Sunday, October 25, 2009

La sagesse, c'est d'avoir des rêves suffisamment grands pour ne pas perdre de vue quand on les poursuit.

So last week was basically the week before on repeat: up-and-down throughout but finishing strong.

The 21st was my 2 month anniversary! Woo! It went by really fast... It's weird to think that I'm almost a quarter through my stay here....I think that this last week I was probably the most homesick that I've been so far. I don't really know what sparked these feelings of nostalgia, but it was pretty bad. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying it here very much but for some reason I just really missed home. It's kind of hard to explain....It's not that I want to leave Belgium, but I just wish I could go home for only like one day just to see my friends and family, say "Hi" to everyone, maybe get a Dutch Bros. or Jamba Juice, grab a burrito and then come back to Belgium! haha. If I could do that like once a month, life would be perfect!

So let's see... interesting things, interesting things..... On Thursday I went to the store and bought the equivalent of $15 worth of chocolate to ship home. (Yes, I'm so generous. haha.). Well this didn't exactly work because the postal guy said that I couldn't ship chocolate to the US... didn't really catch why though. He wasn't very friendly! He was rather intimidating, actually. I had a card to send to my friend, Troyce, for her birthday and so, since I couldn't send the chocolate, I asked to buy just postage for the card. I hadn't written the address yet on the card (just her name) because I had been planning on just putting it in the package with the chocolate, he saw this and said very whiney/rudely, "Do you know where you're sending it? There's no address on the card. You can't send it without an address.", but in French of course. It was really annoying. I wish I knew how to say "Chill out a-hole, I'm writing it now!". I mean seriously, It was obvious that I was searching for a pen in my purse and he drilled me with his snide questions. Maybe he thought that Americans are unaware of the fact that one must write the address in order for it to be delivered. haha, Oh well!

Friday was a nice day. Nothing super exciting, but pleasant none the less. I got my report card. I don't think that they're official grades, but they kind of are... I'm still a little confused but whatever. I actually only got grades in 4 of my 10 classes. My other teachers aren't going to give me grades until the end of the term (Christmas). So instead of being out of 100 (A-F) like they are in the US, the grades here are out of 20 and anything below 10 is failing. But anything above 10 is good.... It's a lot harder here to get good grades I think. Like, nobody gets 19s or 20s and 14s and 15s are considered good, and even 11s and 12s are fine. So anyway, In religion I got a 5 (bad!), in French I got a 5 (duh), in PE I got a 15 which I was a little disappointed about because in the US, everyone gets an A in PE. haha. Oh well though, 15 is "really good" apparently. Oh and in geography I got an 18... YA! 18! I'm very proud of that 18 because it's actually higher than some of the Belgians in that class! haha. Who said Americans don't know geography? :)

So the rest of the day went pretty ok... PE was intense though! We had to run 600 meters in 4:15, then 1:00 or rest, then 600 meters in 4:15, 1:00 rest, then 1200 meters in 8:30, 1:00 rest, 1200 meters in 8:30, 3:00 rest, then we finished off with 20:00 of running non-stop! It's crazy, American PE is a joke compared to this.... and each week it gets harder. I'm pretty proud of myself though because I am one of the only girls in my class who did the whole thing without stopping to walk or take extra breaks.

Oh and I forgot to mention that they were doing teacher meetings last week so I got to go home everyday at 2:35 (rather than the normal 3:40 or 4:30)... so that was nice :)

So there is this guy (No, it's not what you're thinking!) that is in almost all of my classes and lives really close to me, so nearly everyday, I see him walking home when I'm walking home. It's kind of funny because we'll be like 20 feet away the whole time but not even acknowledge each other. I always figured that I should talk to him but my french was never confident enough in my french to do it.... until Friday! haha. So that's a small feat for me. It was nice to talk to someone who hardly speaks English for change. All my other friends are so good at English that if I don't know how to say something I can just bail out and speak English but with him, I really had to work hard to be understood. That being said, I think my French is improving because I'm pretty sure we understood most of what each other said.

Saturday was busy busy. Well at least by my new standards. I got up early and went into town because I needed to get a book for school and also I just to look around in the market. It was pleasant, the market seriously has everything. Books, clothes, flowers, fruit, animals, soap, etc.... It was nice walking around and just browsing the different stands. I bought this book called "un idee positif par jour" (a positive idea for each day) which I think was just perfect. It's a small book and on each page, there is a short inspirational quote. So everyday, when I wake up, I will read one and think about it for the rest of the day and try to apply it to my life. Today's was perfect, it was "La sagesse, c'est d'avoir des rêves suffisamment grands pour ne pas perdre de vue quand on les poursuit."
which I translated to "Wisdom is having dreams that are big enough to not lose sight of when they are pursued." It's by Oscar Wilde so he probably worded it better than I just did, but I couldn't find the actual English version when I searched online. At first, I really liked it and could definitely see how the "pursuing dreams" thing really applies to me now...but the more I think about it, I think Wilde may have been being a little sarcastic....
Saturday was my host grand-parents' (paternal) 50th wedding anniversary so we went to go visit them when I got back from the market. My host parents made a print of one of their wedding pictures with "1959-2009: 50 ans de bonheur(years of happiness)" on it. It looked really nice.
So after that little "party" we went to Valentin's godmother's house for dinner. It was fun, she has a 15 year old daughter who I talked to a lot. Again, it was a test of my strength in French because she knew very little English.

Sunday was pretty blah. I slept in, cleaned my room, tried to read my book for French (very hard, got nowhere) and then went out to take some pictures. It was one of those beautiful fall afternoons. You know, the kind with clear skies and the sunshine glitters through the trees. And not only are the leaves yellow, but the whole world seems to have this warm, golden hue. Unfortunately, my pictures don't really convey the beauty very well. I learned that landscape photography really isn't my forte.... I'm actually quite bad at it... oh well.

Monday. That's today! I went to school but only had one hour of class because one of my teachers wasn't there. At lunch, I went into Namur with my classmates to see a movie about war in Lebanon... it was interesting. haha. It was animated but really bizarre... I don't really like that kind of movie, they just make me feel guilty...

This week should be pretty fun. I'm going to take my two little siblings trick-or-treating on Halloween so that will be nice. Then, after that, I have a week off school. It will be nice to not have to work but I don't really know what I'm going to do with myself for that long. I guess I'll just wait and see!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What just happened and why can I understand what everyone is saying?

So last week was an emotional roller coaster! haha
I was very frustrated at first with my French. I figured, that since it's been nearly two months, I ought to be able to speak/understand it better. I'm just going to skip the doom and gloom though, because I'd rather not relive it. haha.
So anyways, I had this big text I was supposed to write. Well, it wasn't thaaat big, but what made it such a big deal was that I was to read it to my whole class. Not just read either, but preform expressively. In the US, I never had a problem speaking in front of people. Actually, I enjoyed it. But here, it's different because I feel like they're all either critiquing my grammatical/vocab. errors, laughing at my terrible accent, or just plain can't understand! haha

Anywho, I procrastinated writing it just because the anxiety of having to present it was overbearing! I ended up getting a little extension so for me, it was due on Friday. Ok, so Thursday night comes around and I still only have part of a paragraph. Dammit! Why do I do this to myself?, I thought. Then at dinner, my 10-year-old brother, Valentin, told me that my French was improving a lot. That made my night and gave me a little bit of motivation to write the rest of my text. I was happy that I got help from Damien and Kamil (thanks, guys!) on the first part but for most of it, I was on my own. I was surprised that once I actually got down to it, it took me less that two hours to write and wasn't even that difficult. I guess a little bit of motivation/confidence goes a long way (Thanks, Valeintin!)!

Friday. So I wake up a little early so I can have time to print my text. I get dressed and then head upstairs to print it. Well of course, I can't get the printer to work. I've never had any problems with it before but of course, it has to happen today! I get really frustrated and then decide to just copy it out by hand. Well, this took at least 15 minutes which was more than I had bargained for! By the time I was finished, my sister had already left for school and I was running late! I quickly packed my school and gym bags, grabbed a piece of bread and jetted out the door. I wasn't really that late but I wanted to get there in time to show my text to Kamil, just to make sure there weren't any HUGE mistakes. It was pretty funny though, the crossing guard, to whom I say "Bonjour" everyday upon passing, said "Bon Appetit" instead. I thought that was cute.

