So after my last post, I was just about to head out, and I got an IM from Patrick from yesterday. I started asking him for tips on things to see, but his english wasn’t very good, so he had me talk to his cousin Aysel. After about an hour talking to them, I wasn’t much better off (as we spent alot of time on small talk and the two if them bickering), but it was pretty entertaining if nothing else.
The delay actually did me good though, as it put me right at the begining of the world’s smallest parade going by my hotel right as I was walking out (as poorly pictured… there’s a jugler and a man on a unicycle in there supposedly) . I checked it out for a little bit as I walked against the current, and came across a small celebration right outside of the Grate Place. There was a big stage set up here and there were several food and beer tents, but it was almost entirely parents with their children here, so I took my fill and moved on before the live music started, hoping there would be something similar, if not a little bigger going on in Brussels
When I got to Brussels, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more difficult time getting orientated. I had a basic map of the area that I got from my hotel that morning. I’m going to blame all of my trouble on that map and say that it is THE WORST map that I’ve ever used. It was drawn pretty nicely and looked like it should be fine, but I’ve never got so lost as I did today with this map. On the upside of things, I didn’t really have too many real destinations, so I was going to do a lot of walking around anyways, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal, just a slight shot to my confidence level with maps.
I did get to see Makken Pis though, which was the one thing I really was looking forward to. I had only heard that it was a statue of a little boy peeing, but knew that I had to see it so that I could pee with it. As it turns out, the statue is really pretty small. I had pictured it to be like so many of the other water fountains I’ve seen, which are the center of roteries and such, but the boy himself probably isn’t more than 16-24 inches tall.
So now maybe I’m about to ruin a potentially funny lie, but I wasn’t ever going to really pee in the fountain. I was planning on taking my water bottle with me and spraying it so that it looked like I was peeing in the foutain. I figured this would be pretty easy to do, and it did get many laughs from the people that saw me doing it, but it was nearly impossible to describe to people what I wanted the picture to look like (no one spoke english, or french, and as if I had anywhere close to the right vocabulary to try and explain what I was looking for). The first picture ended up coming out pretty good though, even if I am looking away.
I then spend a ton of time walking around trying to find the Commic Museam. For those of you who don’t know anything about Belgium (like me last week), its divided in 1/2 by an invisible boarder going east to west, pretty much right through Brussels. The Flemish in the North speak Dutch and the Waterloonians of the south speak French. This language barrier has caused quite the conflict between the two groups of people, who act almost as two seperate countries. Now for the relevent part. Its because of this great divide that comics became so popular in Belgium. The graphical depictions of jokes, stories, politics could be read by either group and therefore became very popular. As such there is a very large museam dedicated to the subject in Brussels, but unfortunatly it was closing by the time I found it, which was alright because on the way to finding it I did get to spend some time in a pretty cool park and see alot of historic buildings that I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to see.
After this I went back to the Great Markt and strolled around for a bit. It was about 5pm at this point so I decided to get my first Belgium Waffel. This was actually my second attempt at getting a waffel, the first failing due to some language difficulties that resulted in me getting two scoops of icecream in a cone instead of a chocolate covered waffel… I guess my Frech needs more work that I had thought.
It was now starting to get dark, so I ventured back to the train station. I was so proud of myself for finally being able to navigate my way through the maze of billboards holding the tens of pages of posted rail times. I hit a slight bump finding the actual platform when I accidently followed the Metro signs instead of the Rail signs, but was able to correct this in time to still make my train. But when I finally arrived at the stairs to my platform, they were boarded off. Not being able to read the sign on the fence, I started to look around and saw another man in the same situation, raising his hand in a ‘follow me’ sort of way. We went to what would normally be the exit to the same platform but that was boarded off as well. Luckily enough there was a man working leaving the platform there, and directed us to platform 3. There was another train here that followed the same route, but with more frequent stops that we would have to use.
While waiting for this next train I tried to start up converstation with this man, but he didn’t speak a word of English. I tried to speak the little French that I knew with him but failed to even get him to acknowledge my name with J’mappelle Matt (I can barely speak these phrases in French so pardon my spelling). I’m not sure what he did speak, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t French, and I don’t even think it was Dutch. After many exchanged smiles and laughs at our inability to communicate with each other anymore than him helping me find the correct train to get on, our train finally arrived. He was actually going to the same stop that I was, and so when I got on behind him, he gave a wave of his hand inviting me to sit with him. I obliged and this led to one of the most hummorous (read: awkward) train rides I had ever been on. After not being albe to communicate with him on my own, and now having a table between us, I pulled out a few of my french-english dictionaries and guide books, and tried to carry the conversation on that way. When I passed him the french-english dictionary though, he ran his fingers over the words very slowly as if trying to sound it out and passed it back to me with another laugh.
After arriving at our destination I declared Victory, a word that seems to be if not universal, close enough that he understood what it meant. We walked out of the station and through a series of hand motions we described the route’s we would walk home and it turned out that we would be going almost the exact same way. We countinued our botched attempt at communication and finally got to exhange names and where each other were from, something that had failed earlier, but seemed to work now. He was Husain from Moroco, or atleast that is what I got out of it, and how he’ll be rememberd. I thanked him for about the 10th time for helping me get back home as we parted ways, and headed back to my hotel
I settled down for a bit, talked to Patrick a little more, and some friends back home, and before I knew it, it was 10:30 at night. I dropped everything so I could get some food before everything was closed. I started walking toward the bar/clubs that I found last night, but they were both done serving food, and so I started back in the direction of my hotel when I heard a cheerful, obviously black man’s voice singing from around the corner. You could tell he was going to be one of those men that would talk to anyone, and might be a little crazy, but would be completely harmless. I asked him where I could get some food, but he misunderstood and through I was trying to tell him were to get food. I clairified and he asked if I had any money. I said not much, only about 10 euro’s, at which point he wrapped his arm around me and said “Well that’d be enough for two”. I took this as him going to want me to buy him something to eat for exchange of were to find the food, which I really had no problem with, I’m sure the conversation would have been unreal, but sadly he just directed me to where I could find a few shops still opened. When I asked to confirm that they would be open, even on this holiday, he replied “Of Cooouurse they be open. They be making money aren’t they?!” as if I had offended him, but in a still very cheery mood. I thanked him and moved on quickly as my stomach started to turn I was so hungry.
The only thing still open that I found was a bar that didn’t look like it served food, and a pizza shop. The shop was manned by a Packistan man who I talked with while I waited for my pizza to cook. When it was finished I pulled out my credit card and he said that he couldn’t take that, even though one of the first things I had asked when I entered was if they took them or not, but he didn’t refute that fact, so I think he had just misunderstood my question in the first place. I put the card back in my wallet and checked to make sure that I didn’t have any money left, but all I had was maybe 2 euro’s in change. I asked him where the ATM was, which was pretty far away, and ran off on my empty stomache which was probably more furious with me than the Pizza man was. When I finally found the ATM machine, I entered my code and it came back saying that it was wrong. I put in the only other code it could have been, and that was rejected too. Then it dawned on me. About a month ago I tried to use my card, and put in the first number incorrectly 3 times with out ever trying the 2nd possible number. This had locked my card, and I had never gone back to get it fixed. So here I am on the streets of Belgium at 11 something at night with no money and a pizza with my name on it waiting down the street. I debated not going back at all, or going to the hotel and seeing if I could get some cash and have them bill it to the room, but I decided to just go back and atleast tell the man what the situation was.
He actually took the news surprisenly well. I showed him all the money that I had and that I did still have $12 in US funds and offered him that. He said that he would take that and that I could come back the next day with the 11.50 in Euro’s or just leave it as is. I’ll probably end up choosing the later of the two options not only because its easier, but when I finally did get to each my pizza and fries, they were both pretty terrible, and so I’d rather just not go back there. It was kind of ironic that these foods which I consider to be ‘safe’ foods for me were teh worst that I’ve had since I’ve been very good at trying lots of new things that I had no idead how to pronounce or even a clue of what was in them, which is something I’m nortoriously bad at doing.
That’s about it for today. I really didn’t think that much had happened, but I’ve probably spent close to an hour typing this all out. Now its 1am and I’ll have trouble getting up for work tomorrow, but its better to get this all writen down while its still fresh in my head. So g’night everyone. I’ll post more as things happen. If the next few days are slow, with me just being at work all day I might slack off. I don’t think that will be the case though, so I’ll probably post again some time tomorrow night again.