A goodbye, a trip and a welcome home

Hi friends!

So, since I’m writing this on June 14th, I’m back home in the Netherlands. It’s so incredibly strange to be back here, but we’ll get to that later. First, we have a whole month to still talk about.

May was a really fun month for me. For seniors, this is a really chilled out month, because all the hard work and deadlines are behind you (actually, they do most of the really hard and stressful work in their Junior year), so it was just filled with classes where we did nothing and trips.

The first exiting thing was the prom in Haskell that I talked about before. Fun Texas thing: when my host mom and me were driving to Haskell, a turkey hit our window and dented it all the way in, which got me covered in glass. I was fine but it was quite scary, but since wildlife is in the roads all the time, people aren’t really shocked easily by stuff like this. That whole weekend I stayed with Gena, my first host mom, and I also got to see my host grandma there, which was really nice. Friday night, Gena and I went to see a Haskell softball game; it was super nice to see one of their games and I always really liked their coach so it was nice to see him and the team again. The actual prom was on Saturday May 6th. I went with a friend from there and it was really quite nice, but there was a lot less dancing than in Archer City, so not as exiting. Good to see a few people one more time, though.

As seniors, we had two trips in May that were organized by the school. The first was a day (May 4th) where we went to Main Event, a place with an arcade, a bowling alley, putt-putt, rope climbing and pizza, so it was perfect for a whole day of hanging out there. The second (May 9th) was to a lake where we just went swimming at someone’s lake house and hung out, which was actually even more fun.

From Saturday May 13th to Wednesday May 17th, we went to Branson with the school band. As you might know, I’d been in band since I got to Archer City, and in those four months, I learned to play the saxophone. It’s really exiting that I can play that now, but that’s besides the point. We went to Branson in Missouri, an eight hour bus ride from Archer City. There, we went to see a show every night at several different theaters (fun fact: apparently Branson is all about glee-ish groups – every show at least included one and some were only that) and we even saw a show on a showboat, a really pretty old cruise ship. We even performed ourselves. We also went to a fair and rode the ducks, old army amphibian vehicles that are now tourist attractions, and all that fun stuff. I can’t really remember what we did exactly because it was so much so densely packed together but I do remember that I had a great time. I could sum up every single show but I’m going to spare you.

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Another trip (yes, like I said, we we went on a bunch of trips) was a little later, on May 22nd with FCCLA (the Home Ec club), a club I joined because I was in three Home Ec classes anyway. We left at 7am and drove to Dallas in a school bus, where we went to the Renaissance fair. I personally love renaissance fairs, so I was so exited, and it was really fun. The area was really big so there were a bunch of stores and so many dressed up people. This was probably one of my favorite trips.

My mom arrived at the Wichita Falls airport on Wednesday the 24th. It was amazing to see her again, but so strange to see those two cultures kind of collide. I’ve gotten so used to the American culture, but for my mom, everything was still strange. She came over mostly for my graduation, which was two days later, on Friday the 26th. Graduation is definitely worth talking about. It is such a huge deal in America. You get a bunch of gifts from a bunch of people, including a lot of stuff for when you move out. I went to a senior lunch my church had organized a few weeks before and everyone had been so incredibly generous. Then, when graduation actually rolled around, it was completely different from in the Netherlands.

Archer City’s graduation was held in the gym, at 7pm that Friday. We were free from school that day (I was free on Wednesday and Thursday too, because as a senior if you make above an 85 and you have three excused absences or less, you don’t have to take your finals and those were on those days – like I’ve mentioned before, there’s really no such thing as finals in the sense we’re used to), but in the morning we had graduation rehearsal. That night, everyone was wearing shirts with ties and dresses, but most importantly their cap and gown. It was all so official looking and exactly like you would imagine it.

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Once all the family and friends that came were seated (it was super crowded), the ceremony started with the national anthem (that I now know from the top of my head) and the pledge of allegiance to the USA and to Texas (that I now also know – did I mention that everyone stands up and turns to the American and Texan flag respectively with their hand on their heart?). Then the principal gave a speech, one girl said a prayer (we were in Texas, after all), and the valedictorian (highest ranking in the grade) and salutatorian (second highest) gave a speech. The diplomas were handed out and everyone got to turn someones tassel, that thing that hangs from your cap, to the other side; that’s a sign that you graduated. The ceremony ended with us handing out flowers to people you wanted to thank (I gave mine to my mom, my second host family and to my first host mom Gena, who was also there (really amazing)). I got the chance to say goodbye to most of my friends. I’ll miss them a lot; it was probably the best four months of my life.

