America,  exchange buddies,  host family,  Huskers,  school

Month four

Quite some time has passed, and a lot has happened since the last time I updated my little online diary. It’s been a month, four weeks, if you must, since I let you know that I am still alive, living, and thriving.

Life got busier due to, more than anything, the winter sports season beginning. But before I got into it, I spent a weekend with my exchange best friend and her host family. The family of passionate fans of K-State offered to take me to a football game with them. So we went to Manhattan, Kansas, to watch the Wildcats beat Oklahoma. We arrived at the parking lot of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium four hours before the kickoff for a family gathering at the tailgate. I had to undergo many awkward conversations with strangers I probably won’t see again, being introduced as “the Czech friend of the family’s exchange student.” But at least we had time to take pictures with Willie the Wildcat, the cheerleaders, and the dance team. And the game was very much worth the wait. The atmosphere was incredible. Compared to Husker games, there weren’t as many people at KSU. However, the team wasn’t losing, so the crowd was cheerful, which made it even more enjoyable. And whenever I got confused about what was happening on the field, I had my bud beside me explain it. In my defense, she’s been in America two days longer than me and had more opportunities to understand the rules of football. 😀 After the game, we stayed at the family’s house in the Kansas countryside and crossed Nebraska state borders again the next day. Before we left, my host dad had warned me that Kansas is even flatter and less entertaining than Nebraska, thus, boring to drive through. He was right; I don’t remember anything from the ride there or back. I slept the whole time. But when I wasn’t currently catching up on my sleep deficit, I was having a marvelous time.

I thought the Kansas game would be my last experience with football (ever) since our school team’s season ended a while ago. Unexpectedly, I got to go to another high school state playoff with my friends in Aurora and even another college football game. It was the last home game of the Huskers, for which my host grandma and I went to Lincoln. Midway through November, the weather had gotten cold, and we were glad to have club seat tickets with easy access to the heated inside. As usual, Nebraska lost, though the game was thrilling, as the Huskers were close to winning until the very end. I’m glad I was able to experience college football games. It’s a big deal for Americans, and although I came here without any knowledge of football and its principles, I learned to comprehend the fun of it. And I fell in love with it.

Other than football which was nothing new anymore, I experienced another typically American thing – Halloween. It might seem like a big deal when you see it in movies, but it is not as much once you see it in real life. It wasn’t a big deal for me at all. Maybe that’s because I only have older siblings and no little kids in sight, but Halloween was almost as ordinary as any other day. I went to school, practice, and home. I didn’t go trick-or-treating; I didn’t even have a costume. To make it at least a bit festive, I went to a friend’s house, and together we watched horror movies and gave out candy to kids at the door.

The spooky season has ended, and all the Halloween decorations in stores started to be replaced by Christmas adornments. However, there is one more holiday we have to undergo before we can declare listening to Christmas music acceptable. And that is the one and only Thanksgiving. My host family and I went to grandma’s house, where, in total, twenty-two relatives from my host mom’s side of the family convened to celebrate the day. We sat and ate the Thanksgiving meal brought in parts by each of us. Of course, we didn’t miss out on significant turkey, the symbol of this holiday. We ate pie, took family group photos, and then spent the remaining time doing whatever. The males watched football, the ladies talked, and the kids played games. I met quite a few new people that day, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Some of them interrogated me just like I’m used to from newly encountered people familiar with the fact that I’m a foreigner. Most of those present were astounded by the homemade apple pie, a simple dessert that I decided to bake for the occasion the day before. I find it funny how impressed Americans can be by my simple skill, such as baking the easiest of goods from scratch. 😀 We concluded Turkey Day by watching the National Dog Show and Thanksgiving Parade streamed from New York City with my host family as another part of the yearly tradition. If anyone ever tries to convince you that Thanksgiving is mostly about feasting, believe them; they’re not wrong. I didn’t expect much from it; however, it was a lovely day with amazing people.

Regarding school, nothing too breakthrough happened. Besides finishing my first (somewhat) big sewing project in the fashion design class – pajama pants – and in physics, I not only learned science stuff but also to play 10-point pitch. Another one of my classes that can be intriguing is choir. And it has been. First, we had our first performance during the Veterans’ Day Program at school, and later, we attended the Lou-Platte Conference choir in Gibbon. Alongside people from choirs of four other schools and under the management of a music director from Lincoln, we spent all day practicing songs we’d all learned separately beforehand. The day full of singing was halted by a concert. The sound of around a hundred people singing was magical.

With American high school life come extra-curricular activities, but the fall (volleyball) season had ended a while ago, and it was time for it to get superseded by the winter sports season. For the next couple of months, I chose wrestling, a sport I’d neither done nor seen before. Before the practices officially started, we had two weeks of preseason conditioning, running, and working out. Right after the first day, I knew it would be challenging. Much harder than volleyball, where I barely ever did anything. As the season began, I started to come home late, with all my muscles sore, sweaty, exhausted, and yet pleased. Though wrestling is physically and mentally demanding, I find joy in it. Every day after school, I go to practice, and no matter how impaired my day was beforehand, I come out of the wrestling room more content.

Although it got harder to maintain it now, I still have a social life, and whenever I am not too busy or weary after practice, I try to spend time with others. Some days I would go out with my friends, wander around the mall or Walmart, or just cruise. I went to the theater with a group to watch Marvel’s Wakanda Forever the day it came out. At home, we made watching another new Marvel movie – a Christmas special – a family time and watched it together. And, to properly kick off the Christmas season, we put up Christmas lights and decorations around the house and watched a favorite family Christmas movie. It’s starting to get Christmassy inside the house and all around. We even had this year’s first snow! I’ve also already gone shopping for Christmas presents quite a few times. With my friends when we had nothing to do, and with my host sister, as a bonding time.

My host family and I, occupying their house since four months ago, still have a lot to explore about each other. It is not always as easy to reach out to them as it would be if I’d known them my whole life, yet we have had beautiful moments together. Genuine conversations without feeling uncomfortable or as if being judged, concerning everything from Czech schools to potential stripper names, or teaching them to pronounce the weird sounds and words my native language contains. Extraordinary ordinary instants that make me feel at home here, with them.

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