Friday, February 25, 2011

Une Bande Dessinée

So for our instant immersion class we had to make a BD.

BD stands for Bandes Desinees. They are very popular here in Belgium. The most popular BD is Tin Tin. But as an American, you might know one that originally started as a minor character (or characters, I suppose) in a BD, les Stroumpfs, or The Smurfs.

We were told to get in groups of four, take photos, and make them into comic strips. Luckilyyyyy I have been trying to learn photoshop for the longest time so I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Two is a couple, three is a crowd.

One cold morning in Louvain-La-Neuve, a woman was jogging when....
Hello? The Police? Oh my god! He's dead; he's dead! ... LATER...

The missing millionaire that we've been looking for, Jaques Lumiere, he has been killed and his body cut up.
This is obviously a crime of passion!
Love... put him in pieces!

Police Station: Chanel Lumiere waits to be interrogated.
Who do you think killed your husband?
I never met her... but I know he had a mistress.
Oh really?
I suppose he got what he deserved...
At the same time Coco Bijoux waits for her interrogation.

In your opinion, who killed your boyfriend?
One time his wife found us together... She definitely seemed mad enough to kill him.
What do you think of that?
Well he never told me he was married so I guess he got what he deserved!
This is suspicious but there is not enough hard evidence.

They will never find out it was us!
I can't believe I can record this! Finally, the proof!

Stop! We have you now!
I know you worked together!
We would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddler!


I actually like to play that I am an amateur photographer.

I have learned some of these tips before. I agree with almost all of them except empty space isn't necessarily empty. Sometimes being really close is good but sometimes you need "room." But he later addressed that with the rule of thirds.

Also, I kind hate when people think pictures are only meant to be 5 by 7, straight on, people in the center.

Personally I like to shoot at the widest aperture possible. I start with the lowest ISO, and set my aperture at the smallest number and adjust my settings from there. I decide if my shutter speed is okay and will adjust, but I usually want that hole to be really big, I like how those photos turn out. I also kind of hate using flash usually. I don't know why and I'm trying to teach myself to use it more often.

If you click, it links to the full size version:

This is a shot I took at the Festival de la Lumiere here. Unless you're planning a photoshoot you really just have to work with what you have. I angled this image down because they were offered free hot wine and I wanted that to be the subject of my shot. I also edited it to give it the feeling that I had when I was there.

I took about fifty photos of these three kids. The one with the hat was so excited to be there, and I have some really funny shots of him dancing. I guess I really liked the way the fisheye lens framed them.

This is an African drum circle that performed. It was hard to get a good shot because not only were they moving fast but there wasn't a lot of light. It's hard to get a fast shutter speed when it's so dark.

This is to show you can always get a different perspective on things. These are the drummers from the other side of the crowd.

PS These videos really made me miss Clemson, haha. I miss that tiger pride. You don't see that at schools here. It's different because we have one football team for the whole school that everyone gets behind. And we have these colors and this mascot that applies to all the other teams. And here, sports teams are small. Teams at the same school can have different colors. They don't run around yelling "UCL!" Their pride is in their city and their people but it's different.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Belgian Quirks

Things that happened early on:

1. The milk sits out on the shelf, unrefrigerated. At first I was weirded out but then I thought: 1. farms 2. history. It's sort of strange but once you open it you are supposed to put it in the fridge
2. Some things are amazingly cheap. While others... (soda, steak) are expensive.
3. There is a bread cutting machine for fresh loaves. My friends say those loaves go bad faster than the pre-packaged. Plus I'm scared to use the machine. But one day soon - french toast.
4. They have sandwich making shops in most of the grocery stores. I guess it's not really shops, because that gives you the idea of the cafe in BiLo. It's more like a window. I went to get a ham and cheese panini but the panini maker was broken. (PS Imagine me successfully maneuvering this conversation in French - yes, so proud). So I looked under the options and they had Hawaiian. Alright, I thought, and I ordered that. Turns out a Hawaiian sandwich is some sort of mayonaisse based salad on bread. I am not a big fan of mayo, but seeing as I am in mayo land I'm trying hard. My pineapple was also no where to be found in this weird pasty concoction and I honestly didn't like it. First food in Belgium I didn't love. Darnit!

New Literacies: Nietzsche and his typewriter

When I take notes in class, I like a nice ink pen. I write better in a fresh notebook with good flowing ink.
Sometimes I forget my notebook. Sometimes I have to take my History notes in my English notebook. I find a page in the back. Sometimes, I have to take my notes on the back of a spare page. Sometimes I have a crappy ball point pen. These things make my notes less neat. When my notes are neat I can add things to them later. I can draw arrows and highlight and make connections. When my notes are messy they are just one long paragraph. Same information but not as concise.
I think it is the same with the internet.
When I have a journal to write my thoughts out in, I write them all out fully. I hardly ever make lists unless they are to-do lists. I try to explain how I feel.
But when I have an online journal I like everything to be in bullet points.
I like my paragraphs much shorter.
i like to ignore typical english grammar rules.
I like everything to come out quickly
because I can type quickly
I can type without looking
in the dark
no lights
everything is perfect
unless i miss one key
smf yjem o; pgg

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First Week in Louvain-La-Neuve

The next morning started our first day of classes. Of course, the university was still in exams so they weren't "real" classes. But they were REAL intense :D

We started out with five days of intense French classes which I was dreading. They turned out to be great! They were really enjoyable, fast paced, and full of games. We would listen to songs and she magically figured out what level of French we were at. I am so sure I have the lowest level of French experience but I got along just fine :)

The girls who live by me near Le Centre Sportif have started going to the bakery by us. We haven't really settled into apartment life so we will pick up a pain au chocolat in the mornings. Its sort of similar to a croissant but a little less messy and filled with chocolate. :) The owner is really nice and seems to genuinely be interested in us and where we are from.

Our nights we spent exploring.

On one of the some of us checked out this British pub. They have an English speakers club that meets there. We got some delicious fondue and I got to try the famous Rochefort #8. Rochefort is a Trappist Abbey. Some of the best beer in the world is brewed in abbeys by monks and the Trappist are the best of that kind. There are only SEVEN in the world and SIX of them are in Belgium. At the Rochefort brewery, they don't name their beers, they merely give them a number.

That night the entire group was out together, exploring Louvain-La-Neuve at night. On our way back a group of us were being very loud and rambunctiousness (this is totally normal and okay in LLN where drinking on the street will get you a smile and a "bon soiree" from a police officer) when the guy walking in front of us turned around. Quizzically he asked us if we were American. We were so excited and told him yes. Turns out he was an American too! His name was Sebastien and he introduced us to some of his friends who are Erasmus students. Erasmus is the European program that allows students to travel abroad in other European countries.

One of his friends, Eric turned out to be my voisin, or neighbor. It's funny because when I look out of my window underneath it is a giant painting of the cheshire cat. Turns out he painted it and he lives in the humor kot. Some kots, or apartments, are special Kot-a-projets. Their entire kot works on one project the entire year, and he happens to live in one!

There are a ton of foreigners to meet here!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Settling into Louvain-La-Neuve

I was dead tired and super bummed, but it turns out that everyone in our group is pretty great. We all had a pretty tough time settling in, so swapping stories made us feel a lot better.

But even so we sort of trudged around the city, "getting spit on by angels" as my friend says to describe the weather. There were only three of us: Alyssa, Nick and I. We hadn't seen anyone in hours, and only one restaurant looked really warm and cozy through it's giant windows so we went inside finally to rest and eat. Funnily enough for us, about every ten minutes someone in our tiny group would walk by and one of us would run outside to grab them. Before you knew it we had about eight people crammed into a booth. With the warmth and the light and the kir and beer and being surrounded by happy French speakers, things started to look up :)

That night was the night I noticed most people left their shoes outside of their room. I wondered why that was.

Knowing that it was exam week, I didn't want to bother anyone. But I really wanted to meet them! I took the marzipan shaped like strawberries I picked up in Brussels and I wrote a note to my roommates in my awful French, telling them who I was and that I was excited to meet them.

Sadly, the next morning, there was no response, so I went off on my first day of duties in Louvain-La-Neuve. We all met up at the ILV, got instructions for even more important paperwork, and started off to the Town Hall to register as temporary citizens. Then some of us went to go get our new Belgian-to-Belgian sim cards so we could actually call and text people we met. After that we thought we were giving ourselves a break by going to the mall and shopping during the soldes (winter sales). We should have known how tiring shopping could be!

We all decided to take a break and go home. We were supposed to meet up for dinner at the university's dining hall. I arrived home, like always to an empty apartment, but this time there were three notes left for me on the table! How exciting. However, I didn't even get to read them as I crashed into bed and powernapped until my alarm went off. That alarm was so scary! I wasn't used to the new cellphone and I jumped out of bed and started rushing so I wouldn't be late for dinner. I run downstairs and who do I see? Two of my invisible roommates.

