Monday, May 31, 2010

Back in Brussels

So, this weekend I traveled. On Friday, I had art history class from 9 until about 4:50pm (it will be interesting) then two people and I caught the train to Amsterdam. We got there about 9:30 and realized: hey, we are in the Netherlands and have no idea where we're going! There were people from our group that had already been there that day because they didn't have class on Friday so we called them. The directions we received were... unclear. We ended up walking aimlessly around for a half hour. I was freaking out, needless to say. We bought a map, made some decisions, and figured it out. So, that was that. We found our hostel, checked in. Then we got some dinner in the square by our hostel. At one point, we were just sitting there, and this guy sprinted by with about eight cops sprinting after him. I wonder what HE did... not much is illegal in Amsterdam. The next day we went to the Anne Frank House (which was very powerful) and walked around more. Then, I felt that I was done. I was in Amsterdam less than 24 hours and I feel like I'm satisfied with the amount of time I was there, for the rest of my life. There's trash on the ground and prostitutes/"coffee" shops everywhere. There were some sketchy characters... Not really my scene. It made me bond with Brussels though. I was happy to be back.

The next day, we took a day trip to Bruges. Bruges, I kind of loved. It was quaint but there was a lot to do there. We went to an art museum and climbed the 366 steps to the top of the famous Belfry. We saw the famous Michaelangelo's Madonna sculpture in the Church of Our Lady. I like Brussels. But Bruges is more of my kind of town. Brussels has SO many people and it's SO big! Bruges is about 100,000 people with suburbs but gets 4 million visitors a year so it's by no means boring. Plus there are chocolate shops EVERYWHERE. Anyway, to summarize, I liked Bruges. I hope you caught that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Rainy Day in Brussels

Today was cold and rainy, the kind of day that makes you want to stay inside and snuggle under a blanket. So, naturally I would have a 10 o'clock computer account activation session 40 minutes on the metro away from where I live. After that was done, I mostly just stayed in doors in the ISA office with some of my fellow ISA-ers and watched Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen is wonderful no matter where you are, I've found.
Yesterday was our orientation day for Vesalius college. Since Vesalius is literally one building with a few classrooms in it, we have a special reciprocity with the VUB (the dutch speaking university across the street) so we can use their buildings and resources. Orientation was on the VUB campus, which is a bit smaller than KSU campus. Needless to say, it's quite big. So, we got a tour and met the study abroad reps along with the student government officers. They were all very energetic about taking us to experience Brussels on their bar hopping activity that night. We were supposed to meet at 9 at the bar on the VUB campus. So, about 30 of us gathered around and waited for the student gov. posse to arrive... an hour late. When they got there, they went straight into the bar, got drinks, and sat by themselves. We were all standing around like "uhhh... what is going on?" Finally some girl went up to the president and asked what was up. He said this was our first stop. So we sat down and got drinks. The Vesalius people didn't integrate; they didn't even talk to us. Then we went to this jungle decorated cocktail bar, fifteen minutes walk from the campus. A lot of people had class the next day or wanted to take to metro home so I ended up leaving the jungle bar by 11:30 with a couple other people. The last metro is at midnight so it really dictates the schedule of your night. Plus, it's a bit scary at night. I've been working on my European glare that shows people that I am not to be messed with. You may laugh but I am terrifying. Also, at night I've learned not to talk to anyone. Or look at them. Just keep to yourself, look at the ground, know where you're going, and glare and you'll be fine. Also grip your keys like you can stab someone the instant someone tries anything. Let me tell you, the life lessons I am learning here...
So, we left the jungle at 11:30 but ended up taking a REALLY long loop all the way around the VUB and at 11:53, we realized where we were (about a 10 minute walk to the metro). So, we SPRINTED up the street and made it, thankfully. I was nervous though.
Note to self: just because you think you know where you are because it looks the same as where you think you are, does not mean you are where you think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I am awkward

