Thursday, November 24, 2011


I literally forgot it was Thanksgiving.  It wasn't until 5 o'clock and the bus ride home than I realized that everyone back home had a turkey in the oven and was cooking away in preparation to stuff themselves to the point where they have to change pants (in some cases).  My cheese sandwich for lunch suddenly became much less satisfactory.

The closest thing I will have to a Thanksgiving feast is the AFS-organized potluck this saturday, to which I am bringing pies (apple, pumpkin, and pecan.  I told people here that I was making a tarte aux pommes and they all reacted with "ohh un appel pye, c'est ça?").  My host brother was thoroughly unimpressed by my description of the holiday (he's been putting out his shoes for St Nicholas, who apparently leaves gifts for a few weeks before December 6th, and thought that eating was pretty lame in comparison to his new Legos), but hopefully he'll change his mind when he tries some of my pie.

While I didn't have this week off like my friends did in the States, it hasn't been too hard.  I finish early (3:15) on Mondays, so I went out to eat with the two other AFS students at my school.  We got one mitraillette ('mitraillette' literally means machine gun, but in this case is a demi-baguette with meat, french fries, and insane amounts of mayonnaise) between the three of us and had a very messy time trying to eat it.  I mostly picked the fries off the top (I have not yet been brave enough to try to eat one myself, which is apparently something all Belgian exchange students must do), but was still warm and full when I took the bus home.

Despite my trying to tell my gym teacher I didn't play, I went to a volleyball tournament for my school on Tuesday.  In her (translated) words: "you're tall, you'll do fine."  Our team of 6 volleyball players and 3 non-players played five matches of two 15-minute sets (I have no idea how this compares to a standard volleyball game; if anyone knows, feel free to enlighten me) and ended up coming in second.  We felt a little embarrassed because we were the only team who didn't organize some sort of uniform; everyone else was at least wearing the same colors, if not a school T-shirt.  Ah well.

Yesterday, we had Goodbye Part I at the "exchange student bar" for the trimestrial students who have to leave next week (Part II is tomorrow).  I signed several souvenir Belgian (and Liège) flags, had a few last Belgian beers with a few Swiss, Canadian, Kiwi (i.e. New Zealand), Ecuatorian, Australian, and American friends.  (I love being able to say things like that.)

Other than having my French professor be absent (which meant that I got to sleep in two extra hours), I had a relatively normal day.

And so, since I can't be in my usual Thanksgiving setting, I have to say for my Grandpa "Shadrach, Meshach, and abed we go."  Bonne nuit!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fin de la première période

I received my bulletin (report card) yesterday in a very large and official-looking document handed out to me by my class delegate, someone we apparently elected at the beginning of the year and whose job is to hand out papers to us.  Like many things here in Belgium (tests, assignment books, etc.) I have to get my parents' signatures and hand it back in as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, the school apparently thinks I'm only in five classes (despite my following all eleven) so I have to go around getting my teachers to write in my scores first.

There was a lot of comparing of grades, teasing of people failing easy classes (there is somebody in my class failing gym), jealousy of people with good scores, etc.  I didn't have any échecs, which are grades written in red, meaning you failed, in the classes that were on there, although I did have a 16/20 in English (what?), which made a lot of people in my English class (for example, my friend Cécile, who got a 17) feel good about themselves.

Only two more bulletins this year; it's amazing how time flies when you're... in school?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I am taking refuge in my room from the 7-year-old terror that won't stop throwing Legos at me.  It is such a strange experience going from an abnormally calm/nice older sister to an abnormally (I can only hope, for all the mothers out there) hyper younger brother.  Unfortunately for everyone involved, Belgian primary schools are a lot stricter about kids doing homework and behaving in class, so he has lots of notes in red (that means they're bad) in his 'Journal de Classe.'  Which means that I have to try to be strict with him, and it's not going well.  If he's doing something like putting peas in his mouth and spitting them back out (a favorite activity whenever my host mom cooks a dinner containing peas) it's easier, but when he wants to play games he knows very well how to pander to my baby animal (and small child)-loving side.

Outside my host family, I've been doing some Christmas shopping after school-- it's weird to be thinking about already, but I know I should put a box in the mail sometime soon.  It also helps that I have 20 minutes between the time my bus arrives and the time school starts, so I take refuge inside various stores.  I also finally bought a Belgian flag, which I've been looking for for a while, at the, ironically, 'American Store.'  For whatever reason, Belgians don't own flags (at least, nobody that I asked had one) and don't sell them, either.  I'm thinking that 'American' might be they're way of saying that things there are cheap, because the flags out front and one small section of camo jackets were the only things there that seemed particularly American.

