Friday, December 21, 2012

quatre mois

Four months ago today, I left home... it's crazy that so much time as passed while I still feel like I've done so little here. But I have learned that I should fear the most beautiful moments of my lives slipping by us while I hardly notice. And the later, have it dawns on me and wish that I could go back.

Right after AFS accepted me, I set this goal... To not take anything in Belgium for granted. I made it a promise to myself for this trip. I haven't lived in the moment since I got here or taken every opportunity that I've been given and I haven't loved every second of my time here. But I'm grateful for each of those seconds, waiting in the rain, sitting in math class, getting to know my family or drinking beer with friends. After all that I know I'm on the right track.

And today, I want to make a second promise to myself, for more than the rest of this trip. Today I'm promising myself that for the rest of my life, I will work to take nothing for granted, and if I ever catch myself doing so, I'll immediately readjust.

When I'm old, I won't reflect back on my life wondering where the time went. I'll know exactly where it went and remember that I lived my life.

Today I promise myself that.

Friday, December 14, 2012


In Belgium, St. Nicholas Day is a much better deal than in the United States. I got candy from St. Nicholas on many different occasions, but this was the plate that my host family gave me.

AFS Liege had a Potluck to celebrate St. Nicholas Day and also say goodbye to all of our students who were only staying for three months. I sat on St. Nicholas' lap! Everyone was supposed to bring a some food from their country. I made cheese cake with speculoos crust instead of graham crackers, which turned out well. Another American though, made Pigs in a Blanket! Never been so happy.
  Recently, my host family got firewood delivered. The picture doesn't really accurately depict just how much firewood there really is.

Monday, November 12, 2012

the world goes out without me, how dare it

I've been missing home lately.

When two or three weeks after I got here, I was very schoolsick. There was a part of me that desperately wanted to be at Oberlin High School, in the library during Spirit Week or at football games. I think this was driven by a.) there was so much going on (Homecoming, etc.) and here, I still wasn't really used to the way things are run.

Now, as Thanksgiving draws near and election season is past, I realize that the period between now and February is going to be one of the hardest parts of my exchange. It just feels so weird to be here but still be American. It was like this on 9/11 also -- it's just so weird to be surrounded by Belgians. They're aware of what happens in the States -- I don't know how many times I've been asked if I like Barrack Obama -- but it doesn't affect them in the same way it affects me, even though I'm in Belgium, and it's such a strange feeling. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Halloween passed by, and I barely knew. The stores didn't have Halloween decorations, no one put anything in their yards, and although I went to Liege and people were dressed up, I don't feel like I missed a Halloween or even like Halloween happened at all.

I don't know what to attribute that too -- that I didn't see many pictures of Halloween, that I was busy with things here, or the fact that the holiday is so commercialized in the United States that without the candy companies reminding me by changing the shape of my Reese's cup I didn't really realize.

I celebrated All Saints' Day with my host family this year, and I think the 'new' sort of overshadowed that I would have liked to see Trick or Treators and my mom dressed as a giant whoopie cushion.

I accidentally give myself these reality checks. Today I was sitting in History day dreaming, and when I arrived back in the present, I realize that, holy shit, I'm in Belgium. Despite the fact that I've been here two and a half months, and I've started missing things about American culture, I think that it's yet to really dawn on me that although I'm in an different place, everything at home is carrying on essentially the same without me. It's a little unfathomable to me... Maybe because perception is our reality, I'm finding that when I'm not home I just feel that it should be on pause, or something.

But I think in the next month and a half, I'm going to hit a brick wall: Yes, I just missed Thanksgiving and yes, the world goes on without me.

But now, just for the actual updates on what I've been doing here, not just my ramblings:

First of all, in Belgium, they have four breaks, not just three. One fall break, for All Saints' Day, but it's an entire week. Two weeks at Christmas and New Years, and then another week at Carnival and another at Easter.

During my fall break, I did a lot of things in Liege, but also went to Namur for the first time!! It's a very nice city, I didn't take any good pictures, but it was very different from Liege. A lot smaller, first of all, and also a little bit cleaner and safer feeling! More like Huy.

This is a castle! I walked a "ballad" with my host family and everyone stopped for lunch at this castle. It was absolutely beautiful, I didn't get a good picture but behind, there was this huge valley and all the leaves were changing. Inside, there were all the family names inscribed on the walls above these huge, classic busts.  

This was in the south of Belgium on All Saints' Day. My host dad's brother lives in a farm in the same area that he grew up. I was confused, but they run a golf course with farm animals! The Belgian country side is so beautiful.

There was a party at my school -- literally, a PARTY. Not like Homecoming or Prom, an actual party. This was that night, several weeks ago, and these are my friends!

I'm going to try and blog more regularly again... I always tell myself that I'm going to blog about the week on Sundays, but somehow it gets away from me.


