30 September 2011

Last week of September

This week I went into Liège EVERY day.  It has been a blast!  But I had an excuse:  it has been almost 27°C every day this week.  Shorts shorts shorts!  And lots of pleasant promenades.
      Monday I went with mes amies into town to see a movie (Beginners [again]) because:
Busin'!  'round 4h30.
La Cinema Sauvenière has 4 theaters.
      Tuesday we had congé (school was closed) for the "fête de la communauté française en Belgique,"  That is to say, celebration of the french speaking community of Belgium.  That day I went back en ville for some walking around and taking further pictures before I had school:
       Wednesday, which is always a half day anyway, and I went into town with the some exchange kids as is common on Wednesdays, which are the days before (in singular):
Setting up for the October fair!  In the back,
 you can see the citadel church.
       Thursday, when I went en ville to exchange yet ANOTHER pull (sweatshirt) at H&M (it seems I'm always there. fortunately there are 4 in Liège) and to buy a GO PASS which is a 50 Euro train ticket for 10 voyages (5 Euros a voyage) so that's really useful for voyages that cost more than 5 Euros, like to Brussels or home from la descente de la Lesse which is happening:
At pont d'Avroy in Liège centre there are a lot of these fun colored circley things.
When I walk from Guillemins to Place Cathedral, which I do practically every time, even though I could ride the bus all the way to Liège centre, I walk all the way down Blvd D'Avroy.  In the middle of the boulevard, there is the park with the fair right now.  On the sides there are buildings, a little park, and this peacock!  This is 1 or 2 streets south of Place Cathedral (North is on the left here).
       Saturday.  The Rotex offer this excursion to go kayaking down the Lesse river.  Fortunately it will be hot hot hot (uncommon for Belgium, ESPECIALLy in September) and not raining, although there is not enough water in the river for us to be able to kayak the whole way down, so we're just doing 12 km instead of the full 24!  Saturday night, the coteaux de la citadel will have the annual candle thingy.  I don't know what it's actually called, but there are going to be a lot of really pretty candles all over the montagne bueren tomorrow night.  But of course I realize that I've skipped:
Chatting with Mr le Président, and a very nice woman who
had stories from her exchange to the states 15 years ago.
      Friday, the one day this week that I did not go into Liège after school (bizarre for a Friday) but I instead went to a nice dinner with the Rotary for a Belgian girl named Marine who has just returned this summer from her exchange in Australia!  She did her slideshow tonight after we ate des boulets- frites (so very Belge) and drank beer, wine, and champagne.  Her presentation reminded again of how much this exchange influences a person and how happy it can make everyone involved.  I couldn't even understand everything she said and I couldn't stop grinning with pride and nostalgia.  And I've only met her twice before.

The Legendz est une société Belge qui
 organise régulièrement des évènements
 électro hype et select (soirées, concerts)
 très populaires en Belgique. (from a
wikipedia article on it)

    Tonight, in a village very near to me (Nandrin), even nearer to Klaudia (with whom I car pool in the morning to school) there is an immense outdoor concert under the largest tent in Belgium, suitable for 15,000 people.  Buses reading not the usual destinations in Liège and surrounding areas, but "David Guetta" have been running since 17h.  Surely other bands will be playing before he begins, be he's billed to begin at 2 AM and finish at 4, but he's likely to play 'til 5 or 6 in the morning.  Pity unto those who go to Guetta and then to la Lesse.  But it should be really fun for them.  I can already hear the opening acts out my window, as well as cows mooing.
Le grand chapiteau!
(as a reminder from the first posting "lol" here means "lots of love")

25 September 2011

sunday 25 september

A train of carriages passed by out my window today!
I slept in really late, lay out in the sun, visited with my host grandparents in the back garden, and talked about plans for this week.  I made progress on understanding my life with host family as well, and with that, I am well pleased.
sunny rooflines nextdoor!
   I'm going to Liège tomorrow (of course) with Charlotte, Pauline, and Chloé to see a movie because we have a holiday on Tuesday.  It's the holiday celebrating Wallonie culture or basically French speaking culture in Belgium.  Then I'm staying with a friend near Liège so I can go BACK into the city the next day.  I'm obsessed.  I hope I don't take so many pictures of the city you get bored.

