A peek into my life for my friends all over the world!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back to Brussels

The 25th of this month it will be 7 years that I'm living in Europe. It has gone by so fast that sometimes is really weird to believe, but then I remember 7 different summers, winters, birthdays...and so many trips back home....that then it's a little more obvious to believe.

And who would believe it all started in Brussels. I went there to work for a year fulltime for AIESEC, a student organisation that I belonged to when I was at university. I lived in Brussels for a whole year...in a mixture of student and early job life. Looking back now, it was an amazing year! After I left Brussels I used to visit it rather often as I still had some friends living there and also due to the convenient fact that it takes less than 3 hours by train and that it's really unexpensive.

However, you know how things are, eventually the trips started to be more spaced between each other and eventually I realised that the last time I had been there was in June 2004 when I went to Canon Belgium for a business meeting. Luckily earlier this year I found in MSN a really good friend of mine, Queenie, and we decided we had to change that. So we planned for me to come over and to visit her.

I arrived on Friday 6th of July to Brussels north station a little over 20:00 as I took a train straight after work and Queenie went to pick me up. We drove into town and went for some dinner. First reminder: Belgian cuisine is exquisite and the value for money it's so good compared to Amsterdam! So we had a delicious meal with some wine in a nice terrace and by the time we were done we walked to the Grande Place.

The Grande Place is the main square of Brussels. No matter how many times I've been to that square- which is almost impossible to count as I've been there many many times- that place always takes my breath away! The richness of the architecture, the composition of the different buildings, the townhall....it's just so beautiful. We went there because while we were having dinner I remembered that during the summer just before dark they have a beautiful light who with music, which we went to see and that I filmed a little bit and you can see here.

A trip down Memory Lane

On Saturday morning Queenie and Roel (her boyfriend) had to go to a funeral so I decided that I would use my morning to go into town. I didn't realise that this would be an AMAZING opportunity. All the times when I've been back to Brussels I always did it visiting friends, or actually bringing friends over so they could see Brussels. I had never gone back on my own, after I left on July 2001, to go around the places where I used to go during the year I lived there.
I went to most of the touristic places where tourists would walk...but I actually made an effort to take the same route that I used to do while I was living there. You see, while I was living in Brussels I almost never left the centre. I lived in the centre, I worked in the centre, I hanged out in the centre....to be honest with you, I really didn't need to use public transport because I could walk anywhere!

So I went back to la "Rue de L'enseignement" which is the street were I used to live in and I made my way to the office walking a little over 10 minutes in "la Rue Royale". I took my time and remembered things...the places where I used to go, the places where I used to buy the bread, where I had breakfast, lunch, where I did my laundry, where I used to buy books.

I walked through the Botanical gardens which were really close to where I used to work...I went to the Royal Palace (only a couple of blocks away from where I used to live) and just followed a nice route into town passing through monuments, museums, nice buildings. And I would stop, remember things, take photos and move on.

I guess I remembered anecdotes, stories, people that had been there with me and in general the life I had with the guys that were my family while I was there: Luz (Venezuela), Jeff (Belgian), Paulo (Portuguese) and also Marta (Colombia/Canada) and Chayo (Peru). I remembered the trainees we took care of: Marcus (New Zealand), Nairo (Colombia), Andrea (Italy), Juan Carlos (Colombia) and so many more. Below just a handful of photos from my year in Belgium (00-01)...

It was just a great weekend!
I of course remembered how delicious the Belgian waffles are, how many different types of delicious "chocolateries" can be found, the beautiful lace sold in all the souvenir shops, the different types of beers....
We even went to Antwerpt towards the end of Saturday afternoon (Queenie, Roel and me)....Queenie and me chatted the WHOLE weekend. We had so much to catch up on. We had nice walks, nice food, nice Belgian beers ;-). It was just SO nice!
If you want to see photos of my weekend (mainly me taking photos of all the places that I missed so much) click here.

On Sunday, after a really delicious brunch and a nice chat, Queenie and Roel took me to North Station where I took my train back to Amsterdam.
It was wonderful to catch up with Queenie, it was amazing to see Brussels again...but even more the whole experience of going back, remembering, reflecting....it made me think how much I've changed. It reminded me of Caterina 7 years ago, and Caterina now...

Do I miss Peru? Yes. Do I miss my family? oh YES. Do I miss my friends? Yes to that too....would I go back? Just not yet....I do like Amsterdam and my life here, for the moment....I'm in Europe to stay! ;-)

Monday, July 2, 2007

George Michael in Amsterdam

It was 1989, I was a teenager and I my room reflected that: posters of New Kids on the Block (yes I'm not ashamed to admit it, my favourite was Joe), Debbie Gibson (I totally believed that I could sing REALLY good "I get lost in your eyes), Guns and Roses and of course: George Michael. I had a live poster of this gorgeous hunk: with his stoned wash jeans, his black leather jacket, his tiny little cross hanging from an ear, a grown beard, his guitar and his boots. Boy did I have a teenage crush on this man! (lets not go into the time when I was terribly crushed at finding out he was gay...I'm still on denial!)

I've always loved all his songs, back from his time at Wham! going through all his songs to the present. So imagine how excited I was when in March I heard that George Michael was coming to Amsterdam. I was first really bummed when I realised the tickets would start going on sale when I was going to be on a plane crossing the Atlantic on my way to Aspen...however when I was back from holidays I managed to find some tickets. And I was happy to find out that Aissa liked George Michael as much as me. So we got the tickets.

D day finally came last week, Tuesday 26th. Aissa and me met in the metro station close to the Amsterdam Arena. After getting some food among the large amount people forming queues everywhere, we decided to get in. We were happy to see we had quite nice seats in the South part of the stadium. That meant that we could see George right in front of us.

The opening act was done by Sophie Ellis Bexter which was rather nice as I like her quite a lot. She sang for almost an hour...so it was a good warm-up. After that we had to wait for almost one and a half hour. The tension was building up. Close to 21:00 the crowd started making the wave around the stadium (about 50,000 people)...it was fun to participate and you can view a small video of it here.

At 21:10 the music starts, the lights go off in the stage (it was not completly dark yet as it's getting completely dark in this part of the world close to 23:00) and a really nice play of lights starts. Then suddenly you can hear his voice...and suddenly he can be seen in the screens, the crowd goes wild, and he appears in the stage too and he sings "Fast Love". (Unfortunately the video is over 100mb and I can't upload it :-s)

Now...I have been to several concerts in the Netherlands, as a "grown up" and of course I love music and I love dancing and my point is that concerts should be full of people who dance and express themselves...but I would say that I went back several years and I couldn't contain myself, I was screaming!!!! ahhhhhhhh (picture current teenager screaming at Justin Timberlake or something similar). I was happy to notice though that Aissa was also part of this...so it was just easier.

The whole concert was a combination of the old and the new songs from Wham!, songs from his earlier work and the newer ones. As you will see in the photos the lighting in the stage was unbelievable, one of my favorites was when he was singing "Praying for time", it appeared that he was sitting on the sea with a beautiful sunset in the back. You can view the video by clicking here.

After one whole hour of singing and entertaining the audience he went on a 20 minute break after which it looked like a helicopter was getting into the audience, the effect was quite good and after a while he appeared wearing a policeman uniform and he looked SO hot and you must have guessed by now that he sang "Lets go outside". Obviously, Aissa, me and the rest of the crowd went wild!

After 40 more minutes of singing he made the whole crowd sang along to a Wham! hits "I'm your man" and "The Edge of Heaven" and he thanked and then left. For a moment I panicked...my experience tells me that Dutch people are rather quiet, and in all the concerts I've been to, I've NEVER heard them chorus an "encore" (except Juanes, but back then the music hall was full of Latin people so that doesn't count). However the Dutchies rose to the ocassion and not only did they screamed, whistled and shouted as if it were "Queen's day", but they even managed to improvise a little "Ole 0le" song...I was rather surprised. I have been told though afterwards by several other people that this might have had to do with the fact that half of the crowd was gay... considering that I didn't really spot many gays around me I'm not so sure about the truth of that statement.
However I was VERY happy because after about 5 minutes...George came back and did a memorable performance of "Careless Whisper". By that point I almost didn't have any voice left and I sang and sang along (don't laugh at me when you hear my voice in the background of the video) and this brought back memories of summer of 1985...when I was not even close to being a teenager how I loved that song because it was the last favourite song of my grandma.

He then left again and suddenly his band started playing "Happy Birthday" as just the day before he had turned 44. The whole crowd joined in to the song and then George clapped at us and thanked us for our beautiful singing...he then thanked his band, he thanked us and he did the last song of the evening: FREEDOM!!! Which was obviously unbelievable!!

Aissa and me left the stadium at around 11:45....in great joy, totally in George Michael mood and with a hunch of a sore throat for the next day.

It was definitely one of the best concerts ever! If you want to look at the photos click here. This guy is a great performer, entertainer and my God he has a BEAUTIFUL voice, if I ever have the chance again, I'll definitely go and see him again!! :)
I normally wouldn't do this, but I have to because I was RATHER impressed by the quality, considering I was so far from him (I was south and I had the whole stadium to cross): All videos and photos have been taken with my brand new Canon Digital IXUS 75 ;-) (PowerShot SD750 in the American market) I love it already!