In which I bring back a stowaway, develop a taste for club soda and have a ball in a zoo.
Week three marked the beginning of a “norm” for me in Brussels. Routines are set, streets are familiar and I don’t need to look at directions or city transportation maps to figure out where I’m going. I leave my apartment at the same time every morning and walk the same route to work along the same strangely empty streets and nothing exciting ever happens on that walk. I could be a Belgian, a young looking one, on her way to work. I could not speak a word of English. No one really gives me a second look, even when I’m walking around Square de Meeus without a pantsuit, and it’s a good sign for me. I’ve assimilated, and I’ve really only had to do that one other time in my life, when I started college. And that wasn’t quite the same thing because literally everyone was in the same boat. It’s times like this where I could maybe start to imagine myself living in another country, away from my family and friends. I think I could do it, if I really put my whole heart into it.
But having my best friend half a block away for half the week shut that little voice in my head up pretty quickly. Katie took the 7-hour bus ride back from London with me and the Brussels crew and wasted 3 days in the city while I went to work. That’s love. She met me on my lunch break and waited until class was over to have dinner with me at 9 o’clock and was just an all around good sport. If I’ve been preternaturally lucky in anything in my life it’s been friends. I can say with great conviction that the friends I made in high school, my best friends, will always be a phone call or a road trip or a plane ticket away, whenever I need them, or whenever they need me. I’m still not entirely sure that friendship like that is afforded to everyone else in the world, but I do hope that it is, for their sakes.
My week was busy, with work from 9:30 until 5:30 then class at ULB eating up the rest of the daylight for three of the four weekdays. Class at ULB is interesting but so draining, especially after a full day of work. Mom, I don’t know how you worked for 8 hours then came home and made dinner and cleaned up the mess dinner made and just dealt with 3 teenagers in general because after an 8 hour day I can barely sit at a desk and listen to someone talk. You’re amazing, and I’m so sorry I didn’t offer to do the dishes more when I lived at home. That’s terrible. You won’t do any dishes for those two weeks I’m home in August, I can promise you that.
On Friday, in lieu of class, we went to the Parlamentarium, which was…fine. It was just a museum dedicated to the EU, which has been around for barely more than 60 years. It wasn’t a big museum. Work was good, still. I think I got luckier than most with the amount of work I have to do when I’m at the office. Most everyone else talks of being bored at work, of having too little to do, and the few that aren’t completely wasted are overworked like nobody’s business. So the balance at FH is appreciated, though I worry slightly about how my days will go once my boss goes on paternity leave. I’m thinking directionless, maybe hectic. Hopefully not a nightmare, but it’s been nowhere close to that thus far, so that’s probably unlikely. The weeks have been getting steadily busier, and this week was no exception seeing as my boss sold another Twitter campaign. So, to recap, that’s 3 accounts total I have a hand in and 2 Twitter campaigns. Plus I discovered that the vending machine dispenses cold bottles of club soda for free and so guess what, I am now a club soda person. I’m still loving my job, and, not to be too single-minded, but when I think about how my resume and portfolio are going to look at the end of this trip, I get a little giddy.
The trip of the week was to Antwerp, which is in Northern Belgium. (read: they speak Dutch). The train ride was too easy, just 1 hour, but I have to be honest here, we set off with very little by way of a game plan. We knew that there was a city center and a fine arts museum and a zoo, and that was enough to go off of, apparently. So once we had made it to the Antwerp train station, we used free Starbucks wifi to figure out which direction we were supposed to head in and set off in the direction of the city center. The rest of the morning and some of the afternoon was spent exploring Antwerp, a very pretty, if not slightly boring, city. The City Hall was beautiful, the Cathedral was beautiful, even the plain river with the plain pier was beautiful. The excitement factor was upped by the accidental coordination of our visit with the annual Harvest Festival, which meant the city center was full to the brim with brightly colored flowers and, inexplicably, people in sparrow mascot costumes. Naturally, Zach took a picture with them. It’s on Instagram somewhere.
The zoo, though, was another story. Much like how I discovered I was a huge Star Wars nerd when the trailer for the 7th film came out, I discovered I was a huge animal nerd as soon as I stepped foot in the Antwerp Zoo. Comparatively, it was a small zoo, smaller than most of the American ones I’d been too, but it was so clean and green and all the enclosures were packed in close so we and our tired little feet didn’t have as difficult a time as we could have. The layout was strange though. You would be in the monkey area, and then you’d literally do an about face and be up close and personal with some penguins. It felt like a far cry from the Dallas Zoo where, if memory serves, you could completely tire yourself out trekking between enclosures before even visiting more than half of the zoo. There was very little we didn’t see in the Antwerp zoo, mostly just the reptile room and that omission was entirely purposeful. As per usual, my favorite animals were the marine animals, though the monkeys entertained, and the nocturnal exhibit was fun because there were places to sit. The nocturnal animals themselves, excepting the sloths, were creepy as hell, but the benches were comfy. That was toward the end of our trip, clearly. After that, the train took us back to Brussels and a restful Sunday capped off a very successful week three in which I rediscovered my love for animals and briefly fantasized about being a zookeeper. Didn’t think that would happen on this trip, but hey, when you’re abroad you have to be open to new and unexpected experiences, even if they’re decidedly un-exotic raccoon enclosures.
Things I saw:
- Antwerp City Hall
- Cathedral of Our Lady
- Het Steen
- Schelde River
- Antwerp Zoo
Things I tried:
- Stoemp – creamed potatoes and root vegetables | ★★★★
- Kinder Egg – I’d heard good things, but, alas | ★★
- Andalouse sauce – spicy mayonnaise, essentially | ★★★★★
- Shaorma – I think I’ve technically had shewarma, but | ★★★★