, discovering the smallest and biggest things about those places and about myself. Spanish friends. Coffee with my Spanish friends. Taking an hour over delicious ice cream to learn how to say 'I laughed at them' and 'They laughed at me'. Coming back to school after the summer, surprising everyone with my ability to speak Spanish. Watching Spanish movies. Going to the movies on a Monday, eating Burger King, and then stuffing ourselves with lollies, and spending an hour to walk home, because it was so windy. Oh, the wind, how I miss how windy Tudela was. Tudela was incredibly windy, all the time. I miss walking everywhere, rain, hail or shine. Reading Harry Potter in Spanish. I miss it. I miss it all so incredibly much.

It was at about this time last year, that my Spanish had really reached a point where I was confident in my speaking skills. I entered into November with the confidence and ability to speak and communicate easily... my thoughts were so easily and comfortably always in Spanish. November was when my Spanish dreams became nightly, where I began to tell Spanish jokes. December was a month in which I finally felt like I was Spanish. Everyone says that it is during the last couple of months that your exchange experience is heightened, because your language skills have finally arrived, and they were so spot on. My friendships really blossomed, and I felt... at home.

Today I miss Spain. And I think a part of me will always miss Spain. But that's ok. Because I will always carry a bit of Spain with me, and I know I will always be a little bit changed because of the Spain that showed me how to celebrate everything, to rejoice, and to take time to enjoy the little things.

"It is such a weird feeling, knowing that I have three months left of my exchange, which will go really quickly, and then I'll be in Australia. I am beginning to understand how little time I have left, and how I need to keep grabbing everything my exchange has to offer with both hands. Exchange is not easy, but I think I've been given an extremely incredible year. Here I am, in another country, living a culturally different life as a local, speaking a different language and gaining a second home along the way. Some days are great, where I don't have trouble speaking, where I feel like I'm progressing everyday, and other days where I feel like I haven't improved at all and that I should just pack up and give up. The excitement of the adventures, the family, the friends that await me in Australia are so alluring, that I need to tell myself often to focus on the now. On the today. On Spain, and what it has to offer. Before I came to Spain, I was petrified of the whole year aspect of the exchange. I thought that a year would mean that when I came back everyone would be gone, that everyone would forget that I existed... that if I left, I wouldn't come back to the same Australia. I can't say that nothing has changed and that it'll be like I never left, because I don't know that yet. I don't know what going back will be like. All I know, is that there was no reason to be petrified. There is no reason not to go for the year. I will have Australia for many more years to come (I hope!), but I will only ever have Spain, this experience, this time of my life once. That is a blessing that I still don't comprehend. This year has been the perfect year for me, filled with so many good times, so many challenges, so many events that have made me grow up a little. So many times where I've realised how much I need God in my life, how I need to follow Him, and celebrate the life He has given me. Life here in Spain has shown me a new type of celebration, a new type of joy, a celebration that is as old as this country, a joy that is as strong as its people. A joy that I pray I've been able to bring into my life, so that when I come home in February, I'll be able to have a little bit of Spain and the people I love dearly with me. There is a warmth here, that I love. A passion for life, a sense of 'eat now, work later', that both infuriates me and makes me laugh. Spain is filled with contradictions. Spain makes me angry, frustrated, but also content and joyous. Australia will, hopefully, be seen with news eyes. Eyes that have come from a country that celebrates everything, enjoys everything, that loves everything, that is passionate. I hope I will be able to see Australia with these things in mind.

Sometimes I wish I could bring Tudela back to Australia. It would make things so much easier."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


"I cannot go to school today"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there's one more - that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in.

My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There's a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is ...
What? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is .............. Saturday?

G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

-Shel Silverstein-

I feel a little bit like this poem. These past couple of weeks I've had 'holidays', a two week waiting period for my end of semester exam. These past couple of days, I've been trying to use every possibly reason to get out of studying, out of having to knuckle down and get my work down, purely because it's work. But, I did knuckle down, I did study, and I did do the exam! Which means that I now have people telling me that today is Saturday; I can now go out and play! Nothing holding me back! No commitments, no work to do, nothing! I'm a free woman! But now that I've been given this enormous amount of holidays and freedom I feel a little bit out of my depth. What am I supposed to fill it with? How can I be productive and enjoy my holidays?

So, my bucket list for my holidays:

explore somewhere entirely new!
go to Windsor and find a cute coffee shop
go to Ikea
create something new every week
paint a painting
send letters to my friends
go on coffee dates with some of my favourite people
write in my journal more
walk bridge to bridge along Nepean River
take a polaroid
keep my birthday plant alive
go on a holiday somewhere grand!
ride a horse
get back into running

Lets see how far along I get!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coffee Goodness.

"I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I've been a resident of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina, and strolled down Swann's Way. It's a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything."

- Rory Gilmore, from Gilmore Girls

Time with Pip over some herbal tea.


I love Gilmore Girls. Today, I watched an episode from season 4, and it was the exact episode that first got me hooked. Mum used to run a program called Shine for teenage girls, and once they had a sleepover at our place, and that night, they watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. This was about four years ago, and I had heard of Gilmore Girls, but hadn't ever really seen it. In this episode, Lorelai and Rory take part in a 'Living Pictures' event, dressing up as famous artworks, and Sookie gets ready to have her baby. I couldn't help but sit there and grin, falling in love with the characters more and more. The town, the people, the atmosphere, are all reasons why I love this show so much. The two main characters, Lorelai and Rory are mother and daughter, and have an incredibly strong bond, like best friends. I remember seeing that, their relationship, and feeling all warm and gooey on the inside. I am really close to my Mum. She is my Mum, but she is also my friend, and I so treasure the times we spend together. When I was first introduced into Gilmore Girls, I didn't like coffee. But, seeing how Lorelai and Rory bonded over coffee, I wanted to get into it. I started with Caramelattes (double shot of the caramel!) and worked my way to flat whites. I love coffee now. I love the taste, the texture, the smell, the way it warms me up. But most of all, I love the way it brings people together. I love what a good cup of coffee and a good conversation can do! I love getting a coffee, sitting opposite someone and hearing about their day, their struggles, their triumphs. I love connecting with people, and I love that coffee is a way to do that. And I have Gilmore Girls to thank for that. I love that Gilmore Girls is such a down-to-earth show, that doesn't deal with unrealistic plots, but lets us enter Stars Hollow, and become a towns person; attend Taylor's town meetings, Miss Patty's dance shows, see the different professions Kirk takes up, have blueberry pancakes at Luke's diner, and see Lorelai's and Rory's relationship grow and develop. Like the quote says, that world of Gilmore Girls is a rewarding one for me; it makes me feel warm and fuzzy and cheers me up in just the way that I need it. But what is far more rewarding, is my own life; my own Lorelai, my own Kirks, Miss Pattys, Babettes, Lanes, Jess', Lukes. My own Stars Hollow and my own family and friends. I feel so incredibly blessed to be placed in the Blue Mountains, with Glenbrook as my home town. I feel so excited that I have such amazing friends that make me laugh. I love my family, that although we may not always be together, we still have an incredible bond, and love to spend time together. I am now on holidays! Seven weeks of holidays. And I so hope that these coming weeks will be filled with loveliness, coffee, bonding, and fun, as I embrace my own Stars Hollow that I am lucky enough to live in. Thank you, my friends and family, for being my inspiration and happiness in life.

Last week, my two best friends, Ape and Min, and I had a Gilmore Girls day of eating out, and more eating, and coffee. It was the most lovely day, filled with music, love, reminiscing and bonding.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back into it..

Tucked away in my drafts I have an incredibly long and detailed blog post about post-Spain. I kept putting it off though. Kept putting off the facing of those emotions I seem to try and hide from, that make me miss Spain, that make me yearn for Spain and Spanish-isms.

