La réunion Kot avec SFC, Tim Guénard and Weekend Away #8

I’m nearing the end of my first semester here in Belgium. Life is taking a slower pace now that we have left October and well into November. Exams are around the corner and most people are choosing to study or catch up on sleep rather than go out and party. Consequently, life in the Kot has been much quieter. However, a few weeks before this, we had the réunion with SFC (for those who do not know, this is Students for Christ, a group comprising of young christians who aim to spread the gospel on campus).

I had the task of organising this get together which was rather stressful. I was the MC for the night along with my partner from SFC and I also had the task of leading the songs chosen by SFC as they played the instrumental accompaniments. I remember it being quite daunting as my flatmates, at this point, hadn’t really heard me singing par those who sneakily listen while I am singing in my room haha. I chose one of the songs for SFC which was Since Your Love by United Pursuit but we also sang Abba Père par Colletifs Cieux Ouverts which a lot of people particularly liked because of the simple truth that we surrender ourselves to God because he loves us, which the lyrics explain. In order to go with the ambiance, this cold November day, I made hot chocolate for everyone and we also had snacks provided. The day was an amazing opportunity to meditate on the love of God, to reverence him and to pray to him about our day, our family and our futures. What made the day special was that it was a collaboration with the Protestants and the Catholics. A time when we put aside our differences and pondered on the one thing we had in common – the love of God. We sang songs from Taizé and read the évangile for the day and afterward we just got to know each other with games, hot chocolate, and snacks. We even invited SFC over for fajitas back at the Kot, which i’m still getting teased for because apparently, I said ferhijtas.

Despite this, as my co-MC himself said at the end of the night, the evening was bien géré by the both of us and I am really proud of myself in having worked towards making this night the way it turned out, not forgetting, the help of others!

Tim Guénard

As a Kot, we often get stuck into a lot of projects which we have to organise, sometimes by ourselves, other times we are partnered with organisations who get into contact with us and need our help. This was such a time!

Tim Guénard is a motivational speaker with a difficult upbringing. He was beaten severely by his father and as a result lost hearing in one of his ears. He was put into a correctional home and got up to mischief with the law. Essentially, you might initially think that this would be the sort of man that would now be in prison (even though he spent some time there himself). However,  he has a loving wife and four children, he now travels around the world to speak to people about his own experiences and the projects he organises for young people with difficult and estranged upbringings.

It was incredibly amazing to see him in action, discussing his experiences but not in a way where he is just retelling fact, rather, in a manner which demonstrates where he came from and the lessons he learned from what he experienced. Effectively, he discussed how his past experiences has made him into the man he is today. I had a chance to speak to him before his presentation, and just in the moments we spent together you could tell he was a humble and simple man that wanted to teach one thing – forgiveness. He spoke about the forgiveness of his mother who had abandoned him as a baby, forgiveness for his father who had beaten him as a child as a result of being drunk but also his relationship with ‘Big Boss’ as he likes to call God, and the fact that his upbringing did not cause him to resent God as most people would imagine. In fact, he states that it is because of the love of God for him and the Godly men and women that spoke to him about God that made him realise that in God all things are good.

His story did not make me immediately think of The Shack by William P Young, simply because, I hadn’t read it at the time. However, I am currently reading it and enjoying the theology of the book and I can make links with the main characters own feelings and that of Tim Guérnard. I’m recognising the pain in loss or hurt and the potential for resentment and hatred towards God. But I am also learning the ways of God, the goodness of good through suffering and the ultimate plan. No one really knows why Tim Guénard feels the way he does about his family or even about God, but whatever it is, it is evident that he has found true happiness.

Weekend Away (1)

The first Kot Weekend away was wonderful. We went to Gent or Gand – THIS MAKES IT MY SECOND TIME THERE! This time, my experience was different because we stayed at my flatmates families’ home. It was a lovely countryside house on the outskirts of Gent with lots of land space, facing a maize farm. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before!

