I spent roughly 3 and half days in Antwerp, Belgium. I went on a walking tour on Saturday. I went to a jazz club and I drew and sketched more than I did my entire trip. Why did I go to Antwerp? I had the time. I knew nothing of the city besides it being in Belgium. It was cheaper to see more Belgian cities than spend more time in Bruges and Brussels.
I went on a walking tour, from the recommendation from my German hostel room mate. I used to go to a walking tour where ever I went. Then I got tired of walking and listening to someone talk. After giving it another try, its good to take a walking tour. You kill 1-2 hours, get some exercise, and you get someone information on the city you are visiting. During that time I used that time to draw and I got some ideas of the places I wanted to return to after the tour was over.
De Muze is a jazz club in Antwerp. There was a calendar of live music every night. With my new friend, Leonie, we tried a few different beers. Mort Subite was a sweet cherry beer. We went to this jazz bar two nights in a row. We did look at other options the second night. It made me think about the bars that have live music in Houston. I didn’t know. I also never watch live music in California, besides the occasional concert. Maybe I should look into this more.
I hung out with my German hostel roomate, Leonie. We spent a day and a half together. We were tourists together. I think that the serendipity factor of traveling is a one of the most unique things to traveling. I would never meet certain people in my life, if I wasn’t traveling. Some of these people whom I met only a short time has a made profound impact on me or even given me important life advice for that moment in my life. I’m glad to have met her.
I spend Chrismas in Belgium. It was my first time traveling to Europe in the winter, much less during the holidays. It is an interesting experience. I would like to say that the crowds and tourists were not as much. The popularity and vibe of the Christmas Markets attract many, especially at night. I did ate at the Christmas Market in Brussels, visited the Cartoon Strip Center, and I visited the Magritte Museum.
I enjoyed the Christmas Market because of the activity and people. It felt I could watch people, eat food, and drink all day. A few of the foods I had were Argentinian empanadas, white wurst from Germany, Tartiflette, and Tsukune(Japanese Chicken Balls.) I drank some of the Belgium beer, which is quite high in alcohol content, Delirium Tremens and Duval. I walked around the market drinking vin chaud. Although it was cold for me. I had a very good experience in the Christmas Markets. I hope my family can join some day.
I went to the Comic Strip Center in Brussels. I enjoyed myself so much. Most of the comics were in French. I admired the art, aspects like line quality and watercolor. I was reading the history of the comic strip. The museum subtitles were in three languages. I was first reading in English then in French, then I gave up reading altogether. Even for an artist, a museum can be too much to take in. It really did inspire me to draw more on my travels. I bought a french comic book, I will steal was much technique from it. I will put the title later on.
I went to the Rene Magritte Museum on my last day. When I was in high school, he was my favorite painter. As a fan of surrealism, I don’t think Magritte gets as much exposure as he should. When people mention surrealism they usually think of Salvador Dali. I also enjoy Dali, but Magritte’s paintings have more nuance. I enjoyed the museum, but I get really bored fast. I went through the museum in an hour. What I took from the experience was the simplicity of his compositions and ideas. I think even his painting skill didn’t blow me away. He is better than me. I do think with a few years of constant practice, I can paint as well or better than him in oil. I say this because I can actually get up close to the paintings and see each brushstroke. Most of his paintings are large i.e. 5ftx6ft. When you see an image shrunk down from a large picture it hides a lot of the craftsmanship of the artist. Now I want to visit more museums of my favorite illustrators like J.C Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell.
I spent a week in Valencia. I enrolled in the Intensive and conversation classes at Taronja this week. I never been to an immersion language school. I met people from all over the world. I will most likely come back.
My week in Valencia consisted of class Monday through Friday. The class schedule alternated from the afternoon and mornings. Every day I had conversation class as well. That class consisted of speaking on topics extemporaneously. ( Spoken or done without preparation. I’m trying to use this new word I learned in public speaking class.) The entire experience was great. It felt like I had 5 hour long italki lessons that didn’t stop. For the most part I enjoyed every bit of it. I think my level is at stage where I can live without too much effort. Could I work efficiently in this language equally to my mother tongue? No. Hopefully some day. I enjoyed the consistent curriculum at the school as well. The class I jumped in was covering imperfect, indefindo preterito, imperatives-positves/negatives, preterito perfecto and pluscuamperfecto. I have heard, read, and spoken these tenses before. It was a review but I needed it. There is so much nuance to using these grammar tenses than the English past tense.
