September 3, 2013
When I hear the words “Culture Shock” I picture this old lady who keeps fainting when she walks into a room and sees that everything is different. Things here arent so shockingly different. Sure, there are a FEW things that I cant get over. For example:
How big groups of thug boys still greet one another with a kiss (I love this so much).
How there is no soap in the bathrooms.
"Ninja" the turtle, a machine that drives around their lawn and mows it automatically.
How everyone drives with reckless abandon. Like, forreal. My host mother drove in the MIDDLE of the two lanes yesterday. And they dont pull over. they literally just park on the sidewalk. Its so scary.
And finally, how even though im thousands of miles away people still live in patterns. I am able to understand as much as I do because I know the outlines to these mundane everyday conversations. When we went to the bank the woman behind the counter asked my host mother about Valentine, her daugher who is on exchange in Belfast Maine. When Astrid (HM) told her how much she missed her the woman answered with the EXACT same spiel about “what a great opportunity it is and how brave she is” that my mother has received hundreds of times. I was shocked. And then I realized. Just the language and location are different. People will always be people. Thats what shocked me the most.
January 11, 2014
While its been awhile since i've arrived in Belgium (almost 5 months.. gulp) I feel like I truly arrived last week. Already my oldies have departed and a fresh group of Aussies and Kiwis have arrived to replace us as newies. Its been quite awhile since my last journal and Im truly sorry about that, but I've not had a down moment since then. Ive changed host families and visited 5 countries (Monaco, France. Italy, Germany, The Netherlands), learned French (thats right, i'm almost fluent!!!!), made friends, passed my exams (miraculously) gotten homesick then once again happy. Ive had time to think about also how lucky I am to be a part of this program. Its changed me already for the better.
This vacation I went to Monaco and Carcassonne for Christmas and New Years, two of the most beautiful places i've ever been in my life. I'll admit, it was one of the hardest things i've ever done emotionally though. No presents, no christmas tree, no family fights and cookies and hokey music. One thing that was the same was that we went to a midnight mass. The second I walked into that church I was blasted out of my funk. I felt closer to my real family than I have in a long time. The dim lights, the crosses, the one old woman who sings louder than anyone else, and the smell. I was hit with all these memories of being a small child in New Hampshire where I used to spend christmas with my very catholic grandparents. I was hit with a feeling of "Oh wow, it's truly a small and relatable world." Its weird to say, but It was so comforting sitting there in a small church with strangers halfway across the world from all my family and friends and realizi ng it was going to be ok. It was going to be ok. Even though our lives and languages and traditions and cultures may be different, and sometimes we feel completely alone in the world, be comforted in the fact that at least all churches smell the same.