Twas the night before…uh, what day is it again?

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Not being catholic and therefore knowing nothing about saints, I always assumed good ol’ St. Nick and Santa Claus were the same guy. In essence they sort of are…in the sense that Santa Clause (or Père Noël) is based on a real guy; St. Nicolas de Myrne (from Turkey). He is the patron saint and protector of children (and students) as well as the Lorraine region of France. 3 weeks before Christmas Eve, that magical night when Santa Clause flies around the world with his magical reindeer and sack full of toys*, St. Nicholas comes around with his sack of toys on his trusty donkey accompanied by Père Fouettard who hands out rotten apples and things to all the naughty children.

December 6th is his day and like Christmas Eve, the eve of the 5th holds a special tradition. All the traditions you know that go with Santa Clause are very similar to St. Nicholas – since the inspiration for SC was the real man. Of course, as with any legend, the stories of St. Nicholas are highly exaggerated, but they do hold a little grain of truth. He was a kind and generous man (Nicholas of Myrne) and the legends reflect that.

St. Nicolas and his trusty steed preparing to reward all the good children of the world.

Like the tradition of hanging stockings on the mantel, for St. Nicholas shoes are placed by the chimney; if you don’t have one you would place your shoes by the door or your bed. Along with the shoes is placed a carrot and some sugar for the donkey, and a glass of wine (or other spirits/drinks depending on the region) for St. Nicholas to help him stay warm. You know the Knight tent I mentioned before? Well, that was one of Bastien’s St. Nicholas gifts. Children get gifts on the 6th of December from him. Then 3 weeks later Père Noël comes along with more. Of course, not every family celebrates both, but these are the two traditions. Santa Clause is the more Americanized version, totally commercial, where St. Nicholas is based on a religious figure. He was a Turkish bishop.

All is in readiness for St. Nicolas' arrival.

Originally – and you may have seen pictures of this, I know I have – Santa Clause was dressed in green. So as not to be confused with St. Nicholas. Those of us in North America anyway will know him best as that jolly fat man with his snow-white beard and hair dressed in red with white trim and black belt and boots. According to the paper my teacher handed to us the tradition of the red clothes can be attributed to the Coca Cola company and their Coke ads around Christmas. I guess they decided he should be dressed in red and white to match their colours?

There’s also a song that children sing telling St. Nicholas to come, they’ll be good so he’ll bring them candy, come and visit them. I got a video of the last half of it when Bastien, Adeline, and Greg were singing it. It’s amazing the things you learn when you’re away from home ;).

In other news, I think Bastien is feeling a bit better tonight. He had a fever today, he was really, really warm. Once that broke looked a lot better. I guess he couldn’t keep his dinner down, but when I got home from class he was playing and was actually pretty rowdy. He did sleep a lot today, I guess he really needed it. You can tell he was actually sick because he was feeling too crappy to misbehave. He had a nap this morning, and again this afternoon. After a little he came downstairs, but I said it was really important that he get as much rest as possible and he didn’t fight me, but went back upstairs and to sleep.

I realized today that I only have to more French classes left. The 19th is my last one. Class was cancelled last week because my teacher’s granddaughter was born last Monday. So today Madame Colette brought in gummies and Smarties to celebrate that, and the Ferrero Rochers, clementines, nick-nacks, and chocolate covered marshmallow bars in honour of St. Nicolas. There were only 4 of us there today (actually, the 4 who are the most…competent in the class) so there was a lot of extra candy and we were told to take a lot. I took some extra gummies for Bastien because the doctor said he was supposed to have sugar, but no milk or chocolate. We talked about St. Nicolas and the tradition and then we did some grammar. It was a good class.

Oh! I keep forgetting. Sylvain can stand up on his own now, without wall, chair, or any other support. He’s making great progress and loves to walk around the house growling at things – especially the cat. He’ll go off, just wandering around, and then he’ll start walking back towards you and if you hold out your arms he’ll walk right into them and lay his head against you for a second…I think that’s his version of a hug/kiss. And he does all of it with a big smile on his face.

He's making a list, checking it twice... Or is that the other guy?

I guess we made it on the 'good' list. 😉

Sorry about the pictures…I’ll have to try to fix them later. The edit feature is not working :(.

*For those of you who choose to believe. Or if you just think it’s fun. ^_^

                                                                                                                        

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And so we begin again.

