Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

Four months in Belgium has given me more than just insight about life. Thanks to my love of shopping, I have acquired many material items as well.

The vintage market in Brussels has been one of my favorites since the beginning! The first time I went was only six days after my arrival! It is held the first Sunday of every month and I have been to three out of the four markets held while I've been in Belgium and I have lots to show for it.

My favorite purchase is my vintage leather Longchamp bag. I was able to bargain with the vendor and therefore did not have to pay an outrageous price! After cleaning it up once I got it home, it now looks as good as new and has served me well!

When I was packing for Belgium, I did not want to waste the space on bringing a winter coat, so I brought just a rain jacket and convinced myself that with enough layers and scarves that I would be able to survive winter without a real coat. Wrong. Winter in Brussels was some kind of sick and twisted hell filled with freezing temperatures, snow, rain, wind--and I got to spend way to much time enjoying it. Even now, it is May and I am still wearing my stupid rain coat and sweaters every day. Needless to say, after spending all of Februrary literally freezing without a winter coat, I broke down and purchased one. It took some serious shopping around and lots of help from my friends before I found one I liked, but as soon as I did the weather started warming up. Just my luck.

I also stumbled upon a pair of black leather gloves with little bows on them at the vintage market and I just had to have them. I am a sucker for all things bows and everyone needs a nice leather glove!

Coat and gloves
Besides the vintage market, my other favorite place to shop is the W shopping center in my own neighborhood! I like it because you don't have to leave the metro station to get in, which makes it the perfect place to go on a rainy day (so everyday in Brussels) and also because they sell the best waffles on the planet. The stuff chocolate bars inside instead of covering it with chocolate sauce, just like they do in Liege, and it is heavenly.

At the W, I made my last two favorite purchases of the semester. First there is my black ankle booties, essential for fitting in with the Belgian crowd. They are so comfortable and now I can't imagine what my life was like before I owned them.

Ankle booties
But comfortable takes on a new form in gypsy pants. Yes, gypsy pants is not the technical or politically correct term, but I am not sure how to pronounce the correct word, Sarouel, and gypsy pants sounds so much more fun. My roommate Claire came home raving about how comfortable they were and so a shopping trip with friends led to us all coming home with a pair! They are more comfortable than sweats, maybe more comfortable than no pants at all, and they are acceptable to wear in public! It's revolutionary!

Gypsy pants
My bags for the U.S. will also be filled with a few smaller items that were obtained after lots of Belgian beers. I have a larger than life Beyonce poster, a beer poster, a few beer glasses, a shot glass, the little absinthe spoon and a menu from Delirium. I'll blame the combination of the horrible weather and strong alcohol which led my friends and I to resort to finding fun through obtaining these items, but it has left me with lots of great memories and some great new stuff as well!

Absinthe spoon
Delirium menu that is now ours...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Growing Up

Time has really flown by. After my visitors, my memories are a whirlwind of trips and excursions, papers and school work. With my parents, I visited Keukenhof gardens, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Gent. With CIEE, we visited Strasbourg, Frieburg, Trier and Luxembourg. Angelo came to visit me, I went to Gent with friends, I went to Brugge for a field trip, I went back to Strasbourg to stay with a friend, and I have planned trips to Malta, Berlin and Paris after exams. Each trip is memorable in its own unique way and traveling around Europe has been very rewarding.

I have made great friends, seen beautiful places, eaten amazing foods and I have experienced the crummiest weather possible all along the way. With only one month left abroad, my perspective of myself, Belgium and life have all evolved. My time here has definitely changed me in many ways, some more profound than others.

Before my time in Belgium, "white sauces" have always been mysterious and terrifying to me. I chose to stay away from these questionable toppings such as cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt, etc. in order to avoid facing the fear of what they might do to me. Now, I find myself craving mayonnaise on my sandwiches, and I even bought a jar from the grocery store to add to my home cooking (which is finally improving!). And, surprise surprise, yogurt is pretty good too! I especially love it when it is mixed with fresh fruit like kiwi or blueberries... even a spoon full of honey makes this once scary white liquid a delicious snack.

My French language skills have improved dramatically. Of course I am not yet to the level I strive to be at some day in the future, but I am getting there! However, my English seems to have gotten worse. I sometimes have difficulties recalling English vocabulary and my American friends here seem to be the only ones who understand this awkwardness of no longer being able to speak English with ease. I am stuck somewhere between English and French and neither of them are perfect. Let me tell you, this phenomenon can be frustrating and often leads to me retreating into my bedroom to watch hours of Law and Order SVU in order to avoid communicating with others (this seems extreme, I wish it wasn't true).

I've grown up since I have been abroad too. I find myself purchasing dishes and home accessories rather than clothes and jewelry--well in addition to clothes and jewelry, I enjoy getting up early (before noon) and hearing the birds singing. Yes, I still have a larger than life poster of Beyonce in my room, I still sleep with my unicorn pillow pet and every once in a while life seems to be all wrong without Mom around, but I really do see some significant growth. I have a clearer vision of what I want from myself and from my life. I understand my anxiety and am learning to cope and control it. I have learned that good friends and good music can make even the darkest days brighter. Being away from friends and family, making new friends, learning to adjust to a new way of life, and learning to enjoy hanging out with myself have all contributed to this growth--along with a few stories which are not appropriate for this blog. I am happy and confident.

Brussels may be dirty and have the worst weather ever, but it has taught me so much and will always have a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hostess with the Mostess

In the past few weeks, I have been very lucky to receive many visitors! I was so excited for everyone to arrive, that I spent a lot of time researching and planning how we would spend our time while they were here. I did my best to select the best sights, activities, restaurants, etc so that everyone would fall in love with Brussels as much as I have! After weeks of planning and one long day of cleaning my little apartment from top to bottom, I was already exhausted... but the fun was only beginning!

My time with my guests lasted about three weeks. The first to arrive were my mom, Julie, her cousin, Judy and Judy's granddaughter, Phie. Next it was my boyfriend's sister, Jennifer and her husband, Sam. Lastly came my dad, Doug.

It was a challenging group to please. I haven't been here very long, yet I had to entertain my mom, her cousin who used to live in Belgium, a twelve year old girl studying French, two young, well traveled, food and beer enthusiasts, and my dad. Another challenge was having two vegetarians who visited! Since I am not a vegetarian myself (yet... if I have another horse meat encounter I probably will be), I had no idea how difficult it can be to find vegetarian friendly dishes that are still yummy! In Belgium, where the cuisine is heavily based on meat, this is an especially hard feat. (If you are a vegetarian visiting Brussels, you should check out Dolma in Ixelles!)

Phie, Judy and Me in front of Dolma
Despite all of the challenges standing in our way, I was surprised and pleased to see how everyone became flexible and willing to compromise! Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” I think she is most certainly right, but for us it was more like many rainy days, the time change, and limited wifi access. Traveling isn't easy, but if you can learn to go with the flow it is so so fun! I admire everyone who came to visit me for making the best out of every situation! :)
  There were a few highlights of each visit. With my mom, it was dinner on our first night together! We went to Aux Armes de Bruxelles, right off of the Grand Place. We didn't have a reservation, so we ended up having to wait for a fairly long time before a table was available. While we were waiting, someone came to collect our coats and someone else came along to give us free champagne! Everything we had to eat was delicious! It was such a fun evening of catching up and savoring every bite of our fabulous Belgian meal. In the middle of the room we were seated in there was a small stove top and a few supplies. At first, we weren't sure what it was for. After a while, a waiter started firing up the stove and everyone in the room was watching intently as he began to prepare crepes suzette. It was so fun to see the orange liquor burst into flame! A wave of heat ran through the room and everyone cheered! After this show, everyone was ordering crepes suzette so that we could watch them light the fire over and over. My mom and I however, opted for the profiteroles with ice cream in the middle and hot chocolate sauce on top. My oh my were they good. My mom is still talking about them four weeks later! I think I will have to go back, even if it is just for dessert! It was such a fun evening, and the start to a wonderful trip with my mom!

                         Profiteroles after

My favorite part of my time with Judy, Phie and my mom was our afternoon at the Grand Place. After lots of walking around and shopping, we were all exhausted and decided to go in to Delirium for an early happy hour! Per usual, I was slightly turned around and we had to wander a bit and ask directions before we found it. While we were wandering, Judy spotted a bar that she had gone to while she was living in Belgium. She had fond memories of having her first Gueuze there, so we decided that we must go and have a Gueuze all together! The name of the bar was Taverne le Cercueil, which means The Coffin Tavern. In order to get in you had to walk down a long dark hallway from the street. It was kind of dirty and was most certainly not a likely entrance to even the shadiest of bars. Once we got to the next door, which was unmarked, you had to climb up a few stairs and then enter the pitch black bar with only black lights to guide your way. We found some seats right next to a table that was a glass coffin! There were funeral flowers as decorations, skulls, etc. If it had to do with death, it was there. Judy had prepared us for what to expect before we got in, but my mom was still super freaked out. She was in fight or flight mode, jumping at the slightest strange movement or noise. While Judy and I enjoyed our Gueuze beers and my mom her glass of white wine our eyes began to adjust to the lighting and my mom began to relax. By the end of our drinks, we were laughing, but we still only stayed for one drink! We ended up finding Delirium right away after leaving the Taverne le Cercueil. Here, we all got to witness my mom drink (and enjoy) her first full beer EVER. I couldn't believe she had never finished a beer before, but if you are going to do it, Belgium is definitely the right place! She ended up liking the Gueuze too. It is beer that has a natural bubbliness to it like champagne because of the CO2 that gets sealed in the bottle... however we all knew that the prettier the glass she was drinking out of the better she liked the beer! Before leaving to go to dinner, we stopped at the Floris bar and Judy, my mom and I each took a shot of absinthe! It was so much fun!! Unfortunately Judy and Phie could only stay for a week and the time went by much too quickly! We will share lots of great memories of our time trudging through the rain together though! 

With the arrival of Jen and Sam, came the arrival of slightly better  weather... it was still absolutely freezing, but the rain had let up. We visited lots of great restaurants and sampled lots of great beers! We went to Delirium again (a must for all visitors of Brussels) and this time Lilian came to join us. It was... how should I say this... pretty awkward. I mean Lilian is just awkward to begin with, but it was loud and hard to hear each other and we are all native English speakers so his language abilities were just not sufficient enough to hold conversation. I felt bad that I had invited him and I promised that when his cousins are in town after Easter that I would do something with them and we would speak in only French! It seemed like a great idea at the time, but I am already getting nervous for when this day actually comes! 

The best part of my time with Jen and Sam was when we gathered at my apartment for appetizers. My mom and I went to the grocery store and got a few fresh cheeses, some fruit, macaroons and other little snacks that we could sample while drinking more Belgian beer! Jen and Sam brought three kinds of beers to share, one of which was a Chimay reserve (soo delicious)! We had a wonderful time chatting and eating! After a few hours, Jen suggested that we find somewhere to watch the Belgian football (soccer) game. I was hesitant... I am not the biggest sports fan... at all, but I knew of a bar down the street that we could watch it at and wanted everyone to have fun (after all it's not all about me alllll the time). So we finished our last beers, took some beers for the road and headed to the local bar. I pass by this place every time I go to the grocery store. No matter what time of day or night it is, there is always the same small group of older men sitting at the counter drinking. This time, there was a medium size group of old men and a few ladies there. Everyone was intently focused on the game. The bar tender came right over and suggested a bottle of beer for us to try. He was most certainly three times my age, or more, but he was rubbing my arm and whispering in my ear all night! As we started watching the game, I realized how serious these fans were. The man next to us had two hats, an umbrella, two men had flags they were waving... crazy stuff! Oh, and they were all silver backs (hahaha I have been waiting for the right time to use that word). When Belgium scored, the man next to us led a chant and we would all cheer! It was definitely one of the better sports matches I have ever watched! I am thinking about going back to the bar to watch another game! We had so much fun cheering on Belgium, trying on the different hats and soaking up all the attention from the locals (or maybe that was just me). A great night with a great group of people. 

When my dad arrived, my mom and I had already been together for quite a while, and we were soooo tired from all the fun we had been having. I had been going to school, working at my internship, and spending all evening with my guests for two weeks! So for some much needed down time we picked my dad up from the airport and went straight to the mall for a day filled with shopping! Of course my dad was all but thrilled to be taking part in a shopping adventure on the worst day of adjusting to the time difference, but as usual he was a good sport and even offered to carry our purchases for us! :) The three of us did lots of traveling together, but my favorite memory in Brussels was visiting the Cantillon brewery and beer museum together. I had already gone on a tour of the brewery during orientation week, but I loved sharing the experience with my parents! It worked out perfectly since my dad and I had been trying as many different kinds of beers as we could (including one that was 12 euros a bottle... :0 ) and my mom had found a new appreciation for Gueuze, "the champagne of beers". It was also our last full day all together. I couldn't think of a better way than to conclude our time. 

Having visitors was absolutely fabulous! This is the first time I have ever traveled abroad completely alone, so I loved being able to share everything that I have discovered and grown to love on my own with people that mean so much to me! By the time everyone went back home, I was ready to catch up on sleep, homework, and eating healthy. Routine is my best friend so we were happy to be reunited after three weeks apart. 

I will have one more guest, Angelo, at the end of April! I can't wait for him to arrive! :)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Still Trying to Cook

In an attempt to improve my cooking skills and expand my diet from boxed soup, I decided to prepare stir fry for myself. I had made it at home before, and I remembered it being fairly simple and quite delicious! After a trip to the grocery store that almost cost me my arms because I was carrying so much home in my two little reusable bags, and a pep talk from my mom via FaceTime, I set out to cook a meal. I had purchased some meat that was already cut into bite size slices, broccoli, carrots, teriyaki sauce and Uncle Ben's 10 minute rice. I started by marinating the meat in the teriyaki sauce for about 45 minutes. Then I cooked it on the stove. It looked a little funny because of the teriyaki sauce... more grey than the white I am used to from chicken, but I continued by cooking the vegetables and starting the rice. I was most worried about the rice while it cooked, but everything seemed to turn out fine! I was very proud of myself! I took a picture of my meal and sent it to my mom and friends and turned on an episode of Tintin to watch while I ate. The broccoli and rice were delicious, and I was extremely excited to share with my roommates how much my cooking had improved! As I continued to eat I started to question the meat... it was a little bit hard and dry, and didn't have much flavor... and the coloring was still grey and didn't seem like chicken to me. I had a flashback to when Philippe told me that Belgians often eat horse meat and sprinted to the garbage can to look at the label on the packaging of the meat. It was in Dutch... of course! I started feeling nauseous immediately and thought back to all of the ponies I had throughout my life. Barney, Lizzy... quite possibly the devil, but I still wouldn't want to eat her, good old Star, my chunky little Arriba. No no no no this was awful. I thought I was for sure going to vomit. I started texting my mom on repeat like Sheldon knocks on Penny's door. Mom, mom, mom. I ate a horse. A HORSE! I am going to puke. Help. Do you speak Dutch. Vomit. Mom, MOM! Of course she didn't have her phone on her, so I gave up, threw away all the food I had prepared and drank a big glass of water. I sat on the couch feeling incredibly sick. When Philippe got home, I asked him what the label said because he speaks Dutch. He said that he wasn't sure, but that it probably wasn't horse. Everyone I asked said that it wasn't horse meat, but no one is for sure! I am convinced it was horse!! For a few days afterwards I had nothing but jelly beans and fruit to eat because I was terrified of cooking. I soon returned to making box soups which just seem to be the safest option for me.

Now I have eaten a bunny and a horse. Ahhhh the torture of being a carnivore.

Eating... and Drinking My Way Through Brussels

Beer, fries and waffles are definitely the most well known foods of Belgium. All of those things are out of the world fabulous here, but there is so much more to try! I have always been a picky eater, but since I have arrived I have tried so many new things and I am finally realizing how much I have been missing out on my whole life.

Let's start with the waffles. There are typically two different types, Brussels waffles and Liege waffles. The main difference that I have noticed is the shape. The Liege waffles are round with uneven edges and the Brussels waffles are perfectly rectangular. I have heard that there are supposed to be a certain number of holes in each, but I always forget to count because once I smell them all I can think about is eating! Personally, I suggest the Liege waffles. Without a topping they are golden brown with a light sugar glaze. You can choose from tons of toppings, but my favorites are the Liege syrup and good old chocolate. If you can't go to Liege to get the waffles with the bars of chocolate stuffed inside instead of having chocolate syrup poured on top, you can get them at the W shopping center in Woluwe Saint Lambert, metro line one stop Roodebeek (my neighborhood)! I also like the waffles right off of the Grand Place. There are waffles for one euro near Mannekin Pis!

Next are the fries. Yummmmm the fries are so wonderful. Definitely stop by a street stand selling fries or by any of the snack shops around the city. There are hundreds of sauces to choose from to go on top. My absolute favorite it andalouse, but the mayonnaise is fabulous too! I have always been super freaked out by white sauces. Sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, mayonnaise... all of them freak me out and I refuse to eat them! However, the mayonnaise in Belgium is a completely different story. It is so creamy and fluffy and is slightly yellow. It looks more like buttercream frosting than the globby hellmans in a jar. It is a must try--even if you don't like white sauces! My favorite part about getting frites is the tiny little fork that they give you to eat them with! I just love it!
Frites with mayonnaise from Frit Flagey
Beer. I'm not even sure where to start when it comes to Belgian beer. I am by no means an expert, but I can tell you that Belgian beer is better than any other beer I have ever tasted. My favorite is Chimay Bleu... it's amaaaazing. Others that are fabulous are Leffe, Duvel, St. Feuillen, Westmalle, La Guillotine, Cuvee des Trolls, Geuze, Kriek, and I could go on. I have been doing my best to try a new kind every time I go out. I take pictures of all the new kinds so that I can remember the names. I haven't tasted a bad beer yet!

If you haven't already heard... the other drink I am absolutely obsessed with is the Moroccan tea. It is just Lipton tea, but it is so so good! I have been drinking three or four cups a day! It is caffeine free and my roommate Philippe likes it too, so often times when we are watching movies together we share a pot of tea! It is definitely my favorite down time activity!

Thanks to Delirium and my friends here in Belgium, I have also been sampling absinthe. Across from Delirium Cafe, which holds the world record for the most beers on the menu, there is the Floris Bar (opened by Delirium) they are known for their selections of absinthe, whiskey and tequilla. I had never tried absinthe before coming to Belgium, but it is quite fun and I have enjoyed sharing the experience with my friends and family! It is green and is served in a shot glass with a little tool and a sugar cube. You take the sugar cube and put it in the alcohol, then use the tool to pull it out. You light the sugar cube on fire, then once the flame is out, place it back inside the alcohol. Next, you take the little tool and mash up the sugar and stir it up so that it is mixed in with the shot. Then down it goes! It tastes like licorice, it's not my favorite, but it isn't the worse thing ever either. I think the flaming sugar cube is where the fun really lies, but I think it is worth it! 

Other things that are absolutely fabulous are the crêpes. The moroccan crêpes at Flagey Market on Saturdays and Sundays are so unique and crazy good. They are thick crêpes, more like a type of bread filled with so many flavors from the sun dried tomatoes, olives, ricotta cheese, honey, and meat if you want it. You always leave covered in honey that has dripped out the bottom--but it's so worth it! My friends Fatema and Allison took me to a tiny little tea room in their neighborhood, Schaerbeek. Their crêpes are out of this world too! I had a four cheese crêpe, and ate it within seconds! I can't wait to go back and try more. My favorite dessert crêpe is the crêpe dame blanche. It is a crêpe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream inside. It is served with hot melted chocolate to pour on top! The heat from the chocolate melts the ice cream and it becomes a perfectly messy and fabulous dessert! 
Moroccan crêpe
Four cheese crêpe
Crêpe dame blanche
The typically Belgian dishes that I have tried are Carbonnade Flammand, Lapin a la Geuze and crevettes. Carbonnade Flammand is a flemmish beef stew. There are huge chunks of tender beef cooked in a beer sauce served with frites! I love dipping my fries in the sauce. It is a rich and heavy meal, but it is out of this world. Lapin a la Geuze is BUNNY cooked in a beer sauce. I can't believe I actually ate it... I am still super freaked out, but it was so good. Again it was so tender and delicious, but at the same time it is a cute little baby bunny and I can't stand the thought! Crevettes are cheese or often times shrimp in a thick creamy sauce that is breaded and fried. They aren't my favorite things in the world, but they are Belgian so a must try!
Carbonnade Flammand
Foods they don't have here are macaroni and cheese and ranch dressing! As much as I miss those two favorites, I don't think I am going to starve while I'm here. :)

Friday, March 8, 2013


While studying at ULB, I am taking a course called a Linguistics Tandem. It is the opportunity for students to find a partner with whom they can exchange languages. We meet with our partners fifteen times for two hours each time. We speak for one hour in each of the languages we are exchanging. Throughout the process we note our struggles and improvements and put together a journal about the experience at the end of the semester. It is a great way for me to practice French, to help someone learn English and to get course credit at the same time! There is an online forum where you begin your search for a partner. Posts are something like "Anglophone Seeking Francophone." I wanted to find a partner early so I could get someone who I would get along well with and because I have a strong type A personality and wanted to get started on the project right away so we would have a sufficient amount of time to complete the work. I emailed a few people who had posted on the forum and I also created an advertisement on the forum myself. After a day or two of searching I came across Lilian. I have always loved the name and so I was immediately drawn to the advertisement. Lilian is from France, studies architecture and is looking for someone to speak English with! I responded right away saying that I was interested in partnering, that I had been to France a few times and loved it, and asked if we could meet up for coffee later in the week. I searched for her on Facebook without any luck, but that just left all the more to my imagination. Immediately I began day dreaming of how Lilian and I would become best friends, she and I would travel all over France together, I would visit her home, she would visit me in the U.S., we would discuss fashion and go shopping, we would go out for delicious French meals, and after many years of staying in touch as friends across the globe I would name my own daughter Lilian after my beloved French friend. When we finally set a date and time for our coffee date I was on cloud nine. I got there a few minutes early (type A personality) and anxiously waited. I received a text from Lilian saying that she was running a few minutes late because of problems with her tram (typical Brussels) and I giggled as I pictured us laughing over the trams and all of the other interesting aspects of life in Belgium. I waited in between the doors to the building and the small entrance into the coffee shop so that there was no chance we could miss each other. After a few more minutes of waiting, a male came in and walked right up to me. He asked if I was Emily and introduced himself as Lilian my Tandem partner. I cannot even begin to imagine the look of surprise on my face. I was so thankful for the Belgian way of greeting someone with one kiss on the cheek in that moment so that I could take a second to myself to regain my composure and evaluate the situation I had gotten myself into. Lilian is a HE! I couldn't believe it. We ended up finding lots of things to chat about over coffee, and even though he isn't the beautiful French girl I imagined naming my daughter after he is very nice and I think we will get along well for the project. Instead of a new best friend I am left with only a funny story of how I was completely confused about the gender of Lilian.

Lilian and Me at Delirium Cafe

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It Finally Feels Like I Live Here!

It has been almost three weeks since I arrived in Belgium, and I finally feel like I actually live here. It took me a long time to adjust to my new surroundings, to being away from my family, to speaking a foreign language, and to cooking for myself! I have been thrown into a grown up world in a foreign country and I am happy to say that I finally feel like it is a world and country that I belong in!

The first two weeks were rough. I spent most of my days and nights crying and feeling so lonely and out of place. I didn't think that I was going to be able to make it through the semester. My poor Mom and sister were consoling me around the clock and constantly reminding me that I am loved and have so much support from all my friends and family at home. After many long talks of encouragement and a trip to the doctor, I am finally feeling like I can rise to the challenges that I will face this semester.

