This past trip to Brussels, Belgium was something I was looking forward to ...and then it rained...the entire trip. I was only there for two and a half days which is typical for me considering how cheap the plane tickets are and how close the country of Belgium is to Spain; two hours and ten minutes to exact. As soon as I landed, I headed straight for my hostel, The Meininger, since it was so late at night and checked in. As I entered the room, I was met with an unnecessary blast of heat from the radiator, making one only want to sleep in their undergarments. Unfortunately, this would not be the case for me seeing as though, at that moment, my room choice of a mixed dormitory was overridden by all men whom reserved almost every bed in that room at the same time I did. What once was going to be a mix of genders became a bachelors pad.
There was only one other bed available that didn't have someone in it, and I was hoping by the next morning it would be occupied with some estrogen.The following morning my wish had come true, and I was greeted by a young woman named Betty from England. "Thank God," I thought to myself. We made small talk and exchanged numbers to meet up for dinner that night. I was secretly hoping that I would meet someone while in Brussels because for some reason I just didn't want to be alone. I don't know why, but that's how I felt at the time.
I left the hotel wearing my vans, all black outfit topped with a tan peacoat and a fresh twist out. A fresh twist out is the most important part of my appearance because by mid-afternoon, while passing the window of a cafe I I found myself with a full-blown unanticipated afro from the rain. My twists had left the building without saying anything. They just...left. DISRESPECTFUL! Now, don't get me wrong, I love wearing my hair free and liberated, but today I was looking for a different style, while my hair had plans of its own.
Throughout the day I walked through the city, visiting The Atomium (Brussels infamous landscape), The Van Gogh exhibition at the Brussels Stock Exchange (Bourse), and hung out in The Grand-Place, which is the central square of Brussels while drinking hot chocolate. I ended the day at the MIMA museum, an exhibition of political postcards, artwork and news articles reflecting protest made against wars and chaos during different periods within history. It was actually rather interesting, entertaining and enlightening and right next to my hostel, which I had failed to realize when I was trying to find it for 30 minutes.
After a day of exploring, I went back to the hostel, which again, was conveniently located right next door to MIMA and waited for Betty, the girl I had met that morning. We decided on Brussels' french fries, waffles and beer for dinner; an explosion on the loo waiting to happen. However, we survived that potential backfire of a meal. Betty was actually refreshing to talk to because the week leading up to this trip, I had really started not to believe in allies because I was so frustrated with what was going on in the states and the ignorance that people were fighting so hard to keep. The disrespect was just getting too much to handle.
However, Betty reassured me that she was an ally, that she did recognize her privilege and was not afraid of informing those that looked like her about their privilege when the occasion arises. That was comforting to know and much needed. And although I do feel that there is a considerable number of people that look like her that aren't as enlightened, nor willing to replace their ignorance with knowledge, at that moment it reminded me that there are people that choose to re-educated themselves and use their privilege to help those that are marginalized and disenfranchised. She gave me a bit of hope...a bit. I know. I'm a bit pessimistic, but can you blame me?
When we arrived back to the hostel, we met a new bunkmate, and we hit it off so much that I invited him to come to breakfast with me the following day since Betty would be heading back to England for work. He accepted the offer and what was only going to be a chit-chat over tea and croissants, ended up being a day trip. His name was Josh, in his late teens, and making Belgium the last stop of his gap year European travels. This guy was quite hilarious, and throughout the whole day, we couldn't stop making jokes while we explored a little town called, Leuven, that lay right outside Brussels.
Given the fact that I had just met him, in the back of my mind, I thought to myself these jokes he's making are just too good. Would if this could be a set up to get my guards down in order from him to attack me at the least expecting moment? Yes, women think like this. So, as always, I told my sister a bit about him, and where we were going in case, anything were to happen. I was such in a rush I didn't realize how little information I gave her until she said something.
The picture above was of the conversation I had with my sister concerning Josh and she was right! How in the world was I going to get found in case anything happened? Details matter Sidra. Details MATTER! smh. Anyway, luckily the day trip didn't end with me in the back of a truck. We explored Leuven, which was small, charming and pretty. We failed to realize that that day the country was celebrating their 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. So, only being there for 2 hours we ended our trip eating a four euro medium size pizza from Dominoes. It was either that or McDonalds, the only two eateries open this day.
We made our way to the hostel soaking wet as we got stuck in the rain, said our goodbyes and called it a night because I had to wake up bright and early to head back to Madrid. Although it rained every day there, I enjoyed meeting new people and of course exploring a new place. Although I don't plan on going back to Brussels anytime soon, I am grateful for the experience and all that came with it. Berlin reminded me that although it's necessary to use discernment and be cautious of others intentions, it's also necessary to give people the benefit of the doubt. What has your travels taught you?