Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 6

Already left Louisiana – Miss them tons


Ok, maybe I did cry, Jenny. You didn’t. Patricia didn’t. Olivia didn’t. Most of you didn’t. Ok.


Ok, I cried. Not everyone needs to know that, though. Not everyone needs to keep hearing that I cried while the rest didn’t. I mean, I don’t mind people knowing I felt sad, but I don’t want it to be a topic that keeps coming up like a piece of food stuck in between your teeth that you try picking out with your tongue.


Let’s just think about this. None of you cried because you were all going to see your hosts in maybe 12 weeks. I’m not, ok. That was the last time I will ever see Katherine. I know that’s not what I want it to be like, but most likely it’s true. I won’t see her because she won’t come to Panama in only 12 weeks. I won’t see her, unlike you guys.


So I cried. For a good reason. I’m going to miss her so much I can’t even explain with words. I showed her and everyone else how great of a time I had with her. How she was open-minded and caring at home. She helped me get the hang of things and taught me tons of which I’ll never forget. She stood by my side and supported me those tough days.


The day we had to leave was miserable. I cried and cried together with her. We hugged each other for a long time. We cried and took deep breaths, almost suffocating. We hugged tighter and tighter than ever before and we didn’t let go. We whispered a hard to understand dialog with a lot of sobbing and sniffing. We kept telling each other how much we were gonna miss each other. We kept whispering how we would never forget each other. We made sad little jokes, trying to cheer each other up, but failing and only coming to a point where we started to cry even more.


When we had to let go, I kept crying. She kept crying too. She ran after me and hugged me one last time before we really had to move on. Most of the bus ride I cried. Even when Jenny leaned on my shoulder to fall asleep. I just silently looked out the window and drained my tears out.


Ok, I cried, but so what? I meant it and I’m grateful I did.


Just typing this up has almost made me cry, but you know what, that’s a good thing.


It’s healthy.


So, I cried.


Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 5

20th of October – 6 pm

Sitting on my bed


I have talked a lot about Katherine and her family lately, but I forgot to mention one member. Well, I might’ve mentioned him briefly, but not in detail. I thought it was about time you guys would know about Oliver, the sweetest and cutest puppy in Lousiana.


Even before I went to Lousiana, I knew he would be a cuddly pup who I could sit with.


To start off with, I love the name, Oliver. I love names that start with O, in general. Oscar, Owen, Oakley, Ollie, Olive, Otto, and many, many more (I just didn’t want to list them all, because you would end up reading a paragraph of names).


But this is what he looks like:


He’s literally a walking cloud. His white curly fur coats him like a warm blanket. His paws are pillows of cotton. His ears are strands of silk woven together. His tummy is as soft as marshmallows and feathers.



Oliver greets me every day when I get home from school as if he hadn’t seen me in a week. Well, the thing is, maybe he does think it’s a week because dogs don’t have any sense of time except for day and night time. When I came home, even before I opened the door, you could hear him bark and whimper quietly. He knows it’s not allowed, yet he takes the risk just to show his presence, in case we miss a fluffy white ball of joy jumping at our feet, you know?


If you want a:

  • small
  • playful
  • sweet
  • clean
  • shed-free
  • non-aggressive
  • watchdog


Then a Bichon Frise is the right dog for you. Plus, these dogs are great with other pets. They are very respectful when it comes to personal space and these dogs won’t beg for attention which many other dogs tend to do. On top of all this, these dogs have a lifespan of 12-15 years, which is old for the average dog.


Anyway back to Oliver. When I came home he would sniff my legs and his wet nose would brush against my skin, tickling me. As I bent down, he would jump up on my lap and lick my face. Of course, I allowed him to, otherwise, Oliver wouldn’t do it.


I would then go to my room, Oliver following me like a white shadow. As I dumped my bag onto my bed, Oliver would patiently wait next to me. I patted the bed loudly, so Oliver could hear, and I exclaimed, “Come on boy!” He then jumps up onto the bed and finds just the right spot where he then decides to lie down.