Friday, September 28, 2012

i'm going to catch the black plague.

I've been here a month. It feels like forever... but it also feels like I got here yesterday.

I still remember walking to the car with my host family for the first time, and my host dad asking me, "Tu as faim?" I had no idea what he was saying to me. Not because I didn't know the French, but because no one had ever really spoken French to me like that. It feels so good that I can *almost* speak French now. A month later I know that, No, I am not hungry. 

I still don't understand a word my teachers say and when people try to say something to me at school, it's almost always followed by a "Quoi??? :O" from me and a sigh from them before they repeat what they said.

I find it so interesting that it's only taken me a month to fall in love with the country. I love the winding roads and how nice everyone is. I love the cows and God, even the copious amounts of bread. I love the view from my window and although I hate the cold I'm becoming partial to the way the air is always a little crisp.

I'm definitely starting to figure out the routine. Tuesday is Crepe Tuesday. My host mom comes home late and so my host dad makes crepes for souper. Yesterday I had five (two with nutella, two with Ohio maple syrup ;), and one peanut butter and jelly -- that combination always gets me odd looks and I love it.) But I justify this by reminding myself that I also had to jog for an hour. Wednesday everyone gets out of school at noon and Zephyr comes over.

It feels good to settle in. It still blows me away when I think that I'm actually in Belgium, that it's all actually happening, but at the same time, it's starting to feel like home, little by little. Even if I desperately miss our blue kitchen, Agave burritos and my mom's cooking.

I guess I'm just going to try and re-cap everything that's happened, my punishment for letting it go so long without a blog.

First of all, I went Belgian folk dancing with my family. There was this whole huge festival (that is apparently tradition for my family) that vaguely reminded me of pioneer days scaled down and to a Medieval theme. So not really pioneer days at all. There were these Flame Thrower guys who were super stressful to watch, but impossible to ignore.

I got to meet my AFS liaison for the first time and also got to see Guillemans (the big train station in Liege) and part of the University of Liege campus.

For the most part, nothing has been so culturally shocking that I've be unable to wrap my mind around it. Except one thing: nose blowing and coughing. Belgians are reckless and they never wash their hands. And as a result literally everyone in school is sick. Including me.

Tomorrow is a holiday here, so everyone in Liege with AFS decided that we're going to Brugge. I promise there will be many pictures from that. And I'll do a better job of updating more regularly.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

beaucoup de fromage

I promise the beaucoup de... trend will end soon, but this was just too perfect.

I went to a cheese party today at my host mom's aunt's house. The way it was explained to me, I thought it was going to be like, fondue. But it wasn't at all.

Literally, plates of cheese that you tasted and -- the hard part, I'm told -- remember which ones were the best ones. I tasted four! One was brie, I know, but I don't remember the others. (I failed, hahaha). There were also boxes of wine, which I found very humorous. Then after we had pie... I had rice pie. So weird! Good though.

So I've been in Belgium a week, and I think I've officially met the entire family.

In other exciting news, Zephyr (one of my older host sister's son) now knows my name.

After all of this, we went on a walk. (See pictures below.)

beaucoup de photos

Saturday, September 1, 2012

beaucoup de mouche

I'm sitting at my window right now, which is an incredibly pleasant view. HOWEVER, my host family has horses and there are tons of cows in the area. So naturally, there are tons and tons of flies. I suppose this is how people feel when they come to Oberlin in the summer, but really, I'm going to lose my mind.

I'm homesick for the first time today. It's sort of weird. I really, really, really miss American food. Belgian food really isn't all that different, honestly, and it's really good! And I find myself wanting not only the best food from home, but also the crappy food that I get when I'm in a hurry, like the Chinese food from the mall or Agave. I dunno... Maybe that's just how my homesickness is manifesting, but I really want wings from the Feve or my mom's spaghetti.

I also think it's because I'm at the end of a couple of really busy days, and I don't know when I'm going to see the friends I've made in Belgium yet.

I think that I was in sort of a grace period, where I got to go to Liege for a French class and speak English with other AFS students that I already knew. Now I have to face the actual facts of my exchange, that I don't really know anyone at my school (except Eva) and all my classes will be in French.

I still feel optimistic though, because the French gets easier every day, and I know I'll be able to make friends one way or another.

Anyway, in other exciting news, I finally had my first gaufre (waffle) and my first frites! Tres bon! The first time we got frites, we made the mistake of getting ketchup, which is NOT the same and as a big fan of American ketchup, I wasn't into the weird Belgian stuff. The next time, we did like the Belgians and got mayonnaise and a mustard sauce that I could pick off a list but trying to spell it would be impossible.

I keep telling myself that I'm going to take pictures of all of this stuff but when I'm in the moment it just doesn't come to my mind... But others DO take photos, and I'll steal them :p