Monday, February 21, 2011

Recent Pics: Midstay, Liege

I found the Missour license plate in a cafe
Liege and a bus :)

Libramont train station

Our Loft

Us eating :D

The American girls with curly brown hair

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mid Stay! and all that jazz

Since i'm so great at updating, here we go :D

The weekend of the 5-6 February was AFS Midstay Orientation weekend for all the Afs-ers in Wallonie. Exciting stuff right?

So we left Saturday morning, Destination: Libramont. Libramont is basically a pretty small twon in the south end of Belgium. On the train we basically just passed empty fields and mines until the city popped into view. After that we were shepherded onto two huge coach busses all arrying the 100+ exchangers in Wallonie. The buses then proceeded to take through twisting, wooded streets into what we thought was the middle of nowhere. Quite literally. In actuality, it was a kind of retreat/vacation center. Imagine like a huge building surrounded by nature where big companies and corportaions and groups can come and have meetings and retreats and that kinda stuff.
That was us. And this building was pretty large. Our group took up every room on two floors and there was about 4-5 levels in total. We all chose rooms and i ended up in this crazy room with three beds on the floor and three matresses right next to each other in this tiny loft with about a 10ft latter climb. Literally my hands were all red by the end of the weekend from climbing up and down. In my room was Johanna, Rosie, Katie, Lila, me (from US) and Jonfrid (Faroe Islands).

First activity upon arriving was eating of course. Then we were divided up into our small groups where we passed most of the weekend discussing all manner of things: postive and negatives of Belgium, things we've learnd, things we want to change, how our families were. You get the point. Intermixed was also of so fun mini-games and the not. One game included all of us sitting in chairs in a circle and finding someone in the group. Then we all have to run and tackle that person in a hug. Another game included us being split into three teams. One team was trying to send a message to a second team ( the recepting team) and lastly there was a team in the middle trying to make enough noise to stop the message from being recieved. I'm sure you get the picture :D

A good portion of the activities were pretty boring actually. Therefore when it was time to eat we were all super excited.

That night, we had activites where allll the groups were together in one enormous group of craziness. We played the equivalent of Belgian Never have I Ever. Where one person is standing in the middle of a circle of chairs and says something like I dont have blond hair. Everyone whose blond has to then get up and find a new chair. After this we split into the red team and blue team. And in the two teams there were four smaller teams. I was R4 and we competed in random games against the blue team. In one of the games, we had a line of chairs on one side of the room and a table on the other. All the team was standing on the chairs (as well as the other team) and the goal was to get to the other end of the room without leaving the chairs. So basically everyone scoots down a little on their chairs so the first person can stand on another persons chair, pick up the chair they were standing on, and pass it down the line. Everyone then keeps scooting down so there can be new chairs. It was pretty crazy with chairs being thrown down the line. Not to mention mildy dangerous. :D

Next was a crazy game with alllllll the people. everyone stands in a circle (oval) facing the same direction. You put your hands on the person in front of you's waist and theres a song that we sing as we walk forward. The last three words of the song are Lion, Zebra and Elephant. At lion, you push your hips forward, zebra- backwards, and elephant- side to side. After one or two tours of the song, they push the circle in tighter so that your arms are around the waist of the person in front of the person in front of you. The song goes again and the circle gets smaller so that your holding 3 people in front of you. Basically your jammed in their so tightly that everyone has to walk at the same time other wise it dosent work. Going around corners is dangerous too because if your not carefully the entire corner falls. After the circle is jammed so tightly that literally no body can breath, you have to try and sit down. I know crazy right. The goal is for everyone to be sitting on the legs of the person behind them and their weight is supported. Its incredibly difficult.
We had a third of the circle sitting but the weight wasnt being supported and about 40 people fell. That was quite funny actually.

After all this crazyness, most of us went upstairs and showered and then a bunch of people came to hang out in our room. Around 2 the volunteers came and said everyone had to go to sleep and asked if there were any boys in the room. So we all got in bed and about 10 mins later, they come back counting us and looking for boys. No boys so we go to sleep. Wake up call was scheduled for 7h30 the next morning.

