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.
By the lack of postings you might think we’re either really busy or really bored…
Neither is the case though. I suppose we’re just nicely settled in a daily routine.
School’s school, work’s work, daily chores are daily chores. In between all that two of us had a bad cold, so we had to take things easy for about a week and a half. It was also partly because of that that we didn’t do many touristy things these past two weeks. Zoé and I did explore our town some more, especially a biological farm nearby. And the exchange organisation organised an ice-skating event for the exchange students currently in The Netherlands this past Saturday. More on that will follow in another blogpost.
All in all we’re enjoying ourselves with all kinds of “little things”. To give you an idea of what such things might be, here’s a gallery with pictures of the little things in life we enjoyed these past two months. There’s some more info with every photo if you look at it inside the gallery.
Last Tuesday, the 24th of September, Zoé was with us exactly one month. Wait what? Yes, it was already a month ago that we picked her up! It looks like she’s getting pretty used to her Dutch life and she enjoys exploring it further in all kinds of ways every day.
Zoé asked if she could take us out for dinner on Tuesday night to celebrate this one month anniversary and we thought that was a wonderful idea. She asked us to pick a restaurant, so we took her to our favourite pancake restaurant “Hey!Pannenkoek“. It’s situated in an old farm. We think the crew is wonderful and the pancakes ánd the desserts are superb…
Turns out Zoé’s now a fan too 😀 Thanks for taking us out to dinner!
You’ll find descriptions of the pictures if you look at them inside the gallery (just click one of them).
… you’re an exchange student and you want to see typical landscapes of the country you’re staying in. In Zoé’s case: she told us she wished to be immersed in typical Dutch surroundings with meadows, cows, water and mills. Since Hester’s mom and stepdad live in an area with an abundance of all of those things, we went up there this weekend for a meadows, cows, water and mills galore!
So, last Saturday afternoon (21st September) after being welcomed in Pape-city we first went to a national park called ‘De Biesbosch‘, which is in the mid-south-west of the country. We only saw a small part of it of course and not even the best known part, but it had gras and cows and water and all kinds of wildlife even 🙂 . We saw geese, herrons, a (dead…) mole, a huge cricket, a (dead……..) hedgehog, all kinds of birds and spiders. We’ll spare you the pictures of the dead things ;), but we’ll try and give you an idea of the company and surroundings. You can read some extra information about this area (courtesy of wikipedia) if you look at the pictures inside the gallery.
After a walk of about an hour and a half the “oldies” went home to relax a bit. The “girls” wanted to go to Villa Augustus, a very special location in the city of Dordrecht. The centre of attention is an old water tower that has been repurposed as a hotel. But the huge garden surrounding it is a feast for the eyes too and it provides the hotel and the restaurant as much as possible with vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. And last but not least there’s a market café where you can enjoy delicious drinks and home baked cakes. Hopefully the pictures will show you why we like this place so much…
All that was very nice, but we didn’t see any mills yet this weekend, did we?
We had to wait until Sunday morning, but if this wasn’t mill galore, I don’t know what would be…
The area is called Kinderdijk. The origin of the name is not very clear, but it literally means “children’s dike”. If you’d like to read more about the area and history, you might want to take a look at the official English Kinderdijk website or at the Unesco website.
So, what do you think, were Zoé’s wishes met this weekend?
…crossed off our long To Do list.
Making sponge cake, or Pandan Chiffon. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
Don’t let the colour fool you, it’s just pandan 😀 .
Last Monday I went for the first time to my new school, the Marnix College. On Sunday evening I was ready, my bag was packed, I knew the way to school, my bicycle was ready to go, and my alarm was set. I was a bit nervous.
On Monday morning, after breakfast and a last hug, I left home. By arriving in the school surroundings I was surprised by the number of bikes! There were wheels and bells everywhere!
I entered the building and found quite easily my way to my classroom. I received my schedule and after only half an hour I went back home. A really short day! But I had to cover my books. A really long and annoying task! Fortunately Hester helped me and within “only” two hours it was done…
On Tuesday I was really less anxious. I survived the first day, I was able to not die the next. I discovered the buildings. The school is modern, spacious and well-organised. There is a projector and a laptop in each classroom, lots of things (like the schedule and homework) are posted on a special school website.
The atmosphere and the rules are also really different than in Belgium. Almost every student has a smartphone or an mp3-player and uses it in the halls or sometimes even in the classroom too! During the week the weather was very hot and everybody was wearing shorts and tops… I’ve never seen that at school in Belgium.
But despite all those “no rules” the students are very concentrated and show much respect to the teacher. They all arrive in time for class, nobody speaks during class when the teacher explains things. Yes, it’s really different from the Belgian schools.
By the way, the teachers and the students are open and kind. I already have spoken with several students: all are curious and interested in what I’m doing here. They also help me to understand some courses.
Certain courses are really hard, others are really great. For example, I understand almost nothing in economics class, but music and geography are fun and interesting. I’m not excessively motivated to do my homework, but I enjoy being at school and meeting people. I hope I will have four great months at the Marnix College!