This is absolutely devastating UGHHHHH. I was one paragraph away from finishing my blog post. My screen went black, and all of a sudden the whole post was gone. I added in soooooo much for this month! UGHHHHH!!!!! It's ok. I'll start again :)
SO! 4 MONTHS! CRAZY! I cannot believe I've been here for this long. Frankly, it's super scary. The way the clock works in this life on exchange is unreal. Time goes by so fast. I feel like I just arrived. I am nowhere near ready to go back to my real life. But it's going to happen. Sooner than I'd like it to. It's also sad because I feel like things are just starting to get good. Month 3 was surely the worst month of my exchange. Not even so far, I truly don't think it will be worse than that. I'm very very very excited to just turn the page and move on. And I think I tried my best to do that in month 4. For that, I'm proud of myself.
I finished school last week. I only had to do French, English, and Spanish. They made special exams for Patsy and I. Patsy is the other exchange student in my class. She's from Mexico, and has oddly become one of my best friends. You would never guess it. She is the complete opposite of me. Somehow it works, and I couldn't imagine her not being by my side. Since finishing school, it has given me some opportunity to finally go out and explore again.
Here's a recap of what I've done the last month:
This was technically still in my third month of exchange, but I didn't write about it in the update. I took the train with my fellow Liege buds, and we were on our way to Pairi Daizi at 6 am. After 3hrs and 4 train changes, we made it. We had also filled up 3 train carts of exchange students. There were 200 of us in total. We spent the day exploring the zoo. Casey, Jess, and I stuck together most of the day. We walked through greenhouses with waterfalls, saw camels, elephants, koala's, kangaroos, llamas... there was even a "CanadaLand" It made me sick actually. There were Grizzly's and deer shoved in small rooms. They looked so frail. Nothing like the animals at home :/ I really hated it. But aside from that, it was a good day. Till I had to take the train all the way back home.
My first rotary volunteer event! We were at the local grocery store, right behind my house. We handed out coupons customers could take to the till with them. Instead of a food bank where you drop off dry goods, customers could buy breakfast, lunch, or dinner for someone in need. I did my shift with Tomi, my little bro from Argentina... he's the one I go to french lessons with. We can only communicate together in french yet somehow we still have a great relationship. And Nelli, an upcoming outbound with the hopes of going to Canada!
Laura's farewell meeting. Most of my rotary meetings I don't remember much of. I'm still not entirely sure what the rotary in Belgium does. We have dinner every second or third Wednesday of the month. And that's about it. For this one, Laura, who's from South Africa did her final presentation. I am so scared for her to go. She feels like my big sister. I love her so much. Once she goes, I'm the only girl in the club. And my club won't be receiving any newies :( She leaves January 7th. I'll be taking her to the airport with her host family to say goodbye.
Possibly one of my best day's on exchange so far.
Titles. A historic event for exchange students in Belgium. Now that our oldies are starting to leave, there had to be a huge event for the passing down of the titles. Each title has been passed down for years, and every title comes with a gift that you'll pass down to the next title. There are lots of secret titles too that get passed down. After the amazing day, I went home with Casey and got to have a sleepover. My first and only sleepover on exchange so far... It was such a hassle to get permission for that. I'm hoping that will be less of a struggle soon :/ Being able to stay at Casey's was a perfect end to the night.
Colours changing. This was the last week of beautiful weather. Now, it rains almost every day. It is grey, all the time. The leaves are all gone. Some of the grass is yellow, most of it's still green. It's humid cold, bone-chilling cold. Just uhhh, not too fun. Slightly depressing. There are really nice and warm days sometimes, but most of the time it's just blah :(
Friendsgiving. My Canadian, American, Australian, and South African friends decided we needed to do a Thanksgiving. I had made a Thanksgiving dinner for my host family when it was Canadian Thanksgiving... but it didn't feel right. There wasn't a table full of food, and loving family and friends. This one was awesome. We had a huge turkey and cooked food with one another. I actually brought 2 pumpkin pies with me all the way to Tom's house. This was the 5th pumpkin pie I'd made at that point. Belgians don't eat pumpkin pie, they don't know what it is. Since Thanksgiving, I've been making pie's like crazy. 13 to be exact. They don't have purre either, so I've had to roast a pumpkin each time. Anyways, it was amazing. I'm so happy we decided to do Friendsgiving. It was definitely a Thanksgiving to remember with good food, and good family.
This was also the day I finished my first go pass. To use the trains in Belgium, we need to buy go passes. There are 10 lines, for 10 trips. The reason my first one looks absurd is because after a while... you learn how to cheat the system. If I had been using my go pass for every 10 lines, I would've gone through 5 or 6 already. And I would be left with no money. Some of my oldies have gone their whole exchange with only 2 or 3. So I'm slacking a little but I hope to improve my stealthiness. I actually LOST that one. after filling only ONE LINE. I've never been more devastated in my life. I spent the night rummaging through every crack and crevice of my room until I finally gave up. So now I'm on the THIRD :(
I had to go home early to make it to my rotary clubs' annual Xmas dinner. It was Raclette night. Belgians could eat Raclette until the end of time. Personally I do not enjoy it, but I don't say so. It offends most Belgians, and they think I'm insane.
