Today was Day #3 in Belgium. I can’t believe that it is only the end of our third day. In a good sort of way it feels like we’ve been here for forever. I think that it may have something to do with the fact that we are squeezing every possible hour out of our time here. As you can probably tell by the timing of this post, I am up rather late. This is despite the fact that I have been extraordinarily tired for the last few days. I’m not so sure that we’re going to be able to keep up this torrid pace for the entire 14 days, but I’m assuming that we will probably try until we fail.
Today we spent the majority of our time in Brussels. In the morning we attended a briefing at the European Commission that was conducted by a very exuberant Dutchman. He gave us a good overview of the work of the Commission. The Commission is the body responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union’s treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union. It is made up of 27 commissioners from each of the 27 members states. Each commissioner manages a group of civil servants called a directorates-general that manages a specific group of policy concerns. After being educated as to the roll of the Commission, we headed back out to grab some lunch and to do a little bit of exploring in Brussels.
We ended up eating lunch at a relatively sketchy place called ‘drug opera’. I haven’t taken the time to actually look up what ‘drug opera’ might translate to, I’m just going to leave it alone and enjoy the hilarity of the name. I was a little bit afraid of the menu (even though I could read it; it was translated into English) so I decided to play it safe and order a ham omelet. Safe choice right? Well, maybe not so much. I’m perhaps a bit of a freak when it comes to food preparation standards, but I just can’t quite handle when there is still runny uncooked egg on my plate. I ate around the runny parts, but all I could hear was my mother telling me that I could get salmonella or ‘salmon fellas’ as we like to call them.
After lunch we marched off to the International Federation of Journalists. For me, this was by far the most interesting session that we’ve been in so far. The focus of our course is Equality and Human Rights in the EU, so our host at the IFJ, Ernest Sagaga gave us an extraordinarily interesting run down of the rights of journalists. We covered a lot of territory in this presentation, from the influence of Fox News to the emergence of the citizen reporter. I even had a chance to ask Mr. Sagaga what he thought of our beloved CBC. I know my friend Vivek appreciates the good solid work of the CBC and would be happy to see it sustained…Mr. Sagaga said that the CBC was very well thought of internationally and that he himself made sure to tune in every Sunday for a couple of great programs.
Listening to Mr. Sagaga inspired me once again to look into the possibility of pursuing a career in journalism. I’m having an interesting discussion in my head right now about the lifestyle and whether or not it’s something that I would want to do, but the idea of telling the untold story is rather compelling. The presentation also reminded me of my diverse passions and interests and the importance of trying to balance them. Should I be a rockstar, journalist, politician or something else entirely? How do I keep all of the balls in the air at this point without sacrificing something along the way? I guess this internal and external discussion is something that all University students go through as the move closer to the ‘real world’. For the time being I am going to just go with the flow and hope that tone direction grabs me and takes me to where I belong!
Before leaving the IFJ Mr. Sagaga gave us some interesting information to read, so I think my entertainment for the plane ride home may be somewhat covered! Our next stop was home! For a few short hours we were back in Canada. We visited the Canadian Embassy which also houses the Canadian Mission to the EU. While there we received some info on Canada’s relationship with the EU. Strangely enough, I actually found that our American briefing was more open and willing to deal with sensitive issues. The Canadian diplomats seemed reluctant to criticize our government at times. With that being said, we still learned a lot and appreciated our time back on Canadian soil. Oh, one thing that we found truly typical of Canada was the fact that at security all the did was scan our bags and then ask us kindly not to use our cameras and/or phones. They didn’t make us go through metal detectors or anything. This was in stark contrast to the American Mission where they held everything, including our passports at the front desk and refused to let people stop at the bathroom on the way to the briefing! I guess we’re just a little bit more trusting (is this good? who knows?)
After leaving the Mission, we headed back to Leuven by train. This proved to be a little bit more difficult than usual. Our train stopped randomly in the middle of our trip because a train in front of us had stalled. We sat on the tracks for about 45 minutes before finally getting back to Leuven. It wasn’t a huge hold up and we really didn’t have anywhere to be, but it did make the day that much longer!
For dinner we hit one of the many restaurants in the Leuven Market. Apparently Leuven is a student town and is famous for its partying. I talked to a couple of guys from Brussels on the train in the morning and they were quite impressed that we were staying in Leuven. I’m doing my best to cautiously sample Belgian beers on this trip. Leuven is the hometown of Stella, so I drank Stella my first night, followed by Duvel last night and Leffe this evening. Stella is a good safe bet, but I’ve got to say that despite the 9% alcohol content, Duvel is probably my favorite so far.
Alright, I’m finally off to bed for the night. We’re off to the Belgian Parliament, which is fresh off of elections, in the morning and then over to NATO for the afternoon.
As a side note, check out Mike Tompkins on Facebook. He is a London producer/pop artist who I worked with briefly at Sunningdale Golf Course. He has a great cover of ‘Fireflies’ by Owl City posted as well as one of his originals (you can find another if you check on youtube). I’ll put the link below. Check it out!
Mike Tompkins Facebook Page:
Fireflies Cover (Owl City) by Mike Tompkins:
Honesty by Mike Tompkins:
Dreamworld by Mike Tompkins: