Day 2.20

Feeling: the light Belgian rain outside, Marine’s cat on my lap
Smelling: the plasticky Ryanair smell
Hearing: the Dutch and French (and sometimes English) stop announcements, some rowdy young passengers in the plane and on the bus back
Tasting: delicious herby pizza with a pastry-like crust, Belgian waffle, some of the chocolates that I bought
Seeing: the inside of a Carrefour

It was Monday, so Marine’s mom and sister were both at school. Marine and I shared breakfast and I considered going back out to one of the Royal Museums, but was deterred primarily by the fact that most museums were closed on Monday, and secondarily by the drizzle which made a good old-fashioned ramble less appealing. At least I lucked out with weather for the big chunk of my weekend! So yeah, I felt a little bad by not spending my last morning soaking up the city, but I really could benefit from some physical rest and some writing before setting out. Plus, Marine and I got to chat quite a bit over breakfast, coffee (and sampled some of my purchases from Saturday), and lunch.

Getting to the airport was pretty easy– walk to the metro, take the metro to the train station, take a train to the airport. One had to actually go through security (although not as thorough as actual airplane security) and scan the train ticket before entering the airport from the train station.

Even though I could insist on conversing in French in the city of Brussels, I forgot that in an international airport, English is just the best way to go, especially if it’s your native language. So that was the language I used for when my suitcase was examined and for buying the waffle that I didn’t buy in the city (oops).

The flight was only delayed by ten minutes but waiting felt like ages, especially with a small group of people (probably students) making an amount of noise disproportionate to the size of their group. There was the same problem on the bus back to Cork, too. At the risk of sounding like the uptight old person that I secretly am, I’m repeatedly shocked at what some fellow students seem to think is acceptable public behavior, especially on public transportation. But after the trek back to my bed, it was time to sleep off the grumpiness and look forward to starting my early morning with some good strong coffee.

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Day 2.19

Seeing: the Grand Place lit up at night
Smelling: waffles in the street
Hearing: the crowd chanting “BUUUU-YOOO” at the Lucky Chops concert, Antigone in French
Tasting: some nice savory moules-frites
Feeling: the velvet in the lodge I was sitting in, sore back, Daro Behroozi’s soft shirt, a little bit of Josh Holcomb’s spit on my face

I left the Boman’s house pretty late today since I knew I’d be out late that night, but got to the theatre just in time. When I passed le Théâtre National du Parc and saw that they were showing Antigone, I knew I had to go. I’d never read it or seen it in English, but I was curious to see my first French-language play. And my seat, only 8 euro, was in a “loge,” which was those little balconies next to the stage. I’d never sat in one before!

I understood most of what was going on, and there was lots of choreography which made it visually appealing to watch even without language. The costumes were beige- and grey-colored, utilitarian modern pieces, and the stage was mostly undressed except for a door-shaped rectangle and a circle with a dot in the center, both lit up orange, that sometimes revealed themselves on the back wall.

When it was over, I found my way to the central station and then into some of the touristy shopping streets. Since I had some time to kill before meeting Vili, I looked around in a Pylones for a few minutes. I saw that they had the same glasses holders that I bought years ago, and still use.

I met Vili outside Bruxelles-Centrale and since I was looking for moules-frites, we went to a place that her parents recommended. It may have been a little touristy but my meal was delicious (even if I didn’t get any mayo with my frites; what country is this?). And seeing Vili was so nice! She’s almost done with high school and off to university, and we had great banter as usual.

She kindly walked me to the concert venue and we joked about neither of us knowing Brussels that well despite having lived here.

The concert was, of course, incredible. The opener was called VelotroniX, a percussion ensemble. The one member who spoke to the audience spoke Dutch, so I’m guessing they’re Flemish. Each member had their own individuality, and all together they had an awesome nerdy-cool vibe.

Lucky Chops, sadly, had no more Leo (the baritone saxophonist). They were still amazing onstage though, maybe because he takes up less spotlight and they worked together more. They played some new music that hadn’t been heard before (!) and some other great pieces like “Stand” (dedicated to the protestors at Standing Rock) and “Connie” (to Behroozi’s deceased music teacher). I know they recorded a lot recently so I can’t wait for that album.

And afterwards, I actually got to meet them! I think Buyo didn’t come out, but I met the four other members and they were all so kind seemed so pleasantly surprised that I saw them in Bristol too.

Day 2.18

Smelling: waffles, the inside of a chic Belgian bar
Hearing: music for Qigong being played in the Grand Place, Scooby-Doo in French
Tasting: Speculoos paired with an espresso
Seeing: the interiors of several chocolate shops, a cloudy sky that never rained, Magritte paintings, armed guards
Feeling: calm and awake

Marine showed me around her neighborhood in the morning. There are lots of supermarkets, little boulangeries, and an outdoor market going on. Then she took me to the metro stop where I could go into Brussels center.

img_1842Last night while scrolling through Google Maps to get ideas for what I might do the next day, I saw “Magritte Museum” and got very excited. The area was very familiar once I got there, and I realized that I’d already been to the Magritte Museum once and to the Royal Museum complex several times before. No complaints, though– I can never get enough of my favorite artist. And I was very surprised at my ability to carry and fully understand the small transaction of buying my museum ticket in French!

Afterwards I wandered down into Sablon looking for lunch that wasn’t ridiculously expensive, and I guess I got myself a reasonable deal on a salmon salad at a near-empty bar. Nothing I couldn’t get in Ireland, for sure, but it was filling and healthy, which is what I needed since i just had a croissant for breakfast.

I ended up going to three chocolatiers in Sablon and picking out my own collection: Wittamer, which was confusing at first because I went into the café patisserie part looking for chocolates until I was informed that it was next door. I hadn’t heard of Wittamer before doing a Google search for chocolatiers, but it shares the first four letters with my family name so of course I had to show some solidarity.

Next was Neuhaus, which wasn’t anything new (heh, neu) to me but I was eager to try some of their truffles that I hadn’t tried before. Before me there was a gentleman who bought a box that ended up costing over 50 euros. A North American dad with his two kids (and wife outside) came in after me, but I let him go before me since I was going to have a long custom order and his little kids seemed impatient.

I was, again pleasantly surprised at my ability to complete the transaction in French. Even if it was mostly listing the chocolates that I wanted, I also added a box for Marine’s family at the end and understood the parts about sealing the bag, etc. This happened again at Marcolini, where I only got four truffles (ones I haven’t tried before) plus a bar of what calls itself the first Vietnam-grown chocolate.

I passed a donut shop earlier, so I went back up because my donut craving, so difficult to satisfy in Cork, was still present and I wanted to see what they offered. The donuts were kinda funny-looking and irregular, but that’s the sign of something good and homemade. In true Belgian form, I couldn’t decide between a Cuberdon (violet)-frosted donut or a Speculoos one, but I figured getting a doughy monstrosity slathered in Speculoos and coated in its crumbs would be a better use of four euros. And while it wasn’t the freshest donut I’ve had, with a little espresso het was heel smakelijk.

There was also a popcorn shop that exclusively sold gourmet flavors of popcorn! I was intrigued by the novelty, so I ended up going in and ended up buying gingerbread-flavored popcorn. Well worth it for later.

I did some more wandering after that and went around the Grand Place a bit, where a large crowd was doing a Qigong demonstration. Maybe for the Chinese New Year? And I found the old synagogue of Brussels, but it didn’t seem to be open to visitors. That would make sense for a Saturday, I suppose.img_1855

That night I cooked dinner for the Bomans– my mum sent me the lentils recipe that we like to make pretty often. Luckily they like spicy food, because it had harissa (hot and smoky) as well as cumin and coriander. They have such a nice little place, and it was a pleasure to cook in their kitchen. Marine and I talked about the various music and shows and games and other nerdy stuff that we both like, and we both love the new Voltron! I hadn’t watched any of the new season yet because it’s one of the things Brian and I say we’ll only watch together.

Afterwards we watched a Netflix special of a Moroccan-French comic in Québec, which was fun because while he did most of the show in French he used a lot of English (to poke fun at Americans, of course). I could understand a good chunk of the French, but it was certainly helpful to have the English subtitles on.

I got to Skype with Brian (it had been too long since we did last) and we watched the first episode of Voltron together. I’m really glad I got to finally start watching, and oh of course– talk to him again.

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My walk back to the metro.

Day 2.17

Hearing: French being spoken as my plane takes off
Tasting: cold banana bread with chocolate chips
Feeling: sore front of my ankle, water falling from the bus’ sunroof to my seat
Seeing: some conifer trees on my route to Dublin airport
Smelling: cigarette smoke, the inside of Brussels airport, that Belgian smell

I got to Dublin airport much earlier than I needed to, as per usual, because it’s better to be safe I suppose. Which meant waking up very early and not getting enough sleep, but I got a substantial nap on the bus.

The flight and security and everything went fine, but there was a lot of confusion after I got to the airport. My friend who was hosting me, Marine, was supposed to meet me and bring me back to her place, but mistakenly took a bus that didn’t go all the way to the airport anymore. And her phone died, making it impossible for me to contact her. So once she got back to her place I ended up just taking  a taxi. These things happen, I guess.

Day 2.16

Seeing: St Finbarr’s illuminated at night
Smelling: new tennis shoes
Tasting: grated chocolate on top of my latte
Hearing: the crunch of my tuna sandwich on Granary bread
Feeling: a constant small stomachache all day, soreness in my hamstrings right above my knees

Not everything went the way I expected it to today, but nothing went too badly. After waking up later than usual and making myself a vegetarian Irish breakfast, I set out to the international office to settle some confusion with my drama module. I’d picked out International Food Policy to replace it, as it would not conflict with anything as long as the timetable database was telling me the truth this time. I’m actually very excited for this class– it looks like it covers food security, so I’m keen on learning that.

I also needed to find some shoes for fencing as soon as possible so that my mum would know whether or not she’d have to ship mine to me. I ended up spending more time in city center than I initially thought I would, as each shoe required thorough analysis, which led to me not having enough time to go back to the apartment– which meant I hadn’t enough time to make my own lunch, wash my dishes or hair, or grab my chord charts for jazz later that day.

But I got a sandwich at Hassett’s, food science lecture went fine (basically a repeat of how last semester started), and someone lent me a chord chart at jazz ensemble. My improv that night went pretty well, too.

Day 2.14

Hearing: the fire alarm go off three times within an hour
Smelling: fields burning (apparently)
Tasting: chocolate cake with some delicious vanilla gelato
Feeling: stomachache from eating too fast, very tired
Seeing: the inside of the drama studio

Another long Tuesday. Let’s go. Except this time, I’ll get to actually be in my drama class! Right?

Well, after my Celtic languages lectures (those get my heart racing just like any coffee I swear) between which I got to talk with a still-awake Nehuen, I dashed back to my apartment for a quick lunch and back out to get to my food science lecture. The lecture was actually pretty interesting (it was about acids and enzymes found in fruits) but my professor decided to go all the way to the end of the hour, which isn’t standard for UCC profs.

So I was worried I’d be late to my drama class, but as it turns out I had already missed an hour of it. An hour and a half, by the time I actually found the place. It was a *terrifying* experience walking in and seeing students my own age act like middle schoolers, too, but those details are not for this post.

So after my history lecture and some cooling down, it was time for our welcome dinner. Even though I wanted to sit with the friends I’d made already, I did make an effort to meet new people (success).

Day 2.13

Feeling: exhausted to the point of nausea
Smelling: onions and black pepper frying in olive oil
Hearing: a kitchen full of Spaniards chatting
Tasting: banana on bread with dark chocolate spread and yogurt
Seeing: the cool hip modern interior of my bank

I’m proud of what I accomplished today. Nothing extraordinary I guess, but I made use of a class-free day. Started out with some yoga to take care of myself, then off to get groceries and buy laundry tokens. Then going into town to finally set up my online banking and then to practice.

Practicing jazz has been going better since the practice rooms have gotten touched up a bit, and since I’ve been (you know) actually practicing. I’m actually very excited for my final performance, as bleak as our rehearsals may have been.