24 September 2011

Saturday 25/9: SHOPPING/Piece avec le Rotary

10:30 in the sunny city!

Looking up Boulevard D'Avroy and Boulevard de la Sauvenière.
There's a church up there.

Palais des Princes-Évêques from Place Saint Lambert
    Okay I went a little overboard with pictures on this one.  I just could not get over how gorgeous a day it was today.
     This morning I actually set an alarm to wake up on a Saturday.  I slept through it every time, but I always woke up right after I turned it off in my sleep.  It was bizarre.  But the reason I set the alarm is so that I could rise before my host mom left for her yoga class so that she might drive me into Liege!  And so, we left at 10:10 for Liege.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day!  I wore my shorts for the first time in a while!  High of about 70.  I walked around Liege center and tried to memorize street names and get to know it better!  I explored a mall, and  tried to get lost, but I didn't get far enough away.  Always invigorating.
Didn't have time for my morning café, so I had some at
 les Galleries.  The sun sure was amazing.  And so was my
chocolate mousse, there!

Place Saint Lambert facing le Perron. 

Les Galleries St-Lambert
What's shopping without trying on hats!?
    Then I met up with Charlotte, who comes often to Liège, and did some SHOPPING!!! It was so much fun!  We went to H&M and exchanged a jacket and a pair of jeans for the next size up, and I bought a sweatshirt that I can wear with stuff that is really thick and soft and burgundy, or "bordeaux" in French.  We looked in several other stores, but, trying to stay money conscious, I just bought a pair of Spongebob socks.
this one IS my photo.
    After we finished our shopping for the day, we went to the montagne de Bureun to eat the tartine I had packed (just like the tartine I pack for school) and drink the coke we bought at McDonalds.  It was sunny and hot and a large group of Flemmish tourists came through.  Then Charlotte showed me un coteaux de la citadel, which is basically secret walking trails in the woods up on the mountain where there used to be a vineyard and really old Liège history.  It is so beautiful!  and the weather was perfect!  Charlotte likes photography, and les coteaux have some of her favorite subjects.
One could never tell that the city is right through the trees
on my right!
    We found our way back to the rendez-vous point and I got picked up by my host mother and Fanny, leaving Charlotte to finish her day in Liège, and came home to prepare for tonight's soiree with the Rotary!
I love sweet graffiti.
Dressed for the night at the theatre.
    The president of my host club invited me to come to the theatre to see a play that the Rotary club sponsored to have benefits go toward Polio Plus.  "Le dîner de cons" is a play that is based on a movie that is based on a play.  The American take on the story was made into the movie "Dinner for Schmucks" with Steve Carell.  The president also asked me and the other exchange student in club de Seraing, Santi, from Argentina, to read a little bit about the program Polio Plus to the audience.  I'd been practicing all week the numbers, and dates and the really hard words like "acheminement" with my host family.  It turned out well and I wasn't too nervous even though there were more or less than 400 audience members there!  That's a product of theatre experience, but mostly of the attitude one acquires on exchange.  No nerves, lots of mistakes, mutual understanding, full-participation.  It was good for me.
Voici the cast I saw tonight!  From the internet was this taken.
     The play I did not understand word for word, but I got several of the jokes, and there were many.  I even basically got the story as well.  Quite a comic show, with excellent acting to boot.  I've never heard the "vous" form used so many times in 2 hours!  After the show, the Rotarians met and gret (that's how that should be conjugated) the other patrons and the actors, and all had drinks.  Everyone was very kind, and the people in my club were very nice to me, and gave me contact information and offered help enough to put my mind at ease... for the moment.  They even gave me my bank card for my Rotary allowance!  Hopefully I'll figure out how to put some of my own money into that so I can use a card here without having to pay conversion fees.  Very fun night, indeed!
    A Rotarian who lives near me dropped me off at home at 12:45 and then I snacked.  and now I'm going to bed.
Snacked on tartine with Kwatta (that's choco on my cheek) and Kiwi

23 September 2011

Friday! in Liège

This is a candy bar in the vending machine at school.
It has a bit of cracker and raisin in it.  And it's all in French or Dutch.
It's necessary to go to Liège Fridays.  To see friends from school, and other exchangers.  So I went.

