Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I made it!

I made it to Spain! How incredible.

I don't know where, or how to begin... maybe with saying goodbye. I don't know what to say about saying goodbye, except that it was one of the hardest things I've had to do, and I found it incredibly hard to do. I thought I would never stop crying.

I didn't sleep well on the last night I had in Australia. Not because I was sad about leaving, but because I was dreaming about all I had to do. Before I went to sleep I was sad, because I only had one more night to hug Mum and Dad in bed. So I got up, went to their bedroom, had a little cry, hugged and finally went to sleep in my own room. One last time for a year. That morning I repacked all my things, and got rid of so many clothes. (Looking back on it, I'm glad I got rid of all my t-shirts, because there is no way I would be wearing them now... it's way too cold!)

Before long, it was time to go. Oh saying goodbye to Bonnie. How I miss that little cutie. I swear every dog I see (big or small) looks exactly like Bonnie. Mum, Dad, give her a big hug for me!!

And then I was at the airport. We had a coffee at Krispy Kremes, and I thought it was lovely that my best friends April and Min, and Josh came to the airport to farewell me. This is from a journal entry that I wrote on the way to Spain:

Time moved on and I realised, I just wanted to 'rip the bandaid off'. I didn't want to sit around for another half hour pretending I wasn't going. Oh the tears, will they ever disappear?
Saying goodbye to my family has been the hardest thing I've ever done. I love them so much and it pains me so much that I won't be able to share this part of my life with them physically. I miss Dad's warm hugs, and Mum's soothing touch already, and I'm only just past Alice Springs. But like 'Desert song', from Hillsong, "All of my life, in every season, you are still God, I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship." in every season, whether it be a hard or joyous season, I will always have a reason to praise God. Because he has given me, for now, a wonderful family,mybeautiful friends, and a life full of adventures.
So I take a big breath in; I sigh. I close my eyes and anticipate the year God has in plan for me.

And I have felt incredibly blessed by this opportunity! I have seen so many great things in this past week. Madrid was so amazing. I feel like I could easily live there for a year.. so many great things to see, and many narrow streets to explore! We got to Madrid, and I was pretty disappointed.. I felt like it was too warm to be Europe! But, when I went out later it was really cold.. well I thought it was cold - around 9 degrees... but from summer it was. At the airport I had my first translation fun. We were at customs, and we weren't sure what we had to declare, and Vic (another exchanger) had a shep's skin. So she said, "sheep skin" and the customs guy was like.... "no understand" So I said, "piel (skin) de...." I couldn't think of the word for sheep (ovejas) so just said, "Baaaaa" He understood then!

The people of JYC are very nice. We were met by Maria Carmen, who told us about the city on our way to our hotel in the centre of Madrid. When we arrived at the hotel, we met Emerito, the old man in charge of JYC. He is the loveliest man ever, and the cutest one too! After lunch, we had a shower, and cleaned up, and then Olga, another JYC representative took us around Madrid at about 3pm. Madrid is just beautiful. It is full of old, history filled buildings, and has such a lively unique characteristic. In all the different plazas, there were different people playing music, which added to the mood. By the time it got to 3:45, the jetlag had set in, and I began to resent having come out. I felt like if someone so much as smiled at me, I'd cry. We stayed out till 7:30, and I felt like I'd conquered the world, I was so tired. We went and saw all of the sites... The Retiro (the most beautiful garden!), La Puerta de Alcala (also very stunning!) The picture to the left is of the lake thing that's in the Retiro. There were a lot of boats out there, and apparently, lots of people go out there (especially couples) for an hour at a time. It looked like so much fun. After we got back from our walk (trek in my eyes!), we had dinner, una bocadilla de tortilla. A Spanish omelette on a roll. The bread in Spain is really nice. I have yet to see a loaf of bread. People just eat like baguette type bread, and it is so delicious!

I was meant to catch a 3pm bus the next day to Tudela. Emerito drove me to the bus stop (I don't know if I'd call it driving though. He was driving around 90km in a 30km zone, barely looking at the road. I have noticed that road rules aren't taken into account when people are driving. Here in Spain, give way signs at roundabouts are just a recommendation. Cars stop in the middle of roundabouts to let other cars through, or just stop randomly. Cars cut other cars off, and no one seems to care. Cars stop in the middle of the road, people get out of the car, get back in, leave, creating an enormous amount of traffic, and no one seems to care. I'm glad that I'm not allowed to drive while I'm over here... I don't think I'd want to!!) Emerito is lovely. He told me that "You have to open the door to your heart and your mind, if you don't you will learn nothing while you are in Spain". I believe that he's right. I'm going to make sure that my time here is a time where I will learn a crazy amount of things... Spanish, the Spanish culture, and maybe even some Latin and Maths! Exchange is a year where everything we've known will change and with that will come a new world view and characteristics. I'm looking forward to learning. So, I have opened the door to my heart and mind, willing to be challenged.

Emerito, of course, being the old, funny Spaniard he is, got the times wrong, so I of course, missed the bus. "No problema". I ended up eating a second lunch (my first lunch being another bocadilla de tortilla) at Maria Carmen's parents' house. It was an interesting experience. They knew no English, spoke rapid Spanish. To say I was a little overwhelmed is an understatement. I got really tired from trying to understand everything, so I had a 'siesta' after I ate. I caught the bus to Tudela, and got more and more excited by the minute.

At about midnight, I finally arrived at Tudela. I saw María Antonia, y José Antonio waiting for me at the bus stop, and they are so lovely. There is a definite difference in temperature between Madrid and Tudela... Tudela is much colder. I got to skype Mum and Dad that night, which was so so so lovely.

