Last weekend, I had the lovely opportunity to visit Maggie Pike (http://margaretpike.blogspot.be) in Brussels, Belgium, where she is currently studying abroad as well. Maggie and I are the only two Marietta College students in Europe this semester, so we figured we really ought to meet up - and it ended being a brilliant idea.
Maggie has the best of both worlds - a home-stay family and her own apartment on the first floor of the home-stay. Her family was incredible - for more about them, see her blog. But they spoke Spanish and French, neither of which I speak at all, so I spoke Italian to them... And they actually understood me! When they spoke to us, it was this seamless blend of French and Spanish that seemed almost to be a different language in itself - and I actually understood that! This made me pretty excited, having once studied Latin, the root of these romance languages - maybe I will set in on learning some French, once I nail down Italian.
Brussels itself was a fascinating city, with everything translated into both French and Dutch and sometimes a third language (usually German or English). It was so weird to see such an extreme blending of cultures and languages, but it's just the way of life in Brussels. After a while, all those different languages just started sounding like one big language with LOTS of different words. I think I understand why they put the EU in Brussels.
The highlight of my stay with Maggie was a really interesting dinner that we went to on Saturday night. An American former study-abroad student befriended us and invited us to dinner at her boyfriend's parents' house. This dinner was perhaps the most multicultural experience of my life. Bethany (the former student) was American, but spoke excellent French. The boyfriend was Belgian, so he spoke French and Dutch and English, and did his Belgian mother. His father was Russian and Lithuanian, so he spoke both of those languages, along with French and Dutch and English, and a little Polish as well - and they invited their two Polish friends over that evening, one of whom spoke a little Italian with me. Over the course of dinner, people began sharing family stories - and we all realized just how much we had in common. Turns out, parents all over the world have embarrassing stories about their kids growing up. After that whirlwind of a night, Maggie and I and her roommate walked home shaking our heads, hardly believing such a magical evening happened.
I've been really lucky to visit with some familiar faces while I've been abroad. It's nice to be able to talk to someone who cares about the same silly little things in Marietta that I miss, too. I think it was a refreshing change for both of us, and I couldn't thank Maggie enough for being my ambassador to Brussels!