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Europe » Belgium » Flemish Brabant » Leuven
September 27th 2008
Published: September 27th 2008
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Dear Readers:

So I know it is going to be a bit hard to update this as frequently as I´d like, what with homework, posting pictures on Facebook (which I still need to do! yikes!), keeping up with correspondence (Lexi, you´re next) and actually living life in Belgium, but I really want you guys to be able to read this so I will do my best!

I am really grateful for my host sisters Annemie and Liesbet. We went to the Leuven Kermis (fair or carnival) last Saturday night with Annemie´s friend Caroline and they won me two stuffed animals! Liesbet also helped me to navigate through a fun and treacherous ´house´ filled with moving sidewalks, stairs, and what looked like a human-sized hampster wheel! I felt like a carefree youth again (haha, I sound like I´m much older, saying that). We ate smotebollen, which are balls of fried dough sprinkeled liberally with powdered sugar. As my sisters will attest, I soon became liberally sprinkeled with sugar myself.

Unfortunately my camera had run out of power, so I don´t have any pictures of Leuven, so beautiful on its own, lit up with carnival lights and content faces. It made me think of the line in ´It´s A Grand Night for Singing´: ´The earth is aglow and to add to the show...´ We played a version of skee ball where you shoot the balls with an automated shooter rather than with your own power (which, in my case, is a rather weak power) so I actually did pretty well. Annemie, Liesbet and Caroline did even better and we won lots of tokens. I got a special red token and because Annemie had one from an earlier point in time 😊 we won a big stuffed animal. We made a deal that I am keeping it on my desk until I leave, and then Annemie gets it, which seems pretty fair to me!

School is going very nicely! I am so grateful for ALL of my wonderful classmates in Klas 621, Humane Wetenschappen (Human Sciences/Humanities) who have translated, explained, listened to, and talked with me. It means so much and makes me so happy and grateful to be welcomed by and to hang out with them. Plus, I have made a few friends in the other Humane class so school is a very nice place to be most of the time!

I try to do the work when I can, and I will be taking some of the exams (English, French, maybe math and art history) but other classes are very hard. Still, I will sometimes get the gist of the lessons and with my classmates´ and teachers´ help, I actually learn a lot of new things.

I really hope to become fluent in Dutch one day (I feel like calling the language Nederlands because that, after all, is its proper name) but I know that probably won´t happen in my four months here. Yet I intend to keep up with the learning of it after I leave so that I will truly feel like a local again when I come back.

And that´s one of the best things about this whole trip--feeling like a local. Sure, when I stammer out, ´Kleine frieten, alstubrieft?´ at a frituur (fries shop, normally a small storefront or snack bar), the employee can normally tell I am not a native speaker, and very kindly speaks English to me. But when I scarf down a vegetarian pita while sitting next to the statue of Justo Lipso or swing off the bus in the city center, when I save my 50 eurocent pieces for wafels or spend school day breaks chatting with friends in the secundair onderwijs courtyard and the crisp fall air, when I have a drink on the Oude Markt or sing in the church choir, I feel so welcome and grateful that I am having this sort of adventure. I used to drool over travel magazines and think that maybe, with some careful planning, I could spend a season writing in France or eating my way through Italy, and now God and my family (host and natural) and YFU have allowed me to take this trip, I am very very grateful. I know it´s not all roses and sunshine, and difficult times may lie ahead. But I am learning a lot about myself, other people, and another beautiful culture. And for that I am glad.

Yours sincerely,

Anna

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