Friday, December 23, 2011

Variety of Culture

     Before I arrived in Belgium I couldn't call myself a worldly person. I knew some facts and events about other countries from watching T.V. or listening to the radio in the U.S.A. but I find the information was not the same as experiencing real people and real culture. For example, I have met numerous australian exchange students and they have opened my eyes to their history and lifestyle. Many Australians are social, talkative, and kind. My curiosity took a better hold of me and I researched the people of Australia. Their history is unique and I want to share with you what I discovered.
     Originally, the Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islander people inhabited Australia. It's estimated that these civilians migrated from Africa and surrounding landmasses. Willem Janszoon was the first recorded european to arrive in Australia around 1571 but it was not until 1770 that Captain James Cook claimed the biggest island in the world for his country. The english sent many convicts and British civilians over to Australia on January 26, 1788; this day later became what is known as "Australian Day." Unfortunately, many Aboriginal Australians died in cause from the diseases the foreigners brought with them. In 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was born; most of them were English, Scottish, or Irish. The Aborigines couldn't vote and where not classified as "Australians." Many of the British immigrants were discriminative, nevertheless, mixed-raced children sprung up everywhere. During the 1930's, 40's, and 50's the government and churches decided to take the mixed-raced children and place them into orphanages or into white families. The Australian governments idea was to integrate the mixed-children into "white society." In this type of situation many children were taken by force. When the orphaned children grew into adults they revolted and in the 1980's the British realized their mistake and stopped stealing children. The generations of that time period are known as "the Stolen Generation." Aboriginal people still exist today, but they only make up 2% of the population because over the generations the aboriginal culture and languages have become extinct. Most of the population of Australians live near the cities but many Aboriginal Australians live today in their tribes and continue to celebrate their traditions.
     After researching the information about Australian history I felt I understood my friends better. History is extremely important because it tells the story of how people became the way they are. I don't know Australia completely because I have only seen it from my computer screen and on the T.V. My Australian friends have also described the landscape and other facts but its difficult to imagine. In the future I hope to better understand the Australians by visiting their country. In the end, I find experiencing a country is the only way to really comprehend the people.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Il y a une panne d'électricité!

Après le dernier examen de St. Rock, je suis sortie de l'école avec mes amis. Nous sommes allés chez mon amie Pauline. C'était un événement agréable. Nous avons mangés un raclette de formage et avons fait beaucoup de choses amusantes. Ensuite, la mère de Pauline m'a reconduit à la maison. Cependant, la journée n'était pas encore terminée. Ma deuxième famille d'accueil ont rassemblé avec ma premier famille d'accueil et nous avons mangé dîner ensemble. Tout la nuit et par le lendemain matin, nous avons parlé.  Tout a coup, il y avait une panne d'électricité et les luminaires ont éteint. Mes parents d'accueil ont allumé quelque bougie et voila! La sombre ne nous a pas empêche de visiter plus. Finalement, ma deuxième famille d'accueil a parti et j'ai dormi.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Half Year Finals

At the beginning of this week I have been completing my finals for my high school St. Rock. Some of them were challenging but I suppose I did fine, even with my incapability to speak fluent french. I found the math test to be the easiest since it focused more on numbers than language. I finished in 3 days, but as for my other classmates, they still had the rest of the week for finals. My grades in Belgium do not matter but I still must take 3 finals for Rotary. The tests and homework at St. Rock are absolutely more difficult than the materials in my school in America. I still love both the same.

Liege Tragedy

Last Tuesday in Liege a man committed suicide after throwing a grenade into the crowd and shooting numerous people. Sadly, many were killed or injured. News like this does not happen often in Belgium but it did. Following this tragedy my Rotary leader sent me and every foreign exchange student an e-mail asking if we were ok. My host dad also saw the message so he helped me reply in french on my dads e-mail. The next day my Rotary leader sent me the same message. I thought he accidentally resent his electronic e-mail so I ignored it. Then, on the 3rd day after that Tuesday, my Rotary leader sent me another e-mail telling me that I was irresponsible for not responding to his message. He wanted to take a point away from my "drivers license" (a card Rotary gave me with 3 points on it. If Rotary takes away all 3 points then I must return home early). I felt distressed and confused because I responded beforehand. What had happened? I signed my name on the message after I sent it from my dads e-mail. It turns out that my Rotary leader thought I did not reply because I did not use my e-mail but my dads. It makes me wonder if he even read my message. My host parents helped me explain to him the situation but he was still angry. On the other hand, I can sympathize with his situation because his job is stressful. Nevertheless, I am glad he is not going to take my points away or send me home. For now on I must check my e-mails everyday because if I do not respond to Rotary in a timely manner then the consequences are heavily distributed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two? One Is Just Not Enough

     Most of the population in America celebrate Christmas during the 24th and 25th of December. Christmas eve and Christmas day are christian holidays but non-christians celebrate it anyway. Setting up the christmas tree and putting all the decorations on the tree and all over the house (inside and out) took a lot of time and effort. It is worth it because after we finish we go around town to see how our neighbors have decorated their houses. It is never truly dark around christmas from all the christmas lights.
Usually, I visit my moms side of the family for one of the two days and then I go and visit my other half of the family on my dads side for the other day. When I think about christmas I remember all the wonderful foods my grandparents prepared and the fun activities we played. Unwrapping the presents under the christmas tree was the best part. Some years my parents would hang stockings over the fire place and it would be filled with mini presents and chocolates after father christmas came on the 25th.
     The Belgium style of Christmas is a little different. The Belgians have two Santa's, but they are not the Santa Claus I know. First, St. Nicolas comes on the 6th of December to place a present in your shoes. If you do not put your shoes near the fireplace before this date, then St. Nicolas does not come. Luckily, my host parents told me about the tradition before hand. I received an advent calendar (calendrier de l'avant) in my converse tennis shoe. Each day following Christmas I get to eat a piece of chocolate from my little calendar with my host sister.
     Then, on the night of the 24th, Père Noël comes to deposit all the wrapped gifts under the christmas tree. Its still too early in December for Christmas but I am super excited. I hope it snows because it hasn't yet and its already the 14th of December!
     In my opinion the Belgian Christmas tradition is better because there is not only one santa but two. The only flaw with the Belgium Christmas is the lack of enthusiasm for decorating the exterior of ones house with colorful lights and objects (the American style of Christmas).  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

J'ai Couru Encore Mais Il Y A Des Mauvais Nouvelles

     Aujourd'hui, mon père d'accueil m'apport à la village de Spa ainsi que mon troisième père d'accueil. Nous somme arrivés à coûté du une lac avec un petit chemine. Il a fait très sombre mais les lampadaires ont été clair. Nous avons commencé  et nous avons fini en une heure. Ils sont fort mais moi aussi. à la fin de nos course, Les homme ont été faire mal a la jambe mais, quant à moi, je suis morté de faim. De tout façon, Nous somme revenu chez moi. Tout a coup, mon père d'accueil a allumé la télévision. La présentatrice sur "le journal parle" a dit que un homme a tué cinq personnes à Liège. Tout les victimes sont innocentes et je sens sympathie pour leur situation. Je dois faire attention parce que je vais à Liège chaque semaine. Je pense que cet événement a un impact énorme sur Belgique parce que le pays est la taille de l'état américain du Maryland.

En Retard

     J'ai attendue le train tout les lundi et jeudi comme d'habitude. J'ai les cours supplémentaires après l'école donc quand le cloche sonne, je presse marcher à la gare de Franchimont. Cette fois, cependant, mon train n'est pas arrivé. J'ai été sure que je ne me trompe pas parce que tout le mond ont été à la gare avec moi. Enfin, le train est arrivé trente minutes en retard. Chez moi j'ai regardé le horaire des trains et ça changer! Je suis heureuse que le train a été en retard au lieu d'être au début.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Marrant

Ma soeur d'accueil et moi marchons à l'école à pied près tout les jours. Un temps, ma soeur d'accueil m'a dit que je suis marrant. Je ne sais pas le traduction de "marrant" et tout ma journée, j'ai pensé de la mot. Finalement, j'ai regardé mon dictionnaire et le transduction est "funny." La situation est bizarre parce que je n'ai pas fait quelque chose amusant pendant notre promenade. D'autre part, j'ai appendu un nouvelle mot!

Brussels Weekend

    The weekend of the 9-11 of December, I stayed at my friend Doreen's house. I met Doreen on my trip to Spain and ever since we have been great pals. She comes from Eastern Germany, speaks 4 languages, and is only 16 years old. She also has a great sense of humor and loves to flirt with guys. I rode the train for about 2 hours to get to her house because she lives right next to the city of Namur. Theux, my small village, does not have much but living next to the train station is an advantage. When I arrived at Doreen's house, she introduced me to her host sister and host mother. Her host parents are divorced but she does not seem to mind. We spent a lot of the night chatting, and watching American and french movies. The next day we took the train into Brussels because my other friends from the Spain trip were getting together to go bowling. It turns out that they were not bowling but drinking at the bar so Doreen L., Nicola C., and I went shopping. Brussels is a huge city and many christmas markets were scattered everywhere. We also explored real stores and visited the Grand place and the Manneken Pis.
     There are many tales behind the famous statue in Brussels. No one actually knows the real story of the Manneken Pis but one legend glorifies the statue as a boy who saved Brussels while it was under siege by foreigners. The attackers planted explosives at the city walls and a boy named Julianske put out the fuse by peeing on it, thus saving the city. Many people attempted to steel the statue over the years but has always been recovered. Today, the statue stands among the shops of Brussels and is dressed in costumes that relate to the current holidays and events.
     During our excursions a random middle aged man started to talk to us. He said we could come and visit his watch shop if we wanted. Its Doreen's fault that all these random men talk to us. I think that many men are attracted to her because she looks older than she. I don't mind as long as they are not too creepy!
     We didn't go to the watch shop but we stopped at a chocolate shop and ate free samples. I have never tasted better chocolate anywhere else. In fact, Belgium is most famous for its beer and its chocolate. Nicola was nice enough to buy us all chocolate and we enjoyed the snack together.
     When it started to get dark, Doreen and I boarded the train that lead back to her place. While we were sitting on the seat, 6 conductors walked through the door, one after the other. I was mind boggled because usually only 1 or 2 conductors ride the train to check the passengers tickets. It's possible that they wanted to hang out and party (just kidding).
     After the train ride and eating dinner, Doreen's host mom brought us to a bar. Doreen and I were the only ones brave enough to dance. The exception was this guy from Italy who semi-danced with us but I don't count his drunken swagger as dancing. I didn't get to bed until 2 o'clock in the morning but Doreen and her family were not tired because they always stay up that late. Later that day we went to a "magic pizza restaurant" and ate a famous German dish. The vender originally lived in Germany, spoke french, english, and german, originated from Morocco, but moved to Belgium. We did not have time to hear his life story because I had to catch my train.
       That Sunday was my host grandmas birthday so after I came home from the train I left the house with my parents. To celebrate her birthday, the family went out to eat at a restaurant next to the local castle. The christmas decorations were beautiful and it was a cheerful atmosphere. After eating 2 entrees and drinking lots of "Looza" I realized that those dishes were not the main dishes. I felt so full afterwards that it was difficult to eat the birthday cake for dessert. Everyone was trying to get me to drink alcohol but I do not like the taste. At one point I had 3 glasses of wine and champaign in front of me (I made my table neighbor drink them). Everyone was in a good humor and my host mom, host sister, and I left around midnight. I had the big school exams the next day but circumstances did not allow me to get a lot of sleep. I did not mind because my grades in Belgium do not matter. The next day I still attempted to do well on the Math tests.
     My weekend consisted of hanging out with my friend Doreen, eating lots of food, seeing famous objects, and moving around all the time. Sometimes these events interfere with my education at St. Rock but this year is not only about school. My favorite part of the weekend was spending time with my best German friend.

Marché de Noël

I went on another Rotary event and this time we went to Germany. The Rotary trips are the highlights of my life because they are super extraordinary. It's also refreshing to see old and new faces. After I took the train to Welkenraedt all the foreign exchange students boarded a bus for Aachen. The buses are somewhat chaotic because there are people everywhere and when the bus turns or jumps over a bump everyone sways. I was standing in the doorway because all the seats where taken. When the bus turned my friend and I did a nose dive into the crowd of people sitting on the bus floor. The innocent exchange students were not too happy but it was funny doing a little crowd surfing on the bus. When we arrived at Aachen the Rotary leaders brought us to an a famous building. The Germans gave us a warm welcome and served us wine and orange juice. One of the middle-aged German Women leaders told us some history and showed us many paintings. I recall one story in particular about the man who invented the sandwich. His story interests me and I will relay it to you.
     A british statesman named John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. In 1762, Montagu was gambling with some friends because he loves to play cards. He was hungry but did not want to stop playing so he commanded his cooks to prepare a dish that would not cause a mess. The cook gave him sliced meat between two slices of break and eureka! The sandwich was born. In truth it was Montagu's cook who invented the sandwich but no one wrote his name down to give him credit. The Germans recognize this Englishman because he helped end a war and also because he is the sandwich guy.
     After our long, interesting history lesson all the foreign exchange students flooded the streets of the Marché de Noël à Aix-la-Chapelle (the German Christmas markets). I enjoyed lollygagging with my friends and we met many attractive German guys. I found a little chocolate market and bought some chocolate bars for my host family. Chocolate is the perfect gift because its not sexist and it tastes delicious, but if this person is allergic than gift finder must be more creative (fortunately I do not know anyone who  is allergic to chocolate). The vender who sold me the chocolate spoke excellent english and was extremely nice. He gave me extra chocolate for free. My biggest mistake was forgetting to ask for his facebook address. I know some German and attempted to speak with the citizens but I noticed that many people in Germany know english, nevertheless, I find it amusing to speak other languages. After a few hours all the Rotary people gathered together to drink hot wine, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider. Rotary gave us tickets to receive the drinks and we got to keep the mugs! There must have been at least 50 people and Rotary paid for everyone. I always wonder where the money comes from. I felt relieved to drink something hot because it was raining hail and slush. The bus ride home was short and in no time everyone arrived at the train station. The Rotary leaders distributed christmas chocolates to everyone as another gift (they are so generous). When I found a moment to look at the board with the times for the trains my heart skipped a beat. My train was going to arrive in 4 minutes. A whole bunch of exchange students, including me, sprinted to the train stop. When we got there everyone turned around and ran back the other way because the board had written the wrong train station area. Luckily everyone made it to the train and boarded before it left. It was a sight to see with all these high schoolers running around the train station.



