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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Exchange Students


Spain crew Rotary Exchange Belgium !
      So , It's the day after my parents and brother left for the states. I'm feeling miserable. Curled up on my bed sobbing because I missed them so much. Then it occurred to me that . I'M GOING ON AN ELEVEN DAY TOUR OF SPAIN. So I should cheer the hell up .
                     This post is going to be me doing a half ass job of trying to recall everything we did in Spain , more or less , day by day.
       Day 1 : Meet in Bruxelles to catch the charter bus and a good 3/4ths of all the exchangers . The bus then stops in Liege to collect the others. AND THEN DRIVES ALLL THE WAY BACK TO WHERE I LIVE . Literally the first rest stop we went to on the 24 hr drive was at the rest station like 5 minutes from my house. 0_o ... yeah . wasn't thrilled. We drove all night and day leaving Belgium via Lille-Paris and working our way down the eastern side of France . I'll probably mention this several times in this post but the group of kids we had on the Spain trip was THE BEST. So many kids I had never met. Newies and Oldies alike.
   Day2: STILL DRIVING . Make it to Salamanque around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Tour the city a bit .
    Day 3: Tour of the city with guide , LOTS OF FREAKING RAIN.... Salamanque is known for its university  and also the fact that on their Roman age cathedral there is a detailed carving of a astronaut in appropriate garb .
Day4: Up early to Drive all the way to Avila - HOLD UP

OKAY so i started writing this post a while ago and now i'm failing at remembering every day and each significant detail , and plus i have another post to do anyway. SO i'll give you a vague-ish overview.now

   I don't think Americans think that much about Spain, Especially for a vacation in Europe. With the exception of the mega rich party island of Ibiza . My reasoning in saying this is that we never had any kind of intervention with spain, in recent history. Spain wasn't apart of WWII  and I don't really think WWI either. Plus this trip was at the same time as one with rotary to Italy and you can guess which was more popular initially . I think its worth it to take the "road less traveled" in this case. Italy will allllways be there as a travel option , everyone wants to go to Venice , Rome ect, and , yes i've already been to Italy once and it was alright . But SPAIN <3
     Sure they're going through a bit of a rough patch . LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD, but it really was amazing. The landscape was probably one of the greatest parts of the trip , I've never been to the Southwest in my own country but I imagine it looks a hell of a lot like spain which would explain why the Spanish settled there . The history is diverse , at one point there were Muslims , Jews and Christians all living together. Although for the most part , now and then Catholicism was dominant . This was the Rotary in Belgium's first time doing a trip to Spain so, we were the test group. I'm just going to come out and say it though . WE did wayyyy tooo much church related stuff. The schedule for the day sometimes ended up being : Church followed by Cathedral , basilica and several monasteries. I understand that Spain is right up there with Italy on beein' keen on jesus but there are plenty of other things to see . So much art , music, nature. Just giving us time to wander around cities and find things for ourselves. But it didn't work out that way.... the motto for the trip became : Churches by day , Clubbing by night. Although. the one house of worship I was completely and utterly amazed by was the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I've been in Europe for a while now so I've seen my fair share of Churches. But this. This is the most beautiful building I have ever seen . And it's not even half way finished. I will go back to Barcelona if/when they finish it .
Sagrada Familia
       On another note, this trip was also a chance for me to meet new exchangers. Most of the newies (kids from austrailia and new zealand that got here in jan) were on the trip and it was so cool to hang out with them .There were even kids that have been here all year that i had never met before and had an amazing time with . As expected most of the latino kids went to Italy but the ones that came to spain were all so nice and it was so great to talk to them. We taught them how to be "gringas" ( white girls) and we were taught how to be latinas .

Barcelona!

PHOTO TIME.
Malgrat Del Mar 

Salamanque


Avila (?)
Toledo
Segovie

 
                                                                           
It snowed. NOoooONE was prepared
El Escorial (where the whole spanish royal family crypt is )

Madrid
                                                                             


sidenote* the reason for the title -the weather kindaaaaaa sucked. Rain, cold , snow. ya know .