Of course that would happen to me, the moment my roommates appear, I'm late and have to be somewhere else. I rushed through the kitchen yelling hello's and I'm sorry's to them and in my terrible French mixing up words like "maintenant" and "ici." But that was not the worst of my worries.

We were given meal tickets worth a certain amount at the dining hall. I was just going to get some delicious frites and a drink with desert. I'm waiting patiently in line, talking to a friend behind me, Mike. The guy behind the counter asks him what he wants. He skips directly over me. I was sort of sad so I just stood there. Everyone in line was getting the same thing. I thought, oh man, I got in the wrong line... I guess I have to get this set plate, but that's okay it looks okay, I'll eat it. So the plates are lining up and finally since no one is asking me anything I take mine and I'm about to walk off when a guy says "non!" It turns out I took his plate. Yep. His plate. Oh and it happened to be THE LAST ONE OF THE NIGHT. Yeah, that's right. I kept trying to say "take it! I don't want it!" but the guy behind the counter kept saying "no you take it, it's my fault" and I was just like "All I wanted was frites, please take this plate!!" But my french just came out like garbage to them and they kept telling me it was okay.

So embarrassing.

Micky D's

The McDonald's Belgium website, like most Belgian sites offers you the choice of "Nederlands" (Flemish) or "Francais" (French). It, like every other site with flash in this country, take a long time to load :)

The first difference I noticed between the two sites is that the American one starts out with a giant advertisement in your face - a giant juicy and delicious burger. The Belgian one starts you at a menu with three options. The second thing I noticed is the higher quality of image on the USA site. Strange.

Other interesting differences:

- The USA site offers "Meat Bundles" and the Belgian site offers "P'tit Plaisirs" or "little pleasures"
- The USA website doesn't have a specific place for kids, but I'm sure you can google their kids stuff, meanwhile in Belgium, where people take their kids everywhere and let them run around unsupervised has a whole area on their website for children
- The Belgian website offers a "Quality" area where you can learn about health and how they get their ingredients. On the USA website that stuff is hidden under the food.
- The Belgian site likes putting "Mc" in front of everything. You can even get a "McJob!"

Because I couldn't get to a McDonald's I asked around about it. I expected students to say they didn't like it. But plenty of people did. The difference is cute though, instead of calling it McDonalds, they call it McDo! (pronounced like "dough") Even the Belgian website embraces that name, and I've yet to see Mickey D's on anything in America.

The town I am staying at, sadly, or luckily, does not have a McDonald's. What we have instead is called Quick Burger.

Quick Burger seems to be trying to be a lot like Burger King and McDonalds. They even have chicken wings on their menu!

And finally, though I have yet to make it inside a foreign McDonald's, however, I did make it into a foreign KFC. In Prague, tired and lost we wandered into a KFC. We successfully ordered off of a half czech, half english menu. The food was just as good, but they had no biscuits or cole slaw. Pretty sure cole slaw would be a big hit in Belgium, so I wonder why...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Exchange students Part 1

"Imagine you are hosting exchange students who have never visited the US."
Luckily for me, I've been there.

When I live in Clemson I live in the cultural exchange community. Every semester since I was a freshman I've had a foreign roommate. From England, Scotland, Spain, France, and Japan.

It's funny that you ask "What particular things about 'your people'?" Because as an American, describing Americans, we don't all have one cultural background. For me I have this strange sense of an aura that surrounds all Charlestonians, and I have a connection to the Blue Ridge mountains full or Irish and Scottish heritage. But that is me personally and I have friends from traditional Italian families that have a completely different heritage than me and friends with Israeli and hebraic traditions. I have no idea what to say if someone asks me to describe "my people." And it is even more awkward if someone from Ireland were to come and I were to explain my connection to a traditional Irish folk song. Why? Because since that song came to America it has changed. It's faster, there are more lyrics. It's not sung by a mother to her child but by brothers on a wooden porch drinking moonshine and not whiskey.

So for me, instead of trying to somehow personify and quantify what "American" means, my roommates and I try to show them CLEMSON. What it's like to be a tiger. :)

We explain football. We explain school. We explain eating. We explain going out.

But even in Clemson students are so diverse. Some students study through football games and some won't miss them for the world. Some wake up at 5 am and hike across campus to light up a grill and cook and drink all morning, and stay and tailgate through the game. Some students only wake up at 8 in order to drink and catch the last half. Some students study at home and watch the game online. Some students say "oh there was a game this weekend?"

I think though somehow, just through living here, they seem to get it. They see the differences and comment on them, but the overwhelming feeling always seems to be "oh you are a lot like us."