This here is the story of how one shy, gawky teenage girl ended up in a foreign country. She didn't speak the language, didn't have any international travel experience, and was only 14.
It's the summer of 1994, and I am about to start high school. As many of you recall, the feelings at that point are a mixture of excitement, horror, fear, and being just a tad more grown up. This packet was mailed to us from the school, with information on various things like locker location, my class schedule, etc. Being 14, I was much more interested in these items than the little yellow half sheet that floated to the ground from my hands. It looked kind of like this:
Below it said something to the effect of "the iron curtain has lifted! 3 week student exchange to Belarus and Russia..." and I'm sure there was more. These words meant NOTHING to me. I could have cared more about the state of my mom's brother's girlfriend's little sister's BFF's nails at that point. (Yes I made that up, I like to exaggerate)
My father, however, snatched that thing off the floor like it was on fire, and started reading it. My mom was in the room, and so then he starts getting all excited. He's not reading it out loud, and so my mom is watching him, wondering what on earth he's on about. He hands it to her, and she starts reading it. They had a brief eye conversation (you know, the ones where looks communicate for you), and then my dad announces that I'm going on this exchange.
My 14 year old, teenage stupid self, riles against this immediately. I'm about to start a NEW school, with NEW friends who don't know how awkwardly geeky I was previously, and I sure as heck don't want to just up and leave in the middle of that.
Thankfully, my parents are very, very smart, and they let me know in no uncertain terms that I would, indeed, be going on this trip, and that it would change my life.
Little did we all know how true that cliche would turn out to be.
To be continued...
Part Two Here