Monday, April 16, 2012

BACK FROM HIATUS

Hello world . I know you have all been wondering what to do with yourselves without my blog to read. BUT I'M BACK NOW . Dry thine eyes , I'm going to give a rundown of the last month :)

 First thing
 BRUXELLES : Bruxelles is pretty much like my second home. I've been there more times in 8 months than i think most of my classmates have in their whole lives ... don't wanna brag or anything. We visited the Musee Magritte ( famous realist painter) and the Musee de Bande Dessine ( Comic strips) . It was a great day , the best part was when i was leading all of the Belgians around Brussels though . Another way you know that you're in a small country is when you rent a two story charter bus to drive 45 minutes.......

  


NORMANDIE: Surprise trip ! That was ruined by my host dad the day before but it was great all the same. The funny thing about France is that its sooooo big that you can visit one Region and so SOOO much and yet it still won't even be half of whats there. We saw Rouen ( the captial of Normandy) Etretat ( the suppperr pretty cliffs) Honfleur( the quaint fishing village) The Benedictine Palace ( Palace made for booze ...and art... but mostly booze) and THE OCEAN. One of the weirdest parts of the trip was that we ended up staying the night and after searching allll over for a hotel we ended up staying at a bed and breakfast . This particular bed and breakfast was also a snail farm.... A SNAIL FARM. So i'm sitting there on the bed , dumbfounded and perhaps a little out of it asking my host mom WHY WE ARE SLEEPING AT A SNAIL FARM. It actually ended up being really nice though :).


SENSATION WHITE: This is a giannnt 12 hr dance rave thing that is all over europe , south america, and australia . The idea is to dress in all white for effect and you get to see some pretty awesome dj's live. The very very ironic part about the whole concert was that the majority of people that were there were .... AMERICANS . College kids on study abroad ... i met lax bros from near and far . Even a kid from the college i'm going to attend next year . GO GENESEO KIGHTS ;)

STANDARD LIEGE : The day after staying up 24+hrs i went to a Standard Liege match with my friend Tucker ! It was one of my goals to see a professional soccer match here and STANDARD was not a let down. They beat Leuven 4-0 :)

PARENTAL INVASION:   For the first time in Seven months i was reunited with my Family . It was so weird to take the train to Brussels and have people from this other world i left behind , there, to meet me . Luckily my parents and brother fell in LOVE with Belgium
heres what our schedule was like :
Wednesday: Bruxelles
Thursday : Bruges , Ostend(e?)
Friday : Binche, Mons , Tournai ,DOUR
Saturday: Bastogne , The Ardennes
Sunday: Antwerp
-3 am monday morning . GET ROBBED IN OUR HOTEL ROOM WHILE WE SLEEP. the window was open in our SECOND story room . Some scumbag saw that it was open , climbed up and took my dads wallet. After no help from the police and the hotel and little sleep we booked it out of Brussels and headed off to paris.
Monday- Paris
Tuesday- Versailles, Monmarte
Wednesday- Louvre, more Paris
Thursday- Leave.
     I didn't think i was going to be as emotional as i was to say goodbye to my family a second time, but i was. It was terrible. Having to say goodbye a second time . They were only here for about 10 days and at the beginning it was a little too weird to have them around for the first time in half a year and then by the time I was finally used to having them around , it was time for them to leave. I took the train back to Belgium thursday morning while my family flew back state side and i cried ALLLL the way back home. I kept my sunglasses on the whole time but my muffled sobs were obvious enough to scare the korean woman next to me . SCORE**
    The best part about the trip was that my American family got to meet my Belgian one . My host family did soooo much for my parents and brother , that they didn't have to . They drove us all over , had a huge dinner for us , and even had my family stay with them for a night. My parents tell me over and over that what they did for them really made the trip , and they're happy to see that i'm with a great family. Since their visit i think its safe to say that the american family and the belgian family are one in the same now :)

NEXT POST : rundown of my trip to catholicland- AKA spain

Monday, March 5, 2012

WHY YOU NEIGE?!