So there we are completely exhausted at 7am when the volunteers come in, turn on the light and tell us to wake up. Being that breakfast wasnt until 8h30 we all of course found this ridiculous and closed the door turned off the lights, and went back to sleep. Not 5 minutes later was our door wrentched open with the lights turned on and a stero blasting spainish music came bursting quite loudly into our room. One of the volunteers was screaming "good mornin ladies, time to get up". Finally he and the stero left and we steatily turned off the back lights ( leaving the front lights on to give the impression that we were up) and went back to sleep. However, The stero came back a for a third wake up and made us all sit up in bed and show that we were awake. OF course after he left we went back to sleep UNTIL more volunteers came in for a FOURTH WAKE UP. Can you belive it? we couldnt seeing as how we had over an hour to just get dressed and walk downstairs. By now it was around 7h30 and none of us were happy.

And that concludes the crazyness of midstay. Overall it was really fun to see everyone. Even if it wasnt that fun all the time, hanging out with other exchangers made it good. Meeting new people and all that ;)
Also, it was pretty crazy as it was the first time we were all together since august. Just standing in the hallway you can hear au minimum 5 different languages being spoken. Spanish, French, English, Norwegian, Finnish, Italian, Japansese, Thai, Malaysian, Chinese, Danish, you name it. It also was a general concensus that the American studnets felt pretty lame because we cant speak many languages. At least all the other foreigns spoke three languages; English, French, Native language. Quite sad actually.

In other words, my English skills have deteriorated to a comic point. I say crazy things frequently and my word order suxs.

Also this weekend (the 18th) marks 6 Monts since i left home! CELEBRATE. Only bout 5 months left....

thats all folks

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Roma pictures!

Fontagne di Trevi

The horse, I dont remember the name but we passed it alot and when we were lost we saw it and found our way back

The Colleseum

Streets of Florence

That its for all people.


In Belgium, for the Christmas holidays, we have two weeks of vacation! Its pretty awesome if i do say so myself. Exams for me finished the 18th while the rest of the students had exams until the 22nd. As an exchange student with AFS, i was only obligated to take four exams: Histoire, Morale, Espagnol, and Geographie.

So essentially i was on vacation from the 18th to the 10th of January. Therefore i took advantage of all this vacation to go to Rome, Italie for five days with 3 other exchange students (2 girls from Honduras and one of Ecuador).
We left on a frigteningly early flight at 6am the 2nd of January. We flew on Ryanair which is the cheapest option in Europe. I slept through a good portion of it but was awake enough to see our descension into Rome. We got into Rome Ciampino airport and found the bus that was supposed to take us into town. Upon arriving near the center of Rome, we were pleased to discover that our hostel was literally a two minute walk from the bus, train, and metro station. Not so great however was walking up to the fifth floor with all our luggage and no elevator, just stairs.

That day we walked around Rome and ate our first Italian Pizza which was just as good as you could imagine. We saw a bunch of ruins and sites (of which i dont remember the names). LOTs of walking. We finished the day with our first Gelato which was possibly better than i imagined.

The next day we woke up bright and early to eat a quick breakfast and head over to la Piazza di San Pietro or the place of saint peter. Its probably one of my favorite places in Rome. Its just so surrounding and impressive. We went inside a got to walk around the church quite a bit as well. It was all very cool stuff. Next we walked around the corner to get into the hour and a half line to get into the Vatican. Lemme tell ya, security is tight. First theres the wall that surrounds everything. Then upon entering, you basically have to go through airport security. That place has so much artwork that you spend the entire time staring at the ceiling or detailed artwork and at teh end of the day, your head, neck, and eyes hurt. The Sixteenth Chapel however made it all worth it. It was an enormous room with incredibly high ceilings just completely filled with people and people from the bible and just craziness everywhere. It was mind blowing to say the least.

The next day, We left to spend the day in Florence. Navigating the train station alone was a nightmare seeing as how not only is there a platform 1, but a platfrom one A, B, C, D, and E. We needed to be on 1E which was like a five minute walk away from the the main building. We also had to put the ticket (which was blank) into this little yellow machine to mark the day, time and station. Luckily it all worked and we settled in for the 4 hour train ride. Fortunatley i slept a few hours before we arrived in the station. However once we arrived we were faced with the new problem of what to do and where to go. We walked to look for a map but nobody wanted to pay for one so that didnt get very far. We actually just started watching what direction it appeared people were walking and then we followed them until we found someone to ask. There was someone there with a camara and we asked him if he spoke english which luckily he did. The man and his family told us the sites to see and even showed us a map on his ipad. Thankfully we were able to find everything relativley easy.

We visited a bunch of really cool sites with places that i dont exactly remember. This is the first place we visted. We didnt go inside but the outside was pretty cool. After that we followed the signs to la Piazza de la Signora and to of course, the imitation statue of David. La Piazza has statues (sculptures) everywhere. It was kinda crazy because it looks super unorganized but really its just a lot of art in one location.