On Monday I started school. I was pretty nervous. But, there is another Australian in my class, which is both a blessing and not. The blessing is that she is able to show me the ropes, and explain everything to me in a way that I'll understand. The downside is that we speak English together. I was expecting to get to school, and have to really use my Spanish, but on my first day, I barely used any Spanish. That got me really down. My whole aim for exchange, is to become fluent in Spanish. And there I was at school, speaking English to an Australian. Exchange is certainly different to how I expected it to be. I was really surprised by the ease I felt in slipping back into school. I thought it would take me a week or two, but I felt completely natural in a class where I didn't understand anything. It felt like I was back in Tonga, or Hong Kong, and I felt... comfortable. The school that I go to is pretty big. It's a lot smaller than Wycliffe, but has 13oo people that attend. It's three stories high, and reminds me so much of American schools. Long hallways, a cafeteria type thing... Though is probably completely different. They don't take attendance here, so you could not turn up, and no one would do anything about it. And they do exams all the time! On Monday they had an exam, tomorrow, they have two... every week they have an exam for a subject, so it's constantly study study study for them. It's a completely different education system, and I'm loving working it out.

Today is Thursday, and I'm in a completely different mindset to my first day. I changed out of Economics to Latin, and have moved seats, and am sitting next to some Spanish people. I'm actually loving going to school, and trying to work out what people are saying. And, to make things even better... It snowed today!! It snowed all day. At first it was just like sprinkles of snow here and there, but by the end of the day it was steady, and was staying on the ground. But, then for about half an hour the sun came out and melted most of it away.

This weekend is Carnaval.. I think the equivalent to America's Halloween, but, bigger! We all dress up, and go out to town. And this Sunday I'm going skiing in France! It's really close to the Spanish border... but still in France. I'm really excited.

I miss my family. And my friends. But in an unusual way. I am happy to be in Spain. I love that I am here for a year, and that I get to experience life as a Spaniard. But I see my family and friends in everything. Everyone reminds me of someone at home. Mum, you would love María Antonia. She puts so much butter on bread! That reminds me of you. In my home, there is a model plane, and everytime I walk past it, I think of you, Dad, and wonder what you're up to. Any dog I see, reminds me of Bonnie. Everything brings memories of home, and the only thing I'm sad about, is that you guys don't get to experience this journey with me physically.

Exchange is completely different to how I thought it would be. I thought it would be a lot easier, or fun, or crazy. But it's not. It's difficult. Leaving everything for a year is incredibly difficult, and I've had a lot of times in just one week, where I question what I am doing in Spain. Being somewhere where I can't express myself is difficult and so frustrating. But with the hardness, has come great triumph. I have been praying more constantly, continually thanking God for the small things, like snow at school today, or asking for help when I call my ears (orejas) sheep (ovejas). I started a prayer journal type thing when I left. And looking back just a week, I can see how God has been answering my prayers. I love that God is a constant through exchange. He is always there, when everything that I hold dear to me is not. This week I have learnt a lot about the God of comfort, the God of wisdom, the God that answers prayers. He is a God worth praising, and I'm looking forward to being revealed of all of His glory this year.


  1. It's so good to read your first post from Spain Laura! I've been waiting in anticipation to read of your adventures.

    Continue to blog and use your prayer journal regularly. You won't regret it! Even though you might be exhausted and writing seems like a drain - it will be an awesome account of your life in Spain. And like you said, you've already seen how God has clearly answered your prayers as you look back over what you've written in the past week. ('The God of comfort' - have you been reading 2 Corinthians by any chance?)

    And what a weekend you've got coming up! Carnaval and skiiing - so exciting! That's like a year's worth of fun packed into one weekend. I hope you have an awesome time.

  2. Awesome coat you have there! I can't believe you're going skiing! How exciting, lucky you! Anyway, this is just something quick before I go to bed to tell you I've got a Blogspot too, which is at, and I'll be following yours while I'm at it. :)

  3. Hello Missy Mou,

    I have been hanging out to get all the news and to hear in detail how you are feeling about everything and to enjoy your lovely writing style. I feel so excited for you.....going to France!!??!! Wow. I am assuming it is downhill skiing? What are you going to do for gear, etc.....anyway, just wanted to let you know I will be hanging out waiting for the next instalment of life in Spain. Love Mum

  4. Hey Brad, I have been reading Cor. 2 :) I'm looking forward to Carnaval.. I think it's like Halloween to Americans... but bigger?

    Hey Vic... I'm now following it :)

    Hi Mum :) Oh how I miss being called Missy Mou!! Yeah skiing in France will be great. Yes it is downhill skiing, and we're actually staying in Spain, and then driving to France everyday, as the ski fields are quite close to the border. I think like half an hour from? One of the mothers of Javier's friends lent me her suit... which is a one piece :P So i'm using that.

  5. laura it is so good to hear of your adventures. enjoy france and the skiing. can't wait for the next post.
    ps last night i watched the other boleyn girl and it made me remember how i miss you like a wife of king henry VIII misses her head

  6. all sounds so exciting, have been eagerly looking forward to your blog! can't watit to here whats happening :) xoxo

  7. hey laura i love your style of writing and the journal entry from when you ahd just left was so great loving reading all this makes my heart beat harder in excitment for you miss you lovely but so happy for you are doing ok and conquering exchaneg through the power of God xoxoxo i dont know how to say what my name is so it may come up as anonymous ha ha i am so computer illiterate ha by the ways its katho hehe