Monday, November 21, 2011


Hi, it’s been a while.

Last weekend…no wait.
Back up.
Last Thursday night I was invited out with my Belgian friends. So I did some fast walking-home from my viola lesson to eat a meal of oven pasta (sooo, so good. I love pasta) and leave with my friend Anais to Waterloo. There we met up with several other friends and just…hung out. It was great. I was actual a part of the conversation, make jokes, being friendly. One of the girls in my class told me very seriously that she would cry when I left. We went to a sports bar, where they had American football playing on some of the tvs. MIAMI DOLPHINS! I laughed pretty hard at that. No one was paying attention to the American football, it was really just there to be…well…American.
I slept over Anais’s house. Her family is from Spain, so every conversation is an odd mix of Spanish and French, and some random dashes of English. But we ate a biiiig breakfast the next morning, of ham and eggs and bread. I love big breakfasts.
I was home for about forty five minutes before I had to leave to catch another train. (We had Friday off for Armistice day). I took the train from Braine l’Alleud to Marchienne au Point to Thulin. Because. It. Was. Sarah’s. BIRTHDAY! Her host mom had decided to throw a surprise party for her, so me and Chantal snuck on over to her house, where there was a lot of cake and joy. Next, Chantal, Sarah and I went to a party. Supposedly it was a school party, but they were selling hard liquor and beer. So Belgian schools are a little different. Plus anyone can show up to these parties, so I saw kids from 15 years old to adults pushing 40. We had a great time dancing, though.
The next morning, we got up and went to Brussels for the day. We met up with some southerners and toured the city a bit, doing some shopping and eating and whatnot. An overall great day.
THIS weekend, I met up with Sarah and we explored Ghent! I’ve sort of gotten into the habit of wandering until what I want to find finds ME. Which actually worked spectacularly well this weekend! We found the center, and were able to look at some really awesome Flemish architecture and little interesting shops. Beware, because in Europe restraints aren’t automatically open all the time. They’re open for lunch and dinner. NOT IN BETWEEN. Oh, sure, the bars stay open, but good luck getting food at two in the afternoon. We eventually found a really delicious place called Puur. I had pesto tortellini.
While waiting for the train home in Brussels, I walked around a bit. The Christmas tree is now up in Brussels.
I teared up with happiness. How sad is that? I was SO excited. They even have a huge nativity scene with a fake barn probably bigger than any barn in Jesus’s time.
Sarah spent the night and we watched Pocahontas. The next day we had lunch with my family. AND PLAYED FRISBEE. So much Frisbee. I was very content.
I have to convince Brayan to take me more often because I do love Frisbee so very much.

Sorry, it’s not a lot! But I love you all!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Londre (London)


