October 11, 2010

The last 3 weeks... month? (Original post Oct.4)

Sorry that I haven't updated you guys at all... I have had things to do you know :P
Well... now it's time to think back over that time and let you in on what I've been up to!

First week I was pretty lonely. I hung out with my landord (Sabine) and her son (Boris) the first couple days. On the first Saturday, Sabine and I explored a bit and she showed me where she buys her yarn. So I got enough for a couple projects and now have a new scarf, toque and mittens and am working on legwarmers! Besides the shopping, we explored the city and downtown... the palais du roi, le forêt, la grand place and mannequin piste. It was such blur. We went to all of the sites that tourists go to and some more obscure places all in the span of one afternoon and I took pictures and tried to record it all so I could go back and visit later on! We walked for over 5 hours in the end and did a round tour - visiting her sister at the market where she sells the clay whistles that her husband makes. Then on Monday, Boris and I went to see the university and the supermarket :P. Now I can get to both with a blindfold on and my hands tied behind my back! (Which is important when you have class at 8am and leave before the sun is up and the brain is on!) Then, they both left - one for vacation and the other to move into his own place (out of the room that I am now occupying!) so I was left to my own devices... much of which was attempting to get used to the time change and then completely messing it up again after a couple days lonely brooding and the discovery of my new best friend; Skype! Yeah, I still miss you guys - but luckily my days are a little fuller for the time being :) and can't talk to you in the middle of my night which is your day anymore...

The second week here I finally made a friend! Well... sorta reconnected with an old one. Anastasia! (she goes to UBC and we met once at a prep session for go global) After we met up, we were inseperable :P Not only were we both from Vancouver and some of the only native English speakers around, we also didn't really know anyone else our gender and age in the country! It was very nice to complete together - one task a day - the things we needed to get done. First, a bus pass for me! The next day a bank account for Nastia. The next an attempt at one for me. Then on to shopping for more essentials. Everything closes so early (and we wake up so late :P) that by the time you get anywhere it's time for things to close up. The latest the supermarket is open is 8:00 - and that's the big one. Most shops close at 6:00 and only the very expensive "Night Shops" are open on Sundays at all. Oh, and the markets too (which are only on during the weekend). So, next thing Anastasia and I know, we're hunting down a carpet together! We snabbed an awesome deal somewhere downtown that we'll probably never stumble over again as we were wandering and not quite but nearly lost at the time. We then has to haul it back to Anastasia's house of course, so through the city, onto the metro, hanging out on the tram and then dragged down the street went the rug only to find itself getting trampled on! It looks so nice and homey sitting there in Nastia's living room - after we tried like ten different arrangements of the furniture and itself that is! Ohhh.. and the corn on the cob that they were selling just down the block from the carpet stall was way too tempting as well - we both had an ear! And that's only the first market we've been to - we found pillows yesterday which also made a long journey before finding a comfy spot on our respective beds. More market trips in order you think?

Let's see; what else has happened here? Most days before classes started I spent either attempting to get tasks done or just deciding to wander around and see where I ended up. I stumbled across many things that I would have wanted to look up and search out later on anyway. A cute little knitting shop that will provide my with the wool for my next big project - a sweater for Robin. Tea in the window of a shop, reminding me that I really need to buy some! A nice sweater that's the perfect weight to keep me warm but not sweating. Finally, a shop that had a travel mug! (Apparently people just don't take things with them here and actually take time to drink their beverage wherever they are before they leave for the day. But me? Why wake up 5 mins earlier so I can drink my tea before I leave the house? Are you crazy...? I'd much rather carry it with me). In the end - I found everything that I needed and maybe a couple added bonuses too.

Then, just before classes started I decided it might be a good idea to figure out the campus! Sure, it's not UBC (it's about a 5 min walk walk from one end to the other) but it's almost as complicated a labyrinth! It's full of pretty buildings just like the rest of the country - so old and historical :P. However, the numbering system of said buildings is quizzical at best. It seems as though the organizers randomly went through the alphabet and ended up with the letters A to S on the doors in no particular pattern! Oh, and then there are the "R" buildings, which don't necessarily exist on the map of campus we were given. They sit on periphery, just off campus, and are accompanied by a number (ex/ R42) which eventually helps them make a bit more sense than all the other alphabetical ones (once you're told what the R means that is). Also, we have pidgins! It was very exciting to see these familiar birds following me the first few days looking for a meal... they're not quite as tame or numerous as the ones at UBC though. Ah, an interesting tidbit: In the arts and philo building (my 'main' building) there's a door with this sign on it "ceci n'est plus un porte". I found it hilarious as the translation is "this is no longer a door" ; apparently it's having an identity crisis...

