Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Magical Afternoon at the Harry Potter Exhibition

Dimanche, 31 juillet.

As July comes to a close, I'm celebrating my first three weeks working in Belgium and -- as of yesterday -- being fully moved in to my new home away from home! Two of my friends drove up from Luxembourg yesterday to bring the last of my belongings and to visit for the day.

Lucie and Dikra have both been to Brussels a couple of times, so instead of hitting up the usual tourist spots, we decided to check out something a little bit different...


That's right, folks. Harry Potter: The Exhibition.

Never heard of it? This travelling exhibit features props, costumes, and set pieces from the Harry Potter film series -- sort of like a moving version of the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Since 2009, it has been to over a dozen cities, including Chicago, New York, Tokyo, Paris, and now Brussels. Guests to the exhibition walk through reconstructed sets and rooms featuring everything from moving portraits to screaming mandrakes. And uh, yeah. It. Is. Awesome.

We got tired and decided to grab a seat in Hagrid's hut!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

It's Not Goodbye. It's ... Äddi!

Samschdeg, 23 Juli.

Today is my last full day in Luxembourg. Tomorrow, I'll get on the train to Brussels. And then -- poof -- I won't be a temporary Luxembourger anymore. No more teaching English to trilingual sixteen-year-olds. No more hopping on Bus 4 to Belval and hoping that the driver remembers that they added a stop at Cité des Sciences. No more picnicking on abandoned castles in tiny villages on sunny afternoons. No more walking to the animal park after Sunday morning brunches to check on the raccoons.

Leaving Luxembourg two weeks ago was not easy -- not least of all because a délai indéfini between Esch and Luxembourg City threatened to make me miss my train to Brussels -- and I know that tomorrow, my final departure will be even tougher. It is hard to explain why. It was difficult to say goodbye to my students, to the teachers who have supported and mentored me all year, and to the housemates who made my year truly amazing. And yet, in the perpetually-connected 21st century world in which we live, I know that no "goodbye" is permanent. This will not be the last time that I hang out with my friends, or meander down the Chemin de la Corniche, or eat an ice cream cone in Place d'Armes. (Which is, side note, the best place to eat an ice cream cone.) And yet, something feels particularly finite about my impending departure. Whether or not this is the last time I see my friends, and whether or not it is my last time in Luxembourg, it is clear that this chapter of my life is coming to a close. This setting, these characters may return in later stages, but the story will never be quite the same again.

I visited Luxembourg's Museum of Modern Art a couple of weeks ago and saw Fiona Tan's "Island." The installation, which was first created in 2008, features a fifteen-minute black-and-white video with voiceover narration. I was watching, more than a little skeptical (... modern art, ya know?), when the narrator said something that stuck with me.

"When she leaves, she will fold up this place and put it in her pocket for safe-keeping."

And that's exactly what I am going to do.

Lest you feel the need to reach for a tissue, let me assure you that -- of course -- it's not all sad. In fact, it is mostly happy! I am absolutely thrilled about moving to Brussels and love life in the city so far (even if there are a couple hundred thousand more people than I've become used to). And after a week and a half at my new job, I am so happy with my decision and feel genuinely excited to go to work every morning.

And so, despite the fact that I am 99.9% sure I will cry on the train tomorrow, it feels more like a time for celebration than sadness. I'm spending this last weekend in the Grand Duchy packing, relaxing, and doing some of the most wonderfully Luxembourgish things I can think of. Sunbathing at the Remerschen Lake -- because after ten months, it's finally warm enough to think about swimming. Baking cakes and marathoning "One Tree Hill" with my housemates. Watching movies at the Open Air Cinema. And, of course, taking the brand-new Pfaffenthal Elevator. (Seriously, this sucker has been under construction for six years and it finally opens on my last day in Luxembourg? It's fate, I tell you.)

So Luxembourg, it has come time for us to part. But remember -- it's not "Goodbye." It's "Äddi!" ;)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Musée Méindeg: Roman Villa Echternach

Méindeg, 4 Juli.

