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Friday, December 23, 2011

JOYEUX GREVE

 I was supposed to post sooner ... MY B .
        I'm going to blame it on the string of events that have happened in the last week or so.

     First thing's first . The strike. Europe is notorious for having strikes, its part of the culture. LUCKY ME was affected by the impromptu public transportation strike that happened on Tuesday. Normally the company workers give you a bit of warning before they go on strike. NOT THIS TIME . I was in Liege for the day with some friends when I got about a half a dozen calls and texts from my host mom telling me that the trains had gone on strike. SO I was stuck , in Liege, 2 hours away from home ( that seems like nothing to us but its far for Belgium). Not to mention it was exactly one week after the grenade attack in Liege as well. We were actually at the memorial service when I found out.
     I wasn't concerned about finding a place to stay in Liege because there are plenty of exchange students to grovel to that live there. I had a place for the night with a friend and woke up the next morning thinking it was like 8 or so ... it was 11 . WELL DONE. We get up get dressed and try to find the bus stop. As we're waiting two empty buses pass us and we instantly thought that the buses had gone on strike too. Luckily we just we're looking at the wrong schedule . The bus came , we took it in vain to the train station, only to find that there weren't anyyyyy trains going anywhere. Except out of Belgium. I felt bad when I told disoriented travelers that there train was in fact not going to be showing up any time soon. We were waiting inside the INCREDIBLY FREEZING train station when a man asked us if we wanted to split a taxi with him to Brussels for only 45 euros per person. WHATADEAL.. He was pretty convinced that there were going to be trains in Brussels , he must have not been Belgian. The strike was all over Belgium so we would have just been stranded in another city.
   So I called my host dad and explained that there weren't any trains going anywhere and the strike was going to last until ten pm the following day. I didn't really feel like spending anymore time in Liege too. He drove all the way to Liege to pick us up ! He's a great guy really , and its not like we had any other way of getting home. I felt bad that he had to do it though, I know it wasn't my fault but just to be nice I bought him a bottle of champagne and greeted him with JOYEUX GREVE when he showed up.
   Since we had PLENTY of time on the ride home , he explained to us why the government workers were all one strike. They raised the retirement age . I think it was to like 55 or something . I wasn't impressed with their reasoning for the strike when Americans retire much later in life, but I also think we work a lot more.
    Going in reverse chronological order... Sunday I went to PARIS.
          It was supposed to be a surprise trip from my host parents but they're like you're always busy with plans so we had to ask ahead. I WILL CLEAR MY PLAN BOOK FOR PARIS. We we're really lucky the weather was GORGEOUS , sunny, not cold at all. Plus the drive isn't far for me because I live on the border !
   The city was amazing , I didn't think I'd love it as much as I did just because its cliche . Nevertheless it was amazing. I don't know why but the size of everything impressed me . I knew that the Eiffel tower was bit but not THAT BIG . We started out tour with Sacre Coeur in the district of Montmartre . Easily my favorite because it has the atmosphere of a small town , quiet , artsy but its set up on a hill and you look out and the rest of Paris is spread out before you.
     After we went to the Eiffel tower and after waiting in an incredibly long line we took a lift all the way to the top ! We ate at a Brasserie that is popular with Parisians and tourists and it was delicious. After we ate we just drove around and saw the sights by night. The Louvre , Champs De Elysee, Moulin Rouge..ect. One day was not enough time to see everything fully and experience all Paris have to offer but I can promise that I will be going back .
       Christmas is ALMOST HERE, and its raining... and warm. It snowed last Friday but it was weak sauce... Apparently they don't get "serious snow" until next month , so like 10 centimeters . It will be weird to be away from home for the holidays , I'm not going to lie. On the other hand though I've had 17 years of American Christmas' I think i can spare one for Belgium.
   In closing I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ( because it'll be your last ,the world is ending next year, dontchaknow?) . But Seriously... Good health , good times , and best wishes for the rest of this year and the next. And a big thank you to those serving in the military , big milestone ending the war in Iraq!
I don't think I need to tell you what this is.
Top of the Eiffel Tower with my host parents !
View of Paris from Sacre Coeur

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Liege

Normally I don't post this frequently but when something happens like this I should say something.
   Today , Ironically enough is the 4 month anniversary of me arriving here, and to celebrate. There's an attack in Liege. This morning in the christmas market in liege a 33 year old man , a known criminal in Liege , launched an attack.He threw four grenades and opened fire into the busy Christmas market. So far four have died and over seventy have been injured including an infant . He took the lives of a 15 yr old boy , 17 yr old boy , 63 year old man and a 75 yr old woman.
    This is where it gets scary for me , there are probably twenty plus exchange students living in and around Liege. I had a friend who was held up in a hair salon just behind the square where the attack happened. Even worse is that I was supposed to go to Liege tomorrow , to visit a friend.CAN YOU IMAGINE if the killer waited a day JUST ONE DAY , I could have easily been apart of it , i could have been the victim .
    Luckily I live pretty far away from Liege and the attacker actually killed himself during the attack. But either way my thoughts are with everyone in Liege , the families of the deceased , the injured , the exchange students there ,ect.  Reste forte la belgique <3


Monday, December 12, 2011

I dunno

Creative title for the post, I know
  But I really don't know what to talk about. This past week I... didn't do that much. Testing has started in school so I don't have to do much . It's not mandatory for me to take the tests but I'm taking a few to work on my french. The time I'm spending at home is nice though I do get to work on my conversational French , for some reason I feel like it's gotten better. This past weekend I went to celebrate a birthday party for an Australian and a goodbye party for an Argentinian  . It was pretty cool to hang out with a bunch of exchangers I usually never see. In my district there aren't many people from the southern hemisphere so I don't know many oldies (the kids from austrialia, south africa, new zealand ect,) but I got to hang out with some of them this weekend and all of them were awesome. It's too bad that they're all leaving within the next few weeks :( . But on the up side that means new people are coming too ! The new kids from the southern hemisphere will be here soon and i'll be able to BOSS THEM AROUND BECAUSE I'LL BE THE OLDIE ( the ones who have been here longer). Brussels is a cool city , everyone knows that but now that it's the holiday season it's gotten sketchy. When my friends and i were waiting in the train station two of them got their bags stolen and when we were in mcdonalds one girl got her iphone stolen. Part of it is us not being careful enough and the other part is us being north americans and not having to deal with petty theft on a day to day basis. It's almost a rite of passage as an exchange student to get something lost or stolen. But the Police really don't seem to care . We went to them to report the stolen things and they're like if we see the guy we'll tell you ... not "we'll look out for them" , and to top it off the computer system was down so they couldn't report the case electronically. I'm sure they're used to foreigners losing stuff all the time and they know that once its gone its gone but they could at least pretend to care.
    Sunday I went to a christmas market in Tournai, I've been there a few times before and its a really pretty city , and even prettier with the christmas stuff out. It's interesting though because Tournai is in wallonia but its close to Flanders and it was occupied by the Spanish way back in the day so it has all these different influences . My host parents asked me what the christmas market in my town was like and i'm like..... hahahaha we dont have one. they didn't believe me .
  Kindof like when i had to explain to them how we dont have train , taxi or bus systems all over the place like they do here. They asked me how i was to get to the town next to mine if i needed to and i said i would drive and if i didn't have a ride i was pretty much SOL. :D I even drew them a map with the train line for commuting in  new york , it's pretty much new york city to montreal and albany to buffalo . THATS IT . I feel like a train system that was in almost every town would be a fantastic idea , people wouldn't have to use cars as much and it would be easier for those that can't drive. But us americans are pretty committed to our 4 mpg suvs and what not ....
     I forgot to mention that we got a REAL Christmas tree the other day, it isn't huge but neither is our house so it's fine. I love it ! We have two now actually and today we were talking about the photo of the Christmas tree my parents just got back home . It's 9.5 feet tall .. ahahahah. and probably cost less then 15 dollars. and then i casually asked how much the tree they got was . 30 euro. thats like 42 us dollars?!?! and they didn't have to buy one they got one because i had mentioned that we always have real ones back home. I'm pretty lucky.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

