Thursday, September 30, 2010

44!

day 44 here in Belgium land...dreary nose-running sort of day. TYPICAL! lets see...today i leisurely cycled to language class and arrived about 9:15, naturally class didn't start for another 10-15 minutes so i had time to do yesterday's homework that i procrastinated and ended up not doing. so i quickly wrote some answers down and finished on time. today we got our first test back..and my best friend KARMA caught up to me. remember that divorce joke i pulled in yesterdays blog post? turns out i spelled it wrong (in dutch)! just my luck right? i also made a couple other mistakes that translate to "she are" instead of "she is" and "she likes cook" instead of "she likes to cook" or something like that! so i got a 7/10..but i know what i did wrong so better luck next time!! today was an extra special day because my friends decided to go to the "tearoom" for lunch (the place that gives you chocolate and mini muffins with your warm drink...)! i had promised myself that the next time we went back there i would order PANNEKOEKEN! what is that you say? why, its the belgian version of pancakes of course! looks like a thick crepe or a thin pancake...tastes like heaven. you get two huge ones on a big round plate and i ordered mine with warm chocolate sauce. sadly i could only finish 1 and a half total..because the chocolate sauce was soooo richand so tasty..i could not handle finishing it. the weird thing about pancakes here is not that they are thin and large, but the way you eat them. you add a sauce, or some sugar, or syrup/jelly or whatever..then you ROLL them (like lefse..kind of?) and cut the roll with your fork and knife and eat it! so good, i am telling you..i will give up my peanut butter and jelly ANY DAY for pancakes...haha. anyways. i had amazing pancakes that i sadly didn't get a picture of but no worries because i am sure i will be back there within a month or so for more "pannekoeken met warme chocoladesaus"...(yeah you read that right, WARM chocolate sauce...try that one on for size, PERKINS!). so anyways! after the exciting calorie filled lunch we went to a study hall because the teacher was gone..no substitutesremember! then we had an art history class that i just did my dutch homework in..and then some class where they discussed how their "jury" went yesterday. i guess they had to read some thing or present something yesterday in front of a judge...all i caught from the discussion is the teacher reading the results, and she told a few of them they had poor dialect or something! so after that i got some cash from the atm and came home. on the way home i saw a pair of boots i really liked but sadly their 109 euro price tag is not in my budget..maybe if i stopped eating pancakes...nah. so i came home and took a shower, something about a runny nose makes me want to shower. then i hung around for a while and started to make dinner! it was taco night in the house..so we made some guacamole, taco meat, and had some toppings to put on a tortilla. here are my observations about taco making.
1) the meat. "hamburger" as we call it in america. normally we fry it up in the pan, sometimes drain the grease, then itsready to eat. not here! here you have to fry it in the pan, wait 15 extra minutes so the water or HORMONES evaporate, then move along with your cooking process. almost like you BOIL the meat in its own liquid..disgusting! luckily my mother sent me a pack of spices from home (mckormics?) and i added that like we do at home. my host father said it tasted "asian" ...hhaha okay then!
2) guacamole. no canned green chili's and no lawrey's seasoning like at home. added cilantro (or "coriander"), and more tomatoes than usual. tast
ed alright but my family called it "bland". fine with me.
3) cheese. normally we just top off the taco with some shredded cheddar cheese, that you can find on sale at hyvee for $1 and stock up on if you're anything like mother mary. no not here. "shredded" cheese doesn't exist, really. this is a SIY (shred it yourself) nation. so thus the little container of cheese you see at the lower right hand corner of the picture. a block of cheddar cheese.

in conclusion, today was a nice day, and tomorrow will be nice as well. i have no plans..but i do plan on trying to find a way to get out of gym class..but i don't think that will work. thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

43!

43 days here so far! woensdag = wednesday! today i did not want to wake up because i am sick..i was up for a while last night coughing, which is odd because i have not had a cough in a long time..so waking up this morning was about the last thing i wanted to do. anyways i finally woke up and biked to dutch class where i had my first test! we had to write 6 sentences about anybody..so i decided to write them about my (real) mom! i said things (in dutch) like..this is my mom, she is not married, she has one kid, she wakes up early, etc! mother you should be very proud..i even know the word for divorced!..okay sorry that was an unnecessary joke, i apologize! just making light of the situation..and it just proves that i am learning more and more every day. but then at the end of the test we had to write a fake birthday card, and i couldn't remember how to spell "happy" in dutch ("gelukkig"..someone tell me who WOULD remember that?) so i just wrote "jij bend heel oud" which means "you are really old" hahahha...i wonder what the teacher will think of that! so after the test we continued our lesson and it was kind of boring. then i biked home and we had lunch! since i only have dutch class on wednesdays i don't think i did anything productive this afternoon. i know i took a shower and went to the grocery store with my host mom. oh! at the grocery store..really funny story. the place is like a sams club meets econofoods..dark warehouse kind of vibe..lowest prices though apparently! so there are a few different samples throughout the place..so first i had a little chunk of chocolate, then a mini cookie, then part of a waffle..and then..a chunk of HOT DOG! here hot dogs come in cans, not plastic packages like at home. so they were sampling some brand of hot dog and they cut them up into 1 inch pieces and had toothpicks..i laughed then tried one. tasted like the vienna sausages from america..the small ones in the tiny can. so as i was giggling about the hot dog samples from a can i turned around and saw that you could also sample WINE at the grocery store! ridiculous! they had some open wine bottles and little plastic cups you could pour it in. i think i forgot to mention the grocery store also has a little coffee bar like at church where you can get coffee as you're shopping..its all just too funny for me. so at the store we got things for me to make tacos tomorrow night..i am looking forward to it! i guess they haven't had tacos before which is weird because doesn't spain have tacos? spain isn't that far away...compared to south dakota to mexico..and we have all sorts of mexican food..guads, taco johns, whatnot. interesting! so then we came home and i pretty much just hung around the house. tonight my host brother and i made (what i call) cheeseballs...only bigger cheeseballs than home. they were frozen and we fried them in a pan and ate them! his had mini shrimp in them and mine were just plain cheese. now i am really tired and hate to admit it but i can barely breathe out of my nose..gross! dreary rainy days here are not good for my immune system, complexion, ahh..they're just no fun. hopefully spring is very mild and pleasant but that seems to be a long ways away. thank you for reading, more to come every night! :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

42!

day 42, readers! dreary day in belgium..so you folks should enjoy the sun in SD while it lasts! today i had language class in the morning as usual..only we finished about 15 minutes early. so i biked to the store that sells just about everything and bought some detangling spray for my hair. all the wind makes it impossible to brush my hair at night! it was about 50/50 if it was dry shampoo or detangling spray but either way i could use it so it worked out! then i met my friends for lunch. after lunch we went to music class for like 15 minutes and listened to the teacher talk about "cannons" (the music ones..not the shooting ones from the civil war) and he played some orchestral nonsense over and over. i just sat there pretending to pay attention of course. but today was a special day because for some reason we got to go to a play! it was some play about the 1840s-60s with puppets! well not exactly puppets..more like big dolls...that they guided around with one hand..really hard to explain but lets just say puppets! i understood a lot from the beginning, but then my brain got tired of translating and catching words every so often...so then i fell asleep for the rest of it. but it seemed like it was nice! then we went back to school for about 15 minutes of math class then we were done for the day. so i biked home (smart thing i did today: wore my jacket..i wasn't half as cold as i was yesterday!) and then hung around the house for a while. we tried to get my Belgian ID card but it is not ready for 3 more weeks..its taking so long! oh and i got a letter from my aunt Kathy and cousin Tony today..that was nice! snail-mail is always good...i wish i could tell you i've mailed my postcards already but i keep forgetting!!! i feel really bad! soon enough i will do that. but as we were biking home from the city hall i saw the coolest thing ever!! A BAKERY ON WHEELS! and then the second coolest thing ever..A ROTISSERIE CHICKEN SHOP ON WHEELS! ..they were in the Oud-Turnhout market (not to be confused with the Turnhout market..this is about 1/4 the size)..my host mother says its a type of "market" that they have here sometimes...i wish i had my camera with me! but i'm sure i will get a picture someday. do you remember the french fries i had at school the other day? where they were served out of the side of a big truck like at a fair/circus? this was the same thing..the side of a big trailer opens up and inside a person stands selling bread or chickens! really cool if you ask me. i guess there is a bigger market in Turnhout that happens every saturday morning, someday i will go and take lots of pictures! so we biked back home after not getting my card and started cooking dinner. tonight we had brussel sprouts..or "spruitjes"...and they were FRESH! we had to clean them and everything..different than the 2 dollar bag of frozen hyvee ones we normally eat at home (sorry mom..you tried..some kids don't even know what brussel sprouts are..so good job ;)..) anyways there were also potatoes and some leftovers and stuff too! of course i had some wonderful soup before dinner that was amazing i may add. then i did some dutch homework and now i am here, going to try and watch the 3 dollar desperate housewives season 7 premier i downloaded on itunes! when i was planning my budget for the year i guess i just assumed Hulu.com would work..but noooo...only in America..so now i have to buy all my tv shoes on itunes so i don't get a virus watching pirated episodes on sketchy websites. anyways! i also have my first test in Dutch tomorrow..short day wednesday remember! it is worth 10% of our grade..we have 3 small tests (i call them quizzes..so tomorrow i have a quiz) and one final test that is 70% of our grade. cross your fingers and thanks for reading!

Monday, September 27, 2010

41!

41 dagen in Belgie! weird..i thought it was 40..hmm..did i miscount somewhere along the way? maybe! anyways! let's just say it was day 41. a very cold rainy day on the other side of the pond :( very chilly ride to school, but i thought it would warm up later..but no! it started raining instead! so after a long day of language classes, lunch at the coffee shop, and afternoon real school..i got to bike home in the super cold rain! it was exciting, trust me. as if i didn't have a cold already..hmm. i had english class in real school this afternoon, and we read two of Shakespeare's sonnets..BORING! i'm sorry but why are you teaching kids that don't know the past tense of HAVE, SEEN, WEAR, etc...SHAKESPEARE!?!?! students who start sentences with "And"..use ridiculous synonyms for common words like "nice"..don't need to know Shakespeare. clearly there are other priorities they should tackle first, but whatever. i sympathized with the class when they had to analyze each line and find the real meaning of the poems..tough stuff even for an english speaker! after that we had a break like usual (one in the morning and one in the afternoon..for like 10 minutes..) and we stood outside in the rain, haha! tomorrow i will definitely wear my new jacket..so i am not freezing! after the break we had science where i ACTUALLY PARTICIPATED! can you believe it? every day in science i have been just sitting there doing other homework or sleeping..but not today! we had a lab where we looked at plant cells and skin cells under a microscope. then we had to draw and label a picture, and then answer a couple questions about it. even after barely knowing the language and not paying attention in class, i was able to answer the questions and label it all on my own. i am not kidding you, this is like 6th grade science. in cell biology at BHS we had to know at least 20 parts of each cell AND their functions...and know them by heart. here there was a word bank and we had to label only THREE parts on each cell. ridiculous? but just think..their level of music is above and beyond high school level..clearly university level..but their other classes are much lower..its nuts! its hard to imagine that as a 14-15 year old Belgian kid i would have to choose a subject to follow that i will also study in not only high school but university. it just seems too young to make that call! what happens when you graduate and decide instead of music you want to study something that involves a lot of science? you have to work 100 times harder than everyone who already studied science in high school..and i guess i'm just not sure if that is the right way to approach education...but who am i to judge? it is both a good thing and a bad thing to choose a direction in high school. it helps you if you stick with what you originally chose, but if you switch you're basically "screwed" for lack of a better word. complicated right? anyways so i came home..and did about an hours worth of dutch homework! i wrote 15 sentences about what people like and don't like to do. i feel my language is improving quickly and i hope it continues..or i hope it actually is improving and i don't just feel like it is. tonight we had what i would call pork chops for dinner...along with a puree of potatoes and spinach. it was pretty good! and now i am really tired. i must mention that i packed a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch (sandwiches being the hot dog buns...with pb&j on them) and then my class decided to go out to lunch. so i politely ordered a bowl of soup and ended up eating the sandwiches and like half of the soup..the soup was so good though! seemed like something my host mom would make..it had celery and peas in it..yumm. all the soup in this country is so good! my host mom made another great pot of soup too..and i had some before dinner...just cant get enough soup when your throat hurts, i'm telling ya! anyways i think that is all about today..i am really tired and still need to go shower so thank you for reading and i will blog again tomorrow!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

40!

wow, day fourty already! dreary sunday here in belgium. slept in till sometime past noon then went downstairs to eat the sunday brunch type of thing. usually they have bread for breakfast and lunch all other days except sunday. sunday they combine the two and have croissants, hard roll type things and sometimes other flakey filled-pastries if we're lucky! after that i think i just hung around the house for a while. a little while later we decided to go to a museum! well we origionally planned on going to two but the fist one took too long so we just went to one. it was a printing museum..with old printing presses and stuff. ve
ry interesting but frankly kind of boring/redundant after a while. first they show you how theymade the little letters, then they showed you the first manual press, then the second, then the third, then the steam press, etc etc. the evolution of printing presses from 1800-1900 pretty much. the first picture is my host mom showing how a comic strip was made..and the second is the metal thing for printing music back in the day!
it was good to see though and i am happy my family made an effort to do something with me! then it started raining and we came home. once home i decided to attempt to make sugar cookies! i tried two different recipes, one more of a shortbread and one more of a traditional rolled sugar cookie. the traditional ones worked and the other ones didn't bake very well but i think they still taste fine. i used the cookie cutter and sprinkles my mom sent me from home! normally the frosting would be some bright fall color but guess what? food coloring doesn't exist in belgium apparently..some of it is even illegal!! you have to search really hard to find it and i guess you can usually just find red. weird don't you think? i guess it causes cancer..so watch out america! what does that make red velvet cake...deathly delicious? (now i am wanting cake..yumm)!!
after baking cookies we had dinner. dinner was pretty cool tonight actually! little pita breads that we each added our own filling into. there was lettuce, mayo, meat, tomatoes, and stuff like that! really yummy and fun too. the pictures on tonights blog are all from my host mom by the way!! so this is what dinner usually looks like if you would add my host mom sitting at the table. actually this is what dinner always looks like. and on the weekends breakfast, lunch, AND dinner...always as a family at the table remember!!
actually a normal dinner wouldn't have as much stuff on the table..for example the toaster, just there to toast the little pita breads before we stuffed them. speaking of which, you all know english muffins right? these little pita breads tasted just like english muffins! if you ask them what an english muffin is here they will tell you its a legitamate MUFFIN that is like a sweet bread or something. english muffins at home are the things you buy a 12 pack of for 99 cents at hyvee..right next to the biscuits in a tube and sour cream (which are two other things you cant commonly/easily find in belgium..so weird!). when i talked to my dad on the phone the other day he said "after reading your blog you would think all you do is eat!"..he's partly correct because it seems all i blog about are the differences in food, but in my brain that is the biggest difference, and the biggest part of the culture. sure school is different, language is different, etc..but if you think about it you spend a big portion of your life eating..and sleeping for that matter. so its just a subject that i find fascinating and it think it is fun to share!! anyways i need to go to bed now..big day tomorrow after all these late nights out..not to mention my sore throat has turned into a cough..lovely. goodnight!


