4.29.2009

Why today was awesome.

Today was... wonderful. I am smiling as I write this. You know how some days are just plain crummy for no real reason, and you just have to resign yourself to getting through to bedtime so you can kiss the day goodbye? Well this was exactly the opposite :) And speaking as someone who has had a couple of those crummy days recently, I am happy to report that today was FABULOUS.

REASON #1: Language school was awesome. Our weekly class schedule is as follows: Mondays we are in the classroom and we focus on conversation. Wednesdays we walk around town and she talk to us in French about everything we see. Thursdays are back in the classroom and we talk vocab and grammar.

Today was a walk-around day. So fun! I love it because the day is more informal and the class can talk together. I really enjoy the women in the class. They are so kind. The day was gorgeous as well.

We visited the Hotel de Ville (civil offices). It's the big pretty building in the center of the Grand Place that I have always wanted to go in. I thought it was a hotel for awhile (I wonder why..) and was a little disappointed to find out it is just offices. This room is where the civil part of marriage ceremonies take place in Huy.

And here's a view out the window into the Grand Place. I love that place. It is the epitome of Huy to me.

Did I mention the day was beautiful?

This is one of the oldest houses in Huy. I love it because you can see on its surface how many changes have been made to it. Look at the pattern in the brick. I love the story it tells. Such history here!


Our class tromping through le vieux Huy (old Huy).

Clay being schooled.


REASON #2: We will be playing Carcasonne tonight... YES, we found Settlers of Catan AND Carcasonne yesterday! Can you believe it? May Clay never give me a hard time about dragging him into stores again. We were checking out a toy/craft store when he found the games. It was like finding the Holy Grail- Indiana Jones kind of stuff :) We were so happy.


REASON #3: The guy at the market gave me free stuff again today. A bunch of leeks and 2 bananas. Free vegetables?! That is awesome.

REASON #4: There are plants on my kitchen windowsill. Little red flowers, basil, and...wait for it.... CILANTRO!! I learned the other day that cilantro seeds are coriander (bear with me, garden people), and today while at the market I saw coriander plants! The stalks are a little wimpy, but I am going to nurse those puppies back to health and make us a taco soup to beat the band!


REASON #5 (and slightly less interesting): My jeans fit really well today. Feeling good in jeans is something to celebrate. (no accompanying pictures to prove it :)

What a wonderful day! I am now going to dig through my market finds and cook dinner. Life in Huy is good.

Praise be to God for giving us wonderful days!

4.28.2009

Mallows

We just had the team over for lunch! Our first real guests in our new home!! It made me really happy :)

Clay got to make his first 'baguette run' before lunch. It was so euro :) Running across the street for bread. Perfect.

We had s'mores for dessert- you can't beat that. And fire always makes things extra fun.


This week is our first "normal" week here since we now have a routine somewhat in place. It is good to get settled in.

The view out of our windows is getting more and more beautiful as spring greens are popping up every where.

Clay took this while I was napping the other day (nothing kills stress like a good nap :) Check out the amazing greens out that window. And the Belgian flag is just waving away. I love it. (Notice that I am covered in a tablecloth. Blankets are on my list of things to purchase. SOON. :)


Love to you!

4.24.2009

A Walk through Huy

Amy, Daisy, and I went on a walk this morning. Ah, spring! You're here! It was such a beautiful start to the day. I thought you might like to see a little of my new town.

This a view from the main bridge through town. We walk across it multiple times a day.


The famous cathedral and fort of Huy. This is taken on the same bridge but looking the other direction.


One of the main streets in Huy. Brent and Daisy live on this street.


One of my favorite houses. Right on the river and in the center of town.


What a beautiful morning in Huy!


Whenever I see that church roof on the hill, I just want to GET to it. Isn't it just so mysterious and cool? Amy said it is over 1000 years old too. I will get there one day.


A daisy for Daisy.


Be honest, you want to sit on that bench, don't you? And maybe take up watercolors or something. (Whenever I live somewhere new, I am always inspired to try to take up painting.... it NEVER works.)


The far bridge you see is that main one again. The one we walk across daily to get to the train station, the church, the grocery store... basically everywhere.


The blue building in the front is my main grocery store.


And that's that. A quick tour through Huy. Thank you for joining me :)

4.22.2009

Sigh.

First day of language school today. I know what you astute ones are thinking.... language school started YESterday, Megan. Oh contraire. We went to school yesterday, but it didn't start yesterday. And it didn't start today either..it started MONDAY. Yes, we missed it. I am not surprised in the least :) So we went yesterday only to find out that we needed to come back today. Sheesh. Did you ever have those friends whose last week of summer was marred by their moms making them practice waking up early so they would be ready for it when school started? That is exactly what yesterday felt like! We got up early, had breakfast, chose our special "first day of school clothes" (ahem, first impressions are important), left the house to walk to school... and then came right back home (and put back on my pjs- those "special" clothes ended up in a rejected heap on the floor).

So... today. We went back and found our class (thank you God!). This first day was pretty cool. We took a walk around town with our class and the teacher explained things in French to us. We went to the market and learned vegetable and fruit names, etc. It was overwhelming (of course), but good. The class is made up of people from about every country you can imagine. Seriously. Turkey, Brasil, Tunisia, Chechnya, Albania, and the list goes on. So incredible. We are the only English (native) speakers, which is a huge blessing as well. No temptation to break out in English!

When we got home, I was ready to crash! I haven't hid under the covers since that one day, but it was back under them again today! :) After a nap I felt inspired to tackle the living room, so here you go:

BEFORE

AFTER

Eventually there will be curtains to block out the blinding afternoon sun, but for now we shall squint.

I also found myself crafting again, which seems to be my most productive method of venting stress. Seriously, it makes me feel so much better. In setting up the living room, I wanted to put out one of the pictures I brought from home but had no frame. My blood started hopping in that way that only can mean one thing.... it was time to craft. Sweet relief. I put together some cardboard and an old map I brought for just such a purpose... Not fancy, but perhaps better than store-bought for it represents another culture-shock-crisis averted :)


A full day is a good day. Love, Megan

4.19.2009

Le Course De Sprimont

Today was my (Clay) first race with the team, which calls themselves Les Foulées du Plaisir (which means "The Crazies for Pleasure", i.e. running is fun and we're crazy about it - it sounds better in French). It was awesome. The course was a beast, but pretty fun. A lot of hills, and quite a bit of mud. And when I say quite a bit, I mean a lot. But who wants clean running shoes, right?



These races are really cool. Sprimont, the town that hosted the race, is a quaint little town with lots of hills and interesting buildings. Quite a few people who lived along the route were out in their yards watching, which makes for a cool atmosphere. The trail started in town, then across a really muddy field, then up a miserable, muddy, steep hill that had a stream running down it on parts of the trail. By far the most difficult running condition I've run in. I'm glad there where other runners around, because if I was by myself, I would have bet money I was no longer on the trail.

Later in the run we crossed this really neat foot bridge in the woods over this beautiful little stream. Some of the other views from the tops of hills showed some of the most beautiful Belgian countryside I've seen yet.

It was great to round the last corner and see Fredie and Jean-Luke, guys from the team who'd already finished, saying "Allez Clay!" We had a good time, and hopefully this won't be my last race with the group.

For those who enjoy running, technology, or both, check out the run as tracked by my groovy watch/GPS.

4.17.2009

Hurray!

So, GREAT news. We have internet. Which means I can share some photos! Which makes me really happy because a lot of the times pictures give a better feel for reality than words. Get ready for a lot of photos!

So, where did I leave off. Ah. Jamie's visit. We were able to do some hiking up by the fort which was awesome. We found this little cave which is Clay's dream come true. I think if we didn't already have an apartment, I would be typing this from there, and not be too happy either :)

We then had pitas an watched a movie. Oh, the comforts of the familiar. Thank you for coming, Friend. I needed you.


Later that week, Amy and I set out for Namur, a town a 30 minute train ride away, to visit a healthfood store I found online. We got so lost! Speaking no French, I had to let Amy take the lead in getting us there. I just kind of stood around looking American :)


Easter! We had lunch after church with our pastor's family. Here are 3 generations of women in their family preparing lunch. I love it. It made me think of the WWAC (you know who you are) and how much I love them. I miss you!

Clay is being silly here, but I really just wanted to show their backyard. So beautiful! Spring is definitely here.

I am enjoying getting to know Daisy! She has a lot of wisdom having been exactly where I am just 18 months ago.

As we walked home after lunch I couldn't help thinking how absolutely amazing it is that we LIVE here! It is just so beautiful and perfect looking :)


Yesterday, I went with Daisy to hang out with her friends Sirin and Xavier. We decided to drive up to The Netherlands for a couple of hours (rad, yes?), and got to see a lot of beautiful Belgian countryside on the way. Just gorgeous.

They also wanted to take me by a cemetery and memorial for American soldiers that died there during WW2. Guys, this was totally unexpected and emotional. Being so far from home myself, my heart just broke to see so many fallen soldiers that never got to go home. How beautiful their sacrifice is! I was deeply moved by this place. Try to visit places like this. They deserve it. (While we're on the subject, pray for my cousin Jake who's in Iraq right now. We love you, Jake!)


We then continued on to Maastricht in The Netherdlands. Ok, I quickly found out that marijuana is legal there. It was so surreal to walk down the street and see stores that sell all different kinds of pot. So bizarre when you are not accustomed to it! I ran over to this shop, because I thought it was a healthfood store, only to be shocked to see the little seeds and leaves for sale. Notice their special blend written on the black board....

Something else funny is this restaurant. When we rounded that corner, I felt kind of strange. Then I turned around and noticed that ALL of the tables and chairs of this cafe were facing the street. They were all just LOOKING at us. So unnerving. It was funny.

We headed back home, had some yummy Turkish food (Sirin is Turkish), and relaxed. So fun! I really enjoyed my time with these new friends! So gracious! I hope to see them again soon.


A few random notes:
I thought you might be interested in seeing the view from our living room (and bedroom, too, for that matter). So ridiculous, right? It is perfect. We love being able to look out and watch life happen here.

And, you guessed it. MacGyver has been making some appearances here in Huy :) Something about this show calms me and makes me feel at home. I love it!

Going to the market every week has been so much fun! I look forward to it each week.

I just got home from my trip a few hours ago and got some soup going. I have never cooked with leeks before, but they are everywhere here! Notice the new paint color in the kitchen, too. I will take some pictures of our apartment soon, so you can see the progress. It is looking so nice.


Ah. I can't tell you how great it feels to get those pictures out there. I want you to share this with us! Now, it is time for soup, and then bed, while listening to the Belgian rain hitting our rooftop. ...I like this :)

4.14.2009

Back in the saddle

Wanted to share that the last few days have been better. Thank you so much for all of your encouraging comments and emails. Adventures like this aren't always pretty, so thank you for praying for and loving me.

Today was super productive (all things considered). I spent some time with Amy, my friend and team leader, and then went grocery shopping. I then went to the post office, which was an adventure just to find. I remember my first trip to the post office in Austin was stressful too, so it appears that most "firsts" are challenging no matter how comfortable you are with the language (the Austin post office I first went to is on Manchaca, pronounced Mancheck- ok, NOW who's speaking a different language.... but I digress. Austinites, you know what I am talking about). In my search for the post office I accidently entered this private bank. I think you are supposed to swipe a special card to enter, but, thinking it was the post office, I just piggy-backed behind someone else. THEN, I found myself trapped between the door I just entered, and the super-secure 2nd door which I could not enter. Oh, AND all surrounding walls were glass. Oh my gosh. I finally got out of the glass box and back onto the street, but it was a tense few minutes, there. Ok, so I finally find the post office. Of course, I 'push' instead of 'pull' the door open (this is happening a LOT lately. It's like the international symbol for "I don't belong here.") which always causes people to look up alarmed. And this is just what I want, too, for the ENTIRE french-speaking room to look up when I walk in :) But you know what? I got those packages mailed. And I bought stamps. And the ladies smiled at me when I left, which to someone who misses verbal interaction is as good as.... jalapeno ranch dressing at Chuy's. There, I said it, a kind gesture from a stranger is as good as Chuy's (almost). (Remember this when you see someone new to town who has no idea what they are doing. Smile. Talk to them, and then take them to Chuy's or something.)

So, a good day. I learned something new, and I made it back home. Tomorrow is market day so I am excited about that. It is wonderful and right outside our building. So many beautiful fresh veggies- I can't wait!

Oh, and for those of you following my culture-shock-induced regression, here is the latest. Word mixups. Just now at dinner I suggested to Clay that we "watch a game or play a movie" and then yesterday I asked him "What color is it?" Instead of "What time is it?" Sheesh!

Love to you all. Thanks for supporting me through the tough times.
P.S. Did you know that I found a recipe for Chuy's jalapeno ranch dressing? Someone make this and try it. I have ranch powder but don't want to use it unless this recipe is the real deal ;)

16 oz. (or 24, it matters little) sour cream or buttermilk
1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix powder
1 handful cilantro leaves (more or less to taste)
3/4 cup pickled jalapeƱo slices (more or less to taste)
Put the ingredients in a blender (or use a nifty hand blender) and blend until smooth. Eat immediately or, even better, chill for a few hours letting the flavors meld.