“Oliver is like a vampire,” Katherine’s dad told me last night while watching tv, “He won’t come up onto your lap or couch or bed, without you inviting him. Just like vampires can’t come in your house unless you invite them in.”



I got ready for bed that night. I laid there in silence, waiting for the magic to happen and to take me off my feet. Suddenly, I heard someone or something at my door. Still, in shock of the noise, I laid there, too afraid to get out of bed. It was like a scratching and whining noise like a … cat would make. No, not a cat.


I waited to make sure it wasn’t just me. I heard it again. Yeh, it was outside my door and it was louder this time. “Hello?” I pronounced with uncertainty. Nothing. Just the scratching stopped. Then whatever was outside, whines again. Wait, it’s Oliver, I realized. I get out of bed feeling blind because of the pitch-dark room. I struggled to find the light, but once I turned it on I squint and rub as if I could clean out all the light that had just entered my eyes a second ago. I looked at my watch to check the time before I opened the door. Midnight? I hadn’t slept at all.


I inched forward to the door. As I opened the door gingerly, I peeked outside to triple check it was Oliver. I looked down and just what I expected: A cotton bundle of joy whimpering.


Oliver squeezed through the door as I sighed with a smile on my face. “Silly,” I told him as I closed the door behind me. He just looked at me with his cheerful face and warm eyes convincing me he didn’t understand what I had said. “Come on then,” I whispered as I invited him onto my bed. He jumped up and sniffed around a little like dogs do. As I made my way over to the light, I yawn. My eyes watered and for a second I was so tired I barely remembered what I was doing.


I struggled to get into bed in the dark, but I finally did. Oliver then snuggled up close. At that moment I wished I had a dog more than anything else. I wanted a dog to sleep with and cuddle with every night. A dog to make me feel comfortable and safer than ever before.


As I closed my eyelids, Oliver found his way next to me. He made himself comfortable and had come up next to my legs. He placed his head on top of my leg and that night I was pretty sure I slept with a grin on my face.



Oliver that night:


Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 4

19th of October 2016 – 9 pm

Brushing my hair


Have you ever seen the movie Frozen? Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with the movie, but do you remember Sven? The reindeer? Well, if you don’t: basically, there is a friendly reindeer called Sven. Ok, now I’m done with Frozen.


Now here’s what I wanted to tell you about Sven:


So this morning was the very first day of school with Katherine, my host. If I were, to sum up how it went with one word I would say: tumultuous. You’re probably about to pull our a dictionary but wait… I was just about to explain what it means. Tumultuous is chaotic and loud and turbulent. Everyone felt the same way about the first day. Katherine has 8 or 9 classes a day! Each class is 55 minutes, and her breaks in between are only 3 minutes. Then you have her lunch break, which is a little less than half an hour.


Since we aren’t used to it, we felt as if we were moving classes every ten minutes. We would sit down, do an activity or two, and there goes the bell! Oh, and have I mentioned how these students have adapted? The second the bell rings, the whole class shoots out of their seats and into the hallway. In a split second, they’re up and gone – no joke! They also speed walk everywhere. I could barely catch up with them.


Even though the day was tumultuous, I met tons of people. All of Katherine’s friends asked me questions, as well as a bunch of random curious people. I loved talking to everyone there and failing at remembering all the names that were hurtled at me and laughing at myself with others. It felt like moving to a new school. It felt like making new friends all over again. It almost felt like I had a new life in some other place away from home.


Am I going to be remembered as that same person two years from now? Are they even going to remember my name? Probably not. But I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.


Anyway, after school, Katherine came to pick me up at the principle’s office. We all had to be checked out to make sure we were with our hosts. Surprisingly I talked a lot more with Katherine than I’m used to. I’m usually quite shy with other people. Especially new people. We walked down the maze they call their school, and down to the parking lot.


Right before we stopped, Katherine affirmed: “This is Sven, and oh he rides a van. Get ready to listen to music from the eighties.” She giggled briefly before she looked around and pointed at a silver vehicle in the distance. I’m not sure if I thought she was joking or not, so I just smiled.


