Day 2 - 9th of December

8.15 AM. After a pretty good night of sleep, I met with Joep, Sylke and Fabiënne. I had my nuts and lemon water, they had sugary croissants. They wanted to make sure I wrote down that these croissants weren’t as good as back in Groningen.

In 30 minutes we will depart to the EEAS (European External Action Service) which is essentially the foreign affairs ministry of the whole of the EU. Afterwards we will visit NATO. 

It’s 8:47, the transit begins. Outside, we find the streets coated in a mild fog and the sky cloudy. t reminded me of London more than it did of Groningen. 

We entered the metro, and Kian lost himself laughing. As we came across the tourniquets, Martijn pulled out the golden ticket that had everyone’s else ticket, only to find the tourniquets fully open for everyone. Kian really dislikes this city, something he kept informing us about.

We will stop at Schuman station. According to Kian, it has a very European vibe. The metro was not very eventful, except for the need to find tourniquets where we didn’t need to tap out. We effectively rode for free, despite Martijn having paid for everyone. 

We leave and, despite the thicker fog, we see huge buildings around this nice roundabout. The EEAS eagerly awaits us. However, we first needed to stop in front of the building to quickly change into our formal shoes. 

Saoirse helped everyone get inside, where we were greeted by kind security personnel. We went through security and are even given our own badges with our names. Some of us are a tad nervous, others are so used to going to these types of high end buildings that they find other’s excessive cautiousness amusing. 

We go in a room, a lecturer introduces the topics of today: EU and Ukraine and so on, but nothing is allowed to be recorded. I’ll see y’all later. 

The lectures ended at 12:15. They were quite interesting. The first talked about the current goal to spread awareness regarding EEAS. The second informed us about the structure of the EEAS and some of the stances the EU has regarding some of the current global situations. The last lecture was regarding human rights, how the EU tackles it internationally and how it cooperates with other international organizations such as the UN and the ILO (International Labour Organisation). 

Then we were blocked from the entrance due to a conversation between two VIPs who decided to have a prolonged talk right in front of the main door. 

We get outside and it is still cloudy and cold. Though the fog dissipated so we can see this pretty city from much further.

The board then told us to go find food until 1:15.

Lost and guide-less, we all collectively started crying until Martijn told us he would lead some of us to a grocery store nearby, with expensive yet nice food.

After a good lunch, we stumbled upon a wild protest. About 300 people were parading across the roundabout, in front of the European council and all these other EU buildings, protesting for, from the little we could gather, health care in the whole of the EU. There was a whole set of people all waving Romanian flags and signs in Romanian, whilst others seem to be carrying signs in Dutch. Pretty curious.

On our way to the bus stop where we were supposed meet, we realized we had lost 4 people. We decided to miss our bus just to wait for them and thankfully they were all able to join us before the next bus. These types of events get our blood pumping. Thankfully all seems to be going well.

1:30 Johanna and I, inside the bus that would stop at the station of Bourget, discussed what we learned from today. At the end of the lectures in the EEAS, I asked if a new intellectual revolution- like the agricultural and industrial one- could happen and lead human activity to an ecological economy. To do so, changes to our current systems would be necessary. Johanna, a student of international public law, argued that this is nice in theory but maybe unrealistic in practice. Nowadays state leaders have control over which policies and which philosophies they will allow to take place and that some of these leaders will not share our hopes for systematic change. I argued that we then need to first change these leaders’ perspectives and ideals. She said again that it is nice in theory but unrealistic for egoistic and imperialistic people (“assholes”) will always exist and their opinion isn’t necessarily possible to change. 

I raised the point that she was repeating herself and that now the problem came from us not wanting to put the effort to help achieve some change when considering that these leaders are still human beings, and that they can be convinced as much as anyone else. I don’t think about the environment because I am superior to these world leaders, I do because I was taught to care and I was allowed to figure out how important it actually is to, well, everything. 

Seeing that she was still processing this, I decided to add how diversity in a political structure is beneficial in preventing “assholes” from reaching upper levels of management. My theory spawned after listening to the different lectures from the EU and realizing that: a Russian can trick a Russian, times that by a whole Russia and you get a Putin. An American can trick an American, same logic, and you get a Trump. However, a German can only trick so many European cultures before someone calls them on their bullshit. In the EU, it will be hard for an asshole to raise the leadership ladders without being someone everyone in the EU can admit: yea, they are trying their best and I faith in them. (obviously, this theory of mine doesn’t apply all the time and these examples were mentioned for the sake of properly explaining my point rather than saying that they are 1:1 representations of where my theory was verified)

It is 2:00,we are about to enter this huge building in the middle of what feels like nowhere. Several country flags can be seen at the distance. Security said no pictures. 

