Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Practice Rotary Meeting
My Saterday morning was spent preparing before I had to take the train at 10:57 a.m. to Namur. I was getting excited because I was going to spend the day with my close Germany friend Doreen. My host dad dropped me off at the train station and my day began. An hour and a half after I was in the Namur train station, however, Doreen was nowhere to be seen. Moude, Doreen's host mom, forgot to dropper her off at the train stop near her house, so her mom drove her to our rendezvous point. It took a few confusing minutes to find each other in the huge train station, but we managed to locate one another.
Doreen and I walked outside near the train station to pass the time because her Belgian friend Sarah was coming as well. With time on our hands, Doreen bought some strawberries and post cards. I searched for a bathroom in a sketchy area (we left as soon a possible). We came back to the train station to pick up Sarah. As I walked toward her I noticed her medium brown hair and short height. Even though she was 18, she was a head smaller than me and was in 4th grade in high school with Doreen. It was well into the afternoon and we hadn't eaten yet because we wanted to have a pick-nick. Due to the overcast weather, we searched for a bakery and sat down at the indoor restaurant around 1:30 p.m. and gladly ate.
We managed to do some shopping and to spend a wonderful time together until the movie was about to start at the local theatre. One of the foreign exchange students I met on the WEP trip in Spain met us in the movie theatre as well. The building was confusing and seemed like a labyrinth. The ticket collector pointed out the general direction of our destination. After layers of stairs and hallways leading us in confusing circles we entered the movie theatre just in time for the credits to start. Doreen and I needed to use the bathroom and it was confidently within the room next to the screen (strangely enough). The door to the bathroom lead to a room with two doors: one for females and the other for males. The women's bathroom was already occupied, so Doreen walked through the boys bathroom door. I stood guard and waited patiently like any friend. I watched as a middle aged man walked out of the girl's bathroom door with a garbage can in his hand. The stranger proceeded to stand near me and continue to eat from the garbage. I watched in horror as he finished, placed the garbage can on the floor, and refill it with the litter he previously threw on the floor around him. There was something definitely strange about this man and I ushered Doreen back to the theatre room when she finished. Throughout the duration of the film the same man went to the bathroom 4 more times (doing who knows what).
The film ended and Doreen, my friend from Brazil, Doreen's friend, and I walked through the labyrinth to return outside. My train was scheduled to leave soon and everyone walked to the train station. My host dad asked me to come home earlier, but I missed the other train due to my position. The train I took to Namur took about an hour, while the train ride home was an hour longer: sometimes the connecting train is not on the same schedule as others. When I arrived at my stop at Franchimont it was already getting dark. I started walking and a half an hour later I was home. My host siblings were sitting around the T.V. alone. When I asked where the parents were they replied that they went to a party. It's believe Pierre and Règine wanted me to come home from my get together with my friend to baby sit. Pierre told me he wanted me to be at the house earlier because he wanted the kids to experience a foreign exchange student, however, I found it strange that they were not home themselves.
The next day I woke up and prepared for my Rotary activity. The 1630 Rotary students had to go to an obligatory gathering that started before midday. My host parents were still sleeping and the time was passing quickly. Eventually, I had to wake them up with much regret. Since my host parents came home so late that I didn't have the time to preview them to my activity until I had to wake them up the next morning. Règine got out of bed and gave me a ride. I felt guilty and expressed my remorse. She forgave me and I walked into the Verviers hotel feeling less guilty. A Rotary leader told us the plans changed and he drove us to the movie theatre. From that point, a different Rotarian drove us to the train station to pick up other exchange students, then we came back to the theatre. I am still unsure why the Rotarians were driving us to all these places.
A massive group of teenagers stood together eating free waffles and free pop. The practice Rotary meeting soon began. I was handed an umbrella and ushered in line with the others. Two lines were formed facing each other with a walking space between us. Hours passed as the leaders tried to control the chaos. People were talking, roaming around, and not paying attention. The Rotarians switched between french, english, and spanish trying to explain what we had to do for the Rotary president's arrival that Thursday. Finally, the Rotarians gave the students buttery sandwiches and waffles for lunch. When we finished eating, we tried to practice standing in lines and, this time, held the national flags from each country while fake smiling. The leaders rounded us up again and we sang the song called, "Imagine," by John Lennon. The practice finished, but I was unsure if the job was actually finished: we didn't accomplish much.
My New Zealand friends invited me to go to a parade in Welkenraedt while we were standing around trying to decide what to do. I called Règine and asked her if I could go and what time I should come back. She said I could and allowed me to decide what time I could come home. When I finished negotiated with Règine I remembered that I forgot my backpack in the Rotarian's car from the time when he was driving us all over town. With a quick explanation to my friends, I ran toward the parking lot. An exchange student and I met up before I stepped outside and handed me my backpack. She forgot her bags in the car as well and grabbed mine. With my bag in hand, I ran back to meet up with my friends at the front of the building, but they were nowhere to be seen. They must have forgotten me and I ran to the train station to catch up with them before it was too late. I bolted through the Verviers train station to meet a group already waiting. Ironically, Henry went back to find me. I felt touched that he searched for me even though he accidentally left.
