Monday, April 12, 2010


So this is going to be an all-encompassing, mega-summarizing, super-post so brace yourselves...

After London, I came home and then left on a school retreat about half a week later. When I signed up for it, I had no idea what the retreat would be about or who was going or even where we were going. Honestly, I just wanted to miss school! haha. But anyway, it was a great experience and I'm so happy I went. It was at this abbey in Maredsous (about 30 min away) with about 15 other kids. It wasn't really religious at all, it was more like a "get to know yourself and your friends" sort of thing. Needless to say, some parts were really cheesy but I think I really connected with people and now have more "real friends"-- which is always a plus.

After Maredsous, there was a bit of a tragedy chez moi. My grandmother passed away in early March and I took the news pretty hard. My family (both, actually) decided that it would be best if I went home for a little bit so two days later I was on a plane to Oregon. My trip was a little bittersweet but more sweet. I'm really happy that I was able to be with my family and friends for a little bit though it was really hard leaving again.

My grandma- what a fox!

Morocco! Oh my goodness, I LOVE MOROCCO! On our first day we stayed in Marrakech with was just awesome. Are hotel was about a minute away from the grande place aka gigantic, city center market. We didn't have a lot of time between putting our stuff away and dinner but I did have time to look around in the market with some friends. I even got treated to an authentic, fresh, Moroccan orange juice by one of my good friends, Arthur. Hands down, it was the best orange juice I had ever had!

The next several days consisted of trekking through the most beautiful place I've ever seen (honestly!), the Atlas Mountains. I can't even put it into words, it was just so breathtakingly stunning! The first day was very deserty, but then we climbed over this mountain and on the other side was this pristine, green valley. After we set up camp I remember looking around in awe thinking "I can't believe I'm actually going to sleep here." That night, some friends and I climbed partway up one of the encompassing mountains to watch the moon rise. How often do you get to do that?

Each day the terrain changes a little bit. For the most part, we were following this river through the mountains (which is where we "showered" too. Oh and no toilets either!) and that was just beautiful (duh!). During the 2nd day we descended down to the river and it was just like nothing i've ever seen before. We were like in this big, desert canyon but the bottom was green because of the river and had these big willow trees and other plants. The only comparison I can think of is the Garden of Eden. I know that's probably not very helpful but use your imagination! Camp that night was really cool too! We were by the river (like every night) but instead of in a valley, we were tucked into the cliffs (kinda). It reminded me of that cliff city in lord of the rings. haha.

Day three was the hardest day ever (we climbed 850 meters which is A LOT!) but we finished in another beautiful spot, so it was all worth it. I got a head ache though and felt sick so I went to bed before dinner. The next day I felt fine though, so it was all good.

Day four was beautiful (of course) but my best friend got mad at me so I was pretty distressed for a while. It was pretty hard because I had to make new friends but I guess in the end it wasn't an entirely bad thing because now I have a lot of new friends.

Day 5 was our last full day of trekking and it was mainly descending. In my opinion, descending is the worst because it's hardest on your feet (and for those of you who know me well will know that at this point I was mummied up due to about 8,000 blisters!). It was all fun though. I sang most of the time with some of my more newly made friends so we were all thinking about that instead of our feet! After going down for about 6 hours (ouch!) we finally came to civilization. We met the river again and saw roads and stores and powelines, etc. It was still pretty rustic since we were still up in the mountains but it was kinda refreshing. We then walked along the road for a few hours (nice for our feet) and came to our final camping spot.

The next day was our last full day in Morocco. We got up early (6am) and packed up and got in busses (after walking about an hour to the main road) and went back to Marrakech. We checked back into the same hotel, showered (so nice!) and went out for a little cultural tour of the city. After that we had some free time. It was kinda sad for me because my best friend was still mad at me and I was stuck with this girl that drove me crazy! It's fine though, I still enjoyed my last day there.

Now I'm on Easter Break (their spring break) so i've been taking it pretty easy. We all miss the perfect weather and beautiful scenery of Morocco but at least we don't have to go back to school just yet! I've gone out with friends a few times in the past few days and I'm supposed to go to another party tonight but I'm not really up to it. To be honest, I'm feeling a little down. Nothing big, I just don't feel like partying right now. Anyway, I think Im going to utilize the rest of the break to try to do some sightseeing around Belgium. Who knows though! I'm also attempting to write a screenplay. I'm just hoping the break won't go by too quickly, I don't want to go back to school yet! haha.

