Weird Itinerary

So, when I decided to study abroad, my parents had already gotten my tickets to go home. If you don’t know, it is usually cheaper to buy round-trip tickets (there and back) than a ticket to go and then a ticket to return. I don’t know why, it just is. Point being, my parents usually fly me over to Brazil for Christmas, and that is the return ticket from the trip to the US for the Fall semester, which means they got a round trip to fly me over for the spring semester, and return in May after finals. So, I went to Brazil after finals, around May 6th, and stayed there until my trip on the 20th. I got to spend mother’s day with my family and had my parents see me off at the airport after double checking my bag’s weight – which was totally unnecessary in my opinion, since I travel super light. Less is more, you know?

May is literally the month of moms. Happy birthday to my major sponsor. Never stop telling me "I told you so" @rosanacarvalhos

A post shared by Helena Carvalho Schmidt (@helenaaschmidt) on

Anyway, I was there for two weeks, and the only weekend was spent in the farmy resort on the first post. Good family time, not much room for fun with friend though – particularly because the calendars are reversed in Brazil, so they were still in class.

Anyway, I boarded for the international airport of São Paulo, and then Amsterdam on May 20th, where I spent 3 hours doing nothing because there’s literally nothing there, and then flew to Brussels’ airport. This is what I did in Amsterdam for three hours:

Kidding, it was just super foggy. Anyway, from there I got to Brussels, where the damn train ticket machine refused my American card my Brazilian card, and rejected money due to not having holes for it. That is actually pretty common in Europe, so I suggest you never travel with just money. If you do, make sure to have a bunch of coins – more machines take just coins than both bills and coins. All of them take cards. Nevertheless, most machines are card-only, and it is really impossible to get airline and long-distance train tickets with cash. Same goes for the deposit and reservation fees in hostels and touristic packages. You need a card.]

Thus, I took a cab to the house, since I had no phone data, the WiFi was in french so I had no idea what it wanted me to do, and my bag was too big to venture in the train system – believe me, I would have. You’ll see. It was terrible. Like, the driver was nice, and even tried to keep a conversation with me, but he was very… well, like a stereotypical European. He characterized the regions we passed by major ethnicity of the occupants and correlated it to safety, and it made me super uncomfortable. Truth is, that happens a lot, so I had to get used to it.

Also, the little screen that showed the price was going up way too fast. The euro is like four times the value of my national coin, so to me it was terrifying when the price would go up 10 cents of an euro every time we passed by a streetlamp. It was a 12 minute ride from the airport to the residency of my host family, and it cost me 35 euros. I asked the guy if the regular price was that high when I first noticed it, but he dodged the question, and I wasn’t bout to pick a fight with a random taxi driver in the middle of a city I did not know. Maybe when I had 4G again.

The taxi driver made me the kindness of dropping 10 cents of the total price of 35,10, and skedaddled from the house when he dropped me off. My host mom was apparently waiting for me by the window, because before I had even reached the door she had already opened it, hiding for a couple seconds the little sign with the Brazilian flag that welcomed me into their home. The family has three children, two daughters and a middle son. They have no pets, and are ridiculously tall. I told them that, but a bit later I noticed the girls were a bit self conscious about their height, in particular the youngest – but they said nothing, apparently Belgians are more of a a passive-aggressive type.

The youngest daughter does not speak English, but she knows French and is learning Flemish (basically Dutch in Belgium), while the oldest daughter has working English, and I’m pretty sure the son hates me for making him speak English at home – he seems to despise it. Having said that, they are all very kind and welcoming, and when they are not super stressed out about their final exams (about 16 different ones which go on until June 15th) they try to communicate with me, either directly or parental translation.

On a first impression, Belgium seemed nice. People were polite but indirect, and they were welcoming of tourists, although the taxi driver may have taken advantage of my foreignness and his lack of working English skills. Lesson learned: I will always ask the host family if something is normal when it happens. My room is really big, it is the youngest daughter’s old room – she seems to be going thorough a rebellious phase. All the kids are boy scouts and they seem to be very fond of their country – I see it as a fantastic opportunity to get to know the intimate works of the social fabric of the daily life of Belgium.
Today my host mom let me sleep for 4 hours and then showed me the train stop I should go to get to the university tomorrow. She then fed me with the whole family,  during which I identified the distaste towards English and general language barrier, but it was fun. I liked hearing French, and the children’s voices can raise higher than in Brazil or the US, which I think is very interesting. I might start an anthropological journal on family dynamics in Belgium.

 

I probably won’t. I have to work 25 hours a week and take my Political Science class during the week, and farofar (tourist around in obvious ways that margin ignorance) during the weekends. I might do that when I get back, instead.

Thanks for reading,

-H

 

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