Brussels Trammels – Day 2

Today, September 24th, was the first day of our lectures “abroad” (by this I mean away from Switzerland). They were held in one of the hotel’s conference rooms (thank goodness! less work for us). Breakfast was pretty good as usual–croissants, cereal, bread, eggs, bacon, potatoes, etc. As soon as all of the students were settled in to their seats, one of our Academic Directors spoke to us. He told us that one of our students, Reuben Mitrani–who had been in the hospital since September 11th after having suffered a brain hemorrhage–was now in critical condition. He had been in a medically-induced coma in an attempt to ease the swelling in his brain, so nobody had been allowed to see him. Now, the doctors had taken him out of the coma and it wasn’t looking good for him. All of the students were in complete shock. Although the situation had already been described to us and some of us had seen Reuben in the hospital, hearing the professor speak about his worsening condition did unspeakable things to our thoughts. Was he going to live? If so, would he be paralyzed? What kind of life would he live? Though I stayed alert for the entirety of the lecture, there was always yet another thought in the back of my head.

After the presentations were over, students were nervous about Reuben. I came over to Shauna, who attends Colorado College with him, and saw her freaking out about not knowing. The hotel has no WiFi but she just had to know. She bought access for an hour, and Alex and I followed her up to her room. The Internet was reacting very slowly (a mixture between being on the 3rd floor and the fact that the network was probably only intended for use in a household), only raising our adrenaline levels higher. Once she finally logged on to the Internet, she clicked the website CaringBridge which monitors Reuben’s progress, and waited. As soon as the page loaded–which took almost a minute–she started sobbing and said, “He’s dead.”   I looked over her shoulder and read the entire description and began tearing up myself. Why? Why did this have to happen to a healthy 20-year-old boy? He hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s not like he was drinking. It’s not like he was engaging in sports activities that were not permitted by SIT. All the poor boy had done was come back from a run and experience what had appeared to an average person as a stroke. He had done everything right. Yet something in his genes had caused this to happen to him.

Just writing about this makes me tear up a little again. I don’t mean for anyone to cry! I thought a lot before writing this. But I don’t want to hide anything. I guess I just needed to share his story through my experience.

We were supposed to work on our Field Study Seminar project today–this encompassed interviewing people in Brussels. But no one was of the right mind. So we did everything but. Madeleine, Michelle and I went shopping and found some good deals! While shopping with them, my sorority sister, Bree, texted me asking what time would be good for us to meet. She’s studying abroad in Brussels and hadn’t seen any familiar faces yet! I told her it’d be great if she could meet me at the hotel at 7:00.

What a joy it was to see her! We had been walking around quite a bit, when she informed me of an experience she had her first week in Brussels. Her study abroad group had been perusing the streets of Brussels when the students found this quaint little Italian street that served really wonderful food. She said she’d tried to find it on several occasions ever since and failed to every time because the maze around La Grande Place is very confusing! I told her I thought I had seen it before (I described it in the last post). She didn’t believe me. Boy did I show her. 😉 She was so shocked! She said, “I can’t believe I’ve been here 5 weeks and hadn’t been able to find it, and you found it after being here for 2 days!” What can I say? I rock?

After dinner, Bree showed me the Manekin Pis statue and we ate legitimate Belgian waffles on the street, under the rain. Who could ask for anything more? Oh, before I forget, a trammel is an obstacle; a hindrance.

It’s a curious phenomenon, to compare everything in Brussels to the way it is in Geneva. I would walk in to a store and say, “We don’t have that in Geneva,” or “I wish this was cheaper back home.” Something else I discovered: although humans are creatures paranoid of change, they are incredibly adaptable. I’ve called Brooklyn, Fort Lee, Washington, Geneva and sometimes nostalgically, Moscow, my homes, and I hardly ever experience homesickness. It’s not the home that I miss, it’s the people I leave behind. I wish Reuben a safe trip to his new home, and only wish that he knew how much everyone he left behind cares for him and how much we wish that we could have known him better and seen him more. Here’s his story: