C’est La Vie

I wrote this poem in Belgium last year. The grammar may or may not be perfect, but it certainly came from my heart:

La vie est un rêve, quelque chose qui est comique,
Mais de temps en temps, elle peut être romantique

Comme un couple d’amoureux au Sacré-Cœur,
L’endroit où l’amant lui donne des fleurs;

Cependant, la vie est également une tragédie.
Tout cela grâce à la maladie.

Nous vivons dans un monde plein de gens fous.
Ce qui est normal? Est-il pour tous ?

Je ne sais pas si tu me demandes.
Tu dois attendre.

En fait, je ne comprends pas pour toi !
Ça fait longtemps pour moi
Et mon seul souhait est de te revoir.

Tu as quitté ce monde trop tôt
Que je ne pouvais pas dire les mots.

J’étais jeune
Et tu étais mon capitaine.

Et maintenant, quoi ?
Je ne sais pas quoi.
Je ne sais pas quoi.

Je suis plus âgée, plus sage, plus forte
Même après ton mort.

Et voilà !
C’est parce que je sais que tu es là.

N’importe quoi, tu me manques !
Comme un enfant.

La vie n’est pas une tragédie
Ou d’une maladie.

La vie est un rêve, quelque chose qui est comique,
Mais de temps en temps, elle peut être romantique.

Donc, viens à la maison.
Pour cette raison :

Je t’aime.
Je t’aime.

———–

The English translation:

Life is a dream, something that is comical,
But from time to time, it can be romantic

Like a loving couple at the Sacré-Cœur,
The place where the lover gives her flowers;

However, life is equally a tragedy.
All thanks to the disease.

We live in a world full of crazy people.
What’s normal? Is it for everyone?

I don’t know if you ask me.
You must wait.

In fact, I don’t understand for you!
It’s been a long time for me
And my only wish is to see you.

You left this world too soon
That I couldn’t say the words.

I was young
And you were my captain.

And now, what?
I don’t know what.
I don’t know what.

I’m older, wiser, stronger
Even after your death.

And there you are!
It’s because I know that you’re there.

Whatever, I miss you!
Like a child.

Life is not a tragedy
Or a disease.

Life is a dream, something that is comical,
But from time to time, it can be romantic.

Therefore, come home.
For this reason:

I love you.
I love you.

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Acknowledgement Goes A Long Way

Sure, getting recognition for receiving that prestigious award or being promoted to a higher position are great and dandy, but sometimes, other things naturally take precedence.

No matter who you are, there are times in this world when we feel like no one notices us. Even Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela felt that way because in the end, we are all just human. It’s not exactly a matter of knowing people realize what grand accomplishments you’ve achieved in life, but rather knowing people see what’s underneath the semi-facade we illustrate. Before you twist my words, I’m not saying that we are necessarily fake, but society does suggest that we should express our “happier sides” because the sheer sign of any other emotion gets dramatized. Celebrities and other public figures, in particular, understand this like the back of their hand.

Iconic Princess Diana hid mountains of frustration for years.

Iconic Princess Diana hid mountains of frustration from the public and the British Royal Family for years.

I’m covering this now because I woke up today feeling like a little girl who lost her favorite doll. Before this post, I felt like no one could hear all of my shouting. This means nothing to you, right? I’m discussing my job search post-college. It’s been exactly 2 months today since I’ve graduated from university, yet I either haven’t gotten my “dream job” or just haven’t liked the offers that I have had. Thankfully, I have an extremely supportive family and group of friends.

This morning, I didn’t talk much. Essentially, I was just a zombie. When my Mother noticed this unusual behavior from me, her simple question, “Why are you so sad?” really hit home for me. She instantly knew/knows my frustrations with the job search. As cliché as it sounds, she really is the most amazing mother in the world. “It takes time,” she said, “and remember that it’s only been 2 months since you’ve graduated from college. Relax. Read, eat well, and exercise. Enjoy the time you have off and be thankful that you don’t have any bills or college debt to pay like other kids post-undergrad. I know greater things are ahead of you.”

My Mom doesn't like having her photos being posted in the cloud, but this is how I feel like our relationship is like...except, she was the girl holding me up this morning.

My Mom doesn’t like having her photos being posted in the cloud, but this is how I feel our relationship is like…except, she was the girl holding me up this morning.

Anyway, knowing that this is a travel blog, you’re probably wondering how on Earth this relates to traveling at all. I’ve traveled to a couple places alone when I was in Europe, but it was really on my recent trip that I met someone particularly great right off the bat.

It was in my hostel in Brussels, where I met this girl. I entered the room for the first time, quite late at about 9 or 9:30 P.M., expecting to see the room with 10 beds like I had booked, but was surprised to only see 3. One for me, one for my traveling partner, and one for the girl who was already semi-asleep in the third bed. I saw a Target bag in the room and asked, “Is that YOUR Target bag?” That’s what really sparked our conversation. She was from California and was traveling alone for 40 days after happily quitting her banking job of 4 years. We didn’t talk much that night because I was meeting up with a friend at Delirium Cafe soon after, but I knew I wanted to get to know her better the following day. When my friend and I woke up the next morning, our new Californian friend brought us some apples from the hostel’s breakfast service. How sweet, right? We ended up hanging out that entire day, which happened to be hers and our last full day in Belgium, and boy did we laugh so much until our stomachs couldn’t handle it anymore. I can honestly say that she’s downright one of the most fun people I’ve ever met in my life and I can’t wait to meet up with her somewhere cool one day. I’ll be posting all about our interesting experiences together in a future post.

Keri, my Californian friend, and I at the bar inside our hostel the night before saying, "see ya later, alligator."

Keri, my Californian friend, and I at the bar inside our hostel the night before saying, “see ya on the other side…of the world, that is.”

So what’s the takeaway from this? Acknowledge the presence of others and be welcoming. You never know how much the smallest piece of recognition – the genuine desire to learn the feelings, the emotions, and the true characters – of others could lead you. Whether it’s asking, “Why are you so sad?” or “Is that your Target bag?” I ask you to be curious in life.

xoxo,

Diemmy

Belgium: A Hidden Gem that Happened to Knockout the US in the World Cup

I don’t know about you, but I was on the edge of my seat while watching the Belgium vs. USA World Cup game last week. Before the game started, a number of my friends texted me with questions on who I’d be rooting for since both countries share a special place in my heart. Born and raised in the US, I was quickly reminded that, in comparison, I had only lived in Belgium for less than 5 months last year, but that’s got to be enough time to fall in love with a country, right? It only came naturally that I began cursing Belgium in favor of the US team. Guess I really am an American at heart. I mean, Tim Howard, though. Need I say more? Either way, I couldn’t be too upset because “my” team still technically advanced…if only for a few more days until Argentina knocked them out.

The Belgium vs. USA World Cup Match on July 1, 2014

The Belgium vs. USA World Cup Match on July 1, 2014

Today, I’m here to tell you why Brussels, Belgium is such a gem. Situated in such a small country, it’s surprisingly got a lot of spunk. Even though I lived only an hour train ride away from Brussels, I didn’t take advantage of the country’s capital until the last 5 days I was there before boarding that plane back to the US. I really only used the city as the “layover destination” to get me from point A to point B. Thankfully, my friends, Katie & Barbara, visited me for a few days, which meant I had to learn how to be a tour guide of Brussels. Had they not visited me, I would’ve never realized how fun and charming the city is…which was one of the main reasons that made me eager to revisit it this past May.

So where have I been and what do I have to say about these places?

Bars:

Delirium Cafe – Known for its extensive beer list from around the world (over 2,000). You can spot an American in there from a mile away, which means that you typically won’t find yourself surrounded by many locals. My two absolute favorite beers are Kasteel Rouge (8%) & Montagnarde (9%). For a girl who only weighs 105 lbs (47.6 kg), these two beers guarantee to have me feeling a nice buzz in no time.

Photo Above: Me (left), Barbara (middle), and Katie (right) at Delirium Cafe. I kind of stole that Delirium glass, too. #noregrets

Me (left), Barbara (middle), and Katie (right) at Delirium Cafe. I kind of stole that Delirium glass, too. #noregrets

Coaster – God, this place is in the top three for making the best cocktails I’ve ever had. The other two locations are in Dresden, Germany and Charlotte, NC USA. It’s got an excellent hipstery environment. I’ve visited this place a few times, courtesy of my Belgian friend, without running into any tourists. It’s a cramped place and a bit more difficult to find, but certainly well worth the wait. Make sure to check out their Facebook page to see what deals are going the night you visit.

Choice of lighting throughout Coaster in my favorite liquor container.

Choice of lighting throughout Coaster in my favorite liquor container.

Restaurants:

Le Marmiton – It’s a little on the pricier side, setting you back at around €35 or $50 per person. With that being said, what I had was a delicious three course meal with bottled water, red wine, and white wine. If memory serves me right, I had ardenne ham, chicken, and lemon sorbet. All were delicious and the service is superb. Located in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert near the Grand Place, this restaurant attracts a decent amount of tourists and locals alike.

Delicious ardenne ham at Le Marmiton

Delicious ardenne ham at Le Marmiton

Sushi Shop – One thing I immediately noticed studying abroad was the slim selection of sushi restaurants in Europe. I went here to meet up with one of my Belgian roommates from the semester before studying abroad (I lived in the international community at Clemson). This is her go-to spot. Apparently, there’s a location in NYC, but I had never been. I ordered the “Cool Mix” which consists of 6 california rolls, 6 maki spicy tuna rolls, and 6 shrimp rolls. This delicious mix will set you back  €14,90 or around $22, which is the normal price for a standard sushi restaurant in the US. Brussels has multiple locations for you to choose.

AJi – All you can eat sushi for €20 or $28.50. You get 6 flavorful dumplings and then all-you-can-eat sushi. Warning: if you order too many rolls and cannot finish them, it’s an extra €1 per piece of sushi! Also, it’s typically closed on Wednesdays. The service is very helpful to explain any questions you may have about the menu.

Rue des Bouchers – A street that thrives on trapping tourists with their inexpensive deals. They have men standing outside each restaurant inviting you to come in with their deals that can beat their neighboring counterparts. I actually like these places because you can get decent mussels for around €10 or $14. At that price, you can get a starter of your choice (smoked salmon, salad, etc.), mussels and fries, a Belgian waffle, and a complimentary Belgian beer (usually a Jupiler, an inexpensive Belgian beer). Not a fan of the fries or the waffle, but the others are fine, especially at that price. You can’t leave Brussels without having their mussels 😉

Mussels and fries at a restaurant in the Rue des Bouchers

Mussels and fries at a restaurant in the Rue des Bouchers

Stella Artois – I had waterzooi, a Belgian stew. At around €15 for this dish, you can try it too. It wasn’t as memorable as other dishes that I’ve had, but the cute waiter made the visit worth it. While you’re at it, you’ve got to order the famous Stella Artois beer that beer lovers seem to love worldwide (it’s not a personal favorite of mine, though).

Danish Tavern – I would never go back here again. The service was below subpar and pricy for what they have to offer. I had chicken, veggies, and rice. The only reason why I even went here was because it was my first day in Brussels and all the girls were starving for anything close to the hotel after an 8.5 hour flight.

First meal in Belgium at a Danish restaurant. To be fair, one of the girls at dinner with us, Mette, is half Danish! Though it wasn't quite yummy, it looked very presentable.

