Seems We Just Get Started, And Before Ya Know It...
“comes the time we have to say, ‘so long.’” I’ll bet most of you know what that’s from, and if you don’t quite recall, let me refresh your memory. At the end of every episode of the ‘Carol Burnett Show,’ Carol would sing this little song as she tugged on her ear, which was a sort of secret signal for her grandmother. Now that I’ve impressed the baby boomers with my knowledge of Carol Burnett, I’ll get on to the rest of what I need to say. (Don’t worry, I’ll connect the title to my trip in a bit.)
On Thursday, the last day of August, I received the phone call my family and I have been waiting for for almost 3 weeks now. Well, actually I should say it’s the phone call the entire city has been waiting for, seeing as almost everyone I know has been constantly asking me, “When are you leaving?” or “Heard anything yet?” or the most amusing comment, “What are you doing here? I thought you were gone already!” Don’t feel bad if you are guilty of asking me one (or more) of the above questions; I got pretty used to answering them and just putting on a happy face. It is rather stressful, however, to be constantly reminded that you have NO idea whatsoever of when you are leaving for a different country for a year’s time. BUT! All of that is behind us now, because I finally have an answer to all those questions!! Yes, it’s true! The phone call we’ve been anxiously awaiting from the travel agency in Seattle finally came on Thursday night. She informed us that I would be leaving from the O’Hare airport around 10:30pm next Thursday, September 8th. So, after months of not knowing, all of the sudden I have less than a week left in the US!! Crazy! And a lot of people tell me that they would be frantic and quite angry if they were in my situation with the travel agency. Although I completely understand how easy it would be to get put off with these people, I take on the Brazilian mindset of, “relaxa!” which in Portuguese means “relax.” “The call will come,” I’d say, “and we can’t do anything to make it happen faster.” In the past, I have heard stories of parents who have gotten fed up with waiting and began calling and emailing the consulate to hurry them up, and ended up putting their child’s exchange in jeopardy. So, again! We just waited.
As far as more details about the flight, I know my stops, roughly when I’ll arrive in Izmir, and also that I am (thankfully) not traveling alone. From Chicago, I’ll be flying 9 hours to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Munich (also in Germany.) From there, I will part from the other exchange students and take my last flight straight to my city. All together, it will be about 24 hours worth of traveling, but hey! I’ll be halfway around the world, who cares! As I said, I’ll be traveling with 2 other Rotary exchange students, one girl from Michigan and one boy from North Dakota. Although I would have been able to manage flying alone, it’s always more comforting to have someone there who’s going through the exact same things you are.
So needless to say, I’m excited about leaving now! Not that I wasn’t before, it was just more difficult to be excited when you don’t know your departure date. But, it was also difficult to conjure the right emotions when saying goodbye to several of my friends as they left for college and such. I’m going to miss them as much as I did in Brazil, but it seems somehow easier this time, at least with the friends who have gone through this with me before. I can’t say the same for the new friends I’ve made throughout the last year, who will no doubt have more trouble with it, seeing as most of them will still be in high school. (Now here is where I connect the blog entry to the title) Summer seemed to fly by, as it tends to do, and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time with all of my friends and make lots of great memories with them. Of course some of my best memories revolved around my birthday week, which two of my best friends (Callie and Alex) worked hard to make truly memorable. You know your friends truly care about you when they hide in the bushes outside your bedroom window and jump out at midnight to surprise you on your 18th birthday. But amongst the sleepovers on the trampoline, trips to Madison, and late-night movies, there was a sadness looming over our heads. As much fun as we were having, we appreciated it just that much more because we knew that it would soon end with me leaving. So when the time came to say “so long” to my college-bound friends (told you I’d connect the title!), I didn’t feel as sad about it as I thought I would- as sad as I felt I should. They know I love them and they know I’ll miss them, and I know the same for them, but for some reason I just couldn’t conjure up the tears I felt I should be shedding on their shirt sleeves!
Well, all that changed when I found out my leave date. About 20 minutes after my mom and I got over the initial excitement of the phone call, she came out from her room, hugged me and said, “Is my baby really going to leave me again?” That choked me up almost instantly, because the answer was nothing but a hesitant, reluctant, “yes.” The rest of the night and most of the next day was spent trying to contain my excitement for Turkey and all that was waiting for me. I felt an inner sense of closure, after weeks of pressure and stress building. Then, when night came, I met up with two of my dear friends for ice cream. We talked and laughed like always, watched a movie and made comments like always. But towards the end of the movie, for no particular reason, I felt the tears building up behind my eyes. My mind began to race with thoughts of, “this is the last time for a whole year that I’ll be able to do this” and other things of that nature. So, my first break down came to me on the couch of my friend’s condo, crying about everything I was feeling, even though I knew what I was doing was a great decision for my life. Saying my final goodbyes to those two friends was extremely hard; even as I drove away I was trying to keep my eyes clear of tears so I could drive home safely. Again, I want to stress the fact that I AM ECSTATIC TO EMBARK ON THIS AMAZING JOURNEY! But it’s never easy to leave the ones you love behind. I dread the moment I have to say goodbye to my grandparents, my sister, brother-in-law, and the rest of my family. I panic to think of the last hug I’ll ever get from several of my friends. I just spent the last few hours with Alex, who came back to Janesville for the weekend and I was fortunate enough to be here to see one last time. Because, like I said, he is a very dear friend of mine who left before I felt I was ready to say goodbye to, and I didn’t feel like I did it properly. If you’ve ever felt like there’s a reason you are where you are, you’ll understand me when I say I feel like he is partially the reason why my departure has been postponed until next week. I needed these last few hours to get in a few more laughs, a few more hugs... and, as I write this, choke on a few tears for him. (And also, he STILL hadn’t signed my yearbook, which was really irritating me.) This is the way a goodbye should feel, at least for me. And the rest of my goodbyes, as hard as they may be, will at least be “right enough” for them and for me in order to go about the rest of our lives properly. Hopefully I have time to see the faces of my good friends one more time before I go off to another life entirely.
I know the emotional, mushy stuff may not be the most interesting thing you’ve ever read and may not be of the biggest importance to you, but it all plays a part in the end. Most people will never get to experience an exchange, and I guess that’s why I’m trying to take you all with me on the emotional roller coaster I am on right now and give you a feel of what it’s like to be one of the kids who consider themselves “citizens of the universe.”
This will be my last entry written from America before I board the plane to Turkey. Who knows? I might even write a little something for you on the 9 hour airplane ride “across the pond.” Thank you all for reading along on my adventures, and I assure you, the coming blogs will be filled with interesting experiences, pictures, did-you-knows and whatever else I deem worthy to tell my readers about. Good luck to my friends starting college or continuing high school, I hope you all (referring to anyone who’s reading this) will keep in contact with me and keep following along! Wish me luck! Just remember, it’s not “Goodbye forever,” it’s just “Goodbye for now.”
Haley Drozdowicz is a Craig High School student who's visiting Turkey. She's studying there as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Haley is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.