me, myself and I …in my new city

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Traveling on vacation is a lot different than learning to live abroad. When you’re just traveling, it’s like playing house – you get to stand back and watch the world go by, judge it, laugh at it, be joyous with it – but all the while, it is so fleeting there is little real about it. And in essence you’re just passing by…

I’ve been in Belgium for 18 days now and it’s just starting to feel like I’m suppose to learn to live here. It’s kind of amazing… i love it and question it and ponder it (is this really happening? will this ever really be home?… then love it some more, it’s strange, I really haven’t found the line yet. If i’m here to live, then it should be ok to stay home and accomplish things that I’m here to do… study a bit, read, take it easy, whatever… But, if I were here on vacation, I would be crazy right now not to be OUT… taking it ALL in… anyway, that’s the internal dialogue I’ve been having with myself.

However, that’s not to say it hasn’t been amazing. Every day has brought so much new-ness with it, that by the time I get home I can barely recall all the things that I swore I would write about. Each day is like a year long… By dusk I feel different, more Belgian, more Foreign, more at home, more in search of home… all of it.

Let’s take yesterday for example: I awoke to a phone call (already odd, I’ve had my new cell phone for about a week, but this was the second time it had ever rang…) Bells for a ringtone, it turns out.

On the other line, Mrs. Kringwinkel herself apologizing for the delivery error with my bed and asking if I would be able to come down to the store to pick out a springboard that would fit my frame – of course, I say – delighted with the prospect of a mission. I decided to take my bike down a) for cobblestone/crazy street riding practice b) in case there was a chance I could use it for the springboard (instead of having to wait for another delivery on Monday).

To make a long story short, I ended up trading my US passport for a temporary release of one of their moving carts and with it, trekking all the way back to Hubert Frere-Orbanlaan (just think FAR). I say, you really have not lived until you’ve conquered a new city with the flare and audacity that comes about as you push a massive squeaky, steel four-wheeler avec a springboard through cobbled street alleys and canals. I kept my California smile shining bright (all the while pondering whether it’s a sign of stupidity as it’s considered in Russia) and juggled between ‘pardon’ and ‘soree’ as I tunneled through person after person. Finally I came across a British retiree from Delve who just about made my day… we chatted for a bit, shook hands and off i went, smile – bigger yet, less cautious and more joyously clumsy than before.

I was worried most that it was the wrong size – but it wasn’t.. it fit perfectly. Now, onto the trek back… sans springboard, a bit more hurried and less joyful – lets get this thing off my hands already. A few less ‘Pardons’ later and I had my passport back, hopped on my bike and on with the day i went…  (oh, and the lady said that she never forgets a friendly person (which is why I didn’t have to pay for the springboard) – I guess maybe smiling’s not all that bad.

Honestly, after that there were like 6 more hours of wonderful adventures, but I can’t even recall exactly what they were. At some point I was in the crypt of a church, where suddenly I found myself in the throws of a religious experience – tears streaming down my face but my heart full of ‘high’ and hope (I suppose it’s hard not to when you just feel like there’s meaning in everything)… then, there was an art exhibit with the most amazing depiction of life in a monastery – I bought a CD of the monks in prayer, just to remember it. At some point there was a market and shopping, more biking around, a random Tram I took to see where it goes… it took me to the most amazing Bio store I’ve ever been in (that’s Organic in Dutch!) where I bought heavily scoured for Almond Butter and Whole Oats, which WOW – made for an amazing breakfast today. Then I saw a cemetery which just about made my day that I will most certainly have to come back to another time… and in the evening I poured myself a chilled beer and watched Chocolate. Seriously – get out of here.

Today, I roamed around the Gravensteen Castle, which don’t even get me started on – except that it was free, because it’s free for citizens and I got to show my domicile documents and in that moment, for a moment – I was not a tourist and this was MY city.

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