Yesterday we had our post-arrival orientation with AFS in Mons, a cheese supper. Julia and I took the train in the morning, despite my blunder of looking at the wrong day’s schedule and thinking our train would be earlier. Luckily there was another train later, and we ate hot things from a pastry shop while we waited. Croissants are so amazing that I almost forgot to freak out about making sure we were on the right platform and that we were going to be on the right train, etc. Luckily Julia was there to make me calm down and reassure me that we were at the right spot. We were, of course, and spent the half-an-hour train ride with another AFSer.
We had a great day in Mons. We spent the morning talking about our families and playing games(metaphorical, of course!). It was a relief to talk to other exchange students and know that we are all in the same boat in a lot of ways. We shared some fun stories too! After lunch we moved on to school, friends, and rules discussions, and then we set off on a little tour of Mons (after being refueled with waffles). We stopped at the Cathedral for a group photo with about 15 different cameras (AFS volunteers have skills). The buildings were very antiquated and beautiful; I felt a little like I was in a fairy tale or in a history book. We visited a little monkey statue in the grande place of Mons which you’re supposed to rub with your left hand for luck, and laughed at a nearby bridegroom wearing orange fishnets and not much else.
We returned to have a supper of cheese, salads, bread, and beer with our host families. There were so many varieties of cheese! They were all set out beautifully with little signs, which confirmed my suspicion that I had never heard of any of them. The types I got to try were delicious spread on olive bread! I went for the orange juice and avoided the beer, since I wasn’t so sure I wanted to drink a whole one. And I also had no idea what the difference was between the billions of varieties! We got to meet each others families, which was nice, and visit some more during a very European meal. I learned that Canadians have Thanksgiving too, but that Americans really are the only ones who use Farenheit. Good times.
I have learned another French saying: dire/faire quelque chose avec les gants=to say/to do something with gloves= to do it gently. I like it.
Today the sun is shining again. I am actually getting ‘tan’ here! I have also learned to expect a Christmas with GREEN GRASS. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one. I guess the trees do lose their leaves, at least. It is also humid here, so my hair has been very 80’s ish of late. Thanks to some hairspray, I might not resort to shaving my head. Maybe.
Last Sunday I made an American breakfast for lunch. I tried not to laugh too hard when they spread nutella on pancakes and then carefully folded them like crepes. American pancakes are a lot fatter than French ones, so it was not nearly as aesthetic. But they liked them anyway.
I survived my week of tests and am expecting another full week ahead, with observations in the field and preparations for actually working in the field. The students have really been helping me a lot with getting to and from stages and with everything else in this new school and environment. I am so incredibly grateful! I’m a little nervous about speaking my French and trying to be a good social worker at the same time. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I can make them laugh at my accent, if nothing else!