My Kot birthday*, Mother’s day and BLOCUS (2) #13

Hey there are all! I thought I would take some time before another busy week of studying to keep you updated on what has been going on and what is currently going on here in Belgium. This is likely to be the last blog post until after exams.

Kot birthday party 

One of the really cool and fun things we do here in the Kot is to celebrate each other’s birthdays. We have officially celebrated about 15 – 17 birthdays throughout the year, and sometimes without the birthday individual knowing anything about it. So on Thursday 10th May, my flatmates surprised me with an early birthday party*, along with another flatmate. The funny thing is, I knew it was coming because there were only a handful of birthdays left to celebrate and it was the last week of lectures before blocus. Nevertheless, I am really contente avec tous les mots attentionnés written in my card, for spending time with them, and also for my gifts.

We were all eating food together in the kitchen and I just felt everybody was acting super weird around me. Suddenly, one of my flatmates comes down with candles atop tortilla wraps (don’t ask!) (that night my flatmates were eating wraps, they really weren’t actually eating anything because there were no wraps yet haha!), singing joyeux anniversaire.

The night was donned with a slumber party in the living room,  all of us in pyjamas and Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, although I could not make it through the second film. We ate cake and had a pillow fight, it was dingue! 

Petites réflexions 

Before I came on this year abroad, I was incredibly worried about living with nine other people. I was told there were only three toilets and three showers, and I was freaking out! In reality, I have neither had to wait to use the toilet nor the shower. It’s true that living with so many flatmates can be challenging, there are multiple different personalities living under one roof,  a variety of values and morals, and of course interests. It hasn’t always been easy to integrate into the life of the kot seeing as I am rather an introverted person, and there have been times where I have refused to participate in activities but there really is no judgement, and I am quickly encouraged to join in on the next activity. Mon français vachement improved during my time here, although of course I still make mistakes every day and I am still considered the etrangère (Shoutout to The Stranger by Albert Camus, simply because of the title). I have still not had a dream in french, so I don’t know what this says about my french abilities.

As I near the end of my stay here in Belgium (and I know because I have already received a couple of emails letting me know this, thanks a lot!), I am treasuring conversations with my flatmates at half 11 at night about hair struggles, laughing out loud for no reason with another, speaking to another flatmate about the world cup (and how according to one flatmate, France is likely to win) (TOUCHWOOD! For his sake), or playing board games and debating some polemic subjects with another. It can sometimes be challenging to continue to speak french when most of your flatmates have gone home in order to study, and you too are studying. I have found that going to the library, while it may not appear to be very social, is more social than staying home all day. I have had opportunities to interact with people. And above all, hear french speakers and listen in on their conversations *rubs palms*.  I have also found going to Zumba to be rather enjoyable and a good way to hear french being spoken.

La fête des mères

Mother’s day or la fête des mères here in Belgium was 13th May, unlike in the UK,  where we solemnize it in march.

I spent the day in church where the youth had to take the service. I read psalm 139 because I felt it spoke profoundly about God’s creation, the promises that God has for us and of course about mothers!

I played my flute that day, a piece called Parce qu’il vit which translates in English as ‘Because He lives‘.

Slight detour…

I had my last flute lesson a couple of weeks ago and my teacher and I played ‘He’s a pirate‘ which features in Pirates of the Carribean together. I have also been learning Badinerie by Bach among other pieces. Speed still continues to be an issue for me, and I am using my trusted metronome to keep in time with the speed.

No longer having flute lessons has put things into perspective. In less than a month, I will be leaving Belgium for other adventures! I am expectant to see what God has in store for me.

…and we’re back!

The sermon at Church was about honouring your parents and it got me thinking about the relationship I have with my parents, but also the relationship I have with other people, and what ways I honour them.  I am learning that honouring is about respect, and as I recently read in 1 Corinthians 10:24. It is not about seeking your own good, but the good of others.

