Friday, December 2, 2011

We've Found the Mute Button

My voice, like me, enjoys traveling. It has strolled through the mountains of pitch, and the valleys of tone. Typically, it finds happiness in considerably safe travels. Wednesday, my voice decided to embark on a journey unlike any of the previous ones. One that would present grave danger and risks. My voice, being quite ignorant, ventured on without giving the journey much thought. It had hoped to make it to an undiscovered planet far from this solar system, but its mental GPS led it straight into a black hole. My voice is no superior creation, and was forced to abide by the laws of nature, vanishing into a void of nonexistence. 
For the amusement of others and the embarrassment of myself, here is a video of me [trying] to speak. Due to the difficultly of understanding what I’m squeaking about, I’ve added subtitles. By recording this video, I learned that I don’t think before I speak. You can tell by the way I heavily question my word choice near the end of the video. 
I’d also like to point out that this was the best I sounded all day. Most of the day went by without even being able to make the squeaky noises. 



video


It’s also been requested that I write about the chocolate. How does one describe such a magnificent creation? Take every single positive comment you’ve heard about Belgian chocolate, add them all together, and multiply the outcome by pi (that one’s for you, Adam). Now, take your result and throw it away, because it doesn’t even begin to live up to the delicious goodness of the chocolate. Yes, it’s true. Belgian chocolate absolutely deserves all the hype that it gets. 
Even the American chocolates (Twix, Crunch, Snickers, etc.) are one hundred times better here. After going an extended period of time thinking my increased love of these chocolates was due to psychological influence, I realized they, too, are made in Belgium with Belgian chocolate. Never again will I truly enjoy chocolate in America. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yes, You Do

I broke the zipper on my favorite pair of jeans. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about this.

Tomorrow marks my third month here. Every completion of a month comes with a victorious feeling, yet a bittersweet one all the same. I've been considerably proud of myself, as I have yet to have a problem with homesickness. Granted, I do sometimes look forward to doing certain things again in America, but nothing that makes me want to jump on a plane within the next five minutes. I've predicted that one of two things will occur:

     1. I will continue throughout the rest of the year without experiencing a bad case of homesickness.
or

     2. I'm subconsciously shoving any sadness I have to the deepest corners of my mind. One day, an evil imaginary creature will decide it's time to organize my mind, and he'll drag out every single piece of sadness. His organization methods will cause an incredible, outrageously long-lasting breakdown. 

I'm hoping the first one is the winner, but I have been noticing that I'm a very subconscious person. I've found that I'm oblivious to the majority of the things I do. Yesterday's walk to school alone consisted of two subconscious actions. The first one was creepily walking behind a guy and munching the air like a dinosaur. The second was flailing my arms and yelling, "CABOT." Once again, I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about this. 

Seems like I've got a lot of pondering to do.

Monday, November 14, 2011

She's Not Foreign.

While riding the train back to Athus, two girls standing next to me were attempting to prank phone call people. "Attempting," because they were doing a rather terrible job of it. Regardless, I found the situation amusing. At one point, one of the girls received a text message. I assume it was written in English, because she read aloud with choppy pronunciation, "Do you speak French?"
She asked her friend how to say "tu es" in English. This is the moment where I stepped in with, "You are." My unexpected response initiated a brief French conversation that resulted in me successfully convincing both of the girls that I'm a native, French speaking Belgian who learned English as a second language in school. Highlight of my week.

Although I'm the only person who thinks this, I've been doing quite well on my tests. Under normal circumstances, I would enter an intense period of depression if I received a 1.5/20 on a test. But considering all I had to do to earn that point and a half was draw a picture of Jesus in Mexico, I'm quite proud of myself.
Now, this isn't to say I completely blow of every test that's handed to me-- I only do that with math tests. Usually, I do provide a lazy attempt at answering the questions. The relative amount of effort I put forth for my chemistry test, for example, earned me 4 points and a high-energy praise from the teacher.
The only teacher who refuses to praise my low (though existent) grades is my physics teacher. After getting a single question right on a test, her only comment towards me was, "You get to choose three exams to take, correct? Please don't take mine." Oh yes, I'm feeling the love.

Since my arrival in Belgium, I've been craving American Chinese food. This statement has no story behind it. It's simply a statement of sad truth.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oh Happy Days, Here Comes the Sun.

I went to a volleyball club practice today. Let me begin by giving a rough, general description of the actual practice:

I had initially expected the two hour practice to consist of an hour of warm-ups, and an hour of competing. Unlike my expectations, it was actually just two hours of warm-ups. During these exercises, I discovered how horribly out of shape I am. By the time the second warm-up had started, I was having trouble not collapsing. For those of you who say Europeans aren't athletic, you're wrong. 

Besides the lack of competitive game-playing (and the large amount of chocolate that the coach distributed during practice), it was eerily similar to my old volleyball club in Arkansas. This mostly had to do with the group of people that were there. The coach uncannily resembled Coach Hal, there was the one overly serious and controlling player, and there was the girl who was constantly singing and dancing in her own little world. 

