Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's been a nice, lazy Sunday to bring my busy first week with my Belgian family to a close:  I slept in until nearly 10 o'clock, had a leisurely breakfast of bread and croissants with everything you could want on bread or croissants with my Papa, and read one of my brother's Adventures of TinTin.  (I've been trying to read a bit in French, and attempted to start The Old Man and the Sea, or Le vieil homme et la mer ici, thinking that Hemmingway's simple prose would be a good place to start.  Unfortunately, even that required more looking in the dictionary than I would have hoped, so I've moved back to comic books.)  I'm not sure what else today will bring, although I do think there is a family friend's birthday party, which will give me a chance to show everyone just how bad I am at Pétanque.

After posting on Wednesday, I headed out to the Maison des Jeunes, about a kilometer away from my apartment, for my French courses.  I got slightly lost on the way, but was able to ask a woman on the street for directions and understand them, which put me in a great mood when I arrive.  We split into two groups based on whether we'd taken a couple years of French or a couple months.  My group, for those of us who had studied more French, went to the park to play games while the other group had their lesson.  We played some name games, Trois Deux Un Piano (French version of Red Light Green Light), Le Petit Poisson Rouge (like Sharks and Minnows, except that the sharks call out a color first, and anyone wearing that color gets a free pass), and our favorite Citron Citron.  We went back to the school for our classes, which were still pretty basic: we introduced ourselves, told each other about our families, what we liked to do, what we usually ate, etc.  
There was a break for lunch around 1:30, during which a few of the other students and I (Sofia, also from the states, Karamea, from New Zealand, Emile from Canada, and a few others) went and bought waffles and fries. Both were delicious; the mayonnaise here is a lot different than in the US, and was surprisingly good on the fries.
Everyone met up at the school after lunch for our walking tour of Liège.  We went through the famous Carré (old part of the city where people go to party on Friday nights) to the Place Cathédrale, then to the Place St Lambert to see the Palais de Justice.  We had a race up the Montagne de Bueren, about a million stairs which lead up to the citadel; almost everyone started out running, but nobody was able to run up more than about a third of them.  We were rewarded with a very nice view of the city before walking back down and parting ways.  
I went out for another waffle (this time covered in chocolate) with Karamea and Sofia and the AFS returnee Mathilde, who had to wait to catch a train, and got home with just enough time to put some pictures on my computer and eat an apple before going to field hockey practice.  It didn't seem quite as hard as on Monday, although I was still exhausted when I came back home to shower and have a quick dinner before falling into bed.

Tuesday began again with relatively basic French lessons from our very condescending Belgian teacher, whose goal seems to be to correct any and every small pronunciation error we make mid-sentence.  All the AFSers were pretty frustrated by the end of the lesson, so a few of us went out to a café to have a beer.  Sofia, Emile, Karamea, two other boys and I met Karamea's British friend Mark at the Place Cathédrale and tried a variety of Belgian beers.  I had a Kriek, which was fruity and relatively inexpensive, Sofia got a dark beer, which was also pretty good, and one of the boys got something peach flavored that didn't really even taste like beer.
I got home with enough time to relax with my brothers a bit before going out to meet their cousin Loureen and her friends for dinner.  We went to a place called Touch and Go for pitas, which they maybe picked for me because its menu was mostly in pictures, but was really tasty all the all the same.  We went out after to get a drink in the Carré, and everyone was really impressed when I bought a Jupiler (a beer that's inexpensive and popular in Belgium).  They told me that that was what all the boys here drank, and that the boys liked to tease the girls who bought cocktails/fruity beers.  Everyone was really nice and tried to talk relatively slowly for me.
I got home around eleven (Loureen walked with me to a bus stop near my family's apartment) and watched the end of a movie with Côme and Hugues and their friend before bed.

On Friday, the other AFSers in the more advanced group had a trip to the Archéoforum planned for 10:30, which didn't pan out as expected because (if I understood correctly, which is a relatively big if) there was some sort of bomb scare at/near the Archéoforum.  We decided to walk to an aquarium nearby, and right as we were crossing the Meuse, in probably the most exposed part of the city we could be, it started pouring rain.  We got to the museum dripping wet, which made looking at the fish and animal skeletons slightly colder and more miserable than it should have been.
At around 12:30 we left the museum and our group split near the Place Cathédrale to find lunch.  Karamea, Sofia, Emile and I went into a little café for sandwiches and hot chocolate, which came with an adorable miniature waffle (about the size of a half dollar coin).  French class was even less fun than it had been on Thursday because we were all wet, but we were still able to laugh a lot.
Everyone went straight home after class (I'm not sure I've ever been that happy to have dry socks) and watched the men's Belgium - Netherlands field hockey game with Hugues while Maman made dinner.  Belgium lost 3 - 2, but they still are going/have a chance at going to the London Olympics next summer. I was really excited (probably too excited) when Maman asked me to clear the table after dinner (I'm enough a part of the family to do chores!), and I watched the news with the family until I got too tired to understand anything, at which point I determined it was time for bed.

Hugues had a field hockey game yesterday afternoon, so after getting a Belgian cell phone (GSM) with Papa, I went to watch with Côme and his friend.  I was rather appalled at the number of players who stepped off the field and immediately lit up a cigarette, but I guess that's just something I have to get used to here.  We went up to the little restaurant at the club and all the players got drinks and watched the Chelsea - Norwich soccer game.  Everyone seemed to be rooting strongly for Chelsea; I couldn't tell if that was because they were winning or if Belgians really feel strongly about English Premier League.  Maman and Papa arrived and were out on the patio with some friends of theirs.  I went out to join them and talked a little with some of their friends.  I got my first real bout of homesickness as I was thinking frustratedly to myself about everyone here smoking, but as we left the club (having to squeeze four kids in the backseat) and I warmed up and stopped smelling smoke, I cheered up quickly.  Côme's friend stayed for dinner, and two of Maman and Papa's friends came over as well, which meant it started late and lasted a long time.  We had wine and cheese starting around 9:30, and dinner and dessert lasted until after midnight.  I left the table before anyone else and still didn't get to sleep until around 1 am.

Alors. I leave you now to get dressed and get a few things done before we leave for the party around four.  À tantôt!


  1. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with Romelu Lukaku, the young Belgian Striker that Chelsea bought from Anderlecht.

  2. You should send me the rules to these games you're playing for French Club! (Yeah, I'm a little self-absorbed.)

    Loving that some French is starting to sneak into your posts...

  3. I'll type up the rules and send them to you for French Club (you could definitely spin it that you're being selfless and trying to share the games with the French-clubbers who haven't been able to read my blog).

    (The French is sneaking into my thoughts as well... I've found myself thinking things like "My family always mange très tard" and "Where did I put that petit truc?")