Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Sorry it's been a week, I just haven't had a lot of time to sit down and write. I'll do a bit of a quick overview for now, and go and elaborate perhaps a bit more tomorrow.

Thursday - My German teacher exiled me from the class for drawing too much attention for being a foreigner...whoops. =)

Friday - We had a family friend come and visit, so of course the dinner was out of this world. Salad, Bacalhau, Dessert...yummy.

Saturday - Started out feeling pretty lonely and homesick. Then it got a LOT worse. I was stuck in the house and not able to receive my package from home, which was very aggrivating. Finally I was about to lose it when Ines and I took off for NorteShopping at last. We met up with a few of her friends for dinner (they're really nice) and went to FNAC where I got a few English books. After dinner I went bowling with some kids from school for two of their birthdays. Can you believe they have AMF bowling in Portugal?!?! Well they do! I even rolled a strike, but we all did terrible. No one got higher than an 86. It was one of those nights where they do blacklights and disco balls and strobes and stuff. The kids were all nice to me. Sometimes it pays to be the cute foreigner! (though with all these pastries I'm getting fatter every day...)

Sunday - I woke up on Sunday and ate breakfast with the host Pais. I then proceeded to go around Vila do Conde taking some video. It was a gorgeous day - wonderful walking weather. Expect videos soon...I'm still figuring out how to change them so I can put them on the internet. After I came home, I headed to Porto to meet with some of the AFSers (Raven, Johannes, Elif, Melody, Christina, Svenja). We did the usual of AFS kids - wander around the city looking for good cafes. However, we did stop to look around Casa da Musica - this strange place that's a concert hall but also weird with design and architecture. We had lunch on the other side of the river where I tried francisinha. It's a porto specialty, but I probably wouldn't have it again. Basically it's Texas toast, sausage, ham, beef, cheese, special sauce, and french fries all on a plate...I felt like a beached whale afterwards. We then traipsed back across the bridge to Porto and went to this AMAZING chocolate place with these things called Mocha-chocs. AKA heaven on earth. It's sort of a thinner version of hot fudge, condensed milk, and whipped cream. Oh my after Porto I went to Vila da Cha to my host grandparents' house. Where we had afternoon tea (launche) and cake. Fatness.

Monday - The day of chasing trains. I woke up on time. Got ready. And the damn metro was 20 minutes late...never mind I had to catch a train to Lisboa!!! So anyway, it finally got to the station and I had to SPRINT to my platform (which I had no idea where it was). I got on the train about 5 minutes before it left. It was a good trainride, about 3 hours more or less. When I got to Lisboa I met Nadia, this really cool volunteer. We went to lunch in this huge mall and then to the American Embassy. And now I can finally have some piece of mind about the should be in the mail in 2 weeks! Then we had a few hours, so we went to the AFS headquarters in Lisboa and baixa, the downtown. What a small world, but Kip was leaving baixa, Lisboa about exactly the same time as I was coming into baixa! If only we could have met up! I didn't even know!! But I did get to see Martina, and the three of us talked about exchanges and pastries (I need to stop!) and walked around. Then I realized I was late for my train. Again. So I parted with Martina (so sad!) and Nadia and an AFS staff and I ran to station...where they weren't selling anymore tickets. So I had to buy a ticket for a later train and wait another hour...but eventually I did get back to Porto!

Tuesday - Finally got that package! Lots of goodies. Getting mail here is like Christmas in an envelope. Write if you want! I also met another American who said he's here because his wife is Portuguese and has daughters my age.

Today - Long day! Wednesdays are my only day with morning classes so I have to leave the house at ten til seven. I had all my classes except Filosofia (probably a good thing since the teacher wasn't too happy when I had the Portuguese lesson yesterday instead). I went to Casa da Musica for breakfast with Maria Joao. My classes can be a bit boring and I tend to daydream sometimes...but that's ok. I had lunch alone, but after everyone heard they were like "next time you'll eat with us". I came home...we had salmon for dinner...yum.

Hopefully this weekend/Carnaval I will get the chance to go to some discos/bars with Ines, other AFSers, kids from school...we'll see where the weekend takes me! And Kip might visit soon!!!

