October 15 Journal
Bonjour!! I know that my journal is a tad bit late but I have been so busy with school and French classes that I hardly have the time to get on the computer! Well. my departing day was August 14th and saying good-bye to my parents was more emotional than I would have ever thought. It was then and there that it finally hit me that I wasn’t going to be able to see their familiar faces for a whole year!! I grabbed unto my mom and dad and tried to grab every scent, tear, and emotion that I could and take it with me. I arrived to the beautiful city of Brussels on August 15th at 8:00 AM.
There I was one of the last people who received their baggage so embarrassingly enough, my family that I had never even met before had to wait for me for about an hour! As soon as I was out the door I tried to remember what my new parents’ faces looked like from the pictures they had sent before. But not one face in that endless crowd of people matched the pictures. I quickly thought great. They probably got tired of waiting and went to the Rotary Club to ask for a new exchange student that wouldn’t make them wait.
As I was about to surrender all my hopes on ever finding them, I noticed four ecstatic looking faces staring directly at me. Confused, I looked behind me expecting to see another exchange student waving back at them. When I finally realized that it was for me, they were already surrounding me and filling me with excitement and terror at the same time. When I had the time to reflect I began analyzing their faces and realizing that they were starting to look more and more like the faces in the pictures I had received a couple of months back. It was at that moment that I knew that my new life had just begun.
They happily started introducing themselves while each of them gave me a kiss on the cheek. I found out that my new mom's name was Florence, my dad's Joel, my sister (who is 17 and is right now in Texas with Rotary) was Celine and my younger brother's name was Boris. I only met my new sister for a couple of hours in the airport since she had to catch her flight to leave to Texas.
As soon as we got to my new home, which is located in Herve, Belgium, I was astonished at how many cows would be my new neighbors! They were all around us in immense pasture fields that go on for miles. As soon as we arrived, my parents started showing me around the house which is a very comfortable and spacey 2 story-house. I was very pleased and excited when I finally got to see my new room that I would be staying in for 5 months, for it is extremely colorful and full of artisanal and exotic looking objects. I quickly realized that my host sister was definitely an artist, for all of her room was full of her paintings and they are very, well... I would say interesting haha. I also met my new dog ( not to mention my new favorite sleeping buddy!) Juliette who is a beautiful brown and black schnauzer (I think that's how you write it =S) aged 10.
As I was beginning to settle in to unpack my luggage I heard two knocks at the door and curiously peeped through the staircase to see who it might be. When the door opened I noticed two very tall and European looking girls standing with bright gleaming faces skimming the surface to see the new American girl that would be replacing their best friend (or in other words me!). As soon as they saw me, their expressions automatically changed from skepticism to curiosity to excitement. They eagerly waved back and forth and I, sharing their enthusiasm ran down the stairs to meet them. I soon found out that they were sisters who live right next door to us! The older one is named Flore age 19 and the younger one who is 16 (even though she looks like she is 20!) is named Maoud. They have quickly become two of my best friends in Belgium and almost all of my progress in French is due to them!
My school which is called the IPH is about a walking distance of 10 minutes from my house and I am loving it! Everybody is so nice and so curious and amazed when I tell them that I’m from Miami! The weather here is getting colder by day and I am dreading the day it will start to snow! I get cold very easy ... jaja but I guess that's a part of the learning experience ;)...
I have sent some pictures of my new family and friends and some places that I have visited! I hope you enjoy and I will keep you posted! I hope everyone is having an amazing experience and enjoying every second of it! Au revoir!
December 1 Journal
Bonjour tout le mondee! I have been here over 3 months and I am loving it!(I know since the last time we talked I definitely had a problem with the time issue of sending my report and I know this time isn't any better but I had to find a Cafè with internet because my family's computer has some major virus issues:s...) But I don't want you to think that I didn't learn my lesson because I definitely did! And next time I'll get it right and be one of the first ones to send it in!
The ironic thing is that out of all the countries in the world that I could have chosen I think I chose the one where time is the biggest issue! No one here is ever late and the saying 'I am fashionably late' is non-existent. I have definitely been learning the hard way of respecting schedules and understanding the way Belgians think. As my counselor, Françis explained to me, if you make a rendez-vous (date/meeting) with a Belgian and you start by arriving late you are insulting what they value the most which is their time. So as far as that I can definitely say that it has been a huge culture shock to know how much they respect that morale but on the other hand I know that if I start having more of a Belgian mentality in that sense I could definitely use it to my advantage and avoid any problems due to my 'lack of sense of urgency' as my dad likes to call it.
So other than that small bump on the road (that thankfully I am learning to smooth out!) everything has been amazing! All of my dreams since about a month ago have been all in French (even though for some reason in my dreams I speak it really bad =S) but I definitely take that as a leap forwards because it means that I am now officially thinking in my host language:) My family is absolutely amazing and I have no desire to change in January! If it were up to me I would stay with them the whole year! I have my neighbor Flore which has become my best friend and my host brother Boris (whom I call Bo Bo!) who has become like the little brother that I've always wanted! He has an amazing sense of humor and always finds ways to make me laugh. Even though he's only 15 he totally understands my situation and I can tell him absolutely everything. I don't even want to think about when I'm going to move!:( I know I'm gonna cry!
In school everything has been going smoothly and in comparison to the beginning I have been doing much better. I understand everything and I've even passed a couple of tests! I feel extremely proud of myself that even though my grammar is not, let's say, 'accurate,' I make my point and it is understandable:). I am learning the colorful vocabulary of my region which is called Wallonia and have even learned a couple of words in the ancient French, Wallon. Most of the words are, let's say, 'politically incorrect' so unfortunately I cannot share them with you through mail. And because Belgium is divided into three regions, one being Flanders, my host dad, Joel has actually had the patience to teach me a couple of words in Flamant, for example Ich ben Andrea! (which means I am Andrea, as you probably all guessed), so I guess I'll come back learning two languages:)... Not! First I think I should get French down and then I'll think about learning one of the hardest languages possible!
But speaking about the main reason why I came here(the reason being learning how to speak French!) I'm not going to lie and say it's perfect because it definitely has its ups and its downs. There are days that I feel as if I were born French and speak with an extreme ease, but there are other days (like today!):( which I feel as if I were in another planet! But that is occurring less and less every day and for that I am extremely grateful:).
I haven't traveled much this month but tomorrow I am going to Germany to la marche de Noel! which is a Christmas parade, with Rotary. I can't believe that Christmas is almost here and that I have already done a third of my exchange! That is extremely depressing to think about and I hope the year goes much much slower! I just know that I am enjoying each and every second of my year here and a huge part of it is thanks to Rotary! Donc merci beaucoup pour cette opportunité extaordinaire que vous m'avez donné. (Thank you so much for this extraordinary opportunity that you have all given me.) I have attached some pictures of my Rotary friends and school friends while we are celebrating the day of St. Nicholas! Which is the day of the children in Belgium and a couple of other pictures of my house and so forth. So Good Night from Belgium and until next month! Aurevoir tout le monde et bonne nuit!