My last two days in Europe were a whirlwind of modes of transportation and praying for wifi and not eating nearly enough and napping with my head down on a table in the cafe of the Louvre. My last meal in Europe was a divine plate … Continue reading Un été à Bruxelles: Leaving home for home again
I need to finish writing a paper and two articles, but my heart is aching at the sheer thought of leaving Brussels so I’m word-dumping onto a blog post.
Things I will miss about Brussels/Belgium/Europe, in no particular order:
- Neuhaus chocolates
- Grand Place at any time of day or night
- High-functioning public transit
- Weekend trips to DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
- My apartment
- The wacky group of 15 humans who have snuggled their way into my heart forever
- Celtica. Enough said.
- Delirium (and its cute bartenders)
- Work schedule (rather than university schedule)
- Flower shops
- Fruit and veg stands
- European men
- Australian framboise ice cream
- DIVERSITY DIVERSITY DIVERSITY
- Wearing the same six shirts for most of the summer and not feeling judged
- Drinking beer to enjoy it, not (just) to get trashed
- Paying for meals/coffee/clothes in all coins
- Brussels nightlife
- Megabeds + snuggling
- Dürüm pitta from Snack Merode
- The sheer number of man buns
- Amazing women biking in heels and dresses
- Free music festivals nearly every weekend
- Sysmo concerts
- Wine night + family dinners
- Cappuccinos from Cremerie de la Vache
- “Na naaaaaaa”
- “TIS I”
- “Wake up – it’s time to party!”
- and the rest of the weird jargon our program has created
Consider this a primer to the “OH GOD OH GOD I MISS BRUSSELS SEND ME BACK” post I will write when I’m supposed to be moving out of my apartment on August 9th.
Cheers, friends. Hope your summer is wonderful and you aren’t melting in the humidity like I am.
(I’ve been rubbish at blogging regularly. I’m sorry.)
I leave Europe in 24 days.
I turn 21 in 25 days.
I am so far from being a real, functioning adult. Right now, my Belgian phone is broken and out of minutes. I have 74 cents to my name right now, scattering in my purse. I ruined two of my favorite shirts because the jäger someone spilled on one at a bar bled into my whole load of laundry. My monthly metro pass expired this morning. I ate frites and ketchup for lunch.
And yet, in this point of not-at-all-having-it-together, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while for any extended period of time.
Things are going to change again. I am going to be yanked back out of the comfortable, manageable routine I’ve found for myself: the €1 morning coffee, the metro commute, the park lunch/naps, the Thursday night bar excursions, the Saturday markets. I’m going to be picked up and plopped right back where I started, stressed and under entirely too much pressure and eating way too much Gumby’s pizza.
There is so much to do when I get back to the States: I need to buy a bed for my new apartment. I need to work and study and read more good books. I need to learn how to let go of lost opportunities. I need to curb my crippling to-go coffee addiction.
I also need to live more. Live deeper. Live outside of my apartment. This week, I went out to a bar with friends — on a Tuesday! It’s not something I would have ever done at home. The voices of “Shouldn’t you be doing something else?” a little too loud in mine and my friends’ ears. But it was hysterical fun. We danced to swing music and the boys all took turns jumping and trying to hit a store sign (until Franky got smart and found a stick to hit it with. Cheating, but satisfying.).
We (being the 16 students on the Brussels program) are collectively terrified of the fact that our time in Brussels is rapidly approaching The End, and we’re desperate to spend time with each other in our city. We want to “live it up,” as they say, before we’re back in the drudgery of the school semester. We’re going to markets on weeknights and raiding tiny local bookstores and drinking lattes from cafes tucked into alleyways.
We are so young, dammit. Young enough to go out and have fun before mortgages and kids and jury duty weight us down. Our responsibilities are just enough to keep us humming without giving us a true excuse from not going out to truly experience the beautiful city we’ve been dropped in for the summer.
I feel so good about it, too. I eat lunch outside every day it’s not raining. I wear skirts on the metro. I practice my French when I can. Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I feel like I should be skipping and singing “I’m Walking on Sunshine” because my heart is so content and happy.