On the afternoon of the 28th, my mom and I left from the Wichita Falls airport to go to San Francisco, which meant saying goodbye to my family. The last few weeks had been really good and I hadn’t really thought about leaving much, but that day was really hard, I was sad all day. After a night of sleep it was a lot better, but if you’re reading this because you’re about to go on exchange, it’s very important that you realize this. Exchange is amazing, yes, and you get to meet so many amazing people and grow so much. But it’s also really hard sometimes, and it will break your heart when you leave, even if you only had a few months with them, like me. These people become your family, just as much as your real family, and that’s not an exaggeration. Unless I’m an exception of course, but I think this counts for more exchange students than just me. Just make sure you’re ready to say goodbye to people very close to your heart for a very long time.

Anyway, my mom and I went on a vacation to San Francisco. Again, I won’t sum up all the details, but it might be fun to know we took a Hop on- Hop off bus tour the first day (a great way to get to know a city if you don’t have much time, I highly recommend Haight Street) and we explored the piers the second day. Then, we went to Yosemite park to hike for a few days, a day in Sequoia park, and a few days in Monterey. We went to the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium there (worth the $50 you spend) and we went whale watching (they came so close and there were so many, it was amazing). On June 6th, we flew home, and we got there on June 7th. To my amazing surprise, besides my dad all of my friends and my aunt were waiting there for me! It was the best way to arrive back home.

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Now, I’ve just been settling in, getting over jet lag and getting used to the completely different food again. It’s been super weird that everything is the same as it used to be, but I can tell by tiny differences that a year had indeed gone by. It’s good to be back though, even though I really do miss my family a lot.

As you might be able to tell, I’m not writing everything I did down anymore. Since I’ve come back, I’ve been kind of packaging everything that happened on exchange into little packages so that they can easily fit inside my head and my memories. That for me means I don’t dwell on every single detail, but instead I remember the important stuff and all the images and that sort of thing, but that makes for less interesting posts, and I’m sorry about that.

Thank you all for reading my blog all these months! It’s probably been quite a rollercoaster, but I appreciate you sticking by me, haha. I might update again some time, but I’m mostly done now that I’m back from my exchange. I’m gonna leave you with a cheesy life lesson I’ve learned this year: in the end, it’s not about where you are, it’s about the people you’re with.

Bye nuggets!

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Two proms, Easter and a month left

Hi friends!

So prom was almost a month ago, and it was probably one of the most American things I’ve done here. I went with my date (one of the exchange students in my program), my host sister and her date. There was a whole lot of preparation; a few weeks earlier I had gotten a dress, the Wednesday before I got a manicure with my sister and on Thursday I went to Wichita Falls with my friends to get their nails done. On the day of prom, Saturday, two of my sister’s friends came over to do our hair and make-up. A lot of people spent a bunch of money on that, but this looked just as good.

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When our dates arrived, we exchanged flowers (the boys give the girls corsages which are bracelets with flowers on them and the girls give the boys boutonnieres which are flowers they pin to their jackets)  and drove to the Royal Theater in a convertible. The Royal is a theater here in town and it’s where our prom took place. The junior class chose the theme, Footloose, and decorated the room, which looked really pretty.

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There was a dinner first, and then the actual dance. The music was a bunch of rap and trap songs, some slow songs and some line dancing songs (which was super fun) including Footloose. Around 10:30 pm we went to iHop for pancakes, which is apparently some kind of tradition. I’ve recently decided pancakes are like my favorite breakfast food, so I was fine with that, they have really good ones too.

Two weeks later, the Friday before Easter, the whole family went to my host grandma’s cabin in Oklahoma. My host mom’s brother and his family (including a college kid, a freshman and an elementary kid) was there too, and we spent the weekend dying eggs, sitting by the lake and fishing. It was the first time I ever went fishing and it wasn’t as boring as I’d expected, because you have to keep an eye on the fishing poles and stuff, but it was still fishing so it wasn’t extremely exiting, haha. Easter lunch is like on most typical American holidays; ham, potatoes, etc. We also played wiffle ball, basically baseball with a plastic ball and bat, which was very fun, and made s’mores (marshmallows and chocolate between graham crackers – pretty great). It was a very fun trip.

Three weeks ago, the whole band went to contest, which was really fun. we started teh day in the band hall where we practiced a little before we got on the bus. It was about an hour drive, and when we got there we put on our band costumes, which looks really professional but is really uncomfortable, and then we played the three song we had been working on up until then. Then we walked to a different gym and did sight reading, which was really scary: you get a piece of music for the first time and have to play it right there and then. You can get a 1, 2 or 3 and 1 is the best, which we got for both parts of the contest, I was really happy with that.

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This week, I got my letterman jacket, which was really exiting. It’s one of those leather jackets you see in high school movies that athletes and band members wear (I’m obviously the latter). It’s really hot, so it’ll be perfect for the winter. Monday, we had a concert where we performed the three songs from contest and then two songs we had to learn in two weeks, so they weren’t that good, but it was still very fun. We also got to see the fifth grade band, who all played on recorders, the sixth grade band and the Junior High band.

This weekend is the Western Heritage Festival in Archer City. It’s not that big, since the town is so small, but there’s half a dozen food trucks, games for kids, a mechanical bull, a stage where there’s concerts, a parade and more. Next weekend, I’m going to go see Gena in Haskell and I’ll go to the prom there with a friend from there, which will be really fun, it’ll be great to see everyone one more time. And it’s only one more month until my mom gets here! I’ll graduate on May 26th and my mom and I are going to San Francisco for a week and then it’s off to home! I’m not ready to say goodbye to anyone yet, but I’m ready to see my friends and family.

Bye nuggets!

Family life, trips, and Spring Break

Hi friends!

It’s been so long since I’ve updated, but that should only tell you I’m too involved with life here to write about it, haha. Over the last month-and-some, I’ve really gotten used to the Archer life. The new family feels like I’ve been them for much longer; it’s amazing to have a sister, it brings so much extra life into the house. Over the last while, I’ve heard the phrase “What?? You haven’t seen that??!” so many times, that we watch a movie almost every night now, to catch me up on the American classics, and if you know me at all, you’ll know that I am thoroughly enjoying this.

It’s very easy to fit in at school because everyone is very welcoming, even after the first few weeks. It also really helps that this semester is really relaxed, especially for seniors. On Valentine’s day, we had a Valentine’s party for all the seniors. This is very complicated; everyone decorated a box, and you had to make little valentine’s cards for everyone, and a lot of people prepared some food. Then at the party we sat in a circle, put all the valentine’s cards in each other’s boxes and ate the food; it was pretty fun. Another reason why it’s so relaxed is because we go on lots of trips. This is mostly happening in May, but with my Earth/Space class we already went on a day trip to a pantheologic museum in Seymour, which is an hour away from Archer City. I’m pretty exited for the other trips.

The most noteworthy thing that happened besides the Spring Break trip was the funeral of Gregg. He passed away on March 6th after suffering from CJD for about two months. On Saturday March 11th, the first day of spring break, my whole family went down to Haskell, about a two hour trip, for the funeral. It was beautiful; Gena performed with her daughters, mother and some other people that are very important to her, and an open mic for people to say something. Although it was extremely sad, it was a very nice way to say goodbye to him, and at least I got to show my new family my old town. I said goodbye to a big part of the Haskell family that day, so I’ve mostly left that part of my journey behind me now, even though I will never forget it.

On Tuesday March 14th, my local coordinator Meagan, her host son Jacob and me drove from Wichita Falls to Lubbock, where her mother lived. We met up with the other exchange students there; Claudia from Spain and her host mom Meghan, Miriam from Germany, and Mario from Brazil. We slept over at Meagan’s mom’s house and the next morning we took off for Ruidoso, New Mexico. On the way, we stopped at the Carlsbad Caverns. These caves are huge; I think I read somewhere that the main room, the only part we explored, was the biggest cavern in the Western Hemisphere.  I’ve always really liked caves, so this was a cool stop.

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It took us about two hours to walk the whole route, so only visiting this part was already a big deal. But we weren’t there yet; we still had to drive three hours to Ruidoso. When we finally arrived there, it turned out we were staying in a very nice house where I shared a room with Miriam. It had been a long day, so we decided to call it a night after getting pizza from Domino’s (for some reason I expected there to be completely different stores once we got to New Mexico, but the Allsup’s, Sonic’s and Dollar General’s were still everywhere – the only thing that was missing was Whataburger, which was very sad for me).

The next day, after sleeping in for a while, we went snow tubing! I was really hoping to go skiing, but they were closing the ski resort down that day, so that wasn’t an option, but snow tubing was a great alternative. Basically, we went up a few lifts carrying a tube, then we went down a man-made snow slide on the tube. We were completely dressed up for cold and snowy weather, but it was actually quite hot that day. It was really fun, and afterward we went to eat at a really nice restaurant, which was fun too. That night, after sleeping in, we had a lot more energy, and we played the dice game Farkle until about 1 am; it was really fun.

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Friday was the most active day. We left early to go to the Alameda Park Zoo, a small zoo in Alamogordo, where we got a really long, interesting tour from a girl who told us everything about the animals there. Then we went to the Whitesands National Monument, and this was probably the highlight for me! It might not look that impressive in a picture, but it was absolutely breathtaking, especially because it was so peaceful.

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On the way back from Whitesands, we even went to visit the pistachio farm, which apparently had the biggest pistachio in the US, even though it was only a statue, not a real pistachio; it was a pretty funny place. That day, even though it was a pretty exhausting day, we had game night again. The evenings were some of my favorite moments.

After sleeping in on Saturday, we climbed the Ski Apache mountain with the car, where we had an amazing view, and afterwards we went into downtown Ruidoso. We had hung out at home for quite a while, so by the time we made it into town most of the stores had already closed, but we still visited some really nice local stores and I got to get some post cards (I’m not a big souvenir person, especially considering the fact that I already have way too little room in my suitcase to take anything else home). On Sunday, we made the eight hour trip back to Archer City, and the next morning, it was back to school for me.

Only two more months until this amazing journey is over! I’m planning to make the most of it. I have prom in a week, so I might write a short update about that then.

Bye nuggets!

A move, a new family and a new school

Hi friends!

A lot of things have happened in the last month, and I mean A LOT. I’ve been way too busy to even think about writing, but I’ve finally found some time to type up everything that’s happened. I usually don’t like to make my posts super long, but I’m going to have to for this, so settle in because it’s gonna be a while.

Let’s start at the beginning. Around Christmas, my host dad Gregg got quieter and quieter. We all thought he was just not in a good mood, but the longer it went on, the more worried we got. Around New Year’s homesickness hit me for the first time. This was because New Year’s was so much less of a big deal in America, and it made me think of all the fun things going on at home. I think Gregg’s mood affected me a little bit in this way, too. Soon after New Year’s, Gregg stopped going to work because he felt bad. In the second week of the new year, Gregg got a MRI scan in the local hospital that said he’d had a stroke. Gena took him to the neurologist a week later to get more information, where they immediately admitted him to the hospital. There, they made another MRI scan that showed he hadn’t had a stroke, but he had inflammation in his brain.

During this week, I was still pretty miserable, and the weekend of the 21st, after Gregg was admitted, my local coordinator Meagan called me to ask if I wanted to move. I’d already kind of considered it, but that weekend I really seriously thought about it and decided that moving was the best idea. It took Meagan only a week to find a new family. During that week, we found out that Gregg had an very rare disease called CJD, a fatal and non-treatable disease that works like extremely fast dementia. This was and still is a horrible time for my host family and me, but the Haskell community has been so supportive.

On Thursday January 26th, Meagan picked me and all my stuff up from Haskell. It was so hard to say goodbye to such an amazing host family and a house and town that I was so used to, but I knew it was for the best, and with that thought I could leave it behind.I’ll also miss the cats. I stayed with Meagan until that Sunday, the 29th. On Sunday, I moved to my new host family in Archer City.