One thing that does bother me a bit about the Portuguese is that they don't have a lot of regard for personal possessions. So if you have a book on your desk, they'll take it off and flip through it without asking. It just sort of bugs me, especially if I have stuff I've written and they start looking through it. Today I was passing a note with this guy Joao in my class, and there wasn't anything really in it. Just sort of like "oh where do you eat lunch? You live in porto? what are you doing for carnival?". But still people (who I like, they're nice but...) just picked it up and read it and started passing it around. I guess I just have to get used to it, and keep personal things WAY personal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

don't stop reading! I just haven't had time to write everything out, but expect a long post very very soon!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The new kid...part 2

Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA, just haven’t had time to sit and write everything out, so here’s an overview of the past 4 days.

Sunday - not much worth writing. Basically just watched Pearl Harbor (with Portuguese Subtitles, of course). Took a walk, wrote some, had dinner…bummed around the house.

Monday – actually a very good day! The weather was gorgeous and I didn’t have morning classes. I woke up around 9, took a shower, and decided to go for a walk. As I made my way towards the river, I stopped at a café for a breakfast of Bolo de Arroz – a sort of lemony pound cake -, yogurt, and café com leite. After suitably stuffing myself, I walked to the sundial sculpture and met with Inês at Bea’s café. We went to buy some notebooks (writing has taken up a lot of time in which I would otherwise be homesick).

Around noon we caught the metro to go to school. In school we had English – easy, Art – wrote, and Geometry – read a book. Classes (called aulas) ended around 6:30 and we headed back home. When we got into Fernando’s car, he had a riddle for me. He told me I had a “Forest Burning Letter” at home. It took a minute but I soon realized he meant that my letter from the Burns had arrived! It was waiting for me in the hall but I decided to wait until after dinner to open it in order to build the anticipation a bit longer.

The dinner was traditionally Portuguese, made especially for me to try. It started with a sort of vegetable soup. The main course included Bacalhau (the national dish) with olive oil, chickpeas and onion, potatoes, spinach, and egg. Can’t say it was my favorite thing in the world but it wasn’t half bad – Kip you definitely should try it when you come. After dinner, Fernanda brought out a delicious chocolate cake she’d made because “Caroline tem suldades” – I had been homesick.

Finally – I could open my letter! It definitely brightened my day. I can’t provide details of the contents online, lest the wrong person read it, but let me just say John Burns is my hero. If you want to know what it is, just ask. A hint: JF is famous for it’s colorful rules…and now I have a piece of them! =)

Tuesday – fairly decent. I woke up around 6:00 (yucky) to get ready for school. I still hadn’t been placed in a permanent class so I was still going with Ines to class. Inês, her friend, and I went to breakfast at “Café Beomia”. We then caught the bus to school where we had Geometry and Filosofia. I had lunch with Julia, the other American AFSer at my school. It was really nice to talk (in good English) with someone who’s been through the same stuff as I’m going through now. I’m still lacking Portuguese friends, but I’ve made some good contacts with the other exchange students. After lunch there was Portuguese, Art History, and Gym. It was an okay day. When I got home (we walked) I tried to explain the Superbowl to Inês and Fernando. Fernando made homemade pizza and we ate at the kitchen table – very rare! We almost always eat at the dining room table.

Wednesday – Today started out AWFUL! I felt so homesick. Everyone had left the house, so I was home alone and couldn’t go for a walk or anything because I didn’t have a key – complete bummer. I had some yogurt and bread and watched Cartoon Network and Dr. Phil. I was really starting to feel awful about the time I had to leave for the metro. Since Inês wasn’t home, I had to go by myself. I got a bit lost on the way, but just had to look for the aqueducts and I could find my way. I successfully arrived at school (thank god) after having to do everything alone.

I went with Inês to her first class – English, but after that we went back to the secretary to check on my classes. And they had me in a permanent turma!!! 11M is my turma – humanidades. I started in Gym. They told me I had to pick a particular section to participate in, and the one I picked was all guys and only one girl! It’s pretty cool though because I have a lot of one on one with the teacher who speaks pretty fair English, and the one other girl. After that I went to my English class, and I’d already met the teacher in the Library on Tuesday! She was really nice, and got me to read a lot to demonstrate how a native speaker talks. It was really cool. I already knew one of the girls in the class as well, she’s a friend of Julia (Julia’s host brother’s – who’s in the US – girlfriend). Everyone was really nice and excited to meet me, I hope I make some good friends in the class!

