Ready, Able

This happened

and it was spiritual to say the least.
It was the best music I’ve seen in Belgium so far and they’re from Brooklyn. Does that mean something?

One of the more noticeable cultural differences for me, here, has been the alcohol. and not in the way that you’re thinking.
Saturday night I helped man a 50 foot bar with the rest of my senior class as part of a class fundraiser. excuse me? There were kids rolling in and tapping kegs, kids mixing drinks, kids pouring beer.
On the contrary, my school went all 1919 about the open bar at our annual gala and confined us all to our own “kids’ room”.
I blows my mind, it absolutely does, how differently we view a drink. It’s been pretty evident since a boy, who looked to be about 8, served me a beer on my first night here. I’d like to know when and why we became so divided on this. If it weren’t almost midnight I’d do some research (for now I’m going to guess…religion). These are the things that remind me how far away I am from home. This also includes my host mom being in awe of the science behind microwave popcorn.

The answer is yes, I will be moved to Mons.
But I don’t really have a school to go to #communicationfailure.
On the plus side, I’m going to experience living in the midst of a real live lesbian relationship. This could either be wonderful, or terrifying…I haven’t decided yet. I do know that it will be plenty interesting and I plan to analyze the hell out of this couple. It’s been a hobby of mine lately. Being an exchange student is essentially a people-watcher’s ultimate dream. I’ve had such a wonderful three months just observing and processing…if nothing else.

and psst…people are the same. people are people.

Did you know the Smurfs are from Belgium?

alcohol, religion, homosexuality, evolution, and Donnie Darko
quelle controverse.

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In The Waiting Line

 

What a distinct familiar feeling.
Getting in at 2, waking up in the afternoon, leaving a house I don’t recognize because I’ve only seen it briefly at night.  My body is weak, my clothes hang loose, my hair smells a bit of cigarettes. It’s just cold enough outside and everything is red and orange.

Last night was the first time I did some real playing since I arrived.
Musicians are musicians wherever you are. Real Books are Real Books. Softly as in a Morning Sunrise is Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.
That’s the beauty.

How I’m going to get back there again on a Wednesday night? I don’t know.
Am I going to be moved to Mons? I don’t know.
Am I going to have to go to Miami for a week? I don’t know

It’s all about “if”. It’s all about waiting.

Waiting for things to change. Waiting for things to resolve. Waiting to be with you. Waiting to wake up in New York City. Waiting for inspiration. Waiting for my Belgian ID card. Waiting for that shipment of ukuleles to come in.

It’s Autumn.

Life Being What it Is

Saturday I sat down on my train headed from Liege to Namurand the car I was almost empty. A man entered after me and took the seat across the isle.

“Do you need God?”

“…no”

“No?…everybody needs God”

I immediately regretted my answer, turned on Kind of Blue, and waited for a religious tract and/or my untimely death.
He proceeded to fall asleep while I said my goodbyes and wondered if my parents would actually commission a heart-wrenching piece by Maria Schneider like I had asked, and soon after the trainticketwoman stepped into the car. She checked my ticket and turned to the man next…who did not have a ticket, nor the correct documentation, nor was he a smooth talker. Some shit went down, some cards were scanned, and she left.

“Do you need God sir?”

…okay, no. I refrained.
but I live for these moments. 

Thanks to four years of LVPA music history I won two tickets to see the Orchestre National de Belgique. They played some rich chocolaty Brahms and the Walton Cello Concerto, which I had never heard. I was feelin’ an orchestra concert, I was really feelin’ the Walton (so was he) and Tina Fey/Sarah Palin was feelin’ fourth chair violin.

I finally returned to school this week after a week off to finish my Young Arts submission. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do if I actually win something…seeing as it is in Miami…I should probably tell someone that…
Yesterday I spent the last three periods of the school day exploring Chimay. I spent an hour in Le Grand Café avec coffee and completed the first sentence of a scholarship essay.  In addition to hip, hanging, glowing orbs and black leather, Le Grand was up in Radiohead, The Cinematic Orchestra, and Lily Allen. alrighty then.
After that I descended the secret magical stairs of Chimay and stumbled upon the Royal (yes, Royal) Garden, a path I had never seen before and intend to take someday, and a tiny angry dog. I have yet to catch a glimpse of this swine-flu-fearing-80 year old Princess of Chimay that I have heard so little about.

I have recently joined a concert band thingy called “Motivation” (I think), and this man is behind the wheel.

My life is. out. of. control.

but wait. Let me back up here. Let me clarify.
I am at the hands of some of the most generous people I have ever met. Mr. Trumpet Man, my fellow school students, The employees at La Maison des Desserts who made me the best strawberry milkshake ever, and my host parents…oh my host parents.
My host mother already understands that in the morning I don’t speak before I drink a glass of orange juice and three sips of tea. Bless her. That’s love.

and that’s also why this is so confusing.

and so was this
FUCKER

Alles Neu

Everyone get into this

I am.

 

How I spend my time at school in Belgium:

1. Reading The Rest Is Noise

Alex Ross has essentially become my music history teacher for this year. Here is a bon (possibly illegal) excerpt for your pleasure.

“When Charlie Parker came to Paris in 1949, he marked the occasion by incorporating the first notes of the Rite into his solo on “Salt Peanuts”. Two years later, playing Birdland in New York, the bebop master spotted Stravinsky at one of the tables and immediately incorporated a motif from Firebird into “Koko”, causing the composer to spill he scotch in ecstasy.”

