My home away from sweet home

18:44, Jan 24 2013
nadia van der sanden
SUNSHINE: Nadia van der Sanden enjoys the Park of Science in Valencia while visiting Spain.

Geraldine High School student Nadia van der Sanden's stay in Belgium is almost at an end.

Five months down, one month to go. Just like that my stay in Belgium is almost over. It is the final countdown. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone.

If I were to describe my last fortnight in one word it would be "blue". A week ago I was suffering a severe case of the winter blues.

It is hard not to get the blues when you are facing your second winter in a row, and it is impossible not to get them when the second winter is a northern winter. So, for a few weeks when the sun didn't come out and the temperature didn't hit above zero, I went through a down patch. All I did was go to school, eat, sleep and drink hot chocolate. When it is minus-10 degrees Celsius outside you are not motivated to do more.

Then on Saturday, I hopped on an aeroplane and hit the Mediterranean coast to discover the happiness blue skies, blue mountains and a blue ocean can give you. I spent three days in Valencia, which is in the south of Spain. It was wonderful. We had lovely sunny 17degC weather (for me that is practically boiling point), several clouds, a rather hefty breeze and - most importantly - blue skies. Playing tourist in Valencia, walking along the beach barefoot and eating churros, paella and tapas was absolutely fantastic. Sure, it might have dented the wallet and hit the waistline, but that is a price I am willing to pay for the lifted spirits and the tinsy tiny sun tan that makes me feel slightly less ghost and slightly more human.

It was my first time in Spain and I fell in love. The colourful houses, the red earth, the trees full of ripe decorative oranges lining the streets. The people, the meal times - it was all wonderful. My newest and latest ambition is to learn Spanish and play tourist for the rest of my life.


Valencia itself is a very modern city, with some fantastic sci-fi-like architecture and the cleanest, most peaceful metro I have ever used. If you go to Spain I imagine it is a must see, but I wouldn't know, I haven't seen the rest of Spain.

This week, my life as a foreigner at school is about to take on a whole new level of scary. I am about to go on stage for the first time speaking French in front of my host family and friends. Boy, oh boy, am I nervous about my Belgian debut.

I will be presenting a small set of scenes from a play written by an Australian playwright (I think the reason I got the part in this sketch is because my drama teacher thinks I am Australian). I play the role of a mother who has reclaimed her 13-year-old daughter after nine years apart due to financial complications. It is a challenging role in English. I am performing in French in front of native French speakers.

In other news from the past fortnight, I had a visit from a good friend from back home. It was a great weekend. I hadn't realised quite how much I have missed small-town gossip and good old fashioned catchup sessions aided by a block of chocolate and a beer or two. It was wonderful to see her again and now I cannot wait to catch up with my family and other friends. This brings me to an awkward emotional crossroad as I cannot wait to see my family and New Zealand again, but then I also really, really do not want to leave my life in Belgium behind. Another thing that brought happiness back into my life was that during the plane ride home from Spain the whole of France was covered in cloud. Then, as we reached Belgium, the clouds disappeared leaving us with the magnificent view of a snow-covered Belgium and a wonderful sunset. As we pulled into the driveway, I got that wonderful feeling of "ah I'm home", proving the point that Belgium is truly my second home.

The Timaru Herald