Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Brussels as home?

Okay day 2 in Brussels. I fell like I’ve already been here a week. I keep having to remind myself to just take it all in bit by bit. More and more I am realizing that it is impossible not to fit into Brussels somehow. Every language, race, and nationality are represented on the streets. The Belgians themselves seem to embrace this. Everyone I’ve encountered so far has been incredibly polite and helpful. Each is ready to speak to me in English and laugh with me in my occasional confusion and embarrassment. Yes, I am an American. Yes, I’m fresh of the plane. Yes, I will get better at all of this bye the time I leave here in five months.

Today as I walked around the crowded streets of the city center I felt oddly comfortable and at home. It is easy to forget that I am so far from home when there is so much to see. Kathleen ran a few errands with me downtown and we also went into a huge English bookstore. Reading familiar titles made me think…. the world is flat. It’s also easy to blend in and simply watch (I snicker at many of the people on the inside). I saw this old balding man with huge clear plastic rimmed round glasses and he had a peace of stainless steel chain connecting his two backpack straps. He was wearing one of those 80s windbreaker jackets. I laughed on the inside, but thought if he fits in so easily here, then surely I can too.

Brussels is an odd mix of old and new; tradition and globalization. In the center there is this massive gothic looking building with a giant Coke-a-Cola sign on top of it. It sits and feels like it looms over the center (America!). Everywhere there is this struggle to be modern but still respect history. I’ll take pictures of some of these paradoxes soon. They intrigue me and I find myself recalling all this globalization theory as I simply walk down the streets. I feel like living each day in Brussels is part of my education. I want to learn the stories behind the buildings, the people, and each bit of history. I’m sure each is filled with scandal and conflict, but also somehow beautiful because it makes up this giant puzzels of a city.

Today was orientation in the morning and scheduled bar hopping in the evening. We went through all the usual first day speeches and tours. In the evening we met at the college and a huge group of us went to 4 bars close to school. I sampled a few Belgians and just took in the scene. Each place was different and the patrons definitely matched the surroundings. I enjoyed just sitting and sipping with a few new friends; but sadly I find that many of the American students I’ve met so far live up to our stereotypes. Each time they yell or clink glasses loudly I cringed (I know mom you are thinking I’m judgeing people to harshly, I’m honestly trying to keep an open mind). Like always I will find the right group, transition just takes a little time.

All is well on day two and each minute in Brussels is teaching me a little something. Which makes me anticipate the next day even more.

Peace and love,
Amanda Mar

P.S. For Becca and others that are interested my snail mail address is bellow. Kathleen says the postman will come everyday and then not for two or three weeks. But hopefully if you do send something it will find me safely.


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