A new year

It seems like 2017 was a pretty terrible year for a lot of people. All over social media I see people talking about how the year constantly kicked them down, how horrible it was for them, and how happy they are for it to be over. Looking back on it, there were definitely quite a few terrible events that happened around the world. But for me personally this was one of the best years I remember.

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The Christmas Tag!

The holiday season is in full swing with Christmas a few days away! I’m still in shock with how fast this year (and my time in France) has passed! December 18th marked three months since my arrival in Pau!

I was tagged by the amazing Rebecca from Rebecca Goes Rendezvous to take part in the Christmas tag, so here goes!

1. What is your favorite Christmas film?

There are so many good holiday movies to choose from, so this is hard! While I love a lot of the cheesy hallmark rom-coms, I think one of my favorites is A Charlie Brown Christmas! My whole family loves the animated films (Charlie Brown, Rudolph, the cartoon version of the Grinch) and we usually try to watch them together when we can. Though I’ll admit this year I’ve been lacking in watching Christmas films since I’ve mostly been watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix in my free time. It’s shameful!

2. Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

My family has always done a fake tree. I love the idea of a real tree, getting to choose the best one every year, and having the house smell like fresh pine, but my family has always loved the practicality of a fake tree: no water and, more importantly, no dead prickles everywhere at the end of the season! Plus I love the uniformity of the lights on my family’s pre-lit tree.

3. What is your favorite Christmas song?

love Cascada’s (yes, the same Cascada that sang “Everytime We Touch,” she still exists!!) “Somewhere at Christmas Time” but recently I’ve also fallen in love with Sia’s new song “Underneath the Mistletoe.” But no Christmas is complete without obsessively blasting every one of Mariah Carey’s Christmas songs.

4. What is your favorite Christmas scent?

As cliché as it sounds, I love the smell of freshly baked treats and cinnamon! In the past I’ve baked pumpkin whoopie pies and the smell of them baking is perfection!

5. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

In the past when I was younger Christmas Eve was usually a big event at my family’s house. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, would all come to our house and have a nice night together. The last few years have actually each been different. One year we spent in Maryland, one in Upstate New York, and this year will be at my parents’ new house in Florida, so in a way it’s almost becoming tradition to shake it up every year!

6. Do you open any presents on Christmas eve?

Yes! Usually what my family does is we do a main gift and a bunch of smaller stocking stuffers. On Christmas eve we’ll have a big dinner and each open our main gift, and then on Christmas Day we’ll do the stocking stuffers!

7. What tops your Christmas tree?

My family has always done a star!

8. What is the best thing about Christmas for you?

Call it cliché, but I really love getting to see my family. I feel like until I started university I never realized how much I really appreciated being able to see my family. Once I got to college and didn’t get to see them as often I really started to appreciate the holiday season more and more because of the time spent together.

9. What is your favorite festive food or treat?

Remember those pumpkin whoopie pies I linked above? Well I could probably eat those forever. I’m also a big fan of apple pie, pecan pie, and baked macaroni and cheese!

10. What is on the top of your Christmas wish list this year?

There isn’t really much that I’m really craving since I’m just happy to be able to spend the holidays with my family this year, since it’s been about three and a half months since I’ve seen any of them. But if I had to pick something I would say some new camera stuff. I’ve been eyeing a macro lens and a neutral density filter on amazon, so I may treat myself to it once I’m back in the states for the holidays!

I’m going to tag Anne and my good friend Ariana!

Hope everyone has an amazing holiday full of happiness and love!

~Kenny

Hurrication and the beginning of my next French adventure

I leave for France TONIGHT! I am currently sitting on a 787-Dreamliner, seat 13A as I type this. As you can imagine, the mix of excitement and terror is unreal right now. But more about that at the end!

Last Wednesday night I flew down to Florida in order to spend my last week in the states with my parents. Originally we were supposed to have a lovely and relaxing week together before my flight, but Mother Nature had other plans: Hurricane Irma.

With the storm–the biggest Florida has seen in decades–projected to hit the entire east coast of Florida, we knew that we had to evacuate. So Thursday evening we packed up Mariah–my parents RV–and at 4:00 AM Friday morning we evacuated to the panhandle. There were seven of us in total: me, my parents, my best friend Marisa, my parents two neighbors, Bryan and Ellie, and of course our dog, Aston.

We arrived in the small town of DeFuniak Springs around 4:00, after twelve hours of driving! We set up camp at Twin Lakes RV Park and began our mini Hurrication!

We were extremely lucky to have the RV. We had air conditioning, a functioning kitchen and barbecue, etc.

Originally the storm was projected to hit the east coast directly, but it shifted significantly and ended up going up the west coast of Florida. With this in mind we led DeFuniak Springs Sunday afternoon, spending the night at a truck stop in Jacksonville in order to avoid the main bulk of the storm. Having the RV rock from the gusts of wind as it rained heavily on the RV’s metal roof was quite an experience in itself, but luckily all of us were okay!

The next morning we drove from Jacksonville back to my parents’ neighborhood in Rockledge. There was no electricity and we were told not to drink any water as there was damage to local treatment plants. Thankfully the only physical damage to my parents’ house was the tearing of some screens in the backyard. Seeing the flooding of other areas of Florida combined with the destruction of Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean reminded me how fortunate I was not only to have minimal damage, but to have been able to evacuate in the RV. I can’t imagine what the people in those ravaged areas must be going through.

The next few days involved cleaning up and preparing for France, sans power. Thankfully for us the electricity was restored on Tuesday night while we were out to dinner with my parents’ friends who evacuated with us.

Once power was restored I immediately made photocopies of all of my important documents since the French LOVE photocopies. Hopefully I made enough!

Today my parents drove me to Fort Lauderdale airport and we made that familiar tearful goodbye as I walked through security. I’ll be arriving at Charles de Gaulle in Paris on Friday at 1:10 PM France time. Once landed I’ll meet my two friends who are also participating in TAPIF–Eden and Cahlia– and the three of us will have a lovely weekend in Paris together! On Monday I’ll take a train from Paris to Pau, where my true TAPIF adventure will officially begin! Fingers crossed it all goes well!

À bientôt!

*sorry for no pictures of the Hurrication, I typed this post entirely on my phone very quickly since the wifi at the house hasn’t been restored yet! I’ll hopefully edit some pictures in at a later time!

Pride.

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I’m very blessed to have a family and an amazing group of friends that love me no matter what, and I grew up in a school and an environment that was extremely accepting. But despite all of this, I still wasn’t very confident when I was a teenager, particularly in high school, when I first realized that I was gay.

It took me years to have confidence in myself. I was always too afraid to be bold or be different, and tried my best to blend in. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, but for me I did it out of self-consciousness and fear, rather than preference. It wasn’t until college that I really started to branch out more and become more bold and proud of myself.

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