Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 25

Woensdag, 31 Augustus 2011

Woke up, ate quick, and then went out with Patrick.  Had to drop some papers off at the mayor house, and then we drove to another village so he could pick up some stuff.  We talked about cows, tractors, and driving laws the entire way there and back.  It was really nice - great "father"/"daughter" bonding.

Got home around noon, ate lunch with Truut and Marcela, and then did a bit more college research stuff.  Talked with Truut and Marcela; apparently it's REALLY WEIRD for them to choose classes and such in college.  I showed them all the different classes you can take for different things (on AR's website), and all the different majors, and how you can pick and choose classes even in the major.  And the price.  They were astounded by all of it.  :P

Did some redditing, and then we (Marcela, Truut, Patrick and I) biked to a castle a village or so over.  It was beautiful - I wish we had stuff like that in the US.  Took a few pics, but I just realized I touched them up with f.lux on (something that changes the colors on my screen a bit, depending on the time of day), so hopefully they look okay.

Marcela and I with our future house in the background

I really love pictures of paths like this (though even more when Reg's ears are in the pic as well)


Had some icecream on the way home, dinner, and got ready for school.  Packed all my stuff, cleaned my room up, charged my iPod, etc etc.  Hopefully it all goes well tomorrow.  Now, just talking to people on the facemail, listening to music.  I haven't mentioned it on here before, but this is the one thing that makes me want to be a Mariner's fan.  Such a great song (and it's cool watching the video and recognizing some of the places).  Anyway, one last reddit thread (though my friend told me a few nights ago "there is never a last reddit thread") and time for bed.  Slaapwel!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 24

Dinsdag, 30 Augustus 2011

Woke up around 9 (gotta get ready for getting up at like 645 for school :< ), ate with Truut and Patrick, and then back upstairs, looking at more colleges.  Still no luck finding one that has a major I want at a price that's understandable.  I just want to find ONE that would work so I can be sure I'll actually make it into a college once I return home.  :P

Marcela and I biked to the bus stop and then had to wait over an hour to get to Turnhout.  Like, we got to the stop probably 5 minutes after the sign said the bus would get there.  But a lady  was waiting there when we got there, and she was trying to go to Turnhout as well.  So after an hour, the next bus (which was scheduled for an hour after the one we missed) still wasn't there, so I was about ready to give it up and go home.  Luckily, it came right when I was gonna suggest we just go back home.

Walked around Turnhout a bit, ate, and walked down a random street.  Just window shopping, looking in the windows and such.  And, lo and behold, we looked into Marc's shop (he was our chaperon for the rotary thing in Brussels).  He was just leaving to pick up Santiago, so we hopped in his car and joined him.  Picked Santi up, went back to Marc's house.  Marc and Santi went to set up Santi's bank account, and Marcela and I found where the school was (first time going there by ourselves).  Stopped at a sidewalk cafe to have a drink (mmmm hot chocolate), then bussed home.

Dinner, then music rehearsal.  Marcela came with to listen, but she just ended up reading the entire time.  :P  Apparently the guy sitting next to me conducts a music group the next village over, and all of his trumpet players can't make the concert on Sunday, so he invited me (along with 2 other guys from the group I'm in) to practice with them on Friday, and then play in the concert.  Being the band geek I am, of course I said.  Super excited.  Went home pretty early after rehearsal because I was pretty tired.  Just talking to people online quick before bed.  Slaapwel!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 23

Maandag, 29 Augustus 2011

Woke up, ate, got ready for the day, and spent some quality time on the internet and practicing trumpet.  Then, went to my third family's house to watch movies with their daughter (Femke).  It was pretty awesome - I feel like I'll really fit in when I live there.  We watched "The Last Samurai" which was great, and had pizza.  Biked home (biked there by myself and didn't get lost, aww yeahh), did some reading, and had dinner.  Back upstairs, and then spent like 4 hours looking at college stuff.  Trying to decide my major(s), what college I want to go to, when I want to start, etc.  So far, nothing has really popped out.  Not terribly excited to have to figure this out.

That's about it.  Pretty lazy day today.  My head hurts from spending so much time browsing college websites and such.  And looking at the prices for school.  Damn, college is expensive.  Sure, you can think how teachers say and how it's "an investment in yourself", but that doesn't change the fact that it is really, really expensive.  I just need to find a school that I can get both freshman AND transfer scholarships from.  :P

Anyway, computer is hurting my eyes, so slaapwel!

(It's funny how my entries are getting shorter - either I'm not seeing as many things as interesting, I'm more used to it here, or I'm just waay more lazy now.  I'm pretty sure it's the third).

Day 22

Zondag, 28 Augustus 2011

Woke up around 11, ate, and went to the party-thing (it was tractor events in the afternoon today).  Man, that was fun.  One event, they had to open a bottle of beer via a bottle opener attached to the back of the tractor, drink the beer, and get back across the timing line.  There were some other ones, but it's not as cool if you didn't see it.  And, of course, I didn't get a video because I already felt out of place wearing my cowboy boots and talking in English.  :P

Went home (Marcela was cold and tired, I was a little chilled seeing as how it was windy and I again thought I was "too Minnesotan" for a coat), napped, ate, napped again, and went to the party (actual party this time).  I feel like it would be more fun if I actually had friends with.  As it was, I was standing around with Marcela, Truut, Patrick and some of the relatives.  It was nice, but the music was so loud you practically had to have your mouth in someones ear to have them hear you.  But it was totally worth it to go because I heard a hiphop/techno remix of "Cotton-eye Joe".

Marcela and I spent a lot of the night outside of the giant tent where the party was, which was nice because after about an hour my ears were buzzing and my hearing was subpar.  Spent some time just talking, walking around, etc.  Twas nice.  Talked to a few other people outside, so that again made the night worth it.  Went home, talked to people on facebook, read some stuff online (more specifically, a few of these articles), and now it's time for bed.  Slaapwel!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 21

Zaterdag, 27 Augustus 2011

Woke up, ate, and then Marcela and I were out the door by 920 to leave for Antwerpen.  Bussed down there (yay buzzy pass!) and went to the zoo.  Marcela was complaining about how cold it was, and being I'm a Minnesotan, I was like, "It's not cold if you keep moving!" (I was wearing a tank top, no sweater).  So, we went to the zoo, thinking we'd have a bunch of fun.

Ugh.  Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing place, but I always get really sad.  The monkeys and elephants especially just looked so sad - I felt like crying when I saw them.  But after my anthropology class this past year, seeing any type of chimp, monkey, or other primate in a cage just makes me unbearably sad.  Add on the fact that the wind picked up quite a bit and it was raining, and it made it a pretty awful day.  I got to the point where my teeth were almost chattering, but I wasn't shivering and I didn't feel cold at all, meaning that I was super cold (it's weird, but it happens quite often).

See, the zoo is pretty if you don't see the sad animals

So, around 1 or so we left the zoo, got some food, and walked around Antwerpen.  Marcela was super cold (she only had on a tank top and a light sweater thing), so she bought like three jacket/sweater things.  I couldn't find any hoodies on clearance, so I just bought a button up short sleeve shirt (I wouldn't admit it to her, but I was pretty cold as well).  The shirt is so obnoxiously colored; I love it.  We put on our new clothes, and then walked to the icecream store, which was thankfully open.  Couldn't finish the icecream (we vowed to share next time).

Walked down to the water, saw a tour group of old asian ladies.  Oh my goodness they were so adorable.  They were getting a group picture when this guy jumped in front and struck a pose.  They thought it was hilarious, and let him stay in the picture.  He walked away, probably to continue walking with his family, but they pulled him back in, and made him take even more pictures.  They seriously wouldn't let him go!  And when they were finally done taking pictures, they all kept giving him handshakes and such.  It was adorable.

He was a good sport about it though.

After bumming around the water for a bit, it started to look like it was going to rain AGAIN, so we booked it back to the bus stop.  Bussed home, and got back in the house around like 620 or so.  Skyped with the parents, two of the dogs and one of the cats.  Was pretty fun.  Not much to say though considering I write all my adventures on here every night, so they know what's going on in my life, and nothing terribly exciting seems to happen back home.

