Sunday, October 16, 2011

I've been busy busy busy...

I know I haven't updated in a long time, but I've been super busy. GOOD NEWS! I'm starting to understand things without thinking about them all the time! I've been here 64 days today (woot woot!) and it's not taking as much effort to understand and reply. Now, if I don't understand something, I can ask about what I don't understand whereas before I wasn't even sure what I did or didn't understand, it was all kind of a big blur. YAY FOR PROGRESS!

Okay so what I've been doing for the past 3 weeks or so:

Fete de Wallonie
Flag of Wallonia

They had all sorts of parades and street performers like this!

Translation: Monkey balls, I looooove you. It's a popular drink.

Valentine (Kayla's host mom), Me, Danielle, and Kayla after the Flash Mob

Our wonderful giant balloon and how sad we would be if someone popped it :(
When my host parents described the Fete de Wallonie to me, they said that it was a big party where everyone gets together and drinks peckets (little flavored shots) and there's concerts for 3 days and kids sleep in the train station and everyone just parties. I thought that couldn't possibly be right, because firstly it's not safe to sleep in train stations, and there must be some other point than just to party. I was wrong. Wallonie is the part of Belgium that speaks French (Flanders is the part that speaks Dutch) and literally it's like Frontier Days without the cowboys but with the same amount of craziness and drunk people and socializing. It lasts Thursday to Sunday, and is in a couple different cities in Wallonia, but I went to the capital (Namur). Friday I hung out with school friends, tasted Peckets, saw concerts, attempted to jump on a bungy tramp but was told I was too big (RUDE) and did lots of people-watching. Saturday, my friend Danielle (who comes from South Africa but lives in Flanders-speaks English, Afrikaans, and Dutch fluently but not much French) came with Kayla and I and our host families to go shopping and look around. We also ran into some of the exchange students from South America. They are out of control. Always. They never run out of energy, it's ridiculous. Then Saturday night we were in a flash mob (yes I know, my life is super cool) with the dance company that Kayla's host mom teachers for. It was awesome. Then afterwards (because it's the twentieth year of Fete de Wallonie) they passed out these MASSIVE balloons and had fireworks going for like half an hour, it was fantastic. I decided not to sleep in the train station and go home to my bed, although it was lots of fun. Pictures are above!

South of France!
My counsellor for Rotary invited me to go to the South of France with her and her husband and their exchange student from Thailand. Sweeeeet! It was a 9 hour drive (which was killer because most of the European highways are lined with trees, which means you can't even look at anything) and then we got to Gard in Provence. Here's a picture of where I was...

It's a really pretty region that has a lot of history with the Romans.  It was about 30 degrees C every day, and I got to swim, tan, read, and just relax. It was absolutely WONDERFUL. We also went to look at some sights. A river runs through that entire region and it has a big canyon around it. We were going to kayak down it but Ponpinya (Thai exchange student) doesn't like water so we just went to look at it instead. 

I found a billy goat friend!

Then we went to look at a medieval village...
Ponpinya and I

It was really pretty! Then we went to see the Pont du Gard, which is this old Roman Aquaduct that carries over 4000 swimming pools of water a day. CRAZY!

After that, we went to these waterfalls that have killed 25 people in 20 years, they have really dangerous sinkholes that suck people under. It's the end of summer so there's not a lot of water, but people still aren't allowed to swim. I guess it's crazy to watch it in Spring when it's full of water. We also went to Avignon which is this old town that's really pretty. Aside from that sightseeing we mostly relaxed, it was wonderful.

Deadly translation: To Be Likely To Fall, Hold Your Children By The Hand

At Avignon!
It was a fantastic weekend, and I loved the weather. Belgium is already cold and rainy and its very unappreciated. Quick side story. We met some Dutch tourists, and when they found out we were exchange students, they gave Ponpinya and I a compass from the Dutch Army. It doesn't work. Now we know why the Netherlands aren't a world power-they always get lost!

Namur and Putte Weekend
Last weekend on Saturday, there was a meeting for all the exchange students in Namur. We sat there and listened to rules for trips for about 3 hours, then had an hour break for lunch. Kayla, Lil, and I went to Pizza Hut, but when we came back an hour later, everyone was gone. They actually said meet at the boat for lunch. So we were running to try and find the boat, Kayla and Lil are both way taller than I am, when they walk I literally have to jog, so I was straight sprinting with them. Ended up running for a solid twenty minutes in the rain with a sprained ankle (I'm really graceful, I fell in PE) until we found the boat approximately two seconds before it left. Then we sat in the rain for a couple hours on the boat and froze to death until we were done. Then Kayla and I went to a place in Flanders named Putte (French speakers should find the humor in this name) and spent the night for Danielle's 18th birthday. We went to a dance party with about 300 other people and I got to see a little bit of Flanders and it was a really fun weekend, although with not a whole lot of sleep. 

Gent and Brussels
Last week we had a trip to Gent with school, I'm not really sure why but it was fun. Kayla and I were running late again (surprise there, I'm always late) and ended up running up the hill by my school (probably a 160 degree grade, NOT exaggerating) to make it to the bus by 6:45. Then we got to go on a boat ride to see Gent, the guide was amazing he would switch from Dutch to English to French almost every other sentence and didn't have too strong of an accent in any language. Then we got to go on a scavenger hunt for all these buildings in Gent and then a little bit of shopping. Wednesday, my host family took me to the Atomium with my host cousins who live in Brussels and then we went shopping and I bought these fantastically warm clothes, because I'm cold ALL THE TIME! Thursday I went back to Brussels with my school, we saw the Botanic Gardens and the Grand Place and Parliament. I already saw Parliament with Rotary and it wasn't very interesting then either. Belgium has gone over 450 days without a government, it's kind of seen as a joke actually, so visiting Parliament isn't as exciting as one would think. It's mostly empty. 

In Other News...
I'm going to London with Rotary on November 3-6th, and I'm SUPER excited. Then December 2-5 Kayla and I are going to Madrid to stay with my host cousin and visit the girl Kayla's family hosted a couple years ago. The weekend of December 16th I'm going to Paris to stay with my host aunt and other host cousins, and maybe visit a girl from Bordeaux who was in my district last year! 
School is still impossible. They'll give me quizzes, and all I can do is put my name down. Also, I failed an English quiz. I appreciated the humor in this but my teacher didn't think it was so funny. Firstly, they use British words (like chips for fries and crisps for chips) and it's vocab they've studied but I didn't pay attention too so I was lost. One of the questions was: Something a big country has over a little country. It was a crossword, and it looked like this. - - - - - e - - -. Think about this. Seriously think. The answer? Influence. A big country has a lot of things over a little country, how am I supposed to know it's influence? And that is why I can't even pass courses in my own language.  October 26-28th, everyone in Rhetos (senior year) will go to a Monastery for 3 days and live like they do. I have no idea what this entails, but I'm excited for it! It should be very interesting. I've been doing a lot, and been having lots of fun. 

I think that's all for now, a bientot!

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