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Spending 3 days in a car all by yourself make you think about life. Why you're doing things the way you're doing. And such.

Day one.

Fuck there's a snowstorm now. I gotta leave before it gets worse... As soon as I started my car I thought: why on earth am I doing this? Why am I risking my life in a snow storm to see a band play? Why am I even driving over 1000 miles to see them? What makes it worth it?

Fuck someone had an accident. That could've been me. I should just turn around and go home. No, I can't. I can't give up now. Fuck, another accident.

At accident number 25 I decide to stop counting. The weather has been bad for hours. I can't even see the difference between the road, the fields around it and the sky. It's all white. Jesus, I'm still driving only 30 miles per hour. This is gonna be bad. This was the worst idea ever.

After hours of driving, I somehow made it to Lexington, Nebraska. I booked a room in a random hotel and had a meal. Tomorrow's gonna be better.

Day two.

Alarm clock goes off. Rianne, it's enough. You've been crazy enough to follow these guys all across Europe, it's enough. Go home, and never do this again. But I survived a snowstorm. It can't get worse now... Plus, I'll just drive very relaxed, make lots of stops.... it'll be fine. Okay, I'll go to Iowa.

If you think Nebraska is boring, go to Iowa. Ofcourse it didn't help that it was snowing - again. After 9 hours of driving, and only 2 touristy stops made, I finally booked a hotel again.

Day three.

Fucking jesus, it snowed again. And my car is parked on the private road up the hill of the hotel.... and it's snowy and icy. How on earth am I going to get down here?! I'll never survive this. But I have to. I want to see Green Day.

As the snow melted and the sun made everything look better, I started realising it. I was such a lost soul before I knew Green Day. A young and naive girl. About to graduate high school, wanting to go to art school. But everyone said to go for something more assuring of a job. And they said to get married after and have lots of babies and have a great career. I never wanted any of that, but everyone said that that's the way you're supposed to live your life. About to do what everyone told me to, I saw American Idiot on TV. And that was the first step. After seeing Green Day live on July 7th 2005, I was sure I was going to make my own decisions. As Billie Joe said "don't let these bastards dictate your life". A light was turned on inside me. Those words inspired me to make something of my life. I did end up going to art school. I lost most of my friends cause I started speaking up for myself. After graduating art school, everyone in my class found a job. But I wanted to make another decision - again. I went to Cambodia for 3 months, and I had the time of my life. After spending almost a year making random travels and going on the Europe tour, I made the decision to go to the States as an au pair. The family in Philadelphia just wasn't what I expected. 8 years ago I would've cried my eyes out, thinking it was all my fault. But not now. Not the new me. I moved to a new family in Denver. It turns out the Philly family has been talking shit about me behind my back and spreading lies. Things like that used to get me down, but I just don't care anymore. If they decide to spread lies about me, that says more about them than about me. The new family in Denver is awesome. And I cannot believe I'm driving in Illinois right now, to see my favorite band again. Beside my family, Green Day is the only thing that stuck with me over the past 8 years. They're my constant, for those who know Lost. They changed my life. That music touched my heart, and for that, I will always love them.

As I'm driving up to Chicago, I realise how incredibly lucky I am. I have the privilege of calling multiple countries my home country. I have seen different parts of the world. I have travelled to places tourists usually wouldn't go, and I have done things no one thought I ever would do. Including myself. I made random choices in my life over the past couple of years, and I am blessed to have parents who supported every single one I made. I feel like my life has only just begun. It's been a rollercoaster ride for a few years now, and I don't plan on slowing it down. So what will be my next move? I don't have a clue. And I don't really care. I'm living my life for me now, so I know it's going to be something that makes me happy. And that is all that matters.

"Well, you're lucky", the nurse said. "If you weren't wearing those bracelets, it would've gone straight into your artery. If that was the case, there's no way you could've gone to Denver tomorrow."

Monday night. This afternoon I got my flight confirmation. Tomorrow I'm flying to Denver CO to start my new life!

My friend and I decided to celebrate this by eating pizza and drinking some vodkaredbull. As we are watching a movie, drinking and eating, my friend gets a phone call from a guy. She went to the kitchen and talked to him. She drank a bit too much, and I laughed about the things she said while I was still in the living room sitting on the couch. Her hostfamily's dog, a Japanese Akita, was lying next to me on the ground. As we were having a good laugh, I grabbed a piece of pizza. All of a sudden, the dog fully bit me in my right wrist. It scared the shit out of me, so I pulled my arm away. The dog tried to grab my arm again, but before she could fully bite it, I pulled my arm away again and ran into the bathroom and locked myself in.