Me and my brothers and sisters.

But, I miss writing. I miss sharing my life with people, whether that be my exchange year, or my post-exchange year. Both to me are equally exciting!

Mount Wilson during Autumn.

So, perhaps one day, I'll re-read that post, that describes coming back to Australia, trying to get accustomed back into life. Perhaps I'll sit down, take a deep breath, have a box of tissues close and finish it. But for now, I think I'll start with now, with today, and the adventures I am faced with back in Australia!

It is now almost four months since I've been back in Australia. My life is a continual reflection back on Spain... "I wonder what I was up to today a year ago." I have returned to Australia, yet a big part of my heart and self has been left behind in Spain. But, again, in saying that... I am Australian. I am right where I am meant to be. I look around me, at the bush, at the Blue Mountains, at where God has placed me, and I know deep down that this is truly my home. I have been so truly blessed with these four months since I've been home. I can say that I have finally settled down, I've joined a new church, I am studying Spanish at uni, attending a Spanish church on the weekend, and am incredibly blessed with the friends and family that surround me.

Dad and I in Mount Wilson.

Being back in Australia is so completely different! At one end of the spectrum, I'm used to travelling overseas by myself, without any permission, and now I have to ask permission to use the car to drive to Blaxland, the next suburb. But on the other end, here I am, sitting in the living room by myself, eating homemade pizza, with a glass of wine, whilst my best friend is working on her assessments because she's living in our house for a month whilst my parents are traveling overseas. I am now once again an only child (in the sense that I'm the only child living at home) instead of being the eldest of a 7, 12, and 13 year old. Life is different. Not better, not worse, just different.

Min and I at a lookout in Yellow Rock.

I still can't get over the animals in Australia. We had this giant spider in the house the other week, and Mum barely blinked as she got a container and captured it. We have a possum who forever runs up and down our veranda. We went bushwalking and saw a blue tongue lizard. We had a big saga about a missing possum trap. These things sound oh so foreign to me, even though I grew up in Australia. In Spain we barely had bugs... let alone unique animals!

The Giant Spider.

I am one of those people that are lucky enough to be passionate about what they study. Part of my course at uni is Spanish. In my first week, I was placed into second year Spanish, and almost cried with the easiness of it. To me, to hear Spanish is to hear English. It sounds exactly the same, they're both as easy to understand as the other. In the intermediate course, it was like being taught as if I was five years old. I was devastated, thinking that I would spend three years studying a language that I already knew, as if I was a beginner. However, after speaking to the lecturer, and sending through some emails, I was placed in the advanced course (third year Spanish) and I am absolutely loving it. Twice a week I get to listen to hours of Spanish, write Spanish, speak Spanish, and even better: learn more about Spanish. I find such joy in Spanish. Those small hours a week make me feel like I'm back in Spain, wondering through the streets, experiencing the culture once again. I cannot wait for next year, when I start to learn about translating, and start to look at cultural studies rather than just the grammar. Studying Spanish makes me happy, it's my passion, and I am so thankful that I continue to have Spanish as a weekly part of my life.

Mum and I at Woy Woy

I am loving rediscovering my life back here in Australia. I have started to attend a new church, Blue Mountains City Church, which has been so exciting. I have been so challenged in my walk with God, challenged by the idea of who a living, breathing Christian is, and what that means for my life. I have loved getting to know a new set of people, of getting to share my Spain with them, and for them to introduce me into their lives. The friends that I've made there are incredible, and I know that they are very special people that God has been using to direct my life in the way He wants. Church is such a highlight of my week, and I'm loving being excited about it! As well as my new church, I have also been going to a Spanish church in Merrylands. I often get to take a friend with me as well, and it is so warming to share Spanish, and a little piece of Spain. Something I find challenging is that although I'm back in Australia, my Spanish life is still very much a part of me. I now like strong coffees, I like olives. I enjoy an occasional sleep in. I have phrases that still come to me first in Spanish, second in English. But people get sick of the stories, become disinterested, or just don't understand. To be able to introduce a non-Spanish person into my 'Spanish life', just a little bit, through Spanish church is an unbelievable gift to have. It also means I get to be surrounded by Spanish people, their infectious liveliness, laughter and passion (as well as their dos besos - two kisses).

