I’ve been in Belgium now for just under a week. Some days have been spent at home watching tv in bed and others have been spend adventuring. I’ve been trying to acclimate myself little by little, so this is a perfect pace for me.
First things first. It turns out that I’ve been living under a bit of a rock. I’ve never needed more knowledge than I already possessed to get by in Canada. I felt cultured for having lived in more than one province and knowing bits and pieces about other cultures around the world. I never took learning a second language seriously because unless I was moving to Quebec there wasn’t really a need for it. These are all great examples of things that didn’t help me at all once I left the country. Maybe that’s why the first few days hit me so hard.
The first couple of days were sunny and warm, full of small walks, barbecues and getting settled in. On Monday we went into the nearby city of Gent, which was a very mixed experience. The city is beautiful and seems to stretch on forever. There are no shortages of beautiful buildings, new places to eat or things to try. The trams and buses run through the streets as bicyclers weave through the pedestrians. I had never seen anything quite like it.
The less pleasant part of the day came from the simplest task in the world. I wanted to buy something. I had made it the entire weekend without having to interact with a stranger but I knew that it wasn’t going to last. The cashier seemed to be off in space, so I thought I could pass her a large bill, take my stuff and say thanks. No big deal. When I got up there, the cashier asked me a question and I froze like a deer in headlights. All she wanted was to know if I have four cents to even out the change, but I had NO IDEA what she wanted. I couldn’t function, I just stood there. Luckily my boyfriend stepped in and handled it. I was mortified.
As we were walking away it occurred to me that while I was spending time with Rosetta Stone learning colours and numbers, I had completely ignored things that would have actually been useful. I didn’t know how to ask “Do you speak English” in Flemish. Forget the fact that I could have just asked in English and she probably would have at least understood that I couldn’t speak in Flemish. So naturally I got really upset and was inconsolable about not being fluent in the language. We did travel into Gent again today and I managed to buy a couple things without turning into a giant idiot, although I still mumble like a shy child. I figure a few more interactions and I might stop stress sweating while waiting in line.
The disclaimer is this: I’m having an awesome time and I realize that some of this post makes me seem like I’m not. I totally am. However some of that awesome time involves relearning how to use a washing machine, finding where to cross the road and how to pay for a can of pop. I consider myself highly independent, and it’s been very strange to lose a lot of that in the shuffle.
This weekend we head to Antwerp to a store called FNAC. My boyfriend is helping with a little event at the store and I get to roam around the store during that time. We found a FNAC store in Gent today and went inside to take a look. I am SO EXCITED to spend hours in this store, I can’t even describe it. The place is full of books, board games, electronics and comics. There’s an English book section, and at first glance the prices are way better than in Canada. I cannot WAIT to be let lose in this store. They have no idea what they’re in for.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Safe travels friends!