This is going to be a very long post, and for a good reason. The time has come. I am now living in my home in Belgium. It sounds so weird. I can't believe it's happening because I've had some very unbelievable experiences.
First, Tuesday August 21 I caught a red eye flight to JFK Airport after many tears and hard goodbyes. It was a five hour flight, but I got some sleep on the plane. Then, we had an overnight orientation at the hotel near the airport. I would soon learn to be grateful for those beds, even if the air conditioner was ridiculously loud! Most of the activities were about things we had covered in the past, so it didn't do much to prevent us from thinking about how we wanted to be in Belgium already! I met people going to the Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, etc. and it was a very cool experience. There were 12 Belgium kids: 7 going to the French speaking part and 5 to the Flemish.
Around 2pm NY time, we went to JFK. The line was really long to check our bags, but after that we went through security and then boarded our plane around 5 or so to Zurich. It was the LONGEST flight of my life. I was one of the lucky ones who got some sleep, but every time I woke up it felt like we still had five hours left on the plane! When we landed, I was very relieved. The Zurich airport was very.... Swiss. There was a lot of concrete and it was eerily quiet, but it was nice. Then after meeting up with the New Zealanders, we took a connecting flight to Brussels where we met up with the AFS Belgium French volunteers. I got to see my host sister in person for the first time and we said a quick hello. After that, we were off to an old youth hostel type of building. The place had strange food (except for the glorious bread and juice) but the volunteers in Belgium are absolutely amazing. Most volunteers in AFS BFR are made up of people under the age of 30, which is very cool. After we got a day of much needed rest (especially for those Kiwis who had been traveling for 38 hours!) we went to a park in Brussels and did various activities. I got to try my first piece of Belgian chocolate. It wasn't even a very expensive kind but it was still way better than anything I'd ever tried. Though one of the volunteers said it wasn't the nicest part of Brussels (BXL) it was BEAUTIFUL. I was in awe of how cute everything was. We practiced a little French, and then went back to the main building to have a talent show. I was exhausted by 11pm local time, but the volunteers had so much energy, and everyone danced until 1am (especially the Brazilians). The talent show was amazing and everyone participated. I heard more languages in one day than I have in my entire life.
The next day, we played a lot of games (Citron, Citron and this other one I didn't catch the name of but it was pretty complicated and fun). Then it was (finally) time to meet our host families. I had already talked to my host sister but I was still a little nervous. I think we all were. I met my host mom, and she definitely lived up to my expectations and what the other volunteers told me she would be like. She is very sweet. We carpooled with one of the NZ kids who has a welcome family and then after dropping off my luggage, my host mom, sister, and I went to a friend's house for a barbecue dinner. It was a very fancy barbecue compared to the US... there were three or four courses. Everyone was very nice and interested in California and me. I got exhausted trying to understand all of the conversations (I never really gave up trying to focus on them but I realized I couldn't understand any of them) and have now come to the realization that my French has deteriorated quite a bit since graduation. That's okay though, because my host mom barely speaks English so I will have to learn French quickly.
We are going to my school tomorrow to sign up for classes. I'm really looking forward to the next year! Wish me luck!
Hanging out with the New Zealanders!