P.S. I didn't take these pictures. They're all courtesy of my friends' facebooks. haha. If you want to see the full size version of any of them, just click them! See what I mean though, wasn't it just sublime?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Snapshot of London...

London continued...

Ok so I'm attempting to catch up on my blogging. Here I go...


So let's see, London was just awesome! And so much more happened after my first post. I'll be brief though because I think I've already told all my (few) readers about it already! haha. First big event- that day I went to get my tattoo! The studio was just perfect, look up "Good Times Tattoo" and you'll see what I mean. Clean, friendly, wordly, stylish; what more could you ask for? Danny Kelly was my artist and he just did a perfect job. I actually lucked out getting an appointment, as they are quite exclusive!

After the tattoo, I rushed back to my hostel (stopping by starbucks first, of course! My reward for 2 hours under the needle!) put away my camera and stuff, and headed out for the VAMPIRE WEEKEND concert! I didn't get there as early as I would have liked (London's huge!) so I was pretty far down in the line. But I guess it was kind of nice, only having to wait in the cold for 15 minutes before the doors were opened. But to my astonishment, I ended up in the VERY front! Just off center, to boot. I guess it's not like in the US where everyone rushes to the front, everyone kind of just took their time and got drinks and meandered their ways to the stage. Not me though! haha. So anyway, Fandeath opened for them and they weren't too great, ok though. Now, I can't even describe how amazing vampire weekend was! Really, they just blew my mind. It was probably one of the best concerts I've ever been too (up there with Beirut and Sasquatch). First off, the music was amazing. Like REALLY amazing. A jillion times better than the recordings. And Ezra! SWWWOOOOON! Oh goodness, I think I'm in love. It's funny because before the show, I always thought he was a total ass. I don't know why, I guess just cuz he is always front and center in everything and just seemed rather pompous or something. My opinion of him has completely changed though. He is truely the single most best performer I have ever seen. Just they way he presented himself and talked; he just seemed so genuine and ahhhh, I'm melting just thinking about it. I'll definitely be seeing more of them! :)

So anyways, the day after the show was my last full day so I just wandered around without a real plan. I sure got around though! A friend of mine from home (Oregon) had suggested I go to Hyde Park for a stroll so I took his advice and started my day there. Even though it was sprinkling I had a very nice and beautiful walk. I actually only expected to spend about 20 minutes in the park but was there for at least 2 hours. After that I walked by Buckingham palace, through one of the real shi shi parts of town and then to Berkeley Square (In honor of Mark and Corbin (A nightingale sang...) , of course!) where I enjoyed a very nice starbucks! After that I headed uptown in search of this pub that I once saw on a Samantha Brown show. I found it and had lunch there and tried my first real, British ale. I was actually a little disappointed and prefer Belgian beer any day. It was still a great experience though! After that I just walked around some more and at that point it was raining pretty hard so I decided to find a shopping mall and just chill there and see a movie. I don't even remember where I had dinner that night. Or what I did after that but I just took it easy because I was pretty worn out.

The next day I had to leave for the airport around 1pm so I got up early and tried to squeeze in everything I hadn't seen yet. Namely Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, one last starbucks and abbey road! It was a nice finish to my trip, though I'm still not finished with London! I definitely plan on returning soon, but hopefully not alone next time!

Monday, March 22, 2010


Ok, so it's been about a month since my last post. A lot has happened since then and now and so I'm going to do my best to catch you guys up. Though rather than doing it in one long and random post, I'm going to separate it in to multiple posts to give some organization to your readings. That being said, I dedicate the remainder of this post to an explanation of my new blog title picture thing....

At first glance, this may look like a fountain of a little boy peeing. Well, no need to look twice, cuz that's exactly what it is. When I first went to Brussels, just days after my arrival here in Belgium, I was fortunate enough to be able to see this Manneken Pis (I think it's "Peeing Boy" in a mix of French and Flemmish). My host mom told me that he is the symbol of Belgium and a pride to their country. Though I didn't express this at the time, my initial reaction was "You've gotta be kidding!! This is the most tacky thing I've ever seen!!" Though I have to admit, that little guy has grown on me since. Ok, let me explan.... If you look at Belgium's history, you'll notice that they've been taken over by pretty much every European power since forever (it's a little pathetic, really). Anyway, when they gained independence, they decided to build this fountain just to show the rest of Europe that they can do whatever they want and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them! And of course they chose the most crude and random thing, because hey, they can! It's hilarious, and kinda a big "F you!" to the rest of Europe. What's not to like?

Anyway, now that that's cleared up, I'll be working on filling you guys in on everything that's happened in this last month. More soon!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Because London rocks!

Ciao everyone! I’m currently in this nice little Italian café in LONDON, sipping one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had paired with a rather mediocre croissant (hey, France and Belgium have spoiled me!). Though it’s only the beginning of my first full day in London, I can tell you right now that I’ve fallen in love! Ok, ok, I know that’s not too hard for me, and that I’m quite the floozy when it comes to new places, but on top of that, London really is a fantastic city.

Let me tell you about my new crush….
I arrived yesterday about 1pm at London-Heathrow airport and since I only had a carry-on, I proceeded right to passport control and customs (which were non-existent). Conveniently, there is a tube (subway) stop right at the airport, so I bought an Oyster Card (discounted multi-use card) and hopped on. I’m pretty good at navigating that kind of thing so I got to my stop without any problems. I’m kind of in the South part of “zone 1” (the central part of London, It’s a huge metropolitan area with like 8 zones, but zone 1 is the largest) so I was assuming it would be kind of quiet. I step out of my tube stop and am suddenly hit with the sound of cars and double-decker busses wizzing by (on the left side of the road, of course) and in my first, swift coup d’oeil I see skyscrapers, a huge and beautiful church and an old style English pub—all within 50 yards of where I’m standing! Oh and I forgot to mention, RAIN, RAIN, RAIN! It’s fine though, I quickly whipped out my umbrella (prepared traveler) and deduced that it was a nice change from the snow and subzero temperatures in Belgium.

It was at this point that I realized that I never looked up how to get to my hostel from the tube stop ahead of time. Merde! What a Claire thing to do! I was about to ask someone how to get there when I noticed that there was a nice little map right behind me. With the help of the map and my amazing navigating skills (and modest, too!) I was at the hostel quicker than you can say “Why is Claire so cocky about her navigating skills?” The hostel I chose (yes, at least I did that ahead of time) is a small little pub with even smaller rooms upstairs. When I walk in, the pub is practically empty (not that I blame them, it’s just going on 3pm) aside from two boys watching football (typical) and the bartendress (is that what a female bartender is called?) at the bar. She get’s me set up in my room, which I share with 11 other people (teeeeeny with triple bunk bunk beds)! I don’t really mind though, it’s not like I’m hanging out in my room all day.

After I put my stuff away, I was off! I didn’t really know where to go so. I decided I would take the tube to Liverpool Street (just cuz) and see what I could find. I get out of the stop, umbrelly in one hand, camera in the other and BAM!, I’m in LONDON, baby! It’s kind of hard to describe but I get this intense energy and adrenaline from big cities that can’t be contained! I just walk around for about 20 minutes, taking everything in and trying to get some pictures without getting my camera too wet, and then I see it….. STARBUCKS! It was just like in the movies, where a light shines down from the skies and you can hear a choir of angels singing “aahhhhhh”. I know what you’re thinking, “What’s so great about Starbucks? They’re practically on every corner.” Well, I live in a country with one single Starbucks (which is rumored to be in the airport, though I have never seen it) and no sort of alternative, whatsoever. They’re just not coffee people I suppose. So after I enjoy the caramel frapuccino of a lifetime, I’m out again. And at this point, the weather is just plain nasty! So I give up on taking pictures and put my camera away, trying to not let the terrible weather dampen (ha ha) my spirits.

After walking around aimlessly for a while, right when the rain was about to get to me for good (yes, I was thinking about just heading back to the hostel. It was that bad.), I stumble along a little place called St. Paul’s Cathedral. I can’t even put it into words, but it was just so beautiful. No, beautiful isn’t enough, more like overwhelmingly mind blowing but in a calming and serene way (that still doesn’t do it justice, but sorry folks, it’s the best I’ve got). Just seeing it lit up in all it’s elegance (even with part of it covered in scaffolding) just put me at ease and I completely forgot how wet (soaking!) and peeved I was. If that wasn’t enough, the inside was about 7 million times more awe-inspiring (still fishing for the right word)! I was lucky enough to walk in just in the midst of the choral mass. To see the beautiful works of architecture and art accompanied by a live choir singing hymns was just sublime. Now to give you an idea of the grandiose of this cathedral, it’s the second largest in the world (just a bit smaller than St. Peter’s in the Vatican). I always get a wonderful, humbling feeling in these beautiful churches as I imagine their history and holiness, but this was the strongest I’ve ever felt. If that wasn’t a spiritual experience then I don’t know what is!