…and there I sit, the American girl with her 20th Century music history book, listening to Steve Reich, in the general vicinity of the birthplace of classical music, trying desperately to drown out the blasting techno of the senior class.
Well, there you have it.
Anyway, I highly recommend the book. You know…if you like the 20th century…and music.

 
2. Having deep discussions with myself in English.

What am I meant to do here? Why is Miley Cyrus earning more than Steve Reich? How do humans accept the inevitability of death? Is death our main motivation to live? What exactly was that meat I just ate? What does it mean to be alive? Is it a flaw or a gift that I know I exist and wonder why? Do I want mayonnaise or andalouse with my fries next time?

It’s trying.

 
3. Listen to music

Everybody get on

Panda Bear

Steve Reich

Broadcast

My boy Shosty

Micachu

 

and anything else Alex Ross tells you to listen to

 

Tonight I learned that francophones enjoy Chuck Norris jokes too.
Going to Mons in the morning. Beatles festival and sleepover.

peace.

Unchanging Window

People, people, people…have no fear.
I am back.

Since we last spoke…I went to Les Fêtes de Wallonie in Namur with a gaggle of exchange students and had lot’s of uh, funThis included carnival rides, a marching band playing Lady Gaga, gay magazines, Journey songs, walking way out of our way along a busy highway, searching for a bald boy in a courtyard-turned-nightclub, more fun, more Journey, and following a trail of red paint up and down the Citadel of Namur.

School is something else. I now have a schedule…with 13 hours of French a week…and mostly with small children. I’m grateful for the work and my absolutely gorgeous teacher, but I could do without the beady judging eyes of Belgian 7th graders. Today they spent half the class asking me questions about America though. That was cute, but brings me to my next point.

I would like to thank you, George W. Bush, for singlehandedly making my exchange more difficult. More than often I find myself defending the good left in America. My main motivation to learn French right now is to be able to properly address the issues at hand.

First of all.
America is fucking huge. I can’t stress this enough.
I gots peoples all sayin’ “They slaughter a lot of cows in Chicago right?”…”yeah ok”
I don’t know what they’re eating in Utah. It ain’t perogies though.

Secondly.
Yes, I do like hamburgers some days. Not a problem, right? What IS a problem is that Belgian frites lady tryin’a deep fry my hamburger. blasphemy.
I miss you

Lastly.
I know the healthcare system sucks.
I don’t know how to say “Obama better git er done” in French yet.

This whole exchange experience is just turning me into a nationalist.

Saturday night I witnessed a Franco Dragone spectacular. There was a real fire organ involved. That’s a ll I’m sayin’,
The image of that 15 foot puppet scaling that church wall in pursuit of the moon, will be forever engraved in my mind 

Tomorrow I’m hanging out in Charleroi
Saturday I’m going to a Beatles festival in Mons

Peace.

Gobbledigook

LVPA was some sort of chaotic funhouse compared to this…
 

 I don’t actually have a schedule yet. Thus I have been toted to various classes by one of many students all week. I just stand awkwardly and stare until someone directs me where to go. It works out well most of the time.
I am currently attending two english classes which I actually find very helpful for my vocabulary. My teacher speaks in a British accent and there are pictures of U2 and Coldplay everywhere. There is an ongoing list to compare British to American English. “We say pants in Amurrika”
I am the closest thing to a hipster at my school. It’s concerning. Almost all of the boys in the lower grades have the same haircut and are sporting some sort of faux hawk…sadly/ironically a good portion of them turn out like this.
I’m also getting used to being able to leave the school when I don’t have class. Where is the trust America? Where?
 There is actually a cafeteria…with good food. Yesterday I went out for a sandwiche. It was like Wawa but with baguettes, and beer, and andalouse sauce, and no gas pumps, or milkshake machines, and everybody spoke French, and so actually it wasn’t like Wawa at all.
It’s strange how much I actually miss American food. There isn’t really an “American food” though. Hamburgers? I think not. I think what I actually miss the most is just that. The beauty that on any given day I can eat food from six different countries all within three miles of my house.

In short
 – I went to Brussels where I ate fries, drank cherry beer, and bought a sweatshirt with a naked black woman on it.
 –  I walked around the castle of Chimay which contains an actual living princess, but I can’t go in because she is afraid to get swine flu.
 –  I saw the biggest bottle of Chimay ever.
 – Gym class is not a joke. There was a stopwatch involved.
 – I can’t walk to Chimay from my house.  I tried. I failed.
 – I’m going to see Grizzly Bear. In November. In Brussels. suckit.

Upcoming
 – My return to school and descent into darkness
 – Festival of Wallonia in Namur
 – Me cooking dinner…

September in The Rain

A list of completely unbiased observations thus far.
 

– I checked, and pack of bed linens only comes with one sheet and a duvet cover. I kind of like it better though.

– Smaller meals like breakfast are eaten on nice little cutting boards. I have verified this with several other exchange students as well.

– When a product is described as “American Style” it is probably because of the size…and by that I mean it’s large.

– There are no screens in the windows.

– There is always a huge bottle of water on every kitchen table.

– The concept of a check cashing store is not easily explained or understood.

– Toilets have buttons and do not swirl when flushed.

 

Tomorrow is my first day of school. If I survive there will be a full report.