I pulled my sleeve up, and my arm was covered in blood. I took a towel to cover it, but it didn't take long to fill up the sink with blood. While my friend was calling 911, I noticed my arm was swelling up. I looked at my bracelets, the ones I've had on there for years, and I knew it was time to get a pair of scissors and cut them off.

First is the one from Appelpop. A festival in Holland, the last one I went to before I left for America. It was a one-day-festival. My friends and I had so much fun there and it was boiling hot.

Second one. Rock Am See. Fourth stop of the Green Day Europe tour. God I'm going to miss this one. Everytime I look at it, it puts a smile on my face. It brings back all the tour memories.

Then I have 3 bracelets from Sihanoukville, Cambodia. A 15-year-old local boy, dressed up as Beyonce gave me these 3 braclets that he made himself. We sang a duet on the beach, him as Beyonce and me as Rihanna.

2 bracelets from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I got these at Central Market. One when I just arrived in Cambodia, one right before I left.

A bracelet from Battambang, Cambodia. Battambang is the 3rd most touristy town in Cambodia, but there is not a lot to do there. It is a nice place, and they had one store that sold beautiful bracelets.

Braclet from Turkey. My parents brought home a good luck bracelet from their holiday. It was years ago, it was the first one on my arm.

Last is the red bracelet I got at a temple in Siem Reap. I gave the munk some money, as he perfomed a ritual. When he tied the bracelet on my arm, he said "Good luck, long life."

A few seconds later, the ambulance people walked in. They took me to the hospital straight away. It was only in the hospital that I took a good luck at my wounds. The first bite went straight in, it went deep. very deep. I could see the marks of the left teeth. The nurse wondered where the right teeth were. They should've gotten in too. I told her my bracelets probably protected me. We looked at my wrist and saw a tooth mark. Right on my artery. If that would've gone in, I would've either been dead or seriously injured.

It turned out I got extremely lucky. Nothing was broken, I didn't need stitches. I just need to clean the wounds every day, and I got a tetanus shot and I'm on antibiotics. If it wasn't for those bracelets, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. It's a weird thought that I could've ended up bleeding to death if it wasn't for those bracelets.

Have I really been in the USA for over a month? Time tells me I have been in the USA for over a month. It doesn't feel like it, because I was completely unhappy here. It felt like a country that could possibly be my home country, but because I was terribly unhappy with my hostfamily, I couldn't enjoy myself fully. Sure, going out with friends was fun, but I never fully appreciated being in this beautiful country.

And believe me: being hit, punched, kicked, bitten by 3 kids on a daily basis is the worst feeling. In the end, they didn't even speak to me anymore, they only used swear words to talk to me. At one point I decided I wasn't going to take it anymore, and I went into rematch. A few days later, the family kicked me out, and mentioned all nasty stuff about me to other families.... it was rough.

Last night, a few friends and I decided to go see Dropkick Murphy's, even though it was sold out. We bought tickets from a scalper, and went in. We got to the front and noticed nobody was moving during the support acts..... what is going on here, we thought. Then we saw a few signs, saying mosh pits and crowdsurfing was strictly prohibited. Damn, this is going to be the most boring show ever. When it was Murphys time, a few people screamed a bit, and that was it. We were already disappointed in the crowd. And then they started to play. The entire venue went completely crazy - it turned into a huge mosh pit. We danced like crazy. For the first time in the USA I had a real smile on my face. I missed smiling. After the encore, the radio in the venue went on, and the 2 other girls were standing in line to buy tshirts. I waited out of the line, and all of a sudden I heard a loud guitar sound. When I looked to the right, I saw Dropkick Murphys on stage, ready to play one last song. I pulled the girls out of the line, and we ran to the front. They played one last song for the people who were still there - about 100. We went totally crazy, and for the first time in the USA I felt truly happy.

Over the past week, I have been talking with other host families, and today I decided to make a match with a lovely family in Denver Colorado. I have a great feeling about this.

Packing my stuff, I come across a card my class at home made. On the front it shows a drawing of me, with a massive smile on my face. The text balloon says "America, I'm coming...!!!" It puts a smile on my face. I look out the window and see I have a great view over a small forest. It's a sunny spring day. My bags are packed and I'm ready to go to Colorado and start my adventure in the USA. I have a huge smile on my face. America, I'm here.

Dear Nik,

It's been more than a year that I last saw you, and I still think about you every single day.

Today was a hard day for me. One of the kids was sitting on my lap exactly the way you always sat. But it wasn't the same because it wasn't you. I miss you, Nik. I miss your laugh. I miss your crazy moments. I miss the pink dress with white polkadots you used to wear all the time. I miss the fact you called everything yellow. I miss how you called me TEE-CHA! I miss our ways of communicating with each other without speaking each others language. I miss our walks. I miss your hugs.