I came home and had a letter from Tim (god I LOVE snail mail, I’m so keeping up the habit when I get home, it’s just more fun than email), which was pretty hilarious as well. Fernanda also got a letter from Eunice Neto about my passport. I’m supposed to go to Lisboa Monday to apply in person at the US embassy for my passport. I also have an invite to dinner with some kids from Ines’ class for Pedro’s birthday, and Sunday I will hopefully be able to go to Porto with some of the other AFSers. Tomorrow I have Portuguese Lessons with a tutor, which is exciting as well.

Here are all my classes:

Inglês, Português, Alemão, Filosofia, Historia, MACs, and Educação Física.

In English…

English, Portuguese, German (SWEET!), Philosophy, History, Math, and PE

Random observation: Guys dress WAY better here than at home. Nice shoes and jackets, pants that fit, pay a bit of attention into the hair. Doesn’t make them any more mature but is kind of funny, way nice. And I’m almost done with my book…I hope I’ll get that package soon from Mom or I will be so bored.

Oh and I was talking a bit with Fernando and he said that he didn’t know about AFS, but if I wanted to invite a friend from the US to come and stay for a few days, he was fine with it. Let me just say: AHHHH THAT WOULD BE SO COOL!!!!! Though I wouldn’t want anyone coming before April, because that would make me even more homesick, but anytime after April would probably be fine, especially since after then I would know the family better and be on the downhill road home.

I talked with Martina just now and it was so good to compare experiences and talk and stuff. We’re gonna try and hopefully meet up Monday when I’m in Lisboa, and perhaps she will be able to come and stay a weekend in February or March. Today has ended MUCH better than it started!

Até logo!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Friday afternoon and Saturday were about 1000 times better than earlier in the week. It’ll be nice going to school, and I’m so relieved that the grades don’t really count, and no one even really shows the grades.

Friday I registered at my school, though I’m technically not in a permanent class, because I’m trying to get into the humanities track instead of art. It’s still difficult to understand teachers because they talk at the pace Portuguese students listen which is waaaaaay faster than I can. However the other students are really encouraging with my Portuguese and are helping to get me to speak well. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing in the classes at this point – if I should be trying to take notes on what the teacher’s saying, or if I should just be focusing on the language and learning new words…thankfully I’ll have gym and English for some easy grades even if I get Fs in everything else.

Saturday was the most fun I’ve had since arriving. I met 3 other AFSers in Porto (Brittany, Raven, and Johannes) and we basically wandered from Café to Café and walked around the city. We talked in English (which was a really nice break) and just had a good time.

First I met Raven and Brittany in the Trindade Station. Johannes was apparently still in bed, so the three of us went to a café and had some coffees. When Johannes texted us, we met him in the Trindade Station and set out to find a place to eat lunch. We randomly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk sometimes because we kept getting turned around. Finally we found a small café/restaurant. I had a croissant and coke (their sodas are so much better here! And the croissant was basically the size of my head). Johannes was the only person who actually ordered food. His meal looked incredibly greasy…I’m not quite sure what it was even. I think it had steak, ham, cheese, bread, and a “specialsauce” (yep, one word on the menu). After finishing lunch we decided to make our way down to the Rio Douro. On the way we stopped at this place called “FNAC”. It reminded me of a Barnes and Nobles or Borders, only integrated with Best Buy or FYE. Brittany found a Portuguese book about Barack Obama. When we got to the river, after many an excursion, we sat at yet ANOTHER café and had some coffees/waters (I had a water, but since it was from a bottle cost 1.25 Euros!). It’s so strange here because sometimes they don’t even give you a menu; they just expect you to order. There was this crazy little bathroom that was so confusing and Brittany and I were completely fascinated with it, it was hilarious…though I’m not sure why. By then it was about 4 and I had to go back to Vila do Conde since Fernanda and Fernando wanted me home before dark (though my home will always be Forest).

Brittany lives in Evora, which is actually kind of far, unfortunately. Raven lives in Braga, so he’s only about an hour away by train. Johannes lives in Porto so I’ll probably see him most often. It was so nice to make some friends, even if I might not see Brittany or Raven THAT often, perhaps on some weekends.

When I got back to Vila do Conde (damn you, one hour train ride) I took some pictures of the aqueducts (you’re welcome Chris!) and Ines and I went to Bea’s Café, though I didn’t have anything and just kind of sat there while she and Fernando talked to some of their friends.

