Monday, February 27, 2012

L'Auberge Espagnol

So I left you in suspense re:Carnaval. Turns out it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. It reminded me a lot of the St-Patrick's Day parade actually. To enjoy it, one must be under 5 years of age or inebriated. Unfortunately I was neither. I ditched the group I went with because we couldn't move past the small talk stage. I stationed myself front and centre at la Grande Place and read my book until the event started. I arrived early and the parade began late, so by the time I had seen my first flying orange, my feet were blocks of ice and it was going to take an impressive scene to turn my frown upside down. I was expecting an elaborate dance sequence of some sort, but all I witnessed were men and children walking by in various costumes (k those were cool) marching to the beat of drums and occasionally throwing the odd blood orange into the crowd (they weren't even soaked in alcohol as I had been told previously!) I glumly bound the train back home and took comfort upon my return in analysing the legality of Israel's military operation in Gaza in 2008 for my peace and security class.

I can also officially say that I have moved into my new place! I LOVE IT. My little room is in the basement of a 4-storey house. There are 9 rooms in all but at the moment only 7 of them are occupied. I currently have the bathroom to myself as no one is living in the room next door to mine – but that luxury surely won’t last long. I was totally wrong about the other tenants - none of them are stagiaires at the European Commission - everyone is doing their own thing. There are two Spaniards working in hotels (they had to re-train as receptionists when they could no longer find employment in their industries in Spain), one German working as a lobbyist and one whom I have yet to meet, a Latvian woman looking for a job in European affairs, and a Belgium guy working at an NGO working towards the global eradication of torture. Apparently a Franco-Italian guy is moving in this week. So far, I get along really well with everyone - we share a big kitchen and living room and often have dinner together. It's also nice to be able to retreat to my quiet room where I can study without issue. I also live next to two huge parks where I go running and a gigantic weekend market that gives out lots of free samples! I had a post-run breakfast there this AM

Me in my room:

My courses are still going fabulously - we had a judge from the International Court of Justice give a lecture last week, a judge from the International Criminal Court is stopping by tomorrow and I've already attended lots of extra conferences on a wide variety of subjects. I met the corporal who directed Belgium's participation in NATO's Libyan operation last week which was fascinating. Now I am waiting in anticipation to find out when our field trip to The Hague will be.

The library I like to study in: it's all about the view from the top floor

I mentioned that I was hoping to score a job interview at Café Belga. I did in fact get one but once the manager explained the working conditions to me, I was less enthused. 8 euros per hour and 11-hour shifts. Is that even legal? Non merci! So I posted some ads online offering to give private English or French lessons or babysit and to my utter surprise, I received a ton of offers! Last week I began teaching two individuals language lessons and best of all, I got an offer for a more regular kind of job: I'm going to help an Irish family by supervising their young teens do their homework and preparing their dinner. I spent two hours getting to know the family yesterday and they are so sweet. I was nervous to admit that I was a vegetarian and that although my cooking repertoire was vast, it was limited in domain. To my relief, the son also happens to be a vegetarian and the daughter loves salads. Phew. The father is an Irish diplomat (they live in the embassy) and the mother is a lawyer at the European Commission. Their home is a revolving door for VIPs and I'm planning on meeting some! In July, once term is over, I'm actually going to spend all day with the kids while their parents are a work, taking them on day trips, playing badminton in their giant garden and just generally making sure they’re having a good time. While this seems like a divergence from my goal of seeking an internship, I feel that this is the right move. I don't think it's realistic for me to score a stellar internship for a period just short of two-months and I do believe that everything happens for a reason. This family already seems special.

Sunny day in Brussels: a rare and lovely treat - I walk along this pond to get to school (the Canadian geese often milling about warm my little heart)

Also, I had a very profitable meeting with the Senior Policy Advisor at International Crisis Group this week and he assured me that I'm doing all the right things in setting myself up to take on the world. He advised me to get my Masters degree sooner rather than later, to always to wear a helmet while biking in Brussels and that everything would fall into place once I had my qualifications out of the way. So now I'm focusing on getting into the program I've had my eye on for years: the Masters in International Law at l'Institut des Hautes Études de Genève. The course choices look fabulous and the program is bilingual. It's a two-year ordeal though, so that means I have 4 more years of schooling ahead of me! At least we live a long time these days so I'm in no rush. I've asked one of my professors at l'ULB about getting involved in the Center for international law at school and I'm hoping to get started on that in the coming weeks.

In other news, my social life is picking up nicely (It makes quite a change from when the highlight of my first few weekends was Skyping with my parents). This weekend I went for Thai with some friends from school, attended a vegan potluck dinner organized by a Couch surfer and went for a Moroccan lunch with my Sunday supper club crew. Busy times ahead - only 3 more weeks of class until I get two weeks off for Easter. Now that I have some income on the way I'm contemplating taking a little trip : )

Thai dinner with my Swiss friend, Claudia:

Moroccan lunch at Café Kif Kif:

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