First meal in Belgium at a Danish restaurant. To be fair, one of the girls at dinner with us, Mette, is half Danish! Though it wasn’t quite yummy, it looked very presentable.

Chocolate Shops:

Neuhaus – It’s a luxury chocolate shop that lets you sample select pralines. Not a single one will disappoint you and you simply can’t leave without getting some truffles, too! Want to visit the first ever Neuhaus shop? It’s located in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.

Leonidas – It’s another luxury chocolate shop. You can get a generous gift box full of pralines for under €20.

Picture I took from Google of Belgian pralines. How magical do they look?!

Picture I took from Google of Belgian pralines. How magical do they look?!

Godiva – Did you know that Godiva was a Belgian chocolate company? Pretty standard place as you can get these chocolates in your local grocery store.

Delhaize – It’s a Belgian grocery store known as Food Lion in the United States. Before you judge, let me tell you that they have good Belgian chocolate too! My absolute favorite happens to be the affordable Côte d’Or brand that all Belgians keep stocked up in their homes because it’s also that good.

Great Belgian chocolate at an even greater price. Hershey's deserves to burn in Hell next to this chocolate.

Great Belgian chocolate at an even greater price. Hershey’s deserves to burn in Hell next to this chocolate.

Sites:

Grand Place – You simply cannot visit Brussels and not see the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the most beautiful city centres I’ve seen, especially at nighttime when all the surrounding buildings are lit up in changing colors.

Every 2 years, the Grand Place is covered in a detailed carpet design of 700,000 begonias with the aid of 120 volunteers. This is your lucky year, too! You can see it in person between August 14-17, 2014. Send me a begonia or two :)

Every 2 years, the Grand Place is covered in a detailed carpet design of 700,000 begonias with the aid of 120 volunteers. This is your lucky year, too! You can see it in person between August 14-17, 2014. Send me a begonia or two 🙂

Town Hall – Located in the Grand Place, you’ll quickly notice that the building is not symmetrical. You might get told that the architect committed suicide after realizing the belfry was not in the middle, but that’s just a legend. It would’ve been pretty shameful if that seemingly lack of precision was actually made on accident.

Les Galeries de Saint Hubert – Want to see something GORGEOUS? Visit this place, the oldest shopping arcade in the world. It holds a number of luxury boutiques, chocolate shops, and restaurants.

Another photo courtesy of Google images (mine were all taken on my old iPhone 4, as embarrassing as it is to admit. I forgot my camera charger in the US at the time). Just like the Eiffel Tower, this arcade took my breath away in person. Might have also had something to do with the below freezing temperatures last January ;)

Another photo courtesy of Google images (mine were all taken on my old iPhone 4, as embarrassing as it is to admit. I forgot my camera charger in the US at the time). Just like the Eiffel Tower, this arcade took my breath away in person. Might have also had something to do with the below freezing temperatures last January 😉

Palais de Justice – This building is one of my absolute favorites in Brussels. Its architecture is awe-inspiring and boasts spectacular views of the city. If you go on the bridge that attaches to a full glass elevator, jump on it and it will bounce like crazy. It’s both a scary and cool feeling.

Jardin du Petit Sablon – I love this quaint garden so much. You’ll be happy you visited, especially when the tulips are in full bloom. It’s also on the way to the top of the hill where the Palais de Justice is situated.

My poor iPhone 4 photo quality did not do the Jardin du Petit Sablon justice at all!

My poor iPhone 4 photo quality did not do the Jardin du Petit Sablon justice at all!

Parc Léopold – Simply beautiful park. You’ll see friends and family alike enjoying the scenery. Between everyone’s picnics entailing fresh baguettes and crisp, cold beer, you’ll want to join in, too. Locals also love to jog around here. I don’t blame them.

Belgian Comic Strip Center – I went here for a field trip to learn to engage in the Belgian culture. Cute museum, but I would have never willingly entered on my free time. Unlike me, if you’re into comics, then you’d have a ball.