Blocus (2)

So this is blocus… and what have you done?! Another day over, a new day of studying just begun. Hahaha, I’m laughing while writing that. Side note – how are we already in June?! :O

Blocus as mentioned in a post precedent to this one, is a time where students study just before upcoming exams. In the previous post, I mentioned that blocus was ‘cramming’. I think it depends on who you are to be honest. Upon careful reflection, I would like to renege this opinion about blocus. Blocus is…. study leave. It literally is just that, it is two weeks (for me three) of no lectures and study time. You’ll often hear as you walk around, bon blocus, eh courage uhn with a wave of a fist. What solidarity among students on campus, I love it!

I have four exams and will officially finish on 22nd June with my first oral exam in Belgium on religion in Europe. Exciting times ahead!

For all of you with exams, courage!  C’est la dernière ligne droite! For those of you who have finished, congratulations, you did it, you made it, now go enjoy yourself!

 

Please pray for 

My four exams, especially the speaking exam

My last few weeks in Belgium and the people I spend it with

My church here in Belgium as I part

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

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Exam results, (finally) receiving my student card, and Festival de la Lumière #11

Hallo liebe leute! I hope you are all well. I am now well into my second semester here in Belgium and it’s definitely going faster than my first semester. I am taking modules which I think are a little more challenging than first semester, including; Introduction au droit islamique, Religion, droit et sociétés en Europe, Introduction au droit de l’Union Européenne et Expression écrite (français). At the end of this semester, I will have done 41 credits in total – I was only supposed to do 30 but the rules here mean that an average student has to do 20 credits per semester. When I told my coordinator that I was only to do 30 in the whole academic year she literally said that it would not be possible. It has meant that I have lessons pretty much everyday of the week except for Fridays.

Second semester

Do I think my French is improving?

Yes and no. To a large extent, yes but it is easy to get comfortable and not challenge yourself to read more or take more opportunities to talk about different subjects. I am hoping to do this more in second semester

Exam results

I have received my exam results and give glory to God that I can say I passed all my exams!

My student card is finally here… and it’s about time

My student card was ready for collection on 1st March 2018. That made it almost six months without a student card. During this time I have been using an official university letter to demonstrate my status as a student and thus my right to enter the library and use their resources. It has been horrible the last few months to be looked at as an illegitimate student because of the lack of my card.

Taking exams was painful. I couldn’t sit the French placement test at the start of the year because I didn’t have a student card. For my formative exams,I was the only one with a bit of paper on my desk while everyone had their card (s).

Moreover, it has meant that doing sport was more complicated too. I had bought my membership to do sport here but since I didn’t have my card, I was unable to get my membership attached to my card. In fact, it is a tiny strip at the top of the card which verifies that you have payed for your sports membership and can, therefore, do sport. While I did renew this paper two times once it had run out, I became tired of making the journey to go and have my card renewed so I would attend sport events with an out of date provisional sports permit (just a piece of paper that confirmed my payment for membership).

After many trips to and from the service des inscriptions over this time, a few telephone calls, trying to explain in my best french what was going in and my frustration about it and retaking my student photo, I finally have my student card. But why did it take so long you ask?

The story sort of goes back to May 2017. I sent my photos in back in May 2017 in the hope that my card would be ready for September. In reality, I didn’t need to send my photo in that early because it never takes four months to print a card with a few details on it. Nevertheless, I did so.

When I arrived here in September I was told that my card wasn’t ready from the law faculty and at first it wasn’t explained to me why that was. I ended up going to service des incsriptions and asking them whether they had my card. They told me they didn’t have my card because they had lost the pictures. So, I decided to go and take new pictures (which by the way they didn’t reimburse). I handed these in and was told it would take ten days to receive my card and I should look out for an email. I never received this email after ten days. So thus, really began my journey toing and froing from service des inscriptions. It was only a few weeks later at my next visit that I was told they now couldn’t find my second pictures (what?!). By this point I was furious – how could the Belgian administration have not only lost my first picture buy also my second picture (or so they had led me to believe)? They kept asking me who I gave my second pictures into and I told them to one of their personnel. I think they eventually found the pictures but it was long after the ten days I was advised and long after I had lost the will for a card (from what i have understood, the pictures were with the card making factory but they never used my new picture – they used the old one?!) -_-.

Once I went to service des inscriptions and was told that my card had been commodé but had been annulled because the background in my picture was grey instead of white. I told them that in any case, I took new pictures that were better than the first and handed those in to be used instead. Despite explaining this to them I think they never had any idea where my photos were and the original was always only on the system. During this time I was using a piece of paper to enter and leave the library often having to queue up to ask to be let out of the library. My mum became angry and so did I. She didn’t believe this was happening and asked me multiple times to go speak to somebody higher up. But that’s the problem – who knows who really is higher up?

Eventually, I went back to service des inscriptions after still receiving the excuse that the background of my card was grey instead of white and therefore couldn’t be used. It was now February. I told them (in English) that I had been waiting five months for my card. That I had to enter the library with a note and couldn’t really be a student. I told them that the background issue really couldn’t be used as an excuse anymore because I had been waiting since September and only had a few months to go before going back to the UK. It was only at that point that they sought to make my card as soon as possible again letting me know that my card would be ready soon and I would receive an email from them.

I never received an email from them. I received an email from my coordinatrice to let me know my cards had arrived. Was I happy? Umm, this day was already long overdue. I was appreciative to finally have my card but I was upset that it had taken so long and I was annoyed at the lack of communication from the Belgian administration in relation to the wherabouts of my card. Despite this, I think this experience has taught me how to be angry in french but also how to be patient and resilient in the face of nonsense.

Thank you for everyone who was praying for me to receive my student card.

Festival de la lumière

This is an outdoors event organised by my kot and other kots here in Belgium and is sponsored by the local Parish. The aim really is to bring together students here regardless of their background (religious or not) for an evening together with crêpes and mulled wine and Rock and Folk dancing.

The evening was really enjoyable and I must say eventually rock and folk dancing was interesting too. It was really cold, however, maybe -6 so I didn’t stay out too long for fear my toes and fingers would freeze. My coat now smells like I have been smoking for a good 45 years because we had a few bonfires going to try and keep people as warm as possible and I was stood in the direction of where the wind was taking the residue from the fire. I can’t really complain though – all’s well that ends well.

Giving thanks

Please give thanks that I have finally received my card and for the start of a new semester, a chance to speak to (new) people about Jesus.

Please pray…

Please pray I will get stuck into more things while abroad and use this time I have to enjoy myself.

Please pray for God’s protection and guidance

I am doing a Holy Spirit challenge with my friend, please pray that the Holy Spirit communicates to me and that I am attentive to listen.

God is able – Hillsong

Bridge

‘God is with us
He will go before
He will never leave us
He will never leave us
God is for us
He has open arms
He will never fail us
He will never fail us’

Thank you for reading this blog and until next time

Exams and my experience at Taizé #10

Exams are all over, notes have been packed away and I have made a new timetable in preparation for Q2 which actually started a couple of days ago.

A few words on taking exams in Belgium first…

It is definitely an experience! I’ve found that taking exams in Belgium is definitely laxer than in the UK, hands down! Firstly, exams take place in lecture theatres (at least where I go to University). In my first exam, we were spaced out with maybe one or two workspaces between us. My worry was that someone could see over my shoulder for example and therefore see what I was writing. Moreover, the actual exam focuses on your ability to memorise information rather than produce a reflective response. In my whole philosophy exam, I think there was one to two questions that asked me to reflect on what we had done in the course and how this affects the future of mankind. In contrast, UK law exams, in any case, always ask you to analyse and debate an area of law rather than accept the law as it stands.

My other exams, aside from my French exam, was an open book multiple choice exam. Now you might be thinking the exam was quite easy but you’d be wrong. Firstly, because the questions were sometimes difficult to understand purely due to language. Secondly, because you actually lost marks for getting the wrong answer –  so guessing really isn’t encouraged. I must say that I am definitely quite critical of this form of examination. Don’t get me wrong, the exams are not easy at all, but at the same time, I feel that this sort of exam shouldn’t be featured at Universities as an and of module formative exam. Having said this, as an Erasmus student an open book multiple choice exam seems like a dream when compared to written exams.

In Belgium, as in France, exam results are out of 20 points. Here, a 10 is a pass. It is truly interesting to see the differences between the grading systems. Having spoken to some people here, it is clear that the aim, for the most part, is to pass. For others, it is to pass well. In the UK, this isn’t too different but with a percent system instead of a points system, I think it true to say that most students aim to pass well rather than just pass because the percentage attained often had implications on the degree classification.

Taizé

FYI : Taizé is the main project that this kot takes part in. So every January after exams they organise a trip for students to go to Taizé for the week.

Taizé is a small village in Burgundy in France where a group of Ecumenical brothers live and welcome people from all over the world to join them in prayer. I, along with my flatmates and a few others went after our exams at the end of January to the beginning of February.  There, we took part in three prayers a day and a bible study in the morning. The aim is ultimately to encourage kindness, peace, simplicity, and reconciliation.

This experience was not unknown to me as the prayers that take place in the Kot are that of Taizé but on a much smaller scale. The songs are normally a series of chants in a multitude of languages, often corresponding to the people present. The week in which I went there were a group of Belgians, a large group of Czech people and a group from the Netherlands and a few people from Germany so most of the songs sang were French, Czech, German or Dutch as well as Latin. The atmosphere is incredibly meditative and we are encouraged to remain in silence after l’Evangile’ (the reading of a passage from the Gospels). The form of praise and worship here was not one that I was used to, but nonetheless, as the week progressed I began to see the importance of the silence and I as I am sure others did too used it as a time of reflection and more importantly to pray for those who had sent me prayer requests. My only criticism of this experience is the fact that repetition of songs and actions can become mundane. For example, we could often sing one song about a dozen or more times before moving onto the next song. The risk here then is getting too comfortable with the lyrics and failing to consider their value and what they say of God. Consequently, singing becomes an exercise of voices – who can sing soprano, alto, tenor, and bass rather than praising God. I often like to listen to praise and worship songs that have two verses a chorus and bridge. Not to say that this is the only correct form of worship (as I learned it definitely isn’t), however, because the lyrics are different I am more likely to consider what they evoke.

Bible studies were incredibly enjoyable. Each day we had a passage to read often taken from the Gospels and in a mixed group of people from different countries we had to meditate over what we had read. It is always fascinating to see that the same passage can be interpreted in many different ways, each one shedding light on God’s word that bit more. Like a brother said, it is like looking at an object but from different directions.

Aside from bible study and prayers, the students are encouraged to do community work whether that be washing dishes, cleaning the barracks where we sleep or cleaning the toilets. Having said this, we had quite a lot of free time which we used to play games or meet new people. I met lots of Dutch and Czech people. With the Dutch people, I asked them to help me relearn dutch – it was both an embarassing and hilarious experience, but I definitely need to take it more seriously. It was lovely to meet so many people from different places and so it was sad to say goodbye at the end of the week. 😦

Time in silence

Towards the ending of the week we were all invited to take part in silence for the weekend. Not all agreed to it, but I and a few girls from the group we came in decided to do the weekend in silence. It was explained to us that silence does not necessarily mean outward silence but inner silence of the heart. Nevertheless, breakfast, lunch and dinner all took place in silence with classical music played in the background.

My time in silence was very much needed but It was also a really spiritual time in that there were questions I had asked and in one way or another they were answered. I was free to be creative with my time so spent some of it in nature, the other being creative and the rest in silence and meditation. I am very grateful for the time I had in silence. There are lots of things I need to pray about but I am looking forward to the future and I am glad I decided to go on this trip even though at first I was quite conflicted.

Revelation 3:20

‘Look! I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and enjoy fellowship with him and he with me.’

Please thank God for the end of 2017 and an enjoyable start to the year!

 

Cacahuète & Sinterklaas, Christmas dinners, GBU and BLOCUS #9

It is officially the end of my first semester here in Belgium. I will soon be heading back to celebrate the holidays with my family and friends. In fact, this will probably go up while I’m in transit.

