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”

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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.

 

 

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.

And the praise is Yours

This post has one objective, it is to praise God and extol His holy name.

It is currently T minus 9 mins to 12 midnight (this post will probably go up sometime after that) and I wanted to write this post because the Lord has done so much for me regarding my personal and professional life. I would not personally consider myself to consistently read my Bible or always pray, although I aim to do both more times than not (that is every day – both morning and evening).

When I first started University, my faith in God was not very grounded. I used to go to Church because my parents did and my relationship with God was mainly vicariously through them. After flying the nest however and joining a church where I go to University, I have gotten stuck into the life of the Church – not simply being a spectator but actively participating in building the kingdom of God.

In all honesty, being away from my family makes me realise that my relationship with God does existent because when I am not with my family, to me I am with God and Him and I have the opportunity to be with one another. In essence, I feel like when I am by myself, I can have quiet time with myself and God all the time. The same cannot be said when I come back home however and the issue I have come to realise is my overreliance on my family’s faith rather than my own.

This is silly because God has done so much for me when I have been attentive to him, where I have served and when I have given. God’s blessings are immeasurable. All the blessings that have come my way are because of Him. Therefore all the glory and praise are His. He is the rock on which I stand, my joy and comfort.

Two sermons ago my Pastor mentioned the fact that as a church we should feel a heaviness or disappointment when someone who was unable to witness the love of God passes away. She is right in that from what I have experienced of the love and grace of God, I could not imagine my life any other way. In fact, I often speak to the Holy Spirit when I am walking out in public and there is nobody else I could ever speak to the way I do or trust the way I do the Holy Spirit.

Though I do sometimes forget to read my Bible or pray, I am always praising God and worshiping through song. Not a day goes by when I will not listen to or sing Christian music. I love Jesus and no power of hell or scheme of man will pluck me from His hand.

Please let me know about your experiences finding God for yourself, let me know if you do not know Him or whether you are still finding Him.

 

You are what you say you are…

…life and death lie in the power of the tongue.

This statement will eternally be true. I am a culprit of forgetting the significance of this statement because it is so easy to self-criticise even when you do not think that is what you are doing.

I have often found that I speak down on myself even without realising whether it is a passing comment or accepting what other people say about me. But I have realised that this has taken a toll on my self -confidence and it needs to stop.

For instance, I’lll say that I can’t do something and then laugh and shrug it off but really this is ridiculous. Why can’t i do it? I give no reasons whatsoever but just come to conclusions. I do it so often now that it has become a habit and not only is it annoying for me but it must also be annoying for those that have to listen to me complain all the time.

Every week i tell myself i’ll be better, that I won’t be so negative and it’s really difficult because i have grown accustomed to this behaviour, but I say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. There comes a point where you realise that you should not be relying on other people to pick you up and be your cheerleader but that you have to do that yourself. I am starting today – by loving myself!

I have been destroying myself with self-doubt and pity while everyone else is living their own life and not realising that it is the enemy of progression.

No one ever became what they wanted to be without believing that they could do it and even in the face of doubt they always professed that they would be able to do it. This is the mentality I am hoping to adopt for the rest of the year and beyond.

It is not about what the grade said, how your friends or teachers looked at you, it’s not about not understanding something. It’s all up to YOU and your mindset whether you achieve the best grade you possibly can, whether you ignore those looks and comments and go after your dreams or whether you choose to understand the concept.

I pray to God that he will help me!

Signs God has blessed you

I think it’s important every so often to sit down and ponder why you’re loved and blessed because with the stresses of day to day life you can get warped in and forget that your heavenly father’s got your back. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t give up and when you are feeling down remember (when I am I will look back at this post);

  1. You’re alive
  2. You can experience life whether through all senses or only some
  3. You have breath
  4. You have friends/family or someone who cares enough to speak to you and/or give you the time of day
  5. You’re beautiful inside and out and you’re wonderfully made
  6. God picked this place and time for you because he knew that you would be powerful in affecting this generation
  7. The world would not be the same without you
  8. You’re strong and brave
  9. God thinks you’re perfect and special and he loves you
  10. Jesus died for you.

Being ill sucks

I haven’t been on here for a while because i’ve been busy revising for my forthcoming exams that i recently took formal mocks for. For this reason, i may not visit my blog as frequently as i have been doing or the past few months. I’ve taken a break from studying and although i really should get up and get some exercise, i’m sitting in front of my laptop about to complain about why being ill sucks.

It really does suck.

The onset of a cold is just as bad

I started off with a sore throat which is the worst because you can’t swallow without feeling pain, you try to drink tea to help soothe your throat. You take lozenges in the hopes it will magically disappear.

The thing is i try and boost my immune system all the time. I eat lots of fruit and veg a day and take vitamins and minerals. In fact last week i went on a smoothie spree and had fruit smoothies everyday for breakfast

The other horrible thing about being ill is the fact that you can’t breathe properly and have to breathe out your mouth like a dog.
Sleeping is impossible and you wake up feelling like there is an endless amount of mucus congested in your sinuses! (i’m soo sorry for the horrid image)

When i’m ill, i can’t taste a thing which doesn’t help when i want to snack. For example, i just ate a packet of ready salted crisps and i didn’t taste the salt.

The worst thing about being ill however it’s how having influenza drains your energy. You use up too much energy coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose that you don’t then realise how drained you are and every task seems like a massive effort- even getting out of bed to get breakfast.

I tried to write an essay which was supposed to last just 45 mins and ended up using an 1 and 15 mins to do this.

Finally, you just feel horrible and ugly and you wish it would go away.

I seriously don’t know what is wrong with my immune system. I get ill soo easily and its soo annoying. I envy those who never get ill.

It sucks.

The most annoying part is i always seem to be ill at the end of term and beginning of holidays, like easter break (right now)

But while i complain about a cold which some may say is trivial, i do acknowledge the fact that some people have debilitating illnesses which don’t go away in a week or so.

For this reason, i am thankful to God.

I can’t even study properly but i’m pushing through because i know where i want to be and nothing’s going to stop me. Amen