Some woman on the metro tried to talk to me today. I didn't understand her and so I went "euuuh je ne sais pas" and then looked at the floor. It was awkward though because she was still sitting directly next to me for a good twenty minutes. And I think she wanted me to move for her friend. So, I just looked like a jerk, if that was indeed what she was asking me. YES! my awkwardness never fails! Even in a different country!
These last couple days have been good. Tiring, but good.
I went with my host family to this block party at their neighbor's house. It was cool. About 30 people. First was the appetizer course, then the salads course, then the main course, then the cheese course, then the dessert. All with lots of wine. We left EARLY after about 5 hours! There was a lot of rapid french speaking that I didn't understand. I tried at first, but then, I just sat back and pretended to know what they were saying. I laughed when they laughed. I made up in my head what I thought they were saying and amused myself greatly.
The next day we went back and had a whole other meal of the leftovers. Then that night, me and two girls went out to Delirium cafe for a couple hours. More than 2000 beers to choose from. It's quite impressive. I don't know how americans do it, but somehow we found a table of americans and a couple germans and sat with them. I admit, it was nice not having to think about forming a sentence. Though one was pretty obnoxious.
Today we had a bus tour of the city. It was informational. It was also 5 hours. And we only stopped to get out like 3 times. It just informed me that I had SO much to see and made me panic about how little time I have. Plus, the bus was hella hot. And I was wearing dark jeans that soaked up all the heat. Awesome.
Tomorrow is orientation for my school. Hopefully I'll get information about my internship etc. Once I get a schedule down, I think things will get less hectic. Or maybe more.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 2

Bonjour mes amis! Notice how each time I write, more and more french slips in?... I'm doing that on purpose. To make you think that I'm becoming fluent. French is tough. Let me tell you. I smile and nod a lot here. Hopefully I'll get better. I think I can convey to people what I'm saying better, without even thinking about it. So, that's nice. But in no way am I constructing complete, correct sentences. It's more like uh... you... go to... the store with me? Oh well, my host family is very nice about it. I try not to be a burden and if they're annoyed with me, they do a great job of covering it up. Today, Damienne went with me on the metro and bus to get to the ISA office, where we were meeting at 10am. With her of course, it was less stressful and we got there. But, at the end of the day, after we had orientation, a short tour of the Grand Place, and a welcome drink, Sabine (our director) said Au revoir! A demain! (Bye, see you tomorrow). And we were free to do what we wanted. Since I knew that my host family was making dinner for me, I ventured home. You'll be pleased to know that I maneuvered the metro by myself! And I got home! I only got a little lost from the metro stop to my apartment. But, I figured it out!!

It's funny, everything you read about Brussels is that it's a welcoming, accepting place because there are so many cultures and languages. What I'm finding (and what Damienne tells me), there's quite a bit of hostility between the Dutch and French speaking Belgians. Like, the university across the street from mine is a Dutch school and it is not the place to practice your french because they will respond badly. Plus, I'm told that there are a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants with their head coverings and there are a lot of negative feelings about them too because they don't try to acculturate. Also, in Europe, no one smiles at you or makes eye contact. And if you do that, it's BAD. So, on the metro this morning and afternoon, I had to work to look down and frown. Apparently, I would be sending the wrong message if I did anything else. Whew. I'm overwhelmed with how much I'm learning and I haven't even started classes or my internship yet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I. Am. Exhausted.

Good morning! I left my house in Kansas about 24 hours ago and I'm finally kind of settled into my homestay. I left Kansas City at 10:30am ish and then got to Philadelphia at 1:30. Then I had a good four hours in Philly's airport (where they do NOT have free internet, I found). I met up with a girl in my ISA group that had the same flight as me, then we boarded at 5:30pm. We got to Brussels at 7:50am, their time. It's 6 hours later here so it was 1am my time. Agh, all these times, I can't keep track. All I know is that I'm tired. The small group that arrived at the airport in the morning was shuttled to our homestays. I was last because the shuttle man did not know how to get there. I spent a good thirty minutes in the car alone with him, listening to American pop music. Weird. Driving is crazy by the way. Crazy! Just thought I'd remark on that. I finally got to my apartment building. My "family" consists of Michele, the mom, and Damienne, the daughter. Damienne is a college student and speaks relatively good english, which is kind of nice. Michele doesn't speak english. It's weird to be sitting my room, listening to the conversation in the living room and having it all be in french. I asked Damienne if she minded that I speak english to her and she said that she'd certainly like to practice so that was fine with her. But, she also said that if I don't try to speak french, I'll never learn. I'm still just not confident with my conversational skills. I suppose that will change. I am deliriously tired but I don't want to mess up my sleep cycle even more. Feeling a bit homesick but maybe that's the deliriousness. Au revoir pour maintenant!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Five days!

This is a blog to keep you all updated on my summer 2010! From May 19- July 10, through International Studies Abroad (, I'll be studying abroad in Brussels, Belgium at Vesalius college ( Also, I'll be interning at AGE platform Europe (! Yay! As of right now, I have not started packing... so, that's what I'll be doing with the next four days. In case you were wondering, "what will Mary be doing with her last days in Manhattan?" Packing, is the answer to that.

To get you in the mood watch this: