Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer part 1 in Brussels and Amsterdam

Atomium, Brussels, Belgium. June 2016

In June, I packed up my small apartment in the Swiss mountains and shipped off some boxes halfway around the world to my parents' place and packed three suitcases. I felt sad to leave such a peaceful and beautiful place that became a safe haven for me. I was heading back to finish up my internship in Brussels, I was happy to see my colleagues again. The past few months was hectic and yet I grew comfortable with working from home. There's something to be said about working from a computer during normal working hours from anywhere with a wifi connection. I think the digital nomad is the future of working. I accomplished tasks and tackled problems more efficiently plus learned a lot of time management skills as well as flexibility when I was able to work remotely. Skype and email were my lifeline and the constant communication between my managers and director helped. At times, we were all working from different parts of Europe which I thought was super cool. Why don't more companies do this?  

Full length mirror selfies is a tradition for me, Brussels, Belgium

So with bruised arms from carrying my luggages and carry-on backpack and purse, I flew into Amsterdam and stayed at the airport hotel for a couple days and left a couple suitcases with a friend and took the train into Brussels. The train ride is pretty peaceful because of the lack of free wifi. How come we don't already have wifi on trains? I've come across some trains that do have wifi but these are short distance trains. I arrived at the office a bit before lunch and managed to get some work done. It was weird to see colleagues and sit at my desk. My computer wasn't working properly on the dock because they changed the system so I had to get that fixed. Quite a bit of changes. I felt for a brief period of time that things were back to normal. After experiencing chaos, one can't help to just want everything to be normal. 

Halles Saint Gery, Brussels, Belgium. June 2016

I hadn't seen much of Brussels so I explored the Avenue Louise, Bourse, Sablon, and Atomium that weekend. Cartoons like Adventures of Tin Tin came from Belgium and after the terror attacks in March. Belgian cartoonists turned to their art and put up Belgian pride cartoons at the Halles Saint Gery. Some were funny, some were sad, and some were political. The Halles Saint Gery was a former marketplace that has been transformed to house a cafe, beer garden, and art gallery. A very cool building to venture into when the weather in Brussels becomes unpredictable. 

Halles Saint Gery, Brussels, Belgium. June 2016.

Speaking of the weather in Brussels... When I arrived, the first two days was gorgeous sunny weather. I was happy to be walking outside after work. Once the weekend arrived, the clouds and rain started coming which is what always seems to happen in Brussels. 
If you are heading to Belgium, be sure to always carry an umbrella with you at all times and bring an extra jacket or sweater. The weather can flip like a switch and you have to be prepared.

Atomium museum, Brussels, Belgium. June 2016

Le pain quotidian is Belgium's contribution to the global cafe culture. I started going to Le pain quotidian when they opened in Westwood village in Los Angeles. I would go there to have coffee/tea with a book or study materials in the middle of the afternoon between classes or a light lunch on weekends. The concept of communal tables became trendy by this brand. They have the best hazelnut chocolate spread (Nutella has nothing on Le Pain quotidian's blonde spread). I vowed that when I returned to Brussels that I would come to the very first Le Pain Quotidian near Bourse area in Brussels. The cold snap and rainy weather had me escaping the depressing weather on the weekend and I was happy to stop in for a Belgian Fika. Coffee is served in a bowl and I ordered the apple cake because it seemed sweet but not too heavy like chocolate. 

Very first Le Pain Quotidian, Brussels, Belgium. June 2016

The cold rain crept in over the weekend and it became quite depressing very quickly. I was determined to get my negroni and researched where to get the best negroni in Brussels since Belgium is mostly a beer drinking country. I trudged through the rain with my trusty umbrella and found a bar in a basement of a building that was designed to look like a grotto cave. 

