Thursday, March 29, 2012

Journée Adventure

     Belgium is known for its convenient transport despite its antique vehicles. The trains and buses in Belgium are well organized and accessible due to its small land mass size. I wanted to take my friend Lydia to Germany and within one night we planned our day and took the train the next morning to Aachen. Were in the next country in less than an hour during our train ride. The reason I chose Aachen for our adventure was for its well-know shops, cathedrals, scenery, and castles.
     The moment Lydia and I stepped off the train we started heading in the direction of the information center to search for a map and information. In a local store near us, we talked to a cashier who gave us brief directions and we managed to find the information center with lots of guessing. The area was beautiful and we sat down on some steps near a restaurant to enjoy our pick-nick. As pedestrians walked by, Lydia and I took turns telling stories about them depending on their behavior and clothing. Our game ended when the last sandwich was eaten and we were on our way again.
     An ally of small shops caught our attention and we lolygaged eating free gingerbread samples from various bakeries. Lydia knew that a tour for the local cathedral began at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and we walked through the office doors next to the cathedral (we needed to confirm our participation). The secretaries told us that it was too late to sign up because the guided tour was full. We made our way outside behind the group and decided to follow them. The guide didn't notice two extra candidates (Lydia and myself) and he lead us around while telling us the cathedral's history. What I found extremely impressive about our guide was the fact that he spoke in fluent english the whole time, german being his first. The guide informed us about Charleroi, the construction of the building, and more. I gazed around the ancient and magnificent church. The guide mentioned that the windows were replaced, but every other aspect remained the same. I examined Charleroi's tomb and touched his throne. It was an enriching experience.
     The tour ended and Lydia and I went back to shopping. In almost every store we visited, Lydia bought some accessory or other. I had the impression that money was growing from her purse. We shared some belgian waffles, then Lydia went to the grocery store to buy ice cream. The temperature was still extremely hot when we boarded the train for our return. Back at the Verviers train station, Lydia's host dad drove us home and we still had lots of time on our hands. I showed Lydia the Franchimont castle and my school. We managed to spend two hours outside touring Theux before we came back to my house to cook dinner.
     Originally, we were going to cook chinese noodles, but we ended up making a creation of our own. Our masterpiece consisted of black rice, peas, curry sauce, apples, carrots, celery, and scrambled eggs. In reality, our dish was made of whatever we found in the cupboards. Pierre came home and ate with us before Règine came home. Pierre and Règine ate a second dinner as we all socialized. Pierre asked Lydia numerous questions and she could barely answer before Pierre demanded the next question at her. Later that night Lydia told me she was a little intimated by my host parent's strong personalities. Règine offered us special marange and strawberry ice cream with fresh strawberries and whipped cream on top. My friend and I were not tired after the ice cream dessert, so we watched the You Tube video called Kony. The next day was going to be challenging because we were having a rotary activity involving physical exercise. We settled down and fell asleep to reserve our strenth.
     Rotary organized another activity and the exchange students were meeting in Wavre to visit the park called Journée Adventure. Règine, my second host mom, woke my friend and I up because the alarm on my phone didn't ring. Without knowing, daylight savings happened overnight and no one told us. Lydia, my friend from New Zealand, and I got ready within fifteen minutes and we were out the door with our workout suits on and tennis shoes strapped to our feet. Our late start prevented Lydia and I from eating breakfast and Règine decided to stop at the bakery on the way to Verviers. Règine forgot where the bakery was and turned the car around thinking that she passed it. Within a few minutes she realized it was further down the road and we pivoted again back onto our path. I kept checking the clock because we had less than ten minutes to get to the train station and it was no where near us. The car stopped and Règine ran inside to find us breakfast. Back on the road, Règine became lost once more and at length found the road. I hopped out of the car when it came to our destination. Lydia and I shot into the train just in time before it embarked. My other Rotary friends were waiting for us on the seats and we all squeezed together.
     The train eventually dropped us off at Leuven in the Dutch region of Bemgium. My friends ate their first and second breakfasts' in a nearby bakery. We had an hour to waste and individually rounded up chairs to sit outside and enjoy the spring weather. Nicola needed to find an ATM and I decided to ask the cashier in the restaurant where the nearest one was. I resorted to english because I don't know how to speak dutch and no one spoke french. All at once, the cashier and customers jumped to my aid. A young women told me in pidgin english to follow her and she walked out the door immediately. My friends watched me as I ran after the stranger leading me down the road. I turned my head to find the group of exchange students trailing behind me. The women guided me to the ATM in the train station and returned to the bakery. My friends caught up with me and other foreign exchange students as well who were disembarking their train.
