Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It is Tuesday and, just like last week, everyone else is at class and I am back in the flat doing work for my online classes amongst other things. I have been here for a little over a week but it seems like longer. I have finally figured out the trams and the metro system. I am definitely not used to public transportation and I kind of miss having my own car. However, I do not envy driving here. I can find no method to the madness of these roads.
I had a really good weekend. I was able to find my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and attend this Sunday. It takes me about 30 minutes to get there and I have to take the tram and the metro. Luckily for me the ward is both French and English-speaking. They had separate Sunday school classes for English and French-speakers. For the main meeting they had these little headphones that would translate anything said in English into French and anything said in French into English. It was pretty cool. We also sing hymns in my church. Back home I would have a hard enough time not getting distracted from the melody as my mom would sing the harmony beside me but now that we have people singing in two different languages and all different ranges, it is a whole new ball game. It's really cool to have both languages there though.
One of the things I found most interesting was how the people acted. I walked into church with a pair of missionaries who spoke English so I had no idea what to expect form the ward members. I was surprised when the Belgian members, even though they had never seen me in their life, came up to me, touched their right cheek to my right cheek, and kissed the air, greeting me with a, "Bonjour!" They also did this as we left, saying, "Au revoir!" Even though I was a little apprehensive at first, I thought that it was a very friendly gesture.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weather and Claustrophobia

I have discovered that Brussels is not any colder than South Carolina. There have been colder temperatures in Carolina for the past week than there have been here in Belgium (although Belgium has been a lot more rainy). However, I never wore scarves and gloves back home. I have decide that this is because people in Carolina usually don't go outside as often or for as long a time as people here in Brussels. All day, people are walking everywhere. Public transportation is also a lot more common here than I have ever seen back in the South. Sometimes it can get really cold as you sit and wait for the tram or the metro. One of the trams that we take around the city is shown below.
Another thing I've noticed about Brussels, and I wonder if it's true for Europe in general, is that everything is more narrow. This is especially true for passages: the doors to the tram, the aisles in grocery stores, the staircases in houses, etc. I'm pretty sure that it's because people in general are thinner here. I think Europeans probably eat healthier and a majority of the population smokes, causing them to keep a lower weight. It makes me a bit claustrophobic sometimes to have to maneuver in these places that are smaller than I'm used to.

Monday, January 19, 2009


So today was the first day that the other girls and I actually went out to do stuff by ourselves. We found a little group of stores where we did some shopping and had lunch.
I have to say, the whole time I felt very much too American. We had trouble ordering our lunch so a nice man from here offered to help us. Then we were trying to find a bank to get some money. Every door we tried was always locked so we kind of stood in front of them or knocked on them. Later we found out that they were just supposed to be pushed, not pulled. It was a bit embarrassing, I have to say.
Door trouble seems to be a theme with us though. We can never unlock the door to our building on the first try. It usually takes us about five minutes each time. It's kind of ridiculous. Hopefully we will get better at blending in in the future.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sparrow Has Landed

I'm finally in Europe! My plane arrived in Brussels around 8:00 this morning (2:00 EST). Although I had never flown before, the flights went well. After connecting in Chicago I sat next to a very cool British man for the flight to Brussels. He gave me a lot of good advice about my stay in Europe.
There was a whole group of Clemson students at the airport this morning to be picked up by our program director. She took us to our various locations. We are pretty much spread out all over the city. I am rooming with the another girl from my program and we share a one bedroom flat. It really is the cutest thing I have ever seen.
The building that we are staying in is owned by an older couple that live on the first floor. Allison and I have the flat on the second floor and then two other Clemson girls will be on the third. The couple don't speak a lot of English but combining the English that they know with the French that Allison and I learned in high school, we were able to communicate pretty well.
Brussels is such a beautiful place, I can't wait to see more of it! We haven't done much more today other than arrive and sleep. Since Brussels is six hours ahead of what we are used to, our schedule is thrown off a bit.
And I just have to say that I love speculoos. I think that's how you spell it. It is like a cross between a ginger snap and a graham cracker. The couple down stairs gave us some and said they are a Belgian thing. They are so good!