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Showing posts from October, 2012

Jean Claude Van Damme in Anderlecht

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Imagine my surprise when my host-mom, and sister advised me my child-hood hero, Jean Claude Van Damme (known locally as the Muscles of Brussels [not mussels as some might thing]) is coming to my hood, Anderlecht. Flipping exciting doesn't even begin to cover it. I used to enact out his karate moves while watching Time Cop, Double Impact and Blood Sport when I was little. His flexibility and trademark high kick were something I practiced until I had perfected them. Unfortunately I no longer can do it, but my adoration for this man is as great as any Belgian.

So when Queen's "We are the Champions" rumbled the streets of Anderlecht outside of Westside Shopping Mall, and Van Damme with his adorable grin, and sunglasses made his way to the stage just five hundred or so feet in front of me, I screamed like a teenager, raised my camera in the air and tried to absorb one of the greatest moments of my life.... Sharing the pavement with Jean Claude Van Damme.

His reason for arri…

When the World Changes You and You Can't Tell Anyone.

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And then I came to Brussels, and all these people and places changed me. Changed how I see the world, and I know now that I won't be able to share them with anyone when I go home.

It has become obvious this week that my time is dwindling down, and that my return home will be arriving soon. There is now less time left remaining in my stay here in Brussels than I have experienced. The clock is literally running out. Soon, I'll be  going home to a world so different than this, that I could never hope to communicate who I became here.

A metal coffin awaits upon the tarmac of Brussels National for me sometime in December. I'll pack my life up into two quaint little suitcases,  board the plane of peanuts and fizzy pop, then go home- forever. The friends I've made will fade into the distant corners of my memory until at last I cannot remember them no more. The words I speak will evaporate from usage and become relics of the mind, eventually to be overwritten as outmoded data. I…

Breakfast in Brussels

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So two months of no American breakfast makes me a bit cranky. You may be asking why I don't just go buy the stuff and make it. Well, typically I don't eat breakfast here, and more to the point I have a hour commute from Da Lecht (Anderlecht) to the VUB campus, which means eating is something of an after thought. Also there's the cost thing. See I get free breakfast as a part of my host family home-stay here, usually bread or fruit which is normally very practical for my mornings "on-the-run". Considering the cost of living here I really just can't bring myself to giving into my yearning American cravings of scrambled eggs and bacon.

However earlier this week I broke down. I was literally going to snap if I didn't get something that remotely looked like U.S./English breakfast. I had a primal hunger which led me to the internet for a search of breakfast in Brussels. Other than a few pubs, which offered breakfast, I found very little. I'm certain there ar…

How to ride the Brussels Metro for free?

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So an interesting discussion came up with some friends on the tram to Petillon yesterday about what would be called "jumping the turnstile" in the States. One of the students from our school was caught without a ticket or Mobib card and was dinged 100 Euro for her failure to show a valid pass. It was all quite a mistake as this occurred early in the semester and no one ever explained how the Brussels Metro system works. It can be quite confusing, and the tram police left her crying and feeling like a criminal.

I'll admit I've rode a few times for free though never was it intentional. Once when visiting Brussels and arriving with only notes (bills) and realizing that the Metro kiosks don't take "swipe" U.S. credit cards, and having no change. Then most recently when my abonnement on my Mobib card expired at the end of the first month and not knowing I could buy a ticket from the driver. (Marius Renard does not have a kiosk.) I do have a valid monthly subs…

Dear Shannon | Love is a battlefield

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In August of 2012, I left for four months to Belgium. This is the letter I left behind.

Dear my Love,

While such a letter may seem unkind, I felt somewhat a bit inclined, to tell you of my mistress to which, I run from your arms to hers I’ve done. My new love, I must tell is but a place where I must embrace, her foreign tongue, melodic sung, near my ears as she kisses the air from which I stand flying to this far away land.

Though I fly into another’s arms, it’s yours I’ll miss forever more. Though sweet Belgium calls my name, she will never be the same from hence I come forth, I make this recourse: the choice to leave as difficult as it seems, was only so you would then deem, my life honorable, and that you might think me special enough to love for all time if I succeed at becoming more inclined to earn your affection through an act of absolution.

