Making friends with the Oldies

Thirza Alifia INA AFS to BFL (YP 2017/2018)

Grimbergen, Belgium.

Day by day turns to weeks, and later turns to months. It has been more than 5 months since I left my homeland, Indonesia. A lot of things happened, making up the new me. Living on another country with a different family, cultures, friends, weather, and environment is a huge challenge, no doubt.

The past three months were going like a real roller coaster. But basically, that’s life. It’s pretty normal, I suppose.

On December as the most amazing or happy month of the year, bunch of things happened. My first Christmas celebration, for example. I’m a moslem, so back home I never celebrate one. My host siblings and me were wishing for a white Christmas, because a couple days before Christmas it was snowing. But unfortunately, it wasn’t snowing. Not a problem, I still had a joyful Christmas celebration with my host family. By this moment, I was feeling like I’m really being the part of their family, not as a host daughter from another country.

Throwing back a bit, several days before Christmas my friends had to do a Christmas exams at school. Another privilege as an exchange student, you don’t have to do the exams! Yippie. But as a return, I had to do a social engagement.

I did mine at a place called ‘Heilig Hart’ that has a meaning of ‘Holy Heart’ in Dutch. It’s a residential care home for old people. What I mean by old is like really old, older than 70 years old! Basically it’s the same as ‘Panti Jompo’ in Indonesia. What I did there? I helped the crew to prepare the resident’s breakfast and lunch. Some of the time, I also helped some that couldn’t eat by themselves.

I did this volunteering service for 2 weeks long. And the fun part is, they (yes, even the crews) only speak Dutch to me. Well, there’s one crew that could speak English but he did that really once in a while. It was a fun and funny experience, because my Dutch isn’t that good yet. I rarely could understand what they said. And when the grandmas and the grandpas started to talk to me, I was instantly nervous. Do you believe what I did? I only smiled at them and directly run to the crew and said, “Sorry, the grandma said something but I couldn’t understand what she said.” And they laughed me off. That’s normal, right? Hehehe.

That happened for the first few days, and after that I could handle it pretty well. And even a resident said this to me, “You’re speaking Dutch pretty well! Better than the other student.” I immediately laughed at it. What she meant by ‘the other student’ was another intern that speak French as her mother language, because Belgium is a trilingual country in case you didn’t know the fact.

While helping the crew to prepare the meal, I also helped the crew to do some games with the residents. This thing is called Ergoteraphie in Dutch and translated as Occupational therapy. It’s basically a treatment that is using physical activity and exercise for treating a disease. It’s not only by playing games, sometimes they did the therapy with watching a movie, and singing Christmas songs.

I made a lot of friends with the granny, because they knew that I’m not from Belgium even Europe. And they always felt curious about Indonesia, some even said “I’ve been there, a looooong time ago. Probably 20 years ago, I suppose you haven’t born right?” with her precious laugh.

And another good thing was, my Dutch are getting good day by day! Thanks for the help from the crews and the seniors there. I’m feeling super blessed right now because I got the opportunity to did that.

Well, that was my most ‘interesting’ thing happened this few months. I’m looking forward to have another one that I could share with you guys. And finally this is my second news letter from the country of Beer, Chocolate, Fries, and Waffles! Merci for reading it!