Dinner Brussels-Style

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During dinner at my little neighborhood café last night, I chatted with a fellow who began working at the EC the year I was born (’64). Although retired, he has continued to work there 3 hours a day (unpaid) to stay busy. He once took a course taught by Kissinger, and his brother worked closely with a Nobel Prize-winning biologist. He filled me in on some of the details of the neighborhood, including the quaint painting-filled studio across the street which has a stellar reputation for teaching. Based on his recommendation, I just may sign up for a class.

A rather entertaining older woman at the next table advised me that I MUST go to France to learn to speak proper French, while her male companion waved his hand and pooh-poohed that crazy notion. The conversation started off with her speaking to me in French to which I replied “Je suis américaine. Parle-vous anglais?” Her eyes lit up and she excitedly replied “Ahhhh, New York City?!” “No.” “California?!” “No, I’m from Spokane, Washington.” Cue complete lack of enthusiasm. Apparently Spokane needs to work on the European PR. The couple also had a lively interaction with a young boy, laughing about something involving a cat.

This is one of the things that I love most about Brussels. The marvelous sense of community. Each little town “village” has a unique collection of bars, restaurants, and shops. At around 7 PM the neighborhood starts coming to life. I see animated old women leaning out 3rd floor windows shouting down to companions as they pass by below. Seated at the clusters of sidewalk tables are locals delighting in their food and drink while they rehash the day’s events.

I’m already sad at the thought of how much I will miss this way of life when I return to the states. I do love Norma across the street, the sweet woman who recently lost her Alzheimer’s-suffering husband. I greatly miss my neighbors Tom & Scott, who moved earlier this year. Our occasional beer-imbibing gab sessions were the closest thing to the Belgian experience that I had back home. Conversations with the crazy weed lady (as in overgrown yard, not perpetually high, although I wouldn’t rule that out) about how the government has satellites targeting specific individuals within houses to disrupt their sleep are no doubt entertaining, but I much prefer the pleasure of sauntering home from my metro stop and observing the goings-on of my little home away from home here in Brussels.