BELGIUM: Nov. 6th 2009, 2:45PM

I know this is skipping ahead of Dublin and Amsterdam . . . I just opened my notebook to rip out a clean sheet, and I remembered I wrote a bit of a mini-entry while on the bus to Paris. I drew little accompanying pictures as well.
(I can’t bear to go back yet and write everything down now.)
Forgive me.

At a stop in Rotterdam, FLANDERS. Karen “Ther” Bates just got off the Eurolines bus, ordered McDonald’s, and paid 30 cents to vomit. In Belgium. She is Tinkerbell.

Paris in 6 more hours, and the next stop is Brussels/Bruxelles. So basically, someone’s thrown up in almost every country. The Vomit World Tour.
England- me
Ireland- Gam
Nether./Belg.- Karen
France- ______???

This land is FLAT.
Listening to Beirut’s “Interior of a Dutch House”, driving through the Dutch countryside. I’ve seen things that some people will never see. I guess that makes them beautiful: constellations from the other side of the world; rows of wind turbines in a flat land; a lone basket of marmalades and “chocolade pastas”; an old couple sitting together silently in a park; a girl younger than me, selling herself in a window. You wonder what sort of sacrifices she makes.

Writers sometimes refer to a traveller as a purer form of being; DeLillo and Eggers come to mind, because they’re so obvious about it. Even though we’re doing a highly organised version of backpacking (that is, we made reservations and bought tickets beforehand rather than “going with the flow”…) it takes an enormous amount of your old self out. I have to learn how to be patient and forgiving to the people I’m with, deal with their idiosyncrasies and sometimes HUGE FAULTS while managing my own, having a 3-day purely natural crash course in the local culture or language.
(I know “enough” Dutch now. I can read commercials.)

The pure traveller should collect scenes and people and conversations and moments. All I’m collecting are little scraps of paper and mounting irritation at how self-perpetuating the stereotypes against Americans are. Basically the “What the hell IS THIS? How do you even pronounce that? Who speaks English here? I’m freaking out.”
So freak out.
Get on with your life and stop embarrassing the normal meshing/existence of people around you. Maybe they don’t have a common language with you, but getting progressively louder and shouting in their face will get you no where except kicked out.

I WISH I could go with the flow and travel as I like, but there are so many problems with this. A girl surrounded by strangers rarely bodes well, in the long run. You either need to have a lot of money or a complete lack of… shame? self-regard? You need to be willing to do what you have to do to get around. I’ve seen these people already, with their cardboard signs and offers of “barter.”

Okay. Donc.
-I notice I’ve been speaking [to our group] in terms of “we” and what “we’re” doing, etc.
-I’ve lapsed into a mix of English, French, Dutch, and Spanish. Chris has, as well. We are communicating in a messy language soup.
-Living entirely in the present somehow means I remember very little of what we do every day. (Busy absorbing foreign data rather than collecting and cataloging.) One advantage of living in the past: you remember things because of comparing them.

Antwerp, Belgium looks a lot like Troy, New York from the highway.

“Would you like to go out tonight?” Said Tristan to Iseult. We’ll be out in Paris tonight, which is très bizarre. Spent my entire life wanting this. It’s been 3 years since high school and wanting to “get out.” The past week has felt like a year. When this trip is over, we’ll have been in 5 different countries, which is mind-blowing.
I’m eating a “chocolade tarwebiscuit”, which brings me back to my days of Keebler’s Fudge Ring cookies. (Chocolade Tarwe biscuit–> “chocolate wheat cookie”)
We stop in Brussels soon, so I imagine we’ll be picking up a lot more passengers. Right now, everybody has their own double seat, with 2 extra left over on the coach (because they’re suspiciously damp?) So we all took a quick nap.

It’s just hard to accept that I’m driving through a chunk of Europe on a bus, listening to a carefully-constructed playlist I began way back in high school. More crowning achievements in my life.

Sitting on a park bench that’s older than my country.

Hydroplaning coach bus. Ok, full bus.
The outskirts of Mons, Belgium look like North Brunswick.


On having a pair of beytsim.

I don’t feel so bad now; all the other kids are freaking out in their travel blogs. I am calm and collected. This is because the whole trip is completely surreal. I just googled what the airport looks like, because I’ve only ever seen in from the turnpike.

Side note: I need to learn more Yiddish, because that seems to spice up the blog if you pepper it with “shlemiel”, “bubkes”, “chutzpah”, “kvetch” or the original root for “cockamamie”, which is … “kakameyme”?
See? We’re learning.

I spent this week learning basic Welsh, and last night was spent copying down Dutch tourist phrases. Basically, I know enough to start a barfight or pick up a hooker. Or talk about lions. Because I’d want to do all of those things, preferably at the same time.

I’d like to document for the world,
at this important moment in time,
that my father is mowing the lawn.

Some people have weird releases.

Anyway, the next post will be direct from London,
so I’ll see you there! (Or I won’t.)
Stick a right wicked googly and cheerio!