Thursday, May 27, 2010

beautiful buildings and lots of animals

It’s almost the end of our second week here in Brussels and I think I am already completely exhausted! I still haven’t recovered from our long weekend touring the region of Flanders…. especially not with all the extremely-fast walking that Dr. Sheridan had us doing! (I am too short for that speed haha, and I must give much thanks to Katie L-P for her constant prodding and anticipation of shortcuts … not sure I would’ve kept up without her!)

Nonetheless, it was a truly amazing trip. I must have taken at least 500 pictures between the 4 cities of Leuven, Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. The buildings were truly gorgeous…all of the intricate details, history, mini-statues, and wit imbued into their cathedrals and town halls are just astounding. I am pretty sure I fell in love with the Stadhuis of Leuven and Antwerp, and the St. Bavos Cathedral in Ghent (our hotel was right next to it!) I am still sad that I didn’t get to go on a boat tour in Ghent, while much of the group did the tour – I stayed behind in the hotel doing homework for my distance learning class: Nationalism and Ethnic ConflictL. On Monday we toured the quaint city of Bruges, and although it was picturesque, romantic, historic, and filled with chocolate shops, I just didn’t like it as much as the others…

Tuesday was our last day before starting our internships full-time (well, Mon-Thurs), so I decided to make the best of it. In the morning, I trekked to Tervuren to visit the Royal Museum of Central Africa. The museum is a converted residence and the property is just amazing. Beautiful park, lake, and mansion. I was in awe….until I stepped inside the great hall and promptly died of laughter. The majestically golden European woman nestling the ape-like African child, the grand statues of a civilized King Leopold II and various Belgian explorers juxtaposed with the animalistic African warriors complete with a ferocious scowl and spear in hand… it was too much for me.

Although the museum acknowledges the condescension, it excuses it with the fact that the museum is 100 years old and is in tact to teach a lesson. Um…ok? The historical exhibit of Belgium in the Congo is great, I will admit that…although perhaps a section on post-independence relations is also in order, especially with all the posters anticipating DRC’s 50 yrs of independence. It’s one of the better and more comprehensive museums of Africa that I’ve seen…but the sections on animals and insects were obscenely expansive. Aren’t there humans in Congo too?

Anyway, sorry for that digression... On Wednesday, we all started our internships and I was introduced to what will most likely become the bane of my existence…the French-language keyboard! Two days later, I am still struggling…but I refuse to give up! I am interning at the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network, doing a project on the proliferation of small arms. Follow the link to learn more!

I will talk more next week about my internship and other random thoughts. Now I must get ready for my next stop…PARIS….tonight!

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