Sydney Harbour

Coming back to the Blue Mountains was a little bit of a shock! Bare feet! Finally! Greenery! The piano! My own bed! Bonnie! Weak coffee (ugh)! Hot weather! It was all so different, yet so similar. There are sometimes where I still get a shock about something new that I have remembered about Australian culture. I still find it so awkward to meet new people. All I can think of is, "What do I do?! Do I give them two kisses? Do I shake hands? Do I hug?" And then I just end up standing there awkardly and wave. But all a part of the experience! I have so loved going into the city, catching a ferry and seeing where it takes me. I've loved taking people to my favourite places in the Blue Mountains, revisit the places that I used to go to all the time. Life is continually changing. So many people have gone through huge transitions while I've been away; some have become engaged, others moved to the city, started uni, gotten full time jobs. We have all changed in some way or other, and it's been nice to be able to share the changes with other people.

Me with the Three Sisters, in Katoomba.

But it isn't always easy. Sometimes I get homesick for Spain. I can remember, about six weeks ago, I was looking through old photos, looking back on all of the good memories with my host family, with my Spanish friends, with my travels. I just felt like my heart was breaking. So I just sat there and cried. And not just cried, but sobbed. I felt like I was going to break in two. I think I sat there for hours, at the table, crying onto my computer as I listened to Spanish songs, looked at photos and thought to myself, "When will the pain end? When will it be ok to think about Spain and not miss it so much?" This is one part of exchange that is so difficult to share with other people. Not many people know what it is like to live on your own for a year, in a different culture, with a different language and different family, and then to return. My family lived in England for three years, so they could understand to a certain extent. But when they went to England, they were with their family, and when we returned, we came back as a family, to family. I left my second family in Spain. There are times where I feel myself come apart when I can't remember a word in Spanish, or when a phrase I thought of in Spanish comes first in English. When my Spanish-isms leave me for Australianisms, I feel lost. I miss Spain. I miss being Spanish. It's still something that I struggle with. Something that I still pray about. But I'm here in Australia, and I love being here. I love being surrounded by the community around me, by the people who make my life happy and special. And, life isn't meant to be easy! Having the pain I feel for Spain just makes me realise what a big part it was and is to me. It gets easier though. Every day I am in Glenbrook, in the Blue Mountains I am reaffirmed that this is where I'm meant to be. I have been so incredibly blessed with where God has placed me, with the people He has placed in my life, and the people I've gotten to know over this four month period.

Sydney Harbour from a ferry.

Mum told me she was worried that I'd be bored when I got back to Australia. But she couldn't be more wrong. I'm having the time of my life, and cannot wait to see the adventures God has in store for me in the coming months and years!
Dad and I at a wedding.

The rest of this post are just photos of some of the things I've been up to, and that have made my life a little more interesting since my return to Australia! Enjoy!

Lunch with Dad.

Dress-ups with Sarah.

Cousinly love :)

Coleman's musical fun after church.

Geocaching with Uncle Bruce!

Tea at the Jazz Apple.

Uncle Geoff's 50th Birthday party.

City fun with Tarn.

My favourite siblings.

Best family out!
City fun with Jo and Pip.
Homemade breakfasts!
Autumn goodness.
Movie times with my bible study and favourite girls!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

¡Adios España!

I can remember being incredibly sad and torn about leaving Australia. I was so excited about going on exchange, about living in a new country, learning Spanish and being away for a whole year, but I also didn't want to leave my home. I didn't want to leave everything that was comfortable to me. I didn't want to leave all that I knew, and all that I loved.

