Monday, May 14, 2012

Two Cities, Day 1: Brussels

If you haven't read my Faceplant post, you should before reading this next bit.

I got on the train a littlebit before it left after buying a new water bottle; I had cleaned the blood off my face, washed the dirt and blood off my hands and my body was aching. With all this going on my emotions were kind of shooting all over the place. I didn't even try to find my seat, I just sat where I felt comfortable.

A woman came up to me, and I'm sure I was in her seat, but she started speaking French to me. I couldn't even tell her that I don't understand French or that I only speak English or that I speak a little French (all of which I can say in French to express the language barrier). The waterworks started. I'm sure I looked pitiful! She immediately reassured me that it wasn't bad, "pas grave" in French. She said this over and over and sat in the seat across the aisle from me.

I then realized that my phone plan here allows for free calling to the US and that at 5am it was about 8pm at home. I called my parents' house and the whole family was there. It was great to get the story out and, yes, as lame as I feel admitting it now, I was reading Psalm 23 -- like I was anywhere near the valley of the shadow of death *pfft*. We talked for a bit and then I went back to my bible and tried to forget what happened.

I changed trains in Toulouse to head farther south to Rodez. While on that train, I found it was high quality, clean and the controllers checked tickets after almost every stop. A controller asked me for my ticket, in French, which is no biggie for this situation. I handed him my email print out of the ticket. Then he starts telling me something, but he doesn't speak English and it was too complicated for my limited knowledge of French. The woman sitting across from me spoke both so she translated.

Turns out, my tickets were not real tickets, they were confirmations but it meant that I could pretend I wasn't on the train and get a refund for a ride that I actually got. So he was going to charge me twenty euro for a real ticket -- but I would get a ten euro refund at the station. I tried to explain what had happened on my bike. Just thinking on it and the explanation made me cry. And then my nose started bleeding again. Blood dripped on my jeans (again) and on the table. I asked if I could go to the toilet and pay for the ticket when I got back.

He felt awful, said yes, and they kept telling me 'pas grave' and I was nodding, knowing I was overreacting and having no way to say that I'm a wimp and emotional so just ignore the tears.

Well, he charged me for the new ticket and I finally got to Rodez. Which is a tiny town and only has taxis to take you to the airport, which was 20 euro. I believe it was ten or eleven am when I got there. A pretty eventful day, that wasn't over.

I flew in to Brussels Charleroi, took a one hour bus trip into the city, caught the subway to my hostel and asked if there was a movie theater nearby. I wanted to park my ass down and watch something entertaining for a while. The man at the frontdesk was very kind and printed off the movie schedule for the weekend and told me about a restaurant nearby that was 'self-serve' (this means something different in every country, it seems like), which meant that you could see everything before you bought it. I didn't quite get what he meant until I got there.

The restaurant was like a deli, but way better! All of their foods were made there and were sitting on cold shelves to keep them fresh. And they specifically labeled vegan and vegetarian items. The ingredients list included recognizable foods! Not chemicals and mystery products. Here was my dinner:

Dinner at EXKI, probably the some of the best food I've ever had!
The pasta was some sort of curry, but with dried mango bits that gave it the perfect amount of sweetness. 

When the movie finished it was dark, so I headed back to the hostel for the night. Day 2 in Brussels is coming soon!

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