The Last Week RSS feed for this section
national flag of denmark

Our eyes were so red from crying…



The last weekend was awful.  I was so sad, but I missed my family and friends at home.  I had the time of my life.  I was blessed to have those people, that family.  The match couldn’t have been more perfect.  An incredible bond.  At the airport all of our friends were there to surprise us and say goodbye.  Our eyes were so red from crying, crying, crying.


Brazil Flag

I cried all the way home




My 3rd family had a huge party for me the night before I left.  I stayed up all night packing.  I had kept putting it off.  I didn’t pack anything until the night before I left.  Friends came over and stayed up all night with me.  I didn’t sleep at all.

I cried.  I spent the last 48 hours crying, crying, crying.  Pictures at the airport show me with puffy eyes.  I was crying all the way home on plane.

All the families came to the party.  Seventy-plus people at the party, catered.  We spent weeks making invitations.  They made all these flags with American and Brazilian colors.  It was quite the scene.  Somehow they rigged a bonfire on a tennis court without burning the tennis court.  It was great fun!


Flag of Sweden

I wanted to defect



Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.



I wanted to defect when it was time to come home.  But I’m really strong on agreements, and I agreed that I would come home.  (Laughter)  I’m still really strong on agreements but I was not ready to go.  I was not ready to go.  We all cried.  It was not something that we were ready to do.


Oh, my gosh, [those last days] were awful.  They were really awful.  We were running about getting a few pictures of things that I didn’t have.  Going to different friends and shaking hands or hugging and saying good-bye, and exchanging addresses.



English: The Ferris Wheel at Liseberg in Gothe...

English: The Ferris Wheel at Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden. Svenska: Pariserhjulet på Liseberg i Göteborg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



There was a dinner and everybody came to the airport.  The aunts, the uncles, the papa, the mama, the boyfriends of the girls.  And we just — it was really amazing, ’cause I was hanging out the train window and I didn’t want to let them go, and they disappeared, and it was awful.  It was awful.


But I came home and immediately got a lecture about the way I was dressed.  I wasn’t a wearing a bra.  I decided they weren’t necessary there.  I had a couple mini-skirts that were pretty doggone short, and when we stopped at the restaurant to have dinner when they picked me up, my dad swatted my rear end and said go put some pants on.


They found more self-confidence, both of them said.  I asked my mother about it when we were out to dinner a while ago, and I told her I was going to be cooperating with you on this, and she said “we saw a lot more self-confidence, and your dad learned to appreciate you.  He missed you –  a lot.”   So that was nice.

West Germany National Flag

We smelled to high hell

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.



So tell me about your last week there?

That was fun.  It was mostly last-minute celebrations.  School had let out by then, and I had some girlfriends that I was really close to.  Each of those groups threw me a little party.  The one group of friends that we had–we would always cook together– so they gave me a cookbook.  Don’t ask me why, but they signed my leg, lots and lots of writing all over my leg, like a cast but obviously no cast.

Bahnhof Steinebach

image of Bahnhof Steinebach by thomas mies (Flickr)

Another friend of mine, we had a nice Saturday afternoon and we all got together and we actually painted her room.  She gave us artistic license so we could put whatever we wanted on the wall.  We each had a little portion of wall canvas and put our own thing up there and it was kind of a fun thing.

Two nights before I left, they had a party.  Steinebach is a real small town on a lake, and we all got together late in the evening and had a little fire by the lake.  They dared me to jump in and we all jumped in the lake and it was dark and scary.  We were covered with smoke and soot and everything else.

We got out of the water and we’re having our sausages over the fire and drinking our wine or whatever.

At the end of the night, a very long evening, we decided it was time to head back home.   We we got on our bikes–me and Helena and another friend of ours–and we’re riding our bikes back to the house.  It’s pretty late, and we pass an orange Mercedes, which is the same car as my host parents drove, and the car slowed down…and we slowed down…because we thought it was my host parents.

We looked into the car and it was these two men, and we flipped out.  We got so scared and we started to ride our bikes really really fast away, and they did kind of a u-turn, and kind of were following after us, and of course that just sent us into a huge panic.  We saw a farm house and we jumped off our bikes and ran through the yard.  Of course it was pitch black outside, and there’s a huge pile, like a little hill in the yard, and so we run smack into this hill and climb over it, and we get to the door and we’re like, there’s a car chasing us, help, help us!

I can’t even imagine what we looked like!  We were covered in soot, we had been in the lake, and what we had run through was a pile of manure!

Manure. Czech countryside

Image via Wikipedia – not the real pile of manure!

This is a rural little town and the farmer was…you know, I can’t even imagine what his thoughts were.  There were these three young women, we smelled to high hell, and the look on his face, though, was priceless.  So we gave him the phone number of my host parents and he called them and they came and got us.

We went back the next day and got the bikes.  I remember when I walked into the bathroom my host mom was like, “Oh…my…god, you wreak!”  We had been sweating.  “Please don’t take a shower yet, you’re gonna get a cold, and your mother is going to think that I didn’t take good care of you while you were here.”

And I was like, I have to take a shower, and I jumped into the shower and got all clean.  I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, oh my god, I cannot imagine what those people thought of us as we were banging on the door.  Of course I did catch a cold and she would not let up about that.  She was like I told you…  So that was the culminating event.

It was certainly memorable!

One of hardest cries I’ve ever had in my life…

A Reflection on Departing.  March 2004, by Lilian Kennedy, AFS LA to AUSTRIA

Lilian Kennedy

"Give me back my AFS people, my memories, my heart."


I had to leave Austria July 9th (my host mom’s birthday).  It was one of the most sad and painful parts of my exchange.

Every single person was crying.  Every single one.

Guys, girls, counselors, families, everyone.   I think that was one of hardest cries I’ve ever had in my life, the tears just would not stop and I hugged my host sis and dad so so hard, I didn’t want to let go.

I knew in heart that it was time for me to go home, but it was just so hard to let go, to just leave behind this life and all the people in it.  The night before I had said goodbye to a lot of my friends, including my two best ones, Kathi and Simi, and we cried so hard too.  It was so painful.

Lilian Kennedy, Austria, AFS

Lilian Kennedy, Austria, AFS


I felt mad at AFS, like I wanted to kick and scream and scratch it.

In the brochures and information packets the exchange was described as this amazing experience, all smiles and wonderfulness.  It was almost like I was lied to.  I never got a real warning for this pain, the leaving part.  No one told me how your exchange claims a part of your heart and never lets go.  Or how badly it hurts when you had to leave the home of that part of your heart.

And now, I am so glad.

A lot of people are afraid of emotional pain and risk; Austria and my exchange cured me.  I don’t know if my pre-exchange self would have done my exchange if I had known what was in store for me those six months.  I don’t know if my pre-exchange self could have comprehended the times of just incredible and surreal beauty either though.

Those moments were so pristine and transcending I will never forget them, or could ever forget them.