Had dinner (we had to fend for ourselves), read a bit, and watched a movie with Truut and Patrick.  Marcela went to a party, but I haven't been feeling the greatest (probably from the fast food, rain, and cold today), so I didn't go.  Plus I spent waaay too much money today (stupid zoo being like 20 euros), and I did not want to spend more.  But partway through the movie, Truut's sister's dog ended up at the house - no one was at his house, and he's apparently afraid of thunder.  I was soooo happy!  I was just sitting on the ground petting him until his owner showed up.  I almost cried when he left - I miss my dogs so much!  I can't believe it's still over like 300 days until I see them again.  :(

I mean, at least with people they can understand when you say you'll be gone for a year, but then you'll be back.  And you can talk to them over the year - everything is fine and dandy.  But with animals, you can't explain it.  All they know is that you are usually there everyday, loving them and whatnot, and now you're not there at all.  And if you skype with them, they can just hear your voice - you can't pet them at all.  So they're probably like, "Why is she talking to me and not petting me?  Did I do something wrong?".  It makes me so sad to think about!  It reminds me of that episode of Futurama where Fry's dog just waits for him everyday.  Watching that scene (or thinking about it) makes me tear up so much.  Uuugh, only three weeks in and I'm tearing up missing my animals.  THIS IS NOT GOOD.  (This doesn't mean I don't miss the people too, but hey, at least we can talk on facebook - my animals haven't learned how to type yet).

Anyway, talked on facebook (hi Megan!), and now I think it's time for bed.  Slaapwel!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 20

Vrijdag, 26 Augustus 2011

Man, 20 days already.  And yet, still quite a few days left.

Woke up at 8, utterly exhausted.  Like, I couldn't open my eyes, I just walked down to get breakfast with my eyes basically shut.  So I guess that shows how comfortable I've gotten walking around in the house here.  :)  Ate, got dressed, and left at 9.  We had to stop at the "mayor house" to get some forms saying that Marcela and I indeed live at Truut's house, which of course took forever.  I was falling asleep standing up at the counter - the only reason I didn't was because I felt nauseous from being so tired.

From there, we went to the school to register for classes, which again took forever.  I ended up staying with music, and picking the 6th year, and Marcela is doing fashion, but the 5th year.  So, we can't eat lunch together (apparently 6th years either eat off campus or in a different building than everyone else), which kinda sucks.  Oh well, I guess it means we'll have to make new friends quick.  Marcela and I then got "Buzzy Passes", meaning we get to ride like all the busses for free (if we have our buzzy card) for the year.  Rotary pays for it because we need it to get to school every day, which is great because it's like 100 euros I think.  So, of course, that means Antwerpen tomorrow!

Home, had lunch, checked a few things online, and took a great nap until dinner.  Tentatively planned out the weekend, then went upstairs.  I'm trying to translate a book I want to read about eastern/oriental mythology, so I write it in Dutch on a notebook, and then in English so I can understand it.  I'll probably give up, but I think it's a good way to learn sentence structure and common words.  Probably will only do a sentence or two a night, and maybe analyze the grammar if I feel like it (so I probably won't).

Went online, talked to some people, read some stuff, and now it's time for bed!

I was thinking when walking in Turnhout today that this still doesn't really feel real.  Everything feels transient - it doesn't feel like I'll be here for another 10 months, it still almost feels like a vacation.  Whenever I see a dog, I think to myself how I'm going to pet all our dogs when I get home, not even realizing it will be quite some time until I see them again.  Who knows, maybe it will change once school starts, but I heard this is how a lot of exchange students feel.  It almost feels like I'm in a dream.  Sometimes a good dream, sometimes not so good, but a dream nonetheless.

It's also weird to see people on facebook talking about starting college, and how exciting it is.  If I was back home, I have no idea where I'd be going to college, or what I'd be majoring in.  I probably would have ended up doing another semester at AR (community college), and if so, I would have just finished my first week of class.  Which then gets me getting to think about my first week of class last fall semester - I had some fun classes, and I really enjoyed going to them.  It's weird going back to high school where I can't pick and choose classes after two years of having to plan what classes to take and what time to take them.  I feel like both not choosing classes and having class every day in a huge block will make me appreciate college so much more when I return.

Anyway, it's seriously time for bed now.  Slaapwel!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 19

Donderdag, 25 Augustus 2011

Wow, today was a long day - big Rotary event.  Woke up at 7, had breakfast, got ready (dress pants, dress shirt, tie, blazer), and then at 745 Truut drove Marcela and I to the train station.  We met Santiago again, as well as a girl (Jenna) from Canada.  We had some fun talking on train with each other and our little group's adult leader.  Got off at Brussels, had some hot chocolate, and met all the other kids from from d1630NL (the Dutch half of district 1630, which I'm in).

We met up with all the other Belgium exchange students (around 220 total) in a park, got split up into groups, and went on a tour of the Belgian Royal Palace.  I was the only person from 1630 in my group, so that was a little weird.  But I met a totally awesome nerdy girl, so we geeked out the entire walk.  We really understand each other.  :P

There was a lot more walking, sightseeing, and talking (kinda boring to just explain in writing).  I mainly stayed with the other girl (Greta), another legit girl (Claire), and another awesome girl who is actually from my district in the states (Kate).  We all get along really well, and we talked about starting a D&D group here.  Legit.  I'm excited I found some people I can relate to on nerd things - I miss that aspect of home.

Traded pins with some people, took some pictures; all in all it was more fun than I thought it would be.  But I was super tired, and wanted to go home.  But, of course, we (meaning all the d1630NL kids - we traveled together) missed our train, so we had to wait an hour.  And then Marcela and I had to go to Genk on the train with Santiago and Jenna, from which Emi (head of Dutch part of 1630 I think) drove us to another city, where our adult from earlier (actually Santiago's third host father) picked us up and drove us home.  Too much traveling, and it would have been much quicker if they just Marcela and I take a train to Herentals.  Ugh.

Oh, funny moment of the day.  At one place (can't remember where), they were calling up each student to give their home club flag to one of the district heads.  They were going by each country, and then by the districts.  So, they'd say "Mexico", and then say "district 1630, french speaking", and name off all the kids from Mexico who are in d1630FR.  Then, they'd move on to the rest of the districts, and then start over with a new country.  Anyway, everyone was talking even though they were supposed to be quiet, so we kept getting lectured to shut up, basically.

Well, halfway through saying the USA kids, they finally seemed to snap, and went on a long speech about being quiet.  So, of course everyone got quiet.  And then they were like, "And from the US, for the Dutch speaking part of 1630... Kelsey Lysford."  And then when I was walking up, it was just an awkward silence, and then they were like, "And from the US, for district 2170...".  I'm honestly the only US kid in the Dutch part, besides this one guy who hasn't arrived yet, and there are a boatload of Americans here.  It was really weird.

But anyway, finally got home, Truut heated up some soup and mashed potatoes (with carrots...) and made us some sausage.  Friended quite a few more people on facebook, but since tomorrow is an early day, I'm going to be like right now.  Slaapwel!

(Also, a month ago was when I met the Belgian family at my uncle's bird sanctuary.  Weeeeird!  But that was a great day, and there was a place that was a perfect racetrack for riding horse.)

(Also also, yes, the Lollipop scene from "In Bruges" was probably one of the best.  Gotta love the dark comedy movies.  =D)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 18

Woensdag, 24 Augustus 2011

Lazy day today, which was great.  Woke up around 11 (with no one besides Marcela at home), had breakfast, did some reading on and offline, had lunch around 130 (when Marcela woke up), and then we biked to the library.  Got some movies and a book I'm going to try and read out loud, even if I don't understand it.  I feel like reading and seeing how the sentence structure works may help me out quite a bit.

Biked home, watched "In Bruges" with Marcela.  The Dutch subtitles didn't work yet again, but hey, it's about a city in Belgium so I didn't feel too guilty watching it without any Dutch learning going on.  Marcela didn't really like the movie (or understand it), but I thought it was really well done.

As soon as we finished the movie Truut came home, so when she was making dinner Marcela and I both went up to our rooms to mess around online.  Had dinner, tried to help Truut fix her skype setup, and talked to people online, both from back home and here.  :)  Watched a HunterxHunter episode, did a few things to get ready for tomorrow, and now I think I'm gonna go to bed.  Slaapwel!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 17

Dinsdag, 23 Augustus 2011

The first part of the day was so incredibly boring.

Woke up, got ready for the day, and left the house with Marcela and Truut.  We first stopped at the ING bank Wim (my Youth Exchange Officer, or YEO) works at to set up an account.  We were there for like half an hour, before we left for the school I'm going to next year (Heilig-Graf Turnhout) because there was a bunch of paperwork the bank needed to do.

At the school, we met Santiago, another exchange student with Rotary.  We talked for a bit before we got to ask about classes, and what direction we want to follow in school.  I'm sure I'm going to do music, but I can choose between classical and jazz for a part, and I can choose between the second to last year (easier) and the last year (people my age, but I have to perform a "concerto" of sorts I think).  Marcela still has no idea about what direction she wants to follow, so that makes me feel a bit better.  But if you have a suggestion, please leave a comment!  I have to choose by Friday.

After that, we still had some time before we could go back to the bank (they close for like an hour and a half over lunch, like basically everywhere here.  It's weird.), so we walked around Turnhout.  Went back to the bank, finished setting up our accounts, and we get cards for them next week.  Yay!  But we had to go to a different ING branch to deposit our 400 euros Rotary makes us have in case of emergencies.  From there, we went back to Turnhout, had some icecream (and then hot chocolate right after), and then Marcela and I took a test to get into Dutch lessons.  I actually don't know the point of the test - it was like really easy logic questions, the stuff you do on the MCAs.

But anyway, Marcela and I got perfect scores (of course), there was some talking, and then we went home.  I was practically falling asleep by then, so I was soo glad to be home.  Truut as tired as well, so we just deep fried fries and other various items for dinner.  Biked to music rehearsal.  There was literally no one around (besides one guy in his car on the other side of the lot) when I arrived, and I was only there like 10 minutes before rehearsal started.  I guess they don't really do the whole, arrive 30minutes early thing I'm used to from RCR.  The one guy there unlocked the doors, and let me mess around with the cymbals for a second before everyone else came.  :)  It was weird because the straps were super loose, but it felt soo nice to play them again.

Did rehearsal, and I could basically follow along to simple directions by myself!  Yay!  I'm super excited to learn more music vocab so I can completely follow along.  Had a drink with some people after, though I think I make them feel a little awkward because I don't understand Dutch, and only two of them (I think?) speak good English.  I hope I can fix that soon by learning some simple Dutch.

Home, went online, burned a CD for someone, and now it's time for bed - no HunterxHunter tonight even!  Slaapwel!

Edit:  Whoa, a month ago today I was in Winnipeg for the afternoon.  That was my last "out of the US" trip I had before I came here!

Edit edit:  I guess this didn't get posted for some reason...?  Oh well, here it is now.

Day 16

Maandag, 22 Augustus 2011

Woke up, ate, and Marcela and I biked to the bus stop.  There was a mis-communication about if we were just going to the bus stop to check times, or actually going to use the bus, so it was a hectic morning.  We didn't know how to use the website that says when the bus comes, so we just went to the bus stop to wait for the next bus.  Well, we read the sign at the stop, and we had missed the bus by like 5 minutes, so we waited at the stop for an hour for the next one (we knew if we biked home to wait, we'd miss the next bus somehow).

At Antwerpen, we got some Miccy D's and walked around for like 3 hours trying to find the icecream shop.  We knew it was by a church, so when we saw churches we went towards them (Truut later told us that there are over like 100 churches in Antwerpen >.<)  So, after the 3 hours we ended up at the train station, right where we started.  Even though Marcela's shoes were rubbing her feet raw (wrong choice of shoes; she forgot to switch them before we left, as she had dressed before to just check times at the bus stop) and it was raining, we asked around and found directions to where the icecream place was (we just asked where the water was, we we're pretty sure we knew the way from there).  After a painfully long walk for Marcela (about 20 minutes), we ended up at the cathedral that the icecream shop was close to.  We walked around until we found the shop.

It was closed.

Upon looking closer, we saw it's usually open on Mondays, but of course, it was closed specially today for some reason (the sign was in Dutch so we couldn't read the excuse).  We sat down, utterly tired, and I looked to Marcela like, "At least we know the way to the shop for next time!".  She looked like she was about to hit me when I said that.  :P

Walked about, and bought Marcela some 4 euro flipflops because she literally couldn't walk.  It was pretty funny to see.  When we went to take the bus home, we were pretty confused on where to be, and there was a creepy guy on one side of the street, so we went to the other side, hoping the bus would come there.  Luckily, we found a guy that spoke English, and he pointed us to a bigger bus stop down the street.  But right as we were walking to that station, our bus pulled up in front of us - we just needed to recross the street to get in.  It was the same bus driver that dropped us off, and I think he was laughing at us (he knew from getting us to Antwerpen that we were foreigners).

Home, went online.  Two big problems, both relating to the rotary meeting on Thursday in Brussels.  First, they said that I needed two flags from my home club to exchange.  What?  Apparently I'm the only exchange student (besides the other girl from my club who went to Brasil) that didn't know clubs had flags and exchanged them.  Ugh.  And two, they were like, you need to dress up for the meeting, skirts for females, and no sneakers.  WHAT?  I emailed and they said I could wear dress pants, that's fine, but no sneakers?  Dress shoes are not appropriate for walking around Brussels for like 6 hours.  I think I may do what Marcela is doing and bring a second pair of shoes.  :P

Oh, and this info?  It was on an email I got in July, but I don't recall getting.  I found it today after another exchange student texted me on skype talking about the dress code for Thursday, to which I was like "What dress code?".  I don't know why I don't remember getting the email - I got it when I wasn't up north, and it's marked as read, but I really don't remember it at all.  So that makes me mad that I didn't realize I had it, so I could have asked for club flags.

Uuugh.  And to top all that off, facebook is really messing up for me.  Not that big of a deal, but it's the topping on the cake for today - just pissing me off more than usual.  We had dinner with Truut and Patrick (Siemen was out working), and they left for the farm, but I stayed home to work on emailing a bunch of people about these things.  Had to listen to some country music to just not go crazy, because you can't feel like knocking heads when you're listening to "Beer For My Horses".

Watched the last episode of "A Game of Thrones".  Ooooohmygoodness that was a great episode.  I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but ohmygod.  Amazing.  I totally called one of the things happening, but there were quite a few twists I didn't call.  Spent some more time on reddit, skyped my mom, Kyle and Andi quick, and now it's time for bed (and listening to this awesome storm!).  Slaapwel!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 15

Zondag, 21 Augustus 2011

Wow, it's weird to think that two weeks ago today was my first real day in Belgium.  I'm pretty comfortable with my life here right now, so score!

Woke up around 11, had some quick breakfast, read some articles online.  Truut came back (she was out walking with the kids), and we had lunch, as Marcela finally woke up.  Read a few more things online before leaving with Truut and Thomas (the cousin with the cows) to go to the grandparents farm where Truut and Patrick keep their cows.  One of the cows had delivered twins a few days earlier, but the placenta (I think that would be the correct term, dunno for sure) was still inside the mother, even though it apparently usually comes out a few hours after the birth.  So, the mother was feverish, and we had to cut her and her calves out from the rest of the herd.

Boy, that was interesting.  Let me tell you, if I ever did wild cow milking, I would not be the fool on the ground.  I was getting freaked out a bit - I'm not used to cutting out cows, and basically all the cows in the field had some pretty nasty horns.  Plus, the mother hadn't really taken to one of the babies, so once we had the mom and one calf cut from the herd and close to the barn, Truut and Thomas had to go back for the other one, leaving me to both keep the mom and baby by the barn, and to fend off any of the other cows that kept coming towards us.  Waving a stick and yelling at a cow to keep back while on the ground is not the safest thing I've ever done.  And I haven't been around those cows much, so I didn't know how they'd react to the yelling/stick waving.  All I could hope was that they wouldn't take it as a challenge and charge at me.  :P

But anyway, that was fun, and once we had the mom in the barn Siemen (who arrived after we cut the mom out of the herd) had to tie her up so she wouldn't move.  He kept trying to get a rope around her horns to pull her close to the bars, but kept utterly failing.  Truut was like, "This is when you need your rope, eh?".  Then, Thomas put on these plastic, shoulder high gloves and went to work.  He was like bicep deep in the cow, pulling out bits of the placenta and such.  It actually wasn't as disgusting as I thought it would be; I just stood there and watched, didn't feel sick at all.  He then put some medicine in her, and it was done.  He washed up, and we all had some cola with the grandparents before it started raining, so we went home.