At some point in this crazy day, we ate at a not super expensive, smallish italian resturant. We had our first taste of italian pasta and mine was delish! We had some minor issues (which involved me being yelled at in italian by a crazy old lady) when we went to pay but it all worked out in the end. The day ended with Gelato and just walking around the stores and whatnot.
We finally found the right train and had a very eventful trainride back to Rome. A couple hours of singing, a couple hours of get the picture.
Next day, the colleseum and the forum and the casa di augusto. It was unimaginable. Really. Seeing it in person was really cool especially because as your approaching, it just keeps growing until your standing next to it and its just enorme. Very cool. At the moment we didnt want to pay for a guide but now that i think about it, it probably would have been worth it.
Thats essentially most of the excitiment that i can think of at the moment. Ill post more pictures in another post as its just too dificult to place when theres text.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

St.Nicolas, La neige, et Les Examens...

Once again I have failed in my blog updating duties as i believe its been around a month since my last post. However i'm updating now so thats what counts.

First lets start off with St.Nicolas which is a really big deal in Belgium. Really big. In the US i believe i left my shoes out a few times when I was younger but that was only when i remembered. But no, not in Belgium. St.nicolas first began the first week of December (i believe). My host sibs and i left our shoes out every night for over a week hoping that St.Nicolas would bring us some candy or speculoos. (Note: EVERYONE writes letters to st.nic, equivalent of santa). While we wernt sucessful every night, we were rewarded with some marzipan and chocotoff candies. Then came the grand finale so to speak. I believe it was Saturday night (the 4th) when i'd returned from another st.Nic celebration (to be discussed later) when all of my host siblings and i left our bowls along with our shoes with little name cards with them in case st.Nic came by. The next morning we woke up to a splendor of goodies. Literally the entire floor was covered with not only candy but marzipan, speculoos, comic books, cds. You name it. And that was just one day of st.Nicolas.

My chapter of afs (AFS Namur) also had a celebration for us just to make sure we truly appreciate what its all about. We all met up at the train station in Namur to make our way to an ice skating rink in Charleroi where we all procceded to try to ice skate and mostly fail. I for one do not remember it being that difficult or that uncomfortable. After that we returned to Namur where many host families and other exchangers came to join us for a souper fromage, meaning that everyone brought a cheese and we eat bread and salad and cheese and its great :D. Then St.Nicolas paid a visit to ensure that us foriegners know the real meaning of his holiday. Overall it was a fun night and i got my picture taken with good old st.Nic.

And the celebration isnt over yet! In Belgium, St.Nics is a large day of partying for the Rheto and college students. The students wear a white lab coat (called a tablier) that they decorate and all their friends write on, and they then proceed to throw all manner of disgusting products including eggs, flour, ketchup and all liquids on each other in an attempt to be the dirtiest. Quite fun lemme tell ya.
And lastly for St.Nic is when he comes to school of course. The Rheto (my class, senior year) pays for the costume and someone dresses up and walks around to all the classes at school handing out candy and singing. and Voila :D
Onto la neige (AKA the snow)
In Belgium there are no such thing as snowdays mind you. However the snow is much nicer than in STL. The first time it started snowing we got 5cm here and there. But this is big fluffly snowflakes that look like cotton balls falling from the sky. Its basically teh perfect consistency and everything looks beautiful! sitting in school, i couldnt see the difference between the snow covered roof of the school and the white sky. With the snow comes the freezing temperatures of -12degrees celcius. Thats cold folks. Then, just when the snow started to melt, we had a day where it blizzard-ed nonstop all day. I didnt dare leave the house until 4pm when my family tried to leave to go to the host grents house. It had snowed almost 20cm of fluffliness and made it almost impossible to drive in. Eventually that started to melt as well but once again it has started to snow this week and now i get to see the beauty every day when i look out the window. This here is the perfect snow people. Its incredibly beautiful. Im afraid i dont have a picture becasue whenever i think to take one, its cold and snowy and i never get around to it :P
Now, onto exams week. Exams started the 9th of December and finish the 21st for most students. I say that because I only took 4 (as required by AFS Belgique). Some exams last two hours some last 4. Everyday we have an exam we get done at 12 so that we can go home, eat, and study. Exams are a little bit more intense here than in STL. For one, theres way more classes, the exams are longer, and ther worth a bigger portion of your grade. Not a great combination. Basically the entire school is stressed and tired. For me it wasnt too bad besides the french thing. I took Spanish, Morale, History and Geography. I think i passed the first two but definatley failed the second two. It was a new challenge for me in comprehension and writing skills thats for sure. But when it comes down to it, if you dont understand the question, you cant really repond. So for me, i had two exams Wedensday, one Thursday and one Saturday. Yes i did say Saturday. Im still in disbelief as well.
However for me exams are done and i can enjoy the start of my vacation.
bon vacances a tout!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


This is quite a short post but i just thought i'd let you all know that i expierenced my first snow in Belgium. It was last Thursday and large white fluffly snowflakes fell from the sky while i was in school. It wasnt cold enough for any of it to stick but it was still quite beautiful.

