Thursday, June 7, 2012

Week 2: Brussels Tour, Parliament, School

Howdy folks!
I have finished my first full week of school! Yay! But let's start where I left off. Sunday I woke up before my alarm went off to the sound of pouring rain on the skylight/windows in my room. It was loud.  Of course we were all exhausted from two busy traveling days, so no one was really that excited to get moving.  Eventually we got packed up and left (in the rain) for our Tour of Brussels through our school.  Being Sunday, the public transportation runs less often than normal. We waited almost 20 minutes for our bus.  Then we got to our tram transfer stop and it was going to be another 20 minutes until that tram came. So we walked the rest of the way to school. Got there before the tram did, but again, it was raining. And COLD. And for me to say it was cold, it was cold! I love the rain and I love the cold, but when I'm forced to walk on cobblestones on an unfamiliar street before getting to school? Not so much. Oh well! Got to the tour start late, but there were only 3 people ahead of us.  We got on the bus and a total of 10-12 people disembarked on the journey.

We learned about the history of Belgium, different neighborhoods, dynastic history, architecture, statues, parks, "Brusselization" (keeping the facade of a building original, but gutting the inside of the building and modernizing it), and food and other such tour-ish stuff.  Got to see the Atomium, which was created for the World Fair in 1958.  It was built to give Belgium it's own symbol, much like the Eiffel Tower is to France/Paris.  It is a structure of an atom of iron, with 9 electrons representing the 9 different regions of Belgium.  Pretty cool! But as I said, it was cold and rainy and there was a Spanish Festival/Fair going on, so we didn't get to go that close.  Some time in the next few weeks I'll head back out there and go up to the top and look out at Brussels!

We enjoyed the comfort of the coach for the next 3 hours, with a brief stop at the Grand Place, Mannekin Pis, and the Gallery.  The Gallery is a long enclosed hallway like thing with shops on either side. It was created to connect the North and South train stations so the elite members of society wouldn't have to walk through the "slums".  So all of the stores in there are ritzy. It was the place to see and be seen and even featured its own dance hall.  Pretty neat! Not that I could afford anything there... But then again, there are lots of ritzy shops all over Brussels/Belgium. So yeah.  After the tour, I came back home to eat lunch and dry off/warm up.  I ended up staying in my warm pajamas under a blanket for the rest of the night. Yay relaxing!

Monday was our first field trip in the EU class.  We went to the European Parliament.  We had to dress up, but the only thing I brought besides jeans was a dress. So off I went in the windy, rainy, 50ish degree weather to learn about some legislation.  After a 15 minute walk and navigating outside with the group, I decided that the dress was a really bad idea. Mostly because of the wind. Oh well. No other option!  We listened to a presentation by a staff member and got to see the "plenary" (floor) of the parliament (EP).  Fun fact that I bet you didn't know. The European Union conducts all of its business in 23 different languages to accommodate members of all 27 member states.  Obviously, you can't require legislators to speak 23 languages, so there are translation booths all throughout the room for live translation.  Even visitors can pick up a set of headphones and find their language! Pretty awesome! Parliament wasn't in session, but we are allowed to sit in on a session when they come back. Probably won't as it's just like legislature in America that I've seen, just in 23 languages.

So that's it for Monday.  Tuesday and Wednesday were full days of school.  Class 11-1 and then 2-6.  Tuesday was my first time in Islam and Politics in Europe.  I like it a lot, the teacher is great.  But we came home with a major assignment due the next day.  And we all thought it was due the next week.  So stayed up late Tuesday night doing homework. And that's about it.  Assignment is finished, though!  Also sometime during those days, Marianne (one of the Gators on the trip) and I stopped in a bakery (boulangerie) on the way home from school and got an eclair and a "tartlette" (mini pie).  They were really good. And had been/keep taunting us every time we walk to our bus stop.

Today deserves it's own post. Keep reading!

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