I walked off the train at the Gare du Midi in Brussels, my eyes still a little bleary from the half-sleep past pastures and silhouetted trees. Kim has dark hair and bangs cut straight across her forehead, and she should be standing under the yellow neon that reads "Sam's Café". If that description and those instructions don't match whatever I find at the end of this platform, then I have to figure out where I'll be sleeping tonight.
But she's there, standing with her hands in a checkered coat's pockets and mirroring my own mix of excitement and trepidation. To agree to have a person stay at your house for three days after the exchange of two emails on CouchSurfing.com is silmultaneously crazy and altruistic. But by the time we walked the seven minutes from the train station to her and her father's home beside the printing factory he owns and in which he works, I knew that my visit to Brussels would be worth every Euro I paid for the ticket.
When I meet a woman like Kim, I feel that I've found an alternate versions of myself - she is who I would have been if I'd been born in Brussels and gone to theatre school, and I am maybe her if she'd spent four years in an office in Calgary and then decided to fold up her life and travel. At ninteeen, she can speak English, French, Flemish (a variety of Dutch spoken in Belgium), and German fluently - her English she learned almost entirely from subtitled television, so her accent is a lovely refined North American lilt - and she is learning Spanish and Italian. She spends her days in theatre school, her nights discussing art and cinema over wine and dinner with friends. In the last forty-eight hours wandering through the Grand Place in the middle of Brussels, having coffee with her dear mère, sharing pastries in the little boulangerie et pâtisserie beside her house, eating crèpes with cheese and honey and olives (oh yes and oh my) in the Sunday market by the train station, and staying up until one o'clock in the morning after her friend Noortje shared a dinner of pasta and vegetables and desert of yogurt and nuts dipped in Nutella, Kim explained the difference between playing and acting, wondered with me the worth of a moment, how the context of an experience changes the experience itself, and gave me the word that sounds so much better than our "travel bug": reiskriebel. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this person and her family, and I am devasted to have to leave so soon. Four days ago I didn't know where I would be sleeping for these past nights, and instead of just a bed I've found a friend for life. This universe grants me amazing gifts if I let it.
Namaste to all of you and so much love from my heart, Andrea
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