As the dusty van pulled up, I got a glimpse of who I assumed Sven was. The window at the driver’s seat was pulled down. I saw a pale face with dirty, golden strands of hair cascading down on both sides of his face, reaching the length of his shoulders. His eyes were shallow blue and his smile was friendly. He kind of reminded me of my brother, Unai. The same hair; almost the same smile.


Next to him was a younger boy, also with long blond hair. His hair was shorter, though. He sat next to him and his feet were up on the dashboard. He was wearing light gray Nike shoes that made his eyes look more gray than blue. Much later I realized his name was Nils and that he was half German, half American.


Katherine opened the door that slid open sideways on rusty hinges. “Typical,” I whispered to myself. She climbed into the back, struggling while doing so. I hopped into the van, not having said anything to Sven yet. As I sat down onto the stuffy seats, I guessed that I had to close the door, since I was the last one stepping inside. I pressed a weird-looking button situated on the handle of the door. The button released the clutch that held onto the door. It slid slowly and I tugged on it slightly to get it going faster. With a dull thud-click, it closed.


Sven turned around and opened the door again, that seemed to not have closed well enough. He slid it open and pulled on it harder than I thought he would. The door closed this time with a satisfying click. Not a dull one. Still looking backward, Sven sparked a conversation. “Hi there, my name is Sven.”


I looked straight at him. He was tall and I assumed he was about 18. “I’m Amaia. Nice to meet you, Sven.” He smiled. He looked very welcoming, or maybe he was just in a good mood today; who knows.



This is Nils sitting in the front with his feet up.


Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 3

18th of October 2016 – 5:45 pm

Sitting on the floor with Oliver.


Since I forgot to tell you about what we did Yesterday, I decided to start this blog from the hotel we stayed at.


As you might remember, my last blog post is about my second day. Well, actually my first day in Lousiana, because I start the story from the day we get on the plane. But anyway, the day before yesterday I stayed at the hotel and roomed with Patricia. I talked about how we got up in the morning and got ready to eat breakfast. (If you’re asking yourself what in the world I am talking about, then, buddy, scroll down to where it says posted in Journal Entries – Starting Somewhere (new) – LSU and under that you will find an area that says tagged. Click on day 2 and it will take you to the blog post before this one).


Now continuing where I had left off:


After the struggle of waking Patricia up that took place a few minutes ago, we traced our steps that we took last night to find our way downstairs. Still a little bit tired, we made our way to the breakfast area. Not very surprisingly we found the rest of our classmates sitting at their tables. The atmosphere of the eating place was almost drowsy: everything and everyone was tired.


We were told that we could only take the food with the yellow stickers on it. This limited us from the wide variety of choices they provided. Taking a plate, we scanned the buffet laid in front of us. Luckily, I wasn’t very hungry. In fact, my stomach was twisting and turning like when you go on a roller coaster. But then again, I haven’t actually been on many roller coasters. I’m just assuming that’s what if feels like.


I looked down at my choices. A small bowl of cereal, milk in a carton box, and an apple. Not very distinctive to an ordinary breakfast. I guess it was fine.


We looped around occupied tables and found the spot we were all happy with. “I’m so nervous,” Olivia stated, “we’re going to meet our hosts today!” I’m not sure if it was the table that sparked our conversation or if it was just a random coincidence. The families were going to come at 11:00 am. The fact that it was already 9:40 ish made my stomach feel even weirder. All of a sudden, the meal didn’t seem as appetizing as it did before.



We rushed down the hallway to our rooms. Twenty minutes left to pack and go downstairs. Everyone seemed nervous, even Jenny, who never seems to be nervous when meeting new people. As we entered our room, Patricia went to her bed and laid down, face flat on her pillow. I decided to neglect her; I decided to pack my belongings instead.


Ten minutes passed and I had already done everything. I brushed my hair, packed my suitcase, charged my phone, unplugged the charger, brushed my teeth, and I even put on my shoes. I looked over at Patricia. Still on the bed. By then I was assuming she had fallen asleep.


I decided to go and check in on Olivia and Jenny (who had slept in another room together with Felicitas). As I walked in I found them all ready. Sitting on their beds with their phones. Even their shoes were on.



“Hey, guys!” Mr. Wallace’s deep voice almost echoed through the hallway. Luckily, there was a mat on the floor and furniture against the walls that absorbed the noise just enough to make it sound a little duller and not wake up everyone else in the hotel.


Most of us were in the hallway. Maybe like 12 of us? Anyway, Mr. Wallace only had to say two words to grasp our attention, and two other words that made our hearts race in our chests: “They’re here.”


Nervously, we strutted along. We got into the elevator and started one of those weird conversations you get when you’re worried. The conversation in which everyone agrees with whatever the other person has to say. That awkward, harmonious sound of everyone saying yeah.


The elevator let out a familiar noise. A ding that lets you know when the doors are going to open. At the moment I felt my heart sink into my shoes. I didn’t want the doors to open. I wanted to be trapped inside – wait for hours before we got rescued if we had to.


Luckily, Jenny nudged me forward. I wouldn’t have moved if she hadn’t had done that. “Are you nervous?” she asked.


“Maybe,” I swallowed the yes that came after that so that she couldn’t hear it.


Together as a pack, we walked through another identical hallway that led us to a large open room with chairs, tables, and whatnot. I shuffled along, almost shivering. I hadn’t felt this way for years. The last time I felt this nervous was the very first day of school when I came to Panama.


I clenched my jaws together to prevent them from saying anything stupid, or funny, or sad, or anything, really. By this time I could hear my heartbeat thudding in my ears as if it was heavy metal music from the seventies.


As we turned the corner I was convinced that everyone held their breath. In front of us, surely at least fifty people were socializing with each other. Talking, laughing, interacting: not noticing us yet.


Two seconds later, though, all eyes were laid upon us. Everyone became quiet and focussed on us. Meanwhile, I searched the room for my host, Katherine… yeah, Katherine, I think.


My group scattered as they found their hosts. A few seconds later I heard a voice from beside me. “Amaia?” I swung around to see three familiar faces I had skyped with about a week ago. I firmly took a few steps their way, smiling at the encounter. They were all very tall and were encouraging me to come over.


“Hey, Amaia!” Katherine’s mom exclaimed, “Is that how you pronounce it?” She stuck out her hand and I shook it without hesitation. “Yes, that’s right,” I simply replied. It was weird, though, because so many people mispronounce my name before I correct them. They say maya, or amia, or even ameya.


I looked over at Katherine. She smiled and we just said hi. She then introduced me to Olivia’s host, Jenny’s host, and Patricia’s host. It turned out that they were all best friends, so we were in luck. The conversation already started to become interesting when Katherine pointed a guy in our class out and was like: “who is he? I think he’s cute.” We all giggled and that’s how our friendship flourished.



This was us when we arrived at the Lousiana airport at around midnight:


Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 2:

17th of October 2016 – 9:50 am

Just had breakfast at the hotel.


Have you ever tried to describe how hard waking up really is? Think about it. Waking up is harder than climbing up the Eiffel Tower with your hands tied behind your back. It’s harder than doing a triple backflip and landing perfectly. It’s harder than winning la Tour de France; I think you get the point here. Well, waking up is a struggle. I struggle, you struggle; we all struggle with it, trust me. But no one in this world struggles more than Patricia. She could sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep if she was allowed to.



So here’s how my day went.


Yesterday we boarded the plane; it turned out to be a four-hour flight, instead of a two-hour one (what they had told me originally). Don’t get me wrong: I love flights or rides; trips in general. Especially when you’re with people you like and can socialize with.


After what seemed like a long time, we got off the plane. It was around midnight when the LSU school bus came to pick us up. It wasn’t only the clock that told us that, though. We all went to the restrooms and the mirrors proved to us what a plane trip we had. Hair was everywhere, our eyes were itchy red, and it seemed like we hadn’t slept for days. We all took one glance and were grateful we weren’t meeting our hosts looking like this.


Now back to the bus. Never in my life had I seen such a stereotypical yellow bus from the states. It was exactly how they are described in the movies. It was big, had the words School Bus printed on the side with big bold letters and the seats were like benches covered in a gray coating of some sort. To my surprise, it had air conditioning.


