Saturday, October 23, 2010

What I Miss

Everyone asks if I miss home and I always tell them no, in the sense that I don't cry myself to sleep at night thinking about the United States. Well, sometimes, but it's mostly political. Sure, I miss the routine and the ease, not to mention the ability to communicate effectively. I also wish I could talk to mijn broertje more often, but there's a new girl in his life and he has no time for his big sister. Ah well, I'm only an ocean away. How many kilometers is that?
Five Things I Do Miss About Home:
1. I miss snow. I went skiing today with my host parents' niece in this indoor ski hill with fake snow and heavy Dutch accents. It sort of reminded me of that scene from The Truman Show where there's a door in the sky and he realizes it was all fake. Walls on a mountain do that to people. I actually started to miss mountains, snowstorms, skilifts, and all things associated with winter. I've heard there isn't much snow in Belgium. Well, Belgians think there is, but it's all Belgian relativity.
2. I miss having a car. When I ride my bicycle through torrential downpours uphill both ways so I can get to Dutch class if only for the heat, oh poor pathetic me, I miss having heated seats and a roof while I travel.
3. I sort of miss patriotism. I don't mean forceful recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, but I sort of wish that I weren't the only person who liked Belgium. I worked so hard to learn De Brabançonne and actual Belgians don't even know it.
4. I miss my soy-loving mother who gladly let me make vegan cupcakes to my heart's delight. Here with my legume-fearing host parents, great as they are, it's a decent struggle to get the right to cake. They said I could make cupcakes this weekend if I had time and proper ingredients. They're letting me near appliances! Do you realize I haven't had cake in two months? Do you know what that does to a person?
5. I miss being the smart kid. Here in Belgium, I know nothing. I don't know much about physics, I don't understand Dutch grammar, I speak the wrong kinds of French and Spanish, I wasn't aware that Belgium had enough history to study, and theory is not my forte.
Five Things I Know I Will Miss About Belgium:
1. Beer. I have to go back to the states and wait three years for my next drink. I know there are ways around that, but I'm not taking the risk of posting it on the internet.
2. Everyone is so darn cute in this country. With their little Belgian sweaters and their little Belgian scarves, they shiver through the cold Belgian autumn while I sweat in my host-mother-mandated cardigan.
3. Again, everyone is so darn cute in this country, but in a slightly different way. Like, I want to put them in my pocket but at the same time they're breathtaking. Belgium is an untapped well of beautiful people. I don't want to go back to the Dirty O. Belgians are prettier.
4. Everyone is so relaxed here. They all deny it, but there's no stress. It's hella chill, as we say in my country.
5. I love the food. Speculaas, hagelslag, chocopasta, those little vegan pâté
things, these are all things that I've never seen before. Seriously. Put chocolate sprinkles on your bread. It's magical. Why did no one in the western hemisphere ever think of it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Things Not To Do On Public Transportation

1. Fall asleep.
2. Insult people in their native languages.
3. Insult people in your own language. The people you are insulting can understand you. They just don't want you to know. Stop being such an idiot. I do not feel like socking you on the tram, thanks.
4. Perform public displays of affection. I saw this one on the tram today, on the part of a group that shall heretoforth be referred to as the two-headed monster. There was actual head-in-lap action. I'm pretty sure that's not kosher anywhere. Even in Belgium.
5. Laugh at alcoholics. Yes, it's templting, because they sip their beer with such gusto, but please retain some sense of decency.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Letter to Mathilde in 2005

Dear twelve-year-old Mathilde,
This time next year, you'll be thirteen. Yes, that will make you a teenager, but it won't make you a woman. In fact, it will make you a snotty bitch. But it's okay, all thirteen-year-olds are like that. Can I just ask that you tone it down a bit? Seriously, it will be embarassing in the years to come. You are not too cool to talk to anyone. Enjoy being able to communicate now, because in a few years, you won't be able to. Right, I forgot to mention you move to Belgium. I know, Belgium, right? As it turns out, it's the perfect place for you to be. The language barrier is a bitch for the first month or so, though. So talk to everyone you know who speaks the same language you do while you have the chance. Luckily, even at twelve, you are pro at the foreign thing, so being a Spanish-speaking French-Canadian American immigrant in Belgium should be no problem. Also, don't listen to what people say about taking it slowly. Don't do anything slowly. You're too busy for patience. All that waiting will catch up to you when you're in Belgium and you realize you only have a year to do everything you've ever waited to do. All that waiting will have done nothing for you. There will be so many things you'll wish you had done before you came to Belgium, so that at least you were used to something. Nothing will go right. You'll break things and face humiliation at every turn because you've never actually done anything by yourself before. If there is anything you wonder about, even if it seems useless and strange, research it before you realize you should have known the whole time. Otherwise, there will be Google breaks at inopportune moments. Yes, a participant in the incident I am referencing will read your blog, and he will be either flattered or offended that you mentioned this particular event, but you'll be willing to take the risk because you're seventeen and an idiot. Also, be nice to your parents. I think they liked you back then. You like each other a lot more when you move out. You won't be homesick, but grateful. That right there is when you finally grow up.
It seems vain, but I'm sending this to you with love.
Mathilde in 2010