Friday, June 24, 2011

A list because I'm still jet-lagged and the idea of paragraphs is daunting

Somehow, I feel like Belgium and I will be great friends, and here's why.

1.  Belgium is very central.  We can easily get to so many different countries in Europe, and that's something I haven't done before.

2.  The Belgians don't knock back tiny espressos and hit the road like Italians do.  They sit, with a human-sized mug of coffee, and a croissant, or something to that effect.  I very much appreciate this.  (Not to mention, Brussels has two Starbucks, and that makes this little addict quite happy.)

3.  Streets and sidewalks in this city are wide.  This may seem like small potatoes, but once you've been nearly hit by itty bitty dumb smart cars on extraordinarily narrow, cobblestone streets, it becomes a big deal.

4.  There are flowers everywhere, and everything is so green.  My mom and I love this particular aspect.

5.  Though there's a little bit of spray paint action, the graffiti-to-wall ratio is significantly smaller in Brussels than it is in Rome.

6.  The style!  I know this is so girlish of me, and I apologize, but the girls here know clothes and elegance.

7.  French.  I've always wanted to learn it, and now I get the chance.  It's a beautiful language.  But I am having trouble remembering to say "Merci" instead of "Grazie" and "Oui" instead of "Si."

8.  The diversity of food.  In Rome, you really only eat either Italian food or Chinese/Japanese fusion.  And that's really just unacceptable.  Here, they have excellent pub food, they have Mexican food, they have all sorts of Asian cuisine, they have Italian, they have French cafes.... it's all good.

9.  I'll get to learn to drive, I'll get to act, I may take a few classes at an international school, I'm going to try to get my first real job, and I'm going to go through my last year of high school here.  It's pretty monumental.

10.  The houses are so cute.  Suburbs aren't a bunch of matchy-matchy buildings... it's a bunch of different townhouses in either the French or Dutch style, and it is just so quaint, and charming, and full of soul and character.

These are my top ten reasons for enjoying Belgium so much.  It's just a place that... suits me.

Have a great day!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I need one of those "I heart NYC" t-shirts except for Brussels.

Bonjour! We've arrived in Belgium, and I blogged about it over yonder.

I have to say, this city, Brussels, is absolutely beautiful.  The architecture is very clean and... somehow different from the Roman aesthetic, though I can't quite explain why.  It's very French!  I love the wider streets and all of the cute cookie and candy shops.  It's a good thing that my savory-tooth is a stronger force than my sweet-tooth, because my waistline would not thank me for it later if I took advantage of all the sweets this place has to offer.

I love the accents, I love the French style (which I blogged about over yonder), I love the weather, I love the fact that they have Mexican food and burgers and Italian food all next to each other, I love the architecture, and I love the fact that it's a colorful city.

Basically, I've fallen in love with Belgium and I've only been here two days.  And I have slept through majority of that time span.

My parents are a little bit jealous that I went to bed at 10:30 last night and slept in while they were running errands.  When they returned from said errands, at 2:00 in the afternoon, I was still asleep.  And there was not one single second throughout that time that I even lifted, or even THOUGHT about lifting, an eyelid.

Being a teenager with the capacity to sleep when given a soft bed and a pillow is pretty much the best thing in the world.

I'm going to take some pictures soon, but every time we've gone out, I've been overwhelmed by just taking it all in and have thus become forgetful of my camera.  But I'll be sure to snap some soon!

And, oh happy day, a family from my online school lives very near Brussels.  But not just a family.  One of the sweetest, most wonderful families I've ever had the privilege to meet.  Also, I may be able to attend a school here starting in the Fall, just to take math and science while I'll continue to homeschool for the rest of my subjects.  Plus, the British theatre scene here is apparently fantastic, so I'll try to inject myself there.  Suffice it to say, I don't think I'll have any trouble making friends!

I have to unpack and get ready for bed (It's almost 10:30 and the sun hasn't even gone down), but I'll catch you on the flip side.

Au revoir!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Twilight, Part 4: Manipulation and False Valor

I'm back working on my Twilight review!  If you missed the first three parts, click here, here, and here.

**spoiler alert**  (Some themes in this post may not be appropriate for younger readers)

One of the main reasons that so many Christians support the Twilight series is the notion that the story supports celibacy until marriage, and that the characters in the story, though troubled, have better morals than characters in other modern tales such as these.  And to an extent, it's true, because the two do wait until marriage.  However, one really can't give them much credit for it at all.  In fact, the book is almost racier than it would have been if they had not waited!

Let me explain how this works.  I credit the author, Stephenie Meyer, for being brilliant at the psychological manipulation of young girls and their parents.  Many parents look at the books and see two teens practicing good moral behavior, while teenage girls read this book and become emotionally invested in characters who are deeply in love.

One has to understand that boys and girls are different.  While a boy reading this book wouldn't get much of a thrill from the whirlwind love affair of the two main characters, a girl reads this and is deeply effected by this so-called perfect love.

Another impressive fact about Meyer's authorship is that she pushes boundaries of moral behavior in a way that can effect readers, but not so far as to really be accused of being too racy.  But I challenge this, and say that the Twilight series is, in fact, incredibly inappropriate!

When one removes the harrowing aspects of the story, you have a teenage girl who allows her boyfriend to sleep in her room, though they do not do anything other than talk and sleep.  Kisses are in every chapter, and the description of the emotions Bella feels is lofty and deep.

In my rhetoric class early in the year, we were all discussing Twilight, and I took some notes, as I had been planning on doing this review for a while.  One of my good friends, Santiago, said "It's like the line between holding hands and... having babies."  After we all had a good laugh, I realized what a true statement that really is.  The two characters in the book, though they abstain from actual sex, are so emotionally invested and are constantly kissing, etc.  It's not that I think kissing is a sin, necessarily, but you have to read the book to understand how often and how significant each kiss is... It pervades the entire story, and attempts to create an anticipation that, I think, is unhealthy.

Not to mention, they have to abstain.  Bella wants to become a vampire, but Edward doesn't want her to be one until after they get married.  He's afraid that if they were to do more than just share kisses, that he would be tempted to bite her, thus making her into a vampire prematurely, though Bella actually tries to initiate romance on more than one occasion.

Now, when you put it that way, doesn't it just sound like a ridiculous story?

The characters in Twilight are no more moral than any other characters out there.  They remain celibate solely out of necessity, and the anticipation built in the story is unhealthy for young people to read!  It gives no moral reason for waiting; it simply forces the heroes to do so.  Stephenie Meyer has cleverly tricked many through her manipulation of emotions and morality.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Week

As we flew down the road towards our destination, my stomach twisted.  Would this all be what I had dreamed?

I flashed back in time as we slowed behind the Amish buggies, and I grinned at the sweet little covered heads of two little girls on their way home from church.  But all the while, through all the new scenery and beautiful landscape of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I couldn't focus.  My mind churned back and forth; mingled excitement and nervousness distracted me.

Mom and I pulled into the hotel and lugged our bags upstairs.  I swore I couldn't eat a bite, but found it extremely easy to gobble that delicious lamb and feta burger...

Nerves drove me to distraction and I had to remind myself to breathe evenly as I strode into the lobby to meet some of my friends for the first time.

As I hugged each of those boys, two from my classes, one being a family friend, and one being a brand new friend, any flicker of doubt I had was pinched out.  I was euphoric as I got ready for bed that night, so looking forward to meeting one of my teachers from last year and my very best friends.

The week passed in a whirlwind of meeting new people, positively tackling my best chums with affectionate hugs, and creating memories fantastic enough to last me well into the next gathering.

The founder of my online school and, honestly, the reason I have so many forever-friends, made a great point.  We students of Veritas Press are a new generation.  We came to this gathering with the great anticipation and delight of meeting our best friends; some of us for the first time.

My Spanish teacher from last year noted how beautiful this really is as I cried in the hallway last night.  It wouldn't be right to leave out this aspect of meeting new people and loving on other peers completely!  We, though often apart from our best friends, are nevertheless learning how to love others and to keep friendships. 

I had to leave a while before most, so I missed church and the final picnic.  But the hugs I received last night were each one so meaningful and they made me smile.  I laughed through tears as I held onto these people who mean so much to me, and I thanked God for bringing them all into my life.

I’ll post pictures and go into detail later, but for now, I just wanted to check in and let you know why I was gone.  I’m writing this as I fly away from those friends whom I love, and I’ll admit that there’s a mist beginning to cloud my eyes.  But that week with these people was absolutely worth any pain that the good-byes may have wrought.

I love you, my friends, and I am so blessed that you’re a part of my life.