Thursday, September 1, 2011

Well, we all finally made it through our week of French classes, though we often required trips out to the bar/bakery afterwards to help.  (I'm not sure quite what it says about Belgians that most all the bars seem to be open at 1 pm...)  Monday's 10 am class was particularly difficult, as everyone was pretty tired from staying up skyping with friends, or, in my case, socializing at the family friend's birthday party.  It was a pretty good time, with lots of good food and lots of talking to the boy, Edwardo, a Rotary exchange student from Brazil, who is staying with the family and will be going to my school.  I surprised all the men (and myself) by being relatively ok at Pétanque, although I think a lot of it was luck.  It got pretty difficult as the night wore on to keep talking in French, and as everyone lit up their nth cigarettes, I ended up leaving the table to make friends with the dog, Lise.  I amused myself by giving her commands in French ('assieds,' 'couche,' etc.), and she seemed to enjoy smelling Flicka/Mabel(?) on my clothes.

Yesterday we enjoyed an abbreviated French class, which I was happy to see touch on the subjunctive at the end.  Not as much as I would have liked, but it was still good to get a better idea of how it works before I start lycée.  There was an extra-long break from 11:30 to 2, during which all of us in the "advanced" French group went out and bought pastries, sandwiches, and beer.  We met up with some friends of one of the girls in our group, along with their Rotary exchange student friends.  It was interesting to talk with them about the differences between AFS and Rotary (most notably that, with Rotary, you change families several times during your stay) and about how they liked Belgium/Liège so far.
When we returned to the Maison des Jeunes, the AFS volunteers had set up a "game" for us with a list of things we had to do around Liège, things we had to take pictures of, etc.  They split us into groups of four or five and hid envelopes containing a map, the list of items we needed to find, and some money in the area surrounding the Maison.  In a cruel twist, they tied the members of the groups together by hands and feet before sending us off to find the envelopes.  There was a brief moment of despair when we thought we would have to walk all around the city tied together, but it turned out that once we found an envelope we could come back and the volunteers would untie us.  My group had a bit of difficulty walking, due in part, I think, to the fact that we were especially well-tied; the AFS volunteers had a bit of difficulty getting some of our knots untied.  Unfortunately, nobody else in my group was particularly enthusiastic (especially after we had to climb the Montagne de Bueren again to count the stairs: 384), and wouldn't smile in any of the pictures.  We returned third out of five groups, and, though we were missing  a couple of answers, finished in second place.  The winners got little figurines of the Liège mascot, Thantchès.
I got home in time to have a quick snack before skyping in to a meeting for the Graduation with Distinction program at my school.  It was nice to see everyone there, including the teachers, even if it made me a little late for dinner with my family.  I helped with the dishes as part of the family's system-- one kid clears the table, one washes dishes, one puts away the leftovers and tidies the kitchen-- before we all sat down and watched Secretariat (a movie about the race horse of the same name) in French, without subtitles.  I understood most of what was going on, although having all the newspapers and signs shown in the movie be in English probably helped.

Today, the only thing so far on my list of things to do is purchase some sort of pay-as-you-go plan for my Belgian cell phone, for which my not-so-tech-savvy Papa and not-so-French-savvy-I accidentally forgot to buy any minutes (we did buy the phone and a SIM card, I'll give us that).  I'll finally be able to communicate with the few people I've met here and be able to give AFS my number (they've been asking every day this past week, and seem appalled that I still don't have a functioning cell phone).

To wrap up, a list of Belgian argot (slang) I've learned so far:
à tantôt: short for à tout à l'heure, see you soon
club: cigarette
beuh: weed
poutain: all-purpose swear
(ferme) ta gueule: shut up
trop stylé: really cool
(trop in general is used more than I expected, to mean 'very' as opposed to 'too much')
va chier: go to Hell
blaireau: smelly animal (loser)
flic: cop
virer: to fire (someone)

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