The boy sits on the steps outside the front door and pretends that he is not waiting. He does not lift his head to stare out at the street, but keeps his eyes on the grey paving slabs at his feet. He knows that what you wait for only comes when you are not waiting. The surface of the pavement is the most boring thing in the world to look at. But if he manages to lose himself in the greyness, and forget that he is waiting, then his brother’s shoes will surely appear right in front of him. Continue reading “The shoes”
It is 17 years since I moved to Belgium from Finland. Belgium is where I grew up, where I became an adult. It is the land of first kisses, the end of school, studies, my first job. Finland is the dreamscape of long ago childhood days, seen through the rosy spectacles of time. I have lived in Brussels for more than half my life. I have forgotten my languages, my geography; lost friends and ties to the world of my childhood. But still, I feel much more Finnish than Belgian. Continue reading “Why I still call Finland home…”
This post is written in response to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Person, Place Thing. The excerise is to pick a person, a place and a thing and describe them for possible future use in fiction. It is a good exercise for me, since I need to practice taking the everyday and using it in my writing. I was not able to follow the instructions completely, having no time to go to a café or restaurant this week, instead I did my observations during my 10 minute bus ride home from work. Continue reading “The woman on the bus”
Having a dog changes ones life in many ways. Once upon a time I spent my week-ends curled up in the sofa, with a cup of tea in one hand and book in the other. Nowadays I am trudging through mud, trying to avoid whatever precipitation the bleak Brussels skies are determined to throw at me. Because those puppy eyes cannot be denied…
Continue reading “Pictures: Winter walks in Forest de Soignes”
Compared to the straight clean lines of Helsinki, the convoluted pattern of the Brussels street map seems like a warp in the fabric of space itself. Is it just paranoia, or do les Rues, les Avenues, and les Chausseés aim to lead me astray on purpose? Knowing the general direction of my destination is no good when the streets always seem to end up in place that I thought was impossible. And this is when I get lost. Being sure that I am somewhere that I am not, I cannot but lose myself in that deceptive maze of crooked streets.
Does the city have it in for me? Why do the pavement stones rise up to stab at unsuspecting toes and reveal hidden pools of water that splash me to my knee? Who placed posts of all kinds in the middle of the street for absentminded wanderers to walk into? Is the roadwork real, or the city’s way to impede me again? What is this strange place and what does it intend with me?
Brussels is indeed a strange place. Not only are its streets warped but so is the language. Snippets of beautifully distorted English surround me on the metro. The letter h appears and disappears in the most intriguing places as angry becomes hangry and heart becomes art. We no longer go to the the bar but to bar and it is not a choice but a tsoice you make. And in between these re-made words, acronyms and abbreviations fall like mysterious codes and spells. There is coreper, efc, ecofin and many more known by most of us Brussels expats, but the list is so endless that nobody can master the entirety of this language, as ccitt follows fifg misep and infse. In this brand new broken language, where sentences are restructured and vowels distorted, the army of acronyms build bridges and create walls between those working on security, fishing, economy, environment, aid and education.
This is the language of my Brussels. The language formed by the hoard of Brussels expats overtaking the city. With more than 30 thousand EU civil servants in a city of a million inhabitants and an additional host of lobbyists, ngo’s, journalists, representatives, diplomats and family members of all the aforementioned, the total number of people drawn here by the institutions has surely well surpassed 100 000 by now, representing a significant part of the population. Together we form the so-called Eurobubble where the language spoken is this re-created English. As a group we, the Eurobubblers, tend to reject Brussels, deem it unworthy in comparison to our hometowns. But still we stay, while the list of our complaints about this town get longer.
Perhaps that is why get lost. perhaps it is because I wandered into this alternative reality where the centre of Brussels is Round Point Schuman, the place to be on a Thursday is called Place Lux (or Plux) and everybody is a intern, officer, coordinator or manager. Perhaps I followed the wrong map all along.
Brussels is returning back to normal after a few lovely weeks of winter. Gone are gently falling flakes of snow, replaced by the usual never-ending rain.
And I am not talking about sudden passionate cloudbursts or honest downpours. There is no imposing bruised sky hanging over us like an oddly seductive threat. No angry spears of water lash the world as the sky breaks open with thunder and lightning. Continue reading “The Return of the Rain”
When they see the city, they see the cinemas, the shops, the restaurants. They see the bars, the cafés, the theaters and museums. They see new people, possibilities, opportunities. They see life and movement.
When you see the city, you see the drab grey buildings and garbage in the streets. You see suspicious looks in the eyes of passers-by. You see graffiti and stressed people hurrying to work in suits. Continue reading “The City”
Even after 16 years in Belgium snow and ice feel like home to me. Maybe it’s in my genes. Anyway, despite the outrageous workload this past week I have managed to enjoy the snow on my way to work, and when playing with my puppy in the week-end.
The same outrageous workload is hindering any extensive blogging at the moment, but I thought I’d post some photos, while keeping an eye on how the latest snowfall is affecting travel to the conference I have organised for tomorrow (snow is my personal heaven but an event coordinator’s nightmare). Continue reading “Pictures: A week of winter”