We got there on the Friday night and played loup-garrou all night long. The game is basically the equivalent of Mafia but a lot more intriguing in my opinion. On the Saturday we ate a lot (yummy food, that is), and went out to discover Gent city. Upon our return, we ate some more and nous avons fait la guindaille. Finally, on Sunday, there were a lot of picture taking and thids was the day we returned home. I could go on about the details, but it really isn’t necessary in order to end up saying I had a fantastic time. I am grateful to God for taking me safely there and bringing me safely back.

It is nearly the end of November already which means we are heading into the last month of the year and I am so grateful to God for this whole year! It is easy to take things for granted when you’re having so much fun and don’t have much to worry about, but truly I am eternally grateful for a God that watches over me wherever I may be and has my best interests at heart at all times. Without God, this whole year abroad would not have been possible. Even now as I enter the last month of the year with preparations for Christmas and exams looming, I still never want to forget the place of God in my life. What better way to put this than with a short Bible verse from Psalms.

Psalm 103:1-2

I bless the holy name of God with all my heart. Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me.

Psaumes 103:1-2

Que tout mon être loue l’Eternel!

Que tout ce que je suis loue le Dieu saint!

Que tout mon être loue l’Eternel sans oublier aucun de ses bienfaits.

 

Prayer points

Please pray into the month of exams – it is often a stress filled time for students but pray for wisdom in how to go about revision and pray that God be in the centre of everything we do.

I know that whatever grades I do end up receiving at the end of the exam season, they will not change how God looks at me and loves me.

 

Passez une bonne semaine! 🙂

 

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Going back home, 24h Vélo, Rally Chambre and Gent #7

I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of weeks and sad to see October go, but very excited about what the new month of November has to offer here in Belgium.

I went home recently for the weekend to celebrate a family member’s birthday and it was just a well needed get-away from Belgium and studies. It was a lovely weekend surrounded by family and loved ones and as well as tears, joy, laughter and love. It gave me an opportunity to show my family how I am progressing with playing the flute as well as catch up with my family. it was really nice to see how much I have been missed but also to realise how much things have changed since I left. I am looking forward to going home for Christmas again but I am by no means in a hurry and I am just taking each day as it comes and enjoying my year abroad for what it is.

24h Vélo 

Before I went home, however, I witnessed the 24h Vélo, which is where, literally for 24 hours, Bikes ride around a route in the aim to win money for their chosen organisation, for their own personal aims or to gain a prize. It’s really interesting this event because it demonstrates creativity, skill and a lot of teamwork. I personally did not take part in terms of bike riding but, I did take part in something just as important. It’s called le ravitaillement. There, myself and another Kot member would serve and entertain the sportsmen and women with food and a chat while they took a break from riding their bikes. I chose my hours which were 5:30am-8:30am in the morning which sounds horrible, but really wasn’t bearing in mind I had the whole day on Wednesday to rest before my shift on the Thursday morning that week (I picked my hours well!). If you factor in that I had a lesson at 8:30 in the morning that Thursday anyway, then you’ll see it really wans’t that bad. Thus, I really wasn’t losing anything and I even made it to my lecture on time!

After my shift and my lecture, I went to see Cascada who was the musical spectacle to bring the 24h vélo to an end. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of Cascada, though I had heard her music before this and I had heard of her. What I enjoyed the most was probably the ambiance, jumping and singing with my flatmates which was quite a laugh. I’ve never seen a singer in a concert so this was pretty magical despite the fact I was at the back and my phone’s camera failed me in capturing Cascada. It’s still a memory I will cherish even if I didn’t get it on video. I encourage all to simply live in the moment rather than trying to capture it – it’s a lot more fun!

Rally Chambre

Rally Chambre is where the Kot moves from room to room taking part in activities and being served food and drink! This was an excellent idea, especially for Halloween. We started off with a game which included a wrapped up box a woolly hat, some gloves and dice. The aim was to remove the wrapping from the box while the preceding person tried to roll a double with the dice so that the box could be passed to the next person. It was all quite fast play but it was such good fun and we got served yummy food. My favourite was the room where we inhaled helium and read some funny quotes from movies. I’d never done this before and apparently, I was just incredibly cute haha.

In another room we did some acting involving a princess, a prince, a bird and a dragon. In another, we tried to ‘save’ ourselves from our sins and win our stolen goods back. In another, there was wine tasting (pas mon truc) and there, we played a game. Something along the lines of “c’est pim pim” – it was honestly such a laugh and still can’t get over it.

In my room, I offered English treats which I’d brought back from my weekend at home and the game mafia which is apparently like the French equivalent ‘Loups-Garous‘. We ended the night with cake and music as it was a flatmates birthday week and then those who wanted to go out went out. I neither had a disguise nor decorations in my room but nevertheless, this was a cool experience and one which I won’t forget.

Gent 

I visited Gent! I went as part of GBU. The GBU from Brussels and that of the one I participate in joined together for a day out in Gent for a Bible study and then sightseeing.

The topic we were studying was about ‘L’évangélisation et la souveraineté de Dieu’ and for the most part, I could keep track of what was being said, however, Biblical jargon and explanations still continue to be a struggle for me especially when we’re discussing things like predestination and the sovereignty of God. That had me scratching my head for a bit and so I definitely need to go back to the notes and work my way through the passages at my own pace. No doubt, I am hearing French being spoken in the context of Church, so there is no doubt in my mind that this will last forever. Nevertheless, I am really enjoying Bible studies as they are an opportunity to delve into the Bible and what it offers us as Christians. Here at GBU, there is no room for surface reading so it can sometimes be hard going because it is different to how I personally study the Bible.

I am still praying in English! I feel more à l’aise praying in English, though I have only tried to pray in French a couple of times. I’ve heard quite a few people praying in French and Church always gives us an opportunity to pray out loud after communion but I just fear freezing up and not knowing what to say. Or, knowing what to say in English but not knowing the translation in French. French in Church = definitely a different kind of French. Just as French in a different context is more specialized.

Finally, while we are on the topic of French, how is my progress you ask?

I’ve spoken to quite a few people, all of which compliment me on my level of French and state how cute my accent is (this is quite annoying as I try really hard to sound like I’m from France!). No doubt, however, I still make mistakes on a daily basis. Thing is, I know when I make a mistake, I just continue to make it because I don’t know how to correct it (so wait for correction), or correct my mistakes immediately after making them. I recently submitted a written essay as part of my French course which received a terrible note so while my spoken French is improving, written French, not so well! I just hope I don’t get into any bad habits from listening to spoken French and thinking this is acceptable as written French!

My other courses are going well too, but it’s definitely getting close to crunch time with my first exam before Christmas break. I definitely need to start knuckling down! When I tell people that this year does not count toward my final degree classification, they are incredibly shocked and ask me why I still bother going to lectures and doing the work. The reason simply is, that to complete my final year at University I need to pass this year. So while this year in terms of grades ne sert à rien, it is still important for my knowledge and the study of French to make an effort. Plus, I’ve always been studious, so I’m not going to stop now.

Until next time!

Prayer Points

This week my Kot and Students for Christ are having a réunion, pray that this will be an opportunity to evangelize

Please pray for me while I prepare for exams

Please pray for my health- spiritual, physical and emotional.

Please finally pray that I will remain humble.

Philippians 3:12

I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working towards that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be.

Philippiens 3:12

Non certes, je ne suis pas encore parvenu au but, je n’ai pas atteint la perfection, mais je continue à courir pour tâcher de saisir le prix. Car Jésus-Christ s’est saisi de moi.

 

 

Flute lessons, TP, la Serpentine and all things in between #6

I haven’t forgotten about my blog! I am back (though I never really left) The past two weeks have been pretty intense both in the Kot and in my studies. At the moment, I am trying to finish an essay I am writing about the dépénalisation of abortion in Belgium!

Flute lessons

I’ve started flute lessons. I’ve never really played an instrument myself but I took the courage to start flute lessons and I am really enjoying it so far. I have learnt about the French Sol, la, si, fa, mi do and re and I am learning how to blow into my flute to produce different sounds. At this moment in time, I can play little pieces like Au Clair de la Lune, En ce temps de Printemps, Minuet and some other pieces worthy of mention. I’m really enjoying this being a form of discipline but also something to distract me from my responsibilities!

Studies 

With regards to studies, I’ve started taking my TP classes which are the equivalent of Seminar groups. The difference is, however, that for the TP’s you’re not expected to do any work (at least for my Philosophy class you’re not). All it is is a smaller group of students going over (in powerpoint slides) what it is we covered in the main lectures. I am enjoying them because they help consolidate my knowledge or clarify things I didn’t understand in the lectures.

Lectures are also going well and yesterday marked the ending of one of my modules which are assessed through a presentation and a dissertation (that’s nearly done too) which I really need to revise in terms of case law and doctrine.

GBU et SFC

At GBU this week, the event was grilling a Christian. It was an event for all those interested in discussing life and the Christian faith to come and ask their questions. It was a really fun event where good questions were asked. We discussed the Trinity, the purpose of the Holy Spirit and also how we are supposed to discern what faith matches up with Biblical truth.

I am looking forward to returning to the book of 1 Pierre next week as I am really enjoying reading this with others. I am struggling with consistently reading my Bible and being a light in this flat because I am often doing it by myself and I don’t have others for moral support. I am trying to encourage my flatmates to consider attending Bible study with me but feel like I should myself set an example to them and I am finding it difficult to do this.

SFC is similar to GBU in that it’s Protestant and it is also a student movement but I would compare it more to the Christian Union as we praise and worship and someone shares scripture from the Bible. The first time I went, we sang Abba Père by Collectif Cieux Ouverts and I got quite emotional thinking about the words. At this moment, I knew it was right to be there at the time and consequently I am looking forward to future events with them.

La Serpentine

A couple of weeks ago I took part in La Serpentine. I’m not entirely sure why it is called la Serpentine and if that relates to the work they do there but it is an organisation that houses mentally disabled adults. Every Wednesday our Kot goes over there to assist those who go to mass and cannot independently do so. I had never done it before but now that I have, it is definitely something I would want to do again. I was paired up with the cutest woman with the bluest eyes. I was asking her questions but she was mainly not responsive apart from a few words here and there and to let me know that I was walking too fast for her (I was really sorry about that!). I asked her if she would like me to sing to her and she said yes, so as we were walking to Church, I started singing some of the English songs I’d learnt from Taizé to her and she really enjoyed it. She even said I had a good voice! Throughout mass, she was very attentive only catching my attention to ask if I was going up for communion and to hold my hand during benediction (I think?).

It continues to be strange for me to go to mass and I don’t really participate in a lot of the rituals there because it isn’t my faith. I am constantly reminded by going to mass and participating in some of the events that we do such as la Serpentine, that Jesus died for all our sins and He has paid the price that we could not pay and so there is nothing that we need to do to gain the salvation and Grace of God. Doing good acts comes as a consequence of this freedom and not a prerequisite! This is ultimately what I want my life to show and my actions to show and I will continue praying to God and asking Him what my purpose in Belgium is. What He wants me to fulfil before the year is out.

Waterloo

A couple of weekends ago I went to Waterloo with a church friend. For those of you who don’t know how it is pronounced here in Belgium, it is vat-er-low. I had been pronouncing it wrong (the English way) the whole time and my flatmates had no idea what I was talking about.

Nevertheless, it was a good trip and we got to visit the Mémorial museum which discussed all the events preceding the war at Waterloo but also the aftermath. It’s incredible to find out about how many dead there were at Waterloo and the number of deaths at this time was described as one of the worst in modern history. We did a lot of singing of Abba’s Waterloo, on the train, in Waterloo and generally walking! We weren’t able to mount the stairs to the lion as we were so engrossed in the museum that we ended up turning up to the lion too late. We did take lots of pictures so I don’t feel so bad after all.

This trip has given me the incentive to travel more but it hasn’t made my purse very happy.

 

John 3:16

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

Jean 3:16

Oui, Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu’il a donné son Fils, son unique, pour que tous ceux qui placent leur confiance en lui échappent à la perdition et qu’ils aient la vie éternelle.

 

Prayer points

  • Please pray that I continue to rely on God in every aspect of my life and don’t take God for granted in any aspect of my life
  • Please also pray that I continue nurturing my spiritual life through prayer and reading the Bible
  • Please pray I will be able to consider the positive in every situation
  • Please pray that I will be crazy for Jesus and that this shows in every facet of my life here in Belgium

Working hours, la bière and Belgian students #5

I think this blog post is going to be more focused on what I have noticed about Belgian culture rather than just an update.

