the class trip had been planned for months. the faculty did not disappoint and dished out its usual generous helping of disorganization, steaming pile of miscommunication, assorted grab bag of mixed messages and various delays, as a result of which i found out i had gotten into the course the day after i had made peace with the fact that i had not gotten into the course (followed immediately by a rather frustrated email to the person in charge of admissions and a phone call to my mom telling her i'd visit her instead of europe). so yes, confusion. followed by happiness. and then, my typical reaction to anything remotely traumatic (journey, large party, planned outing) i.e. what the everliving fuck-knuckles was i thinking? i don't wanna do this! can't i just cancel? back out? call them and tell them i have dengue fever? mumps? ebola?! fortunately, after 41 years on this earth i have finally figured out my emotional modus operandi and know that like the temper tantrum by a 2-year-old, one must merely wait out the storm. the bonus of my pre-everything freak-out is that my expectations on going into whatever-it-is are so low that i am bound to be pleasantly surprised. and so i was.
we landed in brussels, took the train into the city and knew immediately that the atlantic had been crossed: trains, such as they are on our side of the pond, have nowhere near the sex appeal of their european counterparts. nor the availability. nor the range.
brussels was nice, though a little looming and stark, charming bits interspersed with monolithic EU architecture. perhaps the sun would have imbued it with more charm, but alas, rain was on the menu. we meandered, wandered, looked and gawked, stopping once to eat hot liege waffles that singlehandedly made the visit worthwhile: 1€ for a piece of carmelised chewy dense and madly satisfying heaven. after some hours of walking around we met up with my classmate c, and headed to our hostel.
at my advanced age, this was my first time staying in a hostel. in fact, an exception had to be made because the cut off age was 35. c had to write an email explaining how utterly cool mister monkey and i were despite our advanced decrepitude, going so far as to tell the the blatant lie that we did not even mind 23-year-olds (c is 23)! turns out there was no problem - our flatmates were korean, quiet, and predisposed to even earlier bedtimes than yours truly. we found within the first day that men are preferable to women, as there is far less grooming and juggling of bathroom space (not everyone is as low maintenance and fuss free as i am*). the room was neat and new, the pillows and duvet feather-filled, and the sheets freshly pressed (oh for a laundry press on this side of the water! how i miss the feel of a pressed pillowcase on my face...), and everything was just hunky dory, with the notable exception of youthful sports enthusiasts having a very loud conversation about futball at 3am right outside our room, right beneath the poster asking for quiet in the hallway, and who appeared completely baffled when i opened the door and requested that they shut their gobs (not in those exact words).
the grand place in brussels is the crowning glory of the city, dripping with gold-encrusted curlicues and garlands, charmingly overwrought and utterly unexpected. it's a vegas showgirl, old world edition, and we were suitably impressed, especially on day 2 when the sun chose to appear:
let me just add that there was cheese, good cheese; there were amazing baguettes, fabulous croissants, all things that europeans take for granted but that bring tears to the eyes of these jaded and broken north americans used to a steady diet of prefabricated shit. so yes, we ate and lo, it was good.
tomorrow, when i'm undertaking study-evasive manoeuvres, i might write about bruges, though there's not much to tell other than: go there immediately.
*scoff not - i went on this 10 day trip with nothing but a carry-on, while c, the most casual of dressers, lugged with him a hockey-sized** duffel bag filled with god only knows what: he only brought one pair of shoes!
**very big. almost big enough to fit a smallish corpse, if one were so inclined.