Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Les Tropos

Let's examine some photos!

The reason I took this picture is because before I came to Belgium, I heard that there was a lot of street art in Brussels. The interesting thing is that many of it is okayed and sanctioned. Maybe because many people enjoy seeing the art, the art that is illegal is not necessarily cleaned off immediately. I took it at this angle because it is the normal viewpoint one would be seeing the train as it departed the station, and I tried not to get too much noise in the background.

This is a photo of my friend sitting outside in downtown Brussels.
What he is sitting on is half art and half seat. :)
I thought it was really cool that they made something so useful actually beautiful
This angle was hard to get but I wanted to show off the lines of the chair. Normally I wouldn't have been too concerned but the way the lines twist is what makes the bench so interesting to look at.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Une Bande Dessinée

So for our instant immersion class we had to make a BD.

BD stands for Bandes Desinees. They are very popular here in Belgium. The most popular BD is Tin Tin. But as an American, you might know one that originally started as a minor character (or characters, I suppose) in a BD, les Stroumpfs, or The Smurfs.

We were told to get in groups of four, take photos, and make them into comic strips. Luckilyyyyy I have been trying to learn photoshop for the longest time so I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Two is a couple, three is a crowd.

One cold morning in Louvain-La-Neuve, a woman was jogging when....
Hello? The Police? Oh my god! He's dead; he's dead! ... LATER...

The missing millionaire that we've been looking for, Jaques Lumiere, he has been killed and his body cut up.
This is obviously a crime of passion!
Love... put him in pieces!

Police Station: Chanel Lumiere waits to be interrogated.
Who do you think killed your husband?
I never met her... but I know he had a mistress.
Oh really?
I suppose he got what he deserved...
At the same time Coco Bijoux waits for her interrogation.

In your opinion, who killed your boyfriend?
One time his wife found us together... She definitely seemed mad enough to kill him.
What do you think of that?
Well he never told me he was married so I guess he got what he deserved!
This is suspicious but there is not enough hard evidence.

They will never find out it was us!
I can't believe I can record this! Finally, the proof!

Stop! We have you now!
I know you worked together!
We would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddler!


I actually like to play that I am an amateur photographer.

I have learned some of these tips before. I agree with almost all of them except empty space isn't necessarily empty. Sometimes being really close is good but sometimes you need "room." But he later addressed that with the rule of thirds.

Also, I kind hate when people think pictures are only meant to be 5 by 7, straight on, people in the center.

Personally I like to shoot at the widest aperture possible. I start with the lowest ISO, and set my aperture at the smallest number and adjust my settings from there. I decide if my shutter speed is okay and will adjust, but I usually want that hole to be really big, I like how those photos turn out. I also kind of hate using flash usually. I don't know why and I'm trying to teach myself to use it more often.

If you click, it links to the full size version:

This is a shot I took at the Festival de la Lumiere here. Unless you're planning a photoshoot you really just have to work with what you have. I angled this image down because they were offered free hot wine and I wanted that to be the subject of my shot. I also edited it to give it the feeling that I had when I was there.

I took about fifty photos of these three kids. The one with the hat was so excited to be there, and I have some really funny shots of him dancing. I guess I really liked the way the fisheye lens framed them.

This is an African drum circle that performed. It was hard to get a good shot because not only were they moving fast but there wasn't a lot of light. It's hard to get a fast shutter speed when it's so dark.

This is to show you can always get a different perspective on things. These are the drummers from the other side of the crowd.

PS These videos really made me miss Clemson, haha. I miss that tiger pride. You don't see that at schools here. It's different because we have one football team for the whole school that everyone gets behind. And we have these colors and this mascot that applies to all the other teams. And here, sports teams are small. Teams at the same school can have different colors. They don't run around yelling "UCL!" Their pride is in their city and their people but it's different.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Belgian Quirks

Things that happened early on:

1. The milk sits out on the shelf, unrefrigerated. At first I was weirded out but then I thought: 1. farms 2. history. It's sort of strange but once you open it you are supposed to put it in the fridge
2. Some things are amazingly cheap. While others... (soda, steak) are expensive.
3. There is a bread cutting machine for fresh loaves. My friends say those loaves go bad faster than the pre-packaged. Plus I'm scared to use the machine. But one day soon - french toast.
4. They have sandwich making shops in most of the grocery stores. I guess it's not really shops, because that gives you the idea of the cafe in BiLo. It's more like a window. I went to get a ham and cheese panini but the panini maker was broken. (PS Imagine me successfully maneuvering this conversation in French - yes, so proud). So I looked under the options and they had Hawaiian. Alright, I thought, and I ordered that. Turns out a Hawaiian sandwich is some sort of mayonaisse based salad on bread. I am not a big fan of mayo, but seeing as I am in mayo land I'm trying hard. My pineapple was also no where to be found in this weird pasty concoction and I honestly didn't like it. First food in Belgium I didn't love. Darnit!