Today, a year later, I am going through those same emotions. Spain has been my home for the past year, its people, its food, its culture and customs becoming a part of who I am. Today I am leaving all of that. Today I am getting on a plane, and 27 hours later I will be getting off, in Australia, and seeing my family and friends for the first time in a year. I'm so excited, so nervous, so daunted. As much as I want to see my family, I also want to have this year span out as much as I can. A week ago I thought to myself, "I only have a week left, that's so crazy. So little time." Now, I have seven hours before my flight leaves. Time flies quickly.

Exchange has been everything I thought it would be, and so much more. I can look back on this year, with my heart full of love and happiness. It has been far less than perfect; I have been challenged, hurt, annoyed in many situations, but they have all helped me grow, all helped me turn to God and look to him. I knew this year wouldn't be easy. And it wasn't easy. But even though there were the low parts, I have also had some of the best times of my life this year. I have been welcomed into a family, I made Spanish friends, I learnt another language, I experienced the culture of Spain at a local level. I think of Spain, and I think of the good memories, the times where my cheeks hurt from grinning too much.

I am sad to leave Spain. Spain has become my home this past year. These past six weeks I've been travelling. But even so, returning back to Spain has made me realise, wherever I am, Spain will always be there, waiting for my return. I'll miss it so much.

Today I looked back on my year via my Facebook statuses. I have had the most amazing year. I feel so blessed to have been given this year, with both of its ups and downs.

Today I am saying goodbye to my year here in Spain. Just like I said goodbye to Australia. Though, this time, I don't know when I'll be back. I'll certainly be back, but I don't know when. I am saying goodbye to so many things; to Spanish bread, olive oil, olives, tortilla de patatas, to Spanish songs, Spanish fiestas, to sleeping in, to Europe, to my hometown, to the Rio Ebro, to the Jesus statue at the top of the town, the (dare I say it?) rubia! and guapa!, to Zurich, my cafe, cafe con leche, Justin Beiber (teenage host sisters!), the list goes on and on.

This year has enriched my life so much. Although I've been away from my family and friends for a year, I've still been able to be a part of their lives, seeing all that they've accomplished (via Facebook of course!). I am so excited to come back and start my next adventure with them by my side.

So, goodbye Spain. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for welcoming me into your heart, for showing me the wonderful country you are, and the amazing people that live here. I have had the time of my life getting to know you, and learning new things about myself as well. I will never forget you.

I'll be back in Australia before I know it, and this year will have finished. But I will always look back on it with the fondest of memories, full of love and laughter. I thank God so much for this time away, for both the happy and hard times.

Goodbye Spain. Hello Australia!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh, Spain, what you do to my heart.

Well, I am back in Spain.

What a weird sentence for me to say. I´m back in Spain. I´ve spent the past year in Spain, and after only six weeks away I feel so weird to be back. I arrived from rainy Germany, in Madrid on Sunday afternoon at about seven o´clock, and walked numbly down the aisles to the exit signs, salida, to the welcome to Madrid signs, then out into the city. It didn´t feel real that I had arrived, or that I was in Spain. There was Spanish, but it just felt foreign, rather than a language, my language that I love and speak. I felt like I had arrived to the equivalent of the Gold Coast in Queensland, like I had arrived in Australia, but that I wasn´t back home in Glenbrook, the Blue Mountains, Sydney. And I guess it was ok to feel like that, because I had arrived in Madrid, Spain, not Tudela, Navarra, my hometown, Spain.

