THOUGHTS ON BEING BACK IN MAINE

Heya!

As promised, an article about my thoughts once I got back to Maine (a lot later than expected, it’s been a tough few weeks).

So let me explain my trip; I flew out of Cologne on July 3rd and arrived in Boston at 3:30pm (EST). I then took a bus to join my host family in New Hampshire and reunited with them around 7pm. I hadn’t slept well the night before and for some reason I wasn’t able to watch any movies during my flight, which meant 9 hours of doing absolutely nothing. I slept most of the time, but still, because of this when I finally arrived in NH I was completely out of it. Seeing my family was strange. I had imagined what it would be like to see them again so many times that when I finally did, it did not actually feel that special because it felt like I had last seen them the day before. I was extremely happy and it did feel great to hug them again, but somehow it wasn’t as magical as I had hoped. They are so familiar to me that it just felt normal to be with them again.

At first I did not know how I felt about being back. I thought it’d feel like nothing had changed, but I was wrong. I think that a part of me thought that going back to Maine would feel like going back in time, like last year hadn’t happened, but that’s not how it works, is it? A lot had changed; my siblings had grown (physically and mentally), I was in a completely different place (mentally), and some of the group of friends that I had known had fallen apart. This was quite hard to accept during the first few days, Maine had become my safe place, where my thoughts would wander when I needed some peace, how dare it become anything less than everything I wanted it to be? The house smelled the same but my room felt different; there was new furniture, new boxes, the mirror wasn’t where I had left it, things had been displaced. It felt like walking into a museum: it looked like my room, but it was not mine anymore.

Seeing my friends again felt wonderful. It always surprises me how you only realise how much you’ve missed someone once you see them again. I guess you get so used to living without them that when they reappear you’re suddenly aware of how much of a hole they had left in your life and how much better your life is with them in it. I can not even explain how much I enjoyed singing at the top of my lungs to Camp Rock with Ana on our way to Portland, how nice it felt to bury my face in Timothy’s neck while sipping on my iced coffee, or how lovely it was to lie on my bed again with Anna and talk about everything and anything.

So as difficult as the first few days were, I quickly got comfortable in this life again and loved it even more than the first time around because I knew exactly how lucky I was to have all of this, to have these people in my life, to have a place in this world that feels like home. So of course, leaving it again was painful, but let’s not get into that now.

My biological parents joined me in Maine on the 9th and on the 10th we drove to Montreal (I’m planning on writing an article about my week in Quebec where I will write about what we did and of course, vegan food!! So stay tuned). After our time in Canada we went back to Maine; 4 days in Brunswick, 3 days in York, and last but not least 3 days near Acadia National Park. We flew out of Boston back to Cologne on the 29th.

Even though it was quite tough to leave everything again, I had such a good time. Definitely the best month of 2016 so far! Going back helped me gain some perspective on everything that happened this past year and being able to get a break from it all, in my favourite place with my favourite people, gave me the strength to deal with it.

Here are some photos!!

Marion★

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THOUGHTS ON GOING BACK TO MAINE

DISCLAIMER: technically I am posting this on July 11th, which means that I have already been back on the American continent for 8 days. However, I was not able to publish this article before leaving as it never seemed good enough and before I knew it I was already back in Maine with no mention of it on this blog. So I will post this article, which was written on June 29th, today. In a couple of days I will write an article about the thoughts I had when I arrived back in Maine. Stay tuned.

Today is June 29th 2016, which means that exactly one year ago I woke up for the last time in my  bed in Brunswick and said goodbye to the wonderful life I led there. It is strange to think that it was one year ago: on one side it feels like it happened yesterday, on the other it feels like it happened a whole lifetime ago.

Today is June 29th 2016, which means that in exactly 4 days I will board a plane to Boston and get back to my second family. When I bought my tickets a couple of months ago it did not feel real, which is why I never actually mentioned it. I was excited about it but I did not fully realise what it meant yet, but right now the fact that I will be flying back to one of my favourite places on earth in about 96 hours is finally starting to feel real.

I do not even know where to start… I am excited, I am happy, I am scared, I am nostalgic.

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while or who knows me personally is aware of how much I loved my year in Maine: the state itself, my family, my friends, even my high school. It holds such a huge and important place in my heart that I could write an entire book about how much I absolutely loved my AFS experience and it still would not be enough. So the fact that I’m going back should just make me happy, right? Plain and simple. Unfortunately human being are not as simple as that and somehow I am actually more scared than happy.

Yes, I am scared. Why? Because over this past year the more I thought about my exchange year the more I tended to idealise it. When I talk about Maine I only talk about the good things (like when you think back on a relationship after a break-up and only seem to recall how perfect it was). Truth is, my year was not perfect. I kept a journal there and I did write more than once about how I wanted to go home, how I felt  a bit trapped at times, how I missed everything too much. I did enjoy it while it was happening and I was aware of how lucky I was to be there, but it was never actually perfect (and that was okay, nothing ever is). However, one thing that it always was, was dream-like. I talked about this in my REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK? article. My life in Maine felt like a dream because it is something that I experienced on my own, that no one here can relate to. It is strange to think that I will be going back, with my biological parents, to a life that felt like a dream.