FETES

   This one is a bit late.... LIKE THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT. But TODAY after 540 some odd days Belgium got it's government back . And i was here for it . booyah
                     Bonne Saint Nicolas everyone!!! Okay non-europeans: Europe, if they want to admit it or not seem to have a deeper connection with religion than the United States , but I think that's because they have more history than us. Saint Nicolas is the Saint for children and suspiciously looks like Santa. And Today is Saint Nicolas day , for kids and students. Some schools have the older kids dress up in lab coats throwing eggs and flour at the lowerclassmen unless they give them money. My school had Saint Nicolas come into the class room with his creepy ( BLATANTLY RACIST) helper , Black Pete. I say blatantly because the person who is to dress up as him is in black face and has red lips... i just end it there and if you're lucky i'll add photos! But when Saint Nicolas comes you have to sing to him and he'll give you Speculoos (this part is unique to belgium). When i got home from school there was a bunch of candy on the table for me because its my holiday I AM STILL A CHILD.
      On Saturday , Audrey Quinn and I went to Brussels AGAIN for the Marche Noel , the Christmas market! It was awesome so much food and hot wine. There was also an ice skating rink , polar bears and a giant Ferris wheel . I'll post the video of us on it. The views were pretty awesome. We also found a giant Asian grocery store which was really cool so i went in and bought a bunch of random food because it was cheap and i like trying new things .
     Sunday was the start of the three day festival of Sainte Cecile , The saint of music ( like the simon and garfunkle song) . The Festival takes place in the city of Binche , Where I'm apart of one of the three Fanfares that play there. SO I HAD TO PARTICIPATE. Sunday we got up very early and the three groups play in the streets from bar to bar . so you just drink and march and play and have a great time. After that there was a big meal for the fanfare i belong to with my host parents, and i was given an award. I am now an honorary member of the  musicians association  of Hainaut ( My Provence) ! I didn't really expect it but I was very flattered! The festival is Sunday , Monday, Tuesday but I really don't have the energy to do all three days. I may have been the youngest one there. but they go hard!!!!
 So you may think , SARAH , You've been in Belgium for a while now , you much be really good at french. and the answer is NO . NO I'M NOT. And I'll tell you why. Because I'm getting the two extremes in school , when I speak with friends they use a lot of slang and local dialects and then when I'm in class I'm getting advanced french , Symbolism , Sciences all in French... I need that middle ground , NORMAL french . So I'm going to.....sign up for courses. I'm really trying to do a lot to keep myself preoccupied here because i know i complain about not hanging out with Belgians outside of school but its somewhat unfair of me to expect them to have a lot of free time. All the 6iemes (seniors) are now cramming for exams and getting ready for college while I get to sit around and maybe do a few tests if it catches my fancy . I'll give it more time. Nevertheless I go to the gym , play in the ensemble with my parents and I wanted to join a volleyball team at the indoor sports place down the street but apparently i don't have enough experience..... SCREW YOU. If anyone knew that i went to Salem for high school they would know i have plenty of experience . We go CRAZY for volleyball. Maybe I'll give Zumba or *shudders* basketball a try.
      Recently a lot of people have been asking me I'm going to be going home for the holidays and even though that would be ideal, I can't . It's not allowed . Then they ask if I'm homesick and and I say not really. It's more of an indifference as of now .ALTHOUGH i'll probably be feeling super crappy on christmas anyway. I'm here , I'm gonna do this. Overall I've realized that Americans are way more independent than Europeans. My main reason, here everyone goes to universities that aren't terribly far from home. they think two and a half hours is a lot. And then they come home every weekend. Americans do the exact opposite , we go to schools across the country , across the continent even , and we stay there, until the holidays. I was trying to explain to people that the school I'm going to be attending when i go back is about 6 hours west. People looked pained . " You're going home every weekend though, right?" they would ask . No .... No i'm not .... To them going home is normal , to us  it's a sign of defeat. NOBODY wants to be that kid that leaves for school august 25th and comes home for labor day weekend, the one that's wandering the halls of the school looking for teachers to visit...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holidays

i dont know how to rotate this
    I'm pretty lucky. Any American/Canadian expiereced a dull ache in their chest when they spent this past fall away from home . Not being home for Thanksgiving is a rough thing to go through. You're whole family sitting around at home trying to go on with the festivities even though you aren't there . While you sit in school and try to explain this very North American holiday to a bunch of Europeans . BUT let me tell you why I'm lucky. My host family made me thanksgiving dinner MUAHAHAH so lucky.turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes . This made me sooo happy , because the day before I received a Thanksgiving card from my Grandma in the mail and promptly wept shortly after opening it. Even better we went around the table and said what we were thankful for before we ate. It wasn't home but it did feel very homey, these people that have only known me for 3 months or so went through the trouble to do that for me. It's an amazing thing. 
    Today ; we set up the Christmas tree ! It was so nice ,I came downstairs with my laptop and put on some Ella Fitzgerald , Boston Pops , Vince Geraldi wholenineyards and decorated. I mean the tree wasn't real but Apparently we're getting a real one just for me !!! Now all i need is snow. but i guess it doesnt really start to january ....disappointment . It snows on Halloween back home . Here i've yet to break out my BRING IT ON winter coat. 
    Other things slightly unrelated to holidays, 
        Doing things solo. I do a lot by myself . and I don't mind it at all. It's actually nice . It will sound weird when I say it but its nice not to have entertain someone with my french or english. just to sit there in a train car and watch Belgium go by. 
and now i'm going to contradict myself


 Allllthoughhh... I do wish i did more with other kids in my school like on weekends, but on weekends I want to go EXPLORE. Its a trade off , do you want to see all you can while you're here or do you want to hang out with belgians. But then again I've never even been asked to do anything so i'm not so sure if i'm actually missing out. ZING.... I know i kind of sound whiny because there are people in the world with real problems , not problems like " I want to travel and hang out with the locals" . more like" I need a job to support my family" . and I understand that there are exams coming up for them too .. so I guess i just need to give it more time....


         Belgium is pretty , and in some parts . not at all. either way you find that places look just like america . It's starts to feel exotic when you're driving through Liege and you feel like you're in downtown Albany . Or the miles of farm land ....S-A-L-E-M . I think i'm just very much accustomed to it now that i'm letting it infiltrate my memories of America. Although every time i walk into the grand place in Brussels , with the giant christmas tree and the buildings all lit up I know that there is nothing like that back home. Yesterday my host parents took my friend Juan and I around Brussels and it was so nice to finally see
everything. The atomium , the royal family's house, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral , really cool japanese and chinese bulidings that are also from the worlds fair like the atomium . 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beaucoup de petites choses

