English as a Second Language

In recent months, I’ve been fortunate (as have my brain and my wallet) to do a little English tutoring on the side. As a result of this, I had the chance to write an article on the process of starting English conversation clubs, which was recently published on a wonderful website about ESL, EFL, and ELL (all of which are explained on the site itself and by my article). If you’d like to check it out, here is the link below:


Thank you all for reading!




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Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, announced today that as of 8:00 PM (Italian time) on February 28, 2013, he is RESIGNING from his office as pontiff. He feels due to the mental and physical demands of the office, he is no longer capable, at the age of 85, of fulfilling this ministry.

For those who were wondering, this is practically unprecedented. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, as part of the Schism.

I find myself saddened and almost frightened by this news. Who can say what lies ahead for the Church now?

But, as Benedict himself Tweeted, in his final post, what happens now must be a question of faith, mercy, and grace. “We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.” It’s hard to believe–a move such as this raises questions, doubts, fears–but maybe this is a beginning for us, and our Church can be also made new.

I have a question: What happens to a retired Pope?

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An Open Letter to Belgium

Dear Belgium,

Since we met in March 2011, you have changed me for the better in so many ways. I now actually enjoy fries, which makes a huge change from the 20 years of my life before you and I discovered each other, where all I did was pine after onion rings. I refuse to settle for inferior beer, and have become accustomed to excellent dark chocolate. Also waffles. I will never see an Eggo the same way again…I even, and I never thought I would say this, enjoy Brussels sprouts.

And yet, lately, you have been troubling me. Oddly, I’ve grown used to your strange linguistic and political divisions and subdivisons. I have accepted the fact that I speak Flemish in the city where I live and then go off to work in another city where I must speak French, and then enter an office where Spanish AND French are the order of the day, and then return home. I am even, God help me, learning that your train engineers have absolutely no idea what a schedule is, let alone how to stick to one, and am in the process of accepting the fact that I may never, ever, ever ever be exactly on time in the morning.

What I cannot accept, dear Belgium, is the far more troubling, and deeply disturbing, aspects of your nature that I have lately seen. And it’s not just your nature, it’s your Nature. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. I think you see it in my eyes when I wake up with you in the morning, just as you see the hope in my eyes, when I go to sleep with you at night, the hope that maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be different…

I think you see my pain and refuse to acknowledge it. Every tear ripped from my eyes, every sniffle and aneeze that convulses my nose, the strain on my face from the pain in my sinuses.

Man up, Belgium. Admit that what you did to me yesterday was wrong.

Admit that it was wrong to wake me up with lovely sunny smiles, then dump rain on my head when I was getting off the bus to work, then sleet, then snow, then get sunny until JUST BEFORE it was time for my lunch break, then sleet on me when I went out at lunch, then snow in front of my eyes in the afternoon. Repeatedly.

Shall I stop, or would you like to hear more about how you let all the snow melt because you’re not even man enough to stick to something?

Admit that you were wrong, and maybe we can find some way to fix this. If not, my sinuses and I will have to reevaluate our relationship with you.



P.S. Also, your crocodile sunshine right now isn’t fooling anyone. By the time I post this entry, you’ll be raining again.

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I’m Not Dead Yet (But this Bar Totally Is)

These past few weeks haven’t been less hectic, even though the final papers are, finally, finished…I’m still waiting on my exam grades despite the fact that exams were in December, my internship is nine hours a day, I have to write a report on that internship of 20 pages not including a work portfolio, a work log, and a presentation, and the “freelancing” I’ve been doing (just odd jobs) seems to be really taking off, which is great when you love to write wine reviews and letters and research arts programs, but not so great when you love to do those things and have no time or energy left for them after work…

To top it all off, life with My Personal Francophone has its ups and downs for us both. It was alarming for a bit, but I think that it’s natural when you’re trying to finish what should be a two-year Master’s in one, working 39 hours a week, writing what amounts to a thesis and trying to earn a little extra income, and he’s writing an 80-page thesis on the relationship between Don Quijote and Sancho (Oops! Am I not supposed to tell anyone what your topic is, ND?), while taking classes, while preparing for practicum at not one, but two, different French-speaking schools, at each of which he has two different classes…and the two of you still, somehow, want to have the time and energy to go out occasionally…

I would like to say, on that note, that two exciting things happened last weekend:

1. I saw “Lincoln.” If you haven’t seen it yet do it NOW. There is no doubt in my mind that Lewis will win the Oscar this year. He’s not Daniel Day Lewis playing Lincoln. He IS Lincoln. I completely forget it was him at all…also, John Williams. ❤ Also America. ❤ ❤

2. We went to this mega-awesome bar in Brussels, called Le Cerceuil. For those whose French, like mine, sounds something like this exchange I had at work earlier today:

Me (to my supervisor): “When is it that you wants the text for the client sent? (Other project manager) has told us that we send to the client every Monday but we doesn’t know if it goes to a revisor first?”

