Monday, August 31, 2009

The Third Exchange

For those of you who might know me, you could probably skip this post and move onto something a little more interesting. As for everyone else, this might explain some of the erractic, irrational, strange, funny, and flabberghasting situations I manage to get myself into. And lord knows there are a lot of those.

I absolutely detested high school and my small town with every fiber of my ever being. I will not get into it, but I had planned my escape since practically the very first day of Kindergarten. That change kept at the ripe old age of 15, when I spent an entire year in Kochi, Japan. I returned home to American to graduate, but rather than heading off to college like all of my peers, I decided I was not exactly ready to go off to college. I went to France for a year instead, and traveling all around Europe with a few dollars, a reckless behavior, and an awesome host family.

In all, I have done some really stupid things in my life, but they have made me who I am, a stronger and more wise person. And when I returned from France, I decided that I would give it everything I had to fully reintegrate and be an American again. After all, I was headed to American-pride stronghold South Carolina, and I would do my best to fit in. It could not be that hard, could it?

Oh, yeah, it could be that hard.

Sure, I was born and raised and instilled with a Northern mentality, having grown up a whooping 20 minutes away from New York City, but America is America, is it not? It's all relative, same history, same language, same prejudice, same culture, same way of looking at the world around us, right?


I spent a year of my life chasing samurai and eating raw (possibly still living) Sushi, a year surrendering to laziness in France, eating baguettes and Creme Brulees. Surely a year in my own country, could not possibly be that different?


And thus, not only will this blog be about the trials and tribulations of a college kid at Clemson, but also the trials, tribulations, and trials of a Northern world ambassador in a place called, The South. It is possibly my third exchange to a different country. Very possibly the most mind-boggling of all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Day of Class

Nerves kept me awake all night. Staying awake all night made the bags under my eyes resemle the Big Brown Bag at Bloomingdale. Morning coffee. Not enough caffiene. Apple suppressed the hunger. Hair looked like I was hit by lightening and I did not want to wake up Elizabeth with a request to use her straightener. Oh boy.

On my way to class, carrying a bookbag that happens to be the same weight that I am, I discovered that it rained last night. I suspect that it poured. I slipped in mudd, dirtied up my knees, spilled coffee on my KHAKI skirt, and had no time to go back.

Everything that can go wrong, probably will.

On the bright side, Japanese teacher was very impressed with my Japanese. Until she found out I lived in Japan. Then she was embarrassed.

French time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Serial Goodbyer

You think at this point in my life, having gone away for two years, leaving behind a thing called my life, and saying goodbye to the people I know, I would be used to it by now. And I guess for the most part I am.

It is not quite so hard for me to say goodbye anymore.

Because, for the most part, these things are temporary. When I said goodbye to my parents before I set off to Japan for a year, I was so very upset. I did not think I could survive a year without my parents telling me what to do, peers telling me who I had to be, and my environment making me feel comfortable. But I did, and I began too realize just how very strong I am. So strong, in fact, that when it was time for France, I barely lifted a hand to wave at my parents while I skipped through the gate. It was not out of spite, it was because goodbye is only a temporary thing, so why even say it at all sometimes?

It is a little different leaving the host country though. In that sense, even though you may know that you will be back, usually you do not know when. And everything that you have come to love will be different. You will not be a kid anymore, living in a host families house, struggling with language, friends, and life. Next time, you won't have that love at first sight, honey moon period, or gradual growing bliss of the host country. It becomes just normal, everyday life, and that never fascinates people. Even after a long absence, the things I miss most about Japan and France are not the first wonder and amazement with the place, it's the family and the way of life, which really became my own.

I am off to College tomorrow, the next big adventure in my life. Meanwhile, I am here in Verona, New Jersey, letting go yet and again and saying goodbye. There are some people I should say goodbye to that I have not even seen since my Senior year. There are some people who may pat me on the back and wish me luck, tell me to stop by when I come home for vacation, or hug me and tell me how much they miss me. I feel numb when this happens. I do not even know how to react. I do not feel anything usually. Have I hardened myself so much against goodbyes, that I am indifferent to them? Or I have just accepted the fact that goodbye truly is not forever? Circumstances withheld, that is.

I think I am just a serial goodbyer, about to commit another goodbye.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Back Here

Sometimes I think that this whole thing has been just one big dream. That I am just beginning to open my slumbering eyes to the creeping daylight pouring through my window. The bright movements and voices of the dream are alive and in full-force playing through my mind. But soon, once my mind becomes fully aware of the day, they'll fade like they always do. And the characters and setting of the dream will be forgotten or thrown in a waste bin in the back of my head.

But it was not a dream. It was reality. Reality normally gets a bad reputation, but this type of reality does not merit a bad reputation.

It merits the truth. That simple saying of c'est la vie can sum it up beautifully and be understood in two languages. Reality can be cruel, gentle, scary, boring, hopeful, understanding, unfair, harsh, bitter, magnificent, among others. This past year in France contains a few of those adjectives listed above. It was never easy, and there were times when I lost all faith in my capability. I guess that is another reason why the past year of my life was not what one could consider a dream, or for that matter even a nightmare. It was just life.

Being back in America is different than when i was back in America after a year in Japan. Back then, it was rather difficult, and painstakingly nightmarish. I had not been ready to leave Japan, and probably needed one more month to tie up all the loose ends of that year abroad. Being home in America was like being in a place that no matter how much you tried, your family tried, you just did not feel right being in. But this time it feels right to be home. For as sad as I was leaving France, I knew it was the right time. There came a point in my year in France, after all the traveling, when I began to just exist, and not really live. I needed to live again.

So why now? Why now do I come online and write about being back?

Because I have let go. I have let go of that quiet part of me that hoped my year in France would be the best year of my life, and I would never want to leave. That yearning part of me that wanted to be part of a family as crazy as the R's. The taste bud that reminded me just how French I was at every bite of cheese, sip of wine, and breaking of bread.

That's not who I am.

I'm Julie Garner, American by birth, French by necessity, and Japanese by dream. Now I am off to start the next great adeventure. Which happenes to be something just as different as a year in a foreign Asian country, trying to wave and accidentally sending someone to their death. Or as mind-boggling as a European nation, constantly on strike, barely ever working, and yet still managing to be a booming economy. For this born and bred Northern Yankee, I am off to the fiery dixieland of the American south, land of secession, fried chicken steak, and Southern Rock.

Clemson University, here I come!