I couldn't help but to look around and think of America. I love volleyball, but it's what I loved in America. Because of this, I kept experiencing a strange feeling within my self that I am unable to properly describe. I don't believe it was homesickness, but I'm sure it was a relative. For that reason, I wasn't thinking I'd want to continue playing here. I would like to avoid doing things that could potentially trigger nostalgia. 

However, things changed immediately after practice was over and I walked outside. The lovely endorphin rush was finally kicking in and I became so overly happy-- I felt as though the world was drenching me in a shower of lollipops and gumdrops filled with happiness and appreciation for all things around me. For the next hour, I couldn't shut up. I just blabbered, and blabbered, and blabbered some more. I'm pretty sure this threw my host parents for a loop, because, although I try to speak as much French as possible, I hadn't spoken that much since being here.

And now, with my swollen fingers and sore legs, I've decided I should continue attending volleyball practices when convenient. Although the practice itself wasn't quite what I was expecting, the amazing amount of happiness I had afterwards was so brilliant that I'm afraid I may have already become addicted to it. 

To add a little variety to this post, Michelle Duggar is pregnant with her 20th child. Welcome to Arkansas, folks!




Monday, November 7, 2011

Il a tombé dans les pommes.

My friend, Jésus, is pretty nifty. He lets me pronounce his name without the accent and add some southern flair to the pronunciation. Today, Jésus "fell on some apples" and crashed into the lockers, resulting in unconsciousness. This incident caused geography to become three times funnier. Praise Jesus! 

This is Jésus. He's so cool. 

I took a math test a couple of weeks ago. The teacher seemed so depressed that day, so I decided happiness was more important than math. In attempt to cheer him up, I wrote cheesy, inspirational phrases all over the paper and drew pictures full of love and harmony. He seemed to really appreciate it, and proceeded to show the entire class what I had done while they were busy calculating various equations. Today, everybody got their tests back except me. I've decided it's because the teacher framed my "test" and mounted it on a wall for never-ending happiness. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Check.

To those of you who take the time to comment on my blog posts, I would like to genuinely thank you. I apologize for never giving you written responses. If it makes any difference, I do provide each of you with mental responses.... Reading your words truly makes me very happy, and I hope you can all forgive me for never commenting back.
While we're on it, Mrs. Wittenberg, there's a boy here from Nevada. I talk about you and the incredible time I had in Ruby Lake every time I'm with him.

Today, in geography, the teacher was talking about drugs and whatnot and proceeded to ask me what the first thought is that comes to my mind when someone mentions drugs. My only response was a noise of confusion. I must've given the impression that I didn't know what drugs are, because she went on a small drug explanation rant. I interrupted her to tell her that I understood, but didn't know what I thought.
See, when people ask me what I think about something, I tend to freeze up and zone out. It's not because of nerves or anything rational like that. Rather, I temporarily forget what it is that I think about something, so I start thinking about what I think but that only leads me to thinking about how I'm thinking about what I think that I think that I have forgotten that I think. It's really just a vicious cycle of pointless thinking.
So, eventually, she gave up on me and asked another person. Said person didn't get a chance to respond, because I erratically (and subconsciously, I might add) slapped the table and shouted, "PSYCHEDELICS."
For anyone who was present during the "my nipple!" incident in Algebra II, this was kind of comparable to that.
I attempted to retreat to my little mental corner of comfort and assurance, but failed when I started laughing hysterically at the person who answered with "Bob Marley." There I was, choking on my laughter, being stared at intently by confused Belgians. I'm not getting enough sleep.

On a side note, I'll be 17 in seven days. Also, today marks my two month anniversary in Belgium. Huzzah!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SPAZZ.

Remember when I ranted about the lack of thrift stores in Belgium? Well, I lied. Yesterday, I found a thrift store. Even better, said thrift store is walking distance from my house. Holy speculoos, praise the water-filled millipedes that scurry with frenzy to the dark pits of doom. THERE'S A THRIFT STORE THAT'S WALKING DISTANCE FROM MY HOUSE. 

The insane amount of excitement I contained when I entered the store may have caused my sweat glands to go into overdrive. There I was, spazzing, sweating, and trying not to scream. I do believe this is the greatest Belgian discovery I've made so far.

I came across a super ugly sweater with a giant, sparkling flamingo plastered across the center. I don't think anyone will understand how difficult it was for me to convince myself not to buy it. I carried it around for an hour....

I did, however, buy two scarves and an oversized men's sweater. I'm not sure how, but I failed to notice the words "UNITED STATES" written largely across the center until I got home. Huh. 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Je Suis Le Morse

And so we discover my secret love of procrastination....