4.11.2009

Regression and Jesus

Oh goodness. Today. It all hit me today. The language I don't know. The people I don't know. The customs and procedures I don't know. This afternoon found me in bed. I had no choice but to climb back in after a morning so full of confusion. Guys, it is awesome here. And sometimes it is also very hard. Clay came up to console me, and we were reminded of something that we learned at CIT (training) last fall. The term is regression. It was mainly applied to children who's families went overseas, and how tasks that they had mastered beforehand disappeared once in a new culture. Their speaking might back up and they'll use less words. They could start wetting the bed again, etc. At training we also learned that this regression can also occur in adults. This is what I am experiencing (I haven't wet the bed yet, but we've only been here 4 weeks). First of all, I feel like a 2 year-old. Strike that, 2 year-olds can speak some. I feel like a newborn. I cannot speak. I have to point and grunt to get things. I cry often. I need naps. And I feel like I am losing skills! Like cooking. Cooking has never before scared me. Yet today, I found myself wandering around the grocery store, looking for frozen corn (what grocery store doesn't sell frozen corn, for goodness sake?!), trying to figure out how to say 'turkey' in French, and freaking out because I don't know if I should bring a hostess gift to lunch tomorrow. (The grocery store does indeed not sell frozen corn, the word for turkey is dinde, and I decided that one should always err on the side of bringing a hostess gift- my mama taught me well :)

This is how I ended up in bed. The covers would have been over my head if we had curtains. The afternoon sun is so hot in our room, that the desire to breath was stronger than my desire to hide. At the risk of sounding whiney, I will say it again. THIS IS HARD.

The day did improve however. Clay peeled me out of bed (my bed with TWO fitted sheets because I can't say 'flat sheet' in French either...oh bother), and we walked to the second hand store. I LOVE the second hand store. So much junk to dig through. And so many treasures to unearth. Well, guess what happened on this crummiest of days? We found a couch! I am so happy. It is perfect. It even folds out into a bed for all of our guests (hint hint). We have to pick it up within 8 days so hopefully we will find help to get it home before then. We are crossing our fingers that it can go through the doors this time. Furniture through the windows can be stressful for this American. Atleast when she is stressed enough as it is :) We also found a crate for my microwave/oven to sit on. You see, I have had this oven for over a week, but I couldn't get it open because the fridge was in the way on one side, and the stove top controls on the other. Anyways we found a crate that will support the oven off the floor under the counter. I am so happy. Tonight I cooked dinner, and I felt like the kitchen had grown so much just by moving that oven off the counter. Hurray!

Another bright spot is that tomorrow is Easter. Oh how happy I am to have Jesus! The bells are sounding as I type this. It seems to be a special performance for Easter Eve. They have gone on forever. Just loud and boisterous. And resounding. It is getting to me! To be so filled with Christ's joy, that it peals out like bells on Easter Eve. That is how we should live.

Today was kind of crummy. And then it got better. Jesus was there for all of it. He cheers me on. And corrects me. And loves me. Ring the bells! He is risen!

4.10.2009

Guess what I am doing. Making popcorn. On the stove. With organic extra virgin coconut oil. Oh my gosh. It is so good. I am not getting enough of it these days! I have been doing a no sugar thing for the last few days, and this popcorn is saving me. That is all for now. Just wanted to share something totally random :)

Pictures of life and our apartment to come soon. We don't have our own internet at the moment so I haven't felt like I could upload pics.

Love to you all!

4.07.2009

Hello!

Thought you would like to see how the furniture moving went :)

Here the men are working on their strategy.

And we're off! We were trying very hard to avoid our downstairs neighbor's windows.


This is how we celebrated- pitas from the Turkish place down the street. So incredibly good. All of you who said we would soon find foods here that we loved as much as the ones we left in Texas, were correct. Oh my goodness. These pitas are amazing. Come visit us and try them :)

We have been VERY busy painting! The bathroom is the only room left- we will be so glad when that is done.

The first night we were painting the Jr. High group came by and introduced themselves. So precious. They were our first visitors- it made me so happy. I offered them Melocakes (another Belgian food that is sooo good) and American Easter candy that Mom sent from home. I wish you could have seen Clay's face when one kid took a Cadberry Egg. Ha! Few things make one as protective as when their Cadberry Egg is in jeopardy.

This is a sign we saw on the train the other day and it sums up how I have been feeling. So many questions!

And, SURPRISE! Jamie Lamb is here from Austin. It is soooo good to have her here!! She makes me laugh- such good stress relief :) She is a delight.