A Year in Review
[If you don't want to read all of the details, feel free to skip to the last paragraph, where there is a three sentence summary!]
I celebrated the beginning of 2006 with Marco and his friends from Google in Dublin, Ireland. We stayed out until almost dawn, called my family at East Coast time and watched Dick Clark's party (sans Dick) and the ball drop in NYC on the internet. It didn't really seem like the New Year until that.
January was spent teaching and saving money. (And turning in grad school applications.) I also got to play in some volleyball tournaments in the southern part of my region in France (Champagne). In February, I went to Nancy with Alice and Martin to visit Isabelle and Anne-Helene. On the return trip, we stopped in Luxembourg, Luxembourg - which was fabulous.
A week later, I picked Caroline up in Paris. We spent the day walking farther than any one person ever should and then stayed in the red light district (by accident). Braving snow, we got up the next morning and flew to Barcelona.
We met Marco in Spain and saw everything Gaudi, ate paella, drank Sangria, and touched the Mediterranean Sea at night. We missed our flight back but still survived. Caroline stayed in Charleville for a week. Then, we rented a car and saw Sedan, got stuck for five hours on the highway in Belgium (the Red Cross even came by), and finished by driving to Germany.
We spent a few days there, braved a snow storm in the Black Forest, ate in the town Caroline's family comes from, and saw two castles. We hit Straousburg in Alsace and visited a concentration camp before heading back. It was back to the USA for Caroline after that and back to work for me.
I spent the next few months realizing I was pretty fluent in french, hanging out with the kids from l'Aumonorie, and my French family (Alice, Hugues, et Martin). We had a film festival, baked cookies, and learned swing dancing before school let out and my time at Lycee Chanzy was finished. Saying goodbye to everyone there was difficult, especially since I knew I might never see them again. I also dealt with one of the most morally challenging experiences of my entire life (thus far).
My attention was refocused by camping at Taize for a week though. I loved the people I met there and felt a renewed sense of the spirit. Then, I went back to Charleville for the last time, said goodbye, repacked my belongings in a post office, and left for les Champagnules. We went to western France for the weekend and sang in a bunch of languages and I got to finish my time in France with the first people that really challenged me to speak French. I then said goodbye to Roger and his family - which was sad since they had so generously taken me in time and again!
I made it back to the States for my birthday - the first time I was home with my parents on my birthday in four years. Two weeks later I went to Norfolk for work at the VA HOBY conference, where I had gone as a high school sophomore. I was hooked immediately and have been working as a volunteer for them since.
In late May, I went to Colorado to visit my sister and had a blast seeing the Rocky Mountains with her and my parents. I spent the summer trying to find a place to live in DC, babysitting, and struggling with some very stupid boy problems (practicality is hard to find when your heart is involved).
In August, I moved into my first apartment in Maryland. I got a fantastic roommate who I've known since elementary school and landlords who are cool about almost everything. Dana and I almost immediately took a trip to Ocean City, NJ to see Grandmother and company. Nothing can beat a relaxing trip to my favorite place in the world. Nanny even remembered me! When we got back, I started classes at American University in the Public Communication program. It was a bumpy beginning, but I got used to the insane amount of reading soon enough.
We had plenty of football viewings at the apartment, and I got to hang out with some great friends from USC. Slowly but surely I started making friends at school too, and after that, life was basically perfect. We went pumpkin picking and watched movies and partied, and I've never felt like a part of the group like that before in my life. I also managed to see all sorts of places in DC, which is, of course, exciting.
Marco came in for a few days in October, and though I had to work for most of them, it was still good to see him again. Early November brought election time and I got to work for two different campaigns - on in MD and the other in VA. It was cool to be able to experience first-hand what may, one day, be my future job(s).
In mid-November, I went to Florida to watch them beat the Gamecocks by one measly point. The weekend was spent with family and people who might as well be family and it was really fun. I faced a person I never thought I could and was glad to have gotten past that first step. Paul, the newest member of the deForges family was born too. Then it was back to school and then down to NC for Thanksgiving.
I worked my tail off late in the semester, but still found plenty of time between working and school to hang out with my pals from the PC progam. I also managed to get myself mixed up in boy problems again (stupidity really does kill, you know). As I slowly tried to extricate myself, I spent more time with friends (who are becoming better and better all the time). The Holiday Party, charity basketball game, final exams, Lindsay's blast (sleepover), and then our Caroling Party rounded out December in DC.
I headed to NC for the holidays, where my whole immediate family would be together for the first time in five years (for Christmas). We sang together at midnight mass - laughing the whole time and came home and opened presents ... finally traipsing to bed around 4am. Eve dinner by Mom, Day dinner by Lorien, Salmon by Travis ... lots of good food in a few short days. Then we got news about family friends, three of whom did not survive a plane crash. It's been sort of a rough patch since then, but we're all coping in our own ways.
Today a photographer came and took family portraits at the house. These are the first portraits we've had since I was fifteen - and that was only one shot from a cruise! As soon as I get them, I'll post some, but I warn you I'm wearing make-up ... a rare occurrence. We've stayed up late a bunch of nights this week, playing games and watching West Wing. I feel like the tragedy is helping us realize that we need to spend more quality time together.
2007 will begin with a family trip to Florida for the funerals. Then we'll drop Travis back at UF. Mom and Dad are keeping Rohan, Lorien's dog, in NC with them and Shadow, and Lorien is coming up to stay with me for awhile until she finds a job and a place. It may be weird sharing a room again, especially with my sister, but I like that she'll be so close by. Dad even has an interview in DC in January ... pray about him getting that!
So much has happened in the past 365 days. I've been to six countries, a bunch of French provinces, 9 states (and DC). Visited with both of my best friends, had a religious renewal, dealt with really weird personal life issues, taught in a French high school, started graduate school, lost and made friends, got my first apartment, managed straight A's, finally become social, and spent alot of quality time with my family. So many of those things are good and wonderful. I hope 2007 brings more of the same. May God bless you and keep you in this upcoming year. I hope to continue bringing you news of my adventures and looking forward to hearing about yours too! Love always, ~Heather