Sunday, August 28, 2011

First Week

This is actually the first time I've been on my laptop since I got here. I feel like I can type so quickly, because the "a" and the "m" are in the normal place, and I don't have to press shift to get a ".". Anyways, I've been having a great time so far. I would say I've had a great time in Belgium, but I've actually spent more time in France! I guess I'll start from the beginning.
After my orientation in New York (which consisted more of card games and talking than actual activities) we (meaning the 11 US students going to Belgium) got on our plane on Thursday evening. I slept most of the way there (hoping to avoid jetlag later) and passed quickly through customs. An AFS volunteer came to pick us up and we were brought to a hotel just outside of Brussels. Our orientation there (which basically consisted of talking and, for me, a bunch of optional French classes) lasted until the 19th. We were organized into groups by chapter (Li├Ęge, Hainaut, Namur, Brabant, and Luxembourg) and led group by group into a room where all the families were waiting. Each family was holding a sign with the name of their student. I found my welcome family and gave my first bisous (is that the plural form?), found my luggage, and went to their car. My welcome family consists of Christian (the father), Anne (the mother), and Carole (16 yo daughter). They're also hosting another student, Nohelia (18) from Honduras. We went to their house (only about 20 minutes away, in a town the Flemish part of Belgium called Nederokkerzeel) and Christian made dinner, which was delicious. Carole gave me and Nohelia a tour of the house and we played with their hamsters.
In the morning we woke up at about 7 so we could get an early start on driving to France. We drove all day and stopped at a hotel (I honestly have no idea where it was) and then continued driving for a few hours the next day. I basically slept the whole way, but I also watched Les Freres Scott (One Tree Hill) in French and English subtitles with Carole and Nohelia. I like having the subtitles in English because I can pick up vocabulary and have the translation right there, but I think I'll switch to French subtitles soon so I don't have to be so reliant on them to understand.
We went to St. Sorlin d'Arves, which is a small town in the French Alps. It was absolutely beautiful! I have a lot of pictures that I will put into a photobucket account so everyone can see them. We spent our time going to the little lake and the pool, taking drives and walks to look at the scenery, practicing a lot of French, going on one hike (I basically wanted to die the entire way up, but the view was great and I can now say I've climbed a mountain in the Alps. :)), and watching various movies in French (some with no subtitles....but I managed to get a word here and there). We saw the Smurfs movie (Les Schtroumpfs) which was really funny. I was proud of myself for getting some of the jokes even though there were obviously no subtitles in the theater! Carole made fun of me because I couldn't say "Les Schroumpfs" (or "porte") without a strong accent, but I made fun of her in return for not being able to say "three" and a few other English words. :) One day we went to a beach in Grenoble, and I tanned a little bit (and now I'm peeling...) and swam across the lake with Nohelia and Carole. Yesterday we got an early start so we could make it home in one day. We passed through Luxembourg and also went to the town where my permanent family lives, Neufchateau. At first all I saw were trees, pastures, and houses and I got a little bit nervous, but then we got to the town center which had a decent amount of restaurants, shops, and liveliness. We also passed by the school I think I will be going to, which was really nice. My family actually lives in a small town just outside of Neufchateau called Cousteumont. They live on a farm and have two sons (16 and 18, but the 18 year old is only home on weekends and goes to school in Liege), and that's basically all I know about them! I don't even know their names, but I meet them on Tuesday so I'll post about it then.
Tonight I went into Brussels with my welcome family. Nohelia and Christian went to a church service while me, Anne, and Carole walked around. We went to a few landmarks and got to see the city from up high, which was really cool. Brussels is beautiful! Later, we met up with Nohelia and Christian and walked to the Grand-Place. The buildings are so impressive! I rubbed Everhard 't Serclaes' elbow for good luck and took pictures of all the various buildings. After that we kept sightseeing and I saw the Manneken Pis, along with about a million chocolate/candy versions of it. We stopped at a bar and I had my first Jupiler (a popular Belgian beer) but I wasn't a fan. Carole had a peach flavored beer that I tried, and I prefered that! I don't care if it's a girly beer, I liked it better. :P
After we left the bar it was too late to go home and make dinner, so we went to a place was "Manneken Frites" (get it?!) and had a burger and fries type thing (it was a sub roll with a little salad on the bottom, then two hamburger patties, then fries topped with an orange spicy sauce I don't remember the name of) that was really tasty. Those were also my first Belgian fries! When we were finished, we went back to the Grand-Place where there was a sound and light show going on. The lights are displayed on the town hall so it looks like it's changing colors, and the music was old-fashioned and pretty. Nohelia, Carole, and I decided to lay down on the cobblestone and watch from there, because we saw a few other people doing that. It was weird but a really fun way to watch it, and a couple of people took pictures of us which was funny!
Tomorrow is my last day with my welcome family, which I am pretty sad about because we have gotten along really well, but I have promised to visit them! There is a train station in Neufchateau which I plan to take advantage of to visit various cities and people. On Tuesday I'll meet my new family, and soon I'll start school, so I'm sure I'll have another blog post too. I'll post the link to my photobucket account once I make it (probably tommorow) so you can see all my pictures.

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