     My first voyage into Germany was great. I got to do some crowd surfing on a bus, learn some history about sandwiches, drank and ate gifts from Rotary, and almost miss my train. I managed to buy christmas presents for my family and friends and so I was even more satisfied. My greatest wish is to return to Germany and their christmas markets in the future.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Stages of Grief

     My adventures in Belgium has not come without a price. Although I am having the time of my life there are moments when I feel down. While I was at a Rotary meeting, before I came to Belgium, they warned me that being on exchange is not always going to be super. Many exchange students and those in a difficult situation (like those exposed to death) experience the stages of grief. I am going to describe to you what I learned from my Rotary leaders as well as my own experience of the stages of grief.
Firstly, it is important that you know what the stages of grief are. It's always convenient to know them because it may impact a family member, a close friend, or even yourself unexpectedly. They are as follows:

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' interpretation
1) Denial (this isn't happening to me)
2) Anger (why is this happening to me)
3) Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
4) Depression (I don't care anymore)
5) Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

Dr. Roberta Temes interpretation
1) Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
2) Disorganization (intense painful feelings of loss)
3) Reorganization (re-entry into a more "normal" social life)

     People can experience these stages out of order or repeadedly but it still implies the same concepts. One also may point out that smushing the feeling of grief into catagories or binding them under percise definitions is biased because greif is ultimitly definied by the individual and the circumstance. However, I agree that these guide lines provide some insight into what peole have experienced, are experiencing, or are going to experience when it comes to grief.
     When Rotary told me the information about grief I was surprised but not completely unaquainted with the idea. After being in Belgium for 3 months I relate more to Dr. Roberta Temes interpretation of greif. Arriving in Belgium was exciting and new, just like any new toy. I couldn't speak a lot of french but I allowed myself this excuse because I didn't have much previous knowledge of the language. Life continued and I situated myself into my host familys lifestyle as best as I could. I had confidence and vigor in the beginning but I failed to realize the lengthy marathon I decided to commence. Truely, I came unprepared (language wise) but on the other hand it's almost impossible to prepare for a foreign exchange, unless you have been learning a foreign language since a very young age. One morning and many after, the realization of loss hit me, again and agian. It can be described as a sinking feeling in the gut combined with a feeling of hoplessness or loneliness. Beign a foreign exchange is easier said than done. When you go on exchange you leave your family, friends, home, activities, and more. Being constantly surrounded by unfamiliarity really makes you feel disoriented and disorganized, leaving you in a declined state. Its hard to intergrate yourself into a community that has had its own experiences without you. The people can be uninviting and reapproachable because they may not want change. Frustration may accomany you everywhere you go because when you are unfamiliar with the place or with the rules of social standards, mistakes are bound to follow you. In this situation I always tell myself that "a rolling stone gathers no mass," meaning that an ambitious person is more successful than a person not trying to achieve anything. So I set to work at being as extraverted, determined, enthusiastic, and open as possible. Even then my own ambition can fail me at times because a feeling of loss from being cut off from my original enviroment resurfeses. I have to remind myself that I chose this new life and "I'm sticking to my guns." After  studying the french language and attemting to find friendship, I am heading toward my "reorganization stage of grief." Obviously, I still cant speak fluent french but my Belgian life is settling down. I found friends who accept me, a host sister who socializes me, and an encouraging host mother who listens to me. There are days when the vicious cycle of grief sneeks up on me but I am a determined person. I definetly have a better understanding of grief now that I am in a unique situation. Listed below is some advice I came up with that really helped me with my greif and hopefully you will be more prepared when its your turn. Good luck!


Some tips to overcome the stages of grief:
1) Have a positive attitude. There is no better way to fix your problem than to help yourself.
2) Find someone who supports you. Often times feeling alone and depressed is cured when you are having a good time with a friend.
3) Make a connection. You are not alone in what you are feeling. Relating to something or someone can help you express and overcome your feeling of grief
4) Keep busy. If you have too much time on your hands then you have lots of time to think about how sad you are.
5) Do something that is familar but different. It can boost your confidence to do something you know, even in a different situation (like joining a sport). This piece of advice goes hand in hand with number 3.
6) Don't give up hope. Life is hard and you are not perfect. The feelings of grief may come back to haunt you but its not the end of the world. The real shame would be if you threw away the potential to fix the problem.

First Place

     At last! I have accomplished my objective. For a long time its been my desire to be first when I jog with my classmates during physical educaiton; and I have accoplished my goal. That day in particular was the last day of the running season for my school. With this in mind I prepared myself to succeed because it was my last chance to prove I excel in at least one subject compared to my classmates. Most of the female students at St. Rock do not take physical education seriously. On the contrary, its been my best class, besides my German and English classes. I have been jogging with my host dad a lot, so jogging during my gym class has been no sweat. I might have taken it too far because while almost everyone was walking I was jogging. The feeling of satisfaction was worth it.
     In America, I was a straight A student but in Belgium my grades are not what they used to be. The language barrier makes a huge difference. Everthing relating to school is worthless when I don't understand French, except my gym class (how ironic). It's a relief that I don't need to speak while I run. But honestly I am making heaps of progess, language wise. When I return to America I will probably get back into the groove of succeeding in school but for now I'm just going to have to stick it out for the year.   

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dîner Exotique

     After I came home from my sleepover I took the train to my friends house to cook. Rotary organized an event where the exchange students can prepare a dish from their country and present it. My American friends and I wanted to get together to make a spicy chicken curry dish with rice. Many obstacles stood in my way but we eventually completed our objective. I will explain my bizarre traveling experience, the awkward situation at my friends house while we where cooking, and the exotic dinner event itself.
     When I arrived at our renedez-vous in Liège I already ran into a problem. My friends where no where to be seen. Fortunately, I knew which bus to board but afterwards I had no idea. I tried asking the bus driver but he said he had no idea. As I sat on the bus I called my friends to no avail. Automatically my stomach turned and my anxiety kicked in. Why did my friends have to abandon me now? A stranger came up to me and asked where I was heading. I showed him the address and why not? I was already lost and hopefully he knew the way. Indeed he said he recognized the street and it was his stop as well. Happy with joy, I engaged in a conversation with the old man. He told me a Canadian exchange student stayed in his house last year through the Rotary program (like me). Our stop arrived and we quite the bus together. He asked me to see the address again but this time he said he had mistaken the address. I got off the bus too soon Sylvie's house was far off. He proceeded to offer to drive me if I would walk with him to his house just yonder. My instincts told me to refuse and I politely thanked him and explained I would take the next bus in a hour. He left defeated but not too long after he returned with his car. He rolled down his window and again insisted that he could give me a ride. He told me he knew the host father of my friend. I didn't give him the name of my friends host father so my confidence in him grew. I called my friend just to make sure and without a doubt the two men knew each other. With this in mind, I hopped in his car and arrived at my destination. This altruistic man went out of his way to help a lost exchange student like me and I felt so much gratitude. I think he had sympathy for me because he understood the complications of being a foreigner, since he knew the Canadian exchange student. Before we went our own ways I thanked him with much enthusiasm and entered my friends house.
     Right away we began to prepare for "the Exotic Diner." We made the chicken casserole and Oreo Fluff (a family recipe) as a desert for the Rotary event. For our lunch my friend Gretta made home made french fries with barbecue sauce. They where better than the Belgian fries (sorry Belgian frite venders!)
     While we were baking my friends dad walked in and told Sylvie that one of us had to go home. Sylvie's parents felt disrespected that 3 friends instead of 2 were staying the night. Apparently my friend Gretta forgot to ask permission to sleep over. The bigger issue was the fact that Gretta lived several hours away and it was already dark. On top of that, the trains didn't run late enough to take Gretta home. Obviously Gretta had to stay, however, my friend Claire and I didn't want to take the trains and buses home because it was dangerous. I also did not want to repeat my earlier experience on the bus. Sylvie and I talked to Sylvie's host dad to explain the situation and give our apologies. With much convincing and bargaining, Sylvie's parents allowed us to stay. I still felt uncomfortable and terrible about the awkward situation.
     We went for a walk when we finished cooking. My friend got tired so I threw her on my back and jogged for many yards. It was also fun showing off my skills. I plan to join the Air force or Navy so I jog almost everyday. Anyway, that night we stayed up late and the next morning got up super early. I had an idea to give the Oreo Fluff to Sylvie's family as a "we're sorry" present. The family were surprised but gratified. We survived the first half of our journey but it was not over.
     Sylvie's host dad gave us a ride to the Liège train station but we missed our train by a few minutes. As we waited for the next train we sat down in a café and ate the leftovers from our "exotic diner." Many foreign exchange students missed the train as well so we hung out with them and arrived together.
     When I walked through the entrance I inhaled the odor of all the traditional foods mixed together. I searched for the American section and found not many dishes were present. It is evident that dishes originating from America are low in supply since America consists of foreigners who brought their traditional foods with them when they immigrated. Nevertheless, many American foreign exchange students made foods like PB&J, hotdogs, and the sort. I was dying of hunger but all the foreign exchange students had to wait because the adults and guests, who paid for entry, had first dibs on the food. The foreign exchange students cheated and snuck food anyway. The Japanese, Indian, and chinese dishes where the best in my opinion (because they are my favorite). I left feeling very full and satisfied. Rotary events can be stressful with all the preparations but its worth it in the end.      

