Long overdue…

•March 24, 2011 • 1 Comment

I apologize that it has been over a month since my last blog! I have a lot to fill everyone in on. After our great trip to Madrid I went to Italy to see my girlfriend,  Jennifer, who is studying in Rome for the semester. We met in Bologna first as one of our favorite artists Iron & Wine was performing there. The show and the city were great. The city is home to the oldest university in Europe and some great cuisine. We stayed in a great Bed and Breakfast with a great host.

After that we went back to Rome for a couple of days. I was able to meet some of Jen’s friends and see some amazing sights like the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Once, again the food was great–as was the weather.

After a great weekend in Italy, I only had to wait a week until my sister Samantha was in Leuven, Belgium to visit. The week was great. It was as if i got to go home for a bit. Sam and I visited Antwerp and Brugge where we enjoyed the art, architecture, and culture of a few famous Belgian cities. While I certainly missed the Italian weather, the trips were nonetheless a lot of fun.

After Samantha’s departure, it was back to focusing on studies and football. Unfortunately we Lions are experiencing a rough season with lots of injuries and few wins. However, our camaraderie has not dipped–though our spirits might. Only one more game for me as a Lion; next sunday we will play the Limburg Shotguns, a new but talented addition to the FFL.

It has been great being able to see Jen this semester; just two weeks ago she was on spring break and after trips to Greece and Barcelona, she found herself in not-so-sunny Belgium. I will see her again when we go on our Easter trip to Italy. We have scheduled trips to Florence, Tuscany, Rome, and Ponza. We are looking forward to spending some time on the beach before we return to our studies.

The past two weeks the sun has found its way to Belgium and as it warms the air the days are growing longer and longer. The sun doesn’t set until seven and we haven’t even “sprung ahead.” We’ll already be looking at eight p.m. sunsets in March!

The next few days some park visiting and outside studying are in order as we relax in the seemingly alien sunlight. We have waited a long time to see it and now that it’s here we’re going to take advantage of it.

¿Donde está la biblioteca? …..

•February 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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During our time off between finals and the beginning of the second academic semester, a few of us decided to take a trip to Madrid for a few days—after a lengthy deliberation. We arrived during the morning to find the Spanish sun shining. Sunlight being a rare luxury in Belgium, we immediately took to the streets to explore the city. Through our meandering and a free walking tour that we took the second day (on which Dan, Pete, myself, and Matt portrayed Felipe II, Felipe III, Felipe IV, and Charles II respectively in order for our tour guide to easily explain the Hapsburg dynasty), we were able to see a lot of the city. Sights included Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Real (the largest palace in western Europe), and much more.

On our second night in the Spanish capital we went on a guided tapas tour. When times were tough during the reign of Alfonso XIII in the nineteenth century, workers had to choose to spend their wages on food or drink, unable to afford both. When most chose drink, their empty stomachs had a tough time absorbing the alcohol forcing them to go to work drunk. Needless to say, there was a drop off in production of most goods. Alfonso took action and made it law that every drink be served with some food. Today the tradition of the tapas remains, though not mandated by law.

During our tour we visited four different tapas restaurants tasting a different delicacy and sangria at each place. On the tour we met a nice couple from Knoxville, Tennessee who livened up the night with some interesting conversation. After nibbling on some standard dishes like potato pie and crab meat, we endeavored to try some more daring tapas like bull’s tail in chocolate sauce and diced pig’s ear—both common dishes in Madrid.

After packing up, grabbing a bite to eat, and one last walk through the Puerta del Sol, we were on our way back to cloudy Belgium. Overall, it was a great weekend in Madrid, and although we might have made one or two trips to a nearby McDonald’s, the food was great—as were the sights. Spain is definitely a country worth visiting. ¡Adios!

 

Thoughts….

•January 19, 2011 • 1 Comment

Americans, Belgians, French, Dutch, British, Scottish, Irish, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, Spanish, Italian, Indian, Hungarian, the list goes on and on. The Nachbar Huis in Leuven houses many of the above nationalities and there are others that I have met in my travels throughout Belgium and Europe.

I’ve seen men, women and children of all different races, religions and creeds. Some have glowing concepts of other nations–in and out of Europe–and others make one another the butt of jokes. Some say hello, others ciao, or hallo, or hola, or goed dag. The sounds, syllables and diverse articulations of the countless muscles in the mouth and tongue all differ, but the meaning is the same.

Whatever the language, nation, or culture we’re not so different. We laugh and we cry, we hug and shake hands, we eat and sweat. Each of us has our preconceived notions of one another and our traditions, but we overlook our unconditional, universal similarities. There is nothing truly different about us other than what part of creation we grew up in, what words became a part of our vocabulary.