   So this update will be exponentially less exciting than the previous one , but what did you expect. It's not like Belgium is one big Carnaval or anything.
                        So it decided to finally start snowing here. Right after it decided to start warming up . Makes plenty of sense . I woke up this morning to a flurry of snow that just accumulated into wet slush , it only takes 4 cm to shut down the whole country , i sware.
   * Side note I changed back to my first host family on Saturday morning. With about five bags ..... My regular suitcase, carry on, two backpacks and a tote bag( with exclusively all my shoes) . I'm going to have to give away  some stuff . I'll go to Brussels and just give all my stuff to the homeless people. It won't buy them drugs and booze but it'll keep them warm .
       Saturday I went for a run in shorts and a t-shirt. It was 53 degrees I'd guess. Maybe I'm just a little too upstate New York to be running in shorts and a t-shirt then because EVERY person I passed was wearing a parka. Saturday night was a birthday party for my friend from school in the next town over , called the Archangel . ANNNND ever second Saturday of the month its a tranny bar...if that's what you're into.;) Anyway we got there and the  Miss and Mister. DOUR beauty pageant  was going on. Granted half the people in the compition were dour so i dont see how anybody could be merited a winner..*play on words , TEN POINTS FOR GRYFFINDOR . Eventually most of the wierdos cleared out and we finally got  to party. This was essentially the first time I was in a non-school environment with my classmates, and I had a really awesome time. Which in turned making me feel super regretful. Let mama tell ya why.In the beginning of my exchange , Sept-Nov I got out every chance I got. One weekend in Ghent one in Namur ect. I would go out because 1. I wanted to see Belgium and 2. I wasn't really getting anywhere with the kids at school ( i don't know if i wasn't trying engough ,probably, or it was the other way around) But NOW. I'm upset that i spent that time away , not speaking french , hanging out with exchangers every change i got . Don't get me wrong I still enjoyed it and I wouldn't have made such great friends within rotary , but I feel like my french could be better . My host mom has to correct me a lot but she does tell me my french is good. It's frustrating sometimes because I know that I'm not speaking correctly but I don't know how to correct myself so I just keep going. My host brother in Colombia speaks great Spanish now and even gives French lessons. It's really cool , but Spanish and French are closer than French and English . The only other romantic language that's closer to French than Spanish is Italian . Unfortunately I'm going from a Germanic language to a Romantic one. Sometimes i get so upset i just want to bang my head on a wall for a few minutes but I really do enjoy speaking french , and compared to some of the other exchange students i'm practically a savant. Actually now I'm realizing that I'd very much like to try and go to a Francophone college. Not here in Belgium but Quebec. Granted their french is going to sound really weird after spending a year here. The "Dialect" they speak here is called Borain , and theres also a bit of the dialect called Ch'tis .There a pretty famous french movie called Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis , about a man that lives in the South of France that is forced to move to the North for work . The accent , in my opinion sounds like more of a speech impediment . They add the Ch sound to everything. But while I was watching it I understood the collocations because ..we use them . I'm trying to watch a lot of french /french-belgian cinema just so i can really learn more of the language.
                   Anyway , My family will be here really soon and I'm bracing myself for the tedious task of playing translator. Last night I was on skype with them , and every few minutes i'd turn to my host mom and start speaking english and then look at my parents and start speaking french. WAY TO GO BRAIN * high five...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Carnaval

 So when people talk about Carnival or Carnaval (in french) you think instantly of Rio , Venice or New Orleans but another carnival that is of equal importance and just as popular is  the Carnaval de Binche. If you've read my other posts you know that I play in a wind ensemble in Binche so I've been told many times before about Carnaval. It was actually one of the first things my host family told me when we  met. This post is going to be kind of long because I'm going to do my best to explain the history and the tradition of Binche. 
         BACKGROUND:  Back in the 1500's Belgium belonged to Spain. Yes, I said Spain ... the emperor Charles Quint ruled over Spain's empire. His sister Marie of Hungary built a Chateau in Binche . The main figures of Carnaval emerged there ( Gilles de Binche) . There are a lot of theories about how the Gilles de Binche came about but the one with the most proof behind it is that of a legend written about the Incas of pre-colombia america and the way the indians were dressed were reciprocated in an show for Marie of Hungary . Although if you mention this to anyone from Binche they'll tell you its bull . 
                   The Carnival itself is three days long and based on the holy calender so the actual dates change every year. Other cities in Belgium do partake in their own version of Carnaval but Binche is the first and Original . The Gilles are in full costume only on Mardi Gras and there are rules to being a Gille that must be followed : 
 * Women are not allowed to be Gilles
 * a Gille must not misbehave ( drink , smoke ) while in costume in public
 * To be a Gille you must have been a resident of Binche for three years.
 * If you are a Gille and you have moved away from Binche you must go back for Carnaval
 * Gilles can only dance to the 27 sacred songs of the Carnaval 
 * If a Gille needs to leave the group during the Mardi Gras they must be accompanied by a drummer ( The Gilles are followed by the tambour ( drums ) and tradtional ensemble ( trumpet, baritone, tuba, clarinet) . 
 * A Gille can only wear the mask on the morning of Mardi Gras and the hat in the after noon of Mardi Gras.
the costumes :)
  there are actually a lot more that I can't think of at the moment but i'll mention them later if they come to mind