 I have chosen to soar above, to earn your love, for if I naught then my love is not worthy of your thoughts.

So now I go to battle for o…

Questions of Brussel's Meetro

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You ever get that feeling that who ever planned out the public transportation system in Brussels gave a three year old a crayon, a crack pipe, vodka, and a Red Bull and said "have at it?"

I recognize infrastructure tends to spring from random necessity rather than art, but there are several things that confuse me. Beyond the fact that the overhead voice calls it Le Meetro even in English to stylize the French pronunciation (which actually brings a smile to my face each time I hear it), I'm perplexed that after two months here I still can't find a map that combines both trams, buses, and Metros into a single image.

Why can't the 2 & 6 lines form a "circle line" like London does? Why is it called Simonis in both ways? Can't we just go with Elizabeth and Leopold? If it wasn't for the clockwise maps, I'd never make it home.

Is it just me, or does Kunst Wet remind everyone (the physical station, not the name) of the ending of Terminator 3? I say…

Waiting for Life to Begin.

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I left Brussels on Saturday morning for Dinant, a destination chosen randomly to be spontaneous. It's a little village on the Meuse river in southern Belgium which might as well be a world away. The raindrops clung to the window of the train carriage as we pulled out of the station and into the unknown. This was really the first major trip I've taken by myself, alone, since arriving; I considered it a private get-away of self-reflection. Indeed Dinant didn't fall short in either its majestic beauty or its adventure. A torrential downpour washed me down a flight of steps, broke my umbrella and left me miles from the hotel soaked from head to toe. Yet to the surprise of the smoking, and drinking patrons in the adjacent bar, I got up from my acrobatics, and finished my parade back to my lodgings. It should have jaded me, but I couldn't stop smiling- then laughing. I found it absolutely hilarious that none of this bothered me. I know that makes me sound like a complete lun…

The Woman of Kunst Wet

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Ringlets of golden hair blow in the wind. Her bending serpent rises from within. The approaching vibration moves me in. My position beside her comes again.
A smile, kiss, a hand upon my knee, We become oblivious to our flee. Want not to stop, love of said loves, should we. Stopped at Kunst Wet, I must get off fore she.

Horse Meat, It's what's for dinner.

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I'm not sure where I was when I saw it, but I did, a restaurant that advertised horse burgers. I literally stopped, turned to the window with the sign, and for a moment I questioned my French skills. "Yep, that says Horse, not hair." Suddenly I'm excited, it's something taboo! I love taboo stuff!. Better yet, the idea of eating a horse has absolutely no emotional effect on me what so ever. As long as it's dead, and not moving- I'm good.

Of course this is the second weird Belgian food I've found, the first (not really food) is absinthe. I'm not sure what else is lurking out there, but my Catholic school girl upbringing in the States has me yearning to break out and find each one.

So you can imagine my enthusiasm as I ran home and told my host-mom I had found horse in town. Unfortunately I had forgot where it was. Her reply? "Aimes tu le cheval?" Uh "Hell yeah!!!", I think in my head, Obviously it's meat, and there's not mu…

A Change In Me

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My morning starts with the sun peeking over over the top of Place Poelaert, slipping through the cracks in my electric shade. My mobile vibrates letting me know it's time to begin living again. I toss the comforter off, rotate 90 degrees, and my toes dangle just over the cold tile floor before landing me back into this reality. I begin my crunches, adding five more to the count of the day before, whispering the numbers into the cloudy Brussel's sky as the blinds rise like the opening act to a Broadway show.  I tap my music app on my phone, and I turn on the music, Journey's Worlds Apart. I stand, open the window, a wave of cold air floods the room, and instantly I'm more awake than before. A few moments of Tai Chi, and I decide to break into dance. I grab the hair brush and turn it into an impromptu microphone. Then I stop and think what the hell is wrong with me?

I run to the window, press myself out of its frame and scream "who cares!" in reply. The lady in …

There's a time for everything under Heaven

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There's a time for everything. A time to cry, a time to laugh, and as Ren McCormack would say "there's a time to dance".