One of the first places I visited after arriving in Luxembourg was the historic town of Echternach. Since then, I've returned almost a dozen times: hiking, travelling with friends, or even visiting the town's medieval Christmas market. If you've visited me, chances are we went to Echternach. (If you've visited me and we didn't go to Echternach ... awkwaaaard.) Anyhow, despite all of these visits, there is one major Echternach highlight that I'd never managed to see. Until last week, that is!

Today's Musée Méindeg post is taking you to the Roman Villa Echternach! The remains of this third-century Roman villa were discovered in 1975, during excavations for an artificial lake. It has since been named one of the most important Gallo-Roman sites north of the Alps!

The sizable villa was located in a suburb, so to speak, of the massive Roman settlement in modern-day Trier. Today, it's hard to imagine the network of residential villas and military fortifications that once covered this region! Still, the excavated and semi-reconstructed site goes a long way to helping you imagine what life might have been like for these ancient Luxembourgers. Given the climate (with temperatures just *slightly* cooler than in Italy), I was particularly amazed at the number of outdoor courtyards and open-air colonnades.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hello Châteaux: Picnicking at Bourglinster Castle

Mëttwoch, 29 Juni.

With just under two weeks left in Luxembourg, I have been frantically trying to cross as many things off my bucket list as possible. Today, that meant paying a visit to one of Luxembourg's many castles: the adorable Château de Bourglinster.

Bourglinster Castle is, to put it simply, old. In the thirteenth century, the castle was the property of the noble family of Linster. (Get it? Bourglinster ... Bourg Linster?) It passed from family to family over the next eight hundred years, gradually being transformed from fortified fortress to Renaissance castle. Click here to learn more via Visit Luxembourg.

Despite its advanced age, Bourglinster looks pretty great! The castle has been fully restored and boasts a fresh coat of (baby pink?) paint on its tiny towers. As you might remember from my visit to the Musée de Maquettes des Châteaux et Châteaux Forts du Luxembourg, the majority of Luxembourg's châteaux forts are no longer in great condition. Those that are not in ruins tend to be privately-owned or have been restored for some specific purpose. Bourglinster Castle is no exception: today, it is home to multiple restaurants. (Click here to check out their website.) You can even book the castle for your wedding!


Although the castle itself is not open to visitors except for previously-arranged private tour, the castle grounds -- including the ruins of some of the oldest parts of the property -- are free to be explored. We found a particularly sunny spot and plopped down for a picnic.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sorry Europe -- You're Not Getting Rid of Me Yet!

Samschdeg, 2 Juli.

I first arrived in Luxembourg a whopping 295 days ago-- bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to jump into nine months of adventures in the Grand Duchy. As the year went on and the prospect of leaving my new international life became all too real, I hemmed and hawed about finding a way to stay in Europe. ("Just find a job here!" my housemates counseled me, blissfully unaware of the challenges that face a non-EU citizen trying to enter the European workforce. Hello, work visa!) However, the plan -- as evidenced by the round-trip KLM tickets I purchased back in August 2015 -- was always to return to the United States and to the Washington, D.C., area after finishing my grant in July.

But you know what they say about plans. Namely, they change.

And so, instead of returning to the United States in July, I will be moving to Brussels (!) to begin a full-time job (!!) as the new Fulbright Program Manager and EducationUSA Adviser with the Fulbright Commission (!!!).

I'm not exaggerating when I say that this has been my dream job since day one. While I am sure that this new experience will come with its own unique set of challenges (not least of which being the continued absence of Target and authentic Mexican food in my life), I could not be more excited. I cannot express how lucky I feel for the opportunity to continue my involvement with Fulbright, to learn more about the field of global education, and to live in a city as beautiful and dynamic as Brussels.

I will be starting work in just under two weeks, which means that I'll be leaving Luxembourg ten months -- to the day! -- after I arrived, way back in September. Although I won't be moving very far away, I know that it will be difficult to say goodbye to this wonderful little country and to the people who have made the past ten months so wonderful. Instead of dwelling too much on our upcoming departure, my friends and I have decided to make the most of our last couple of weeks in Luxembourg by doing all of the things we've intended to do, but somehow never got around to. Stay tuned for nine days of indulgent bucket list fulfillment -- and, more than likely, a handful of weepy blog posts! ;)