Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Departing the USA...and landing in Belgium! :DD
So it's been a while since my last post, and I realize that that was kind of a fail on my part xD I think May was when I made my last post? And now it's August, and I'm leaving for Belgium...I really didn't mean to let all that time slip by! Not much happened though. I graduated, I quit my job at Best Buy, I met an amazing guy that seems okay with my year abroad...I hope it stays that way. I really like him. But I'm not going to get into that on my blog! So not the place for that :)
The past few days have been craaaaaazy. I waited until the absolutely last moment to pack my clothes--the day before, and even though I started in the afternoon, I didn't really finish until four in the morning yesterday. Then I slept four hours, woke up, showered, and finished running around like a headless chicken until it was time to go to the air port! My mom and dad and two sisters and nephew and my grandparents were there to say goodbye to me, which was really sweet, I'm so glad that they did. I really wish that...yeah, no, not going there, because it'll probably upset me and I have been too happy for the past twenty four hours, so I'm not letting it go!
Orientation yesterday was insane. I met everyone that was going to Belgium, and while there are twelve of us, only five of us are going to Flanders! There were a lot of other people too, including one girl who's going to Iceland(O: I wanted to go to Iceland!). She was pretty cool.
And I have bad ADD, because I was supposed to actually finish that post and post it. But I didn't, because there was too much going on for orientation. I'll just move on and try to catch up.
The plane ride went a lot faster than I had expected--nowhere near as bad as my flight to South Africa, so I guess that was a good preparation for this trip. We were picked up at the airport by volunteers and taken to a Monastery--this is where my blog is probably going to differ from a lot of other exchangers. Belgium Flanders has an orientation camp(which hey, I can't remember reading about on a lot of other BFL blogs, so what gives? Just skipped over that?) and this year it was for four days. Bargh. They said that even they thought it was too long and that next year it'll only be for two days. Which I thought was a good idea. It was nice to hang out with the other exchange students and do a bit of learning about Belgium, but I already knew most of what they were teaching us, and I kind of got used to being around the other students, so when I finally met my family, that was a bit of a shock. More on that later though.
Camp was boring. A lot of the other students from other countries didn't really want to 'branch out' and just stayed in groups according to country, which was pretty lame, because I wanted to get to know them. I also had a bit of trouble with the whole, almost everyone speaks English, but also their own language, and so they can chatter without me thing. It's annoying, but more frustrating than anything. I WANT to speak their language, so much! Italian, Turkish, Polish, Portuguese? Yes please! Only, I don't know any of them, I just WANT to. I want to understand, and learn, and speak, and I feel like someone who yearns to dance, but was born without feet. Agh. That was so frustrating, but most of the time, if asked nicely, they would speak English. For a bit.
So yeah, camp started on Friday and ended on Tuesday(technically yesterday, since I'm writing this at 1 in the morning). There was a lot of information, and if you aren't regularly on the Culture Shocked forum, I guess it would have been very good and new and all of that for you. There were also a lot of games, though, and we learned a traditional Belgian dance, which was fun. We had to dance for our host families, which was slightly embarrassing, but got better as we danced. Then we had to do a little speech(Hello, my name is, blah blah blah...) and then they let us talk to our parents. After a few hugs and introductions and such, I was whisked away.
Yeah, that freaked me out a lot. You know for ages that you're going to be living with these people, and you talk to them through email and skype, and it's all pretty cool, but you should definitely be allowed to talk for an hour before you hop in a car and just go on to your new home. I was panicking in the car, thinking about how I was possibly going to live with absolute strangers for the next year, and how maybe I couldn't do this after all, and how terrible it was that they had gotten their hopes up and now I was going to crash them by not being able to stay and yadda yadda. Yeah, don't listen to anything that pops into your head like...the first month, I'm willing to bet. It's still the first night with my host family, but I can already go ahead and tell you that. My philosophy is this: tomorrow. Whatever I'm feeling, it's for tomorrow. I want to go home? Okay, okay, we all understand, you tried, you can go home tomorrow, tell them tomorrow. But tomorrow, you'll either realize that you were an imbecile(like me), or you'll find a reason to put it off until tomorrow again. Pretty soon, you'll have come up with so many other reasons to leave it until tomorrow, and tomorrow's tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, that you'll forget what you were putting off in the first place and just get to relaxing in your new country.
Settling in was pretty easy, once I got into it. The siblings help a lot. We did a little tour of the house, which was fun(oh my gosh, they had a 'welkom maggie' banner on my bed, it was so sweet!!) but then they gave me some 'space' so I could unpack. Hey, bad idea. Don't you know I freak out and overthink when I'm given space? Duhhh! xD No, no one could have known that, except for me. I unpacked, and of course, panicked, and over thought the whole situation.
Like giving my host family gifts? Ho crap, that was terrifying. I think you should either do that as soon as you meet them, or...as soon as you get home. Don't leave it until after unpacking. I wasn't sure when, and I just let the moment pass before that, and then I got stuck in my room. Everything unpacked, phone charging, gifts laid out before me on the bed, but I was too paralyzed to go down the stairs and give them to my family. Eventually Kaat(I love that little girl) ran up to my room to check on me, clearly wanting me to spend time with her, and I jumped at the opportunity. I told her that I was alright, but that I had 'stuff.' I didn't really know what to say about it, but she doesn't really speak English, so it was okay. Because then she went hollering through the house, 'Mama, what is STUFF?' in Dutch. I could hear her just shouting something in Dutch, followed by, "But she said she has STUFF!!" And it was hilarious. Dries, my host brother, was just standing politely in the doorway, watching me, not at all surprised by his sister. I made the little 'shush' sign(finger over my lips) indicating that what I was holding was a secret, that crept down the stairs after Kaat. He followed, and I gave them my gifts. They loved them, which was a huge relief for me, because I had gone out on a limb and rather than getting generic state stuff, I had gotten things for them that directly related to me, my state, and them. And I had been absolutely terrified that they wouldn't like them. Agh. I'm so glad that that part is over and that they did like them. Huge weight off my shoulders.
The rest of the night we hung out in the living room(also running back and forth with Kaat to the office, because she wanted to show me stuff on facebook, and add me as her sister on facebook, and all of this silliness that was completely adorable.) It was a really relaxed night, I got some of the awkward 'first night' type questions out of the way, and had fun talking to my host mom. She's very relatable, very normal, I think, and also so very sweet.
But, I have to ask where they keep the soap in the bathroom, and which towels I'm supposed to use, and whether or not it's okay to leave my things in the bathroom...Things that I never thought of worrying about because it's everyday life for me at home, but turns out it was kind of important when I wanted to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and had to use my own shower soap as hand soap because I could not for the life of me find regular hand soap. (is that a Belgian thing? Because it happened at the orientation camp too!)
And now, I'm in bed, catching up on emails and this blog, which has been so sadly ignored. Not any longer though, as I will have stuff to update with and the internet connection with which to do said updating!
Tomorrow: watch as the great Maggie braves a phone store to have her sim card cut down to size, and tread on the lands of the Belgian high school and decide on classes. Oooooooh. (But also, I get to see Kaat's horse, which is crazy awesome!)