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The summer before my 7th grade year, we moved overseas to Belgium. I didn't even know where Belgium was on a map beforehand. My dad was stationed at a tiny little Air Force base named Kleine Brogel (strangely, I can't find a translation for Brogel online...any of my Dutch LJ friends able to help?). We didn't live in base housing, instead my parents chose to rent a house on the outskirts of a little farm village called Overpelt which was a few miles away, but we spent nearly a month of the summer before we found the house living in a family-run hotel with our 2 cats who had come over with us from the States. Because the base was so small there was only an elementary school available and so I was to be bussed an hour over the border to an International school in Brunssum, Holland The Netherlands. The school was primarily military kids but there were some Dutch nationals and lots of other diplomatic corps and military brats from other countries including an entire section of Brits. I was to make some lasting friendships during our 3 years here and also take some incredibly scary school photos.

7th gradeI'm not sure if I didn't know it was school photo day and that's why I showed up with a faded too-small t-shirt and uncombed hair but this look only deteriorates further the next year so not much else to say about it. When I first met Becky, who would become my oldest, dearest friend, it was in Mr Davis' English class and I thought she was a childish weirdo and she thought I was a snob. But one day I saw that she was drawing a picture at her desk and our mutual interest in art and drawing brought us together in friendship. We called ourselves the Dreadful Duo and played silly games and wrote each other silly notes and drew reams and reams of pictures and comics, many of which I still have. At home in Belgium, our house was huge, and I had my own room for the first time in my life. My brother and sister made friends with the Flemish kids in the neighborhood and my brother even learned Flemish. I loved Belgium and The Netherlands with their trees in rows and canals and Napoleon lemon balls and Tintin comic books.

Not so cute now, am I? *shudder* The best part is that shirt I'm wearing? It's a PYJAMA TOP. Don't ask me why I was wearing it to school, I have no idea. Becky and I had increased our circle to include several other friends. We were a gang, a club, and we even gave ourselves a name. The initials of the club were LLG but if I told you what it stood for, I'd have to kill you; it was A SECRET. I sang in the school choir but couldn't participate in any other activities outside of school hours since we lived so far away, and was quite envious of my friends who were all members of the amateur theater group. To compensate, my friends and I frequently had sleepover parties at each other's houses that lasted all weekend. Becky had pet chickens and I went with her and her Baptist family to church on Sunday mornings: I had to borrow a skirt to wear.

The year was 1978 and disco was king and feathering your hair a la Farrah Fawcett was all the rage, except I didn't have a clue, obviously, how to get the right effect and Barky, even in the beginning stages, didn't help matters much. The necklace I'm wearing is a big red apple with a hole and a little worm sticking out. This year, after 2 years of riding the bus an hour each way every day, I was old enough to stay all week in the Student Dormitory just blocks from the school, which was a very eye-opening experience. Being a dormie was fun, though, a special privilege, and it helped a lot when it came time for college later. Halfway through the year, Becky moved back to the States and I felt a bit like a lost soul for the second half of 9th grade. I was glad when it was time to move: to Germany!

Previously: Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary. Next Up: High School
mood: amused
music: Thea Gilmore—Come Up With Me


I couldn't find "brogel" in any of my Dutch dictionaries, but fortunately I have a Flemish dictionary/encyclopaedia as well. The word "brogel" as such isn't included in it, but the name of the village is and there it says that the word "brogel" is derived from the Celtic word "brogilo", which means a fenced-off land.

I once ate too many napoleonnetjes at a party and I haven't eaten them since... ;-)

Do you remember where in Maastricht the school was? By the way, Maastricht is in the Netherlands, not in Holland. ;-)

Haaa! I did it again, didn't I? I do it just to annoy you guys. :D

Brunssum was where the school was, it's now called AFNorth, but it was AFCENT back then.

DUH! I should have written Flemish. It's too late to be writing a post, obviously. Or else looking at those scary photos scrambled my brain.

