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Reports

Friday, 18 May 2001
Brussels --> Ghent (B)

Today I was a cityguide for a Dutch schoolclass, watched videos with Sophie who brought me to my new lodging spot in Ghent and met my new hostess, the 20-year-old Sinology student Karen Dagelet.
Sophie had to go to work early, so she woke me up and made me some breakfast. She had the afternoon off, and you promised me to bring me to Ghent personally at the end of the day.

She dropped me off at her office building and gave me some money for a subway ticket to the centre of town.

It was a great relief to be walking around without my 25 kilo backpack, I almost felt home in this city.

I passed the Manneke Pis statue again and noticed a group of Dutch youth surrounding their history teacher on their schooltrip. During his little lecture about this specific guy peeing around, I asked him if he also knew about Jeanneke Pis. He stuttered, "I have hearded about it, but I've never found it."

After some remarks from the 15-year-olds about recognizing me from Dutch television, they got very interested in this Jeanneke statue and they insisted on me showing it to them - all waiting for a reaction from their teacher.

The old man was already blushing a bit, when I told them I could show it to them. He agreed and suddenly I became a Brussels City Guide!

Ending up at this little alley with some 15 schoolkids they all took pictures of the girl-statue with me next to it. They'd have a great story to tell when they'll get home!

At 1 o'clock Sophie picked me up at the Brussels Exchange building in the centre and we had lunch at her apartment. I did some more writing on my reports and we ended up watching the final tapes of the Friends-serie.

Around 5 I packed my stuff together and got up to Ghent. When we got there and searched around for the right address of my next hostess, Karen Daghelet, she said she didn't mind it at all that I slept almost the whole 50 kilometres to Ghent in her car.

Karen was very suprised when I contacted her, only one day before I got there. One host in Ghent called off on the last minute, so I had to call some other address in this city and asked if I could use her invitation for tonight. Internet has never been that fast for her!

She lives in this particular student-home. A big studentdormitory complex where almost 100 students live on one floor, 6 floors high! Every hallway has some 30 students sharing one bathroom with about 8 showers (and curtains!) and they have a unisex toiletroom.

It was all very new to me, I had never seen such a living sphere before and as Karen showed me around my eyes where wide open, just as my mouth. Her little room had a sink, a closet, a fridge, some furniture and a bed. More space wasn't there!

When I got there Karen heated up some rice-meal her father made earlier that week and sat in the public kitchen with some student friends of her. Of course it was questions and answers' time about my project again, but that's just part of the job.

One of the guys, Stein, asked me to appear on his webcam at his room, so he could proudly share the world about me being right THERE. That was pretty funny.

Karen studies Sinology (Chinese and Japanese language and cultures) at the University in Ghent and had her exam coming up next Monday. While I surfed on the web and checked my emails, she was studying on her bed, writing strange language characters for my eyes!

She could even read this Chinese article about me on the internet!

Around 11pm we got ready to go to town for some short time, because she didn't really wanted me to come to Ghent and get to the next city tomorrow morning.

"If it wasn't for Paris, Ghent would be medieval Europe's largest city. Steeped in history both rebellious and industrious, it sits at the junction of the Leie and Scheldt rivers and was once the site of armed battles by its townsfolk, who raged against heavy taxes and restricted civil liberties. ." - Lonely Planet about Ghent.

This night out, with a few beers at The Ploeg and in the little establishment Rococco with some friends of Karen, was a very nice tour trough Ghent by night.

When we got back in her room we both where pretty tired. She got herself a mattress (it fits if you thight the mattress a bit in it size) and offered me to sleep in her own bed; really gently!

I thanked her by letting her win the following pillow fight in the dark, that must had woken up her neighbours! A few minutes later I dozed off into my dreamworld, ready for a new day...

The Gift from Sophie in Brussels was a Rubiks Cube. With Karen into her exam stress periode she was immediately hooked to it during her studying!