Monday, August 30, 2010

12/13 :)

yesterday-day 12:
nothing special, slept in, then tried to bake with my host brother. although i followed the EXACT same recipe i do at home, it turned out slightly-above hideous. SAD! you know how depressing it is to be really good at something at home, than come here and be terrible? so first we tried chocolate chip cookies

...then we tried apple crisp.
the apple crisp tasted fine, although it became more of an apple..slop, or something. needless to say, they were both edible, but not like home :(. later that night i proceeded to get sad due to my baking difficulties, language difficulties, school fear, and everything in between. hard day. differences aren't as fun the second week.

today-day 13.
another lazy day. slept in (10:30), had some cereal (yes cereal!!), then just kind of hung around the house. we decided that i could make dinner tonight, so we agreed on fried rice! i went to the grocery store with my host mother and we bought things for it. at home we make it with jimmy dean italian sausage, here it was like..spicy lamb sausage or something, so that was different! and at home we use chinese soy sauce, not japanese or indonesian. it tasted kind of different and i couldn't really stomach the funky meat..but
i think my family somewhat enjoyed it and thats all that counts. tomorrow is the last day before school starts, which i guess is good and bad. you can tell its starting to feel like fall here...rain, wind, 60 degrees. Fahrenheit. goodnight.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


day eleven! nothing special today though, sorry! woke up, got ready, and went to a rotary meeting with all the other inbound students of our district where they explained the rules for three hours! ha ha it wasn't that exciting actually but oh well! then we had lunch there ("sandwiches" which really means bread, butter, and cheese..or something plain like that)..then came home! it was kind of a tough day today, having some spare time here is hard because i don't have any friends yet so there isn't much to do, so that makes me think too hard and start to feel isolated i guess. there comes a point when everything stops becoming cool, new, and different..and starts to become frustrating, intimidating, and confusing. but things will be fine once school starts..then i will be busy learning and meeting friends and whatnot! so my host brother and i made spaghetti was interesting. the cooking process of everything here is so different! the ingredients are too! we tried to make brownies with an american recipe and it was terrible! the flour is all meant for bread, the sugar is superfine instead of just granulated, and the butter is no land-o-lakes here!!! so later we went to the store and i got some baking stuff that looked like it might work out, but we will see..i will experiment with chocolate chip cookies tomorrow i think. (actually chocolate chips don't cutting up a bar i guess! or maybe banana bread..thats pretty hard to mess up!) thats all for now! since theres no picture for today..heres a quote! yippee!

You cannot fully understand your own life without knowing and thinking beyond your life, your own neighborhood, and even your own nation. ~Johnnetta Cole

Friday, August 27, 2010


hit double digits ten! nothing too exciting though. woke up, had a croissant, which was shortly followed by lunch because i woke up late, he he. then i biked to the bike shop with my host dad so they can fix the bikes for school..apparently there are laws in belgium about the condition of your bike or you need proper lights and whatnot. then my host mom picked us up (by car!) and we actually hit some traffic, so lucky me i felt really carsick, oh well. then we picked up my new Belgian debit card! it has a mirco-chip in it..ooolala! then i tried to take a nap, watched some tv on the computer for a while then it was time for dinner! friday is junk food day at this house so we went to a place that just sells fried was crazy! i had chicken fingers and we each got a giant thing of french fries..probably almost 4 cups of french fries each, i'd guess! then we watched The Patriot on the tv for a while and i ate this yummy eclaire looking thing hostmommy got at the bakery ;) thats all for today, thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

9: Brussels!

hello! today started out VERY early..5:30 am, so 10:30pm at home!! woke up, showered, and got ready to head to Brussels for a Rotary Youth Exchange "welcome day". the chair-woman of our district picked me up at 6:30 and we drove over an hour to Genk where we met other exchange students and caught a TRAIN(!!) to Brussels. the train was so cool, felt like harry potter or something. you can pretty much get anywhere in this country by train and/or bus, its neat. once we arrived we met the other 250+/- exchange students from all over..all of which will be in belgium for the year! actually, a lot of them have been here since july due to the backwards school year/seasons in the southern hemisphere. first we toured the royal palace, which was very pretty and was basically a european version of the white house..but it wasn't so great because there was no tour guide, and nobody explained anything to us..just kind of plowed us around like cattle, just kidding. then we went to some random old building where each student gave their rotary chairman a banner from their home club, it took a long time! then we split up into countries and went to eat lunch. there are so many students from the US here in Belgium on exchange, its incredible. almost 100, maybe. the other majorities would be from most of the south american countries: brazil, argentina, mexico, etc. weird fact though, there are only 14 Rotary exchange students in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, what the heck!!!