Once everyone was together, we boarded the train heading for the German section in Belgium. The parade was already in session in Welkenrraedt. The different floats blasted their music as they passed by and disguised people waved at the cheering crowds. Candy rained down on the on-lookers and the children scattered about me trying to collect them. My group consisted of many people and we dispersed in different directions. Henry and Jack ended up in their Belgian friend's house and all the girls, including me, joined them in good time. The house was somewhat in a disarray and people were running around. Food and drinks were laid on the table and the parents of the Belgian offered us lunch and alcohol. I accepted the small glass of wine, however, I didn't drink much. The others, on the other hand, were drunk. Someone gave Henry a guitar and he began to sing and play. We were captivated by his songs that he made up the lyrics on the spot. Later, as we talked about our day, Henry couldn't even remember what he did. The owners of the house were kind and generous. It shocked me how they allowed random strangers in their home and fed us like we were old friends. As I left I thanked them generously and walked back on the street where the parade was finishing.
My friends accompanied me to my train and saw me off. I stood in the doorway until the doors closed on me to talk with my friends as long as possible. Hurridly, I walked into the train car and sat by the window to get one more glimpse of my good friends. The train began to pull away and my friends scrambled to keep in my view through the window I peered out of. A grin grew on my face and I twisted my head to watch them disappeared from my view. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about how much I love my friends and how much I missed them already. A girl about the same age as me walked into the train cart and sat on the seat across the aisle from me. The young girl noticed I was crying and asked if I was ok. I looked up and noticed she was crying as well. She explained to me that her boyfriend was muslim and was angry with her because she drank alcohol and became drunk. I was crying because I missed my New Zealand friends. The girl left when he stop came and I was left alone with three other strange boys.
Waiting patently, I sat next to the window minding my business. The boys advanced toward me and tried to talk to me. Instantly I knew something was horrible wrong with them (perhaps they were drunk or on drugs). Despite their attempts to gain my attention I tried end our conversation. When I had enough of their inappropriate questions I stood up to leave and the boys stood in my way. Without warning, one of the boys said I was beautiful and leaned in and kissed me. Shocked, I backed away and they moved toward me. The train came to a stop and I rushed out the door and sprinted down the road. My heart was beating fast and a cry escaped from my lips. The only thought in my mind was my desire to be home and tears filled my eyes as I began to weep. My phone was in my hand and I dialed Règines number as I looked around the dark, deserted train platform. Directly after I said I was at the Pepinster train stop in my strained voice Règine demanded why I got off the train. I became mute as my throat chocked up with emotion as I attempted to explain what happened. All I could get out in french was, "could you please pick me up from the Pepinster train station." Règine expressed her frustration that I did not get off at the closer train stop 5 minutes away and that she was busy. With a loud click, Règine hung up the phone without saying goodbye. It was possible that she was angry when I didn't answer her question. A half an hour later Règines car pulled up beside me and I plopped down in the seat and broke down again. Règine Turned to me and asked in a commanding voice what happened. Meanwhile Règine drove, I re-lived the incident as I anxiously re-told my story. All Règine had to say was that these situations happen and that she was furious at me about yesterday and that day. In my mind I thought my day couldn't get any worse; I was wrong.
I walked into my house and downstairs to the kitchen trying to regain my composure. I saw Pierre signal to Clemence to walk toward me. Clemence asked if I was coming to present to her class the next Thursday. With much regret I told her I couldn't because Rotary e-mailed me that I had to go to an obligatory meeting. Pierre was standing near and and before I could complete my sentence he started to yell at me. I remember he said that he was vexed and disappointed for his daughter. Clemence said with her little voice that she didn't mind and we could reschedule the date for my presentation to her elementary english class. On the other hand, Pierre wouldn't hear of it. Before that night, I told Règine that I couldn't go to Clemence's gig when I received the message from Rotary and she probably told Pierre. Perhaps Pierre and Règine wanted me to tell Clemence the bad news myself. So many things were going wrong and I felt helpless as I watch my relationship with my host parents become destroyed within a weekend. I still apologize for the unfortunate chain of events, but all Pierre says is, "of course you are sorry." In my opinion, I don't think they forgive me.
From my adventure to Namur with my friend to the Rotary even the next day, I had a blast. Most of the time was spent talking with my friends and having a good time, yet there were also dark moments. The train is more complicated than I thought pertaining to the scheduling and passengers. It's important to be with friends and to have a life outside the house equally to the need to be cautious and weary. Hopefully my host parents will look back on the weekend and see it as a simple mistake and misunderstanding because I don't feel content when anyone hates me.