Cheers mates,

First, let me say I am sorry for my temporary hiatus. I was busy being busy or simply too tired to keep this updated frequently. My deepest apologies to all of you that derived your happiness and well being by living vicariously through my trip. So here’s your latest fix.

So my stay in Brussels ended splendidly, mainly because I got to see the Dark Knight Rises. Really though, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people and area to live and study in. Alas, all good things must end. Desolate and distraught, I headed to Brussels International Airport to board a plane back home to L town.

Jk, I boarded a train destined for London and the Olympics. Sorry, for that mix up.

That day, Saturday the 28th, I walked and tubed (The affectionate name for London’s metro) all over central London to get my bearings. Obviously, the first thing I did though was have Fish&Chips in a pub. When in Rome, right? The funniest thing that came of day was two Americans, after seeing my boisterous USA shirt, came up to me to ask for directions. Like, really? You are in a country where everyone speaks the same language as you, and you choose to ask the bright eyed and camera touting American tourist for directions. Ok, yeah that makes sense to me too. Anyway, after 6 hours of wandering around London I boarded another train destined for my Dad’s Cousin’s house just outside of Exeter, England. My parents joined me in this quaint town situated perfectly between the English countryside and the English Channel. It’s as breathtaking as it sounds. 

This served as and is serving as our home until Monday when we take off for Paris. After 4 weeks of school, studying, and exploring is extremely refreshing to cut out the first two activities and focus solely on the last and most exciting one. My body, noticing that I wasn’t living at a high octane pace anymore, crashed for the first few days of my stay. I am finally starting to feel my battery reaching 100% again. 

Thursday and Friday my parents and I made our way (for me) back to London. The only difference this time though I now had an impeccable knowledge of directions in London…or at least enough to get everywhere we wanted to go. Because this post has already dealt enough with the minutia and that ain’t my style yo I won’t bore you with more details. Highlights though were (aka do these if you happen to find yourself in London) the Tower of London, the London Eye, and my favorite of all, Westminster Abbey. We also made our way over to Olympic Park because of my USA basketball pipe dream. Unfortunately I had no luck in obtaining tickets to see my dream team and James Harden’s beard. Oh well. The two days were a great success in all other respects.

So now that I have got all the nitty gritty details out of the way I will return with more posts. Sorry I left you, but just like an old penny I have returned.

 

 

 

So the day of reckoning aka having to do laundry finally arrived after pulling out my last pair of underwear. I threw all my strewn clothes around my room into my giant suitcase and was on my way to a place as foreign to me as the country I’m in: The Laundromat. 

I walked in nervously as I had little clue how to work anything. I am bad enough at it while I’m home, as I am constantly trying to bribe my Mom into doing it. Anyway, as with every other appliance in Europe, the washers and dryers were different from their American counterparts. The washer included a tray on top where you were supposed to put softener or soap or something. I honestly didn’t know. And keeping with the motif of pure and utter confusion, there were no directions in English to found (obviously, but a guy can dream can’t he?). I finally deciphered where to get washer tokens, picked out a washer, and threw the bevy of clothes into said washer. (Sorry Mom, my money levels don’t allow separation of whites and colors). But once I tried to figure out how to actually work the washer I was flummoxed. As I stared dumfounded at the washer, a lady who apparently was an employee of the laundromat walked in thru a side door. Touting a Hijab, glasses, and an all brown outfit, she looked to be of Turkish decent. She quickly perceived me being completely out of my element and quickly came over and said something in French that immediately went over my head. I said “hello” which has become my way of subtly stating I don’t know a damn thing that is coming out of your mouth. She must have got the hint because she indicated to me she didn’t know a lick of English by continuing to speak French. 

It seems we have reached an impasse.

Language barriers haven’t been a problem at all because English is so widely spoken in Europe. The only language barriers I have encountered so far are usually overcome by looking on a screen to see how much my groceries cost or saying I don’t speak French and promptly walking away. I haven’t, before today, had to really communicate with someone who I actually needed information who didn’t understand English. 

 The incredible thing about communication though is hand motions are a universal language. She walked me through putting the detergent in the proper place, using softener, and starting the washer. Sure there was some confusion in our interchanges but it was a pleasant surprise how easy it became to understand her without speaking the same language. When transferring my clothes to the washer I pulled out my coins to indicate “how much” and she pointed to two 50-cent coins. After she indicated what buttons to press and I was on my way to dry clothes. The fluidness of the non-verbal conversation was amazing to me. She indicated to me she had to go, said “Orvwa”, and that was that.

 I left extremely grateful and somewhat indebted to her for her help. Plus that was the cleanest my clothes have ever been after a wash. 

I have no clue how to say hello in Dutch but hello none the less. I am back from Amsterdam and I can now cross the Netherlands off my list of countries I want to visit, which is pretty much everywhere. It was a quick 3 hour train ride from Brussels and totally worth the visit. Here are a few of the impressions Amsterdam left on me.

-The city is brilliantly designed. Amsterdam is incredibly systematic in its design with everything being derived from the canals. Both from a simple viewing standpoint and a design standpoint, the layout was aesthetically pleasing. After living in the random and sporadic city of Brussels for the last two weeks it was a nice change of pace to go up and down the streets of a city that made sense. I went on a run Friday in which I just ran to wherever looked interesting. Needless to say I got incredibly lost but because I am somewhat an intelligent individual I used to the canal system to guide me back home. 

-Amsterdam is bicycle capital of the world. I would wager a substantial amount of money that you can get from point A to point B in Amsterdam faster on bicycle than a car. I quickly discovered that bicycles have the right of way in every situation after nearly being run over by the Tour de Amsterdam numerous times. Every normal road is accompanied by a road devoted solely to bikes (and mopeds that don’t like using the road). It is really amazing at how much Europe is not dependent on cars, especially Amsterdam. 

-Vincent Van Gogh is an incredible artist. I went to the Van Gogh Museum on Saturday mainly because it felt like the right thing for a tourist to do, but I walked away with a total new respect for paintings. Sure, I know Starry Night like everyone else but the rest of Van Gogh’s works along with painting artwork in general has never been one of my interests. The museum presented over 200 of his works in chronological fashion which allowed for the viewer to witness the changes in his skill and style. Towards the end of his life you could see how his mental illness was taking over his life by how it manifested itself in his artwork. While viewing the paintings I listened to an audio accompaniment that really, to use the cliche, brought the paintings to life. I was blown away the entire time. 

-Amsterdam’s population demographic is incredibly young. It didn’t dawn on me until near the conclusion of my trip but most people I saw were under 30 and I hardly saw elderly individuals. This could be attributed to the small sample size considering I was only there for 48 hours but I think that statement is more truth that an aberration. What it means hasn’t revealed itself to me yet, but it left an impression on me. 

Story Time!

So around 4 on Friday we went to Rembrandt Square for a museum and on our way we passed a man already drunk who was walking around balancing a pot of flowers on his head. We laughed and were amazed as he stumbled around the square while keeping the pot incredibly still. That night we returned to the square to hangout and, yes you guessed it, saw the same man performing his act. This time he was on his A game as he would get down and do pushups. We watched mesmerized for a little while longer until a random individual came up to him, took the pot off his head, ripped the flowers out, and violently threw them to the ground. The perpetrator set the pot down and promptly ran away. Unfazed the man picked up his pot and continued his act as if nothing happened. Keep on keeping on, Mr. Flower Pot Man. 

-Turkish immigration to Amsterdam is startling. Nearly every corner of Amsterdam has, yes ladies of the night, but also and more importantly a Turkish snack shop. Serving pitas filled with the greasy goodness of leg of lamb, french fries, and mayo they are tasty treats, but the shear amount of these stores along with high a large Turkish population brings to life a topic of my classes. Immigration to the European Union comes up frequently back in classes. It was eyeopening to actually see how large immigration from Turkey is from a first hand perspective. It allows then when we study about this topic in class to seem far more tangible and real.

Another great trip under my belt. Its amazing how much you can see and learn in just 2 weeks. 

Before I say hello I want to answer the question on your mind. Yes, this title is in reference to the 2pac song. So now that that is all cleared up, Bonjour!

I just finished up my 2nd week of classes and am looking forward to exploring the famous city of Amsterdam this weekend (Remarkably I have made friends so I will not be flying only child for this voyage). But before I depart I wanted to write a reflective post on view point changes to me thus far on my adventure. My reasons are two fold: One, to help myself comprehend them better. This is as much for me as it is you. Secondly, as I alluded to in the previous sentence I want you to know what I am experiencing inside of my own head. Everyone I talk to always says study abroad is a life changing experience which I fully agree with, but what has changed/ what will is always the question in my head. It never seems to be a loquacious point, rather one quickly skimmed over. So get ready to dive into my head for a short while.

-I have quickly become a Euroskeptic. Diving into the the inner workings of the European Union I have realized this experiment will never reach the climax of the a United States of Europe. My views haven’t changed from that this is what I would like to see happen but I don’t see it ever being plausible with the way the world operates. Sovereignty is far too important to countries for them to relinquish it which is evident in high politic powers still being under national governments jurisdiction. 

-Public policy is starting to intrigue me as a future career. I have always known policy is important but I realize now it dictates how we live our lives from the food we eat to the type of transportation we use to take two simple examples. Becoming enlightened to this fact now makes pursuing policy as an internship field for next summer is now on the table because I am just starting to scrap the surface of a deep, intricate field. Doing something meaningful with my degree is important to me and this may be an avenue for that. 

-On a lighter night, my perspective of change has changed. (Man, I crack myself up writing this stuff). Within the monetary system of the Euro there are a total of 8 different coins. There are (Deep Breath) a 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, 1 Euro, and 2 Euro coins. As a fellow red blooded American, yes that is insane. In America if I drop a coin I honestly have to ask myself “Do I really want to exasperate myself by picking that up?” Also, whenever I get coins instead of bills in America I am disappointed. Here though practically all you get is change with that 2 Euro piece being in existence. I know have come to know and respect coins as just as important to bills. Ludicrous, I know but a change in my life none the less. I feel like an old lady digging through her purse to get that 87 cents to pay for her $9.87 purchase but now I have no shame when I do it. 

That’s all for now but I still have another month which I sure will have even more of an effect on my life than already.

Oh and yes to answer your follow up question, I was listening to 2pac this entire time. 

Guten Tag my faithful readers,

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while as I’m sure you have been waiting on pins and needles for the next installment of my Epic. Two things have occupied the majority of my time. One is the rigors of school and actually being a studious individual, but the other, and the far more important, was my trip to Munich, Germany.

I was frantically searching for an adventure to whisk me away from school and whatnot and I came upon traveling to Munich after two previous trips fell through, and I am ever grateful in retrospect that they did. Munich was incredible, breathtaking, awesome, exquisite, unfathomable, mind blowing, etc. etc. etc. I ended up taking this trip because a) I had a friend from school I could visit for a bit on Sunday and b) I have total only child syndrome and can go anywhere by myself and stay entertained. After a quick thought to Taken and the risks involved I decided I probably didn’t fit the bill for sex traffickers. So Luke’s Stories went to Munich.

I awoke at 445 on saturday morning for a 6 hour train ride that left at 625. That may seem like a daunting journey but it allowed me to see gorgeous European countryside along with an opportunity to catch up on all the readings for classes. I arrived in Munich Hauptbonhauf at 1 and immediately it set in that I was in a country I had wanted to visit since 8th grade. Everything was surreal. I was in such a daze that I accidentally picked up a map of Munich in Spanish. Obviously I didn’t realize this until it was too late but I made due. I checked into my Hostel first and then after that it was time to explore. I had 25 hours to see as much of a giant city as humanly possible.

Here is a MapMyRun creation of my general path on Saturday. I took the metro (Which can I say was even better than Brussels) to the far away places but everything else I walked to. I’d say in all I walked about 12-15 miles. And obviously because I like to look really really good I wore nice dress shoes. I think I broke my foot. Whoops.

I’ll just give a quick overview so I don’t bore you with minuscule details. I walked aimlessly at first as I was still mesmerized by being in Germany. I eventually got regained control of my conscious and made my way to the Marienplatz, which is essentially the center of the city. This is where the Glockenspiel is located, and because I was born in the good ol city of SagNasty I had my copious opportunities to view the Frankenmuth Glockenspiel as a small child. It was mind bottling to think I was actually in the place where it was modeled after. After having delicious German Meatloaf I made my way out to the BMW factory. As I stated in an earlier post I love Mercedes Benzes, but if those are #1 BMWs are 1a. I see GM plants (and the ugly remains unfortunately) everyday in Lansing and they have absolutely nothing on this plant whatsoever. After this I made my way to the Olympicpark which is the remnants of the 72 Munich Olympics. It was amazing how populated this area was. From people playing soccer to people simply sunbathing this area was hopping and still being utilized. If I needed any more things to excite me for the London games this definitely did the trick. I made my way back to the city center and then hopped onto a metro out to Allianz Arena which plays home to Bayern Munich Football Club. Unfortunately I was too late for the tour that I had heard excellent things about but just walking around the outside got my soccer fix in. Again I made my way back to the city as dusk was beginning to fall. I was becoming incredibly exhausted from all the walking but this day included one more stop to the famous Hofebrau Haus. This restaurant/bar is steeped in German history and culture with hearty food and liters of beer being enjoyed over polka music. I made my way back to the Hostel and called it a night.

