Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rain on My Parade....DO IT!

Halllo mes amis. I'll give you a quick overview of the week, and then my day, ca va?
Wednesday I met Laurie, my host sister. She, my host mother and I went to Waterloo to tour le butte de lion, or the Lion of Waterloo as it's incorrectly called--it's actually in Braine l'Alleud! I hiked all the way to the top--I think like 260 steps? We took a bus tour, went through a wax museum...on a fait tout, we did everything! I tried my first Belgian B**R. For Rotary, that says bear =). It was raspberry flavored. Who knew?
Thursday I went to Brussels with Rotary. It was a lot of confused hustling around and them reading lists of names, but it was cool to meet all the exchange students. 80 Americans! 300 exchange students! There was a lot to talk about. At lunch, we took up a whole four story cafe(Here, buildings are tall rather than wide.)They served us meatballs and french fries, which I guess is a very common dish. I sat across from some very funny mexican girls.
Friday I went with my host father to the local hardware store, and then with my host brother to buy a card for my second hand phone. There was an issue when the old owner of the phone forgot the password they put on they gave me a new old phone. Very kind of them. Later that night, I hung out with some friends of Jerome, my host brother (even though he wasn't their...) at Pierre's house, a guy who went to California on exchange two years ago. Everyone was really nice and loud and funny. They taught me a new card game, and Pierre had to show me how the cards are different in Europe--for example, the king isn't marked with a K, but an R, for Roi. And the aces are just 1s, but have the same value.
Today! I went to the grocery story with my host parents. They have a very interesting method of buying groceries. You bring your own bags (or AWESOME MAGICAL FOLDING BOXES) and go to the cash register. Which is just a person with a computer and a scanner. No table. He scans all your stuff as he puts it into an EMPTY cart with your boxes/bags. Your then empty cart is used for the next person. Voila, no table, no waste. We went to brussels and spent a long time there; it was great. I had a Waffle liege dipped in belgian chocolate. Perfect. My host family showed me all the awesome sights, including an odd parade of buses filled with dancing people and loud techno music. It was some grand street party.
And then it suddenly started to downpour. As it does in Belgium.

We then visited my host father's parents and had dinner at their apartment. It was very nice. We finished the night with doctor who!
Well, I leave you with some pictures of odd things in Brussels.

Some guy decided to throw up a peace sign while I was trying to take a picture because he thought it'd be funny. It was.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Je suis arrivee!

Salut mes amis! I have safely arrived in Belgium! It's a very liberating experience to take a plane across the world by yourself and find yourself in the correct place! I discovered that
1) I don't like when people walk slowly at airports. even if I'm not in a hurry, I'd rather fast walk and look busy than meander, or have to try FOREVER to get around someone.
2) Lines are long. They're always long. I spent thir

ty minutes in a line so that someone could look at my passpo
rt and ask where I am staying.
3) I can't convince myself not to eat airplane food. I always regret it.

When I finally was able to collect my luggage (The moment of victory when you've found your suitcase, are SURE it's yours, and get it off) and make it through border control, I caught my first glimpse of my host family. They had made a sign saying "WANTED: Audrey Wood" with a picture of me from facebook. What an icebreaker! My host father Fabien, my host mother Collette, and my host brother Jerome were all there to great me, as well as Renzo, my rotary counselor. It was wet and rainy, and people drive with a sort of nonchalant, let'em hit me sort of attitude, but some how it works.

My house is awesome! It's
four small stories, the first being an entry room and work room, the second a kitchen, living room dini
ng room and bathroom, the third being bedrooms, and the fourth is where I'm staying. There's two bedrooms and a little sitting room area with a futon and cushions, and a decent sized bathroom! I have a huge skylight in my r
oom; on the forth floor all the windows are skylights.

My family showed me the house (it's so awesome. All the colors are warm, and there are great little nick-nacks of far-away travels and books and instruments and old furniture.) and then we sat down for some tea. After, as unpacked, it started pouring. The wind goes through the streets and whistles like a car revving its engine. The sky turned a sort of warm gray and lightening and thunder and heavy rain was extreme. So I did the obvious thing and took a nap. I woke up in time for lunch and we all sat down and ate together. Collette asked me if I liked avocado (Avocat. Same word in french for a lawyer) I said sure, and I ate half an avocado for lunch (?!) I thought that was it, until they brought out some leftover tofu and veggie quiche.

Fabien showed me the big ga
rden in the back, which had sort of an elongated rectangle shape with a big surrounding fence separating it from the neighbors. There were chickens and apple and pear trees, a raspberry bush and many vegetables and herbs.

Collette, Fabien and I went for a walk to see the marche and the town and to visit her aunt (and drop off beer and cigarettes) who was in an old folks home nearby. We were waiting outside her aunts door after knocking when someone a couple doors down the hall sloooowly opened the door, peaked her head out, shot back in the room, slammed the door and locked it. It was very humorous.

We walked around with Collette's aunt, and old, petite woman with a very expressive face and very good English (she lived in the states for a while.) We then got ice cream.
Okay so there's SOMETHING about europeans and their ice cream. This happened last time I was here; if you order two scoops of icecream, you get two DIFFERENT scoops. Even if your convinced all you want is raspberry sorbet, they will try to convince you otherwise. It's easiest just to give in. So I had strawberry ice cream with my sorbet. It was, of course, delicieux, but still confusing.

The sun has come out and it's quite be
autiful. The more I sit the more tire
d I get--it's going to be an early night tonight!
At 7, I'm going to a rotary meeting to meet the other exchange students of this district, and tomorrow Collette is going to host a dinner for the exchange students and their families. The day after that, I'm going to Bruxelles for my exchange meeting!

Until next time, here's some pictures of my room and the view from my window

PS, my French is very poor, but I've been able to communicate with my french speaking mother! Yay!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

False Alarm

We drove to Manchester airport at 11:30 with both my parents, my aunt, my sister and my friend in tow. I checked my overweight bag, ate an airport lunch of chili cheese fries and a virgin strawberry daiquiri. I said teary goodbyes, went through security, got a comment on my socks, and had to have my carry-on searched for suspicious looking candles. I made it just in time to board the plane, sit down, and listen to a cute Belgian family next to me. And then they had us get off the plane because the weather was too iffy in DC. There was a stressful 45 minutes of United Airlines personnel trying to convince me to take a taxi to Boston and catch a flight there to Munich and then to Brussels, but luckily my family hadn't left yet and was able to deal with someone a little more level headed, who was able to get me the exact same flight for tomorrow! So I'm sitting at home in an awkward limbo of having said my goodbyes and not leaving.
Belgium tomorrow...or, rather, I LEAVE for Belgium tomorrow, I'll get there on Tuesday!