It has been an incredible semester which included a lot of activities some of which I had done before and others which I had never done. Around this time of year, I often think about giving gifts to my family and friends and receiving them. Of spending time with them and eating lots of good food, but also of New Years resolutions. This year is not much different except that I am seeking to give to those I do not necessarily know (a cause I am interested in). I have started thinking about a lot of things, some of which are likely to be cliché but I am not mentioning them so that they are simply on paper and turn void in the new future, they are to help encourage me and push me to be a better person in many aspects of the word.

A lot of people this Christmas do not have a family, will not be sat around a Christmas tree, will not have the money to buy gifts and will not receive any – the list could go on. I am not only talking about those who live in third world countries, but simply those we see on a daily basis sat on the street, even those we believe have it all together. In reality, everyone has their problems even if they are not transparent. I was speaking to my flatmate and she was telling me about how her family of seven was welcoming refugees into their house who had no place to sleep for the night and would otherwise be vulnerable on the cold and dark streets of Belgium. She said something quite profound, she mentioned how we all want to help the refugee crisis but how many of us actually put out a helping hand? How many of us actually go out of our way to change someone’s life? She was absolutely right. Even Jesus makes mention of the fact that love is doing and performing our love out to others and not simply verbs thrown around about good intentions. This was a way her family could put their words into action and help someone out.

Moreover, though I knew this before, I never truly considered the amount of materialism we buy into each year at Christmas until I watched a video of a few girls opening about a dozen gifts (or more each), it has made me really think about the things I have at home that I do not use and the things I ask for, for birthdays and Christmas – the hunger in each of us for the newest bag, shoes, phone etc. It cannot be denied that materialism consumes us, that to some extent,  it is important but that we often fall into over-consumption. Perhaps we consider Christmas to be that one time of year where we can turn a blind eye to Matthew 6:19-21 which says ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal’ (we are then encouraged to store our treasures in heaven). It is this consumption that feeds our economy, but keeps the rich, richer and the poor, poorer (a little nugget of my philosophy class there)! I would like to say that I will no longer buy into materialism but that is impossible! Instead, I really want to heighten my awareness of the things I spend my money on and how much of it I spend, the organisations I spend my money on, and what they support. Here’s to positive materialism!

Should I go on about my reflections, I won’t have discussed any of the things I have intended to, so I shall leave my reflections here for now and instead talk about some of the cultural things I’ve got up to this Christmas time here in Belgium.

Cacahuète (if you try and look this up, the internet will tell you ‘nut’).

This is the much loved equivalent of secret santa. This year we each had the task of being someone’s secret santa, the spin, however, was that we were to be that person’s secret santa for the whole week. leaving them cute messages, showering them with chocolates or just generally being super nice to them without letting them know it is us. I had one of my flatmates whose nickname is Rexi.

So what did I do for her, you ask?

On the first day, I gave her a mandarin with a cute little message because she is super into her health and fitness and figured she could start off the week healthily. In contrast, I received a tupperware of M&M’s, a waffle and chocolate sticks (fyi, I now have an infinite reserve of M&M’s ! 😉 )

The second day i gave her a waffle and on it i wished her a wonderful day.

The third day was Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas is a national holiday celebrated in Belgium and other neighbouring countries. Sinterklaas is a patron saint for children who on la veille of 6th December comes to give chocolate, pepernoten and little gifts to (les petits jouets) for children. We celebrated this in the kot and I woke up to so many treats when I opened my door in the morning – I haven’t yet eaten them all!

On Thursday, the fourth day I gave her a banana because I knew she would be going to indoor training and bananas are good at giving slow releasing energy.

On the last day of the week I cut her name out of newspaper titles and stuck it on a piece of paper, found a lovely poem on the internet which was entitled her name and left it at her door.

I figured it was a rather successful week but she later told me at the Christmas dinner that she had guessed it was me because of a mini mistake I made – instead of saying à l’indoor training I said à indoor training. That little mistake on Thursday gave me away!

Needless to say, it was a really magical week and I think my written French is improving!