Anyway, after that wonderful experience, I decided that I was in the mood for a stroll. Even though it was raining, I decided I would walk down to the river and see the bridges. So toughing out the rain, I walked for about half an hour until I hit the river. With the bridges, the London Eye, and Big Ben all in view, I was having a true London moment. Haha. I then decided that since my hostel turned out to cost less than I had anticipated, that I would fork out the 18 pounds to go on the London Eye. I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, soaring over London at night and seeing it all lit up was breathtaking, but I guess I was just kinda lonely ad I guess I didn’t think it was quite worth $28. Traveling alone has its benefits but I think I’d much prefer to go with a family or friends. Oh well, I’m still loving my time here.

So after that I was hungry so I found a pub and got a burger and a beer. Actually, a Belgian beer to be precise! Haha. I know, I’m horrible, I should have tried a real English Ale. I was just a little overwhelmed because I had walked for hours and was soaking wet and didn’t want to take the time to try to find something that I have so little knowledge of! So I just went with something I know… Leffe! (And it was great, by the way!)

So after that, I just went back to the hostel and went to bed. I don’t really know all that’s in store for me today (except VAMPIRE WEEKEND tonight!!!) but as for the moment; I’m just stalling until 10 so I can get a towel to shower. Well, looks like that’s in two minutes!

Pip pip cheerio! :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

new name

It means "year of wonders" in Latin. For some reason, I'm really into Latin right now. It's just such a beatiful language and everything sounds so deeply profound, yet simple at the same time. But anyway, I was looking through some Latin phrases and I came along this one and thought it was a perfect description of my life here in Belgium.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Ok, so I know I completely suck at blogging. But to be honest, nothing really interesting has happened. Ok, so that's not completely true... a lot of interesting stuff has happened but I just have been too lazy to blog....

After Christmas, my mother and sister came to visit! We had a great time in Namur and on our excursions as well! They met my host family and one of my good friends, Kamil. Everyone got along great, so there were no problems there. They even got to live through one of my typical confused-exchange-student experiences on New Years Eve! You see, they were invited to a party by my host parents, which I believed was at my house... but as it turned out, when they arrived we learned t
hat we were actually going to another town to their close friends house, AND spending the night! Everything turned out fine though and we had a wonderful time! ...Now, I could go into detail about their trip, but instead, I'll direct you to my mother's blog (it's a link) of the trip. She has daily posts that are sure to be more eloquent and informative than anything that I could muster up!

So let's see... after they left, there was...January. January was rather barren, to say the least. Actually, it was more than that. I'm just gonna come out and say it plainly; January SUCKED! It was probably the most emotional month for me thus far, to the point where the thought of coming home actually crossed my mind for the first time. But anyways, I was just a mess and I don't really want to talk about it...

February! Now February, what a great month this is so far! You could say I've had a renaissance after my January crash. Actually, it's been pretty average, but I guess everything just seems better after being so terrible.

Last weekend was the AFS Mid-Stay camp thing. I took a train out to I-don't-know-where and stayed in this big place out in the woods. It was pretty fun actually! We spent waaaay too much time talking about our feelings and playing awkward games but it was nice seeing everyone again (even though I didn't recognize most! Whoops!) and I met a lot of new people. I had bundles of fun!
Here's a bonus picture of some of my exchange student friends:

left to right is Kelly (New Zealand), Jade (New Zealand), Me, Henriette (Norway)
I actually don't even know Henriette but she seems cool, and I love her face in this picture! haha.

So in other news, the weather still sucks (snow, snow, more snow, rain, cold, and snow) but it's almost Spring so I'm being optimistic! I should be though, I have a lot to look forward to! London in less than a week now, Morocco in late March, several parties, a few concerts and some much missed sunshine! I can honestly say that I'm so excited for these next few months. They're gonna be great! =)

oh, and I love Belgium!!!