INTRO. My whole host family is involved with the Carnaval in some way or another so when I went I got the REAL experience not the tourist version. 
        SUNDAY: ( Dimanche Gras) or Shrove Sunday is when all the men in Binche who are Gilles dress up in costumes, not the traditional ones, usually something transgender or comical . There are different costumes for every society of Gilles . This year there were cave men, female flight attendants, smurfs , ostrich riders ect. They are always accompanied by a viola ( not the alto violin ) . A viola in this case is a very old instrument that plays melodies by turning a crank on the side. They dance all around the streets of Binche for the day and at night they are accompanied by the drums and brass. 
     One of the cool parts about Binche is that it's a walled city , and for part of the tradition we all went into the underground part of the walls and drank champagne . The cool part about the room is that its spherical and there is one part of the room where you can stand on one side of the room and talk to someone on the other side . 
       My friend Audrey was with us for Carnaval and we were walking around with my host mom when the mayor of Binche walked by and gave her the traditional flower of Binche. And then not two seconds after we accidentally ran into the Prime Minister of Belgium Elio De Rupo. NO BIG DEAL.
    The day was spent walking , dancing and following the Gilles until all hours of the morning.
   MONDAY: ( Lundi Gras) Shrove Monday . This day is more for the kids of binche, it has a Halloween feel to it . They all dress up and dance throughout the city with the viola also they have huge bags of confetti that they throw mercilessly  . There are usually themes to the costumes as well and this year it was Italian. My wind ensemble got together to play in the cafes and we all put on Italian themed stuff. I played my host mom's soprano sax and it was such an honor to be able to be an actual part of the Carnaval . ** FUN FACT : the Carnaval of Binche is officially recognized and protected by UNESCO** Also you play games in the street , I don't know the name of it but it works like this : You line up in the street , men on one side and women on the other and in the middle is the bass drum player and the man that runs the game and when the base drum player hits the drum the two sides switch . But if you get stuck on your side you go into the middle , inbetween the two groups and you have to do whatever the man running the game says. OF COURSE i got caught and in the middle of the confetti covered streets i was told to do push ups. I did rip my jeans in the process but they were the best push ups ever .  Towards the evening the little kids are still dancing in the cobblestoned streets but this time they're followed by the drummers and musicians ( i forgot to mention that my host dad is a baritone player for them ) but this time they start burning sulfur in the streets which actually glow red . I know this sounds a little weird but its just tradition. The groups of kids and musicians make their way towards the train station where there is a fireworks show and even while the fireworks are going on they still dance around the sulfur and the musicians still play . The cool part is when the shadows of the dancers are up on the walls of the city . Luckily my host parents know everyone in Binche and they have friends who live near the train station so we all got to go up to their balcony and watch the fireworks. Lundi Gras is the shortest night , IN THEORY. because the next day is the hardest. 
 MARDI GRAS : Shrove Tuesday , THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY. This is when the Gilles come out. The day starts at 2 am. We get up and drive to the house of some friends, because our friend Sylvan is a Gille de Binche. We show up and we get to watch him get into his costume and everything . The Gilles Dance ALLLL DAY on Mardi Gras Starting at 3 am and ending just before sunrise the following day . The whole aim of dancing is to welcome spring and chase away winter.