My new host family lives really close to my new high school, Archer City High School. I have one sister living at home, she’s a freshman, and two sisters who don’t live at home anymore (one of them is a senior in college and one graduated in December). We have two dogs (an inside one and an outside one) and we’re babysitting another one, and we have two cats (also an inside one and an outside one). One of the twins is living at home right now, but she’s leaving for a job in a few weeks. The high school is about the same size as Haskell High School. I’ve been here for a week now, and my new schedule is pretty funny:

1st period – English

2nd period – Economics

3rd period – Band (I’ve started doing band! I’m trying to learn the saxophone but it’s very hard to produce any sound, the band director told me she’d teach me next week, so we’ll see if I can do it. If it’s impossible for me, I’m just gonna do percussion, apparently that’s super easy haha.)

4th period – Algebra 2

This doesn’t sound that different yet, but now we’re getting to the good part:

5th period – Nutrition Wellness (basically cooking, a Home Economics class)

Lunch

6th period – Child Development (all about kids, another Home Ec class)

7th period – Earth/Space Science (we’re looking at rocks now)

8th period – Dollars & Sense (my third Home Ec class)

So I have three Home Ec classes! Pretty chill, haha. I might do Athletics 8th period instead, but I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve already made some friends, and the family is awesome, so I think I’ll have a good time here. It feels like I’ve already been here for a month. This weekend has been fun because the other twin was home for the weekend too, and the Super Bowl is today, so that should be fun with the family.

I guess it wasn’t such a long story after all. We should all hope for Gregg to feel as good as he can throughout this time and keep Gena in our hearts. But for now, I’ll answer anything I haven’t told you guys about yet.

Bye nuggets!

 

Thanksgiving, Sinterklaas and Christmas

Hi friends!

It’s been a looooong time since I last updated you guys on my life here, but now I’m back. Like I said in my last post; not a lot of new things happen during a normal school week, but now I’ve experienced some all American holidays that I can tell you all about.

Before any of the holidays started, a new sport started at my school: basketball! The basketball matches happen twice a week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday, the one on Tuesday usually being the home game. I’ve only gone to two home games so far, because I’m personally not that interested in basketball, but it is fun to experience the school spirit. We don’t have spirit days, a band or cheerleaders, but there are a lot more students at basketball games and because it’s in the gym, the games are a lot louder, so you get even more caught up in it. I’m proud to say our girl team is very good, they’re almost undefeated in the district.

On November 21st, we had our Senior Bonfire. We’d had the supper that was connected to it a few weeks before, but it started raining that day, so they moved it to this new date. This may give you an idea of how important seniors are here: we were driven to the bonfire on fire trucks! The bonfire itself was mostly just taking pictures in front of the fire, but it was a fun thing to be a part of.

Now onto the holidays. On Wednesday, November 23, our Thanksgiving break started. Thanksgiving is always on the last Thursday of the month, so that was the next day. On Thanksgiving, I had lunch with Katey’s family at her grandparents’ house; a typical Thanksgiving dinner consists of turkey, dressing (also known as turkey stuffing, but you eat it as its own thing), ham, gravy, cranberry sauce, some form of green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls (basically buns that don’t need anything on them), sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie as dessert. The dinner usually takes a few hours and is mostly just to hang out with family.

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On Sunday, both my host sisters and their husbands were in Haskell, because my host parents were renewing their marriage vows; this was a very special occasion to be a part of. After that, we had Thanksgiving lunch at Nana’s house with the whole family – my host parents, host sisters and their husbands, nana, host aunt and her two daughters, and even Katey was there. This time it took even longer because we had to prepare the food after the ceremony in the church.

Sadly after that Sunday school started again , but soon after it was the 5th of December, or as all Dutchies know it, Sinterklaasavond. I wanted to share this important Dutch holiday with my American family. My parents had helped a lot in this by sending me a package with lots of Sinterklaas presents for the family a few days earlier, which was awesome. That day, I also had a Senior Supper, one of multiple the school or other parties organize, where we played Chinese Christmas, a game where you take a number and then get to take a small gift from the table or you can take it from someone else; it reminded me a lot of the game Sint Dobbel we have. I introduced my host parents to this game after the Senior Supper, where you buy small presents and distribute them by rolling dice. They seemed to enjoy it, and opening my parents’ presents afterwards was awesome too.

Towards the end of December, from the 14th to the 16th, we had Finals week, and I can honestly say it was the easiest test week I have ever had. The schedule was as follows:

Wednesday:

1st-4th period: normal schedule

After lunch:

  • 1,5 hours of Library Aid final: we sat around in the High School library for half an hour and then shelved books in the Elementary School library for an hour.
  • 1,5 hours of English final: we looked at the homework from the previous day and then had an hour to answer questions we had answered throughout the semester about all kinds of things and had to write an essay, the essay was a little challenging and the test would have been too had we not repeated everything in the last week.

Thursday:

  • 1,5 hours of Algebra final: the only final that was even a little bit hard, we had repeated everything before and the level isn’t that hard.
  • 1,5 hours of US Government final: we had already gotten the literal questions and answers a week before so after learning everything so that I could easily do the test, this was easy.
  • 1,5 hours of A&P final: we had to do packets (a stack of exercises) the week before that counted as a big part of this grade, so during the final we only had to write an essay about our dream jobs.

6th-8th period were a little bit shorter than normal and were study hours.

Friday:

  • 1,5 hours of Theatre final: we had to answer questions about the movies we’d watched throughout the semester, not very hard.
  • 1,5 hours of Ag final: literally just a Christmas party (so eating cookies and cutting snow flakes out of paper and listening to music).
  • 1,5 hours of Yearbook final: just sitting around.

Safe to say, I’ve had harder finals weeks.

Then finally, Christmas break started! The first week, I did absolutely nothing. on Christmas eve, my host sister Denise and her husband arrived and we went out for dinner at Olive Garden (the first real restaurant I’ve been to here, an Italian restaurant famous for their bread sticks, stick-shaped pieces of warm soft garlic-y bread) because it was Greg’s birthday. The next morning, everyone woke up at nine and we immediately started unwrapping presents! There were so many presents under the tree, it was amazing, and that just for six people. I got lots of awesome stuff, including a lava lamp, a charm bracelet from a well-known shop around here (James Avery), and of course a stocking full of candy.

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And this is without the gifts from Nana.

It was so much fun to see the others unwrap the gifts I got for them as well; it was just a great way of celebrating Christmas. We spent the rest of the day chilling at home, playing games and watching Christmas movies, and for dinner we had some typical American Christmas foods: ham, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and potato casserole (yes, this is kind of similar to Thanksgiving food). That’s how Christmas is here; not much different, but a bigger deal with way more presents (everyone got about 200 dollars worth of presents, if that gives you any idea).

This week, I went to Oklahoma with my local coordinator and the exchange student that stays with her, and their family. It was only about a two-and-a-half hour drive from my house to the Wichita Wildlife Reserve in Oklahoma, where we saw buffalos, groundhogs and Longhorns (cows) and we visited the Holy City, where they rebuilt some Biblically important places in Jerusalem. We had dinner in a casino – apparently casinos are not allowed in Texas! It was fun to finally see a place outside of Texas.

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Tonight is New Year’s Eve. This is not a big deal here at all. Usually, the only thing people do is watch the ball drop on TV (this happens in New York, and I’m not sure how it works but I’ll see tonight), but I decided to make it a little bit bigger since New Year’s is a big deal here, so I’m making some oliebollen (wish me luck!), we got some champagne and we’re probably buying some sparklers too. I’m exited, and even though I’m sure it’s not gonna be that big of a deal, I’m gonna make it a big deal! And then Tuesday, it’s back to school and the start of a new semester! I can’t believe I’m already basically halfway through my year.

I want to wish everyone a happy new year!

Bye nuggets!

An election, a result and a new President-Elect

Hi friends!

Some big stuff has happened these last few days, weeks and months, and I think it’s important to discuss. Of course, I’m talking about the elections.

Since I came here, the upcoming elections have been a buzz in the background. There were loads of commercials about the candidates and people would bring it up every now and then. Even though this district used to be Democratic, most people in Haskell are pro Trump. If someone would ask me about my opinion, I would just say I’m from a liberal country so my ideas are quite liberal. I might have been a little too obvious about my preference, but there’s no changing it now, and I don’t think anyone thought it was too much of an issue.