I'm trying to introduce hugging into everyday Belgian life. My first hug was given out to an unsuspecting Belgian boy who had just given me Across the Universe. I was later told that I give good "cuddles." Not exactly what I was going for, but I suppose that works. Regardless, he told me he now wants to give more "cuddles." My plan to convert their European ways is working already.

I had two memorable "proud moments" today. These are the times when I think to myself, "Dear God, I'm awesome." The first one occurred in French class when I recognized one of Salvador Dali's paintings based on the technique used. I'm probably the only one who considers this to be a noteworthy moment, but it made me giddy inside.
The second occurred after accidentally teaching a native Belgian a new French word. Perhaps this isn't too surprising, considering the things that come out of my mouth are usually rather weird phrases that nobody understands. Even so, I figured Belgians would understand, "Je suis le morse/I am the walrus." Walrus must not be a commonly used word. One point for Cayenne, please.

During our lunch break today, while a few friends and I were charging down the street to get durums, a middle-aged man stopped us, pulled his pants down just low enough to reveal a diaper, and stuck a pacifier in his mouth. What an interesting man.

There's a boy who sings to me every time he sees me. On occasion, he'll modify the lyrics just enough so that they include my name. For instance, a single line of "Hello" will be modified in order to say, "And I want to tell you so much, Cayenne, I love you." He's a fabulous boy. I'm considering adopting him as my life's soundtrack.

Friday, September 9, 2011

1+1= Jesus Fish

I've come to discover that I have a slight comprehension problem. The problem first made itself clear when I completely understood the teacher's lecture about how petroleum is insoluble in water, yet I didn't understand her when she welcomed me to Belgium.

The comprehension problem continued in physics. The teacher wrote a long string of illegible notes on the board that I attempted to copy down.

What I copied into my notebook:
"Vector ate dinner in a sewer because he wasn't invited to a lounge by Dr. Apple."

What was meant to be copied down (English translation):
"The VECTEUR representation: direction, sense, intensity, and application point."

Math isn't really any better. Although it's supposedly the universal language, it doesn't seem very universal when this is what I think the equation is:

umy(90º+Jesus fish)=umyJesusfish

When the teacher wrote some kind of helpful information on the board, this is what I read:
"The complementary colors of a Jesus fish and 'go' equal a negative Jesus fish."

In other news, I completely wiped out while going down a staircase in the school today. It happened while following a few friends to an unknown classroom. You have to understand that there are stairs everywhere in the school. It's like Hogwarts, only less magical. As we were walking down what was probably our fifth staircase, I totally missed a step and went flailing down. Now, I slip and stumble nearly every time I go up (or down) a staircase, but this was the first time I'd really made a fool of myself. Unfortunately, I expect many more of these incidents to occur.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Not Polite to Stare, Cayenne

My first almost actual day of school was today. Three days in, and I'm more lost than ever. 

Everyone in my grade gathered into a room to listen for the construction of our schedules. I wrote random classes down, but I honestly don't know what classes I'm actually in. I spent most of the day just following people around.

I went to Religion and math before eating lunch. During those two classes, I just sat and stared at the teachers as they lectured. They'd ask me a question every now and then, and I wouldn't notice, so I'd just continue to stare at them without answering. It's looking as though I won't be getting A's this year. As of right now, I'm not even sure if I'll be able to avoid turning in blank tests/homework. 

A group of friends and I went out for sandwiches and pasta for lunch. As we ate, they would point to everything in sight and say what it was in French. I'm pretty sure they taught me around 70 words just during our lunch break. 

After eating, I followed one of the girls to Spanish class. I was so excited to go to Spanish, because I thought that maybe, just maybe, I'd hear a phrase in Spanish and understand what was going on. Unfortunately, I didn't hear a single Spanish word. 

I was told that I had ecology after Spanish class, so I went wandering around for the classroom. I couldn't find it, so I asked a nice man to help me. After about 10 minutes of searching, he couldn't find it either, so he told me to go home. 

I wasn't sure how to get home, though, so I figured I'd take the opportunity to explore until I hopefully found a way back to Athus. I walked around for a while, made a few spontaneous turns, and ended up at the train station. Just finding the station gave me a huge feeling of accomplishment. I went in to read the train schedule, and saw that I had an hour to spare, so I walked around town until I found a café. 

The bartender and I conversed while I refreshed myself with a beverage. In the middle of our discussion, I noticed a bird in the corner of the building, moving. I've been so disoriented lately, that seeing a bird in a bar concocted a brew of intense fascination. I continued with my staring. I've gotten quite good at staring at people and things for long periods of time. 

After I finished, I said goodbye to the bartender and headed back down to the train station. I re-read the schedule to make sure I knew which train to get on, and realized my train wasn't supposed to arrive for another hour. I tried calling my host father, but I couldn't get either of his numbers to work. I then decided to call Jarrod, who is an absolutely amazing exchange student from New Zealand who's been in Belgium for sixth months already. I didn't really have a point in calling him, I just feel more comfortable when I ramble about my confusion to other people. 

