By Eliza Popper
The alarm goes off. Eight o’clock. It is time to wake up. Good Morning, World!
I slowly walk to the window and open the heavy grey curtains: raining, again. It takes me a minute or two to realize that the fact that it’s raining again is simply not surprising at all. “Right, I’m in Belgium.” I tend to forget that at mornings.
I put on my Turkish baggy pants, my favorite scarf from Egypt, and my new shirt I just bought this past weekend in Luxembourg. I get my coat and my beloved flower-patterned umbrella. Shortly after arriving to Brussels I realized I needed one. Walking with a bright pink flower-patterned umbrella makes rainy days a lot more pleasant. By now I actually happen to like rain, because I can show off with my amazing rain-protector.
Still sleepy, I walk to the kitchen. On the hallway I bump into the girl from Italy: “Buon giorno!” The kitchen is full of life already: the Finnish girl is preparing pancakes, the French boy is drinking his tea, and the girls from Slovakia are smoking outside on the balcony. Unfortunately, I do not have much time to socialize at mornings; I have to run to work.
I do not need a map anymore, I know the way. Living in Brussels for 3 months now has taught me many things; starting off with the city’s structure and system continuing to even bigger and more important aspects of life in general.
At the corner I run into Mbola from Madagascar, whom I sing in a choir together with. We do not have much time to chat – we are both late. I will see him at rehearsal tonight anyways. I get on the bus, start reading my book. The night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque. I am fascinated by how much this world has changed since the Second World War.
Twenty minutes later I greet my colleagues at the office. The intern from Italy has already prepared true Italian coffee for everyone. She makes sure everyone is full of energy (and caffeine) before beginning to work. I sit down to my desk and put myself into VSS mode. VSS stands for Volunteer Summer Summit. It is a one week long seminar that takes place in August every year since 2008. This year I am in charge of organizing the big scale event which will be situated in Zanka, Hungary. Already more than 200 participants were confirmed from 33 different countries. I am involved with everything regarding the event – from communicating with participants and trainers from all around the world and making sure of their well-being, to setting up the program and dealing with logistics. Even though it is mainly a European event, we also have participants from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, India, Argentina, Indonesia, or the USA.
At lunch time the office sits together to eat – we are happy to finally spend some time together. The Bulgarian girl just came back from a seminar in Sarajevo. She brought us Turkish delights. Ironic, isn’t it? The German intern is pretty unfortunate – he cannot eat any of those yummy desserts due to his nut allergy. We all agree that it is a pity for him – Turkish delights are simply too good not to be tasted. My Polish boss is now seven months pregnant. We spend lunchtime trying to find a good name for the baby. One name that sounds good in Polish, because of her family in Poland, in English, because of her husband being American, and also in French, because they live in Brussels. Fortunately, we still have some time to come across the perfect one.
The phone rings. Our beloved Greek colleague is on the other end of the line. She was supposed to be back to the office two days ago, but thanks to the ashes of the Icelandic volcano, all airports were closed in Europe for days, causing huge air traffic and millions of people being stuck at different spots of the world. She lets us know that she was finally able to get on a plane from Togo to Paris and she will be back to the office tomorrow morning. We all are really glad to hear the good news. She was missed. 3 weeks ago she left to Togo to visit her husband’s family. They have been married for 10 years, have two adorable children and she has not yet met the family of the husband. Finally being introduced to the huge African family must have been a very embracing experience indeed.
Just before getting back to serious work, the only representative of the Belgian population in our bureau, our admired big boss introduces us to the basics of the Flemish language – we learn that the little blue dwarfs from the world-famous comic book are called Smurfs in both English and Dutch. Isn’t that good to know?!
At six I get my coat and run to choir rehearsal. On the way to the music conservatory I eat a big chocolate waffle with strawberries and banana on top, my favorite. I love this country for its waffles and chocolate - that is without doubt. Our Spanish conductor speaks to us in English, due to being a very diverse group of music-lovers. There are singers from Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Madagascar, England, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Hungary, represented by me. We are getting ready for our big concert in mid-May. Our repertoire is made out of Nordic songs: We sing in seemingly very strange languages such as Icelandic, Estonian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Latvian. We certainly are having troubles with the pronunciation of the lyrics, but all pieces are wonderful and much fun to sing. Nordic composers surely know how to create brilliant music.
After rehearsal I finally walk home. The kitchen is full at nights, everyone is drinking beer. It’s easy for those who are doing their Erasmus semester; they only have a few classes at university, other than that they are free to do whatever: explore the city, the country, the culture, the language, beer and waffles, etc.
