Wednesday, February 25, 2009

---> I've packed my bags, I'm good to go

This is just a quick post to say I leave today. My bags are packed, everything is ready, and I leave for the airport in 3 and a half hours.

Farewell, New Zealand!

Monday, February 23, 2009

---> Wave goodbye, wish me well, you're got to let me go

Listening to: the ads on The Edge . . . . guess the song my title came from, someone :) !

You can comment by pressing the 'Anonymous' button.

Farewell Party
On Saturday I had my farewell party. It was a FANTABULOUS night. We did everything from toasting marshamallows and making s'mores, to playing volleyball, bouncing on the trampoline, having glow sticks, the inevitable - EATING and I can honestly say I left with a bang - we had fireworks as well! 

When it came time to have the cake I had iced - as a Chilean flag, I said a little speech that was completely off-the-cuff and it was so embarrassing because I cried. But luckily my attempt at a funny speech worked and I managed some laughs as well.

Host family gifts
Yesterday I went into town with Mum and bought a whole lot of stuff I'd need - like jeans (in a biggish size in case I put on weight X.X ) extra makeup and most importantly, gifts for my host family. We got tee-shirts, jewellery, key rings, pins and a cushion cover and a tea-towel. Mum also bought me some NZ playing cards and a patch to sew onto my backpack. 

Visa and visa issues
Finally I have my student visa, and passport so I am legally able to stay in Chile for a year! My passport photo is horrible though. I think if I actually look as shifty as I do in my passport, that I wouldn't be allowed to board the plane!

The Visa issues are with the Visa card we ordered last Tuesday. The bank told us it would take 2-3 working days for it to arrive, then I would go to the bank and get a PIN number put on it. But it still hasn't arrived, one week later. Mum phoned the bank, was put on hold for ages, and finally discovered that the bank hadn't put a digit on the card, so they weren't going to send it to us. They also hadn't told us, and for all we knew, it (an unsigned card) could have been lost in the mail and someone could have been using it). We don't know if they would have told us or not, so luckily Mum rang! The bank is going to courier the card up tomorrow, so I will now have money to use in Chile. I'm just a bit shocked at the slackness of the bank. If we'd been able to get a card from nice, friendly, welcoming TSB bank I'm sure this wouldn't have happened and I would have a card by now.

This has absolutely nothing to do with my exchange, but also on Saturday we went to the SPCA to get one ginger kitten. But two stole our hearts and now we are the adoring owners of Smokey and Max, a grey tabby and a ginger tabby, who are brothers. They have the exact same stripes and markings, just in different colours.

Haven't really started yet . . . 

Info on exchanges, Chile and Copiapó
I have been asked some very similar questions by a lot of people, so here are the answers to the sorts of questions that I get asked:

Will your family speak English?
They can all speak English, but I want to learn Spanish, and they are encouraging me to speak Spanish

Do you go to an English school?
I have been advised that I am going to a music school. The point of exchange is to become 'part of the culture' so exchangers will integrate as much as they can. They are not special guests or visitors.

Will you miss your family?
Yes, of course, but I still have to do this. We'll keep in touch

Is your family coming to visit?
No, AFS discourages families to visit, plus my family isn't too flash after 8 hours in a plane, so I hate to think what 11 and a half hours will do.

Is anyone from your school/from your town going as well?
No, but there are 4 other students from around NZ.

Why are you going on exchange?
I want to do something different, experience another culture, learn a new language, and become a better and more worldly person, and use that to help others.

They speak Japanese in Chile, right?

So you're taking lots of warm clothes, because it's really cold there, isn't it?
Actually, Chile spans from nearly touching Antarctica, to nearly touching the Equator. The climate varies greatly, from Punta Arenas, the world's southernmost city, to Arica, the world's driest city. Between that, there are many different climate areas - meditterranean to just plain cold.

How big is Chile?
The population is around 16 million. Four times the population of NZ

And Copiapó?
Approximately 130,000 people. So around 2 and a half times the size of where I live now.

Is it hot?
Yup. They only get about one day of rain a year, and it's in the driest desert in the world, the Atacama.

And now it's time for some photos! These are from my farewell party.
Don't forget to comment!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

---> One week to go!

Listening to: Don't Trust Me  - 3OH!3

In exactly one week (right down to the minutes!) I'll be landing at Auckland Airport, meeting my AFS volunteer and the 4 other future Chileans.

Being a very 'last minute' person however, I have yet to buy things that I'll need, such as a memory stick, host family presents. My credit card hasn't arrived yet and I have my visa, except that when the courier delivered it, I didn't hear him knock so I had to wait for tomorrow to recieve it. 

There's so much left to do, at the moment I'm planning my farewell party on Saturday, which I have been planning for about 4 months, but only just started to plan in reality . . . trust . . . 

I haven't heard from my host family in about a week. I'm not too worried though, but it would be good to flick off an email before I go. 

If you're reading this blog, it would be simply spiffing if you could leave me a comment! I hope I'm not writing this just for myself.

