Mar 1, 2012

Vacances de Carnaval!

I know, I know, it's been ages sine my last post. I'm sorry. I'll try to be a bit more active from now on again.

The past week we had what is called carnival holidays here, well the equivalent of our Finnish week of holidays in February. It was a week well needed! The winter here has apparently been exceptionally long and cold which of course depends on what you are used to... I think we saw snow once, which was strangely nice and familiar. But unfortunately you adapt yourself too quickly to the temperature, so yes, I was cold (and sometimes still am) even though it's far from as cold as in Finland.

Since my last post I've been up to a lot (logically, seeing as it's been three months...). I finally decided to actually find myself a soccer team so every wednesday and friday evenings I spend a couple of hours running or playing in a village nearby. We had our mid-stay camp in the beginning of Ferbuary with AFS which was nice in a way, for seeing everyone again, but sad in another, that means we've been through half of our experience here.. Seeing how fast time has passed up until now, it's a scary thought that it'll pass even faster the closer we get to the end of it..

The week-end before the vacations we spent some time together with Jade and Carrie. Saturday we did a tour at the shopping centre in Tournai and afterwards we spent an amazing evening consisting of a pizza, a couple of drinks and a lot of talking. Something we should do more often in the end. Sunday we had the most brilliant idea of going biking in the cold with Jade. We put on lots and lots of layers seeing as it was fairly windy outside but in the end I sort of over did it and ended up not being able to bike that well... We found a nice little path and were able to walk on a small frozen pond even. As frozen as we were, we found a small cafeteria with the intention of having a hot chocolate and leaving.. Well we ended up talking for quite a while and got driven home by some people she knew. Sunday evening I still had that usual feeling right before holidays, as if I'd still have to go to school the day after. Luckily for once it wasn't the case.

Monday we had lunch at home and took the bus into town with Carrie with the mission of finding a ccostume for carneval. There are carnevals organized all over Belgium, the one in Kain passed right before our house, so saturday we were lined up in front of the bathroom window, Carrie, Marianne, me and Jade (with some dogs of course ).. The one of our village is quite small but there will be a bigger one in Tournai in mid-March and the costumes we needed were for one of the most well known carnevaks in Belgium, the one of Binche. Monday afternoon we saw a girl from my class for a couple of hours and had a drink in town with Carrie afterwards. And we did find our costumes, she decided to do a guy while I cheated a bit and did "Pippi Longstocking", the easy thing with my hair.

tuesday morning we left for Binche around 10 in the morning feeling just a little bit ridiculous on the train. the closer we got to Binche the more we saw people dressed up. The carneval of binche is known for its folklore where there are some "gilles"(people dressed up in these big costumes) that throw oranges or mandarines during the parade in the afternoon. The place was packed with people and us we were maybe 10 students from AFS, plus we found lots of Rotary people too. The carneval in itself was quite an interesting experience, even though I obviously had some problems with seeing anything with my height. Luckily the guys with us were kind enough to lend their shoulders which is how I ended up having and orange thrown in my face. Yes, you do need to pay attention... I did manage to grab three in my hands too! It was a really fun day! Leaving was a bit more difficult, we had to wait a while at the station since it was too crowded to get everyone on the same train... In the evening I left for Brussels to sleep over at Jade's "kot" for the night.

Wednesday morning I took the train to go see my best friend Nele in the flemish part of Belgium. Wednesday we were in Hasselt, a nice town where we had some thai-food and walked around in the shops etc. And lots of talking of course, seeing as I hadn't seen her since the holidays in November. Thursday we had to get up really early (especially for holidays), since she had to go do something for her Bachelor's project at Uni, in other words we were locating frogs... After having spent a few hours half a sleep in the nature of Belgium (yes that actually exists) we were headed to Maastricht, a city in the Netherlands, next to the Belgian border though. It was a nice city and the coolest part was paying 2 euros for the bus to get there, not complaining!  As usual we did some walking around the town, shopping, the normal.. In the evening we watched some movies and talke lots and lots. Friday was my last day there and I got to know the awesomeness that is the Belgian train system once again. With a trip that should take 2-3 hours, I left her town around 3 and got home between 7 and 8.. Oh well, that's just one example, in reality the Belgian public accomodation system is good in my opinion. There are trains and busses to pretty much everywhere and metros in the biggest cities. And from a Finnish point of view, you can get around quite cheaply still, especially with a go-Pass, a train ticket for 10 trips no matter from where to where within Belgium for 50 euros... Not too bad.

