So...the exchange is over.
Big thanks to Ondra K., Alena B., Irena B., Andrea S., Irena Harajdova, and Jurai Harajda for all your care and help. What would I have done without you? =) In your own special way, each of you helped me to survive there.
Even though I am already home and have been for some time now (more than 2 months), I don't really know quite what to say to end this blog and close the door on the year I spent in CZ.
What I know is that the experience was difficult on me in personal ways I never would have imagined--and will probably NEVER duplicate in my life. Yet in some ways it was very easy as well. I knew I would not be homesick--and I was not. It was very easy for me to be away from home, but I gained an even greater appreciation for my home country, state, and city all at the same time! Weird, isn't it? I could have stayed away even longer (I would have moved to Spain or Italy in a heartbeat), but I was more and more deeply aware of, and grateful for, all the things that make The Americas, The US, and California so special and so spectacular.
I also know that even though the year is over, my experience of that year will be with me for a long time to come. Who knows how long I will be contemplating the events of the year and their significance for me? Probably a long time. I have been through a lot. While reflecting on the past is valuable, what is most important is to LEARN from the past, put what you have learned into action, and let it move you forward in life. I am probably not exactly the same person I was before I left home, and those are the things I will be discovering, thinking about, and acting on for a long time to come.
I am the kind of person who is always thinking--WHAT'S NEXT??? That part of me hasn't changed. =) I know now, from experience, that I can be away from home a long time and be well, and I may do something like this again. I am already thinking of a summer program in Vietnam for next year!
I know that, although I love my friends and family, there is no better person to rely on than myself. I am the only one who can make my life just what I want it to be. I am the only one who knows what will truly make me happy. I will always do what I have to to make my life what I want it to be--not what well-meaming others want me to want, but what I truly want. If I let other people make LIFE decisions for me, I would be half-living. I want to LIVE--100%. Whatever people may say about me, they will never say that I didn't go after life--and what I wanted in life--with everything I had in me.
". . .the source of man's rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational."
["This Is John Galt Speaking," Atlas Shrugged, 976.]
"Man's rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment."
["The Nature of Government," The Virtue of Selfishness, 126.]