Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bruxelles [Flashes and Bits]

The first night, I arrive, all I can see are lights that seem too small, and a sky that's too dark.  But it's beautiful.


Whoever told me that Brussels has mild winter weather is a liar. There's snow and salt and ice, even rain.  I've already slipped three times, the soles on my brand-new (just bought a week before I arrived) boots are already peeling away, and my fingers are barely warm in my knit gloves.

But there's a calm in the morning when I look out for the kitchen window, with my coffee. I see pure white snow, branches that look frosted, and feel nothing of the frantic rush from my first week. I also see children, dogs, and little red sleds.


450. 535. 589. That's the final count of days that Belgium spent without a government in 2011.  I think my jaw drops when I hear the number.

Wallonia. Flanders.  Not French. Not Dutch.  Brussels is its own little bubble of intense isolation: French-speaking in the middle of Dutch-speaking Flanders.  The south (Walloons, Frenchmen-who-aren't-French) doesn't want Belgium to split. The north (Flemmish, Dutchmen-who-aren't-Dutch) couldn't care less; or rather, they're alright with the split.

I think of the Quebec-Canada situation.  And I wonder: just what would drive someone to think that they can't get along with someone.  Not even the "Well, I don't like her clothes" sort of dislike, but the "I can't stand you at all and I wish you were far away" sort of dislike.  I think it's the sort of dislike that causes people to kill for something that's not truly tangible.


Renee Magritte. He is - or rather was - a famous Belgian surrealist painter. He said something, a quote, once: "If the dream is a translation of waking life, then waking life is also a translation of the dream."

My dream was to have fun.  And I am.  Too much fun.  I've finally gone dancing, met people, have sixteen-seventeen-eighteen different phone numbers, and am laughing.  But I'm also grinning because I'm about to go to Dublin.

There's also a beer festival this weekend in Bruges, a possible day trip to Waterloo and maybe a guided tour of the commune where I live, Schaerbeek. 


I'm still tragically driven to try all the ridiculous things I find: Bicky Burger Crisps, Heinz Tomato Ketchup crisps, avocaat (a liqueur made with eggs), a soda produced by a beer company, jams, teas, and more.


I feel frazzled and hassled.  Shopping is usually fun, but it's completely different in Brussels.  Apparently, there are sales only twice a year.  Otherwise, a store can only have sales if it's going out of business.

I am on a mission to find a pair of boots, some tights and a small bag for when I go out.  I find out that there is a store called Cameleon. It's the size of Costco, with throngs of people rushing into and away from the store.  Still, things can be a bit pricey (150 euros for a sundress? I'll stick to the markets at Midi and Jeu de Balle, thank you.)

The end result is that I unfortunately end up sandwiched between mothers and aunts, daughters and sisters, even fathers and brothers who are looking for a good deal.

Rach and I emerge a few minutes later with empty arms. We decide we need a drink.

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