After the second hour had past, I still couldn't figure out what train I was supposed to get on, so I just walked onto a random one that had just pulled into the station. I asked the conductor if the train was going to Athus, and he said the train to Athus wasn't schedule for another thirty minutes. 

Thirty minutes later, I got onto a train. I wasn't sure if it was the right one, but I'd reached a point of not even caring. I just wanted to go somewhere. As soon as I sat down, a boy stumbled onto the train. I didn't want to assume he was drunk, so I instead thought, "Oh, he must have a terrible sense of balance like I do." I should've just assumed, because as soon as he sat down he started spewing chunks of vomit everywhere. What did I do? I stared. I stared as he threw up, I stared as he passed out into the pool of vomit, and I stared as his friends tried to get him to regain consciousness. 

I eventually realized how disgusting it was to be staring at a pile of barf with an unconscious man in it, so I moved to a different section of the train. It took yet another 30 minutes before the drunk boy was taken out on a stretcher. Another 5 minutes or so later, we were finally moving. 

I figured the first stop was mine, so I got off. After staring around mindlessly, I decided it wasn't my stop and got back on the train. The second stop was the winner. I had found Athus, and it only took me four hours. 

Because I don't want to end this post on the unappealing subject of vomit, here's a piece of a conversation that took place at school when a Belgian tried to speak to me in English:

Belgian Boy: In the States, you can drive, no? Do you have license?
Me: Yes, I do.
Belgian Boy: Ooh! What kind of car do you drive? Like, shapely or empty?
Me: ...I drive a Prius. I'm not sure if it's shapely or empty, though. 
Belgian Boy: A pris! Is your car a virgin?


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Je Suis Calée

On Thursday, I ate a sandwich. Not only did I eat the sandwich, but I ate it like a pro Belgian. I don't think I've ever eaten so elegantly in my life. Unfortunately, nobody was around to witness my newfound grace and charm except for the maid, and I don't think she was paying much attention. It was one of those moments that took me back to my childhood-- the days of mastering a flip on the trampoline, yet failing anytime someone was watching.

Friday was the first day of school. It was also my 13th day in Belgium, so it was sort of like Friday the 13th. Isn't that a peachy thought? Anyway, I wore a wet shirt to school. You know how I mentioned my lack of clothes? Yeah, well my host mom washed the shirt that I was planning on wearing, but it wasn't ever dried. I wore it regardless. I suppose it's better than going to school naked, eh?

On my way to school, I started thinking about how I haven't been the least bit nervous at any moment throughout this experience. This made me nervous. Seven seconds into the anxiety, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" came on the radio, and all was well again.

I got to school, and was introduced to a man. I'm not sure what his name was, but he was a man. A very kind man, I might add. The very kind man led me to a very kind woman who spoke English. She then took me into a room to form a schedule for me. That being said, I have a new schedule. However, I'm unsure as to what my classes are, because my schedule was taken from me. Either that, or I just gave it away to a stranger.

I think I'm taking English now. The "very kind woman" told me it may help with my French, since there is a lot of translating in the class. Previously, I had been told that the English class would be super basic and that it was a class for people who have no English knowledge whatsoever. I'm not sure how true this is, because I was shown an example of the class work, and it was some pretty intense literature about politics. "Basic" must mean something different to Belgians, because it sure didn't seem very basic to me.

After getting my schedule semi-worked out, she introduced me to a group of six people. They were all super nice and welcoming. I did a lot of laughing with them, though I'm not sure what I was laughing about....

After spending about 30 minutes with the group I was introduced to, Sander (I ate with his father Friday night, so we kind of knew of each other) had me follow him to another small group of people. As soon as I sat done, I was asked, "Do you have a boyfriend in the States?" When I told them I didn't, they nearly screamed at me, "Are you a lesbian!?" Belgians are great at breaking the ice.

I've noticed that when I tell someone my name, they always say, "Oh! Like the Porsche Cayenne?" Virtually nobody compares my name to the pepper, which is kind of new. And when I tell people what my last name is, they always bring up the motorcycle. In fact, I may have accidentally told a man that my family makes Buell motorcycles.


I've also noticed that when I tell people I'm from Arkansas, they'll start talking about the surrounding states, our capital, the rivers that flow through the state, and historic events that took place there. Belgians impress me.


We were dismissed at about 11:45, and I met up with my second host family sister, Marie. We walked over to a really nice restaurant and waited for her sister and mom. Because none of them speak English very well, it really tested my French. My French is still horrendous, by the way. I'm actually really glad that they only know a limited amount of English, because it keeps me from excessively speaking my native language.

In the midst of eating the delicious food, I noticed a place across the street called "Fish Massage MIKA." It is, indeed, a spa where your feet serve as fish food. I've wanted a fish pedicure ever since I first heard about them, and now I go to school right next to a place where I can get one! As if it needs to be pointed out, I'm kind of super stoked about this.