A few words on how I am doing before the culture talk, however. I am now more than three weeks or so in and I must say I have been finding it hard to keep in contact with those back home because of varying schedules. It’s scary to think we’re all doing our own things wherever we may be but it’s always nice to see familiar faces or hear familiar voices whether that be on the phone or through Skype.

Last Wednesday was a congé (holiday) for the French community. This means that there were no lectures to attend and consequently meant I could have a day to relax and get some work done. I went to breakfast with a friend I met at church that day who is German and working at an orphanage for a year in Belgium and we went to a Crêpe restaurant for breakfast. The crêpes were incredibly tasty and I was surprised by how many combinations of sweet and savoury foods you could have with crêpes! Who knew you could have crêpes with fish?! I’m not entirely sure how that would go down however but I’m sure it would be nice if that is the sort of thing you enjoy! Different strokes for different folks aye?

That evening, I went to the cinema with my flatmates to watch ‘HhHH’ because they had an offer on at the cinema. HhHH is a film about one of the SS soldiers, Reinhardt and the resistance of Czech soldiers. It was incredibly heartwarming to see the comradery between the Czech soldiers and their fraternité but I couldn’t help but dislike this movie because it was incredibly violent and I feel I’m rather sensitive to movies like this. I don’t think I was the only one, however, as one of my flatmates, who was sat next to me jumped at every gunshot. How I was convinced to watch this movie I do not know, I will not be watching this film ever again! Nevertheless, you can’t beat a good offer!

Church

On the topic of church, I attended my first Bible study at the Protestant church and was given a French bible! I really enjoyed bible study but I was really nervous about praying or singing in French because it was such a small gathering. I did gather up the courage to pray in French however even if it lasted a minute at most! Still, I consider this as progress! It’s very difficult to find the words that you already recognise in English and use them in French especially when you are discussing the Bible or trying to praise God. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep trying – petit à petit, ça va aller. Don’t get me wrong, my French is by no means great even though people will compliment me on my efforts. I still make frequent faux-pas or resort to saying things in English when all else fails. For instance, once I told my flatmate that I was leaving him to go upstairs but instead of saying je te laisse, i said je te quitte. For those of you who don’t know the difference, the second is what you say when you’re dumping someone that you are in a relationship with. This was definitely a cringe-worthy moment as he had mentioned that his girlfriend had dumped him about a year ago.

Moving on swiftly back to Church, yesterday, I went to my first GBU meeting – this was also in French! GBU is the Groupe Biblique Universitaire which gathers to study God’s word and be missionaries on campus to spread the Good News of the Gospel. We are currently reading through 1 Peter or 1 Pierre. We’ve only just started but I’m really enjoying analysing chapter one and being reminded of the need to continuously exercise faith despite rough patches because Jesus has promised us an inheritance that can never be corrupted, made dirty or wither away. I look forward to continuing this book.

Culture in Belgium

With regards to the culture here, there is a lot to like but there is a lot to dislike. For example, I just find working hours very awkward and inconvenient. I tried to buy a syllabus for one of my courses and the opening hours were something like 10h30 – 11-h30, then it closed until 13:30-14:30. I turned up at 11h45 which meant I missed the first chance of the day by 15 minutes! I had lessons in the afternoon so I wasn’t able to make the second and last chance of the day to buy this syllabus.  Moments like these just make you appreciate the 9am to 5pm (take or leave) mentality we have in the UK.

Aside from this, another thing I have noticed about Belgian student culture is the fact that beer is very popular among students and often makes an appearance at any social gathering, be that dinner or a party. For instance, my kot had a housewarming the other day and there was beer! Over here the brand caraplis seems to be really popular and I’ve learnt it’s a Belgian made product so this would make sense. Another thing students get up to here is folklore which I was told was quite prevalent here in Belgium by a Belgian friend. Students here take part in initiations called bâptemes where students endure three weeks of being shouted at, eating disgusting things, doing horrid and humiliating things all throughout the night in order to be accepted into a kot or a cercle. I’ve been told some very horrible stories about what some of the students get up to during these three weeks and seen for myself how humiliating it is and I just simply do not understand why this is not regulated. For instance, today in lectures at the hour break a bunch of students came down from the auditorium seats to the front where the lecturer was, they lay down with their face to the ground and started crawling while a girl (who I take is already a member of a cercle) was shouting and recording them. Get this, the lecturer just stood aside and let it happen! Over here, these things are part and parcel of student life and even the lecturers know this. Parties, beer and bâptemes are definitely not mon truc . Continue reading “Working hours, la bière and Belgian students #5”