I guess this leads me to the start of classes. As I think I've mentioned before - this country is so slow moving! Conversely to home, where we rush around to meet deadlines, I feel that they are so relaxed here that they would actually enjoy sitting there watching paint dry. For the 'normal' students... the schedule is all arranged including the choice of said elective at this time and place or the said other elective at that time and place. They decide what they are going to study and are given a course load that corresponds, where they study with a relatively small group of people that are doing the same thing. Us though, the "étudiants INcoming" (exchange students - or - erasmus ... who are actually quite numerous considering the small student population at the uni) are left to our own devices. The intro meetings for many of the faculties are actually not held until days or weeks after the start of classes. I was lucky with philo et lettres. I got my meeting the Friday before classes started, so I had all weekend to prepare :P And now - it's been two weeks and I still haven't battened down the hatches and sworn into a definite schedule with set classes. I hopefully will get that all sorted soon! I really need to know which homework I need to do and which I can ignore :). As of now I've just completed none of it!

I am however certain (or fairly) that I'm in a 60hr french course that will get me 5ECTS (european version of credits). After being tested and being put in a group called 'trop fort', searching out the meeting place to find out what we were supposed to do with said news - and then being told to go to a completely different place to actually get my answer, i believe i was placed in a class - which was originally not the assumption at all. They could probably make their instructions clearer if they didn't try to organize at all. Now all we have to figure out is where the class is actually going to be held! No worries... it doesn't start until Tuesday (tomorrow) morning - i think... ;P

And now for a couple of fun things that are completely random and maybe a little strange:

I've started a sort of collection of street signs! I found "rue de laines" , "rue de canada" , "rue de henri marichal" and "rue de fritz toussaint" and currently have pictures of them all! The first is the street of wool! The second is sorta self explanatory. The third is the street on which i currently reside. The fourth is one I've walked down many times and I believe is translated as "something - all saint" but makes my thing of coughing fries :P because the verb for cough in french is 'tousser' and fritz is a fry place in vancouver! :P Okay... I told you this was random and strange.

I found guarana! It’s something I haven’t had since I was 12 and in Brazil... I never scoped it out in Canada but wasn't expecting to come across it in Europe... at a yummy 'moroccan' place in Belgium for that matter! The food was also good, but finding the guarana was a real bonus! Also, Anastasia and I found out a couple important things about dining out in Belgium that day. 1. There is no tax. If your meal costs 5€49 then it costs 5€49 ... and 2. Tips don’t exist. Not only do they completely not expect them, they don’t know what they are :P We had to explain it to the guy at the restaurant and he was flattered but didn’t know what to do with it. He ended up putting it in a little donation box he had for some charity :)

Some other food that I’ve tried here and completely enjoyed is stuffed pizza @ the metro (the main bus/tram/train etc station :P). It’s quite yummy and not badly priced. Also, a sorta falafel wrap that I had at some random ‘snack’ downtown. It’s kinda confusing.... any place that serves food but isn’t really sit-down or ‘full’ meal service is called a ‘Snack’ – they may serve pizza, waffles or durum or any other random variety. They’re usually quite cheap and satisfying :P. We also have McDonalds and Pizza Hut which I haven’t gone to – plus some randoms which seem to be chains... Quick (a fast food place exactly like McDs) and Hector’s Chicken – neither of which I’ve ventured into. Of course I’ve also tried a billion varieties of the countries famous waffles and even some Belgian fries, chocolate and beer. I’ve decided that I still don’t like beer! Though I must admit that the Kreik (cherry beer) and the raspberry beer actually weren’t that bad. :) The cheese on the other hand is extremely yummy – there's not really any cheddar, but so many french creamy cheeses... brie, camembert and double crème, oh my!

An interesting tidbit about Brussels is the Carfree Day. It’s every 2nd Sunday of the month I believe and quite a success. Only taxes and busses run and the streets are filled with pedestrians and bicyclers and a couple of other wheeled but engineless varieties of transport. It was neat to walk by and have a hoard of bicyclers pass you on the road. Apparently if you pay an exorbitant fee you can drive your car around... but not many were seen and with so many ppl in the road it’s almost silly to even try to drive without plowing them down.

To those of you who are worried that I’ve been letting some things go, don’t worry! I’ve been tapping and jazz dancing my troubles away! I’ve secured tap classes at ‘fred academy’ which are quite entertaining, challenging and just downright enjoyable, as well as modern jazz at the uni (with other classes soon to join when my school schedule is sorted). Not much to say really, but it is so nice to have dance! Speaking of, I must touch on my one attempt to “go out” dancing. Anastasia and I went the Club de la Nostalgie, which was kind of a let down. The music was pleasant (if at an annoyingly loud level like all clubs) but, you full of smokers - inside on the dancefloor. :( I ended up having to shower multiple times to get the smell out of my hair and toughed it out only for an hour or so before I had to leave and to avoid the risk of death by smoke inhalation :P Luckily there was no cover charge! Just an enforced and mandatory coat check... Plus, it led us to find the yummy falafel place that I mentioned earlier!

Oooo... and, I bought Brussels sprouts! In Brussels! How cool is that? :D

I think that's about it for now! I have finally confirmed a couple of classes that i want to stay in... and guess who the lucky person is that has homework? ...yeah, it's me!

1 comment:

  1. Wow Tracy. Sounds like fun. Now that you are settled It is time to get out and see some more. Put the knitting aside and explore!!!