My long haul from Seattle > London > Brussels was as you would expect. Big plane. Lots of people. Sub-par movies…Danny Bonaduce was on my flight though, with his wife, that was funny :)
Note to self I will never accept an aisle seat on a 9 hour again. The ladies next to me literally had to pee every 5 minutes, and always when the food had arrived so I had to juggle everything to let them climb all over the seat. Sigh. Props to the lone mother at the bulkhead with twin 1-yearold girls and a young boy. One or both of the babies wailed the entire flight. But it probably could’ve been worse.
I made my connection at LHR on 2 hours of sleep and feeling grumpy indeed. Of course several wide bodies landed at the same time so there was a 40 minute delay to the tarmac, shrinking my connection to one hour. And then they put the connection not in the international terminal, no, but across the bloody airport so that we had to pile into trams and go up a million escalators, back through passport control and security, and then to the gate. At least there was a starbucks and some South African rugby players to chat with :)
Arriving at Brussels airport was a piece of cake, actually a croissant bacon sandwich which they fed us on the 45 min flight :) yum yum. Once we landed, I had a feeling of home coming…but to a place that was foreign to me. Crazy right? It was joy.
Once at the airport I collected my bags and went to the lowest level which is the train station. I only noticed automated ticket machines, which can be put into any of 4 languages, but the card machine didn’t like my mastercard and said something in dutch which I couldn’t translate. I noticed a guy in an orange vest and asked him for help, he smiled and directed me to the ticket desk with a person who could do it for me. The man behind the desk was kind indeed, filling the ticket out for me (10 anytime train tickets for 50 euro if you’re under 26!) and sent me down to Quai 2 for Gent-Sint-Pieters.
Hoisting my enormous blue suitcase and carry ons onto the train, a girl sitting across the aisle who looked my my age asked if I needed help. We then got to chatting and she mentioned that it saves time to connect to a faster train at Brussels-Noord, and that she and her brother were on their way to Gent as well. She’s originally from Nepal, and has been living in Belgium since she was young. We all got out at Brussels-Noord and made the connection, and she showed me how to read the timetable to get the most efficient route. Once at Gent-Sint-Pieters I found an ATM, my new friend told the taxi driver in dutch where I wanted to go, and we hugged goodbye. I got her facebook to take her out for a thank you drink, because her help made my journey a lot less stressful. She said she would hope that someone would do the same for her, if she was in my position.
I didn’t make my 1:30 international arrival meeting at Vlerick, instead clunking my suitcases down the terraced steps at nearly 2…and made it to the receptionist, who was very kind and called up Kimberly, who was understanding of my tardiness (probably given my red cheeks and huge luggage). Kimberly took me through the next steps…finding a place to live, getting a phone number, setting up a bank account, health insurance, residency card, etc etc etc, and laid out a map of Gent with some key locations. I nodded, repeating back when necessary to make sure my tired mind had grasped the essentials. A guy in my program from Spain arrived on the tail end, who seemed really nice. At the end of the meeting the receptionist called a taxi for me, and handed me a post. My sim card! I had ordered it just a day or two prior and there it was.
Taxi took me to the Sandton Grand Reylof, a gorgeous hotel in central Gent. I thumbed one of the decorative green apples and asked if it was real. The woman said yes, have one, and I gladly did. I flopped on the bed, by now nearly 3:30pm, and willed myself not to pass out. I turned on my laptop and checked in with my parents and best friends. “You made it!” they congratulated me.
Next step? Appointment at the house I planned to live in for the school year! It was scheduled for 5:30 that day, so I had a couple of hours to rest and get showered and into a change of clothes. Stay tuned.
two more sleeps until the cliff jump!
I know you guys are probably thinking this isn’t exciting because I’ve done it all before with the move to Paris, and 4 years younger.
The difference there is that AUP is an american style international school, ready to catch you at the airport, hold your hand through orientation, feed you, house you, and answer every last question. And I had a french boyfriend who navigated rocky waters for me. (and then created them, ha!!)
This time, it’s a purely Belgian business school, as supportive as AUP in terms of question answering and support structure….but I’m really on my own in terms of captaining the ship. No one’s got me by the hand this time.
Alright alright. buck up, blondie. It’s not the first time I’ve landed, alone, in a foreign country. It’s exciting!!
The plan is playing on repeat in my mind…times, flight numbers, layover, train time, cab fare, hotel address, meeting times…Like a dimly lit obstacle course.
But this is what it is…the greater the risk the greater the reward.
I screamed in glee at the postman!
What a weight off my shoulders….oh la la
Now it’s in my hot little hand.
— Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (via girlinlondon)
..all progress takes place outside the comfort zone.