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Published: October 10th 2010
Before we left from DC, we spent the morning learning from Professor Weaver of American University. He has spoken to every group of American Fellows except one. His expertise hit upon American and European Beliefs and Values outlining the differences between Americans and Europeans from a value perspective. One his insights was along the lines of...."best way to learn your own culture is to leave it." We shared lunch with the team of European Fellows who were just getting ready to head off to various US states for similar experiences.
Landed in Brussels at 7:30 am with 15 fellow travelers (who you'll start to see in pictures along the way). The trip was a bouncy one and relatively quick (after flying to South Africa anything seems quick!). A driver met us and we boarded a bus to our hotel. Through our jet lagged fog we soaked up actually being in Europe. The anticipation for this trip and experience was so great and the sites so unique, the reality that we were now in Europe was setting in!
Our agenda for the day (Saturday) was set up to keep us moving and awake! We were met by our local staff/hosts
Bustling with tourists and locals until late in the evening. Most people eat dinner at 8 pm.
in the hotel for some quick housekeeping and then heard from Professor Stouthuysen of the Free University of Brussels. He articulated the challenges of defining what it means to be a Belgium. In particular he painted a historic picture of the differences between the North--Flanders (Dutch speaking) and the South--Wallonia (french speaking). Then, what's the role of Brussels, the headquarters to the EU and NATO, a city with a clear European focus and a very international city? Currently, Belgium has a caretaker national government as there is dispute between the various parties.
Following our speaker, we headed out for a walking tour of Brussels with the German Marhsall Fund Staff based here. We ended at the Grand Place which was built as a merchant's market in the 13th century. It serves as the center of the city and was alive with activity and people until late hours. Beer, waffles and chocolate are the dominant treats and the smells of all contribute to a sweet smell throughout the area.
Tomorrow, we still have some free time so I'm off to Brugge, affectionately dubbed the "Venice of Belgium," with some of my fellow travelers.
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