01 October 2016

My First Home Away From Home

When I was 16, my wonderful parents agreed to let me go overseas as a foreign exchange student.  I was originally slated to go to Italy but then there was a problem with the Italian program (meaning the American side and Italian side were having some sort of disagreement) so I was reassigned to the Netherlands.  And now things are coming full-circle again.

The first family I lived with in the Netherlands (in my program you lived with three different families so that you got a diverse experience since no one family is representative of how everyone lives) lived 3 houses from the dyke on what was a huge orchard.  I've been back to visit them several times while living in and visiting the Netherlands. 

This last visit, I walked around the grounds and seriously have no memory of it being such a beautiful place. How did I miss that? It's on a canal (they used to have a boat there) and the mother still has a wonderful garden and works to bring back heirloom varieties of some of the original orchard trees.

It wasn't exactly easy living there all those years ago.  The kids were a lot younger than me and no one in that village went to my school (my other two families were close to the school) so it was rather lonely.  I had very few friends and they all lived much closer to the school.  I had no confidence in my ability to learn the language and so I struggled with it (one day, after months and months and months of living in the Netherlands it was as if a switch flipped and I realized I could speak Dutch). Plus, you know, I was a moody teenager.

I have a much better relationship with that set of parents now that I'm an adult.  They are really very lovely people and I enjoy visiting them.

You can see the dyke here; keeping out the Ijsselmeer. It really isn't very high. 

She really does wear these when working in the garden!
To think of how many homes away from home I've had at this point... I'm glad I get to keep visiting this one. I'm also glad I get to see it now as a beautiful place with lovely people.

What is your first home away from home?  Have your feelings about it changed over time?