Hortense bar is the kind of place to chill, drink good cocktails and have a quiet night catching up with friends. I couldn't find anyone to join me because of the rain. I was determined to get my negroni and not waste my last weekend in Brussels due to bad weather. The weather was the very reason why I hadn't seen much of Brussels while I was living there. I forced myself to trudge through the rain. I ordered two drinks: my negroni and corpse reviver tasted delicious and well worth the rain trek. Mixed well, smooth, and potent. The bartenders here knew what they are doing!

Hortense bar, Brussels, Belgium. June 2016
Corpse Reviver

Finishing out my internship was bittersweet because I didn't really have a plan what to do next and since completing my Postgraduate program and internship, everyone had been asking what was next for me. I'm still working on it. Currently, I want to inspire my dear readers to travel and live authentically without a timetable to rush to reach "life's milestones" that are set forth by society through heavy marketing, political agenda, and pressure from people around that are living a life that is deemed "normal". Why buy into the rat race if that is not what you desire? I would like to live a life that is authentic to me. Sharing my stories, eating good food & drink, sharing my passions for travel, dance, art, hosting fun events, and culinary delights.

Its always a bit tough to say good-byes so I always tell people see you later in life. The world is a small place and the more people we meet the smaller it becomes.

Onto my journey...

Indonesian food at Bojo's in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. June 2016

There are a few places I return to if I've been to a place more than once. I like to use Amsterdam as a base when I'm flying in and out of Europe because its pretty centralized in terms of the geography and the airport has direct flights. A nice city that offers a lot of things that I love. Art musuems, easy public transportation and very walkable, lots of cafes, decent shopping, wide open green spaces and parks, cute architecture, friendly people, yummy food that reminds me of my childhood.

A TCK (acronym for Third Culture Kids) friend recommended Bojo's Indonesian restaurant in Leidseplein area of Amsterdam a couple years ago and since then it has always been a pitstop for me. I always manage to get a meal at Bojo's every time I stop over in Amsterdam. The food is delicious and I try something different almost every time I come in. The restaurant ambiance is cozy and service is efficient. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal there. Amsterdam has a plethora of Indonesian restaurants and when people ask me where to eat in Amsterdam, I always tell them to come to Bojo's and have Indonesian food because its a very Amsterdam thing to do. 

I grew up eating Dutch food and Indonesian food with Dutch influences or Chinese-Indonesian food.. I still haven't figured it out why Dutch food tastes like my childhood especially with bitterballen and all the fried foods available at the various automat fast food joints littered throughout the city. Perhaps, its because I couldn't really eat all the spicy curries or eat weird animal parts. Perhaps, I'm always a hybrid type of person even down to my taste buds. A TCK eater!

Stedilijk museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. June 2016

I love modern art and going to museums. The Stedilijk museum has been on my visit list since I've already been to the Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum that are near the area. This modern art and design museum has temporary and permanent exhibits. There are interactive exhibits and static exhibits. The most striking piece is done inside a railroad car. All figure heads were given clocks as heads to signify the rat race and how miserable their lives are chasing and racing against the clock. There was one figure that had a face and it was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt to signify that he was taking his time. It was definitely a cool exhibit where one is encouraged to step inside the railroad car and look at the art closely. I like art that makes one think about society and the human existence. 

Travel creates a myriad of wonderful experiences and invigorates a sense of wander, curiosity, adventure. Perhaps, there are those among us who think that a life of following vicious cycle of the rat race to reach life's milestones set forth by society is all there is to life. I'm not goiing to tell you how one should live because that would be exactly what society does.

Sometimes one needs to think outside the box a little and create a life that is meant to be lived the way that you want. If a job doesn't exist or you can't find the career that utilizes all your strengths and passions, create that job for yourself or find many little jobs that would fulfill it. I don't know the answers to my life, but I know for now, I will just exist and not settle for mediocrity. I trust that some day, I'll figure it out one puzzle piece at a time. I thought that I would jump into the rat race when I made a leap of faith to change careers, but it seems to me that it wasn't meant to be through many series of unfortunate events and scenarios.

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