Bonjour! My name is Blaire Waller. I’m 17 years old, and a senior at Bartram Trail High School. I live with my Mom, step-dad, younger sister Kate, and my grandma. My dad and older sister live about 10 minutes away, and I find myself there more often than not.
In my spare time I kickbox, and do Tae Kwon Do. I’ve been kickboxing for about a year, but I only started Tae Kwon Do a little while ago. I’m currently a white belt, but I hope to be testing for my yellow belt soon. I absolutely love these, and spend about 5 hrs a week in class, and a couple of hours in the gym to keep my muscles in use in between my classes. When I’m not doing either of these I like to hang out with my friends. We go to the mall, walk my friend's dog, go to the movies, or out to eat. Every once in a while we will stay in and have a movie night.
I’m incredibly excited to be going to Belgium, and I can’t wait to begin this new chapter in my life. I want to go over there with as little pre-conceived notions as possible, and an open mind. I can’t wait to learn a new culture and language, and meet many new people.
September 19 Journal
So I've almost hit the one-month mark here, and it's been pretty awesome. I started school about a week ago, I'm not gonna lie and say I like sitting through all the monotonous classes in a foreign language that I still can't understand, but I've enjoyed meeting the students in my class.
So what have I done and seen here? Well, lots of things. Rotary took us on a tour of Brussels, it's an amazing city with beautiful architecture, and we spent a whole day there. Also, recently Amelie took me to a few chateaus, we spent the day getting lost on our way to them, it was pretty fun. I've met a bunch of friends here, some other exchange students, some Belg. With my Belgian friends it's difficult, but we manage to understand each other in what I like to call franglais, or frenglish (one's the French version and the other is the English version).
I'm getting used to my school schedule right now, and I have to say another year of getting up at seven in the morning is not looking appealing right now, but that's what I signed up for I guess. My classes are: French, English, Spanish, Religion (I know - me in a religion class is pretty funny), Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Social Studies, History, Geography, and Gym. It's funny because everybody expects me to speak Spanish because I'm from Florida, so when I tell them that I in fact know less Spanish then French they are quite surprised. Another common misconception is that I'm from Miami, well they are really let down when I explain that no, I'm not from Miami, and I've only actually been there a few times.
Recently I had something pretty comical happen to me. So, I was in my History class and my teacher passes out a sheet of definitions, I was like great, I can translate this (something to do!) and I can learn some of the words she will probably use in class. So I start translating it and writing down the definitions in English. All of a sudden my teacher yells my name. Well, I look up and she completely goes off in French, saying something about this being History class and I should be listening. I just sat there with this really really confused look on my face cause I really didn't understand what she was saying and why she would be upset with me for trying to learn. It seems that she thought I was doing my English work, and I was a normal student. One of my class mates then informed her that I was in fact doing History, and that I didn't speak French, so I was translating the definitions. She just looked at me and was like "Desole (Sorry)."
Everyone here is really nice, except for one bus driver, but I don't want to get into that because it would involve a large amount of cursing. That's another thing though - I can actually use public transportation now, well kinda. This past weekend my host-family took me to the north sea. It was so beautiful, and actually a lot like the beach in Jacksonville. It was such a great day, I got to see more of the Flemish part of the country, which in architecture at least is very very different than the French part. Anyway, I feel that in just a month I've seen a lot of Belgium, done a variety of things, and I can't wait to see and do others.
'Til the next awful attempt at a journal.
October 21 Journal
So it's been about a month and that means what? Yes, another Rotary Journal. I've done a lot of things this month, I've gotten a lot closer with the kids in my class, they're all pretty cool, so I'm pretty excited. They all keep trying to set me up with someone in our school, but it's all good. Anyway I had another Rotary day, quite boring, not gonna lie. Well, besides that, it was cool getting to see a lot of the exchange students I don't get to see very often. I was also adopted into the Mexican clan of Belgian exchange students, I just need to work on my Spanish. Anyway we got to spend the day on a boat in Namur. It was pretty, but there really wasn't a lot to see, and I'm not really a fan of boats, haha oh well.
That weekend I also went to my first Belgian 'party' - it wasn't so much a party as a few of us getting together and having a good time. I must say it was quite awesome, there were some really amusing misunderstandings too. I thought this girl said something which means like lick there/here and was like uh excuse me? Haha well we figured the problem eventually and she said something which means like leave her alone. Also, she was saying it to this girl's ex who happened to be on the phone while they were explaining this to me, let's just say it was hours of amusement.