And like, right after we got home, the police came to the house.  They had to check that Marcela and I are actually living here so we can get our temporary citizen card or something.  It was pretty easy, we just stood there and Truut talked to him.  Much less intimidating than cops in America I've encountered.  Thomas and his wife took the kids home (his wife stayed with them and Marcela when we went to the farm), Siemen and his friend came by the house, and Marcela and I went upstairs.

I read a bunch of articles online (thisthisthis, and this were some of my favorites), before Truut came upstairs asked if I wanted to go to Thomas' and help milk.  I of course said yes!  We went there, I got a coverall suit to wear, and I helped milk the cows.  They have a pretty sweet setup; it's really hard to explain, but it makes it easy to milk their like 200 head.  Helped feed the baby calves after as well, which was really fun.  When we (Truut and I; we were the only ones who went) left, Truut told me that Thomas was surprised that I wasn't afraid to help milking, as some of the cows were kicking, and their feet were at chest/head level.  I dunno, I never thought to be afraid - I was afraid standing in the field with the stick earlier in the day, but not at all milking them.

Anyway, at home we had pizza, Truut gave Marcela and I bus cards so we can go out tomorrow as everyone else is working, and we skyped Robyne.  We had to use my computer because they really don't understand technology, and thus, their webcam and mic weren't set up at all.  Went back upstairs, figured out it's 37 cents to text to the US (so if any of my friends want to text, just wire me a few bucks every now and then for the cost of it :P), talked to the padre on facebook, and now it's time for another episode of HunterxHunter before bed!

So as you can tell, I really like the farm aspect of being here.  Sometimes it makes me really homesick to see or hear horses, or to sit on the tractor, but I feel really comfortable out there.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to ride soon.  But it makes me really glad I brought my boots.  I was thinking of leaving them at home because they took up so much space and weight in my suitcase, but I thought that even if I got to use them once, it would be worth it.  And I've used them quite a few times already, so it's so worth it to have them here.

 It's weird being out in the "country", but not hearing country music.  So, every time I've been on the computer today, I've had Spotify on playing some country music (though there isn't a copy of Rodney Atkin's version of "Take a Back Road", which has been in my head ALL DAY, so I had to go to youtube for that).  It's weird, because at home I would rarely listen to country on the computer, usually opting for any of the other music I had.  But I just realized that at home I would listen to country like 70% of the time I was in the car, and I was in the car quite a bit.  Never really noticed how much I listened to it, until I was around the country and listening to the American pop music on the radio thinking "this isn't right!".  Just my odd thought of the day as I sit here listening to Eric Church (and Dad's theme song, "Smoke a Little Smoke").

Oh, and if anyone knows Dutch/has google translate in their browser, you should check out Robyne's blog.  I don't know how often she's going to update, but it's worth checking out.

Anyway, this is too long already, so slaapwel!

Day 14

Zaterdag, 20 Augustus 2011

Woke up utterly tired this morning, so I slept until like 10 minutes before I left for the music rehearsal (around 940am).  Did that, which was great.  I feel quite a bit more confident playing the main piece now, and as it was just a trumpet sectional, I know now what my section plays, so I think it'll make it easier not get lost.  Aaaand I could understand some of the measure numbers when he said them!  I was so proud of myself.  Not all of them, of course, but definitely more than I did on Tuesday.  The director also translated a few things for me, and would repeat a lot of his directions in English so I would understand.  I really appreciated that; it was really nice for him to do that.  Hopefully by next month or so I'll have a good music vocabulary, so I won't need to bother people to translate for me.

Biked home (did I mention I biked there by myself, and didn't get lost?  Yeeeeee muffffinnnssss), watched Mamma Mia with Marcela (whoo, alliteration!).  The Dutch subtitles didn't work, so we just got to watch without learning anything.  I was pretty tired by then, so I took a nap (and it happened to be just when the little kids arrived, score!).  Slept for like 4 hours, woke up for dinner, and then helped Patrick feed the cows. It was pretty nice; I think I'm going to try and help him with that most of the days he does it.

Had a little skype session with the madre and Kyle (and his puppy Edgar~), then bummed around online a bit.  Went downstairs and had some chocolate mousse with Marcela, talked with Truut and Patrick a bit.  Robyne's flight got messed up, and she had a 16 hour layover in Lima.  Ouch.  And her host mom sent Truut a message saying to call her, and left a phone number.  She of course didn't call because the cost would have been insane, but it has us all a bit worried.  Went back upstairs, responded to some emails, read some baseball news, and now it's about time for bed (after a HunterxHunter episode >.>).  Slaapwel, everyone!

EDIT:  At 1:30am Belgium time (so like, 830pm Peru time), Robyne finally arrived at her new house after her 16 hour layover cause by the cancelled plane.  So glad she's there safe.  I can finally get to sleep now.  :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 13

Vrijdag, 19 Augustus 2011

Woke up after about an hour of sleep to take Robyne to the airport.  The entire family went, though we didn't say much in the car - I think most of us were sleeping.  Checked her in (she had like 6kgs over the weight limit, and an extra bag, so she quite a lot of baggage fees to pay), and had breakfast there.  We saw a few other exchange students, though we didn't say anything to them, just smiled and waved.

At security, both Robyne and Truut (understandably) started crying, and everyone was giving her hugs.  Marcela and I got our last picture with our "mommy" (Robyne), and we told her that we'd be good girls and make her proud.  :P  That got her to laugh a bit, so at least she wasn't sobbing on her way to security.  It was weird - they didn't have the take off your shoes security we have at home - she just went to a desk, did something, and disappeared behind some glass doors.  Maybe there was more security checks back there...?

On the drive home, everyone except Patrick (who was driving) slept.  And as soon as we got back to the house, we all ran to our rooms and slept.  Marcela and I woke up again around 2pm, had something quick to eat, and then biked with Truut to the post office.  She was sending a package to their previous short term exchange student from South Africa, and I got my postcards sent off.  We then biked 5kms to Wechelderzande to see a wedding that Truut made the bride's bouquet for.  Unfortunately, we got there late so we couldn't go inside to watch, so we bummed around outside and looked at sculptures.

After the wedding, Truut talked a bit with the bride and a few other people, and then we biked back to Lille.  We then had to go to a bank to exchange some American dollars Marcela had, and then go to the supermarket to buy meat for dinner.  At home, we did the first real round of putting post-its up around the house.  I was writing all the words down in my notebook, and it was around three pages worth.  Eep!  Gotta get on studying those.

Once we finished the post-its, I practiced trumpet a bit until my chops gave out (man, my chops really suck right now), and then bummed around online until dinner.  We all ate, I helped Truut figure out something on her computer, and then we watched "Dances With Wolves".  Great movie, but like all of their movies/TV shows, there were Dutch subtitles.  Which meant when the Sioux were talking, there were Dutch, and not English subtitles, so Marcela and I had NO idea what was going on.  Truut and Patrick translated most of it, but they left for bed with an hour left in the movie (Siemen left quite a bit earlier), so the ending of the movie didn't really make sense to us.

By then, it was midnight, so of course Marcela and I raided the DVD's to find something else to watch for the night.  We went upstairs to watch on our respective laptops, but I just bummed around on reddit and talked to the padre on facebook.  I think I'm going to do the smart thing and go to bed now, instead of doing what I want to do, which is watch another movie.  But first, extra thought time!

It was weird to see Robyne off at the airport.  Even though we had only been sisters for less than two weeks, it was still painful to see her off.  Combine that with the fact that seeing her say goodbye to her parents reminded me of my goodbyes, and it was a pretty sad morning.  Even worse to think about is the fact that she'll probably still be in Peru when I leave Belgium, so that may have been goodbye forever.  Sure, I'll probably come visit Belgium again in a year or so, and I'll stay in contact with everyone, but there's no way to be absolutely sure we'll meet again.

I can see why they say coming home is like 10 times harder than leaving home.  When you leave home, you know your family will be there when you get back, you'll be able to see your friends, and do any activities you missed when you were gone.  But when you leave your new country, you may be saying goodbye for life, or at least a few years.  There are some people you'll never see again, and you'll be saying goodbye to your new way of life.  I bet I'll be blubbering like a baby at the airport when I leave, even though I basically never cry in public places like that.  Thankfully that's still quite a ways away, so I don't need to worry about that for now (though it does make me sad that it is still far away, I would like to see my family again).

