Thursday, September 15, 2011

One week of school down, 35 to go.  I got to school on Monday without any problems, even though my brother Hugues had changed classes and was no longer there to show me around.  (He switched to an option with extra hours of geography and only four hours of math.  The slacker.)  This was mostly because of the group of girls who had taken me into their care (Sarah, Arianne, and Lorraine), but I was still proud of myself for it.

I started off the day with English, which was fun because all the girls wanted to sit next to me.  We labelled parts of the body and filled in a worksheet in which body parts were used as verbs.  I was able to figure them out pretty quickly and then laugh (with my classmates, not at them) as everyone else made wild guesses as to what they were:  "It's time to shoulder the facts!"  "The robbers were toe to the teeth!"

After English, I followed Sarah and Lorraine to my two-hour gym class on the third floor.  I don't think the gym, or the class itself, has changed at all since the school was built in the 60s (70s?).  Girls and boys are split into separate classes, and go to their respective teeny-tiny locker rooms to change into their gym uniforms (white t-shirts and navy blue shorts).  The teacher wears a track suit and a whistle and communicates only by blowing the whistle or by giving one-word commands.
For the first hour of class, we played basketball.  As we were warming up, I sympathized with Lorraine about not being any good at basketball, although this turned out to not be true at all.  For once in my life, I was a basketball star.  We started off with a few lay-ups, and I'm relatively certain I was the only girl who made more than one.  Everyone was impressed with my ability to dribble the ball without looking directly at it and to shoot with just one hand.  When we moved onto foul shots (which have always been my strong point) and I made several in a row, they decided to show me off to the teacher, who was even surprised.
During the second hour of class, we started our unit for the next few weeks:  Running.  While running laps of the courtyard was pretty boring (we did five sets of run three minutes, walk two minutes), I again showed up everyone else in my class.  While those few people here that do play sports are really good at them, the rest of the Belgian girls are the skinny-yet-muscleless, never-seen-the-inside-of-a-gym-in-their-life type of girls.  They thought I was crazy because I didn't stop running when the teacher wasn't looking, and couldn't believe that I didn't think that the unit test (run 25 minutes without stopping) sounded difficult.

We had our break after gym, which gave me time to buy a bottle of water and eat some little cookies Sarah had brought for me.  (The first day, I had forgotten a snack, and she had given me some cute little dog-shaped cookies to eat.  I may have slightly exaggerated how much I liked them-- although they were pretty good-- because I wanted to thank her, which meant that the next day-- and every subsequent day after that-- she brought me a package of the cookies in a different colored package.)

We then went to French, where we were discussing the differences between realism and romanticism, both in art and literature.  I had prepared, as we were supposed to, a 1-minute oral presentation about the differences between the two (using four pictures of paintings), but the teacher seemed to have forgotten that she assigned it.  In the states, this would have mildly annoyed me, but I was mostly just relieved that I didn't have to try to give a presentation in French just yet.

I ate lunch with Sarah, Arianne, Lorraine, and two of their friends from a different class.  We went and bought sandwiches (I strayed from my usual Dagobert to try a 'Tuscan,' with Parma ham, olive oil, and parmesan, which was good, but I think I prefer Dagobert) and ate them on the steps of the school.  We had an extra hour, so Lorraine gave me a mini-tour of the surrounding streets, including showing me which were the favorite cafés/bars of the Liège 1 students and which ones were preferred by the students at St-Servais (a nearby high school).

We returned for two hours of math (which mostly consisted of me showing Lorraine the pictures I had put on my Journale de Classe) and two hours of Lab.  We spent about an hour explaining the schedule and splitting into groups before we were told that there weren't enough teachers that day and so we would be let out early.  I waited with Hugues for Côme to be finished and we went home together for a snack.

I had field hockey at 7, which was extra difficult because of my gym class earlier that day, but we fortunately didn't do too much conditioning (we save that for Wednesdays).  Still, I was exhausted when I got home and went to sleep right away.

Tuesday passed relatively uneventfully;  I didn't start until 10:00 (although I still managed to be late-- even though everyone here says 10:00, the third class actually starts at 9:50... oops) and had Biology and English before lunch.  I went out for pasta with the same girls as the day before, returning again for math (two hours).  Normally, I would have had Morale and Chemistry and ended at 5:00, but for some reason I didn't properly hear, all the students got out at 3:05.  I got home with plenty of time to relax and talk with my Maman before and during dinner, and we decided that I would switch to rhéto.  (I had started in cinquième so that Hugues could show me around, but now that he had changed classes, she thought it would be nicer for me to be with people my own age.  Rhéto also gets a special hangout in the school and has several Rhéto-only events, so it probably will be nicer.)

I went in first thing Wednesday to talk to the Belgian equivalent of guidance to get my schedule sorted out, and started French halfway through the first class.  I was surprised to see that I had the same French teacher (as well as several other teachers who were the same) and also that I was now in the same class as Edwardo, the Rotary Exchange student from Brazil, and another Rotary boy, Hernan.  (I'm thinking that they put all us foreign students together on purpose.)

After French (which I didn't quite understand, having missed 5 1/2 hours or so of class), we went to Physics, which was maybe a bit too difficult.  (I think that cinquième physics was the perfect difficulty for me; I only understood anything because of having taken calculus and having understood derivatives.)

