And in Belgium we were … fantastic week!!!!!
This will be my last chronicle this year but I think we finished the best way possible, Kappele-Op-Den-Bos and our Belgian friends are and will be a sweet memory.
We left on the 30th April very early in the morning and we were all enthusiastic about our new adventure. When we arrived at the airport, there they were our new friends waiting for us with a big card – “Welcome Portugal”
We all went home with our new families to rest a little bit, unpack and get ready for the evening to come – a typical Belgian dinner that the parents of our partners had cooked so that we could get used to these new tastes. I cannot recall all the dishes (and how they call them, forget it, they have that ‘funny language’!!!!!) but I can tell you that we ate superbly and that the ‘Belgian fries’ and the desserts were a delicacy.
The first day was a big adventure and it is the only time we can blame Belgian weather for trying to ruin our great week ….it rained like hell!!! In the morning we visited Bruges, which is a marvellous city, we walked the medieval streets, we entered the small traditional shops and we could smell chocolate everywhere. It was as if we were surrounded by sweetness… but then, suddenly, it started to rain, pardon, not to rain, to pour, and our bus had parked so far and we had to walk to the bus, because we were heading to the beach ….oh, yes, to the beach! When I entered the bus and looked at the Portuguese faces I thought ‘we are all going to be sick’; we were all soaking wet and feeling miserable. Well, our Belgian friends didn’t look any better but they kept saying ‘it will be better by the sea, you’ll see!’ And, it was! Crazy weather they have there! When we got to the coast it was windy but sunny so we could dry our clothes and enjoy ourselves on the beach playing volleyball, riding tricycles and chatting. It was a nice afternoon, thank God! On our way back we stopped at Atomium, to delight ourselves with one of the works that dates back from their World Exhibition in the 1950s. And the day was over. Still a bit wet but happy!
Up and off we went …. to Brussels ….first we visited Chocolaterie Duval and we were all surrendered to chocolate. We were taught everything about chocolate, we tasted it, we watched them doing it, we even were employees of that factory and made some ‘pralines’ ….we ‘melted’, oh yes, we did!!!! And, we bought hips of chocolates to bring home ….well, we had to or they would never have forgiven us. Then we headed downtown for lunch and to say ‘hello’ to Manneken Pis (little man pee) and to have a beer in Grand Place. La Grand Place or De Grote Markt is such a marvellous place! You feel comfortable there, you are surrounded by history and people but you feel relaxed (the nice beer helps, of course….try a Duvel or a Affligem or a Leffe or a Kriek or ….I could go on like this for pages ….the Belgians have more than 2.500 beers ….oh, no, I’m not joking!!!!). In the evening we had a party and we were all together again. We had a great time, the students danced and cheered up the place and the teachers became ‘bar tenders’ (and we could understand what they asked for ….bright girls ….well, teacher Johan had been coaching us about the ‘codes’ and we learn fast!!!) so we all mingled perfectly well and we had a terrific evening!
It was a hard morning but off we went by train to Gent, which is also a beautiful city. We walked and walked in this medieval city some of us even went on a boat tour and another day was gone.
On Sunday we rested and we stayed with ‘our families’ but late afternoon we all met at Gloria’s, one of the sweet Belgian students, for a barbecue. We were a group of friends.
On Monday we went to Antwerp and our guide, teacher Johan, led us along the city with fantastic stories.
On Tuesday morning we were at school; we attended some classes, we had lunch on the lawn and then we got ready to go to Leuven and visit the biggest brewery in Europe. The tour to the brewery was awesome but it was so hot, nearly 30º, that when we finished the tour we were almost dead ….well, the ‘pinke’ they offered, saved us from certain death (no comments)!!! In the evening we had a ‘fare thee well’ party ….we were leaving the following day, no one could believe it! We danced and danced and the youngsters started hugging and kissing …. They already were missing one another … we would be in serious trouble the next day at the airport.
We arrived at Zaventem …and, it was over! We had to leave but they kept saying goodbye …. I shouted ‘let’s go, now!’ and they came ….
It was a good exchange and I sincerely hope we keep doing it for the years to come. It is an opportunity for the youngsters to get in touch with another culture and become more mature, to feel like European citizens, that is, to learn how to respect others and be tolerant.
I already know that the Belgian school has 20 students interested in an exchange with Portugal next year, so I have to congratulate our students and their families for having been the best ambassadors Portugal could have had. Thanks!
Ok, it’s time to say goodbye ….uuupss….no, I’ll say ‘ta-ta’ – remember…it’s the British way to say ‘I’ll see you soon’.