I forgot to mention in my last blog that I tried a delicious Belgian specialty called “stoemp” (pronounced “stoomp”). I wanted to share the recipe! It’s very easy to make and is mainly for people who like spinach 🙂

All it is is equal parts of mashed potatoes and cooked spinach… and you just mash it all together. Then add salt, pepper, and sometimes they add nutmeg too. It’s pretty good and very healthy. I recommend it!

Aurevoir 😉

Dinosaurs and The Peace Palace

Here is the latest blog from Elisabeth Ellingson. Doesn’t it make you want to be there too?  Joe Martin


Bonjour tout le monde! (Hello everyone!)

As always, I have experienced several new and interesting things since I last wrote. The first thing was about two weeks ago when I went to the Museum of Natural Science which holds the largest dinosaur fossil exhibit in Europe. It was so cool! I had never actually seen dinosar fossils before. The coolest thing there was the leg of a giganotosaurus which was about 25 feet tall! It was surreal being next to things that were over 100 million years old. I still can hardly fathom something being that old.

But what was even cooler than seeing dinosaur fossils, was going to The Peace Palace (AKA The International Court of Justice) in Den Haag, The Netherlands. For those who don’t know, this is an organ of the UN. It is the only one that is not in New York and this is where legal disputes between countries are settled. I had the pleasure of being able to actually sit in on a hearing that was about whether to grant Costa Rica’s permission to intervene in the case of Nicaragua vs. Colombia. Nicaragua and Colombia have been arguing for a couple years about their maritime territory. Recently, though, Costa Rica and Honduras both decided that they deserve to have a say in the distribution of the territory because they are located around the Caribbean Sea as well. Anyway, the court was beautiful. The room that the session was in was much smaller than I had imagined, but was still very pretty. There were six huge chandeliers, beautiful painted glass, and a gigantic painting on the left. When the judges entered, and everyone stood, I was very surprised to see that there were fifteen of them! I had read that there are fifteen judges but for some reason didn’t think that they would all be there. Then, the representatives of each country presented their cases. Ane one of them wore one of those white wigs that people used to wear in like the 1600’s! Everyone spoke in English. However, when you first enter the room, you are given some headphones which allow you to turn on “French”. This allows you to hear the interpretors which were located on the right in a sort of separate room. But you could still see them. I liked watching them and even listened turned my headphones on “French” for part of it. It was very impressive that they could listen to the lawyers and judges in English and interpret what they’re saying to French at the same speed they are speaking in English! I hope my French will be that good one day. That would be a very interesting job to have. I was very glad I was granted permission to watch the hearing. Another very interesting thing at the court was located outside. It was the “World Peace Flame”. In 1999, seven flames from five continents were united to create this flame. Then, in 2004, every country in the world brought a special stone from their country to create a pathway around the flame (which is held in a case about 5 feet tall). And every country of the world, for the first time in history, endorsed a joint statement of peace.

I also experienced an amazing reaction to my being American. On Saturday, I went to my first Belgian party which was held at a “youth house” which is basically a dilapidated house owned by the government for kids to have parties in. Anyway my friend, her boyfriend, and I all went together. While we were there, we met some cool people that were my age (a group of about 7 people). And the second that I said “I’m from the United States”, I became an instant celebrity. They all started yelling “Woooowwww!! You’re from the United States??!! Do you know Barack Obama??”, etc. They were so enthusiastic that at first I thought they were being sarcastic. But they weren’t! They were VERY excited because several of them had never met anyone from the United States and the USA influences so much of the world. For example, most of the tv shows and movies that people watch here are American, dubbed in French or Dutch; many of the stores are American; most people listen to American music, etc. I was also told by one of these new friends of mine that they are learning about Americans in religion class. They are learning about how a lot of us go to church because most people here don’t. They have a lot of respect for that 🙂

As for my French-speaking, it’s still progressing at a good rate. And my internship is going well also. I plan to go to Paris within a few weeks because the terrorism threat has gone down now. I also may be going to London because the round-trip plane ticket is only 88 euros (about $120).

Anyway, talk to you later!

Aurevoir 🙂

Here is an invitation from Grace Anne Haynes for her presentation next week. Please make your plans to be there! “Come Tuesday, October 26, to the Student Center Theater, to hear about my study abroad this summer in Edinburgh and Cambridge! I will have lots of pictures, explanations of what I did, and FOOD. yes, there will be snacks. If you’ve asked me how my summer was and I said “It was good”, it’s because I’ve been saving all of my explanations for this presentation. Hope you can all make it! (Also it won’t be an hour long… I just had to choose a time on facebook. ) “

Not only Belgium… but Holland and Rome too!

