We hope all of you, dear readers, had a wonderful Christmas time!
We spent “first” Christmas day (the 25th) with family and “second” Christmas day (also a national holiday over here) at home with just the two of us. Many people have asked us this past week if it’s extra quiet in the house now that Zoé has returned to Belgium. To be honest, not really or we got used to it very quickly. Literally because she was not a very noisy person 😉 . And besides that we knew from the start that she’d live with us for a specific amount of time. The final two weeks of Zoé’s exchange were filled with handing in stuff at school, filling out forms, packing bags, goodbyes and more goodbyes. All of this was part of making the transition from having Zoé around to her being back home. We know the difference for Zoé between our quiet home and a house filled with people all the time is a lot bigger 😉 .
Two other questions we’re being asked a lot now that this exchange is over, are if we feel we’ve reached our and Zoé’s goals and if we’d consider being a host family again in the future. We’ll share our answers to those questions in an elaborate “final” post. It’s our intention to share our final thoughts on this exchange and what we think we’ve learned from it as a host family coming January.
2014 is at the door…
Life is short
Break the rules
Never regret anything that made you smile
~ Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)
And to finish this post we’d like to share a few pictures of Zoé’s last week with us. Click the photos for more information on their subject.
In two days I’m back in Belgium.
When I look back to these four months, I feel happy. I arrived here at the end of August and I knew nothing and nobody. Slowly, I have built here a sort of new life. I have learned how to live with my new parents, Hester and Harald. I have met lots of people at school, and the scouting, in my new family. I have learned to speak Dutch. And of course I have learned and visited a lot about The Netherlands.
It was four intense months. I didn’t think I would learn so much! I believe I can say that the challenge of being an exchange student is ending with success. And it’s not at all only due to me, it’s due to all the people I have met here in The Netherlands and with who I walked a moment on the way. I thank them all for what they taught me.
In two days I’m back in Belgium and I take with me a part of The Netherlands, in my head and in my heart.
I hope you enjoyed sharing a part of our experience via this blog. I have found it a wonderful way to show that it’s possible to go across the differences of culture and to live together.
OK, so this language lab thing seemed like a good idea at the beginning of Zoé’s exchange 😉
In “real life” though, it turned out to be a little too time consuming. Besides that it simply wasn’t one of Zoé’s goals to become super fluent in Dutch. She wanted to become better at understanding and speaking the language, but doing well at school, sightseeing and having an enjoyable social life had higher priorities than language lab sessions at home. And who could blame her 😉
We didn’t want to leave it at just that though, so we prepared a final language lab posting to give you an idea of the progress she’s made these past four months. So I recorded Zoé about two weeks ago while she was reading us one of the Sinterklaas poems she received. She didn’t know she was being recorded, so it was quite spontaneous. We also recorded a final reading session today from the children’s book we used in the first language labs. And last but not least we’ll share with you a small part of a presentation that Zoé prepared for school and practiced at home yesterday. Enjoy!
The feast of Sinterklaas is celebrated elaborately in The Netherlands on December 5th. There are many stories on the origin of the feast, the person Saint Nicholas and possible links to Santa Claus. I didn’t think it’d be that interesting to post one of the many variants of the story here, but would like to share a very creative website with lots of information about Saint Nicholas and the traditions surrounding the feast people have created to honour him. One of the highlights I think that can be found on this website and sums up the story and Dutch Sinterklaas traditions is this Flash Greeting Card created by Ojilie.com.
The Sinterklaas feast is not at all new to Zoé as it is celebrated in Belgium too and she loves it. Although we didn’t celebrate it at home, she could enjoy celebrating it fully through scouting, the exchange organisation (no pictures available) and scouting 😉 .
The second adventure made her a very direct part of the tradition as she and the exchange student living near us were invited to be “zwarte piet” (black peet) and visit families at home with Sinterklaas during the day and evening of the 5th of December. Zoé enjoyed it very much as can hopefully be seen in the gallery below…
As the October’s food poll dictated, we had to let Zoé eat “erwtensoep” (pea soup) at some point… And as we pointed out before, Harald and I just don’t “do” pea soup. So my mom offered to have Zoé over and make a traditional Dutch pea soup. We dropped Zoé off and fled the house once they started cooking. We visited other family while they were brewing what is considered delicious by so many Dutch people. Ow well, you can’t argue about taste, right? Click any of the pictures for more info on what’s in them.