The halfway point of my time in Belgium has officially passed. I didn't do any crazy celebrating (no tragus piercings or parties or tattoos... unlike some other AFSers I know) but I don't feel like I really missed out. It's exciting to think that I'm halfway to getting to see my friends, my dog, sleep in my own bed, and do all the Maine-y stuff that I've missed (going out in sweatpants, cross-country skiing, doing sports, baking, jaywalking...). BUT. It's so hard to think about going home. I've gotten so used to taking buses and trains everywhere, having beer and fries within a 100-meter radius at basically all times, speaking French, and being able to hit up other exchange students on Facebook to organize parties and trips and general hanging out.
We had the mid-stay camp this weekend at a château outside of Charleroi (one of the bigger cities in Wallonia, in the southeastern part of the country). Because Sofia lives waay out there and would have had to have gotten up at a ridiculous hour to make it there in time, she slept at my house Friday night. We hung out and ate pizza in Liège for a while, then came back to my house to listen to music, paint nails, and pack. We were able to sleep in (8 am...) and take the 9:50 train, getting there around 11-ish. We met up with five other exchange students on the train, who got on in Namur (1/2-way between Liège and Charleroi); two Americans, a Dane, a Norwegian, and an Icelander (Icelandic? Icelandian?).
We were a little confused about what to do when we finally got to the station, but we fortunately found a giant group of AFSers, and we all searched out the bus together. There was one poor, poor Belgian woman on the bus, who had to deal with us 50 - 60 or so foreigners shouting (especially spanish) to each other about how excited we were to see each other and updating everyone on our Belgian lives. Several stops later we were told to get off (and couldn't help wondering if the Belgian woman had plotted against us to have a tranquil rest-of-the-way home) at an empty-looking, snowy bus stop that ended up being several kilometers too early. We walked one direction, realized it wasn't right, turned around, turned around again, and were generally lost for about 15 minutes before someone started leading us in the right direction. It was so pretty and snowy (and cold!) on the way to the château, and we had fun catching up.
The weekend was (a little too) full of AFS activities that had to to with sharing our problems, reflecting on our year so far and what's going to happen in the future, talk out our feelings, and all that good stuff. We were a little annoyed to have to be separated from our already-formed groups and especially to be separated from the six-monthers who leave this weekend. I couldn't help but wonder if it wouldn't be more productive to just put us in the château without any structure and let us talk out our problems at our leisure. Because that is a lot of what we talk about with each other.
Still, the games such were kind of amusing, and we had a joke-telling competition in which a Japanese girl literally made me cry:
Pourquoi la mer c'est bleu?
Parce qu'il y a beaucoup de poissons [qui font] bleubleubleubleu
Why is the sea blue?
There are a lot of fish [who go] bluebleubleubleu
I don't know if this was so funny because "bleubleu" sounds a lot more like "blub blub" than "blueblue" does, or if it was something about her accent, or if it was because I was more tired than I thought, but it was one of the highlights of my night.
The rest of the evening was spent trying to fit as many people into one room as possible and avoiding the midnight curfew. We tried using the bathrooms as common ground for girls and guys to hang out, but all got sent to bed around one. There were two determined girls in my room who stayed up after the volunteers (who went to bed around 2:30) to try to meet up, but everyone else had fallen asleep and we ended up just being really tired for the next morning.
It was filled with the same types of activities as the day before, although a little less fun because my group was in the basement and there wasn't heat :(
We ended with some free time (and a rendition of the banana song) before saying our goodbyes and heading back out to the bus stop. It really sucked having to say goodbye to 2/3 of my favorite Kiwis: a girl named Tess and one named Melissa, who come from parts of New Zealand that I really should know, but I actually don't. The North Island at least (no?). We did make a pinky promise to meet up next summer (oh yeah mom, I'll be going to Cancun), and if either of them are ever tempted to come to Maine --maybe? disregard everything I may have said this year, it's a pretty nice place-- I would love to show them around.
Anyway, I got home late Sunday (9:30-ish), tired, sad, worried about my departure, but generally glad about the weekend.
To everyone who's leaving: I'll miss you so much; I hope your stay was amazing and that you have a great time going home! Let's meet up again as soon as I have money again after this year!