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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.