 This post really doesn't have much of a theme to it ,just a bunch of things I've been thinking about and want to share :D.
     Sympathy for Flanders: I'm a Walloon , technically...but on my flight home from Prague I found myself sitting next to woman from Flanders. we ended up talking for pretty much the whole flight, just about the differences between the provinces. I realized that, for me, a faux Belgian i have no reason to be against it. Sure they all speak a language thats completely archaic to everyone else but its their identity . Flemish , ISN'T Dutch. Its Flemish.The woman told me that Flanders wouldn't ever want to break away from Belgium and join the Netherlands but its in a position where they have so much pride for their province that it seems as if they care more about it than they do the whole country. I mean i would two if the other province didn't really like you that much . But I have to admire their patriotism , every year languages die .. they're trying to keep Flemish alive. Plus they are doing a bit better off than Wallonia. I expressed this to my host parents; Its easier for me to travel in Flanders than in Wallonia because Flemish people know that not everyone is going to speak Flemish , everyone speaks some level of English. I'd rather ask for directions in English in Flanders than take a gamble with my mauvais francais in Wallonia. Plus the cities are really really really pretty and everyone rides bikes and look like supermodels.
    English: In the beginning I would be jealous when I would meet people that we're multi-lingual . Speaking French, Italian, German, Spanish ect. But most of the time they didn't know English. I'm super thankful that I am a native English speaker because its will get you way farther than German . I promise.
  Sports: So up until last week ,gym class was pretty much just running. Last week we started playing handball... and the lack of athleticism was astounding. I'm that girl that takes gym class TOO SERIOUSLY. here not so much.There were a few girls that were athletic but there were a lot more that weren't . I was incredibly disappointed. I mean I know I'm not in the best shape here but I'm still not tired after ten minutes of passing around a handball..... I've even gotten a gym membership! I mean I'm not exactly doing it to lose weight but in stead slow down the weight gain process . Just realized that theres a indoor sports building like 500 meters from my house too. I need to be sporty.
    Clothing: People here care about how they dress. This isn't like back home where every guy is wearing gym clothes and sweatpants. They try hard here , some girls even do heels. The problem is that they dress to look nice not to keep warm . It's not as cold as Salem right now but its not summer and these kids are like not even wearing coats ... I don't get it . I had my mom mail me my " BRING IT ON" winter coat. Also guys spike their hair here... everyone ... i'm like you probably spend way more time on grooming than i do . That scares me. I actually realized that Americans may not always be the most stylish but we are way more open and nicer than Europeans . 
     Habitude: It took long enough but I finally feel settled here. I'm not sure how to accurately describe it but its like I've finally realized that this is my life for the time being. I recognize roads I know how to get places where to go and where not to go . I always felt super comfortable with my host family but now even more so . We're on the level where they tell me they love me and i'm like OMG <3 guyssss!! I suppose its more of a okay this is how life is going to be for a while, I know this isn't everything you thought it would be but this definitely doesn't suck . I don't know how to say it without making it sound like I'm disappointed , because I'm SOOO NOOTTT its just I'm fully adjusted now.
      Holidays: I miss the commercialism of the holidays in the States. I keep telling myself that I'm not missing anything on 25th....I know I am though. THANKSGIVING, so much food and family!!! It will be weird to not have that , no parade, no lounging around stuffing your face with turkey . NO BLACK FRIDAY :( . I'm trying to do christmasy stuff already , Already started watching Elf and a Christmas Story and I listen to Christmas music. I know it isn't as big of a deal here , It's not as driven by buying gifts and wearing giant ugly sweaters .I might have to add some crazy american style cristmas to the one here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

SUPRISE

So all this past week I was in a bit of a funk. I was like oh I guess they really don't do that much for Birthday's here.... One morning I wake up and go downstairs for breakfast and my host mom is making a cake. " It's for Audrey" she says ... I'm like oh... (inside i'm sobbing because it's not like its my 18th birthday or anything). So the week goes on I just pretend I'm too mature to care about my birthday being a big deal. Friday morning my parents and I go to play in a Armistice day memorial service . I figured that'd be the highlight of my day plus my friend Audrey thats was coming over was suddenly not able to come over until 9 that night. I'm sitting in my room listening to music , whats new. Suddenly my host mom yells COME DOWNSTAIRS . I'm like oh boy shes probably going to just have laundry for me or something. She says to me Theres someone on the computer for you and theres someone at the door. OKAY...... i look at the computer and its my parents on Skype still in their pajamas. i wave to them and my host mom rushes me to go get the door. There are Balloons everywhere . I open the door. Standing there are my best friends from rotary and classmates from school !!!!! SUPRISEEEEEE. They really got me . I didn't know a damn thing and everyone was in on it even my parents back home. I mean granted it was a little awkward to have the mix of classmates from belgian highschool and friends from rotary together but i could have been worse. It was really incredible of my family to do all this for me . It really made me feel like i belonged. that they care. It was such a great weekend . My friends audrey and chantal stayed the night and went with me to a party one of the classes were having to raise money for the "senior trip" . I love having people stay over at my house because i have a big room and a big bed. and sometimes...its tooo biiggg :(. The next day the party continued in Brussels with more exchangers . so great and then i spent the night at Audreys. This was just what I needed. I have been in a funk for the past  few days and this past weekend got me right out of it.
    Ya see ... Kids at my school aren't like kids in america. You don't go out and do things after school . You go home. You study . the end. But when you're a free student like me that doesn't have to do anything really , you get super bored. I'm normally really good about doing things on my own but it does get a bit tedious. I get a little envious of the other exchange students that do stuff all the time with kids in their school. Plus here the mind set is a bit more closed off so its just the luck of the draw. What I imagined Belgium would be like and what it is are two different things and you can't break down and sulk because everything didn't go as planned. My dad told me to make a list of things that have gone right and things that have gone wrong here and the former outweighed the latter by a hell of a lot . I mean i'm only here for a short period of time in the grand scheme of things . and if i never went on an exchange i wouldn't have ever made such great friends in rotary . And who knows maybe things will be different when i change families. It will be pretty awesome to have a sister for the first time.
 In the meantime i've started going to the gym because la vie Belgie is not figure flattering especially if you are an exchange student . PLUS exercising gives you endorphin's and endorphin's make you happy !!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's been a while.

  THE CZECH REPUBLIC. THE END. 





 No just kidding I'll write more. 


       This past week was vacation time for us Belgians and it was probably the best vacation I could ever ask for. Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon , My friend Audrey came over which is pretty much synonymous with awesome things happening. We camped out in my room, watched musicals, went to Bruges and Brussels. That's the Beauty of Belgium , you want to go to another city , you get on the train and go to another city because you know the ride wont be long. 
   Monday morning 4 am or so to be exact- I get my ass out of bed ( I don't know how I did it) and grab my suitcase and head to the airport. I got there with plenty of time to spare I'd rather be early than late especially at the airport. Nothing evokes more pity than the traveler sprinting to their gate with their luggage and everything they had to take off to get through security. SUPER LUCKY ME , I'm in the plane the pilot mumbles something in Czech and then in English, we don't have clearance to leave yet. No biggie just twenty minutes. finally get clearance. JUST ABOUT to take off. They put the wrong luggage on the plane.SOMUCHRAGE. An hour late, I arrive in Prague. My whole reason for going was to see my friend Verca . She was an exchange student in my school in 09/10 , and we just happened to become really great friends. Even after she left we would send each other post cards , emails and skype . I walked out to the arrival area and it was so crazy to see her again after a year and a half . 
     She studies at Charles University in Prague and her dorm is really close to the center so everything was so close and the public transportation system is very easy. Monday night we went out with some of her friends all of them were really great and all spoke some level of English, which is good because all I can really say is 'Beer' in Czech. But what else do you really need to know?
   The rest of the week we were in her city , Ceske Budejovice. It's in Bohemia and its one of the main reasons why i love European cities . It's a city without all the overwhelming-ness of giant, tall, crowded American cities. In stead of up its more ...out. We spent the week visiting everything we could , we biked to a castle , hiked in the mountains near Austria/Germany, visited Ceskey Krumlov ( A baroque city) and at night there was always something to do in the city another hang-out to visit . Friday night we went to a concert , I didn't know the band until she showed me the night before but they we're really great. The lead singer of the band, a guy from New York . After the concert a dj took over and the guy came out from backstage and i'm just like HEY YOU'RE FROM NEW YORK ?! ME TOOO. This startled all the other Czech people there, Americans aren't afraid of being forward. He was really great though and we actually got to go backstage and hang out with the rest of the band , the members we're from all over the world which was really cool and they all didn't mind hanging out .All of her friends were really great too, one of them was a former exchange student a rebound from Brazil and she kept telling me " You aren't like other Americans" which made me so happy ( yay defeating the stereotype) . Saturday morning we went back to Prague , bright and early and saw ALL THE SIGHTS or most of them , there are so many. Granted it was a Saturday so you had to beat your way through droves of Russians and Chinese tourists but the city is amazing. It has so much history , art , music , colors. It's overwhelming you get scared that you'll forget something and so you take a picture but you know that the picture will never be the same as actually looking at it . That night we were pretty tired so we went to a tea room and just sat and talked , catching up , looking back, it was great. Sunday we went to the Mucha Museum , if you don't know who Mucha is you should look him up . 
    It was hard to say goodbye Sunday afternoon , because you don't know when you'll see each other next . She's in college now and soon  I will be too , and unfortunately its not on the same continent . But I've said this before when you make a friend in rotary you're friends for life. 
    Either way it was a phenomenal week , I could have gone to Prague with the rotary but it would have been a packaged tour where they truck you around like cattle. I wouldn't have been able to hike in the mountains, go to concerts,  go to authentic Czech pubs or get a tour of an awesome country by a good friend. 