New Literacies: Nietzsche and his typewriter

When I take notes in class, I like a nice ink pen. I write better in a fresh notebook with good flowing ink.
Sometimes I forget my notebook. Sometimes I have to take my History notes in my English notebook. I find a page in the back. Sometimes, I have to take my notes on the back of a spare page. Sometimes I have a crappy ball point pen. These things make my notes less neat. When my notes are neat I can add things to them later. I can draw arrows and highlight and make connections. When my notes are messy they are just one long paragraph. Same information but not as concise.
I think it is the same with the internet.
When I have a journal to write my thoughts out in, I write them all out fully. I hardly ever make lists unless they are to-do lists. I try to explain how I feel.
But when I have an online journal I like everything to be in bullet points.
I like my paragraphs much shorter.
i like to ignore typical english grammar rules.
I like everything to come out quickly
because I can type quickly
I can type without looking
in the dark
no lights
everything is perfect
unless i miss one key
smf yjem o; pgg

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First Week in Louvain-La-Neuve

The next morning started our first day of classes. Of course, the university was still in exams so they weren't "real" classes. But they were REAL intense :D

We started out with five days of intense French classes which I was dreading. They turned out to be great! They were really enjoyable, fast paced, and full of games. We would listen to songs and she magically figured out what level of French we were at. I am so sure I have the lowest level of French experience but I got along just fine :)

The girls who live by me near Le Centre Sportif have started going to the bakery by us. We haven't really settled into apartment life so we will pick up a pain au chocolat in the mornings. Its sort of similar to a croissant but a little less messy and filled with chocolate. :) The owner is really nice and seems to genuinely be interested in us and where we are from.

Our nights we spent exploring.

On one of the some of us checked out this British pub. They have an English speakers club that meets there. We got some delicious fondue and I got to try the famous Rochefort #8. Rochefort is a Trappist Abbey. Some of the best beer in the world is brewed in abbeys by monks and the Trappist are the best of that kind. There are only SEVEN in the world and SIX of them are in Belgium. At the Rochefort brewery, they don't name their beers, they merely give them a number.

That night the entire group was out together, exploring Louvain-La-Neuve at night. On our way back a group of us were being very loud and rambunctiousness (this is totally normal and okay in LLN where drinking on the street will get you a smile and a "bon soiree" from a police officer) when the guy walking in front of us turned around. Quizzically he asked us if we were American. We were so excited and told him yes. Turns out he was an American too! His name was Sebastien and he introduced us to some of his friends who are Erasmus students. Erasmus is the European program that allows students to travel abroad in other European countries.

One of his friends, Eric turned out to be my voisin, or neighbor. It's funny because when I look out of my window underneath it is a giant painting of the cheshire cat. Turns out he painted it and he lives in the humor kot. Some kots, or apartments, are special Kot-a-projets. Their entire kot works on one project the entire year, and he happens to live in one!

There are a ton of foreigners to meet here!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Settling into Louvain-La-Neuve

I was dead tired and super bummed, but it turns out that everyone in our group is pretty great. We all had a pretty tough time settling in, so swapping stories made us feel a lot better.

But even so we sort of trudged around the city, "getting spit on by angels" as my friend says to describe the weather. There were only three of us: Alyssa, Nick and I. We hadn't seen anyone in hours, and only one restaurant looked really warm and cozy through it's giant windows so we went inside finally to rest and eat. Funnily enough for us, about every ten minutes someone in our tiny group would walk by and one of us would run outside to grab them. Before you knew it we had about eight people crammed into a booth. With the warmth and the light and the kir and beer and being surrounded by happy French speakers, things started to look up :)

That night was the night I noticed most people left their shoes outside of their room. I wondered why that was.

Knowing that it was exam week, I didn't want to bother anyone. But I really wanted to meet them! I took the marzipan shaped like strawberries I picked up in Brussels and I wrote a note to my roommates in my awful French, telling them who I was and that I was excited to meet them.

Sadly, the next morning, there was no response, so I went off on my first day of duties in Louvain-La-Neuve. We all met up at the ILV, got instructions for even more important paperwork, and started off to the Town Hall to register as temporary citizens. Then some of us went to go get our new Belgian-to-Belgian sim cards so we could actually call and text people we met. After that we thought we were giving ourselves a break by going to the mall and shopping during the soldes (winter sales). We should have known how tiring shopping could be!

We all decided to take a break and go home. We were supposed to meet up for dinner at the university's dining hall. I arrived home, like always to an empty apartment, but this time there were three notes left for me on the table! How exciting. However, I didn't even get to read them as I crashed into bed and powernapped until my alarm went off. That alarm was so scary! I wasn't used to the new cellphone and I jumped out of bed and started rushing so I wouldn't be late for dinner. I run downstairs and who do I see? Two of my invisible roommates.

Of course that would happen to me, the moment my roommates appear, I'm late and have to be somewhere else. I rushed through the kitchen yelling hello's and I'm sorry's to them and in my terrible French mixing up words like "maintenant" and "ici." But that was not the worst of my worries.

We were given meal tickets worth a certain amount at the dining hall. I was just going to get some delicious frites and a drink with desert. I'm waiting patiently in line, talking to a friend behind me, Mike. The guy behind the counter asks him what he wants. He skips directly over me. I was sort of sad so I just stood there. Everyone in line was getting the same thing. I thought, oh man, I got in the wrong line... I guess I have to get this set plate, but that's okay it looks okay, I'll eat it. So the plates are lining up and finally since no one is asking me anything I take mine and I'm about to walk off when a guy says "non!" It turns out I took his plate. Yep. His plate. Oh and it happened to be THE LAST ONE OF THE NIGHT. Yeah, that's right. I kept trying to say "take it! I don't want it!" but the guy behind the counter kept saying "no you take it, it's my fault" and I was just like "All I wanted was frites, please take this plate!!" But my french just came out like garbage to them and they kept telling me it was okay.

So embarrassing.

Micky D's

The McDonald's Belgium website, like most Belgian sites offers you the choice of "Nederlands" (Flemish) or "Francais" (French). It, like every other site with flash in this country, take a long time to load :)

The first difference I noticed between the two sites is that the American one starts out with a giant advertisement in your face - a giant juicy and delicious burger. The Belgian one starts you at a menu with three options. The second thing I noticed is the higher quality of image on the USA site. Strange.

Other interesting differences:

- The USA site offers "Meat Bundles" and the Belgian site offers "P'tit Plaisirs" or "little pleasures"
- The USA website doesn't have a specific place for kids, but I'm sure you can google their kids stuff, meanwhile in Belgium, where people take their kids everywhere and let them run around unsupervised has a whole area on their website for children
- The Belgian website offers a "Quality" area where you can learn about health and how they get their ingredients. On the USA website that stuff is hidden under the food.
- The Belgian site likes putting "Mc" in front of everything. You can even get a "McJob!"

Because I couldn't get to a McDonald's I asked around about it. I expected students to say they didn't like it. But plenty of people did. The difference is cute though, instead of calling it McDonalds, they call it McDo! (pronounced like "dough") Even the Belgian website embraces that name, and I've yet to see Mickey D's on anything in America.

The town I am staying at, sadly, or luckily, does not have a McDonald's. What we have instead is called Quick Burger.

Quick Burger seems to be trying to be a lot like Burger King and McDonalds. They even have chicken wings on their menu!

And finally, though I have yet to make it inside a foreign McDonald's, however, I did make it into a foreign KFC. In Prague, tired and lost we wandered into a KFC. We successfully ordered off of a half czech, half english menu. The food was just as good, but they had no biscuits or cole slaw. Pretty sure cole slaw would be a big hit in Belgium, so I wonder why...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Exchange students Part 1

"Imagine you are hosting exchange students who have never visited the US."
Luckily for me, I've been there.

When I live in Clemson I live in the cultural exchange community. Every semester since I was a freshman I've had a foreign roommate. From England, Scotland, Spain, France, and Japan.

