Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It is over. This is the end of my blog. Thank you to everyone who read, whether you read once, or every day. I appreciate the support that everyone gave me throughout the course of my year. Thank you to everyone who made my exchange possible. Thank you to Rotary, my parents, my friends, my family, whether you were American, Belgian, Mexican, Brazilian, Australian, Indian, or whatever else! You all mean so much to me. Thank you. There is nothing else that the Belgium Blogger has to say. The end.

If you are interested in keeping up with my normal life, the new blog is as follows:

**UPDATE** There is now a different blog up that has replaced This Average Life. Check out Classy Emma!

The Loose Ends

I need to finish writing my post about the wedding and my last few days in Belgium... So let's see, I have already talked about the actual ceremony... Well after the wedding was over, the bride and groom hopped in an old '59 Chevy convertible and the rest of us got in our (not as cool) cars and started a parade driving through the town, all honking our horns. Little kids came out into the street and we threw candy out the windows to them. It's a Swiss tradition. Then we went to the place where we would have the first part of the reception, basically to talk, have a drink, and the appetizers. We socialized, ate food, and took pictures for a couple hours, then got back in our cars and made our way to the hall where we would have the dinner. The bride threw the bouquet and then we went inside and had our meal. The hall was beautifully decorated and the food was delicious. They did cake afterwards as well, which was also beautiful. Throughout the meal, there were little skits, songs, videos and games that were organized to keep everyone entertained. And it was so much fun! That night, Jeff and I stayed at Yann-Amael's parents' house. The next morning, we got up and had breakfast and then went to the train station to catch our train with Miguel and Kelsey to Geneva, where we caught our (late) plane home. We then took a train from Brussels to Landen where my host mom picked us up and we went home to sleep.

The next day was our day in Brussels. We went to the train station and caught our train there and spent the whole day walking around, taking pictures, and touring the city. I think it was the first time that I got to see it in the sun. We saw things I've seen multiple times, but also things that I've never seen before. We had mussels and fries for lunch and Jeff tried his first Belgian waffle with banana, nutella, and whipped cream on it. One of the coolest parts about the day was that it was the 4th of July and even though the Belgians do not celebrate it as an Independence Day, the Mannekin Pis was all decked out in America garb, complete with a hat that said "YES WE CAN". We also found out that Talia, Eduardo, and Gaby were all in Brussels as well so we met up with them and went to get a drink. We went to a bar called Delirium and each got a different beer and played a sort of "game" called "the Roto" where we passed the beers around the circle until they were gone. We got a two different kinds of normal beer (Delirium and Kwak), a banana beer, a passion fruit beer, and, ready for it? A Cookie Beer. It. Was. Disgusting. I don't think I've ever tasted anything so nasty. The passion fruit was bearable, and the banana smelled awful. But we passed them around until they were gone.

Eventually, Ben met up with us and we moved to another bar where Jeff tried a few different kinds of Belgian beer. The others left us and we just hung out for the night. But we eventually had to go home, so we took the metro to get back to the car. This is where things started to go wrong. We got to the street where the car was and these two guys came up to us and asked if we had a cigarette. Benjamin, being the ridiculously overly nice person that he is, stopped to give them one. Well, this meant that they would follow us. One of them disappeared but the other one was talking to us, especially to Jeff, talking about soccer since he was wearing a jersey. They had a sort of broken French/English conversation and he was putting his arm around him and just being strange. Eventually he left. We got in the car, but Ben noticed that the glove compartment was open and starting freaking out. Turns out that there had been a GPS there and somebody had broken into the car and stolen it. The next thing we know, Jeff is telling us that that guy had stolen the gold chain that he has been wearing around his neck since his aunt gave it to him when he was 13. So Ben jumped out of the car and ran up the street looking for the guy. Jeff ran after him and I ran after Jeff who told me to stay by the car. I, of course, protested, saying that I wasn't going to stay anywhere alone. Well, the guys were long gone by then and there was no trace of them. So we got in the car and started heading home. But of course, Brussels is potentially the most poorly marked city in the world, and we ended up lost, unable to find the highway. We didn't get home until very late, and when we did finally make it, we came home to two random donkeys in the middle of the road. Talk about an odd day... We went upstairs and went to bed that night, happy for the day to be over.

The next day we took a bus to take a train to head into Liège. I got us lost on the bus IN Liège, but we quickly fixed the mistake and got back on our way. We didn't have much time there, but we managed to get lunch, get a waffle, walk around a little, and get Jeff some Belgian chocolate before he caught his train back to Germany. I went back home to Hannut and realized that I didn't have much time left in Belgium...

Until I left, I just spent time with friends and family. I was packing frantically, trying to get everything together, and I eventually succeeded. On the evening before I left, Talia put together a little party for me and Mikayla as a sort of going away. All the most important people were there and we had a good time together. The next day, as you all know, was the big drama in the airport.

I did leave the 11th, even though they offered me the same deal once again. But I took those two flights home. They were extremely long and I had cried in both planes and I was ready to be with my family. My mom and dad and sister picked me up at the Cleveland airport, drove me quickly home to shower, and then we went out to meet up with my grandparents for a nice welcome home dinner at Red Lobster. I have never enjoyed crab legs and Cheddar Bay Biscuits more in my life. And my water was free. And I used the bathroom for free. It was amazing.

There you go. The end of the journey, the end of the chapter, the end of the year. I can't believe it's over. I can't believe I left. I can't believe that I did it. I succeeded. I went through a year of a foreign exchange, something that people only dream of. A year in Europe. A year in a world where I didn't speak the language, know the culture, or have any connections. I left that place bilingual, feeling like it was my home, with countless friends and a new family. Belgium will always hold a special place in my heart. Now that I am back at "home" in Parma, Ohio, I realize how much little Hannut was like a second home to me. I find that I had rooted myself there. And pulling up roots is not as easy as it looks. Although some of them come out clean, there are always some that have soil stuck to them, and then those few that break. But what is on the other end of those roots? A beautiful, full, open flower. Full of color, wisdom, and experience. I have never been prouder of myself. It was the most amazing experience of my life. I have no regrets, and I would not change the year for anything. It was not all sunshine and rainbows, but in the end, each hardship that I had to face made me stronger, and built my character. I am who I am now because of the effects of the year, both good and bad. And I do believe that I am more mature, well-rounded, rational, and overall a better person. I met people, and made connections and relationships that will last for a lifetime. I visited seven different countries, have friends from all over the world, and made one connection that will never break. This year, I learned to cry, laugh, love, feel, scream, whisper, smile, but most importantly, live. I learned about the world, but most importantly, me. I learned that not everything is easy, but most importantly, that everything happens for a reason. I learned so much that I cannot put into words. And I can't believe it has ended. It feels like I closed my eyes eleven months ago and dreamt it all and am just now waking up, back in Ohio, in my life. Part of me feels like I never left. But the other part knows that it only feels that way because it DID happen. I DID do it. And contrary to everyone who thought I'd never leave, or thought I never had the guts, I say HA. Because I succeeded. I made it, and yes, I can do it all. This may be the end of a year, of a blog. But for me, this, my friends, why this is only the beginning.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It Was A Joke!

So if you follow my blog often, you know that I've been in Belgium for almost a year now and since a few months ago, I was counting on July 10th, today, being the end of my journey. Meaning, the day I go home.

Well, it wasn't.

Basically what happened was that I got to the airport with Ben and a whole bunch of my friends, both Belgian and exchange students, and was in line to check in and everything was going fine. A woman came and checked my passport and I was ready to check my bags. But then another woman from the airline was going to each person in line, asking if they would be willing to travel tomorrow instead of today. They would arrange everything and I would even get a $900 voucher for my next flight. At first I was very hesitant because I wasn't sure what my parents would say and it's emotionally difficult when you think you're leaving and place, and then you stay. But in the end, I decided to be an adult and make the decision for myself and stay the extra day. $900 is a lot of money. And it would cover a ticket from Europe to the States...

The thing was that it wasn't official quite yet. They had to make sure that everyone showed up and they would actually need my seat. Which meant that I had to go through security and everything as if I was taking the original flight. So I did. And I said goodbye to everyone as if I would never see them again (not true, I'm coming back next summer). I cried all the way through customs and security. But the border patrol man was very nice to me, asked me to tell him what I could. I said nothing more than I was an exchange student this year in Belgium and he let me right through. No questions asked.

I got to the gate just at last call when the woman told me that they did in fact need my seat and I wouldn't be leaving until tomorrow. She then gave me my $900 voucher and I picked up my bags and came back to my little town of Hannut. I'm staying in my second family's house tonight and tomorrow Karine will come to get me and Ben to take us to the airport. So, all in all, everything is fine, I'm $900 richer than I was before, and I got to spend an extra wonderful, unexpected day in Belgium. Yay :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The End.

I'm leaving tomorrow at 10 45am. That is less than 24 hours from right now. At this time tomorrow, I will be at home, in Cleveland. I want to write a big sappy blog post about it, but the fact is that it's not hitting me. I can't get the fact through my head... So for now, this is it. My ending post. Of course, it's not my last, because I will write the long thought out poetic post probably tomorrow while I'm on the plane, after crying my eyes out for hours on end. See y'all on the other side.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weddings And Parties And Packing, Oh My!

So I have over a week to catch everyone up on... This is nuts. The fact is that I'm lazyyyyyyyyy and now that it's getting to be the end, the motivation to spend my precious time in Belgium on my blog is fading... And fast. Instead of going day by day, let me just let you all know how it's been going.

Last week was the week of parties. I had barbecues, surprise parties, and nights out every day. It's because people are planning things to celebrate the end of the year. The eventful parts? Well, Thursday was a party that I left early because I had to go to Liège to pick up my friend Jeff that was coming from the States to go to a wedding in Switzerland and asked me to go with him. He was coming in from Germany, and I was supposed to meet him at Guillemins around 8 30pm. First of all, his train wasn't scheduled to come in until 8 44pm, which I realized once I got there, and second, it was going to be a half hour late. So I waited and his train came and passed and he didn't get off of it. On top of it all, my host mom got mad at me cause we were going to be coming back later than expected since the train was late. So I had to call Ben who was out of town and gave me his friends' numbers to call to see if they could pick me up. And I'm super stressed out at this point because Jeff is nowhere to be found and doesn't have a cell phone number in Europe. So I ended up paying 10 euros to get the wifi in the train station to check Facebook and everything and found out that there were problems with the trains (of course) and he missed his connection. So he couldn't get to Liège before 11 30 at night. Well the problem there is that after that time there are no more trains that go back to Landen! He gave me his cell phone number from the States, which I called, draining my phone credit, and it ended up that he was going to stay in Germany that night and take the first train the next morning, which he did. I went back home with one of Ben's friends and woke up early the next morning and went with my host dad into Liège, since he works there. I finally found him and we went back to my house to settle in a little.

But not for long because I had my dance rehearsal and show that day. So we went back into Hannut for that, and I spent the entire day dancing while he amused himself on my computer. That night was the show, which went very well and Ben met up with us afterward (he couldn't get to the show to see it :() to drive us to the airport since we had to be there around 4am for our 6 30am flight to Switzerland. We got a drink and then he drove us to Brussels. We were the only ones there so we got through security and everything really quickly and then found a couch to try to sleep. That was unsuccessful and when we woke up, we found out they had changed our gate so we ran down the length of the terminal at 6am. But we got on our plane and successfully took off towards Geneva. We got to Geneva in about an hour, grabbed some very expensive breakfast, and then got on a train to get to Neuchâtel, which is where the wedding would be. I slept. We were met there by some of Jeff's family, his aunt Sharon and cousin Cerena, who was the one getting married. They were super nice and we walked around the city a little bit to run some errands before going back to their place.

Switzerland. Is. Gorgeous. Everything about it is beautiful. The mountains, the water, the nature, the scenery, it's all one giant postcard. The house that we stayed in had two balconies and overlooked the lake. It was incredible. We got there, took our showers, and then I napped for a while. But soon we were back up because we were going to go out on the boat with Yann-Amael, Cerena's fiancé, and we went tubing! It was a lot of fun and I didn't get sick and I was very happy I did it. Afterwards, I napped and then it was off to Yann-Amael's parents' house for a sort of rehearsal dinner with the whole family. It was beautiful out and we shared a wonderful meal together and spent the evening talking and getting to know one another. I met some awesome people including the man who would perform the ceremony, who is in fact, Belgian! After the dinner, we all went to the church to see the decorating that they had been spending endless hours on over the course of a few days. And it was beautiful! It was like they had completely reconstructed a forest in the church. Just amazing! But we quickly headed back to the apartment for a much needed sleep.

The next morning we got up fairly early to go with Jeff's Auntie Sharon and her husband to Neuchâtel and see the city a bit. We drove there, found parking, and spent the morning looking around and exploring. There was a market going on too, which was cool. We bought some fresh bread and some raspberries that were delicious, and Jeff bought some real Swiss dark chocolate with hazelnuts in it. I took plenty of pictures, no worries! We also stopped by a local grocery shop to pick up some cheese and meat and then headed back to the their place for lunch, which consisted simply of baguette, cheese, meats, and jams. But it was probably one of the best meals I've ever had. They're not kidding when they say that Swiss cheese is the best... And remember the cheese with ashes in it that I used to eat in my first family? Yah, I chowed down on that too :D

After dinner it was time to go get ready for the actual wedding. When we got back to the house, we found that there were two new people there, Kelsey and Miguel. Kelsey is one of Cerena's friends from college and Miguel is her Spanish boyfriend. Kelsey and I bonded as we did our hair together and we all managed to get ourselves ready in less than two hours. I wore my dress from senior year homecoming, and it was a pretty snug fit since I've gained weight here... But we all looked nice and classy and piled in the car to head to the church. We were some of the first people to get there and spent a little while just standing outside, chatting with people, and enjoying the sun. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Eventually, though, it was time to head inside for the ceremony. It was done in French, of course, so I played translator for Jeff, and I have to say, I did a pretty good job. This was, actually, their third wedding (the first was just with the papers, so it was fast and small, and the second was a religious ceremony, but in Virginia, where Cerena's family lives) so it wasn't exactly completely traditional. It started off with a woman playing a violin and singing and Cerena and Yann-Amael came down the aisle together. They wrote their own vows, and Yann-Amael's were actually not words, but a song that he played for her on the piano. There were also times when groups of people would come to the front of the church and do a sort of singing performance. The whole wedding was absolutely beautiful and I'm so glad I got to be there to see it.

Ok so this is Part I. I'll post part II after I get home cause I'M LEAVING TOMORROW

And I Continue To Fail...

Things have been so busy lately... I know I have a million things to say... But it's difficult to do when you're spending your life packing... I can't believe I'm going home in three days... I can't handle it!!!!

On the other hand, la vie est belle et pleine d'amour :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

As Usual, I Fail

I will not be posting an update today. I'm exhausted and there is a fly buzzing around driving me nuts. We had a very eventful day so I'm going to tell you all about it when I'm not going crazy. Bonne nuit!