Edited at 2009-04-18 09:39 pm (UTC)

As it turns out, you should have written Celtic, since it's neither a Dutch nor a Flemish word. ;-) Officially, the Dutch used in Belgium and in the Netherlands is the same (we are supposed to use the same dictionaries/spelling), but in practice, Flemish tends to be quite different from Dutch. They use a lot of different words and word order and even grammar tends to be different. I have even been asked several times to translate a text from Flemish into Dutch. ;-)

Re: the same dictionaries, really? I never understood from our time there that Flemish and Dutch were THAT similar, even though they are VERY alike...we always understood them as being two distinct languages. Sometimes, we had the feeling that Flemish was almost a dialect, but of course our Flemish neighbors would never have admitted that! :D

It is a bit tricky. ;-) The official language in Belgium (apart from French and German) is Dutch, not Flemish, and it's supposed to be the same Dutch as in the Netherlands. Written Belgian Dutch usually isn't that different from "our" written Dutch, although I can usually tell whether a text has been written by a Belgian or a Dutch author, because Belgians tend to be more formal. Spoken Belgian Dutch is quite different and that is what people usually mean when they use the term Flemish; basically, Flemish is only a spoken language, not a written one. It can vary from just a "variation" of Dutch (a bit like British/American English), which is still easy to understand for speakers of Dutch, to something that sounds like an entirely different language (these are usually very local dialects). Interestingly enough, both countries don't seem to want to accept the fact that we speak the same language: Belgian TV programmes shown on Dutch TV are always subtitled, and so are Dutch TV programmes shown on Belgian TV. It's absolutely ridiculous! ;-)

Plus, I'm a big dork: it's NOT Maastricht. I don't know why I have that stuck in my head. I'm changing it in the post.

Because you would have preferred to have stayed in Maastricht, which is a LOT nicer than Brunssum. ;-))

wow that 2nd picture...i dunno...haha. doesn't even look like you really! something about the junior high years though ya know?? it's like you're stuck in these weird stage between girl and young woman and the body just gets all whacked out. i look at pictures of myself from that time and it's quite scary.

What's funny is that I look EXACTLY like my brother in that pic. Even my husband remarked on the resemblance. :)

love the first pic! you look so carefree, and like you know a secret, and a little bit dangerous too. yum! :)

Har! Yes, that's me in a nutshell. :D I've only got more so, of all of those things, since 7th grade. Hee!

YIkes! I had the same hair in grade 8 as well! Which, since I have the same curly hair, was ridiculous. My mom's solution to taming the curls (her hair was dead, dead straight and she could never cope with my curls) was to cut my hair short - I mean head scalpingly short in grade 5 (she thought it would curl up all cutely and it did not) and that I was taken for a boy for a year.

My own son at the same age now has long hair and gets called a girl. We are androgynous family, apparently.

I think the pictures are beautiful. There is something so fragile and lovely about that age, as the face molds itself into its features.

It's so funny...I don't think I look anything like I used to, and yet, it's all still there, isn't it?


I am vacillating between just loving this and insisting that you DO IT ALL AT ONCE instead of dribble out the years. I'm still not sure which way I'd prefer but, again, loving all of this.


You're lucky I didn't do it ONE BY ONE. I thought about it. :D

What an amazing upbringing. Were you always ok with the moves? Were you that accomodating? I think I'd have melted down, especially when older. But perhaps not. Who knows. How were things for you?

You get used to it, and end up craving it. The first year was always spent missing where you'd been, second year perfectly okay, and third year you couldn't wait to move on.

I was lucky, always (mostly) moving when I would have changed schools anyway, and I didn't have a hard time with it at all. My sister kept getting moved in the middle of things though, and had a much different experience.

Everyone we knew was in the same boat, and we were ALL new kids all the time; it's a different reality, being a military brat.


Okay, you're right, that middle photo scares the bejezus out of me. Thank god I was still in elementary school during those years so I could blame my mother for my '70s years!


Am I not brave, posting that scariness online? And just wait, I swear, it's not the worst! (well, it's a toss-up).


Oh dear, Liz! The first picture is darling, but the last two...well, we all have them. I swear I need to scan some pictures when I go home next time and I'll have plenty of content! I had those terrible 80s glasses - oh, they were bad. I love your apple necklace, very Richard Scarry.

And did I forget you lived in Germany? I can't wait for the next installment!

(p.s. I'll bet you got a lot of reading done on those long school bus rides, didn't you?)


Actually the next picture (10th grade) is the ABSOLUTE worst.

And sadly, the bus rides made me so motion-sick that mostly I was curled up in a little ball. I couldn't read in cars until a couple of years ago, and even then it has to be done just right.

Loving these!

You haven't run screaming from the room?

My goodness. From the prairie to the discos of Belgium in three short years! I think you should give yourself a break though, the 70s were truly a cruel decade and equally unkind to everyone in terms of fashion and hairstyle.

And we LOVED it. We were SO COOL. :D

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