Church en français, more lectures, mass and la bise #4

Last week was my first time in a Protestant Baptist church and it was similar and yet so different to my church in my hometown. It should be borne in mind that I am actually not Baptist but the city I’m currently in does not have too much to offer in terms of Protestant churches – in fact, Catholics rule the roost, quite literally (you’ll see why further down). Nevertheless, everyone at the Baptist Church was incredibly welcoming right from the start. We started with intercession which was completely in French and I just prayed in English (I’m getting used to the structure of praying in French and I know some of the keywords), however, I do try and pray and give God thanks in French when I can. It often takes more effort but it’s beautiful to know that despite what language you speak we all have one God who we can praise and extol in different ways.

Praise and worship were really enjoyable, there were a lot of songs I recognised because there were English equivalents. The lyrics were put up in French, however, I wasn’t sitting in the best seat to see them very clearly so I just ended up singing in English and murmuring other parts in French (I’ll get there eventually ;)).

The sermon was encouraging, the gist of it was not to worry about anything because God will never abandon us. For the most part, I was able to follow the sermon, but I do get lost in translation. Hearing sermons in French, making notes in French and singing in French is definitely helping me to improve my French especially in this context so I am very grateful for this, however, I don’t have a French Bible which would make following Bible reading a lot easier, so if anyone has recommendations let me know!  Overall, the service was nice and there were snacks after service – can’t go wrong with food!

As mentioned above, there are not many Protestant churches around, I spoke to someone from church today who told me there were only four in the city I am in, so it might mean travelling outside the city to go to church!

My lectures are in full swing now, I’ve had a taste of quite a few different subject areas, class sizes and lecturers and know the ones I’m going to take forward and the ones I’ll drop  – it’s like an add-drop system here, something I’m acquainted with! Over here you have to buy the syllabus for every module you take as well as the recommended textbook for the course (and just like you’re thinking, they’re not cheap!). I guess I don’t mind too much because I’ve chosen these modules so I should enjoy them. What I don’t however enjoy is waking up early for a lecture that starts at 08h30 for the class to be cancelled upon arrival (I’m hoping this was a one-off because it’s actually so much effort to wake up early). What has helped with waking up early, however, is going for a run around the lake with my flatmates. I ran 2km, which is more than I’ve ever run, I think!

Last Wednesday was my first ever experience of mass! I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this but all my flatmates are Catholic so mass is pretty common here as well as gathering during the week to sing and pray. Mass is a very structured event both in the songs, the prayers and the communion. I must say I definitely felt awkward because I didn’t know what to do with myself, to be honest. It was very different to anything I’ve ever known but I did enjoy singing some of the songs and seeing my flatmates there who all asked me how I found it afterwards (knowing I’m the only protestant!). After mass, all the students gathered in le bois (my flatmate told me it’s a bois because it’s smaller than a forest!) for a barbecue in the dark and some games which for our Kap included an obstacle course with a lit bougie. It was quite dangerous actually but nobody was harmed, so all is well.

The Belgians, and the French alike, always introduce, say hi/bye with la bise. For those of you who do not know what la bise is, it’s a kiss on the cheek. IN REALITY, however, it’s not even that. It’s just brushing your cheek against someone else’s and kissing your lips. I am still not accustomed to it and always put out my hand to introduce myself because that is what I am used to. Physical contact with someone is incredibly strange and as much as the phrase ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ comes to mind, I’m still getting used to this part of Belgian life. For this reason, I’ve had some awkward encounters with males and females, but mainly males! I hope it gets easier!

French language classes start tomorrow, I’m really looking forward to it.