It's funny that you ask "What particular things about 'your people'?" Because as an American, describing Americans, we don't all have one cultural background. For me I have this strange sense of an aura that surrounds all Charlestonians, and I have a connection to the Blue Ridge mountains full or Irish and Scottish heritage. But that is me personally and I have friends from traditional Italian families that have a completely different heritage than me and friends with Israeli and hebraic traditions. I have no idea what to say if someone asks me to describe "my people." And it is even more awkward if someone from Ireland were to come and I were to explain my connection to a traditional Irish folk song. Why? Because since that song came to America it has changed. It's faster, there are more lyrics. It's not sung by a mother to her child but by brothers on a wooden porch drinking moonshine and not whiskey.

So for me, instead of trying to somehow personify and quantify what "American" means, my roommates and I try to show them CLEMSON. What it's like to be a tiger. :)

We explain football. We explain school. We explain eating. We explain going out.

But even in Clemson students are so diverse. Some students study through football games and some won't miss them for the world. Some wake up at 5 am and hike across campus to light up a grill and cook and drink all morning, and stay and tailgate through the game. Some students only wake up at 8 in order to drink and catch the last half. Some students study at home and watch the game online. Some students say "oh there was a game this weekend?"

I think though somehow, just through living here, they seem to get it. They see the differences and comment on them, but the overwhelming feeling always seems to be "oh you are a lot like us."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Deathly Hallows, or My Journey To Louvain-La-Neuve

Getting to Louvain-La-Neuve was absolutely terrible. It was hard, rough, tiring, and depressing. If I had done it a lone I would have broken down and cried. However, with everything that seemed to go wrong at every turn, I was still having a wonderful time. Take that, culture shock!

So, the morning we are to get on the busses to go to Louvain-La-Neuve is a tough one. I drag myself out of bed and trudge downstairs to the free breakfast to see only two of my companions are already awake. More join us and we wearily try to be witty and funny but eating is just too much effort at this early hour.

Eventually we are all together in the lobby at eight am, and there is no bus here. And all of a sudden, Mike realizes his bag is missing. In our giant pile of bags no where is his laptop case to be found. His laptop case that contains, oh just his laptop and every document we need. It's bad enough that he has to wait for the police, but they don't even get there until after the bus arrives, thirty minutes late. Oh did I say bus? I meant two tiny vans that we could barely cram our 12 passengers with luggage for six months into.

We get on the road. It's rainy; we're tired. And I decide to nap. Soon our twenty minute ride is much longer and I realize we are in Louvain-La-Neuve but DRIVING AROUND IN CIRCLES.

For those of you who don't know, Louvain-La-Neuve, in an attempt to be environmentally friendly, is perched on a concrete slab.

Yes, a slab. There is no pretty way to say it. Everyone we met said "slab" so proudly. Cars do not go in the city except for collections and emergencies. They all drive under the city which is basically just a high speed set of roads and parking garages. Guess who's vans don't fit into the parking garages...

You bet... Ours. So our bus driver pulls over. Seems like a good idea if he wants to call for assistance, right? Wrong! No, he just wants to pull over, right at a turn. We are underground. There are walls. No one can see us around this turn. At this point a bus for Louvain-La-Neuve drives by and stops to see what the problem is.

I should probably mention that our van driver was Flemish. I should also probably mention that Louvain-La-Neuve is French. And maybe also that the country is (basically) divided into two sections... The Flemish and The French who are constantly battling for power and rights and are the main reason there is no government right now.

Well, our driver yells at their driver and their driver takes off. We finally manage to find a "good spot" to pull over into and its like a truck loading area, underground, with pipes dripping. The professors who were intended to welcome us luckily found us there, and promptly sent us back to the vans, where we had just unloaded our luggage.

At this point our drivers, who are clearly tired and irritated they might miss their next appointment, drop us off where? On the side of the road again, by speeding cars, where we can play frogger and try to rush our luggage into the correct parking lot.

Luckily for us, here is where we had a tiny bit of peace. We take an elevator to the International Languages Vivant Building, or our home base, which we call ILV. Our luggage is locked into an empty classroom and we are given an introduction to Louvain-La-Neuve, all in English and with free pie.

Not much longer after that though it is time for us to get started on administrative tasks. In a herd we head down to the logement building which will give us our assignment and housing contract to sign. My assignment goes without a hitch. I am assigned to an apartment in Place des Sports, near a few other group members, and despite being tired, I know that soon I will be able to throw my stuff in my new room and crash on my bed.

