Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(Posted late because my energy-conscious Belgian family turns off the internet at night, sometimes before I finish writing.)

I'm finally starting to get the hang of Belgium.  On Friday I managed to keep up with my notes in Chemistry, English (no surprises there), Math, and Geography; I even used multiple colors and good handwriting, just like the Belgians!  I got a little annoyed at my English teacher for making me talk so much (asking my opinions on everything we talked about and having me help him teach them how to stress words) because I don't think anyone in my class appreciated it much, but they did seem to find it somewhat amusing when he had me sing "Heartbreak Hotel."  (I made sure to include my interpretation of Elvis-like faces, which may have been the key.)

I then had Français, in which I was actually thankful for my ability to not comprehend French if I don't try; apparently on Tuesday, my class had come in late and left before the bell rang, which made my prof extremely angry and caused her to yell at them for nearly half the class.

I then had physics and morale, neither of which were much of anything because they were at 4 and 5 o'clock, respectively, on a Friday and neither teacher nor student wanted to be there enough to have a real class.  When school was finally finished, there was a huge migration of students from the school to the Carré, not far away, where everyone decompressed with a beer.

I stayed with Cécile, in my class, and her friend Manon, in another class, long enough to have a peach and a cherry beer (Pêcheresse and Kriek) and to split some fries before I went home to my family.  Cécile and Manon were going to meet up with some other amis and stay out late for the beginning of the "Fête de Wallonie," a series of parties across French-speaking Belgium to celebrate its Francophone-ness, in Liège.  There would be concerts and food all weekend, including an appearance by DJ Stromae (if you've heard "Alors on Danse," that would be him), the only Belgian artist anyone's mentioned to me so far.

I ate dinner with my brothers and passed a quiet-ish night with them while my parents went out to a soirée.  Saturday morning was quiet as well, and everyone studied and read around the house.  Hugues had a field hockey game, Côme went to a friend's house in the afternoon, and I stopped by a mini, partially AFS-affiliated fête at the Biquoque (where I had my lovely French lessons about a month ago). It was mostly little kids eating candy and middle-aged people drinking Jupiler and eating sausage, but I met up with three AFS volunteers and two other students, and we managed to amuse ourselves well.  There were stilts, unicycles, and pins for juggling, at which we failed completely, a bounce house (which we were only allowed in two at a time for fear we would pop it), a giant chess board (we played Harry Potter style), and some wooden games to which we made up our own rules.

I ate dinner at the house of my AFS contact Aurore, whose family was (like everyone I've met with AFS) super-welcoming and nice to me.  She showed me lots of pictures from her year in the North Carolina, and we were able to talk about some of the differences between the US and Belgium.  I finished off the night by watching Ratatouille with her and her dad in French before going home.

Sunday, I took a long bike ride through Liège.  I was going to go with Côme and his friend David, but it turned out that David had a golf tournament and that Côme was tired, so I went tout seule.  I managed not to get lost for a good hour and a half as I went through all the adorable little streets in Liège.  I biked along the river Meuse and was able to pick out some of the places I'd visited/heard about so far, which was fun.  On my way back, I stumbled upon the Batte, a giant outdoor market that stretches between four bridges.  I walked my bike through the rows of clothes, cheeses, pastries, meats, postcards, live animals (chickens, ducks, geese-I-think), fries and waffles, household items, fruits and vegetables.  There was plenty of music and happy and eating people, which was fun to see.  I was cursing myself for not bringing my wallet, because this is the one European place I have seen so far where nothing was outrageously expensive, but I can come back any Sunday morning to see it again.

When I got back home, I helped (sort of) Papa and Côme install a curtain to separate our living room and study while Maman and Hugues went to pick up a vintage bike Hugues had bought on Ebay.  When the curtain was finally up and trimmed (it was a good foot and a half too long), we went out to dinner in the country at the restaurant of some family friends.  The food was amazing (I had a king crab lasagna-- I know it sounds really strange-- for an entrée and a "coquet" (mini chicken) as a main dish) and the friends were really good to talk to.  Their son is leaving for a year in California on Thursday (with EF), and it was fun to talk to him about it.

It was really difficult to get up this morning because we got back around midnight last night, but I made it to school on time (9am, so it wasn't so bad).  I made through Math, English (quelle surprise), and Geography without having to ask any questions, and my Geography prof even showed my work (a mini map of Venice with the causes of its 'Aqua Alta') as an example to my neighbor, who apparently struggles somewhat with Geography and who was then much more friendly to me.

Chemistry and Physics after lunch didn't go quite so well in terms of question-asking.  In chemistry, though I understood the general ideas of what the professor was saying, I could never figure out what he was writing on the board for us to copy.  (I was somewhat reassured when the girls next to me told me that nobody understood him and that they copy the notes of their friend, who has a different teacher in chemistry, in order to understand.)  In physics, not having had the chance to take it in the states was turning out to be a real pain, as the simple review for everyone else was way over my head.  I talked to the teacher after class, who basically told me to stop trying and wait until we got to the new material... I might have to search for a Belgian-equivalent of Cliffs for Physics.

I had plenty of time for a snack and to study for my Geography quiz (on all the countries of the world and their capitals... In French... that should go well) before field hockey, to which I managed to organize a carpool with the nearby girls without any help from my Maman.  I think I'm even improving on that front too-- I got several "bien joué"s, which means I can't have done everything wrong.

And now, it's time for me to get to sleep:  my 7 hours of class start bright and early tomorrow morning.
À la prochaine!

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