So I got to school with no further delays, and ended up reading (or trying to read) my text to a few of my friends. It was really hard though! Yes, I know that they're my friends and I shouldn't be concerned with humiliating myself in front of them, but I was, ok! First class up: Français! I decide that I'm going to go first, to get the humiliation over with.....
Success, everyone! I didn't die!!! Actually, it went rather well. It lacked expression, but that's a given. Afterwards my teacher said to the class that he was very impressed and that my French was progressing very well. And that he understood everything except for two words. haha! I guess two words out of two and a half pages isn't too bad! ;)

So if I wasn't already happy enough about that, in math, this guy in my class who I have never talked to before said that my French was getting better. It was cute though, because he said it in English and it really took me off guard, but I was very flattered. :)

All in all, Friday was a good day and I think if made up for the frustration earlier in the week. It's odd though. I really feel like I took a HUGE leap in my French in just one day. It just seems a lot easier now to figure out what to say and I find that I can understand A LOT more than before. Maybe the confidence is what did it, but it was like someone finally flipped the switch. I don't really know what happened, but hey, I can understand French now.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nearly illegal.

Hello all,

Just thought I'd share about my day. Today we had another meeting about Morocco and now the dates are set... I think. haha. Well, as of now, it's March 31- April 7. Mark your calendars; this is when you will change from being jealous of me because I'm in Belgium to being jealous of me because I'm in MOROCCO! Have you seen Casablanca? That's where I'm going. Actually, I'm not. But I'll be in the same country and that's what I meant! So from what I'm getting from the paper, 5 or 6 of the 8 days are going to be trekking days, which means 5 to 7 hours of hiking through the ATLAS MOUNTAINS, you know, the ones where Atlas himself held up the heavens. Well, that is if you're into Greek mythology. If not, then they're the ones you've heard of but never been to. But anyway, it's gonna be intense. After the trekking we're going to be in Marrakesh and then back to Belgium. I'm excited! :)

Instead of going to one of my French classes today, I went to English with my fellow 6th years. They had prepared some questions for me about school in America. At first it was kind of awkward because I was facing the whole class and they were all writing down what I was saying. It was fun though once I warmed up to it. It was really funny/embarrassing though. Somebody asked what I would do after school on a normal day and I said that I would hang out with friends and we would go to a coffee shop almost every day, sometimes during lunch too. I didn't know this yet, but that was not a good answer. haha. They all were like "oooh" and kind of looked at each other but I didn't really make a deal of it because I figured they just thought it was weird that I hung out with friends every day instead of doing homework. A few minutes later, a girl asked what we did at the coffee shops every day. I thought this was strange and responded with "ummm....drink coffee. We aren't allowed to drink alcohol like here so coffee shops are very popular for teenagers." Everyone smiled and she said that in Belgium, people go to coffee shops to buy drugs! haha. WOOPS! I explained that it's different in America, and that it's a very socially accepted activity, with no drugs involved! Hopefully I cleared things up, people were still laughing. So now I know that I've been going around for 2 months telling people that in America I went to coffee shops almost every day! It's about time someone told me! haha, so not only am I a weird American who can't pronounce "au revoir", but also a drug addict! Oh, here's a random fact: there is only ONE starbucks in Belgium! It's in the airport in Brussels. Crazy, huh?! Most people don't even know what it is.

I got to leave school early today to go into Namur to obtain my residence permit and ID card. Well I accidently got the time wrong and showed up nearly an hour late! I was lucky though because they still saw me. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my permit/card because I didn't have my birth certificate? and because my picture wasn't the right kind. It was hard, because I was all by myself and my French still isn't great. But so I gave the lady my number and she's going to call me when she gets the information that she needs from my birth certificate. My host parents aren't too happy about it, but all they could really say was "Well, that's Belgium!".
My attestation expires tomorrow though so I'll technically be illegal after that. haha. Hopefully they don't kick me out.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I like October.

Sorry Mom and Dad, my blog posts are becoming few and far between but I guess that's just because I'm keeping pretty busy. Ok, not busy compared to my American norm. But still...

So this last week at school wasn't bad. We didn't have classes on Wednesday, which was a plus but it still seemed REAALLLY long. haha. I've taken a few tests in various class already, and let me tell you, the grades are terrible! I don't think I've ever gotten such low scores! It's kind of sad... What's even worse though is that it doesn't really bot
her me as much as it probably should! I used to get over stressed about everything and then when I realized that, I decided it wasn't a very healthy way to live so I tried to change. It worked, but I think I over corrected because now, even getting the equivalent to Fs on all my tests doesn't phase me! WOOPS, went too far on that one! It's ok though, I think they'll improve as I master the language. Some of the teach
ers are cutting me some slack though. One of my teachers is letting me write essay questions on tests in English, which is very helpful. But others, like my French teacher, gave me a 5/20 on my last assignment with a note at the bottom saying "I'm grading you as if you were a native French speaker." Great!!! haha.

We had a meeting for the Morocco trip later this year. I'm so excited, it's going to be so fun! Oh, and Mom, the Reeces were a big hit here! Keep those coming! :) I was surprised actually, after trying on
e, I thought they wouldn't like them here because the chocolate is like wax compared to the chocolate here, but I guess it's all in the peanut butter! I think my French might be improving? It's kind of bad sometimes because my friends are so good at English that
it's just way easier to speak in English to them. I can understand a lot of what they're saying in French(when they're not speaking at lightning speeds), and I usually know a good enough response, but I just lack confidence. My goal for next week is to speak as much French as possible!

Let's see... outside of school has been pretty uneventful (until yesterday. I'll elaborate in the next paragraph.). Basically everyday I just come home, do homework, eat and sleep. Well, I have also been running almost every day. For the exercise, and hopefully to lose some weight! haha, I'm terrified of being the fat exchange student! But mainly, just for something to do. Oh and Friday I went to a Chinese rest
aurant with my family! Usually, we don't eat out but they are remodeling their kitchen and Friday wa
s demolition day so they couldn't cook. The food was great but it was weird ordering Chinese food in French. haha.

So yesterday was very fun! I went into Namur around 2pm and bought some earrings. Normal earrings, because I decided that I'm letting my ears heal back to normal (they were stretched a little bit, for those who didn't know.) I love my gauges, but I just miss wearing normal earrings! I'm thinking of getting second lobe piercing and mayb
e stretching those (calm down Mom, multiple ear piercing, especially just two, aren't unpractical in today's world and I'd only stretch them a little bit!) but that would probably wait until I got back home. I don't think I'm brave enough to do all of that in French! Anyway....then I met my friend Damien and then we went to wait for out friend Marie. Marie was with a different friend who didn't really want to be with us (she wasn't very friendly, I guess! haha)so they left and Damien and I just wa
lked around. It was fun! We went to all the video game shops (Damien knows where everything is! Very street savvy!) to see which one had the lowest price for Wii Sports Resort (or whatever it's called
) because we all (like 8 or 9 people?) put money into the pot to buy it for our friend Coralie, whose birthday was that night. After that, we met up with Kamil after his piano lesson and went and got a giant Garfield card and frames to put some party pictures in (for a post-birthday present). We still had money left so we got her a CD too. Then we went back to Damien's house (he lives in Namur) to wrap the gifts. Then we met Marie at the bus station and the 4 of us went to the soirée together. It was so fun! :) I'm so glad that I was invited! It was actually a surprise party so when we got there (it was actually at an elementary school that I live by. Weird, but I think it is in this place that yo
u can rent) we all packed into this room and turned off the lights and did the whole "surprise part
y" thing. Then for the first part, we just hung out, drank (it wasn't wild Mom and Dad, parents were there!) and took crazy pictures on the playground. Later, they even got me to dance! Not that I don't like dancing, I was just kind of uncomfortable at first because I was a little out of my element. But the music was great (WAY better than prom!) and they only made fun of my dancing a little! (Kamil!). They also like to call me an alcoholic too, but I didn't even drink that much! haha, I guess they just like teasing the American! We had dinner and vienetta (yum!!!) and then more dancing and crazy pictures. It was great, everyone had a good time from us teenagers to the adults (most of her family was there) and even the two little girls that were there! I walked home around 12:30am when most of the other people started to leave. I was exhausted! haha but it was well worth it! I can't wait until the next party! :)

A group picture that I stole from someone elses facebook. :)

Johanna, Leila, Kamil, Me, Marie

I taught them the "Z-snap" haha.
"Double snap, cobra neck."
They still need a little practice....

Caroline, Kamil and Johanna.


Damien and Coralie (Birthday girl!)

Don't ask...


Damien, Coralie, Marie, Caroline and Kamil.

Coralie and Damien dancing!

Johanna, Marie and Coralie.

You can see my hands! haha, no pictures of me dancing!

Birthday girl! :)

Kamil, Caroline and Marie.

What a fun night! :)