Interviewed by Carol and Jenn

A few weeks ago Northwest Ladybug was interviewed by one of her blogging friends. She made up some questions for me and also for other people such as Jenn at A2aetwrite. Jenn has already answered Carol's questions and has invited her readers to play along. Since I still hadn't posted Carol's interview myself, I figured I could combine questions from both of them. So here they are.

You know what is funny? both Carol and Jenn asked me 2 almost identical questions :p. Haha host parents of international exchange students must think alike :)

C1: What were the best and worst parts of your year as an exchange student?
J1: What was the best part about being an exchange student? What was the most challenging part?

Best part:
all the new experiences, all those things you can never do in your life again (e.g. spend a day with the avalanche control experts up in the mountains), the travel, the self-confidence you gain when settling in in ever new experiences and environments (eg. multiple host families, new school, public speeches about Belgium for all kinds of organisations, ...), the meetings and gatherings and frienship with the other exchange students, etc...
It's really impossible to pick one best part. It's the sum of that many new great experiences all grouped into one incredible year.

The challenge:
is settling in in an environment where you don't know anybody. Your host family, your teachers, ...everybody is new and you don't know their personalities at all. You don't have friends at the beginning, ... Although you get overwhelmed with all the new experiences and boredom is usually something that doesn't exist, it felt lonely sometimes as nobody truly knows you in the beginning. When moments of homesickness kick up, it can be pretty hard. In a small town people know you pretty fast and wave at you, but it takes months before you have a clue who you are waving back at. You simply have to make the click to wave back with big movements and a smile whether you remember the person or not :p. And not to get emberassed too much when you go and introduce yourself to someone and this person replies "oh but we've already met 2 weeks ago."

After a while the challenge becomes dealing with the time. The time flies by ; your year flies by before your eyes and you can't slow it down. You are having the time of your life and you know you are running out of time. There was so much more I wanted to do, so much more time I wanted to spend with my new friends and family, so much more travelling, etc... And yet I wanted to enjoy it all without a rush either.

The hardest thing was probably coming back. Not that I was not excited to come back home and being with my family and friends. But the acceptance that my special year was over and that I had to move on to make my next year at home special too didn't come easy. I knew that I would be with my family again for the coming years but I didn't know when I would see my host families and exchange friends again. I had to move from high school to university, my old friends were all one year ahead and had made already new friends, ... so in a way I needed to settle in once more. Did you know that I did not switch my wrist watch to European time until 5 months after my arrival back???

C2: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be? Why?
J2: Of all the places you've visited/lived, which is your favorite and why?

Oh I'd construct a new continent that is a mixture of Flanders (old cities full of historical buildings, bikes, small distances, my family and friends,...) and a mixture of Canada (lakes, mountains, wildlife, ski slopes, my host families, available space, true nature, ...) and there'd be a mediterrean area as well with hot beaches, nice diving spots and some spectacular ancient ruins.

In Western Canada I miss history, in Europe I miss nature and everywhere I miss a warm climate :p. But since we've put so much effort in renovating our house and I totally love the result, I think I'll stick around here :D.

C3: Everyone has that "crazy" uncle (cousin, sister, aunt, whatever). Tell us about yours!

Pff this was the toughest question from the list. Honestly, no family member came to my mind. Surely some family members have some peculiar charachter traits, nice or less enjoyable but none that would be "crazy" enough to blog about. And I feel limited in what I want to write about family members on a public blog anyway.

I was thinking of my dad's older sister who is at her high age still kept young at heart from all her grand and great grand children and took her challenges in life eg her leg amputation with an amazing good spirit.

I was thinking of my dad who has never backed up from some good practical joke or for an evening of giggling with me in the sofa over some stupid comedy on tv after I was done studying for my exams late at night.

I was thinking of my sister and the tickle fights we had in the past.

I was thinking of ...

Finally I think my 2 nieces and my nephew are the biggest clowns in the family. 2,5 years old, great age for some mischief :p.

C4: What's your favorite dessert? Got a recipe?

