18.01.2016 - 31.01.2016 10 °C
Wow the time has gone really fast! It seems like only yesterday that I stepped off of the plane to such a warm welcome yet Ive done so much already! In these two weeks I’ve sorted out my ID, bank account and bus pass, started school, been to my first rotary meeting here and visited many new parts of Belgium.
The first few days here were mostly spent getting over jet-lag, learning where everything is in a new environment and playing the piano. The food here is generally a bit different, I have tried the amazing BELGIAN fries and waffles along with some nice chocolate but our everyday dinners are not what I am used to in Australia. We have eaten A LOT of fish and my family do not have margarine! They did buy some especially for me though. Most days we eat a sandwich or roll for lunch with salad, cheese and ham or, once in a while, Nutella.
On the first Wednesday, I was able to go with Karen to the primary school that she teaches at. Her class of 8 year olds were very excited to see me and were asking me many questions which I couldn’t understand but Karen acted as a translator for this day. I helped with some simple Maths and Spelling tasks and I learned to count to 20 in Dutch!
Thursday night, I met the YEP Chairman for my district, Pierre Veys, and the only other inbound this season, Natalia who is from Colombia. We met at her house and Pierre ran us through the program and rules for this year. I look forward to many exciting trips in Belgium and Europe with Rotary and with my amazing families this year. I will be going to Brussels to visit a chocolate museum and a comic strip museum very soon and a trip to Italy in the Easter holidays!
Friday was my first day at school. I have been placed with a 5th year class (where most of the students are a year younger than me) studying Economics and Modern Languages. All classes are taught in Dutch which makes it very hard and I usually have no concept of what is going on. Soon I will start beginner Dutch classes at a different school hopefully with the other exchange students. Economics is definitely a lot harder than in Australia as they have all been studying it for a few years now and I have only done half a year. History and Geography are only minor classes with 1 & 2 lessons a week but their level of knowledge is much greater than mine. I am going to find some easy French books as I cannot keep up with their level of French either! The only class I understand is English as the teacher speaks only in English. My only assignment so far is to do a presentation on Australian history as the others have to do one on a part of British history which they had been studying before I came. The school day here is almost exactly the same here as in Australia, we begin at 8:35, have seven 50 minute lessons and finish at 3:30, the main difference being the lack of home class at the beginning and end of the day. I also go to every class with the same people. They have all been so nice and welcoming and can help me out in English when needed.
Friday was also the 14th birthday of my host sister, Margo. I was luckily enough, able to make a successful Pavlova as a birthday cake that was enjoyed by my host family and their extended family on Saturday night. They had never tried it before and I think they liked it so I believe I will be making it again!
On Sunday, we headed to Ghent for Margo's High Jump competition! She broke her indoor PB! Afterwards, we had a look around the city and went on a tour of Gravensteen castle which was built in the middle ages.
School this last week has been much the same and relatively uneventful however I now kind of know my way around. I have discovered that many of the TV programs here are popular English shows such as NCIS and Modern Family with subtitles.
Other notable happenings this week:
I have now applied for an ID card (where I had to give fingerprints of both hands while the machine decided that it didn’t like me) which should arrive soon.
I have a Buzzy Pazz which allows me to ride the bus without paying every time.
I have a Belgian bank account.
I bought a nice backpack <3
On Thursday, I had my first Rotary meeting with my host Club, Bilzen – Alden Biesen. Many people came over to introduce themselves and talk to me. I had the chance to introduce myself to the club with the microphone, a little in Dutch and mostly in English. My host sister, Anoek, is an outbound with this club to California in August and was meant to come to introduce herself as well but she was on a school trip to Berlin. I did get to meet the other two outbounds from the club who are going to Spain and Italy. I believe my club will also be hosting another two exchange students in August and I’m very excited! Everybody was very nice and I found out that my second host family has a dog!!!
This weekend, my host family took me to the Belgian coast! It was 2 hour drive and we spent Saturday in Bruges shopping. I managed to pick up a few bits and pieces that I needed which was good because there were decent sales that have now ended. We also took a tour around the city on a horse and cart which was amazing! An interesting fact is that we had to pay to go to the public toilets in the bus station!
On the Sunday, we went to a shopping street which was about 2 streets from the apartment where we were staying. First stop was a shoe shop which had sales up to 80% off. Due to Karen being addicted to shoe shopping, we spent two and a half hours in the shop and bought 16 pairs of shoes! Only three were mine. This was particularly surprising to mum as I hardly ever successfully find shoes in Australia! After that, Anoek and I were rather tired and there was also a bit of rain so we decided to go and get a hot chocolate while the others continued on shopping. It sooo amazing!!! Unsurprisingly the shoes were a bit of a jigsaw to fit in the car on the way home! When we got home we had pancakes for dinner and everybody tried lemon & sugar for the first time!
Some extra little things:
My host family were amused when I told them that a particular breed of dog we call a ‘Sausage dog’
Gloves in Dutch is literally translated to the words ‘hand shoes’
In residential streets, there are strange ‘half-lane’ blocks to slow people down, but it pretty much just merges traffic into one lane going both ways which seems pretty dangerous to me.
Side note: I have almost finished writing this and I saw a bug for the first time in 2 weeks so I took a picture. But then it flew on me and its terrifying HELP!