Sunday, January 9, 2011
Within a few hours, I will officially have survived my first major vacation in Belgium. I had a three-day weekend here and there, half days and exams, but nothing like Christmas vacation. Yes, it actually is Christmas vacation here, not Worship Freely Winter Break like in the States, because Belgium doesn't play games and they know everyone is Christian anyway. I had to explain Hanukkah to an entire population for the sake of those three or so Jews still in Belgium. I got to learn about a new holiday too. Everyone was glad to introduce me to Sinter Klaas, who looks just like the Pope. That made the newspaper confusing for a month. One is the face of winter holidays and childhood joy and the other woke me up every morning with a speech about condoms and gay prostitutes. I learned a lot from Sinter Klaas. I learned never to eat more than one piece of speculoos per day, that men with beards make me really uncomfortable, and that Sint Niklaas is totally not Santa. Of course, every exchange student feels lonely during the holidays. Or so I've heard. It's not that I missed my family. I just missed the routine of Christmas. I missed recognizing people. On New Year's Eve, the entire city of Ghent may have literally been on the same street and I didn't recognize a single face. I met my host parents' families, which was great. They were very welcoming and they showed me pictures of my host parents as children. I think they really tried to make me feel like part of the family. Of course, I'm still the new face at every event and now I can't stop thinking about why my host parent's parents never thought to put pants on their kids. I accomplished a lot this vacation. I went to Paris, visited some museums, I became a Belgian, I got a legendary New Year's story, I found out I hate Salvador Dalí, and I managed to read everything that has ever existed ever while my folks were out. I also found out Rachel Maddow has a podcast. It's just the show, but I can't watch it on television in Belgium, so it is absolutely lovely to watch Rachel spear the right wing on my iPod while I'm snug under the covers. Actually, the only thing I can watch on the internet is 16 and Pregnant, which makes me glad I'm neither.