It's just a huge wheel of cheese that they melt under a light, and when the top layer is bubbly enough they scrape it onto your plate. Which almost always consists of potatoes and meat. That's the fancy version. The other way to do Raclette is at home. You place a slab of cheese in a small tray, grind some pepper on it, and put a slice of meat in there too if your feeling fancy. Then you put the tray under this hot grill thingy, and watch it melt. When it's bubbly you scrape it onto your plate of potatoes. They'll eat as many rounds as it takes until they are full of cheese. I'll have a few rounds and then stick to the potatoes. It was a great dinner though! The other inbounds and I helped serve everyone their plates, there was live music, even the wives were there!!! If you didn't know, Women aren't allowed to join in my rotary club. I obviously think that's ridiculous, but I can't say anything about it. It's just the way things work here :/
ST NICHOLAS!!! The Christmas traditions in Belgium are a little wacky, to say the least. The last 2 weeks of November and the first week of December kids are supposed to leave a shoe on the porch for St. Nicholas. Every few night's he'll put a waffle or a piece of chocolate in your shoe. When you get your little gift in the morning you have to yell at the top of your lungs "MERCI ST NICHOLAS!!!" so he can hear you from wherever he is. The official day for St Nicholas is December 6th. Because it was a weekday, my host family did St Nicholas the weekend before. When I walked downstairs, the whole coffee table was filled with sweets. I had no idea why it was there, I was so confused! My host sister and I had crates with our names on them waiting on the other end of the room. Basically, they're like stockings. Instead of getting everything at once, you have one present each day like an advent calendar. Every day the present will get a little bigger. The 24th is the last present you get because the 25th is for the adults! Actually, my host family isn't even doing Christmas this year! We will be skiing in France. If my assumptions are correct, St Nicholas is Xmas for kids, and Christmas is an optional family gathering. it doesn't have to be the 25th either, your family can choose when they decide to do Christmas. It's all a bit crazy. There doesn't seem to be much of a Christmas spirit here either, aside from the Christmas Markets. I love the Christmas Markets! Also, St Nicholas does not look like Santa, more like a pope. He also has a slave that helps him with gifts. His name is Black Pete. Yes. People here have zero problem with it. I was shocked the first time I saw him. My host dad was like "Uhhhh are you okay?!" There is even marches for St Nicholas. Everyone goes blackface and walks down the street handing out candies and such. I'm pretty sure this is only done in Belgium and the Netherlands. I'm sad I won't really have a Christmas this year, but I'm happy I got to experience the traditions of another culture. It'll be a "Christmas" to remember.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS!!! The best part of Christmas in Belgium is the Xmas Markets. They are magical. They've definitely been the only thing putting me in a Christmas mood. We have mini-markets scattered through all of Liege, but the biggest one is a 5 min detour on my way back home from french lessons. I love going with friends but some days I'll go just to see the lights, smell the food, and have a cheer me up. Every city has a ferris wheel at its biggest market. I've been to the markets in other cities too. The one in Brussels is my favourite. It has the most lights, the best Christmas music, and the best handcrafted knick-knacks. There's also a huge Christmas tree in Grand Place that looks like it's straight from Who-ville. I'm happy I took advantage of them and went as much as possible. I'm really going to miss them. One day I'd like to come back to Europe just for the markets. The ones in Germany are really nice, but I've heard the best are in Austria. Speaking of Austria! If all goes well, I'll be visiting Tessa from January 9-12!
My french school's Xmas Dinner! We made food together from all of our counties. My pumpkin pie was once again a hit.
Every few weeks I crave for a trip to Brussels. Lately, I've been going a few times a week. It's only 45mins on the train for me. I asked my Canadian friend Ema if she wanted to spend the day with me. Of course, she said yes. We spent the morning trying to enjoy the Christmas Markets, but it was absolutely miserable out. We decided to hit a few museums instead. Later we found a super yummy Chinese place, it got all the cold out of our bones. Really the cold here is so... COLD! We also stumbled into a hotel. Why? not sure. It looked pretty. I'm so happy we randomly did that. The manager of the hotel came up to us and asked where we were from, he was really excited we were Canadians. He took us behind the desk and showed us the time he went dog sledding in the Yukon, he also showed us when he went to Astronaut camp in the US, the time the queen stayed at the hotel, the time the prime minister of Japan stayed at the hotel. Then he did a magic trick on Ema... so random. He gave us access to go inside the hotel and look around. We found a beautiful little garden on the top floor, every room was filled with mosaics. With every corner we turned it felt like we were in more of a museum and less of a hotel. Turns out it is one of the most photographed hotels in the world! And he said that if we ever wanted to stay the night he would give us a free room?!
My district went to Bastogne for the 75th anniversary since the war ended. We spent almost the whole day at a war museum, not gonna lie it wasn't the funnest thing I've done. I learned some new things though, which is always good :) It was a good day spent with friends. My favourite part was at night. There was a Firework and light show projected onto the Mardasson Memorial. It's in the shape of a star and has all of the states written on it to honour all the wounded Americans that helped in the war.
Exploring Leuven. Castles, museums, Delfi's first time in IKEA, and Xmas markets :)
My favourite part of the day.
I love seeing Guillimens. It's the train station in my city, and arguably the prettiest one in Belgium. I go past it every day on the bus :) I'm happier when I'm on the train, rather than the bus. Either way, every time I see Guillimens I get happy, and I don't see that changing.
St Nicholas gave us a visit at our last rotary meeting of the year. He gave each of us a book and a plate of candies.
Well... I had a bit more context the last time I tried to do this blog. I hope it was sufficient for you :) Tonight I am on my way to Tignes, France for the holidays. I'll be back on the 28th. I'll have a bit of time left when I get home to say goodbye to my oldies and spend as much time with them as possible. Then, A NEW YEAR!!! and a new home!!! I'm changing host family's January 2nd. I love you all so much. Have a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year :)
Bisous ~ Z