Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Moien!

I write to you from the home of the best host-dad in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Living at 53 Rue de la Gare, Guy Graul has a fantastic house, with separate rooms for the three of us, and even a urinal on our floor for our own personal use. The house is great, but what really sets it apart from the rest is the view. Looking out over the back yard, one sees first his yard, which has an arch, fountain, and apple tree, but beyond that is the real treat. You look out into the farmland owned by his neighbors and past that is a rise, covered with trees. Luxembourg is a beautiful country, and we have a first row seat from this house. The first day Guy was a bit late getting to the Chateau to pick us up, but he made up for it by recognizing us and driving his 5-day old VW Golf straight at us. It took two trips, but we got all our stuff back to his house. He then took us to his picturesque backyard, and treated us to a snack of ham, cheese (made by Belgian monks), and bread, grapes, and Luxembourgish champagne(a bigass bottle of it). We sat around eating and talking for a couple hours, then we wandered around Differdange (where the Chateau is) and Oberkorn (where Guy lives). Both towns are incredibly clean and neat. There is a definite small-town feel; Guy seemed to know a lot of the people we passed. We took a private little tour of the Chateau, just Guy, John, Daryl, and myself, saying hi to the housing director, Crici Dumount, as well as the Director, Dr. Ekkehard Stiller, who happens to be a good friend of Guy’s. From there we continued to wander through Differdange and Oberkorn, stopping along the way to pick up ingredients for dinner and breakfast. Dinner consisted of two whole chickens, noodles, salad, and of course, wine. After dinner we had a lemon cake that was also exceptional, with some limon cello liquor that would ahve been good if I werent so damn tired. though throughout all this I was only half awake. Finally, we were able to sleep at 22:00 after having been up for god only knows how long. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and didn’t wake up until 8:00, when it was time for breakfast.


Allow me to regress; on the way into the airport to catch our flight, John’s carryon bag IDed positive for explosives, so that necessitated a nice search and a lot of questions, until it eventually tested negative. On the flight over, John, Daryl (yes his plane eventually got to Ohare, despite boarding, disembarking, and boarding again), and myself were unable to switch around to sit next to each other. I ended up sitting next to a junior girl who was one of the other 3 people staying for the entire year. We talked when we weren’t asleep, in other words while eating horrid airplane food, and fun was had by all. Customs in Brussels was a joke, they didn’t say a word to me, I filled nothing out, all I did was get my passport stamped. All our bags got there on time, so we got on the bus to Differdange and fell asleep. Once there we unpacked all our stuff from the bus, and sat around until Guy got there, which brings me to where I was. Or something. This is starting to turn into a Jason letter, god forbid.


The next morning Guy showed us the bus to the Chateau that runs every half hour and is free to all, which is pretty sweet. We then got to listen to Dr. Stiller (Ekkie, as Guy calls him) for quite a while, as well as Crici and Erin Schoen, the activities director. After lunch at the Chateau, which was INCREDIBLY inefficient, by the way, we headed out for the “Medieval Tour.” At this point John, Daryl, and I were all on separate trips (they saw the War Tour and Lux City, respectively). We headed to Clervaux and Vianden, and saw two medieval Chateaus in and around Vianden, which were quite impressive, and then headed to Clervaux. In Clervaux we went to an abbey and saw a service by the monks. These were no ordinary monks, but ones who still did service in Gregorian chants, which was interesting, although not for the full 30 minutes that we watched. Then it was time to head home for the night, which was uneventful, and I even managed to make it from the Chateau to Oberkorn without mishap. Once there, since I was the last one home and John already ate, Guy offered us his fridge, and Daryl and I obliged, cleaning out his ham and Belgian cheese. then we headed to the famed little miami bar, across the street from the chateau, where there were another 10 MUDECers. Had a beer, then headed home, embarassed by the rest of the loudass americans. The next day was scheduled to be more boring speeches, then Nancy, France.


After breakfast, speeches, and lunch, my group headed to Nancy, along with newly made friend Mark, a senior on the trip, and one who wasn’t inclined to have the seemingly normal “Dude, the drinking age is 18, lets get TANKED, and talk about nothing but BOOZE!” mentality that so many of my intrepid fellow students displayed. In Nancy (pronounced nahn-cee, with some French nasalness, not like the American name), we saw the first of hopefully a lot of the 1001 places to see before you die. Place de Stanislas took my breath away. Reading about it in the book before I left, I thought it sounded kind of lame, but in person, it was incredible, wrought iron gates, balconies, and light poles were all gilded with liberal amounts of gold. Everything was incredibly beautiful, and on a perfectly sunny day, it could not have been better. (Other than the prices at the cafes, I passed on getting anything, and it’s a good thing I did, 33cL Coke was 3.50, and 25cL beer was 3.10! This caused one of the admin with us to exclaim “Holy shit!” in a French accent, which was pretty funny.) Other than the Square, there wasn’t anything as spectacular, though the gardens were very nice, as was the rest of the city, Crici saw enough shops that sold hats to cover her shaved head that she wanted to come back. (On another side note, she was wearing a frizzy black hat that day that made it almost look like she had spikey black hair, which was disconcerting when I first saw her.)

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