Sunday, August 27, 2006

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’m here. Finally. In temporary housing. Getting here was an adventure in itself, and by “adventure” I mean “huge pain in the ass.” More on that later.

Before I left, a friend of mine said something to the effect of: “so you’re traveling by yourself, to a country you’ve never been to, and where you: (1) don’t know anyone; (2) don’t speak the language; (3) don’t have a place to stay; and (4) have nothing but the address of an administration office with whom you have never corresponded. And you’re not worried?”

My answer, of course, was “no,” but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Though ultimately my plan proved effective, a bit more forethought may have been useful. After I got off the train, I had no idea where to go or how big Leuven was. I thought perhaps I could walk to the International Student Building, but I wasn’t really sure where that was either. To make things worse, I hadn’t yet figured out the legend or the key to the map of the town I was given earlier since it was all in Dutch. So I sat on the curb outside the train station for about ten minutes, exhausted from a red-eye trans-Atlantic flight to Heathrow, a two-hour layover spent mostly in a security queue, a puddle-jumper to Brussels, and a train ride to Leuven, all while schlepping 100 pounds of luggage. I finally decided to jump in a cab, show him the address, and see where he took me.

This turned out to be a good move, because the International Student Building was a good twenty minute walk from the station, and I never would have made it and/or found it with all my luggage. I arrived at the administration office at 12:30 PM, an hour and a half before they opened. People take long ass lunches here. Luckily, one woman that worked there saw me and helped me out anyway. She sent me over to a student dormitory a few blocks away that serves as temporary housing for international students. She also, thankfully, allowed me to ditch my luggage in her office for a couple hours so I didn’t have to haul it all around at once.

I found the temporary housing without a problem, rented a room, and immediately passed out for about an hour – almost twenty four hours since first leaving for the airport in Chicago. I later retrieved my luggage from the admin office and then went back to bed having survived the first major ordeal of the trip.

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