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Nicholas

     Friday morning on the 25th of November I woke up earlier than usual, because today was a special day; today was St. Nicholas. My friends picked me up and drove me to school. All the students of 6ème shuffled into the cafeteria to eat chocolate bread and drink orange juice together. When we had our fill of sugery breakfeast food, my whole grade went outside to wait for the lower classmen. My friend described to me that every year on this date, the 6th graders wait at the gates of the school with lipstick at hand and colorful hair spray. When the younger students arrive the 6th graders attack them with the lipstick, hairspray, and other devices of destruction. On the other hand, we are supposed to vandalise our younger classmates only if they do not put money in our cups that we brought to school. Then, the 6th graders must use the money to buy beer in Vervier later that night because there is always a huge St. Nicolas party. The scene was insaine but very amusing. I felt strange begging the kids for money but, hey, I guess it's a tradition. I also didn't mind painting kisses on my classmates faces with lipstick.
     It was only the beginning because after the first two hours of class, the students of 6ème, including me, did not have any more courses. Instead, groups of students would roam around and disturb the rooms of the lower class men. My friends and I decided to help set up the gymnasium for the pep rally. Finally, my whole grade jumped on the stage to dance and sing to "Moussier Tombola- Logobitombo" in front of the rest of the school. It was easy to go with the crowd because everyone knew the dance routine according to the music video. When people started settling down the student organizers gave speeches, lead mini games and competitions, and hence forth. The event ended but the party just begun. My Belgian friends and I left school to go to Noël's house. We pretended to conjure spirits and played with the ouija board (even though its fake). My Belgian fiends are great actors when it comes to being possessed. Just for fun I sang to my friends. Apparently they think I am talented (I don't think so). Then, to top off the night, we watched a scary movie. Before we went to bed we ate ice cream for dessert around midnight. I really enjoyed the Belgian tradition of begging for money, vandalising peoples faces with lipstick, and sleeping over at my best Belgian friends house.

Happy Thanksgiving ;)

After school on Wednesday afternoon I boarded the 12:58 train like I usually do. Unlike my school in America, everyone in St. Rock finishes school before lunch every Wednesday. Ana, Odette, Manuela, Jaquline, and I gathered for our last get-together. Sadly, my Swiss friends, Jacqueline and Manuela, must return to Switzerland next Thursday. 3 months seemed too soon for them to leave but hopefully I will visit them in the future. After eating lots of the most delicious chocolate waffles in Liège and having a good time, I departed within the same train station (after I helped my friend find her bus). That Wednesday was particularly special because I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. Thanksgiving is on the 24th but one day earlier did not make much of a difference. After I descended off the train my family picked me up and we went to the party at my friends house. Katie, my foreign exchange friend from Texas, skipped school to prepare the meal for that night. She literally got up at 10:00 am to start cooking with her host sister (who did not go to school either). Katie made most of the traditional foods that Americans usually eat for thanksgiving. It was difficult for her find supplies since most of the dishes were American but she went to the American food store (even though its expensive!). We ate turkey, potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with wiped cream, salad (with ranch dressing which does not exist in Belgium), drank warm wine, and lots more. I felt at home sharing my tradition with all these belgians. When I come to think about it, thanksgiving is an odd holiday. Originally, way back in 1621, the first American thanksgiving dinner was eaten by colonists of Plymouth with the Wampanoag Indians during that autumn. President Lincoln finally made it a national holiday in 1863 during the Civil War. It's also recognized in Canada but is on a different day. In the end I take much joy in Thanksgiving because its a day just for eating awesome and delicious food.

Atomium

My social science class in 6ème and from 5ème organized a trip to Bruxelles, the capital of Belgium. We learned about global warming and information about Bolivia. One of the activities we participated in was an reenactment of various occupations in Bolivia. Among my group my character was a teacher. Consequentially, I wore a poncho and a cowboy hat (since the attire of South Americans includes these articles of clothing). Everything was in French so I did not learn much but we drank sugar tea and I enjoyed it. Finally, we left to see the Atomium. I learned that the monument in Brussels was built in 1958. It stands 335 ft and suspends 9 steel spheres in the air. The symbolic atom was not meant to survive beyond its original exhibition but today it is now a historic figure. My Ecuadorian friend and I had a blast learning some history, looking at objects, and wandering around.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dernier Chapitre de Espagne

     After a short night on the bus we arrived in the city of Liège. It was a tearful event as people said their goodbyes. A week of adventures with the other foreigners brought us closer and I felt at home with them. As I sat on the train, barralling toward home, I reflected on how lucky I am. Within my 18 years of being alive I have been to Mexico, the bahamas, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA, and Spain. And this is only the beginning. Traveling across the world or over a foreign border is an exiting new experience. No matter where you go you'll meet someone new or learn something extraodanary. For anyone with an open mind and courage, I suggest getting out into the world as soon as possible, whether it be within your own country or another like Spain.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chapitre VI de Espagne

     The grand finally was our second to the last day of our voyage. In the early hours of our morning we surveyed the Eiffel Tower. I touched the Eiffel Tower for the first time and I am proud of it! The combination of the rays of the rising sun and the fog transformed the Eiffel Tower into a lively, looming object of history. To my displeasure we observed most of the monuments of Paris through the windows of our traveling bus. Succeeding our tour of Paris and another museum, we left for Toulouse to spend 5 hours of free time. Doreen and I found a CD shop and danced to some Jamaican music. We where tired afterwards so we sat in a court that resembled a park. To my disbelief Doreen started talking to these 2 strangers. The men asked if they could sit next to us and Doreen gave them the affirmative. Doreen and I were sandwiched between them so one guy talked to me as Doreen spoke to the other. I felt uncomfortable as this stranger was interrogating me with lots of private questions. Eventually I said I needed to use the bathroom to get us out of that position. I was the older one between Doreen and I so it was my responsibility to save us from that potentially dangerous situation. Maybe the reason why Doreen did not foresee the mistake of inviting the older men into our company was because she is only 16 and still innocent.
     When we where looking for the "bathrooms" Doreen got hungry so we went to Quick (the equivalent of the American McDonald's). Strangely enough the Quick had shakes that tasted just like the ice cream drink called a blizzard from the McDonald's from my town; it was a blast from the past. We still didn't want to walk around so we searched for the closest movie theatre. Doreen was teaching me how to say small phrases in german as I was teaching her some english. I was so proud of her progress that I gave her a high five. A middle aged man in the crowd saw us and asked for a high five too. He tried to hit on us but I didn't give him the time of the day (I was still recovering from my first encounter with the other men). Thankfully Doreen wasn't interested either. We bid farewell to the stranger and left to watch "TinTin;"my second french film. The movie was definitely more enjoyable than the first film I saw (Secret Identity).
     That night we slept on the bus like we did the first day of our journey. Everyone was so exhausted that the discomforts of the stiff chairs didn't affect our ability to sleep (on the other hand I slept on the floor to avoid the chairs).