To get back to the subject, friday evening we went out for a bit, only to wake up (fairly) early saturday since we had an AFS activity. This time the activity tookplace in Tournai, so compared to the others we didn't have to leave home that early. We were about 10 students with some volunteers and the activity didn't seem that special to us seeing as we know the town quite well.. But oh well, it was nice enough. In the evening we had some going out in town. Sunday morning we had been assigned to cook, and seeing as the three of us are all veery great in the kitchen, uhm yeah, we did it, that's what matters no? The week-end before we'd bought some hairdye for Jade seeing as she stil had some blue-greenish hair, a nice blond quite close to her own colour. Sunday evening we decided to do it, although me and Carrie realised we were quite lost on what we should do.. And the result wasn't exactly what we'd wanted.. Fo some reasons redheads are made fun of here and of course her hair ended up with a mixture of light red, blonde and the greenish hairs.. Sounds like quite a mix but it could be worse =D

Tonight we're leaving for France with Marianne and Carrie to spend a week-end at the sea somewhe in the north. Apparently there are lots of other family friends coming too so in the end it should be a really nice little trip we have ahead. Life here keeps on rolling on and I try to keep up.. I'll try to get a bit more active with the blog again, maybe make a slight summary post about what I was up to between November and February, or oucth, it's March today already, wauw.

A la prochaine, hoping it'll be pretty soon!
Julia =)

Nov 17, 2011

I am an exchange student

Being an exchage student:
It’s to be born again
It’s to start everything from the beginning
It’s to feel nostalgia
It’s to learn to value what you have
It’s to be scared
It’s to learn to take care of yourself
It’s to eat in excess
It’s to think what once was imagined
It’s to know the unknown
It’s to share the special moments with other exchange students
It’s to never have any money
It’s to spend too much on useless things
It’s to be hot
It’s to be cold
It’s to be the reason for the jokes
It’s to make jokes
It’s to leave the house looking ridiculous (I’m an exchange student, nobody knows me)
It’s to pretend to understand nothing at school
It’s to pretend to understand what you new friends say
It’s to have absurd stories
It’s to make friends which turn into siblings
It’s to think that the world is yours
It’s to want to see the world with only a backpack
It’s to miss stupid things
It’s to discover that people are people in whichever part of the world
It’s to want to go home
It’s to never want to go home..
It's a small piece of text that's been circulating around Facebook, and I quite liked the message.
Bisous, Julia =)

Nov 15, 2011

A week of holidays (and some more)

It's been less than a month since my last post, yes, I am proud of myself for that! So the week of schoo prior to the holidays was mostly spent well, waiting for the holidays of course, what else..

Wednedays we went to Brussels with school to see an exposition which was a complete reconstruction of the tomb of Tutankhamon. In the end that was really interesting and well done, better than I expected. We had some audio-guides to follow the exposition and I had mine in English like a bad exchange student... By Friday the people in my class were stressing out quite a bit, it was time for our first grades. For me the points I get here don't count for anything in Finalnd so failing isn't the worst thing that could happen (and it seems to be fairly normal in Belgium in general. Since everything I've done is in French, I wasn't expecting a lot of my grades, however in the end I had only failed 3 of my subjects, maths, science and history, quite happy with that, it's less than some of my classmates... So by the end of the last lesson on Friday, the holidays could finally begin! They have a week of holidays around the 1st of November for "Toussaint" (all saint's day).

We had lots and lots of plans for the holidays, but as often, things don't always quite work out as planned. Friday evening we spent at home for once, enjoying nothing but a cosy night at home. Saturday I went into Tournai with Carrie, she needed some shopping done but in the end I think it was me that bought a pair of shoes.. Around 5 we walked to the station to get Nele, my best friend, and ran into my counsellor too. We then did a quick tour back into town so she could see one of the cool shops in Tournai before it closed and headed home for yet another night of doing nothing more than watching a movie. We saw a movie called "Orphan" which was pretty damn creepy to be honest. It was generally just great seeing her again as well. Sunday we went to "Pairi Daiza", this huuge park with lots and lots of exotic animals, but built in such a way that it really doesn't resemble an animal park at all. There were chinese houses in the middle, some thai temples and such...   It was interesting seeing lots of species I'd never actually seen before. Fine, it wasn't really their natural environment but still. That was pretty much it for Sunday, we were exhausted afterwards. Monday was Nele's last day here so we went to see Tournai, did some shopping, had a drink, well, the usual. It also happened to be Halloween! Something we don't really do in Finland, but here some people do it. Me and Carrie were invited over to Morgane's place for a soirée and Caroline was normally supposed to come too but in the we were only three. We had to do a sort of costume so I did my version of "Pippi Longstocking from hell" which was more or less succesfull. Carrie's was PERFECT though, she did a geisha and her make-up was pretty impressive! We had a good and long evening/ night which lead to us not doing a lot on Tuesday (except for a drink in town) so I'll just move on to Wednesday.... Me and Carrie took the train to Brussels around 12 since I had agreed to meet up with Astrid, a girl I've known for years but we'd never actually met up before. Have to admit I was a bit nervous. We had lunch at a place called EKKI (I think?) where they had lots of fresh stuff, salads and the like. And speculoos cheese cake. Yum. We also visited some awesome places with books and CDs aaand tickets! It was a good day! Thursday, once again, plan was to do something but in the end all I ended up doing was spending a few hours at Morgane's place with another friend from school, but hey, we had a good time so I'm not complaining. Friday we were going to meet Valeriya, the russian who lived at home for the first two weeks in Brussels. Hoaever it wasn't that easy since Jade was already in Brussels, she didn't have her phone and the number I had for Valeriya was incorrect. Luckily Jade finally had her cellphone thursday evening so we were able to decide on when to meet up and such. Buuut of course I'd already agreed to meet an italian and a venezuelian girl before going to Brussels, but in th end we just had a coffee with them and headed for Brussels afterwards. With Valeriya we went to the Delirium and had some beer (what else?) and I saw something interesting, the female version of Manneken Pis! Jeanneke Pis, a statue of a girl pissing... Only in Belgium..

Saturday we had our third AFS activity with our comité Hainaut. It was a visit to a brewery in Ecaussines. We took the train from tournai around 12 with Andrea (Venezuela) and found one of the volunteers on the train. In La Louvière we had to wait for a bit over half an hour, which was less great since it's in the middle of nowhere... Once we got to Ecausinnes we met the other and satrted walking... We made a tour of several kilometres, finding out stuff about le piere bleue (spelling prolly sucks..). After a loong walk we got some muffins and cookies baked by the volunteers and then we headed for the brewery. That was actually really interesting, seeing just how the beer is made and finally getting to taste one. It was good, but what else can you expect, it's Belgian. We took the train home around 7 and arrived in Tournai around 8.30. Jade met us at the station with some food (thank you!!!) and then we headed to the Cornwall to continue the evening. Carrie was exhausted after the day so Marianne came to get her after a few hours, a shame for her because we saw something pretty awesome afterwards. There was a group of artists that did a fireshow just outside the pub, I'd never seen stuff like it before. All in all it was a great night, dancing and having fun, until the early hours.. Sunday we had lunch with Jean -Pierre, Carrie, Jade, Gilles and Jean at Pizza Hut since Marianne had some repeptitions for a spectacle at the poney club the weekend after.

The week at school was fairly normal, we had swimming class Monday and I had to do a discussion with some people from the 6eme about my culture versus Belgian culture.. Problem was.. After the week of holidays, my French was almost completely gone. The first thing my friend told me was "oh my god! your accent is back!" Hmh, too much English during the holidays that was.. Towards the end of the week I started feeling weaker... Luckily we had a day off Friday too due to the armistice of the first world war this time. Thursday was Jade's 20th birthday and she was doing a party at home, so I spent the afternoon sleeping to be able to participate. We were maybe 10 since she put up her invitations a little late, but it was a good night anyway. During the night I got a lovely fever so Friday morning was less amazing. During the day I felt better, and luckily so, since we were going to a chinese restaurant in the evening as a surprise for Carrie for her birthday (which was Sunday but..).. And she certainly was surprised! But apparently when we eat Chinese food, it's not really Chinese in the end. We kept on asking her with evrything, "is this Chinese?" "hmm...I don't know..." Okay.. Fine then. And of course towards the end of the evening I started feeling worse and worse again, my fever was back. I really hated that since we were celebrating her birthday and all, and the food would've been great but I had no appetite.. Saturday was finally better, but we did pretty much nothing the whole day. Well me and Jade watched Wall-E in the evening but that's about it.. :D Sunday there was a biiig thing at the poney club which is kept by Marianne's best friend Cecile. It was the fête de St. Hubert which they do every year. It's basically a spectacle where the kids do performances on horses and ponies and in between the performances Marianne and some others did some silly piece of theater, this time with the smurfs. Marianne did the girl smurf in a skirt and all.. Hilarious! The spectacle was really nice to see, some of the kids were really talented on the horses, and of course seeing 4-5 years old kids doing horseback riding is just too adorable.

Voilà once again, a little recap of what I've been up to lately. Yesterday was a waay too long day, mondays are always long... Swimming and what not. Today I had to do a presentation of Finland in English class, which wasn't too difficult of course. I even took some Salmiakki for them to try, it was definitely worth seeing some of the reactions to that :D
à la prochaine!
Bisous, Julia =)

Oct 22, 2011

Time flies by!

I was fighting with my blog to upload pictures for an hour and it didn't work so the pictures might be up later if ever. And ofc as usual I have to say, sorry for being a bad and lazy blogger, probably the worst one in the history of blogging ! However life in Belgium is rolling on, and I still love it!

A couple of week-ends ago I was more busy than normally.. That might've been because it was right before my brithday... :) But it was great. Friday (7.10) evening I was invited over to Morgane's place (a friend from school) with some other girls, I think we were 6, normally we should've been more but it was a shame that Caroline, who's an exchange student through WEP from Brazil, couldnt come in the end. We had a really good time with the girls, as always, this was the third time we spent a night like this if I remember correctly. We went into town for a drink which perhaps was the worst idea ever as it was raining and raining and really cold outside too. We were back at her place at a reasonable hour but not in bed at a reasonable hour, like usual.. The girls had a little surprise prepared for me, a special dessert, only for me.It consisted of chocolate and some Finnish candy called Salmiakki, which is simply disgusting. It seems I'd forgotten some of the candies at Morgane's place after our first evening there, and now they decided to use them against me :D But the sweetest thing was that they'd made a keychain with a couple of pictures of me and them as a birthdaypresent. :)

Saturday I got home pretty late, after 2pm I guess, and in the evening, me and Jade first went into town and had a drink at the Irish Pub and afterwards we were invited to a friend's place to see an art exposition. Marianne (hostmum) was there with her bestfriend and Carrie, however we didn't stay too long with Jade and Carrie, we had some other plans for the night still. It was (of course) raining as we walked towards the appartment of Jade's best friend. There we had a good night with some wine, talking and music. Naturally we had to walk home in the rain so it was fairly late before we were back.

Sunday we had made some plans of exploring Brussels with some other AFS exchangers. Carrie unfortunately didn't feel like coming so I was alone on the train, up until the last 30 minutes when Marion (Switzerland) boarded the train in Enghien and Estefany (Italy) sort of just happened to find us. We met up at about 12 at the Gare Central in Brussels and bought some stuff to eat before heading towards the metro. We must've been quite the sight, a group of about 10 boys and girls speaking a mixture of english, french, spanish, german and what not... Oh yes, italian.  Our first destination was the Atomium and mini Europe. It goes without saying that it was raining, and of course the mini europe is an outside activity... We didn't care, we had our umbrellas! We started by eating waffles from a stand in front of the atomium and taking some pictures of our lovely little group. Afterwards we split up into two since everyone didn't want to do both of the activities. I did both of them, and so we started off by going into the atomium. But now I have to be honest, it was nothing special in the end.. They had some expositions of various things inside but you get a good enough impression of it just by standing in front of it.. Oh and if someone doesn't know, the atomium is a huge construction made of well, balls. After finishing the atomium we headed towards the mini Europe which is basically a miniature of various sights in the countries of the European Union. It was funny to see things like the Eiffel tower being just a little bit talle than yourself. And they even had something from Finland, Olavinlinna, a place where I saw a Nightwish concert a couple of years ago. Good memories.. And a small Sauna! :D We had more plans for the day but the atomium and mini Europe took longer than we'd thought, so afterwards we only had time to grab some fries and have one beer at the Delirium, our new favourite in Brussels. I was home after 7 and went to bed at a reasonable hour, to stay awake at school on monday.

Monday, was the 10th of october, as in, my birthday! 17, which is only one year from 18 :D The day was spent at school, from 8 unti 4.20 (lovely eh?) with people wishing me happy birthday when they heard someone else doing it. Even a teacher wished me happy birthday, haha. And I had to run 4km for the first time in gym class.. Lovely birthday present. But I DID it, and I was the 4th or 5th to finish of our group, I'm proud of that. After school I was pretty exhausted as usually on mondays, school until 4.20 with two hours of gym class is just a tad bit tiring. And on top of that it's all  in French of course :D At home I read my emails and Facebook with all the nice congrats from people here and at home in Finland, and my mum called me! Which means I had to speak Finnish again... Wow.. That was surprisingly difficult.. My ponunciation is already crap after two months here.. I can't even imagine how it will be when I go home. My Swedish was still pretty okay when I talked to my brother but Finnish.. I'll have to practice a bit before going home in July :D It was great hearing their voices again but weird at the same time, that's my family and I haven't seen them for two months already. Time passes by SO fast here. But in the evening as I was just beginning to do my homework a girl came into my room and said Marianne wanted us to come to where her reception is. And so we went and when I stepped inside I saw about 20 friends of the family, all starting to sing Happy Birthday in French. I was so surprised, it was the last thing I had expected. I got gifts from every direction, it was just such a sweet thing  of them to do.. We ate well, had some sparkling wine, and some cake. There were four small cakes and I had to try and blow out the candels of all of them at once. Didn't quite succeed. The two funniest moments of the evening were for one when all of a sudden Marianne placed a piece of serrano ham in my hair, to prove to the others that it had the same colour as my hair :D The second when I accidentally got some cream from the cake on my fingers, someone placed my hand in my face so it was all over me and when Marianne saw it, she placed her face in her cake, 3I have sympathy for you, see?" :D It's a crazy life, that's for sure.

The week of school I had nothing special, as usual.. For once I didn't even do anything at all Wednesday afternoon, normally I figure out something to do since I finish school at 12 and Carrie has class until 4.20, which really really sucks. Thursday we did go see a piece of theater with school at the Maison de la Culture in Tournai. It was called Chatroom, a story about six teenagers talking on the internet about various problems etc. I quite liked it, since I was able to understand most of what was going on. Later however, we had to write a review of the piece, minimum one page, for French class, outch. Not as easy.

Friday finally came, and even though we weren't planning on going out as Jade was really tired, and me too actually, but one of her friends insisted on driving us, so we went. And we had a good night, as usual! Saturday we had been planning on visiting Lille in France since it's only 30km from Tournai, 15 minutes by train, to do some shopping because all three of us have a slight need of new clothes. However our plan didn't work out as Marianne wasn't home Saturday, we had to stay at home to watch the dogs. We spent a lazy day doing literllay nothing but watching a movie and going to the supermarket for some cheese that we'd need on sunday.

Sunday we had our second AFS activity organised by our chapter, Hainaut . It was a welcome party in a city called La Louviere, in other words, a chance for us to talk about our experiences so far and such. For the event we had to prepare a paper with a picture and a phrase in our native language about our life in Belgium so far. I wasn't able to choose so I wrote my paper in both Finnish and Swedish. It was interesting though, seeing all the papers with everything from chinese to italian.. And it was great seeing all the other students again! At first we had some group activities, basically they divided us into two and we did some talking and played some games, the typical AFS stuff. Our volunteers are awesome though :D At midi we started organising the tables so that we'd be able to have lunch everyone together, students, families and volunteers. Everyone had been told to bring something, cheese or ham or salad or whatever and it was al placed on a long table from where we could fill our plates with whatever we wanted. We'd also been asked to bring our own plates, forks and knives but for some reason us three, we'd only brought our plates... Well luckily they'd reserved some extra ones for people that'd forget theirs. After lunch we were able to buy the AFS sweater of our chapter, I love it, it's waarm and big and green. The last thing of the day was a game of three points in town where we had to (divided into three teams) reply to some questions about famous Belgian people, sightseeing in the province of Hainaut and miming some traditional Belgian things. We were the yellow team so our team chant was "Hip hip hip, vive les frites!!" :D :D Haha, and in the end we got to shared first place, whee.

Monday morning was quite unsuccesful for both me and Carrie... We had both sort of forgotten it was monday, I'd forgotten to check whether I have homework to do or no, and she'd entirely forgotten it was monday so she slept about an hour more than normally, the poor girl. We had to run 4km, AGAIN, and I did better than last week! But the worst part is, we still have to do it once more next monday.... Other than that the actual week at school was pretty normal, full of tests that I'm not quite able to do and lessons that are tiring.. But lots and lots of laughter during the breaks with my friends.. Silly stuff. Wednesday I actually went to Brussels after school, I visited Jade at her student room and such. We actually did nothing special, but it was a nice afternoon anyway. I took the train home at around 7 since that way I can still make it to the last bus, and all of a sudden I saw Marion at the train station! :D So the first half an hour I didn't have to be alone on the train, we were three, Marion, me and Chris, a girl from Ecuador who lives in the same town as Marion and is here for a year through Rotary. After they left the train I tried to read my book for French class but I think I fell asleep...

Yesterday, friday, I had Marion here for a sleepover. She was at the train station at about 4 and we walked into town with her and Carrie, showed her the awesome city of Tournai, had a drink at the Grand Place; bought some chips for the evening and took the bus home. We didn't really have any plans for the evening, but we had a lot of fun, jumping around to some music being silly as little children... The funniest moments here are always the most random ones... We can have a battle of water in the kitchen with Jade and Carrie, or I can have ham inmy hair or whatever. Laughter is a biig part of this house, without humor you wouldn't survive in here, that's for sure.

For once I have no plans for today and tomorrow, but that's  good, to chrage some batteries before one more week of school. After that, it's a week of vacation, Toussaint. I have to admit, I can't wait for that! We have a lot of plans alreay, we'll see if we're able to do everything we'd want to :)

So, a slighly longer update to give some information of what I'm up to over here. I'll try to make it less than a month before my next update!
Hugs, Julia =)

Sep 20, 2011

1 Month?!

Yeah. That's it. It still feels like only last week that I arrived but now the fact is that I have already spent a month here in Belgium! Unbeliavable how fast time passes.. Since I've been so bad at posting frequently, I thought I'd just collect some of the "highlights" of my trip so far (some of them I might've mentioned before  already..).

Afs week-end
Well first of all there is of course the first week- end with the AFS- arrival camp. The 19th of August about a hundred students settled down at a hotel in Brussels to learn some more about the country we'd just arrived in. Everything and everyone was new and exciting and simply the feeling of meeting all the people that would be going through the same experience and face similar challenges, it was great. We did the usual AFS things concerning culture (what is it? how is my culture? and how is the culture of my host-country?), some games of getting to know each other and a gathering with our chapter. Hainaut! Also meeting my hostsister Jade during breakfast, unexpected to say the least, it's a good thing first impressions don't always last. 