     With our new, bigger group, we boarded the train heading for Wavre. Within an hour all the exchange students were together and the Rotex chaperons lead us to Journée Adventure. The cost for entry was 25 euros and I reached inside my purse to pay for the cost. To my horror I discovered that I grabbed the wrong wallet and my 50 dollar bill was all I had. My morning was hectic and my lack of focus caused my mixup. I attempted to pay with my american money, but it was not acceptable. My friend Maisa from Finland saw my struggle and lent me 25 euros, permitting me entrance.
     The exchange student group walked inside a building where a worker handed me a blue jump suit with a cord attached. I put the metal object at the end of the cord in the loop at the side of my suit and placed my bags in the locker room. The worker lead the exchange students to an area were we strapped on harnesses, then we began our first climbing obstacle course. Three levels of difficulty existed within the camp: green, red, and black (green being the easiest level and black the hardest). For obvious reasons, our group started on the green level and I slid the metal object shaped like a T onto the cord. Various obstacles and platforms were connected to the trees and a main metal cord hung beside it. I crossed bridges, cords, planks, monkey bars, ropes, and climbing walls hanging in the air between each platform on the trees.
     My friends and I finished the path in the trees and we found the easiest level lull, so we walked straight to the hardest black course. A young girl was passing between the trees on these ropes with stirrups when she fell. Her cord snapped as her weight pulled against it. After a few attempts to regain her balance she gave up and hung limp in the air. An hour passed before my friends and I decided to get off the course and we chronologically turned around and returned to the beginning and unhooked ourselves from the main cord: it's impossible to unhook yourself in the middle of the course once you slide the metal object from your cord to the main chain.
     Another strenuous black course was nearby and we hopped on. Throsby and Nicola were behind me while Jess and Maisa were ahead of me. Throsby would stop in-between each obstacle and I would wait patiently. As the challenge augmented, Throsby became more stiff. Multiple zip lines marked the end of our path. I descended and gained so much momentum that I ran into the cushion on the tree. My body rebounded and I slid back off the platform and I hung in the air from my cord, stuck. Throsby and Nicola were oblivious to my problem and Throsby started to descend as well. I watched as he glided toward me and I closed my eyes and braised myself as he collided into me. A loud clap sounded as our bodies met and we twirled in a circle with our cords twisted. I was on top of Throsby as we hung in the air and we tried to untangle ourselves. A rope was not far from our reach and Throwsby attempted to push me toward it without success. We were only a few feet from the ground, but our cords connected to our harnesses held us fast. A worker came to save us and tried to grab my foot to pull me back to the platform, but all he did was pull off my shoe. He stomped away and reappeared on the platform in front of us. He connected himself to the cord and pulled himself toward us like an army crawl. He whipped out another cord and connected himself to us and proceeded to drag us to the end of the course. I walked over to Throsby who was sitting on the bench to see if he was ok. His face was as white as a sheet and I felt his shaking body under my hand as I patted him on the back. Nicola wanted to begin the next black course we left beforehand, but most of our friends backed out.
     Nicola lead the way followed by myself, Chris, Danni, and Michaela. We climbed until we were extremely high in the air among the trees. I crossed some monkey bars and watched Maisa as she attempted to follow suit. Her hand slipped and I watched in horror as she swung into the edge of the platform where I stood. Nicola and I dragged Maisa on top of the platform and she cried in pain. Her back took a hard hit and the physical effort was a backbreaker (literally). Without much convincing, Maisa and a few other girls waited for the worker to come to unhook them and lower them down back to the ground.
     I realized that the rate of our advancement through the course would not comply with the time we needed to catch the train. It was impossible to quicken our pace since other visitors were ahead of us. In an optimistic way I saw our position as an opportunity to enjoy the park longer. My friend Maisa was walking on the path heading toward the exit and spotted me. It was my intention to walk with her back to the train station. I told her that I could pay her back with the money I was going to take out at the local ATM in the train station, however, I was still stuck on the course. Fortunately, my other friend Lydia gave her money to allow her to buy her train ticket and I would pay Lydia back some other time.
     At the end of my course, most of the exchange students already left. Chris, Danni, Patrícia, Nicola, Morgen and I were escorted to the train station after we ate free waffles and drank sparkling ice tea. The train stopped in Leuven again and we hung out at the same bakery we visited that morning. When I got off at the Verviers train station Règine picked me up and drove me home. It was a cheerful ending.
     Lydia and I visited many shops and a church in Aachen on Saturday while on Sunday I climbed around in the trees at the Journée Adventure park. The german shops and food were amazing in Aachen. We learned about Charloi and a famous cathedral. The courses in the park were challenging and delightful. Even though I missed my train, some of my friends stayed with me and accompanied me back to my village. The weekend began and ended perfectly.

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