Chapitre V de Espagne

     Our next day was spent visiting San Sebastian, Biarritz, then Toulouse. Unfortunately we had to travel a lot on the bus but it gave everyone, including me, lots of time to sleep off the night before. We occasionally stopped to use the bathroom or to shop. I prefer the small Spanish shops because they care easy to access, friendly, lively, and cheap. When I was walking through the shops I couldn't help but reflect on my missions trip to Mexico last year.
     Mexico and Spain are very similar in their culture, language, and landscape. After we crossed the boarder into France I recall one particular grocerystore worker. My German Friend Doreen and I were buying lunch and we stopped to talk to the cashier for amusement. He was cute so it was worth spending our time in the grocery store. I also enjoyed using my french speaking skills. The next place where we slept was a small hostel. Compared to the 4 star hotels we slept in this was quite different. Not enough rooms were available so the boys had to squish many people in their rooms. I didn't mind sitting outside with the others and just talking. Its fun to do new things but I took much pleasure at this hostel in the middle of no where with my best friends just sitting, talking, and enjoying each others company.

Chapitre IV de Espagne

     My favorite hotel during our visit in Spain was the hotel in Bilbao because of the huge buffet available during breakfeast hours. Every kind of food you could imagine filled a room that could feed at least a hundred people. There was cereal, hot chocolate, eggs, toast, fancy donuts, foreign fruits, trays of meat, cookies, and so much more. It made me wonder what they did with the left overs... Our next visit was the town of Burgos. The town was really small and didn't have much but it overlooked the ocean. It was especially windy that day so the waves were enormous. Before I went swimming I decided to do some rock climbing on one of the bolders scattered across the sandy beach. If I did happen to fall during my climb I would have plunged into the raging waves but I didn't. After my seul climbing my German friend Doreen and I trudged through the ocean waves and I swallowed a mouthful of salt water. I don't like the feel of the salty ocean water on my lips because it leaves a lasting stinging feeling.
     After we got dressed we needed to find a bathroom but there was parely a town, nontheless a bathroom. We did find an outdoor public bathroom but it was excotic. When a person is finished with this particular bathroom it self cleans itself. This cleaning process takes a long time so all the exchange students would leave the door open a crack while they used it so the next person in line could use the bathroom straight away after the person before used it. When it was my group leader turn to use the bathroom one of the exchange students accidently closed the bathroom door. The bathroom started its self cleaning procedure and in an instant the group leader gave a big yelp of surprise and jumped through the door. She was drenched but she forgave the exchange student who closed the door on her. Soon enough we went back to the hotel to eat dinner like we did every night before. The hotel waiters served us sea food but it was gross because the shrimp didn't look like they were dead. I took one look into their black beety eyes and decided not to eat them. I am not a vegitarian but I have a hard time eating meat and sea food that looks too lively; it makes me feel sick. Instead of eating the fishy supper I ate these foreign, spanish peanutes in town with my foreign friends from South America and Australia. We had a long debat about philosophy, the meaning of life, motivation, creation, and the purpose of life as we walked amoung the inhabitants of Spain. We didn't stay in town long because some strange people were stalking us. We were so scared that we ran all the way back to the hotel, all 15 of us girls at the same time (we looked like a mob). It wasn't until 2 o'clock in the morning that I fell into my bed to sleep. 

Drive-In

My host mom and I were talking about the movie "Greese" when an odd subject came up. She saw the structure of a "drive-in" for the first time while she was watching "Greese" but she didn't think they existed. I had to convince her that the hollywood movies were not making things up. Apparently there are no drive-ins in Belgium, maybe Europe either. It was a shock for me because it was a tradition for my family to go to the drive-in near my town every summer. We would pack blankets, chairs, cooking grills, food, frisbys, balls, and more into our car and drive to the drive-in. After we paid for our tickets we would search for a parking spot amoung all the other cars in the dirt parking lot. The third row in the middle was usually the best spot among the other spaces outside. We would unload our stuff and wait for the movie to start on the big outdoor movie screen. We would grill hotdogs and play frisby until it got dark because the commerciales would begin. If the weather was nice we would sit infront of our car and cover ourselves in blankets to watch the 3 different movies on the big screen but if it was cold we would simly sit in our car. Every few feet there would be a post with a speaker in each parking row so any person could hang it on their open car window to listen to the movie. Usually my parents would bring a stereo because it was practical and we could hear the movie better as it was projected on the big screen. Between each movie there would be a break so people could use the bathrooms, play games in the arcade, buy food, or mingle. After the movies ended around 2 o'clock in the morning my family would pack up our things and drive home to sleep for the duration of the morning. Going to the movie theatre is totally different compared to the drive-ins. Its more of an American ritual since it was invented in New Jersey in 1993. Nevertheless I want to show my host mom what the drive-ins are someday and give her the American experience of english films.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chapitre III de Espagne

     It was already the 3rd day of our voyage and we were going to spend the day in Bilbo, Spain. After we took the bus into town we were allowed to walk around again and shop. My friends and I found this little pizza joint to each lunch. It was a bad experience because the pizza wasn't cooked all the way and there was a strange stentch. With much relief we left that pizza joint within no time. Soon we all gathered to tour the Guggenheim musium. As we looked at the beautiful paintings the tour guide was telling use its history in French.
     Afterwards, as I toured the streets I noticed the Halloween costumes that people wore. Its true that Halloween is more significant in America but some people in Spain partake in the festivities. None of the exchange students had costumes, including me, but we blended in with the crowd. The shops, appartments, and houses were extremely tall and close together. When I looked up I would always see laundry hanging from the windows and cloths lines that cris-crossed between the buildings. I mostly hung out with the people from Australia and my best friend from Germany. Even on the exchange the people formed clicks and groups. I was the only American so I was the odd one but my friend was the only girl from Germany so we stook together. For supper, we came back to the hotel. One one the Australians was a vegitarian so all she ate was salade. She didn't starve because she ate loads of ice cream and candy. Its really hard for her to be a vegitarian but she sticks to her beliefs, even if she must eat candy instead of meat.

Du Rhum, Des Femmes

I just got back from the most interesting event and I will try to describe it with accute detail.
I walked into the room where every senior student at St. Rock was gathering. It happens every Thursday during our second periode at school. I never know what to expect; sometimes the teachers relay information to the students or we do an activity. Today, we had to sing. We separated into two groups; the girls on one side of the room and the boys opposite. Without pause a teacher started the music and everyone began to sing. The religion teacher stood among the students and conducted the song with much enthusiasm. The song was kinda catchy but I couldn't stop giggling because it was about beer and girls. When my school goes on our field trip to Turkey, Germany, Hungary, the Czech republic, Prague, Austria, and Slovakia we are going to sing this song. It is probably the first and last time before the trip that we will sing the song but I enjoyed the vocal warm up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where is My Science Class?

For the first time I was in the right place at the right time; although I cant say the same for my other class mates. When I entered my physics class there wasn't a soul about. My nerves started to fire and my first thought was, "not again, how hard can it be to find the correct class?" Before I could react further the teacher showed up. It turns out that my whole physics class lost their way and the teacher was looking for them. As the others filed in I couldn't help but smile. Maybe they understand what it is like to be in my shoes after their own experience of complete confusion.

