Well, it's been a week since I've landed in Belgium, and it has already seemed longer. The days have been going by really slow, which isn't a bad thing-- there's always lots to see and learn about.
I've been in Brussels twice now-- once on Tuesday and once yesterday, and it's a really cool city. On Tuesday my host mom and brother and I went to the Atomium, one of the big Brussels icons. Because I still don't have a camera, I only have two or three pictures (which i'll post when I get them off my host parents' camera), but I'll borrow one from Wikipedia for descriptions' sake:
It's a really impressive structure-- about 180 meters high, I think, and each of the balls have exhibits and places where you can look out at the city. It was built in 1958 for the Brussels World Fair--(l'Exposition Universal in French)-- to model big themes like "scientific development and human achievement," and "to present an optimistic and hopeful view of the future." The pamphlets at the atomium now say, however, that that view was "naïve." Hmm.
Near the Atomium is a place called Mini-Europe-- a theme-park style place that holds models of buildings and famous places all around the European Union. The models were very intricate and well-made-- complete with little motorized cars and trains and boats. It was somewhat like the models at LegoLand, but without the Legos.
Here's a picture of the mini Grand Place in Brussels, again thanks to Wikipedia:
It was a pretty cool trip, though different than I expected. The group consisted of other AFS students from around my region (Brabant), plus a few members of their host families. Like at the orientation, it was a mix of many different languages (French, English, Italian, Taiwanese, a little bit of Russian, and one guy spoke Japanese), so it wasn't like a the kind of tour I'm more used to, where the guide talks to people at each of the stops. But it was great to see the sights, and to be surrounded by so many things that just said "Belgium." We passed by tons of chocolat shops with beautiful displays in the windows, shops that sold speculoos, little sweet cookies that Belgians are very proud of, stands that sold gaufres (waffles), restaurants that sold only frites and moules (French fries and mussels), and brasseries (breweries) with over 30 different kinds of beer. We passed Mannekin Pis, the famous statue/fountain of the little boy peeing,
and then the group went to a café (cafes here are different than in the U.S.-- they don't sell coffee and sandwiches, they sell alcohol) to drink Belgian bierre (beer). I tried the pils, a straightforward beer, and it was obviously a high quality beer, but to be honest, I'm not a big fan of beer's taste. It has a bitter aftertaste, which I don't love. I drank it, but it doesn't seem like the type of thing I'd like to drink one after another. I guess that's a good thing....
Gaetan and I rode the train from Linkebeek to Brussels and then back, the first time I've been on a Belgian train, and it took only around 15 minutes. It's awesome to be living so close to such a cool city.
When my host dad comes home later today, he'll help me navigate the camera connection to the computer, so I can get a few other Atomium/Mini-Europe pictures uploaded.