Anyway, I should have went to bed a while ago.  Slaapwel!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 12

Donderdag, 18 Augustus 2011

Woke up, had breakfast, talked with Robyne as she started (yes, started) packing for her exchange.  As I didn't want to disturb her, I went upstairs and read some baseball news, watched some clips, etc.  Stayed up there until lunch.  After lunch, Marcela and I went for like a 2 hour walk around town, just to see where things were.  Pretty fun.  Around 4pm, at the tail end of our walk, it started to sound like a storm, so we hurried home.

And boy, did it storm.  Pukklepop, a festival about half an hour away, had things fall down, people killed.  It wasn't that violent here, but the rain was coming down pretty hard.  I commented on how I loved listening to and watching storms, and everyone thought I was weird.  Good thing I didn't tell them about how my mom and I would walk outside during tornado warnings to look at the sky and take pictures.

Went to the cousin who has the cows place so Robyne could say goodbye.  Spent some time there, and then Marcela and I went in a tractor with Siemen, as he needed to drive it to a different village.  It was pretty fun.  Once we were where we had to be, we pet some of the cows, and tried our hand at driving the tractor.  It was SO much easier than our one at home.  Patrick and Robyne picked us up from there, and we went home.

Had some snacks and some sort of champagne to celebrate Robyne's last night at home.  Watched videos online (team roping, tractor pulling; you know, the usual Thursday night videos), chatted.  Since it was Robyne's last night, we decided to dress up and take a family picture.  I daresay it turned out pretty well.

We're a pretty awesome family

Took some more pictures with just Robyne, Marcela and I, and I helped Robyne set up a blog.  Now, it's 2 hours before we leave to take Robyne to the airport, so I guess I should try to get some shuteye.  Slaapwel!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 11

Woensdag, 17 Augustus 2011

Woke up feeling refreshed today, had some breakfast, then came up stairs to practice trumpet a bit before we left for the day.  And, lo and behold, it wasn't my trumpet.  I had either grabbed the wrong Bach Strad case (the guy sitting next to me also had a Strad), or someone thought it would be funny to switch it (and if someone did do that, bravo to them.  That's a great joke to play on people, totally serious).  So, of course, I freaked out, contacting people on facebook and trying to get it straightened out because my wallet was in my case because I'm dumb.  Robyne and Patrick thought it was pretty hilarious.  :P

Anyway, before it got figured out, we (Robyne, Marcela and myself) left for Antwerpen via bus.  Once there, we got a few things Robyne still needed for her exchange, took pictures, shopped (well, they did, I didn't have any money).  It was a really fun day; lots of fun conversations, and I saw a TON of dogs.  Truut came to pick us up, and then we had the most delicious icecream/chocolate mix ever.  I feel like I gained a pound or two from it.

Some pretty flowers in Antwerpen

Truut then drove us to a flower shop, because she had to get some flowers for a wedding bouquet she was making.  And ohmygoodness, there were so many amazing flowers there, and in so many different colors!  I loved it.  I was looking at the flowers a guy was buying because they were awesome, and he started to speak to me in Dutch.  I felt bad just nodding along, so I actually managed to say "I don't speak Dutch", in Dutch!  I was so proud of myself.  He started talking to Marcela and I in English then, so it was pretty cool.  And while Truut was buying the flowers and chatting with the owner of the shop, Marcela, Robyne and I got bored and started taking silly pictures.  It was a lot of fun, as you can see.

Exhibit A

Home, had dinner (fries, cheese things, and steak [I miss the steak from back home - never really appreciated how good the meat from Robin really was]).  Marcela and I were so full from earlier, so we kept complaining and saying how we were going to burst, but then we'd put another fry in our mouth.  A lot of jokes were made over and after dinner, and it was in general a jovial time.  We all get along so well - I'm glad I got placed with Truut and Patrick, and that Marcela lives with me as well.

Cleaned up after dinner, practically hugged my trumpet (the guy came and switched them while I was gone, thank goodness), and talked to the madre a bit on skype.  I can't believe that this is only (and already) my 11th day there.  So weird to think about.  School starts two weeks from tomorrow - eep!  Anyway, either going to bed now, or going to take funny pictures with Marcela and Robyne.  Slaapwel all!

Also, Laura, my mom said you read this, so if you do, I hope you're feeling better!  Wishing you the best from here!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 10

Dinsdag, 16 Augustus, 2011
 (Thanks to whoever said that the number goes before the month - I forgot us Americans are silly and not everyone does month/day/year)

Read that Jim Thome hit his 600th career home run last night against the Tigers.  GO THOME!  Read that right after breakfast (woke up around 10), so I spent some time online reading baseball news.  This article in particular amazed me - Marquis of the Diamondbacks threw thirteen pitches with a fractured leg, until he threw the pitch that would complete the break in his leg (which lead me to the Dave Dravecky story).  Wow.  Spent some time reading some NYT's articles as well; nice morning.

Had lunch, read another article or two on the interwebs, then Truut drove Marcela, Robyne and I to Turnhout.  Robyne bought a TON of gifts for her host families.  I, in celebration of Thome's 600th, bought a book called "Ballet in the Dirt:  The Golden Age of Baseball".  It's in English, Dutch, and French!  But it's mainly pictures, so it's really awesome.  And only 10 euros!

Walked around, saw the school I'll be going to (apparently it's a converted monastery, so it's got a creepy, old church feel).  Had a cherry beer when we were walking around, because there was a cool restaurant sort of thing that had a fun house feel to it, and Truut wanted to show it to us.  Did some more shopping, and by then the sun started to make my headache pretty bad (yes, I had the headache before I had the beer).  Thankfully, we left for home around then.

Slept for a little under an hour, took some Advil, had dinner, and left for my first music rehearsal.  Robyne biked with me, because I completely forgot how to get there.  I was pretty nervous at first, seeing as how my chops are terrible because of my wisdom teeth removal, plus the fact that I was no good at the music.

But, it was totally amazing.  Everyone in the group is super nice, and they helped me translate what the director was saying, and helped me find where I was in the music when I got lost.  I obviously couldn't play it that well, but considering it was my first time with the group, I think I did decent enough.  Honestly, sitting in the room tonight was the most at home I've felt this entire exchange.  Not to say that my family isn't amazing, but I've spent so much time in music rehearsals that I felt completely comfortable, even if everything was in Dutch.

Had a drink with the "younger" crowd after (I think they were all in their 20's), and they kept speaking English to me seeing as how I couldn't understand Dutch.  Very nice of them.  I can't wait until I can talk to them in their native tongue.  Biked home (almost by myself; I went with two of the people until our paths split), talked to Truut and Patrick about how much I loved the music group, and went online to talk.  Had a good talk with the padre, though it did make me miss my Reg and my Meg (she is going to be inundated with snuggle struggles when I return).

Well, it's past midnight again, so I suppose I should be getting to sleep and not reading things on reddit.  Slaapwel!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 9

Maandag, Augustus 15, 2011

Woke up at 1pm today, still feeling a little sick.  Went downstairs, had a banana, and helped clean up from the party (people were there until 8am, just like my last party!)  Then, Truut, Marcela and I went for a walk.  We first went to Truut's sister's house - she has donkeys and a dog, so it was a lot of fun to stop there.  Had some chocolate mousse cake, as it is Mother's Day in Belgium.

Then, we went on a 5km walk (~ 3.1 miles for us silly Americans).  We practiced saying numbers, the alphabet, days of the week, etc.  Truut tried to teach us a few sentences as well; it was pretty nice.  I'm remembering a few more words here and there, so hopefully by the time school starts I'll be able to string together a few sentences.

Once we got home, I had some of the Mrs. Grass' Chicken Noodle Soup I packed from home because I was still feeling sick and not terribly hungry.  Messed around online, and then Marcela gave me a "canga", which she said is a typical Brasilian blanket thing, that you put in the ground or the beach when you want to sit down.  It's so pretty, and a really great material.  I may be like Robyne, and use it as a scarf.  <3

The canga

Marcela gave them some gifts in the kitchen, as we were all standing down there.  Truut then told Siemen how I had talked about how hard it is to sleep without my dogs, because they usually slept with me (at least part of the night, when they weren't out barking at anything).  Siemen then came downstairs with a GIANT stuffed dog I can use to sleep with, and a giant snake for Marcela (she slept with her cat at home, and she loves snakes).  It is so fluffy and I love it so much!

