Saturday, October 25, 2014

Belgische broodjes and my Thursday tradition

When most people think of Belgium they usually think of a few food items: Beer, chocolate, waffles, and fries. Why all of these things are certainly prevalent in Belgium, one of the most popular foods here are Belgische broodjes or Belgian sandwiches. These sandwiches, sold everywhere in Leuven are foot-long subs on French baguettes that put all other bread to shame. On the sandwich, there can be a myriad of toppings from ham and cheese to kip curry (chicken curry), a Belgian favorite and can be toasted or open-faced. Sandwiches are also rarely served with sides, unless its a sit down restaurant where fries are usually the side. Of course, no sandwich would be complete without mayonnaise. They are then wrapped in a napkin and rubber band to keep them together and placed in these wax bags so you can walk and eat and nothing falls out. Whoever said that Europeans don;t walk and eat has never been to Leuven and seen the hordes of people walking around gnawing on baguettes. 
Every Thursday, I have Ethics from 11 to 1 and Pop Culture from 2 to 4, so I always eat lunch in between classes. Usually, that consists of a Belgische broodje from my favorite sandwich shop. Its on the Tiensestraat and has a bright yellow sign, so it's pretty hard to miss. Outside the cafe are a few tables and chairs littered with students enjoying their lunch or a quick break from classes. Inside the cafe, popular American music is constantly playing in the background, mixing with the sounds of Dutch conversations. Every time I go, I eat the vegetarisch broodje which consists of sprouts, cucumber, tomato, eggs, corn, and mayonnaise all layered between the perfect pieces of French bread. The best part is that it only costs 2.90 euro and it's a massive sandwich-the first time I ate there I couldn't eat the entire thing! Now, I can eat the whole thing no problem, probably because of all the walking and biking I do in Leuven (I have never walked or biked this much ever), To accompany my sandwich, I always drink a classic coke. Sometimes, I sit at a small white table and eat my sandwich, but more often than not I channel my inner Belgian and walk and eat my sandwich, stopping to pet dogs along the way or popping into a shop. It has become one of my Thursday traditions and I cannot imagine going anywhere else for my on the go lunch. This little cafe tucked away in the Tiensestraat is one of my little spots in Leuven, one of my own hidden treasures. This little tradition, even though it's small, is one of the reasons I love Leuven as much as I do. It's the joy from a routine activity, like this one, that makes Leuven so magical. And now, I really want a broodje...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Insta recap #4

Hello readers! Today I'm coming yo you all with another insta recap! It's been a while since I've done one, because I hadn't been Instagramming as much recently.  I went to Flanders field last Friday and Cologne, Germany on Saturday, which you may already have known; I have been quite the busy bee lately! Not only that, but the semester is already halfway over- time really flies! Without further ado, onto the pictures!

The bike shed at Loyola is always chock full of bikes! Actually, Leuven is always littered with bikes!

 My roommate, Pili, made a quiche one night for dinner! She was so proud of her cooking skills!

At Flanders field in the trenches with five other girls! It was certainly cozy in there...

Bavarian pretzels in Cologne! Such a great snack and nothing like the pretzels you get at the mall!!!
I hope you all enjoyed my post! Stay tuned for more posts about life in Leuven! Much love!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Finally, I can check Germany off of my list of countries to conquer. This Saturday the 18 of October my entire house went on a trip to Cologne, Germany. Since it is only two hours away, we took a bus and had a wonderful time!

After a few hours on the bus, we arrived in Cologne and had a bit of free time, Most of Cologne was destroyed during the second World War, so it is a very modern city. For an hour, we walked around the city and it was mostly shops and a few restaurants. For lunch, I had my very own Bavarian pretzel with cheese and it was yummy!

Pretzels are the best!
With full stomachs, we visited the Cologne Cathedral. According to legend, the church houses the bones of the Three Wise Men and the entire church was built to honor them. The church, like many other Gothic churches, has beautiful stained glass windows but there was one in particular that really stood out. Since some of the church had to be renovated after World War II, one of the windows was blown out and replaced with regular glass. Instead of recreating the old stained glass window in 2007 a new, modern stained glass window was placed in the cathedral. Instead of depicting scenes from the life of Christ, it is a geometric grid of colorful squares, the same colors present in the other windows of the church. In this church, this window has been a point of controversy, since it does not fit the style of the church. I however, found it to be beautiful and felt it fit the church well in combining the old with the new.
Cathedral of Cologne
The highlight of Cologne was certainly the Ludwig Museum of Art, which houses a collection of modern art. Inside the museum are Russian avant-garde paintings, Picasso masterpieces, a gallery of photographs, and other works of modern art. For me, the best thing about modern art is the way it makes me think about what I am seeing. Not only that, but modern art usually incorporates the viewer into the piece, and I find the interactivity to increase its appeal. The special exhibit was all about pop art. In this exhibit, they showed pieces from Andy Warhol like the Campbell's soup cans and his screen prints of Marilyn Monroe. There were also pieces by Lichtenstein and installations by Robert Rauschenberg that were wonderful to see in person, Honestly, I loved the pop art and could have spent hours wandering through the special exhibit. My favorite work of the day was Jasper Johns "Map 1967-1971." It is a large work of a map cut into triangles and rearranged. If you ever visit Cologne, the Ludwig should be the first stop on your trip!