P.S, the cottage pie turned out well but I put too much pile pile in it and some Belgians are very sensitive to heat!

Hebrews 13:8

‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes as a gift from God, not from ceremonial rules about eating certain foods – a method which, by the way, hasn’t helped those who have tried it.’

Phillippians 4:6

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Prayer points

  • Please pray that I am able to balance Kap life with my studies.
  • Please pray I can continue understanding what is said both in Church and out and I find a CU like group/ church group.

 

 

Getting a University Card, Opening a bank account and starting lectures #3

So as mentioned in my previous post, I don’t have a University card. In fact, I still don’t have one now. What has apparently happened is that the Belgian administration has lost my picture that I sent to them in May. This means, in effect, that I can’t access the University online platform because I need to activate my card in order to do that. Moreover, I can’t gain access to the library because I don’t have a card so today, when we visited the law library, I had to use my friends and she had to scan me out of the library with her card. This is a problem that is getting remedied but I’m not sure how long it will take as it means I can’t access the work we’ve done in the classes I have had so far.

Aside from not having a University card, my first week in Belgium has been interesting. I have met all my flatmates now who are all lovely, we’ve had our first flat meeting and we’ve had our first meal together which was cooked by one of them (I’m cooking veggie cottage pie with another flatmate on Thursday!) I think it’s really cool that I live in a family community. There is so much planned for us to do together which is pretty awesome and I am looking forward to it. I also hope I can do some traveling in the near future, (although it probably won’t be anytime soon) outside the city I am currently in and perhaps other countries (although this costs a lot so this is not definitive) as it does sometimes feel like a bubble but nonetheless, I love the student city feel, it reminds me of some University cities but on a smaller scale.

I’ve been trying to get into the way of life here, especially the way of life in a Kot. One of the highs of Belgian life is definitely the food. I tried my first waffle the other day, it was smothered in Nutella and it was delightful – I will definitely be having more in the future, no doubt. I also tried this really lovely pain filled with raisins and sugar courtesy of my flatmate (I must find out the name)! I’m also hoping to sign up to sports and basically do anything I haven’t had a chance to do yet and really take advantage of this year abroad.

Another way in which I’ve been trying to assimilate into the way of life is by opening a bank account, which for those of you wondering is straightforward to a large extent. Having said this, booking an appointment wasn’t. I had the impression that I had already booked an appointment before I arrived because I spoke to someone who told me the time and day my appointment was but once I arrived at the bank they said the opposite and that in fact I hadn’t booked an appointment or made it clear what time and date I wanted an appointment. Anywho, what I’m trying to say is get it written down on paper kids. Nothing is concrete if it isn’t on paper because word of mouth isn’t enough and that’s true for all circumstances. Nevertheless, I now have a Belgian bank account and it’s definitely going to make buying things in the shop easier as well as paying my rent a lot easier, which, by the way, is not all inclusive like in student accommodation in the UK if you were wondering.

I had my first lecture on a Saturday at 9am! It was tiring but I met two French people who are on exchange here who I can speak French with. Depending on how you see it, they don’t speak English apart from a few words here and there. I must say, I am having moments where I can’t construct sentences that make sense in English at the first attempt so I guess my French is getting better (well I’d like to hope so, anyway). I hope to start formal French classes with a teacher soon as soon as I’ve taken the competency test (I thought I’d done enough tests, bah non). Until then, it’s just me and my grammar books plus the help of my flatmates. When all my flatmates are in one room speaking it’s definitely daunting to speak and I don’t always understand what is said but confidence and skill only come with practice and time so I’m going to keep pressing on. I’ve also started using the most common phrases my flatmates use and recognising the numbers 70 and 90, the Belgian way. I live with a French person here and he completely disagrees with some of the Belgian jargon – I find it amusing to see the differences. I also think I’m starting to recognise the varying accents between French and Belgians, although for now I still think they are quite minuscule. I have however met someone from Quebec and no doubt there is really a difference between the quebecois accent and the european french accent; that I cannot deny!

Exodus 4: 10- 12

10 But Moses pleaded, “O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me, for I have a speech impediment.”[a]

11 “Who makes mouths?” Jehovah asked him. “Isn’t it I, the Lord? Who makes a man so that he can speak or not speak, see or not see, hear or not hear? 12 Now go ahead and do as I tell you, for I will help you to speak well, and I will tell you what to say.”