The week before the elections were upon us, the buzz rose to a loud chatter in the hallways, in class and on TV. Teachers were having trouble with keeping their political opinion to themselves, some students would go around asking others who they would vote for in the mock election we were holding in our school (78% for Trump, 22% for Clinton, which is still quite a surprising number for Clinton), and the Monday before the election and on election day, we mostly just watched the information on TV. My host family is Republican, but luckily they’re not huge Trump fans (even though they still support him) and always openminded towards my culture, so I could talk about my feelings about this with them. On Tuesday evening, we watched the results slowly coming in on TV. Every few minutes, a new state would announce who of the candidates their electoral votes would go to, but I didn’t stay up to see all the results; this would only be over at 1am and I had school in the morning.

At this point, I was pretty nervous. In the Netherlands, the media teaches you to think of Trump as an evil person that will destroy democracy as we know it. Since I’ve come here, I’ve learned to see a lot more nuance, but I’m just taught to have liberal ideas. Anyway, in the morning, I woke up pretty early (I want to say it wasn’t nerves but I think it was) and found out Trump had been elected as President. I decided to go into the day with no opinions, and it turned out this was quite a good way of handling it. At school, every once in a while, someone would bring it up and be really exited about it, but that was the extent of the effect on my surroundings. Now (the Friday after elections), it doesn’t even really get brought up anymore.

I think I’m going to keep away from politics as much as possible and just see what happens. Many Europeans will be shocked that I’m reacting this calm, and sure, in my head my reaction will be close that of many of my Dutch relatives, but I think this is just the best way to approach it. The American viewpoint is so different from the Dutch one. I’ve decided to be hopeful.

All in all, it’s been an interesting time, and I think I’ve learned a lot. Even in this post, I’m trying to stay away from an opinion as much as possible, and I hope you guys can respect that, because I have some extremely liberal people on my Dutch side and some quite conservative people on my American side, and my goal has never been to insult anyone, it’s always been to learn from my cultural exchange. I’m still having an awesome time, and we’ll see what happens with President-Elect Donald Trump!

Bye nuggets!

A retreat, a party and Halloween

Hi friends!

I’m slacking on these posts, I know. I have to be honest, now that I’ve been here for three months, I hardly ever think of home anymore, so logically, I don’t think of blogging. Besides that, I think it’s important my posts are about more than just what I’m doing; they should be about how I experience things. But, honestly, I don’t have much to say on that subject right now, and I need to update again, so I’ll tell you guys about my month! I’ve been busy each weekend, so I have some stuff to talk about.

During the weekend of October 8th and 9th, I had a retreat with FCS, which stands for Fellowship of Christian Students. This retreat was organized by a local church and was for the high school students. We did some really fun stuff, like playing volleyball, soccer (very frustrating because I was one of the only ones who knew the rules but I was one of the worst players, I’ve never been good at soccer) and capture the flag. But it was a Christian retreat, so the main focus was on religion.

Now, don’t freak out. During my time in Texas, I’ve gotten very used to religion being all around me. Even though I’m not a Christian, it’s still very interesting to hear about different moral ways to deal with situations. For example, the retreat was about how to fight against evil (Satan, but in my mind I changed it to evil, to relate it to me), so I could learn a lot from it. Some things were just completely not relevant to me, but I was happy to listen anyway. There were four talks about this subject. There was also praise and worship, this was just singing songs with the whole group. The songs praised God, but there are plenty of songs about things we don’t necessarily believe in that we sing along to anyway, so after I got comfortable with it, I was fine with singing along. The retreat was mostly a great way to get to know people better. It was incredibly fun, and I’m kind of sad this is the only trip this year.

The weekend of the 15th, I was planning on going to Six Flags (!!), but I caught a fever bug that had been going around town all month. The weekend after that, I had a pumpkin carving party in Abilene with most of the exchange students from my area! It’s always fun with that group. In Haskell, I have some really good friends, but not really a friend group, so hanging out with a group was a nice change, I always love it. And the best part about it: we carved pumpkins! I’d never done this before. First you have to cut off the top (at an angle, otherwise the top will fall into the pumpkin), and then you have to scoop out the seeds and all the little strings on the inside. This is a very annoying task that takes ages, but it pays off, because after that, you can carve out your design! You can use a stencil or draw a design on the pumpkin yourself. The walls of a pumpkin are quite thick so it’s pretty hard, but the small pumpkin knives that we used gave me a lot of control still. Sadly, the pumpkins were rotted after a few days, but it was still very fun to do.

