The List

I like planning. I like taking a piece of paper and writing down things I need to pack, things I need to do next week, books I want to read, places I want to visit (and exact opening times and prices so I could make a vague day plan and an approximate budget) and of course bus times for next morning so I wouldn’t be late for work / meeting up with someone.

Knowing this, it’s probably not surprising that I have written down a list of things I want to do during my time in Brussels. I like having clear goals and I definitely do not want to go there to kill time. I want to go there to experience as much as possible and know in a year’s time that I have had an amazing year and I’m wiser and happier than before.

This list is not complete in any way, I’ll be adding things during my time there as well.

  1. Write down everything I spend. (So I’d learn not to spend so much money on ridiculously expensive cake and sweets.)
  2. Go to a French-speaking town and use only French to get by, no English allowed.
  3. Make a blog post in French. (Preferably without grammar mistakes…)
  4. Spend a weekend in London. (Just because I love London.)
  5. Take a cheap flight with just hand luggage to a random location. (Open, close your eyes, point to a random destination.)
  6. Try ridiculously expensive chocolate of five different chocolatiers. (I know, this slightly clashes with #1.)
  7. Hop on a random train to take a trip to a random location. Try to get by in the local language, be it French or Dutch.
  8. Have a computer-free weekend. Not even a sneaky peek to check e-mails or Facebook!
  9. Find the local Estonians’ community and attend at least one event.
  10. Learn how to properly ride a bike. (I know, “You’re 22 and still can’t ride a bike!?”, no need to say it…)
  11. Learn how to swim properly. (I nearly drowned as a kid, okay? I’ll learn not to fear deeper water one day.)
  12. Write the dystopian story I’ve had in my head for three years by now. Or at least a few chapters!
  13. Go to at least three gigs. (Now this should be an easy one.)
  14. Go to the centre to have coffee during sunrise and enjoy the view. (Or tea, since my body doesn’t handle coffee all too well.)
  15. Take a tour in the European Parliament. Or two.
  16. Visit Waterloo. (It’s really close, would be silly not to go.)
  17. Party in Brussels’ “Gay Village”. (Brussels is supposed to be the gay capital of Europe and the parties are amazing, as I’ve heard.)
  18. Learn a new skill. (Or at least join a choir to develop an old skill.)
  19. Read more history books. Perhaps even in French.
  20. Learn enough about architecture to be able to properly admire the amazing historical buildings in Brussels and distinguish between different styles.
  21. Visit Willemijn in Gent.
  22. Visit Antwerpen and take a walk in the Diamond Quartier.
  23. Visit Brugge. (And perhaps do a boat tour on the canals.)

This is the beginning

It’s official. From September 2012 I’ll be living in Brussels. Initial plans are for about 10 months, I have an arrangement with a lovely family in Brussels to be their au pair for that period. As I’m not sure yet how much time I’ll have for catching up with friends and family, I decided to set up this blog so they could at least check from time to time that I’m still around and what have I been up to. Also, I like to process things through writing, so I wanted to get this started even before I move there – I can do some research on Brussels and Belgium in general and mark things down for myself here.

Belgium has three official languages and I speak all of them quite badly. My German skills are nearly gone, Dutch is slowly improving and French needs serious revising. I’ll mostly need the latter two in Brussels: French is the most used language there and Dutch is second. All street names are in both languages. Of course it should be possible to get by with just English as well in most places, but it’s always better if you speak local languages, so I’m planning to take French lessons and start reading French literature. It’s difficult to find books in English there anyway, if you don’t want to buy books all the time. Considering my reading speed (usually it doesn’t take more than a day or two to finish a book), I’ll steer clear of bookstores there.

As much as I’ve heard from friends and read so far, most seem to think Brussels is ugly, expensive and boring. I’ll try to prove all of this wrong during my time in Brussels. I don’t care if it rains a lot, it will probably still be better than 4-6 months of snow that I usually see in Estonia. (“I don’t like snow much” would be an understatement.) I don’t care if it’s expensive – it’s probably mainly expensive in the touristy areas anyway and I plan to discover a different side of Brussels as well. And boring? Perhaps people haven’t looked in the right places. Perhaps they’re right. I’ll see in a few months.