My current host family and I went to a beautiful restaurant with my second host family for dinner. I was so confused when it was time to order, so I told my host sister to choose something for me.

This is what my dinner consisted of:
Toast and rolls
A giant plate of raw salmon
A side of green beans
A bowl of potatoes
3 lamb thighs
A creme brulèe
4 glasses of wine

Written down, it really doesn't seem like very much. Oh, but it was. And that, my friends, is how I learned the phrase "Je suis calée." A very, very rough translation: I have eaten too much. Je suis calée, indeed. 








Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flashback to Compare and Contrast Essays

The Things I Miss from America:

Thrift stores. There are two major reasons as to why I dislike buying new clothes:
      1. I'm super cheap and hate spending money. 
      2. I don't like the unoriginality that usually comes with buying things straight from the stores. For example, if someone bought something from, let's say, Forever 21, it wouldn't be surprising to see someone else wearing the same thing while walking down the street. 
And that is why I love thrift stores-- you get cheap prices and unique items. Another bonus is the hunt. You can't waltz into a secondhand store and find exactly what you're looking for, and I like that.

The rule that pedestrians have the right of way. I'm not sure what the actual law is in Belgium, but it's really starting to look like drivers have the right of way rather than pedestrians. If I don't get used to this soon, I swear I'm going to get hit. 

Hugs. I adore giving kisses here, but I'm really starting to miss the simple little pleasure that comes with hugs. To those of who who are currently in a culture that accepts it, please appreciate the hugs that you receive. 


Things I Realize I've Taken for Granted:

The ability to eavesdrop. Now that everyone around me speaks French, I can't creepily listen in on a conversation. It's not like I go around with the goal of invading people's personal conversations, but now that I am completely incapable of doing so, I desperately want to. 

Grocery Baggers. You know how in America, either the cashier or bag boy/girl with place your products into your bag? That's not how it works here. In most places in Belgium, you have to bag your own items. This isn't necessarily bad or annoying, I've just never really thought about it much before. So, thank you, grocery baggers, for your dedication of a portion of your life to placing our items into bags for us. 

Solid and consistent internet connection. I know I've mentioned the internet connection in Belgium multiple times, but it's something I seriously took for granted while in America. Unless there was a storm or an obvious problem, I always knew there would be internet connection throughout the entire house. Here, it's like a scavenger hunt for wifi hot spots. You can never count on properly working internet. Dear American Internet Access, I would like to apologize for how ungrateful I used to be. You were wonderful to me, and I never realized it. Please forgive me.
 

Although it may seem like it, I'm not trying to compare and critique the two countries. It's really not like that. My overall sense of awareness has just been increasing substantially since I've arrived, and there has been a spike in my level of appreciation for things I was never properly grateful of before. I do believe that the acknowledgement of these differences is a beneficial step in the process of self-discovery, so I'm trying not to ignore them. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Culture Shock

Before coming to Belgium, I expected the culture shock to be a very dramatic, abrupt occurrence. It hasn't been like that at all. Instead, it's actually just a gradual development of realization of the differences between America and Belgium.

The main "shocker" relates to food. Belgians eat everything with a knife and fork. This includes hamburgers (which are actually just slabs of beef), chicken legs, and fries. As if this alone weren't enough to create an embarrassing atmosphere, they (my host parents) eat with the fork in their left hand and the knife in their right. I'm right handed, so trying to navigate my left hand to my mouth is quite an unappealing task. They eat very gracefully. As hard as I try, I always fail to imitate the grace. I'm the one who is making all of the clanking noises and spilling food all over the table. Hey, I'm trying.

Speaking of food, my host father made a pizza for lunch. I figured we'd split it and each eat half of the pizza. Nope. He gave me the entire pizza to eat by myself. Now, it may have been slightly smaller than the average American pizza, but it was still large enough to take up my entire plate. I'm used to eating two slices. Not an entire pizza! Then I have to eat ice cream, muffins, and mousse. I say "have to" because it's all so good, that I just can't avoid them. They say exchange students tend to gain weight in their host countries, and I'm beginning to understand why.

Today, I walked by a man who was peeing in the bushes of a public area. I'm not sure how common this is, but nobody seemed to pay any attention to him. To be honest, I did do a double take. Not exactly the nicest sight to look at twice.

In Belgium (and I suspect most of Europe), there is no censorship. I had heard this before, but didn't really think much of it until I heard the uncensored version of "The Fear" by Lily Allen come on the radio. When I hear an English curse word on the radio or television, I silently snicker to myself. I'm immature, I know.

I'm used to laundry being done on a near daily basis. With my current family, they only wash clothes on Saturday. It's now Tuesday, and I don't know where my clothes are. This is bad, because I officially have nothing to wear. I guess I could walk around town in a coat and a pair of socks, but I'm not sure how appropriate that would be....


Monday, August 29, 2011

Ninth Day in this Lovely Country

I've been trying to post on this blog lately, but every time I try, the internet will spaz on me.