I missed my bus (27) on the way to Liege after school by 1 second.
I watched it drive away before me.  So I took the very next bus
to come (2).  I think it might have taken about 20 minutes longer
than the bus I could have taken had I been on time. 1h20m.  I was
pretty mad.
This was painted on a wall in a bar, so I took a picture, being
Tennessee boy and all.

We did not dine here, but I wanted to share with you
the beer and wine selection at the local Pizza Hut.
This is the national (snack) food of Belgium, whether officially
or not I'm not sure.  But they love their frites.  And so do I!
With mayonnaise for dipping of course.  And in the wrapping is a
gyro (in a tortilla... but there was pita bread, I just didn't know
how to ask for it!)

Bêtise avec des amis.  Rachel is from New Zealand.

21 September 2011

Sep 21

     I went to bed comparatively early last night!  On the way to school this morning, I could tell it would be a good day for my French, and indeed it was quite a good day for my language skills!  I just said everything that popped into my head, and I found ways to say it.  It didn't always work, and I spoke a lot of nonsense, but I was kindof giddy anyway, so it didn't bother me, and I know that that is exactly what one must do to learn.  So that was good progress.  I was giddy because I had plans to go into Liege and meet with some friends, and I LOVE going to Liege!
    I ended up going to my friend in Flèmale's house and watching the Glee season 3 premier!  The episode was kindof a disappointment, but at least I got into Liege (to get some money out, and just look around).
     I continuously ask the question "am I hungry? I can't tell!"  I could eat anything at any time; I'm really not picky.  But I'm also not ACTUALLY hungry every time I think of food, and in the interest of not gaining excessive weight right at the beginning, I try not to eat too much junk and stuff.  Not to mention, I always want to buy stuff like waffles and boulangerie products because everything is so great!  But that means spending money.  So, no, wait, I can eat at home.  And I like the food at home a lot, so no problems there.
    My host mom is out at a cooking class that she goes to one Wednesday per month in the next town over, Neupré.  My host dad is in Namur again with the echasseurs.  She taught me how to use the microwave, and showed me where the ice cream is!  I'm really content right now.

20 September 2011


I sleep often during school.  I got used to it in United States, and I do it here too.  I don't know if I've said that.  But the kids in the class think it's funny, and it gives them something to joke with me about!  So that's contact.  And that's progress.
    I worry I'm not doing enough.  Or that I should be making more progress.  I've felt quite restless this week.  I tried to blame it on the fact that I'm living in the country and not the city, but that's not true.  It's really quite pretty, and there are ways to get to things to do.
    I've talked with some Rotex from outbound camp, and oldies here, and I've come to a realisation.  I was restless and I let that make me unhappy.  I said that the only thing I can do here is keep on living and hope the next day is better.  But I don't mean it in a morbid way.  It's just that that is what makes an exchange different than a vacation: the living part.  Not every day is an adventure, progress, or even a good one.  You have days or weeks where all you do is live, and that's what you do.  So my restlessness is normal, and I don't have to feel guilty about how I fill my time.  I just need to fill it, whether it be with sleeping, journaling, blogging, listening to music, or wandering around with no idea what's going on.  And that, for now, is progress.
    Not to mention the point that my Rotex, Mandee, mentioned, "it's hard to go from being so socially and intellectually active to...pretty much being a toddler."  Not that any of us exchange students would consider ourselves intellectually toddlers, but for now, at least my language skills render me with the communication of my intellectual level at a level less than that of a toddler.  Which is a frustration, but everyday I hear French, I pick up some.  Just living here is enough worry without having to worry with teaching myself the language.  I get by really just fine right now, and the language will come anyhow!  Furthermore, just as with anyone who moves to a new place, it takes time to make friends and get used to a new lifestyle.  Once you've done all the fun stuff you need to do immediately upon arriving, you need to figure out the pattern of just living there.  And the social life takes time to cultivate no matter what new place you go to.  So I shall continue to live here, and not worry myself that I could be doing more.  Just living does plenty for now.  Patience, Ben.
     And so, I walked the dog today, and took pictures of the countryside.  Liege with rotary kids tomorrow!  And I ate brussels sprouts tonight!  In Belgium.  Les chous de bruxelles!