So here’s why I am scared: what if going back doesn’t hold up to my expectations? What if I have idealised this place so much in order to hold on to a time in my life where everything felt perfect to get through the fact that this past year has been so far from it? This past year has been extremely difficult, which consequentially made me idealise Maine even more because everything there seemed so simple, I was so far away from everything that I had known and gone through (my struggle with my mental health and all my triggers back at home. As explained in my ED RECOVERY AND VEGANISM article, living in Maine for a year really did help me feel better about myself). So when I imagine myself going back, I imagine myself getting better. But what if it doesn’t work that way this time?

On the other hand: what if it does? What if I get too comfortable in that life again, just to have to leave it after only one month? This is the option that scares me the most. What if I never actually idealised it and my life there was actually as amazing as I make it seem? What if seeing everyone again, just to have to leave them again, will hurt too much? I remember that day last year way too well, I remember the pain. I have so much love for my family and friends there that leaving them felt like the worst thing that I had ever done. I want to see them so badly, but I do not want to have to go through that again.

Okay, that was a lot of “what ifs” and reading back on what I just wrote it all sounds extremely depressing. It is not though, I am just in a really strange place right now. Believe me I am happy. I am so happy to see everyone again, to sleep in my bed again, to hug my siblings, to smell the pine trees, to drink an iced mocha chai at Little Dog, all of it.

The thing is, I am feeling too much; I am both happy and sad, excited and nostalgic. I was feeling the exact same way when I left last year, the three days of travel I went through were filled with so many emotions and it was both beautiful and terrible, and that was exhausting. That is what is happening right now, I know that it is going to be difficult and I know that I will feel too much, and that is kind of scary.

Wish me luck,

Marion★

 

 

 

 

DEPARTURE

As I am writing this, I am currently at LIU with the entire New England AFS group, waiting for a bus to take me to JFK airport. It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m going home…

I said goodbye to my life in Brunswick yesterday afternoon when my parents dropped me off at Pineland Farms to get together with the southern Maine AFS group to have some activities there and finally get on the bus to NY at 9PM. Saying goodbye was hard. In the morning everything was good, I got together with Timothy to go to Little Dog one last time and everything was okay. When we arrived in Pineland though and got out of the car with all my suitcases and I saw Eva crying, I completely broke down and it lasted for quite a while, I couldn’t stop. Seeing my family leave was horrible and having to stay with the AFS group doing some dumb activities was the last thing I wanted at that moment. I’m glad that’s done.

We arrived in LIU at 5AM and have just been sitting around here since then. Eva left us at 11AM and now it’s only Noora and I. Noora’s bus leaves at 1PM, mine at 2PM. After that, I’ll be at the airport until 7:37PM, when my flight leaves.

I am currently sleep deprived, emotionally unstable and extremely confused. What do you mean I’m going home?

This is hour 21 of this hell and there are 16 more hours to go until I actually land in Brussels. Wish me luck.

BYEEEEE
Cherie★

IT’S ALMOST THE END

I last published an article almost a month ago and I regret that very much. I kept forgetting to write because I had so much to do, but now that I’m finally writing I have way too much to say, so bear with me. Here’s everything that has happened after prom until now.

The weekend of May 15th it was our AFS pre-return camp. It was great to get together with everyone again but it was really sad to think that that was our last camp, and that the next time we will see these people again is the day we’ll be leaving Maine. All our activities and group conversations were about leaving or “reflecting on the year” and it was very strange.

The weekend after that my host family and I went to the lake house in NH. I wasn’t feeling very well so I didn’t do anything exciting. We hiked Mount Major on saturday though, that was the highlight.

The couple of weeks that came after that were pretty uneventful. School, track parties, track meets, and more school. On June 8th and 9th I had finals, on the 10th and 11th I had marching practice, and on June 12th, I graduated (for the second time). Graduation was such a great experience and so different from what I had had in Belgium. It was an enormous and formal event here and we actually had to practice for it three times before the real thing. I understand the need for it, because there are so many kids and we actually have to do things a specific way. In Belgium we didn’t practice. We just arrived there, sat on the seat with our name, got up when our names were said and just enjoyed the ceremony I guess. Anyways, after graduation I went to a party, the next day I went to another party, and on sunday I went to the Old Port Festival in Portland. That was so much fun and the weather was great! Now I’m just trying to rest a little, see friends, and get ready to leave (unfortunately).

2 more weeks…

BYEEEEE

Cherie★

PROM

The ultimate American High School experience, also known as “a night to remember” according to High School Musical 3.

An evening I had looked forward to for years, even before I knew for sure that I was even coming here. Something that I had seen in every single teen movie I watched growing up.

Yes, being an exchange student in the United States, Prom is quite special.

When prom finally arrived I was excited about it, but not as excited as I thought I would be, because I quickly realised that it’s very overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointing or anything and I did have a great night, but if I had one word to describe prom in general, it would definitely be overrated.

