Here is a blog I wrote on April 18th but didn’t finish the end until yesterday.
Again, I make goals that I don’t accomplish…like writing at least once a week. It’s been extremely busy in the past month with work, class, and trying to have a social life. Things have gotten much better in the past month also. I finally talked to the finance manager about my direct manager (how I really hadn’t been working well with him for a number of reason), it has gotten better since then. After I let him know how I was feeling, I immediately felt better. That was the start of a little momentum that I needed at work. Since then, I’ve been more motivated and have worked much better with my team. I struggled for the first few months but now that I know more and have more of a spark, I feel much better at work. I won’t say that it’s great by any means, but it’s much better than the first two months.
In the past month, class has made me extremely busy outside work. I have been to Paris for class 3 times since March 11th, so that is 3 times in the past 5 weeks. With class, I’ve had several case studies working with groups, individual case studies , and the big semester project which is a case study throughout the 3 month class. At first, I didn’t really enjoy Paris that much, but I really enjoyed it this weekend. The weather was extremely nice, and I stayed out of the big tourist areas (which are very hectic and full of people). I like the café culture with all of the outside seating. It seems that on every block, there is at least 1 café with a lot of seating outside. The tables are always set up so that you can people watch. Sometimes there are several rows of tables and chairs and are full of people outside.
Class is pretty cool to be at (if you don’t take into account the massive amounts of work it requires) since there are people from all over Europe and the Middle East. In my class, we have 2 Italians, 1 British, 1 French, 1 Hungarian, 2 Lebanese, 1 Saudi, 1 Algerian, 1 Swedish, 1 Danish, 1 German, 1 Chinese, and me. It’s cool to be part of a group so diverse.
Last weekend, I flew into Paris and then took an early bus on Saturday morning to Brussels for all day Saturday and then came back on Sunday afternoon. I had assumed (with the help of other people’s opinions) that Brussels was just going to be like any other big city. I was pleasantly surprised by the city. Although I only had a day, it was perfect for sightseeing, trying some different beers, and seeing a bit of the Brussels lifestyle. For only being a day, I had an amazing time.
I arrived in Brussels at noon and immediately started sightseeing. I found an interesting flea market where it just seemed like people were selling junk, which may be true for most flea markets. It was a pretty big square just full of junk, but people seemed to enjoy it. From there I walked around the city and saw some big churches and a nice Cathedral. I was surprised by their main square (Place Market I think it was called). It was made up of Gothic style buildings which looked very unique since it surrounds pretty much the entire square.
And of course, I had several waffles since I was in Belgium. In the 24 hours I was there, I had 3 waffles. My first was in a famous nice restaurant located in an arcade (like an in-door alleyway, but much nicer). It’s very proper there, so you eat it with a fork and knife. This was was crispy and topped with powdered sugar. The second one I had was at a restaurant during the evening, and it was similar but served with shipped cream and cherries. The third and final one was from a local bakery and was very soft with powdered sugar on top. All three were very good and make the trip worth it in itself.
Another thing the Belgians are known for is their beer. Because of that, I decided to go to a brewery called Cantillon, one of the most famous served there. This brewery is one of the very few family owned breweries still in Belgium, and it is still made the old-fashioned way. They serve a special kind of beer called Gueze (pronounced Gooze). What makes it special is that it is made using a spontaneously fermentation process. What that means is that the beer is fermented naturally in wooden barrels with nothing to expedite the fermentation process, so not every barrel will be the same. The brewery is very old school and uses equipment from many years ago. Although it was self-guided, the tour was one of the better ones I’ve been on. Because of the natural fermentation process, the beer can only be made in the colder months; so they only brew it from October to April. I had never had real Belgium beer before, but it’s very interesting. It’s hard to describe, but it has citrus flavor. It’s nothing like a normal lager or pilsner. They are also big fans of fruit beers which is new to me.
After my brewery tour, I was having my free sample when I heard an American accent, so naturally I tried to strike up a conversation. This guy was on business in Scotland but came to Brussels for the weekend, and it turns out this guy is a beer connoisseur, so that’s why he has been to Bruseels a few other times in the past year. He also happens to know a guy who works at the brewery, so we got a bottle of beer (they serve beer like wine/champaign there) and hung out for a while. When the brewery was closing at 6 pm, he invited me to dinner with him and the Belgium guy who works at the brewery. Having nothing else to do, of course I accepted. This dinner experience was something I had never experienced before. We sat outside at this restaurant in a small pedestrian alleyway on this very nice evening. This isn’t why the dinner was unique, though. What made the dinner unique was the owner of the restaurant. I had never met someone like him. He’s the owner of the restaurant, but he would move from table to table if he knew someone. The Belgian guy we were having dinner with knew the owner, so we came to sit with us. He is the type of guy who makes joke after joke, Whether it was in French or English, he would make one joke and have a big laugh before telling another. He would then walk over to other tables and make a joke before walking away (even though he didn’t know them). At one point, he went inside, put on a wig and a costume resembling a monk, and came back out to make more jokes. Then he would bring out a new bottle of beer after he drank the rest of the bottle of beer we had ordered. He just seemed absolutely insane, but he is apparently pretty good in the restaurant business since he owns 3 of them. We had a 3 course meal, which I had a soup, beef stew (more of beer and gravy with mashed potatoes, and a waffle as the dessert). I think we sat there for 2 or 3 hours, but it was a great time.
I ended up staying in a hostel that night since I never heard from the couch surfer who was supposed to host me. The next day I went to the city center, got another waffle, bought some Belgian chocolates, and did some sightseeing. I walked through the European Union headquarters, which was a pretty typical business district. On the weekend, not much was going on by I can imagine during the week it’s quite busy. I caught my bus at noon back to Paris, and after a 6 hour ride (which was supposed to be 4 hours) I arrived back in Paris. I stayed the night, had class the next day, and then flew back to Prague. My short trip to Brussels definitely made the trip worthwhile.