Final post of 2013

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
Forgive quickly
Kiss slowly
Love truly
Laugh uncontrollably
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.


Language Lab Final Session

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

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…

Mmmmmm…. (not)

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.

Language Lab, part 2

The first recording below is from the second “Language Lab” session we did since Zoé’s staying with us. It was taped on the 10th of September and is related to our The Wall posting, because we asked Zoé to talk about the concert in her own words.

And of course we couldn’t keep the next episode of the forest adventure from you any longer. Are you excited to hear it? 😀 By the way, there’s no video just like last time.

Language Lab

One of Zoé’s primary exchange goals is learning the Dutch language as well as possible within four months. Even though she’ll immerse herself in the language and culture through school, we also try to help her as much as possible at home. We even intend to have at least two language sessions every week. One specifically for pronunciation and the other for grammar. Our very own “language lab” if you will. And the best part of such sessions is recording yourself and listening to it. It’s the worst thing obviously 😉 but lots of fun too and very educational.

The idea for the blog is that we’ll try and share Zoé’s progress on a regular basis. We’re very ambitious and will do our best to post videos or sound recordings every Monday. You read it: “try” and “do our best”. 😉 We do realise that all of this being in Dutch might not be very interesting to our international readers. Still we hope you’ll be able to hear differences and see changes in Zoé’s attitude maybe when listening to or watching our lab sessions the next couple of months.

So here we go. The following recording is Zoé’s final reading session during our first lab. We’re using a children’s book with very pretty drawings, which makes it more fun to read even. During such a session we record small parts of the story, listen to it again, talk about it and try to improve the pronunciation. What you hear is a recording of Zoé reading all of the sentences we practiced in this particular session in one go.

Although we’re using youtube, there’s no video there in this specific case. Maybe we’ll figure something out later for just recording sound, but for now it serves its purpose.

The second and last video for today is one of Zoé talking about her day in Dutch. We’re looking forward to sharing her progress with you and hope you’ll enjoy it with us. We’re very proud of her already 🙂 .

School’s out for summer

The schools are out for summer, but a couple of days ago we had our first “parent meeting” at the school Zoé’s going to attend: the Marnix College. By the end of August, during Zoé’s first week over here, we’ll have our second meeting and the grand tour at school.

This time we only had a brief look around the main building and most importantly, we spoke to the exchange coordinator. There wasn’t that much to discuss really, but it was nice to speak to her in person. We talked a bit about the school in general, their experience with exchange students, expectations about this exchange in particular, and so on.

If you’re interested in reading about this school:
Unfortunately that website is only available in Dutch, apologies to our international followers 😉 However, this school also has a bilingual department at the level preparing for university. They have their own website, in English:

Another small step recently was pre-ordering Zoé’s textbooks. That was fun because it’s such a practical step during these weeks of, primarily, waiting. It makes you feel that the “real” beginning of this adventure is finally coming nearer. We also now know which subjects Zoé will take, which was something we were very curious about. We hope (and think) she’ll be happy with this chosen set of courses. Once it’s all official, we’ll tell more about it 🙂