The gratitude post.

jenclinton/07172013mThe past 60 odd days of my life have been some of the best in recent memory. In any memory. Yesterday was my last day of work at my internship and MAN am I going to miss it. The projects I contributed to, the little ways I could help around the office, my coworkers, even my little desk that turned into a jungle with all that plant life.

That’s not just it though. It’s like being here in Europe has made me more aware of things. Like all the little ways and all the big ways that I am so completely and unbelievably fortunate and blessed and all those good things. I do think luck sometimes has something to do with it, but also hard work, and putting yourself in the right place, and then sometimes things just fall in your lap when you least expect it and for seemingly no reason.

I’ve become aware of these ‘seemingly no reasons,’ too, those hints that the universe is listening, gosh darn it. I don’t want you to think I’m narcissistic enough to believe that  things happen because I want them to or because I’m important and the universe must pay attention to me. But I think it drops hints sometimes, like when I noticed the other day that the houses I’ve lived in so far have been numbers 322 (3+2+2=7), 17, 77, and 7. 7 is home. Or when you see  someone succeeding and thriving doing something you’re afraid to do, exactly when you need to learn to do it, and you finally can start telling yourself, hey, me too. Let’s do this.

Before I get lost in my own tangent, I wanted to make a short list of the things I am grateful for today, the universe-hints and the things that make me so crazy proud of my friends and things that just make me stupidly happy.

1. I passed in my thesis today.

Passed. In. Done. No more writing and stressing and reviewing and checking sources and hating SAS. I feel more like I’m going to toss my cookies rather than feeling relieved at this point; it’s a little scary to throw it out into the world, but that will come.

c/o dickens molo osano

c/o dickens molo osano

2. I’m completely broke (it happens with unpaid internships in Europe), had no more plans to travel, and then I won a trip to Paris. And then a friend had housing. I’m going to Paris, for free. I’ll take that as a universe-hint, that I’m supposed to see this city, haha. Thank you a million times over to Cheeseweb for this opportunity (it’s an expat-focused blog for Belgium, and I highly recommend it even if you’re visiting for a short while. They showed me where to get the best waffles in town).

3. Also down the completely broke but still somehow traveling path… my dad surprised me with a trip to the Azores!! I don’t know much about anything there, besides I can go swimming with dolphins and hiking and laying on the beach and there are festivals, so that’s all I need to know really. Epic.

4. I’m grateful for those of you who make me laugh just because.

5. The thing that I am most super proud of today is the announcement that came from the Sierra Club. I’ve held onto this nugget of knowledge for FAR too long – UConn was selected as the #1 “coolest school” in the US by the Sierra Club!!! This is a huge deal for the university and to me, as my friend LD and I, as the university’s sustainability coordinators, and my fantastic group of 8 interns were mostly responsible for UConn’s submission. It was hours and hours and spreadsheets and phone calls and tears and late nights for days, for MONTHS, but it was alllll worth it in the end. So, GO HUSKIES, this is wonderful news.

what would we do without our people?

what would we do without our people?

Five things is a lot of big things to be grateful for today.

(Also this is the first time I’ve posted anyone else’s photos on my blog, that feels odd. PbyP gone rogue. And thanks again Dickens!)

Birthday & Antwerp

Um…oops? 🙂

The last two weeks have been a blur. I had a birthday on Friday, and celebrated quietly… for four days straight, haha. Thursday night, my friends and I (including KB who was also celebrating her birthday!) went to the best restaurant around, Soleil d’Afrique in Matongé (I went earlier in the summer as well.)

jenclinton/08132013a

On Friday, my actual birthday, I took care of business at work and then let myself catch up with my far-flung friends. I heard from some people I haven’t seen in ages and it made my day. I vaguely remember some of my college friends discussing buying our own retirement community when we’re old and have money and nothing else to do, I think that would be awesome. Can we make that happen?

Birthdays are like New Year’s Eve to me (my favorite holiday, BTW). They’re time for reflection and re-assessing and updating and changing habits, not just celebrating surviving another spin around the sun. I took myself for a long walk around my neighborhood and ended up finding a cozy little restaurant serving one of Belgian’s specialities – moules frites. It was everything I wanted and more, haha. I’d like to point out the mayonnaise in the corner, which is for the frites. Ketchup isn’t a thing.

