Thursday, January 27, 2011

5 and a half months in Belgium---half of my exchange has flown right on by! This last month I have been noticing some drastic differences between my arrival and now. For instance, I can talk in French without thinking, and I sometimes talk to myself in French instead of in English. I can have REAL conversations with friends, and I understand their conversations, even in noisy, crowded cafeterias! Switching between French and English is basically effortless now, although I may mix the two or forget some words (normally English). Two of my teachers asked me to read out loud in class like everyone else last week, and even if they laughed at my cute American accent, they understood what I was trying to say. People are willing to make jokes about my accent now because they know me and know that I will understand the joke and that I won’t be offended. I have found several previous misunderstandings too: for instance, Tournai is the town of 5 bells, not 400. I don’t know how I goofed that. It’s one for each of the 5 towers of the Cathedral. Also, people don’t use ‘duck’ as an insult… the word is ‘conard’ NOT ‘canard’. Basically means stupid. On top of all the language improvements, I am feeling like Belgian things are ‘normal’. I can refer to my host home as home and Julia as my sister without getting that little weird awkward feeling that is very familiar to exchange students. Also, I actually am starting to have a Belgian social life with Belgian peers. I went to the movies with a couple girlfriends last week (I actually understood the entire film!!!) and I got to go to another friend’s yesterday to hang out. I have a solid ‘group’ I hang out with at school, and I feel comfortable and at ease in the crazy Belgian school system. I had heard that exchanges get better after Christmas, and I can now confirm the rumors. Last weekend was a blast; our AFS committee organized a trip to Disneyland in Paris! (I had no idea that there was a Disneyland in Paris until this year, but hey). I had never been before, so it was fun to see the giant stuffed characters and princesses walking around and singing and whatnot. My favorite was Mulan because she wasn’t even Asian. I got a good giggle out of that! The castle was beautifully built, and the ‘main street America’ looked pretty typically American…it was interesting to see how America was ‘exotic’ and what the stereotypical idea of the USA in the Euro mind is. The highlight of our day was definitely the roller coasters. I kept my eyes shut through Space Mountain, but by the second time through Indiana Jones and the Aerosmith roller coaster I was riding with my eyes wide open and screaming for fun instead of from sheer terror. Disney has the roller coaster design down pat---they weren’t jerky, they locked you in well, they were wild but not so wild that your nerves were a mass of jelly by the time you got off. Good fun. Disney has also figured out that when you are locked inside an amusement park with nothing else for innumerable kilometers you will pay 6 freakin’ Euros for a ham sandwich. Shudder. We thwarted them during the dinner hour however, and bought slightly less extortively-priced sandwiches at a gas station on the way home. The night before Disney and our extremely early departure and the night after our late return several girls with AFS came to spend the night here in the house of dogs. We had lots of fun chatting and eating pizza and showing them around. It’s amazing how showing someone else around a house can make you feel at home too. Some of Jade’s friends were also there, so it was a bit of a hotel. Good times. I’ve been quite busy with school and everything else that must be done, and stages is coming up. I’ll be working in a preschool…gulk. Another adventure.

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