This group has become such a family and brought me out of my shell into the sun.
We’re living in the thick of it.
It’s wonderful, but I don’t know how to bring it home.
If there’s anything I learned about myself last year, it’s that I don’t transition well back to school. Last summer, getting into the groove of Alaska life wasn’t hard at all. I took to the dirt and the rain and sleeping outside as if I had been waiting my whole life to be at camp. Coming back into “regular” society — constant social media, business casual, a lack of mountains — was completely jarring. I spent more time trying to figure out how to act than doing to homework I needed to be doing. It was strange and disappointing, my lack of grace, and I didn’t acclimate well at all.
Shannon (one of my dear, sweet, wonderful Brussels roommates and apparent soul twin) and I sat on our deck for an hour Monday night, reveling in the absence of rain for the first time in a week. We discussed our equally traumatizing experiences in News Reporting class, the stigmas behind mental health disorders and how much we didn’t want to go home to the unavoidable stresses of university life. We wanted to stay, exploring Brussels for all its strange, ragtag, beautiful edges and pockets. We wanted to stay and see every inch of the city that has welcomed us in, the city that feels incredibly like home.
We will have to learn, once more, how to live in the thick of it. And whether that’s getting lost in CoMo, spending Saturdays in Adam’s books or driving out past the suburban bubble, I’m down for the adventure.
In a more romantic sense of the word, I went exploring today.
In a more realistic sense of the word, I got lost on my run today.
What’s do they saying about losing your way? “You have to be lost to be found.”
It’s not like I had some life-altering, come-to-Jesus moment and “found” myself. After jogging and wandering around, I oriented myself by the bus map and took it two stops to Flagey, which is a five-minute walk from home.
I did get to see parts of Brussels I hadn’t seen before. And I did take get to hang out with myself.
And I did get to buy some delicious strawberries at Saturday market.
All in all, I’m glad I got lost.
Here are some of the photos I took on my run (not included: running selfie. Because if you didn’t document your workout, did it even happen?). It doesn’t have to be a run, but I would recommend getting lost/going exploring in your city. You might just find something extra special.
I started my internship today.
One more time now: I started my international internship at a weekly, multi-platform European publication in the Etterbeek region of Brussels.
And I’ve only had two cups of coffee.
It feels good to get back into reporting. The research, the angle, the but-why-should-people-care, the clattering of keyboards and the hastily scrawled dates and logins. I haven’t worn my reporter hat since mid-January in snowy, competitive Columbia. Now I am in an old white walk-up with blue carpet, typing away at events blurbs and doing some research on the Treaty of Ghent for a festival preview. I’ll be starting in on some health reporting based on an incoming op-ed Andy (mine and Adam’s internship supervisor) is keeping his eye out for later today. Rami has told us about his plans for re-purposing his flat into a Barney-worthy pad (the serial bachelor, not the dinosaur). Irini directed us toward a cheap, quick sandwich shop in the metro. (Adam and I already went twice for coffee. We’re practically regulars.)
(Edit: we went a third time. Adam bought me une gaufre to pay me back for Gumby’s we ordered to the newsroom three weeks ago. If that doesn’t label us as Missouri journos, I don’t know what will.)
It is refreshing, truly, to work in a non-competitive newsroom for the first time in what feels like ages and ages. Adam and I won’t be viciously trying to scoop the other’s pitches or assignments. There is plenty of work to go around, and we aren’t being graded against. Our coworkers chat casually about summer travel plans and “Could you please take messages while I run to the post office,” rather than constantly worrying about whether or not their editor likes them enough to give them an A in the course.
The Etterbeek municipality is absolutely beautiful, and we can see the Arcades du Cinquantenaire from the front steps of our offices. We ate lunch outdoors, sipping (surprisingly delicious) café and chatting about work over the sound of jackhammers. Note to everyone: the caprese panini in the metro is worth the 3€10.
It’s nice really: the weekly publication, the gorgeous location, the lack of ladder-climbing students. I don’t feel pressure and anxiety like I do in the newsroom at home, and I can only hope my writing will be better for it.