Once I got back to my apartment I made some soup for dinner and then ran off to fencing practice. I realized that the three weapons take turns each week for who goes “on piste” for training and who does drills, so this week was drills. Both épée and foil were drilling this evening so I decided to try épée drills. The épée captain (I think that’s his role?) was very impressed with me and he already feels like a coach of sorts, even though I haven’t met the real coach yet. It feels good to get some positive attention in fencing. Who am I kidding, it feels good to get any attention in fencing.

Quitting fencing three years ago was due to a combination of factors, but lack of coaching and team support was a major one. This feels like an actual college team and I am excited for it. The training rounded off with some very intense bodyweight circuit training. But it feels worth it for fencing.

Day 2.11

Smelling: the smoked-meat smell of my street, my favorite green tea
Seeing: an empty ensemble rehearsal room
Hearing: something rattling in the grand piano, the Q podcast
Feeling: chilly under my blankets, full almost to the point of nausea from hot chocolate
Tasting: delicious and spicy soba noodles with veggies and egg

Nothing much happened today except for practicing piano, eating, and working on planning my capstone project. That’s fine with me, except I spent most of the day very sleepy. Still working on that whole “consistent and healthy” sleep habits thing.

Day 2.10

Feeling: numb in the lower half of my body
Tasting: shiitake and bok choy dumplings
Seeing: a new part of the neighborhood I didn’t know about before
Smelling: the heater, Jackie Lennox’s
Hearing: the “Spider Fight” song over and over

I’m sparing you a retelling of most of my day, because most of my day was gaming. Yeah, I know, I’m becoming that guy, right? Except it wasn’t getting so absorbed in an intense part of a story that kept me on so long– it was this one boss battle that I had been hacking at for days. It wasn’t until I had posted on the Facebook group for help that I figured a simple mechanism that, combined with my way too in-depth knowledge of this part of the game, could allow me to survive it.

I did do other things though, I promise! I tried out this vegan brownie recipe, only I didn’t have (or even want to use) the coconut oil it required so I used some real butter and the leftover non-dairy butter that was left to my apartment by some leaving students. I think if I had forgone the non-dairy stuff (and added more chocolate chunks) it would have tasted better to me, but the people who I invited to try my creation seemed to like them. And I was trying to get rid of the fake butter since it was wasting precious fridge space.

It was another one of those days that I should have ended in a timely manner, but I wanted to Rabbit A Series of Unfortunate Events with Brian. It was definitely worth it, just to hear his voice. And I did get to bed earlier than the night previous. But I need to work on healthy sleep habits, and uh, better health habits in general. But hey, Drumpf got inaugurated today so let me spend my Friday loafing however I want.

Day 2.9

Tasting: basil and tomato (aka the aroma of summer), strawberry protein powder
Seeing: the chips of broken glass on the sidewalk reflect light, the tears of my history professor reflect light
Smelling: some gawdawful interior of a fencing mask
Feeling: out-of-breath on the piste
Hearing: fencing drills

Today was supposed to be a day of casual grocery shopping, and subsequently brownie baking and gaming, followed by my first real history lecture and first fencing practice in two years. That’s pretty much how it went, except I felt like saving the brownies for another time and did some drawing instead.

For the groceries I went to one of the Asian markets and Lidl, a discount grocery store. So I ended up not getting any Greek yogurt, tofu, or almond milk, but I guess I can always pop over to SuperValu when I need those.

Fast forward through my day to 7:30, when I went to fencing practice. As you may know, I used to fence but quit two years ago, and thought maybe now was a good time to give it another go– just for fun, no pressure of competition.

The other members there were very pleased to have another experienced fencer! I was welcomed right away and ushered over to the other women foilists after warm-ups. This means that I didn’t get to meet a bulk of the other people that were there, but it felt nice to feel like I was making instant friends and teammates. And I was alright at reffing despite never having been a great ref in the past.

When I went back to my place I should have gone to bed right away but ended up staying up a little too late talking to Brian. But hey, earlier than I have been, so there’s progress. Plus I plan on doing things in the evening this weekend, so I shouldn’t get used to bed too early I guess.