Monday, September 5, 2011

Cool Things and more Culture Shock

It's been a while since I last updated. So instead of doing a day by day narrative, which would be boring and take forever, I'll just tell you some cool things I've done and some cool things that have happened to me. And I'll continue the list of Culture Shocked Items!

Cool Things I've Done

1-Made Pavlova (a traditional New Zealand/Australian Meringue) with a New Zealander
2- Zip lined through my city
3- Used the "jaws of life" to tear apart a car
4-Toured the Royal Palace with 200 other exchange students
5- Ate a fantastic chocolate covered waffle in Brussels
6-Discovered they have a Forever 21 in Brussels. Best news ever!
7-Ate fries in a cone covered in mayonnaise. Delicious. (American mayo and Belgian mayo shouldn't even have the same name, they taste COMPLETELY different)
8- Spoke at Kayla's rotary meeting completely in French-yay!
9- Attempted to climb a castle wall (I didn't actually climb it only because there were cobwebs and I'm scared of spiders)
10-Learned the "Haka". A New Zealand Rugby dance, and performed a mini version at Kayla's birthday party
11-Flipped in a car going 30 km an hour in a demonstration. I think I got the wrong impression from it because it was more like a carnival ride than a lesson learned (always wear your seatbelt!).
12-Ate a MASSIVE pot of Belgian mussels-delicious :)
13- Found a Starbucks! There are only 3 Starbucks in ALL of Belgium
14-I've learned that if I don't know a word, saying it in English with a heavy French accent usually works. The words are either similar of the people I'm speaking with know enough English to understand me.

Cool Things That Have Happened To Me
1- My host family parties harder and stays up later than I ever have...and I love it

2-When I was talking to some at a festival, they said I had an American accent. I said yes because I come from America. All of a sudden about 7 of them stood up and started humming the American National Anthem for me (very drunkenly yet professionally). It was awesome.

3-When I was in Brussels with Kayla, we were speaking English (obviously). Two very touristy looking women came up to us and asked (IN ENGLISH) if we knew where the Grand Place was. Kayla replied in French. We were so surprised to hear fluent English. They were visiting here from Denver and were lost. I loved talking to them, especially because they come from the same region. They were fascinated with our exchange, and I was happy to speak English with more Anglophones!

4-Not really cool, and didn't really happen to me, but I was walking with my host mom and Kayla and her host parents to this party for Flamiche Dinantaise. We saw two police officers walking sketchily towards the friterie (place where they make and sell fries) across from my house. This van with two other police officers pulls up and the 4 cops attack this guy that was sitting at a table with his head down. One cop put him in a headlock and the others pulled the chair out from under him and handcuffed him and put him in the van. He was either drugged out or in shock because he didn't resist or show any emotion at all. Apparently, he had started beating up his wife and onlookers called the cops. He ran to the Friterie but apparently gave up there. It happened so fast and was so strange because the guy who was being arrested literally had no emotions. He was just limp. It was intense.

5-Kayla and I were somehow signed up to serve wine at the above mentioned party. We got paid 25 euros, and as exchange students on a student visa we're not allowed to work, so the money was appreciated. A bunch of people in the city dress up and its this dinner where they serve flamiche, a cheesy, eggy, buttery pie. They all sing songs and wave their napkins around and chant and it's really cool. We were to serve wine with other students, and they were all being brats. Regardless, it was cool to meet all the people. We were introduced as exchange students and a lot of people tried talking to me in slurred English, but it was fun. We stayed at the party til 3 in the morning and then went back to my house and people stayed til 4. It was exhausting, especially because the night before I stayed up til 3:30 at Kayla's birthday party. But we can sleep when we're dead :)

Culture Shock Cont...

8-Pool-They have fairly different rules for the game pool/billiards. Instead of "Striped" and "Solid", they have "Yellow" and "Red". When you hit the white ball into one of the pockets, the other team has this little half circle they can place it in to make their next shot. They can't really put it wherever they want, they have to put it in that little tiny place. They also get to go twice, instead of just once when the white ball goes in. The people I was playing pool with must have thought I was crazy for not knowing how to play, but it really is just different enough to be awkward to a foreigner...

9-Jean-A huge majority of the men I have met have the name Jean-something (pronounced John). My host dad is Jean-Luc. My district chairman is Jean-Claude. Martine's husband (my host uncle) is named Jean-Pol, and so is one of my host parents really good friends. There are Jean-Marcs, Jean-Renes, Jean-Francois, Jean-Michels, and probably a thousand others. It's a very, very popular name. And nobody here likes my name. They all think it's weird I used a last name as my first, but I promise, it's popular in the United States!

10-Chez- In French, the word "chez" translates to something like "the home of..." For example, I am staying at chez Jean-Luc and Francoise, or chez Henroteaux. It can get really confusing though, when you have more than one house. Sometimes, when people speak to me they say "chez toi" which means "your house". I never know if they are talking about my house in Belgium or my house in the United States and sometimes (usually, actually) they are referring to "my house" as the whole United States. And half the time I can only understand bits and pieces of what is being said so I'll try and generalize it between my home in Wyoming and the United States in general.

11-Stoplights-My town has no stoplights. At all. And I've noticed that stop signs are more of a suggestion, most people just yield. I guess only really big cities have stoplights, most of Belgium has roundabouts though. I love roundabouts, and think they are much more practical than stoplights/stop signs.

12-Sneezing- I don't know if this is just with my family or with everyone here, but when someone sneezes no one says "bless you" or anything like that. They just continue on without saying anything. I was talking to other exchange students and they said that there is a word for "bless you" and some people use it, but it's not very popular here. I always want to say "bless you!" when someone sneezes, but I can't because I don't remember the equivalent.

13-Literal Translations-These are very dangerous. Literally translating from French to English normally doesn't work, because French is very inverted compared to English. Here are some hilarious but embarrassing literal translations other exchange students and I discovered.

Word in French:Preservatifs
Literal Translation: Preservatives (like jams and jellies) 
What It Really Means: Condoms

Phrase in French: Je suis chaud 
Literal Translation: I am hot 
What It Really Means: I am horny

Phrase in French: Je suis excitee 
Literal Translation: I am excited
What It Really Means: I am horny/excited for sex (I think...not positive on this one)

Phrase in French: Je suis bon(ne)
Literal Translation: I am good
What It Really Means: I am good at sex

Phrase in FrenchJe suis plein
Literal Translation: I am full
What it Really Means: I am pregnant, or I am drunk

The word "bon" means "good", but apparently only in terms of food and sex. Saying "he is bon" means he is good at sex. Fairly awkward when you don't really know what you are saying. But it still can be very entertaining.

That's all for now, but my first day of school is tomorrow and I have an inbound orientation on the 10th, so I'll probably update after that! A bientot :)

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