Sunday, December 25, 2011

The White (and red) Rider

Hello again everyone,

Once again I have taken much longer than the originally planned week to update this blog thing, mostly because I have been having an incredibly great time and things have been as always fairly busy. I am currently spending my Christmas in Luxembourg, but I think it will be easiest writing wise if I break the last month up into more than one post. So, starting where I left off...

December fifth was Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, which you may notice resembles Santa Claus a little bit. In fact, the name Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas, despite the different dates of celebration. While Santa has a miniature slay, tiny reindeer, and lives at the North Pole, Sinterklaas rides around on a horse (which you are encouraged to leave a carrot out for), has a slave helper Zwarte Piet (black Pete), and lives in Turkey Spain. He is also a Bishop. Differences aside, they do both wear white and red (see blog title).

What happens on Sinterklaas is in most ways fairly similar to what happens on Christmas for us Americans, though some of the details are different; for the week or so before Sinterklaas you get small chocolates or marzipan in your shoes, delivered by Black Pete (politically correct, his face is black from coming down the chimney). On Sinterklaas itself people exchange gifts which are said to be from "de Sint." In a sort of Secret Santa fashion, everyone gets a small, inexpensive gift (around 5 to 10 euros normally) for one other person, and writes a rhyming poem (rhyme scheme AABBCCDD etc. for those who care) describing their last year and which is signed by Sinterklaas. You eat pepernoten, which are rather like ginger bread but very small and round, chocolate letters, and speculaas (also like gingerbread).

My host family ended up celebrating Sinterklaas (which is on a Monday) the weekend before, so that everyone could be home for it, Saturday night we exchanged gifts in a long process; you go around in a circle and roll dice, whoever rolls an six can pick out a gift from the bag, and gives it to whoever it is for. Sunday we went to their grandparents house where the same process was repeated except only between the grand children. I myself received a great deal of chocolate and some beautiful dutch clog shaped slippers (that was sarcastic, they are incredibly dorky but I was in need of slippers, and certainly are funny). The only downside to the celebrations was that on Sunday I was quite ill, so after getting back from their grandparents (around 4pm) went promptly asleep until late the next morning, and seem to have gotten a long lasting cold which has by now mostly gone away.

So that was my first weekend in december, the first of four very busy ones.

More to follow, hopefully soon!



Monday, December 5, 2011


Well then, it would appear that I haven't updated in more than a month. Yes, there is a reason for this. Even a sort of good one. Looking back at one of my first entries, I believe I mentioned how I wanted this rollercoaster of a year to be kiddy, non rickety, and certainly without any upsidedown parts sort of ride.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

What happened, pray tell? Very long story short, I moved host families two weeks ago. Perhaps this warrants some explication. I guess the best way to say it is that we didn't click as people- I was very different than them, and very different than what they expected as a host family. Communication could have been better, on my end and theirs, but what's done is done. To be frank, my first three and a half months here weren't that good, in fact they kind of sucked, which I didn't tell you all because I didn't realize it myself. I didn't have anything else to compare it with, so I chalked it up to culture shock and homesickness. It was only when I went to the homes of some of the other students that I saw how much better it could be, and now looking back that I see the whole picture, or at least a wider view than before.

Those months, and most especially the last week I was there were as a general rule not that great, and definitely not something that I'd choose to repeat. But they're also not something I'd choose to delete. I learned a lot about myself that I wouldn't have in better situations, and was forced to reexamine a lot of things I had taken for granted, and appreciate others, certainly to mature as a person. And now that I'm out of it, and I see what I had been missing, how caged I was, and how the lines of communication were broken, I'm that much more appreciative of it all now.

So I moved families. Then what, you may ask? Basically, two fridays ago, I left, spent one night at one volunteer's place, then Saturday came back to grab my stuff, then through monday stayed with another volunteer, which we thought was going to be for a few weeks. However, monday AFS had contact with a family in the same town I stayed in first (the AFS volunteers are a train ride away), who had a foreign exchange student in September (planned for three months) who had to go home due to family issues home. They said I could stay temporarily with them, which would be better since then I wouldn't have to take the train to school and such.

Emotional roller coaster still rickety, I packed back up my stuff and came back and settled down here, temporarily in theory, while AFS tried to find me a long term one. And they did, just not the way that was expected, as last week Wednesday my temporary host family decided I could stay for the year, if I wanted to. Which I did of course, because they're awesome

And that's where I am now, a billion times happier. I'm currently sick (not that surprising given the chaos of the last few weeks), but getting better, much much better. I'm in a host family of nine including me, five daughters, one son, and two parental units. Four of the daughters are still home, two are my age. Almost everyone plays instruments, so Mackenzie and co. has dubbed them the Von Trapps. I told them this, and now they're calling themselves as such. They feel like family, more so already than my first one ever could have, and I'm immensely happy.

In other news, I've finally started taking circus lessons in Amsterdam! Tomorrow's my second class. I've lost a lot, but less than anticipated.

More to follow this,