I also needed to knock two more beers off my bucket list, so I tried I Chimay Rouge. (I had the ‘misfortune’ of finding my favorite beer on the first try, so I’ve had to force myself to branch out).

jenclinton/08132013f

OEP kids, it wasn’t until I sat down that I noticed the name of the restaurant was Carpe Diem. I felt like it was an appropriate end to the year, hahaha.

jenclinton/08132013g

JB took me out for drinks that night at L’Athenee because she’s a doll, and I tried a caipirinha? I’d never heard of it before but apparently it’s Brazil’s national cocktail. Olé indeed. The next day we met at Bruxelles Centrale and took the (crazy-€4-cheap) train to Antwerp. It was beautiful.  Afterwards we sat outside in Parc Royal listening to the sweet jams of K’s choice and drinking margaritas outside the Brussels summer festival entrance.

jenclinton/08132013h

This guy was amazing - Tobias van Hattem. I found him on Facebook but I don't know if there are any videos of him playing. He rolls the piano around to wherever he's playing.

This guy was amazing – Tobias van Hattem. I found him on Facebook – and here he is playing price tag, haha. Awesome.. He rolls the piano around to wherever he’s playing.

I did some research on the big statue in the middle of Grote Markt. It depicts the hero of Antwerp Brabo cutting the hands off the giant who used to take money from ships who wanted to enter Antwerp's harbor (because if the sailors didn't pay they suffered the same fate). It's actually a major swipe at the Dutch who used to restrict traffic going into the harbor - HA!

I did some research on the big statue in the middle of Grote Markt. It depicts the hero of Antwerp Brabo cutting the hands off the giant who used to take money from ships who wanted to enter Antwerp’s harbor (because if the sailors didn’t pay they suffered the same fate). It’s actually a major swipe at the Dutch who used to restrict traffic going into the harbor – HA!

because why not.

because why not. oh, and that’s an inflatable dragon behind me, haha.

grote markt. very typical flemish architecture I learned.

grote markt. very typical flemish architecture I learned.

jenclinton/08132013u

jenclinton/08132013t

Today was the last day of my internship (I’m really sad about this), but I need to pass in my thesis by… oh, tonight. ReadysetGO.

Also! Thank you to the newly-discovered-by-me blog Journeys of the Fabulist that gave me a shout out on her recent post about visiting New York and Boston. I hope I was helpful! 🙂

Days 49 & 50: MIM & PRICE.

MIM
On Saturday I set off an adventure with my camera in the morning. I wanted to knock something off my bucket list, so the Museum of Musical Instruments it was. I wandered from West of the city center all the way to Parc Royale and the museum (Note, this long walk is important later.)

jenclinton/08052013aFrom MIM’s website: “Besides the well-known Scottish version, many more countries appear to have their own type of bagpipes, Tibetan monks make musical instruments out of the bones of their deceased colleagues, and African slit drums are the local form of Twitter.”

I don’t know what genius decided the concept for MIM but I’m kind of in love. You get a little transponder thing in your language of choice when you walk in, and there are markings on the floor that you stand on in front of most of the instrument displays. Once you’re in the right place, you hold the transponder to your ear, so you actually hear what the instrument sounds like! I mean really. That’s the point of an instrument right? It was so simple it was obvious, but it sort of blew my mind when I realized what the deal was, haha. So clever.

Many of the pieces were from Eastern Europe (lots of Romania), and most were instruments I’d never heard of. I apologize in advance for picture quality but lighting was definitely not conducive to picture taking, not with my little camera dude anyway. Let’s give out some superlatives, shall we?

Creepiest :

Yikes! That would be a skull drum and a femur horn. I thought a femur flute would be a great alliteration but would be decidedly less intimidating in battle I suppose.

Yikes! That would be a skull drum and a femur horn from Tibet.

Most ornate:

I'd be too afraid to even hold this thing, never mind play it.