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ryan Air

    What'd you do yesterday? I went to Milan. YEAH. So Europe you have these airlines that are very inexpensive that lets you fly for less than €50. Ryan Air par example is the carrier that my host family and I used . And since the u.s dollar is so weak i was all for traveling on the cheap. Here's how it works. You can fly to a cornucopia of cities in Europe and Northern Africa but the catch is that its' not really the city . Normally what they do is fly to a city not far from the destination and then you take a bus to the city. For example we left from BEAUTIFUL Charleroi ( Brussels-sud) and landed in Bergamo Italy and then took a bus to Milan which was like 45 minutes. I mean its not terrible to do it this way but its just a little less convenient .I want to use ryanair again for more trips but its hard because they only allow you one small bag so you either have to be really good at packing or not go on long trips.
   Anyways Milan, RAINY :( but still awesome. We saw the Duomo and the Grand Place I guess is what its called. There were so many people though. I felt like a salmon trying to swim upstream getting through the duomo except in place of water there were swarms of Korean tourists.  but the best part was that i got to meet up with my friend Sarah !!(We couldn't do everything in one day and plus we were kind of there for the shopping too.)  She was an exchange student in my district last year in NY (D 7190 represent!) It's funny because this was only the second time we'd met but she's like " I feel like we've known each other for a long time" .. but this is because Exchange Students have different friendships. You don't have to know a fellow exchange student for a long time to figure out that you understand each other more than a non-exchanger . The world seems smaller and less scary when you know that there are people all over the world that care about how you are and know what you're going through.  I remember my rotary orientation weekend back in New York and every inbound I met told me to look them up if I was ever in their country or city . It's the connections that you make and they'll last forever .  The weather may have been terrible in Milan but the fact that i got to see a good friend made up for it immensely .I think i have other things to say but as of right now I can't remember them because i was up for 25 hours and It wasn't for the 24h  festival in Louvain La Neuve . But i can sleep in America or when i'm dead. whichever comes first.


ONE OTHER THING ABOUT RYANAIR. They say that they're on time 90% of the time . Yeah my plane was delayed for 3 hours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

DAMN YOU FLANDERS

       I remember it well, it was December 23rd and I'm casually checking my email and I see a message from my rotary councilor . I open it , not thinking there would be anything important in it . JUST KIDDING . All it said was "Congratulations , first choice, Merry Christmas, coach" After I ran around the house screaming in pure ecstasy. I realized that I knew NOTHING about Belgium .  In the following months I started doing some research . I didn't know that there were 3 official languages and when I put down Belgium as my #1 country the fact that I could have been put in Flanders never crossed my mind. I knew they spoke it there but I didn't know it was .... half the country. Shortly after I found that out ,I discovered they hold the record for longest time without a functioning government *pumps fist in solidarity . Yeah they even beat out every middle eastern country JEALOUS MUCH?! It doesn't really matter that they don't have a government anyway because there is separate bodies of legislation for Flanders, Wallonia and the city of Brussels. So for example the legislation for schools in Flanders is different than that of Wallonia and you bet your sweet ass they aren't going to give that up any time soon.
       Continuing with my story , this past weekend a few other exchangies and i made the trip to Antwerp . This was my second time to Flanders. My first time was to Oostend , the ...Belgian "seaside". I noticed some huge differences , some are a bit obvious because Antwerp/Anvers is a very wealthy city. They owe their wealth to the Diamond industry ( yay little african kids in mines) and the fact that it's a huge port city .I think it's one of the biggest port cities in Europe. And the fact that Flanders is doing better than Wallonia only accentuates their wealth . Besides several cross dressers Anvers is beautiful. Most of they city has classic Flemish/Dutch guilded architecture. It's very clean and I didn't see any homeless people. EVERYONE rides bikes but thats a very Felmish Dutch thing anyway . People ride bikes in Wallonia too but its just a bit more hilly and you know you're in Flanders because of the bikes. Also NO ONE was ugly . no one. I mean everyone wasn't drop dead gorgeous but there you didn't come across someone that you wanted to put a bag  over their head. Then you had the shopping. OMG THE SHOPPING. there's one main street for us commoners and then you can wander off to the Dolce and Gabannas and Armanis if you've got paper to spend . I took a few videos and I didn't get to see the port because i mean i'm a girl and i want to shop . but i did see a really cool cathedral ;)
   To get a little bit into politics here , I'll explain why Flanders is doing better than Wallonia. There are several reasons but here are some of the major ones. Just like the "rust belt" in the USA Wallonia was the industrial center for Belgium with plenty of factories and mines. They were the powerhouse and would take in millions of immigrants from Italy , Poland ect.. to work in the mines. Now the Industrial age is well over but Wallonia still takes in immigrants and now you have to factor in all the Arabs too . There are millions of Arabs in Belgium .It's actually the second largest in Muslim population in Europe. What happens is that Wallonia doesn't have enough sense to say no to them and the welcome them with open arms but , they don't assimilate to the culture . There are parts of Belgian cities that are completely arabic Mosques and all . They're here because they can be . Plus they will get medical attention if they need it . In Flanders they are more stringent with immigration . If you aren't an actual Belgian citizen and you show up to a hospital they'll send you on your merry way. Flanders is putting the actual Belgians first . But theres a compromise and its more or less like this . Flanders , Socially well off UGLY language ( DUTCH/FLEMISH) . Wallonia , Not so well off socially  Pretty language (French)<3<3.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If you're going to be poor...