Right now there is a big fair in Liege, and it's pretty cool. I have only been there one time so far and not for long because I was on my way to meet some other people. While being pretty sweet, the fair has helped me, officially, find the first Belgian food that I intensely dislike, laquments (well something like that my spelling is still dismal in French). Anyway it's like this awful overly sweet version of a waffle, like the waffle from hell that almost makes you want to swear off all waffles until you consider that, and remember how freaking amazing the real waffles are.
Also, I started hockey. I've only gone a few times but so far its pretty cool, my friend Fanny says I'm picking it up really quickly and keeps asking if I'm sure I've never played before. There's three shots in hockey, I can't really remember the names, but there is one that is really easy for me - it's like golfing, but not, so when I was able to do it really easily everyone was really surprised. Now there are two aspects of hockey I don't like, though one I can admit is good for me. One: at the beginning and end of practice we get to run laps around this humongous field, I'm talking like full size football field here, the other is that for some reason the Belg's think its smart to play in skirts, in winter. Now ok I can see that even though it's already freezing here when you play you get hot, I can accept that, but seriously skirts?
Recently I've had a couple of depressing days, and while they suck to no end I realize that they are fleeting, and will go away. It's good to have people to talk about it, other exchange students as well as my Belgian classmates. I feel like I'm beginning to build a life here, and sometimes it scares me, but then I realize how awesome it is. I can't wait until it's true, I have friends here, friends in a country different than my own who don't speak my language and are so incredibly different, but exactly the same. I told one girl, Chloe, in my class that I was sad the other day and she asked me why. Well I said I miss my best friend. Guess what she responded? I'm sorry, well you have us, and then she gave me a hug. That was pretty awesome, and its very true too. I have realized that Belgium is an awesome country, minus the weather- believe me even the Belgians agree with me on that.
Well I guess that's about all the news I have for this journal, but tune in for the next one, I'm going to see Zazie in concert soon! Hopefully I'll have some pictures to go along with that one too.
January 7 Journal
So I know I've been lax in writing these journals, but lately nothing has really happened to talk about. I guess I'll just tell the little things that have.
Unfortunately I had to say goodbye to two really good friends this month, Joanna from South Africa, and Eden from Australia, those were both hard goodbyes, and I was quite sad to not be able to see them off at the airport.
I had Christmas here, which most Belg's do on the 24th of December and the 25th is like a recovery day. Well the 25th also is my host mom's birthday, so we did two parties in a row. I got to watch on as all of these adults stood around getting drunk off their faces and then decide to have rambling philosophical conversations with me, in French, most of which I surprisingly understood.
Well after staying up a good part of the night with them I finally decided to call it quits and go to sleep because I was leaving at 8:00am the next morning to go to l'ile D'Oleron, an island of the southern coast of France. I went with my 3rd host family, and while the vacation was a nice thought, it turned into the biggest disaster of any vacation I've ever been on. So it started out ok, even with the awful early morning, cause I could sleep in the car. However, sleeping in the car is only good for so long, and 12 hours is def too long. So one day down spent in the car, we arrived at the house to realize that the heat wasn't turned on, and it was freezing, so we turned on the heat and started a fire, everything went pretty well.
The next day dawned, at noon my kind of wake up schedule, and we drove to the mainland to a town called La Rochelle, a port town, where we rented bikes and rode around for the day seeing the sights. It was quite a nice day, even though by the end it started to get a little chilly. After that we headed back to the house, now even though we had turned the heat on it was only in 3 rooms, the 2 bedrooms we were using, and the bathroom, the rest of the house was freezing. So once again we built a fire, and us three exchange students huddled around it.
The next day however was the beginning of the disaster, we were woken up at about 9 o'clock so we could go rent bikes to bike around the island. Now I wasn't too excited about biking again, one day being plenty for me and already feeling that in some sensitive areas, but hey I figured it won't be too bad. However, unlike the day before this day was very cold and very foggy. We got our bikes, and put on all of our layers of warm clothes, and started out. Now even with all the layers I was quickly freezing, however the others were apparently getting enough exercise by biking to be quite hot, and actually trying to be positive, a rarity for me, when asked if I was too cold I nicely said no too.