I’d be too afraid to even hold this thing, never mind play it. She’s so dainty.

Most BA to play (listen to it here):

the SERPENT from RUSSIA.

the SERPENT from RUSSIA, distant cousin of the tuba.

Most difficult to play:

no WAY is that a one person instrument! holy lung capacity. maybe it comes with a reverb pedal or something, haha.

no WAY is that a one person instrument! holy lung capacity. maybe it comes with a reverb pedal or something, haha.

Best Smile:

:D!

:D!

Best Dressed:

from romania, circa 2007. (that threw me.)

from romania, circa 2007. (that threw me.)

Most “what the?” moment:

"it's a little weird that we're blowing into animal intestines, ya? let's cover it in fur so it's less conspicious. much better."

“it’s a little weird that we’re blowing into animal intestines, ya? let’s cover it in fur so it’s less conspicious. much better.”

Personal favorite:

phish guitar?

phish guitar?

I will say this though, I did enjoy the museum but it would  be much better for you if you have a pretty deep-seated appreciation for classical music. I only appreciate it in small doses, usually when working, which is not something pleasant to think about on a free Saturday afternoon. That’s probably why the nature museum was the one for me. 🙂

On the walk back I took a few more pictures of the city. Isn’t she pretty?

PRICE
So Sunday was designated write-your-damn-thesis day. It went, eh. Okay. I took a break go to the insanity that is Garde du Midi on a Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately as I was walking through the crowd my right knee just gave out for no reason at all. I’m like, hello old lady. I was able to put weight on it fine so I kept on keeping on. I actually got some delicious food today, look look! And aside from the provolone I didn’t spent more than… seven euro?

pêche, pastèque, fraises

pêche, pastèque, fraises

carottes, fromage feta, fromage provolone, persil

carottes, fromage feta, fromage provolone, persil

When I got back to my work space I tried to stretch my legs out to the chair on the other side of the table. OWWWW OWOW OW. So I can walk on it but I can’t straighten it. Gah. My several-knee-surgeries boyfriend suggested a strained tendon and PRICE – pressure, rest, ice, compression elevation. It’s not swollen or anything, and I’m sure it’s from walking so much in not-made-for-distance-walking shoes. Just PLEASE no crutches, they don’t have normal ones here. Everyone uses the hand ones and not the underarm ones and excuse the vanity but it would make me look all the more pitiful.

Sad face. I should probably wear my sneakers to work for a while. I’ll be the only one in BRUSSELS wearing running shoes, I think even the women who run wear cute flats at the very least, haha. Ah well. Body says slow down, you better darn well listen.

Day 47 & 48: I try baking. Curse you, Pinterest.

Happy August! 90% of my office left on holidays this week, so we’ve been trying to fit all the work in we need to do together into a very short time period. I’m going to miss the whole group. I baked some Italian almond cookies as a goodbye present/early happy-birthday-to-me last night. They’re goooood.

This goes out to all my friends who are on Pinterest, and have discovered for themselves that pins are never what they seem.

Cookies baking in the oven.

Cookies baking in the oven!

Except actually it looked like this because the pan was too big to close the door all the way.

Except actually it looked like this because the pan was too big to close the door all the way.

And then I realize that my oven is in centigrade not fahrenheit and 270 degrees IS NOT less than 350F.

And then I realize that my oven is in centigrade not fahrenheit and 270 degrees IS NOT less than 350F. Panic, check on cookies, let the oven cool down, moving on.

alright, four minutes to make a glaze. confectioner's sugar and milk, could this be easier?

alright, four minutes to make a glaze. confectioner’s sugar and milk, could this be easier?

apparently yes, yes it can be.

apparently yes, yes it can be. oh look, i match my bowl.

annndd worth it. totally pinterest worthy.

annndd worth it. totally pinterest worthy.

 

So the blog has gone from photography to travel to food, basically. I’m okay with it. (Funny, today’s daily prompt was about origins of your blog – she was all photography six months ago! See my about me, now en français aussi!) It’ll be back to travel and photography this weekend – thesis on one day and adventures on the other! And my poor neglected camera can come back out of hiding.