Not a single day has gone by without me feeling extreme exhaustion at some point during the day. I've gotten over jet lag, and I've gotten used to the time change, but being an exchange student is draining.

On Thursday, all of the exchange students in Belgium met in Brussels. We spent about an hour or so getting to know each other and whatnot. I saw so many people that I hadn't seen in months, and it felt tremendously amazing. I even saw a few Belgians I had met in January. It feels like such a small world when you see people you know from the States in Belgium.
We spent the day walking around and doing a little sight seeing. We visited the parliament and other various places. Brussels is such a beautiful place.



Some of the awesome American exchange students



I went to the Luxembourg fair on Friday with Aureliè, Jérôme, Florence, Louise, and Georgia. This video pretty much summarizes the greatness of the day:

video


Saturday and Sunday were spent in Huy with the exchange students in my district. We started the weekend by trading pins and getting to know each other a little better. The majority of the day consisted of lectures and a walk around Huy. At around 8 or 9:00, we had a dance party. A few hours later, fireworks began to go off outside, so we went out to watch them. 

We finished up the lectures on Sunday, and I got to meet my third host family. They seem really awesome, so I'm looking forward to seeing them more. 
Huy

This is a very non-descript post, but it's hard for me to blog about multiple days. There is so much to say about each day, and it's impossible to write everything. I'm trying my best, but it really is difficult to blog regularly. On the bright side, I'll have plenty of unheard of stories to tell when I get back :)




Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eat Beef, Not Chicken?

My entire yesterday was dedicated to Louise. I pretty much just played with her all day. We'd be running around doing something, when she would say, "Viens!" I'd obey her command and follow her upstairs. It seems as though we would end our journey in the bathroom each time. The third time we were in the bathroom, I was sitting on the floor and waved my hand in front of my face due to the lovely stench she was making. She noticed my motion and exclaimed, "Il ne faire pas à l'odeur comme les fleurs!/ It doesn't smell like flowers!" She then told me to look in the toilet. The toilet water here is a deep, deep blue, so I didn't think there'd be much to see. I was wrong. There was plenty to see. Ah, children.

She's a cute little devil.


Today, my host parents and I went to visit with the directors at my school. I was just started to feel as though I was picking up on the language (if even just a little), but that feeling is long gone. We talked with one of the directors for about thirty minutes or so, and I don't recall understanding a single word he spoke. It would've been nice to know what he was saying when he held a knife up....
He used a little English with me when he asked me important questions, though. I really hate that people feel the need to speak English with me. It makes me feel like a hassle. I just want to converse in their native tongue.
Anyway, he said to me, "We won't give you an English course, because you already speak it." I told him that I would like an English course because it's necessary for me to take one this year in order to graduate at my American school on time, but I didn't need one if it would be to difficult to fit into my schedule. I was aware of the possibility of having to retake my senior year before coming, but I'd like to do anything I can to prevent that. To this, he said, "Ah. You need English to graduate? We'll give you Spanish! You speak Spanish, yes?" And so, it seems as though I'll be taking Spanish again. He said it's basic Spanish, so I'm hoping I'll do relatively well since I've already taken Spanish 1 and 2.

My Schedule: 

A. Formation commune
     Religion                          2
     Français                          4
     Géographie                     2
     Education physique        2

B. Formation obligatoire en langue moderne
     Langue moderne I : allemand ou anglais ou néerl           4

C. Formation optionnelle obligatoire
     Mathématique                         4
     ou Mathématique                    6
     ou Matématique + ACPES     6+2

     Sciences 3 (1h bio - 1h chimi - 1h phys)           3
     ou Sciences 6 (2h bio - 2h chimie - 2h phys)     6
     ou Sciences appliquées                                     10

     Historie                                   2
     ou Histoire                              4

D. Formation optionnelle
     Langue II (allemand - néerlandais ou anglais)    4
     Latin ou Sciences Eco ou Langue III Espagnol  8

E. Activités au choix
     Complément en physique (avec Sc6)      1
     Complément en français                          2

Pour les élèves en immersion néerlandais ou allemand
     Géographie    2
     Histoire          2


If I'm looking at this correctly, it means I'll be taking religion, French, geography, physical education, math, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, and Spanish.
I'm kind of confused about the chemistry and physics, though. I thought he told me that it would be way too hard for me, since I don't understand French and the terms will be different. Je ne sais pas.

After visiting the school, we went to a camera store. I was kind of confused as to what was going on. A man pointed to a stool, told me to sit, and then started taking my picture. I'm a sweaty mess in the photos, because I wore a sweater today. It's way too hot to wear a sweater, but I didn't really bring many options. The pictures were apparently for my train pass which my parents bought for me today. I'm pretty excited about that.

We then went out to eat. My host mother was explaining to me what everything on the menu was. I ended up getting carpaccio de boeuf avec frites et jus de pêche. Not even four months ago, I was a vegetarian. Now, I'm eating raw beef. I've never even really liked beef, but this was super tasty.

