We all told AFS the same story to get here--I want to further my intercultural development while learning a new language, and all that. One year ago I was filling out my application to come here, and telling AFS what they want to hear. I am now nearing the end of my exchange and trying to remember what made me want to come here in the first place. Did I really want to do all that stuff I told AFS? I wanted to learn a new language, sure. But wasn't I looking for the thing that teenagers are so frantically searching for? A sense of self. A place in the world that is defined by ourselves alone and not our parents or schools or extracurricular activities or test scores. A searching for something that tells me that there's more to me as a person than my 32 on the ACT.
Everyone wants to travel the world, or at least that's what they say. But when they say travel they mean stay in a fancy hotel and go around taking pictures of monuments and beaches. What I mean when I say I want to travel the world is that I want to inhabit it. I want to speak the language, connect with the people, take the sketchy local transportation. I want to be taught to pray in a mosque, a temple, a church, even though I'm not religious. I want to learn, and be the epitome of acceptance. I need this connection with people--this thing that tells me that there's more to us as humans than what we see on the outside.
I wrote this my last week in Portugal, and I can't remember why I never posted it. Maybe it was a little too personally insightful. I don't know. I've been back now for a little over a week. I spent my last few days in Baleal, at the beach house. The 23rd was my host dad's birthday, so the whole family came over to celebrate. On Friday afternoon I said goodbye to my host siblings and me and my host parents set off to Lisbon (it wasn't really in Lisbon, but it was close. I want to say it was in Carcavelos? I don't remember). We did some boring AFS activities, went outside and had a group picture, and said our goodbyes to our host families, which was hard to do and to watch. Thank you to my amazing host family, who is really like a second family to me. I couldn't have done any of this without you.
The thing that stands out most about this last night was our bus waiting outside the hostel-thing for us at 4 am, and saying goodbye to the exchange students. It was incredibly sad and hard to leave them, but I was promised an open house, a family, and a place to stay if I ever wanted to visit them in their home countries. So, here's to all the exchangers that I met this year. I hope your exchange year wasn't anything like you expected it to be, I hope it was better. I hope it enriched your lives, and I hope you'll all come to visit me soon.
And last but not least, thank you to the people back home who put up with me babbling about Portugal and helped me out so much, including my parents and my brother, Kelli, Caroline, Amaris, Karena, Caitlynn and Ben.
Tenho tantas saudades tuas, Portugal. As vezes ainda acordo e não sei onde é que eu estou. Portugal sempre vai ter um lugar no meu coração, nunca vou esquecer-me das recordações que cá fiz, ou das pessoas que agora estou a sentir falta de eles.
"Não é 'adeus', é só 'até já'."