For those of you following my blog, you’ve probably realized I have a FREAKIN’ PROBLEM waking up for rotary events. I seriously blame my alarm clock. Something went wrong and I woke up an hour late—luckily I was already packed, but I did forget some important items like contact solution and glasses. AND TISSUES. Super important for sick me.
Mayuko’s host father, and my third host father, picked me up at 5:25 am. We drove frantically through Brussels looking for the bus that was going to pick us up. It was eventually found. Quinn and I got seats right up in front of the bus, right behind a HUGE window. Some dear people donated tissues to me so I wasn’t super miserable—although I was make some god awful sounds with my face. I was still capable of making new friends (Rotary kids are great that way—we make friends. It’s what we do.)
We took the ferry over to jolly ol’ England—WHICH WAS SELLING CARROT CAKE. I bought some in delved into an almost New-England state of bliss. Not quite the same…being old England and all. Some girls gathered ‘round and painted nails, making a general excited nuisance of ourselves. It was great.
Our first stop was Canterbury England (LIKE THE CANTERBURY TALES). We toured a huge Cathedral where St. Thomas (the writer of the Canterbury Tales) was killed. It was really very beautiful. After, me and another American girl named Tasha took some time to explore the town, where we ran into a nice older English gentleman who told us about how much he hated London. It was a fun experience of very opinionated old people.
Next, we hit LONDON! The first time we hit Piccadilly Circus to scrounge up some dinner. I found a place selling bagels…they weren’t quite the same but close enough, with some ham and cheese, it deserves a mention. I slept in a room with two other American girls…I hope my noisy attempts at breathing that night weren’t too annoying.
DAY 2: We woke up around seven to get the day started. The hotel had an English breakfast, which was kind of like home if home wasn’t as good as home is. For example, instead of bacon, they had whole slices of ham. And their hashbrowns were huuuuge. But it was very nice to have things like eggs for breakfast. We went to Windsor castle, the official residence of the QUEEN. I was told there NO PHOTOS inside by some pushy people in uniforms. We watched the changing of the guard, which was cool what with the fluffy hats. I had lunch with some other exchangers in an over-priced café, with a delicious éclair.
Later, we went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, which was actually really cool. There was a photographer there taking Andy Warhol inspired photographs, and another exchange student named Jennie and I got a portrait done. There was also a room of terror, where people ran around yelling things at you in the dark. And a whole room dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock!
Quinn, Jennie and I frolicked in Hyde Park for an hour while Rotex got their schedule together. Hyde park is really peaceful; if someone said they were going to university in England I would imagine them studying in Hyde park. There was a whole autumn atmosphere about the place.
We ate at the Hardrock Café, and got to see some really cool memorabilia in the “Vault”. Like a guitar from Kurt Cobain, and a guitar from RHCP. Super chouette. The guy giving the tour was incredibly English, but loved America enough to have tattoos of the American flag covering his arms. I suggested he visit Boston.
We took a quick tour of the Towers Bridge. Then we traveled into London to see Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abby. We were given free time for lunch, where me and a couple other exchangers saw St. Martin’s of the Field—a church old enough that when it was named, it stood alone in a huge field. Now it’s surrounded by London. We also saw a protest/march of Occupy London—a branch off of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was really cool. Of course I talked to some nice protesters! I climbed the huge lion statue and got a really good view of the crowd—all and all, pretty awesome. I also had some of the best pizza with Chantal, an exchanger from Florida.
That night I saw the British Museum, and got up close and personal with the Rosetta Stone! After that, around 2pm, we had free time until 11pm. I had an awesome time exploring London with Quinn and Chantal; we found a cosy, American inspired diner to eat at, with MEXICAN FOOD! (I miss real spicy food so much!). We drank milkshakes and explored the Stables, an interesting spread of random, hipstery shops that all smell like smoke and candles. It was kind of surreal, like completely Alice in Wonderland random, with statues of huge horses, people smoking hookah and then whole alleyways taken up by people selling Chinese food. Anyway, that exploration was really really amusing.
We meet back at the bus at 11, and started our journey home. I was out SO quick. We all had to wake up to get off the bus for the ferry. The sitting room in the ferry looked like a bomb had gone off—every exchange student found SOMEWHERE to pass out. We were in Brussels by 10, and I took the train and then walked home. When I got to my house, my host parents were very surprised to see me. They had thought I meant 11 at night, not 11 in the morning! I slept, ate lunch with them, and then slept until dinner. And then ate dinner and slept some more. An impressive amount of sleep, if I do say so myself!
This week has been very relaxed so far, but since we have Friday off I’ve made some plans! Can’t wait to share my awesome upcoming weekend with you all…next week!
Little note, I’m already ¼ of the way through my exchange. Isn’t that absolutely insane? French has started to pick up very nicely. Brayan and I are constantly joking around—he’s become a lot like a real brother. This afternoon we watched Tarzan together (he fell asleep).
I’m also too lazy to add photos right now. Check back…much later. I’m going to be quite busy for a while. BUT YES! I love you all dearly!
Adieu, mes amis. Je vous aime!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Bread and Bicycles

I’m squeezin’ in a blog post!

This week me host mom is away on a retreat for reflection. She also isn’t allowed to speak at all…so it’s been me, my host dad, and whoever else decides to be home. Monday, I realized that I needed to buy a bathing suit for Tuesday because we were starting swimming in gym. So, with a vague idea of were I was going, I took my bike after school and rode to waterloo in search of InterSport. The first two directions I took lead me to a major highway with no shoulder (shoulders aren’t really all that big here.) So I was already tired when I ran into Brayan on his way home, and he gave me more accurate directions. I finally got to Waterloo and then started searching for Intersport. It took an hour to find. This was mostly my fault and partly the fault of the woman I asked for directions in Carrefour. Anyway, I found it (in the most obvious place possible of course) after riding around in a huge parking lot for hours. By the time I got home I was sweaty and tired but I felt successful and fulfilled and whatnot; it’s the little things. I woke Brayan up, he was asleep on the couch, because we had to fend for ourselves for dinner that night. After cooking up a storm, we had some odd rice like substance mixed with tomato sauce and breaded spinach patties. Not bad, actually, very filling. Then I made banana bread because Brayan had just broken up with his girlfriend and I was feeling sisterly and whatnot =) It was actually a really nice family night for all that it was just the two of us; some serious brother-sister bonding went on.

