Gauntlet of the week: standardized tests in French. Good thing my scores don’t even count for the school! Standardized testing here is super super lax in comparison to the US---none of the wasted hours and hours going over how to bubble in your name (no bubbling at all, in fact) and security recitals. Even though I couldn’t answer most of the reading comprehension questions completely, I was still pretty pleased with myself for understanding the gist of the story. And I think I might have gotten a few right!
Yesterday Julia and I did errands, and for the thousandth time I was glad to have another student in the house because it gets pitch dark out around 6 PM and walking home for 20 minutes in the dark alone would be unpleasant and possibly creepy. Same goes for walking to school; it gets light around 8, just when we are heading out. Pretty soon it will probably be dark completely, and once again having a walking companion will be very welcome.
Today I had several American moments. First off, my English class was reading about Thanksgiving. I got a little excited to see something about Thanksgiving the week of, so my teacher had me explain this tradition to them. Most of them thought it had something to do with Christmas, so I told the whole Pilgrim-Indian story and described some traditional food for them. I’ve found that although American ‘culture’ is extremely marketed and lots of American individuals and products are well-known, American culture really isn’t understood. For instance, all Belgians that I have met have been surprised to find out that we don’t celebrate St. Nicolas or kiss each other to say hello. These same Belgians know Lady Gaga, Doritos, and Twilight. Some American items are also adapted but still known as ‘American’, such as their popcorn (sugared instead of salted). Before coming, I thought American culture was pretty well worn-out and uninteresting thanks to Hollywood and all our other marketing, but it turns out that there are a lot of cultural elements to America that are not obvious to the international audience. My second American moment came during science class when a video had some interviews with American cancer researchers with wonderful Midwestern accents. Everyone else had to read subtitles but I understood everything. –Insert smug grin here-
Today we went to the movie theater with the class. I had been once before, this last weekend, with Marianne, Jean, and Gilles (we watched a French film called ‘handkerchiefs’ that was actually really good and I mostly understood.) The movie theater here is very Americanized and very nice---very cushy seats and very clean. Here in Belgium they have intermission during the movie, and I think I like this. It’s a nice break to discuss the film, and it gives me a chance to figure out what I missed! Our class and quite a few others watched ‘Le Rafle’, a movie about French Jews during WWII. I bawled my eyes out. And not just once. The movie finished and I was still wiping Catharsis off my face. Sigh. I guess I can take that as a sign I understood the movie well!
We are supposed to have snow by the end of the week! Guess who's super excited to see some familiar white fluffy stuff???