I'm attempting to attach a photo, the file size was reduced so hopefully it won't come out a ridiculous size. (The photo is of me and my brother in a boat in the holidays, about to go parasailing.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

---> All the roads that lead you there are winding

It's less than two weeks now until I step onto the airplane that will take me away from my town, into the international airport, and then to Chile.

I'm amazed at how busy I am becoming. Babysitting, my scrapbook, planning my sister's party, my own farewell party, sorting out how I will get money when I'm in Chile, packing and  emailing my host family are things that I definitely don't mind doing, but do keep my on my toes. The scariest thought is that, if I don't get something sorted out before I go, it will be 10x harder to do in Chile, if not impossible.

Excitement alternates with nervousness. It was easy to be excited 4 months ago, when I had so much to look forward to, but not much of the reality. An exchange is definetely not going to be a cruisy holiday. I'm expecting it to be hard, tiring, frustrating, confusing, sad, lonely, but also an incredible once-in-a-lifetime oppurtuntiy, which I will be forever grateful for.

However, when I mention to my mummy 'less than two weeks now' I can't help but notice it makes her sadder to think that, and there's a little bit of guilt associated with leaving my beloved family for a year. She'll have to make my little brother's school lunch, someone else will have to clear the table after dinner, do weekend baking, babysit and hang out the washing, but nobody will be able to take the place of me (that sounds really self-(can't think of the word) but when I'm away, no-one will be able to take the place of my family either. I won't be able to groan and laugh with Mum and my little sister when an Abba song comes on shuffle, or have remark-competitions with my brother, or give my little brother hugs (although he does say he wants me to go because he won't have to listen to music all the time), I won't be able to go for car rides with my dad when he runs errands.  
That's the family, now for my friends. I love all of you so much! You never fail to make me laugh or cheer me up when I'm down. Those crazy sleepovers  . . . Talking on the phone, texting. I came to school last Tuesday to see everyone and give out invites to my farewell party. It's weird being so out-of-the-loop, not being up to date on all the goss, and that sort of thing. And that's just for the 1 week school had been back! But leaving what I have here, for an exchange, is definitely worth it. No doubt about that.

Exactly 2 weeks before I went, I decided some time ago, I would do a test-pack. 

Can you imagine packing your life into a suitcase?

Luckily, I was 5kgs below the weight limit, according to our old crumby scales. I'm going to take my flute in my hand luggage (I'm going to a music school) and leave behind by beloved MacBook. Why? Aside from the worry of it getting broken, I think that being part of a family means sharing. 

Next post I'll put up some facts about Copiapó, and AFS exchange, and some FAQ's.

11 days!

The pictures are of my packing, the NZ sticker on the back of my suitcase

EDIT: Sorry, no pictures. When I put them in the post, they come out RIDICULOUSLY HUGE. Any help with this would be appreciated :)

All my stuff

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

---> Well, I've been thinking about the future

To add a bit of creativity to my bland blog, I've decided that the title of each blog is going to be a line from a song. I'm not going to say which song though. Just to be cool. And the song I'm listening to is not the same song as the title.
Listening to: Love Story - Taylor Swift (iTunes on shuffle)

The last post I wrote, I had a host family. 
Well, I've been emailing them a fair bit. The first email I sent was really awkward and I wrote it in Spanish and English, because after 2 months of no Spanish I wasn't sure I could trust it!

The very next day I got a reply, from my host sister (16yrs) and it was really nice, expecially the PS, which said 'my mom said to tell your mom not to worry because I'm going to take care of her'. I read that and it made my day.
Now, not only did Ade email me, but so did Valeria and Pablo, my 13yr old sister and 18yr old brother. They both sounded really nice and now I emailed Valeria and Ade about every second day (they're on holiday at the moment, and are emailing me! It's wicked!) Ade and I do similar sorts of things (go to movies, etc) with our friends, and Valeria is younger and really likes Japan.

Now I'd had my family for just over a week when I got a packed from AFS about them, complete with photos! They look so fun! I really can't wait to meet them. I wasn't expecting to get a family so soon, and I'm so happy. I also found out I'm going to Liceo Músico de Copiapó. A MUSIC school!! That's SOOO me. Surrounded by musos 5 days a week - beats Concert Band once every week for half an hour. The only issue now is whether I bring my flute or not . . .

Since the school year has only just started, there's no point in me going to school for 15 days, so currently I stay at home with nothing to do. And by 'nothing' I mean watch The OC, go on Facebook and Cultures-Shocked, email, and the occasional cooking. Incredibly lame. And at night I like to go for a bike ride.
Luckily for me, that is only during the week! I'm having friends around on Friday night and then on Saturday night I'm going to see Gran Torino with another friend. And I'm planning on going into school to see everyone next week and give out my farewell party invites, so I'm not some kind of antisocial moth.

I mentioned Facebook before. Facebook is like, perfection. I've 'talked' to some of the other exchangers to Chile and it will be a great way to keep in touch. 

22 sleeps!