At the most fundamental core of being human there is community. That is what the Nachbar Huis is. Others have lived here before us and more will live here after us. We study, we play, we rest, and we pray–all the same, all differently. Some walls are built to separate, but not these. These walls bind; these walls protect. One day, sooner for some, we will find our ways back to where we first walked, where we spoke our first words, where we had our first kiss. We will be different upon our return. We will be more.

We have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. We have friends. We have a history and we have a future, and here is where we learn about our present. Here is where we glimpse the mistakes and glories of our past and envision the men and women of our future.

Miles, oceans and mountains separate us from our homes and our families. Each and every day we dream of the places we’ve been and the places we’ll go. The traditions that we’ve learned have come with us to distant shores and we’ve returned from travels with traditions renewed. We are never far from our homes as we champion the lessons of our nations and cultures upon the foreign earth of new places.

We are people, each of us. None can deny. The ambiguity and idiosyncratic complexities of countless encounters, experiences, people and places have imprinted our persons with an undying mark. It moves and it lives and dances in the ever-changing and growing tattoo of life.

Coming and going, we pass faces of voices we may never hear. A smarter man than I may ever be once said that strangers are just friends that we haven’t met yet–a grandfather to his curious grandson as they exited a public bus in far away Hillsboro, Oregon. His years and his life told that man never to count anyone out. Insofar as we are human, we are friends. Our voices high and low, our bodies tall and short, our eyes bright and wide, our feet walking and our minds dreaming–we are each other.

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow I will have been, am, and will be in the same place, but I will not have been, am not, nor will I be  the same person. While my face or voice may never change, the life I’ve led, lead and will lead will constantly change as men and women pass through the doorway of my existence.

There is no greater hope that I possess than the hope that we might return to one another the gifts that we receive from the mere presence of humanity’s togetherness. While we must do no more than exist in order to contribute in some way to the great collection of humanity’s history, we must do so much in order to change its future.

There is no greater gift that a person can give than their time–a moment to speak, a moment to listen, a moment to wait, a moment to embrace, a moment to remember, a moment to love. After all, our lives are simply a string of moments passing out of one and into another. Transferring with them our hopes and fears, joys and deafeats, loves and hates.

We can ask nothing of each other but to accept the responsibility of being. To be human is to be an interactive and responsive member of the greatest family to ever exist. There is no “other” in humanity. All is one sameness; though parted in its unique diversity, it is joined in its great simple “is.”

We are to one another what the miniscule molecules, atoms and cells are to our anatomy–a wonderful and unimaginable oneness when seen as a whole and a provocative and unmistakeable diversity when seen in singular parts. Still the two, one and many, cannot be separated. They are, in their romantic paradox, heads and tails of a flipping coin falling through the perplexities of the universe.

We can only hope to embrace this diverse singularity. Only hope to create and foster in one another a love of the life we are so privileged to lead. There is no greater task. No simpler answer.

Putting the “Study” in Study Abroad

•January 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, here we are again. After an uneventful transatlantic flight (and a last minute stop at McDonlads for a twenty piece chicken McNugget and the last Dr. Pepper I’ll see for a while) all the American Nachbar residents have been reunited. However, the time for fun and games will have to wait–time to buckle down for a winter barrage of final examinations. A few of us, yours truly included, are lucky enough to get our academic assessment off to a start tomorrow! The rest and relaxation that we found at home was a welcome comfort and now we’re ready to get back to work! Belgium has greeted us with a steady rain and about six hours of sunlight, but its amazingly 54 degrees! Well, I just wanted to keep everyone updated on the status of my, now much more academic, trip. Hope all is well in the states. Go Steelers!!

On the Road Again

•January 4, 2011 • 1 Comment

As you can see I’ve updated my Blog to a new site, WordPress. I hope this isn’t much of an inconvenience, however it seems a bit easier to manage and customize.

Anyway, in a mere eight days I’ll be off to Leuven once again. It has been a great break and I’ve had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. A quiet Christmas with the family to start off and a festive New Years in Baltimore to bring the break near its end (I know it is still more than a week, but it still seems like it has gone so fast!!!)

It will be great to see all twenty American-Nachbarians once again, and to endure another seven hour flight–though this time the faces will be familiar.

Just thought that I would start off with a nice easy post to let everyone know what I’m up to. It has been great to be back in America, but a return trip to Belgium is looming and I’m sure it will be a blast!!

 

Hello world!

•January 4, 2011 • 1 Comment

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!