39!

today was day 39! my how time flies. sometimes i feel like its been going really fast, other times i feel like its going quite slowly..just depends i guess. anyways..today i woke up really late because i was out quite late last night. i think i was finally ready to do something productive around 2pm...oops! so i ate a bowl of cereal with yogurt (have i mentioned thats what i eat for breakfast? i got lucky and my family buys me cereal..and since i am not fond of the milk here, or anywhere for that matter, i put some strawberry or some other berry kind of yogurt on my "corn flakes" which really is special k red fruits like at home only with less sugar and not just strawberries...its special k with strawberries, raspberries and cherries..actually much better than the sugary special k red berries at home...weird right?) but anyways! i had breakfast sometime after 2pm then my host mother and i drove almost 20 minutes to the lingerie winkle..aka the bra store! after years and years ofuseless shopping at places such as yonkers, victorias secret, etc..this summer i decided to invest in a quality french bra. so on our trip to kansas city with my mother and susan we went to a fancy bra shop and i got a really nice one that was made in france...so of course now that i am in belgium i have been dying to find another..and tada! i got another nice one today. although it was not cheaper than in america..both of them were like 100 us dollars each (like i said before, hard earned pool money..but come on, 2 good bras=essential to my stay here in belgie) so yes. the excitement of my day was splurging on a bra i guess...in case you were wondering! haha, sorry if that is a weird topic to discuss. today was a special day for stores though! it was like, "the day of the customer" or something like that when translated. so when you would buy something at a store you got a little gift such as a rose, a chocolate, or in my case a little bag of cookies. thats right folks, i got a cute little bag of homemade cookies with my bra purchase. take that sioux falls mall! just kidding. alright then. after bra shopping we came home and eventually had dinner. my lovely host father made some fancy kind of chicken in a wine-tomato sauce with mushrooms and onions i believe! it was nice..and he is a great cook which is also nice. i think everyone is a good cook here though..or seems like it to me! it may be because back home in the midwest, a typical dinner includes some kind of meat, easily prepared..like a grilled steak or chicken breast, then some vegetable..such as, i don't know..green bean casserole, which is just cans of beans and campbells soup thrown together...and then some starch..like a baked potato. while i completely enjoy and 100% miss the good ol USDA grade A beef and classic green bean casserole with the loaded baked potato i guess i am getting used to food here. chicken with tomato sauce will suit me well for now. so after dinner i decided to take a nap, because i was going to go out tonight. a couple hours later i woke up and just wanted to keep sleeping but instead i got ready to go to a tropical party in a nearby town. so i got picked up by my friends host dad (does that make sense?) and we drove about 15 minutes to Arendonk where the party was. it was a nice party, lots of dancing, good music, and tons of people. similar to last night only in a big gymnasium looking place..and with more high school aged people.
I always find it humorous that the music is about 95% American, with songs that include lyrics such as "party because its independence day" and "if you have a 50 dollar bill put your hands up"..all references to the American culture i know and love. i got home sometime before 3am and now i am writing this! time for bed though, quite late. tomorrow is sunday and i think i am going to try to bake cookies!! or we are going to a museum, or both! we'll see. thank you for reading and i hope you enjoyed all my thoughts about today!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

38!

just got home, around 4:30 Belgian time, so this is my blog post to promise you that i will re-write this tomorrow when i wake up in the afternoon and tell you everything about today and tonight. thanks for checkin in though! love!

the next day...

yesterday was day 38! friday..junk food friday! after a long boring day at school i always look forward to junk food. i especially look forward to junk food because of RUNNING 3 MILES in gym class every friday...it is complete torture!! so yesterday my host brother and i got food from the frituur! a frituur is basically just a place where everything is fried and to-go usually. so we came home and ate tonsof fries and i had a chicken sandwich too..fried chicken patty of course. a noteworthy thing that happened yesterday was when i came home from school my host mother and i sat at the kitchen table and started cracking walnuts! crazy..just fresh walnuts in a basket at the counter. usually in america we just ignore the walnut tree in the backyard (we have one, right??) or we crack an assortment of nuts around christmas time. but here i guess it's like a cool thing to do in the fall! fine with me! then after eating thousands of calories worth of fried food i got ready to go out for the night. a couple friends from my music class at school took me to a dance club or "disco club".
it was about a half hour drive away and it was really crazy! just like a scene from CSI: Miami! dancing, lights, smoke/fog, alcohol(ew), incredibly loud music, etc. interesting to see how the club scene here in belgium is but i can't say i will rush back there! i got home really late..sometime past 4 am, which is definitely not like brookings! a typical friday night at home would consist of baking and watching a movie with my mom and friends or something! but i am open to new experiences so to the club i went..haha. well thats about all i can remember about yesterday. i am sorry to not have any quirky details, comparisons, and observations lately..getting kind of lazy on the blog! but i will try to keep you updated with thorough information as much as i possibly can. bye for now and thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

37!

hello all! day 37 in belgium..another nice day! today after language class i met my friends for lunch and guess what..apparently since today is the first day of fall (is it?) they celebrate by EATING FRENCH FRIES! so there were 4 big carts that gave everyone french fries like at a circus or something..it was cool! so i got fries with ketchup and mayonnaise and it was really neat. after eating the fries we went to some cafe to "get a drink" and that was pleasant as well. after that we went to ensemble which is like concert band, but in the other room i heard jazz..so of course i left ensemble and joined the jazz group where we played "c note blues?" and "freddie freeloader". of course just to test my patience/skills the teacher decided i needed to trade fours with EVERYONE in the room. for those of you non jazz type that means that i solo for four measures, someone else improvs for four measures, i play four more, etc. i think i showed them who was boss in the end though! the concept of a "girl drummer" is still really shocking to a lot of people here..i don't know why! so after music class we had a study hall because the teacher was gone. then we had a music class where the teacher plays thousands of random notes in 6/8 and the students have to go to the board one by one and write what shes playing...insane! i just sat there and smiled of course..didn't have to try it. i forgot to mention that my throat has been hurting (killing, actually) ALL DAY! it is really frustrating because at home i probably would have had my mom call me out of school but here i am not sure what to do, so as i was sitting in my last class (which was in a dark, cold, dusty room..pleasing for the throat i assure you) the teacher noticed something was wrong and she gave me a cough drop! i believe it was a Ricola so that was nice and full of menthol. then i biked home and sat around sick for a little while. then i decided to call my dad because i have been forgetting to do that for a while! his southern accent was kind of funny because i am getting so used to the nederlands to english accent here. anyways it was nice to talk to him! then we ate dinner which was like..turkey gravy and potatoes and green beans or something...it was good of course. have i ever mentioned how great my host mom is at making soup? she's like the iron chef of soup! zucchini soup, pumpkin soup, vegetable soup, soup soup soup! i like soup, especially when i am sick, so it was good to have some before dinner. my throat started bothering me more a little while ago so i just had a bowl of instant quaker oatmeal that my mom sent me..and i must admit..if i didn't add triple the amount of water (making it into soup itself) then i don't know if i could have handled the sweetness! what is wrong with me? good ol apple and cinnamon instant oatmeal..normally if it is too soupy i hate it..but nope not tonight. tonight i was okay with slimy broth and chunks of oatmeal. WEIRD! but i'm sorry that is all i can remember about today. and i'm sorry there is no picture as well. tomorrow is friday which is great, but it is not great because then i have to run in gym class..with a sore throat..probably 3 miles or something..i am such an american, haha! goodnight all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

36!

hello all! today was a very nice day. i hope your day was splendid as well. today was especially nice because it was 72 DEGREES outside (fahrenheit..) which is WARMER than Brookings today! i only wore a light sweater and scarf on my 9am bike ride to language class, and on the way home around noon the sweater and scarf were not necessary..it was amazing. when i first arrived it was in the 60s around here, which really depressed me because i had left behind the SD mid-August heat wave that i was used to. then for a few days it was in the 50s and raining and that was also really depressing. but this week has been great weather but unfortunately its all downhill from here. anyways! after language class i biked home and got ready to go to an activity with the other exchange students in my district. so i ate lunch, packed up some extra clothes and got picked up by another students host mom. we were supposed to bike but luckily we didn't because it was at least a 15 minute car ride, haha. once we were there we met the other students from our district (about 15 total, maybe?) along with some former outbounds from our district as well. technically its district 1630 dutch speaking part, because the rotary district 1630 has a ton more students in the french part but we never see them. anyways! while we were there we did some "team building activities" that was basically like project adventure back at BHS. we walked on ropes really high in the air, swung from ropes over a creek, crawled in a manmade cave in wetsand, and other things like that.

it was really nice to be outside all afternoon! sadly i couldn't get over my fear of heights enough to enjoy the tightrope walking, but i tried anyways. after a long afternoon of team building i am now home and extremely tired. good news is that we had spaghetti tonight. bad news is that i broke my camera. luckily i brought two, and the one that broke is the old one so it is all good. the camera still works but it is permanently zoomed in, ha ha! oh one thing i forgot to mention was that on my way to language class i saw a semi truck full of beer kegs, and i laughed. whenever you see a truck at home delivering something its usually mcdonalds, hyvee, coke, something like that. here it was about half kegs and half just beer. i should be used to it but it made me chuckle nonetheless. anyways, long day tomorrow..language class, school, the usual. goodnight and thanks for reading! don't be afraid to comment either of course.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

35.


just got home, pretty late actually. almost midnight. today was a normal day at school, so that was fine. and i even got to take a nap in math class! a cool thing about school today was that they sold little containers of strawberries for some random reason for 1 euro..i didn't buy any because what would i do with strawberries for the rest of the day..eat them? who knows. then we ate lunch and had the rest of our classes! after school i biked home and i think i had a waffle cookie thing. then i got ready to go to this silly rotary function. it took forever but it was nice to see all of my families and the inbound/outbound exchange students. my friend from south africa gave her speech and a girl that just returned from a year in america gave one as well. it was cool to see how things that are so normal to me could be so weird to her! such as: driving with the car on a lake to go ice fishing, eating in the school cafeteria at lunch, american clothing, etc. then a few other people talked for a really long time about some rotary things i didn't understand and we had dinner. now, i'm not trying to be rude..but i really didn't like it. mushy white fish in really strong aged cheese is just not appealing to me. i felt bad so i tried to eat it (quit after about 4 bites...) but now my stomach really hurts because i am not used to eating things i don't like! then dessert was rice pudding but it was not america rice pudding which is a nice milky sweet rice dish...here it was this bright yellow (from egg yolks i assume?) fruity like goo that was also not so good. but its okay, i will get over it. good news is my next two families were really nice and i think i will enjoy living with both of them :) more bad news is that my level of dutch doesn't meet a lot of peoples standards but its only been one month so we'll see. tomorrow i go to someplace with the exchange students in my district to do some "team building" activity. should be interesting. until then! thanks for reading. ps- i forgot to mention i got another box from home! winter things..boots, scarves, sweaters, etc! and oh! pictured below are the three inbounds for my district!

Monday, September 20, 2010

34!

my dearest reader, today was day 34! good 'ol monday. well the good news is that my birthday is in two months, but the bad news is that my cold is proceeding to worsen. (as is my english, obviously!!!) before i forget i must apologize for the bland blog posts these days. its probably not that exciting to read about someone waking up, going to school, eating, etc. so i am sorry for that! although i must mention that the mundane blog posts are actually a GOOD thing, because it means that i am starting to feel comfortable here, everyday things are no longer such a big deal. but this will not be a boring post, i promise. so about today! woke up, got ready, packed lunch, had some coffee (special day..coffee on a weekday is rare because i'm too lazy to make it myself, and usually they only make it on weekends, anyways..) so then i casually biked to language class. i used to leave around 8:50 and get there a little after 9..because technically class starts at 9:10..but then after the first few weeks ive realized that we the teacher NEVER walks in before 9:20, so we more or less start about 9:30. so as long as i leave a little after nine i'm fine. isn't that great? at home i would be waking up at 6:30 to get to marching band at 7:30...ouch!!! so at language class we learned "when is the store open" or better yet..."wanneer is de winkle open" or something like that. then i met my friends for lunch and guess what, we were at a little convenient store/lunch place type thing and i ordered my own chips! "klein zak pickle chips alstublieft" or something close to that. then i ate my little bag of pickle flavored chips as we walked to the corner cafe (american cafe, not a bar) and met the rest of the class for coffee/hot chocolate. of course i couldn't resist a cappuccino. then we walked around and ate our packed lunches from our lunch boxes! the lunch boxes actually look like american pencil boxes! its so hard for me to get used to packing some bread for lunch..just crazy. i think my friends mentioned something about french fries on friday or something though? if so that will be fun..like going to mcdonalds at home, only..not. so then we had english class after lunch! at first i really enjoyed it but now it is just frustrating. we are currently talking about adjectives vs adverbs..something i feel like i learned in 4th grade. but its not the level that frustrates me, its the whole "British" aspect of it. such as: "The sun shone brightly." seriously? we would never say that in america! "The sun was SHINING brightly." right? the teacher said american english is just a lazier version of british english, and it was kind of annoying. who tells an american that their language is lazy? oh well! she's probably right but shh..whatever! after english was science. i sat there, and that is all. then we had some kind of ensemble class where i attempted to keep a beat on the drumset while 4 girls were singing "all that jazz"..but really they just rushed and i was way too loud and energetic due to the caffeine maybe? then school was over so i came home. one thing i noticed on my way home though..and something i've noticed my entire time here: babies. in. CARRIAGES! it's like this country has never heard of a stroller or something. people will be going on walks pushing their baby in a little carriage down the cobblestone..its really old-school but it works! i thought that would be a funny thing to share! then i hung out for a while because i don't feel the greatest then we made dinner. dinner was crazy weird! picture putting all the leftovers (chinese(?!), some vegetables, some rice) in a skillet and then adding 10 eggs. personally i would call it a leftover omelet. but they called it a tortilla? crazy! it tasted fine after they cooked it a lot for my pleasure (something about runny un-pasteurized eggs just didn't appeal to me...go figure). but then i had some leftover mac and cheese from the other day so it was all good. now it is time to go to bed! hope todays post was slightly more entertaining than the past few. thanks for reading!!!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

33!

day thirty three! hooray! lazy sunday, really. woke up very very late this morning/afternoon...had a croissant and whatnot for breakfast then sat around the house like usual. more like sat around on my computer watching american tv shows illegally(?) online all day. then i finally got ready and we went to this pub place that had 330 DIFFERENT kinds of beer.
apparently there are like 800 different kinds of beer from Belgium, which is ridiculous. i don't understand how a country can have that much of one thing..especially a country thats so tiny! but nonetheless i had a peach one that is basically just really really sweet peach juice..not beer. haha! personally i thought it was fine but i just don't know if i will ever be able to drink the real stuff. the appreciation of beer is something that takes time i guess..we'll see. anyways, then we went to some place for dinner that was pretty nice and of course there were french fries with the meal :) now i am watching more american tv and then it's bed time, so thats all for today..thanks for reading!

32!


day thirty two! lets see..woke up really late, cleaned my room, at a muffin, then made some LEMON BARS! they turned out pretty well actually! then my host family's nephew and his friend from south africa were are in town so we ate chinese and then went down to the fabulous Turnhout night-scene until about 3am or so. the only thing worth mentioning about tonight is that while we were at some "cafe" some guy came around with free beer (of course i didn't drink it..beer is disgusting) and then the cousin that we were with got hit in the face with a waffle..only in belgium, right? pictured below is a nice self-timer shot of my night. three south africans and myself...only courtney lives here for the year...and the other two have been here like 3 months or something..sooo..new belgians?now i am here and i'm extremely tired, so i will probably stop typing now..my apologies for the short post, but i hope you understand..so thanks for reading!

Friday, September 17, 2010

one month!

een maand in Belgiƫ! one month in belgium! about...10% into my stay here in europe. the month has gone very quickly. still feels like i'm stuck in a fantasy world, and reality is left behind across the globe. its a good feeling though, just strange to leave everything you've ever known behind and start everything completely over. its fun actually, gives you an entire year to just be yourself and figure out what life really means to you. or more accurately what life really means to ME! but i am beginning to make belgium more of a reality as i get more comfortable with all the foreign surroundings. who would have thought it could be such a journey? so where to start about today..hmm. this morning i woke up an hour earlier because i had to go to real school all day, and it starts about 45 minutes earlier than language class usually does. so i put on some clothes, ate some breakfast, and biked to school. then i found my friends outside and we went to class. turns out our first THREE teachers were gone, so we had to have 3 hoursof "study" time..or "study hall" in american terms. it was really boring because i don't have anything to study so i just sat there reading my book from america that is almost finished. (speaking of which, anyone want to mail me some books? or should i splurge and buy english books here or read stupid ones from the school library?) anyways! after three hours of nothing we went to math class..which is more nothing for me because the teacher doesn't really speak english..nor do i care about math to begin with. then it was lunch time. at lunch we went to a little coffee shop (im starting to get used to this...yumm) and i ordered a cappuccino. it was really really good and we got little mini-muffin things with itand pralines..which are chocolates...but thats not what i thought a praline was at home..am i crazy? i also decided to buy a sandwich (american reference to sandwich) at the place because i didn't think peanut butter and jelly would be a wise choice right before gym class. so i got "een broodje met kaas" which is like french bread with cheese. turns out the bread is made to order so it was warm on the inside but crunchy on the outside..sooo good with the melting cheese..then i added some mustard to it which was clearly some sort of dijon, and it was clearly just an amazing lunch especially when i ate the little chocolate at the end, hahaha! so after lunch it was time for gym class. TORTURE! running for almost a half hour..slowly killing my out of shape american body. seriously that was at least 3-4 miles..which is more than i've ran in the past 10 years combined back home! doesn't sound like much but trust me it is not fun! then we had geography where the teacher sat and complained about how wasteful americans are..how belgians bike everywhere, eat better, are less wasteful, etc. fine with me because its all true, but every country can do its own thing for all i care. then school was over and i "had a drink" (weird to say) with my friends. we sat outside and it was kind of cold so i decided i should try to buy a sweatshirt. instead of a sweatshirt i bought a tank top and a scarf but that wont keep me warm so..oops. they were cute so thats all that counts.
then on the way home i bought some celery and when i got home i made ANTS ON A LOG! (celery, peanut butter, raisins). im not sure what gave me the urge to make that but they were pretty tasty. then we sat around for a while and it was time for dinner. since its junk food friday we had KEBAB! which is like the greasiest meat ever invented. its pretty good but i think i had about 5 glasses of water and still only made it half way through! but now it is time for bed, because i am really tired from the long school week or something! goodnight and dankuwel for reading..oh i mean thanks for reading..english, yes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