I got to the hostel that I was staying at, in a part of Madrid that I´d never been to before, cementing and confirming that feeling that I didn´t really feel like I belonged back in Spain. My reservation and payment was conducted in English, and I realised at that point what I felt like. A tourist. Not a Spaniard, like I have felt the past year, but a tourist, visiting Spain, staying in hostels. I didn´t really know how to feel about that; excited or revulted, but I decided to go with the flow. I arrived in my shared room, relaxed a little and then I met my roomate, a German girl who had just arrived in Spain, who is going to be studying in Madrid for the next four months. It was really lovely to chat with her, as she wasn´t just a tourist, but would be living, like me, in a foreign country, studying in another language. It´s been really fun to get to know her, and I´ve really enjoyed her company. She had met some people that day, so that night we went out with them, were greeted with the dos besos (two kisses) and that is when I realised that I still had ten days left in Spain. No matter how I felt; like a tourist or Spaniard, I realised that I needed to embrace my time left. It was great to just chat to her friends, who happened to be Germans teaching Spanish to the German football players in the Real Madrid team. (Cool, I know!) We went and had a beer at El Museo de Jamon, The Ham Museum, and I smiled at the fact that I felt at home. Home in a world of different people, cultures, languages. I love the fact that the Ham Museum is a bar where a beer costs one euro, and the ham costs 50.

Walking through the city that night, I fell in love with the architecture, with the language whispering to me, all over again.

Today I changed over my luggage (finally! I´ve been living out of the same luggage for the past five weeks meaning: two pais of jeans, four shirts and one jacket. So much variety!) and got to walk down the small streets, listen to Spanish. I felt so conflicted; blissfully happy of where I was, but also really sad of the fact that I would be leaving this country in 9 days. Malwina, the German girl and I had lunch out, and met a Colombian man who was our waiter. He was the nicest person, and so friendly, and made me love the Spanish people, the language and the culture.

I am now sitting in the hostal, on the hostal computers about to go to bed. Tomorrow I head off to Sevilla. I´ve never been to the south of Spain, so I will be spending the next four days there. I´m really excited to see the architecture, the tapas, the flamenco, the different and exciting culture of the south. I hope to keep you posted!

I really am amazed at how many conflicting feelings someone can feel at once. Every thing that makes me laugh or smile, also reminds me that I only have nine days left here. I just need to make sure I capture these nine days and embrace them fully. My heart is full to its seam with love for Spain, and I´m sure it will break when I have to leave. But I know that I´ll have Australia to look forward to, something that will fill my heart once more with great, great, happiness.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

10 days and Train Trips.

I am currently on the train in Germany, on my way to Düsseldorf to catch the plane to Spain. About a month ago I left my beloved Tudela, my wonderful home in Spain to set off on an adventure for Europe. This month has passed incredibly quickly, and I have had the greatest time, experiencing a range of different cultures, languages and people. It has been so nice to see people that I haven’t seen in a while, and see their homes and where they live. I can’t believe that my last leg is coming to a close, meaning that my exchange is drawing to a close. In ten short days I will be heading to an airport again, but this time in Madrid; heading to my home in Australia, my next new adventure.

This week I became an official uni student. I will be attending the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. I am so excited to be finally starting this new part of my education. I will be studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies and Culture Change. UNSW is situated in Sydney; about a two hour commute from my house. I will be catching a train and bus everyday to uni, which has been really surprising to many people in Jordan and here in Germany. I have been staying with Benne, an old exchange student that stayed in our house in Australia in 2007. It has been so lovely to spend the time with him and his family. He will be starting uni like me this year, and he is planning on moving to Münster, where he will be attending university. Münster is about a half hour or twenty-minute train ride from Emsdetten his hometown. I would love it if I only had to travel for half an hour everyday! Anyway, I’ll be starting university the 28th of February, and am really looking forward to it!

