Saturday, 28 February 2015

How do you say "Belgian Waffles" in French?

We got off a bus and took a right, and around that corner we were greeted by an outstanding, enormous cathedral; we were in Brussels. 
The air was cool, but warmer than it had been in Amsterdam. With my backpack hanging heavily behind me and a small luggage bag in my grips we marched to Brussels' tourist square. 
The first order of business was food. Of Belgium, we knew a couple of things were imperative: Belgian fries, Belgian waffles and Belgian chocolate. I ordered a burger that was much bigger than my fist, and hence, my stomach. I ate half of it, accompanied by fries drenched in a Hollandase sauce. For breakfast I indulged in a waffle overflowing with chocolate sauce and strawberries. One thing was for sure, Belgians loved their sweet things. 
A sweet scent filled the air. My nose was being greeted by sweet aromas from dusk till dawn, and my tastebuds knew they too, would soon experience the pleasure of Belgian delicatessen. 

Not only that but they'd also be entertained by a variety of brews. Europeans are famous for their beer thirst and Belgium did not lack in living up to that identity. I remember asking the concierge for directions to the nearest liquor store once we got to our hostel, to which he responded, "There's a grocery store across the road. Here, there aren't specific liquor stores. They all just kind of sell all alcohol," and that was the essence of the Belgian lifestyle. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Seeing Old Faces in New Places

The air hit my face as I waited. Orange lights lit up the info signs and "IJburg 4min" was reading on this platform. I waited, taking in the air that smelled lightly like cigarette smoke. One train came and another left, but I sat tight, waiting for my friend to arrive. 
When she did I was sitting at the top of the stairs with the Lloyd Hotel shining brightly at me in red.

She ascended the stairs as I began to light a cigarette. Momentarily, my heart stopped and heat rushed into my ears. We yelled and hugged. I was finally seeing one of the best human being I knew once more, after an excruciating stretched out year and a half of having oceans between us. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Another day in Amsterdam

We cycled 20 minutes to get to Centraal Station. Today, we were taking a ferry to the biggest flea market that existed in Europe: the 'IJ Hallen', and boy was it huge.
The city was windy today, but that isn't rare. I've experienced four seasons of weather on repeat in one day. That means to say it went from hailing to rain, to terrible wind to sunshine and then back to windy in a span of 20 minutes, repeatedly. 
Today wasn't that extreme, but the wind does make it hard to cycle up little hills when it's pushing against you, and with my knees, that's sort of painful. 
None the less, I tried to take it all in. It seemed to be a newer part of the city seeing as the architecture was very modern.
Despite my eyes watering and as a result making it appear as though I was crying, I was enjoying the sway of the water as we drove over in the ferry. The sun would peek out from between the clouds every now and again and blanket my face so comfortably. 
I spent about 17euros during this day, including paying a 5 dollar entrance fee for the flea market and a sandwich lunch right after. I acquired a new brown leather book bag, brown booties, a few scarves, a coat, a down vest and gloves. I was amazed. 
Much else than that the day was uneventful. The sandwich I ate was  mouthwatering, granted I was also on a cloud. 

More than anything I wanted to talk to friends and family and feel less alone despite constantly being around all these people. But, time does not work like that. Some how we've complicated it even further. 

Read more on the Ij Hallen here: 
http://ijhallen.nl/

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Missing Opportunities on Train Tracks

The white blanket that covered the earth was swooshing by. Trains moving past each other ricochet wind in a manner that made you know two trains were passing each other, even when your eyes couldn't quite grasp it. 
"Do you read?" he asked me, handing me a Time Magazine. He was an older man and I just happened to sit next to him on a train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. 
"Née, dankje," I responded. 
For some reason, even this small gesture surprised me. He was a Caucasian man, drenched in all his privilege, if I were to judge the book by its cover. He wore dark jeans that seemed to be suit pants at first glance, but in fact not, on further inspection. 
He wore a button down shirt dressed in a blue sweater that I assumed he layered with a down coat given the weather. 
I did not get much more than that. Eyes, hair, facial construction; it swept past me or rather, I failed to observe it. 
...and there in lies the trouble of assumptions. The opportunity resulted in missing out on getting to know someone that my destiny had brought me elbow distance with. One could say that every human encounter is not always one that necessitates exploring, but with the amount of people that remain to be met and learned from, I cannot continue to sleep on the opportunity. 

I have had the opportunity to meet strangers that have changed my life, altered my perspective and completely hurdled me to places that might otherwise never have been reached, and such is the beauty of strangers and my encounters with them. More valuable than any possession or any materialist experience, is the experience granted to you from befriending a stranger. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Ready, Set ... Bike!

The Dutch are cyclists, so as per the travelers traditional, I had to cycle around the old city in a similar way. 
I rented a bike for the semester, which meant I'd have to get acquainted with everything around me sooner rather than later. Cycling back from the store was a mission to figure out in its own right. A route that was supposed to take 10-15 minutes took closer to an hour and a half. It was cold but I wasn't complaining. I just wanted to get home with my bike, limbs and bones in tact. 

Here and there a cyclist had to scuffle me out of their way, and although the bike bells scared me momentarily, soon their frantic ring was no longer something that caused me to jump aside in alarm.