Boy, was I wrong! On the last step of the journey, I get to my housing contract... and it won't print. Yep, not even a "your trip is ruined, your visa is all wrong!" Just a plain old simple printing error. That of course no one in the office knows how to fix. Why? Because it's lunch break. So, I am charged with returning in the afternoon.

We all go back to the ILV in order to get our luggage and go to our houses. Not me though, I get to stay and wait. Luckily for me, Mike, who has been in Brussels with the police shows up. He needs to get his contract, so I get a second chance to go back. We take him to all the offices and end up at the lodgement where my contract prints perfectly and I get to sign it.

I was so excited to get to my room at this point but there is only one coordinator with us, so he took Mike to his apartment, while I was meant to wait, alone, in the ILV for Mariken to arrive, who was taking people to Place des Sports. Of course ten minutes turned into an eternity and the next thing I know I'm waking up to a hot flat face that fell on a wooden desk. I could not stay awake!

At this point people are coming back for their second luggage, already moving into their places, and I am still waiting to go to mine. Luckily for everyone who lives near me, I got to pack all of their extra luggage and my only one bag into Mariken's car, and get a lift (underneath a large suitcase) to Place des Sports. She drops me off at the buildings office to check in. At this point I can barely speak English, let alone read a housing contract in French.

After lots of hand gestures I finally get my keys and my "linens" and am allowed to go to my room...

Which is absolutely tiny!

I mean much smaller than Clemson rooms. But at this point, I don't care... I just want to fall on my bed. And then I look at the time. 4:35. I promised to meet two friends at the bottom of the mountain five minutes ago. So guess who has to leave her newfound bed? Moi. And with no Belgian number, I can't call them, so down the mountain I go.

Turns out though, I wasn't going DOWN like I was meant to. I was going up. I got. Completely. Lost.

Now might be a good time to mention that LLN is not actually a city but a rain cloud.

That's right. At every moment it is always misting, slightly raining, or really raining. At this point, it was "actually" raining. I ran into an end of the road sign, turned around and walked until I saw large buildings. When I finally made it to the ILV and climbed all four floors, I just crashed on the floor.

What a long day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cultural Literacy

"As a consequence of the fact that we learn most easily when we attach the new to the old, people who already know a lot tend to learn new things faster and more easily than people who do not know very much."
- Hirsch

I wonder how I became "culturally literate" in my culture. It wasn't just me growing up. It was the irritating way a mom always says "say thank you" when someone gives you something until it just comes out without prompting. It was the strange "manners" class my middle school once had us put through, where multiple forks for one dinner seemed so bizarre. But it was also the way my peers responded to things I would say whether they were nice or mean.

Luckily, I've grown up since then.

It seems so easy to slide into your home culture, after all, you grew up there, and you didn't know it, but every day you learned something new.

As for going to Belgium, well I was quite excited to read The Geert Hofstede analysis! Though it was quite hard to decipher.

I have yet to hang out with just Belgians for longer than 20 minutes, being that it is currently winter break and last week they were all in exams, but I did get to go to a party with Belgians!

The thing is, they are quite like Americans. But there were quite a few cultural shocks.

The one that stands out the most to me is that they don't say "excuse me" or "pardon." When you walk down a street and someone is coming at you, we normally move out the way, and if we miss we say "sorry." Not here. They don't even physically move, but when they get close they kinda maneuver or bend the top half of their body out of your way. and If you get hit. Well! Deal. It's so strange coming from the south with all of the manners I learned.

And the other things, but I have yet to really feel it, is the fact that they have no government.

That's right. Belgium hasn't had a government since summer. Weird, huh?

But everything is still functioning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend in Brussels, final chapter.

After the amazing night we all had, a lot of us considered sleeping in. But the urge to fight Jet lag won out and when Nick came knocking on my door early, we went out to get breakfast.

They have these amazing boulangeries around the city called Paul's. For very cheap I got a delicious chocolate filled beignet and an orangina and met up with some other members of the group.

In the Grand Place there is a museum on the city of Brussels. Luckily for us it was open. It is in a giant old building with a grand staircase and gorgeous views of the city. The best part about it was the smaller exhibit on the top floor about the Mannequin Pis. For different holidays they dress up the tiny peeing boy in outfits, and this exhibit had a ton of his adorable tiny outfits, and some from each country!