Party of A Lifetime

I helped Kahli, my foreign exchange friend from Australia, cook, clean, and set up for her going away party for her last weekend in Belgium. It took us around 5 hours to accomplish everything but we were still running around, trying to finish while people started arriving. The problem was, was that none of us really knew how to cook (including kahlis host parents). For example, we had to make chocolate fondu but it did not turn out as we planned. First we threw chunks of chocolate into the oven, then tried to stir it after it melted. The chocolate was as thick as beef jerky so we dumped loads of cream into it. Still, it was stubbornly too thick so we set it in a bowl over boiling water to melt more. We were being super clumsy and loads of boiling water ended up mixed in with the chocolate. This procedure swallowed a lot of our time and we didn't know if it was all for nothing yet everyone at the party seemed to enjoy our messed up chocolate (but they didn't actually know what exactly was in it). Over all the food turned out fine. During the party I mostly danced and socialized with everyone. Both foreign and Belgian people were present so english and french was all mingled together. It wasn't until 3 o'clock in the morning until people attempted to go to sleep. About 35 people attended the party and half stayed to sleep over, including me. There were bodies all over the house but Kahlis parents didn't seem to mind. We had plenty of left overs to eat for breakfast and lunch the next day; I personally had a green bean, tomato salad sandwich (yum!). The party did not end after the first day or the morning after because we went to the Belgium Blegny Mine next door to Kahlis house. I already experienced the mine tour on a Rotary field trip but I didn't mind going again. I learned that Belgium was actually quite famous for its coal production before oil and other fuels became popular. It also turns out that 37% of electricity in the world is produced from coal. My Australian friend Odette invited me to go to a fair in the city of Liège afterwards and I agreed. I ate so much chocolate from the party that I didn't think I could eat more but I did. We ate Lackman, frites, and Odette and I rode lots of rides. It was hard to concentrate because each ride and concession stand played their own music, creating a huge wave of noise. I heard music of almost every language. I also noticed that many of the rides had names that were in english and not french. Sadly enough the day was coming to an end and Odettes family drove me home. I didn't eat dinner with Odette so I ate some soup then went straight to bed. It was a weekend well spent.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Maastrich

Today was my first time in the Netherlands and it was not only great, but truly special because I shared it with some of my closest friends. Ana, Odette, Jacqueline, a girl from Ecuador, and I all went to a festival where everyone wore strange, colorful costumes. I imagine that these people are over enthusiastic about their costumes because its like their Halloween. No one in Europe celebrates Halloween as Americans do. I really wanted to dress up for Halloween this year and go "trick or treating" but its not a strong tradition in Europe; even though the holiday originated here. Luckily, we randomly found some free hats and wore them all day long. None of us wore costumes but we fit right in. I guess our crazy hats drew other peoples attention because as we were eating our lunch while sitting on a bench, an unknown, english women came up to us and wanted to take our photo. After many photos and much conversing she left and was never to be seen again. We had many conversations with random people but its a great experience to talk about the culture of Netherlands with these strangers. Surprisingly, when I tried to speak french no one understood. People speak excellent english and Dutch in the Netherlands and practically no french. It only took me 2 hours to travel across the country and I already arrived in a different country with a different language. Europe is truly the most complicated and refreshing continent in the world. Anyway, we ate lots of waffles and did alot of shopping (like usual). My foreign exchange friend, Jacqueline, told me that she felt at home during our stay at the faire because she celebrates the same holiday in Switzerland. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for her to live so close to her family and yet not be able to see them. In the end all the foreign exchange students are in the same boat. We all miss our familys and friends but we also are having a fantastic time in Europe.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

After Spain

The day I got back from Spain I had to go work at a theatre for Rotary. It was quite simple, all I had to do was hang up peoples coats and speak french. After Estefy (my rotary foreign friend from Equator) and I finished we went to watch the play. It was fun at first but then I started to get really tired. The combination of no sleep for a week from my trip to Spain and attempting to translation french made me almost slip into a coma. Estefy wasn't paying attention because she thought it was boring. She came to Belgium with no previous knowledge of french but with a little english. It makes sense that she was ill entertained because she did not understand. She speaks great english now but still doesn't speak french. I think its funny that she is in Belgium and learned the wrong language (even though english is an important language as well). Overall I am glad I had my first experience of a play in French.

Lackman

When my host mom took my host sister and I to the fair in Liège we ate this dessert called Lackman. Its basically a thin waffle swimming in a sauce similar to maple syrup but more surgery. I prefer the home made crêpes my host mom makes but it was an experience. We also went on a ride where we sat in a ball shaped contraption and then the ride throws you into the air like a sling shot.

Oups

Quand je suis allé m'asseoir sur mon lit, il y avait une surprise. J'ai sauté tout de suite parce que le chat se cacha sous les couvertures. Il a donné un cri fort et il a quitté la chambre. Après un moment, je me suis assis sur le lit. Cela arrive effectivement beaucoup.

Le Deuxième Jour En Espagne


As I slept on the bus during my voyage to Spain my group crossed the French boarder. We stopped in Bordeaux to search for food. It was a Sunday so all the shops where closed. Eventually my group came across a McDonald's. The food options were practically the same but they had crêpes for dessert and other special french food choices. The whole morning we sat in McDonald's and talked until we had to get back on the road. The time didn't pass without a marvel because a group of people showed up in the most vivid costumes. It was the day before halloween but some people decided to get a head start and they wore costumes resembling the X-Men characters. When something that bizarre happens everyone wants to take a photo; so we surrounded them. They did not mind but it seems they parted as soon as they arrived. After that, when we arrived in Bilbao, we shopped
                                                        some more. During our visit, after a tour guide told us a bunch of history in french (which practically no one understood), we went to the local Carnival. My friend and I ate some delicious crêpes and other things. Eventually my german friend and I broke off from the group and entered a church. I felt so strang standing in this ancient building. The noise immediately was sucked up in a vacuum when we closed the door. I thought I had gone deaf. The air was stale with a sent of old paper. The lighting was dimmed except some rays of sunshine shining through the long, picturesque windows. As I glanced around I noticed a thin layer of dust on the vacant church benches. No other being was around in this ginormous building except the two of us and I was officially creeped out. It seemed more like a cave with a high celling than a dwelling for those who worship. Then, while we rode on the bus again, but this time heading toward the hotel, one of the exchange students from Thailand serenaded to me. As he sang "You Are Beautiful" I kept thinking about how beautiful his voice was. Finally, we got to the hotel and ate our late supper. My good german friend and I walked around the town until midnight, then found our way back to our room to sleep. It was an eventful day and I was wiped out and slept like I have never before. My favorite part of this day is when my thai friend sang on the bus because it was a moment I definitely will never forget.

Ma Première Journée En Espagne



     The night before my voyage to Spain I could not sleep because I was so excited. My friend from Australia picked me up and we drove to the Liège-Guillemins train station to meet the others. Every time I see the train station in Liège I am awestruck. I don't know what it looked like before because it was modernized in 2009 but its quite extravagant. Despite the convenience of trains, we took a bus (so we wouldn't have to drag our luggage all over the country). I do not sleep on buses often and this trip reminded me why. I ended up sleeping on the floor that night because it was the most conformable spot. It was definitely better than sleeping on my bus partner who sat next to me. The bus was well furnished with its seat belts, bathroom, and T.V. Nevertheless, we always stopped at a gas station or a building so everyone could use the public bathrooms. When I attempted to use the bathrooms some people stopped me because it was not free of charge. In all the places I have been, I believe America is the only country that does not make pedestrians pay to use this necessary place. Its unfair to charge people to use the bathrooms because its a basic need in society, so why do they make it so difficult? To answer my own question, I think that Americans take the extra step to take care of its citizens. It is true that many places in other countries allow strangers to use their bathrooms but its not a requirement. Unwillingly I gave the borrowed money donated from my chaperons to the people standing guard in front of the bathroom door. Anyway, I was glad to get back on the bus. As we were leaving someone noticed a person was missing. We almost ditched one of the people who was using the bathroom. The chaperons were quite strict about timeliness. In the end, I have decided to avoid buses, expensive bathrooms, and the chance of being left behind.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Là-Bas

I'm on my way to Spain for a week with my foreign friend from Australia. Its my first time leaving Belgium to explore other countries on this continent. I have not seen my host parents for a week now because they went on holiday to France. They return tomorrow so I won't see them for another week. I can't wait to use my spanish speaking skills on the people of Spain. I don't think they speak french there but i'll see soon!

