84 Days Gone

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After 84 days I finally made it back home. It was the longest that I’d ever been away from home and there were tears at both ends of my journey. I left Lampeter just after 5am on Saturday December 13. I clung to two of the girls who had become like sisters to me and I cried. I have no idea why, but I know that I bawled my eyes out because I was sad about leaving them for five weeks. Yes, I was stoked to finally be going home, but I also…I don’t know. I was just emotional. Then my basketball teammate, Juan pulled out his last bottle of whiskey and said everyone had to take a drink. So Juan, Alex, Josh, Raz, Haylee, Charlotte and I stood in a circle together and had one more drink before Juan and I got on the bus that would take us to Heathrow Airport.

I’m not even sure what time it was when I finally stepped off my last flight home. I do know that I was home and the first thing I did was hug my mom. I cried for the loss of my Uncle Ken and my Great Grandmother Lizette. I cried for all the days I’d been homesick. I cried because I was happy to be home and safe. Then I cried some more. Apparently these past 3 months have turned me into a bit of a crier. I wrapped my arms around my mom and got the hug that I’d been needing all semester. She tried to let go and I held on tighter because I wasn’t quite ready for my hug to end. And my poor tiny mother who is barely taller than my shoulders was trapped in my arms while I got my tears and snot all over her shoulder.

Where I did a lot of my crying. Except cleaner than usual!

Where I did a lot of my crying. Except cleaner than usual!

But I did other things besides crying the 84 days I was gone!

A couple weeks ago, I took Haylee to her first rugby game. It was my schools rugby team against rugby players who had graduated in past years. We got there in time for me to see someone punch someone else. I got to show Haylee what position I used to play (tight head prop) and we got to watch a bunch of guys knock into each other for a while. That day we also watched our basketball teammate, Josh play football (soccer). I know nothing about soccer, but it was fun to watch. After that Haylee and I went back to her flat and we made breakfast for dinner for Raz and Josh. Then after a bit of dancing, we watched the first Bring It On move with Raz, Josh, and Alex. Haylee and I did all of the cheers while we watched Raz and Josh watch the movie. The looks of disgust were hilarious and almost better than watching the classic that is Bring It On.

Charlotte, myself and Haylee

Charlotte, myself and Haylee

Haylee, Charlotte and I played in our last netball game of the year a few weeks ago as well. We lost 21-24, but it was a good game. My netball team has improved by leaps and bounds since September and I’m very proud of the improvements they’ve made. That night I was a goal shooter, Haylee was a goal attack and Charlotte played wing defence. Despite having only just met in September Haylee and I work very well together on the attacking end of netball and the defenders had a hard time preventing us from scoring. Hopefully the two of us will be able to work on the defensive end of the game as goal keeper and goal defence next semester.

On the school front, this semester was very different. Rather than having finals after classes end in December, my school has finals in January after Christmas break. So despite the fact that classes are over, I still have quite a bit of work to do! Even I’m home and still having to do school work, I really enjoy that work. Thanks to my Towards Publication and Writing Workshop professor, I’ve found inspiration in places I never would have looked before. One of my favourite pieces that I got to write this semester was about a boxing match between Jack London and his wife, Charmian. Not only that, but I’ve even gotten some good direction and tips on how to write my dissertation that is due at the end of my school year.

cockfostersAs much fun as I’ve had this semester, there was more fun to be had after leaving school! Yes, I cried when I had to leave, but London was waiting for me! Because Nita and I didn’t fly back to North America until the day after the bus dropped us off, we had a whole day and night to spend in London. We started our day off by dropping our stuff off at the hotel we would be staying at and then made our way to Leicester Square. Because I’m 12 I spent the whole train ride giggling because the station we were heading to was called Cockfosters and it was announced every stop. Hearing it didn’t get any less funny as the train stops passed by. Eventually the giggles stopped and my excitement started to build. Nita and I were going to go see The Phantom of the Opera! One of my “must see” places from my teenage years was Her Majesty’s Theatre. I’ve been to theatre performances before, but this was something entirely different. From the opening scene I was breathless! Everything and everyone in the production was flawless. Especially the lady who played Christina. Not only was she beautiful, but the way she played the role was brilliant. The man playing the Phantom was, of course, superlative. During his closing scenes I was ready to cry and felt frustrated for him.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually sitting in Her Majesty’s Theatre watching The Phantom of the Opera. Once again, one of my dreams had come true and I couldn’t believe it!

Outside Her Majesty's Theatre! Ignore the garbage please...

Outside Her Majesty’s Theatre! Ignore the garbage please…

I just noticed the helicopter shape in the production picture...

I just noticed the helicopter shape in the production picture…

After the Phantom, Nita and I had just enough time to go and get dinner at Five Guys and head off to our next show, Miss Saigon. I hate to say this, but after the brilliance that was The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon was anticlimactic. I can honestly say that I wasn’t a fan of the storyline. However, I was enthralled by the people who played Kim and the Engineer. As much as I didn’t like the storyline, the songs and individual performances were so well done that I still enjoyed the show. One of the more interesting parts of seeing this show were the seats Nita and I had. Because of where we were sitting, we could see down into the orchestra’s pit. I think it was the cellist that I could see. Even from where I was sitting I could see the passion and love that they played with. It looked like every molecule of their body was playing her instrument. Then the end of the show happened and I was…stunned. The show was simply over and I was stunned at the ending. I had gone into the theatre knowing nothing about Miss Saigon, so the ending was…upsetting and it was just over. I kind of had a WTF MATE?! moment when the final curtain fell and I genuinely left the building feeling like there should have been more. Except there wasn’t. The show was still brilliantly done. I don’t think I’ll ever see another show where they land a fake helicopter on the stage, so I’d definitely go see it again! Never mind how upset the ending made me.

Eventually Nita and I made our way back to our hotel and found our way into our beds and we passed out after a long day in London.

The view I get from my room: Rolling hills and sheep!

The view I get from my room: Rolling hills and sheep!

With everything mostly said and done for this semester, I can’t wait to start my next semester abroad. I’ll be returning to Lampeter in January. A part of me doesn’t want to leave home, but there is another part of me that can’t wait to see all of the faces that I’ve come to love seeing and spend time with all the people who I’ve started viewing as my family away from family. I don’t know what next semester will hold for me, but I hope that it will be less of an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t know what will happen, but I do know that I’m looking forward to more shenanigans in my home away from home with my Lampeter family.

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breakfast

We introduced Chris (bottom left) to maple syrup. He liked it!

Eight days! I am going home in eight days! I’ve not been away from home 76 days, making this the longest stretch that I have ever been away from home. I can’t believe that it’s been 76 days since my first international flight where I cried every step of the way to Lampeter. And I’ve survived! Not only have I survived, but I’ve been having a blast here in Wales! I’ve definitely not blogged as much as I should have, but I’ve been up to other shenanigans while I make myself at home here in my temporary home away from home. Since landing my life has basically been a mess of laughter, tears, and lost underwear. I’m not even sure how it’s happened, but I came to Wales with 10 pairs of underwear and I’m now down to 4 lonely undies. I’ve also managed to go from having 12 pairs of socks to only being able to find 4 pairs. Besides the lost underwear and socks, I’ve managed to keep the homesick feelings at bay by staying incredibly busy.

My netball team before our first game.

My netball team before our first game.

For those of you who know me, you know that I love basketball and netball. So I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when I was able to sign up for netball! But just imagine how excited I got when Haylee (a girl who is also from BC and is like a sister now) told me she saw a guy with a basketball! Naturally, because we both love basketball we followed him and wound up joining the men’s basketball team that very night. Except it’s now a co-ed team! I have a ball in my hand every day of the week and I couldn’t be happier. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s I have netball practice and on Tuesday’s, Thursday’s and Friday’s I have basketball practice.

