29 November 2006

Cracking "out" of the Archives

So, yesterday I managed a feat never before reached by even the most dedicated of Fulbrighters.

I got myself locked into the archives.

First, I have a bone to pick with the staff of the archives. You'd THINK that the level of security would be rather high in a building that houses Belgium's precious papers, some of the only surviving bits of its past after so much of it has been ravaged by war after war. And you'd THINK the staff, the very same staff that asks you to jump through (albeit small) hoops in order to even view the documents, would at least have a quick glance around the building before locking the doors for the evening. That perhaps they would consider that a couple of American girls are still in the bathroom, 2 minutes before closing, never even thinking that they might get locked in.

When we came out (I had bumped into a friend Z, a fellow Fulbrighter also studying music) all the lights were out, the doors were locked, AND a security fence had been pulled in front of the door to prevent even the most determined burglar from getting in. Never mind the fact that Z and I could easily have gone down into the basement and set fire to all of Belgium's precious archives. Perhaps we should have considered at least knocking a few boxes off the walls to protest the injustice of it all.

And this may have not been such a big deal, but mind you, this was 30 minutes before we had to attend a reception at the Home of the US Ambassador. 30 minutes before we had to arrive at the invitation-only, we-may-have-to-call-out-the-guard-if-you-neglect-to-come reception that the US government generously hosts in honor of responsible, would-never-get-themselves-locked-into-the-archives Fulbrighters.


Long story short (too late!) we happened upon a maintenance worker who showed us the secret, underground passage out of the archives and back into Brussels. We even arrived EARLY at the reception, though it took me a good 30 minutes and three glasses of water before I stopped sweating profusely. BUT I suppose we can just chalk this up to another unforgettable experience. My next challenge is to find a way to fit this adventure into my dissertation. Perhaps in a footnote . . .

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