A lot has happened since my last post! Including a lot of progress of my french-speaking, understanding of the culture, and gaining of work experience. When I first arrived in Belgium, and for the first couple weeks, when people on the streets asked me if I spoke French, I would immediately say no. But now, I am actually comfortable enough to say yes (oui). In fact, a few days ago I actually gave directions to somebody in French. I was very surprised with how quickly I became comfortable with speaking in the language. I haven’t even asked “parlez-vous anglais” in over two weeks. But since my french class is now over, I have to make sure to keep studying by myself. But I’ve been enjoying it because I love when I teach myself a word, phrase, or grammar rule at home and then hear it at work or on the street later. And this happens everyday! So each day I can see my progress. But I’m not merely memorizing new vocabulary. I do memorize at least ten words a day, but I am also currently reading a Stephen King book in French, doing exercises in a workbook that I bought, and watching movies and TV only in French. I was very happy to discover that my Seinfeld DVD’s that I brought can be played with French voice-overs! This is a great way to relax but also practice my comprehension.

As far as my internship, I am definitely learning a lot. Each day I have a few documents to translate fom French to English. Not only does this help me practice my French, but it is also teaching me things about business. For example, last week I had to translate the 6 different contracts that the company uses for students and employees. And next week I am going to start creating a translation dictionary for the company to use to create consistency in the words that we use in brochures and various documents. I’m also very happy that it’s becoming easier to understand what my bosses are saying 🙂

I’ve also been traveling on the weekends and was blessed to be able to go to Rome at the same time that my dad and his wife were there on vacation! I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to go because a train ticket was very expensive and the train ride would take about 15 hours. But then, one day in French class, we were talking about “RyanAir” which I discovered is a European airline with very low airfares. I had never imagined a plane ticket being cheaper than a train ticket! But it was much cheaper. So I got to go to Italy for three days/two nights and it was amazing! My favorite part (besides seeing my dad) was visiting the Vatican. Saint Peter’s Basilica was breathtaking! I took 200 pictures there and was so inspired by the artwork. I was a little disappointed that the Sistine Chapel was closed, but seeing the Basilica left me more than satisfied. And while I was there I bought a rosary and dipped it in the holy water 🙂  On the second day in Rome, we went to the colosseum which was right next to our hotel so we had walked by it several times but hadn’t gone inside yet. Honestly, though, I was a little disappointed because a lot of the inside was inaccessible so I didn’t get to stand where gladiators stood 2,000 years ago. And all of the floor was new as well. The walls, however, were still 2,000 years old and it was still incredible to look at. But the Vatican was, by far, my favorite place.

I’ve been to Holland 3 times and have fallen in love with it (along with Italy and Belgium)! It’s only 3 hours by train which isn’t bad at all because I really enjoy riding the train. My first time there, I visited a clog and cheese factory. It was very cool to see how everything was made. And I was absolutely stunned by how HUGE the cows were there! I couldn’t believe it. They are definitely well-fed. Maybe that’s why the cheese is so good! I also took a canal ride and enjoyed looking at the hundreds of beautiful boat houses and just looking at the city. The highlight of my second trip there was visiting The Anne Frank House. This isn’t her house, but was her dad’s office building where she hid (in a secret annex) for two years. Being inside her secret bedroom, her family’s secret kitchen, and looking out the window through which she secretly looked (to try and get a taste of what was going on in the world) was overwhelming. On my third trip, I spent the whole day walking around and looking at castles and beautiful old buildings (and taking lots of pictures). This is one of my favorite things to do in Belgium, too. There aren’t many things like this in the USA. I love looking at something that is hundreds of years old and has been a part of wars and so much history.

Next weekend I plan to stay in Belgium, go to a puppet show (a famous Belgian past-time), and visit the Museum of Army and Military History. But I am really looking forward to the weekend after that. Because that weekend I will be going to the International Court of Justice (an organ of the United Nations) in The Hague, The Netherlands. And I will actually get to sit in on a hearing of Nicaragua vs. Colombia. I am very excited for this because my dream job would be to work for the International Court of Justice. I also plan to go to Paris in a couple weeks, and to Luxembourg to look at more castles 🙂

God Bless,