almost everyone we met was on the french side, it is crazy! makes us more of a tight-knit group of students though, which is fine. anyways, after lunch we toured the Parliament and the Senate was very beautiful and historic but the tour guide spoke great french, haha! his heavy accent made it nearly impossible to understand his attempts at english.

then it was finally time to catch the train and come back, so here i am, writing to you! i think my favorite part of today was at the train station..seeing BEER, in a ...VENDING MACHINE! this country is crazy. i enjoy it! (the country, not the beer) goodnight!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

one week!

i have officially been in belgium a week! hooray!! today started pretty late, i had a bowl of cereal (which they think is weird) and shortly after that, we ate lunch. bread with an assortment of toppings, of course. then my host mom and i went (what i call) "downtown" and walked around and shopped for a while! i only bought a pair of like..pajama/sweat pants, haha. clothes here are SO expensive! a sweater that would normally cost around 40 dollars in america is at least 60 euro here..its crazy! prices are basically double what they are at home, and not (always) double the quality as well. belgian fashion is different though. its not that something is "in" or "out" of style, because everybody just wears what they want. old clothes or new clothes, you just dress how you feel..and it sometimes turns out a bit odd, but whatever. today i also got to tour/see my host dads law is in an old building (really really old, and beautiful) towards the center of town. he has to wear this cloak type thing (similar to a graduation gown) when he is in formal court, and i thought that was pretty interesting. then my host mom bought me a hot chocolate while we sat outside a cafe in the town square. great hot chocolate, REAL hot chocolate, no swiss miss here! it even came with a little cookie, apparently all hot drinks here do. then we came home (all by bike, remember) and after organizing my stuff for tomorrow, we had dinner and now i am typing this. tomorrow we have a rotary welcome day for the exchange students in brussels. so i have to leave the house at 630 am (1130 pm american time) and ride a train there or something. more info about that tomorrow night! i will upload the bread machine pictures on my last post, so scroll down and look at them! night!

day seven, but not one week!

i figured out today that i have somehow been here seven days, but not yet a week. you can figure out how that works. so about today! woke up at 930 (which, for the record, is 230 am at home..), went to get my official ID and all i really got was a piece of paper (for now, real one in a week or so...temporary identification paper) then i came back to the house for a bit! oh and when i say "went" you can just start to assume i mean RODE in..bicycle. so after lunch we went to my future school and registered. i am actually not an official student until my transcript and whatnot gets mailed to the school, then mailed to brussels, then mailed back, and then i am an actual student that the school gets subsidized for or something. after a long, complicated bout at the school, we (host mother and i) then went to the language school where i also registered and stuff! so starting september first it is 9-12 Dutch school then 1-430 real school. i guess! the Belgian government actually MAKES (or strongly, strongly encourages) non Flemish-speaking folks like myself take classes in their language..especially if they want jobs and whatnot. makes sense i guess. another crazy difference is that as a high school student, i can actually choose which path/track/route of education i want. such as music, science, social, physical and stuff like that. its really weird to think that someone 14 can decide what kind of education you want. so i am enrolled in the music part, and apparently that includes everything form theory to piano. oh boy, here we go! each student is also required to take core classes like french, english, history and stuff like that too, but i am trying to avoid them as much as possible since i wont understand it anyways! you also stay with the same class throughout the day, which i find pretty odd. i am not sure how all of it works because it is very different and very confusing!!! stressful, almost. after that we biked home and another foreign exchange student and her family picked me up to go to a rotary event thing. the student is from south africa and since their school year is opposite, she's been here since thats nice to help me out with questions and stuff, since she speaks english! confused yet? haha. so once we got to the rotary thing we played a game that resembled a prehistoric version of bowling. you throw a heavy ball at a little ball and see who gets the closest, basically. after that we ate dinner with some rotarians and their children in this elks-club looking place, i suppose. then i came home and here i am, typing this to you, my faithful reader ;) tomorrow is a day of nothing, maybe some biking to see my future houses, school route, etc. oh! some differences for the day. a major weird thing about me, the foreigner, is that i eat weird!! well, americans eat weird. at first i thought maybe my host family was left handed, but no. everyone eats with their fork in their left hand. i dare you to try it tonight, its SO complicated. they scoop things onto their fork with their knife, which is constantly held in their right hand. i simply cannot do it! my family said they have heard that americans have a way of eating, and we do! fork in the right hand, shove into mouth..correct? the mother said she noticed that i eat like an american, when i cut i switch my fork to the left, use my right (dominant) hand to cut (just a bite, of say, meat), then set my knife down, switch my fork to my right hand, and proceed to put the cut piece into my mouth. then repeat the process. not here though, its crazy! so between the eating and school differences, i say i've had my fair share of culture shock for the day. goodnight!!
ps: forgot to mention i biked to the bakery with my host mommy this morning..look what i got!!!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010


