Sunday, December 29, 2013

Return to Belgium: Summer 2013

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time now. About five months, to be exact. But i could never bring myself to the realization that I actually did it, I actually went back. Maybe it's not that I went back, necessarily, but that I went to begin with. That the little missing chunk of my heart actually does a place, in people, in food, in things, in just an overall incredible culture completely different to my own. I've lived the past couple post-exchange years in a bit of denial. I've tried my best to move on and pretend that I am not any different than anyone else, reasonably just to make the whole "american college life" thing easier. But forever there has been this burning desire inside of me to go back and face what I did, who I was, what I created, what I left, and the whole "Jamie goes to Belgium" life. So what do you know, for two weeks in July of 2013, trusty partner by my side, I freakin' did it.
And oh my God, it was incredible.
I knew for a long time that I wanted to go, but when my friend Adam offered to come with me before he attended a music camp in Italy...I knew it was really time for me to visit. Adam and I visited A LOT of cities in the short week he was with me, including...
and Ghent. Incredible, right? but you know what was even better than showing Adam all of the cool places I have written so much about in this blog?...SEEING MY HOST FAMILIES AND FRIENDS AGAIN. not to mention the wonderful hospitality offered by both the Peeters and the Plessers, and the fabulous travel companionship from my best Belgium friend Quinten. But seriously, the Peeters gave Adam and I an awesome bedroom, separate bathroom, and lots of fabulous food and love as we came in and out of their home during the first week of my stay. Not to mention the Plessers, who not only have figured out how to put up with me (attitude and excessive belongings both) but gave me a cute room, delicious food, and wonderfully smelling laundry to SHOVE in my bag upon my dreaded return to the US. Seriously. I can never thank these people enough, so i will just keep sending American candy for holidays, I guess.
Amazing! So after a few fun days traveling (and by that I mean trying lots and lots of food..and BEER!) around the top half of the country with Adam and Quinten, I bid Adam farewell to Italy and continued on my merry way to stay at the Plessers house. Before leaving the Peeters, however, my awesome friend Quinten and I (this is the same friend who visited me the summer i returned to the US, mind you) WENT TO PARIS for the weekend! How cool is that?
It was one of the best decisions of my life! Just an hour and a half with the train from Brussels and boom, adventure in Paris awaits! We had a wonderful time exploring the city, including about 100 baguettes and a few bottles of (cheap yet delicious) red wine. Oh, and the sights were pretty incredible. I am proud to say the third time is a charm, especially when visiting Paris. That's pretty cool for 22 (21 at the time), right? So back to Belgium we went, for a few last days in the second place I call home. A few relaxing days by the pool, just completely enjoying and thinking about life. There was also a quick trip to the sea included, and my host mom Katrien also bought me the most wonderful necklace of my life, which I have worn every day since. But it was all just fabulous. And after one last dinner with both host families, it was all over.
Crazy how time flies, but even crazier how experiences change you. I would not be anywhere close to the person I am now without the places i've been, people i've met, things i've seen, you know. that stuff. So I guess if i've learned anything, its that life is really, really good. While I may never be able to redo those homesick days back in 2010, im content with the fact that I can take long flight across the pond, hop a train, have a cherry beer and some fries, and use my key to get into a house I can always call my second home :) Belgium- ik hou van jou. Tot de volgende <3 -James

Friday, May 24, 2013

post two-year return: life as of now

My dearest blog readers, yet another thanks for checking out the blog for what i always say is the final time. I feel i need to catch you up on the past school year, my reoccurring thoughts about my adventure, and life in general. Let me start by saying that i've almost forgot what its like to put your feelings down on paper, or in this case blog, so stick with me here. Lately i have started to miss belgium so badly i go through every picture, read every blog post, and attempt every recipe i find that reminds me of my second...home. Its funny, because thats how it is in my mind. 100% another home. Particularly during my days of miserable homesickness i never thought i would be laying in my bed teary eyed typing about how much i miss belgium. this is un-freaking-believable. So that was feelings. now heres life. Life has been crazy! I finished my SECOND year of COLLEGE and i can't believe that its half over. I cant believe two years have gone by since returning home from the adventure of a lifetime. Its like i dont remember it, or i remember all of it.. its just always there. Hard to imagine that college will also soon be a memory. live in the moment, kids. your life will flash before your eyes and i want you all to be ready....because i sure as heck am not. This year has had its ups and downs. ups mostly with academics and extra-curricular activities, downs mainly in self-reevaluations and a differing relationship status. in the past week i've also switched apartments, and the one i just moved to needed a LOT of work before i could move in. but its what i wanted. i like being unique in my new place. and I blame belgium for making me so stir-crazy, random, and indecisive. also! i switched majors for a third time. so i'm now studying (for what we can only hope is a final time) entrepreneurial studies. Maybe i can work in good ol BELGIE for a couple years after graduation? girl can dream, anyways. lastly, I suppose the good news is that theres about a 90% chance my friend (and faithful reader..shoutout!) Adam and I will be going to belgium the second week of July. truly, nothing would complete my life more than taking him there. we have been friends for as long as i can remember, and we are the best travel companions anyone could ask for. Cross your fingers that it works out for us to go! I cannot WAIT to see my families and my friends back in Belgium. so, alas. I'm falling asleep but i had to acknowledge the fact that its been two years since i got home. i miss my life there, yet im proud of myself here, but i'm hoping i can have it back for a couple days in july. thanks again bloggers! you guys seriously make it worthwhile.. and anything else, just ask ;) Jamie Marguerte

