Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yesterday marked two months in Belgium. Which means in two weeks, I will be ¼ of my way through exchange.


I’ve started to feel at home in my house. I know some ins and outs. I know how to tell when someone is home, how to set the table at dinner, when to wash my clothes, when I won’t annoy anyone by taking a shower, how to clean the bathroom, where the chocolate is, how to use the stove, how to FORCE bread out of the bread maker…chez-moi.

Every night after dinner, Brayan and I wash dishes together. I usually dry and put things away (I’m better at remembering where things go) and he washes. This time started out as sort of awkward attempts at conversation, but has recently grown to a time of jokes and laughter. Occasionally he teaches me some Flemish, and I teach him English, and then we make comments in French. Occasionally there are soap fights and inappropriate jokes. And occasionally I forget I’m speaking French, and the conversation goes just as it would in English. It’s not till after do I realize I just spent 45 minutes speaking non-stop in French—complex joking, long stories, they just came out. Not that this happens all the time. If I’m nervous, French stays firmly put in the recesses of my head like trying to get Elmers glue out of a glass—a little trickles out, but nothing substantial. There’s also a level of confidence that needs to be there before I can speak normally. Speaking around my host mother, father, and Brayan is no problem, now. Even my friends at school I can speak to with a certain level of easy comfort. Anyone new, and I kind of withdraw and get nervous. BABY STEPS.

Wednesday night, I got a Halloween package from my grandma filled with candy and other goodies. This inspired me. First, of course, I went to Brussels with Sarah for the afternoon, but after that I came home and carved a jack-o-latern with my family. It was a great bonding experience. Colette also mentioned she would want to do it with her grandchildren—it’s great to think I’ve left something behind like that here, a tradition that can pass from family to family. Colette turned off all the lights and chased us around with the lit product. We put it downstairs in front of a window, and will put it outside on Halloween.

Saturday I went to Liege was Laurie and my host cousin, Martin. Who is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.
I’ll start from the beginning. I met Laurie at Bruxelles Nord (or Brussels Noord in Flemish. There are three major stations in Brussels—Zuid, Centraal and Noord in Flemish. It’s important to know the name of the place you want to go on a train or bus in Flemish if you’re going to be going through a Flemish region—sometimes the names can be VERY different. For example, Braine l’Alleud is Eigenbrackel in Flemish. If your train goes through a Flemish part of Belgium, everything will be announced in Flemish, even if you’re just passing through.) and our train was 20 minutes late. It was a clear day, but really cold, so we took shelter in the station for a bit. I slept on the train, because it had been a bit of an early morning. It took about an hour to get to Liege. The train station in Liege is a super-modern white building with a million skylights. Also, very very COLD.

. Laurie and I killed two hours in an exhibit within the train station about global climate change and man’s impact—it was really well done, for being in a trainstation.

Next, we met Martin. This isn’t the first time I’ve met him, but he’s quite a character to behold, what with a Mohawk, earing, suit jacket and tie, and oddly enough a really old manual bread cutter in his hand. We went to McDonalds so he could grab something to eat (Laurie and I had packed lunch) and while he went to order he left me and Laurie with his bread cutter. And then Laurie went to the bathroom. And I was left alone, in a Belgian McDonalds, standing next to an ancient and mean looking bread cutter. I’ve never gotten so many weird looks before—it was probably one of the most out of place things that could have been in a McDonalds – old French meets corporate America.

Martin is an architect who lives in Liege, so he knows all the really cool places. We went up at least five hundred steps through a neighborhood that made me think of Helm’s Deep, all situated at a steep angle. The houses were tiered, and some even had little gardens with steps that connected each garden. TOO PRETTY FOR REAL EXPLINATION. Laurie left and Martin and I wandered around the city for a while I ate a waffle filled with pineapple. It was a really great afternoon. Our train ended up getting canceled, so while we waited at the train station we drank tea and discussed politics. Unfortunately, not in French, as Martin is trilingual and I was having a day were saying “Oui, merci,” had become a stretch.

I ate pizza at the train station, and then went home to an empty house and watched a movie on the computer while drinking more tea. This may sound boring, but to be it sounds like home and fall and was a really nice ending to the day.

I don’t have any plans today. I start swimming in school on Tuesday, so I should probably go find a full-piece bathing suit. But that can wait. Maybe I’ll call someone and meet up somewhere, but it might just be a lazy Sunday for me =) I just finished a two and a half hour lunch with my host-grandparents and host parents--still getting use to this marathon food business!

Fall has really and truly started. The weather has become quiet brisk and the leaves are changing to a golden yellow color

My plans for next week are awesome, though. It’s the last week before November vacation. Wednesday, I’m going to Louvain-la-Neuve (there’s a huge festival called 24 hour Velo ) with Laurie and her friends—I’ll probably run into a lot of exchange students, too. I’m staying the night there, and was warned to bring clothes I could get dirty. Nice. I take the bus home early in the morning and go straight to school—sounds like fun, right? Friday I’m going to Sarah’s house to live for the weekend—we’re going to try to get to some cities, maybe Anvers (Antwerp, in Flemish) and Brugge. MAYBE BOTH. And then I come back on Monday to a maybe-Halloween party with my class at school. And then a chill out until Thursday, when I leave for LONDON! I hope I’ll be able to get in a blog post Monday or Tuesday, but if I miss a week, you’ll know why!
All my love,

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