Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the AFS experience

I know its been a long time since i last blogged, but Im hoping some people still read this :)
The AFS experience is nothing like I thought it would be. First of all,when I first left Alaska I couldnt even imagine being away from my family, becuase I have gone through my whole life with them around. Being away from them was by far the biggest change. With my family I feel comfortable, I can express my feelings, and most importantly be myself and relax. I initially felt lost in Portugal without that constand comfort and support, but I managed to get by. Gradually I got to know my friends better, my family host family helped me with everything, and keeping busy kept me from dwelling too much on how much I missed them (there is a name here for missing somebody that cannot be translated. It's to have "saudades". I immediately knew what people meant when they said they had "saudades"). Now, I feel like I can finally handle being without my family coonstantly. Of course I still talk to them, think about them, and love them, but I know that my host family here will help me, or my friends, my counselor or other AFSers. And I know that I can handle problems on my own as well. I have learned to depend on other people and trust other people, something which I think will be invaluable in the future when I am on my own.
I think that some people can immediately feel at ease with themselves in different situations (like not understanding whats going on, not being able to communicate) but it has taken me some time. Now I think that I am better at being in those strange situations, and am more prepared for when they come along after this experience as well. For example, I was very quiet when I first came to Portugal, I felt really out of place. But now I have a group of friends at school, I can speak in Portuguese well enough to get around and talk with my friends, and in school I know whats going on. I dont feel like an outsider, though I am differnet, but I feel like I belong in a way. I think the most gratifying feeling from this experience, so far, is feeling like I am supposed to be here. I dont know if I am describing this correctly for all of those who haven't been on an exchange, but I know that it is a unique feeling to be a part of a family and school in a new place and not feel completely out of place. Its a good feeling.
So even though I have had some of the emotionally most difficult times of my life, I am glad to have come to Portugal, and I am enjoying it. Being here and dealing with harder problems than what I would have been dealing with in Alaska has made me grow, and has put into perspective my attitudes there, my attitude here, and what I type of person I want to be. And for the rest of my time here in Portugal, I am going to enjoy it as much as I can and take advantage of all there is here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Retratos a Sexta

With Maria and friends this last weekend we went to see the Blue Man Group in Lisbon, and then afterwards to a bohemian cafe. There was a place to have pictures taken by a French man there, and as long as you came up with an idea that followed the theme of the week (which was icons) then you could have your picture taken.

A Day in Lisbon

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

some more pictures

In the Torre de Belem (tower of belem) where all the boats would take off to explore the world

Going to a party with Ines and Maria, cousins, and friends

Getting ready to go to a club for a friend's birthday

A nice seat in Cascais

The AFS semester students at orientation camp

A Portuguese Easter

Easter in Portugal is a religious holiday. Actually, for the Christian religion Easter is the most important holiday, but in the US it seems as though it is celebrated more for the sake of finding chocolate and painting eggs. Which is not to say the Portuguese dont enjoy finding chocolate eggs or bunnies. Easter afternoon the adults, not the easter bunny, hid chocolate eggs and chocolate bars for all the "kids" (that is, everbody under 24) and we all scattered around the minimal garden area to find them. But the real events were the parades. I spent Easter in Fornos, a small and more "rural" town. We arrived on Friday and I met more of the family, there were about 40 people for dinner the last night, and toured the farm and house. The farm is not an actual farm, but more of a very large garden, built to support the household. There was also a tennis court with soccer goals and a pool, but it was far too cold to swim. There are lots of cousins who we hung out with and played games and watched movies. Saturday night at about 11:30 the first parade walked by. The whole town walks through the town with the small statue of Jesus on the cross in front. This parade was mourning the death of Jesus, so everybody dressed in black and there was no music and no noise. The next parade was in the morning before mass on Sunday. This parade is the one that we joined in on, walking through the whole town while music played and the priest read prayers.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Regatta, Races

This last week, the last week before the 2 week Easter vacations, was a bit crazy. On Thursday night I went to a disco at 11:30 and stayed out till 5 am, slept for a few hours, and then went to a regatta in Cascais. The disco was fun, but I'm not crazy about night life here in Portugal. The regatta however, was amazing! Much to my surprise I placed 2nd out of 12 boats. There was very little wind and I think I may have done so well on a fluke, but it was great to be out on the water all day in the sun and warmth, however tired I may have been. The same day Maria, Tiago, and Ines left to go on vacation in Andorra and ski, which I was not permitted to do because AFS has a policy about finalists trips. Today, Sunday, I participated in another running race, a 10 km through Lisbon. And now I am in vacations from school till the 13 of April.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

10 little things I really miss, 10 things i really love

10 little things I really miss:
1. mustard! the mustard here is very different
2. olives
3. this list is all food! hah. big breakfasts
4. not "dressing up" for school, or at least just throwing on a tshirt and jeans or sweatpants and calling it good
5. music!!!!! actually this is a big thing i miss. the radio is good, but my family rarely listens to music.
6. homework instead of notes to study
7. smaller tests
8. running partners
9. straightener. my hair looks slightly crazy.
10. eating with hands more and good salads.

10 little things I love:
1. the sun!!!!!
2. the beach
3. my own bathroom (that is not having to share with 2 sisters and a cat)
4. fresh food
5. there are always cafes on every street corner. you can always buy little cakes (bolos) or cafe (coffee)
6. emotions are so much more in the open, for example two kisses on the cheek are typical for greetings and kissing or crying in public are not stared at like the US
7. the bar in the school. not literally a "BAR", but like a snack cafeteria. its got the best criossants and sandwiches for less than a dollar
8. the train. i can go pretty much wherever i want by just walking to the station
8. the old feeling in the streets and in lisbon. everything feels centuries old, just like it actually is
9. people always take care with their appearance, which, although i dont always enjoy it, makes people seem like they actually care
10. 10 minute break periods in school. originally they were annoying, but now i think they are perfect to relax in the sun, talk with friends and recover from brutal tests.