Costume

  • A mask.
  • A hat with ostrich feathers.
  • A belt with bells.
  • A bundle of willow twigs.( they use this to chase away winter and wake up spring)
  • A spherical costume.
  • Clogs.( the wooden clogs are worn and when they dance they are waking up the earth )
  • Basket of oranges, oranges or blood oranges.
 one can easily recognizes the costume: a linen suit with colorful lions and crowns, which is filled with straw, so the front and back creates a hump. They wear wooden shoes and a white collar.On their face they wear a mask (so everyone is anonymous), and a white hat on their head, then sometimes a big hat with ostrich plumes. Around their waists they wear the "apertintaille, a belt with six to nine bells.
 In the morning the Gilles are called together by a fife and drum ensemble. Fifes are kind of rare so if there isn't a fife a clarinet can be played as well. For Sylvan society Les Recalcitrants my host mom plays the clarinet to gather all the gilles. Before we all left to go everyone was piled in to Sylvans parents house with champagne ( that you don't drink out of champagne glasses , in binche you drink them out of glasses a little bit larger than shot glasses). There was even a news crew inside , and right before we left Sylvan's father played one song for him as a tradtition . For the next few hours we go from house to house waking the Gilles and bringing them together . Every house we go to we're welcomed inside and offered food and drinks. Every time another Gille is added to the group my host mom would play one of the twenty seven sacred songs
( SIDENOTE ABOUT THE SACRED SONGS) the 27 sacred songs of carnaval are the only songs allowed to be played in Binche 25 of them are for the musicians and then there is one that is the cadence for the drummers and one is the song played with the viola . 
     After all the Gilles were together we went to a cafe to eat oysters and smoked salmon, Not exactly something you'd eat at 5 am but what the hell it was good . There are dozens of other societies of gilles in binche but eventually after everyone is all brought together they make their way dancing to the train station . Where they are joined by the other costumed groups , ( Le Paysans and Le Pierreos which are usually kids , but little kids are allowed to be Gilles as well). Also during the parade the gilles will throw their bundle of sticks at people in the crowd and whoever catches it is allowed to  go into the group of gilles and dance . My host mom was very lucky and a friend of hers threw one to her , women aren't normally the ones that get to go in .  From the train station the Gilles make their way to the Grand Place of Binche. And half way there they put on their masks. The mask of the Gilles are sacred to Binche , there are no other Carnavals in Belgium that have the same ones . It is tradition for a woman to give the Gilles their masks a girlfriend , mother, sister ect. All the masks are the same to symbolize how a poor man and a rich man could both be Gilles and be equal. Once they arrive at the Grand Place of Binche they all hold hands and dance in a circle . I was lucky enough to be in the circle ! There are thousands of people there , news crews from all over i acually saw one from China . Meanwhile the musicians are playing for them, and after they finish dancing they get to take a break . After lunch they return to dancing but this time with the hats made of ostrich plumes. The hats aren't always manditory but the gilles in le Recalcitrants have to wear them . They make their way through the streets yet again and this time they have baskets full of oranges they throw to the crowd. The blood oranges are for good luck and are only lucky if they are given to you by a gille. YOU MUST NEVER THROW AN ORANGE BACK AT A GILLE IF HE GIVE YOU ONE , But now a days kids from university come and start little wars with them. The dancing goes on and on into the night where they start burning sulfur again and their are the shadows of the dancers , which is easily the most beautiful part. At the very end all the Gilles make their way back to the Grand Place for a huge Fireworks display !
       This was probably the most Belgian thing ever , and i loved every minute of it . My host dad explained to me that people in Binche are different than others, he always would tell me that there are no other cities in the world named Binche. Also everyone in binche knows eachother and somehow they all knew who i was, they'd come up to me and say OH you're the american who sang in the concert last week , I LOVED IT . It was amazing to meet these people who had nothing but good things to say about me even though i had no idea who they were. Actually last night i was still in Binche for a Dinner with the Gilles and i met a woman who asked me what i thought of carnival and i told her i loved it and It was my first one but DEFINITELY NOT my last one . She cried when i told her that.  But its true , I want to come back for Binche every year and hopefully play the 27 sacred songs with the people of Binche.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So Hainaut

