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.
No, wait, not an appropriate song for this occasion 😉
Anyways, today Zoé participated in a running event with our brother-in-law and two nieces. They weren’t too serious about it, but eventually they did of course want to perform well. Our brother-in-law normally runs much faster and farther so he was there to help the girls. Zoé hadn’t practiced that much really, but she gave it her best and did very well. Hopefully the pictures and video will give you a nice impression of this event. Click the pictures for some more info on what’s in them.
Since the begin of the scouting year, we were speaking about this two days camp by an earlier member, Margrethe. And it finally happened last weekend! It was two wonderful sunny days that we spent mostly in our bikes. I tell you what we did…
On Saturday morning we met all five at the designed meeting point on the Wageningen campus. To achieve Margrethe’s house, we had first to be able to understand a really complicated route, invented by Lisa. We had actually to “translate” images in words, to move the letters in the phrases… We tried to follow what we understood, but it wasn’t successful. After seven kilometres we realised that we were very far of our previous route! Happily we were lucky with the weather. The sun was shining and we decided to enjoy the journey instead of come back and to try to find the right way. But first we had to eat! Yes, we were very hungry due to the bicycle tour. We drank also a warm coffee (the Dutch people NEED coffee to spend a good day) and then we rode to Margrethe’s house in Driel.
After our installation in her cosy shed, we ate delicious “poffertjes” together. It was for me the occasion to meet Margrethe. She is very nice and also very hospitable. We talked a lot with her and it was simply convivial.
Then it was time to buy our evening meal. We took again our bikes and went to Arnhem, the biggest and closest city of the province. It was quite early in the evening. So we decided to go to the cinema and we chose as film “De Nieuwe Wildernis”, a wonderful documentary about the nature in the Netherlands. We enjoyed the film and then we bought our meal. We intended to “gourmetten”.
But we first had to come back to Driel… under the rain this time. We arrived all wet! We got warm with preparing the meal. The rule with “gourmetten” is that you have to cook your own thing on a big device. Everybody does it at the same time and it’s really great. Later we played cards and we spoke a lot before we fell asleep due to this busy day!
On Sunday we woke up quite early because we had lots of plans again. After a big breakfast we tidied up the place and we left Margrethe. We went to the castle of Doorwerth, a beautiful place along the river Rijn in a wood. We spent there the whole day. This castle is a museum that we visited of course. We learned a lot about its story, but also about the agriculture and the hunting through the centuries for example. After the visit it was time for a coffee that we drank at the café of the castle. We went then for a walk in the surroundings and in the kitchen garden of the castle. It was still sunny weather…
We finally left this place to come back to Wageningen. We finished our trip there, under a cloudy sky. I found it really successful. We have done so many great things in only two days!