Some things I’ve been up to!
I’ve already mentioned that I’ve been to Ghent, but this time I went back with Jerome. We went out with a group of friends (in an epic mix of Flemish, French and English) and saw a concert in some tightly packed little café. The music was really cool and folksy, and I’m glad I got to go see it. The people were great company too—it was always fun to see how many times a conversation would switch languages depending on who was added to it. Here are some older pictures of my first time in Ghent that I never posted.
Also, I went to Louven last Wednesday with Sarah and accidentally ran into some exchange students. I think there are only two major cities I haven't seen in Brussels--Thulain and Anvers. I'm working on it.
IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT.
Friday night I was invited by a friend of Jerome, (and I suppose a friend of mine, now) Elisa to go to a metal concert with her. In true Belgian style, it was in a small, tightly packed café. The music was very very loud, and there were a lot of cover songs that I was surprised to recognize. I meet a girl who also lives in Braine l’Alleud whose father is from New Jersey, so we bonded a bit over that. She offered to invite me the next time she leaves the country—so I might have a ticket to Germany or the Netherlands coming my way!
An odd thing happened during the concert though. Through wildly dancing crowd and irresponsibly flying hair, I caught a glimpse out the window. SNOW! Big, fluffy, end-of-Q-tip style snow! The unhappy drizzle we had walked through to get to the concert had turned into my first glimpse of the white stuff in Belgium. We went out to get some fresh air. It was an interesting mix, the small Belgian town being lightly dusted with a fresh layer of snow, the lights of simple yet elegant decorations shimmering through the air in a truly festive and peaceful manner…and the extremely loud music and screaming, and multitude of men with very long hair and many tattoos. Classic Belgium, a cacophony of randomness.
That night, ITALIAN got thrown into the mix of languages that fly way way above my head. The lead singer was Italian, which was why Elisa wanted to go, because she also spoke Italian and knew him OR SOMETHING.
The next day, my host mom and I got up early and went to the Ardennes in Malmedy. For those of you who aren’t history or geography buffs, Malmedy is a very historical “city” (it’s not that big) close to the border of Germany. The Ardennes are pretty much the only mountain range in Belgium. We went to visit some of my host mother’s family.
I got up at around 8:30 to be ready by 9, and then ended up waiting until 9:45 to leave. I spent my time putting on more and more layers of clothes. I wasn’t sure what to expect—trips like these always end up in long walks, and even though the snow in my town had sort of done the roll-over-and-die technique of an early April snow in New Hampshire, there was no telling what we would find in the mountains. I spent the two hour car ride reading “Band of Brothers” to get the full historical effect of visiting Malmedy, and also in sporadic conversation with my host mother about how they probably wouldn’t let me sled down the Butte de Lion.
We arrive in Malmedy. First stop: shoe store.
Not very interesting. But didn’t last very long.
Second stop: bakery.
We picked up some bread for the house (my host mother’s favorite bread. Apparently only available in this region. From out car conversation it sounds like she really really wants to live up in the Ardennes. She has a lot of family there and finds it very beautiful.) and two pies for the family we were going to visit. Two seconds out of the bakery I take a pretty epically graceless fall, spilling both pies. It was very slippery. There was about eight inches of snow up in the mountains, but a lot of it had melted into that dangerous slushy stuff, just enough to coat and get in between the cobblestones. Dangerous walking weather. Luckily, the pies survived, even if my dignity didn’t.
Third stop: My host mother’s sister’s house. My host aunt, if you will. I have four host cousins there I hadn’t met yet, so we spent some time talking around the kitchen table. The oldest was a boy my age and seemed to take a sick pleasure in using inappropriate words to see me repeat them questioningly. I quickly learned that if he said something I didn’t understand, it was just a new, creative way to swear. It was very, very amusing.
Forth stop: My host mother’s brother and her sister in-law. They lived about four minutes away from her sister, in a absolutely gorgeous house nestled in the mountains. The family was very welcoming, and they also had an exchange student, Sarah from Mexico. I met some host cousins there, too, who were extremely nice. It’s kind of a bummer I’m only meeting them now, because I’m just about to change families and all.
We all ate lunch together, and then my host mother, her sister-in-law, Sarah and I went on a two hour hike through the Ardennes. Through snow and rushing mountain rivers. It was really a beautiful countryside, with so many mountains and snowy trees. We went deep into the pathes of the mountains, made a snow man, and got thoroughly tired out. Towards the end the shoes I had been lent started to become a little wet, and night falls very quickly in Belgium, so we hustled home around 7. Some houses had decorated trees outside, and the whole ambiance really brought a Christmas feel.
We returned to the house and warmed up by the fire, drinking tea and eating the slightly smushed pies.
When I got home, I was invited by Elisa over to Pierre’s house for “parlor games.” Just a bunch of people hanging out playing different card games and what not. Jerome was there. We played bizarre games—of which the rules were explained to me completely in French. I understood it all. I was complemented on my French numerous times, how they had known another girl and at this time in her stay she didn’t know as much and blah blah. It’s just heart warming, you know? The support doesn’t always come from a host family for French, because they’re used to you and they don’t really notice the change. My favorite is when Brayan says “You’re already good now, imagine three months from now! You’ll be better than bilingual!”
I was originally apprehensions about Christmas. My family is very catholic in that they don’t believe in the commercial aspects of Christmas as America does. That means no Christmas trees, no presents, no decorations besides a couple candles. And a Christmas branch. But the plan is that Christmas day 33 of my host mother’s family will be coming to the house. We’ll be having a huge lunch/dinner/snack, with sandwhichs and meat and desserts aplenty. The nice cousins I met yesterday will all be there. If it’s not exactly my favorite type of Christmas, it will still be a good one!
HOW I PUT MYSELF IN THE SPIRIT
1) I turn on the Bing Crosby and play it to myself in my room while reading Band of Brothers.
2) I read Band of Brothers. I don’t know why it reminds me of Christmas, but it does.
3) I WATCH band of Brothers.
4) I light my yankee candle. Mmmm. Thanks mom!
5) I wear Christmas socks.
And this is the Grande Place en Bruxelles, pour une petite goute de Noel en Bruxelles!
Also, I will be making family Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie for out Christmas celebrations! Plenty of sprinkles!
Here’s the site about Malmedy if you’re interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malmedy