sixth day in belgium! hooray! before i forget, i haven't mentioned one of the better things i have seen in this wont believe it..bread. IN A VENDING MACHINE! since this place values dense, artisan bread (or bread in general) more than we value say, mcdonalds, there are lots of bakeries all around town. so at times when these bakeries are closed they just have a vending machine with fresh bread in it that you can buy at anytime..very clever, actually. i will get a picture of it eventually, i promise!! (added now!!)
Another clever thing about belgium is there way of giving speeding tickets. for us, you see a cop then you slow down, or you get a ticket. for these speed, a machine takes a picture of your license plate, then they mail you a fine. maybe we do that in america too, at traffic lights and whatnot, but not once every couple miles! it is nuts! but smart nonetheless..extra money never hurt a government, right? so now about today...woke up around 11, then got ready and went to the city hall. when you apply for a belgian visa, they first issue you a 3-month one then you report to a city hall and show yourself and then they give you a real one, i guess. apparently this was the first time it has happened to these city-workers in Turnhout. haha. they were confused but we figured it out and i will go back tomorrow to get an ID card and whatnot. next we went to the house of the dutch language where i took something like a placement of those tests i took in sociology class as a joke. a sequence type thing, ie: what comes next? anyways after that i got a paper that says i have to complete 120 hours of fluent dutch or not exactly sure. then i got passport pictures taken for my belgian ID and came home. read my book for a while (which is very good may i add) then it was dinner time. zucchini soup (yum) and leftovers, works for me! then i got to have an ice cream bar which was really cool ;) time for bed now. another busy day tomorrow! thanks for reading!
oh, and i am trying to add more pictures to my blog, bare with me!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

day 5!

hello blog friends! today was my fifth day in belgium. starting to feel normal, actually. although i must say, having everything be so "foreign" is very tiring..yikes! meeting new people, listening to people say things in a different language, makes you exhausted quite quickly. so this morning we woke up around 1030 (as if it matters...?) then got ready to go to a celebration gathering (for lack of a better name.) for a new baby. it was fun for the first three hours or so but then i got kind of tired of being the foreign exchange student from canada, sweden, you name it. apparently i look swedish because of my blonde hair or something? hahaha. eventually they figured out i was american and only speak english. so i left and went for a walk around the center of Turnhout where there is actually a fair going on! something between a mixture of the sioux empire fair or the state fair combined with more circus-esq games. needless to say i bought a doughnut with chocolate and chocolate sprinkles and some gummy cherries. SUGAR! not much sugar in the house, fine with me, but if i see it..hard to resist.
so then i went back to the baby party then it started raining, so we were waiting..and this guy brought back some beignets from the fair, yumyumyum fried doughnut type things..some had an apple slice in it and some were plain. comparable to a funnel cake, with the powdered sugar and stuff. actually, somewhere between a funnel cake and a doughnut hole, only more chewy. well that is all for today! i am actually quite tired, but they might think its weird to sleep at 720 pm..hmm....bye!

day 4!

hello! in case you havent noticed, ive decided to skip the grammar and punctuation nonsense while blogging, for the purpose of easy reading and even easier hope you dont mind! started (kind of) early. nice hostmommy woke me up at 9:30, then we got ready to go on a bike ride/trip/..expedition, really. we drove for maybe an hour to what i believe to be some part in the east of belgium, haha. apparently it all used to be operated by the military, and you could see all the old military fields and fortress type things still there. pretty neat! but nonetheless there were also tons and tons of cute brick houses too. have i mentioned that everything here is brick!? all the houses are, anyways. and i have also decided that belgium is one giant never ending city..or giant never ending suburbs. everywhere you go, everywhere you drive, you cannot escape the little brick houses! haha! so once we arrived to the aunt and uncles house i attempted to ride with them on their journey, but failed at somewhere under 10 kilometers? everything is so different in kilos, centimeters, celsius, oh about some miles, inches and pounds, eh? so then i went back to the nice relatives house and tried to watch tv...but then MTV and nickelodan were both in dutch which was weird. then i finally discovered BBC (english!!) and to my luck there was a food show on: the great british bake-off. so after a few hours everyone came home, showered, had wine and shall we say breadsticks, salami, olives..mmm mmm fancy-ish. then we went out to dinner which was nice and i learned a few words in dutch such as table, glass, chair, fork, knife, umm napkin was too hard..then the days of the week all sound like you are coughing up something haha a sound i will soon learn to say.. but that is all for now! talk to you tomorrow, hopefully!