It was this line in the movie Footloose (the original one) that's stuck with me for a lot of my life. It's a good metaphor for travel. As everyone knows by now, my last visit to Brussels involved a bit too much crying in alleyways, and I'm certain there was some character assassination because of this act, by those I first met on that trip, and who I've returned to befriend. Amazingly, this as well as other issues beyond my control were obstacles which I've hurdled successfully. I've managed to change people's expectations of me. Indeed, there was a time for tears, a time to heal, and a time for which such events drove me forward- moved me into the next phase of life. One in which I, we, all have a unique opportunity to experience something special. First impressions aside, I've proven I can dance.
That's what this…

Starbucks

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So lets be honest, I'm addicted to coffee back in the States. I used to laugh at people who went to Starbucks and paid the outrageous amounts of money for coffee, but then I became one of those people. Now it's just outrageously delicious. There's something undeniably right about their coffee, a coffee which is unique to America, yet common in parts of Europe: a strong rich coffee. Except in Brussels, I have not had that experience. I'm sure it exists, yet, I've had my fair share of coffee, but in the end, what I really want is Starbucks. Thankfully there's one in Brussels (a few actually).Unfortunately it's not cheap. My Venti Mocha set me back just over seven Euros which if my calculations are correct, puts me right about at ten greenbacks for a coffee. That's right, a $10 coffee, and it was awesome. Oh yes my friends... I smiled all the way home.

Here's the thing that Starbucks does right. It's their service. It "translated" perfectl…

Mitraillette Burger Maison

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So after drinking on Wednesday night and not enough sleep I woke up with a head-ache that felt as if King-Kong was inside my cranium playing drums. After a brief morning class and a study gap between my afternoon studies, I decided to forgo the normal destination of many Veco students (the VUB sandwichery) and visit my friends over at the Etterbeek Station friture. Luckily it's right around the corner, and though it's not the finest friture in town, it's a Godsend for hangovers and returning to school. It's also the only place I've found that has real beef on their mitraillettes. I still haven't figured out what the "normal" hamburger is, but it's not beef in and sense of the American word. Though they will fill your stomach, I personally refuse to order the fake burgers.

However I got a bit excited after noticing the sign at the Etterbeek friture that read 100% real beef round. That's when I noticed they have something on the menu called a mit…

Dreams live in the Future

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So I was on my way back from Jeu de Balle where I met some friends and grabbed a chocolat chaud  (hot chocolate) with a side of conversation and several laughs.  Up the hill  from the flea market is a little cafe where they bring you hot white milk and a small thimble full of chocolate chips (I can only assume, Belgian chocolate). You mix it yourself, the chocolate melts as you stir it with a spoon, and you have this incredibly rich drink. The rain outside only added to the romance of it all, but it's amazing how something I've taken for granted my whole life is re-invented. Of course when I actually come home (in Brux.) and think about life these day, none of it, could have I imagined or dreamed in the past- or have I just forgot?

Since I let go of my expectations a few weeks ago, every day is a mystery, a wildly unknown future where amazing is waiting. Sometimes I forget the cobblestones under my feet, or the non-native words I now (partially) speak. Sometimes I forget the di…

Anderlecht VS Stockel Metros

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I remember the first time I visited Brussels and at that time I was staying with a friend in Stockel, she explained to me that Stockel was considered a wealthier area of Brussels, thus the spanking new Metro train (complete with A/C), and the the various other shiny, glittery aspects of the upper-class life. Cool I thought, but at the other end of the line is Anderlecht. Of course I didn't know then, that when I moved to Brussels, I'd be living on "the other side of the tracks", in Anderlecht (a place with a mixed reputation). I actually love it here, but considering the "community" spirit of Europe, and the attempt for European culture to maintain equality, I find it quite ironic that the nice metro-trains on the 1 & 5 come to a skidding halt at Gare de l'Ouest (yes I realize occasionally there's one that slips down to Erasmus, but it's rare). For the most part, if you live in Anderlecht you're riding the older, squeeky, rail-stock from…