la descente de la lesse.

As I clumsily plopped myself into the back seat of the yellow kayak, I didn't know what I was in for. I just knew that for one, I had never been kayaking before, and two, the kayak was on a silver, moving conveyor belt that was about to spit Michelle (my friend in the front seat) and me into the river without any sympathy.

But there were about 60 other kids, other exchange students, thinking just about the same thing, right?

"Left, right, left.. Jordann, that's the right!" "Okay, we have to work together, more power.. shit. Damn tree." "Okay, we're going backwards, wrong direction." "Back paddle, other way, work with the river."

"Just follow my lead."
"But I'm a really bad dancer.."

But before long, we learned the rhythm, the dance, of kayaking. Our paddles were in sync: we learned to work with the current and use only our strength to move when the river wouldn't help us.

20 kilometers. How many miles is that? More than I thought, more than I felt. We had a lunch break along the way, during which Michelle and I helped with others to pull people in from the river and then help them back out when it was time to go. We helped to drain the kayaks and to ensure that there were 2 paddles and 2 life jackets in each. If someone had a question, we answered it. If someone didn't have something, we found it. I'm pretty sure that there were a good many people who didn't think we were part of the exchange student group, but rather river guides at the rest area. Or at least I felt that way, and it felt so good to help.

The sun began to shine on the second half of the journey, after the lunch break. I don't know the words in English or French to describe the beauty or serenity of it all, of being that submerged in nature. Typically, I would express it in photography, but I didn't take my camera. I'm not sure if I should regret that decision or be content about it: I'm glad my camera is safe, but I can't imagine the photos I could have taken. But oh well, I'll be okay.

Here's a picture that I've gotten off of the internet:

The trees weren't that colorful since it's not that far into autumn, but yes, I saw that castle. It's le Chateau de Walzin. We had no idea that we'd see it, and you can only imagine how I felt as I was kayaking down that river and I looked up to see that.

"We're kayaking through the middle of Europe. We're teenagers and we're kayaking through the middle of Europe. In 30 years, I'm going to be like, 'Oh yeah, I remember my first time kayaking.. I was 16 years old and it was in the Ardennes.' I'll smile, reminiscing, and say, 'Only in Belgium will you be kayaking, and in the beauty of it all, a guy you just met will ask you if you want a sip of his last beer.'"

I really do want to do it all again: I know I will one time or another in my life. Michelle and I decided that each engaged couple needs to go 20km in a kayak to see if they can actually stand eachother in marriage. It really is a test of tolerance and team work.

Oh, and by the way, I've completely mastered using a fork and a knife.

3 comments:

enbelgique September 27, 2010 at 7:12 PM  

i loved this post jordann, you did a great job describing our day together.
we're such kick ass powerhouse kayaking partners! :]

x jordann. September 27, 2010 at 8:22 PM  

awe, thanks michelle! we are such kick ass kayaking partners.. and just kick ass in general :D

kateinbelgium January 10, 2011 at 6:54 AM  

Hi... this is sort of weird, but I spotted your blog on CS in the Belgium thread when I was missing la belgique trop, haha and realized we have a lot in common! I'm from the Pittsburgh area too, and was with rotary in Belgium last year, 09-10. Not too far from Waterloo either, like 15 mins away... how weird is that? what a small world :) la descente de la lesse was the best memory of my exchange! it sounds like you're having a wonderful time exploring ... savor every second you have and keep writing it all down... you'll be so thankful you did.
-Kate :)

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this is a blog

that you may find profound, deviant, or insipid.

It may teach you, inspire you and leave you lost in thought; or it may bore you and cause your eyes to drag slowly shut.

You may read it for an hour, or maybe not at all.

Maybe you'll get to know me, maybe in ways I don't even know me.

I left the United States in August 2010 as a Rotary exchange student. I'll leave Belgium in July 2011 as Jordann.

about me

My photo
Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium
I follow the sun.