I arose the next day and made my way over to the Englischer Gartens to visit my friend before my train left. Again this area was exquisite. A large field encompassed by trees and cut thru by a fast paced stream. This was obviously the place to be on a warm Sunday, especially if you were an old man and didn’t care for clothes while sunbathing. Let that sink in for a second. I made my way through the extensive gartens and came upon the Chineseturum and of course a good ol German beer garden. German music and dancing was everywhere and again I really felt tangible German culture. I saw my friend and then before I knew it is already time to leave for my train. Thanks for 25 great hours Munich.

My biggest take away from the quick trip was the deeply rooted German culture I witnessed. Brussels, as I said in an earlier post, is an extremely European city and thus I don’t really feel any rooted cultures per say. In Germany on the other hand German culture was everywhere I looked and l loved that. It also seemed fitting in relation to my classes as we talk about the European Union trying to create a European identity as opposed to a national one. It brought that debate to life and that is the magic of a study abroad.

P.S. If you want to see pictures of my journey just look up my Munich photo album on Facebook since I am making the assumption I am friends with you on facebook since you are here.

Today marks my 5th full day in Brussels, Belgium and I have already noticed some differences between my American culture and the European culture I have been immersed in. It should be said that Brussels is an incredibly international city and thus I would say, being the unknowing traveler I am, that the differences are more European than specific to Belgians. Once I begin my travels outside of Brussels I should be able to clarify that point.

-Nobody tips here. At all. Not at a restaurant or bar. This was incredibly new to be as in America I get an egregious amount of tips for simply making subs. One of my fellow class mates told me he tipped the bartender and he kept bringing him free beers because he was so taken aback by the gesture.

-No one J-Walks here. Everyone follows this law to a tee. I don’t know if this out of respect to the law or fear of insane Brussels driver, but absolutely no one steps off the corner and onto the street until the little green walk man appears. Being the red blooded American I am, the only thing I like more than J-Walking is the ever more exciting J-Running. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have been honked at. I try to be respective of this reality, but honestly it is so ingrained in me to cross the street where ever and when ever that I don’t even realize I’m doing something wrong till I see the looks of disdain.

-All drinks here come in individual containers. Fountain drinks and tap water aren’t a thing. I enjoyed a delicious pizza yesterday with some friends. For my drink I asked for a water without gas and was brought a wine glass and the fanciest water glass bottle I have ever seen. Fiji water looks derelict in comparison.

-Unisex bathrooms. I’ll just leave it at that.

Well those are some main ones for now. I’m sure there will be plenty more. As each day goes by I begin noticing more of the nuances of the city and its people. Loving my time so far even though I had to pay 3 Euro for some stupid fancy water without gas.

Sup ladies and gentlemen,

As you most likely already know, I use the CATA bus system quiet a bit. And no, I’m not talking about the MSU CATA from Case to Berkey. Im talking like the number 1 to downtown and then the number 3 to my side of town. Yeah, that CATA. I know the ins and outs of that system, and as far as American bus systems go that is one of the most clean, efficient, and effective I have ever used. With that being said though, it pales in comparison to the public transport system in Brussels. With  bus, tram, and metro systems, no part of this massive city is too far away. It is amazing and startling how far ahead Europe’s public transport is ahead of Americas.

My apartment is roughly a 15 minute walk from the university but with the public transport here I can either take a tram or a bus and cut that 15 minute walk into a 7 minute sit. Say I need to go downtown to buy fashionable suits…10 minute bus ride. Say I want to go visit the European Union…10 minutes on the bus and 10 on the metro. I can go anywhere in the city and never have to walk further than a quarter mile. Also, all three of types of transport come thru with such a high frequency you are never waiting at the stop more than a few minutes. And to cap it off the vehicles are always clean and usually my favorite type of brand. If you don’t automatically know what that is you need to read this blog more. 

Oh and since I named this post “Why I Love Europe” combined with the fact I am already on the topic of transportation, I believe I have a perfect segue to talk about my favorite type of transportation. No thats not a pun (If the joke is over you its over you)  because I want to talk about MOPEDS! Brussels, and Europe in general for that matter, is a moped Valhalla. You are literally allowed at a red light to pass all stopped cars and continue to front of the group. You can park your moped anywhere and because all the speed limits within the city are around 50kmph you always keep up with traffic. Finally, I saw a Pizza Hut with a fleet of mopeds with large trunks on back used for delivering pizzas. Sorry Mom and Day, I’m dropping out of school because I found my life’s calling.