 I know that I've already expressed my opinion on the poor people one finds in Belgium , but I need to bring it up again . I've been to Brussels twice in the past week and its really started to bother me . I know every time  I'm in Brussels I'm in the SUPER touristy part but after visiting multiple times I can now categorize them . You have your standard beggar that just sits on the ground with a sign and a cup,  hanidcapped people , ex: Missing limbs , deaf what have you , the idiots with dogs ( I don't know why you'd have a dog too because that just another mouth to feed) and sometimes they have like 5 dogs !!! The most popular seems to be the Arab women , with their children . They usually sit on the street as well with their babies and it really does pluck at the heartstrings when you see them sitting there begging with a child but if you notice , the child is never skinny or malnourished. They're pan handling because they can not because they necessarily need to . Yesterday I went to Brussels for the afternoon to meet Audrey and I didn't have school so I took an early train which gave me two and a half hours to chill until she arrived . It's kind of hard to pretend you have something to do when you really don't so I just walked around Brussels Centraal for a little while but there was another Arab woman with a baby and this one was aggressive she was like going up to people who were sitting and eating and would like whistle and shove this poor baby in their faces. I mean no one really gave her money ....also she had a kid with her too like 10 or 12 . He would ask for money as well BUT they really didn't look that poor , he was kind of dressed nicely . You don't really inspire that much pity when you're dressed nicer than some of the people here.
            I walked into a Relay ( Magazine shop) and was hoping to find some English books , I'm frantically searching the shelves till I see a title in English : Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris I grab that thing like it was the last  can of beans in a USSR designated food center . Although I didn't feel very Belgian buying because the man at the counter spoke to me in English . I'm like MEH FINE, but he's one of my favorite authors , I recommend any of his books ! But I'm trying not to read it too quickly , i have to make it last ahaha.
    Even though I didn't really walk around that far from the train station it was still cool to be in Brussels alone. That;s one thing I love ,going places where no one knows who you are and you can just walk around in your own little atmosphere. In a really old official looking building by the train station there was Brazilian music blaring and decorated with this giant tapestry so i went in and it was a 6 month long Brazilian exhibition that includes music , dance, plays ,art... ect. And i'm going to admit i have a bit of an obsession with Brazilian so i oogled a bit and bought some stuff .
     TOTALLY FORGOT TO MENTION THIS : Cultural note. So here in belgium we have this "thing"..a condiment of sorts , Fillet American . YUM AMERICANS. This orange colored paste goes on tartines or sandwiches and is quite popular. But wait I haven't told you what its made of yet. Raw beef, raw eggs, and mayo i think. I know it sounds disgusting and probably something that would get you sick after one bite. but ... i like it. Mad cow disease anyone? 



Monday, October 17, 2011

Lots o little things

 I love getting my hair done here. Back home it was walk across the street so your friends mom could do it for 5 dollars . but here its FANCY . and people actually care a lot about their appearance so its a big deal. Today i went and got it cut (second time) and at first i just wanted a trim but then i ended up getting full on bangs and i must say i look very european now :D
   Friday night: dinner with host parents. Super big bonding moment. Both my parents are musicians and i guess i'm still considered one as well. So we sit around and talk about composers and who we like , which songs mean a lot to us. My host father is amazed that I know composers and I'm glad I have something to talk about with him. I showed him one of my favorite pieces and then he found his on youtube. And it was a great moment , he started getting choked up because the song he chose reminded him of his grandfather who used to play music with him. It just feels good to be able to share these kinds of moments with your host family you feel a little less like an outcast and more like a member of the family. Plus i'm their first exchange student , ever, so it's kind of a big deal . The rest of the night we sat around and talked about politics , history and culture. I know how nerdy that sounds , but , my french has improved to where I can express my opinions and understand theirs. plus this is a cultural exchange so ....
        Saturday . was awesome. thats all i have to say . No i'll say more . I went to Brussels with my closest friends here , Audrey ( from New Hampshire) and Quinn ( from Ohio). The friendship here with Belgians is NOWHERE near as strong as it is with other exchangies. We just spent the day shopping and sightseeing. 
Although every time I go to Brussels it's always in the super touristy sections which makes me feel so underwhelmed . Eventually i have to go to Brussels with out the intention of buying clothes and shoes and explore it for real. I stayed the night at Audreys house because she lives right outside Brussels and we pretty much have a kickass time together. We dyed her hair. well I watched because I have no idea how to dye hair. but we just stayed up late and had fun . the whole time i pretty much forgot i was in Belgium , it was a lil slice of AMURIKAH .
   So my host brother and his class are on a field trip and I decided not to go because i wanted to save money so I have the next few days off . The disappointing part is the fact that I don't have any books to read. I realized that this year would be the perfect time to actually get back into reading like i used to . And then I only bring two books.... I have Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince , in french...... so reading it isn't relaxing its just more like work . At home I shunned kindles and nooks but now IT WOULD BE SO USEFULLLLL. But I think all the other exchangies will get together for a good ol' book swap or something .


P.S. i have a nickname here now "97" because a screw up like windows 97. mostly with my english because i don't use it that much. I'm stupid in two languages now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Uppidy-date

    I never know how to start my posts..... Dear friends and adoring fans.....
            I've realized that it doesn't matter what language you speak if you can play an instrument you can successfully interact with anyone who doesn't speak your language. For example . Both my host parents are musicians , and I am too ...barely. They finagled me a tenor sax to play and even brought me copies of sheet music . This was like a while ago and they asked me to join them at one of their orchestra rehearsals, i was reluctant to go because usually they we're late in the evenings and i much rather waste my time on the computer. But I finally caved and decided to go with them to one. It felt good to play again . It was something familiar something that made me feel a little bit more comfortable. Because playing soccer here isn't really amounting to much. There's a team but its actually futsal and they practice on fridays and have games on weekends. But the weekends are when i get to see people and places that i may never see after this. I love soccer but the fact that i'm only here for a limited amount of time makes it hard to pursue . 
      I had my first moment of weakness here over the weekend. My host parents got mad at me and i felt like thirty pounds of shit in a ten pound bag. Ya see it went a lil something like this . I was busy this weekend , like i am every weekend because I'm just super popular and everyone love me and thinks i'm funny . no none of that is true. but i was busy . Friday my class threw a giant party to raise money for our trip to Spain , the next morning i needed to be up ass early to catch the train for a rotary meeting thing. The day went well and I have more fun with my exchangies than anyone else in the world. Heres where it went south. I forgot to take a house key and no one was home when I got back. So I had to stay at a friends house till midnight and wait for my host parents to pick me up after their concert in Brussels, mind you my friend lives in France. I got in the car and they weren't happy and I felt SOOOOO BAD. Not to mention i was cold tired and cranky but i just kind of whimpered in the back like an unhousebroken puppy . I come home and i'm like well atleast i can upload my photos on to facebook and that will make everything all sunshine lollipops and rainbows again. WRONG. Someone stole my camera. I know for a fact that i didn't lose it because i zipped it in my bag the whole time ... I go to bed , in rage and self loathing and wake up the next morning and call my dad on skype. And he pretty much told me to stop dicking around and act like an adult now and thats exactly what i needed to hear. but I also wanted to cry to . so i did . i cried. and it felt good. because i was upset that my host parents were mad at me . I don't want to make them go out of their way to get me because i f*cked something up , yet again ;) . Plus they're really the only thing standing in my way of having a good time . if i screw up my excellent relationship with them then i might as well forget doing anything. Plus i lost my camera no one feels good after that . But my dad's tough love is exactly what i needed to hear. Later that day i apologized for forgetting to take a key , they know i'm not used to having to lock the door . I'm from salem someone smashes a pumpkin on cabbage night and thats about the biggest crime that happens for the season. and then i worked my way back into their hearts like some celebrity fresh outta rehab. 
      ALSO i dont think the kids at school realize how excited i get when they talk to me . I doesn't even have to be alot and i'm just like YAYHUMANINTERACTION. I'm working my way into a group of friends but the hard part is that we don't have classes together they're in A and i'm in B so its like meh i don't get to see you :/ But its getting better . 
    Okay i have to go now before my host brother finds out that Germany just scored on Belgium again... heheheh
J'aime la Belgique, mais pour le football, en Allemagne 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Words