I can’t believe the amount of things I’ve been able to do this year. I have been able to see so much, and go to so many places. I often fail to realise just how blessed I’ve been with a generous and supportive family, and the opportunities to travel. I love travelling. Growing up, my Dad was in the Navy, so we moved a bit; I’ve grown up in different states, and have been lucky enough to see a lot of Australia at such a young age. Travelling has always been a big part of my life, and I feel like I have got the travel bug ingrained into me. I am sitting in a train, in the middle of Germany, about to head off to another country. My total hours of travelling today will be eleven hours by train, bus and plane. To get from Jordan to Germany it took me sixteen hours. Although they are long days, I am perfectly happy to pass the day looking at the scenery, listening to the different languages, cultures surrounding me. I love travelling. Because I have been travelling non-stop for the past month, it seems normal to me, that everyone must be doing it that I often forget that what I am doing, what I am seeing and experience is so special. How many nineteen year olds get to spend a year in another country, learn the language, make another home, and spend a month travelling around Europe? I often forget, and forget to thank God for the amazing life he has given me. This past month has been a month of realising just how much God has blessed me, challenged me, and helped me grow this year. I have seen so much; been to so many unique places, and I thank God so much for that. These past nineteen years have been amazing, and I can’t wait for the next nineteen. I am excited to see what God has in store for me.

This week I have spent in Germany. I have absolutely loved my time here. Staying with the family of Benne this year has been some of my favourite times this year. I was able to spend a week with them in December, and a week this time in January. I arrived on Sunday night, after flying in from Jordan, and just felt at home. I love the family of Benne. They are such a colourful bunch, with kind hearts and wonderful smiles. Benne’s parents are so wonderful, and so funny! I often tell Hans, his dad that he should become a tourist guide, because he knows EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. He is such a funny man, and makes me think of my own Dad and how much I love Dads. On the Monday I went to a city called Essen, a little further north (?) of Düsseldorf with Benne’s Dad as he had a meeting there. It was nice to just walk around the city for the couple of hours that we were there and see another German city. My favourite part though, was the drive, learning the word for traffic jam (Stau) and hearing stories of Benne’s family. After Essen, I had lunch with Hans in Münster and just walked around the city, enjoying the buildings and the German feel of it all. I love walking around cities with my Ipod playing; it was a really nice end to the day. The Tuesday I spent relaxing, as I have had a pretty busy past couple of weeks, and it was really nice to just… relax. On the Wednesday I got accepted into uni, and went to Münster to look around. I spent most of the day by myself, as Benne works everyday until 9, his parents work and his younger sister is at school. On Wednesday night Benne and I went to the pub to meet up with his friends, which I really enjoyed. They were just really lovely people, and reminded me of people from home.

Emsdetten is about a two and a half hours train trip from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I had really wanted to visit Amsterdam for a day, and found cheap tickets (19 euros each way) to go on the Thursday. I booked my tickets and knew that I would have about six or seven hours in the city, before having to come back to Emsdetten. I don’t know German. This week I have learnt a few phrases and words, but I really do not know or understand German. At the train station, the notice board said the next train to come was the train to Amsterdam. Little did I know that the announcement that I heard said that my train was delayed. A train came, and as the noticeboard said it was my train, I hopped on, unsuspecting. After a little bit, I wondered if I really was on the right train. I asked some people and they just nodded and went on their way, giving the impression that they didn’t really understand my English. When the ticket man came around, he took my ticket and shook my head. I asked him if I was on the right train, but he didn’t speak English. He kept on pointing to the ticket and shaking his head. I tried explaining my situation, pointing at Rheine, a train station, saying “I. Got. On. Here.” I would then point to Amsterdam. “I. Want. To. Go. Here. Am. I. On. The. Right. Train?” He would then look at me stupidly and then shake his head rambling off in German, pointing to his little portable computer at Amsterdam, and writing in red. After successfully achieving nothing, he shook his head once more and left me, more confused than ever. I stayed on the train for about an hour and a half, until the train stopped at a station called Emden. Knowing that this wasn’t Amsterdam, I was surprised to see everyone get off, and train shut down. I got out and went into the station into the tourist information. Asking how to get to Amsterdam, the lady quickly told me that I had to go to Rheine, (where I’d just come from!) on the train at the platform (where I’d just gotten off!). I then knew I had definitely come the wrong way, and hopped back on the train. The ticket man this time knew a little more English and said the trains to Amsterdam were delayed. After another hour and a half, I arrived back in Rheine, at about 11:30. I was meant to have arrived in Amsterdam at 11. Surprisingly I wasn’t upset or stressed, as the journey to Emden had been quite beautiful. I still had no idea where I had gone to, but it didn’t really matter. I caught the ten o’clock train for Amsterdam at twelve, two hours delayed, and got into Amsterdam at two. My train back to Emsdetten left at five. I asked the train station if there was a later train, but the only one after five left at seven, and I would have had to swap trains four times. After my little mistake earlier in the day, I opted for the safer option. I did a quick whirlwind tour of Amsterdam, and absolutely loved it. I love Amsterdam! I think it is such a beautiful city. I went to the palace, to the monument; I tried to find Anne Frank’s house and walked along the canals. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and the sun was shining. I had the perfect time just walking along, turning right, then left, getting lost in the small streets and the canals that shape the city. The time went too quickly, and before I knew it, it was time to catch the train again. I said my goodbyes to Amsterdam, with the hope that I’d come back again one day and explore it with my time and ease. The train trip back was uneventful, and I got home safely without catching the wrong train! Benne’s family laughed so much when I told them I went to Emden, and I found out that Emden is on the coast of Germany, right at the top of the country, where you can catch ferries to other places. I figured out that I spent nine hours on a train on Thursday and three in the city, and I was completely happy. I really enjoyed my day, looking at the scenery, getting lost and not understanding German. When I was in Barcelona and Madrid I always seemed to get annoyed at the announcements made in English, thinking, “No one needs the English announcements, they should just learn Spanish. This is stupid.” Knowing Spanish, I had no problems getting around or knowing where to go. But after being in Germany, with no language skills and going to the completely wrong part of the country because of my lack of knowledge of German, I now feel very grateful to all those English announcements.