Carpaccio de boeuf 

After eating, we went to the mall to buy a cell phone. It's not the most hi-tech device, but it calls, messages, and takes pictures. I really don't need anything else in a phone. Especially if I'll only be using it for around 10-11 months. Plus, we should take into account how many times I'll drop it. If you know me, you know I'm constantly dropping electronics. It must be the energy they emit.... 

Monday, August 22, 2011

La Belgique Est Très Belle

Today makes my third day in Belgium. It’s been so hard to blog, journal, and immerse myself. By the time I actually have time to blog, I’m so exhausted that I can’t think of doing anything but sleeping.

As soon as I walked out of the airport in Luxembourg, I was overcome by this feeling of belonging. It feels as though I’m truly supposed to be here. This country doesn’t even really feel foreign. It's like I’ve lived here for years already. The only thing that reminds me that I haven’t actually been here for very long is, of course, the fact that I can’t speak/understand French. 
Because my French skills are so poor, my family will speak to me in French, then translate it to English. I’m looking forward to the day when there is absolutely no need for this. However, I have seemed to have already forgotten a little bit of English and developed a spontaneous, light accent. Perhaps there will come a time when I know neither French nor English. 
The house is very nice. It’s three stories (plus a basement), but only two of the floors are actually used on a daily basis. My room is upstairs. Dans ma chambre, il y a une douche. In my room, there is a shower. Yes, yes, I have my very own shower in my very own room. I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone in the States who shares this feature, but I find it quite convenient.

My family is wonderful. Louise, my older sister’s three year old daughter, is seriously the most precious little girl. She’s a terrible French teacher, though. When I point to something and ask her, “C’est quoi?” She responds with either, “C’est poopoo” or “C’est peepee.” I’m not sure why, but I just don’t believe her when she says either of the two phrases....
Because my Arkansan mother was wondering, my very first meal was spaghetti. I didn’t eat dinner on Saturday, because I was too tired. That being said, I like to count Sunday as my true first day here. In that case, this is what I had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.:

Breakfast: Pastries that had been stuffed with chocolate, rolls of bread, nutella, butter peanut butter, rose jam (I knew there was a reason it smelled like expensive perfume...), cheese, meat, coffee, milk, and mixtures for the milk.

Lunch: A chicken (the chickens here are very small, so we each had our own chicken), green peas, and fried potatoes. It was delicious.

Snack (I believe Aurélie called it "Dimanche." That makes sense, considering it was Sunday yesterday): Four different types of tartes-- plum, pomme, sucre, and one other one that I can’t remember the name of, Belgian chocolate, Belgian cookies, and cuberdons.

Dinner: A simple, yet wonderful quiche.

It truly amuses me that I’ve known nearly every song that I’ve heard on the radio. Maybe it’s because they listen to a lot of English music like I do. I enjoy their radio music much more than I enjoy American radio music. I'm crossing my fingers and holding my toes that I will one day hear Laura Marling singing through the speakers. Just a little something that would make me quite giddy inside.

Last night, I dreamt in French. It was the most bizarre experience, because I woke up due to fatigue and exhaustion. I was so brain dead because of the dream that I couldn’t go back to sleep. T’was interesting, I’d say.
This post is kind of all over the place. So much has happened over the past couple of days. If I typed it all, we would encounter two major problems:
  1. It would take me hours, causing me to detach myself from this new culture much longer than I would like for it to. 
  2. Nobody wants to read one of my blog entries that is so long.

    Perhaps when I get into the groove of things, updating will become much easier.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taste the Rainbow

As many of you know, three is my favorite number. There's no logic behind the happiness it provides me with, but I won't argue with easily achieved bliss. Crayons act in a similar way.  For that very reason, slowly cutting off the tip of this crayon was, quite possibly, one of the most difficult things I've ever done in the world of art. 


video
Music: Truck by The Octopus Project

Monday, August 8, 2011

T'is Magic, My Friend

In the midst of rummaging through the craft room, I discovered a tackle box full of pottery pieces that my mom made some years ago. When I say "pottery pieces," I actually mean "fabulous pieces of magical art that could easily be transformed into magnificent lapel pins."

They make me so happy.

I'm not going to lie, I may have let out a strange, scream-like noise when I came across these little guys.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

There's a Life Across the River

Today, I skyped my first host family. I've talked to them over Facebook and email before, but we had never video chatted. The majority of our skype session was spent discussing my first few weeks in Belgium. We talked about trips, family members, the weather, school, and oreos. My host father is currently in the process of painting my room a shade of "not flashy" yellow. I can't begin to express how much I already adore them. Seriously, they are so incredibly sweet. We plan on skyping again this Thursday.  Huzzah!

I attended a Rotary meeting a few days ago which turned out to be a very pleasant experience. I was introduced to the Rotarians and got a chance to meet my counselor.  The meeting lasted approximately an hour-- just long enough to eat and listen to a few speeches.