   So it took a while but my French is getting better, to the point where people actually compliment me on it !! but there are some methods to my madness. What really helps is that if I don't know a word in French I'll take a stab at saying the English word with a French pronunciation and it tends to work! Also you have to learn like a baby or a parrot hahaha. If you hear a phrase that is used often ABSORB IT INTO YOUR MIND . Soon you'll realize when to use it and after a while you can string a bunch of phrases together and BOOM you've got a sentence. I mean it would probably be more impressive if i hadn't learned anything by now because I rarely speak English maybe a phrase or two that my family will understand but not much else.
   School is better too which is probably because I can actually interact with people and don't scare them away like before . I don't do much though lots of sitting around , making lists ( of the presidents, capitols, states, countries) , and sometimes I feel guilty for not doing anything but then I remind myself that I did my time in high school .This is my year OFF not to stay up late slaving over a paper about Belgian authors. Now that I'm on the topic of school I should mention how often I forget that I don't go to a public school . It's private , all the schools are here , and mine is catholic. So you have to pay for things that you wouldn't pay for back home . Example copies, you have to give the teachers money for photocopies for the year , and I do , But, VERY reluctantly . I'm like that could have been a Chocolate bar *tear. as I hand over the 4 euros. And textbooks too , but I won't pay for those because they won't get used.
   What else.... I remember picking Belgium because it's a semi-francophone country that "wouldn't be popular" . I thought I was being different , different just like the 300 other kids here . At first i was like FUUUUUUU- but now I have to admit i love it . I may not have anyone else in my school with me but there are kids everywhere , if you say i need a place to stay near Anvers chances are that there are 5 kids that will be like you can come stay with me. For me I've met so many people that I have so much in common with which makes me think WHERE WERE YOU IN HIGHSCHOOL?! And you immediately become close with these people because they know EXACTLY what you're going through . It's like you become a big awkward family right off the bat. I get depressed though because everyone else get's Wednesday's off so they all take the train to Brussels or Liege and get together . While I'm in school till 4 :( ... I think i'm going to have to do some serious begging in my future because I love my exchangies <3.


RANDOM FACT: Tony Parker( aka eva longoria's ex and pro basketball player ) AND Audrey Hepbrun , BOTH BORN IN BELGIUM!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Black Black Girl and the Bastard in the Purple Sweater

 The other night i was chatting with another exchange student and we came up with the saying "Adapt or die" and that sounds incredibly cruel but it seems fitting for an exchange student. And it also reminds me of a story that really does belong on here.
    So Tuesday was a Francophone holiday ( Suck one Flanders ) and so I went to Mons and met up with some friends where we naturally had a kickass time. While waiting for the train back home my friend and I noticed an ironically dressed inter-racial couple. The black girl was wearing all black and the white guy was wearing all white and I don't think they did it to be cliche. They sit down on the bench farther down from my friend and I and commence with making out . The both of us were just a little taken aback by the super PDA but we didnt have much time to complain about it because my train was pulling in . I'm on the train and it's not a very long ride like 25 minutes and it pulls in to my stop and i get up and press the button for the door and it doesn't open . I sprint to the other door also doesn't open and the train starts to pull away . And I begin to freak the hell out . I look to see who's in my car and its Black girl in black and another girl . WEIRD . So i run over to her and ask her if she can call my host dad with my gsm and explain whats going on and then i realize my card is out of money . so she uses hers and calls my dad and he comes and picks me up at the next station . where she waits with me . It was such a weird thing to happen to me . It's also an excellent example of a WHAT DO YOU DO situation as an exchange student . You have to be comfortable to go up to a complete stranger and use your broken french to explain whats going on to the best of your ability .If you're lucky they'll understand you and wait with you at the train station for your host dad to show up.
    One other thing , My teachers at my school dress a little bit differently than my teachers back home . It isn't all izod and dockers up in hur' . I mean all of my teachers pretty much have modern European style . For example my Religion teacher ( yeah i have to take it , i got to a catholic school) reminds me of someone that would work at Zumiez she has an edgy hair cut and clothes ,nothing i would expect out of a religion teacher, and i'm pretty sure she has some sort of facial piercings but she takes them out for school . Also there's is a Johnny Depp look alike , I don't even know what he does he might be a professor but i doubt it he just kind of wanders around and pops up in random places , because that's what Johnny Depp would do . BUT the worse one is the Bastard in the Purple Sweater. He is definitely not a teacher but just a skinny man on a power trip and ALWAYS WEARS THE SAME PURPLE SWEATER. He supervises study halls and kicks people out of the bathroom if they look like they're just in there for social reasons. Today me and two of my classmates had a study hall and because we're 6iemes( seniors) we were going to walk to the park and just stay there for lunch too because it was the following block anyway. Unfortunately we were turned down so we were forced to go to the cafeteria/etude where the bastard in the purple sweater was currently residing . We were a few minutes late showing up and he starts giving us a hard time . Apparently he has some sort of sacred system in organizing students to the giant tables in the room , like one kid in every table in the third row and they can't be in the shade blah blah blah . So our arrival upset the delicate balance and he's like yelling at us for coming here and splitting all of us to sit in completely obscure seats , He's like " third seat in that table over there" . I'm like is the world going to explode if i sit in the fifth one?! But i sat down and pretended to do work , which means I proof read a friends English homework, tried to text with out getting caught and made a list of all the countries in Africa that I could think of.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Rugby Is Better Than American Football

 What's more exciting and athletic than american football, No not Bob Ross painting (If you don't know who that is look it up on youtube) . Its Rugby . Right now in New Zealand is the Rugby world cup and idk how much coverage it's getting back home but here it's a pretty big deal. Granted Belgium is not in the mix for the tournament but I'm 5 km from France so fans loyalty shifts over the boarders a tad. Right now I'm watching Argentina and Scotland and it's quite entertaining.* Disclaimer I do not understand the rule of Rugby as of yet but I'm slowly figuring it out this will just be my version of the game*. The sport seems to have aspects of American Football but . it's better. You dont get to wear padding except a mouth gaurd and the occasional brace to prevent concussions . And these guys hit HARD . You'll see an eleven guy pile up and then they'll just get up and walk away . No flopping like in soccer . (drama queens) . One of the rules i do understand is that you can't pass the ball forward only sideways and backwards which creates all the more added skill but you can kick it forward . And like football there is an end zone and field goals. But they're is a flow to the game , there isn't as much starting and stopping like in American Football.
   All these reasons are well and good to like it but lets get real .... The uniforms are nice , short shorts like 70's basketball and those of the players that havn't been physically maimed or lost teeth are cuteeeeee , and they're muscular , big guys not like soccer where they're 6'1" 140lbs . BIG STRONG MANLY MEN ...ME GUSTA. Another thing that is really awesome about it is the All Blacks or the Rugby team of New Zealand  and the Haka. The Haka is like a warrior chant the team does before the start of the match and it's intimidating the other team stands there arms linked acting like it doesn't scare them , But you know it does . And that's why they win games.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS_iBV3ljxI the haka WATCH IT

Friday, September 23, 2011

tv

So the tv here is pretty weird. There are channels from France, Italy , Greece, The Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and The UK. There are some Belgian channels as well as MTV , CNN and BBC. But the thing is that there isn't a lot to offer on the channels it's usually game shows . And there's this one show that i always end up watching no matter how hard i try to turn it off. Secret Story , from what i've gathered it's France's version of Big Brother, except everyone is young attractive and jacked up on hormones. Also if you can't get enough of Starsky and Hutch or Seventh Heaven look no further my friends , They are alive and well in Belgium . It seems as if the forgotten tv shows come here . and they love them , there's also a lot of One Tree Hill (YAY... >:P) Gossip Girl ( DOUBLE YAY) and The Big Bang Theory. I miss quality tv like the magic bullet infomercial =( . Or 30 Rock and The Office and yes i'm a Gleek >.<. And the TRAVEL CHANNEL I know I don't really need travel channel advice now but i miss watching Anthony Bourdain drag his scrawny ass all over creation getting drunk and talking how great it is . But i'm not here for the TV , I've found a website that lets me watch american tv and movies anyway. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

