The last couple months remained exciting and new. Between the festivities in Belgium, traveling Normandy and Switzerland, and finding an exciting new book series, the holidays passed quickly. Almost too quickly, as three days ago, January 25th, marked the halfway mark, five months, of my stay in Belgium.
To start off my holiday vacation, I received the first-semester transcript from my Belgian high school. To my surprise, I passed all of my courses. This was accomplishing for me, as I took the exams in French. After the good news, came the festivities. On the sixth of December was the Belgian celebration of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is extremely similar to Santa Claus, but simply brings chocolate on the sixth and does not appear on the twenty-fourth. I spent the holiday with my host family, and was pleasantly surprised waking up and seeing the entire living room covered in chocolate. Although I missed constant Mariah Carey Christmas music, my father’s ham dinner, and stockings above the fire, I am content I got to see a new cultural tradition here in Belgium.
However, the highlights of my holidays remain my traveling. I visited both my father in Normandy, France and my mother in West Switzerland. Both regions were individual in their characteristics sharing only the language: French. Traveling along the northern coast of Normandy, I had the opportunity to see the Mont Saint Michel along with a few towns dating back to the middle ages. Normandy during winter has a brisk blanket of fog drifting inland from the Atlantic making an eerie but gorgeous setting. Having only been to Paris, I was surprised by the kindness of the northern French, and their enthusiasm to talk with a French-speaking American. Western Switzerland was equally magnificent. The country is decorated with towering jagged mountains whose presence was felt and seen throughout my stay. I spent my first few days in Switzerland skiing in Alps and the remaining days touring Lake Geneva. I am proud to say I ate the famous Swiss Fondue nearly every day during my stay, and suffered the consequential stomach aches the following week. On the sixth of January, I returned to Belgium revitalized for the second semester of school.
Upon my return to Belgium, while in a second-hand market, I stumbled upon a dusty book with the title The Adventures of Tintin. Familiar with the name, I bought it. I figured reading comics would be an efficient way to practice French. I was not expecting, however, to become deeply immersed in the story. I eventually realized that my fascination with the book was due to the protagonist, Tintin, who reminded me of myself. The young-adventurous journalist travels the world exploring, making friends, and, of course, stopping crime. After learning the author, Hergé, was born and raised in Brussels Belgium, I payed a visit to his museum which was conveniently 5km from my house. I found a lot of similarities between the notorious author and myself that explained my connection with Tintin. Like me, Hergé was a Boy Scout, had a love for travel, the outdoors, and even a passion for Cinema. Hergé applied many of his personal traits to his prized character, Tintin. Fate or not, I am extremely glad I learned the name Hergé. He has become both my role model and, as my host mother calls it, my “frère spirituel”
Although the last five months passed sparingly quick, I am not one to reminisce on time lost. Looking at the glass half full, I still have half a journey. The friendships I made, proficiency with French, and discovery of myself will only be doubled in the time to come. The Adventure of Hunter: Belgium is still in media res.
- Me warming my hands just after skiing in Verbier, Switzerland
- Lake Geneva, Switzerland. On my way to the Chateau de Chillon
- The window view of the mountain from my little cabin in Switzerland
- Mont St Michel, France. Me hiding from security while scandalously hiking off the path.
- Me, right, and my host sister, Emelie, after first snow in my hometown Ottignies, Belgium. We raced sleds, and I may have used unfair tactics to win…
- My host mother, Marina, after I made the family traditional Tacos. I didn’t have the heart to tell her….
Note: Hunter is on a year program from our Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Area Team (AT) to Belgium, 2018-2019. He is the recipient of an AFS-USA scholarship, the Helen Peggie Miller $5,000 merit- and needs-based scholarship. And,he is also the recipient of a GLA local merit-based scholarship.