Christmas dinners

Once this post goes up, I will have had my second Christmas dinner. One with the Kot and the other with the Protestant Church. At both, I had a splendid time.

With the Kot I had my very first raclette. A raclette is a large cooking utensil on which you can fry meat, vegetables and sizzle cheese. This Belgian specialty can be eaten with potatoes. It’s sort of a Sunday roast but without all the hassle because everyone just makes their own meal which I think is super cool. We also shared gifts and after a mini prank* by my cacahuète on me, I received THE best gift I could ever have gotten – a beanie hat with ‘Belgium’ knitted on it.

*My flatmate gave me a large box of bags within bags, within bags. These bags were of meat industries such as the local Quick or the butchers etc (even though he is aware I do not eat meat). I then unwrap everything and find a kinder surprise egg, inside of which is a note which reads ‘I kidding you’. I laughed so much! It was so well thought out because of an inside joke we have going on.

The Christmas dinner at Church was equally lovely. I played Christmas songs on my flute – my first live performance! It was sprinkled with errors and I was very much embarrassed but musicians all had to start from somewhere! If anything, I am proud of myself for taking the initiative to play at Church – I do hope to be better in the future. And, if it makes me feel better, a church member said she didn’t hear my mistakes!

GBU

The last GBU meeting of the semester is over and it ended on a HIGH!

We decided it would be a good idea to go out and approach people, the same way Jesus did. Christmas means a lot of different things to different people and we wanted to get a general consensus of what people believed Christmas to be about. So, we went out with our surveys and asked around – we also offered food (gaufres, of course).

It was clear that almost everyone had had a religious education at some point in their life but they had not necessarily considered why a man would come to earth to die for them. A lot of people believed that Christmas was a holiday to party or for family even Christmas carols. this is not to say that people did not recognise Jesus as a phenomenal man but they were detached to any understanding of him because he just doesn’t seem to be relevant in this day and age. Society has bought into the commercialisation of Christmas so much, we really do not even know why we celebrate Christmas anymore when we are plainly asked the question. This is really what my philosophy course is touching on (have I mentioned I’m a big fan of philosophy?). The paradox that we are all unfortunately trapped in – the fact we don’t really know why we’re doing what we are doing even though we think we do.

While taking down our stand and preparing to head back to base, a young man approached us. I started speaking French to him and asked him if he would like to take part in the survey, but he didn’t speak French. I decided to switch to English but he didn’t speak English either – he spoke Swedish. It must have been less than 10 seconds later when another guy approached us and the two realised they had something in common; they both spoke Swedish. Get this, however, they do not know each other at all. This matrix of events was absolutely amazing to see. I started to ask the questions to the second guy in French, who would translate it in Swedish to the first guy and feedback his response in French, all while simultaneously taking the survey himself. It was phenomenal.

BLOCUS.. dun dun dun! (1)

BLOCUS is here, in Belgium right now, every other sentence a student will say will have the word blocus in it. If you try and search this word up, you won’t be able to find a meaning because it really has no meaning. It means ‘cramming’. The time in which study for upcoming exams. Unlike in the UK where I generally have four weeks holiday, here blocus is….. two weeks!

Fear not, for I have already started revision – two weeks is not enough for me! Not when I have to learn information in another language.

 

 

So that’s all from me for now. I’ve just said my ‘see ya soon’s’ to my flatmates who are all leaving one by one. This semester has been everything I could have ever wanted.

I am also partaking in blocus this Christmas time and so I will be taking a hiatus from blogging until my exams are over. I wish you all an amazing Christmas, filled with love joy, compassion and empathy and God willing, a Happy and enriched New Year. Repose bien as they say here 😉

Psalm 100:4

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

Entrez dans ses portes avec des louanges, Dans ses parvis avec des cantiques! Célébrez-le, bénissez son nom!

Please pray for;

  • Safe journeys for all who are traveling home this Christmas
  • Please pray for those taking exams in January
  • Please pray for wise materialism
  • Most importantly please pray for those who do not have a family and will be spending Christmas alone
  • Pray we are empathetic and helpful in our actions and words towards others

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! 🙂

 

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