It's A Little Expensive In Belgium

For my history class I had to buy the text book at a local store. It was not cheap either because I had to pay around 20 euros. In america, my school pays for all the text books and lends them to the students. Besides this, if a student damages or looses the school book he or she must pay for it. The library is also expensive. I wanted to borrow some CD's and I had to pay even though I am going to bring them back. I am so much more thankful for the things I have in america now that I realize how difficult it is here.

Ne Regardez Pas Le Renard Qui Passe

I have rediscovered "duck duck gray duck" (or duck duck goose) Belgian style. During a party of a family friends my younger host sister and her friends invited me to play a game with them. The belgian rules are practically the same as "duck duck grey duck" with minor differences. For both of the american game and belgian game we sit around in a circle and the person who is "it" starts to walk around. Instead of tapping each persons head while saying duck, the children of belgium chant:


"Ne regardez pas le renard qui passe 
Mais regardez le quand il est passé 
Traîne traîne mon balai 
Je le donne je le donne 
raîne traîne mon balai 
Je le donne à qui voudra !"


And the person who is "it" throws an object (a sock for example) at one of the people who sit around the circle. Furthermore, the person who is "it" is chased by the person he or she chose around the circle. The person who is "it" must sit down in the empty space around the circle before the chosen person tags them. If the chosen one does not catch the person who is "it" then it's his or her turn to be "it," but if the chaser catches the person who is "it" then the original person who walked around the circle must sit in the middle of the circle. The tagged person who was "it" cannot play until the next round. For the american style, if the person who is "it" is tagged then he or she simply is "it" again. 


People are not as different as I expected. We play similar games (like duck duck grey duck), eat almost the same foods, require the same basic needs, and much more. Even some of the words in the french language are the same or very close to english words. In the end, I may be far from home but I am surrounded by people who are like me with minor differences.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Those Birds!

Since winter is on its way my host mom decided to bring the birds inside the house. They originally lived outside because my host dad thought they were annoying. I though my host dad was being silly but now I empathize with him. Every morning, evening, and night the birds love to sing. My ears are not accustomed to constant screeching but hopefully I will soon become deaf by some miracle. I think I prefer my host dog who lounges on the couch all day. I look forward to warmer  weather and sunny days because then the birds can enjoy the outdoors while my host dog and I can rest inside happily and peacefully.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'm Confused how about you?

This day, the 22nd of October, is my first french film in Belgium. The events leading to this moment, however, was quite complex. Before this day arrived I was in school hanging out with my friends when they mentioned that there was no school that friday. I told my host sister but she already knew before hand because she was planning to go to the cinema in Verviers with her friend. Of course she invited me and I accepted without complaint. It was cool that I was going with my 12 year old host sister but I also wanted to bring my friends too. The next day I invited all my foreign friends and I told them I would facebook them later that day at 8 o'clock after my after school french class. Our organized session did not happen at the planned time because my other friend at my french class needed a ride home so I got home later than our rendez-vous. Luckily, they were still on facebook when I got home. I felt obligated to connect with them right away but I was starving because I usually eat right after I get home. So after our long conversation I finally got to eat around 10 o'clock then went to bed. Anyway, my host sister, her friend, and I went to the cinema the next day. I searched for my friends but they were nowhere to be found. They were supposed to meet me there and I tried calling them without success. A few minutes before the movie commenced my other foreign friend spotted me and came over to say hello. I previously invited my friend Odette to the movies but she said she was hanging out with her family. To my convenience they already finished their movie and odette decided to watch the same movie again with me. My host sister and I were going to see a children's movie previously but they decided to go to a different film and Odette and I to another. It was lots of fun because Odette and I had the whole theatre to ourselves so we talked as loud as we liked. I could understand the film even though it was in French; it was amazing how I could understand even though I practically knew no french before I came to Belgium. Soon the movie ended and Odette and I searched for my host sister and her friend. And long and behold there was my two other foreign friends, sitting at the cinema café, talking to  my host sister. They explained to me that they mixed up the bus times and arrived later than our original rendez-vous. They would have watched the same movie with us but they went to the wrong movie because Odette, my host sister, my host sisters friend, and I all went to different movies than was planned the day before. So, in the end I watched a different movie with a different friend that was contrary to my plans. I am starting to think that planning specifics of an event is pointless because any spontaneous thing can happen: life is so unpredictable.

Our First Acquaintance

I reminisce on my first time walking through the school campus with my host mom to register for class. We entered a room with all the others on a beautiful September day. As I sat there listening to all the school staff relaying all the information for the year I felt a little lost. My french capacity was not ample enough to comprehend their french toughs. So, I trusted my host mom to absorb the information and instead examined my surroundings. Suddenly, my ears picked up the sound of my mother language being spoken by someone in the crowd. I think it's interesting how I am drawn to english. I guess the same could be said when a person calls your name. I cant help but to be unconsciously drawn to familiarity in a place of diversity. Before I could find the english speaker the orientation ended. The administrated came over to my host mom and I and ushered us toward some other people while everyone else was leaving. We gathered in a circle and started introductions. I did not know what language to speak so I resorted to french like everyone else. It slowly came to my realization that the other three girls in our circle were not Belgian. Ana said she came from Equator, Odette from Australia, and Manuela from Switzerland. I felt I had to keep speaking in french because I wanted to impress them with what little I could speak in french and it was possible they could not speak english. To my surprise, the administrated switched to english and the other 3 girls followed suit. I tried to do the same but my american accent changed. I definitely could not speak a lot of french but at that moment my english also sounded broken because my brain was frozen in french mode. The other girls thought I was Belgian until I told them I came from America. They are amazing because english is not their first language, besides Odette. Ana speaks spanish, english, and french while Manuela speaks german, switz, french, and english. This is very common in Europe but this is extraordinary to me. It is so convenient for me that english is the universal language. After much conversing we parted and I went home. I left without knowing what I was going to do at school but I had confidence because I had some new foreign friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Home Country's Exams

I was talking with my foreign friend from Equator as she was studying for the ACTs. I noticed her big stack of flash cards and numerous notes, which were all in advanced english. I was surprised because her second language was english, spanish her first, and french becoming her third. She wants to go to college in America but she must take the ACTs and the U.S. immigration test. I never really thought about how biased our test system is until I met my friend Ana. For example, colleges in the north will only accept students after they take the ACTs and in the south everyone must take the SATs. These two tests have different names and some of the contents are also different but it attempts to measure the same thing: accumulative knowledge. It analyzes 4 subjects including; math, science, english, and writing. The biggest problem with this test is that is it only in english and does not assess other languages. So, even if a foreigner is extremely smart and motivated he or she will fail the test because the english and writing portion is impossible (unless he or she already learned english). The ACTs were extremely easy for me but for Ana it will be strenuous. The same situation is true with the U.S. immigration exam. I understand that America wants its citizens to know its mother language and its history but my country is not foreign friendly when it comes to admissions. I think it is overall easier to immigrate to other countries but every situation is different. I just hope that Ana will success and I know with her determination I doubt any language barrier can stand in her way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Horaire de l'école