Unfortunately being in the gym so much means that I have lost a little bit of weight and now all but one pair of my underwear is too big. So three out of four days I have to find places to discretely pull my undies back up because they’ve slipped so far down my butt that I’m fairly certain that they’re about to fall out the bottom of my pants.

Erm…trousers.

That’s also what I’ve been up to while I’m here in the UK! Getting used to the words everyone uses. This is what I’ve picked up so far.

Fries are called chips. What I would call a chip back home is actually a crisp. And what I would call a crisp at home (like apple crisp) is actually a crumble. But wait! It gets better after that because over here underwear are called pants. Just sit back and image me running around talking about my pants (it happens more than you’d think) to people who think that I’m going on and on about my undies because over here pants are called trousers. Except I don’t like that word so I continue to talk about my pants. The last and final difference that’s entertained me to no end is fanny. In North America a fanny is a butt. In the UK a fanny is a vagina. I don’t use the word fanny ever, but I love the giggles I’m going to get the next time someone talks about their fanny pack.

Anyway! I’ve been extremely happy playing basketball and netball here. Especially basketball! We had a mini, day-long tournament a few weekends ago. It felt like home sitting in the gym all day while we either played or waited to play. It was a long day in the gym, but it felt really good to spend the day doing something I love. Since that weekend Haylee and I have started showing the team new drills and we’ve even been able to introduce the team to a full court press and new zone defence.

Haylee and I have also introduced a few of our teammates to poutine! To everyone here it’s cheesy fries with gravy. No matter what it’s called, poutine has become a favourite snack food.

Hodor came to my school to DJ! He's even bigger in person!

Hodor came to my school to DJ! He’s even bigger in person!

Besides playing basketball and netball I’ve also gotten to explore a few places in the UK! A few weeks ago I got to visit Bath!  I can remember being a teen and learning about the Roman Baths and wanting to see them. In my mind I always wished for that “someday” to happen when I could actually go and see the Baths and explore them. That day finally happened and it was like a dream to me. I waited in this long line-up to actually get into the Baths and I couldn’t help but think that maybe seeing the Baths wasn’t worth it because there were a lot of people and it felt like I was stepping up to see an over commercialized venue and not the piece of history that I’d dreamed of seeing. But then I actually walked into the main are of the baths and I was in love. I was by myself (I tend to wander off when I explore) when I entered the baths and I’m pretty sure that I peed a little. Then I tripped over a stone because the walkways were a bit uneven. I actually started to vibrate because I was so excited! In my limited travels there are very few places that I’ve been where…

At the Roman Baths! I still can't believe I was there!

At the Roman Baths! I still can’t believe I was there!

It felt like something was about to happen. Being there and actually seeing the baths was magic. When I first stepped out to see the baths I wound up standing still and looking around because I was waiting for something to happen. Of course nothing did happen, but I still felt like I was in a dream. I’d been waiting for so long to walk the steps that I was walk and I was convinced I had to be dreaming. So I took a selfie to prove to myself that I was really there and had really and actually seen the Roman Baths. I spent the better part of two hours wandering around the area trying to commit every detail to memory. Unfortunately the lighting wasn’t very good and a lot of my photos didn’t turn out very well. One of the more odd details that I fixated on was the fact that woman’s bathroom I used was actually heated by the baths! It was like going pee in a sauna! Not only was it strangely relaxing because I was very warm, but I was also just very amazed in a very country girl sort of way that the bathroom that I was peeing in was being heated by a piece of history that I’d always wanted to see.

Oh, I’m also doing really well in school. This semester I only had classes two days a week on Thursday’s and Friday’s. The grading system here is a bit odd, but from what I’ve managed to figure out I’ve rocked the two assignments I had to hand in.

Hopefully I’ll be able to write more about my adventures when I get home. In the meantime I’m going to go watch one of my basketball teammates play in a soccer match and spend the rest of my weekend attempting to get some school work done.