My host parents were hosting a dinner party last night. We had tons of food- it was so crazy! These people eat like no one’s business. There was cheese, though I wasn’t too fond of it, a bit to strong for me, ham, bread, sausage, and crackers for an appetizer. Salad, rice, broccoli, pork, vegetables, and lasagna were for the main course. Then for dessert (or Sobremesa) there was a sort of custard pie, pineapples, and something called Camel’s Saliva, which reminded me a bit of a dulce de leche or caramel sauce. Unfortunately, something didn’t agree with my stomach, so I wasn’t feeling too good through dinner. The loud Portuguese conversation didn’t help much either. I’m still not feeling great as of this morning…I’ll probably take a walk a bit later to see if it helps.

After dinner, Fernando wanted to show us all pictures from their trip to California, Arizona, and Nevada. There were tons of them and I actually ended up falling asleep on the floor. Around midnight, I dragged myself upstairs to bed.

This morning has been okay…either everyone’s still asleep or out somewhere, so I’m alone again. I really do miss home. I’m not regretting my decision because I’ve already seen some great things and learned a little bit of the language, but I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve been as unhappy at home as I thought I would’ve been. I dunno if that makes any sense at all…but eh. I thought high school was going to be miserable, and some of it has (take Freshman year for example) but ever since then things have actually been really fun. What with the chorale, summer musicals, church youth choir, marching band this year, amazing friends. I had it good. Now what do I have? I have some new language skills, a few more stamps on my passport (well…I did…). I hope the trade will be worth it.

At least since yesterday things are looking up a bit…maybe? According to the other exchangers your first month is pretty miserable, the second month is great, the third month will be a living hell, and from then on things are freaking awesome. Unfortunately that means half of my stay will be awful if things work out for me the way they did for them. I didn’t expect for things to always be peachy keen, but I thought I wouldn’t be as homesick as I am.

On another note I really need my passport. I need to check with AFS to see where they are with that…

And on yet another note smoking is really gross…I’ve tried to get used to it but it’s still disgusting. I have no idea how people can pick up the habit since it’s so gross. Yucky.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One is the loneliest number...

Wednesday and Thursday were really hard days for me. I still don’t have friends and am not going to school, so I’ve just felt so alone. There have been times back home when I’ve thought, “Oh I’m so alone!” but nothing compares with this feeling. It’s sort of like a pit at the bottom of your stomach that grows bigger and bigger every minute that ticks by inside your head. I can’t really ever be 100% completely understood here. All this loneliness and miscommunication really makes me appreciate and miss all the more what I had back home. Great family, great friends, nice house, good environment, fun times…I always complained about there being nothing to do (which there isn’t on a daily basis), but now I kind of wonder why I actually went through with all of this. I’m missing so much – Orlando, Prom, festival, the spring musicals, my friends’ graduation, the beginning of the summer musical, turning 17 at home. Everyone keeps telling me that by giving up those things to go overseas I’ll gain so much more…but right now I just don’t feel it. I have gained a new respect for home, but if things don’t get better, this will be the loneliest 5 months of my life.

Wednesday practically no one was home (except Fred who was there in the morning with his friend Sara). I ended up watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which got me to thinking of the time I went to go see it with the original movie group and made me even more sad that now the group has been revived, I’m gone. It seemed like everything I did reminded me of home, or reminded me of the countless ways home was different. When everyone came back to the casa things were better, since the house was a bit busier. We watched the movie Chocolate and I helped Fernanda with dinner.

Thursday was slightly better. I was alone in the morning and ended up in my room feeling sorry for myself. But I made lunch with Fernando and learned some new words. Then he left and I was alone, again, feeling sorry for myself. I watched some of the videos I took before I left, which made me miss it, but also made me feel a little better, like they were actually in the room with me.

I was finally able to get out of the house around 4 and ended up wandering the town. I walked down the beach, toward this old fort thing. I rounded the corner and started down the river. This huge sundial statue loomed ahead, with many small sculptures beneath it of mermaids and spheres. I walked across a small bridge toward the towering convent up ahead. On the way I passed a replica não, a boat that used to carry cargo for explorers. I ended up turning left at the ponte (bridge) and purchased a tarte de maçã (apple tart). It was quite good, seeing as Vila do Conde is known for its pastries (Kip, you really must visit…). After that I just sort of wandered the streets, went to this really old church (think 14th/15th century) and finally arrived back at the casa. Fernando was home, so then he and I went to go purchase some fish. We had salmon that night and boy was it delicious. After that Fernanda, Inês, and I looked at some pictures and talked.

Nights are always better than mornings…since then I at least have someone to sort of talk to, even if we can’t always understand each other.

Today I got some selos (stamps), invelopes (envelopes), and fotos (photos) so I can send letters and send the photos to the American embassy for my dang passport. I wonder if I hadn’t lost my passport if maybe I would have gotten off to a better start and wouldn’t feel so crappy. Who knows…I thought I would be the last person to want to go home after a week, but the world is full of surprises.

I’m not going to give up though! If I don’t believe it or even if I don’t want to do this anymore, maybe if I keep telling myself I can do this, I’ll actually be able too. Maybe I’ll even enjoy myself a little bit.

In about an hour, Fernanda and I are supposed to go to my school to sign papers and get a schedule and stuff. I really would like to do the humanities (humanidades) track, but AFS already talked to them about putting me in Inês’ class. It’s not that I don’t like Inês, I just don’t think it would work out well if we were ALWAYS together, because you spend all your time with the same 25 people, and if every day I was with her all day, we might end up killing each other.

I did get an invitation to lunch with some of the Porto AFSers and an AFSer Brittany from Èvora, but my family might be showing me around Porto in which case I won’t be able to meet them. I’d love to go with my family, and if they’ve planned that I’m kind of obligated because family comes first here, but right now I’d really, REALLY like to spend some time with other kids my age who aren’t family. I could also ask them about being exchange students here and…well I think it would just be good for me, but we’ll see. I told Fernando about Kip wanting to come and meet them and he said, “We’ll see”, so maybe I’ll bring it up again in about a month when they know me better and trust me.

I know when someone goes away it hurts at first for the people back home, but they forget pretty quickly what it was like to have them around. I’m so afraid of being forgotten…it will happen, I know, things will return to normal for everyone except me. I just hope that it doesn’t get to the point where when I come back, everyone will be so settled in without me that it won’t matter I’ve returned. By then, at least I’ll have a lot of practice in being alone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The New Kid

Yesterday was my first day at school, and boy was it an adventure.

First off, it poured pretty much all day, which made it doubly gloomy. I’m technically not registered at school, so I just went with Ines to her classes. All the students in her class went to every single class together, so you’re with the same 20 or 25 people all day – pretty different from U.S. schools. All the teachers taught in Portuguese (obviously) so all that went pretty much right over my head. There were many times during the day when I wished I could just be home in Webb’s office eating lunch with people who I know and love…it was a very hard day.

There were some good points though! I met Maud from Canada and Julia from the U.S. – the two other AFSers at my school. They were both really nice and gave me their phone numbers (yes I did get a phone! My host mom was so sweet - she bought it for me…). Julia even sent me a few texts after school to check how I was doing, which I really appreciated after not being understood all day. I also met these really nice Portuguese teenagers in Ines’ class – Mariana, Maria Rui, and Joao. Mariana talked to me all throughout Gym and they were just super nice (and were pretty much the first three Portuguese teens I met that don’t smoke).

So here’s my day, in a time line sense:

6:40 (am)- overslept. Rushed to do hair and brush teeth and wash face.

6:50- left the house for the metro station

7:00- train gets to station, get on it, sit near front with Ines and her friend

7:30- gets to Casa de Musica, Ines and her friend and I eat breakfast at a café, I had a croissant with butter and warm milk…yummy!!

7:55- Ines, friend, and I catch the bus to school

8:15- school starts, aula(?) de Geometria (Geometry class), where they’re doing something COMPLETELY different from our Geometry classes, it all went over my head. After the class I got to meet Maud, the Canadian exchange student.

10:00- Filosofia, the teacher was really funny, even though he didn’t speak English. This kid was asking a lot of questions or something, and apparently the teacher said something like “You’re talking a lot today, perhaps you’re trying to impress our new student”.

11:30- Ines, her friend Pipa, and I caught the autocarro (bus) to a café where we met about 4 other students. There was this one kid who was pretty funny and was like “I like Britney. Not Pop Princess, I like fat and bald Britney. I’m from the Bronx. I’m Jennifer Lopez’ cousin”. The café was nice, I had a chicken salad, and finally got to break my 100 Euro note.

