Today began my second week in Brussels, Belgium and a lot has happened this past week. I have to say, my first couple days were kind of horrible. On my first day I arrived at 8 AM but wasn’t able to be picked up and taken to my apartment until 5 PM. So when I arrived I was picked up by a nice couple that I had paid to pick me up and take me to where I would later be picked up (at 5 pm) by the owner of the apartment I would be living in. Before they took me to me the train station (from where I would later be picked up), they took me to their house for some coffee which was very nice of them. The man spoke a fair amount of English, although his wife only spoke French. So we all communicated with French and English (some call this Franglais). They offered me a pastry and an espresso which I took, even though I wasn’t that hungry, because I didn’t want to be rude. And because I had only slept 2 hours on the plain, I thought an espresso would be a good way to help me be awake for the rest of the day since by this time it was still only about 10 AM. The espresso was VERY strong but, again, I was scared of appearing to be rude so when they were in the other room I gulped down the espresso. BAD IDEA. This quick consumption of a large amount of caffeine, combined with only two hours of sleep and being very nervous, made me extremely nauseous for the rest of the day. So when they brought me to the train station around 11 AM I still had six hours until I was going to be picked up and taken to my apartment. I was hungry, but felt too sick and anxious to eat. So I basically just sat and waited for five o’ clock to come around. But once it did, things only got worse! The owner of my apartment told me to meet him at “Rue le France”, so I asked the guy in the tourist’s office where that was and apparently he told me the wrong spot. Because a little after five, the owner called me and said he didn’t see me. So I asked a woman sitting next to me if this street was “rue le france” and she said no, it was Horta Square. I told this to the apartment owner on the phone and he immediately got irritated. I explained to him what I saw around me so that he could find where I was, and he started yelling at me! He said, “I don’t know where you are! This is why I told you the address!” I apologized several times and told him I could walk to Rue le france (the woman sitting next to me pointed to where it was), but I had so much luggage that it would take me a very long time to make it over there. Anyway, he found me within about two minutes and took me to my apartment. It just really wasn’t the kind of welcome I had expected or hoped for.
The next day I began French class and things quickly started to get better. I made a friend in class, Jason, and he took me around town after class because I needed a cord for my laptop. I was very impressed to learn that he speaks English, French, Bulgarian, Dutch, and Russian. All fluently! He also bought me lunch in the Turkish district which was delicious! I had what I think was a gyro… it was a tortilla and inside it had pork, onions, corn, tomatos, lettuce, and french fries. And like a garlic mayonnaise. He also told me many interesting things about Belgium, including the fact that they still have bombing drills here! I thought that was very sad to hear.
This past weekend I went to Amsterdam via a tour bus. One of the first things I noticed was how HUGE the cows are there! Holland produces a lot of cheese so I feel like this has something to do with it but I’m not sure what. There are also a lot of bikes there. I heard that there are about 3.5 bikes for every person in Amsterdam because people get their bikes stolen a lot so they go and buy new ones, or some people just steal someone else’s. I visited a cheese and clog factory and got to see how clogs and cheese are both made.
Today, I started my internship at “Kiddy and Junior Classes” which is a language school for kids aged 5 to 18. I will be translating and updated their website from French to English. I hope that it will help me practice my French. I think that it will, especially because all of my coworkers speak French (unless I request that they speak English when I can’t understand what they’re saying). But I try to only do this if I really can’t understand them, because I’m not here to learn English!
So, although my first day wasn’t the best, things are much better now. I enjoy going to the nearby market to pick out my lunch and dinner and practice my French with the cashiers and other shoppers. I’m also enjoying communicating in French during my French classes but sometimes it is a little overwhelming because “Alliance Francais” has a full-emersion policy. Each day I find myself speaking more and more french and asking less “Parlez-vous anglais?” (do you speak English?). People here aren’t that into community service but I am still determined to find some sort of service project to do while I am here. Anyway… I have to do my French homework now! So… talk to you later!