Tag Archives: brussels

Throwing The Dice: Living With A Host Family

It has been awhile but I finally wrote again!

Read my blog post on the Rutgers Center for Global Education blog!

Throwing The Dice: Living With A Host Family.

For those of you studying abroad and need help deciding if living with a host family is the right choice definitely take a look! There are also other great posts available with lots of study abroad tips!

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Mega Played!

Today, me and my roommate Courtney had a nice trip planned to Amsterdam. It’s our last weekend here in Europe so we figured we would end with a bang! We woke up at 4:30am to catch the first tram before 5am to go downtown and catch the MegaBus. We made it out the apartment in 25 min. Halfway to the tram stop I ask Courtney if she has her passport…we run back to the apartment. As I wait outside for her in the distance I see a tram pass by. She comes back down and when I told her what I just saw we run back to the tram stop (that’s the most I’ve worked out this entire trip.) We get there and look at the times… indeed that was our tram and we just missed it. We were freaking out trying to find our best alternative to get downtown on time. The MegaBus was suppose to leave Brussels at 6:10am. We call the 2 taxi cab numbers that I have stored on my phone and none of them work. The likelihood of finding a taxi where we live is so slimFortunately, Courtney was able to stop one that was driving by. We end up getting downtown extra early and we lounge around the train station until it’s time to head to the bus stop. I kid you not we waited 1hr and 20min for this bus and it DID NOT arrive. It was ridiculously cold and we couldn’t take it anymore. After conversing with the Spaniards that were also waiting we decided to head back home. As soon as we get back home Courtney calls MegaBus to get our money refunded and turns out the bus was stuck in London and hadn’t even made it to Paris yet! Thank goodness we left and didn’t wait around any longer. All of this happened before 8am without the sun being out. What a start to our day… Can’t do much but laugh about it. Everything happens for a reason. 

Time to be Grateful

Happy Birthday to me!

It was really hard being away from home on my 21st Birthday and Thanksgiving. I decided to look on the bright side and take it as an opportunity to just appreciate the many things I have. As I start the 21st first year of my life I have many blessings: my family,  friends, another year of life, and the opportunity to study in Europe. It’s important to be positive during the hard times.

Birthday Cake

It was remembering all the things I have to be grateful for that  really helped me have a good Birthday. I had to write a paper but I did it with a smile on my face. The sun shined bright on a city that’s usually gloomy, wet, and cold. My host sister baked me a delicious marble cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me in French! We toasted to my 21st year and I took my first ‘legal’ drink (according to USA law.) Afterwards my roommate and I went out with some friends to have a couple of drinks at Delirium. I had a light Busch beer. I couldn’t believe the alcohol percentage in that beer. o_O It did its job though. It was the perfect way to end a “beginning of the week birthday.”

Thanksgiving Dinner

There is no Thanksgiving in Europe because it’s an American holiday. So my roommate and I decided to bring Thanksgiving to Europe. We cooked a small dinner for our host family. We cooked things that would be traditional for our Thanksgiving meals. Thank goodness I had some saźon left over. It was all a success! Thanksgiving is about being grateful and sharing that with others and that’s exactly what I did.   

 

Books and Movies

I really enjoyed today because it was such a simple yet productive day. The day started out cold and wet, the usual Brussels weather, but in the afternoon the sun came out and was shining bright!

I spent the afternoon with my host mom. She took me to a bookstore called filiber very similar to Barnes & Nobles. I was very pleased because I love Barnes & Nobles so exploring the store was fun. There were so many people and French books everywhere. There was even a small section in the middle to eat and drink coffee/tea while reading books. We had quiches for lunch at the store. After my host mom showed me around the store and we ate lunch, I ended up spending most of my time in the history section. I browsed through the Mythology and Cleopatra books. It was interesting browsing through books in French about subjects that interest me.

Dans La Maison

Afterwards we went to go see a French movie. This time I experienced a new theater called UGC. This theater felt more old school than Kinepolis. The seats were ridiculously comfy though. We went to see the movie Dans La Maison “In The House.” The movie is directed by François Ozon and it is based off the Spanish play by Juan Mayorga, “El chico de la última fila.” The movie is about a 16 year old boy, Claude Garcia, and his passion for writing. Claude uses his classmate’s, Rapha Artole, family as the main characters in a series of essays he writes for his French teacher, M.Germain. The teacher becomes very intrigued by the boy and his essays and persuades him to continue to write. This leads to a series of events that makes it impossible for the audience and the teacher to decipher what is fiction and what is reality. It is truly a movie that plays with your head and leads to an ending no one expects. You are left with a series of questions and left to write your own ending.