And finally, last weekend was Halloween weekend! On Saturday, I had a costume party with about 40 people from school at the house of one of my classmates. I was Alice in Wonderland, and of course there was a Harley Quinn, but besides that, there were so many creative costumes, like Netflix and Chill, a sexy chicken (a guy), a “white guy trying to be a black rapper”, and much more. The party was just sitting around and chatting, and at first I was a bit awkward (that still happens to me every time I’m hanging out with people that aren’t my best friend here), but I’ve learned to work through awkwardness, and in the end it was very fun, I have a fun class (there were three kittens! It made my day). Sunday, we went to Abilene (this is a common theme, we go there quite often because it’s the only place where there’s actually more than three things to do).

Monday was Halloween! Coincidentally, we were free from school that day, so I spent the day preparing a last-minute costume (a punk), and in the evening, we went over to nanna’s house, where we were planning on handing out candy, but almost no one came. It turned out that there had already been so many candy hand-outs in town that almost no one wanted to hand out candy! Instead, we drove around to find a busier street, and in the end we did find two streets where there was trick or treating going on, so we trick or treated some ourselves. Luckily, people weren’t mad that two teenagers were doing this. So, in the end, Halloween was still fun.

All in all, my time is amazing, I’m having so much fun. School is boring, but that’s logical, it’s school. There’s plenty of fun things to make up for it. There’s been some sadness lately, though, not because I’m missing home, but because I keep thinking about when I’m going back, and that’s not a positive thought (I’m sorry, Dutch people, I’m looking forward to seeing you again, but that’s not really on my thoughts here). I’ve become so attached to the people here, and I can’t imagine having to leave it all behind. I know that it’s gonna be so long before I have to leave and I’m so thankful for that, but the thoughts keep coming back. I hope this is a thing everyone goes through, and I focus on the positive things, so I’m doing really well, but it’s important to mention this. Like they always say; exchange is not just always fun. Right now, even though I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way for me and I’m so happy I’m here, I wouldn’t encourage others to go on exchange, because you’re gonna make so many bonds you will have to leave behind after a year.

I realized I haven’t really talked about my friends here yet. So, if you’re somewhat of a friend of mine here, maybe skip this bit, because I might be awkward about it. First of all, I’m very lucky to have met a girl, Katelyn, who’s a lot like me, and we get along so well, she’s my best friend already. Me, her, and Franzi, the German exchange student who I’m also close with, hang out a lot. I don’t go to lunch with them all the time; sometimes I go with two other very nice girls, Vicky and Lupe, and talking to them is really easy as well, but I don’t hang out with them outside of school. Then, every once in a while, I go to lunch with some girls from the one real friend group in school. I also really like hanging out with them, but I still get a bit awkward around them. The fun thing about them is that I know they don’t mind if I tag along with things, so sometimes they invite me along to things (or I invite myself – this is awkward as hell to do but you gotta do it if you wanna make more friends, believe me!). I’m starting to really bond with two of those girls as well (if my judgement is correct), so that’s good! Like I said before, I don’t really have a tight friend group (Katelyn doesn’t have that so I couldn’t wedge myself into that and it’s still a bit awkward with the other group), but I do have good friends that I hang out with, so that part is going well!

This Friday was the last football game! I’m really sad about that, because I’ve come to fall in love with high school football. When you’re at the game, it feels like you’re part of the team, and I love watching the game live (I already know most of the rules), even though it’s pretty boring on the TV.  The band has been amazing all season, if you want to know what that is like, watch their performance at the band competition here! Very nerve wracking (some of my friends are football players so I’m nervous for them as well as myself and the school). After this, basketball season starts, so there’ll be a whole new sport and experience I’ll have to learn about, but for now I’ll just reminisce about football. I really hope that if you’re a future exchange student and you’re reading this, that you’ll like it, because it adds so much to the experience. I think that’s the last interesting that I can talk about.

Oh, if you’re interested in seeing pictures and stuff, don’t forget to check out my Facebook, where I have an album about this year, and my Instagram!

Bye nuggets!