Wintry water games

OUT AND ABOUT: Nadia van der Sanden with a friend in Gand - a sample of Belgian architecture.
OUT AND ABOUT: Nadia van der Sanden with a friend in Gand - a sample of Belgian architecture.

Once again I have had a fantastic two weeks in Belgium. There is just something about this country or perhaps just my situation in this country (with my awesome host family) that makes me wonder if dull moments actually exist in Belgium.

To sum up these last two weeks . . . the words hectic, challenging and life-changing just about cover it. The weekend of the October 18 to 19 was the weekend "TU" (team unity) for my scout chapter.

All the scout leaders got together for a crazy weekend of team bonding. I have previously mentioned that doing Scouts in Belgium was teaching me all about perserverance, and once again this theory was proved right.

We left Louvain-la-Neuve at 8pm and arrived at where we were staying the night at 4am by foot, as my team (to put it nicely) had malfunctioning bikes. Now as for perserverance I survived the night by chanting "allez Nadia allez" (go Nadia go) in my head.

I was having a great time as there were all sorts of challenges, e.g. we all had three balloons and our goal was to keep them whole. This is not easy when every five minutes mechants chefs (mean leaders) jump out of the bushes and you have to make a human body pile as fast as possible to save your balloons or pop them by accident.

I do have to stress the "I was having a great time" bit, however you see as it got to 2am and we discovered we still had 6km to go and only one working bike . . . let's just say I was ecstatic to see my bed.

The next day was a similar thing. We headed off to a lake, this time in different teams. We took kayaks or pedal boats out to the centre of the lake (it is almost winter in Belgium) to receive a slip of paper which told us what game station to head to.

The whole team had to complete the challenge and then go back to the kayaks then rinse and repeat for the whole day.

The challenges consisted of doing the hula hoop, eating three butter biscuits in 50 seconds, and doing a potato sack obstacle course with drunk vision goggles on. On the whole I had a great time, however I wonder whether a water balloon fight to finish the day is really appropriate when it's almost winter.

At the end of the weekend I had a bunch of new friends, a lot of physical pain, and an overwhelming desire to sleep for three days straight. Unfortunately for me, I had school the next day.

I've really gotten into the rhythm of school here. Still struggling with doing my homework - no longer the language barrier, simply laziness.

The school week was an interesting one the week before the holidays, so we had a few fun activities in class instead of doing work, and Wednesday and Thursday the 24hvelo took place in my town. If you google this event Wikipedia will tell you that it's the second biggest party (beer consumption wise) in the world. The first being Oktoberfest. It consists of teams of bikes, mostly university students, cycling for 24 hours in a race. It also consists of 500,000 supporters from all around Belgium and France.

It was crazy. It was the first time I realised quite how small town I really am. There were, to put it simply, too many people. My host mum advised me to go for the afternoon and be home at 10pm, because after 10pm, as you can probably imagine, it gets disgusting. As cool as the free concerts and activities were I can definitely say that it is not my cup of tea.

Now I have one week of holiday here in Belgium and for the first time since my arrival I have spent a few days without doing anything at all. It has been just wonderful to watch a few films and read a book (in French, of course). It's funny what becomes a novelty when you're away from home.

After 10 weeks here I have made many many observations about the cultural differences between NZ and Belgium, and to summarise the majority of them I have only this to say; New Zealand really is clean and green. Living in Belgium has taught me to watch where I'm putting my feet; you just can't have confidence in Belgian dog owners to clean up after their dogs like you can in New Zealand.

The Timaru Herald