     This week has been pretty busy. I don't know if I mentioned it previously but I was going to sing in a concert with my host parents wind band ensemble in a concert. The past several days have been a push to the finish with rehearsal . Half my time has been spent in Binche *the town where we play * which isn't too bad because its a pretty cool town .
       Also I started my french courses finally , in Mons . I'm in the expert class , somehow , with another exchange student from conneticut ! We're the youngest in the class, the others are immigrants , ex pats ,ect. In some of the other classes there are americans and a few brits because theres a NATO base not far from Mons. The class covers exactly what I need ; the grammar , structure the base of the language that I don't really have the best understanding of from time to time.
                               Friday was the concert, and I was not nervous, even though it was the first time I ever sang by myself . EVER. The only thing that kept me from being nervous was the fact that less than 5% of the audience speaks English, and since i was singing in english I could of gone up there and sang the New York State penal code and they wouldn't have known the difference.
      Once again my host family surprised me , They sent out an email to my host club president and councilor asking them if they wanted to come to the concert as well as the other exchangers in my club. So im walking around in the lobby during the intermission and I start seeing exchange student faces that i recognize ......and then my president and councilor come up and tell me about the whole thing! I am very much on the good side with the rotarians now ;) . Also there was another surprise i was in on for the concert. The concert was to commemorate my host dads 15 years working as the cheif of the ensemble and right before i went on stage to  sing they pulled up a video of my host brother Pierre , who's in colombia right now for his exchange and he said a few words about his father and introduced his little sister ;).
                     After a late night of reveling in the success of the concert Saturday was spent getting ready for my host brother Clement's surprise 18th birthday party . My host dad got to use a really nice room at the military base in Mons . It was an Ireland themed party so there was Guinness , naturally. I also got to see friends that I haven't seen in a while because I don't live with Clement at the moment . At 8 clement showed up at the party blindfolded and dressed up as a leprechaun . Everyone was dead quiet and when they took off the blind fold , Patrick a friend of my host parents came out in full dress playing the bagpipes. It was awesome! Since my French is so much better ( not perfect) it was so easy to move from group to group and be able to talk and make jokes. Finally at midnight my host parents and their friends from the ensemble in Binche came out and played all the songs that are for Carnvial . COMMENCE AWKWARD CIRCLE DANCING AND WAVING NAPKINS AROUND EVERYWHERE. Still very awesome either way. Plus I learned how to work a tap. Belgification complete.

Next week will be the start of Carnival in Binche which is one of the best places in the world to go for carnival , its up there with Rio, Venice, New Orleans ect. Theres wayy tooo much to explain for this post so I'll leave it for later !

* reason for title , Hainaut is the name of the Province  i live in and i'm currently trying to learn all the provinces and their captials
i'll give it a go
 Namur- Namur
 Liege-  Liege
 Antwerp-Antwerp
 Hanaiut - Mons
 Limburg- Hasselt
 Luxembourg- ( not the duchy) Arlon
 Brabant Walloon- Warve
 Brabant Flamand- Leuven
 Flanders Occidental- Brugge
 Flanders Oriental-Ghent

Someday i'll make an effort and explain the clusterfuck that is belgium but i want to give a quick example of what we're dealing with here.
   the captial of Wallonia - Namur
   the captial of Flanders - Brussels
       The majority of the people in Brussels speak French. CLEAR AS MUD, NO?!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

BienviNewies

          So finally the new crop of exchange students arrived for lil ol district 1620. Numbers wise I think we're the smallest district. About thirty of us all together , which sounds like a lot for such a small country but seriously all together theres about 200 of us rotary misfits.
                        It's been cold in Belgium... but the sun has been out which is better than being warm and raining i guess...? Saturday started off , cold like any other day, but with FRESHLY FALLEN SNOW. Which actually means it was warming up . ( Upstate new york logic) . I took the train to Brussels with my friend and fellow exchange student Tucker from California. Tucker lives about 10 minutes away from me and yet the last time i saw him was... October, because his other host family was very stringent with rotary rules. a bitttt too extreme if you ask me , but in his exile he has managed to speak excellent french! better than me . which doesn't count for much anyway. but still.
          We trucked it across brussels in the cold with no immediate aim until about noon or so when we took the train to the PRETTIEST CITY IN THE WORLD. Charleroi. look it up if you don't know what i'm talking about. Upon arrival we met up with about 10 other exchange students who were all en route for the welcome meeting for the new students. After getting off at the wrong bus stop and mom walking through the cold we got to the school. fashionably late. There were about 8 or so newies , from Argentina, Australia and Colombia. Ironically enough the new exchange student from Colombia is from Tunja , the city my host brother Pierre is in right now . SO of course they know each other ! His name is Jose and he live in Mons which is close to where I live and he's also a musician so my host family was really excited to hear that there was a friend of pierre's near by ! Most of the others either live in Tournai or Charleroi(they'll be dead within the month).
              School has been good, I'm being super social FINALLY, but it's also because I'm so comfortable with my french that i can finally make jokes and whatnot. Theres a couple of people ....dare i say it ....."FRIENDS?!?" that want to learn english so i kind of give them lessons during lunch and they help me out with my French. I'm actually supposed to be starting a french course in Mons soon but its just not super easy to get there with public transport but it should be a bit easier when the weather doesn't suck so much . Plus i really need to work on my tenses . If you asked me to translate something with " shouldn't" or " wouldn't" i really can't do it.........
                I've been pretty busy lately nonetheless. I'm singing in a concert with my host parents so I'm at rehersals a couple times a week and we don't get home till 12-1 am . I'm pretty excited for it though !



