October 16, 2010 § 2 Comments
I just about to write something about my utter state of frustration… with this program, with this assignment, with this country, with my STUPID PC that has some sort of fucked up weird security settings that are totally fucking up my SAS program. And a million other things that culminated into one big about-to-blow-up moment, until out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fluttering by my window and when I looked over there were all these birds in my tree…. and two new ones, two gorgeous new ones that I had never seen before. And it made me happy… and instantly at ease. Not that it’s fixed anything or that anything’s figured out, but just that it will be… and alles is goed
October 15, 2010 § 6 Comments
Some days there is simply nothing to say, and on others there is so much, it’s hard to know where to start… I haven’t really found groove yet with this whole blog thing.
How much of my life should I document? How bored should I leave my several readers? If I knew who my audience was, at least I would know approximately what direction to take. But, I guess I know a few of you, so maybe I’ll just pretend I’m writing you all emails. Most of you would only be concerned with food, cultural mishaps, maybe a tiny bit on school and perhaps the occasional love quest. But do let me know if I’m missing out on any important topics.
Things here are going well. I hesitate to use the word great, or amazing as I tend to always hang back on the fence, and have to leave some room for a few doubts and, god-forbid, jinxing.
Of course, every chance I get (which is not a whole lot due to insane amounts of time spent studying) I enjoy all the little things that come along with living here.
The thousands of fall colored leaves paving my way to school, the exposed bird’s nest perched atop the autumnal tree outside my window, the crisp near-winter breeze, the ginger breaded houses lining the pastries shops, the chocolates, the pumpkins, specialty teas, Kaas Mecca YES , an entire store filled with cheese and a wooden bucket of freshly laid eggs, the butcher shop across the way, a whole store of honey – with everything honey from all over the world you could imagine, textures, flavors, colors, you name it!.. , the film festival buzz, fliers upon fliers of amazing events I will never have time to see, the Christmas market readily approaching, talk of spicy hot wine and December plans… and those lovely bells that chime, chime, chime far in the distance… all swirling inside me, constantly giving me reason to be happy.
And yet, what most of my classmates and I have come to discover is that there is no time for it, at all. Just the other day, we were joking about how over the weekend we completely forget that we’re in Belgium… seriously.
But, of course, I don’t mind studying – in fact after having worked for a few years it only makes studying more fun, yet more natural. Somehow doing it all day doesn’t seem wrong – after all, that’s how work is anyway. But, what I’ve found is that there still isn’t enough time in the day to do it all – and the time that I do take to relax, I am extremely inefficient at. I should be out at least having fun a few times a week – just for an hour or so, here and there. Yet, the guilt of all that there is to do, is constantly overshadows everything… and somehow I find myself spending that time, just worrying about the fact that I’m not studying… like right now.
But of course, my classmates and I make it a point to go out to lunch every day after school. So that’s been really nice and at least gets me out of my head for a little while. The program is funny too, we are a group of interesting individuals – that’s for sure. But I’m digging everyone more and more with every passing day. There’s always something to laugh about, something new to learn or something to share. I’ve really missed the comradery that comes along with being in school – at work of course you get that too after a while, but it’s a lot more work to establish it, where as here it’s just a natural part of belonging to a group of people with exactly the same goals – it’s wonderful.
I’ve also made a few Belgian friends, although those come with a little more work. You of course won’t be surprised to hear that Americans are not exactly anyone’s favorite. I mean, everyone tries to be nice – some more than others – but, I won’t lie there’ve been a few instances where it’s come across rather clear. Couple that with some things lost in translation and you have a whole international relations fiasco. In stores, on the street … even in the classroom.
Yesterday for example, we had some group work to do for our Marketing Research class – our group consists of 2 international students (including me) and 4 locals from Belgium… and let me tell you, there was a point there where it was getting pretty tense. They of course gave the US market to me (as it’s of no interest to them) and requested to be grouped together with other Belgians (ya know, cause it’s easier). They’re actually all very nice and of course don’t mean anything by it, but I definitely get a distinct feeling that they don’t quiet know what to do with anything international – it’s just not as common here. Yes, they speak many languages (so they can deal with the language barrier across many countries – some of them know up to 6 languages), but when it comes to a cultural barrier, they’re really at a loss. Even Americans in SF have to be much more trained to dealing with a variety of cultures… I hope no Belgian reads this, but I get this sense sometimes that they kind of experience the world as flat.
Maybe I’m wrong and am the one being cultural insensitive here. But anyway, there was a whole misunderstanding that took place on what a market research report should look like – somehow I was thinking power point based on work experience and the fact that we were suppose to deliver a case study report to management, but they were thinking single spaced word document as you would do for any other school report. I kept referring to dividing up slides, they kept telling me to forget the slides, but were diving up the same topics… anyway, it was all very confusing, until of course we realized why. The amazing thing though was what a shift that made in how we could relate afterward. Suddenly it was all clear… we were coming from different places, but ultimately we were here for the same thing… suddenly there was laughter, and eye contact and well, within minutes of this discovery, we actually became a team. And as we sat there together, wrapping things up, one of the boys addressed me by my name and as we talked, all I could think about is that somehow he was finally just talking to me… not America. I was not representing anyone or anything, I was just me again. And it felt good.