30!

day thirty! this morning i woke up and went to language class! after class i went to a store and bought gum, hair clips, and nail polish..exciting right? then i biked home and had lunch with the host family. then after a little while the host mom and i went down to the shopping street and looked at some things. all i ended up buying were stamps but better than nothing right? now i can send my post cards, finally! then we got coffee at a really cute little coffee shop. i had hazelnut and she had chocolate. (yes chocolate flavored coffee...)
then i came home alone and tried to make some banana muffins. they look okay but i'm afraid to try them! after making the muffins i made mac&cheese from home! it wasn't too bad but it was funny because my mom actually mailed me an expired box of it..haha. now i am here and i'm home alone, probably going to take a long shower and prepare myself for tomorrow..full day of real school, boring boring boring! on a positive note tomorrow is friday, so maybe i will find some plans for tomorrow night. anything is possible in belgium i guess! well thats all for today then, bye!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

29!

day twenty nine, folks! one month is creeping up quicker than expected. today was a typical wednesday. went to language class and learned things like "I have a pencil. This is ___ pencil" and i had to fill in the blank..only in dutch of course. then i biked home and had lunch with the host family. i didn't really do much all afternoon except my host brother and i made cream puffs! (i will post a picture tomorrow hopefully!) (picture here now...)
they turned out pretty well and i think everybody enjoyed them. then we had dinner which was rice, hamburgers (no bun with different spices than in america), and tomato/random vegetable sauce. after that my host brother and i tried to play cards but that didn't work very well because translating the instructions for games was impossible! i hate to break it to you but thats all that happened today, nothing more and nothing less! i'm sure tomorrows post will be more exciting, but if not..just wait for the weekend and i'm sure i will have more to tell :) well since i am eating way too many peanut m&ms while sitting here typing this i should probably just go to bed. thank you for reading and i'm sorry today wasn't exciting..i'm sure interesting things will come my way soon enough!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

28!

dag achtentwintig! day twenty eight (might be too literal of a translation, i'm not sure!) so hello! this morning i woke up, threw on some makeup and clothes, ate breakfast, packed my lunch, and biked to language school! at language school we learned how to tell time. its very different than in america..for example if it is 6:30 at home we could say "half past six" but here it is "half 7"..and stuff like that! anyways then i met my friends for lunch and then went to afternoon classes. we sat at a cafe (the bar kind of cafe) and bought drinks while we ate our sandwiches from our lunch boxes! it was cold out so i got coffee. it was nice because the coffee had a foam on it and it came with a cookie..joy! so today i had two hours of music where i just sat there doing my language homework! then i had math..where i also sat and did my dutch homework! since our teacher was sick for the last class we got to leave early. (note: substitute teachers are a rare finding here. if you're in your last year you can usually leave or something, if not then you sit and do some task on your own..weird huh?) so i went with my two music friends and got ICE CREAM!! i had strawberry and vanilla in a waffle cone..it was yummy! i usually hate strawberry ice cream at home because it is really artificial tasting sometimes but its actually very delicious here, like gelato pretty much! i do miss coldstone and dairy queen though, mind you! anyways after that i wanted to look at some shoes so we did...and of course i bought a pair! everyone wears these leather-slouch boots with a heel here so you know, i had to get a pair for myself right? luckily i brought a pair of REAL leather boots from home so those fit in pretty well. can you believe i paid almost 80 US dollars for a pair of fake leather boots!? (my hard earned pool money being spent on what? european fashion..great)
but i like the boots and will be stylish in them so who really cares. some things you just have to buy to put you in the belgian mood..like a coat and a pair of boots. should i get a haircut next? the fashionable du seems to be what i would call a mullet at home..girls have really short bangs followed by short layers on top of the ears then it is long in the back..totally a mullet!!! its funny to me, but i wouldn't mind having some bangs eventually, who knows. so after buying shoes i biked home (while holding the shoes and the handlebars..skills) and hung out for a while then ate dinner! we had salmon for dinner, which would make my mom proud and probably freak my dad out a little. it was with spinach, potatoes, and cheese so it wasn't too fishy i suppose! on a not so happy note, i think i am getting a cold. everyone in my class has one so it was pretty much inevitable to begin with. but now i am going to go to bed. tomorrow and thursday i only have dutch class so that will be pretty relaxing i guess! thats all for now, thanks for reading!

Monday, September 13, 2010

27!

today was day 27..a normal day, really! id like to tell you that it was extremely eventful and amazing but it was basically just another day. last night i fell asleep around 8, and found myself waking up at 4am really confused and thought i was back home in south dakota, haha. i think it was just a really deep sleep and my brain just assumed i would be in america or something! then i went back to bed and woke up for school after sleeping for 12 hours! in dutch class this morning we learned numbers! it wasn't that exciting but it was about time we figured that out. then i met my friends for lunch and went to my afternoon classes. i like mondays because we have english! except today english was really boring because it was all about "agony aunts" which i always thought were called "advice columnists" but what do i know about british english, eh? we read a letter then had to match it with the correct advice response. it was really easy for me. then we had to match some vocabulary words to their definitions. examples: exciting, smirked, disgusted, etc. it was funny. then i was supposed to go to science class but instead i decided to try out spanish class. i didn't realize that i learned south american spanish at school and here they learn spain spanish, which is kind of different. then we had to spell our names and say our phone numbers in spanish and normally that would be pretty easy for me but after JUST learning numbers and letters in dutch class, my brain was beyond overwhelmed. then school was over after those terrible two hours of awkward spanish confusion. something odd i noticed today was that all the teachers wear jeans. at home the teachers like aren't supposed to wear jeans except on fridays or something, so seeing my spanish teacher in distressed jeans and high-top purple nike shoes was kind of odd. anywho. after school i went with my south african friend courtney to get a coke (actually it was a pepsi) at some bar-type place. we were happy when we noticed that the place was non smoking, the pop was under 2 euro, and we even got a little bowl of like..cajun peanuts, haha! then i biked home and we ate dinner. now i am here and i am going to go take a shower then do my dutch homework. bye bye and thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

25/26!

yesterday was day 25, and today was day 26! yesterday started out fairly normal as i packed up my things to catch a train to get to a rotary sleepover! three of us from Turnhout took a train (three actually..) to a station in St Truiden where we met our district rotary lady and then went to her house. there were about 15 of us total with some previous exchange students popping in and out as well. we talked about things to help us get settled here in belgium and we had lots of snacks too, haha! after discussing random things with other exchange students such as "so does your family eat a lot of bread too?" we went to the store to get things for dinner. another student from america and i decided that we needed banana splits for dessert to compliment the main dish of spaghetti.
after finding sprinkles, whipped cream, cherries, etc we all walked back home and started chopping vegetables for the spaghetti sauce. it was basically just tomato sauce with lots of random vegetables in it on top of spaghetti noodles. dessert was yummy of course and we each made our own little splits to eat. after that we watched a movie and stayed up late talking about all the weird things that happen as an exchange student. then we woke up this morning and went to look at the neighbors big house. apparently it used to be a castle or something but it was basically just a house with a moat, stables, and a cash bar. the owner of the house bought me and a canadian kid coffee which was nice. then we went back to the house and ate some bread or something. then we got dropped off at the train station to come home. after catching our first train and getting off at the first stop to catch another, the three of us actually missed the second train and had to wait another hour for the next one. i suggested we walk across the street and get something to eat and what do you know..there was a SUBWAY! so i showed the other two girls the ropes and we ate our subs then caught the next two trains home. now i am here and i am really tired, so i apologize for the boring blog today. there is more to tell you but i have a terrible headache so i will talk to you later.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

