Hannah Vlaar, our exchange student to France writes:
Hello Rotary, Family and Friends!
One more month has slipped away from this wonderful year, and time seems to be flying by. I can hardly believe that in a few short weeks I will be leaving what seems like my whole life behind me. Wow.
So if I remember correctly, last time I wrote I was on April holidays, enjoying the music festival in Bourges and basking in the Spring sun. The lovely thing about Europe is that Spring is an actual season, and it doesn't just jump from winter to hot summer days, as often happens in Canada. I have been enjoying the season to no end!

During the "Printemps de Bourges" (the week-long music festival in my city) I saw John Butler Trio, Rodrigo y Gabriela (Spanish guitarists), Olivia Ruiz (a French rock star), Coeur de Pirate (from Quebec!), and a slew of other musicians and street concerts! The city really did transform to accomodate the festival, and I went out and enjoyed it all.

The following week was wonderful - I'm still blown away by what amazing people I have met this year; and especially the warmth of my friends at school. I went shopping, ate ice cream, went swimming at the city pool, and just enjoyed life.

Last week of April, guess who showed up in Bourges? My parents! I had been worried sick a week before, because of the oh so accomadating Icelandic volcano... however they managed to get here with just a 30 hour delay. It was AMAZING to see them again, and we had a riot together! Mom and dad stayed with my first host family, and I was invited to join them as well for the week. They came to my high school for a day and met my friends, saw museums, visited my old city, and were hosted at dinner after delicious dinner. One night we got together with all three of my host families this year, and my parents. Such a blessing to have everyone together, and for my parents to meet the people who have taken such good care of me while I've been away.

We spent the first week of May travelling - most of our time was spent in Holland. We stayed three nights in a town called Medemblik, where my paternal great-grandparents were from; some of my family still resides there. I met my father's cousins and watched him speak fluent Dutch - who knew?! We always eat Dutch food in my family, and I felt instantly at home in Holland after my first Dutch breakfast! My parents and I spent our last day in Paris, wandering around, enjoying all the little discoveries that happen while wandering down the streets. Saying goodbye wasn't so hard, as I knew I'll be seeing them again soon.

Back in Bourges I was, but not for long! I got home Sunday, and the Wednesday morning at 7am, I left with my Rotary president, councillor and respective wives to... GERMANY! Our partner club was celebrating their 40th anniversary, and we were invited (along with clubs from England and Denmark) to celebrate with them! The town is called Eckernforde, and it is quite close to the Danish border. We ate lots of fish, as Eckernforde is a town on the Baltic Sea. I was staying with a great lady named Lisa - she taught me some German, and I helped her with the French! The German Rotary President asked me to translate his speech for the gala evening into French from English! With the help of Lisa we did it - yay!

When I got back to Bourges last Sunday, I was absolutely crushed. I was so happy to see my host family again, and even more so to see my bed. This week I enjoyed actually being at home, seeing my friends again, and (trying) to take up a normal schedule. Three of my friends and I made a video for "Image Imaginaire" - an afternoon of poetry, writings, and photography on June 4th. I was so pleased with how it turned out, and it was a joy doing it with my friends. I did have a couple days this week where I was really missing home, and just dying to be back with my family again.

As I'm sure you can see, I am really enjoying my exchange year. I have procrastinated sending this update for two reasons. 1. I knew I had to write it in English, and it is a demanding task these days, and 2. An update/summary means that more time has passed, and less time is left for me here. One of those things I just don't want to think about.

I'm in quite the catch 22 - I am so excited to come home to Canada. To see my brothers, my family and friends, my dog. However, I can't even imagine leaving France. My families, my friends, my city, the food... ! I'm taking everything one day at a time, and I know I will enjoy to the fullest what time I have left here!

Love to everyone at home, and thanks for tuning in!

Hannah xx

PS: It's that time of year that we're looking for host families for our incoming students! Two lovely 17 year old girls, one from Brazil and the other from Spain. Please contact Aad Vermeyden or Jay Veber if you are interested in hosting. Thank you!