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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!