Monday, January 23, 2012

The Phone Call

Yesterday, it was the first Outbound Orientation of Rotary District 5360 (southern Alberta).  I met the other 17 students who will leave for the exchange this August, as well as some Rotarians, counsellors, coordinators and senior Rotex's (former exchange students).   At the orientation, I was so impressed by everyone’s open-mindedness, how easily I became friends with everyone, and I had a great time listening to the Rotexs’s exchange stories.  They were so meaningful because I can imagine that the same types of situations (such as getting lost or embarrassing myself) can also happen to me during my exchange.  Let's face it; we all make mistakes after all! 

During the orientation, each Outbound had an interview regarding about their preferences of their future host country.  (For those who don't know, Rotary chooses the country for the student, according to his or her preferences.  Sometimes it could be radically different though, which is a fun surprise in a sense.)  I was amazed how quickly my interview flew by!  It was just a single interview where a coordinator (who actually became my future coordinator for my host country) and a senior Rotex asked me a few simple questions.  The first one was bang on straight forward:

"So which country do you want to go to?"

I could have blurted, "THAILAND! SPAIN! VENEZUELA! GERMANY!" or perhaps "NORWAY!"... literally all over the map.  But the truth is, I had no preferences at all!  I told them that I would be happy to go to the country no one asked for.  (One another note: students of the same district generally head to separate countries.)

After, they asked what my hobbies are, what I enjoy doing during my free time, what food I like and dislike, and weather conditions I prefer etc… you get the gist of it.  Most of the time, my answers were open ranged, leaving them a wide variety of countries to choose from.  When the interview was over, I first thought I made a huge mistake of saying that I can have that last-open-spot-no-one-wanted. 

Anyways, we were informed that we’d know our own host country in about a week after some 'lengthy debating' among the adults.  So I went home that same day, trying to relieve my excitement and worries.  However, it got really crazy again because my mom started to freak out after I told her that I specifically said in the interview, I would be more than glad to go to the last open spot!  Even I started to panic!

After a few (well as a matter of fact several) minutes, the heat of our discussion finally cooled down, and we both sat down to talk more.  I don't know how, but our moment of panic transitioned into a deep conversation about the whole idea of judging countries.  I was so amazed how my mom apologized to me for freaking out, because she realized that it really didn't matter where I was going.  She was actually proud of me for not making any judgements or rankings of individual countries.  Yesterday was another unforgettable day at home, and I will never forget about her profound statement she said to me (in Japanese): you never know the true greatness of a nation until you go and live there


Today, I got an unexpected phone call from a Rotarian in Calgary.  At first, I thought it was something about a forgotten personal belonging at the Orientation.  But then it suddenly hit me: he phoned to inform me my host county!! WAAAAAHHHHHH~!!! I thought I would know this at the end of this week!!! ... but NOW?!  My emotions were just exploding inside of me, thinking this is the moment, this is the moment!!!

"You are going to ...brance." said the Rotarian

"Sorry sir, could you please repeat that again?" as I questioned him. (What? Is there such a country called Brance?)

"...brance" he replied.

"... uh... Brance?!" (Hm... it doesn't sound like Brazil...)

"No, you are going to ...vvrance."

(Oh lord.)

This repeated at least four times until he had to speak reaaaallllyyy sloooowwwwllly..... (oh my how embarrassing, and what a good, good start...) My family who were listening to my voice were laughing at me so much!

Anyways, it turns out that my host country is ….. (*drum roll*)….. FRANCE!!!   (Obvious enough?)  I think I screamed into the poor Rotarian's ear as loud as if I was on a thilling roller coaster ride.  Oops.  

Wow.  I am so happy for my placement, and I am really surprised too, since my counsellor told me that France (and also Switzerland) are known to be very popular top choices, and I, the one who said okay to the 'open spot', is going to France?!  Unbelievable.

After all those days and weeks and months of anticipation that burned inside of me since November is now thankfully calm, now that I know which country I'll be living in.  Now, I can start learning their language!  But all I can say is: Je ne parle pas français, meaning, I do not speak French.  Yikes... I better start learning now.

Merci beaucoup Rotary et bonne nuit! ♥