They said missing you would get easier. But it only gets harder. I don't know how you are doing or where you are, and that scares me. Dear Nik, I hope you are in a safe place and still have that happy laugh of yours that I can still hear in my head. I hope your spirit will stay as strong as it was.

And Nik, let me finish this letter to you with a promise. I promise I will come back for you. To see how you are doing. And I swear to God, if you're not ok, I will stay with you until you are. Even if that means I have to live in Cambodia. Because if you're not ok, I'm not ok. It feels like you're my kid, Nik. You're my daughter.

I love you.

Your TEE-CHA

Packing

By Rianne,

Packing my suitcase for a year. What do I need? Clothes! For every weather type... this is going to be hard. Tshirts. Longsleeves. Dresses. Hoodies. Tops. Jeans. Shorts. Underwear. Socks. The pile gets bigger and bigger.

My shoes. Oh God, my shoes. One pair of boots. Converse. Since when do I have that many Converse? I easily count 20 pairs. Which to bring... I quickly pick 5 pairs. One pair of flipflops.

To finish the pile I add my toiletry, some personal items and presents for the family. And ofcourse the sausage.

Packing time.

First attempt. Fuck, it doesn't fit. Second attempt. Fuck, I have way too much stuff. Third attempt. I should really get rid of some items... I decide to put 3 pairs of Converse back in my closet. Hey, my red boots with the high heels! How could I not have packed those? Ooh and my summer slip-ons! And that other pair of flipflops, I definitely need them.

Fourth attempt. It doesn't fit... again. I put my clothes in vacuum bags to have more space. Fifth attempt. Still doesn't fit. Fuck, I might need to bring 2 suitcases. But if I already bring 2, how many will I bring back? I sure as hell will buy a lot of stuff over there... No. Two suitcases isn't an option. It has to fit in one suitcase. Maybe I should put on 5 pairs of jeans and 10 hoodies to the airport... NO! That will never work. Fuck.

Time to throw things out. Will I really need 25 tshirts? I can leave 15 home. Okay maybe 10. Longsleeves. I really need all of those. Dresses. I can leave one of them home I guess. Hoodies. Two out. Tops. Three out. Jeans. No way, I only had 5 to begin with. Shorts. Only packed 2. Underwear. No way I'm going to leave underwear here. Socks. Only taking 7 pairs.

Sixth attempt. Hey, it easily fits! In that case, I might as well bring some more tshirts, I didn't want to leave those here anyways. And I'll just throw those hoodies in there, you can never have enough hoodies. And there's enough space to throw in another pair of my beloved Converse. And... fuck, it doesn't fit anymore... Fuck it, I'll just leave all the stuff I just added here. There we go. It fits! YAY!

Today at work, the kids gave me presents..... I have to take these with me. Time to repack it all again....

"Are you sure you chose the perfect family?" It's been the second most asked question in my life right now. I usually smile and say yes. Usually the other person asks again if I'm absolutely sure. Do they want to hear no? Do they want to hear my full answer, which will take about 10 minutes?

What is a perfect family anyways? I have an image in my head of a happy couple with two well-behaved children. A boy and a girl. There are never any problems between the mom and the dad. The children always listen, say please, and do their homework. The house always looks spotless without anyone having to work for it. The dishes do themselves and doing the laundry is nothing more than dropping your dirty clothes on the floor and it magically reappears clean and folded in your closet.

When my application went online on the au pair website, I had two interested families within 4 days. I saw my hostfamily's letter and photos, and I knew it was a potential place to go. The mom and I planned a skype meeting, and after 5 minutes I knew it. This was the family I was going with. The parents are very kind, and the three kids can get a little bit crazy every now and then. The match was made within a week.

So to be completely honest, the answer is no. No, it's not the perfect family. But this is the best match for me. It feels right, and in my opinion, that's the most important thing. No, it won't always be fun. Yes, it will be hard sometimes. But it's going to be worth it, because I like this family already.

Oh and that happy couple with their two well-behaved children? Even if they were interested in my application, I never would've chosen them. A life with a family like that would be way too boring for me.

Two weeks from now, I'll have my last night in the Netherlands. Monday the 28th of January is the day I will fly to New York, to start my one-year adventure of being an au pair. In New York I will have a 4-day orientation, with rules, first aid lessons and general information about the country and the people. After orientation, I will take the train to Philadelphia, where my hostfamily lives.

The following two weeks will involve a lot of goodbye-dinners, parties and a lot of fun. I will update this whenever I have a new story to tell. :)

Rianne

ps. I already started packing, and guess what! I can close my suitcase, and it's within the weight limit!!! It's just too bad I still have a pile of stuff on my bed that I have no room for...

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