So, I'll start off from where I left in December. It was almost Sinterklaas! Wikipedia does a pretty good job of defining Sinterklaas, if you're curious about what it is. :)
On Sinterklaas, I went shopping in Maastricht with my host sister Inge and her boyfriend Jeroen. Then, that night, we walked to Inge's grandmother's house for a big Sinterklaas celebration. There were probably about 30 people crammed into a tiny apartment, but it was really nice. I got to meet all the cousins and aunts and uncles - for some reason a lot of them thought I was "Megan" from "Australia" so I straightened that out.. haha! Then that night all of the younger people went out together to Maastricht. So much fun!
A few days later I went to a sinterklaas party with all of my friends from Porta Mosana at a girl named Charlotte's house. It was super!!! We all made gifts with a little poem attached and a cool way of wrapping - for example, my present was hidden inside a paper mache "zwarte piet".
There were a couple of other December evenings at Charlotte's, always fun! One time, a bunch of people from our class got together and had a sleepover there and we watched "earth" and dutch children's cartoons all night.
The next few weeks were not too great, my host father had some heart complications and was in the hospital, so we were all very worried about him. He's doing well now though, so that is good!!
On December 18, I moved in with my "Christmas" host family. They lived in Schinnen, which is a tiny little village quite a way from Maastricht . They were pretty great - they have a little dog named Timido who I absolutely love, and my room was so beautiful. I felt like I was living in one of those Ikea show rooms. There was even a sauna! I spent a few days of the Christmas holidays with other exchange students, and had a couple adventures with my hosts too! We went to the Christmas market in Aachen, Germany, and I went with my host cousins to "Narnia" in the theater.
Christmas was pretty different here from at home! First off, there are 2 days of Christmas, the 25th and the 26th. Gifts are given on the night of the 24th, instead of the morning of the 25th. My family is pretty informal about Christmas, but I discovered that my host family wasn't! I came down for dinner in jeans and a comfy sweater on the 25th, to find everyone else in cocktail dresses and heels. Oops! haha The dinner was huge too - there were 8 courses, and a menu!
On new years, I went to Eindhoven with my friend Julia, who comes from Maine USA. It was really cool! people were setting off fireworks in the streets everywhere, and it was actually a little scary when the firecrackers would go off every 3 seconds- apparently it's legal to do fireworks here! Haha Jules and I saw a policeman helping some kids set up their fireworks, and then he was the one to set them off!
On the 3rd of January, I started at my new school in Hoensbrook. It was not so cool to be the new kid again, but I met a lot of new people, and I actually go to school with an exchange student from the USA now, so that's nice. On the 5th, I moved in with my current host family. They're really great! I live only about a 10 minute bike ride from school - and no hills!
I've been going a few times a week to help a lady with her horse - it just had a neck surgery and needs quite a bit of time and care before it'll be ok to ride again. I love being able to hang out with a horse again, I miss mine so much! And the lady who owns him is really sweet too, even though she only speaks German. It's interesting when we try to communicate, there's lots of hand signals and guessing. I was super excited to find out that I do, however, understand a surprising amount of German! sometimes it's similar to dutch. I love going to her house, she has two dogs, three rabbits, and a cat, so I get to snuggle all the critters and it makes me miss my own dogs and cats a little less. Her husband is a rotarian, and he's very nice too. Last weekend, we all went to an ice hockey game together, and because he is one of the top sponsors, we had great seats and were able to have coffee in the lounge afterwards. Super cool! There are 3 Canadians on the team, and I was introduced to one of their girlfriends - she came from Toronto. She was pretty impressed that I spoke a bit of dutch, because she's lived in Holland 3 years and doesn't know much at all - everyone here speaks English.
Next week, I'm going to go to Amsterdam with my host parents. yay! I'm looking forward to it!