Happy Monday to everyone. I know you’re all so excited that the weekend’s over. I mean, who actually enjoys the weekend? 😛

I like to be early for things when possible. Lately I’ve been early for my French class. Today the teacher before hadn’t left yet and he asked us what we were there for etc, etc. Turns out he’s the English teacher! We talked a bit and even though he was talking to me in English I kept responding in French first. Just things like yes, no, and short answers, but it was funny.

We also had a student teacher named Stéfanie. She’ll also be there next week. I thought she did really well. We talked about making doctor’s appointments and symptoms for a cold or the flu. And verb conjugations and the like. She has a pretty good memory. All the names that she remembered – class was almost full today unlike the last couple of weeks.

This week I have to think of my posts for the weekend because I won’t be here. That’s right, I’ll be in London! It’s going to be odd to be somewhere where everyone will be speaking English all the time.

                                                                                                                      

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Wealth of information…especially since I have to translate it.

Because last week was a school holiday I didn’t have class on Halloween. It felt like it’s been forever since I’ve been to class, but in reality it’s only been two weeks. I find I’m actually enjoying it the more I understand. Which makes a lot of sense. Of course there are still things I don’t always pick up on, but with a little explanation it usually works out. Today we talked about la fête du mouton (sheep) or fête du sacrifice (‘Aïd al-Adha). About Abraham’s sacrifice. And about pilgrimages and such. Since this is an area I am totally unfamiliar with I learned a lot, as well as being able to add a few new French words to my vocabulary.

We also talked about l’Armistice on Friday November 11 (Remembrance Day in Canada). This was a subject I was a little more familiar with. Did you know that in Belgium (and I think France and maybe England as well) Nov. 11 is a holiday? No school, no work. I guess it makes more sense here than at home. I think that when it comes to remembrance the younger generations will have a harder time. The veterans that are still alive from the 2nd World War are getting older. Of course they are not the only war veterans we have, but the 1st and 2nd World Wars, I believe, affected us the most. At least over here you have monuments all over the place to give remembrance to what took place. Not so much back home. I want to try to get to Bastogne before I leave. There’s an American memorial there and there was an episode titled ‘Bastogne’ in Band of Brothers. It’s also in my The Best of Belgium book. Maybe I’ll try to go Friday.

Two weeks ago I told my teacher about going to Vimy and the fiasco with the car. I also mentioned Bruges and Ypres. She remembered and gave me an information booklet on the In Flanders Fields Museum. I didn’t see it when I was there, but then again, we were in a hurry. I will have to actually put effort into reading it as it’s in French ;). All the same it is a nice keepsake to have. I like to collect pamphlets from the places I’ve been. They serve multiple purposes – more proof that I was there, the pictures in them are better than the one’s I have, and they usually hold valuable information which I tend to forget or get mixed up.

Today was also the birthday of one of my classmates and she brought chocolates for everyone! How nice is that? Super nice. They were those chocolates that are shaped like sea shells, and star fish, and other sea things. Yum ^_^

                                                                                                                      

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Red sky night….

You know that saying ‘red sky morning sailor’s warning, red sky night sailor’s delight’? Well, if it hold true tomorrow should be beautiful! Not that it hasn’t been beautiful for days, but the sun tonight as it was setting was so bright red/orange and full. The sky around it was redish-pink and absolutely breathtaking. What a nice sight to drive home to. And then I got stuck behind a very slow-moving tractor and couldn’t pass because the road was very curvy. I ended up taking an alternative route when I was able to turn off and I beat the tractor! Go me.

Today was spent preparing for my presentation. Well, not the whole day. I wrote out the lyrics to two French songs from the L’orthographe en chansons CD that Adeline lent me. That’s basically ‘spelling in song’. It uses different dance beats/songs (mambo, rock, polka, march, cha-cha, conga, etc.) and each one highlights a different area of rules and spelling in French. Who ever put it together recognizes that French is horrendously difficult to spell and to remember all the rules so they put those rules and exceptions (because for every rule that might make life easier there are a whole list of exceptions that you have to remember) to music to help in remembering them. They’re so fun. I might have already mentioned them, it’s been a while that I’ve had access to this CD. I used the ‘Rock de la cédille’ and ‘Marche des Noms Féminins’ for my presentation. In the ‘Marche’ they have sections where a ‘kid’ (or what sound like one) is saying things like  ‘oh la la! How am I going to remember all of this? My head is full like the belly of a Buddha, and it’s going to explode!’. I find parts of these songs hilarious and highly entertaining. In my speaking part I introduced the songs and mentioned how using them could help with learning French (spelling and pronunciation), but you have to be careful when learning through song because the pronunciation for somethings may be different from when you’re actually speaking. You know, making words and rhythms match up and all that. Plus all the songs are fast so it takes many listenings to be able to sing along with parts of the songs. My teacher liked the CD so much she wants a copy. I think I put more effort (writing out the lyrics and colour coding the words) than was warranted for the presentation, but it was fun. What everyone else has to do (and I could have done) is pick an event from the pamphlet put out by the Cultural Centre in Hannut, give the details of said event and what you like about it/why you chose it. I totally did more work than necessary!

I didn’t have much interaction with the kids today. Bastien ate all his breakfast with minimal prompting. He even had seconds! He was very pleasant after school. Today his class made little green mice. I asked him if they sang ‘The Green Mouse’ song and he said yes. ‘Une souris verte’. Basically, as well as I can translate it, it goes like this”

A green mouse who is running through the grass. I trap it by the tail and show the men. The men tell me to dip it in oil. To dip it in water. It will be a snail, all hot! Then there is just a speaking in rhythm section. I put it in a drawer and it tells me it’s too dark. I put it in my hat and it tells me it’s too hot. I put it in my underwear (umm…) and it makes 3 little poops. 

It’s such a cute little song, but it doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe I’m missing something….. When I got home from class Bastien was already upstairs; he didn’t want to eat/didn’t like his food. Sylvain was just sitting in his high chair being his cute little self. Then Adeline got a banana and gave him some. He loved it. So did his hair. ^_^

So that’s it for today. I almost forgot! On the radio I heard ‘A Whole New World’. What stuck out at me was hearing Disney in French. It was just odd. For me. Of course if you grew up with that it wouldn’t be odd, but it was an odd experience today.

Adeline just brought me in a little bowl of mango. Oh how I love mango. Mango, mango, mango. Thank you Grandma Jean for introducing me to the wonder that is mango. It was a treat and something I only had at your house. I LOVE MANGO!

                                                                                                                      

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Activity sheets make for a happy Holly.

Woah. Oh man. I know some of you were expecting something “touristy” today, but it’s not gonna happen. I had a plan. Oh boy did I have a plan. I was going to come home after class and write about yesterday, then watch a movie. I’ve been sitting online for at least an hour and a half now answering emails, Facebook messages, and the odd blog comment here and there. If the stuff wasn’t important I wouldn’t have done it. Now I’m falling asleep at my desk. I really need to get up tomorrow for a walk (I’ve been very negligent, choosing much-needed sleep over fresh air and healthy exercise) which means I should go to bed. Now.

French class was pretty good today. We got more sheets to fill out (activity sheets). Some of it’s for homework, but I already did all of it – what was assigned and what wasn’t – during class. When it comes to talking I wouldn’t say I’m any further along then the rest. When it comes to writing freestyle, meh *shrug*. But when it comes to activity sheets – I’m a pro. Almost. These were easy. Madame Colette also had these pamphlets. She gave me and another women each one and said we were to pick something (a music group/event/etc) in it and present on it next class. She mentioned that everyone would be getting one so I don’t know if she’s only doing a couple of people each class or what. And when she handed me the last handout she said I could do something extra on it….was I the only one? I don’t know. At the end of class I told her about that French spelling CD Adeline showed me a while back and said if she was able to get access to a CD player maybe we could listen to some. She thought that was a great idea and said that I could present on that instead of picking something from the pamphlet if I wanted. I think with the pamphlet we’re just supposed to talk about what’s in it with the event we choose. But there’s not much there. I asked if we are supposed to research more and she said if we wanted we could so I don’t think the presentations are very long. I’m not sure exactly what she wants me to do with the spelling songs, so maybe I’ll prepare something for both (she said I could do that if I wanted) just to be safe. I have a whole week so I’ll think of something!

So I don’t know if she chose us two (Patricia is the other woman’s name and she’s originally from Amsterdam) first because of our level of ability or not. We were actually sitting at opposite ends of the room – her at the front on the right side, me at the back on the left so it wasn’t just convenience of picking two people side by side. In the end it doesn’t matter, I’m just a little curious is all.

                                                                                                                    

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A, B, C, D…

We were sort of under the impression that the French course hadn’t started yet because they didn’t have a teacher. Well, it’s the same teacher as last year so I don’t know what the hold up was. Last year the beginner class was on Monday nights. This year course A (beginner) is on Thursday nights. I have moved up to class B which is held on Mondays. So for me everything is the same minus some different classmates. They’re supposed to be at least 3 other people from my class last year that have moved up, but they weren’t there today. We basically went through introducing ourselves and we all had to make sure we paid attention because we were asked to repeat the answers when Madame Colette (I’m not sure if that’s how her name is spelled, but that’s what I’m sticking to) would ask us. Thankfully, including me, there were only 6 of us. We also went through numbers and the vocabulary for things like week, millennium, day after tomorrow, century, etc.

