I visited friends in Brussels. I met Christiaan and Bart on the slow boat to Luang Prabang, Laos. We ended up hanging out together for the next week or so on our travels. A lot of people I’ve met on my travels have invited me to visit or even stay with them. Bart and Christiaan are two stand up dudes who followed through on the offer.
A lot of people put out offers. A few, like Bart and Christiaan followed through, a few others turned into ghosts. I get it. It’s one thing when you’re on vacation, but another to be six months down the road, back in your daily life, and have some scruffy backpacker you hung out with for a couple days show up in your town and want to hang out, and maybe even sleep on your couch. For this reason, I didn’t count on anyone being into me staying with them.
It’s been surprising. A couple people I knew for a day have invited me to stay with them. One guy, I only had a breakfast conversation with him. Others, I knew for much longer, and they disappeared on purpose (Gosh, maybe I have a shorter shelf life than fresh fish.)
Bart and Christiaan were the third travelers I was able to meet up with a second time. On this trip, I’ve come to know the empty feeling of meeting people, connecting with them on a more than superficial level, and knowing that I will in all likelihood never see them again. So it was great when Christiaan walked up behind me in downtown Brussels and made a joke, about what I can’t remember.
It was the end of the work day and he was picking me up downtown, near his office. He wore a business suit instead of a t-shirt, flip-flops, and short-shorts (kidding, he never wore shorts-shorts, that I know of, it just made the rhthym of the sentence better.)
There I was,, still wearing the same small assortment of clothes, still scruffy, still living the vagabond life. We shook hands and smiled, I went in for a short, awkward, back slapping man-hug. He looked so professional.
We went back to their apartment. He and Bart had finished their studies last year and moved to Brussels early this year. They were both Data Analyst Consultants. They worked for competing companies.
Their apartment was newly refurbished and furnished with IKEA furniture. They had this great, ingeniously designed sofa bed- pull-out couch for me to sleep on.
Bart came home shortly after our arrival looking quite the professional as well.
They decided to take me for some genuine Belgium fries and snacks. We drove to Bart’s office parking garage where we could leave the car and walked the short distance to the touristic area. Christiaan was able to give me a lot of background on some of the sights. This first upside down pick is a statue of a Belgian ruler who refused to give up the good fight, refused to surrender, and because of him, Belgium still exists. I think Christiaan said he was a king
(I could not get this and a couple other pics in this post to appear right side up. I flipped them in photos and they still went in their own direction. Sorry if this ruins your day.)
The old, pretty buildings are all in a grand square. Each building was for a different “house.” For example, one was for the Masons.
We had the fries. They were good, but they tasted just like a lot of the fries I’ve had in American restaurants. I guess we should be calling them Belgium Fries instead of French Fries.
This is the Mannekin Pis. He’s the mascot of Brussels, a statue of a little peeing baby. The city dresses him up in costumes on holidays. All of these costumes are on display in a museum in the area.
This larger version, in front of a Belgian Waffle shop, was a few feet away. I found it to be much more impressive. We joked about the less than appealing poses I could put myself in while standing next to it.
In the spirit of equality, here is the female version that can be found in an alley down the street. Strange it’s behind bars, and her micturation was a mere trickle. We joked that she may need some antibiotics.
The next day was my birthday. While Bart and Christiaan were at work, I walked around town, and had the best beer I ever had in my life at a giant Belgium beer pub called Delirium. It was a Belgium quad and I doubt I will ever taste a better beer.
We went out for a couple beers that night close to where they lived. I enjoyed simply hanging out with them. I asked them a lot about their data analysis careers. I told Bart to say, “look guys, too much analysis is paralysis” when the next meeting goes too long. He promised to message me the moment after he springs it on his co-workers.
The offices for the European Union are in Brussels, making it the unofficial capital of Europe. The pic below is an area with a roundabout that’s referred to as “the European part of the city.”
The metro workers were striking on my birthday. They marched through the touristic area. Many of them marched in the morning, then spent the rest of the afternoon in the pub. With all the people drinking in front of sidewalk pubs, it was more like a holiday than a strike. Kind of made it hard to sympathize with their “plight.” I agree with the value of unions and striking, and I believe the common worker is always getting screwed to the detriment of society... But spending the majority of the strike day drinking beer in the pubs doesn’t make for good PR.
I’m so thankful for Christiaan and Bart’s wonderful hospitality and friendship. They offered out their couch without me asking and they took time in the middle of the week to make sure we had some fun.
Bart and Christiaan, I think highly of both of you, thanks for making me feel so welcome and comfortable in your home, and I hope that I can one day host either or both of you in the future (wherever I may be settled at that point.)
You made my birthday memorable. The only thing I’m bummed about is that epwe didn’t get a picture together.
Remember, too much analysis is paralysis.