European Union – Want to learn more about the EU and how it operates? Visit this place for FREE. Unfortunately, I never entered inside because it was closed by the time I got there, but it looks pretty swanky from the exterior.

What's stopping you from visiting Brussels? It's diverse, affordable, and downright beautiful. Plus, it's situated in the heart of Europe. No excuses not to visit!

What’s stopping you from visiting Brussels? It’s diverse, affordable, and downright beautiful. Plus, it’s situated in the heart of Europe. No excuses not to visit!

Now, I haven’t posted every single destination I’ve visited in Brussels, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment. Remember, I’ll be posting another post about Brussels in the future from the experiences I had in May 2014.

xoxo,

Diemmy

Welcome to Belgium – Land of the disorganized, beer-loving souls

“Belgium? You studied the Belgian language there, huh? Wait, no, they speak German there because it’s that one city in Germany, right?”

You must forgive these people we call Americans. Don’t get me wrong; I love the United States a lot and as much as I joke about moving abroad, I can be certain that I’ll be living in the US for the remainder of my life according to my own liking. I suppose that my longtime fascination with Belgium put me under the assumption that everyone in this world knew that Belgium was at least its own country. Clearly, I was wrong about that. The amount of ignorance I came across with Belgium became so vast that I grew to be impressed when meeting people who actually knew it was its own country. They got brownie points if they knew it was the country that had a large population of French and Dutch-speaking people…and they garnered even more points if they knew that German was the third official language. Enough about this, let me move to the core subject: Belgium.

europe

Photo above: There’s Belgium. That little green country neighboring Holland, France, Germany, & Luxembourg. The northern half is Flanders: the Dutch-speaking population. The southern half is Wallonia: the French-speaking population. They don’t get along quite well with each other. The tiny spot in the middle, where Flanders is located, is Brussels, the capital city of Belgium.

So what’s the fuss about Belgium? If you read my last post, you should know by now that I studied French in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium at Université catholique de Louvain last January to May 2013. While in Belgium, I visited Brussels, Ixelles, Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Wavre, Charleroi, & Namur. Though I said I’ll cover each city I visited, this little blog post will serve as yet another introductory post – this time, just on Belgium since I spent the majority of my time there. I wanted to cover the basics before I truly delved into the specifics.

map_of_belgium

Photo above: Map of Belgium. Louvain-la-Neuve is too small to even make it on this map, but to give you an idea of its location, it’s close to Namur, the city that’s kind of in the middle.

What is Belgium famous for?

  1. Beer – over 800 beers are produced in this tiny country, where the average Belgian consumes an average of 150 litres of beer per person per year.
  2. Chocolate – they produce over 220K tonnes of chocolate per year. The pralines were invented in Brussels by a man named Jean Neuhaus. I’ll eventually share my pretty interesting story about my recent visit to the first ever Neuhaus shop in the world. Stay tuned 😉
  3. Mussels – I never knew just how much I loved mussels until I studied in Belgium. I could eat it all day, everyday.
  4. Fries – I’m not the biggest fan of fries, but the Belgian fries are something else. You have to eat it with sauce andalouse – perfection. It’s quite unfortunate that the sauce isn’t sold in the US. Good thing I purchased enough to last me a few years.
  5. Lace – I don’t personally care too much for stuff like this, but it’s pretty.
  6. Tintin – You know, that famous comic with the boy and his dog? I actually had to create a Tintin comic for one of my classes.
  7. Going 589 days with no elected government – Yeah, shit got real.
  8. Cities – Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, & Antwerp

I’ll write soon to let you know why you should spare a few days out of your next European adventure to enjoy Belgium. If anything, you’ll be happy you tasted any of the food/drink items listed above.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about this tiny country, please take a few extra minutes to watch this YouTube clip. You won’t be disappointed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceg6NQKHd70

xoxo,

Diemmy