About a couple of weeks after our arrival, during one of the last days of holiday we met up with some of the other AFSers in Brussels to have a drink and talk about our experiences so far. This I actually talked quite a lot about in my last post so I'll just leave it at that, it was great, we should do that again, end of story. Unfortunately I still haven't properly explored Brussels more than that, however tomorrow I have the chance to do that, me and Marion (an AFSer from Switzerland) are going to Brussels after school, yay!

One week-end I decided to visit my best friend over in Flanders, Tongeren to be more exact. Since it's quite far away from Tournai I had to take the train at 6.40.. Or, at least I was supposed to take the train at that hour.. I had to walk to the station since there were no busses that early and of course I managed to get lost and miss my train... Typical.. The next one was in an hour.. After 3-4 hours on the train, finally there, but soo tired since getting up at 5.30 isn't as nice as you might think. Especially not if you went out the night before.. We had a really nice day playing some games, drinking mead, visiting the big fair that was going on and just generally catching up on things. However spending a week speaking only English didn't seem to be the best idea in the end, once I got home my French had somehow dissappeared and Monday at school wasn't much better either to be honest.. :D

Intercultural sisters
That sounds confusing I suppose. But during my first month I had the chance to live with Valeriya from Russia for the first two weeks and Carrie from Hong Kong after that. Now they are two very different persons but I aprreciate them both a lot. It was very interesting during the first two weeks living with Valeriya who really knew no French at all, sometimes having to translate for her even if I might've had some trouble understanding myself too. She was a fairly strong person and quite different to me but I'm happy to have met her and to have learnt some more about Russia and Russian culture. Still Valeriya only lived with us because she had no definitive family yet and Carrie had some problems with her visa. Exactly two weeks after leaving for home for the first time I was back at the location of the AFS arrival camp. This time not only as a student but also as part of a family taking a student home, now that was indeed a bit weird for me. Carrie is tiny and a very sweet girl. We get along great, better each day that passes by. She doesn't speak any French either so I have to translate quite a lot for her still, but I'm sure she'll learn, she has a big motivation for learning. This will be such an interesting year, learning more about Hong Kong while experiencing Belgium.

My Family
Marianne, my hostmum and Jade and Gilles, the host siblings have been so kind to really make us part of this crazy family. They immediately welcomed us with open arms, making adapting to the house easy and after a few days you already feel at home. Home, is a huge house but with all the animals, it's no wonder. The dogs are really a part of the family and since they so many you sometimes have to adapt after the dogs instead of the other way around. Aand you'd better be careful when walking around the house or you might end up stepping into an "accident".  I really love this family to bits and the friends that sometimes seem to be quite part of the family too. It's not unusual to have 12 people over for dinner. The people are basically very warm and welcoming and French speaking. :D

French.. What a language. Prior to Belgium I'd studied three years of French at school. I was admitteably more than nervous since my French wasn't that good when I left. But somehow I've managed to start communicating in french with Marianne and at school since the people here really mostly only speak French. It's not that easy, but hopefully it's getting easier and my French is getting better. I don't feel any difference but I can always hope for some progress. At school understanding is fairly difficult, with some teachers it's close to impossible but with others it works to some extent at least. I really lack vocabulary to express myself though and that is incredibly frustrating when wanting to express something but in the end failing due to not knowing the words.

Normally I guess school wouldn't be considered a "highlight" in any way what so ever, but here it's a way of learning the language and meeting local teenagers. The first day was indeed scary but luckily my class is awesome and they've welcomed me well. Also discovering the Belgian school system is a very interesting experience for me, seeing as it differs quite a lot from the one I'm used to in Finland. And indeed, the school is in French, so what better way to learn French then having to study in French without actually properly mastering the language? :D I won't write much more about the school now since I'm planning on doing a big more detailed post about it later on anyway.  

This is just a small summary of some of the things I've been up to so far, I'll try to update at least once or twice every two weeks from now on! No promises though.. :D But that's it for this time, if you have any questions don't hesitate to post them, I'll be happy to reply to anything you might be wondering about!
Bisous, Julia =)

Sep 2, 2011

Bruxelles & la rentree!

Bruxelles! ( aka Brussels, just in case someone didn't know the name in French) 
This Wednesday I visited Brussels properly for the first time. The idea came from other AFS-exchangers who'd come up with the idea of meeting up and talking about our experiences so far, have a drink and just have a good time. Me and a girl from Switzerland were supposed to meet up on the train since she leaves half an hour away from me on train, but due to some malfunction of my cell-phone, we were only able to meet in Brussels at the station. At first we visited the Grand Palais with her host-mum, it was quite an impressive place! Imagine living there... Afterwards we had some lunch and waited for our friend from Denmark whose train was supposed to arrvie at half past 2, but in the end it was almost 40 minutes late, so annoying! And so began the search for the Delirium, a pub in Brussels known for its 2000 different kinds of beer, where we'd meet the other AFSers. Problem was that none of us quite knew where it was.. We ran into the girls from the Czech Republic in front of the station and after asking around and probably walking in a circle for half an hour we FINALLY found the Delirium! It was great to see that many familiar faces and hear about the experiences of the others, we really need to keep that up! It was a good night. :)

La Rentree
After Brussels I had one more day of vacation before la rentree, the schoolstart. Now I don't even remember when I last was as nervous as for the first day of school here. I had no idea where I should go and what to do, luckily there are some very great and helpful people at school and in my class. Basically what I'm doing at school is called "Sciences sociales at educatives", which means that I'll have some general subjects (Maths, French, Geography, History, Religion, English and P.E) but on top of that I'll also have some special classes such as Techniques d'Expression and some extra French. Sounds very interesting to me! I was placed in the quatrieme, the fourth grade that is, which means that most pupils in my class are slightly younger than me, but that's okay. The first day of school was nothing special, we spent about 2 hours at school, getting to know the place and each other. On Monday, it's the real deal that begins, school from 8 until 15.30... That's for all days, except for Wednesday afternoons that are free, yay!

Pictures will be posted ( at some point....).
Bisous, Julia :)

Aug 30, 2011

The first week.

So, I have now spent one week (and a few days days to be exact) in Belgium. I love it. My family is very warm and welcoming, they really make you feel at home from the beginning. In a way it's weird to think that I've ONLY spent a week here, certain faces and habits are already normal to me.

 For one, the bisous, you greet people by kissing them once on the cheek, within the family too. This could cause problems for someone coming from a place like Finland where you aren't that close to people, where the greeting consists of a handshake, if that even. But for me, I find the bisous really great, you're much more familiar with people here. Another one would be wearing shoes inside. In Finland wearing shoes inside would be considered a tad bit rude, but it's easy to get used to this too.

My first week has been full of new faces, a new language and some new places. I live close to Tournai, which is the oldest town of Belgium, and I've visited Tournai quite a few times, it's a very pretty town in my opinion. I've started my days quite late, had some lunch and mostly waited until my hostsister Jade comes home from work. We've been out to have some drinks with her friends a few times, there's a really nice celtic pub called Cornwall in Tournai, full of metalheads and such, me likes! I've tried many belgian beers, and surprisingly enough, liked them. I really didn't like beer when I left Finland, but here you have such a big variety of flavours that I can't not like them.

Here, at home it's common to have several friends over for dinner or lunch, some evenings we've been 12, and understanding all the French being spoken at the table is quite a challenge. But my French is improving, I hope so at least! I can have some basic conversation and understand what people are saying every now and then. On Friday I start school which means lore French, which is always good! My hostsister from Hong Kong arrives on saturday, so for a while we'll be three exchange students in the house, until they find a family for Valeriya.

I guess that's pretty much all for now! Â bientot (j'espere)!
Bisous, Julia :)