My tartine brings all the boys to the yard!
on the left is Kwatta! (choco) the middle is
raspberry jam (I mixed it with the choco)
and on the right is sirop de Liege
(made of pears and apples).  YUMMO
good late night snack.

19 September 2011

Fêtes de Wallonie à Namur Sept 17, 18

      I was indeed quite tired the first day.  It makes speaking/understanding French quite a challenge.  But I was much more tired even the second day.
Statue right in Namur of the echasseurs!
      The 17th we drove out to Namur (1 hour) on Saturday morning, my host mom showed me the house where we would sleep, and then we ate lunch 2 doors down at my other host grandparents house.  My host great grandmother is 96!  We then went to the building in downtown Namur where les Echasseurs are based from to change and get the drums.  We covered the faces of the drums with plastic in case of rain.  We then paraded around the city and made small exhibitions here and there.
        Namur is the capital of Wallonia, hence it hostst the Fêtes de Wallonie, which is, like most festivals here, an enormous block party.  In the states a city festival might close 1 or 2 blocks for a day twice a year.  In Belgium, they have holidays quite often and it involved the ENTIRE city!  Fêtes de Wallonie is a special case though, and is much larger than others and lasts for 3 days.  Wallonia is the French speaking region of Belgium, and the fete for it simply celebrates the culture and people of the region.  There is a lot of alcohol, shopping, food, and music.
There were a lot of stands with this: pekets.
Hard alcohol with flavor.
Here, it starts.
        The Echasseurs Namurois even get free beer between each skirmish!  But I didn’t drink, though.  It’s against Rotary rules.  Because it was the 600th anniversary of the Namur tradition, they invited other stilt groups from all over the world to celebrate together!
A bouncy stilt group from France.
A stilt group from Africa.
A stilt group from United States.
A stilt group from Asia.
A stilt group from Europe.
The citadel (before the rain).
       That night, I got together with some exchange student friends and we explored Namur, mounted the Citadel (in the rain), and heard some good live music!  It was my 18th birthday after all.  I have had several moments where I say to myself, “did that just happen?  Am I actually 18 after all this time?”  Yes.  I have yet to decide exactly what that means.
The echasseurs and me.
     The next day was the big day for the ceremonial echasseur match.  It lasted about almost an hour!  In the shadow of a grand cathedral dome, surrounded by several thousand screaming Walloons, they battled for an hour until the last jaune et noir fell down, and then amongst the rouge et blanc, they fought for a final winner.  The winner was awarded several trophies and then the spectacle was finished.  In that same square, all the other stilt walking groups had already performed that morning, so the Namurois were the grand finale.  It rained during the match and my fingers almost froze off while water collected in the brim of my hat.  Needless to say I was very glad to change clothes and have some soup for dinner.
        We then came home, and I am completely exhausted.  But give “I want you back” by The Civil Wars a listen if you get a chance.  School tomorrow.
     A strange thing about spending the day with the echasseurs Namurois is that I play the drums the whole time, so I spend the day in my head, thinking in English.  And then after it’s over, I have to try to speak/understand French!  It’s more difficult than I would have thought!