The first challenge that I have been battling is adjusting to the bureaucratic system of the university I am attending. In the two weeks since classes have started I have attended five classes. Often times professors don't show up to the lecture or they cancel class for no reason. Sometimes they tell the students, sometimes they don't. Usually they contact the class through their school emails, which I do not have yet. Technically, I am not even an enrolled student. I am told just to wait patiently, the university will get around to it when they feel like it. This is extremely frustrating because I need my student ID card and email not only to know about changes in class, but to get 400 euros off of my transportation pass for the semester and to get my residency card from the commune in order to validate my VISA. Talk about stressful! Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to expedite the process so I am forced to wait! The ULB sure knows how to test the patience of an anxious American!

Secondly, it is the first time in my life when I have to cook for myself. You have no idea how much I miss Chef Scott back at Kappa Kappa Gamma! My mom and sister have tried to teach me to cook many times before, but I always brushed them off. I am sure wishing I would have taken them up on their offers now! I have a stove top, a microwave and a toaster oven. The first time I tried to cook I decided to make scrambled eggs--how can you mess that up? I turned on the gas stove and waited, but it didn't seem that the pan was getting hot. I waited a few minutes, thinking that maybe this is just another Belgian device to test my patience. All of a sudden one of the other tenants in my apartment, Philippe, ran in and turned off the stove and asked what I was doing. I had turned on the gas but I did not light the flame so I was just letting gas leak into the apartment... woops! We had to open all the windows to let fresh air in. Since then, I have been eating lots of cereal and sandwiches. I have had the most luck with making grilled cheese sandwiches. They are so easy, and the cheese and bread here are so delicious that I feel like I am eating a gourmet meal!

My last big challenge has been speaking French. Everyday it seems to be getting a bit easier and I am finding myself really starting to enjoy the challenge. Philippe, my roommate has taken it upon himself to show me a different French movie or television show every night. It really does help to just be constantly surrounded by the language and it has been quite fun and relaxing to enjoy some good TV.

This past Friday, I had an interview with a Belgian company Orionagroup for an internship. I was so nervous because I really needed the internship so that I could replace two of my classes at the ULB with my time spent working. My brother in law had helped me so much to prepare my resume and letter of motivation for the position and I knew if I could just nail the interview the position would be mine. When the manager began asking me questions in French, I found myself understanding and giving him my responses with very little difficulty! I was so proud to have completed the interview in French and I was even more excited when he offered me the position! I will begin next week on redesigning their website and running their social media accounts!

Aside from my challenges, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many fun times in the past few weeks as well! Our program took us on a day trip to Binche to participate in their Mardi Gras Carnaval celebration. We saw the parade of Gilles, threw lots of confetti, caught oranges, and then watched the dancing and fireworks! The Gilles are men of the town who are asked to participate in the parade, it is a huge honor and they wear the ancient costumes with pride. They throw oranges into the crowd as a symbol of good luck to those who catch them! The teenage Gilles really throw them hard, so it is important to always pay attention! It was a very fun day and a great way to spend Mardi Gras!

Also, I took a day trip with many other CIEE students to Liège. We had the most delicious waffles I have ever eaten! They were hot and fresh and stuffed with three sticks of chocolate! The chocolate melted instantly inside the hot waffle. They were heavenly! After our waffles, we burnt some calories by climbing over 600 stairs to the top of the Montagne de Bueren where we looked out over a beautiful view of the city. While we were on top of the city, we received word that there had been a suspicious package found at the Liège train station and that everyone had been evacuated and no more trains were running. We all went in to a panic and thought we would have to spend the night in the city! Thankfully, things started back up after a few hours and we were able to catch a train. Before we left Liège, we went to a bar where we had peket. It is some sort of alcohol infused with many different flavors, it was delicious! Then we went to dinner where we had meatballs and fries. The meal was out of this world amazing. I ate way too much, but it was so worth it! I am so happy to finally feel adjusted to my life in Belgium. I am so thankful for my amazing family and friends at home as well as my new friends and CIEE family here in Brussels! 
The waffle stand in Liège.
Stuffing the waffle with chocolate. 
On top of Montange de Bueren.