24!

hello! day 24! being friday, i had real school all day..no dutch classes. so that means a) waking up an hour earlier and b) double the amount of classes i wont understand. oh and fridays also mean c) GYM CLASS. so after biking my way to school along with millions of other belgian folk, i met my class and we went to science. the science teacher kind of feels like he's wasting my time because all i do in his class is read. science is the only class i have three times a week, besides music..we have quite a bit of that. every time he starts lecturing in science class i try to pay attention for about five minutes then inevitably start doing something else. most teachers don't care that i just sit there, or read a book, or do dutch homework. but i think some are starting to feel bad for me and feel like they're wasting my time. the dutch teacher decided to teach me two dutch words a day, which is a nice gesture..but words don't seem to be the problem. i can pick out some words when people are talking but the hardest part will be to make sentences with these random words i keep learning from people. its like a fun game these belgians play with me.."lets teach the american the dutch name for this random object" or something. anyways then we went to german class and the teacher made me go to the library. she says if i'm learning basic dutch in language school that learning basic german is just going to confuse me more. so that makes it simple..no more german. then i think we had math in the morning but i just tried to read my little kid dutch books. today i read spongebob and it is weird seeing the characters names be different. such as krabbypatties = krabburgers, and squidward = octo...but that really didn't make sense unless you know a bit of spongebob trivia. anyways. at lunch today all the foreign exchange students met with these two ladies who are "there to help us if we need anything". there are 8 of us total and only 3 from rotary. there is actually a girl from california but she is 15 so that doesn't help much. i think she was impressed that i was eating an american granola bar though..so thanks mom! i should mention that since receiving my package of american goodies i have only had a few goldfish, a granola bar, and a cup of apple sauce..but in fact i DID notice a difference. i took the first bite of my favorite south dakota snack, and it was amazing. then i took a second bite and realized that it tasted really, really sweet. it was weird because i LOVE the oats&honey granola bars, and i still do, but the sweetness came as a surprise to me for some reason. even when i had some apple sauce tonight i found it sweeter than i was expecting which is kind of weird. but back to school! after i told these two ladies that i didn't like some of my classes, we decided that i should be taking spanish with courtney from south africa instead of science. so we'll see how that goes. maybe i will actually understand it but i doubt it. then it was time for the dreaded gym class..dundundunnn. we have two hours of gym every friday. today we had running and tennis..it started out running 5 mins, then walking 4 mins, then running 4 mins, walking 3 mins, etc etc. overall i think we ran about 4 KM, which is like 2.5 miles..more than i've ran in the past five years probably!! but with all the biking lately (about...3 miles to school and 3 back maybe?) it wasn't as bad as i imagined..but i still hated it, mind you. after gym class was geography, where we have a larger sized teacher that apparently nobody likes. she seems fine to me but they say thats only because i cant understand her. then school was over and i went with my friend courtney to find a JACKET since this place is freezing! its not actually freezing..probably a lot like home right now, but early morning biking and walking outside in the afternoon can get a bit chilly! sooo..courtney and i first stopped at the amazing little cafe where i previously had the hot chocolate with the cookie (pictured in an earlier blog post..)..so needless to say courtney had a hot chocolate and i had a cappuccino with whipped cream that was really, really good. it even came with a little almond cookie. oh belgium, you're so chic. then we shopped around and i finally found a jacket that i think will work. now i know this is a horrid picture (its not as big as it looks, the buttons on one side go behind the other, ya know?) but i want you to get an idea of what you can buy around here for about 100 US dollars. this jacket would probably be about 50-70 dollars at home, don't you agree? i'm tellin ya..clothing wise: prices are doubled. but when you need a jacket, you need a jacket.
oh almost forgot to mention dinner tonight! after finding my coat and whatnot after school, i came home and took a shower because i was so icky from gym! then i went with my host family to an italian restaurant near the town market for dinner. i had a hawaiian pizza! it kind of reminded me of pizza king only...more gourmet? probably because i had champagne before the pizza..beat that brookings. ;) then we came home and here i am. so tomorrow i am going to a "rotary sleepover" at our district lady's house. it will probably be fun but we have to catch 3 different trains to get there and i wont be able to blog tomorrow night :( but sunday night i will catch you up on everything you missed, don't worry! goodnight and thanks for reading!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

23!

hello! day 23 in belgium..where does time go? i wonder if the whole year will feel like this..somewhat of a dream/fantasy land where everything is so different at first but you finally start accepting it and living in this weird world. not sure if that made sense. anyways! today was kind of fun! i started the morning with language class, where we learned (or attempted to learn) the difference between "het" and "de" ...they are both articles used to describe something such as "a, an, & the" in english but there are no real guidelines to describe when to use one or the other..basically the teacher said that when in doubt, choose "de", because it is correct 80% of the time. apparently it takes years of practicing and listening to actually figure out when to use one or the other, but i don't have time for that. so then i met my friends for lunch and we went to a little (what americans call) cafe and they had (what americans call) sandwiches. what i mean by that last sentence is this, americans call a cafe a place where you eat a light lunch, get some coffee, or something like that. here a cafe is a bar..so watch out for that!! and a sandwich at home is bread, meat, cheese, maybe some lettuce or something and some mayo. here a sandwich is what we would call a hot dog bun, haha!! not a gross spongey wonderbread bun, but a fresh hyvee one kind of...and that is a sandwich. so after that we went to our afternoon classes. the first one was "orchestra", or as i would rather call it, band. at first they tried to make me sing but then i found a tambourine and was much happier. we practiced this march song a few times then we got up and walked to a different building with our instruments. after walking up 95 stairs to the top of this old creepy lincoln-music-hall-ish building we started PLAYING the march while walking back down the stairs!! needless to say all the other classes were disrupted and we looked..out of place. reminded me of when the middle school marching band marched through the MMS cafetorium sometime before the hobo day parade. so after marching through a couple more buildings band was done. then we went to art history, which seems like a nice class if i were to understand it. after finishing my language class homework while in that class, i decided to pretend to pay attention. then the teacher looked at me and said "oh, great, are you understanding!?" and i proceeded to reply "um..no. sorry" and he was like "its a pity because this is really interesting"..and that was the extent of my art history for the day. following that class i had a music class that i do not like. last week we all got a piece of choral music and we were supposed to rehearse it and then one by one sing it in front of the whole class ALONE in SOLFEGE...yeah not happening. so during that class we heard some "jazz" type music coming from the other room, and guess what!, the teacher let me go play with them instead! it was great..and i think i can do that again next week! way better than singing. then we had to climb back up those 95 stairs to go to a class called expression, which i don't understand, so i just sat there. and that, my reader, was belgian school. after school i met the south african girl for some ice cream and we walked around on the winkelstraat. yes, wink-el-straat. it means shopping street! so far it is my favorite dutch word..makes me laugh every time i say it or hear it. the fact that a "winkel" is a shop is just too funny. so at some winkel i bought three childrens books to motivate me to learn dutch, or something.
then i biked home and we had dinner a little later. then after dinner i had an ice cream bar without realizing i had ice cream after school. oh well. it was all still yummy. i sincerely apologize if my blogs are lengthy and poorly written sometimes, but i really enjoy quick-blogging every nigh about my day..in detail. way easier than a journal! haha, goodnight!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

3 weeks!