And now everythings frozen...lovely :D

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Well its been a while...

I haven't published in quite some time and for that I am really sorry. Sometimes i just have no idea what to write.
However some exciting things have happened. On October 24, I met up with all the AFS kids in Belgium to perform our very own flashmob. I boarded the train to Bruxelles where there was a large group of kids from Wallonie and Flanders waiting. We spent most of the day talking and learning the dance until it was time for us to perform. The flashmob occured in St.Hubert galleries (i believe...) which is this long indoor hall with stores and cafes. Its actually really beautiful. So all of us arrived at different times into the hall (as to not draw suspicion from the arrival of a 100 students all wearing brightly colored shirts) and we pretended just to be ordinary people shopping, taking pictures, being touristy...and then BAM the music starts. In the beginning there was just one group of guys who were supposed to look indian (becasue the music was jai ho). After that we all randomly joined in the dance when we thought it was right until the end when ALLLL of us were dancing. The people in the hall were so confused and at first just had no idea what was going on. After we'd been dancing though, many ofo them stopped to watch and started filming. Overall it was really fun not only because we got to dance but i got to see other exchangers i hadnt seen since my arrival in Belgium. Hopefully we raised some AFS awareness. Heres the link to the video if anyone wants to see.

I suppose i should also mention Halloween. Yes it is know here and people do celebrate it to a certain degree. Theres no trick or treating or jokes but maybe for the little kids they get candy. Also i saw that some teenagers dress up. Its mostly just like another party or another theme. For example, Walibi (belgian 6 flags) has a Monster festival at the park all Halloween week. But alas i didnt dress up or even get any candy :( oh well

But i did get to go to Walibi with my chapter of AFS (wooo AFS Namur!). We all met up at the train station in Namur before catching a different train and heading to Walibi. There were about 30 of us in total and when we got there it was raining (suprise suprise) and since for some reason i'm still suprised when this happens meaning i did not have my raincoat. While we were waiting in line for the best ride at the park, it was pouring rain. Literally by the time we got to the front of the line, my hair and shoes were drenched through. Very cold and unpleasant. But the ride was good. After that Johanna (american) and I went and found a food place where we got coffee and sat under an umbrella to dry and warm up. After that we ended up buying bright blue walibi ponchos that while unattractive, kept us dry until the rain stopped. I must say though, i think Six Flags STL was just a little bit better (more rides)

This past week was also Les vacances de Toussaint or Conge. Toussaint is all saints so basically all saints day, but with a week of vacation. Needless to say, i'm liking this Holiday and I think the US can learn a little from Belgium in this area. I spent the week visiting friends and Thursday I actually went to Ghent for the day and spent the night there. For those of you who dont know your Belgian geography (and political issues), you wouldnt realize that Ghent is in Flanders which is the Flemish (or dutch) speaking part of Belgium. Its also the richer half of Belgium and as some people believe, the better part. It literally was like entering a foreign country. I felt like i wasnt in Belgium anymore. Everyone was speaking a language i couldnt even begin to know and i felt so lost and unable to communicate. Dutch is just a completely differnt sound. But i found that people were actually really nice and Flanders is beautiful.

It really helped me understand all the tension between the separate parts of Belgium. For example, when i tried to talk to people i would ask English/Francais? and almost every single time, they preferred to speak English over french. Everyone i talked to was completely fluent in English and im sure completely proficent in French yet they prefer to speak a language that has no real ties to their country. Definatley interesting.

Also in exciting news, I recieved my first box from the US full of goodies such as clothes and supplies for making cookies and pancakes. I got some nice, huge warm socks from my sister and some fleece jackets from home and basically the box just made me happy. I mean who dsnt love seeing their favorite chips! And let me tell you this box had quite the journey. When it got here it had been retaped in Bruxelles and was falling apart. But i suppose its come a long way :D

Well i believe thats all for now
a tantot