But I guess what really was the best part of the museum was that there was a group of school children there for a field trip. We still aren't well-versed enough to eavesdrop on French conversations but their teacher was obviously very enthusiastic and telling them a wonderful tale about Belgian history, and when we walked by she asked them a question and an adorable little girl yelled "SORCIER!" which means witch. So our entire group thought that was just great, and it only got better when she taught them a song about Mannekin Pis. We all sort of wanted to learn it too!

We stopped for a picture in the very center of town before splitting up for lunch. Sine Paul's was so delicious, I went back, grabbed a ham and cheese baguette and a delicious and beautiful raspberry tart.

Unluckily for me though, the jet lag hits back hard, and after lunch I took a TWO HOUR NAP. Something I never do at home... but as soon as I woke back up I went back out - I didn't want to lose another second of the city! To my distress, everyone else seemed to be asleep, so I went across our little square to pick up some frites, when I ran into some friends. We all decided to go back to The Bon Vieux temps and then we ended up finding the absinthe bar.

When you ask for a menu there, they give you a book! I am talking pages upon pages of different types of absinthe you can order.

We ended our night at Delirium, and knowing we had to wake up early to catch a bus to Louvain-La-Neuve we decided to head back. But with Kim and I still being hungry we went downstairs to the hotel's 24 hour bar and ate waffles, and ended our night trying authentic Belgian frites in a cone.

That night we packed up all of our things and hoped we would hall asleep quickly in anticipation of our next adventure in the morning.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend In Brussels, continued.

After Breakfast with Anna, Kate, and Megan, we decided to explore more of Brussels.

We ended up walking a pretty long way and ended up in a park or jardin. It was gorgeous. We passed many museums but not only were most closed because it was Monday but a ton of them are doing renovations this month and won't be open until February. We are pretty sure we found the European Union Headquarters as well as the American Embassy. That was very cool to see.

We found an ancient cathedral, at least five hundred years old. And then we went to lunch. Basically we wandered and wandered and settled on a shop that was much cheaper than the others we had passed in the more thick areas. I ordered what seems like a plain a ham and cheese, but they put butter on it. It’s actually really good. When you hear people in America talking about dining out in Europe, they really complain about drinks being so expensive but it keeps you from drinking too much and the glass cups are adorable. Also, you realize how expensive beer is in the US. In most of the restaurants here, normal beers are the same price as “une coca” or a coke.

After lunch we kept wandering around. We did some necessary things like exchanging money, and we did a little bit of shopping. I finally found some really cool post cards, but not quite enough for all the people I promised post cards to.

A little bit later we met up with the entire group for waffles. Kate and I split a banana/strawberry/whip cream waffle. I’m so glad we split it so I would actually had room for dinner later. Perhaps I should warn my readers in advance that my life does revolve around food...

It was nice to see the group again, since we had all been exploring in small packs, but unluckily, Mike, Anna, and I had problems with our train passes, so we had to get pulled away to the gare, or train station to sort them out. It was quite funny watching our coordinator deal with the first rude person we'd met, who distributes the tickets, and it was worth it in the end to wait it out, because now we have five free rides from Louvain-La-Neuve, our actual school, to Brussels.

After, the three of us went exploring and found the grocery store, who’s symbol is almost identical to Food Lion’s. It is called "Delhaize" but when we slipped up and said "Food Lion" locals knew what we meant.

We went to the mall, and while we were waiting to meet up with other students we sort of snuck into the Viage, which is a casio and club and restaurant all in one. I say "sort of" because it's not as if it was a locked building that we broke into. It was very much open but the grand staircase wrapped in lights a la Las Vegas was completely imposing and intriguing at the same time. We weren’t sure if we could go in, but when we got up to a floor that had people on it, the suits didn’t stop us from going to the top of the Viage. That is Anna and I at the rooftop restaurant where the lights change colors.

The Christmas lights were still up as we wandered the streets looking for a good place to drink. These lights say "Joyeux Noel."

We ended up stopping in this place we had discovered the other day. While walking by fairly new and modern building we saw this sort of gothic cement arch over a completely sketchy looking alley. On the roof of the alley was a giant white arrow which pointed to a bar, The Bon Vieux Temps.

The Bon Vieux Temps is a wonderfully classic brasserie, the kind that, if you were a reading nerd like me, you would love to go to and meet a stranger and have an interesting chat with them. First of all everything is wood: old wooden tables, wood paneling on the walls, and a giant mahogany bar. There was a gorgeous and giant fireplace and the windows were stained glass.