Friday, August 20, 2010

ending day 3..

today went very fast! after my last blog post i think i sat outside and read my book (eat pray love) then tried to do a sudoku..which i never finished. then my host dad cooked a yummy dinner and then my host mom took me to this community band type thing which was neat! the people were really nice and i think i will go again next week. then i came home and now im here..time for bed, biking around eastern belgium tomorrow i guess! another adventure..bye for now!

starting day 3..

well, just woke up! its like past noon here, so that is probably not good.. but thats okay! good news is that i met some new people last night, which is kind of cool. my host sister took me to an irish pub (of all places..) and she said goodbye to her friends because she left this morning! tonight i am going to this community band thing with the neighbor...i guess she is also the principal of my school? it will be interesting/cool! so now i should go start my day somehow..maybe get ready and whatnot. sleeping till noon definitely doesn't help me get used to the time change! oops! bye for now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

in belgium!

Sioux Falls - Chicago..bumpy, bumpy flight. Felt like i was on a roller coaster! So instead of feeling sick it was actually kind of fun, haha. Then i had to wait 4 hours in Chicago..which was pretty boring. I had a hamburger and french fries then just sat around staring at people. Then we finally boarded for Brussels, so i texted everyone goodbye, and i'm here! I met my family at the airport then they drove me to their house, it is very pretty! But very different than in America. Normally, my mom and i eat breakfast like..a bowl of cereal or something, in front of the tv sitting at our bar table. But not here! Every meal is as a family at the dinner table, something i will get used to i guess. It is also different to have a cat around the house, and very different to not understand what anyone is saying! Since the family i am currently staying with has a daughter leaving for Taiwan tomorrow, i have her bedroom. It is cute and seems very..European, hah! I am pretty much all unpacked and now i just have to let my body get caught up to the time zone..harder than it sounds! Besides all that the country is beautiful, and the weather is not hot like it would be back home..which is pretty nice! I think i am getting a cell phone later today, so maybe i can make friends or something...hmm..thats all for now!

Monday, August 16, 2010

one more day..

Tuesday morning is right around the corner! Crazy how time flies. One minute, its the start of senior year..the next, graduation..then summer is gone and Belgium is a day away. Tomorrow will definitely be one chaotic day of packing! Who seriously knows what to pack for an entire year? Exactly! Sadly i said goodbye to some of my friends tonight, but it didn't seem like a going away party. It seemed more like a normal get-together with games, food, and lots of laughing. It was pretty much a perfect way to end that particular chapter of my life..and soon i will be very excited (but very hi Dutch friends, I'm Jamie?) to start another! Well..time to enjoy the comfort of my own bed for a little bit longer. Peace out, Blog!

Oh! and a little visual aid for your personal pleasure, or my plane-riding torture of the two!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

two weeks!

Hard to imagine that two weeks from tonight i will be laying in a different bed, listening to a different language, brushing my teeth with different water, and throwing on my pajamas from one of my two 50-pound suitcases. The greatest year of my life will officially have begun! Technically, at this point i would probably already be sleeping, but thats beside the point. Point is, my almost-year-long adventure is right around the corner, and i have yet to even find a suitcase to take, let alone stuff to put in it. Needless to say, i am very excited..and naturally, i am nervous. Maybe not scared, but definitely nervous. It is hard to throw yourself into something so foreign (for lack of a better word), or at least the concept of doing so seems rather intimidating. Disregarding all of the previous comments, i am more than ready for my beautiful year to take its start. Belgium, here i come!

Here's a really simple map of Europe, i'll be in that little tiny "Bel" country, between France, Germany, and the Netherlands. So cute, isn't it?

Thats about...4,400 miles from Brookings. No big deal, right?

Anyways, thank you for reading, and i will do my best to keep blogging! :)