Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Arriving in Liege, Belgium

I got to see dad yesterday, during the correspondence between Geneva-Paris-Liege. It was awesome. He came and got me at the train station and we walked to his apartment. It's super small, but quite nice. I got to dump off some of my stuff, mostly paper, books, some unnecessary clothes. So good. It was heavy just pulling it, let alone picking it up. It was so nice to see him, get some hugs...I'm really looking forward to spending next week with him.

By the way, I'm using a french keyboard which is completely I have to hunt and peck...I haven't typed with my head down since I was 10. Forgive the typos.

Anyway...traveling was no big deal...and even getting and checking into the dorm, which was a nightmare in Geneva was easy here. Anyway...the actual dorm, though, is...not well maintained. Dirty and old. There's a common kitchen for every four rooms, ours had dirty pots covered in flies; overflowing trashcans, dusty rooms. My room itself is perfectly fine...but surrounding it...not as nice. Oh, and we share a shower with our neighbor, and lucky me, my neighbor is an unknown male. But, once you step out of the dorm, it's really pretty. It's surrounded by a nature reserve, even larger and more woody than in I found my running path(s) already. It was funny, almost, how much the people in our program were freaking out about the rooms, though. One lady turned to another girl, grabbed her shoulders and said, "I make too much money to put up with this" then left and got a hotel.

So, almost immediately, Kathryn and I went for a get away from the yuckiness AND the complaining, which is equally yucky. Right close by was a nice cafe, and we sat outside, had a beer; Very pleasant. Others joined us and we ended up having a good pizza dinner there; the stopped at a convenience store, got some ice-cream, etc.

Well, just to explain another cause for complaint...the Univ of Liege people just didn't arrange this well, apart from not realizing that teachers won't appreciate the lodgings intended for poor students who have nothing to complain about. So, the dude came to welcome us, an hour late to his own meeting, and really didn't have any really info or even know the price of a bus ticket. Loser. Then he told us to meet this morning at a certain spot at 8:30 for someone to meet and guide us to the University. No one came. Ever. So, the 30+ of us just waited for 20 minutes in the cold before figuring it out for ourselves. And there was never any mention of the mistake. We, and I use this as the royal "we", were not pleased. It was a cold welcome, for sure.

Anyway, since then, things are just fine. We had two classes this morning, which were interesting; I had a waffle and coffee for a snack for 1 euro 90, we have all our info; plus recommendations or restaurants and bars. One local place has over 1000 kinds of beer! I love choices! So, even though all the meals aren't arranged and paid for like in Geneva, this will give me the chance to explore and make my own I won't be over-eating stuff just because it's there. We'll have a tour of the city this afternoon, tomorrow we'll go into Holland the city of Maastrict, then Thursday Namur, another town in Belgium, then Saturday, Bruxelles.

Yesterday afternoon, after lunch we had of tour of the churches, which was uninspiring...the guide was a little indifferent, it rained on and we skivved off a little early, and got some groceries and things, went back to the dorm, changed into better shoes...thank goodness! It took forever to get the bus back into town...they don't seem to follow their posted schedules at all...but whatever...and when we got into town it was raining we ducked into a bar and I had some famous "white" beer, excellent, and when it stopped raining, we found a cute cafe...I had a croque madame (toasted ham and cheese with a fried egg on top) and soup. Excellent. I even got to taste Kathryn's hot got cheese salad. Yum! We didn't get in until ten (and we found a bunch from our group at the bus stop...funny) but it was a pretty good day. We're going to Maastrict, which is in Holland, but really close.

The classes today were interesting. The first on the "countryside of Belgium" but it was more about the agricultural and urban development and different agricultural regions of Bel. which was interesting, then a session about the Belgium school system, and best of all, a short class on Belgian food, beer. She recommended places to sample beer, fries, mussels and chocolate...all the specialties. I want to try them all!

Yesterday was good. The visit to Maastrict interesting, but not very deep. I took pictures, enjoyed walking around with Beckie and Kathryn, then came back and had mussels and fries, traditional Belgian beer, etc. Very nice.

So anyway...I'm well and mostly enjoying Liege, other than the weather. It's really fun to get to experience the authentic culture independently but it's challenging learning the way of life here.

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