I've tried to write this post about four times, each filled with jumbled words, senseless sentences, and nothing from my heart. Trying to explain my week last week isn't what I want to do, because I didn't enjoy last week at all. Last week was filled with both bad and good, as does every week and everyday in each person’s life. For me however, the bad outweighed the good, and I spent a great deal of the week in tears. Why, you may ask? One word that every exchanger will be thoroughly familiar with: homesickness.
I don’t really want to dwell on last week, as it wasn’t a very nice week for me. I was hit with a bout of homesickness, stronger than any other that I've ever experienced before, and spent a great deal of my time crying. It was a hard week, especially because my host family didn’t really understand why I would be homesick, and neither did the other exchange students. I wanted and needed comfort, and felt like I couldn’t get any. It was a sucky week, something that I don’t wish to repeat again.
Being homesick sucks.
I started writing this blog post, planning on going into every detail of how I felt, and everything that I did. I want my family and friends to know that exchange is difficult, and that there are things that don’t always go the way we’ve planned. I want to describe to you that sick-in-the-stomach feeling you get, where you can’t eat, can’t think, without wanting to cry because you miss everything, everyone so much. I want you understand going through the emotions of having everything around you fine, but still feel horrible. I had been feeling great, on top of the world. I had friends, I could speak Spanish, I was happy with my family. I didn’t understand why I felt so homesick, so pained, when everything was going fine. I still don’t understand. Understanding homesickness is important, but what I learnt from my week is more important.
I felt and still feel alone. I am a Christian in a non-Christian area. I have no Christian or religious friends, I don’t have a church to attend, and feel often alone in a place with no Christian fellowship, community or encouragement. Last week I felt that I had no one, that I was alone, and had no one to comfort me. My brother, Brad, sent me an email a couple of days ago that greatly brightened me up.
“It must be really difficult being so disconnected from a church. God saves us into community and the body of Christ is so important for daily life following Jesus. Even though you're in Spain, it's important to know that you are not alone. That we are bound together in Christ and that you are a part of what God is doing all around the world as God has mercy on many.”
I so often complain about being ‘alone’ that I often forget that God is still always with me, that I still have my family and friends with me. They may not be here in Spain, but they are always only a Skype call away. Being on exchange, you often have to learn to be your own best friend. Learn to enjoy doing things by yourself, and exploring where you live. I think I do this pretty well, but there are always those times where you just wish you had someone to talk with, that has known you longer than your time in Spain.
That week was a big eye opener to the fellowship I still have with my friends and family and the Christian community, even though I’m so far away. When I was feeling incredibly homesick, I decided to write some poetry, and Hebrews 13:5-6 came to mind.
For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
It is so easy to feel alone, to be filled with fear and lose hope, even over the simplest and smallest things. This verse is a huge encouragement to me, knowing that God will never leave me nor forsake me. Exchange isn’t easy. Homesickness isn’t easy. Feeling alone isn’t easy. But bringing everything back to God, and relying on him through everything changes it all.
This is an extremely jumbled post as it’s been stopped, started, stopped, started, rewritten, and have had no idea what to write about or say! Months of not writing does that to you, I suppose.
This week has been somewhat better. On Monday, we had a birthday party for one of my friends at school, as she was turning 17 on Tuesday. We went to the movies and saw Charlie St Cloud (Siempre a Mi Lado in Spanish). It was my first birthday party that I have been to since I’ve been in Spain, and the feeling of inclusion, acceptance, and friendship was overwhelming. I am loving having Spanish friends, conversing with them in Spanish, telling jokes and understanding jokes in Spanish, and living the Spanish life. This week has been a week of acceptance, as I am beginning to realize that my exchange year is winding down. I have been speaking with Mum and Dad about my plans for the next couple of months, and they are filling up quickly! I am hoping to travel throughout the month of January, though I’m not sure where or with who. I have no idea where I am spending Christmas at present, as my host family may be overseas for the Christmas break. I am having to start sorting these things out, which is both incredibly exciting and a little daunting, as it makes me realize how little time I have left in Spain. There are 76 days left until Christmas, so I have at least another 76 days left in my dear Tudela. Thinking of my time left on exchange in mere days is incomprehensible. I came on exchange expecting Christmas to never come, that my wind down period would be far off in the distance, but I am beginning to realize that it is just around the corner! In saying that, I still have a little less than four months until I touch down in Australia, which is a reasonable amount of time. But time flies when you’re having fun!
I have also been getting excited for things that I’ve left behind; uni, friends, family, sleepovers, work, Bonnie, Church, driving, the smell of Australia, my bedroom, the small things I call home.
I feel like I am on the fine line of having so much left of my exchange, and the winding down period. It is difficult to try and get my emotions in sync, and know where my head is meant to be with stage of my exchange so far.
This past week I have had to tell myself to stop looking at the future, of my plans in Australia, the fun times to be had, the return to normality and Australian culture, and look at the present. There are always things happening here in Spain and in Tudela, and I don’t want to miss out on these things because I am focusing on what will be happening. This week is the equivalent of Australia Day. October 12 is the day of Hispanics. It is the day celebrating all things Spanish and South American.
Zaragoza is a city about 45 minutes away from where we live, and it holds the Basilica del Pilar. Pilar is the saint for all Spanish people, so October 12 is incredibly important there, and there are lots of activities happening this weekend. I am going to be staying in the apartment that we have in Zaragoza, going to Bull fights, seeing Spanish dancing, going to free concerts, eating a lot of food, experiencing more Spanish culture.
Something that I love so incredibly much about the Spanish is their joy for life. They celebrate in a way that is so unique and so lively. I’m extremely excited to go and see the celebrations and take part in them, especially in Zaragoza, as Pilar is there.
I am about to head off, so I will leave it where I am. Sorry for the lack of posting, the jumbled-ness of this post, and the lack of interesting things in it! I promise that I will be writing more in these coming weeks. I love writing in my blog, I love sharing what I have to share, but life often gets in the way. (Or my laziness does!)
I'll leave you with a verse that greatly challenged me this week. It is from Acts 5 where the Apostles are persecuted. They leave the town after being flogged and it says,
"The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name... they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah."