Saturday, December 4, 2010

St. Nicolas at St. Union and Other Things

      Yesterday was quite a day at school. During class ‘St. Nicolas’ and ‘Père Fouettard’ showed up to tease us and give us candy. My classmates insisted that the American get her picture taken on St. Nicolas’ lap since she had never met him before. That afternoon all the Education classes put on their annual St. Nicolas animations for the elementary kids. Our class’ theme was cowboys and Indians, so I got to dress up like an American! Ha. I was also rather helpful with some English spellings of ‘Farwest’ and such. Our obstacle course went relatively well, and I got to teach kids how to say bonjour in Indian and Cowboy (howdy and how---those h’s were rather tricky).  It was a lot of fun to see everyone dressed up like cowboys, Indians, Baloo the Bear, Tigers, Gypsies, Cinderella, and more. There are no school spirit days here, so seeing all the well-dressed Europeans being a bit goofy was especially delightful.
            Our report cards also came in yesterday. I am passing all of my classes (I had a little tweaking help for my language issues in one class, but other than that, I did it all normally)! Hooray! Hopefully it will stay like that through the finals, which are coming up next week. All the finals are worth more than all the other work we’ve done this year, and all 8 of them are cumulative. Yeesh, I’ve got some studying and memorizing to do! At least I know I’ll pass English!
            Speaking of the scholastic system, I have realized how extremely convoluted and complicated Belgian and European systems of running things are. At the school level, every teacher only teaches a few classes at each school, so they don’t come every day and have to travel in between. This makes arranging classes a bit complicated. We recently had a class taken away from one of our teachers and given to a brand new teacher---week and a half before finals, and we still have our original teacher in some another class. So now we have a whole new ball game for the finals. Belgian politics are so complicated I’m not even close to being able to say anything about how they run---even Belgians don’t really know. I DO know that when I tried to send a package through the mail it was a small nightmare because all the post offices have been being downsized and moved despite the same demand. At the international level, the European parliament somehow functions (I put their efficacy in serious doubt) with 785 members and 23 different languages. Then there’s the European Commission with 27 members, the European Counsel with the 27 head shmos of each country, and the Council of Ministers with 27 members for each different department.  The European Court of Justice has 27 judges that rule on each case---3 times as many as in the American Supreme Court. I will never complain about the American government being cumbersome or complicated again.
            Another note: European governments are also much more repressive in some ways than the US. For instance, the 2nd amendment, right to arms---forget it. You also do not have the right to be openly racist. They do have an actual document for the Rights of Man, but apparently being racist is not one of them.
I have learned some new Belgian sayings:

Sauter du coque à l’âne= jump from the rooster to the donkey=to change subjects randomly
Punaise=thumbtack= crap, dang it, etc. (not a real cuss word)

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