   No one want's to embarrass themselves but when you're an exchange student , it's inevitable ...but there are some precautions you can take to reduce the frequency of discomposure. A very good tool is to play something off like it never happened. Par Example : The other night I was at a birthday party for my future host sister, my second family. Obviously I didn't know that many people, but luckily there were some other "young adults" that spoke English *thankyajesus* . At every table there was a little vase with a votive candle and people were starting to light them . I grab a lighter and try to light it , but instead I managed to just keep the flame over my thumb for a few seconds .Did I scream or freak out that I had knowingly burnt my thumb, NO ,I gave the lighter to the guy next to me and acted like nothing happened. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT COOL PEOPLE DO. Sure on the inside I was screaming in pain but that's not important.
   It's like when your eating out somewhere and you happen to order something with a lot of bone. To all you vegitarians bone's are these things that make the delicious animals ,that normal people eat , walk run and give added flavor. I mean has anyone seen a boneless chicken , i have its sad. But anyway if you're in a fancy restaurant the last thing you want to do is keep pulling little fish bones out of your mouth, power through it and eat them .I'm sure there are nutrients in there somewhere. I've done this enough times as well.
  Separate story now , I was talking to my host family about making a typical american meal and then i realized that annnnyyythiiingg can be considered american . And then i realized that we pretty much have a whole other spectrum of desserts and confections. So I decided to make Chocolate Chip Cookies !! My host mom went out and got the ingredients for me except vanilla extract so then we went out for that . Then i open the fridge and i realize that there are only two eggs left and i don't want to take them , so my host mom goes out for eggs. 10 mins later she comes back with eggs and i start to make the cookies and i'm like " okay ...butter" and then we realize we're out of that tooo..... sooooo she sends me to the store but i insisted because i didn't want to make her go out for the millionth time. SO then I come back with butter because theres a market like at the end of the street. and just to be a dick i'm like " Oh Merde .... je besoin...." and she gives me a look and i just start laughing.  Because now i've gotten to the point where I'm very comfortable with my family and i can make jokes and everything , it's nice. But anyway they all love the cookies and its so cool to have something to offer them in return for everything they have given me .

Thursday, September 15, 2011

coming around

    So I've been in school for two weeks now and if you've read my last couple of posts you see that it isn't the same as american high school . Although the "letter-man jackets" are very popular here. I'm not sure if i mentioned this before but it's so hard to keep a conversation going when you only know a couple hundred words in french . I've been pretty outgoing trying to talk to people but until i learn more french it will just have to be very basic french with the wrong tenses. And i know that it isn't easy for the other students to talk to me , people here are a bit more guarded , you need to talk to people more than twice to become their best friends in the whole wide world. It's just an american thing , we'll tell you our life story before you even know our last name. Plus the level of English here isn't great and neither is my level of french .
   I'm not upset about how difficult school has been for me socially because I know it won't stay this way. I'm good at making the best of things. But seriously the reception here from the students is not like back home. In Salem it is a big ass deal when the foreigners come to town . We have parties take them ,place's . Overall we are just so stoked to see someone that's here because they want be to not because their parole officer told them to be. Yet, the welcome wagon was not brought out for me , just complete immersion .Teachers just gave me a funny look and I waited until someone said " Shes American " . 
   When I found out I was going to be the only exchange student at my school I was so jazzed , but now I wouldn't mind having another kid to talk to that's going through the same thing. And don't get me wrong I really am enjoying it here, I don't really have to do homework here because I'm a "Free Student" although I do my English homework ***YOUUUU WOUULLLLD** . hehe. 
   Another thing I've noticed is that its seems that kids here have more "friends" out of school and in school you just have acquaintances because you have all your classes together. Mostly because you're designated to a school and if your friends aren't then that's it . Hopefully I can change that . Plus I'm hoping to join a volley ball team and today my gym teacher told me that there IS INDEED a soccer team for girls !!! but you have to ask about it to the right people like an underground drug cartel or something . 
 Right now i'm just waiting for the light bulb to go on and suddenly everything in french will become much easier . Because recently the hamster running on the wheel in my head has been suffering from cardiac arrest do to exhaustion , but give me a few more weeks .. I'm getting there.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The 9/11 post

   I think we can all say that we remember where we were on 9/11 , if you are old enough to remember...
I don't remember anything else during the school day when we found out except my teacher having us gather around her on our little rug in the class room . She delicately explained to us that something had happened not really being completely clear because 3rd graders wouldn't comprehend the gravity of something like this . I took the paper from her that she handed out and gave it to my mom when she picked me up that day , I think it offered grief counselling or something like that. But the most vivid memory I have of that day 10 years ago was coming home and turning on the tv , at the time we had about 8 channels and i was confused , the same thing was on every channel...and right in front of my eyes was a live feed of the twin towers , this carnage .The camera  zooms in on a man standing on the ledge of a window , he's covered in ash from the plane tearing through the tower. Then a woman shows up next to him they grab each other's hands and jump out of the building...
    Now I know that 9/11 didn't just affect American's there were people from all over the world in the plane and in the buildings they struck. In fact there was one Belgian. Yet , 9/11 is especially different for American's because until then , we never knew what it was like to be attacked on our own soil. Europeans dealt with it during WWI and II . They knew what it was like. But ten years ago today the "#1world power" was left vulnerable we were unstoppable , untouchable...
   Back home right now everyone is cleaning up from the hurricane and bombardment of terrible weather. Nothing like this has ever really happened to upstate new york . People have died, lost houses, belongings , roads have been completely washed out leaving remote villages cut off from aide. I was skyping with my dad today and he was talking about how they had to evacuate when Irene hit and how there was so much water in the basement that the furnace is ruined. And yet he said that at least he wasn't a family member of a 9/11 victim or one of many that went down in a plane or building. Everything is relative , I was feeling sorry for myself for trying to learn Spanish in French the other day and then you stop to thing of what could have happened to you and you immediately want to wipe any notion of self wallowing from your mind immediately.             


  I know this really doesn't have anything to do with Belgium but i figured i'd say something because it is the 10 year anniversary and as a 3rd grader back then I don't think I would have even though that 10 years from then I'd be living in Europe . It's very weird though , because here the news is completely focused on 9/11 reports but watching it here make me feel like an outsider to the us. Someone that is just looking in on what happened ten years ago today .