As we found a seat, Jenny kept chatting about how this bus brought her back so many memories. How she lived in Colorado, and how she would ride this bus every day to school. One thing was clear: this bus was a little piece of her childhood. I wish I had such memories to share.


The bus ride passed quickly. We got off the magic school bus and before I knew it we were in our hotel rooms. I was paired with Patricia. Clarissa snuck into another room; more space for us, I guess. We spent a while talking. About the hotel room. About our homework. About how excited we were to meet our guests. About how we should set an alarm for tomorrow morning at around 8. About how comfortable our beds were. About how chilly it was getting. About how we might turn off the lights but keep talking.


That was the last thing we said. Neither of us had the energy to pronounce another word. Not even goodnight. We slept at 2:30 ish am.



I squinted letting a little bit of light into my eyes. I rubbed them and checked the time: 7 am. I lay there for ten minutes trying to mentally prepare myself to get out of bed.


One thing that’s weird about me is that I have this thing I call an alarm clock inside my head. I know it’s weird, but hear me out: when I go to bed and have to wake up at a certain time the next morning, I tell myself that, because that’s how my brain knows I have to put an alarm clock. After I do that, I fall asleep, dream, and do all the normal stuff people do when sleeping. But here’s the odd part: the next morning, no matter what time it is, I will wake up at least five minutes before my alarm goes off. Isn’t that weird?


And don’t think this has only happened once, oh no, I have done this so many times that my hypothesis has become a theory. Anywhere at anytime it happens.


But back to the main point, I woke up and it took me a while to sit up. I glanced over at the other bed in the room and saw Patricia sound asleep, tangled in her blankets and pillows. It was 7:15 so I decided that she still had some time to sleep since we had breakfast at around 9.

I took at shower, changed clothes, brushed my teeth (I was feeling a little bit gross), unpacked the things I needed for today, read a few pages of The Perks of Being a Wallflower which, by the way, is a really good book so far, and I even went to Jenny’s and Olivia’s hotel room. But Patricia just kept sleeping.


By the time I got back, it was 8:20. Time for Patricia to wake up.


I quietly said her name and shook her slightly to wake her up. She didn’t say a word. I tried again with a little more effort. Suddenly, she opens her eyes and looks at me as if I shouldn’t have woken her up.


Her squeaky voice brought out: “What time…is it…?”.


“8:20,” I said, “breakfast is around 9.”


She closed her eyes and I think I saw her nod slightly. “ok,” she said with her last breath “good night.” She turned around and fell asleep.


“She’s not waking up anytime soon,” I sighed.


I let her sleep another twenty minutes before I texted Jenny to ask her if she could come “rescue Patricia from her sleep”. Sure she did.


Now, Jenny has a way of doing things. She came into the room, talking loud as if I was sitting ten meters away. She saw Patricia and went: “Patty, wake up. You have twenty minutes to get ready because breakfast is gonna be ready at 9.” She sat on her bed and almost shook her awake.


And that’s how we managed to wake up sleeping beauty on the first day in Louisiana.

Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 1:

16th of October 2016 – 2:15 am

Made it to the hotel alive, but tired. Almost ready to go to sleep.


“Wouldn’t it be weird,” Kepa remarked, “to live with a other family.” He glanced up from his dinosaur toys, his gaze finding its way around the clothes and mess I had made in my room. I stopped briefly to understand what he had just said.


“First of all,” I commented, “it’s an-other family.” I paused a minute or two so that he could respond. He didn’t. So I decided to continue. “Yeh, I guess.”


Kepa looked back down at these plastic toys that brought him joy. He continued with his sound effects and blocked me out of his world, yet again. I didn’t want him to just look away. Why wasn’t he asking me what I really felt? I kept looking at him, waiting for him to look back up at me. To rewind what he just said, and do it all again, but this time in the way I was expecting.


He didn’t. That was the last conversation we had since the day I left. That and a goodbye.


I thought of it as I waved goodbye to my family. I thought of it as I passed through security. I thought of it as I talked to my friends on the plane. I thought of it at 2 am in the morning as I was getting ready to sleep.