My new sleep buddy

Marcela went to tan for a bit then, and I messed around online again, redditing, talking to people, etc.  I used the tanning bed for like 5 minutes to relax my back a bit (like what Keith does), and it actually helped!  Took a shower, then hung out in the kitchen with Robyne and Truut.  We talked about tons of things, especially music.  I showed them Gypsy Skies, and they showed me a great music thing we may go to.  :)

Then, around 11, went upstairs to talk to people on facebook (Groess, that means you :P), but Marcela wanted to go eat, so I went back down with her to the kitchen.  Had my first PB&J here - the peanut butter is a bit different, so it was weird, but okay.  Tried to get Robyne to try it, but she wouldn't, she thought it was weird.  :P

Well, it's a little past midnight here, so I suppose I should get some sleep so I can feel 100% tomorrow.  Slaapwel, all!

EDIT:  I'm updating the "About Me" section, explaining names and such that I may use and not explain.  If I ever say something and don't explain it or say who they are, just leave a comment saying so and I'll add it to the list.  :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 8

Zondag, Augustus 14, 2011

Woke up around 1030 today to Marcela coming in my room.  We were going to accompany Truut to the market to buy flowers, but she didn't wake us, so Marcela and I were really confused about what time it was/what was going on.  Went downstairs, had breakfast, and made little sandwiches, set up tents, and cleaned wine glasses for Robyne's goodbye party.

At 2 relatives started showing up.  Marcela and I had to bring around plates of Spanish meat balls (Spaanse vlees balletjes) to the guests, and Truut said we had to keep doing rounds until they were all gone.  So, naturally, Marcela and I ate a whole bunch of them so we could be done.  After that we made small talk with a few of the people who could speak English, and then Marcela and I went for a short walk around the neighborhood (not the block - the streets are all messed up here).  We talked a bit about home, and a bunch of other topics.  It was nice.

Back home, we sat off to the side of the party, and Robyne said if we were tired we could go nappy nappy.  Of course, we did, so from like 530-7 I slept.  By that time of the day I started to get a really bad headache, the chills - the usual feeling you get when you're sick (Dad, it was like when you go up north after being in the cities for too long).  Around 7 all of the relatives had left, so we had a quick dinner before her friend's started coming around 8.  I met my third host family (except their daughter, who was at a music camp).  They seem sooo nice - I think I will totally fit in there.  They said their daughter doesn't really like parties either, and would rather watch movies at home, and their son loves video games (yay!).  I may be going to Ghent with them in September, so that's cool.  And I may be going at the end of August as well, so that's cool as well.

Besides that, I skyped my mom and my other brother Kyle instead of going to the party downstairs with Robyne's friends.  Too much of a headache to try and understand Dutch.  And tomorrow starts "Dutch Week" apparently, where my family will only speak in Dutch.  Yay?  Thankfully I told them how sick I feel, so they'll hopefully let me sleep in (and by sleep in, I mean like 2 or 3 pm, because I need one day of just sleeping).  Watched an episode of "Game of Thrones" before bed.  Anyway, slaapwel!

Also, it appears that 68 days ago I was also feeling sick like this - headache, slow, etc.  That's really weird.  (And it's not like I just have that memorized - I do something called ohlife every night.  They send you an email every night, asking how your day went, and they send you an entry from the past.  It's pretty cool, and a great way of keeping track of what you did and whatever else you feel like writing down.  I started doing it in February, so it's cool to look back and see what I've done the past 7 months).

Day 7

Zaterdag, Augustus 13, 2011

Today was a good day.  Woke up around 10 (everyone else besides Truut and Patrick were still sleeping).  Had breakfast with Patrick, and soon Marcela came down.  It was really rainy and gloomy so you probably know what that means - nap time!  I kept a book by me on the bed so I could pretend I was reading, so I wouldn't catch any flak for napping.  :P

Around 1, Robyne woke up, so we had leftover soup for lunch.  It was really fun - it was us three girls and Patrick, and he loves to laugh.  He kept trying to teach us some Dutch words as well, so that was nice.

After that, went back upstairs and messed around online, listened to the recording of one of the songs the music group is playing, and watched an episode of "A Game of Thrones".  Such a great series.  Read a bit, then watched "Sinbad" in Dutch, with English subtitles.  Then, had leftovers for supper (Siemen was there; I have no idea what time he woke up but it was after 3pm), and started to make snacks for the party.  I tried making Russian Tea Cakes, but something must have messed up in the conversion or different ingredients, because they were still soft on the inside after it all was finished.  :/  But we also made chocolate mousse; delicious!  Siemen and I stole a little cup each, and then kept asking for more, it was pretty fun.  Apparently, whenever they eat something or drink a beer, they have to do it in two's.  "One for each leg" they say.  (I only took one cookie earlier, and Patrick was like "What about your other leg?".  Since it wasn't explained to me yet, I was thoroughly confused.)  And after that, you need one for each arm, and then one for each hand, etc etc.

After cooking was done, I went upstairs, messed around online a bit, before going back down and talking at the table with the parents, Robyne, and Marcela.  It's really fun to just talk to them.  Half the time they're sitting talking in Dutch to each other, so Marcela and I just look at each other and shrug.  And if they start laughing, we'll look at each other like "What's so funny?", and then we'll awkwardly start laughing as well to fit in.  Today's was pretty funny because apparently Patrick said something rude to Truut, because she got up in a huff (playfully, of course, she wasn't really mad), and left to the next room, and Patrick and Robyne just couldn't stop laughing.  Seriously, for like 5 minutes straight.

I'm glad it's settled down - that we've had some time to just be alone in our rooms.  I really like that.  Siemen and Robyne were either too tired or too hungover to go to their other party today, so I didn't need to explain my way out of it.  I'd be fine with like, smaller parties with less loud music and disco lighting, and more lazing around and talking.  I think Robyne's party tomorrow will be a bit like that, so I'm a bit excited.

Also, Collin's computer is a beast, so we watched tried something with skype (Collin is my brother, for those of you who don't know).  He had it so our show was showing his screen, and then skyped me, so I could watch it.  Then he made it so the sound from the show went to skype, so I could watch and listen clear as day.  Made for a great night.  Yeeeeeeeeee muffffffffffinnnnnssssssss.

Yu Yu Hakusho over skype~

Well, it's past midnight, so time for bed.  Slaapwel!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 6

(Since I'll probably end up messing up posting a few more times after this, I'm just going to put what date it actually is for at the top of each post).

Vrijdag, Augustus 12, 2011

Woke up around 11, which was nice after staying up so late last night.  Only Marcela and I were still at home, so I had breakfast quick and got in a good half hour of practicing trumpet.  <3  The music is so much fun!

Robyne and her friend came home, so we talked a bit, and then I checked messed around online for a bit before lunch.  Patrick came home, so we had french toast with brown sugar on top (yum!).  The Dutch word for it is pretty silly, so I can't even remember it to put in on here.  When we were putting dishes in the dish washer, Robyne tried quizzing Marcela and I on the Dutch translation for like knife and fork and such.  We failed terribly.

Robyne and Patrick then left to go pick up more stuff for her party on Sunday, so Marcela finally had a chance to use their tanning bed.  She's so excited!  She wants to become black apparently.  I may take a page out of Keith's book and try it out if I ever get really sore.  I went upstairs to work on translating one of the kid's books we got from the library on Monday.  It really did not go well, considering google translate is not a reliable translator.

So,  I practiced trumpet a bit more, and then had a cup of tea and read outside.  Twas nice.  Then we had dinner, and guess what, I finished my plate (you were right Jamie!).  But maybe it's more because they finally realized to give me smaller servings than they take for themselves.  :P

Then, it was time to get ready for Robyne's friend's party.  Since Marcela was going to dress up a bit, I decided I may as well (especially since I wasn't going to fit in with the whole, drink till you drop culture I heard surrounds the group that was going to the party).  Wore all purple, and my purple contacts.  Awwww yeaahhh.

Patrick drove us (Robyne, Marcela and I) to someone's house by the party, where they were pre-drinking.  So, it was my first "taste" of Belgian beer (of course, I've seen it everywhere and have already had to decline drinks a few times).  We had Jupiler, which is apparently the most common Belgian beer.  It was okay - it tasted like beer, so I guess if you're a fan of that it was good.  I only finished about half by the time we left (everyone else was on like their second or third), so I had someone finish my so we could go.