My new class then had another hour of gym, which was badminton, but I hadn't brought my gym clothes and so couldn't play.  I sat on the bench on the side of the room talking to a girl named Taina, who had broken one of her fingers and so couldn't hold the raquet.  I followed her to our two-hour history class, during which we read excerpts from the Yalta Conference (1945, for those of you who haven't had a history class recently).  We were interrupted briefly by the director of the school coming in with some paperwork for us, which wasn't ready for me on account of my just having changed into the class.  Another girl in my class, Cécile (sp?), had a problem with hers as well (they had spelled her name wrong), so the two of us got out of the second hour of history to go sort things out.  We ended up having to wait outside the office for a very long time and got nothing accomplished (it turned out that it didn't matter that her name was spelled wrong, and that they couldn't get anything ready for me for another while), but I did get to talk to her for a while, and she was pretty nice.

It was Wednesday, so school ended at 12:40, and Hugues and I went home to eat lunch with Maman, Hugues friend Antoine, and our grandparents while Côme went to his girlfriend's house.  We had a light lunch because Hugues has boxing wednesday afternoons, followed by a peach tart.  My grandparents were really friendly, but I was really tired so didn't end up talking as much as I maybe could have.  When Hugues and Antoine left, I took a nap until around 5 or so, when I got up to eat before field hockey.

I hitched a ride to my "match amicable" (a match that not only doesn't count for our record but that I could play in despite not having my letter of no objection from the Americans) with some field hockey-playing girls who live nearby.  We didn't play particularly well (I didn't play particularly well... although I could pick out three times where I did something helpful to the team, so it wasn't a total bust) and lost 2 -1, but nobody seemed too upset.  I got home around 10 and had a quick snack before going to bed.

I started out today with Geography at 9:00.  The professor was a bit odd, but friendly.  He complemented me on my French-speaking abilities (I've gotten really good at saying "My name is Audrey, I'm an exchange student from the United States, could I please have the papers for this class?") and followed it by asking if I could give a presentation on the U.S., on Maine, and what a day in my life might look like.  When I responded with a blank stare and a much-delayed "comment?" he realized that I thought he meant could I give one right then, and laughed and corrected himself.

After Geography, I went with Cécile to English, where we read a little article about the 9/11 attacks and filled in the prepositions.  The English teacher kept putting me on the spot and asking my opinions on the 9/11 attacks, the photographs given, etc., and I definitely failed at speaking slowly enough and in relatively simple-enough terms for the class to understand what I was saying.  We finished the class by looking at some pictures of major 20th century events and deciding what they were and when they happened.  (I knew them all, yay AP US History!)

Normally, the English class would be followed by French, but apparently my new class had just gotten a new schedule and had already had 5 hours of French that week, so we had study hall instead.  Nobody wanted to go, so we hung around in the courtyard enjoying the rare (at least, that's what everyone says... so far it's been relatively common) Belgian sun until we got yelled at to go to études.  We got there and were yelled at to leave because the room was full, so we filed back outside, celebrating our minor victory.

After the period off, those of us not taking a second language got to leave for a two-hour lunch.  I went with Cécile and two of her friends to buy a sandwich and eat it in the Place Cathédrale, which was followed by a brief trip to H&M so Cécile's friend Manon could buy a skirt.  I looked around at the clothes but didn't buy anything, and talked with Cécile and her friend while Manon tried on (what looked to me like) several identical black skirts with tops in varying shades of gray.

We returned to Liège 1, down 20 Euros or so, but with a new outfit, and went to biology.  We worked on reviewing the material from last year, which I was relieved to have learned (even better than the Belgians had learned it) in AP Bio.  I took a few notes and even contributed to the class by giving a genetic disease to which men are more susceptible due to their single X chromosome (dystrophie musculaire).

I then had math, which, for everyone else was a quiz, but for me was looking at the material, deciding that I understood it, then working on catching up in geography:  I have to label map of Belgium with cities and rivers and fill in all the countries and capitals on a world map.

I finally finished the day after two more hours of gym:  another hour of running (this time 4 minute on, two minutes off, for 30 minutes) and an hour of 'musculation:' sit-ups, push-ups, step-ups...
I said goodbye to my new rhéto friends on the steps of the school, and also saw Sarah and Lorraine coming out of the building.  They were sad to hear that I had changed classes (because it meant they had lost their English tutor and (I think) because we had gotten along really well), but we talked a little before parting ways.  It was a little sad for me to see them because I think I have more in common with them than with the girls in my new class, but ah well.

I got home around 5:30 and had a snack with my brothers before they headed off to field hockey and I worked on my geography.  When they got back around 8:30, we ate lasagna before they worked on their homework and I worked on writing this.

Tomorrow I finish off the week with another 9 - 5 day and hopefully some Fête de Wallonie festivities.  I'm not entirely sure what that entails, but I think it's live music and food, so I'm all for it.

À tout à l'heure!


  1. Hey Audrey, Just read your Sept 15 blog. Really enjoyed it. I hope to learn a lot about life in Belium and all your activities. I'll try to get to my computer more often. Love Grandma.

  2. Que veut dire "rhéto"? J'imagine que c'est l'équivalent belge de la Terminale en France, mais qu'est-ce qu'il signifie?