Prayer points

  • Please pray that I become more confident with speaking French and believe in myself as others believe in me.
  • Please also pray that I will get my University card soon so i don’t get behind in Uni work.

A yellow raincoat, two heavy suitcases and a Eurostar later…#2

I have finally touched down in Belgium. I left my hometown really early in the morning to catch a train into London, took the tube and then took the Eurostar which, by the way, is pretty smooth sailing!

I must say it was pretty emotional when I was going through security as my friend could not go with me (obviously) and so I had to heave my suitcases onto a large box myself which lay on a conveyer belt to be scanned. Then I went through Passport control which, if you’ve taken the Eurostar where I have is a short distance from security. At last, I was sitting in the lounge waiting for the platform to be called.

Up until I actually got into Belgium everything was straightforward. The problem only arose once I’d arrived in Belgium. I suddenly had to switch into French and find my way out of Brussels into the town I am currently in. It should be noted, trying to deal with two heavy suitcases plus a heavy rucksack is not easy but the people of Belgium are super friendly and everyone wanted to help me with my luggage which I found strange but also comforting.

Language was definitely something I found difficult to adjust to( I’m still having difficulties) and on my way to the town I currently live in I actually had to text my sister and call my brother so that they could find out the word for ‘yellow’. I know you probably think that’s crazy, but that is the word I needed to describe to my flatmate so that she could find me (I was wearing a yellow raincoat). I had no internet at the time which isn’t Three’s fault but something technical on the phone’s operations, so I couldn’t do that myself (kind of embarrasing if you ask me). Nevertheless, I had the loveliest welcome. My flatmate, who is Belgian, met me at the train station and carried one of my luggage for me all the way back to the Kot which is where I am living.

She took me shopping that evening for food to eat at breakfast and at lunch and gave me a little tour of the city, in particular, the train station, the faculty I am in, the library and the bus station. I slept in her room on a matress because I arrived late and the services de logement was closed. That evening, however, we just got to know each other and ended up talking about movies we’d watched and ones we hadn’t watched. I told her I hadn’t read the ‘arry Potter series (hehe) or even really watched the movies and she was absolutely shocked (she’s not the only one by the way, another flatmate was shocked too). Apparently, Harry Potter is a big deal here – who knew?! We ended up watching The Holiday that evening which has Cameron Diaz in it and until then I’d never heard or seen the movie. It’s not exactly something I would pick to watch but she said it was a good movie so fin, c’est bon. 

As of yet, I haven’t had any lessons, we’ve had a welcome presentation which included lovely cakes and drinks. We also had a welcome stall which is TOTALLY different to what you would find in the UK. I would say over here, the stalls are few and far between and it has made me really appreciate freshers week and how much UK Universities actually do for their students. Nonetheless, I just love that they are making so much effort to welcome us and encouraging us to get stuck into things.

I am also really grateful that I found the Kot I am currently in. My flatmates are incredibly friendly and very patient, despite the fact I make errors and I am corrected. I have certainly made many faux pas already, par exemple, the day I met my flatmate she suggested that we go to the shop the next day and buy a duvet and pillow. She said coussin, I must have misheard her because I got excited and said oui demain je vais acheter un couteau or something along those lines. Let’s just say she had a shocked look on her face and kind of laughed (I hope). For those of you who don’t know what it is, un couteau is a knife.

Everyone I live with speaks french, either because they are from France or they are Belgian and speak French – this is exactly what I wanted. It does get overwhelming, however, I must say (it’s evident on my face)! It also means the only chance I get to speak English is with my family or my friends also on their year abroad, at my university or elsewhere – that is in my room. As soon as I leave my room, English gets left behind. I am hoping that this will force me to m’etraine my grammar and vocabulary but without a student card I can’t access a uni computer or go to the library donc en fait, je suis coincé. I am trying to think positively as I know all things will work out for my good.

That’s a story for another time though. Keep an eye out 😉

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

PRAYERS

Please pray that I find a place to fellowship and make Goldy friends.