The party was... a party, I suppose.  I'm not really a party-er, as everyone that knows me knows.  So the loud hardstyle and techno music and not being able to hear anyone (not that it mattered, no one really spoke English) was just a headache to me.  I had a cherry beer (really good, I can see why you liked it Jamie), and then opted for Sprite the rest of the night.  People kept offering drinks (I think that's all the English they knew), so I had to taste Duvel (a strong Belgian beer, tasted okay), and some other dark beer I couldn't hear the name of over the music.

A few of Robyne's friends tried speaking to us in English, which was really nice.  I would have tried Dutch, but I could barely understand Marcela speaking English over the noise they called music, so I felt like it would have been a bad idea.  Once they got drunk, they got over their shyness and talked in English, and a few were really good.  Some people were so tipsy, I felt like I had to be ready to catch them at any minute.  It was really weird to see kids as young as 16 drinking and getting completely smashed, and there were parents and even GRANDPARENTS at the party (18th birthday party) watching it happen.  I dunno, it was just really weird to me.  I guess since they all bike home or have a parent come pick them up they can drink that much, but it just doesn't seem appealing to me.

Anyway, after they did presents (really weird, tons of gag gifts), I had Robyne call Patrick, and he took Marcela and I home.  There's another party (or two) tomorrow night, and then Robyne's on Sunday.  Yay?  I just don't see the appeal in drinking that much, that often.  The kids at the party were just drinking and drinking and were so tipsy, and were spilling everywhere (and that's normal - kids expect to be walking in like a half centimeter of beer by the end of the night so they have shoes just for parties).  Then again, I guess you need to drink that much to enjoy the party, which is loud music and fog machines and strobe lights.

That reminds me, I was talking to Truut before I left for the party, and she seemed surprised that I would just have bonfires or watch movies or talk with friends instead of going out partying.  I find it weird that kids DON'T just do that.  I guess that makes me a homebody or something, but I really like just sitting in a room with a bunch of friends eating pizza and drinking Mountain Dew (I miss it already) and just talking or watching movies or playing video games.  Talking (either about dumb things or really deep things) or joking with friends is my idea of fun.  Hopefully once school starts I'll meet some people who think the same.

Oh, I'm thinking I may start throwing some Dutch words in here and there, mainly just so I can practice.  I guess this means anyone reading this will probably learn a bit as well!

I'm starting to feel a bit more at home here, especially after last night.  Before today, we always had things planned ALL DAY, so it felt like a sightseeing vacation you had to do for a year, which is not my style.  Vacations are usually too fast paced because you're trying to see everything.  But today, since we got to sleep  in and had the day to ourselves, it felt more comfortable.  I feel like I can do this whole exchange thing now.

Sorry if this is really random/has terrible grammar or repeats itself, I wrote a few thoughts down throughout the day, so they don't really fit into the whole scheme of what I'm saying.  And I didn't go back to read and edit before posting, which probably means I repeated something a bunch of times (I do that quite often, especially when I'm tired; it's like I don't realize that I've said it already, or I feel like because I can explain it in a slightly different way, I need to say it again).

Anyway, it's almost 2am, so I think it's time to go to bed, even though Robyne and Siemen aren't home yet (Siemen was bar tending at the party).  Slaapwel!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 5

(This is for August 11th, but I posted late.  Oops)

Woke up around 9 or so, talked to people online for a bit.  Twas a nice way to start the morning off.  Had breakfast, and then around 1120 we left for the Rotary meeting in Hoogstraten (by car, thank goodness).  The club was really nice, and everyone was so friendly.  One of the younger guys (just turned 40) sat by Robyne, Marcela and I during lunch and we talked about where we were from (or in Robyne's case, where she's going).  And he knew like all of them!  He seemed like a world traveler, so it was fun to talk to him.  The food was waaay too filling, even though I only ate like half (left the scrimp, ugh).

After that, we went and got groceries (they had carts, whoo!) for Robyne's going away party.  Truut didn't know what sweet and condensed milk was, or light corn syrup, or butterscotch chips, so Marcela and I aren't able to make the treats we were planning on for the party.  Total downer.  We then went to Robyne's cousin's place, where they have over 300 head of milk cows.  We walked around there, and played with the little kids, who I think were like 2 years and a few months.  Well, Robyne and Truut played with them, Marcela and I sat at the table nodding off.

We then got sim cards for our phones, and I got a cheap phone.  It's like the cheapest they had and the cheapest plan, because I would rather text online for free than pay to text.  And it's not like I'll be texting terribly much.  Or, at least until I meet people I won't.

From there, we finally made it home, put groceries away, and made dinner.  Fries and chicken nuggets were served, so it was finally something I was able to clear my plate with.  And on that note, today at the rotary meeting was the FIRST TIME since I've been here that I've seen a Belgian leave food on their plate.  They take huge servings and manage to eat it all.  It always makes Marcela and I look rude because we simply can't eat it all - I just eat until I'm full, and stop, and they hassle me for it, saying I eat too little for how tall I am.

Anyway, we talked for a long time after dinner at the table (we ate outside).  I attempted to teach everyone how to one-handed clap - it was pretty hilarious.  We just messed around it and was pretty great.  By then it was like 7pm, so Truut biked me to the house of a guy in the music group who said he could help me out.  I was terrified because my chops have just DIED because I haven't played.  But, we never played, so my fears were unfounded.  We talked through all of the pieces I was given, worked out hard rhythms, and I learned the Dutch translation for a lot of music terms.  I also found out that a) the Arban's book is called the Trumpet Player's Bible in Belgium as well, and b) they don't have music in most Dutch schools - they have to go to a special school at night.  The guy was so amazed that playing was a part of school every day.  I even lent him my copy of Gypsy Skies because he thought it was such an awesome looking piece (he plays flugel in the group, but he used to do cornet and trumpet).

Two hours after I got there, I biked home (by myself, thank you very much), talked to people online a bit, and took a shower.  When I got out, Robyne, her parents, and Marcela were sitting in the kitchen talking, so I went and joined them.  Robyne was making gag gifts for a friend's party tomorrow night, so we were helping and just talking.  I then gave them all the gifts I had for them, and they loved it.  My next families will get the shaft a bit, but oh well.  That's what happens when they switch it so I have three families instead of two like I originally thought.

Then we spent like 3 hours showing videos online.  Truut and Patrick LOVED drumline and drumcorp (and the wild cow milking too).  I was like, now you know what I did in my free time for the past 4 years.  Marcela showed some awesome videos she made in school or ones from a dance group she was in, and Robyne showed film trailers her cousin (and her cousin's boyfriend, who apparently is almost a famous director) made and starred in.  Around 1230am Truut and Patrick went to bed, and Robyne, Marcela and I stayed up in the kitchen talking and showing videos until like 130.  Now I'm just responding to emails and writing this before I go to bed.  Which I'm going to do right about now.  Slaapwel!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 4

Wow, I can't believe it's only day 4 - we've done so much!

My alarm didn't go off this morning, so I woke up like 10 minutes before we were going to leave for the bus.  I managed to get ready in time, but we decided to eat breakfast and just catch the next bus.  Of course, by the time we (Marcela, Robyne and I) got to the bus stop, the bus was just pulling in.  So, we were scrambling to lock our bikes and run to the bus and somehow we managed it.

We got off at Herentals, and then took the train to Antwerpen and from there to Brussels (we missed the train straight to Brussels >.>).  Brussels was AMAZING!  I love the old city feel, and the cobbled streets and how there was like no bike or car traffic, since there were so many people walking.  We went tons of places, saw Mannekin Pis, ate waffles, and met people from both Brasil and Philly (and the Philly folk also loved Stephen Colbert - awesome!).  Marcela and I took pictures with our flags (I forgot to bring an American flag, so I had to buy one), and it was a blast.

Marcela and I sporting our flags

Around 7 or so, we took the train back home, and Patrick (my host dad) picked us up from Herentals so we wouldn't need to buy a bus pass.  From there, we went to the grandparents to feed the cows and stand awkwardly while they tried to talk to Marcela and I in Dutch, as they don't know any English.  Then Patrick dropped us off at the bus stop in Lille, our home town, so we could bike home.

We had dinner next (at like 830pm), and while we ate I had to try to explain wild cow milking to them.  Dad, I think that at least Siemen is going to come sometime in the future to watch - he seemed to think it was really cool.  :)  Practiced trumpet a bit; my chops suck, but I could still play parts of Gypsy Skies (hey, I practiced the music for here first, but I really wanted to play it again).  Since it was around 10 by then, I stopped playing, put some pictures online, and talked to people on facebook.  Tomorrow we don't have to do anything until like 11, so I think I'm going to watch some HunterxHunter or Game of Thrones before bed, because I feel like this is going to be one of my only days with free time that's not needed sleep time.  Slaapwel!