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2 years ago.

Two years ago today...i had just arrived in belgium. I cannot begin to express to you how weird of a feeling it is to know that in a sense, it's all over. that adventure, that stage of my life, everything there is now just one giant memory. the weirdest part is that although it's over, my experience in belgium is really never-ending. I would not be who i am and where i am today without having gone on such a life-changing adventure. It's just weird how it feels like yesterday i was eating french fries on the cobblestone streets with my classmates, or going to language school with the mail order brides, or even just hopping on a train and going to one of the most beautiful train stations in the world as an after school adventure. just take me back.... In the mean time, my life has gone on. I finished my first year of college and had a pretty good time. Managed to build up my GPA by working hard and also got to participate in multiple music ensembles and activities. I also had my first serious boyfriend and got to experience life living almost completely alone. I liked it. One thing i find very interesting is my current living situation. i will start by telling you that i absolutely hated my current roommate in high school. i have no idea why, but we just didnt get along. As soon as i got back from belgium we were totally fine. She's Dutch, and we speak Dutch together quite a bit. It's gotta be the coolest thing in the world. Another fun thing is that my mom and i went on vacation to New York this summer to take some time to relax and to see my 1st host family while they were there visiting.
It was so awesome for my real mom to meet the people that took me in as their foreign daughter and helped shape me into who i am today. I hope after completing college my mom can come with me to see firsthand what it was i've blogged about all along. Little things like that remind me everyday that belgium really did happen and that it truly changed my life. I guess what i'm trying to say is that you honestly don't know what you have until its gone. at one point, i had the entire country of belgium at my fingertips, and i probably didn't care nearly as much as i should have. don't be afraid to enjoy the stupid stuff and the little stuff in life, but dont be afraid to tell the pointless, depressing crap to get out. I wish i could be stuck at a train station in the middle of the night again, or wish i could be riding my bike to school in the snow. Don't have things you wish you could do..just do them and enjoy them enough the first time that you don't have to prove to yourself that you don't miss them by trying to go back. There is no delete key in life. Do it, and do it well...whatever it is you do. Fill your life with adventure, love, truth, and grace. You won't regret it. Thanks for always being there for me, readers. wherever you are, thanks for reading. love, yours truly. jamie.

Friday, August 19, 2011

1 year(?!)

once upon a time, an 18 year old american girl named jamie set out on an adventure (that would possibly change her life forever). the blonde haired teenage diva stuffed her life into 3 (slightly overweight and oversize) suitcases and did something completely out of character by hopping on a plane..alone. the plane would first take this girl through a lengthy layover in chicago and then proceed to fly halfway across the world to the waffle capitol of europe. nothing but good old belgium. upon her arrival her first host family waited anxiously outside of the baggage claim area with balloons and a sign that she, in turn, didn't even notice. (had to have been the jet lag. i mean, who can sleep when they've just left their entire life behind?). so thus, a tired, nervous, only-english-speaking jamie jumped in the family jeep and chatted the 1 1/2 hour drive away with her new host family. eventually they stopped at the local bakery (which would become her favorite due to the fact that they have the best koffiekoeken ever) and bought croissants which jamie didn't eat because she was sleeping! eventually, the family woke her up and they all went to eat chinese before they took the host brother to get the bus to camp for the next week or so. after a long day, jamie slept for the next 16 hours. [and that was my first day in belgium.]

before going to belgium, i thought the world was large. now i know that the world is not only large, its huge, and yet so small at the same time. huge because it takes multiple hours in a plane to get across the ocean to wherever you're going. but small because i know that a part of my heart and myself is still in belgium. (yes, belgium. that small country between holland and france). every family i had, every friend i met, every classmate i laughed with, every exchange student i cried with, every church i saw, every pastry i ate, every beer i drank, and every step on those darn cobblestone streets i all changed my life.

