You can go home again: Pt. 1

I’ve officially been back on US soil for two weeks. It’s been pretty surreal. Like everything here feels the same yet it can’t possibly be.

Regardless, it’s good to be home.

A couple of people have accused me of being anti-American since spending so much time abroad. This would not be surprising because frankly I endured a lot of America-bashing and as I’m sure is obvious, I fell in love with Europe.

Yes, I have become more aware of problems that exist in America since being displaced, including obesity, waste, and gun control. However, being so far away ultimately gave me a lot more confidence in saying that the USA is in fact the best country in the entire world.

Here’s a few of the many things I missed when I was away from home:

  1. Pride: Americans love being American. More so than any other nationality that I’ve ever encountered. There are American flags EVERYWHERE. Independence Day preparation had already begun when my feet hit American soil in early June. Being American is a blessing, and everyone here knows it.
    1. My pets: I think I spent more time FaceTiming my pets than I did my parents, to be honest. On most days I like animals more than I like people so it was tough to spend a semester merely admiring other people’s dogs. On several occasions I had to resist the urge to snatch a sweater-clad pug off the sidewalk and run away because I missed this cutie so much:
      IMG_2744Now every morning when my obnoxious, senile cat wakes me up by meowing kibble-breath into my face, I remember those five long, pawless months and resist the urge to push him off the bed.  12828559_10208475839195646_9222731178017058388_o
  2. Smoke-free air- Europeans smoke. A lot. It felt like a couple of my coworkers spent more time outside smoking than they did in the office. Enough people asked me for a light that it’s one of the few French phrases I know. Now whenever I smell smoke I enjoy the nostalgia but certainly don’t miss the carcinogens.
  1. FREE WATER- Can someone please explain to me why it was impossible to get tap water at European restaurants? I don’t get it. Is it an environmental thing? A fiscal thing? I was dehydrated for quite literally the entire time I was there despite carrying a water bottle everywhere. Now that I’m home, I instinctively still fill up my water bottle in the bathroom sink at work instead of going to the cooler. Maybe that’s weird?
  2. FREE BATHROOMS- I was getting pretty tired of shelling out a euro every time I needed to relieve myself at a public venue. I think it’d be much more of a nuisance if I urinated on the floor of your establishment without paying, idk (sorry for the vulgarity, just keeping it real).
  3. Looking like a scrub in public- Compared to the stylish European masses, I felt like I belonged in a dumpster whenever I wore a T-shirt outside my apartment in Brussels. Now when I want to make a Wal Mart run I feel perfectly comfortable in Nike shorts and an oversized tank that says “Camo: America’s Away Colors” (yes I own this tank).
  4. Food Network- Chopped, DDD, Barefoot Contessa, need I say more?
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  5. My people- Home is where the heart is, and my heart was always back here on American soil with all the people I love.

Bye-Bye BE

A few weeks ago I wrote my “Au Revoir MUBXL” post. It was sad to say goodbye to all my classmates, but I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my city quite yet, so I was okay.

Yet in the blink of an eye, here it is: the big bad goodbye to Brussels and Belgium.

It certainly hasn’t been a picture-perfect semester here. There were an uncountable number of mornings that I woke up to dreary, sticky rain. And there was that one morning that I woke up to bombings.

It hasn’t been a picture-perfect semester, yet I have hundreds of amazing photographs, enough #tbt’s for a lifetime. I’ve got a handful of new friends that I don’t know how I survived without. And I’ve got a much bigger world to explore.

But I digress…this nostalgia is getting to me. Sitting here writing this post, I don’t want to cry (which I will do later, I’m sure.)

Instead, here’s a list of my favorite things about Belgium*, in no particular order:

1) The people- Brussels is a weird city because over half of the population is not actually Belgian. As a result, I’ve been able to meet people from all over Europe and the world.

2) The beer- I ignorantly thought that I wouldn’t gain weight in Europe because I don’t like beer…haha. I’ve been lucky to escape the “Study Abroad 15” thanks to the crazy amount of walking we do here. But I really like beer now. I can knock back a Jupiler likes it’s Natty Light and sip on a Chimay like it’s (insert good American beer name here, I don’t know any). Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing…?

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3) SWIFT- Call me a nerd, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an intern this semester. Who would have thought that this four-month communications internship would have taught me so much about Blockchain? What’s more, my coworkers at SWIFT made my study abroad experience that much better. Despite being several years older than I am, they treated me like a friend and an equal, not as just another intern passing through. I’ll miss the morning commutes, evening drinks, and consistent loving-harassment at our SWIFTLab table.

4) Brasil sauce- Belgium created frites (NOT France, okay?!), so it’s not surprising that they have damn incredible accompanying sauces. My tried-and-true, ride-or-die sauce is Brasil. To be honest I don’t know what’s in it but wow it’s so good.

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5) Flagey- I’ve said it before, but it deserves reiterating: Flagey was my favorite place in Belgium. Something about sitting on my bum with a can of Hoegaarden in hand whilst journaling just made me feel like I had everything figured out. Thank you to all the weird birds who kept me company.

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6) Manneken Pis- It might seem weird that one of my favorite things about Belgium is a statue of a peeing boy. Quite frankly I don’t think I can justify that weirdness to anyone who hasn’t seen Manneken Pis, but let’s just say that I’m huge fan of this cutie’s rotating outfits. And the fact that he’s the original water source for a city that I’m obsessed with.

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7) Waffles- I know, it’s cliché. But get yourself a true Belgian waffle and you’ll know what I mean. They’re indescribably good.

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I’m not even going to deny the fact that I ugly-cried all over the Brussels sidewalk the day I left. I fell so hard for this city and this country, and leaving it nearly broke my heart.

You haven’t seen the end of me, Belgium. I’ll be back ASAP, that’s a promise!

*Just to be clear, this list is not exhaustive. Stay tuned for a “Things I Miss About Europe” post when I’m settled back in the greatest country in the world: ‘Murica.