Before I go to sleep, I thank God for my life – it’s just as perfect as it can be. I give thanks for the amazing Belgian chocolate, the best waffles I have ever tasted, the ‘Belgian fries’, the beer that tastes like soda, so even girls can enjoy drinking it, the bike roads, that are safe to use (or at least safer than the ones in Hungary). All in all: I am living in Brussels, the heart of Europe, and I am surrounded with amazing people - be it Belgian, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, you name it.
Good Night, World!
Each day I go from bed to the same bed, however not as the same person. Each day I spend in Brussels, I spend in the World. Each morning I wake up as a new and better person, someone with more knowledge and understanding of our society, someone with an even more complex personality, and someone with an even bigger interest in this world. Even though I am staying at one place I feel like I spin around the globe all the time - or is it the world spinning around me? Brussels, the heart of Europe and let’s also tag it this way: the heart of the world. If you are looking for Belgians, do not come here, as the Belgian population lives elsewhere. Here you can find a sample of the world, a little bit of everything.
And thus, I am a little bit of everything. I am not just a Hungarian citizen, neither just a European one. I am a citizen of the World. I am a little bit of everything. I am a little bit of American, I am a little bit of Thai, I am a little bit of Italian, a little bit of Spanish, and Colombian, and Indian, and Portuguese, and French. I am a little bit of Belgian as well, but I do have a small German hidden in me too. And I am surely Hungarian by roots. I am a little bit of everything. My English accent is American, my favorite food is Italian, my favorite beer is Danish, my best friend is Indian and the love of my life is from Colombia. My favorite author is Brazilian, but French literature also influenced me a lot. My favorite band is from Sweden, but I admire Hungarian folk music. I understand four languages, but I understand millions of different cultures. Ever since I was a little child my parents made sure I travel, I see the world, and I see other aspects of life, other sides of the society. They made sure I learn different languages, I appreciate different architecture styles, be it Greek, Spanish, Italian or Dutch. They made sure I read foreign books, I listen to foreign music, I watch foreign movies and I know of foreign affairs. But what is foreign after all? Something you know, something you are aware of, something you are familiar with cannot be foreign any more. Wherever I go within the borders of Europe or even crossing them - I feel at home. No culture can be too alien for me. I was raised to be open for all; I was raised to be home in our world.
I consider myself very lucky. At the age of 21, I have already been to and seen 26 different countries, out of which six is outside of the boundaries of Europe. I have lived in four different countries: Hungary, United States of America, Thailand and Belgium. I can travel almost anywhere in the world without booking a hotel – I believe I have friends at every little segment of our globe. (And if not, there’s always couch surfing.)
It is almost not possible for us, youth of today’s society to imagine that our parents had such limited opportunities back in their time (especially talking about Hungary and the communist era). Being born in 1989, the year of regime change in Hungary allowed us, new generation to see the brighter side of the world – allowed us to cross borders and have a cross-cultural experience in life. Our parents only had dreams of an open and borderless world like this, and yet they are now living the dream. I only wonder what will happen when I will have my own children. Will teleporting be possible by then? It is frightening to think about the countless possibilities we are engaging upon nowadays.
When being away for a long time from home I often dream about being able to teleport – to quickly go from A to B, to be with my family in a finger snap, but to be back to normal-everyday-life in Belgium with another one. I often wish technology was so advanced that I would have the possibility of being with my love for a second, kiss him, hug him, look into his big brown eyes, and then be back to Brussels, where I love living, I love my life, my work, my friends, my home. However if I think about it, I have to realize that teleporting would be dangerous for the whole society, as with teleporting made possible traveling would lose its magical power. If traveling would be even easier, even faster and one would not have to take time to earn money, to find accommodation, to reserve the tickets, if travels could happen in a finger snap, and one would not need to take 15 hour bus rides, or at least just a couple of hours on a plane, traveling would soon not mean anything to people. People only treasure things in life which they have worked for. When people earn money with hard work, they are less likely to spend it quickly on something foolish. They will make sure the use the money wisely. When someone wins lottery, the money will most likely to be gone in a short period of time, as those who haven’t put effort in earning it, do not value it.
Traveling is now almost possible for everyone on this planet. Each of us has the opportunity to go and seek the wonders of our world. We, citizens of the European Union have the privilege of crossing borders without passports, without any control. It is most magnificent to be part of this ongoing movement from A to B. Let these letters be standing for cities, countries, continents, or just simply meaning the process of becoming a better person, a better and more open citizen of our beloved world.