Thursday, September 8, 2011

schoool

 So , school here .... it not at all the same as back home.
       It's pretty much another world . I was warned by a friend that the day you first walk into school everyone will not flock around you and oogle because you're a foreigner , this is true. No one gives a crap but that's fine its a big school ( bigger than salem but not huge) and I'm sure rotary isn't really a big deal . But you don't have lockers you carry everything you need in a backpack or purse .Classes are fifty minutes long , yes those eight extra minutes are torture , and sometimes you have a double block . On the bright side you do get an hour off for lunch , where everyone is allowed to leave campus or stay to consume their bread products. I love bread don't get me wrong but i don't think that they have a lane bryant around here for me to buy the plus sized clothes I'll need shortly.
    The school is split up into separate buildings and they're currently constructing more so some of my classes are in a slightly more glamorous trailer . I'm lucky that i essentially have the same classes as my host brother or else I'd probably just curl up in a ball somewhere and hum the national anthem till the world made sense again. Luckily all my classes are with the same group of people too  . The school day varies depending on the day , monday's i only have three classes and I finish up before lunch but other days I'll be there until 4 YAYY... And every trimester your schedule changes so just when you get used to the routine they change it up on you ... but the worst part is that there are NO clocks in the school so i find myself glancing over my shoulder only to find a blank wall and odd glances from other students. It's a damn good thing I bought a watch. What really makes me feel all out of whack with all this , besides all of it being in french is that there is no supplement to school , no sports , no music , no theater, just school .. But I signed up for this so I better buck up and deal. I had my first gym class today and there's this fitness test that we have to train for that will be given in October or November and girls have to run 8 km and boys have to run 10 . So it's like 5 miles , which is doable for me but not when i have a carb based diet ... but seriously it's not hard to feel athletic here if you're a girl . The sport culture here for women is ..verysmalllll , if you play sports you probably play badminton or something. I tell people i play soccer and the usual response is " ohhh" because soccer for women here is NONEXSISTANT . *ladies, if you want to go somewhere to play soccer stay in america* . Anyway in gym today we had to run for 30 minutes around this little park by the school and   I'm not trying to brag but I'm pretty sure i ran the farthest , I was on my 13th lap when we stopped and my class was huge , i would say 25+ kids.
   As of right now none of the teachers have assigned home work but I was told that it should start next week. Not that it matters because I can play the " I don't get it " card . I'm a free student here anyway I opted out of science for a remedial language class either German or Dutch (* hopefully not dutch) . The biggest mistake I've made so far was signing up for Spanish , the equivilent of 12th grade Spanish .I felt so stupid , an american that doesn't speak french well in a spanish class learning spanish in french.... yeah so I wont be making a second appearance there . I get so jealous of how people are easily bi lingual here but then i realize that usually  if they are bi lingual English is not one of their languages , and i know english and english is important more important than german, so secretly ... i win. I'm actually in an english class and it's brain melting , that is the only appropriate adjective i can think of . They move so slowly they did one page of work in 2 hours . That's the problem here , Belgium has three official languages and english isn't one of them so they don't emphasize it as much . I could have dropped English and taken another class but i've decided to stay in it to help the few that want to learn it , because the teacher is really sketchy and also it gives me free time to write letters . On the plus side being a senior or 6ieme means hella trips ya'll , they're planning trips everywhere , my religion class is going to Andalusia  , my Art History class to Rome , the English class to London and so on ;). I'm trying to think of what I'm forgetting but it isn't coming to me so I'll just leave it at that .
  just kidding i remember now ,they don't use computers here or calculators it's old school . I'm completely dependent on my calculator unfortunately . but seriously when 2012 comes and wipes out everything no biggie at Big ol' Saint Union these bad asses will just whip out their abacus' and go to town.
   On a completely unrelated note I went for a run yesterday and came back completely covered in hives yay..... after much discussion and a trip to the doctors the tentative consensus is that i'm allergic to plums or whatever type of plum that they buy here. COOOOOOOOOL

Monday, September 5, 2011

Where Belgium Drops the Ball, and then picks it up .

Here are some things that made me go : "WTF?!" so far.
 1.) Paying to use the bathroom , and to use shopping carts. If you're going to use a public restroom , in a mall, train station, airports ect. you must pay to use it , usually is 0,3-0,5€ . I've asked why and Belgians don't seem to know either. To use a shopping cart you have to drop a whole Euro , the carts are all locked together and you insert a euro coin to release it . apparently this is done because of crazy drunk kids stealing them.
2.)  The Homeless. Europe is supposed to have a better healthcare and social care system but i have been asked for money more times here than i have in the united states. You don't even have to walk past them to get hustled for change , they'll come to you! You can just be walking around a train station or sitting in a park and they'll come right up and ask for a few cents for a hot chocolate (aka BOOZE AND DRUGS) .  All i say is no thanks sorry and walk away... * YOU ICE QUEEN!! **shrugs** . They'll really try to get you when they have dogs too because you know everyone will cry at the drop of  a hat if they see a starving dog , starving people not so much. The worst was this guy that was sleeping on a bench in a train station covered in cuts and bruises , with a cast on his foot and the police kicked him out and so he had to hobble out. It just made me wonder if this socialized health care really works.
3.) Social , So I think i'm correct when i say that the idea of a lower class person advancing themselves into a more comfortable living situation and relative happiness is not done here. From what I've seen it seems that if you're poor you will stay poor, if you're middle class you'll stay middle class .I could be wrong but I'm just going on what I've seen so far, and it's a little weird because I come from a country where everyone wants to BETHEBESTMAKETHEMOSTMONEY.. Perhaps the people here are content with the living situations , idk....
 Where Belgium , Straight up own's it , son...
1.) Public Transportation , Belgium isn't a very big country but even if you live in a more or less remote area there is still public transportation to get you to where you want to know , especially if you can't drive * mee* . There are free buses , and the Train system is excellent , so shove it Amtrack. Train's here are on time , do you remember what on time is ? It's when your train that arrives at 8:15 shows up at ....wait for it.... 8:15 *gasps! in stead of at 9:25 . And it isn't expensive just a couple of euros allows you to go anywhere in Belgium. And for the Youngsters there's this thing that's called a "Go Pass" , you pay €50 and you get 10 trips on the train to anywhere in Belgium, tres cool.
2.) Food culture , everything in the United States is fastfastfast. here they make time to slow down and enjoy a meal . If you go to a restaurant here you'll probably end up spending 2 hours there even meals with friends will take a while. In my school here i have an hour off for lunch! back home i had.. 20 minutes.


I'm going to add more to the list but i need to do some crunches because mama needz to real bad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tourists

 I love traveling and i love being here , but i hate tourists, i know i am one "technically" but seriously i hate them . Brussels is a beautiful city and I've enjoyed myself every time I've visited but i die a little inside when the SUPER tourists arrive. They come in groups , day tripping , stopping at EVERY little shop because they just can't seem to find the right I <3 Belgium shot glass. And I'm more than thankful that the rotary is organizing so many trips for us but its a package deal thing . You can go to Spain, Italy , Paris , London, Prague , Holland but it's in the most touristy way possible , they corral you up in a bus and ship you off to the city where you get out take pictures buy some kitch souvenirs and then putt off to your next post card worthy destination. and to finish off your night you will be dining at the most authentic restaurant the city has to offer , The Hard Rock Cafe.... Because when in Paris or London one must simply go for the hamburgers and Cesar salad . and of course the memorabilia is wonderful , oh look it's Keith Richard's g-string I'm totally immersed in the culture now.
   You can call me a snob and I'll just tell you you're right and that i watch the travel channel too much  but that's not how i want to discover a city . I would rather go on my own or visit someone who lives there, a local who knows the in's and out's of a city . Where you have to go and where you should just avoid because you will be engulfed in a stampede of fanny-packs and disposable cameras. so hopefully i can save a few euro's and my sanity and try and see europe MY WAY!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cajun chef GPS

 Well look how time flies when yer havin' fun. I guess I could say i've been pretty busy . I'm very lucky , my host family has been taking me so many place's and I'm starting to make connections with other exchange students.
before I continue with my regular boring garbage we have another awkward moment to share .
**** Yesterday , in the car driving back from visiting  an Abby my host mother askes me for a hug , and i give her ....wait for it..... my pack of gum... yay lost in translation. If you can't laugh things off here you might as well kill yourself.
  * Also i was on my way to a birthday party with my host brother and his girlfriend and the voice on her gps was of a very famous dead french actor , but seriously it sounded like that cajun chef guy . i can just hear it in my head now TOURNE AU GAUCHE APRES 300 METERS
    Things that i miss that are typically american
Hugging : Hug's here are only reserved for the very special occations , leaving forever , marriages, deaths, ect. I asked my host mom about it and she give's me hugs now because i was completely depleted  of them.
  Music: It's more or less disappointing to turn on the radio to hear james blunt's goodbye my lover for the 345th time that day . I know belgium isn't a big country but I though they more recording artists , seriously all the time it's american music on the radio .but it's the same stuff all the time . never the indie music i so crave
Also AMERICAN IDOL >Eruovision or any other european singing competition , my god , its just sad.
   Sports: girls here don't really play sports , and if they do its usually something cut-throat and brutal like , badminton. it's hard to explain that i play soccer because it's not a girls sport here . Sport culture overall is completely different . Sport's are our lives back in the united states especially for girls , here , not so much.
 Land: My "lawn" here is around the same size at the bathroom . i needz the space with grass , there is no grass here .
  Don't get me wrong I love it here LOVE IT but its just something i'm not used to , yet.


By the By : Irene why are you such a Bitch , give my family and the 3 million others power back and stop F*cking up my country ,take a midol and chill. seriously though everyone affected , you're in my thoughts.