Wednesday, after school (I got out at 12:10) I went a little market on the same street as my school to eat before taking the bus to Louvain la Neuve. As I bought it, a girl from my class recognized me and invited me to sit with her and her friend. It’s nice being recognized and not just ignored, but invited into something. So instead of eating my sandwhich awkwardly at the bus stop, I ate it with people who actually talked to me! And the store happens to sell reeces peanut butter cups, should I ever get the craving!

Anyway, I took the bus to Louvain la Neuve, a college city where my host sister lives. I was stressin’ mega on the bus because it was first time, and I wasn’t sure what my stop looked like. I almost convinced myself to get off at the LLN train station, but then I overheard a stressed girl (just like me!) ask her boyfriend if this was it, and he responded, “Nooo, the next stop.” In french. Glad my language skills have progressed to overhearing conversations! Laurie was there to great me when I got off at the right stop (GO ME). We explored the town a little. There’s a big festival called then 24 Hour Velo, which is a huge college party. There was plenty to do and plenty to see and plenty to taste. I saw Laurie’s dorm apartment and met her friend, Sarah, who had spent a year in Canada, so we had a lot of the same ideas (IN FRENCH!). It was a great night with a lot of dancing and a lot of new experiences. It’s great when I get to do stuff like that with Belgians—speak the language, learn a piece of the youth culture, and have a really awesome time!

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I went to bed very late (or very early). I took the bus to school the next morning, missing my first class (English. WHAT A PITY) It was the most tired day of my life, but SO WORTH IT. Thursday is also unfortunately my longest day of the week, so it was kind of a bad combo.

Friday was out last day of school before the holidays. The teacher for my first class was late so we all took a group photo with the camera set on timer. He walked in just as it started and RAN to get into the photo as well. It was pretty funny.

Friday after school I went directly to SARAH FROM NY’s house. She lives in the middle of no where (J) in a pretty town. Her parents are AWESOME, though, I feel like I might have been adopted into another family. We ate a bitter vegetable wrapped in ham cheese and egg which was really good; Collete has made it for me already, so it’s a VRAI PLATE BELGE. A real Belgian dish! With Sarah’s host grandparents. It was a super French meal, since her mom is from france. There was a Apparatifs, the before dinner snacks, a main course, cheese dish, and desert dish, and a different wine for everything! Sarah’s parents complimented me enormously on my French, saying I was really good at explaining things and expressing myself. It was funny, because when Sarah came over a couple weeks before, my host mom complimented her on her accent and grammar! I think host parents don’t see enough day-by-day progress to really realize how far we come along!

Saturday Sarah and I went to Brugge, which is a beautiful little Flemish city. We took lots of pretty pictures and ate a traditional Flemish meal at a little restraint across from a gorgeous old building and river. There were lots of tourists, but we found some less populated areas which is always fun.
We were completely wiped by the time we had to find our way back to the trainstation—and also completely lost (that’s what a day of wandering will do to you). So we did the European thing and found a bus stop and took it back to the trainstation—SO SMART! We had a little bit of a “lay over” in Brussels, because there was a lot of time between our train to Sarah’s town (not many trains go there) so we wandered around a bit to enjoy a huge Brazilian festival going on. It was about this time I started getting sick—kind of feverish with a killer sore throat. Lack of sleep catching up to me. We got to Sarah’s house had some delicious penne pasta with meat sauce and then went to bed. Sunday we spent watching The Sound of Music, Inglorious Bastards and Cabaret, and taking a walk through Sarah’s town, which was very pretty with the fall colors and farms. There was also a spooky abandoned cable factory with broken windows that was very Halloween appropriate.

Today is Halloween! I went with Sarah and her family to the airport to drop her off. Her family had to pick up something in Brussels before driving me home (on the way back to their house) so I hung out with them. They took the opportunity to show me a huge monument in commemoration of Belgium’s 50th anniversary as a country, and then to a huge ancient cathedral. Like I said, adopted =)
I got home to discover that the pumpkin I had carved was sporting various growths of mold. It’s actually terribly disgusting, but I’m going to go with it for Halloween. I guess it’s because it’s been super warm out recently—NOT NORMAL WEATHER.

I bought some candy for any brave children willing to get near enough to ring the doorbell.

(Written later)
So children don’t come one by one in Belgium. Oh no. They come in heard of thirty or forty and all ask at once. Scariest moment of my life.

I made pumpkin bread and some of Jerome’s friends came over and we had dinner and played black jack. After, we went to a jazz club which was pretty awesome. Jerome played some.

My sickness has progressed to my nose. Jerome keeps making fun of my mouth breathing issues. I’ll get better I promise! Plus I’ve progressed to hacking up a lung, so that must mean something. I’m going to post this now and add pictures later, because my camera is SO FAR AWAY and I want to eat breakfast. So far away being two flights of stairs up to my room.

With all the love in the world,