Thursday, January 14, 2010

I need to go to Brussels

My girlfriend just got back from a trip to Brussels that was paid for by the European Commission. She was invited to participate on an ecology/health conference there as Kazakhstan's representative. Some of the first things she noted when she got back:
  • The bus system there has maps that explain where all the buses go in the city. (After 1.5 years here, I've kind of forgotten our confusion when Peace Corps could not get us a bus map for Almaty.) They don't have that here.
  • Beer is delicious! And there's tons of different types. (I was so happy to hear this. It reminded me of the Athens BeerFest days. I have become an exclusive drinker of Shymkentskoe to the point where I'm not really sure it's good anymore. But it's my brew here.)
  • People on the street smile and say hi. (A few weeks ago she caught me saying hi to some neighbor children on the stairwell and said that was probably weird for them.)
  • They have service in the restaurants! The waiters want to help you. (Non-existent in most of Kazakhstan, where apathy is usually better than a noted disdain for the customer.)
  • The guys were polite enough to use the phrase, "ladies," when they said, "Good night, ladies." (Here the common expression is Zhenshiya (woman) or devushka (girl). I always wondered if people here thought it was rude. Now, I think, maybe?)
Based on this experience, she assured me that I had to go to Brussels. I, in turn, assured her that such conveiniences are not just found in Brussels.

She goes to Italy in March for the next step in the conference. I really don't know how she'll eat here after that.


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Kyle said...

Brussels is an awesome city! I'm glad she enjoyed her time there!

Koen Roovers said...

After three and a half years of Brussels (a.k.a. Brus-hell among the people that live there) I was happy to get out. True, the beers are great, and the fries are not bad either, but as soon as you have to deal with the bureaucracies of the governmentsss of Brussels/Belgium, you're a long way from home. Anything, from getting an internet connection to a registration: it's a painstaking business in this grey, congested sprawl of a city. And the service in restaurants.. I guess your girl has been very lucky, 'cause that's in general thought of as awful!

But then again, it depends on what you compare it with. I liked it though, in Taraz. That Russian joint 'Medved' (meaning 'the Bear' if I'm correct in the spelling): excellent food and service! And the beer in Kazakhstan: goodstuff! (I'm in Tehran at the moment, even the dreariest Turkmen brew would be welcome here!)

Good to know that the European Commission is still spending tax payers' money like water ; ).