The movie only had subtitles in Dutch. I had to depend on my French listening skills and surprisingly I understood a lot of the dialogue! I was extremely proud of myself! French movies never cease to amaze me though. They always take a step further. The intense sex scenes, the sensitive subjects they cover, they just aren’t scared to cross the line. The movie was very good and it was hard to not pay attention.

À le movies: 007

Skyfall Posters

Saturday, I decided to treat myself to the movies. I also really wanted to experience a Belgian movie theater. Since I’ve never seen a James Bond movie I thought why not see 007: SKYFALL. It’s apparently the 23rd installment of James Bond on screen. The movie starts British actor Daniel Craig and was directed by Sam Mendes. The movie also featured an amazing song by Adele, Skyfall, written strictly for the movie. It created a great opening for the movie! Definitely a good set up for the ambience the movie was trying to create (which doesn’t really show until the final scenes.) Overall, the movie had good action scenes and some really good quotable lines from various characters. However, I didn’t find the plot interesting and I felt like nothing really stuck out until the end. I didn’t really get where the movie was trying to go because there was just too much going on. In my opinion, the movie had a lot of potential to have a really good storyline but wanted to say too much so it ended up just making a mess. It had too many stories going on at once. I felt like some points didn’t even finish developing by the end of the movie. (This is as good of a review I can give without ruining the movie.) Either way, I would still go see the movie because I was entertained by the action scenes, characters, beautiful settings, and all the good lines from the characters.

Brussels Atomium

Side view of the Atomium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to Kinepolis movie theater and of course getting there was an adventure. It was ugly out rainy, windy, and cold.  I had to take the tram a direction I’ve never taken before. As I rode the tram I passed through 2 to 3 stops where the walls were filled with the most awkward graffiti art I’ve ever seen. I was actually pretty disturbed by it. When I get off at my stop, which was the last stop on the tram, I instantly became amused by this building made of circles! Turns out to be the the Brussels Atomium build for the world fair in Brussels in 1958. It has 8 levels spread over 5 spheres! It’s apparently a very big tourist attraction! I am definitely returning to visit it! Right next to it it’s a small amusement park called Mini Europe. I fell in love! It was the cutest thing! I’m definitely returning to that too. I shall attend BOTH attractions!

Back of theater

Front of theater

So I ended up walking around the back of the theater before I found the front and the entrance. >_< Once I finally found the front I was in shock! It looked so fancy! Inside the theater has all the posters of movies that are currently  in theaters and some posters of movies that are about to be released. I found it funny that “Ted” JUST came out Oct.10th. The theater also has a lot of self-buy ticket machines! I’ve never seen so many in a movie theater! It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t arrive ridiculously early! I had 3 hours to kill and they had no waiting seats ._. Every employee was practically on lunch break. They weren’t even selling the popcorn yet, and I was craving some popcorn bad! I ended up sneaking into the bathroom so I wouldn’t pay the 35cents (since everyone was on lunch break,) listening to my iPod, and watching previews to this movie “Hobbit” and “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt.2” on this huge flat screen about 3 times.

Movie posters

Eventually I got my popcorn and got myself a twix bar to sweeten my life up. When I walked into the room I literally said “wow.” It was HUGE! That had to be the biggest screen in a theater I’ve ever seen. The movie was in English and there were French and Dutch subtitles. I thought that was pretty interesting. What caught me off guard was the 10min break to use the bathroom in the middle of the movie. I thought to myself, “they must really want those 35cents!” Whelp! they definitely got mine because I needed to pee! I still can’t believe they charge for bathrooms in Europe! I went back to my movie and left the theater pretty content. It was a good adventure for such a crappy day.

Thoughts & Experiences

Belgian Flag

I can’t believe my study abroad experience is almost over! I sit here writing this realizing how much I’ve experienced and how much I have grown as a person. The days are quickly flying and December is around the corner. Each day I experience something new.

Limoncello

 

For instance, Friday I had my first digestif.  My host mom took my host sister and I to an Italian restaurant named Phenix. I ordered this delicious pasta that had a creamy orange sauce, peas, mushrooms, and this italian pork, lardo. Afterwards, my host mom insisted I tried Limoncello. It is an Italian lemon liquor mainly produced in Southern Italy. It was a pretty strong drink.  Definitely after 3 Limoncello’s the capacity to function normally lowers because the one shot of Limoncello I had made me so tired. You don’t see people drinking digestifs in America after a meal. Interesting to know that in some cultures that is completely normal.

So far I’ve visited Antwerp, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Austria and I have a trip planned for Budapest, Hungary this upcoming weekend! I love that I’m visiting places I never would of even imagined myself in. Most of these places I didn’t even know of! This experience has shown me how much there is to see in the world! How the world is just filled with opportunities! Dreams and determination can take you a long way!

čau “hello” Bratislava!

Bratislava Scenery

This weekend I went to visit my cousin and his family in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was an amazing weekend! It felt absolutely great to be around family in Europe!

Ryanair

Friday, I woke up at 6am because I had to catch a flight at 1pm. I had to find my way to the Brussels-Midi station to take an hour shuttle to the Brussels South Charleroi airport. When I arrived to the Brussels-Midi station I got lost for about 5min looking for the shuttle but I found it by asking someone for help. She showed me on the map I had (map was pretty useless because I couldn’t find any of the street names ._.) a street that was on the opposite direction of where I was. The girl figured  that the street would be straight ahead of where we were, which it was, but of course she didn’t know where the shuttle was. Seriously, like half the people I ask for help never know where the exact location of anything is, but I don’t panic anymore when I’m lost in Brussels. I ended up getting to the station with 3 hours to kill. I didn’t want to risk getting lost and missing my flight since I had to take one tram and two trains to find a shuttle that was hidden in the back of the Charleroi station!

Shoe Covers

I used Ryanair to get to Bratislava. Honestly, I feel like it wasn’t that bad. I think it was pretty good and I arrived to Bratislava earlier than I expected! I also returned 45min ahead of schedule! They didn’t even charge me to use the bathroom like someone told me Ryanair would, and if you just put on your iPod you can block the flight attendants out while they try to sell you stuff. Ryanair did not overwhelm me at all. I would use Ryanair again if I had too.

Bratislava

When I arrived to Bratislava my cousin was already there! I was very happy to see him it has been years since I last saw him! Yes, I have a cousin living in Slovakia. I never thought I would be visiting a family member in Europe! Last I saw my cousin was before he got married. He got married to a Slovakian hence why he is in Bratislava. I think it is truly an amazing love story! You don’t find a Dominican and Slovakian couple everywhere you know! ^_^ I got to meet my little cousin as soon as I arrived because we picked him up from school. He is so adorable and so unique! A half Slovakian and  half Dominican boy with beautiful big eyes. His mom speaks to him in Slovak and his dad in Dominican so he’s bilingual! <3! When we arrived at the school I had to put on some type of shoe covers to not dirty the floors. My cousin told me that Slovaks take cleanliness and health very serious when it comes to children. I thought that was a very interesting fact! After we picked up my little cousin he then proceeded to teach me how to climb a tree!🙂

Bratislava Castle

Kofola

My cousin was able to show me Bratislava in one afternoon/night! First, he took me to the Bratislava Castle! A beautiful castle with an amazing view of Bratislava and Vienna! We also visited Slavín a monument dedicated to the Soviet Soldiers who fell during WWII. It also has an amazing view of Bratislava! The scenery from afar in Bratislava is absolutely beautiful!

Afterwards, my cousin and I met up with one of his friends from work for a couple of drinks and a night out around the city. We ate a traditional meal from Bratislava. Apparently beef and potatoes are very big there. I was so happy to eat some beef! Yum! At the restaurant we went too I also tasted Kofola, a soda from Czech Republic. It tasted like Cola flavored tea. I liked it though very unique taste.

Ridiculously cheap beer! o_O

Then off we went to Old Town Bratislava. It was a very beautiful part of the city.  It is where most of the night life takes place. We went into a pub where the workers were dressed in traditional clothing. It was such a nice place! I was shocked to see that the cheapest beer was 1.30 Euros! In Brussels the cheapest beer is 2.50 Euros! Woah!

I was submerged in Slovak language the entire weekend and learned how to say Thank Youďakujem.” I tried to pronounce many of the words but they were just too hard! :/

Overall, I had an amazing time in Bratislava! I got to experience a great deal of culture in such a small amount of time! Saturday, Vienna was another awesome experience!