I’m sitting on the back porch with a coffee and my guitar. The new spring sun warms my skin, eased by a cool Belgian breeze. I am calm. I hear the chatter of the spring flowers behind the melody of European Magpies, both celebrating the new life of springtime. However, the pink and white flowers which now decorate my garden bring a new shade of grey for me, as it marks the beginning of the end. For when the pink and white flowers begin to yellow, and the purple summer poppies take their place, it will be time for me to go home. There remain just two months until I will be soaring again over the Pacific. Although that date has been approaching fast, I was still able to enjoy the last few months between exploring Europe and finalizing a long-term self project.
During the long months of Belgian winter, my biological sister, Sadie, who is studying abroad in London, and I decided to take a trip. To escape the harsh weather of each of our countries, we decided to discover Andalusia: a coastal and sun-baked region in the South of Spain. The trip was amazing, and, to my surprise, my sister and I got along extremely well throughout the week. We visited three major cities in the region: Seville, Malaga, and Granada. Traveling across the expanse of desert, eating tapas, listening to authentic tango music, and visiting local wine bars, I could see why Andalusia is a known destination for both artists and tourists. I highly enjoyed the experience and came back to Belgium with a full dose of vitamin D. In the last couple of months I also had the opportunity to visit London and Cologne, Germany. I am continuously fascinated by each culture I come across and will be traveling as much as possible in the time that remains.
While I was away in Spain, I had to continue practicing my comedy sketch for my high school’s Cabaret. At the beginning of the year, I auditioned to perform a comedic one-man show, in French, in front of the entire school. Called the “Christ Rois Cabaret,” this event is of extreme importance for the little town of Ottignies. It is the artistic pride and joy of the parents and the party of the year for the students. The seven hundred and fifty tickets available sell out in a matter of minutes. Auditioning, I knew nothing of this. For my Stand-up audition, I put a little sketch together about being an exchange student, and worked with my host sister, Marie, to translate it into French. After being accepted, I started writing the full-length sketch and began to realize the importance of the event. Nerves rose as the date grew closer, and, before I knew it, I found myself face to face with a thin red drape hiding me from hundreds of eager eyes. Staring at the soft velvet of the drapes, I noticed my heart rate rising. The rate of the incline was steady and reminded me of a ceiling fan just after given power. I was scared. However, when the red drapes peeled away, I took a deep breath and took my place. I stared into the blinding lights and with a burst of courage said my first line, “Bonsoir, je m’appelle Hunter…Chasseur pour les intimes.” Before I knew it, I was once again hidden by the red velvet. Through my sigh of relief, I could hear the crowd chanting my name, and the feeling of accomplishment I had at that moment was one of the best I have had in my life.
==> A video of my comedy sketch can be found on YouTube HERE <==
As I have been making some important decisions about my career and future, I have used this year to help myself define my values. They say an exchange is a maturing experience, and I couldn’t agree more. It was my first experience without parental guidance and truly left to my own motivation. In retrospect, I can see what I was willing to work for, what I was not; what made me happy and what did not. Yes, it is true, the pink and white flowers will soon yellow, and it will be time for me to head home. However, between traveling and French, I can say I took full advantage of my year in Belgium and will be returning a person changed for the better.
Me, middle right, and some exchange students in central Brussels.
A view from ancient ruins in Malaga, Spain.
My sister and I in the famous Alhambra of Granada.
The typical orange trees that compliment the streets in Andalusia, Spain. Taken in Seville.
My sister, Sadie, and I having a laugh in Malaga, Spain.
My friends Scout and Lars in the old town of Cologne, German.
A photo of an old man taking a swim in the Mediterranean on the beaches of Malaga, Spain.
The famous Cologne cathedral.
My friends Lars, left, Sound, middle, and my host sister Marie inspecting the stained class in the Cologne cathedral.
My sister, Sadie, stylishly looking at cameras in London.
Note: Hunter is on a year program from our Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Area Team (AT) to Belgium, 2018-2019. He is the recipient of an AFS-USA scholarship, the Helen Peggie Miller $5,000 merit- and needs-based scholarship. And,he is also the recipient of a GLA local merit-based scholarship.