Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birthday Weekend

     I packed myself a lunch, then my host dad drove me to the Franchimont train station a half an hour before it was due to arrive. He needed to pick up my youngest host sister, Clemence, and he decided to drop me off at the same time. The time passed quickly and I was on my way to Liège to meet my foreign exchange friend Doreen. The moment she got off the train I ushered her back on because the shops I knew were at the next train station at Liège-Palais. We made small talk and discussed what has happened in our lives since the last time we saw one another. It was a merry reunion and we covered a lot of ground while we shopped among the mini-malls and stores. At one point Doreen mentioned she did not previously eat lunch and it was already past 2 o'clock! If circumstances were different, I would have eaten with her, but i devoured my lunch beforehand in ignorance. Doreen easily spotted a small waffle joint along the street. The restaurant was deserted except for Doreen and I. We sat in solitude next to a window on the second floor of the building with a spacious view of the cobble stone street below. We stumbled across the subject of Doreen's Zumba classes - a dance workout class that is sequenced to hip and up-to-date music. Doreen wanted to demonstrate her routine when she attentively heard a Zumba song playing on the speakers. People on the street stopped dead in their tracks and looked up at the window to watch Doreen and I dance.
     With all the eating and dancing, we needed to find a bathroom, but the owner exclaimed that it was out of order. Our scavenger hunt for the bathroom began. A Quick (which is the european form of McDonald's)was next door and Doreen bought ice cream. Usually, when a customer buys a product, him or her can use the bathroom: not in this case. Two women guarded the entrance to the bathroom and would not let me pass without payment. In frustration I left with my bladder still full. As I sat back down across from Doreen I noticed the women sitting at the table beside Doreen. The women engaged me in a conversation and asked a million personal questions. Beforehand, while I was attempting to get into the bathroom, the women asked Doreen for money. The woman claimed she lost her wallet and needed money for the train. After another few minutes her child came along and said she was hungry. The women proceeded to ask Doreen for more money for food. Being the generous person Doreen is, she gave this stranger almost 7 euros. I was appalled and the women left with her pockets full of Doreens money. Obviously the theatrical scene with the woman was a scam and I gave Doreen my money because I felt she was used unjustly, besides, Doreen is only 16 years old!
     Our quest for the bathrooms continued and our path lead to an ally with many dreary shops and bars. I selected one by chance and, voilà, the bathrooms were free for use. The reason it was for free was evident while I stood inside the stall and survayed how dirty and smelly the interior was. The area was not the safest of places, so we got out as soon as our mission was accomplished.
     The time slipped out of my attention and I discovered that we missed our train. On top of that, all the trains were late because the weather was so cold that it prevented them to properly function.
     From our stop at the Franchimont train station, we walked to my high school to watch Clemence perform a play with her classmates. My family, as well as every other spectator and performer, already ate their supper: Doreen and I had the cafeteria to ourselves. The play began and we rushed into the St. Rock gymnasium. Heat radiated from all the bodies packed together in the dark gym. From the other side of the room I watched the lightened stage with all the kids in their fancy costumes. Eventually, the play ended and my host family took us home. Doreen and I talked until we couldn't keep our eyes open.
     The next morning, we ate breakfast, then lunch soon after - we slept in late. Règine, my second host mom, made a Gallette De Roi (a delicious, traditional, and european cake) and we all were served a piece. Doreen's train already passed Franchimont because my host mom kept us at the house later than expected. Règine drove us to another station just in time for Doreen to run into the train before the doors closed.
     I was already missing my friend as I sat in the car going home. My host siblings and I wend sledding at my arrival, although I stopped due to the dangerous conduct of my host brother. If my host sister or I sled down the hill while he rested at the bottom, then he would jump in front of our sled or throw his sled at us to cause us to fall. With the combination of the sled's high speed velocity and the inability to control the direction in which the sled moves, the situation became extremely dangerous. Not wanting to put myself a risk, I walked away in a huff.
     The moment I walked in the door from sledding the doorbell rang. Règines blood children arrived to celebrate my birthday. Everyone introduced themselves and Règine placed the three cakes on the table. I was passed a slice of the Gallotte de Roi and I began to eat. Something hard hit my fork when I placed it in the interior of my slice of pie. I pulled it out to discover a little figure. It's a tradition to place a figure in the Gallotte de Roi and whoever finds it becomes the king or queen for the day. My host sister placed a plastic crown on my head and Règine passed me a slice of the coconut cake. Règine wanted to give me another slice but 3 pieces were satisfactory for me.
     During our conversations, Règine's blood children mentioned their ski trip in the French Alps with their mother. They invited me, but Règine interrupted that it would probably be too expensive for me and I did not have the supplies. Even though Règine already invitatedme beforehand, I think she regrets asking me to come along. In any case, if I do not go I will just have to party in Belgium. On top of that, Règine kept talking about how wonderful and talented my friend Doreen is and how I am not. Her words were harsh and it hurt my feelings deeply.
     Even after hanging out with my friend, sledding with my host sisters, and eating cake with my host parents, I still felt sad. My first host family was on my mind. A moment during each day I think about how much I miss them. Christine invited me to eat lunch with them to celebrate my birthday and her sister's birthday, but my second host mom told her no. I did not find out about the invitation until it was already too late. Règine often excludes me from activites with my friends and host family. Some aspects about my host family I enjoy, then again, some situations with my second host family get under my skin.
     The weekend of my birthday started out wonderful with Doreen and slowly swirled into a disaster. Doreen and I were able to have a lot of time to ourselves, but when I was back with my second host family I did not feel at home. No cake can distract me from what I really missed and wanted: my first host family.

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