I got back from my fabulous European holiday just a few days ago, and I already miss my Uncle Trevor and Aunty Sue. Seeing them and being able to live and travel with them was such great fun, but touching base with home has left me homesick. I wake up feeling blue and can't distract myself by keeping busy when it's so hot and there's no one to do things with. I've spoken to my parents and friends a lot since, to help, and have ultimately decided to come home early. In time for Christmas, I hope. (Unless I suddenly end up not feeling homesick and decide to stay.)
It was really lovely to see Alexia and the Pretis, even though we didn't do much besides hanging around at home and being lazy because it was so hot. I told them I would like to see them again in January, but I hadn't counted on an early return home. Nevertheless, I might visit again next year as I hope to go with mum and dad (and maybe Ed if she wants) to Europe.
The highlight of my holiday was definitely Poland. There were so many small moments and a lot of shared laughter and when I get home I need to steal Aunty Sue's travel diary so I can keep those memories. (I've never been good at keeping records.
One notable comparison between Poland and Spain is the way men treat young women. I got a lot of curious and interested looks or even stares from many people, women and men alike, but particularly the younger guys, but they were mostly polite (or flirtatious, but I just ignored those). It was obvious that many of the Poles we encountered on our trip hadn't seen an Asian before, but on the whole they were still respectful about it. In Spain, however, I can't go out without receiving a seedy sounding comment from creepy old men or even younger ones (and there are many Asians here). Their attitude really disgusts me and puts me off stepping outside the house. It's become much more noticeable since I've come back, and I'm sad to say that it's hard to ignore and gets to me quite a bit. Hola, guapa, is fairly common, even for older women, but lately the comments have gotten worse (I was out with Anna Szabo, who had come to visit, and a group of guys noticed us conversing in English, and decided to come out with 'hey girls, like your arse', or something to that effect) and the lewd, 'appreciative' stares are in no way welcome. I accept that it is partly due to culture and the general attitude of Spaniards, but it doesn't mean that I like it.
Anyway, that's only one of the reasons I'm beginning to be unhappy here. I also dislike the uncleanliness and dirtiness of being in Madrid - for example, my host family don't wash their hands after going to the toilet, and the dog tends to do her business around the house (unpleasant surprises in the middle of the night), and as they are always busy working (not something I fault them at all), the place is never clean. Dog hair keeps appearing in my room despite my keeping the door shut and wiping the surfaces in my room often; dirt and dust sneak in somehow. I hate smelling like smoke, and because of my bad allergies, it hurts my eyes after being exposed to it for seconds. I'm lonely. Although I easily make acquaintances and friends with my classmates, because of both an age and language barrier, I have no one to really talk to and share with. And now that it's summer, I don't see them on a day-to-day basis.
All of this must sound awful and like I'm a complete snob (and I probably am, a bit), but it's not like I'm not all right with tolerating it. I would simply prefer otherwise, and need a bit of an outlet - and I'm just not sure how much longer I want to put up with not being totally happy here.
What I'm ultimately getting at is that while my exchange here in Spain has definitely not come out like the perfect overseas experience that I'd planned in my head, I've learned all these unexpected lessons from being here and, now, wanting to go home.
I remember telling James a little while before I left, probably while I was still deciding whether or not I truly wanted to go on exchange, that I wasn't sure where my roots were; that I didn't know where I belonged. I didn't feel like I really fit at home; that perhaps I should go elsewhere to find where I did. I've realised, from constant messages from people I care about, that I am loved and wanted, and home is where I have everyone that loves me. I see how much I love our lifestyle in Sydney, and appreciate all my home comforts.
I recognise that I always make high expectations of myself, and that most of the time, things don't turn out as I want them to. I can accept that even if I don't reach them, I can still keep working towards them. Even if I go home early and can't speak Spanish fluently as I'd planned, I can take lessons and improve. I've forgotten my French. Before, this horrified me. But when I visited Alexia, it wasn't too bad. She'd forgotten her English. If we didn't know something, we tried it in Spanish or went to look it up and asked about it. And I can revise and relearn more French when I go home, too. I didn't get into Physiotherapy. I can do the Masters course. I don't know if some of you know how hard all this would have been for me to acknowledge, before. My main problem now (and this I am completely sure of), is to work hard and not be lazy when I come back. This vice I have yet to overcome.
Decision making is still hard, but I think I'm getting better. Acceptance comes easier. I am a little more secure in myself (this one is sometimes the most difficult, and depends on the day). My mum says she notices good changes in me as well (what were they again, mum?). Sometimes having your parents tell you that they've seen improvements is the best news you can hear.
When I left, I hadn't thought all these were lessons I had yet to learn. I don't care that I'm not having the time of my life, as other exchange students (or even people at home) have said I should be. Yes, if I finish my exchange early, I might have regrets. (The three I can think of would be about the language, not experiencing Christmas Spanish-style, and not being able to travel in Europe again as I'd planned.) The first I can probably deal with, and the third might be rectified: I want to come with my parents next summer, or maybe do a uni exchange...well, we'll see.
I love you all so much.