I’ve been in Brussels (or en Francais, c’est Bruxelles) for about week and a half now!
Brussels is a very economical city. In Arkansas, we tend to look down on the tiny cars from our big SUVs and trucks, but in Belgium the tinier the car, the better the driver’s chance of finding a parking spot.Parking is extremely scarce.It’s not uncommon for me to be walking down the sidewalk and a car to pull up onto the sidewalk in front of me to park. I have had to dodge several vehicles in the sidewalks since I’ve been here. In Etterbeek, the district where I live, there are car washes, garages, and even gas stations in the bases of buildings where one of our larger vehicles could not even begin to fit. All the houses and business buildings are built against each other, skinny and tall. In fact, I live on the fourth floor of my host family’s home. (My French-speaking host family actually calls it the third floor because the first floor is “le rez-de-chaussée” and next floor up is the first floor.) My host family speaks French, Flemish, and are fairly fluent in English.They have been very helpful with correcting my pronunciation of words such as “jaune” and “jeune.”It’s hard to tell a difference, but if I am not careful they will think I am talking about “that yellow person” or “those young flowers.”
Last Monday was my first time to use the metro here in Bruxelles. I received a card with ten free rides when I arrived at the airport, so I was ready to ride right away!My friend Libbi and I found our way to the metro station, Thieffry, about a five-minute walk from our house.We walked into the station, cards in our hands, but we couldn’t find the card readers! A few people were beginning to run down the escalator to catch the train, so we began to run as well.There was no one to check our cards, so we jumped on the train with the rest of the people right before it left the station.We rode all the way to La Bourse in the city centre, where we met the other 11 students in our study abroad group for a quick walking tour of the city.On our way back, we made sure to find the card readers.There’s no reason to risk getting into trouble over a free metro ride! In February we will buy a month long pass, so that we can ride as many times as we want.The passes work for both the metro and the bus.Another form of transportation that Brussels is trying to reintergrate is the tram system.It would be easier on the environment; however, it would cause traffic problems for vehicles by blocking streets.If you don’t ride the metro or the bus or the tram, then you walk or ride a bicycle.I have a 15-minute walk to get to school, which is not bad at all.Some of my friends here have a 45-minute commute by metro and bus!