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.