Honestly I am not a dessert person as I don't eat chocolate at all and in general my taste isn't much into (very) sweet things. I prefer appetizers, salty things (mmmm chips and peanuts...MMMMMMMMMMMMM my weakness) (gosh, I get hungry now) and entrees. In restaurants I usually go for soup and entrees and by the time you get the choice of dessert I am so stuffed that my stomac can't take anymore. Beside it is not unusual that the desert menu doesn't appeal me at all. So I almost always skip dessert and take some herbal tea to end, preferably mint tea.

J3: How did you and Jan meet?

Well after I got my economics degree I joined an international consulting firm. And they sent me over to The Hague to join a big team of French consultants who were implementing a new CRM - billing and sales software for a big multinational company. We were a team of 30-40 expats having a good time. Whereas most of them were technical guys and programmers, I was responsible for training our customer's employees in these new softwares since I spoke both English, French and Dutch. I had to learn the software myself, make user manuals, prepare classroom training sessions and execute them all over Europe. This was my first job and I had a fabulous time.

In the begining of jan 2000 I had to train an international group of sales accounts that had been flown to the Hague. While they were there, the customer care department also came over to explain to them the customer care process. During the break of that meeting I realised that the guy explaining happened to be a Belgian as well: Jan.

After most of the software had been installed , the majority of the French were sent back to Paris to execute the last requested changes and updates from there rather than from The Hague , which would be much more cost effective for the project. All of a sudden I found my circle of friends drastically reduced since I had to stay in The Hague for my role. Our smaller consultant team also moved from one building in the city into our customer's main office. From then on I had to take the bus to the office and soon I learned that this other Belgian lived near my bus stop. After a while we got the habit of taking the same bus in the morning to try to go to work. And I got invited to his birthday party which he organised with another Belgian in the invitation I gladly accepted since I really wanted to get to know some new people.

During the summer I started hanging out on almost a daily basis with Jan and his colleagues and some other Belgians in the Hague. We had drinks along the beach every evening! We had a fabulous time and lots of rumours started already :). But it's only after my assignment in the Hague ended and I returned to Brussels that we kept in touch and that we became a couple.

J4: How did you end up in your present career?

Well, just above I posted about my first job. I worked as a consultant for 3 years in which I was responsible for training software, writing design documents with the user's requirements so that it could be interpreted by the programmers, testing, making planning and strategy. Little by little I became more focused on different software programs and I forgot my economical background entirely :p.

I currently work for a brewery where I co-managed the implementation of a new ERP system (project management) . Right now I still manage anything relating to this software and some other software programs in the company: report errors to our supplier, test their fixes, design new requests from the departments, organise the planning, manage new projects (adding new modules and changes requested by the departments, interface with other programs, upgrading software to a new version) . I always try to be in a role where I bridge the operational departments and the techies. The non-techie in a technical environment.

Anyone who wants to play as well? Let me know in the comments (incl an e-mail address where I can reach you) and I'll try to come up with some interesting questions for you.


Carol said…
Great answers! Thanks for playing!

Ellen - I have to laugh - you forgot the zotdink in the crazy question!!!!! :-)
anno said…
mmmm.... salty appetizers. Yum.

Great interview!
Jenn said…
I'll play. I'm starting to run out of stuff for NaMaBloMo

Jenn in Holland said…
OH! I want to move to your made up country along with you. Can I please?
These were great questions and your answers were so full of detail. I really feel like I got a good glimpse of goofball! So much to learn about you!

I have already some questions from Jen, but I would love some from you too. I am very curious what you might ask!
Alex Elliot said…
I love salty as well. I was just munching on salt and vinegar chips. Your answers to being an exchange student was really interesting to me. I was an exchange student during a summer of high school.
This was really interesting! Also interesting that Carol and I had two identical questions, lol. But not really, I guess since it's some of those interests that draw us all together.

I'm glad to know more about your job. And your responses to things about your exchange year were so similar to what my daughters and son have said!

Also, I got to know Dave in a similar way to your knowing Jan - we didn't meet through work, but through an interest, and were friends for quite a while before becoming a couple, which happened after I moved elsewhere. ;-)

Thanks so much for playing!
Haley-O said…
Ooo! I loved this! I feel like I got to know you better! LOVE! :)
Wholly Burble said…
My, you shared some wonderful things here, and it has helped me get to know you. I've been seeing your name in "comments" for a while, and your spot is linked from jen a2eatwrite--so had to come "meet" you and this post was a great way to do that!

I'll be back to visit often.

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