Jasper Johns "Map 1967-1971"

Cheesing inside the Ludwig as Batman!
Cologne is a beautiful city and I am so glad I got to go to Germany with some of my housemates!

Cathedral of Cologne from the rooftop of the Ludwig!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poppies for Peace

Hello lovely readers! Long time, no blogging. With school  in full swing, it didn't have as much time to blog but now I have a routine down pat, so I will be able to generate more content. Friday the 17 of October, I went on a day trip with some of my classmates to Flanders Fields. World War I began in 1914, so this year is the one hundred year anniversary of the start of the war. With that in mind, it was quite moving to visit an area that played a part during this important time of world history.

First off, we went to the Museum aan de Ijzer, where we met our tour guide for the day Walter. In Izjer, there is a tower that was built during the First World War to honor the fallen, but was then damaged during World War II. The remnants of the first tower were then used to build the Pax Gateway, or the Peace Gateway. At the base of these two monuments, is a small cemetery to remember the fallen from World War I. Inside the tower, is the a Isjer museum. 

Inside the museum, the focus is on the Belgian-German confrontation during the war. Our tour guide, like the entire museum however, focuses on the message of peace. The motto of the museum is "Peace, freedom, tolerance." In this day and age, that message still hold immense power. Inside the museum, the exhibits answer the questions "What is left of our lives?" and "What is left of the country?" In a sense, the museum attempts to answer how the war impacted the people of this region as well as how the war impacted the country as a whole. For me, it was moving to find a museum about war that focuses on peace. Seeing the horror of World War I, it makes sense that the curators of the museum would wan to focus on peace. Here I learned the poppy is an international symbol for peace, since poppies were the only flowers in the region to survive the attacks during the war, like the poppies mentioned in the poem by John McCrae "In Flanders Fields." It struck me to learn the importance of this flower. For me, the highlight of the museum was going to the top of the tower and seeing a 360-degree of the surrounding areas. The sun was out, a rare occurrence in Belgium, which added to the beauty of the Belgian countryside.

The Izjer Tower

The cemetery at Isjer

A view from the top of the museum: Here you can see the cemetery and the Pax Gateway.
After touring the Izjer museum and having lunch, we made our way to the 'Trench of Death," which is a remake of an actual trench from the war. At the "Trench of Death," we crawled into the trenches and walked through the mud to get to the other side. I could not even imagine what is must have been like to be a soldier here and actually live in one of these trenches. Our tour guide even made us go inside one of the shelters. If the trench was being raided, five men with 30 kg bags and rifles would pile into these shelters that were the size of a large cardboard box, at best. We crammed six girls into one and i cannot even begin to wonder what it would be like to go into this shelter during the height of battle. Visiting the trench gave me so much respect for all of the young men who braved these conditions to promote peace.

Finally, we ended our time in Flanders Field by visiting a few cemeteries that honored the fallen. there is nothing like paying your respects to those who have given their lives to protect their countries and to fight for peace. Planted at one of the cemeteries was a bed of poppies to continue to promote peace, This trip meant so much to me to be able to see sites of the first World War in person and to be given the opportunity to pay me respects to the fallen was absolutely incredible.

 Inside the "Trench of Death"

Six girls, one shelter

 Paying my respects to the fallen and poppies for peace

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ik weet het niet

      Ik weet het niet. "I do not know" in Dutch. That is how I feel about school at KU Leuven. I do not know anything and I spend all of my time being confused and wondering what is going on. To be honest, I was not prepared for the school system here. When I say the system here is different, I really mean that it is different.
      First and foremost, classes here usually only meet once a week for two to five hours at a time. Only a few classes meet multiple times a week, usually language classes. Since they only meet once a week, classes are intense. Right when class starts, the professor begins lecturing. At Loyola, we do not have lecture classes, so this is a major adjustment for me. I am used to small classes where I can develop rapport with my professors and classmates. At KU Leuven, there are too many students to be able to develop these relationships. Secondly, since classes meet so infrequently, there is a lot of required reading to be done for the next class, When I say a lot of reading, I mean 60-100 pages of reading, not just a few pages. I was not prepared in the slightest for this much work do be done on my own. In the States, there is not as much work done outside of the classroom, since class meets more often than they do in Leuven. The third major difference is in the grading system. In America, there are multiple grades in a class, from papers, quizzes, and even attendance. At KU Leuven, classes have only one grade, wither an oral exam, written exam, or a paper. If you do not do well on the final, there is nothing to boost your grade. That is what scares me. There is nothing helping me except for doing well on the final. That terrifies me.
       I am scared of the school system here. I do not feel prepared to do this. Although it has been a hard adjustment, I know that the only way out of a bad situation is through. I know I am capable of doing the work here, I just have to motivate myself. Never did I think that adjusting to a new school system would be so difficult, yet it had been the hardest adjustment thus far. This term, I am taking seven classes, more than I normally take, including Dutch language, "The Low Countries" history, Introduction to Ethics, theology, Travel Writing, Popular Culture, and European Culture and Society.I will continue to keep you, my faithful readers, updated on my progress with school.