2:30 Never have so many people sighed so much in unison as we did when we walked inside a very warm building after 30 minutes of pure pain outside. 

We were greeted by 3  representatives of the Netherlands’ interests: a political advisor, a financial one, who was part of SIB back when she studied in Leiden and visited NATO like we are doing just now, and a military representative. These speakers were quite interesting. They spoke of the different institutions, goals and projects of NATO, how it tries to cooperate with countries as much as possible.

What did we do, at the end of the day? All the knowledge we could have gotten off of the internet, yet, the back and forth between us and the familiar faces of 3 dutchies who, despite working in high end diplomacy, are still people, with senses of humor that have mannerisms common among the Dutch. It was a very comforting feeling to actually go inside the NATO headquarters, de-mystifying it and bringing it to a digestible level. The most memorable moment for me was listening to the military representative. He is one of the people who uphold Dutch interests internationally. e is one of the people that speak for the whole of the Netherlands. No one ever seemed so real like them before. However, one must not forget that, being people, they have done mistakes in the pass, and will probably do some others in the future as well. I personally enjoyed studying about the ins and outs of NATO, yet I understand it is not something for everyone.

I asked one of the people who was accompanying us if I could take a picture of a small museum they had with trinkets from several countries. She agreed so, thankfully, I have this picture of a portuguese caravela:

After a short tour around the building of NATO for some pictures, we were led to the exit. It was 4:30.

We took the bus to town, we had to leave on the edge of it as the bus would soon be turning back. With us on the other side of town, and with an hour and a half for ourselves, we all split up into several small groups. Me, CJ, Max, Minjae, Julia and Floris all decided to stop by Delirium, where we will surely have to stop by later after dinner, and by the Christmas market. God, everything here is so expensive (why are churros 9 euros?) 

Got to the hotel at 6:20 rested up a bit and now we’re outside heading to dinner. Restaurant looks nice, hopefully it will be better than yesterday’s. Free bread? Okay, it has my attention. 

I asked for spaghetti Bolognese, most asked for burgers and Julia, sitting next to me, asked for the Tagliatelle scampi which she enjoyed very much. The burger people seemed to have enjoyed it a lot as well. I, however, seeing my small portion of food, was disappointed. The food was really good but not enough! Then, the free bread came to save the day! Siblings, spaghetti Bolognese and bread is amazing and whoever tells you otherwise is plotting against your happiness!! 

Netherlands vs Argentina game of the world cup.

At around 8:50, me, Julia, Aria, Minjae and Estela agreed to leave the restaurant and run to a sports pub in the center of town to watch Netherlands vs Argentina. It was full of people from both nationalities, as well as, for some reason, a lot of people from Brazil. They were all cheering for the Netherlands! Turns out its mostly because they just wanted to see Argentina fail, however the vibe inside was just people from all places just looking for a good time.The game started at 9 pm, we arrived shortly after.

It was like any other high end football game: two teams of professionals displaying a very high level of proficiency and knowledge regarding the game, whilst also doing childish things from time to time. We had a blast. The game was getting stale until Argentina scored for the second time. Under pressure, the Netherlands scored a point. Everyone was yelling from excitement, everyone was jumping, it was the whole reason why we came here in the first place! It was quite the vibe. If you’re reading this, you likely know that we, the Netherlands (hup Holland hup), managed to score an impressive, breathtaking goal at the 110 minute mark! The significance of this can’t be understated. With this glorious goal, we tied, leading us to the extra 30 minutes. 

30 minutes pass and no one scores. Time for penalties.

(I once read from somewhere that when you face someone in a duel you get to know their heart and soul, I believe the same applies here)

We lost, by the skin of our teeth. It was a hard fought match. Backs and forwards, excitement followed by sadness. Thankfully it is only a game, something to apply the lessons of Homo Ludens on: to play is to develop culture. One must know defeat to appreciate victory. Oh well, there’s always next time. 

Night out in Brussels.

We stayed in the pub we were at. As soon the game was over, banger music started. We danced until we couldn’t. Pretty much everyone stayed after the game, so the bar, turned disco, was absolutely full of people just enjoying life.

Afterwards, we went to see the fabled Délirium, a bar in town. If you ever come to this city, you need to stop here. It is absolutely massive on the inside, 3 floors in just one of the buildings that spread as far as the eye can see. Beers of all kinds, including one made with a cherry flavor and apparently there’s also a whole section just for wines, another one just for spirits.The music and the general vibe were superb. I highly recommend it for anyone seeking a good night out. 

After a drink, we decided to head back to the hotel, it was around 1 am. The night was superb, even though it was piercingly cold.

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