Thursday, September 8, 2011

I just got back from my first full day of Belgian school (for those of you back in the states who started a week ago, try not to be too jealous).  I had my first class at 9, so I got to sleep in until almost eight and have a leisurely breakfast.  I was joined by my brother Hugues (Côme had class at 8 and so had already left by the time I got up) at approximately 8:40, giving him just enough time to quickly wolf down some cereal and brush his teeth before we walked to school.  Fortunately, we live only a few minutes away from school, and we even had a little time to linger outside the front doors with all the other students.  I'm not sure how many cigarettes worth of smoke I breathed in before we were let in, but my lungs and nose were certainly unhappy by the time I went inside.

I started off with Chimie, which consisted of an hour-long lecture on the Mole and how, though we clearly knew the definition, the professor didn't think we understood the concept.  When the bell (literally a bell here) finally rang, I followed my class to Physique.  I am so thankful that the Belgian school system puts us into classes that travel together, or else I'd never find my way around; Liège 1 has 4 floors of approximately 25 or so classrooms that each have a letter (R, A, B, or C, which corresponds to the floor) and number, which doesn't seem to correspond to any particular order.  We talked a bit about relativity and linear motion, which, having not taken physics in the states, was new but not very difficult to understand.

After the third hour of classes, there is a 20-minute break where all the students gather in the courtyard (yes, we have a courtyard as the building is roughly U-shaped) to talk and buy snacks and drinks if they so desire.  For me it consisted of getting pushed down the stairs by the huge wave of descending students, standing in the lobby gawking at the sheer number (about 1500) of students in the Belgian equivalents of grades 7 through 12, then finding the two other AFSers at my school and attempting to talk to them in French (they prefer English).

After the break, I had two hours in a row of math, which apparently will be some algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and analyzing of functions (aka pre calc); unfortunately, things I've already taken in the states.  At 12:40, we got a 50-minute break for lunch, during which I went and bought a sandwich with the two AFS boys.  I got a "Dagobert" (ham and cheese), which is actually the only kind of sandwich I've bought here; pretty basic, but still sooo good.  It was a bit chilly and rainy out, so we followed up the sandwiches with some waffles, which we ate walking back to school.  We parted ways to go find our next classes, which for me was English.

After mistakenly thinking room R3 was on the top floor, accidentally walking to the complete opposite end of the school, and almost giving up because I figured I had written down the wrong room, I finally made it to class about 15 minutes late.  Fortunately the prof was really nice (and talks with the most adorable British accent) and seemed to really like me because I'm a native English speaker.  The other students in the class seemed rather skeptical of the differences between the prof's "BBC English," as he put it, and my American English, so he gave a couple examples:  He had me say 'letter' (which came out sounding like 'ledder') to compare to his 'letter,' and told the class that "In England, they say 'bum;' in America, they say 'badonkadonk' instead."  Unfortunately, nobody else understood why this was funny and gave me very odd looks when I burst out laughing.

After my late arrival to English, some of the girls in my class must have felt sorry for me, because they all showed me the way to Biologie, and one girl, Lara, whose family is hosting one of the AFS boys (Esteban, form Mexico), sat with me and explained any instructions I didn't understand and talked to me some, which was nice.  She had just gotten back from a three-week trip to Miami and was excited to talk to an American because she wanted to share some knock-knock jokes she learned (for example:
- Knock Knock
  -- Who's there?
- Vampire.
  -- Vampire who?
- Vampire State Building.)

She mentioned to me that after her visit, it was difficult for her to understand the English teacher's British accent, and at first I was a little skeptical, but I realized that I've been with my Belgian family for less than three weeks and I've already acclimated to the Belgian accent and understand so much more than when I first got here.

After bio, another girl, Charlotte (which, if you can do a French accent, you should definitely try saying with a heavy French accent because it sounds way cooler that way!), showed me to the gym (in the basement) because Lara is taking 8 hours of math instead of 6 and therefore doesn't have this hour of gym.  We didn't actually do anything, we just sat in the tiny locker room and listen to the teacher tell us what we had to wear for class and wonder out loud if we had too many students (35 of us, I counted) for some of the units.

Finally, at 4:00, I got out of school, found my brothers, and walked home with them.  We had to make a detour to stop by Maman's office and get her keys because none of us had ours-- Côme and Hugues have both lost theirs, and I lent mine to Hugues last night and he forgot to give them back.  We had a quick snack, which for me was an apple and for my brothers was three mini waffles, a yogurt, banana, and several pieces of candy each.  We watched a bit of French television before Maman came home and we helped her make dinner, then the boys left for field hockey practice, Maman left for the gym, and I cleaned up the kitchen until Papa got home.

Tomorrow I have school from 8 to 4, but I do have an extra hour for lunch while the students taking two languages have their Dutch/German/Spanish class.  I had been interested in taking Dutch when I first arrived, but everyone here has been taking their second language for three years already, so I would have been too far behind.

À tantôt!

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