So we continued on our bike ride, me getting colder by the minute. My host dad with the excitement level of a child, decided we could take the path through the forest. Now one thing is I hate nature, like really really hate it, so being out on a bike ride on the streets is one thing but when I have to start going through woods, I begin to get unhappy not to mention that by that time I had lost feeling in my feet and glove covered hands. But we were going to see the sea, my future host dad was way too overly excited for this. We got there, and guess what, it was so foggy we couldn't even see anything. If we could have though, I know for sure a few things, one I live near the sea, and so did at least one of the girls with us, another thing is that my beach is actually warm. By this point in time I was way beyond miserable and completely freezing, but did we get to stop, no of course not, we got to keep riding for about 2 hours, while my future host dad insisted on stopping to point out every bird we came across as well as a number of other equally insignificant things.
Well, the ordeal finally ended after about 4 hours of being completely miserable. We went back to the house and immediately went to start the fire, desperately wanting to get warm. Everything went well until we were going to sleep and I got what looked to be a huge outbreak of hives or something like that. Well there goes a night given up to scratching, oh and had I mentioned I hadn't gotten any sleep the other nights cause the two other exchangers I was rooming with snore?
So by the next day I was going on basically no sleep, and I started to get slightly ill, sore throat, headache, and that itching didn't go away, it even spread. We spent the day at a theme park for movies, yeah seems like a retarded idea for a theme park to me besides the fact that 3D movies make me nauseous. So there I was with the beginnings of a cold, nauseous, and itchy. By that night my nausea had gone away, but I was just as itchy, and my cold had gotten worse. The cold continued to get worse throughout the night, and by the morning it hurt to swallow, and I was just ready to go home. But first I had to go walk through a freezing cold chateau, which while beautiful and all I was way too sick to appreciate.
Well after a miserable car ride home, I was still sick but felt that at least here my host mom would help me feel better. She made me this tea that helped with my fever, and gave me some throat spray for my aching throat, and I went off to bed. Well I was woken up with the awful itching again, and went to find my host mom to see if she had something. She gave me some stuff, while telling me she would call the doctor tomorrow. So the next day the doctor came and was amazed at how swollen my throat was. He prescribed some antibiotics as well as a few other things to help me get better. Now I'm not going to entirely blame this on two days of being freezing on my vacation, but it's probably a good factor.
Now while this was a pretty miserable experience it did make me realize something. Weirdly enough when I was sick, I wanted to go home, but I didn't mean Florida when I thought that, I meant my home here with my first host family. This made me realize I really do think of this as my home, and I think of them as my family. This realization however comes with a bit of sadness because I'm about to switch host families, and not to say that I won't get to see them ever again, but it's not the same. I won't get to come home and have those long talks with my host mom, and I won't be there to watch movies with my little host brother. When you first arrive at your host families you feel like a guest, and by the time you feel like it's your home, you have to change families again. And surprisingly in this time of family holidays, the thing making me sad is not being without my family, but the idea that I'll soon have to leave my new one.
April 21 Journal
So I know it's been a while since I've written, but i can never think of anything to write about. I went recently to the outbound weekend for my district here in Belgium as the sole representative from Florida. There will be three Belgian exchange students from district 1630 going to Florida next year, and I was there to kinda explain a bit of what they could expect. The only problem with that is, I've never been on exchange in Florida and they don't really know where they are going exactly. So I gave them a generalized idea about what to expect with some help from rebounds/Rotex from my district in Florida. I got to the weekend late, Saturday morning instead of Friday afternoon, there was a party at my school for the rhetto, seniors. The inbounds and some of the rebounds came up with some skits, and stories about our exchanges, and the outbounds got to hear the rules, and here they have to take a test they must pass to go on exchange. That Saturday night we presented our skits which had the audience in uproars, and was just generally a good time, afterwards we all hung out getting to know each other and talking about exchange. I was very glad I got to visit with my good friend Amelie who is a Rotex, but spent her year of exchange in my school in Jax. I left early the next morning, and me along with a couple of friends went back to my house to chill.
Recently I've often been asked if I'm sad about going home, and I always reply well yeah, I mean there are definitely some things that I miss back in Jax but overall Belgium has become my home. Also, I still have about 3-4 months left so I haven't even started thinking about the end yet. We've already said goodbye to the first girl with my year here in Belgium and it was a shock for all of us I think. The end is getting close, and I'm pretty sure none of us are happy about it. All I know is that I plan on making the best of the time there is left and not wasting a minute of it.