After two days of living and exploring Brussels, I can very confidently say that I love the city, and that my family is going to have a REALLY hard time trying to convince me to come home in December!
DAY 1: Despite my hour delay in Philadelphia, I arrived in Brussels on time at 8:00 AM Sunday morning, made it through customs quickly, and was greeted by the driver assigned to bring me to my host family’s home. It was raining outside (of course), but I was struck by how green everything was! Based off my previous travels through Europe, I was not expecting to see so many trees, lush shrubbery, and green green grass! It was such a pleasant surprise! My host family’s home is located about fifteen minutes from the airport in a suburban neighborhood (more to come on the location later!) My home, specifically, is a duplex, and from what I can see, many of the homes in the neighborhood are always two or three family homes. I was greeted by the door by my host mom, Marie-France, and welcomed in for a traditional Belgian breakfast of bread and various condiments: butter, honey, jam, nutella. My host mom is an art teacher who works with handicapped students; immediately, I could sense of compassion, empathy, and maternal instinct. She’s lived on the outskirts of Brussels all her life, and currently lives with her youngest son, Kevin, and their cat, Mr. Grey (or Mister Gris en Francais). Her two oldest sons, Gregory and Sebastian, as well as her parents, all live within a thirty minute vicinity. My host mom only speaks French, so immediately, I’ve been forced to practice my French, which is great! After visiting and doing the basic introductions, I moved my bags up to the second floor of the house into my bedroom. My home has three floors: the first floor contains a mud room, family room, living room, office, kitchen, and dinning room; the second has two bedroom, my host mom’s room, a full bath, and a half bath (just a shower and sink); and the third floor has one bedroom, Kevin’s room. Being the first host student to arrive, I had first dibs of the two vacant bedrooms- I selected one that overlooks the backyard and has a desk, wardrobe, book shelf, bed and sink (don’t worry, pictures to come!) I took about two hours to get everything unpacked and and set up; once done, I was called down for a delicious lunch of hamburgers, salad, and potatoes shaped like macaroons!
My host mom then took me out on a tour of Brussels- which was magnificent! We live about 15 minutes driving from the heart of the city; driving through the streets, it’s hard to miss the old architecture, the rows of trees that border the bus line, and the classy style of the Belgians. My host mom explained that because it was Sunday, not many people would be in the city because most everything was closed. On our tour, we visited the Palais Royal (The Royal Palace), Le Grand Place (the iconic center of Brussels), Le Manneken Pis (the Peeing Boy statue), a little restaurant that houses a theater with homemade marionettes, Le Cathedrale Nationale (The National Cathedral), de Musee Nationale d’Historie et Art (the National Museum of History and Art). Throughout it all, I was taken by the beauty of the city; while old, it’s preservation is beautiful. I’ve attached some photos below for your viewing pleasure! During our tour, my host mom and I were able to get better acquainted over bits and pieces of our stories and the geography of our towns.
After returning from our tour, Marie-France and I sat outside on the deck and reviewed the rules sent to us by my university regarding host-family arrangements; simply put, breakfast is provided daily and dinner on weekdays, and I have access to the kitchen on weekends. She also insisted on doing my laundry, so we’ll see how that goes! Took a quick rest before dinner, where we had homemade pizza with REAL CHEESE (gahh!!), bread, cheese, meats, and the chocolates I brought from Munson’s for dessert! I turned in early, skyped with the folks, and fell asleep on my open laptop! A full, exciting day!
DAY 2: Slept in this morning, which was much needed to fight the jet lag I had been feeling the previous day. After my morning cup of tea (my host mom thinks I’m actually crazy because I don’t eat breakfast in the morning), my host mom and I set out to explore the neighborhood. We first walked to the bus stop, which is a block and a half from her home; when I begin orientation on Wednesday and classes next Monday, I’ll take the bus and the metro to and from school. We then drove to a small collection of stores where I can do my grocery shopping on weekends; think American strip mall, but positioned around a rotary. There is a bank, a grocery store, a fruit/vegetable stand, a boulangerie (bakery), a pharmacy, and several clothing stores; it’s about a ten minute walk, so not too far! From there, we drove another five minutes to the center of her neighborhood, which housed four times as many stores. We set out to find a phone store so I could purchase a European phone, bumping into Marie-France’s father in the process! After getting the phone, we returned home and, not feeling well, proceeded to take a four hour nap (literally feel like I slept more today than I have in weeks). Struggled to figure our my cellphones (neither worked initially, but both are now fully functioning!) Don’t have texting, but I know have the ability to place calls in both Europe and the US of A in case of an emergency!
My host mom and I also learned tonight that I will be the only international student living in the house; my alleged host sister, Tia, unfortunately dropped out of the program, and the college failed to notify my host mom. I feel bad that, after all her preparation, my host mom just has me; however, selfishly, I’m very much okay with it. My host mom and I sat down for dinner and talked and talked for hours, which was really nice (and great practice for my French!) I’m so lucky that we’re already forming a relationship! We planned out a few errands for tomorrow, and will be joining her friend for dinner tomorrow and her two host students, so that’ll be great! Off to bed now; one more busy day before orientation!
View of Downtown Brussels
Le Palais Royal
La Grand Place
Le Manneken Pis
Le Cathedrale Nationale
La Musee Nationale d’Historie et Art