2:00- After lunch (yes, there lunch break is 2 hours long…so not fair) I got to meet Julia, the USA AFSer. I’m so glad I’ve met her, maybe I can have someone to talk with about being an exchange student here.) I went to Ines’ Portuguese class. I can tell I’m going to have a lot of difficulties there, it seems REALLY hard, even for the Portuguese students. I ended up writing a letter for the whole class. After this class we went by the principal’s office to check about me being registered, and she said they hadn’t processed my paperwork so I shouldn’t come back until it’s done.

3:30- Ines had history, but her teacher wasn’t thrilled I was there, so I ended up going to the Library, which was actually nice. I read old Time Magazines by a heater…yummy.

5:00- Ines had gym, but I sat with Mariana, a girl Katerina, and a boy Pedro. We talked about Portugal and the U.S., pop culture and politics and stuff. They were so nice to me, which was quite refreshing after being whistled at by a bunch of seniors on the bleachers.

6:30- We left the school and the rain completely CUT LOOSE! We ran to the bus stop, but then the bus didn’t come for about 20 minutes (maybe less, but that’s what it felt like). After the bus, we caught the train home where I played Sudoku on my new phone.

8:30- Sat down to dinner. We had soup, salad, meatballs, and mashed potatoes. They even bought me peanut butter, which is really hard to come by in Europe. After dinner, I gave them some gifts from the U.S. (UVA jackets/sweatshirts, Williamsburg peanuts that they ate in about 5 minutes, and a Christmas ornament of Tim). Then I showed them pictures of my friends and family, the marching band show, some home videos, and a few songs from Once Upon a Mattress.

A very, very, very long day.

Oh- good news everyone (at least for now, when I’m still pretty homesick). I will be coming back to the U.S. about 2 or 3 weeks earlier than I expected.

June 14 is the day (I think) I will either leave my host family, or leave Portugal, I’m not quite sure. They just said June 14.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Today I went to my school.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

The Language is ridiculous. And beautiful. Beautifully ridiculous.

I met 2 of the AFSers in the area that go to my school. Julia from Vermont and Maud from Canada, then Mariana, Maria Rui, and Joao were Portuguese teens who were really nice. Anywho I will do a more conclusive post tomorrow but at the moment I'm super tired.

Boa noite!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Finally here


So I'm finally here! Let me tell you it's a completely different world...I still suck at the language, but I think it will get better. And the two kiss thing is different too, but I like it.

The Arrival Orientation was MUCH better than the Gateway. We stayed at this Quinta (inn) about 30 minutes away from Lisboa. There was the 5 USA kids, a girl from Costa Rica, and 4 Portuguese teenagers, plus about 3 Volunteers and 2 Staff. We did a ton of team building activities and things involving communication. It was absolutely gorgeous...I'll have to post pictures soon. The bread here is fantasic! Freshly baked with marmlade = scrumptious. They eat a lot of soup and pastas and such. One thing I had at the orientation kind of made me nauseous...but it wasn't that bad. Saturday night we did a thing with writing what we'll miss down and having to let go of it, which was kind of hard. Then there was this talent show that by the end just turned into a singalong with guitar and a mix of Portuguese and Beatles songs. Soon everyone just dissapated into talking and I stayed up late with Mariana, Martina, Sara, and Bernardo just talking. Twas lots of fun.

Sunday started out great. We learned some Portuguese and talked about living here. The language is very hard...and almost has an arabian accent because of the moorish influence. We had lunch and I said goodbye to the other AFSers, which was sad because all of them were really cool.

Then came the fiasco. Pedro (an AFS staff member) was going to drive me to a Volunteer who would take me to the train station (I had to take a train because my town is so far north my family couldn't drive). It was raining and I had my black passport case in my lap, and some where between changing cars it went AWOL. It had my passport, my train ticket, 74 Euros, my AFS info card, and some other various documents. So yea...not good to lose it. We got to the train station (Dulio and I) and he bought me another ticket, we reported the missing passport to the polizie, and we cancelled the credit card. I missed the first train, so I got on the next one around 5. Everything worked itself out, but it was a long, trying day.

When I arrived in Porto, Ines, Fernanda and Fernando were waiting for me at the train station. We rode in their car (a BMW!) to Vila do Conde, the cutest little seaside town ever! The beach is pretty intense though, it looks a lot like pacific beaches, you probably wouldn't swim in it because of the waves. There are tons of little cafes and Porto is about 45 minutes by comboio (train).

Tomorrow I'm going to meet with the principal and do some paperwork for my school. I really want to go soon and start meeting people....

well, here are some pictures from the week.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Today, I suppose, is the real start of my adventures. We started our Gateway Orientation today and yea...long talks/lectures about stuff. Long day in general. Some people here got caught doing some not so good stuff by the volunteers just now (don't worry I was NOT among them) so I dunno what's gonna happen with that. Drama already. I've mainly been hanging with Alyssa though and we've just been goofing off and hanging out around the computer. I'm really sad that she has a late departure though, cause she would've made an awesome travelling buddy. The 2 women running the Orientation are...characters. Oldish and loud and...yea.

There are 6 people here going to Portugal and 6 going to Ghana. This number could perhaps change because of the incident,though I won't go into detail. All the other Portugal people seem pretty cool. My roommate's actually from Juno, Alaska, which is pretty awesome. As I said, I really wish Alyssa was coming with us on the flight and to the orientation is Lisbon.

New York was definitely fun. Lots of visiting colleges and such. My parents and Wes saw Young Frankenstein on broadway tonight, which I am thoroughly jealous of, though I will be on a plane to Europe in less than 24 hours, so I guess I don't have a lot of room to talk. I have no idea when the next time is I'll be able to access internet, perhaps tomorrow but I may not have time. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Very Long Car Ride

Sunday (yesterday) we packed up the car, and headed from Forest all the way to the Big Apple. I must say, it was a very long car ride. About 8 hours to be exact...and I did absolutely nothing productive. But come on! Give me a break! I had been up until 4 or 5 am the night before finishing my packing. Basically the entire car ride consisted of me gazing out the window, drifting in and out of sleep, and occassionally listening to some Portuguese tapes. About an hour out of Allentown, PA, it started to smell. Yucky horrid cow manure smell, even worse than Forest! I thought we had it bad, but man...I feel sorry for Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A bit of backstory: my dad had gotten one of those new navigating devices for Christmas. Great, right? Well...until we actually gott to NYC. Turns out my parents didn't specify 8th street Manhattan, so the thing started to take us to Brooklyn. We ended up having to pull over to figure out why we drove onto and past Manhattan. Anywho, we finally got to the hotel (Hampton Inn on 8th and 51st) and went to dinner at this Mexican fast food place Chipotles.

This morning my parents and I went down to Soho to take a tour of NYU (after a frustrating subway journey). I like it a lot, methinks. Very different from Columbia, but cool nonetheless, and I got my picture with the Washington Square Arch! After the NYU tour, we met up with Wes and all four of us went to Rockefeller center for some lunch. They didn't charge us for our sandwiches, but I didn't feel bad because places like that cafe overcharge for everything. We then went to the NBC store, a Starbucks (where we saw Edward Hibbert! The Wizard from the TV Once Upon a Mattress, he was in the Prestige, and plays the Director in Curtains), and Barnes and Nobles near Lincoln Center. I thought I saw Sean snogging his girlfriend in Lincoln Center, but alas it was not him, I could tell by the shoes. Sorry Sean! I know you have more class than that...I think =P!

Sean had given me this girl Martina's, another AFSer, phone number. She called me and I met up with her at their highschool for the end of their Opera Workshop rehearsal, then her, sean, two of her friends and I went to get some food and talked near Lincoln Center. She seems really cool, I imagine we'll get to know each other pretty well over the next 6 months.

After talking, Sean walked me back to my hotel and then my parents, wes, and I went to John's Pizzeria and my mom, wes, and I went to Rockefeller Center again to see the tree all lit up.

Quite a good day, I'd say. Tomorrow we're gonna hit Columbia, Fordham (?), The New School, Chinatown, Soho, perhaps do some shopping, see Sean and Martina's opera can't run out of things to do in New York. I love this city...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

We meet again!

Greetings all!

In a few minutes, I will be departing from Forest to go to New York City. I must say, it's been hard to say goodbye to everyone: I will miss you all more than you know. The "view criew", the newly reinstated movie group, the caitlins and emma, my video game playing hanging out are all special to me. I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for each and every one of you.

Now, enough of the sappy! My dad, mom, Wes, and I will arrive in New York City sometime tonight (later than we thought)...and will probably just eat and go to bed. The rest of our time in the big apple is negotiable, so I'll fill you in after the fact. Wednesday I go to the AFS Gateway Orientation, then Thursday night I will depart from Kennedy to fly to a connecting flight in Frankfurt which will take us straight to Lisbon.

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE traveling? =)