Yesterday, I did a test pack. In other words, I put everything I've gathered for this coming year into my suitcases to see if I need to make any adjustments. It's going to take some mad skills to properly pack it all, but I'm confident I can use a tetris technique to do the job. The reason packing these suitcases is going to be a moderate challenge is not because of clothes and/or personal items, but because of the Rotary items. Pins, business cards, gifts, banners, and flags take up a surprisingly large amount of space. 

Speaking of the Rotary items, I got my blazer a little over a week ago. It has shoulder pads! The dorky aspect of padded shoulders excites me to the nth degree. Sadly, it's looking quite lonely with only two pins (Larry is holding the rest hostage), so the excitement isn't a very stable emotion. 



Monday, July 18, 2011

THE VISA.

After nearly a month of waiting, I have finally received one of the most important documents for this trip-- my visa! The process of getting it was not a necessarily enjoyable experience.

                                               A brief overview of what I went through:

The application itself was a bit confusing, so I called the consulate for help. Both times I called, I spoke to the same woman. I asked any questions I had, and she was, in return, quite helpful. There is a website that lists everything that needs to be sent in with the visa application. However, many of those documents don't apply to me, so there was some confusion as to what I was actually supposed to send in. We talked on the phone for a good chunk of time. After everything was sorted out and we were about to end the call, the woman added, "Oh, and you should send in $252. A check will work, but cash is fine too." Perhaps I just completely looked over it, but I did not see any mention of the application fee on the website, so I was slightly surprised by the high price. Albeit, I sent in the money (in the form of a check), along with all of the other documents.

Approximately a week and a half later, I got a call from the Belgian Embassy. I was told that I needed to send a signed and notarized form of parental consent. Along with that, I also needed to send in another $252. It turns out, they don't accept checks. Maybe it's just me, but sending a relatively large amount of cash via snail mail just doesn't seem like the safest way to go. Regardless, I sent more money-- this time in cash.

About a week later, another call was received. The good news: my visa had been approved. The bad news: they wouldn't send it to me until I sent them an $18 stamp. Again, there was no previous mention of this. You'd think the cost of a stamp would be included in the $252, but apparently not. So, I went to the post office and bought the stamp, sent it to the consulate, and went on my merry little way.

Today, the visa arrived. Huzzah! They sent back the check and... the stamp. They didn't use it. Well, that was a waste of money. But alas, my visa is here! I may now legally live in Belgium :]

Of course, I eagerly opened up my passport to see what the actual visa looked like. What's this? I have a mustache? Well, this is new. It seems as though I may now live in Belgium AND I have sprouted a mustache. I would consider this a very productive day.

Attached below is a picture of my visa. Notice the handlebar mustache placed appropriately above my upper lip. Also, I ask that you please excuse my bangs; the camera man made me push them aside so they wouldn't be in my eyes. As for the funky mess of colors on the fifth line and bottom of the document, it's where I blurred out any important (or seemingly important) numbers.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Expected Introduction

I've decided to jump on the band-wagon and create a blog. I'm hoping that this will be an easier way for me to update everyone than having to individually contact each person-- that gets redundant rather quickly. So, yes, this is intended to inform all the kool kats in my life about what's going on in terms of my exchange in Belgium.

Initially, I wasn't going to start blogging until right before I left for Europe. However, I now regret not getting this thing up earlier. It would've been nice to blog throughout the entire process.

Because I'm really terrible at recapping such large amounts of stuff, I'm just going to mention the basics:

Thanks to Rotary Youth Exchange, I'll be spending this coming school year in Belgium. My first host family resides in Athus, Belgium. I've been talking to one of my host sisters, Mathilde, on and off for the past few months. She's incredibly nice, and it seems as though the whole family is too :) Unfortunately, Mathilde won't be in Belgium while I'm there, so I probably won't get to meet her. However, I'm still extremely excited to meet the rest of my family!

I haven't received any information concerning who my second host family will be, but I have no worries that they, too, will be awesome.

My third family lives in Arlon. I'll have two host sisters-- Kamie and Alice. I've been chatting with both of them via Facebook. Just like my other two families, I can't wait to meet them.

I'll be going to school at Institut Notre Dame d'Arlon. Here's the website: http://www.inda.be/1secondaire.htm Maybe it's just me, but it appears to be significantly larger than my current school, which consists of a little over 200 students. But hey, the change is totally welcome. I'm looking forward to attending a bigger school. It should be an interesting change for me.

I applied for my visa yesterday. Sending in my passport made everything seem slightly less surreal. I say "slightly" because I feel as though this experience won't be completely realistic until I'm actually in Belgium. I keep thinking to myself, "There's no way I'll actually be spending a year in another country with a different family." It's such a new concept that it's taking a long time for it to sink in.

With the visa out of the way, I feel a little more relaxed. My current mission is now to collect a sufficient amount of pins to take with me....