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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity

Day 286: 16/06/2014

JUNE 16TH!! 9 sleeps till I leave Barcelona and 11 sleeps until I leave this country. That means that in less than 11 days my life here will end. Just writing this makes me feel quite emotional. My excitement lies in seeing my family again, back in New Zealand, but I can not help but feel like I am being ripped in half. During these 10 months here in Spain, Cataluyna, I have made a second life for myself - one that can never be repeated or relived. This exchange has been the best, most challenging and life-changing experience of my whole life and even though I have only lived 18 years of it I am sure it will still be one of the most important things I will have ever done.

To anyone who is thinking about doing an exchange, DO IT. It is the best decision you could ever make. The money was the biggest problem for me when trying to pursue this dream of mine, and sure it proved to be difficult and I know that many other people cross out the idea of an exchange once they see the price but if you are determined enough and you really want it, you can make it happen. I know there are so many quotes saying that money can't buy happiness, which is true, but the money that you pay to go on an exchange buys you the oportunity of a lifetime! The things that you learn and experience are worth more than any amount of money and at the end of the day, nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. You only live once you know :)

Soo, what has been happening within the last month?? Well I have been keeping up with the gym and english classes as per usual but I finished school on the 6th of June! I still have to finish off NCEA level 3 by correspondence back in New Zealand BUT I have officially finished high school classes forever! Wow, I must be getting old.
I am now on holidays now and am enjoying every minute of it! The sun is shining (a little too much for my pale, easily burnt skin) and the summer atmosphere is all around me. I am trying to soak up the good weather before returning to the ice berg called New Zealand.

The weekend of the 24th and 25th of May I went on my final AFS camp in Coma Ruga which was really fun, like always. This time though we were actually surprised as we weren't just the usual group of Cataluyna students that were doing an exchange, they called us "hostings", but there was also a huge group of students that were going to be participating in an exchange, which they called "sendings". So once we arrived we were unexpectedly mobbed by students taht we didn't know. The volunteers had the sendings play a breaking the ice or getting to know you kind of game where they had to go around and ask peoples names, age, where they were from and what languages they had learnt. I had barely set foot in the door and they practically leaped on me with their questions with their papers and pens going mad writing what I said down. I have to admit that I felt like the paparazi was after me.

After this we were then split of into groups, organised by country, so that the "sendings" could ask us "hostings" questions about our countries. I was very surprised to find that there were two students going to New Zealand! I was also given the South Africa headed students as there was no one from South Africa (luckily I have South African friends and had heard a few stories from them). It was actually pretty cool getting to talk about my country as I am pretty proud of it and I was super pleased that they actually chose to go there (that was until I found out that if you want to do a 2 month program you only have two options, South Africa and New Zealand, and so it wasn't as if they had chosen New Zealand out of a huge list!)

Once we had covered all topics from school to fashion, we had a small break which included some snacks and then were separated into "hostings" and "sendings" where we when participated in different activities. We had a sort of reflection time, discussing what we had learnt from the year and talking about differences we had discovered. The volunteers then told us that we had to prepare a special ceremony for the "sendings", just as the volunteers had done to us previously. It was basically to demonstrate that we can't always assume we know what things mean in different cultures and that we have to be careful and respectful. We planned the ceremony out before heading to dinner, a buffet type dinner, and then went downstairs to prepare ourselves. We dressed up using our white bedsheets and we painted our faces all differently as if we were from some strange tribe.
It would be quite difficult to explain as it was quite a weird activity but it basically just involved us demonstrating some sort of ceremony that the "sendings" did not understand and did not have any idea what was going on so that we could show them the importance of what I mentioned earlier about culture differences etc.

After this activity us "hostings" were taken into a small room where we had to sit around in a circle and there were candles in the centre. It was all quiet and serious. The candles in the centre were to be lit or blown out by individuals (if they wished) representing something positive or negative that the person had experienced throughout the exchange. It was quite awkward at the beginning as people were quite hesitant to share in front of the whole group but little by little more people got into the activity. It turned out to be rather emotional as it dawned on us that our time together was so amazing and it was coming to an end. There were a few tears and a couple of loving embraces shared as well.

The next day we woke up and had a nice breakfast and everything was pretty laid back. We were given bright orange AFS t-shirts to wear and were split into groups to either participate in rock climbing or go to the beach. I chose to do the rock climbing before heading down to the beach, it was fun just chilling with everyone, chatting about whatever came to mind. I love how there is ALWAYS something interesting to talk about with my AFS friends.