For me the most interesting part was when we were given a sheet that I had the International Phonetic Alphabet symbols. We also went over the alphabet. I had to read it through and this may seem like a very simple task, but when an ‘e’ is pronounced like the ‘oo’ in book, and ‘i’ is pronounced ‘e’, ‘j’ is a soft ‘ji’, and ‘g’ is a soft ‘jay’ it can get confusing. Of course I’ve said the alphabet in French many times in my life, but it’s been a while. I felt like I was back in 2nd year university sitting in my Vocal Diction class with Les De’Ath sounded out all the intricate vowel sounds that are foreign to English speakers. For the life of me I can never make the ‘u’ sound (IPA symbol ‘y’) properly. Ever. I’ve sung it countless times, I know what shape to make with my mouth (a tight ‘oh’ shape while saying ‘oo’ in book again…the symbol is an upside down ‘e’), but I can never get it right when I’m trying to speak. I think part of it is trying to get it to work with the ‘r’s, and the ‘oh’s and everything else. On its own as a sound I can do it, but in a word, forget it! It’s going to be the bane of my French forever.

Bastien also went to school today. He won’t be going tomorrow, or at all this week, and Adeline will be staying home as well. They’re both sick, sore throats and the like. I’m the only one who hasn’t gotten sick yet….what do I have an immune system made of steel or something? I don’t know, I just hope they all get better soon and I can still make it through without catching anything. I guess that Vitamin C is helping!

Today has been quite the day. I’ve smiled so much my cheeks hurt. Part of it was Sylvain. Even though he still cries when he has to go through all his chicken pox stuff I was able to get him laughing instead of crying and we had quite the gay old time. Plus with the blog award I was nominated for and everything – all the wonderful comments I’ve received from those I nominated and the new people I’ve connected with from being nominated myself, it’s just an amazing feeling. I realize not everything is all sunshine and rainbows in the blogging world, but I’m on a high right now and I don’t feel like coming down any time soon.

Thanks to all the old-faithfuls who continue to follow me through cyber space. Thanks to all my new connections for joining in my adventure and at the same time I’m excited to join you in yours. I hope everyone had as good a day as I did. Thanks for taking the time to visit!

                                                                                                                       

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What is with some of the people in my French class?!

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again; some people in my class talk a lot. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Holly talks a lot as well’, but not in class. Especially when people are trying to read through a paragraph and they’re having difficulties with pronunciation. The teacher tries to help them, but it’s hard for others (ie. me) to hear when people are taking among themselves or reading out loud as well. I try to listen because I know that I don’t pronounce everything right and if you hear something enough hopefully when it comes to you, you can do it right! Of course, I still make mistakes, everybody does, it’s just so frustrating at times.

There’s this women in my class who (at least in my opinion) acts as if the teacher is just talking to her (when we’re asked questions). She always answers (loudly) even if the teacher asks someone else specifically and when the teacher (I can’t remember he name! >_<) is explaining something this women usually understands quickly and she’s all ‘oui, oui, oui’, as if to say ‘you can stop explaining now’. The thing is, not everyone in the class is at the same level and does not understand as fast. This behaviour really bugs me. I guess I just needed a day to rant.

Noteworthy fact: There is a guy in my class – from Mexico – who has hair longer than mine. It almost goes all the way down to his butt! He sits right in front of me, so I notice. He usually has it back in an elastic, but he only puts it around twice, so it’s not very tight and comes loose. I don’t know if this is on purpose, but I always feel like grabbing his hair and putting that elastic around 3 times so it stays in! I think this comes from the fact that during my childhood my mother always had our hair out of our eyes and it was always done neatly. Usually in braids or ponytails, it was never really just down unless we had pictures or something special. Also bangs…I’ve rebelled as I’ve grown older (gotta stick with the styles, you know) and sometimes I let my bangs get in my face :O, but that would never have been allowed as a child. Not that I’m complaining. Brushing a kid’s hair after they’ve played outside all day and have leaves and grass and things in it is not easy…especially if they won’t sit still. I always sat still :).

Greg left for Berlin this morning for work. He’ll be back some time tomorrow. So I walked Bastien to school and Adeline dropped Sylvain off at Catherine’s (his babysitter) before heading off to work.

Other than that, nothing noteworthy happened today.