See, I already had my prom back in Belgium last year. Very different from how prom works in the US, but a prom nonetheless. We weren’t wearing crazy expensive long dresses, “promposals” were not a thing, we didn’t go to a fancy restaurant in a limousine and took pictures for two hours. Prom in Belgium was a regular party/dance, where you had to dress nice but not overdo it, you could buy alcohol there and drink with your teachers, it was about dancing and talking and having a good time with the people you had spend 6 years of your life with. It was a nice way to end high school, and that’s what it was all about. Not dates, not money, not impressing anyone or becoming king and queen, just enjoying yourself and saying “goodbye, cheers to everything we went through together.” (Something you should know is that prom in Belgium happened at the very very end of the school year, even after graduation).

Prom in America was very different. It was great, but very different. Let’s say more formal.

At 1PM on saturday May 9th, I joined Noora and Lorna to get ready together. Lorna did my hair and make-up and she did a wonderful job. I went home, got dressed and around 4PM, my date Garrett picked me up. We rode to Chloe’s house where we met up with our group and took pictures. After that we went to eat dinner and after that we headed to the prom itself. The highlights were probably the chocolate fountain and the Photo Booth. I danced, talked to friends and teachers, took lots of pictures and had a great time overall. After prom, we went back to Chloe’s house for the “after party” which really just consisted of sitting together around a bonfire and watch Lorna do an impression of Miranda.

So, everything leading up to prom and all the drama around it may be overrated, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy every second of it. It was a good day and a great experience.

Now here’s the most important part; PICTURES!

PS: Garrett “promposed” to me at the end of March by interrupting my Psychology class, asking us to come into the hallways where he then did a few (amazing) magic tricks before asking me. It was great and a friend even filmed it but I still haven’t seen the video. Great memories and for someone who’s always wanted to be in an American movie, I can say that I got my wish.

BYEEEEE

Cherie★

SPRING BREAK

So the week after I wrote my last article was spring break. I didn’t really do much but had a good week nonetheless, it was nice to have a break from school for a bit.

Here are the highlights of the week:

  • Spending a day in Portland with Dinara, an AFS exchange student from Kazakhstan who’s not living in Brunswick so I don’t get to see her that often. We walked around the city and took some pictures. The weather was nice and I had a great time.
  • Having Eva come over, we made a “galette des rois” (king cake) which is usually made/eaten in January to celebrate the Epiphany. It’s a tradition that I really missed so we decided to make one ourselves! Yes, I know we were four months late, but that doesn’t matter because it was really good! The next day we tried out archery and I actually really enjoyed it, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do it again before I leave.
  • Family trip up the Maine coast. On saturday my host parents, host brother and I had a little “road trip” up the Maine coast. We went to Pemaquid point, which has a gorgeous scenery and a really cute lighthouse, and after that we did a little stop in Boothbay. I really enjoyed seeing more of Maine now that the weather is warmer.

So that was my spring break! I’m still having difficulty realising that it’s over and that it’s May and that I’m leaving in two months???

Anyways, last friday I had my first track meet and did the 100m dash and long jump. I didn’t do great but it was a fun experience and I had a good time. I’m really glad I joined track and I have my next meet on thursday, I’m going to try triple jump!

This weekend we went down to the lake house in New Hampshire and just enjoyed the great weather. We went kayaking, laid down on the dock and I even got sunburnt! first one of the year! One week before prom! hooray! oh also long exposure photography.

it was lovely.

BYEEEEE

Cherie★

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

I don’t even know how to start this because so many thing have happened since winter break.

Remember how I said that I was working on the school musical? Let’s just take it from there. So, our musical was Legally Blonde and a lot of work was put into it. Like a lot. The week before our performance and the week of the performance we had rehearsal every day until about 10pm so it kind of became my life and I had no time for anything else, which was too bad but also amazing. I probably made more friends and definitely better friends during those few weeks than during the first four months of my experience. The relationships I built during the musical are the ones that are going to be the toughest ones to leave behind. The hard work paid well, and our performances were absolutely brilliant. It was an amazing experience and I am so so happy I got to be a part of it. The last performance was a bit hard, emotionally wise. I think we all cried and laughed and there were so many emotions it was crazy. I will never forget this.

That sunday, after an exhausting week, I had a skating show. It was a fun experience as I had never been in one before, but gosh was I tired. I’m glad the season is over! After all that, I had a week of rest and then track season began. I have practice every day and it is intense. I though I was in shape haha, that was a joke. It’s better now but oh boy I was so sore the first couple of weeks. I’m excited though, it’s a lot of fun! The weather’s been getting better, finally. Almost all the snow has melted and we’ve got some sunshine and blue skies. The summer is going to be amazing. IMG_5252 Yesterday we visited the Maine State House with my AFS group, we pretended to be members of the house and senate and learned all about Maine politics. It was extremely interesting and I had a really good time. We even got to meet the governor and had a conversation with him which was pretty cool.

I guess that’s it for now, I promise I’ll try to write more often!

BYEEEEE

Cherie★