After the beach we headed back up and took a big group photo of parents, students and volunteers, just everyone really. I realised that we were actually such a big network of people. All too soon it was time to say goodbyes and head back to our own host homes again. I am always sad to leave my AFS family. We really are like a big family.

Aside from my AFS friends and family I have also made friends in school here in Spain you know! :p So as I mentioned, I have finished school now and as a farewell we had a dinner for me the other night at a restaurant and then went out afterwards! Just people from my class came to the dinner but just about the whole year level came out to party! We all met up and headed off to the beach to carry out the party. There was no music (unfortunately) but everyone just had a nice time hanging out and talking on the beach. It was nice chatting to students that I had only ever seen around school but had never really talked to before, I was surprised when quite a few knew my name and who I was despite this.
As a special thing to take back to New Zealand with me I also bought a flag and had my friends sign it for me. It is now full of nice messages from my friends and classmates :) It is pretty cool being able to say that I no longer need to communicate with anyone in english as my spanish is fluent enough! :D I would say that I have had a decent level of fluency since March.

This month I have also enjoyed a nice weekend in Girona with my host family! We stayed at their Girona house like usual and made a trip to the beach and to their garden. The pictures can probably so you how nice it was! You should know that the smiles in my photos are always genuine! I really am enjoying life and I do enjoy being with my host family, especially with my host mum who I now think of as a second mum!

Yesterday I arrived home from a non-mandatory AFS trip which I chose to participate in. Wow, it was a rough weekend. It started off Saturday morning with catching the train to Premia de Mar, arriving at 12pm. There I waited for everyone to arrive (most late as always) and we walked down to the beach. It was a pretty hot day and we all straight away stripped off our clothes (down to our bathing suits of course) and took off into the water to cool off. The water was cold, as you would expect, so I wasn't brave enough to spend that much time in there. Turns out that we were at the beach for a solid 6 hours! I had to lather myself with sunscreen and wear my tourist-like hat all day! I am so paranoid about getting sunburnt because my skin is sooo white and doesn't have the ability to tan but rather turn red like a lobster... luckily I didn´t get any sunburn whatsoever.

7pm came around and after waiting for a boy to arrive, who had lost himself on the train, we had to walk all the way from the beach to the mountain where there was a restuarant, that was like 2 hours worth of walking. (The AFS volunteer that was with us thought it was hilarious to tell us that we would be walking for just 1 hour, then he would change his mind and say 2 hours and then 3...) We had dinner there and then had to walk further up the mountain to where we would sleep, this was about 45 minutes of walking . We set everything up in the grass, with no shelter, and then it started to rain. So we had to pack everything back up and head back down to the restaurant to sleep outside under a roof outside. The floor was cement. So uncomfortable. We had to wait until all the people left the restaurant until we could try to sleep which was around 2.30am. I then somehow managed to fall asleep from like 3am till like 4am but was startled awake when it started absolutely pouring down with rain and there was thunder and lightening - it was the loudest I had ever heard it in my life! It was pretty scary to be honest! So the water started going through the roof and the restaurant owner let us move inside to sleep on the restaurant floor. Slept from about 4.30am till 8am when we were woken up by the owner as we had to pack up and be out of the restaurant because they were opening.

With only a piece of bread with chocolate in it (it´s considered a breakfast food here in spain) and a box of juice as energy we then headed back up the mountain (a little bit further this time) to where we would be meeting our host parents to take photos and participate in an activity.

The activity included making flour bombs and then when the parents arrived we would have a flour bomb war. That was quite amuzing I must say! We all looked like crazy bakers. I looked whiter than ever! All flour-covered (expect for the wussy parents who used their cameras' as an excuse not to participate) we went back to the restaurant, in cars this time, and shared a big lunch.

Even though it was probably the worst night sleep I have ever had it was actually a pretty awesome weekend. This was due to the company I had of course. Zanete my best friend wasn´t there and I missed her presence A LOT but I still enjoyed being with all my other AFS friends. I really will miss them so much :(

So I think that is about all there is to write about! This will probably be my last blog before I leave Spain, which is a really sad thought, so I hope you have enjoyed!
Ahhhh I can't even explain how I am feeling right now. I can't wait to see your amazing faces back in New Zealand but I wish I didn't have to leave so many people behind here! I am torn in two!!

Anyway, hope everyone is well where ever you are in the world at this moment! <3

Lots of Love,

From the spanish girl :)