December 31, 2009

Another Year Over

I started this blog on the 1st of January this year with this graphical interpretation of my expectations for the year:

Life would be rosy, I'd have a pink scooter and my hair would always be perfect. I'd jet about Paris in designer couture and share some love as I went. In actual fact, I was both wrong and right all at the same time.

The skies have often been rosy - sunsets in Santorini and Seville are indeed impressive. But it's not always pink or purple or orange. Grey skies made their way in plenty of times, and some of those times were tough. It was dark and cold in UK, and the heavens showed no mercy in Malta. Just as life is not all sunshine and rainbows, neither was the year. But I took them all as they came, and some of those rainy days in Caen where I was shut up in my room with a cup of tea and a good book were equally impressive on my memories.

I never did get a pink scooter but I had a cool bike called Matilda who took me into town a few times, to the laundromat when the washing machine broke, to my friend's houses and to the supermarket. Dad fixed her tyres when she was feeling flat and she's still at Euro Res now, taking somebody else around town. I think I've covered every possible mode of transport, including countless flights, trains, and metro rides, taxis, buses, ferries and even a horse-drawn carriage. I drove on the wrong side of the highway in the wrong side of the car with a gear stick on the wrong side through the snow the other day - and I didn't die.

As for perfect hair, even that featured a couple of times. Fixed with lilies for the Prom, it grew to my shoulders until July. Then I got sick of it as I always do, and had it cut for free by a student in Edinburgh. In Champagne, after a couple of tasting at the cellars, I literally walked right into a salon and got my fringe back. Since then, I've been looking after it myself with a pair of hair scissors from Carrefour. I even earned a block of chocolate and two hugs for cutting other people's hair at home. Considering the price of haircuts in Europe, I could have charged more, but I'm just looking forward to a decent style again when I get home, for a decent price.

I learned that some days its ok for your hair to be awful anyway. When it's 40 degrees and all you have to keep cool is a spray bottle, you change your priorities. When it's -12 outside and you've got a furry hat and a scarf wrapped around your head, it doesn't matter how your hair looks when you finally make it to the supermarket.

That leads me to the designer couture. Despite visiting Paris 19 times this year, I did not stock up on Louis Vuitton or Hermes. If someone offered me a fancy leather handbag or a year abroad (they cost the same), I know what I'd choose. But that's not to say that I didn't buy anything - a pretty recent journal entry is testimony to that. By the way, of course I didn't manage to fit it all in my case, even with 4 Space Bags. 2.5 boxes were sent home, half of it was rummaged through by those that were staying, and currently 15kg of it sits in London awaiting my return. I've learned that most 'stuff' is just that - if you don't have one thing, you'll have something else, and sooner or later you're sick of it anyway, you throw it away, you lose it, it gets stolen, or just sits there collecting dust. The most important things I have now are already back at home - some are packed in one little box that's already arrived safely, and the others sit waiting for me to return.

As for romance, I had my share of dramas. Those who were involved know who they are and I'm not going to repeat it all now, but life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes things are great, sometimes they don't work out, you make mistakes and life keeps going. I have something very special now and I wouldn't give that up for anything. I've learned that those who love you will stick by you no matter what, and maybe even stop in to say Hi.

Having my parents visit and climbing the Eiffel Tower together will be something I will always remember. Going to Italy together to meet new family was so special for all of us, and meeting the families of those who are my new loves is something yet again. The friends I have made this year, those I have lived with, spent every day with, studied with - I'd leave everything I had at a charity store if I could just take these people home with me. Fortunately some of them will be at home when I get there, but others will stay on this side of the world. I've been welcomed into homes, fed, sheltered, and cared for like a sister or daughter by so many lovely people this year, and each of them have made my life brighter. Especially at Christmas, when I am usually surrounded by my family, my fears of homesickness were almost abolished - I was absolutely not alone and still felt as much love as when I am at home. The only thing I wanted was for everyone to come and join me in the snow!

As I said very early in the year, before I left, "being given the chance to study in another country is something that has an effect on you. You end up learning more about yourself than anything else." I stand by that now - but reflect with a strange sense of knowing, that none of my lessons were learned in a classroom.

Knowledge comes from doing, and I certainly did a lot this year.

And so tonight, on this last day of one hell of a year, I see the clock strike 12 with some of the closest friends I have made, not just this year but in my life. They have shared so much with me and I am beyond happy to be able to share this night with them. I miss everyone at home, but in just 2 weeks I'll be back where I started and will have thousands of photos to pour over, hundreds of Facebook statuses to keep up with, and a few regular phone calls to make.

Happy New Year to everyone, and may the next one be as good as this has been. I'd like to see it try.

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