Sunday, September 22, 2013

Brussels, Belgium. Day 1. Arriving.

September 21st, 2013. Brussels, Belgium.
Late afternoon…

Sooo… It’s been a long day and just because I’m tired I feel like it’s been taking longer than the usual to get to 6PM.

Anyway. Last night was a mess. I left work in a hurry, went straight to Auchan to buy some things I was missing then ran home packed Grasu to deliver him to Laura for a week. I don’t understand the way my brain functions. I organize Jim’s agenda and his traveling across the globe, sometimes taking him out of some pretty nasty situations. Yet, when it comes to me I suck as organizing a one puny week of vacation not even three hours away from home. Oh well…

So I’m tired and worn out from all the running around like a headless chicken, but I manage to finish packing at about 1AM. I check for my passport a thousand times. I check for the plane ticket another 500 times and eventually check another thousand times for my health insurance and hotel booking. I don’t know how I do it at work, but obviously in private I find it challenging to put a little something together.

I finally go to sleep, not before setting the alarm on both my phones so that I make sure I wake up in time. I still need to take the garbage out and I hate it. But I’ll deal with it in the morning. Eventually I actually fall asleep to wake up to a lonely silent house. Grasu’s not there to play with my nerves, nor to turn on his engine like purring right into my ear. So I find it hard to get out of bed now that there is no one to make me. It’s almost 7:30AM. My plane is taking off at 12:15PM but I need to be there to avoid any unexpected situations.

I fall out of bed, literally, stumbling in my own blanket and crawl to the bathroom to wash my face. Again I feel the room is much more spacious now that Grasu’s litter is not there. I make a face. I miss my boy. I was my face and crawl at a slightly more active pace to the kitchen where I pour cereals in the bowl I had just washed – cause I was too lazy last night to do it. I’m happy. Until I discover I’m out of milk. Goddamn it Mela! I shake the bottle to discover a little bit left and I want it. I pour it over the cereals and it barely makes it. I put it in the microwave and turn around to make the bed. I wish I were the Mela 12 years ago and not care about such small horrible things like making the bed. I wish mom was here to make it for me. HA!
Cereals are done and I remember to grab the bowl using a towel now so I don’t burn my fingers again. Inside, the little milk I had barely melted some cereal so I am quick at hunting those down through the ball and eat three spoons of milk with an ounce of cereals in them and that’s it; breakfast has been served. Meh. Annoyed!!!!

I brush my teeth. No incidents, thank God. Then I ut some make up on. I put on a little purple and then I wonder why the heck did I ever put on purple when I’m dressed in grey and gold. But whatever. I turn of the gas, the water, close the windows, check my plants to see if they’re gonna make it through the week. They are survivors. I’m ready.

The garbage!!! I throw my purse away and grab the plastic bag swearing in my chin. Outside is chilling but I enjoy the freshness in the air. Wakes me up better than any alarm. I return to call a taxi and in minutes I’m in the car racing towards the airport. I remember to call Adinut who had called me at some point the night before but I missed it. We chat for a bit. I realize my life is horrible at times because I don’t have the time to meet my friends like I’d like to. Like I should.  I hang off the phone with her and call mom who’s attending the baptism of a very good friend of ours and that I could not attend. What a pity! I arrive.

About ten years ago Henri Coanda International Airport seemed huge to me. That was when I first flew out to Paris and landed in Charles de Gaulle Airport. HA HA! Yeah. Well, that was BIG! Anyway, I walk inside and lucky me, there is not a queue for check in. I quickly get my ticket and stand in row for customs. A girl in front of me catches my eye. She’s a fancy skinny ass brunette. With pink lipstick, black tight bra with a lot of boob in there. She flips her hair back like only her kind knows then she checks her ass wrapped in a nylon stretch black with some skeleton heads on it. I look away so I don’t show my amusement. We get to the scanners and I see her take off her boots. And I’m thinking, what the… And then I realize. We’re both wearing the same kind of boots with metal studs on them. Oh maaaaannnn!!! I hate taking my shoes off in the airport. Oh, ah, wai! I also have a belt. Fuck! So I start my striptease routine before these wonderful men there and they’re all staring checking out my ass as I bend to remove my brand new boots which – yes! – are not coming off easily cause – yes! – they are brand new. Damn it. I make it and they give me those plastic blue shoes to put on as a cross and guess what, one of them tears as I go through the scanner. I Am Blessed!

Finally, getting dressed, finding my passport in those trays, grab the bag, grab my purse and on my way to check in. The guy looks at the picture in the passport and then at me again. There had to be a resemblance. I looked just as annoyed now as I did then. He dismisses me fast. I’m smiling thinking of my cyber crook personality a few weeks ago. I find gate 28 and after making a first impression of the waiting passengers I decide to go for a café latte and something to eat. My cereals obviously did not do the trick. I pay an outrageous amount of money for a café latte that I actually enjoyed and this yogurt that I threw away 5 minutes later cause it felt it had been there forever. As I am trying to hold my shit together and the coffee, a hurried voice announces that the flight has changed gates and now we’re boarding from gate no. 5. Ah, it’s ok. I only have to climb two flight of stairs and I’ll be there.

But a whole new crowd awaits for me there. What before were about 10 people, now I find at least 30. And they’re all queuing up at the booth. Why? Cause most of them are Romanians, that’s why and they want to be the first. I am not going to stand, with a bag on my shoulder and a coffee in my hand for the next 45 minutes just to be among the first. There, people! Knock yourselves out!

So I sip on my coffee when a lady comes in to ask whether she shold put her purse in her hand luggage because they said they only allow ne luggage. I’m boggled. When I flew to Paris and London with the same company I had both separately and it was ok. So I advise her to do the same. She leaves happy with my answer, because she worried the purse won’t fit the luggage anyway. Then this young lady next to me says she’s going to Brussels every month and she is always asked to have just one luggage. So we call the lady back and help her pack, then I pack and I have to stash the charger to the laptop in my pocket so the purse makes it in the hand luggage. Now we are all legally equipped to be welcomed aboard. But there is still at least half an hour before they even start. So I sit back with my coffee and begin a conversation with the girl who had helped me clear the situation. We end up doing the queue together and then on the plane we become the best of buddies. She’s traveling to Brussels to see her boyfriend who is Belgium. They met in the airport in Milan two years ago and were stuck together for 6 hours there due to a delay of both their flights. And people still ask me where I get my inspiration from! What a beautiful dreamy love story!

We land at the Brussels Charleroi airport at 2PM. Mela has been very inspired to buy her city shuttle ticket online so she avoids a humongous queue and also saves about eur 4. As I sit on the bus I remember to turn on my cell phones and call mom to tell her that I’ve landed safely. YES. I’m a responsible passenger and always turn off my phone when I’m on the plane. So she’s at the baptism and she’s putting on the phone everyone for me to congratulate, then takes her time in describing the whole event and I feel compelled to gently remind her I’m on roaming and it’s expensive!!! So she immediately concludes the discussion – so she can!!! – and the bus leaves just as I text Jim to also know that I’ve landed and I am reachable on the phone. It puts my mind at ease to know he knows that I am available in case of an emergency. It’s how we work. He replies and wishes me a great time and updates me on things. Mela’s good now.

The bus ride is awesome. I keep chatting with Andreea – that’s her name – and the 50 minutes long journey go by in a minute. My eyes hurt from the milky light coming through the cloud blanket above and I’d like to put my sun glasses on, but then I’d feel ridiculous cause there is no sun and people would look weird at me. They don’t know I’m photo sensitive. I share my thoughts with Andreea and she says, “I’ll put mine on and back you up!” haha Done! We’re now both fancy Romanians with sun glasses on enjoying the amazingly green life n the side of the highway.

Before long we’re at Gare du Midi, a beautiful tall building made out of glass. I’m impressed. We get off the bus and grab out suitcases to follow the crowd and to the tube. Her boyfriend Quentin (I like that name!) meets us there and walks us to the subway. Andreea asks him to explain what metro line I should get to take me to Luise Avenue. They discuss for a little and then change their plans so they can take the same route as I am just to see me safely to the tram. So sweet! They even offer their metro cards to check me in but I refuse as I need to buy a card anyway. I will need it for the tram later on. So three stops later we get off the Simonis Elisabeth line to step out at Louise station. I follow them, very much like a puppy, while Andreea keeps telling me that I should try the waffles sold at the kiosks on the street because they are delicious; and also the fries. Quentin realized with our girly chit chatter we have past the tram stop so he grabs my luggage really fast and shoots through the middle of a very crowded intersection shouting to follow him or I’ll miss the tram. I look wild. I wanted to get a phone number from Andreea but there is no more time.  I yell a stupid fare well to her as I avoid a car almost running me over. Quentin is already setting y luggage inside the tram, but politely waits for me to get on. I get in hurriedly collapsing with all my bags on a chair hitting my butt against the rail but I manage a smile. In fact I even mumble a “have a nice time” before the door closes and I’m left there massaging my butt. Ouch. I will check later for a bruise. A minute later, my brain snaps out of its temporary delay and I react checking my ticket in the machine. They told me that if I take the metro and then the tram in the same hour it will only be considered one trip so they won’y charge two trips off my card. Because it’s a transit journey. And indeed the machine says transit. Wohoo! I sit back and try to make something out of this tram I’m on. I don’t really have the time to look at the city outside. It reminds me a bit of Berlin, with small streets and crowded sidewalks, small tram stops with even smaller writings on the boards so that I can’t ake out where the heck I am. I take out the paper with my Google Maps directions.

I’m on the Musee du Tram line and after 8 stops I’m supposed to get off at Buyl. My only problem now is that the voice announcing the next station speaks French and Dutch. So I am captivated with the totally different pronunciations. Sometimes I can’t make anything out of both languages, but I find a small TV screen showing the names of the stations so I keep checking that out to make sure I’m not missing my stop. And yes, Buyl next! I get off on this long and wide street called Boulevard General Jacques. And this is my street, now I just have to find number 82. I ask a Chinese woman (the Romanian asks a Chinese in Belgium if you know what I mean) and she shows me…in the wrong direction. I keep reading the number on the house and I don’t think I’m going right. So this time I stop a black guy and he is very kind and polite and shows me the other way around. Eventually he walks with me for a little, we ask two mothers walking their babies ad they shows us… the way we have just come from. Maaannnn. We both go back and then he says “wait for me here, I’ll go check the numbers on the houses over there and then we’ll know for sure.” He runs on the other side of the street and waves me to go back where I have initially started and keep going forth because that is the correct way. I wave him good bye and drag my luggage as I pass some girls on the sidewalk. I could be a bit annoyed but I’m not because I’m more please with myself speaking French after almost 9 years of barely ever saying anything in the language of love. And here I am asking for directions and being all talkative in French. Right.

I finally found the hostel. It’s a small hotel, with a door just as small. It took me a while to spot it. The guy at the reception speaks French but at some point we’re speaking English. Next moment he slams some Romanian words in my face. And I’m like “wow!” haha He shows me where  my room. I share my room with other people. None of them there, except for a Chinese girl, very nice but doesn’t understand much of English. She’s come to study in Germany but has decided to take a week off and visit Brussels on her own. I get the bed next to the window. Love it!

I drop my luggage and decide to go find something to eat. I don’t need much and I’m too tired to look for a certain place even though Emily told me of some. I find a small Carrefour and I grab some blue cheese and some nectarines, a bottle of water and I’m all set. As I walk back I finally start to get the feeling that Dorothy is no longer in Kansas. I take my time to inspect the houses, and the streets and the people. I feel an immense release and joy ad tears almost welling in my eyes. My first vacation this year and I couldn’t feel better. Such a long, full and hard year. So much going on, school and my grandpa and then school, and work and my projects. And I’ve stumbled and I’ve fallen and I got up and have helped other to get up and now I’m walking again and here I am. Read to meet my baby sister after a year and two months of staying away. And I am truly happy. I did not even realize it at its fullest until I got here, after it has happened.

So, this is Mela on her first walk through the Brussels streets, finally feeling a breeze of relaxation.
Brussels, Belgium. Reminds me of London. A mixture of things. Such tall skinny houses made of brick – some! – and this is where the difference begins. Some of them are covered in painted tiles of various patterns and colors. This makes the endless stream of houses siding the streets to look like mayhem of colors, all spotted here and there with windows and tall blue or brown doors, leading into rather dark spiraled stair cases and corridors.

With these thoughts and observations in mind I reach the hostel, I set my IPhone on Brussels time to have an idea when Em is going to be back, then I grab a plate, a fork and knife and go in the back garden to enjoy my late meal.

Silence. All so silent. Only the shiver of tress above me, the freshly dug ground, a few wooden chairs and tables. A Chinese man eats with his dinner and I nod to salute. I wish to say “enjoy” but I can’t find the French version of it. Haha. Frustrating. As I put my plate down it finally comes to me. “Bon appetite!” He replies and I’m grateful for my mental word search not failing on me at this crucial moment. I sit down and start eating, meticulously enjoying this blissful silence. Like heaven hidden behind these bricks walls and I did not want to believe it. As I eat I keep staring at the Chinese man (who later on I discovered was in fact Japanese!!!! How do I make the difference! Shame…) He’s eating with such an appetite and his fingers are moving so fast on those sticks that I simply cannot take my eyes from him. But more so, it’s the serenity on this man’s face. He is really enjoying his meal and it makes me feel positive for some reason. What I did not foresee is that my constant undeterred staring would cause him to think I want whatever he’s having. So suddenly he goes:

“Would you like some roasted cheese?” I don’t say anything because I’m not sure he speaks to me. In English. But it’s just the two of us. I try to politely refuse but I have been staring for so much now that it’s too late to convince him otherwise. So I’m thinking I shouldn’t make it worse. I smile ad say “One piece please.”
“I’ll bring you two. They’re fresh. I just cooked them. I have six more.” He literally gets up and runs into the kitchen and brings a small plate with two beautifully golden slices of roasted cheese. I felt like Jackie Chan’s apprentice, learning the healthy nutritious ways of the Asian people. Plus the way he was dressed reminded me exactly of that kind of movie. I start eating and the awesomeness of this new taste, salty and sweet and just a bit crunchy hits my senses in a way that makes me realizes just how I much I was looking for a warm meal. I think I held my breath until I finished the second one. More men show up. A Norwegian, a British and a Spanish. Every one salutes everyone and they all share impressions, have a beer and try to speak each others’ language. I like being a hostel so far. I get my stuff, thank the man again for the meal and I go to the kitchen.

After washing the dishes I try to find the drawer where to put everything and as I’m going through all the closets there I find one where it says “Share for all”. And I quickly realize that the hostel guests leave behind whatever they don’t need for others to use, from spices to salt, from knives to plates to mugs. How nice. I put the rest of the food in the fridge which is neatly arranged to fit everyone.

Then I come up stairs, slip under the covers, plug my earphones on and I start to write this. Emily should be arriving soon so I better end this and get ready to meet with her.

Hoping that I haven’t bored you all to death, I’ll see you soon for a follow up.
To be continued…

MUAH from Brussels!
Mela

Later at night…
To be continued follows now! Haha. As I finished writing this and I was about to upload it on the blog I hear a powerful knock on the door and I’m thinking “everyone has a key here, no one ever knocks.” And I answer in Romanian haha and the door opens and there she stands, in the semi darkness of the corridor in her red riding hood coat staring at me with a grin (it’s actually more of a coraille color – I had to make this note so she doesn’t kill me! Haha) And as she takes a step inside the room she starts screaming. I can only imagine what the Chinese girl must’ve thought but who cares. We remained hugged for a few minutes and whenever we feel like breaking up we sort get back to it only switching sides. A year and two months almost since last time we’ve seen each other, I guess we deserved it.
The damn mojitos haha
Oh yeah...
I then grab my stuff without even blinking as she says her colleagues are waiting outside so we can all go get some drinks. I’ve seen them all in the pictures on her FB profile but meeting them in person is a whole new deal. And they’re a lovely bunch. I don’t feel almost 10 years older haha We hit this pub close to where I stay and we order some snacks and mojitos, Tequila Sunrise and frites. Of course the waitress misunderstands and brings us two Morte Subite haha the name alone should say something about the drink! We spend a few hours there and I get to chat with everyone and make new friends. The one mojito I’m having kind of gets to me. I’m a cheap date what can I say… I’m not good with alcohol. I have some snacks and it’s all coming back together, but the traveling and anxiety of finally seeing her, have exhausted me. We walk hand in hand, like the sisters we are, making fun of this incredible night. I give up my night at the hostel so we can share the same tiny bunk bad at her dorm because we have so much to catch up. We go to sleep pretty late but it doesn’t matter. I think we continued talking even when we were half asleep.

Today we visited downtown, went to the movies and rode the carousel. Had my first bear ever too. But that, my dear friends and bloggers, is a story I will continue tomorrow night J

MUAH



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