At last I am putting fingers to keyboard to narrate a snapshot of la vie à Bruxelles!
VERY grateful to be staying with a lovely family here… friends of friends of grandma’s friend’s friends… Of course I have started a daily ritual of ‘teatime’ which is invariably accompanied by cupcakes etc. It’s just GREAT. And everyone here loves a bit of Earl Grey and shortbread at 4 o’clock. I have to admit that since moving here, my vision of England has turned into one of afternoon tea, the Queen and stocky men wearing red suits and busbies… Please help me to keep this new ritual alive by sending your favourite cake/biscuit recipe for me to try out with the children. (This is a serious request). Also, does anyone have a good fudge recipe?
My room is in the roof and I’m sharing it with Tsonga. After a few days of itchy eyes I think my allergy to cats is gradually getting over itself… Had a few shocker moments, waking up with a cat in my face. I’ve tried talking to it in French in the hope that it will be a bit more responsive. It’s a work in progress.
I’m studying at a translation institute here which is cool – and not unlike the Barbican in its design. Home from home. However, it became clear in the first few hours of arrival that the staff had already sussed the typical ‘ERASMUS student’ ambivalence – ie. we were expecting to attend classes and eat waffles in between. “Errrr, non, des etudiants ici sont vraiment travailleurs”… and it’s true. Students here work ALL the time – and they are whizzes at translation.
The other ERASMUS students have provided some quality entertainment. For instance, a group of very sweet Chinese girls asking why there were photos of random peoples’ faces everywhere… this was followed by a hilarious explanation of democracy from the French professor. It is election time here.
Culture clashes move beyond the realm of politics and into the personal sphere, too… Several old women have stared at me on the tram (I’m now a regular on the number 7) and then proceeded to stroke my hair. Uncomfortable doesn’t cover it. I have reached the conclusion that it is because there are very few redheads here. Nonetheless, WHAT?! A few weird men have also followed me nearly all the way home so I had to bring out the “NE ME SUIVEZ PAS!” card. That was… good practise of the imperative.
In fact, the redhead excitement isn’t restricted to the tram. In a literature lecture, the prof asked if there were any “AYRAZMOOOSE” (ERASMUS) students. Tentatively, I raised my hand and I couldn’t even introduce myself before she had yelled “AAAH nous avons une petite anglaise! Une rousse!” I’m not sure whether I can bring myself to forgive her for this public announcement. Not only did it make my face go red as well, but it meant that half of the lecture hall then asked me for English lessons… I’m getting good at saying “Non”. I always knew this year abroad would make my language come on leaps and bounds.
Embarrassment and redheadedness aside, speaking French has been going well on the whole. I’m following a series of lectures at a Bible school as well which is great. And all in French! Church has also been a brilliant way of getting to know francophones and practising. Very grateful for all the kind and hospitable people here.
Aside from those bizarre happenings, life here is actually quite similar to the UK (+ waffles). The sky is grey, rain falls… But today the sun is making an appearance! I’m going to whack out the camera and join the army of tourists. Hope you’re glad that I’m sacrificing my appearance of being a local for your enjoyment of photos. Who am I kidding… this hair will never let me fit in!
In fact, the whole waffles thing is quite dangerous so I decided that I would have to become WAFFLE WARRIOR (ie. avoid them with all my might). But clearly that was doomed to failure – the pavements here are lined with the golden beauties. So instead I have bought a gym membership (try to suppress your laughter). Fitness classes in French are bound to be hilarious…
Here ends the first blooog post.