Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mon Bulletin, Quatre Mois, Noël, et plus!

Hi guys..... it's been a while! Totally my fault but my weeks have been booked up and it's hard finding time to just sit down and write.

Last Tuesday I met up with some exchange students and then we went to Namur for a drink. I had to leave early because I met up with Kaari, the Finnish girl who goes to the same school as me. I went to her house because there was a party to celebrate the end of exams (appropriately named Examend) and then I slept over at her house. The next day, I went to Liège and got some Christmas shopping done.

Last Thursday a few exchange students came over to my house and we watched A Christmas Story, my favorite Christmas movie ever! It took a while for everything to get going, but it ended up being great! My two friends, Julia from Australia and Claire from Oregon, spent the night and we stayed up super late talking about Belgian/exchange student life.

Friday I went to school to pick up my bulletin. It was actually better than I thought, but I did fail one of them. In my defense, I thought I would have the same exam as the other students, so I studied for it. It turns out I had something completely different, so I failed by about 6 points or so. No big deal. I did great in my English exam (obviously) and the other exam that was English but I took it in French. I also did "well" on my French exam (38/60). My teacher is notorious for giving out low grades, I think I got one of the highest grades in the class which is just really sad. Before you're amazed at my amazing intelligence, I had a different exam than the others (you should still be amazed though, I did a really great job and it was all in French).

After, I went to Namur and we met up with exchange students and got some shopping done. It was finally the start of vacances de Noël! After, Claire and I went to my scouts meeting and I tried vin chaud (hot wine) for the first time. I was actually kind of surprised because it was really good until it got lukewarm. I got asked what Scouts was earlier, and I figured I'd just explain it here. It's kind of like summer camp, but it happens during the school year rather than the summer. It's for really young kids all the way to adults, and every Sunday we all meet up. I'm Staff Baladin, so I'm partly in charge of the youngest kids (around 6 or so). We keep them busy and play games, and there's also a retreat for a few days. I'm not really sure what the older members do on Sundays because I'm not with them, but outside of that we all hang out, organize fundraiser dinners, have more retreats, and just talk with one another. It's like a club in school. The members of the club (the staff) hang out, but they also organize events to keep people busy and socialized, and in my case it's for the Baladins.

Just a few days after that, it was Christmas Eve! My host family celebrated Christmas Eve with my extended family rather than Christmas day, so that was a little weird for me. Most of the family was there and we had a lot of food! It was my first time eating foie gras too. That's definitely an acquired taste. The dinner was a little bizarre actually, because it was food I'm used to eating for Thanksgiving. We had turkey, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce! It was great though and I love giving gifts so I was glad I be apart of it. I got the softest blanket ever from my host family, as well as perfume and a ring. The ring opens beer bottles, and my host sister told me it was "un cadeau très Belge" after I was done laughing.

Our pretty Christmas (eve) dinner table

I helped decorate that 

Still haven't gotten used to drinking SO MUCH champagne! Oh well, not complaining! 

Christmas day was very relaxing and we had dinner with my host cousin who couldn't be there the day before. From then until now I've been relaxing, so not much to talk about there. Tomorrow I'm going to Namur to meet up with some friends, and then an American is coming over to the house! She was hosted by my family 10+ years ago, and is now visiting them with her husband. I hope I can do the same in ten years!

I miss home a lot, but I love my life here. It's completely different and I get so happy thinking that I stuck with this idea, my dream, for three years, and now it's finally being realized. I'm so much better at French than I was before and I think I'm way more mature and grateful than I have ever been. I've been here for four months, and while sometimes it feels like I've been here forever, it also feels like I just got here. I don't want to give up my life year, I wish I could have both.

I promise I'll update more...... (really, I'm serious, believe me.....!!!)

À bientôt,


Friday, December 14, 2012

In Bruges (again!)

I went to Bruges again last Wednesday. It was MUCH better than before, it was actually sunny!

First we went to an ice sculpture museum that was Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings themed. It was -6º C in there! For those of you in the states, that means it was 21 degrees. I was freezing.

Saw this and HAD to take a picture for my dad.... 

Basilisk and an ice bar

After, we walked around the city and just enjoyed how absolutely beautiful it was. My favorite part of Belgium (so far) is seeing the swans. 

 The speculoos cupcake we all tried to resist

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Hi everyone!

I would've updated earlier but nothing really has been going on that was worth creating an entire blog post for. I've been busy pretty much everyday, but it's not very interesting.

This past week, my school has been taking their finals. I have to take four, so I took geography, French, English, and another English test. So far I've taken three, and I think they've gone okay. I probably failed my geography one (I studied for the wrong thing, turns out I was getting a different exam than everyone else) but the others were fine. My last exam is on Friday, and then I have vacation!

This is my view walking into school everyday, except now it's a little bit darker because the days are so short. It's freezing every day (literally. I can't stand it....) and even though it hasn't snowed in like a week, there's still snow on the ground because it won't melt and it's just not natural to me.

My family also put up Christmas decorations, including a "sapin de Noël", or a Christmas tree. And it's real too! That might not mean much to you if you get real trees every year, but if my family even puts up a tree, we use a fake one. This one smells sooo good, but (and I know this is a little blasphemous) I kind of prefer fake trees because they're way less messy!

I spontaneously went to Brussels today for the Marché de Noël. We ended up not being able to find it (exchange student problems) and it was really cold so we went and got some frites and then stopped by Delirium after some window shopping.

Tomorrow I'm going to Bruges, using the last of my 10 spaces on my go pass. We might go to an ice sculpture museum, but I'm not sure. The next day, I'm going to sleep in for sooooo long. After that I have my final exam, and then it's vacances de Noël! I promise I'll update this blog more, I know I've been slacking on that. Maybe that'll be my new year's resolution.

Hope everything is going great stateside, and that you're staying a little bit more warm than I am...

Bonne nuit et à la prochaine!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Neglected Blog = A Tired Exchange Student

At least one good thing about not updating for over a week means I have tons to talk about. Also, I have a very good reason why... so many things have been happening over here! Every year I forget that this time of year is always extremely busy, and this year is no exception.

The Scouts camp was very fun, but extremely exhausting. I had gym that day at school, and after getting home, I was told by my host mom that we were leaving in thirty minutes and I still had to pack. I also had to dress up as a patient or doctor in a psych ward, because that was the theme this year. It was also raining, but this is Belgium so I expected that. After scrambling to get all of my stuff together for the weekend, we were off to meet everyone else.

We were told to split up into two teams, because we were going to have to walk to our destination using a few clues. We were told it'd take about an hour and that spaghetti would be waiting for us when we arrived. The walk ended up taking two and a half hours. We walked through different towns, a forest, up and down hills, and through absolutely massive puddles and heaps of mud. We kept our spirits up by stopping for fries (of course) and laughing at someone whenever they stepped in a particularly big puddle. We ended up running into the rest of the group and decided we didn't want to walk anymore and so we called for help and were taken to a building where our retreat would be held.

After dinner at 11pm, the parents left and it was just the staff or "chefs" of Scouts. We drank beer, played games, and just hung out with each other. It was a lot of fun, but I was dead tired. I held out until 3am, but I was still the first one to go to sleep. Everyone started waking up at 8am the next day as well. I don't know how Belgians do it....

The next day there was a competition between the two teams that had to do with Scouts. Then we had dinner and repeated the party all over again, except this time I went to bed at 11pm. The next day we cleaned up and left, and I have never appreciated a hot shower more in my entire life.

On Wednesday I went to le carré in Liège for the first time for Titles. It's a big tradition for Rotary students, and occasionally AFS students will go. It was pretty crazy and not something I could do every week, but it was a lot of fun and meeting up with exchange students I hadn't seen since orientation was great.

On Saturday there was an AFS activity with Namur. We went to Charleroi to go ice skating, and after we went to grab a drink and then there was a cheese party in Namur. It was fun but I am absolutely terrible and terrified of ice skating. The cheese party was a little unusual, but it was also pretty good. I was lucky and only had one bad piece of cheese. While I was there, I looked out side the window and I saw snow!!! It was the first of December and the first snow of the year.

Also, St. Nicolas made an appearance. St. Nicolas is a man sort of like our Santa Claus, except from what I understood from the story, he saved children from being cut up by a butcher. We were called up one by one and most of us had to do something embarrassing to get the bag of treats he was giving out. I had to do the chicken dance. I thought it was absolutely hilarious watching everyone go up there, although the St. Nicolas costume kind of scares me!

Today I woke up to more snow! This time it actually stuck. There was probably one or two inches of it, which is crazy to me!!! I think it's going to be a very cold winter... 

I went to Scouts again this weekend, and St. Nicolas made another appearance for the Baladins, the group I'm a staff member of. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and loved getting candy after having a moment with St. Nicolas. We also had a snowball fight (I decided to retreat to the radiator after a short while) and then I had to leave to go to my host aunt's house to celebrate St. Nicolas with everyone.

This was a really fun weekend (with lots of great food) but I am SO ready for it to be over. That sounds backwards - me wanting to go to school?? - but exams start this week and I'm only taking four, per the AFS requirement. Tomorrow is math, and I'm definitely not taking that one, so I get to sleep in! I'm going to go now though, I'm so ready to sleep. Now that vacances de Noël is starting soon, I will update with more pictures and places I'm going to visit.

À plus tard,