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.