Something that I’ve loved this week has been listening to Benne and his family speak German. When Benne was in our house in Australia, he didn’t speak German (obviously), and I have absolutely loved hearing it so much this week. I really would like to learn German one day, as I think it is a really beautiful language. The pronunciation for me is really difficult, but it’s something that I’d really like to learn.

This week in Germany has passed incredibly quickly, and I really hope to come back one day soon and spend some time here and learn German! (And eat lots of their delicious bread!)

Today I head off to Spain, my last stop before arriving home. I have ten days left before I board that plane and say goodbye to my exchange, and hello to Australia, my family and friends and the new and exciting adventures that await me. I am spending two days in Madrid, going to the museums I’ve yet to go to, exploring the city a little more, before heading down to Sevilla for five days. I hope to spend these five days relaxing, exploring Sevilla and its surroundings. I’ve never been to the south of Spain, and am a little anxious about their dreadful (probably not dreadful, just ‘different’, though dreadful is how people from Tudela describe it as!) accents, and if I’ll have trouble understanding them and visa versa. After Sevilla, I will head back up to Madrid for my last couple of days, hoping to go on day trips to Toledo and Segovia. Then, on Wednesday the 2nd of February, I will head off the airport, board the plane, say goodbye to Spain, my second home, and get excited about heading back to my other home, in Australia. Some days I just want to get it over and done with, rip the bandaid off and get home already, the other part never wants this to end. I suppose it’s a little bit like leaving Australia. Only this time, I don’t know when I’ll be back. Gosh, I’m going to miss having Spanish in my life everyday. Never again will I have this experience.

Thank you, thank you, thank you God for this experience. I will never forget it – the good bits and the bad bits. And thank you to my parents. If it weren’t for my parents, their support and love, I wouldn’t have been able to leave everything for a year, and learn about life. So, thank you.

I have learnt so much this year, and I don’t know what God has planned for me, but I hope that I will take this year, all that’s been challenging, all that’s been easy, all the learning and use it to be living my life for God. I’m so excited to be getting back into church, into fellowship. Although that aspect has been really difficult for me this year, the lack of fellowship, I know that God has shown me how important fellowship, community, church really is.

The scenery is beautiful, so I am going to go and enjoy it. I love travelling (and listening to German)!