My little brother has come in to tell me it's time for dinner-- let's hope for no peas.

À tantôt!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Putain! it's French in One Word

Somewhere in our self-written job descriptions of being an exchange student, it is included for us AFSers students to share little videos, websites, poems, etc. about the language/people/exchange students in our host country.  Usually I take a look, laugh halfheartedly, and promptly forget about them.  Occasionally I remember long enough to use them to fill up silence (have you seen ___? yeah? pretty cute, yeah? yeah...).

This, however, is a video so accurately representing the French language (at least as used by Belgian high schoolers) that I thought more people should know about it:

It should be noted that, while this describes the French equivalent of a fairly profane English word, it does not have nearly the same connotation.  My seven-year-old host brother can (and does, frequently) say it without getting in trouble, where as other, less translatable swear words are des gros mots and cannot be said in front of his parents.

To finish us off, I give you a supplementary list of definitions for "Putain:"
          --  I just walked into the wrong classroom
          --  This tastes awful
          --  I forgot do do something
          --  I was trying to drink my water and accidentally inhaled it and now I'm coughing
          --  Aw, Audrey's blog post is over and now I have nothing to read

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween and other (more European) Holidays

Before I forget (and before it becomes irrelevant), I thought I'd mention that, while the Belgians do do Halloween, it is not as big a deal as in the US.  People still put up decorations and have parties, and the kids dress up to get candy, but the day isn't as important.  I saw about as many costumed people walking around the 28th as the 31st as the 2nd of November, and it was never very many.

The real holiday was "Toussaint," a Belgian (French? European?) all saints day on November 1st, and we had the week off from school.  It was nice to be able to sleep in and to not have homework.  I spent some time with some friends from my school, meeting them in Liège or at their houses (I'm getting to be a bus expert... it's very exciting) and a lot of time with the other AFSers.

Whenever I ask Belgians if they like traveling in Belgium, they seem sort of indifferent; a "been there, done that" attitude, so it's really nice having a lot of other foreign students to travel with.  On Monday, for Halloween, I went with a girl and a boy from the Liège area to Leuven, where AFS Flanders was having a day for all the Flemmish-speaking exchange students.  We went along on their see-the-city activity and then to an AFS-sponsored party afterwards.  It's always fun to meet new exchange students (and I got to see again the two Americans (and girl from MAINE) in Flanders), but it was really weird for me to not be able to speak French with them.  Everyone of course spoke English-- and spoke it far better than anyone spoke Dutch-- but I still felt like that made it harder to communicate.

Bug Statue in Leuven

On Friday, I went to Maastricht, again with AFSers.  We walked around the city, which was really cute, and did some shopping because everything is European and we can't help ourselves.  We ate a lunch of Broodje Haring (a herring with onions in a bun), of which nobody was a big fan, at the Marketplein, a big open-air market in downtown Maastricht.  We saw the city hall and walked along the river (which is the same one as in Liège... you can bike or take a boat all the way up) and had dinner at a very tourist-targeted restaurant near the station.  It came with large bowls of fries and mayonnaise, which we decided are better in Belgium (we're not at all impartial, but ah well).

Looking over the Meuse to Maastricht

AFS organized an activity for us on Sunday, which included driving around to various artisans in the Belgian countryside and learning about their crafts.  We got to taste honey, cheese, pékêt (fancy Belgian liquor), and syrup and watched lots of home videos about their being made.  I heard more than I ever thought I would about bees and milk, and saw flavors of liquor that I never thought possible (for example: cactus, Speculoos (a type of cookie), and celery).  We also saw a cemetery for American soldiers who fought in World War II, which surprised all of us because we had no idea we were near the German border (we aren't all up on our Belgian geography yet).  The weather was typically Belgian, i.e. cold and misty, but the food was enough to cheer most everybody up.

And now it's back to school.  Back to getting up early and packing lunch and taking the bus every day.  It's fun seeing everybody again, but first period grades come out this week so everybody's stressing a little.  I try to mention as little as possible that my points here don't affect my graduation in the States and that I therefore don't mind too much as long as I'm not completely failing.  (Which I don't think I am... but I guess I'll have to wait until Wednesday to see.)