Nine months has taken me into a world that's no longer foreign.
When I got here, Belgium was a foreign country. Linkebeek was a dot on the map in a web of paths and narrow streets and railroads. Things were new, strange, exciting... yet scary. I didn't understand the language, the system, the culture; I could hardly do anything for myself. I was disoriented, disconnected, floating by myself in a new world, letting its currents take me wherever. I was vulnerable--there was a world around me that I didn't understand. And I didn't know where I would end up nine months later. I knew I would be different-- speak differently, think differently, look at life differently, but I didn't know what I would look like. How would that feel, thinking in French, speaking normally in French with my host family and my friends, going to school and understanding what was going on? What would life be like?
It is now nine months later.
The thing I didn't realize is that getting to the point in a foreign exchange where you can communicate normally and live life without confusion or strangeness doesn't feel like a giant change-- it just feels normal. Normal in the sense that you don't feel like you're consciously changing a part of yourself to fit in. The changes are there, you just feel them less. They have become habits.
I am immersed in this life, in this language, in this world-- and it feels normal. It's no longer a total immersion that presses onto me, but an immersion where I feel part of what goes on around me, part of my world. I can control my life here completely, or as completly as the world will let me. Being comfortable in this culture is not an odd feeling, or a foreign feeling, or a much different feeling from how I felt one year ago. It's just that one year ago, I felt comfortable in my own culture. Now, I feel comfortable in another.
***And so, here I am writing again, a little over two months after my last post. In the weeks that come, I'm going to try to document some more of the life I'm living here-- because soon it will be changing.