I got my first Rochefort in Belgium, Number 8 to be exact, and we all played games and became fast friends.

After that, the group split in two, with half heading home and half going to find the Delirium bar. Delirium is one of the few Belgian beers that is semi-popular in America. To me, most Americans know absolutely nothing about beer, but I think I am pre-disposed to think this because in Clemson too many of my friends are "beer snobs" working at specialty bars, brewing their own beers, working at specialized imported and local beer stores, and writing famous beer blogs.

I was quite excited to go there. It was wonderfully hip walking in. A giant blue metal staircase and three floors of, well, Delirium. I got the undeniable Pink Killer, and I think the bartender was happy with my choice. The beer is ACTUALLY pink, a favorite color of mine, so no doubt I was excited but I did not expect to love it like I did. It is made from malt but I'm guessing the grapefruit is what gives it that pink color, though I can't imagine it being strong enough to change the color so I wonder if they use dye to help it along.

It was very crowded downstairs, and as men are quite forward and we were mainly composed of girls, we went up to the much less crowded third floor where we actually met other study abroad students, although they were French and Russian. It was nice to talk to them especially about the French language and culture, and they recommended my second beer, Deliriums version of and apple beer, a lambic I am guessing.

The best part of the evening though, must have been when Alyssa and I went to the bathroom in Delirium on the first floor. Crowded and sweaty and loud we were yelling to each other, in English, when a girl comes in behind us and hits us with the door. "Oh, sorry" she says, and we both say "no worries" and in the most classically sitcom move ever, we slowly turn to look at each other, and then her, and say "YOU'RE SPEAKING ENGLISH!" and with her excitement and ours we frantically asked each other where we were from.


"Me too! Where in America?!"

"South Carolina."

"OH MY GOSH NO WAY, Same here! Are you in university?!"

"Yea, I got to Clemson."


Turns out we had ran into the other Clemson Belgium group, a group of business majors and minors who spend their time in Brussels. Small world.

My weekend experience in Brussels.

After getting into our brand new shiny exploring clothes, we were all ready to hit the Big City of Brussels. Looking back on it now, I don't think we quite realized how much we were being "babied." The hotel staff spoke English to us. Our rooms were incredibly nice, if cramped. We were offered a free dinner. And if we ran into any difficulties out, everyone was able to switch to English effectively.

Anyhow, the experience then was quite different. We all found our lodgings to be cool, but most of us couldn't understand why they were so small!

It didn't bother us enough though, because we intended to spend every waking moment walking the deliciously cobblestoned streets of Brussels. Just walking around alone was a wonderful experience. Upon arrival it had just rained and the air seemed refreshingly cool and the modern streetlights and shop signs reflected off of the ancient cobblestone roads. Everywhere we looked women and men and children were bundled up and it seemed as if they all had personal fashion designers on their side. The smell of cooking waffles would waft towards us at any turn, and if not that, then the smell of potatoes in a fryer.

While exploring on the first day, we all kept in mind that BXL is currently in the season for "winter soldes" or sales. We were told that unlike in America, when a sale can happen at any particular time for any particular store, that in European countries it is common to have only winter and summer sales. I think we all did very well keeping our money in our pockets that first day, and were all just glad to not be caught on a stuffy airplane. Not to mention, that it was pretty helpful that dinner was free. We were all taken out by one of our coordinators to a place called The Marmiton.

It was such a gorgeous but tiny restaurant. Soft white curtains, red cushioned wooden chairs, gold poles reflecting the white christmas lights left in the window. The menus they gave us were enormously large and our budgets allowed us three courses! I ordered prawns which came out in a rich buttery sauce, rabbit which was cooked in a cherry beer sort of gravy, and cream puffs filled with ice cream. Needless to say, even though we were half a block away from our hotel, the return journey was pretty tough! It was nice to be able to eat and drink with our new friends and have a traditionally European lengthy dinner.

As for the saving money, well the second day made it a lot harder!

We found breakfast in le grand place, or grote markt, at a small place called Aroma’s. We think it might have been for tourists due the to location and the menu being in English but I successfully ordered in french a plain croissant and hot chocolate, no whipped cream. It was really good, but sad to find out later we could have had free breakfast at the hotel. But nice to have breakfast out and with new friends. They were taking down the Christmas tree at the time. The streets and the square are made of cobblestones, which they broke up and dug down into for the tree base. It’s quite strange looking but the cut up tree smelled wonderful!

