I've gained 5 pounds on waffles and chocolate alone.
I don't even know how to begin to explain my adventure so far. I have been here for 35 days and it only feels like I've been here an hour.
Saying goodbye to my family was probably one of the most bittersweet things I've ever had to do. Watching my parents cry made me cry all the way to Atlanta. But, I arrived with another exchange student from Florida, Savannah Stephens, and another girl named Megan from New Jersey. The flight was long and the grown man kicking my chair the whole way was getting on my last way, but the anxiousness was too overwhelming to do anything about it. When we got off the plane, I lost sight of the two girls with me and followed the crowd to the Immigration line. Little did I know that there were two lines, one for EU citizens and one for others. Guess which one I got into and had to backtrack all the way to the back of the right line.
We arrived early in the morning so my host parents decided to show me around Brussels. I saw the Royal Palace, the Royal Art Gallery, we had hot chocolate in a bar built in the 16th century in the Grand Place, saw Mannequin Pis and his "sister statue" that was a little girl peeing. I was amazed at how well the architect recreated the female genitalia to the point where it was a little uncomfortable...
My first few days I was overwhelmingly tired, but within those days, I met the other two families I will be living with and I was welcomed with open arms. They laughed at me when they saw my face after eating a piece of uncooked red meat, which is a "normal" meal here. Thank god this place is known for waffles and chocolate, because I don't think I will be enjoying the red meat dinners that much.
Since Belgium is such a small country and there are many exchange students here, we all go to festivals and hang out a lot with each other. After school we meet in the city for lunch or spend the night at each others houses. I see the other RYE Florida kids every couple weeks and it's nice to have someone to go to complaining how cold it is here and they actually understand because they're just as cold as you are!!!!
In my host family I have two sisters, one in my grade one a few grades younger. After school we all go our separate ways and end up at home at different times. Every Tuesday and Thursday I get home real late because I take a French class in the center of Liege from 6-9pm and then take the bus home. I finally fall into bed around 11 and then wake up 8 hours later for high school.
For school, I wake up at 7am, my host mom drives all three of us kids to school, its about 45 degrees outside, and go until 4:20pm. I have 11 classes in total but the Belgian School system is so unorganized compared to the States that I have to ask my Belgian friend to help me with understanding what forms I am supposed to be constantly filling out.
I have become best friends with the English teacher. She is so witty and sarcastic and has the greatest responses to questions I've ever heard. And the funny thing is that the kids don't understand what she's saying in the first place and when I am bending over my desk laughing so hard, they just look so sad and confused. Its quite entertaining.
But my classmates have welcomed all six of us exchange students into their school so easily. Were all friends and they are coming to us for help with their English and at lunch we all eat on the steps outside and we all joke around with each other as we give them hard English words to pronounce and then they talk to us really fast in French and me and this exchange student from Finland with AFS just looked at each other like he was trying to communicate but the gibberish words were alien to us. But my favorite time is when they ask me stereotypical questions about America.
1. Do you know Beyonce?
2. Do you know any gangsters?
3. Have you ever seen a terrorist attack?
4. Did you bring any guns?
My favorite time with references to guns....My host mom was driving to the supermarket and some guy pulled out in front of her and she slammed on the brakes and started honking the horn and cussing in French. She whipped around to me and screamed, "BAILIE! GET YOUR GUN!"
Rotary here is so relaxed compared to the United States. We laugh, make jokes, and have a good time at the meetings. I tell them funny stories and it doesn't even feel like a meeting. It's just friends hanging out in a really fancy room with everyone wearing plaid sweater vests and suede shoes, sipping on their wine with their pinkie up.
Everyone here is so graceful but that gracefulness does not transfer over to their driving. I literally say a prayer every time I get in the car here. The cars come within inches of each other and my host sister laughs when she sees me wince at the closeness of impact that had just happened.
And now onto the Language. I have come to realize that French may well be the hardest language in the world. I'm starting to understand what's being said to me now, and though I'm trying my hardest to speak back in French, the amount of smiling and nodding I've done should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. But it's only my first month, I still have 9 more to go and a lot more to learn.
The first month in Belgium has been a complete success with Culture Shock but I'm having the time of my life here:)
See my bio and photos : http://www.ryeflorida.org/2014-15-bailie-belgium