to start things out on a positive note, this is how i charge my computer. my adapter is somehow stuck in the wall, and my charger is built to be directly against the wall and in the outlet, otherwise it falls down/sparks. so this is how i hold it up. funny eh?
three weeks in belgium today! seems longer, seems shorter. today was a wednesday, which is a happy little hump day here in belgium. school gets out at noon, and after a while it starts feeling like a sunday or something. being wednesday, i only had dutch class today. i'm starting to enjoy the class more and more but its still not the most exciting thing in the world. after that i came home and we ate lunch. turns out my host mom bought peanut butter after hearing me talk about it for the past 3 weeks, and i had a peanut butter and banana sandwich! it was amazing! the peanut butter you buy in stores here is just like the "natural peanut butter" you buy at the stores at home for like double the price of skippy or jiff. so as we were sitting at the table after lunch the doorbell rang. of course i immediately thought it was my package from home but sadly it was just someone trying to sell some stupid product. so i gave up hope on my package from home and decided to get my host mother to help me with my language homework. a little while later the doorbell rang again and we had to pay the mail man 10 euro to get MY PACKAGE FROM HOME! it was worth it though. my mom sent me tee shirts, toiletries, and snacks! mac and cheese which is unheard of in belgium, peanut butter (the american kind, yay!), chicken noodle soup in case i get sick, applesauce (my favorite), granola bars (great for packing in my lunch), a cookie cutter, sprinkles, and some other things to help adjust to belgian life. getting things from home was nice. being in belgium seems like one giant dream, an illusion, and its like your real life and reality are left behind in south dakota. so basically getting a box from home made belgium seem a little more like reality. anyways! i got to cook dinner tonight! we went to the store and bought ingredients for white chili! (hodges family if you're reading this i tried to use your recipe but it was definitely modified due to weird belgian ingredients..) i got the idea for making this dish because of an odd conversation at lunch. as we were eating pumpkin soup (yes pumpkin soup) my host dad asked if i wanted any coriander. of course i immediately was like..umm no i don't want little seeds in my soup but then i saw that it was a parsley-looking herb and was confused. after some chatting with my mom and some google-ing i found out that coriander LEAVES are the same thing as cilantro. duh jamie! yet another international culinary realization. did i tell you i had chicory the other night? also called a belgian endive, its some root that is really famous here. personally i thought chicory was some kind of wood or a flower for tea or something! apparently it is both? anyways, the white chili was good and i surely enjoyed it. tomorrow is another normal day. since this is my third week in belgium i feel like i should show off some of my dutch skills. so i will end with this; a paper i am turning in tomorrow for language class:
Beste, (dear..somebody)
Mijn naam is Jamie. (my name is jamie..duh)
Ik woon in Oud-Turnhout. (i live in oud-turnhout)
Ik kom uit de Verenigde Staten van Amerika. (im from the usa)
Ik ben niet getrouwd. (i am not married)
Ik heb geen kinderen. (i dont have kids)
Ik woon 3 weken in Belgiƫ. (ive been in belgium for 3 weeks)
Ik spreek Engels, Spaans, en een beetje Nederlands. (i speak english, spanish, and a little dutch..which is a lie because my spanish is terrible, but still better than my dutch)
Groetjes, Jamie McKinney (greetings???idk, jamie m)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

21..

just another day. sometimes i go to bed feeling really excited and open-minded about being here, but other times i am skeptical and frustrated. i think today is the latter of the two. its not that im unhappy, unsatisfied, or ungrateful..its just one of those days where the differences are overwhelming me again. today i woke up and went to dutch school. after biking through the rain i sat there for three hours listening to a lady speak dutch. the concept of the class is nice but being in a room of foreigners gets old pretty quickly. our teacher tries to let us speak as much as we can but i've realized that its mainly just listening and learning, which is fine with me. my host family on the other hand is more concerned about my growth speaking wise, but i think that will come. i would much rather understand what is going on first then learn to say it later rather than saying things i don't know the meaning of. we'll see how it turns out. then i met my friends for lunch and we had soup!!! it was really neat. you can go to the "cafeteria" and buy a bowl of warm water and a PACKET of instant soup (like instant oatmeal) that actually doesn't taste that bad. it was like less than 1 euro which didn't seem that bad. so i ate some soup then some bread that i brought in my lunch box and then we had music class. class was really hard and i ended up just sitting there confused. the class would be tolerable and semi-interesting in english but in dutch it just frustrates me. after that we had math, where i did my dutch class homework. then school was over and my friends helped me see why my new belgian debit card wasn't working. turns out the bank was closed but i finally found an ATM that works with my american card so that is good news. then i came home, had dinner, and didn't really do much else until now. basically today was a normal day..but sometimes its hard being american, ya know? everybody in school wants to speak english to me..and thats fine because i love english, but it doesn't really help my dutch. and its not like i know enough dutch to actually have a conversation with them, so what do you do? don't say anything at all? for now i will speak english at school because that is what i know, and that is how i am making friends. after the 3rd day of language class i don't think you can expect me to know that much. but if i have learned one thing today it is that instant soup is a novel concept that needs to be brought to brookings. we don't have that do we? anyways, thats all for now! only language class tomorrow..early out of school on wednesdays remember. byebye

Monday, September 6, 2010

20!

twenty days in belgium! about...1/16th done with my year here..interesting! today was just a normal monday. was up pretty late last night, so waking up for language class was hard. i think i am going to start showering at night because the extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning make me feel better than the extra 30 minutes the night before would..wait does that even make sense? i'm not sure. anyways i went to language class and i learned how to ask someone if they were married and/or had kids. useful, right? then i ate lunch with the girl from brazil and met my class for the afternoon classes. today i had ENGLISH (!!!), science, and music. believe it or not i really enjoyed english class..it was SO easy, kind of funny! apparently this years goal is to learn how about going to the doctor..like telling the doctor in english what hurts and stuff, hahaha. then they have till april to read ONE book in english and thats about it. i realized that most people that speak really good english just don't have any confidence about it..such as my music friends speak fluent english to me give or take a few words, but in class i think they get intimidated, i don't know. kind of like how i am starting to understand more and more dutch but i can't speak it..or don't want to speak it and pronounce it wrong. anyways after talking to the class in english for like ten minutes it was time for science. i think it is cell biology class, from what i can tell, because he showed pictures of cells and wrote down the equation for photosynthesis. but it was all in dutch so i stopped listening after five minutes and read my book. then while reading my book and tuning out the dutch i got really tired. i think i slept through about 15 minutes of that class. then we went to music class which was actually kind of fun. i think it would be called like "small ensemble" class in the US or something, because there were five of us attempting to play some jazz song then an irish jig which was really quite fun. after school i went with two new (and very nice) friends from my class to get ice cream!!! yay!
So that was my day. Same thing tomorrow only different classes. Bye for now!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

19!

day 19 today! after waking up around noon..i took a shower and then ate sort of a brunch outside with the host family. sundays are different because breakfast is less cereal and bread and more rolls and croissants.. so basically still bread. anyways after that we drove to some other town and i was with all the cousins and we went bowling. at first it was weird because they were all boys and they kept speaking dutch. once they started speaking english it was fine, and actually pretty fun. belgian bowling is pretty much the same thing except the lanes seemed shorter and the shoe sizes aren't like ours but that is to be expected. then we got picked up and went to some italian restaurant. i tried to avoid eating random fried sea creatures but then i think i made them feel bad..i'm not sure. everyone was nice which was good. tonight i got asked if i was gaining weight since i have been here, and since there is a scale in the bathroom i know the answer! no, i have not. i've pretty much been within the same 10 pound weight area all through high school..and i am currently the same weight as when i left. i am eating less calories per day but more carbohydrates because of the bread.. and exercising more due to the biking..so in the end i think it all evens out. the ride home was kind of weird. we were talking about food and somehow we got on the subject of raw meat. you really dont eat raw meat in america..in fact, when you order a steak rare there is a warning asterisk telling you it can make you sick. i think my host dad kind of frowns upon our american eating habits, but what can i do about my culture? its not better or worse but simply different. something we all have to get used to. yes, breakfast is meat, potatoes, pancakes, omlettes, waffles, french toast, cereal, bagels, yogurt, oatmeal..a feast of its own! yes lunch can be mcdonalds, taco johns, subway, leftovers, or anything you want it to be. yes, dinner can be frozen pizza, chinese, salads, steak, potatoes with toppings, and sometimes just ice cream. well if that doesn't make me miss america i don't know what does..up early tomorrow, so goodnight!

18!

yesterday was my 18th day in belgium, yahoo! after getting home at about 330 am the night before, i still woke up about 10. then nobody was home so i just kind of sat around doing nothing for a while. actually i had some bread, tried to watch tv, and creeped facebook a lot. then my host parents came home from a bike tour (100 km or something..wow) then we got ready to go to a party. the party was to celebrate my host dads colleges anniversary or something. apparently anniversary parties are a big deal here, i don't think they are in america. every few years there is a special name for your anniversary, kind of like birthdays at home. i think last night was a 10 year one so it was the "crystal" anniversary. i know that golden birthdays and anniversaries are at home but i don't know of any others..but i am not married so who knows! since my host brother was at a music festival in antwerp i had to help at the party instead because he usually does it. luckily a fellow rotary student (courtney from south africa) also had to help at the party so it was okay. we (attempted to..) serve drinks, clear tables, serve food, and take demands from wealthy belgian know it alls. it was a nice party but i don't think i want to go in to the waitressing business for a career. there were at least a hundred people and they drank a lot of wine, beer, and champagne...kind of disturbing actually. there were at least 6 kegs and a hundred empty wine bottles..which is fine but different! at home wine and beer are very casual beverages, here its like water. in fact i am weird because i drink water (flat water at that..no bubbles)..a funny phrase said about drinking water is "fish f**k in it" hahaha how terrible is that. so after getting tired of being foreign helpers courtney and i went to some bar in town. we sat there for like an hour drinking coke then decided to go back. the party was still going on and people were dancing to obnoxiously loud music on a light up dance floor. it was weird how the music was so modern and loud for these people who were like 30-60 years old. i can never picture my parents and their friends having an anniversary party with a dj and kegs, can you? it was more like a wedding reception..actually, thats exactly what it was like. then we finally got home about 2 am or so then i went to bed. i will hopefully blog about today when i get home tonight. bye!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

17!

first off, today was much better than yesterday. you could almost say that today was fun, but that might be taking it too far. after waking up early and showering, i packed my lunch and biked to school. mornings here are really cold so biking is not always the best option, but what can you do? i was a little bit late for the first bell so i couldn't find my class. so my host brother helped me find where i was supposed to go but then he was late. the secretary still wasn't that nice but thats life. i didn't do much in school and i'm not sure how to feel about it. whenever i tried to take notes with the class i just got confused because the words are spelled so weird plus everything is in CURSIVE!! the last time i used cursive was when we were learning it in 4th grade, then writing a paragraph of something in cursive on the ACT. but thats all! so reading foreign words (sometimes abbreviated) in cursive on a chalk board is beyond confusing. so i pretended to take notes in science class, smiled my way through german class, ran around like a confused foreigner in gym class, and actually enjoyed watching a movie (in english with dutch sub-titles) in geography. i feel bad though because here you have to buy your books and workbooks for classes and i didn't get any because i wont understand them for at least 3 more months. so how am i supposed to do my duch and math homework? did we even have homework? who knows!!! so i went with people from my class to lunch and they were all nice. of course they laugh at my american accent and mannerisms but thats part of the package i guess. then after school i got invited to "get a drink at the cafe" with a couple classmates, so of course i said yes. little did i know that the words drink and cafe in the same sentence don't mean coke at cottonwood coffee, haha. we sat outside at some bar in the town square and it was crazy because thats what most of the students were doing..having an after school drink with their friends. i had something that tasted like grapefruit juice and orange juice and i don't know if there was alcohol in it or not. they said there was but i couldn't taste it so its a tough call. i do know that it was not worth my 6 euro though, but whatever, i made friends. then i biked home and got bombarded with text messages asking me to do something tonight. it was nice having like four different options instead of just sitting here bored like i normally do. but first we had to eat dinner so since its junk food friday my host brother and i got these greasy kebab things..im not really sure what it was. it was like a gyro thing from georges pizza i think. but then i decided to go to a youth center in Arendonk (a nearby town with a funny name) with a girl i met at this baby shower thing like the first week i was here. then my friend courtney from south africa was wondering what i was doing so we all went together. i don't know if i will go again because it was fun at first, loud music, people drinking beer (not me, it tastes terrible..don't get me started), kind of a social place. but then towards the end it got really messy and trashy. beer all over the floor, beer being spilled on you, drunk belgian teenagers, annoying techno music, all really stupid. i understand that its just part of the culture to see people 16 and up drinking beer and wine, but they were no better than american college students. simply binge drinking beer and attempting to dance to crappy music. i'm glad i went because i got to see what belgium's version of a "youth center" is ..but it was definitely no boys and girls club. haha. way past my bed time now so talk to you later!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

16..

school. tough. going to school today made me want to come home even more. the school system is so different from the US, and all the teachers were anything but helpful. tried to ask the secretary where to go, she was in a bad mood. finally found my classmates and they were nice and helped me. actually this morning i first went to language class, where i stood outside in the 50 degree weather for a half hour waiting for the late teacher..then i sat in a bright pink classroom where i heard nothing but dutch from some old ladies mouth for three hours. exciting, right? then i biked to school, ate lunch outside with another foreign exchange student that doesn't speak really good english then i went to "orchestra". orchestra is basically what we call concert band. only we were shoved in a tiny room and there were a few string instruments. its really pathetic that there were only like 30 kids out of the entire 1,200 people school participating in "orchestra". i think its because if you want to be in band, you have to specialize in music. which is a lot harder than it looks..a mistake i recently made. after that class i went to some other music class. the teacher played something on piano then all the students were supposed to write down EXACTLY what she just played...then they were supposed to sing it from memory. it was like two minutes long, i couldn't even figure out the first note!! it was terrible! then the teacher was mad at me for signing up for music when i cant do "simple" exercises like that. isn't school great? then we went to art history class where the teacher told me he wouldn't translate so i just read a book. then we went to some drama class where we watched some musical and i tried not to fall asleep. it was beyond miserable. tomorrow i have to go to school all day because there is no language class on fridays. tomorrows schedule includes german and gym. haha. apparently we run 6 km's at the beginning of gym class. thats only what, three miles? NOOOOOOO. goodnight

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

15!

two weeks in belgium, crazy! time is going fast and slow at the same time. today was my first day of school. new kids had to be there early, so my host brother took me and showed me where to put my bike and stuff. then we walked in and they gave us juice to make me feel more comfortable or something. then this french teacher lady attempted to guide me around but i think she just made me more confused. then i met my class and they are nice but it will be weird going from subject to subject with the same people. i think i will miss the random groups of friends you make when you get to meet different people in every class, oh well. then finally after sitting in an old classroom bored and confused for like three hours, school was done for the day. i then met two other foreign exchange students and we took the train to brussels. actually i got a sandwich at a little place by the train station first, but thats not important. its about an hour and 20 minute journey by train, which is easily comparable to someone from brookings wanting to go to sioux falls after school. especially since school was done at noon...as it is every wednesday. when i first asked my host family if i could go to brussels for the afternoon, they said yes but warned me not to get off the train at the brussels-north station because it is really ghetto. so i payed close attention on our way through that station and indeed, yes, it was REALLY ghetto. so ghetto in fact, that there were about 4 city blocks worth of prostitutes in windows. apparently that station is in the red light district of brussels. oh boy! then we got off at the central station in the middle of town and met some other rotary kids. we went to some sort of irish pub and i tried peach beer. it was not very good. it was like apple juice with bubbles and a fruity-soapy sort of taste. live and learn i guess. then i bought some post cards, a present for my dad, and some french fries because i am in belgium after all, right? then we took the train home, i ate dinner, and here i am. tomorrow is my first day of language class. i go there in the morning from 9:10-12, then i eat lunch on my own or something...then i go to real school at 1. real school will be weird because right after lunch on thursdays i have choir. choir and i don't get along, haha. i am lucky to only be going half days because then i can avoid harder subjects such as french. i still have to take math, english, some sciences, dutch, GERMAN(?!), geography, and a wide range of music classes. i will keep you posted on how that goes. for now, goodnight.

at the brussels train station about to come back to turnhout!!
manuella from brazil and courtney from south africa!

14!


almost two weeks!! crazy! tomorrow is the first day of school, so i really should be sleeping right now. oh well. today i woke up to the sound of the doorbell...ringing and ringing and ringing. the handymen had arrived at 730am to fix the shower. we haven't been able to take a shower since i've been here because it leaks into the kitchen..but after tomorrow we can! (note: there was still a bath, haha) so after dozing in and out of sleep i woke up around ten. then i had breakfast...then i had lunch..then we drove to the bike shop to pick up the fixed bikes. then i met my second family! they were really nice..and guess what, the mom likes to cook and bake..yay! i can learn a lot from her. well, i can learn a lot from anybody here i guess. anyways, meeting them was nice. it made me feel more comfortable about my whole belgium-experience in general. so then we came home, and i made these pinwheel pastry things while hostmommy made dinner. they were just some cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, mustard and some other stuff rolled into a puff pastry sheet then baked. not bad i'd say. at least it entertained me for the night.(picture to come soon..) (picture how here...)but now its bed time. school tomorrow..nervous, excited, and ready to be confused. byebye!