I attend a catholic high school in Theux that is old as rocks but has great teachers. I do not have many problems with my school but my schedule is one of them. Since the day I started school my schedule has changed every week. It's not anyones fault the schedules are messed up but if I was to pass the blame on anything it would be the complexity of timing and organizing classes in a high school. Every grade, consisting of many subjects that teachers and students teach and learn, need a place and time to explore their information. The school is overpopulated so each grade is split into 3 groups. Every grade with each group have the same classes but at different times to avoid having 75 students per teacher. For example, my foreign exchange friend from Equador is in the senoir year with me but I do not see her because she is in a different group. The new directer at my school is trying to make everything work with each grade and every group but 2 months of attempting these experimental schedules have not been enough time. My poor english teacher is trying to help organize all the foreign exchange students schedules with all this mess. The situation is even worse because the exchange students and I have schedules that consist of classes in other grades other than our own. Sometimes I cant find a class; not because I do not know where the location is supposed to be but because teachers are scheduled to have the same classroom at the same time and one leaves while the other stays. I would be surprised by the end of the day if I walked out of school having attended all my required classes. Just writing all this information down is making my head spin. Even though attendence is hard to accomplish, all that matters is that I learn a little french by the end of each day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

J'ai Un Rhume

When I reflect on the weather in Belgium I think about the Twilight series. The story in Twilight takes place in a town with a rainy, dark, and foggy atmosphere. There are not any vampires in Belgium but it resembles the fabricated town of Forks in Twilight. I do not understand how Bella, the main character in Twilight, could not catch a cold. For almost a month a cold has followed me and everywhere I go I leave a trail of tissues in return. I wish I could be like Edward, the immortal vampire who is immune to all sicknesses. I would not mind the pale skin, sharp teeth, and unquenchable thirst for blood that vampires experience, if I could stop my nose from running like a faucet. I am not alone in my sufferings because my classmates, teachers, and family all share this common sickness. Surprisingly, when a sick teacher does not come to school no one calls for a substitute. This would never happen in the United States but then again, anything is possible in a land that could be the perfect place for breeding vampires.

Locked Out

Similar to most exchange students, my schedule is shorter than usual. Most of my days I start school late and walk my sister home afterwards because we finish at the same time. The first time I was able to leave school early I decided to walk home by myself because my host sister did not finish until a few hours later. Halfway through my journey I discovered I needed to use the bathroom so I quickened my pace. Once I arrived at the door I tried to open it but it was locked! My host family has a special place for the key in a hiding place near the front entry way. They forgot to show me the hiding place and no one was around to come to my aide. I searched and searched but to no avail and my bladder was not feeling any better as the minutes passed. It was up to me to find a new solution to my problem because I knew there would not be enough time for me to go back to school to relieve myself. I walked to the back of the house and tried the back doors, but they were firmly shut and locked; that is when I noticed the roof. My back yard has several levels and one level is even with the roof. I regarded my widow which rests toward the middle of the roof next to the chimney. I was so desperate for a portal to my house that I started to climb to my open window from the yard. After I jumped through my window I rushed to the bathroom just in time. After my crisis was averted my sister came through the door, key in hand, smiled at me and asked me how my day was. After I asked where she found the house key she showed me the one place I did not look. All I can say is, is that desperate times calls for drastic measures.

That's His Name

While I was in my french class I was trying to understand what the teacher was saying like a good student when, all of a sudden, everyone was getting up and moving around. I missed the hint but luckily a guy sat next to me and said he would be my partner. We had to do some kind of assignment about sexism but since communication was almost impossible the Belgian started to write with me overseeing his work. He handed me his work and asked if it was ok with me. As if it was an omen that french vocabulary is not my genre, the first word my eyes landed on was a french word I did not understand. And the curious girl I am, I asked the Belgian what it meant. He gave me a strange look and replied it was his name! My other classmates in close proximity overheard and snickered. The teacher also took some pleasure in my mistake. I could not help but chuckle with my Belgian friend as well because I not only don't understand his french but also his handwriting. All Belgians write in exotic cursive that my brain is not accustomed to, henceforth, I still do not understand the teacher or pupils even after they write down a word I am unfamiliar with when spoken. I am not destined to fail but to succumb to situations that place me in a position of making a fool of myself. Its still fun to learn new french things, like how to talk about sexism in french or the name of my classmate.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Darker Side of Kayaking

After my lovely day kayaking with the Rotary foreign exchange students I went to the train station to find my way home. Maddy, my good friend and "oldie:" the term used for foreign exchange students who have lived in Belgium longer because the time hemisphere is different around the globe, was kind enough to let me use her "go pass" for the train to prevent me from paying double the cost. It can get extremely expensive traveling by train so people can buy this card for 50 euros which allows the owner to pass through Belgian just for 5 dollars per trip. We had lots of free time before the train arrived so I went to an Indian restaurant with my other friends because they said they were going to Liège like me. When I stepped off the streets of Belgium and walked into the India restaurant I felt like I was walking into another world. The atmosphere was astounding and the people were legitimately Indian and spoke their original language, as well as french and english. After the delicious meal the waitress gave us this candy that looked like nerds but tasted like minty stuff. The others declaired the train was comming soon so we all ran to catch our train. I looked for Maddy on the train but I could not find her. I felt a surge of anxiety because she had my train ticket and she did not know where I was. It was impossible for me to contact her or anyone because I lost my phone before the trip and I did not have their phone numbers. Eventually, I met up with Maddy in Verviers but she was visibly tense due to our separation. We were not on the same train because I took one of the many other trains going to Liège that Maddy did not take. Apparently she called my host parents who called my counselor who henceforth called the police and other Rotary members to spread the word that I was lost. I truly felt remorse for this situation and apologized to everyone with the most sincerity. This apology, however, did not prevent my counselor from e-mailing everyone about how irresponsible I was and how disappointed he was of me and Estefy; a different foreign exchange student who, on the same day, disappeared for a few hours without permission to party. That Saturday had its good moments and obviously its bad. I made a mistake and I paid for it. I just hope it never happens again for me, Estefy, and the other foreign exchange students who have previously misunderstood the confusing train system.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Namur Déjà







When listening to a lecture it can either be totally benificial to the listener or useless depending if the listener already has the knowledge of the information. Today I went to a lecture that was painful for me because I had to sit through about 5 hours of lecturing from Rotary about stuff they already talked about. When you sit down and realize this after a few minutes you also have an epiphany that there is no route of escape due to social edict. Time seemed to pass slower and everything other than the lecture became the center of attention for everyone. It was not all bad because some parts were funny. The Belgians attempted to speak in English and it was so cute. They sound just like me when I try to speak french. For example, the pictures above demonstrates how translation can easily be misinterpreted. "YOU SAY NO DRIVE" is actually "we say that you can not drive." The Rotarians also have a rule for "YOU SAY NO DATE." They say that they do not want us to date in the powerpoint but they told us at the meeting it was ok, just not to take it too far. They also imply we cannot drink but its ok if rotary gives it to us, if my family gives it to me, or in other specific situations. By the end of the powerpoint I did not know what the rules were anymore because it was so deceptive. Afterwards the foreign exchange students went on a boat ride. It felt like we were traveling through a wind storm. No one had the proper clothing to defend themselves from this aerial attack, therefore, we used each other as shields like the penguines. Fun fact: penguines live in Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, America, and Africa. If someone tells you penguines live in the north it is FALSE! FAUX! The north is not good enough for the penguines so they reject it, like us human foreigners on the Rotary boat. When we finally departed from our ship of misery my friends and I all took the same train home. Two of my daring friends decided to leave to buy pitas in Liège before the train arrived. The train came but they had not returned. I called to warn them and they returned just in time to hop on before it left. I strongly reprimanded them for their spontaneousness but all foreign exchange students behave in somewhat the same way. Its always stressful to miss a train and being seperated from the group can be dangerous and lonely. But as I like to say: "all ends that ends well" or "c'est le vie;" the same goes for those penguins.