St. Valentin

What a lovely day for love. It rained. Almost all day…

Not that I really take much notice of Valentine’s Day per se, but in class today we talked about it, the history, how to say ‘I love you’ ‘j’ai taime’ in a bunch of different languages and got some chocolate. So that was a plus. I guess I really only spent any time thinking about it when I was in school. You know how in elementary school you have to make those heart-shaped pouches and valentine’s for everyone in your class and you fill up the pouches. That was fun. One year at Laurier I bought some candy grams for some friends (unless my brain is short circuiting and I dreamed that I did this) for either Valentine’s Day or Christmas. That’s about as much as I’ve ever done for Valentine’s Day.

I hope everyone had a great day, and not just because you could’ve received flowers and/or chocolate or maybe a stuffed bear.  ❤

Another day, another destiny…

Sorry about that. The title just came to me randomly. The words are – of course – lyrics to a musical theatre number. I believe it’s called ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables……..*Insert Jeopardy theme music here*………… I was right! YouTube and the world-wide web are great resources, just thought I’d point that out.

So Sylvain was up at 1am and 6am so Adeline was pretty tired this morning. I offered to take care of the Sylvain for her so she could sleep. After all, that’s what I’m here for! I had to give him some medicine and I fed him, other than that we chatted for a bit (I’m fluent in baby-talk, FYI) and he slept.

Also, I’m making my way trough season 2 of 4 of the show ‘Chuck’. It is my new favourite show. A spy show. It’s basically a mix of all the spy clichés possible put into one show. It’s kind of half comedy/half drama….maybe 60%-40% with the comedy coming out the winner. The show’s lead character Chuck provides comic relief in the face of danger and certain death (which never actually comes because his CIA and NSA handlers Sarah and Casey always save the day). I digress.

I see I have a couple comments! I shall sign off now so I can go read them. As far as my French class goes it was par for the course, nothing too unusual. We’re up two new members again. That means that when everyone is in attendance there are 14 of us! We’ve doubled in size since I joined.

Skype is a wonderful thing…most of the time.

And so ends the first month of this year of our Lord two-thousand and eleven. I didn’t really do much today except go to French class. I’m getting a little more comfortable in it and with the people. It seems like every class there’s someone new, so I’m no longer ‘the new one’. I’m the only native English speaker and there are 3 other girls who are the only one’s to speak their native language; one from Russia, one from Kenya, and one from Vietnam. For everyone else in the class there’s at least one other person who speaks their mother tongue! Although, quite a few of them speak a little English (for example, the 3 I give rides home to) so between French and English we make it through. Although I’m getting better at just relying on the French.

There’s this one guy (he’s married with children…don’t get any ideas) who jokes around a lot. We’ve been talking about food and nutrition the past few classes and he says he’s ham. Or a ham. Basically, he is a big ham :D. And people say women talk a lot! The guys don’t stop talking! They’re always joking around, it’s like elementary school all over again, but it’s fun. We all still learn and even though there is sometimes giggling when we try to pronounce things and do it wrong and have to try a million times (it happens to everyone), it’s all in good fun and we know that our turn for messing up will come! Everybody’s really friendly. I can’t remember everyone’s names yet, partly because the name part goes by fast, partly because they are names I’m not familiar with, and partly because everyone has some sort of accent that makes it hard for me to catch what is name and what is other stuff sometimes. And I wouldn’t even  know where to begin spelling the one’s I do sort of remember!

So basically, it’s becoming something that I can look forward too instead of be super nervous about.

Also, I just spent the last couple hours chatting with my friend Bronwyn via Skype. It’s amazing how time flies. We couldn’t use video because it said the internet connection wasn’t good enough. She said she doesn’t have very good internet, but it was still nice to hear her voice. So…By 9pm or so (3pm your time) I’m usually free. If you happen to be online and want to Skype with me look me up! I’m listed as living in Belgium. Just search my name and Belgium (Wasseiges) and you should find me!

I went for another walk today. I figured out the route I’ve been taking is about 5kms or so (give or take .5km). That’s a nice hour long trek to make a few times a week (everyday would be great!). I just stick in my headphones and off I go! It’s pretty chilly again, so I’ve got my hoodie tied up and my jacket hood and scarf and mits…the only thing I’m missing is my snow pants (that I was sort of considering because the wind gets pretty nippy…but there’s no snow). It really feels like it takes no time at all and once you get off the main road there’s not much traffic.

Oh! One other thing I wanted to mention is the difference between town signs here and in Canada. 

<–   Welcome to Wasseiges! (All town signs are similar)

Goodbye Wasseiges    –> 

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