Also, I really really miss my dogs.  I never realized how hard it would be to try and sleep without them around.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 3

Woke up still tired yet again (hopefully this doesn't become a common theme...), and had what seems like it's going to be my regular breakfast (yogurt and an orange).  It was raining again, and 20 Celsius (70 F), which Robyne said is not typical for summer weather.  Robyne, Marcela and I biked to the bus stop in the rain, and went to Herentals, a town close by to get those small passport pictures which we need to register for temporary residency.  Marcela had apparently never been on a bus before, so it was fun to watch her reactions.

Once we got the pictures, we bussed back home (but not before getting a water from a vending machine, which Marcela had also never seen before), and biked with host mom (Truut) to the city hall.  We turned in all the papers, and biked to the grocery store.  It was a bit different than back home.  There were no bags for you to put your groceries in - you had to supply a bag or just carry it.  There were only like 2 carts, all the rest were the smaller baskets.  We put the food in Truut's bike bags, went home, and made lunch.

I only ate like a piece and a half of the meal (piece of toast, ham, cheese, and another piece of toast), and apparently that's not that much.  They kept commenting on how little I ate, and how Belgians are good eaters.  Then, as I was utterly exhausted, I decided to go nap (Robyne calls it nappy nappy time), which is another thing that they don't do.  I don't understand how someone can live that fast paced (always being somewhere or doing something), and not nap during the day.  I was utterly wiped out.

After the nap, we (Robyne, Marcela, Truut, and my brother Siemen) went to the grandparents to visit, feed the cows, and pick beans.  Twas pretty fun - and it makes me glad that I packed my boots.  Back home, we made dinner, talked about our plans for tomorrow (Brussels), and then went to the music rehearsal of a group that I may be allowed to join.  They were AMAZING!  And we were hearing them after about 2 hours of practice.  They gave me the music they were playing (five pieces), and a Bach Strad to practice with.  <3

Now, I'm just listening to the music online, hoping that I can still play when I attempt to tomorrow after we go out.  Slaapwel!

Day 2

Woke up to it raining, which I heard was typical Belgium weather.  Spent almost an hour getting ready for the day, which was nice.  Luckily, by the time Marcela and I had finished eating, the rain had stopped, so Robyne (my host sister) biked with us down to the library.  We got a bunch of kids books and movies we could put English subtitles on.  :)

We then stopped at the bakery where my new mom was working and grabbed her bike, as Marcela was sitting on the back of Robyne's.  We biked around the village and to the one next ours, and stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch.  By then, it had started raining again, so we went home to eat.

The sandwiches were a bit different than at home.  I had one with bacon, tomato, eggs, lettuce, and what I think was chipotle sauce.  Pretty good, actually.  Then I took a nap, we had dinner, and we (meaning Marcela, Robyne and my host mom) biked to register at the city call (house of the mayor, they called it).  We needed some papers and such we didn't have, so we have to go back again tomorrow.  :/  On the way back we stopped at my host mom's parent's house, though they don't speak any English, so it was a little awkward.  Then home, asked the "first night questions" rotary gives us (when should I shower?  do I wash my own clothes?  etc), and put post-its on a few things in the kitchen so Marcela and I can start learning Dutch.  Then, watched The Emperor's New Groove in Dutch with English subs.

Now it's a little past midnight here, so time for bed!  As they say here "slaapwel"!

Edit: Wow, I was just at the Kittson County Fair a month ago.  It seems so long ago now.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Leaving/Day 1

(Written on the plane from Chicago to Brussels, last day in the US)

Well, it's only around 6pm and already it's been an eventful day. After waking up and saying goodbye to both my brothers and dogs, we (meaning my parents and I) drove down to the airport. Once I had my boarding passes, I hugged my parents goodbye, and off I went through the security check, where I was (of course) selected for a random extra screening. So, the final images my parents had of me was me being escorted to the back by a TSA officer. Lovely.

But, before when I was waiting to check my bags, a man who was a district chairperson in India was behind me, and gave me his card. I thought that was pretty cool, because I didn't expect to meet anyone associated with rotary. Then, of course, I saw someone with the blazer on my flight from Minneapolis to Chicago. After the flight we talked and I found out that she was going to Finland, and her flight departed an hour before mine. So I decided to follow her around so I wouldn't be lonely.

Then we met like 15 other kids going to Finland, so the layover was quite enjoyable. Two of the Finland-bound kids somehow ended up having to take my flight to Brussels instead of going straight to Helsinki, so we ended up talking during our delay (as the other Finland kids had left).

Now, I'm sitting on my flight to Brussels, slightly freaking out because all of the plane announcements were in English, French and Dutch. The lady I'm sitting next to only speaks French, so I feel like this is going to be a fun trip.



Here I am, sitting in my brand new room, with my brand new parents and siblings.  I can't believe what I've been waiting for is finally here.

After I landed in Brussels, I was immediately spotted by my family.  We drove back to their house (our house now :D, which is about an hour away from Brussels), talking a bit about ourselves and some differences between the countries.  They kept saying that their English wasn't any good, but seeing as how it's sooo much better than my "Dutch", I can't complain.

We stopped for some bread, had breakfast, and I was given a tour around the house.  By then I was exhausted, so I unpacked quick and took a nap until we left to pick up Marcela (the other exchange student living with us).  Once we dropped her stuff off at home, we went out for dinner.  I had fries and steak, though they did manage to get me to try mussels.  It was... interesting, to say the least.

At home once again, we did another tour around the house, and I finally got the wireless working with my computer.  I would go into detail about how lovely the house is, but I'm afraid it's time for bed seeing as how I couldn't get to sleep on the plane.  Yayy, sleep!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Majora's Mask said it best:

Yep.  Only one day left in Minnesota.  24 hours after this is posted, my flight will be leaving Minnesota, going first to Chicago, then to Brussels (seriously, 24 hours from now; I had this set up to auto post right at 11:20).  I'll (hopefully) be arriving at the Brussels National Airport at 8:15am their time (1am Minnesota time).

It's so weird to think about.  [cue typical exchange student rambling]  I mean, once I land in Belgium my life will be completely different.  I have no idea how my first family (or my second, for that matter) goes about their daily life, or what kids do for fun, or what high school is like.  Heck, I'm not even used to American high school anymore after doing PSEO basically full time for two years.  There are so many things that can (and probably will) change, it's mind boggling to think about.  So, instead of thinking about it, I'm just going to block that thought out until I get there.  No use getting all anxious about what could change or how it can change.  I'll just deal with it as it comes.  (Probably not the best strategy, but hey, it works)

Getting ready to leave has been pretty hectic.  I've packed and repacked so many times I feel like I'm getting wear and tear on my suitcases.  I've cleaned my (amazingly dirty) room, bought new clothes, thrown away old ones, gotten new glasses and contacts, and gotten a haircut for the first time a few months.  All in the span of like a week because I'm pretty good at procrastinating.

The whole saying goodbye aspect has been a lot harder than I expected.  I'm usually good at keeping things in perspective and knowing I can talk to them online or skype over the year, but it was still really painful.  I have so many amazing friends, and it hurts that we won't be able to hang out in person for a year.  D:

Anyway, besides all that, this last week has been a blast!  I've went out to eat quite a few times for "last suppers" of sorts, had two amazing days of watching movies with friends (and two nights of not sleeping; my last night of "sleep" was Tuesday to Wednesday and was only about 4 hours), and now I'm off to get a massage before going to watch the Twins v. White Sox game from the amazing Legend's Club seating area.  Mr. Hayes, if you're reading this, thank you SO MUCH for letting me and my mom use your tickets.  I can't think of a better way to spend my last night in the states than watching the Twins live from great seats.

This'll be my last time writing from Minnesota for long time (but probably not the US; I suspect I'll get bored during my layover and come whine on here), so tot ziens Minnesota!  Don't have record snowfall this next winter because I'll be totally pissed if I miss it!

Here are some pics from this last week - it's weird to think I won't see any of these people face to face for almost a year.  </3

Me, Andrea, Courtney and Emily at Leeann Chin

Leaving a movie night at 630am makes for beautiful sunrise pictures
No explanation necessary

Brett, Sean and I

I don't know what's going on here.