Sunday, January 29, 2012

I get around......

                Rotary has a way of connecting people, which makes living abroad so much easier. When we had exchange students in my school I'd make friends with them right away . Not just because it gave me a place to stay if i was visiting their country but also because it was amazing to meet people that come from a different background and culture. This week I made three crazy rotary connections .

1.         This past spring my home district had a weekend camping orientation for all the rotary kids , inbounds and outbounds. My rotary councilor took me and the two exchange students from my school where we met up with all the others. A midst the twenty some odd exchange students there , was a girl from Belgium! Elise , lives in Brussels and she was really awesome and easy going . Willing to help me out with anything , and when I arrived in belgium i got in contact with her. Finally yesterday we met up . I took the train into Brussels to see her because she has this week off from law school . She was so open and excited to show me the parts of Brussels that aren't so touristy.  I stayed the night with her family who were the most welcoming and gracious people ever. They were genuinely interested in me and impressed by my french. Which was awesome , i felt very relaxed around all of them so my french was even better. I went out that night and met Elise's  friends . all of them were really cool and even though she warned me they might talk fast i understood everything. All of them told me to come and stay with them whenever i wanted. and I AM DEFINITELY going to take them up on that because one of the hardest things i've had to deal with here is making belgian friends. They all understood that things are a bit different in my part of belgium so i was glad they were really cool with me :). Today Elise's parents had a huge brunch with dozens of family friends over and it was such a great time, they all were interested in meeting me and talking about how i felt about belgium and the united states( rotary says i'm not here to impose politics and everything but i ask about belgium and i like it when people ask me things about the united states) . When it was time to go i didn't really want to but her parents told me to come WHENEVER i wanted. Just if i want to get away for a little while or longer. I am so greatful for meeting them and I plan on spending more time with elise for the rest of my exchange anyway.

2.  since there are 200+ exchange students in belgium the rebounds are bound to meet the inbounds(lots of bounds there ) yesterday elise told me , Oh i met a girl from dinant thats here with rotary and she knows you . Turns out to be my friend kenzie from wyoming !

3.   On my way to the train station in brussels i ran into my friend alex from canada who lives in namur , he was showing around his friend morgan who's doing her exchange in switzerland. Shes here for the week visiting and so i walked around a bit with them . She tells me shes in the german speaking part.... I HAVE A FRIEND FROM MY DISTRICT BACK HOME THAT IS THERE. I go out on a limb " do you know mark?" SHE SURE DOES.


Right before i met up with alex i was walking . alone .in brussels. and i have to say it was one of the most satisfying things ever. just being alone no one really knowing who you are. Plus it was a sunday so there aren't crowds .

Monday and Tuesday i was in Antwerp.
                 FOR THE BLACK KEYS.


    My friend audrey and i decided we'd go and see them and the tickets weren't that expensive. I splurged a little and got a hotel room for the night and everything. Antwerp is a great city , clean , safe , people speak english.... On our tickets was a little yellow stamp that let us use all the public transport for free to and from the concert! There was an opening band Portual.The Man, they we're pretty good , they covered the beatles which isn't always doable, but they were nothing compared to the black keys . They have this sound thats so raw and soulful and goddamnit ZEXY. It was an excellent concert , one of the best groups to see live by far. Plus this was their first show of their european tour and they played some stuff live that they've never played before.
   The next day we wandered around Antwerp. Its a rich city , thats a given. but theres also this laid back artsy feel to it that makes you just want to take any ol street. Theres such cool architecture and street art the mix of traditional and new . Just a great city overall.



So my parents and my brother are coming to visit soon . Former exchange students have expressed their troubles from when their family came to visit them . " i would get so confused with the two languages" , " i didn't want them to come " " this is my year " "my world here and my world back home shouldnt mix" and i understand all of that. But . I really can't wait to show my family around. My Parents have always wanted to come to europe and now i finally have a chance to share this with them . Whenever i was traveling i would stop and think for a moment " wow my dad would really like this" and i'd feel bad. so i cant wait !