I felt bad for some of the students who had to digest the language faster. For the most part my classmates did very well. I think the advantage I had was my time in the language because I have been learning it so long, 5 years. This year as well I started to use italki consistently. The trick with italki is…. you can’t stop using it. Maybe when you get competent enough and achieve your goal. If you the time, money and freedom I would have done this course a long time ago. I didn’t have all those resources. I also have a philosophy that one can learn a foreign language on your own. That is another blog post.
I will most likely come back to the school because I had so much fun. I had fun during the class, with the social activities after class, and the city of Valencia. The last time I was here I only saw the arts and science museum. I didn’t even go in the city center. This time my apartment was right across the street from Mercat Central. I will probably come back May of 2020 or winter of 2020 and spend the whole month in Valencia. The class sizes at the school were smaller and very intimate. I was able to ask all the questions I wanted, at times we had friendly debates.
I met some cool people as well. All the professors were very friendly. I felt they were generally interested in me. Even though I was just passing through the school a week. As a traveler, you can get incredibly jaded from meeting new people. There were times I felt it. The professors really cared about teaching and helping their students. As an aspiring teacher I saw that quality. I met and had some interesting conversations with the becarios(interns) at the school. Stefano, the head becario, spoke 5 languages and hailed from Switzerland. There were also a handful of Italians which made the vibe quite warm and fun. (I don’t know why I feel Italians do that). Andrea,(Italian male name), who was in my class this week, always came in late. Although that was a stereotype characteristic, he always brought something to the table when we were learning. Guy, Australian, was in my class as well, he has living in Valencia for some months now and has about 10 more. Though we are not compatriots, we both speak English as our mother tongue. In that sense I felt bonded more with him than the other students. I wonder if that is the way how most people feel when they speak to people from other countries, the common mother tongue.
I’m going to try to blog when I leave a location.
Sidenote: Urgh.. I got my grades for the Fall Semester. All A’s except a C in Introductory Algebra. I went to the stages of grief fairly quickly. Denial. I don’t believe I got a C. I went to every class, asked questions, and I did fairly well on most tests. Anger. I thought my professor took a shine to me as well. I’m never going to be nice to teachers. Bargaining. Maybe I can email her and ask how she tallied the score up. Depression. I’m so stupid. (sigh) Acceptance. C’est la vie. I guess I just have to double down on my weaknesses. So I can crush college algebra next semester.
I know I haven’t blogged very much. I can make excuses, but I won’t. I just choose do other things than blog.
My goals for this Europe trip. First, Improve my Spanish and receive a baseline for my level. If don’t receive this I’m going to get during 2020 somewhere. Secondly, I taking an online course for school, Federal Government. Thirdly, improve my French, I learned the basics in the last 6 months. The last few things is visit a few friends in Paris and draw and water color more.
I choose to go to Europe because I find being in the United States quite boring. I love my family but I saw them on Thanksgiving already. I also feel Christmas is overhyped holiday in the United States. We, as a society or just Americans, are too materialistic. I want to get away from that next year. I’ve never visited Europe in the Winter. It has always been the summer when I visited. Which is always the best time to visit a country, but I like to change it up and experience something different.
I’m in Valencia, Spain right now. I’m taking a Spanish course. Hopefully it can jump start my learning to a new level. I’m here for a week. I hope to take an exam to finally get a baseline on my level. Then I can better evaluate where I am. “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker.
During all this traveling I’m going to do a college course online. One might think why are you taking a class while you’re traveling in Europe? I say them Why not? I am school again. I can say honestly I’m not in love with living in Texas. I might as well just keep going to school and enjoy myself in the location of my choosing. We are lucky to live in a time where we can go to school online.
I held off visiting France for over ten years. My first experience was very off-putting. I made an unconscious decision to not visit France ever again. Then over the years I’ve met many cool French people. Those experienced change my opinion on French people. They can’t all be bad I thought. So I decided back in September to visit again during winter. My experience from the first time will not be repeated. A key to the story was that I was monolingual, immature and young. I learned a little bit everyday for 6 months. So hopefully I will have a better experience.
Afterwards I will go to Belgium. I’m going to visit a few cities during the Chrismas Holiday week and New Years. I’m going to visit Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges. Finally Paris, France. I will end in Madrid to fly back.
I have two transfers on my flight back, which I will not enjoy. MAD- AMS. AMS- ATL. ATL-IAH. I use airport code because it is just easier to write especially if you’re a traveler. There is probably a better way to write it.
I got an Idea with my language learning. I listen to podcasts on Spotify. There is speed option on the application. To increase my comprehension. I will listen to the podcasts three times. (thrice) Once at 0.8x, the second time at 1x(normal time), and the third time 1.2x. I can also do this on Youtube.