To my surprise our one round of pillow fighting lasted for hours. We took a break for lunch and later found other players and got everyone together. Besides feathering the halls, corridors and elevator with someone's busted pillow, we decided to have a giant sleepover in a corridor. So we grabbed our mattresses and got together to enjoy the night together. I sat there and looked around the room and realized I was surrounded by people I didn't know three months before but had become to love like family. They were people I shared a million memories and cultural experiences with. They were the people who changed my view of the world. They became just more than people I had good times with.
It was that night that I realized how much my life had changed and what I had learned. It was a ride for me in every aspect. Though I wanted to see my family and friends back home, my heart ached to face the fact that I was leaving people, a dorm and a country that touched my heart in ways I never thought possible. Considering the horror I had to go through adjusting to the living arrangements, it's safe to say that they more I lived through it, the more I became to enjoy its oddity. In a country where I was "exotic", as much as it bothered me and sort of put me off, I had to realize that when I got back home, I was just like everyone else. Most of all, the people were who I would miss the most.
I was parting from a piece of me that was desperately needed to build the hope that exists because of this whole experience. I never really knew what I was capable of doing, but it pulled more out of me than I thought possible or that was even a part of me. This experience took myths and stereotypes and crushed them to ashes, took the dreams that I had and expanded them and gave me hope for my future that absolutely anything is possible. I learned to love, trust and help complete strangers. I gave up the notion that I was merely another soul in this world, but became fond of the fact that my soul is one to change lives. In every way, shape and form, I certainly hope I did that much in my life so far.
I think that there are areas that I could still grow from, places I could have learned more in, lessons I didn't exactly pass. But I have the slightest hint that it will all be alright and the determination to complete the marathon I am in, to finish and strong. So you may wonder what I learned from this experience. I learned to be independent but also to trust others. I learned to treat people better than I want to be treated because all some people need is kindness and it may be the one thing to get them through the day. I learned a lot can be accomplished through food and sometimes the greatest gifts are fellowship. A lot of healing for me was traveling and seeing the world for what it is; beautiful, faults and all. Cups of tea and hot chocolate can calm a raging storm and bring peace that no heated battle could end.
Before I left I made sure I said my good-byes. I hugged everyone, even if I didn't get to know them as well as I would have liked. So as I rode to the bus station, my roommate helped me with everything. She took me to the bus and helped me with my luggage and all I remember was people standing outside looking at us. A girl from Hong Kong and an "exotic" girl crying like babies. But what they didn't know about us was the bond we made. I remember crying the whole way to the airport and crying myself to sleep on the bus. Never having had to make this type of separation, I felt like a piece of me had been ripped straight from my body and all that was left there was an open gash that needed mending. That mending comes from the memories that I have of those people who touched my life in unimaginable ways.
To those who had the most amazing dinners, don't forget to stop by my house on your way through, and I want you all to know I loved cooking for you. To those who taught me your local dances, songs, food, games and languages, thank you. You have all inspired me to go above and beyond what I thought I could and you have taught me to love and seek out life. I won't forget the chocolate, tea parties, nights at Mandarin, hall dinners, broken glass windows, Vinařská forbidden activities and the unimaginable fun times we had. Love you all dearly and can't wait to see you again in your home towns.