11 December 2006

The First Goodbyes

Last night my friend M and I went out with Fulbrighters from Brussels. It has taken me a little while, but after much convincing that Leuven is in fact a COOL town (small though it may be compared to the big, bad city) I was able to get W, M and S out for a visit. This visit was especially nice because all three of them are leaving in the next couple of weeks to move on from their time here in Belgium, and this was the last time I was ever going to see any of them. At least on foreign soil.

I may have mentioned this before, but many Fulbrighters to Belgium are here to study events much more current than mine. In fact those of us studying topics in the humanities are in the minority. And so it often happens that when we get together as a group the conversation usually swings quickly towards politics, international relations, trade policies, and generally why the US could learn a lesson or two from Europe (and, likewise, why Europeans need to get over their "Americans are dumb" attitude when they are more interested in the tabloids than we are!) But M and I decided that, for early musicians like us, this kind of exposure is very good, intellectually and mentally. Sometimes those of us with our nose in the music and the books get a little lost in whichever century we are studying, and when we finally do come up for air we wonder whether or not we should string garlic around our necks to protect us from the plague and, by the way, where is my wig?

Last night was very much like this. Dinner at De Weiring, my latest favorite Brasserie in Leuven followed by drinks at that-little-pub-on-the-Vismarkt whose name I always forget. W, who is a professor of history and has been studying the effects of post-WWII liberation on Europeans, confided in us the dirty little secrets behind those documentaries on the History Channel. ("Don't know anything about World War II? Your specialty is the Great Crusades? Well, you look handsome enough...just cup your chin in your hand, look off into the distance, and say something rhetorical yet riveting.") M and S shared stories of interviews they've conducted with Belgians on a variety of issues from immigration to agriculture, conversations which inevitably always came back to reasons-why-Germany-and-France-stink. And as an added bonus M brought his friend C, a pilot for a major airline company, who shared all sorts of interesting tales about life in the cockpit and how NOT to eject live animals from the back of a 767. And at the end of the night M and C managed to revert to their undergrad days, racing into a Nachtwinkel to buy a six-pack to enjoy on the last train back to Brussels. (I was told not to worry, C would NOT be flying the next day!)

Thanks, guys, for a fun night, and good luck back in the states!

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