Supervisor (stares politely but a little blankly at me for a second): “I’ll…check, and let you know.”

“Le Cerceuil” means “The Coffin”. Which explains why My Personal Francophone never knows what I’m talking about when I say “Let’s go to ‘The Circle” this weekend!” And also explains why I’ve only been there once before last weekend.

It’s every Goth’s deepest desire. The tables are coffins, some closed, and some open to reveal glowing skeletons. Patrons drink out of skull goblets while sitting on red couches over candles, and their drinks are strangely colored and named: Satan’s Aphrodisiac, Demon Sperm, Cadaver Urine. In the back room, it’s red-lit black walls and a painting of a coat rack bearing coats, an umbrella, and a mournful-looking severed head. Words painted in script name the room “The Sepulchre”.

I had Cadaver Urine (rum and amaretto). My Personal Francophone had Demon Liquor. And I kind of wished we had been there on Halloween rather than in Luxembourg. (I did bring it up that day, but since I called it “The Circle” he justifiably had no idea what I was talking about.)

And no, I did not, at all, even remotely consider the applicability, this past weekend,  of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

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The Video that Explains it All

I am sorry for the radio silence these past few months. Truly, I have been very busy experiencing life, and busier working on my postgrad degree. There will be more blog posts as soon as I am finished with my two final papers for the semester.

At the moment I would like to share this video, which I do not own and did not produce, but which was introduced to me via my Flemish teacher back in September, who is now kind of my friend–weird, right?

Anyway, this video explains everything that doesn’t make sense about life in Belgium. The glorious thing is, after a while it ceases to infuriate and starts to amuse instead, it’s all so absurd.

That, or the waffles and beer are really mellowing me out.


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From Antwerp With Love

I would like to take a moment to thank My Personal Francophone for two wonderful years together, and, in honor of the Belgian chocolate heart he gave me yesterday, which I can no longer share with you in photos because a decent portion of it is in my stomach, I am sharing this photo instead.

This heart was in front of the Central Station in Antwerp, at the end of the huge commercial street (Urban Outfitters next to The World’s Smallest Waffle Shop, which is indeed tiny—why not?).

I’m not sure where it came from, or why it says You May Not Camp You May Not Wine You May Not Ice Cream You May Not Hold Up Your Hand. I’m not even sure where it went–I never found it after that one afternoon in September. But I can picture it, shuffling its sad,  restrictive self down other highways and byways of the city, and I will always remember Antwerp’s large, red, picturesque love note. Dank je wel!


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I’m the Big Cheese

In Antwerp on Sunday afternoons there is a huge market. I mean HUGE. Stalls of clothes, Moroccan leather, fries, meats, cheese, dried fruits and nuts, exotic birds in all colors, tiny furry squeaking snuggly hamsters… ❤

Then there is one particular stall, to which I was drawn not only by the free Gouda and Mimolette samples, but by the mysterious powers of….The Big Cheese.

The thing must weigh 70 pounds at least. It looks like Gouda, if I can judge by the wax casing it’s in. It’s like my entire body has been compressed, a foot thick, into a sumptuous, sensuous, curvaceous…immediately I was struck by the demons of self-doubt and slight lactose intolerance…

“But why would a cheese like that choose ME?” I asked myself.

I pictured it rolling down a hill, free to do whatever its cheesy heart desired, laughing at the puny humans it left, some perhaps flattened, in its wake…my heart ached at the thought that it might leave my life FOREVER.

Then I pictured myself, oh incredible thought, all five feet three inches of me, staggering home under the weight of all that glorious amazing incredible cheesiness that must be mine, all MINE….

Then I came to myself and wiped away the puddle of drool on my chin. That was no way to show respect to such a rare creature! I hesitantly reached out to touch it, afraid the very tips of my fingers would sully its glossy beauty. “I’m sorry,” I almost whispered…

Did such a siren have a name? I looked around for a label, SOMETHING to give it a positive identity, a name, to make it feel even a little more attainable.

But the Flemish, it seems, know their cheese, or maybe just their marketing skills. The old wisdom came into play here—the more mysterious something is, the more desirable it becomes. The sign they had placed next to it said simply, “Old Cheese.”

Fearing that His Old Cheesiness would prove too much of a strain on my slim budget, and my back, I placed a fist over my heart in salute. “I will come back,” I vowed.

“You WILL be mine!”Image

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