Also, I got my first waffle! Une gauffre liege, or a small take-a-way waffle. I picked chocolate. Here I am with Anna and my brand new waffle when we discovered the Mannekin Pis.

The Mannekin Pis is absolutely famous in Belgium, and therefor always shockingly small to travelers. It is a little tiny statue that pees into a fountain, and was a commentary on the need of a fresh and clean drinking water system in Brussels.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Me with my waffle

and me with my waffle:

There are tons of ways to resize photos. Photoshop will do it, GIMP will work, and even some free in-browser software!

Arrival in Belgium

So this is my blog for CAAH and I want to document all of my adventures.

Our trip starts a lot earlier than most Clemson programs I believe I think we left the states on the 8th or the 9th. We all waited impatiently at the Charlotte airport, meeting each other, but the most brutal part of our trip was the six hour layover in D.C.
It gave us enough time to realize pretty much everyone in our group is cool, to complain about how much traveling sucks, and to learn people's names. Sleeping pills assisted in flying from America to Belgium.
We landed in BXL <3
Luckily for us, right downstairs is the train station!

PS there is a ton of street art just lying around Brussels. Some of it is even state sponsored!

We boarded the train and in just a few stops were right in the VERY center of the city, where we checked into the gorgeously mod and hip Hotel Ibis, a stone's throw away from the famous Grand Place.
We took our showers for the day to wash away days of travelling and got ready for our big debut!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Map of Online Communities

Aw yay what an exciting assignment to have. I went to probably the most nerdy high school on the planet Earth, so it was not uncommon to see XKCD shirts floating around :)
So I have to say I am partial to the old map, even though the new one is more accurate!

I totally connected with the old map; I really miss yaknow, editing my myspace and thinking I knew HTML until I took a real programming class haha. I was all about giving out my AIM address and calling kids N00bz. I had to update my LJ with every terrible moment of my love life. The bay of angst had fast ships to last.fm and deviant art... those were the days.

Meanwhile I have more than dual citizenship on the new map. Everyone has email and one of my professors said "You aren't real if you aren't on facebook."
I finally got skype, but I've had twitter for ages and tumblr as well and my youtube accounts go way back. I'm surprised 4chan has that big of an island!

I think it's great he put these together. And it's cool to see how things have changed. I have been on a computer since I was young, looking for friends and information. It's the fastest and easiest way to connect with people and knowledge.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I know some people chose tumblr over blogger.
My tumblr is usually NSFW but updated a lot more often, so I will be keeping posts there under this link: http://princessjinx.tumblr.com/tagged/belgium

Guess who finally got internet in her kot?

I did!

Just a few minutes ago I heard my elusive roommates moving around. I had to grab a friend from the hallway, so not only were my roommates out and about but it was absolutely mandatory that we cross paths.

I went down stairs and timidly, in my terrible French asked for help with the wireless internet. I don't know yet if the students call it like this, but our French professors call it WiFi as in "weefee!"

It was quite funny as the keyword was very long and it took them a while to remember and in the meantime we even got to talking, and I think I've learned their names, so I at least have three names I can yell in case of kot-emergencies :)

Later, they came up to invite me to their monthly kot-dinner when they will be making crepes in February.

More to come...

Also, in French, roommate is "camarade de chambre" but here at UCL you live in a "kot" or apartment. Each kot usually has a project, but instead of calling your apartment mates your "camarades de kot" they are called "kotcateurs" or "kotcatrices."

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Here I am sitting in Belgium, successfully on the internet on my own laptop for the first time in over a week!
Last weekend a group of 12 Clemson students arrived in the grand city of Brussels. We spent out time running around, exploring, and stuffing our faces with things that most American health experts would frown upon but are daily delicious items in a normal Belgian's life. We got to test out our wretched French together before we were all shipped off to school here in Louvain-La-Neuve where the internet is scarce and the keyboards are strange.
But it is a wonderful town, and I at least have someone in my building who can visit in order to post, so I may yet survive! :)
I'm quite excited to get started documenting my journey, which despite a horrendously soaking wet and tiring and very disastrous move-in has been somehow wonderful. I really want to learn how to edit videos to be super snazzy and impressive to all my friends back home (so much so that they will come visit me here)!
A bien tot!