almost nine months after her arrival date, it was time to come home again. slightly early due to personal choice, but nonetheless it was a beautiful ending. jamie woke up just like any other day, made some coffee in the cool coffee maker, ate some bread and home-made pear jelly. eventually, jamie and her host mom mailed one of multiple boxes to home full of clothing and memories. later that day, after her host mom helped her stuff cookies and goodies into her (already super packed) suitcase, a few friends came over and said their goodbyes. that evening, jamie and her second host family sat down and had dinner one last time. spaghetti was jamie's choice for a "last supper" in belgium. she still has no idea why. well then it was bed time, and i guarantee you jamie slept a total of 45 minutes that night. [and that was my last day in belgium.]

after coming home from belgium, i've realized that life is about choices. cultures are only different because they choose to do things a different way. sure, belgians can make thick american pancakes and bacon and eggs for breakfast, but whats wrong with eating some simple bread and jam? not only is it about choices but its also about resources. maybe there is no pancake mix in the cupboard and bacon is outlawed in a certain country, who knows. i do know that to me, i see it as this: an individual in this world survives by making choices and utilizing resources. the other day i decided to paint my fingernails. i painted them brown because it was an option i found appealing. i could have chose red, but i didn't. i chose brown instead, and thats what makes us different yet the same. even if we all had the same options, maybe red or maybe brown, we wouldn't all be the would we? i am an individual, and i am a part of this awesomely unique world.

exactly one year later, this very same american blonde girl awoke to the sound of her father turning on the tv in a hotel room somewhere on the opposite side of home, south dakota. eventually they packed up their things, loaded two friends in the car, and drove back to brookings (8 hours away). making a pit stop in sioux falls, jamie actually got some new glasses. (one's im sure she would have never been brave enough to pick out before her experience overseas may i add). eventually, jamie and her mother drove home in her oh-so-american cargo van and then made dinner. they had spaghetti for dinner. jamie cooked. she made sure to add lots of vegetables, just like her host family in belgium did. [and this was today. just another summer day after my unforgettable foreign exchange.]

Sunday, June 5, 2011


my dear, dear reader. for what may be a final time, hello. i hope my writing tonight finds you well and happy, wherever and whoever you may be. we are now into the first few days of june and i have been home for almost three weeks. i will be perfectly honest and say that i have been intentionally avoiding my blog these past few weeks for reasons i can't even begin to describe. part of me came home, and instantly went back to the same mindset i was in before i left. i don't know if its good or bad, but i do know that when i adapted that quickly the part of me that was so happy to be back also just left belgium out of the picture. half of my head tells me belgium never happened. i was never an exchange student, i was not gone for nine months, and it was all surely just a dream. I have the same friends, i work the same boring job, i eat the same dinner, i drive the same car, i pet the same dogs, and i wear the same clothes. nothing has changed, and i must have been dreaming. maybe its like i went on a week-long vacation? i find myself answering questions about this almost imaginary place i apparently went to and knowing all the answers. i can tell you exactly what i did, who i was with, how i got there, you name it. but i just dont BELIEVE that i did it. i probably sound crazy, i know that. i hope you're starting to see why i haven't written since i got home.

nothing has changed, except for everything. nothing has changed, except for me. the other part of me sees everything in a different light. i struggled quite a bit speaking english the first couple weeks, and i still find myself saying "een beetje" (a little) and "ik weet het niet" (i dont know) in dutch instead of english. i see myself picking out shirts in my closet i thought i would never wear again in my life. and i hear myself saying a bit wiser, possibly more mature things. i got a desk in my bedroom to make it seem more like my belgian rooms. i eat fruit and granola in the mornings because that's what i did there. hell, i even bought myself a NEW BICYCLE so i could have one like i did over there. trust me, there's still a part of me that remembers..and will always remember.

iv'e been fairly busy in the time i've been home. i had about a week to get rid of the jet lag and figure everything out back here again before i started my summer job. (and for the record, i had a great flight home with nobody on my left and the isle on my right..then customs in chicago was a breeze!) so yes. i'm a cashier at the pool and i've worked almost every day for the past two weeks. i enjoy it, so i don't mind working all the time. besides that, its really boring so we just talk, eat, and read a lot of the time. i have spent quite a bit of time with my friends since i've been back too. maybe not as much as i'd like but as long as we can laugh at the same jokes from last year then it's perfect.

you know. i can't seem to think of a way to end this, because somehow we both know that it will never end. "jamie goes to belgium" started as an attempt to remember the important things, a time-filler to stay away from facebook, and a way to show my family and friends what i was doing. i never thought i could have my entire journey written down for the world to see! i suppose, as with most things in life. with my blog, with my journey to belgium, and even with fishing...
you just have to be brave enough to attempt some things, take some risks, and you never know what you may find :)

wishing you happy exploring, good eating, and a fabulous day! and of course, THANK YOU FOR READING! sincerely, Jamie M. South Dakota-Belgium August 2010-May 2011 :)