30 August 2011

Brussels with RYE (August 25)

Today I went to Brussels with the Rotary Exchange Students!  Alain and Fanny and I woke up early
 and drove into Liege
football stadium, "standard de liege".

 to meet the other Rotary kids at the train station
la garre de guillmans
 where I joined the exchangers on a double decker bus into Brussels
 and stood around and received nametags and were sorted by country and host district and toured a big beautiful rich building that I don’t know what was and then presented banners to our district governor 
but I didn’t have mine because I can’t read the emails from Rotary because my internet is bad right now (by the way if you don’t know the band called The Civil Wars, you should check them out for acoustic and harmonic brilliance)

 and then we went to lunch and ate les frites et des boulletes
 or at least I think that’s how you spell it anyway they’re meatballs and we took lots of group photos in the Grand Place (that are somewhere on a rotary website somewhere)

 and then went for a tour of la Chambre (sort of like House of Representatives) and Parliament and then heard from some very important people who may or may not have been the speaker of the la Chambre

 or maybe the president of Rotary Youth Exchange or something but I don’t really know anyway they gave rousing speeches about the wonderful things youth exchange does for world awareness and creating a global community and then afterwards it was about 18h we got back on the bus and then Francoise picked me up at the train station again and we talked in French again after speaking English practically the entire day with some really interesting and fun people from all over the world (it seems the common language of RYE is English; even the South Americans who really don’t have any reason to speak English all speak English as well as Spanish or Portuguese and French its very impressive) and after all that English I was afraid I 
would have lost my French abilities and though I talked more today than I have since I arrived, when I got in the car with Francoise it seems that I spoke MORE in French than I did before a fact with which I am very pleased.  Exhausting, no? 
Oh yeah I met up with one of the wonder twins today!!  2 girls from outbound camp, identical twins, filmmaking partners, and generally knowledgeable people both of whom are on exchange this year, one to Belgium, and one to Taiwan!  I was concerned about how they would fare without each other!  But I think she’s doing ok, if she’s not very sad still.  But then, aren’t we all always missing our other half?  In search the other part of ourselves that when we are with it, we are just that much better people?
One interesting phenomenon about changing languages is that for right now I forget in between conversations that I ever have trouble communicating with people.  I forget that everyone here speaks French and I must as well to be understood.  Not that I speak English inadvertently, but that the language is really sort of immaterial.  I continue to love speaking French.  Don’t think I’ll ever stop.

29 August 2011

(august 24)

While Martin had a final going away party, the rest of the family and I went to Alain’s mother’s house where she lives with her friend Serge.  There’s nothing more manly than a manly man with an AWESOME garden, and both Alain and Serge have them.  With flowers, auburn Trumpets of Jericho, and an ostentatious lavender patch, to a small plot of green and purple grapevines, blossoming aubergine plants and a greenhouse full of tiny tomatoes.  And then after dinner, I was taught a card game they called Rummy but it’s not the rummy I know.  I should mention that its SO cool that the cards read “V,D,R” for Valet, Dame, and Roi, instead of Jack, Queen, King, and the Aces read “1.”  Then Alain’s mother and I stacked card towers.  She’s a pro.  I even saw a few Chateaux on the short drive to their house.  When we returned, Martin’s party was still going on and I got to meet a lot of Martin’s friends, drinking Belgian beer of course.  Tout a la culture.  But not me.  I didn’t drink beer.  It’s against Rotary rules.
Once at dinner, I looked up after about 30 seconds and realized that I had understood everything that was just said.  Then I got distracted by my smirking and totally missed it when a question was directed right at me!  But Martin’s grandparents are maybe even cuter than the Vanrykels themselves.  And champ card players.
I must get up EARLY (6:30) in the morning to take a train for a tour of Bruxelles with the other rotary kids.  I hope they don’t all try to speak English with me all the time!  Or at least expect me to respond in English (all the time)
It seems as though we’re taking a break from my typical SHAMELESS stream of consciousness style.  Enjoy it while you can.

First thing in the morning August 25
I definitely just had a very small dream in French.  It was not me speaking, and not me translating to myself, and the French was very bad, but it’s in there…

Some things I like here: (august 23)

bisous.  They’re great!
RATATOUILLE.  Yes, I had some.  And it was epic.  (But only to me)
Really nifty windows.  No air conditioning means good windows.
the sun stays up late.  It did not get completely dark until 9:20.
The fact that my internal monologue switches involuntarily back and forth `  from French to English.  And if you know me, you know that means my external monologue (I talk to myself TOUS LES TEMPS)  but out loud, I only speak French.

I only get a little homesick in the morning when I don’t know when to wake up because jet lag is still affecting me, so I awaken at 5 on accident and try to return to my slumber, but my mind wanders.  So I wait a little bit, and then go downstairs.  I took a walk.  It helped!

Day 2. (august 22)

  No internet still.  But so pleased was I when the bed was not even too short for my abnormally large body!
Foreign exchange is vraiment a humbling experience.  You’re at a party, say, and you, usually fairly confident in your social skills, want to go make a friend.
            “Bonjour ...(French French French French French)?”
and all you can say is (in French) “yeah, I’m a new exchange student and I don’t understand French yet.  But I’m a really fun guy!  I promise!”
            Oh wait, you can’t, because there’s not a word for fun in French.
Their WONDERFUL dog, Zizou
(like the footballer)
            Good news, I gave out my presents tonight and they seemed to go over pretty well.  And I did the first night questions from Rotary and if anything, it gave me more opportunity to learn French and kinda get an idea of what’s goin on hither.  My host parents also told me that I speak French very well arlready and that they give me 15 days before I’m GREAT.  Which was of course a major lifter of the spirits.  A bit homesick this morning, I really just want to go to sleep.  It’s the easiest thing to do here haha.  Did I mention that the church on “church street” (on which I live) has a bell?

A patisserie/boulangerie in Seraing

Le Premier nuit (August 21, 2011)

First day!  I slept more than I meant to.  I think I missed dinner,  but I’m not sure because I don’t understand most things.  The dictionary is going to be my friend.  I have my own room in a beautiful old house and my family is super cute and wonderful and that’s that.  I went out with Martin to basically a block party with karaoke.  We drove to it, but I don’t know what village it was in.  And we watched a soccer game.  It is as though everyone here speaks French ALL THE TIME.  Doesn’t it get hard sometimes? (shoutout: Martin Deron).  Because the internet is not connected really yet, I can’t post these until later I think.  Not tonight anyway.
The beautiful country!

first things first.  Eat a baguette.
rue de l'eglise.  that's Tinlot.
My small Brussels airplane.
            Landing and all that was really easy.  Oh by the way, it wasn’t the last time I heard English; the customs dude spoke Scottish.  But once I found the Vanrykels and had a baguette to eat with some of the Rotarians who came to meet me too, we got into the car and drove for a long while.  I fell asleep in the car, but not after some valiant attempts to make conversation in French with them.  I really can get it eventually, but it does take a while.  For now.  Then we did a quick tour, settled in a little bit, and I fell asleep in the chair that I was unpacking in, so I figured I might as well go ahead and nap.  THEIR PILLOW IS SO COMFORTABLE!  I love it.
  But as I said, I slept more than I meant to.  Immediately upon waking up, I met my sister Fanny, and Mme Vanrykel drove Martin and me to this block party thing, where I had my first Belgian French fries with mayonnaise, but I didn’t drink beer.  It’s against rotary rules.

church on church street

Belle compagne
A baby cat outside a building next door.
I almost died.