Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flying Solo (With a Copilot)

Exchange is the most amazing, interesting, adventurous thing I've ever done.
It's also the most terrifying, frustrating and depressing.
Exchange has turned me into a bipolar crackpot. Sometimes I find myself considering sneaky ways to go home--anything to just be NORMAL again.
But I'm in Belgium. It gets better.

Last Saturday I went to a Medieval Festival in Brussels...which was absolutely awesome. People dressed up and sold random things. There was a "battle" where people swung swords at each other in a insane manner. There were breweries and lots of long-haired men and fake elf ears. I ate a waffle covered in nutella. All in all, a good (if tiring) day.

This weekend I did something super awesome.
For the first time, I went to Brussels all by myself (With Leona, the Croatian.)
We meet, after some intense planning, at the train station. We regarded the time sheet with the utmost of seriousness (for two seconds) before hopping on the first train that said it was going to Brussels, which happened to be a direct train to Brussels Midi.
Mistake 1. Filling out my train card WRONG. I have a Key Card, which allows me to go inbetween Brussels and Braine l'Alleud 10 times. I have to write the date, where I'm from and where I'm going. I mixed these last two up. Unfortunately, I was paying for Leona, too. Even more unfortunately, the ticket-checker decided to correct the mistake. By taking my last two spots on the train card. Now, in order to return to Braine l'Alleud, I would have to buy another. NOT A BIG DEAL, I had time, right?
Mistake 2. There are three major stations in Brussels; Midi, Central and Nord. I've been to all of them, so I figured one was as good as the other. We got off at Midi, and our exuberance at being alone, savvy women in Brussels carried us out the train station and down several blocks of increasingly smelly streets of people not speaking French. We stopped at a bus stop to look at a map for a couple minutes (five seconds) before deciding on a direction and continuing. Eventually, exuberance wore out and we turned around and headed back for the train station feeling like stupid tourists.
First we looked for a map ourselves--there must be hundreds of people who needed directions to the Grand Place; why isn't there a map in sight?
Then we asked the lady selling chocolate. She told us to take the metro. We thanked her and walked down a flight of stairs and stared at the metro map for a bit before realizing we didn't understand or know how to pay for the metro. That wasn't going to work.
We almost asked the chocolate lady again, but then decided to ask the guy working in a circular booth with "Information" written on it. We waited a couple minutes in a long line before seeing the sign "NO maps, NO tourist information!"
It seemed a little angry to me, there must have been a more polite way to say it, but it was sure heeded by me and Leona. We scurried off in another direction.
We wandered around for a bit--considered getting on another train, perhaps. And then we saw it. A little separate blue room. Literally, the glass of the windows were blue turning the whole thing into a glowing blue jewel. "Tourist Info."
"Do you speak English?" (asking directions in french is easy, it's understanding the answer that's TOO MUCH!)
"We want to get to the Grand Place."
"It's not far from here. You can walk there in 15 minutes. Just bare right then go straight."
Ironically enough, we had ALMOST done the right thing without help--except, at the very same intersection, we had gone left.
Anyway, to our complete surprise, we found it!

I had a celebratory waffle. With chocolate and strawberries. So did Leona. We wandered around for a bit before setting our sights on SHOPPING! Which including getting lost a couple times--turns out neither of us are that good at remembering directions.
We shopped happily.
We returned using the Central station ( the one we should have come on in the first place.) Buying my new "key pass" was difficult, but manageable. The train was on time. No hiccups. Truly assimilated women.

Today (sunday) I went to a "Choice" convention with my host family. I don't really know what it was about--but my best guess it somewhere between a catholic youth group and a teen abstinence program. Or something. I was pretty taken aback. But in the afternoon there was contradancing (STILL NOT SURE WHY) so I just went with it.

I miss my mom and my family.
I don't like school, really, it's sort of a waste of time. It is a waste of time. Given time to think alone is bad for me, because I sort of just get more and more homesick and a viscous cycle of thought. Making friends is hard, everyone already has established friends. I'm just the awkward, temporary implant. I live for the weekends and doing exciting things. Tuesday I'm visiting Mons with a friend--my first journey REALLY alone! Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. "I live for the weekends" ;)